Illinois Sets Precedent With Bill To Protect Prison Visitation

St. Rep. Carol Ammons and Wandjell Harvey-Robinson

August 23, 2017

Brian Dolinar, Program Director, Independent Media Center 217-621-5827,
Michelle Jett, State Rep. Carol Ammons 217-531-1660,

Urbana, IL – In-person contact visits are now legally guaranteed in Illinois prisons, setting a new bar for preserving the rights and dignity of incarcerated individuals and their families. With the passage of HB2738: Protect Prison Visits Bill, video calling will not replace, but will supplement, in-person visiting.

Introduced by Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons, and supported by the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC), HB2738 also ensures that the cost of video calling is reasonable and affordable. This is the companion bill to 2016’s HB6200: The Family Connections Bill which cut in half the cost of traditional phone calls from prison. Both bills are a product of the partnership between Representative Ammons and the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice.

“I am proud to say Illinois is setting a national precedent for regulating this new technology. Strong family connections are a strong factor in reducing recidivism and simply a humane way to treat those serving sentences and their family members,” said State Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana).

“We use our eyes to see, but our eyes see more than just figures. With our eyes we can see love, we can see pain, we can see joy. This bill will enable those incarcerated the opportunity to extend their love by reaching out to their families via video chats. Technology is advancing for the communities in the outside world and we cannot forget about the human beings removed from their communities and families. Again, we say thank you,” shared Wandjell Harvey-Robinson, who grew up struggling to stay in contact with her parents who were both incarcerated.

HB2738 was signed into law by Governor Rauner in August and goes into effect January 1, 2018.


UCIMC is a community center based in Urbana, Illinois with a mission to foster the creation and distribution of media and art that emphasizes underrepresented voices and perspectives. We are a member of the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, and an anchor member of the Media Action Grassroots Network, housed at Center for Media Justice in Oakland.


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Rodney Davis: Can’t Blame Trump for Charlottesville

In the August 15th Issue of the News-Gazette, our congressional representative Rodney Davis is quoted as saying: “What happened in Charlottesville is no more President Trump’s fault than what happened to me two months ago when a Bernie Sanders supporter shot at me.”

Mr. Davis, Bernie Sanders did not extol violence the way that Trump did when he urged his supporters to beat up protesters at his election rallies. Trump offered to pay their legal fees. Nor did Sanders urge police officers to use gratuitous violence against arrestees the way Trump has. Nor has Sanders disseminated images of himself punching CNN.

Sanders has never promoted racism or anti-Semitism. Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists, said that  that he would build a wall to keep them out, and claimed that he could not receive justice from a judge because the judge was Latino. Trump has tried to ban Muslims from entering the United States and falsely asserted that he saw Muslims cheering in NY when the twin towers were hit in 9/11. He has brought into the White House such Muslim-haters as Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Stephen Miller, Julie Kirchner, and Sebastian Gorka. Bannon was also head of Breitbart News, to which he has just returned, that gives voice to spewers of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslim views.

Trump himself was an early denier of the U.S. birth of Barack Obama, our only African American president. He also was quick to call for the reinstitution of the death penalty in New York, to be used against black youths who had been wrongly convicted of  rape. His real estate firm also discriminated against black people. In his absurd claim that three million people (the number of his popular vote loss to Clinton) voted against him illegitimately and his appointment of a presidential commission to search for massive voter fraud nationally, he feeds the attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters, a way of trying to solidify white dominant power and fundamentally undermining our democratic system.

Through all of the above, and his verbal false equivalencies, similar to your own false equivalency Mr. Davis, Trump has indeed empowered racists, Nazis, fascists, and anti-Semites in our body politic. Shame on you sir!



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Soros Fellowship Awarded to UCIMC’s James Kilgore for Electronic Monitoring Campaign

July 25, 2017


We are proud to announce that James Kilgore has been awarded the prestigious Open Society Foundation Soros Justice Fellowship for 2017-18. Building on work supported by Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) for the last three years, James’s Open Society Fellowship will focus on developing a national campaign on the use of electronic monitoring (EM) in the criminal legal system. Kilgore has been researching electronic monitoring since spending a year on a monitor as a condition of his own parole in 2009-10.

