The Discrimination Faced By 19th Century Irish Immigrants

Yesterday the country celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate the many contributions that Irish Americans have given to our great country. In this time when Muslim Americans, Hispanics and immigrants are facing much prejudice and discrimination, it is important to remember that the early Irish immigrants of the 19th century faced many of the same problems. Many native born Protestant Americans thought Irish were criminals, were racially inferior, and thought the Roman Catholic faith was incompatible with American democratic values.

Christopher Klein for The History Channel wrote an article about the discrimination faced by Irish immigrants in 19th century America titled When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis. Klein wrote:

There was a time, however, when the thought of Americans honoring all things Irish was unimaginable. This is the story of the prejudice encountered by refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger and how those Irish exiles persevered to become part of the American mainstream.

The refugees seeking haven in America were poor and disease-ridden. They threatened to take jobs away from Americans and strain welfare budgets. They practiced an alien religion and pledged allegiance to a foreign leader. They were bringing with them crime. They were accused of being rapists. And, worst of all, these undesirables were Irish…

…The Irish filled the most menial and dangerous jobs, often at low pay. They cut canals. They dug trenches for water and sewer pipes. They laid rail lines. They cleaned houses. They slaved in textile mills. They worked as stevedores, stable workers and blacksmiths. Not only did working-class Americans see the cheaper laborers taking their jobs, some of the Irish refugees even took up arms against their new homeland during the Mexican-American War. Drawn in part by higher wages and a common faith with the Mexicans, some members of the St. Patrick’s Battalion had deserted the U.S. Army after encountering ill-treatment by their bigoted commanders and fought with the enemy. After their capture, 50 members of the “San Patricios” were executed by the U.S. Army for their treasonous decisions…

…In 1849, a clandestine fraternal society of native-born Protestant men called the Order of the Star Spangled Banner formed in New York. Bound by sacred oaths and secret passwords, its members wanted a return to the America they once knew, a land of “Temperance, Liberty and Protestantism.” Similar secret societies with menacing names like the Black Snakes and Rough and Readies sprouted across the country.

Within a few years, these societies coalesced around the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant American Party, whose members were called the “Know-Nothings” because they claimed to “know nothing” when questioned about their politics. Party members vowed to elect only native-born citizens—but only if they weren’t Roman Catholic. “Know-Nothings believed that Protestantism defined American society. From this flowed their fundamental belief that Catholicism was incompatible with basic American values,” writes Jay P. Dolan in “The Irish Americans: A History.”

The Library of Congress has an article describing the political opposition to Irish immigrants:

Ill will toward Irish immigrants because of their poor living conditions, and their willingness to work for low wages was often exacerbated by religious conflict. Centuries of tension between Protestants and Catholics found their way into United States cities and verbal attacks often led to mob violence. For example, Protestants burned down St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New York City in 1831, while in 1844, riots in Philadelphia left thirteen dead.

Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments in the 1840s produced groups such as the nativist American Party, which fought foreign influences and promoted “traditional American ideals.” American Party members earned the nickname, “Know-Nothings,” because their standard reply to questions about their procedures and activities was, “I know nothing about it.”

In the Questions for Admittance to the American Party (1854), inductees committed to “…elect to all offices of Honor, Profit, or Trust, no one but native born citizens of America, of this Country to the exclusion of all Foreigners, and to all Roman Catholics, whether they be of native or Foreign Birth, regardless of all party predilections whatever.” This commitment helped elect American Party governors in Massachusetts and Delaware and placed Millard Fillmore on a presidential ticket in 1856.

Jason Muturi wrote an article for XPat Nation titled 9 Signs of Discrimination Irish Americans Had To Put Up With. If you look at the prejudices that these Irish Americans had to face in the 19th century, these are the same prejudices that Muslim American, Mexican and other immigrants are facing today. Here is an excerpt of Muturi’s article about the “No Irish Need Apply” signs:

The Irish American people faced much prejudice, racism and discrimination after their immigration to the United States because they were poor, uneducated, less skilled, considered disruptive and were Catholics in a land of Protestant dominance.

