Support the Eastern Illinois Foodbank

With so many unemployed, the demands on our local food bank are greater than ever. The Editorial Collective of the Public i urges you to help those in need by donating to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, 2405 N. Shore Dr., Urbana, Il, 61802; eifoodbank.org.

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Urbana Civilian Police Review Board Under the Spotlight After Violent Arrest

For the past seven Urbana City Council meetings, residents have lined up to deliver what has amounted to several hours of criticism and dozens of misconduct allegations against the Urbana Police Department. Sparked by the violent arrest of an Urbana resident captured on video by vigilant civilians, this incident has brought the most prolific and persistent public presence to City Council in years.

A common theme recited by many: where does our Civilian Police Review Board stand in this picture? Unfortunately, unless someone who was physically present manages to file a complaint, Urbana Police Chief Bryant Seraphin claims that the civilian board has no power to review the incident.

The Urbana Civilian Police Review board, frequently shortened to “CPRB”, was created in 2007 thanks to local grassroots efforts. Unfortunately, the ordinance ultimately passed by City Council was not exactly what the founders had in mind. Much of the investigative and disciplinary powers of the board were stripped away from the initial proposal, leaving the CPRB in a state that some residents have called a “rubber stamp” for the police department. Continue reading

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GEO Open Letter Concerning Student Healthcare Access Passes 200 Signatures

On Wednesday, May 12, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) Local #6300 AFT/IFT/AFL-CIO representing graduate employees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sent an open letter to university administrators with over 200 signatures. In addition to being signed by the Campus Faculty Association and the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition, about half the 200 individual signers were faculty at UIUC.

The letter calls on the administration to cover summer healthcare costs for all employees and revoke the planned 33 percent insurance premiums hike set to impact graduate and undergraduate students this fall. The delivery of the open letter comes on the heels of a car rally on May 1 and a call-in event on April 24 during which the GEO phone-banked the offices of the administration calling for the same demands to be met.

On May 1st, the GEO organized a car rally calling on the university administration to provide summer health care for graduate workers and drop plans to increase student health insurance premiums by 33% this fall. Photo by Ben Joseph Lash

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Public Speaks Out About Use of Force by Urbana Police–Council Reviews Police Investigation

 

On April 10, Urbana police responded to a call on East Colorado Avenue about an armed man and possible shot fired. Police arrived, frisked an uninvolved youth, and then focused on a man and woman they suspected were involved. After the police apprehended the male suspect, an officer initiated physical restraint with the young woman and a violent skirmish ensued, which was captured on video from above at a nearby apartment building. The video covers a span of six minutes, during which the woman is seen struggling as a police officer punches the resident in her head, strikes her in the ribs with his knee, sits on her with a rifle pushed into her back, handcuffs her and then hyperextends her arms. The person who videotaped the event, Gregory Hugger, posted it that day; the video has been viewed by over 34,000 people and has received 1,800 comments. Police allegedly visited Mr. Hugger’s home later and asked him to take his video down, but he refused. Weeks later, after the police released extensive, edited body camera footage, Linda Kwon released this close-up video, in which the woman can be heard saying “You just punched me! I hope you have body cameras on!” It also shows the woman being arrested by multiple officers who hobble her legs and place a spit hood over her head in the squad car. The resident was taken directly to the county jail and charged with four felony counts for resisting arrest and aggravated battery to police officers, and faces up to 12 years in prison.

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Party for Socialism and Liberation, Champaign-Urbana, Launches Free Grocery Delivery Service

The Public i has received this press release from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Champaign-Urbana, detailing its new, free grocery delivery service. The program is designed to help those affected by the pandemic get access to essential goods. While the program will operate based on reimbursements, no one will be turned away for an inability to pay the the full price for their groceries. We’ve published their press release in its entirety below.


GROCERY DELIVERY SERVICE

Please pass this info on to those struggling to obtain groceries during the pandemic.