This project comes at a critical time when many jurisdictions are moving towards the use of electronic monitoring as a strategy for decarceration, often with draconian conditions of house arrest. James’s work will mobilize a nationwide network to develop a set of guidelines for electronic monitoring which will center the rights of those on the monitor and contest unjust EM policies such as user fees and unregulated collection of location tracking data.

“Without policy and organizing intervention in the use of electronic monitoring now, the dream of decarceration could turn into a nightmare. The way EM is deployed could lead to greater freedom and community connections, or could increase surveillance and control while putting it out of sight, limiting freedom of movement throughout poor communities,” said Danielle Chynoweth, co-founder of UCIMC and former Organizing Director at the Center for Media Justice.

This project is co-hosted by the Center for Media Justice, a racial justice organizing hub that champions the media and technology rights communities of color and America’s poor, and the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, a local base-building organizing with a ten-year history in supporting effective criminal justice reform campaigns. These organizations collaborate through the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), a national network of 100+ groups working together to amplify the voices of impacted communities to win communication rights and power by influencing policy and shifting culture.

A project of Open Society Foundations, Soros Justice Fellowships fund outstanding individuals to undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system.

In addition to his work on electronic monitors, James has played a leading role in local social justice campaigns as the Co-Director of FirstFollowers reentry program and a founding member of Build Programs, Not Jails. He is also the author of five books, including the highly acclaimed Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time. James played a key role in UCIMC’s work in the 2014-15 campaign for Prison Phone Justice.


Contact: Brian Dolinar

Program Director

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

202 S. Broadway Ave.

Urbana, IL 61801

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The Water Project: Examining our relationship with our most precious resource

Performing The Water Project at the IMC

Nancy Dietrich is a resident of Urbana who became an environmentalist because she likes to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

“Destruction of water resources and of forest catchments and aquifers is a form of terrorism. Denying poor people access to water by privatizing water distribution or polluting wells and rivers is also terrorism.”
~Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit

Water is essential for all living things. It is also a convenient dumping ground for waste, and a commodity to be bought and sold. With these three themes in mind, the ensemble of Kate Insolia, Efadul Huq, Maddie Terlap, Madelyn Childress, Rosanne Brighton, Katie Fenton, Yu-Yun Hsieh and Latrelle Bright met once, sometimes twice, a week over the course of several months to learn, discuss, collaborate, create and then perform The Water Project, the latest theatrical performance directed by local theater maker Latrelle Bright.  Katie Fenton served as dramaturge and Yu-Yun Hsieh as sound designer for the performance.

According to her website,, “through research, devising and development, six local folk immersed themselves in water issues and created this performance from their findings and rumination, infusing sound, poetry, movement and song.” Phase one of the project consisted of research and learning: the group met to watch documentaries, discuss articles on water issues, and listen to invited guests. Phase two was the development phase. Using an age-old technique called “devised theater,” the ensemble began to collaborate on the piece itself:  writing poetry & prose, creating movement pieces, and sharing their creations with the group for feedback, where the pieces were finessed and finalized by the entire ensemble. Phase three was rehearsal and performance.

Latrelle conceived of The Water Project as a way to raise awareness of the numerous water issues that confront our society today, to meet with like-minded people who care about these issues, and to find a way to merge the academic with the artistic.  Latrelle studied musical theater at the Boston Conservatory, and has also studied at the International University in San Diego and Florida State University.  She became interested in environmental issues as an undergraduate, but felt that there was a culture around the environmental movement that didn’t include people like her. This project has given her a way to meet and create with others who don’t necessarily fit into the usual environmental movement mold.

“When creating this piece, I felt like–this is community; this is democracy. In other theater performances I’ve been involved with, there is a hierarchy, which is typical in theater.  Instead of top-down, this was side-by-side,” she reflects. This was one element that led to The Water Project debuting at the IMC. “I knew the IMC folk would appreciate it. If it would have been held at a more traditional theater, people would have expected traditional theater,” she says.

