A short history of MCCRC (April, 2013)

(by Kit Bonson, prepared for Defending Dissent: A Public Forum“, held at Wheaton Regional Library on April 18, 2013)

The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) started because in the fall of 2010, 7 activists in Minneapolis and Chicago awoke one morning to find that their houses were being raided by the FBI. Boxes and boxes of their possessions were confiscated, including computers, papers, and family photos. Although they were never charged with any crime, they were called to testify in front of a Grand Jury.

In response, activists here in our area, as well as in cities around the country, came together to protest the use of the FBI and the Grand Jury process to harass and intimidate movement organizers. Basically, we wanted to stand in solidarity with activists who had not committed crimes or advocated anything other than nonviolent action. It was from these events that MCCRC was founded.

A total of 23 activists from around the country were eventually raided by the FBI and all were called to testify in front of Grand Jury hearings — which every one of them refused to do. Several months later, in the Spring of 2011, MCCRC hosted two of the Midwest activists, who provided a fascinating history, explaining why they had refused to participate and how we could continue to support them.

Around the same time, here in DC, we had our own civil liberties issue when the Metro system announced that they were going to start bag searches in the metro and on buses. We, and other civil libertarians in town, started leafleting Metro stops, to remind people of their rights and to condemn the bag searches as “security theater” that represented wasted resources and time, had no transparency and was not going to make us any safer. These issues have obviously reared their ugly heads again this week in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Boston, because Metro has said they are reinstituting the bag searches.

In the Fall of 2011, with the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we heard that Fred Grandy, a former member of Congress from Iowa, had held a forum in Montgomery County in which he claimed that the US was undergoing “creeping Sharia” — his fear that the Constitution was being undermined by Muslims who wanted Americans to function under Koranic law.

To show the absurdity of this assertion, we held a well-attended panel discussion in response, which featured:

  • Jamie Raskin, our Maryland State Senator and a Constitutional exert
  • Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Sulayman Nyang, a Professor of African Studies at Howard University and
  • Corey Saylor, the Legislative Director of CAIR.

…as well as remarks by event co-organizer and former State Delegate Saqib Ali.

We also took our concerns to the Maryland Conservative Action Network at their conference in Annapolis, where we leafleted outside a panel entitled “Is Sharia Law Coming to Maryland?” We concluded, of course, it was not.

That fall, we also stood up for the free assembly rights of youth by opposing proposed bills in front of the Montgomery County Council that would have imposed a curfew and created loitering laws. Happily, after our efforts, both of these measures were tabled.

Then, last year, during the first half of 2012, we focused hard on fighting against provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that could allowed indefinite detention of American citizens arrested on US soil, based only on being accused of an ill-defined “belligerent act”. We lobbied Congress, held a forum on what the NDAA would allow and then went one step further: after months of work, we got the Takoma Park City Council to pass a resolution condemning the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA!

This made us one of only a few locales that has stood up and won on this issue. This spring, we took the fight to the Maryland statehouse, where we supported the Maryland Liberty Prevention Act, which would have prohibited Maryland state officials from cooperating with the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA. Although this bill did not get out of committee this session, we will be working on it next year when it is reintroduced.

Over the years, MCCRC has reached out to communities that have been targeted for profiling by authorities, such as Arab/Muslim and Latin American immigrant organizations. We are pleased to be making friends and showing solidarity with these groups. Based on the concerns they expressed to us about surveillance, we and the ACLU held a meeting with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett as well as County Police Chief Manger about numerous issues, including crowd control by the police using excessive reliance on weapons, criminalizing photography in a public place, and county participation in the federal “Secure Communities” program, which effectively makes local law enforcement officers into immigration agents, using biometric data.

This spring we have also partnered with Electric Maid, a Takoma Park political collective. We have been holding our meetings at their conveniently-located building across from the Takoma Metro stop, at 268 Carroll St NW, Washington, DC 20012. We’ve also been holding programs there on the third Tuesday of each month.

In February, we focused on the politics and ethics of torture by leafleting the film “Zero Dark Thirty” with factual information about the legality of enhanced interrogation. We then held a program where showed the film “Ending US-Sponsored Torture Forever”, with a panel discussion of faith leaders afterwards.

Last month in March, we showed the film “Better This World”, about young activists who were lured into a plot by an FBI informant and showed solidarity with each other in the face of long sentences in jail for specious charges.

