#XLDissent: Students overtake DC to demand climate action
March 2, 2014
Over 500 students are risking arrest Sunday as they handcuff themselves to the White House fence, placing their bodies on the line in what many say may be a “watershed” moment for a generation. Under the banner XL Dissent, over one thousand college students are descending on the White House to force President Obama to face the individuals whose future is imperiled by current U.S. climate policy.
"Our generation is going to be stuck with the reality of decisions made now about whether to invest in destruction or the future," Smith College student Aly Johnson-Kurts told Common Dreams ahead of the demonstration. “We are realizing we cannot sit idly by, or we will not have a future to fight for.”
Beginning at 10 AM with a rally in Georgetown, the demonstrators will march to Lafayette Park, beside the White House, where they will hold a rally. En route, the protest will stop in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s house to display a banner that reads “Sec. Kerry: Don’t Tar Your Legacy,” in reference to the pending Keystone XL tar sands pipeline decision, which has become a major flashpoint for the climate movement.
During the protest, demonstrators will also drop a 40 by 60 foot banner, cut to look like an oil spill, right on Pennsylvania Ave.
According to Jamie Henn, a co-founder of 350.org, upwards of 500 people are preparing to get arrested for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence. In preparation, many of the demonstrators took part in a mass civil disobedience training Saturday night.
In what promises to be the largest student-led civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation, many are saying that XL Dissent could become a watershed moment for a generation whose lives are guaranteed to be impacted by current climate change inaction.
“We’re building a culture of resistance,” Tufts University junior Evan Bell told Todd Zimmer of the Rainforest Action Network.
"The students taking part here in XL Dissent see their democratic responsibilities as extending beyond the voting booth," Henn wrote on the eve of the action. “If anything, the Obama administration seems to have solidified the impression that even the most youth-friendly candidates need to be pushed, protested, and forced into living up to their rhetoric.”
According to organizers, XL Dissent was not an initiative of the major environmental groups—though many have pledged their support. Instead, it was completely conceived and organized “from below,” by the students themselves. Many see it as a way to connect with the disparate groups, including First Nations, refining communities, ranchers and farmers, who—much like young people—are most directly impacted by climate change and energy policy.
"More and more, these young people are placing their hope in distributed networks of resistance, rather than in a president who ran on hope as a platform," wrote Zimmer. “They’re hovering in a space between fear, anger, and radical hope. They know their futures are on the line and feel more accountable to each other and frontline communities than elected politicians.”
Though the President’s pending approval of the Keystone pipeline has catalyzed many of the protesters, the demonstration Sunday “is about so much more than just one pipeline,” as Michael Greenberg, a 20-year-old sophomore at Columbia University, told Common Dreams.
"For me XL Dissent is about young people standing together and engaging in a bold act of civil disobedience, and through this, demonstrating our commitment to making this world a more humane, peaceful, and inclusive place to live," Greenberg continued.
"President Obama and D.C. policymakers need to take a hard look at who police will arrest this Sunday," Zimmer continued. "Some of those arrested will still be in high school. XL Dissent should give Obama pause, and force the president to consider who loses if Big Oil wins. He should see his own daughters in the faces of those who are arrested at his doorstep this weekend."
Marissa Alexander’s sentence could triple for warning shot fired against abusive husband
March 2, 2014
Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman whose case generated outrage when she was sentenced to 20 years in prison may end up behind bars for 60 years for the same crime.
The Office of State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to put Marissa Alexander in prison for 60 years, essentially a life sentence, if it succeeds in convicting her for a second time for firing a shot in the direction of her estranged husband and two of his children. Her trial is scheduled to begin on July 28.
Alexander, 33, was previously convicted in 2012 of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Circuit Judge James Daniel under the state’s 10-20-life law. Daniel actually imposed three separate 20-year sentences on Alexander but ordered that they be served concurrently, which meant Alexander would get out in 20 years.
The conviction was thrown out after the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ruled that Daniel made a mistake in shifting the burden to Alexander to prove she was acting in self-defense. During jury instructions, Daniel said she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by her husband.
Alexander’s case drew national attention after she was denied immunity under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, with critics saying the crime Alexander was convicted of didn’t warrant 20 years behind bars. Supporters of Alexander blasted prosecutors Friday for seeking to triple her prison sentence.
“It’s unimaginable that a woman acting in self-defense, who injured no one, can be given what amounts to a life sentence,” said Free Marissa Now spokeswoman Helen Gilbert. “This must send chills down the spine of every woman and everyone who cares about women and every woman in an abusive relationship.”
Seeking 60 years is an incredibly abusive and outrageous action by Corey, Gilbert said.
But Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, the lead prosecutor in the case, told the Times-Union his office was simply following the sentencing laws of the state of Florida.
The same appeals court that ordered Alexander’s retrial separately ruled last year that when a defendant is convicted of multiple counts under 10-20-life that arose from the same crime, judges must make the sentences consecutive and are not allowed to impose them concurrently.
The law has not changed since Alexander was sentenced in 2012, but courts throughout the state have been struggling to interpret what the Legislature meant when it passed sentencing laws regarding 10-20-life.
The Alexander case inspired the so-called “warning-shot” bill that will be part of the Florida legislative session that begins Tuesday. The proposal, which is expected to pass, would create an exception to the 10-20-life law and prohibit those who fire a warning shot from getting 20 years in prison.
Feb. 23, 2014. An anti-government protestor waits at the entrance of Independence square in Kiev, Ukraine. ©Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images. Read more: Pictures of the Week: February 21 – February 28 - LightBox