Efadul Huq, one of the performers in The Water Project, became interested in the project because it sounded fun and engaging. Efadul is a PhD student in the U of I’s Urban and Regional Planning program, and has a background in creative writing. In summarizing how the performance was created, he emphasized the importance of learning together, as well as how the piece was improvised over time.

“This was my first time doing devised theater,” he said. “Latrelle gave us exercises and prompts about the topic of water for us to think about. Then we created pieces and brought them back to the group, and the group would make comments and changes. It was different; more dynamic than regular theater.” Latrelle notes that devised theater is an old form of theater, and it comes naturally to us: children, for example, perform devised theater. “Even though you can get a degree in it, you don’t have to have a Master’s degree to be human,” she says. “Creating theater with people in community, with folks who don’t necessarily have training in theater,” was a powerful experience for Latrelle in directing and performing in this piece.

As the slogan goes, the personal is political. One of the goals of The Water Project was to think about, and get audiences to think about, how we access water and how water becomes a tool of domination depending on who controls access to it. “I wanted to work with Latrelle on this project because I knew it would be political; it wouldn’t just be ‘let’s celebrate how wonderful water is.’” Efadul says. And it did not disappoint in that way.  Many examples of the political aspects of water are evident in the performance, including a piece called Resistance: Flint, MI (see sidebar).

Overall, upon reflecting on the question, “Why a piece about water?”, Latrelle responds, “because we don’t think about it enough. Many organizations are engaged in water issues.  I hope we’ve planted another seed. There are so many issues to care about, but water is essential to everything.” And Efadul reflects, “there are so many things that divide us, but water connects us; it grounds us. [The Water Project] helps us reflect on our shared problems, and how it connects us all. Water is life.”

Latrelle states that there may be room in the piece for further development, specifically to focus on solutions; on ways that people are making access to water work for them. Perhaps a second act is in the works? Stay tuned.

For more information about Latrelle Bright and The Water Project, check out her website at:

Latrelle Bright, Director/Performer

For sidebar/box:

Resistance:  Flint, MI
Written by Katie Fenton
Performed by Kate Insolia

There was once, no
There is one now, a mother

The woman whose eye lashes were falling out?
Did you hear about her?
She took a jug of water, brown, all brown from her tap, to the city council.
The same water that was eating away machine parts in another part of town.

And guess what the officials told her?
It met the federal standards of 15 ppb.
And they toasted each other with crystal glasses full of water, crystal clear.

The world of alternative facts did not begin yesterday.
It was already here among the rulers everyone had trusted

Do you know how it feels to watch your 3-year-old always sick?
To not see him grow?
You start putting a gallon of water by the bathroom sink for brushing baby teeth.
You put crates of water all around kitchen, making a small home even smaller.
You send your children to shower at friends’ houses or take a bath with bottled water…
You do not know anymore what is caution and what is paranoia…

And the fact is, the water tested at 400 ppb when flushed.
When following the protocol set out by officials at a town hall.

And so sometimes resistance takes the shape of a 37-year-old staying up all night
teaching herself science of water testing while her children sleep.
Gathering information and gathering allies.
Experts in their field.
Who had never seen lead levels this high.
Levels so high the the water coming out of her faucet qualified as toxic waste.

Because the fact is, the water tested at 13,200 ppb when tested immediately.

Sometimes resistance means breaking down experimental protocols, timing of samples, instruments of control, and records of minerals to explain to yourself why one of your twins is smaller than the other one…

Sometimes resistance is constantly calling city officials, the EPA, the DEQ, the CLU, calling and calling until you find someone who will listen. Unleashing a chain of investigations that would last months. Years.

Sometimes resistance is staring through the night at the trail of injustices needled through generations, through our very DNA.