This delivery service is intended to serve people who have difficulties obtaining groceries during the pandemic. Some people that may be facing such difficulties are

  • Those with immune-deficiency issues who want to avoid public interaction
  • Those with disabilities who find it difficult to travel to stores
  • Those taking care of children who are home from school
  • Those who lack consistent access to cars or other transportation
  • Those living with individuals who are at elevated risk of contracting COVID

This list is not exhaustive and no explanation is required for those who want to use this service.

At this time, we are delivering groceries on Fridays and Saturdays, with a maximum of 10 orders per day. You can fill out the grocery order form at https://forms.gle/GULL5DysqYjbw7rZA

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Champaign County Bailout Coalition Plans Noise Demonstration Rally

The Public i has received this press release from the Champaign County Bailout Coalition. We have published the statement in its entirety below. To download a copy of this statement, click here.

Champaign County Bailout Coalition Noise Demonstration Rally Demanding Decarceration of Jails during COVID-19 Pandemic 

Champaign County Bailout Coalition is holding a noise demonstration rally at Canaday Park to keep pressure on Champaign County officials to release as many people as possible and help contain the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This demonstration follows more than a month of community phone calls and an open letter to the offices of Sheriff Dustin Heuerman, State’s Attorney Julia Reitz, and Presiding Judge Thomas Difanis, demanding that they take measures to release as many people as possible from the local jails and minimize the number of people incarcerated at a time when the Center for Disease Control recommends social distancing practices to protect public health.

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GEO Drive to Survive Rally

The Public i has received this press release from the Graduate Employees’ Organization. We have published it in its entirety below.

———————————————————————————————————-

GEObanner.png

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 30, 2020

CONTACT:

Owen MacDonald

913-944-2676

ojmacdonald@gmail.com

GRADUATE WORKERS’ DRIVE TO SURVIVE MAY DAY RALLY  FOR HEALTHCARE

GEO demands the University administration to cover summer health insurance.

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN — The Graduate Employees’ Organization , Local 6300 AFT/IFT, is organizing a socially distanced car rally this Friday, May 1 at 12:00 p.m. to convey two demands to the University Administration. Members and allies will meet in Parking Lot A of Orchard Downs before processing in cars, on foot, and on bikes to two visible campus locations. With members facing financial instability in tandem with the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, GEO is demanding that the University of Illinois Board of Trustees cover summer health insurance premiums for graduate students who do not hold waiver-granting appointments over that period.

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COVID-19 testing is available at Frances Nelson

COVID-19 testing is available at Frances Nelson Health Center, 819 Bloomington Road, Champaign.

Symptomatic patients can get tested at Frances Nelson from 7:30 am – 5:15 pm, Monday through Friday. For an appointment, call our COVID-19 Care Line at (217) 403-5402.

For more information check out our website at www.promisehealth.org, call (217) 403-5401 or email info@promisehealth.org.

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Comment from ACLU to Urbana City Council Regarding Aleyah Lewis’ Arrest

Champaign County ACLU appreciates the city of Urbana’s commitment to community-centered policing and to maintaining a well-trained professional police force that is held to the highest standards. We are concerned about the lack of professionalism during the April 10 arrest of Aleyah Lewis. Urbana officers are professionals who know how to use verbal techniques to de-escalate stressful situations, yet failed to do so. Instead, Urbana officers, the trained professionals in this interaction, rushed toward Ms. Lewis to arrest her, triggering a physical altercation.

De-escalation is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each interaction police officers have with community members carries a risk of infection—both for the officer and the community member. Officers should use every tool at their disposal to avoid taking individuals into custody.

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The Fight of Our Lives: Info On Unionizing from UE

The Fight of Our Lives

While employers are getting trillions of dollars in bailout money to offset the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, many workers are deemed essential and forced to continue working in unsafe conditions with little or no protection.

Workers are fighting for and winning personal protective equipment, additional sick leave, hazard pay, and in some cases forcing their employers to temporarily suspend work until it is safe to return.

