From the February 2014 PNL #831

compiled by Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre

CeCe McDonald Gets an Early Release


CeCe displays her resilience of spirit when
trans rights activist Leslie Feinberg visits her at
a Minnesota men’s prison. Photo: Leslie Feinberg

CeCe McDonald, the Minnesota woman jailed for stabbing and killing a man in self defense, was released on January 13 over one year early. She will continue to be monitored by authorities until the end of her original 41-month sentence.


In 2011 McDonald and a few friends were walking to a grocery store late at night when they were confronted by a group of people standing outside a bar who started yelling racist and transphobic slurs. McDonald testified that a fight broke out in which a glass bottle was smashed on her face and, ultimately, she stabbed one attacker with scissors in an act of self-defense.

McDonald, a transgender woman, spent the last 20 months in two men’s prisons in Minnesota because authorities did not acknowledge her gender identity. Throughout her case, supporters around the world rallied behind McDonald, calling her incarceration unjust and her placement in a men’s facility discriminatory. McDonald’s supporters are celebrating her early release and we will keep up the resistance to the racist and hetero-normative system.

A few words from McDonald’s personal blog: “I would have rather been punished for asserting myself than become another victim of hatred. No, I’m not saying violence is key or all people should react the way I did, but our communities, whether here or abroad, have become the victim of malicious and hateful crimes. We need to start now.”


First GMO Ban in the US!

On December 5, 2013, Mayor of the island of Hawaii Billy Kenoi signed Bill 113, which prohibits biotech companies from operating on the island and bans farmers from growing new genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bill exempts papayas—over 200 farmers currently grow GMO papayas on the island—and the one field of GMO corn that was already planted before the bill was approved.

Speaking on the day he signed the bill, Mayor Kenoi said: “Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources.… With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.”

There is growing public resistance to the use of GMOs worldwide, while some sectors of the science community indignantly claim that GMO crops are no riskier than conventional crops. Activists wonder what exactly the scientists mean by “risky” and whose payroll they are on. Sixty-four countries label GMOs. The US is not among them.

In related news, Mexico recently imposed a temporary moratorium on planting GMO corn. Commentators view this move as only a delay, not a step toward a permanent ban. However, Mexico’s agriculture ministry intends to designate areas where GMO corn would be banned and create other safety regulations.


Lynne Stewart leaves prison on compassionate release

Lynne Stewart had a long career of defending what were, in her words, “revolutionaries against unjust systems or people whose cases expose those injustices.” But in 2009 she was convicted of materially aiding a terrorist organization. How did that happen?

After Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman was convicted of planning terrorist attacks, Stewart continued to defend him in prison. He was subjected to restrictions on his communications with the outside world and his lawyers also had to agree to certain restrictions. Stewart circulated a press release for Abdel-Rahman in 2000. Stewart said she found out later that the Clinton administration had chosen not to prosecute her. After 9/11, in April 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced her indictment for materially aiding a terrorist organization.

In November 2009 Stewart entered prison to serve a term of 28 months. She was a cancer survivor when she entered prison at age 70, but she was receiving chemotherapy by the time of her resentencing in July 2010. Her outlook became even grimmer then with a new sentence of ten years.

Stewart’s supporters have been working tirelessly asking for her compassionate release so that she may be home with family in these days of old age and illness. We are so overjoyed for her long-awaited homecoming.


Fracking Bans Span NYS


The town of Moravia successfully passed a ban on hydrofracking and related activities within its town limits in December. In 2012 the town had imposed a moratorium while activists gathered support for a comprehensive ban.


There are over 300 municipalities in New York State that have some kind of rule against fracking or related activities, according to Joe Hoff, Chairperson of Keuka Citizens Against Hydrofracking, who tracks hydrofracking legislation, court cases and similar activities. He estimates that 2.4 million New Yorkers benefit from these bans, moratoria, and other restrictions.


California Set to License Undocumented Lawyer

Sergio Garcia will become the first ever undocumented immigrant to be licensed to practice law in the US. The Obama Administration actively tried to prevent the California Supreme Court from issuing the license. In 2012 the Department of Justice stated that the Court could not issue a license to Garcia because of his immigration status, despite the fact that he had fulfilled all the requirements laid out in the state bar’s admissions policy. California’s highest court rejected that argument on January 2.

Garcia had been pushing for this for four years since he passed the Bar Exam in 2009. But Larry DeSha, a former prosecutor in California, says Garcia’s troubles are not over: “He can’t say he is going to fulfill his duties as attorney when one of those duties is to uphold all federal laws, when he’s here illegally. And no one can administer the oath to him knowing he’s going to be illegal the minute he puts his hand down. And the other thing is clients can’t pay him money. And any client who finds out that he is illegal has to fire him under federal law.”

While DeSha intends to show that even with a license Garcia won’t be able to function in the system as a lawyer because of his undocumented status, perhaps he more effectively demonstrates how the immigration system does not reflect or respond to the realities of millions of people living and working in the US.

There are two other similar cases currently under consideration: Cesar Vargas in New York and Jose Godinez-Samperio in Florida.