At the hands of the citizens, the Irish-Americans faced stereotypes that associated men with drunkenness and laziness, and their women depicted as primitive…

…Irish-Americans faced a humiliating job discrimination journey, owing to their quick domination of the labor market. For this reason, they had to put up with placards that contained discriminatory quits such as ‘’Help wanted but No Irish need Apply’’. Some of these slogans were published in local diaries with images of Irish women searching for domestic jobs. Also, a ’No Irish Need Apply’’ song was written to exact further humiliation to the new immigrants.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny made a short speech celebrating immigration in the East Wing of the White House. Here is an excerpt of his speech:

It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St Patrick and his legacy.

He too, of course, was an immigrant – and though he is of course the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe he’s also a symbol of, indeed the patron of, immigrants.

Here in America, in your great country, 35million people claim Irish heritage, and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political, and cultural life of this great country over the last 200 years.

Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed – and four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp – we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore.

We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America.

We came, and we became Americans. We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before he uttered them. We asked not what America could do for us, but what we could do for America – and we still do.

Here is a youtube video of the PBS series The Irish in America: Long Journey Home: All Across America. The Irish immigrants of the 19th century faced many of the same prejudice and discrimination that today’s Muslim Americans, Hispanics and immigrants face.

A video of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the White House for St. Patrick’s Day: “It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy. He too, of course, was an immigrant.” He also says, “The Irish believed, four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore. We believed in the shelter of America. In the compassion of America. In the opportunity of America. We came and we became Americans.”

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy visited Ireland. In this video The Lord Mayor of Wexford Thomas Byrne introduceed President Kennedy, who asked how many Kennedys there are in the crowd. The President talked of the importance of freedom for all nations and the mutual respect between the two nations of Ireland and the United States of America.

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Former White Supremacists Helping People Leave Hate Groups

One of the greatest worries that I have in the past 2 years is the rising incidents of racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, homophobia and the anti-immigrant harassment around the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center has recently reported that the number of hate groups in the U.S. from 892 groups in 2015 to 927 groups in 2016. The rise in hate groups is concurrent with the rise in the Alt Right movement, a white nationalist movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes how Alt Right leaders like Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Mike Enoch are promoting the idea that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces and that has led the Alt Right movement to attack immigration, the Black Lives Movement, refugees and Muslim Americans. Richard Spencer has specifically stated that the Alt Right movement has as one of its goals to create a new kind of conservative movement to supplant mainstream conservativism.

Because of this, conservatives as well as liberals are concerned about the Alt Right movement and the racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia that they are trying to incite in the wider society. Conservatives like David Brooks, George Will, Bill Kristol, Glenn Beck and several mainstream conservatives have denounced the Alt Right and its bigotry and xenophobia. I don’t agree with their politics, but I admire the integrity and courage of these conservatives in denouncing the Alt Right and withstanding the criticism of their fellow conservatives. These conservatives realize the long term damage that the Alt Right will do to the conservative movement.

In the 1950s and 1960s, William F. Buckley used his magazine The National Review to fight the attempts of the John Birch Society and other racist groups from gaining a prominent voice within the conservative movement. Conservatives have a similar challenge right now with the Alt Right.

One of the things that gives me hope is a recent article I read in PBS Independent Lens about a group of former white supremacists who are working to get other white racists to reject bigotry in all its forms. Scott Shepard, for instance, is a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan who now fighting racism to atone for his past behavior. Reformed racists like Derek Black, T.J. Leyden (a former member of Hammerskin Nation, a neo-Nazi group), and Duke Schneider rejected their racist ideals when they were forced to confront the humanity of the individuals they were taught to hate. One former white supremacist, Arno Michaelis, helped found a group called Life After Hate where former white racists help people leave hate groups and build a more positive life.

Here is a mission statement of Life After Hate from their website:

Life After Hate, Inc., a 501(c)(3) U.S. nonprofit, was created in 2009 by former members of the American violent far-right extremist movement. Through powerful stories of transformation and unique insight gleaned from decades of experience, we serve to inspire, educate, guide, and counsel.

Whether working with individuals who wish to leave a life of hate and violence, or helping organizations (community, educational, civic, government, etc.) grappling with the causes of intolerance and racism, Life After Hate works to counter the seeds of hate we once planted. Through personal experience and highly-unique skillsets, we have developed a sophisticated understanding about what draws individuals to extremist groups and, equally important, why they leave. Compassion is the opposite of judgment and we understand the roles compassion and empathy play in healing individuals and communities.