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Restoring Life’s Mutual Economy

by George Hardebeck

Success has been sold as taking as much as we can, as fast and long as we can, replacing Life’s true green for printed green. Economy, as separate from ecology, is a grand delusion to suit the great addicts seeking

their continual flow of sick fixes – endorphins flying to a rage on Wall Street, promoting their belligerence through ‘mainstream’ corporate 6 Mogul Media, at any cost – 1000’s of species weekly at 100 to 10,000 times the normal extinction rate. 100 times the normal temperature,would place us as more successfully consumed than Venus, while most of us, even in ‘the green movement’, are not talking about this. Why?

Addicts must have more. Wendingo, a term by our Eastern Indigenous, qualifies monsters that must have more until they consume even their own bodies. These Wendigoag at the helm – snake oil salesmen and closet kings, now flushed out from behind the curtain – are waging havoc throughout the realm.

Not so driven, most of the rest of us go along as trained, complicit in our complacency, especially among the loyalist Pax Americana. The Pax Roma were those at the center and top of the economic empire in Rome, who,doing… well enough…would not end the system, while this dis-ease could consume all lives beyond, within reach, as with Pax Britannia. Loyalists to the empire sing our song of independence likeyouth still seeking to hold onto an irresponsible freedom, forgetting our return to inter-dependability,denying how mutual society depends upon responsible freedom -as fur traders learned when marrying into Indigenous cultural elders and hosts, here, bearing our American Revolution, French, Russian and so on.

We began to fall back into the pyramidal scheme about as soon as we thought we were breaking free, blind to the lesser nature of this sick construct. Like the alcoholic family, this dysfunctional system can have it’sheroes, scapegoats, lost children and mascots. Imperialism learned that keeping all compartmentalized in blocks and tiers, could keep us busy at each other’s throats, lest we rise to oust the self-centered bullydom -like the family maturing to put the addict into treatment – to end abuse and all begin recovery.

Our very brains may have grown to be human, some science considers, when expanding linguistics for rallying together to oust bigly apes beating chests on the knoll. The River Dance style of Irish dance seems was made more rigid, as the Brits and Scots protestant loyalists, who scalped and massacred them on the way in, had the native Catholic Irish keep their hands by their sides andfaces forward to not be plotting, and passing notes, if they wanted to restore their suppressed culture. Keeping Irish Catholics tiered lower than Presbyterian Scot loyalists kept the Imperialist’s money world going around, even to the tune of selling nine times the potatoes that they forced the Irish to monocrop, needed for the Irish to survive the infamous famine – another round of genocide.

We’ve seen uprisings like the Bacon Rebellion of the 1600’s on the East coast, quelled by the greed leading elites coughing up some of their spoils to lift the whites to separate them from the blacks a tier – as the Koch’s just supported congress to put repealing Obamacare on hold, realizing loosing some of their pirated booty could keep us pouring the gold down their gullets.Sex, race, color, creed, species, party… any schism – it’s all good, as long as we are divided for conquer.

Movements are in the works for our re-turn, with players like YES Magazine, and The Bioneers connecting our fragmented dots of wellbeing, re-linking Life’s web, connecting the Amazon’s richly Indigenous with Pennsylvania farmers fighting corporate pig farms, aided by the work of Mari Margil and Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). When the CELDF of Pennsylvania joined their skills with the wisdom of the Indigenous of the Amazon struggling against big oil, Ecuador’s revised national constitution bore the Community Rights / Rights of Nature Movement, and networks, into a global movement to rejoin

Life’s own revolutions, realigned. Looking into why their not-for-profit firm, with The People of PA, had so little recourse against corporations writing permits granted by the state, CELDF uncovered how an imperial construct was formed as the architectural structure of our federal constitution, for rule by the opulent -by James Madison, with the help of George Washington and friends behind closed doors-much like the failed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Placing property and commerce at the core and top of this pyramidal construct, corporations and banks, any large estate owners – all agencies of such, joined in as leaders of nation over state, over local community, over The People and all Life. So, CELDF found they could write constitutions to obstruct and dismantle this unjust federal source code, our national DNA that deceptively concocted our new American neo-imperial dream – which is for most a nightmare. Other founders of our constitution, would not ratify it without driving in our Bill of Rights for We The People. Still, without mutual economy, there is no mutual society.

