Social Justice


July 12, 2009

Editor's note: Hugh Farrell is an I-69 activist who, along with Gina "Tiga" Wertz, has been charged by state officials with felony racketeering for their activism. Authorities executed another search warrant against another activist on July 9. Among the actions he is being investigated for is having allegedly lived with Farrell. Farrell and Wertz's first court appearances, scheduled for July 14 in Pike County, have been continued to Aug. 25.

***

To all my friends and companions,

In the eight weeks since our arrest, I've felt more overwhelmed by your solidarity than by the State's persecution. This is how it should be, and I often feel unable to express how grateful I am for the many different initiatives and fundraising efforts that so many of you have undertaken since then.

During some moments of isolation, times when repression is so palpable I can barely breathe, the actions of many have kept me strong and grounded: the letters, hugs, the intelligent and kind words that have been said or circulated. Despite the efforts of the authorities, I've remained a part of my communities.


July 12, 2009

The last time anyone from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) told the truth about the new-terrain Interstate 69/NAFTA Highway from Evansville to Bloomington was 20 years ago this week. On July 19, 1989, an Iowa consultant hired by the agency gathered a room full of Southwest Indiana public officials in Evansville to share the results of a feasibility study. Their conclusion: none of the routes evaluated “have a good enough cost-benefit ratio to justify their construction,” the Bloomington Herald-Times reported the next day.

But before the “Southwest Indiana Highway Feasibility Study” had been bound and formally released seven months later, liars, thieves and bullies hijacked the process. And in the two decades since honest professionals told them that Hoosier taxpayers cannot afford Evansville’s political blackmail, a bipartisan coalition of pork-meisters have flipped tens of millions of taxpayer dollars back and forth, reduced the noble acts of public comment and participation to thumb-twiddling, taken and destroyed four families’ homes, graded 1.77 miles of land and laid a couple hundred feet of concrete.

They have also transformed our political system from a reasonably functioning democracy into an emerging fascist state, whose purpose is to fund and defend their interests. In 1989, public officials respected the public so much that they commissioned unbiased, professional studies of major public works projects and let citizens see the results at the same time they did, in public. In 2009, they are charging 20-something kids as organized criminals for shouting at meetings and picking up office furniture inside a building and dropping it outside in the parking lot.


June 14, 2009

Susan Sandberg eases the glass door of the jail lobby open, quickly peeking over her black-framed glasses to survey the room. Like a scene from a corny made-for-TV movie, a gust of wind blows her short blond hair.

Today, she dons a black leather jacket, blue jeans and pearls, a departure from her colorful, everyday ensembles, which usually feature chunky turquoise jewelry and red shoes.

"I don't normally wear my pearls to these things," she says with a laugh. "But I've got to rush off after this, jump into my little black dress, and I'm off to another event."


June 14, 2009

In June of 1958, police broke down the door to Richard and Mildred Loving in the hope of catching them in the act of sexual intercourse. Why? Because Richard Loving was a white man and Mildred Loving was a black woman, and Virginia’s laws, based on long-discredited theories of eugenics, prohibited sexual intercourse between members of different races.

The police didn’t manage to catch Richard and Mildred en flagrante. But they did catch something else, a marriage certificate hanging on the wall of the Lovings’ bedroom. That, too, was something illegal in Virginia. The Lovings were married in the District of Columbia, which allowed mixed-race couples to marry. But they had returned to their home in Virginia, whose state code made mixed-race couples returning to the state after being married criminals.

The Lovings were subsequently sentenced to a year in prison with the sentence suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia.


May 31, 2009

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" - so says the Declaration of Independence, the shot across Britain's bow that said there was no God-sanctioned hierarchy of individuals.

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons." - so said the Constitution of the United States, reminding everyone that when the Declaration of Independence said "all men," it really only meant all men.

And, furthermore, it really only meant all white men.

May 17, 2009

PMSI, Inc., the Noblesville company the county has contracted to study and plan a "justice campus," has released its final report. Among the proposals is an expanded adult jail with a capacity of at least 400 prisoners with room to expand by another 400, and a 72 bed juvenile facility, also with room to expand.

In total, PMSI anticipates the cost to be between $64 million and $78 million.

Decarcerate Monroe County (DMC), a coalition of residents resisting jail expansion, encourages the community to reject PMSI and its proposal. Our opposition is based both on the lack of process in which PMSI has engaged and the actual content of what they propose.

May 3, 2009

Editor’s Note: The following letter to The Bloomington Alternative is being published here in its entirety with the permission of its author.

***

Mr. Higgs:

Is the only way to receive justice in Monroe County Indiana to be of a financial status to be able to afford to buy it? I thought that perhaps your experience in covering the news and events in Bloomington may have given you the insight to be able to help me answer this question.

I have experienced being homeless and been impoverished here in Bloomington firsthand in the past, and although there are a number of compassionate individuals and organizations here in B-town that are very helpful to those experiencing poverty, I have found local politics and the local judicial system to be less than friendly and in most cases prejudiced against those individuals living below the poverty level.


March 8, 2009

For Nila Sunday, the term “refrigerator mother” is more than a historic and discredited theory on the cause of autism. It’s a real and painful memory for the mother of one of the first autistic children in Indiana to be diagnosed.

The phrase was coined by Dr. Leo Kanner, an Austrian psychiatrist who first identified autism in 1943, 21 years before the birth of then-Nila Inman’s twin sons Kevin and Keith. In 1949, Kanner cited a "genuine lack of maternal warmth" and "parental coldness” as common threads in the families of children with autism.

“That was the first thing that I started to hear,” Sunday said. “And that was exactly the opposite of the way I was with my kids.”


January 11, 2009

Volunteers file in, as Karen McEwen slides her dark hair behind her ear and asks for help. She needs to get donated books out of her car.

She sorts the books, deciding if they are worth keeping or selling. She looks them up on the Internet, peering over the edge of her glasses while also fielding questions from volunteers.

"Karen, where can I find this type of book?" one of the volunteers asks. "Karen, they asked for this, but we don't have it," says another. "What should I send instead?"


January 11, 2009

It's only eight years since I was last at the White House, but it seems like a hundred.

I don't frequent that place, but chanced to be there on Bill Clinton's last day. On one hand, it was a day of warm satisfaction, on the other hand, a dark, cold, ominous day.

My wife Dark Rain and I were in a group of scholars, historians, filmmakers, movers and shakers, and American Indians, who had spent years planning the upcoming 2003-06 bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clinton's very last White House function was in the hour just before George W. Bush and his gang arrived to take over. Many of us felt that the incoming administration was illegitimate and were grousing as we were ushered in by the Marine guards. But we were happy with what Clinton was about to do before leaving:

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