Jay Reeves wrote an article for Salon titled Former White Supremacists Help Others Leave Hate Groups. Reeves wrote:

“We act as a group of people who understand each other,” said former skinhead Christian Picciolini, an old friend of Martinez who founded the Chicago-based Life After Hate. “We understand the motivations of where we came from and why we joined. We understand what keeps people in. And we help each other detach and disengage from that ideology and provide a support system for them as they go through that transformation.”

Founded in 2009, Life After Hate was awarded a $400,000 Justice Department grant in the closing days of the Obama administration — funding that could be endangered if the Trump administration decides to refocus a federal program combatting violent extremism solely on Islamic radicals, as is being considered.

While several other grant recipients are dedicated to countering radical Muslim ideology, Life After Hate concentrates specifically on showing white extremists there’s another way.

The group operates a website where people who want to explore leaving white extremism can submit contact information. It also conducts educational and counseling programs including the Facebook group where members sometimes chat with extremists trying to change their lives, Picciolini said.

If you want to leave a hate group and start a new life, you can contact ExitUSA, a program of Life After Hate at their website or you can call or text them at (612) 888-EXIT (3948)

Here are some articles about former white supremacists who moved away from racism

From KKK Grand Dragon to Anti-Racism Crusader: The Remarkable Reinvention of Scott Shepard by Gareth Platt for The International Business Times

The White Flight of Derek Black by Eli Saslow for The Washington Post

Why I Left White Nationalism by Derek Black for The New York Times

Former Neo-Nazi Risks His Life to Fight Racism by Adam Grannick and Antonia Marrero for The Daily Beast

The Rehabilitation of ‘Pitbull’, a Former Wrestler and Neo-Nazi by Joseph Goldstein for The New York Times

Ex-Skinhead and His Victim Form an Unlikely Alliance by Dina Temple-Raston for NPR

Former white power skinhead Arno Michaelis responds to a question regarding what brought about his turnaround from hate and violence to peace and love.

Christian Picciolini admits his neo-Nazi past was horrific. Now he’s dedicated his life to helping transition people from that culture of hate to one of acceptance and love.

With the continued spread of white nationalism and the “alt-right” movement in America, this former leader of the movement shows that people can choose to change and stand against hate.

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Bridging the Divide Between Working Class Whites and Minority Communities

Every day since Donald Trump became President, I have been worried about the latest actions coming from the Trump White House. From his executive orders banning immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries, to the gag rule imposed on the EPA and the Department of Agriculture from making public their scientific findings, to the attempts to de-legitimize the press, I’ve gotten more and more worried about the tone that the Trump administration is setting. I called a few friends and asked their advice. A good friend gave me advice that really helped me. He said to view politics as a marathon and not a sprint. If you get worked up at everything that comes out daily from the Trump White House, you’ll get burnt out. He suggested to focus on only a few issues and to take breaks every so often from politics just to stay sane.

I’ve tried to do that. It hasn’t always been successful, but I try. Over the next four years I have two personal goals when it comes to politics. I want to oppose Donald Trump’s policies without demonizing Trump’s supporters. And I want to support efforts to bridge the divide between working class white communities and minority communities that have been the source of so much national strife.

At one time liberal Democrats like the Kennedys, Paul Wellstone, Jesse Jackson, Hubert Humphrey, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman drew strong support from both working class white communities and minority communities. These liberal Democrats held together this coalition by enacting policies that benefited both communities. Among the liberal policies that helped benefited these communities were Social Security, the G.I. Bill, the Minimum Wage, the Wagner Act, Medicare, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Meals on Wheels program. One of the challenges of today’s progressives is to heal the breach between minorities and those working class whites who threw their support to Donald Trump.

David Atkins wrote an article for the Washington Monthly titled Democrats Can Win White Working Class Voters Without Sacrificing Social Justice. In the article, Atkins wrote:

But that’s why it’s so crucial to point out that many of Trump’s voters were not, in fact, driven entirely by prejudice. The Party does not, in fact, need to throw women and minorities under the bus to win back the voters who defected from Obama to Trump. It simply needs to drive a much clearer progressive narrative, admit that the nation’s economy as it has been run for the last 30 years has serious problems that need fixing, and paint corporate and Wall Street elites as the real villains in the story of the white working class’ downward mobility.

That won’t, of course, win over all of Trump’s voters or even a significant minority of them. It’s not that Matt Yglesias and his like-minded friends are wrong about the prejudiced motivations of most of Trump’s electorate. They’re right.