Hundreds of communities using CELDF, nationally and worldwide, now organize to rewrite constitutions, placing peoples, community and nature, above corporations, property and commerce. New Hampshire, Colorado and Oregon are on it. Bolivia changed core laws, after Ecuador. Nepal joined in and brought Rights for Climate into the conversation; India for rights to heritage seed… and so many more. There are great talks and conversations on line for learning more of this transformative movement that seems, in many ways, more powerfully devising the change we all need than the Paris climate talks. We The People 2.0, The Second American Revolution is a film portraying this movement being shown in theaters to homes – as we are sharing locally, with discussion among related groups and individuals.

Even while such work is core, handing us the key and showing us the door, we need to do our homework to envision what we may move into across the threshold. Otherwise, we may be again prodded by violence, and seduced by monetary faux value to fall into another abusive form – while all Life calls us to restorative justice, in reconciliation ecology – Michael Rosenzweig’s term from Win Win Ecology, and in Restoration Economy, which Storm Cunningham’s book of this title shared would be the greatest part of our economy by 2010. A clue to renewing our vision, to reject ‘trickle-down reaganomics’ by those at the ‘top’ of this imperial pyramidal model spun, is realizing how We The People trickle down to our public and commercial servants; as is recognizing that with Life as the source of all we share, economically and trade, that we need to live Life on her terms, meekly again, sharing and caring for all beings – All Our Relations, as her own.

Stay tuned with the Independent Media Center, as we seek to support panel discussion for reforming our natural, mutual economy, realigning in Life’s movement, ongoing – revived in her revolutions.


(George Hardebeck hosts WannaBe Cafe, his radio show at out of the Independent Media Center, where he hosts a table for such conversation on Thursday nights, and another such space with Makerspace on some Wednesdays, as a 12- step group called Earth Anonymous/ACDC-Adult Children of Dysfunctional Culture, to move sharing, listening and discernment into an eco-cultural arts guild to change practices.)



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Solar in Urbana-Champaign

CU is heating up with recent solar activity.  Solar panels are appearing on houses, businesses, churches, and in fields across the county. The dramatic drop in installation costs, along with overlapping federal and local incentives, make this a boom time for solar. The recent IL Future Energy Jobs Act continues requirement for utilities to offer net metering, re-establishes the renewable energy credit market auction, and opens possibilities for community solar farms. Net metering allows customers to feed excess electricity back into the grid, thereby not requiring costly batteries.

UI Solar Farm

Last year saw the startup of the University’s new 4.68-megawatt solar farm on Windsor Road near First Street, which produced 2% of the campus electricity in 2016. The University has a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the developer, Phoenix Solar, LLC., to deliver all electricity produced directly to the campus grid, and the University will own all the associated Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and emission credits. While this 18,867 panel, 20.8 acre farm is the largest in the Big Ten, it is only a beginning for the University, which is working on ways to reach the goal of 32% renewable power by 2020. These include power purchase agreements with a local wind farm, plans for solar arrays on suitable campus buildings and parking garages, and potentially another solar farm in the future. A new power purchase agreement with the Rail Splitter Wind Farm north of Lincoln, IL will provide an additional 7% of campus needs from local wind.

Current campus solar installations include rooftop solar panels at the Wassaja Residence Hall and the Business Instructional Facility, ground-mounted panels at the Building Research Council and Allerton Park, and solar thermal tubes helping to heat the pool at ARC.

Homes and Businesses

The Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 group buy program is looking to repeat its success from last year, when 81 homes and businesses took advantage of overlapping federal tax and local renewable energy credits. These overlapping incentives looked like they would end last year, but they were renewed, so there is a second chance to take advantage of them. New Prairie Construction in Urbana has been chosen by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association as the prime contractor for the program, based on their experience, qualifications, and price. This volume purchase program is good through August 31, and site assessments are free for anyone in the county.

“Last year’s group buy resulted in over 80 installations of solar on homes and commercial properties all over Champaign County,” said Scott Tess, Environmental Sustainability Manager for the City of Urbana. “It was one of the most successful programs of its kind in the region. We wanted to build upon the strong interest that we know exists here.”