Both union and non-union workers around the country are realizing their power by walking off the job when their lives and safety are put at risk, going public about the lack of personal protective equipment, and forcing employers to take their demands seriously.

What actions make sense will differ from workplace to workplace, but all workers have the right to work without fearing for their safety or their families safety.

To get answers to these question, visit the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America at https://www.ueunion.org/fight.

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Resources for Artists and Small Businesses

Financial Assistance During the COVID-19 Crisis: for small businesses, for Illinois artists

TOC:

State of Illinois:

  1. Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund — IDCEO, IDFPR
  2. Downstate Small Business Stabilization Grant Program — not available for Champaign-Urbana because of a HUD funding that already exists
  3. Arts Alliance Ilinois — Information, Webinars, and FAQ about grant and loan opportunities
  4. “Arts for Illinois Relief Fund” — www.artsforillinois.org
  5. The Arts Work Fund Emergency Relief Fund — https://artsworkfund.org/\

Federal: U.S. SBA

  1. PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM (PPP) — U.S. Small Business Association: www.sba.gov
  2. ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOAN-ADVANCE PROGRAM (EIDL) — U.S. Small Business Association (SBA): covid19relief.sba.gov

Other national, but not governmental:

  1. Artist Relief: https://www.artistrelief.org

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Organizing for a Rent Freeze in CU and Illinois

Why is a rent freeze necessary?

The global pandemic which resulted from COVID-19 drastically affects the employment status of millions of workers in the United States and the wider world. As advised by the Center for Disease Control and The World Health Organization, it is necessary to physically distance oneself from the public. Specifically in Champaign-Urbana, these orders, which are important to adhere to, have led to the increase in unemployment status for residents. Meaning, their employers are no longer able to support them in the looming recession. Residents who are not receiving hazard pay, or do not have the option to work remotely, are faced with the financial burden of making rent.

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Free WiFi Hotspots and Low-Cost Internet Options in CU

In the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, internet access has become more critical than ever before. In keeping with social distancing orders, schools, meetings, basic communications, work, and many other societal functions have moved online for the foreseeable future.

For many working-class and low-income families and individuals, however, the quality, high-speed internet access they need has been and remains unaffordable. With the pandemic closing the libraries, cafes, and other spots in CU that used to provide free WiFi hotspots, these people have been left with few options.

To mitigate this problem, local businesses, schools, and community organizations have begun to provide access to free, socially distanced mobile hotspots and low-cost internet options. In an effort to help people navigate the many options and find what’s best for them, community member Sharon Irish has compiled information on them into the detailed and useful letter below. Thank you Sharon for sharing info on these important resources!

C-U Connect WiFi Access Points

A map showing free WiFi hotspots in purple.

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Champaign County Bailout Coalition Open Letter to County Officials Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic

The Champaign County Bailout Coalition (CCBC), a coalition of groups and individuals in focused on bailing out individuals in our Champaign County jails who cannot afford bail, has released an open letter which we have published below.

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COVID-19 and the Inadequacy of US Healthcare

The coronavirus pandemic has made the total inadequacy of our current health care system crystal clear and proved the necessity of adopting an improved and expanded Medicare for All system in the US as soon as possible.

Our current system of healthcare is basically a rationing system that punishes those without access to health insurance or whose health insurance is inadequate.  In the latter case a recent study demonstrated that with rare exceptions, most policies leave individuals and their families with large portions of health care expense left uncovered.  This is the reason why a growing number of health care professionals and analysts, including the American College of Physicians, have called for passage of Medicare for All legislation like that proposed by Bernie Sanders.

Now passage of this legislation becomes even more essential.  The reports of people who cannot pay the medical bills for coronavirus treatment proliferate.  In select cases symptomatic individuals hesitate to come forward for fear of the expense of care.  Not least given the ability of drug companies, hospitals and doctors to charge anything that the “market will bear,” current estimates of the total costs of the pandemic for the US economy are astronomical.

