India’s commitment to democracy under scrutiny

Two weeks ago, the government of India arrested 22-year-old Disha Ravi on charges of “sedition” for associating herself with a Google Doc produced by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, suggesting ways to support protests by Indian farmers. The farmers’ right to peaceful protest should, even if protests are disruptive, be protected by India’s government. Ravi was jailed for 10 days, before being released.

The Washington Post Editorial Board writes, bluntly:

ANY GOVERNMENT that would charge a 22-year-old climate and animal rights activist with sedition on the basis of a Google Doc cannot be readily described as a democracy. So the arrest this month of Disha Ravi by the Indian administration of Narendra Modi ought to ring alarm bells about whether a country that boasts of being the world’s largest democracy still deserves that title.

What’s particularly disturbing about Ms. Ravi’s persecution is that it is part of a broad pattern of speech suppression and other violations of democratic norms by the Modi government. Several journalists who covered a day of demonstrations by the farmers in New Delhi last month also face criminal charges. The government has pressured Twitter to block the accounts of hundreds of people linked to the protests. It has intimidated much of the mainstream Indian media into self-censorship.

India’s government owes its exercise of authority to all of the people of India, not to specific interests it wishes to protect. There is no legitimate way a government can arrest activists and journalists, or support or condone shadowy forces that threaten violence against them. The cases against Ms. Ravi, other activists supporting peaceful protest, and journalists covering the story, must be dropped, immediately. No democracy can behave this way; it is imperative that other allied democracies make this demand as forcefully as possible, to ensure India’s government honors its duty to democracy.

Tens of Thousands Protest across Russia, Demand Navalny’s Release

The regime of Vladimir Putin ordered the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in a rushed jailhouse hearing after his return to Russia, then “found” it had the right to hold him for at least 30 days. The political crackdown against an anti-corruption campaigner Putin’s security forces attempted to assassinate has sparked outrage across Russia and around the world.

In a defiant show of resistance and independence, more than 100,00 have joined protests in more than 70 cities across Russia, demanding Navalny’s immediate release. Candidates supported by Navalny’s movement have been among the only non-loyalist candidates to win elected office in Russia in recent years. Putin is reportedly so afraid of the influence Navalny has built with the Russian people that he refuses to mention his name.

Navalny has reached people across Russia with his anti-corruption campaign. Anger at his detention is so deep there was even a sizable protest in Yakutsk, where temperatures were -50°C (yes, 50 degrees below zero).

The Washington Post is reporting today that:

Saturday’s demonstrations came after a sweeping national crackdown in which police detained opposition activists and courts locked up Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, and another team member, Georgy Alburov, co-author of a bombshell viral YouTube video “Putin’s Palace — History of the World’s Largest Bribe.”

The video, posted Tuesday, alleging colossal corruption in the construction of a vast Black Sea palace for Putin, has been viewed more than 68 million times. The Kremlin denies any relationship between Putin and the palace.

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Courage in the face of tyranny puts Putin regime on the defensive

The return of Alexei Navalny to Russia, after operatives apparently working for Vladimir Putin poisoned him with a military-grade neurotoxin, is an act of courage beyond anything Russia’s president has ever shown. Navalny is the leader of Russia’s leading anti-corruption effort, so Putin’s cruel opposition to his work speaks volumes about the corrupt and unaccountable nature of his regime.

If Putin had anything like the courage, principle, or patriotism Navalny has shown, he would immediately release him, and all who support him, and he would call for open elections to be monitored by independent foreign election observers, under an absolute prohibition on using any powers of the state to assist his own campaign.

The half-baked charges Putin’s regime uses to keep its critics from mounting strong national campaigns is evidence of the regime’s unfitness to govern, and of its structural frailty. That the regime also murders those it cannot sideline or silence is proof it operates outside any justifiable legal mandate and works actively against—not for—the interests of the Russian people.

Navalny arrested upon return to Russia

Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny—a popular political opponent of Vladimir Putin’s regime—returned to Russia today, months after he was poisoned in an attempted assassination. Navalny narrowly escaped assassination after Russian operatives lined his underwear with the lethal nerve agent Novichok.

When he fell ill, his plane landed, he was evacuated to hospital, and then sent on to Germany for treatment. Investigators in Germany determined he was poisoned with Novichok, a banned Russian nerve agent.

Today, Navalny returned to his Russia. His plane was diverted when its intended destination airport was abruptly closed to incoming air traffic. Upon arrival, he was reportedly taken into custody.