A listing of local info sessions can be found at:


Faith in Place has been leading efforts to get houses of worship involved with solar by hosting workshops and giving expert advice. Several years back, Faith United Methodist in Champaign put up solar thermal tubes to offset their hot water heater. In 2015, First Mennonite of Urbana put on a 9-kilowatt solar PV array. Earlier this year, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign put up a large 24 kilowatt array that will offset 70% of their electricity use. They are one of the first churches in the region to utilize a power purchase agreement to pay for the system over time and utilize the federal tax credits. The McKinley Foundation is scheduled to receive a similar array with a PPA structure this summer.

Community Solar Farms

The Future Energy Jobs Act that passed last year included language for community-scale solar farms using a type of virtual net-metering. This would be a PPA type of arrangement where homeowners with shaded roofs can sign a long-term agreement to buy their electricity from a nearby solar farm. Several groups have had informal meet-ups around town to brainstorm what a community solar farm could be. Some discussions have included considering using one of the town’s old landfills or other brownfield spaces. More details of how these programs will be enacted are expected from the Illinois Power Authority  in June.

UUCUC 24kW Solar PPA

As of March 29, 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign (UUCUC) has a new 24-kilowatt Solar PV array that will offset about 70% of their annual electric use. The array was installed by Hawk Energy Solutions and Ruyle Mechanical of Peoria and is operated by Hawk-Attollo LLC. The church will purchase all the electricity generated through a power purchase agreement (PPA). This PPA allows the church to pay over time, and the installation to utilize the 30% Federal tax credit, accelerated depreciation, and the Illinois Solar Renewable Energy Credit auction.

There are 81 300-watt panels with Enphase microinverters that cover about three-fourths of the flat roof and are warrantied to last 25+ years. The church recently installed a new white membrane over the old leaking rubber roof. The solar array doesn’t penetrate the membrane, but instead rests on metal feet on rubber mats held down by concrete blocks.

With the power purchase agreement, the church will buy electricity from the solar array at $0.04/kilowatt-hour (kWh) (half the total Ameren rate for supply and delivery). The church has the option to buy out the solar contract in year 7, and the savings from the system is expected to pay for itself around year 12. Factoring in the church’s investments of about $38,000 over 6 years, the effective levelized cost of electricity over 25 years comes out to $0.0475/kWh. This will save over $120,000 over the 25-year lifetime of the system.

An initial estimate is that the solar array will generate 32,000 kWh/year and offset 49,600 pounds of CO2 per year, equivalent to 580 trees per year.  In the first month of operation, the panels offset the carbon of 51 trees, and about $300 of utility bills.

An integral part of this system is the real-time energy monitor on the solar production and on the building use. The energy monitor actually has four sub-meters for the four wings of the church. This shows instantaneously how much energy is saved turning lights off or knowing if the air conditioning or dehumidifiers are left running all night.

This project originated through a workshop with Faith in Place, where Cindy Shepherd and Jason Hawksworth presented how the PPA scenario could work for houses of worship. Of the six congregations in attendance, four received solar bids, and at least two of them are installing systems this year.

(Andy Robinson is a Green UU Church and solar project leader)


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Death with Dignity film screening announcement

Free showing of award-winning film:
How to Die in Oregon
A film about death with dignity and choices at the end of life
Saturday, July 8
9:30am- 12:30pm
Urbana Free Library
Sponsored by: Death with Dignity Group of the
Unitarian-Universalist Church
Final Options Illinois
Funeral Consumers Alliance of Champaign County

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March for Support of Immigrants at July 4th Parade

March for Support of Immigrants at July 4th Parade

Tuesday, July 4 at 11 AM1 PM

In an effort to demonstrate local support for immigrants in our community, the C-U Immigration Forum is organizing a huge participation in the July 4th Freedom Parade.

Our goal is to have 500 people march with us in the parade. If you are free to join us, please do so but also help spread the word among family, friends, co-workers and other organizations or faith communities you are active with.

