July 09, 2013 / BY LYLA BUGARA [warning graphic video] CA police unjustly arrest cop watcher and kill his dog in possible retaliation

In a candid display of police brutality and the implications of cop watching, officers in Hawthorne, CA unjustly arrested Leon Rosby after peacefully exercising his right to film police activity — and then fired four fatal rounds into his 3-year-old dog, Max. Rosby was filming the multiple police cars and armored vehicle that responded to an armed robbery call when he quickly became a target of overly aggressive and discriminatory policing tactics.

Police allege that music coming from Rosby's car interrupted their focus, although the above video clearly shows Rosby documenting police within his legal boundaries. Speaking in an interview Rosby clarified, 'The music may have been a little loud but I was complying...I said, 'Sir, I want to make sure nobody's civil rights were being violated.'" He was immediately put in jail overnight on charges of "suspicion of obstruction" and barred from keeping the remains of his dog.

The incident highlights the inherent risks of cop watch, the importance of cop watching in a group, and how valuable it is to film police activity as proof and exposure of misconduct.

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July 08, 2013 / BY CAMPAIGN STAFF Fruitvale Station and the value of young Black lives

This Friday (July 12), Sundance winner Fruitvale Station will open in select theaters around the country prior to its nationwide release on July 26. The film explores the life and murder of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, a young Black man who was fatally shot on a train platform by Oakland Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009. The shooting was recorded by several bystanders and ignited massive public protest demanding Mehserle be held accountable.

The film has been widely received as a humanizing and unabridged depiction of Oscar’s story. In the clip above — exclusive to ColorOfChange — actor Michael B. Jordan, who plays Oscar, reflects on how this role prompted him to consider his responsibility to live compassionately.

To see Fruitvale Station in your neighborhood, find available showtimes here. If you haven’t already, pledge to monitor the media during the George Zimmerman trial as we demand higher standards from the media for its portrayal of young Black men.

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July 04, 2013 / BY KIM LEHMKUHL #RestoreThe4th: Stand up against government surveillance and profiling

On this Fourth of July, we want to take a moment to reflect on why our constitutional protection against unreasonable searches is so critically important — to our physical safety as well as to our basic ability to communicate freely and organize for change.

There's good reason that governmental privacy intrusions like warrantless wiretapping, and now massive, indiscriminate data collection, are prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Those who trust the secret authority of the rubber-stamping FISA court, and of surveillance agencies operating without any real accountability, don’t know or are discounting our history.

Profiling — whether based on race, religion or our communication activity — doesn't make us safer, and it violates our fundamental rights. ColorOfChange is participating in today's online protest against the NSA's unconstitutional domestic surveillance dragnet by displaying the text of the Fourth Amendment on our homepage. You can follow live updates of protests happening across the United States (and around the world) by using the #restorethe4th hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

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June 27, 2013 / BY MATT NELSON ACTION: Block ALEC's predatory bail bonding law in Wisconsin

UPDATE: 7/1/13 Yesterday, Gov. Walker signed the state budget and rejected the ALEC-influenced provision to re-institutionalized private bail bond companies and bounty hunters. Walker cited strong opposition and concerns about the provision as reason for his veto.

Wisconsin's notoriously far-right Governor, Scott Walker, is set to sign a budget bill this Sunday which includes reinstating bail bonding for profit. This legislation, written by a corporate bail bond company that sits on the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), would effectively privatize key government criminal justice responsibilities without any oversight or accountability—creating a profit driven incentive to determine who will remain in jail while awaiting trial.

Bail bonding for profit was banned in Wisconsin 32 years ago because of the system's inherent problems — corruption, bounty hunters, depletion of state funds, and unfair burdens on low-income individuals. Judges, court clerks, sheriffs and other legal officials strongly oppose the plan. The Governor can still veto the provision, as he did 2 years ago after agreeing that significant issues on how to regulate the private bail bond industry needed to be addressed.

Please join us in calling on Gov. Scott Walker to veto this unnecessary budget provision that would dangerously commodify accused Wisconsinites, and let bounty hunters track down those who don't show up for court. Contact info and a sample script after the jump.

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June 21, 2013 / BY LYLA BUGARA ACTION: NC Raise the Age fight reignites as bill moves through legislature

North Carolina is the only state that automatically prosecutes 16 and 17-year-olds as adults — regardless of the crime — and forbids transfers back into the juvenile system. Now, NC is once again considering a pro-youth bill that would repeal this wildly inhumane law that has criminalized, endangered, and in many cases, taken the lives of North Carolina youth for almost 100 years.

The Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act (HB 725), would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16 and 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors. Despite North Carolina's conservative legislature, the bill is successfully moving forward in the General Assembly.

A hearing is expected this week, please join us in calling on the NC legislature to stop jailing our kids and pass the Youth Offenders Rehabilitation Act.

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June 17, 2013 / BY JAMAR HOOKS New York's Senate must end unfair treatment under drug laws

Last week in an op-ed for the Albany Times Union, ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson called on New York's Senate to eliminate the legal loophole incentivizing the NYPD's aggressive use of Stop and Frisk, which results in thousands of racially-targeted marijuana arrests each year. Although Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, Black New Yorkers are 4.5 times more likely than whites to face criminal charges for marijuana possession.

Rashad notes that inaction on reform by the all-white Senate leadership coalition speaks volumes about these Senators' comfort with governing Black and brown New York differently than white communities. To date, over 9,000 ColorOfChange members have joined our campaign to end discriminatory marijuana arrests. If you live in New York, please take a moment to call the Senate leadership to help keep the pressure on to reform this racially biased, costly law before the legislature concludes its session June 20th.

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June 12, 2013 / BY JAMAR HOOKS Join Cop Watch NYC: Help your community stop police misconduct

Discriminatory and abusive policing tactics deployed by the NYPD have become a national scandal. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, police have logged more than 5 million street stops of mostly Black and Latino residents, very few of whom are ever charged with actual wrongdoing. Our community members are being targeted by the NYPD largely based on the color of our skin. And some of these unjust stops escalate to violence and injuries, or — in some tragic instances — death.

Each of us can do our part to deter police misconduct and violence across the five boroughs. That's why ColorOfChange and our community partners have launched Cop Watch NYC — an innovative new tool that makes it easier to track and publicize police encounters in our neighborhoods. If enough New Yorkers routinely exercise our right to film the police, officers will think twice before engaging in discriminatory and abusive tactics.

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June 06, 2013 / BY LYLA BUGARA TAKE ACTION: Final push to block NC bill that would send more youth to adult prisons

In April, North Carolina ColorOfChange members said no to HB 217, an extreme bill that would have routinely sent children as young as 13 to adult prison by eliminating judges' discretion over how young people are charged. Our voices made a difference — in response to public outrage, the bill was amended to drop its focus on the youngest defendants.

But the changes are not enough. In the current version of the bill, prosecutors are still given unchecked power to send kids as young as 15 to facilities with negligible rehabilitative support, where they face a greatly increased likelihood of sexual abuse and suicide.

This week, HB 217 will get a hearing in the Senate judiciary committee, and it's likely our best and last chance to turn back this dangerous assault on North Carolina youth. Before the committee votes, its members need to hear that we won't accept any version of this bill that makes prosecutors more powerful than judges when it comes to deciding the fate of our children. If you live in North Carolina, please take a moment to call key committee members and urge them to vote no on HB 217.

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May 23, 2013 / BY LYLA BUGARA BREAKING: Court rules Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive, thousands eligible for sentence reduction

UPDATE: 6/1/2013 The Department of Justice has appealed the 6th Circuit Court ruling making the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. The ruling is stayed until the appeals process is complete.

Making history last week, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive — meaning that thousands of individuals within the Court's jurisdiction and currently imprisoned under the discriminatory 100:1 crack/powder cocaine disparity may apply for sentence reduction. In 2010 the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the original disparity to 18:1, and for years advocates have been concerned that the new ratio only applied to people sentenced and charged after 2010.

The disparity in question came about as a result of a federal law called the Anti-Drug Abuse Act passed in 1986 as a part of the infamous "War on Drugs." This law introduced a huge (100 to 1) disparity between the penalty for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. A person had to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine before they were subject to the same mandatory prison sentence (5 years) as those possessing just 5 grams of crack cocaine, despite the fact that the two drugs have identical chemical compositions, thereby punishing small-scale crack cocaine users more severely than powder cocaine users.

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May 03, 2013 / BY JOHNNY MATHIAS Governor Martin O'Malley signs bill repealing the death penalty in Maryland

On Thursday, Governor Martin O'Malley signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Maryland. The bill was passed by the General Assembly in March after having languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee for years — failing to reach the floor in 10 of the previous 12 sessions.

The bill finally reached the floor thanks in part to pressure from ColorOfChange members and coalition partners. The heated floor debate in both chambers marked the first time since the practice was reinstated in 1978 that either the House or the Senate deliberated the death penalty.

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