Axios reports:

Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Amnesty International is calling for his immediate release, as well as the release of any who went to greet him upon his return. Amnesty’s Moscow director is saying:

Navalny’s arrest is further evidence that Russian authorities are seeking to silence him. His detention only highlights the need to investigate his allegations that he was poisoned by state agents acting on orders from the highest levels.

International outcry over the attempted assassination of Mr. Navalny and the regime’s persecution of his Anti-Corruption campaign has been widespread. World leaders have denounced the poisoning and demanded a full and transparent investigation from Russian authorities, which has not materialized.

Recording reveals complicity of Russian state in poisoning of Navalny

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny appears to have identified at least one of his attackers.

The AP is reporting:

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday released a recording of a phone call he said he made to an alleged state security operative, who revealed some details of how the politician was supposedly poisoned and media identified as a member of a team that has reportedly trailed Navalny for years.

Read the full story here.

Conscience of a Country

In October 2016, President Barack Obama hosted a South by South Lawn Festival for people working to achieve social good through organizing and innovation. Rep. John Lewis told a new generation of committed change makers it was necessary to “get into some good trouble”, to upset the balance of power making injustice too much the norm, and to make more good possible.

John Lewis was 23 years old when he addressed the 1963 March on Washington. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, he was nearly beaten to death. He often noted he was arrested more than 40 times in the 1960s, during protests demanding fully equal protection of civil rights and voting rights. He was uniquely driven and dedicated, but was never alone; he believed in being part of a movement, was always attuned to the movement of public conscience, and he never gave up.

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George Floyd should be Alive Today

George Floyd should be alive today.

George Floyd was murdered. The four men who killed him could have chosen not to kill him at any time. Now former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes. For six of those minutes, George Floyd begged for his life. For three minutes, he was unresponsive. Chauvin continued to press his knee down, deliberately using the weight of his body to cut off both the air and blood supply.

The actions of the 3 accomplices—who not only failed to stop Chauvin but aided him—have shredded the sense that we are protected by a shared fabric of mutual responsibility. Public authority comes from the authorization of the public. As the nation’s founding document notes, “governments … [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed”, and then only to protect universal rights.

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Trump Attacks Peaceful Demonstrators outside White House

In an inexplicable departure from basic American Constitutional law, Pres. Donald Trump today ordered a paramilitary attack on nonviolent protesters gathered in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. In what will likely be studied as an example of Trump’s disregard for basic human rights, a large number of heavily armed security officers, whose affiliation was not clearly marked, launched a combat-style attack on peaceful protesters.

According to NPR:

The plaza between St. John’s Church and Lafayette Park was full of people nonviolently protesting police brutality late Monday afternoon when U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops, with the use of tear gas, suddenly started pushing them away for no apparent reason.

The reason, it turned out, was that Trump wanted to stage a photo op across the Park at St. John’s Church.

Speculation has run wild that the President may have conspired with the Attorney General to create an ad hoc strike force, not officially sanctioned by any law, to carry out the attack. High-ranking administration officials, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—the nation’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer—and the Attorney General walked with Pres. Trump across the recently cleared Park.

Civil rights organizations, as well as leading members of both political parties, have criticized the attack. Legal experts expect there may be lawsuits, or possible criminal inquiries into the conduct of some administration officials.

UPDATE—June 12, 2020

Protesters attacked in Lafayette Park file lawsuit

According to Lawfare:

Three protesters accused members of the Trump administration of violating their First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, as well as the Posse Comitatus Act, in a complaint filed in D.C. federal court On June 11, 2020. Seeking relief under Bivens and the Posse Comitatus Act, the protesters allege that while demonstrating peacefully in Lafayette Square they were sprayed with tear gar and hit with rubber bullets so the president could clear the crowd and attend a photo-op at a nearby church.

Berlin Wall opened 30 years ago today

The Berlin Wall separated the city into West and East, and created tense conditions for conflict that lasted for decades. Because Berlin was surrounded by East Germany, the Wall was a kind of dual siege—cruelly isolating both West Berlin and East Germany. An estimated 200 people were killed trying to get across to the other side, to visit friends and family, or to escape from tyranny.

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Respect the dignity & worth of every human being

Asked by Brian Williams what he says to colleagues who are being subjected to racist attacks by a lawless President, civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia, said:

I tell them to keep the faith, to keep their eyes on the prize, and to never ever give up, ’cause Dr. King taught us never to hate, never become bitter, because hate is too heavy a burden to bear, to believe in peace, and the way of love, to believe in the philosophy of nonviolence, and over and over again, I say we must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being. A young Republican came up to me today and said ’John, what must we do?’ I said ’Just continue to love; it is the best way; it is the only way.’

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