We are encouraging people to sign up so we can track how many folks are participating and also to send out updates about details of the event. Sign up here:

Show up, speak out in your own unique way for the support of local immigrants and the progress of human rights. You can also join us in raising your voice and showing support in other ways:

Join us for a sign-making party on Saturday, July 1st from 2pm-4pm at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street. This is a kid-friendly event with food and plenty of crafty supplies. Immigration Forum t-shirts are also available. You may order your t-shirt here:

Thanks for your help and support.

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Food Not Bombs offering free vegetarian meals every Saturday at West Side Park

Food Not Bombs is an autonomous community organization that seeks to curb food waste and address food insecurity locally, is serving a free, freshly-cooked vegetarian meal in West Side Park, every Saturday at 6 p.m. All are welcome.

If you’d like to come eat, make a donation, or get involved, please visit us on Facebook, linked above — or send us an email at:






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No Accident: White Cop Shoots Another Black Man in Champaign

The shooting of unarmed Black men by white police in the United States is a story that keeps repeating over and over. The recent case of a local 22-year-old African American man shot in the shoulder by Champaign police officer James Hobson, who is white, is yet another outrageous example. It is a test case for police chief Anthony Cobb, who came into office in the wake of the police killing of Kiwane Carrington.

There has been some coverage of the shooting by the local media, in the News-Gazette and Smile Politely. Still, there has been little effort to dig deeper than the press releases put out by the Champaign police which have provided few details. According to the Champaign police, on Sunday night, June 11, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Officer Hobson stopped Dehari Banks in his car around Fourth Street on the North End. The reason why has not been provided. Banks had a case of driving on a suspended license, but it was pending, and he had not been convicted.

Perhaps scared by the many stories in the news, Banks did not stop his car, pulled into a driveway, ran into the garage door, got out and fled. Hobson ran after him and cornered Banks in a fenced-in area. According to Hobson’s police report, which has not been made available to the public, he drew his gun while coming to a running stop, pointed it, and “accidentally” shot Banks in the shoulder. Banks was unarmed.

One important detail that the news has failed to report is that Banks was not actually charged with anything to have justified his being shot. The News-Gazette listed a history of his offenses, and ran his mug shot, but failed to mention there were no traffic tickets or criminal charges filed against Banks for what happened that night.

Often, the police put “cover charges” on the victim of a police shooting to protect themselves from a potential lawsuit. Without charges, the City of Champaign is open to significant legal liability. No one was killed, so there will be no million dollar law suit. The family can hire an attorney and likely will get a cash settlement from the city.

Whether the decision to not charge Banks was a deliberate move by Chief Cobb, or (less likely) a result of the facts of the incident, the outcome is still uncertain. It remains to be seen whether Cobb will fire Hobson, who is on administrative leave according to the police union contract. Hobson is a rookie cop, joining the force in September 2015. Chief Cobb has called for “patience,” but he has refused to respond to phone calls about the incident.

Of course, anti-Black police violence in the US cannot honestly be described as an accident, but is the product of a fear and anxiety over Black bodies. Indeed, the police killing of 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington in 2009 was also described as an “accident” and Officer Norbitz, who allegedly shot him, cleared of charges.

In 1970, Black resident Edgar Hoults was killed by a Champaign police officer who chased him down, aimed his gun, claimed he slipped, and shot Hoults in the back of the head with a hollow point bullet, killing him instantly. It was claimed Hoults’s death was also an “accident.” The cop who killed him was exonerated by a jury.

More recently, I reported on four Champaign police officers who in December 2016 killed Richard “Richie” Turner, a homeless African American man, in Campustown. None of the police were charged and they are still on the force.

Champaign police keep killing―or trying to kill―Black people.

Some have questioned why Hobson wasn’t wearing a body cam. Across the country, body cams are being presented as a solution to police violence. Yet in cases like, most recently, that of Philando Castile, video footage of police killings has failed to bring justice for Black victims.

According to a source, Banks has been released from the hospital and is recovering.

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