But it’s important to distinguish between the core Trump voters and the marginal, persuadable ones. Most Trump voters are either regular Republicans who have always voted Republican and always will whether it’s Romney or Trump, or the new aggressive breed of hyper-racist trolls and alt-right Breitbart types. But those voters have always been on the other side of the fence. What has changed is that a not insignificant number of exurban and rural white voters who used to vote for Democrats even as recently as the Obama era increasingly feel that no one speaks for them. They might not particularly like Trump’s racism or uncouth behavior, but they don’t believe that Democrats understand their plight. They feel that Democrats take care of both the very rich and the very poor as well as minorities, but that no one at all is looking out for the person who makes $40K-50K a year in small town America–people who make too much for even expanded Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance, whose children can’t win need-based scholarships but don’t have the grades to earn merit-based ones, and whose towns seem to be dying inexorably whether Democrats or Republicans hold office. These people aren’t impressed by offers to provide family leave or increase funding for schools. They want their old jobs back, and they want the people who took their future from them to be punished, whoever they may be.

Harold Meyerson wrote a good article for the American Prospect that describes the evolution of both the Democratic and Republican Parties and the shift of working class whites from the Democratic Party to the Republic Party. Titled Can Democrats Channel America’s Discontent, Meyerson wrote in the article:

The challenge before Working America is to move voters from a right-populist racist politics to a left-populist economic politics. To put it mildly, that’s a daunting task. Even at the height of its power and popularity, the United Auto Workers in the 1940s and 1950s could routinely persuade its members to vote Democratic for national and state offices, where economic issues dominated, but seldom for its endorsed liberal candidates for local offices, where issues of housing and police practices—that is, issues where race was the dominant factor—were its white members’ key concerns.

There are issues, however, on which left and right populists—indeed, on which left, right, and center—converge. Recent polling by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 77 percent of Americans (including 67 percent of Republicans) believe corporations are not paying a fair share of their proceeds to their employees, and that 79 percent of Americans (including 63 percent of Republicans) believe our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy. Proposals that involve establishing or enlarging government programs, of course, are anathema to Republicans and rouse the ire of many working-class whites who believe such programs are generally a payoff to minorities. (The one exception to this rule might be lowering the eligibility age for Medicare—a government program with substantial mass, if not elite, conservative support—to 50 or 55.)

Universal programs that don’t involve taxation or expanded government programs, however, have commanded substantial right-leaning support, as in 2014 when the electorates of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota approved ballot measures hiking their state’s minimum wage. Proposals to change the pre-tax division of proceeds within corporations—say, by scaling corporate tax rates to the ratio of CEO-to-median-worker pay, or cutting the taxes of corporations that divide their corporate board seats between shareholder and worker representatives—might have some traction on both the left and the right.

Robert Kuttner wrote a book review for the American Prospect magazine about several recently published books about the plight of working class whites. Titled Hidden Injuries of Class, Race and Culture Kuttner wrote:

John Judis, in The Populist Explosion, has written a terrific short book that sheds further light on these vexing questions. His is a brisk tour of the horizon, of the right and left versions of populism, their history and current state, with a useful comparison of the populist upsurge in the United States and in Europe. His general insight: Populism gains adherence whenever mainstream parties let ills fester. Populist parties “often function as warning signs of a political crisis.” That surely describes the state of the political establishment in both the U.S. and Europe…

…In sum, American progressivism today is foundering on what we might call the clash of deeply felt injuries. The insecurity and downward mobility of the white working and middle classes collides with a well-justified upsurge in black consciousness of continuing racial outrages and a demand for their remediation. Feminists and oppressed cultural minorities pile on. Today’s story is one of dueling cultural and economic wounds, each with substantial basis in reality…

…Today, the clash of deeply felt racial and class grievances, compounded by cultural wounds on both sides of the identity divide, is crowding out the progressive brand of populism that America once had and so sorely needs. It will take uncommon leadership and rare social empathy to redirect the crosscurrents of rage and hurt into a broad popular coalition of uplift against the one group that floats above it all—today’s economic super-elite.

