Thursday, April 10, 2008

Homeless round-up, failed anti-immigration laws, turkey tasering and more

Anti-poverty activists and clergy held a press conference today to articulate their concerns with what Community Action Coalition Executive Director Greta Hansen described as “economic profiling” of homeless people downtown. In the wake of two unsolved murders, it was reported that police rounded up around two dozen homeless men, those with probation violations or who committed (alleged) minor crimes, for DNA testing. None of the men have been identified as a murder suspect.

Community response to homelessness has been evolving since a spike in downtown crime and complaints from residents near the Brittingham Park neighborhood last summer. Since then, Madison leaders, residents, service providers and law enforcement have been discussing ways to remedy complaints. Some of the suggestions include putting surveillance cameras at Brittingham Park. However this Channel 3000 interview documents some folks, including law enforcement, who think that surveillance cameras recently installed on State Street aren’t working. Madison residents must ask, is it worth another $10,000 to pursue a surveillance strategy that might not be effective?

Alternatives have been suggested however. Area conservative blogger David Blaska recently proposed that the homeless be required to be identified by photo and social security number before being allowed to stay in a shelter or be tagged (like livestock) or identified by DNA. He also suggested that a defense fund be set aside for the “inevitable nuisance lawsuit filed by the ACLU.” Anyone who disagrees with Blaska’s comments and who feel that Constitutional rights are for everybody are welcome to make tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin litigation program.

Blaska went on to criticize the ACLU of Wisconsin for suggesting that students assert their rights to have their parents or an advocate present when being accused of a crime at school. But a recent video from the New York ACLU shows youth's first-hand reports on a real-life, yet worst case scenario school-to-prison pipeline in which the NYC schools are being overpoliced. Perhaps Blaska would prefer to live in a police state than get panhandled on the street?

An article on failed immigration crackdown laws across the country details both the frustration state legislators have with the failure of the federal government to come up with a workable solution as well as the radical measures legislators have proposed, some of which would possibly be unconstitutional if implemented. Here is Wisconsin, a proposal to prohibit local governments to declare themselves sanctuary cities didn’t see light in the Senate. The 2008 elections may end the stalemate for better or worse.

News of the weird?
Turkey Tasering
Mating season comes with aggressive male turkeys. After complaints of turkey attacks, including problems with impeding postal carriers on their mail routes, it has been suggested that police taser the foul fowl. I wonder what Ben Franklin would say about cruel and unusual punishment of what could have been our national bird?

Customs ID Catastrophe
A case of mistaken identity leads to the detention of a Milwaukee woman at the Mitchell International Airport. Even though she insisted that she wasn’t the woman who was wanted for bounced checks, their shared name was flagged in a US Customs database. Proving again that databases and human error remain concerns in our increasingly electronic society.

Cross-dressing Kids
In more Milwaukee news, a Milwaukee-based radio network called Voice of Christian Youth America criticized an elementary school “wacky” dress-up day, accusing the district of promoting alternative lifestyles. The news prompted angry calls from across Wisconsin to the school and the Reedsburg School District suggesting, no doubt, that the spirit week is a part of the gay agenda.

Community Events:
Saturday, April 19 - Knowing Our Rights workshop on rights in the immigrant community, sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Latino Law Students Association and the Grassroots Leadership College with a theater presentation by Dignidad sin Fronteras (Dignity without Borders). Topics include rights at home, at work, on the street, in protest, in detention and more. At Grace Episcopal Church, 116 W. Washington Ave. (near the capitol) from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Megan at (608) 446-3313. Another workshop will also be held on Saturday, April 19 in the Bayview Community Center 601 Bayview at 11:00 a.m. organized by the UTI. For more information, call 1-866-4760-UTI (884).