In April, NESRI posted a blog regarding unjust charges brought against Deborah Burton, a 61-year-old human rights activist and housing rights organizer with the Los Angles Community Action Network (LA CAN). The charges, which include two counts of “assault likely to produce great bodily injury” and one charge of “willful use of force and violence that inflicts serious bodily injury”, are based on her use of a toy air-horn at a non-violent protest held in June 2011. Her trial is set to begin on June 26.
While the accusations against Deborah are preposterous, she is still facing the serious possibility of jail time. These charges are part of a larger pattern of the targeting of human rights activists and community organizers with absurd indictments and trumped up charges. Although targeting and criminalizing justice activists is nothing new, the increasingly routine and casual criminalization of those exercising their constitutionally protected rights to organize and speak out about human rights violations occurring in their communities seems intended to have a two-fold effect. One, making the violations the activism is highlighting de facto invisible and two discouraging the organizing work necessary to achieve systemic social and economic justice. As we reported in April, among communities in struggle, this silencing strategy does not seem to be working.
Local news stations CBS 2 and KCAL 9 recently featured dozens of Deborah’s supporters and fellow human rights activists in Los Angeles as they marched into the L.A.P.D. Commission board meeting to protest the charges. In a press conference outside the Commission’s meeting, Hamid Khan expressed that supporters were there to demand an end to the abuse of power by the Los Angeles Police Department and to insist “the charges be dropped.” L.A. Police Commander, Andrew Smith, stated that protesters have a right to march and be heard, while offering no comment regarding the case still pending against Deborah.
Deborah’s trial starts tomorrow. She needs your help to fight back against these unjust charges. Show your solidarity with Deborah and support activists who will continue to organize and fight for a better future for all. Please take the following actions to support her before her trial on June 26:
- Contact the City Attorney’s office at 213-978-8100 and ask for the charges against Deborah to be dropped. Please let Los Angeles Community Action (LA CAN) know that you have done this.
- If you are in, or can get to the area, join human rights organizations from across Los Angeles today – Tuesday, June 25 at 8:45am – at L.A. Police Department HQ to defend the right to organize and demand that Deborah’s unjust charges are dropped.
- Email, facebook share and tweet out this post to others to increase awareness of Deborah’s case and encourage others to take action.
- Keep up with Deborah’s case and human right to housing activism via LACAN’s website http://cangress.org/ and on twitter @LACANetwork.
Thank you for continued support!