Just after last year’s elections, Kirk Noden wrote the article Why Do White Working Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t for The Nation Magazine. Noden insightfully noted:

The first step was the collapse of the industrial heartland. This hit white working-class people incredibly hard—and it remains a phenomenon that is not understood on the East and West Coasts. It is painted as a natural evolution of our economy and as if the onus is on people to adapt to it. This fails to capture how many families and communities were dependent on the industrial economy. Many Ohioans are now staring at a future where they themselves and their kids have less opportunity than their parents. In a place like Youngstown, that means not only an inability to get a well-paying job at the steel mill; it also means owning a house that has failed to appreciate in value for 20 to 30 years, in a city that continues to lose double-digit percentages of its population every 10 years. It is not just a stripping out of economic opportunity but a stripping away of identity for these communities. It is the sense of abandonment and perpetual decline that people feel mired in. Resources, jobs, decent housing, quality neighborhoods and schools are all in decline. It creates a “scarcity mentality” for white working-class people and others who live in the heartland…

… The impact of this betrayal on white working-class people was a universal distrust and dislike for institutions—none of which were able to defend their livelihoods or their futures. The unions didn’t stay around to organize a new strategy for revitalizing Youngstown. They moved to another line of defense elsewhere, as they grew increasingly insular and focused on protecting their shrinking base. One of the only people not to abandon white working-class people in Youngstown was the county sheriff, who became a hero because he refused to evict from their homes people who had lost their jobs in the collapse. His name was Jim Traficant and he later became a congressman. Even when he ran for office while in prison (for corruption and bribery convictions) decades later, he still won 25 percent of the vote. He was in personality and rhetoric a precursor to Donald Trump. Deindustrialization was a traumatic experience for white working-class people. Yet we act surprised when this constituency exhibits post-traumatic-stress disorder. And it is we who perpetrate the myth that they are voting “against their interests,” despite all the facts on the ground indicating that for them it makes no difference which party is in power. They have lived through 40 years of decline.

It’s important for liberals to persuade these working class white supporters of Trump that government is their friend and not their enemy. Tracy Jan wrote the Boston Globe article The Biggest Beneficiaries of the Government Safety Net: Working Class Whites makes that point. Jan wrote:

Working-class white people are the biggest beneficiaries of federal poverty-reduction programs, even though black and Hispanic people have substantially higher rates of poverty, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.

Government assistance and tax credits lifted 6.2 million working-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or ethnic demographic. Half of all working-age adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by safety-net programs are white; nearly a quarter are black and a fifth are Hispanic…

‘There is a perception out there that the safety net is only for minorities. While it’s very important to minorities because they have higher poverty rates and face barriers that lead to lower earnings, it’s also quite important to whites, particularly the white working class,’’ said Isaac Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors.

One of the big challenges among progressives is to reach out to the working class whites without a college degree and who live in the Red States. Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic wrote an article titled One Press Conference Two Audiences. He wrote in that article:

…I have written a series of articles arguing that if members of the coalition that opposes Donald Trump want to persuade the public, they’ll have to resist the temptation to vilify all his supporters, and to formulate a strategy that includes earnest efforts at loving outreach and persuasion.

Perhaps the divergent coverage of Thursday’s press conference helps to illustrate that a great many of those people aren’t seeing the same information as those who oppose Trump—they are being fed lies and untruths by coastal-dwelling millionaires like Hannity and Limbaugh; and they exist at a time when even more responsible right-leaning outlets that make up their information bubble are unlikely to target the lies they encounter, and in a culture where a columnist like Goodwin sees what’s going on and celebrates it as Trump playing the game well.

The American right complains about the media as much as any ideological movement ever has, even as it wallows in a right-of-center media ecosystem far more dishonest and less rigorous than The New York Times on its worst day. Some of its most popular figures pander and mislead and constantly vilify the other side. Insofar as that other side writes off their entire audiences, the populist right-wing will keep winning. Its Achilles’ heel is that it relies on blatant misinformation to win. Can conservatives or libertarians or liberals pierce the bubble?

In spite of decades of advancements in health care, diet and safety, white Americans are now living shorter lives, a trend that has surprised experts. PBS NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman reported out of Maysville, Kentucky, an area struggling with an increase in addiction, overdoses and suicide.

President Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, in part, by capturing the white working class vote in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania that previously voted for Democratic candidates. Now, some Democrats are trying to rebuild their base in blue-collar neighborhoods that swung for Trump, like those in northeast Philadelphia. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports.