We look forward to seeing you at future events at Electric Maid on the third Tuesday of each month — and involving you in our organizing!

2 Responses to A short history of MCCRC (April, 2013)

  1. hem4214 says:

    TO: Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    This is to document on Friday, March 6, 2015 at approximately 8:48 a.m. law enforcement violated my constitutional rights by spying and ease dropping in on my cell phone conversations in the privacy of home using government surveillance programs to retaliated and harassed me for exerting my 1ST amendment rights.

    This is a pattern practice since 2006 up through today with over the top police misuse and abuse of government aerial surveillance counterterrorism programs that are covert and intelligence in nature that violate the American U. S. Constitution.

    I have been bombarded and subjected to government persecution with use of helicopters, spy and military planes loitering in the airspace over private homes that spy and ease drop in on personal conversations and conduct unlawful military surveillance into my personal and business affairs.

    In closing, I would like you to respond to complaint and appreciate a timely response.

    As you have ignore the retaliation complaint(s) I emailed to you for February.

    Sincerely,

    Marilyn Howard

    Cc: copied

    TO: Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    Today, February 13, 2015 more retaliation with drone surveillance approximately 5:49 pm sitting in airspace directed toward home ease dropping in on communications and located were it can watch coming and goings and also to peep into home windows.

    On Tuesday approximately beginning at 3:00 pm surveillance began tracking my vehicle in PG County, Maryland at 7525 Greenbelt Road. The surveillance continued tracking my vehicle into Anne Arundel at Arundel Mills Mall then onto 295 Baltimore onto Monroe Street Exit into Baltimore City onto Franklin Street onto Edmondson Avenue into Baltimore onto Baltimore National Pikeway until 7:00 pm.

    Please investigate to find out what agency is conducting unlawful surveillance violating my privacy rights, which are as follows:

    1. Provide the Name of the agency or department conducting surveillance?

    2. Provide under what authority the surveillance is being conducted and name of agency or department authorizing it?

    3. Under what agency or department would a local or state law enforcement agency have authority to track citizens vehicles into different jurisdictions, i.e. County and City?

    4. If they received DHS funding? Please provide name of local or state police agency or if Federal agency? Please provide the name of the department or agency?

    Please provide response within (15) days of receipt of this email.

    Sincerely,

    Marilyn Howard

    TO: Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    This letter is a response to DHS CRCL complaint filed on December 16, 2014.

    Under CRCL. 42 U.S.C. § 2000ee-1(e). I am being retaliated, victim of reprisal and harassed under government surveillance programs after this complaint was filed with DHS by federal and local police agencies in Baltimore and in Washington, D. C. and funded through federal grants.

    This is to document more police retaliation on 2/20/2015 with Air tracking surveillance following my vehicle crossing into (3) jurisdictions.

    Beginning with P G County AIR Patrol helicopters hubbering over my car at 7525 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland from. 3:00 pm to 3:45 pm.

    Then surveillance continued into Anne Arundel County, Maryland to Arundel Mall. The Air patrol tracking continued onto 295 BWI Baltimore to Monroe Street exit into Baltimore City then air patrol surveillance continued tracking me into Baltimore County.

    Please provide appropriate appeals rights process regarding the prior complaint Contact No. Contact-DHS-15-0272 filed on December 16, 2014.

    Also, please provide what action(s) or investigations CRCL plans to initiate under the 1964 Civil Rights Act for Color of law violations regarding discrimination and racial profiling.

    Please provide under what federal laws and federal program the above tracking surveillance is authorized under? Also, the source of federal taxpayer dollars to fund this program.
    Sincerely,

    Marilyn Howard

    On Jan 15, 2015, at 12:51 PM, CRCLCompliance wrote:

    Dear Ms. Howard,

    Please see the attached correspondence from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    This message, along with any attachments, is covered by federal and state law governing electronic communications and may contain confidential and legally privileged information. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, use, or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately by reply e-mail, and delete the message.

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  2. Ms. Howard, this is clearly a complex and interesting story — but it’s not really on point about this post, and it seems to expand on a prior very lengthy comment. Might it be more effective to publicize and discuss the course of your complaint and the nature of your evidence at your own blog, http://hem4214blog.wordpress.com? I’ll try to reach you by email to see if you’d like help with that.

    Like

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