Worst of all, when people cannot receive quality health care in a pandemic we are all at risk.  In a very real sense, a pandemic is a great equalizer, wealth and access to the best health care money can buy guarantee nothing.

Let’s take the lessons of this crisis to heart; support Medicare for All.

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UC Books to Prisoners Ships Thousands of Books in Mega-Packing Day

On Monday March 16, with the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States beginning to skyrocket, many who were able were already taking steps to work remotely and shelter in place. But down in the basement of the Independent Media Center, eight volunteers from Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners (B2P) were hard at work.

Aware that the pandemic would soon mean that they must close their doors, members of B2P had decided to have one last volunteer day to try and get as much work done as possible before then. So, for about eight hours that Monday, B2P volunteers worked to fulfill as many book requests, answer as many letters, and ship as many books as they could.

B2P volunteers hard at work on March 16th’s “Mega-Packing” volunteer day. Photo by Adithya Kuchibhotla

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COVID-19 News and Important Resources

*Last Updated May 3, 2020*

There are now over 1,000,000 confirmed cases of Corona Virus/COVID-19 in the United States, and over 170 confirmed cases in Champaign County. To avoid contracting or spreading the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you keep at least six feet of distance from others, stay indoors as much as possible, and frequently disinfect commonly used or shared surfaces such as keyboards, computer mice, toilets, sinks, door handles, light switches, controllers, remotes, chair backs, and staircase railings. If you must go outdoors or visit public areas, the CDC recommends that you wear a face mask and protective gloves. As of March 20, Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker has issued a shelter-in-place order effective until at least April 7. This order has since been extended until May 30.

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, local CU organizers have pushed for a swift and progressive response to ensure that those most vulnerable to the disease and its impacts are looked after. The best guide to local resources is this document put together by Champaign-Urbana Mutual Aid, a recently formed online group of volunteers and organizers addressing the crisis. In addition, the State of Illinois has recently launched a new website for COVID-19 updates and resources. Continue reading

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Cover Image for March/April Issue

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Criminal Justice Reform to Return Dignity to Community

This is an edited version of the statement by 103rd District Illinois State Representative Carol Ammons made to the Champaign County Board on November 21, 2019. For more on criminal justice reform ideas, see http://www.staterepcarolammons.com/.

Good evening, members of the Champaign County Board. Thank you to Chairman Rosales and County Executive Darlene Kloeppel for creating this opportunity for me to share my experience and legislative agenda with you all as you contemplate the next steps for the Champaign County jail.

As a County Board member (2008-2013), I participated in the past examination of the condition of the county jail. During that time, I served on the Community Justice Taskforce in 2013. I also participated in the selection of the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) which produced the Champaign County Criminal Justice System Assessment Final Report, dated September 24, 2013.

I have been working to advance pretrial justice for over ten years—a few decades shy of what many have put in. However, even people who are relatively new to this work know that we are at a special moment. Half a century after the Manhattan Bail Project first showed that money bail is unnecessary to assure court appearance, there is unprecedented, growing demand for change; far-reaching litigation is compelling jurisdictions to abruptly alter their practices; and local, state, and national lawmakers are honing in on plans for comprehensive reform. Continue reading

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The Trump Administration Just Opened a New Immigrant Prison in Rural Michigan

Oscar Castañeda (L) meets local Democratic officials at a protest against the opening of The GEO Group’s North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan, on October 1, 2019 (Photo by Theresa Rosado)

From his office at the Cristo Rey Church in Lansing, Michigan, Oscar Castañeda runs a campaign against a new federal immigrant prison, part of President Donald Trump’s escalation of immigration enforcement.

In May, 2019, the Trump administration awarded a ten-year, $398 million contract to The GEO Group, the largest private prison corporation in the country, to reopen a shuttered Michigan prison. Located in rural Baldwin, Michigan, the North Lake Correctional Facility opened in late 2019 with a capacity of 1,800. Continue reading

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