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Groups Condemning Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines

There has been a lot of news lately comparing U.S. President Donald Trump to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. They have many personal qualities in common: both tend to be bullying in their public pronouncements and in their dealings with the press; they tend to simplify issues; they are very critical of dissent and name call anyone who disagrees with their policies.

There are differences between the two men. Duterte has had 20 years of experience as mayor of Davao with dealing with government bureaucracy while Trump has no government experience. Duterte’s policies are more left wing, while Trump’s policies draw from ideas from the right wing.

Since my political views tend to lean towards the left, I support some of Duterte’s efforts at agrarian reform, expanding social programs for the poor and in reigning in the power of mining companies that have been the source of much human rights abuses in the Mindanao area of the Philippines. For instance, I support the The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) decision to close 23 mining operations in several areas in the country that are near watersheds.

But I cannot support Duterte’s use of extrajudicial killings in his war against drugs in the Philippines. So far over 7,000 people have been killed by either the police or vigilante groups for only being suspected of a crime. These victims had no opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law. They had no way of seeing the evidence against them.

Many groups have spoken out against the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Here is an excerpt of an August statement by the Philippine student group Anakbayan condemning President Duterte’s support of extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs:

The youth group Anakbayan today declared August 11, Thursday, a “Day of Action” against the spate of extrajudicial killings that has been spawned in the wake of the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.

“We call on everyone to join our day of action this August 11 to strongly register our call to stop the killings. While the campaign against dangerous drugs is laudable, we express grave concern over the way this has been carried out so far,” said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.

“The president’s ‘I really do not care’ attitude on the rising death toll of his administration’s campaign against drugs is very alarming. Even crime suspects have human rights. Their right to life and due process must be respected,” he said.

The youth leader said a fearsome scenario has emerged wherein those who hold the gun are both the accusers and executioners. “While criminals must indeed be punished, the innocence or guilt of those accused cannot anymore be determined if they are just shot on sight,” said Crisostomo.

Here is an excerpt of an August 2016 statement by the Communist Party of the Philippines against President Rodrigo Duterte’s use of extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs.

The anti-drug war of the Duterte regime has rapidly spiralled into a frenzied campaign of extra-judicial killings and vigilante murders perpetrated by the police and by police-linked criminal syndicates. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in just a little more than one month. The rights of tens upon thousands of people are being violated as the criminal justice system is upturned.

Police officials have brazenly carried out summary killings against suspected drug peddlers and users. Hundreds have been killed while “resisting arrest” or while under custody and detention, in police cars as well as in jails
Duterte’s “drug war” has clearly become anti-people and anti-democratic. Human rights are being violated with impunity by police personnel, emboldened by Duterte’s assurances of “I got your back” and his public declarations of contempt against human rights…

…What was before the burden of the accuser to prove someone’s guilt is now the burden of the accused to prove his innocence. Duterte has come up with one list after another of so-called protectors, narco-politicians and judges without proof nor clear basis for accusations of their involvement in drugs.

Here is an excerpt of a statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine against President Rodrigo Duterte’s use of extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs.

We are alarmed by the recent wave of extrajudicial killings that have taken place at the hands of police officers, and especially of vigilantes roaming our streets unchecked and un-apprehended. Such violent procedure in tackling the situation mentioned above has caused justified apprehension among the majority of our citizen who are against any form of drug trafficking but expect justice to be rendered according to law.

We believe that any attitude and course of action that disregards the basic principles of modern jurisprudence that any person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that justice has to be rendered by following due process, has to be avoided.

We believe, likewise, that the disregard of such principles, even in the pursuance of a praiseworthy aim, such as the protection of families and of the youth, may inevitably lead to serious and irreparable injustices such as the killing of innocent people, and even simple drug users who are, actually, the direct victims of the drug traffickers/pushers.

Here is an excerpt of a statement by Phelim Kine for Human Rights Watch against extrajudicial killings.

The Philippine National Police confirmed that this week the death toll of Filipinos killed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive “war on drugs” surpassed the 7,000 mark.

Those 7,028 people – an average of more than 30 killed each day since Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016 – include 2,503 suspected drug users and drug dealers killed by police and 3,603 killings by “unidentified gunmen.” Those numbers are the appalling but predictable result of Duterte’s vow that as president he would, “Forget the laws on human rights.”

They also symbolize the wider systems-failure that has exposed thousands of Filipinos to the threat of summary killings. Police justify those 2,503 killings, saying that the victims “resisted arrest and shot at police officers.” But police have not provided further evidence that officers acted in self-defense. There are allegations that “death squads” composed of plainclothes police personnel are behind some of the “unidentified gunmen” killings. Revelations last week that police officers kidnapped and then strangled to death a South Korean businessman – after raiding his home using a fake arrest warrant falsely implicated him in illegal drug activities – have deepened such suspicions.

Pro-Duterte lawmakers scuttled a Senate probe into the drug war killings in September. And by subjecting the drug war’s most prominent critic, Senator Leila de Lima, to a torrent of harassment and intimidation, Duterte and senior government officials have stifled meaningful scrutiny by lawmakers. An army of pro-Duterte internet trolls systematically harasses, intimidates, and threatens into silence individuals who question the drug war’s logic or legality.

Here is an AJ+ video on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Thousands of people have been dragged from their homes and executed on the streets since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a new war on drugs. Police are allegedly playing both sides of the war, while contract killers do the dirty work and users surrender to jail cells, in fear of their lives. Follow along with photojournalists on the front lines of the murder beat, where killings are a daily occurrence and the streets run with blood.

Andrew Glazer of The New York Times takes us inside the grim reality of Duterte’s war on drugs in Manila.

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A Women’s Day March in San Jose, California – January 21, 2017

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, my niece and I participated in the Women’s Day March in San Jose, California. I had never been to a political march that was so large. We wandered around and really enjoyed reading all the signs and talking to the people.

One of the things that filled me with the most joy was seeing people speak out for the rights of all groups who feel vulnerable or afraid. I saw Muslim women with signs supporting LGBT rights and immigrant rights. LGBTQ people holding signs supporting immigrant rights and Black Lives Matter. Women’s rights activists speaking out for environmental issues and religious tolerance. And so on and so on. I firmly believe that a person should not just fight for the rights of your particular group, but you should fight for the rights of all people. I’m glad there are other people who agree.

My niece liked the march. Her only complaint was that the march took a long time to get started and it was pretty slow. I think that’s just due to the large number of people who attended. At times I felt a little claustrophobic when the crowd was waiting to march. Once the crowd was marching, though, I had a great time taking photos and chanting.

I’m hoping my niece learns about the importance of social justice movements in making the United States a better country. We had many conversations with different groups of people. I had a great time.

A video I made of the Women’s Day March in San Jose, California

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Riding the Celebration Train for Martin Luther King Jr Day 2017

On Monday January 16, 2017, my niece and I rode the Celebration Train from San Jose to San Francisco to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day and to commemorate the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. My niece has expressed a strong interest in social justice activism, so I thought this could be a good chance for her to experience her first march.

It was kind of a civil rights weekend for us. The previous night we watched the movie “Hidden Figures” and it got us in the mood for the march.

This year I noticed a lot more Asian American families attending than in previous MLK train rides that I attended. From my own experience, most of the Asian Americans that I know have a strong appreciation for what Martin Luther King Jr and the whole civil rights movement has done to open up opportunities for all minority groups. Asian American activists like Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs were strong allies in the African American struggle for equal rights.

After the march, my niece wanted to go to City Lights Bookstore and get a few books on activism. We took the bus to Chinatown, then walked to the City Lights Bookstore. It’s always a cool store to visit and we spent some time browsing the books and reading.

Here is a video of the Celebration Train from San Jose to San Francisco on Martin Luther King Jr Day 2017

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An Immigrants Rights Rally in San Jose, California

On Saturday January 14, 2017, I went to an immigrants rights rally in San Jose, California. I was debating whether to go or not, as I’m still recovering from a flu that I’ve had for about a week and a half. San Jose’s City Hall is only a 15 minute drive, though, and my brother and niece wanted to go. So I took my camera and went.

Wandering through the crowd, I met some Filipino American activists who I knew. I introduced them to my brother and niece and we talked about immigrant issues, especially those pertaining to Filipinos and the DACA program.

I was heartened to see a great diversity of people attend. I saw Muslim Americans, LGBT individuals, many women’s rights activists, several members of SEIU.

We went on a march throughout downtown San Jose and listened to a few speeches. When my niece started getting bored, we went to Psycho Donuts to get some snacks and then we went home.

Here is a youtube video of the immigrants rights rally in San Jose, California

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