North America
Central Processing at McAllen Border Patrol facility

Demand detainee release amid COVID-19 outbreak

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) calling for the immediate release of at-risk immigrant detainees in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. The suit was brought on behalf of 13 immigrants that are currently held in California detention centers. The suit calls for the immediate release of these immigrants due to their “advanced age and underlying medical conditions” that make them “especially vulnerable to the potentially fatal COVID-19 infection while they are confined in crowded and unsanitary conditions where social distancing is not possible.” (Photo: US Customs and Border Control via Jurist)

North America
DoJ

DoJ seeks new powers during COVID-19 outbreak

The Department of Justice has called on Congress to grant the US Attorney General emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal would allow federal judges to pause court proceedings, giving them the ability to detain people indefinitely without trial. Critics such as Norman L. Reimer, director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, are raising concerns over violation of habeas corpus rights. Reimer said the proposal “means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency is over. I find it absolutely terrifying.” (Photo via Jurist)

The Caribbean
Otero Alcántara

Cuba releases artist arrested in censorship protest

Cuba released a dissident artist who had been arrested two weeks earlier for taking part in anti-censorship protests last year and placed in “preventive” detention. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested in Havana while on his way to another such event—a “kiss-in” organized by members of the LGBT community to protest the censorship of a gay kiss scene in the 2018 film Love, Simon that was broadcast by the Cuban Institute of Radio & Television. Hundreds of artists and intellectuals signed a petition demanding that the Cuban government release Otero Alcántara. “This attack is not only against Otero Alcántara, but against all of the artistic and intellectual community, and against Cuban civil society in its totality,” reads the petition, started by New York-based artist Coco Fusco and signed by nearly 900 cultural figures, including Cuban artist Tania Bruguera. (Photo via Hyperallergic)

New York City
Essex County jail

ICE detainees in Newark on hunger strike

At least 10 detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, NJ, began a hunger strike and dozens more have agreed to join in, according to detainees, jailhouse advocates and attorneys. They are demanding to be released on bond, possibly with ankle bracelets to track their movements, and some even said they’re ready to be deported. Inside the jail, they have been following news reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, and say they’d rather die on the outside with family than locked in cells. They also say that if loved ones die, they want to be with them rather than hearing the bad news later. Essex County has a multi-million dollar contract with ICE to house detainees awaiting immigration proceedings. (Photo: Gothamist)

Planet Watch
refugees

COVID-19 puts global refugee resettlement on hold

The UN announced that it will pause resettlement travel for refugees, due to concerns and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and its migration agency, IOM, said in a joint statement that they are “taking steps to suspend resettlement departures for refugees.” The statement listed several reasons for the change, including entry bans, flight restrictions, and the concern that “international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.” (Photo: UNHCR/Ioana Epure)

Europe
Italy prison revolt

Italy: prisons in revolt over COVID-19 restrictions

A total of 12 inmates have been killed in prison riots across Italy, triggered by emergency restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The riots began in response to regulation changes that include the suspension of family visits. Uprisings have been reported at facilities from Bologna in the north to Sicily in the south. At Santa Ana prison, outside Bologna, fires were started and guards taken hostage. Soldiers and Carabinieri surrounded the facility to prevent inmates from escaping. Relatives of the inmates have also staged demonstrations outside the prisons. Protests and riots have been reported at a total of 27 prisons across Italy. (Image: Anarchists Worldwide)

Watching the Shadows
Coronavirus

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism

In Episode 49 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the grim political implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant hysteria. Even before the outbreak, China had detained perhaps upwards of a million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps as a “counter-terrorist” measure. Under emergency measures imposed in response to the outbreak, a staggering half-billion people have been placed under lockdown in Hubei and surrounding provinces. Italy has now just imposed a similar lock-down, affecting 16 million people in the country’s north. Here in the United States, where Trump is building an incipient concentration camp system for detained migrants, the White House has thus far been trying to downplay the COVID-19 threat—as Xi Jinping did before the depth of the crisis became inescapable. If such a point is reached here as well, the posture of the Trump administration could change fast—with potential for sweeping lockdowns, mass internment of targeted populations, and even exploitation of the crisis as a “Reichstag Fire” to throw or suspend the 2020 elections. The coronavirus hysteria could be a terrifying advance for the global detention state, and progressives must urgently formulate a response. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Chinese police demonstration video, via Twitter)

The Caucasus
North Caucasus

Russia: raids on rights defenders in Dagestan

Police in southern Russia raided the homes and office of activists who provide legal and psychological assistance to survivors of human rights abuses and domestic violence, Human Rights Watch reports. The raids took place in Makhachkala and Khasavyurt, two cities in Dagestan, a republic in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region. The activists targeted are members of the Stichting Justice Initiative, a nongovernmental organization representing victims of rights abuses in the North Caucasus and survivors of domestic violence. Police seized computers and electronics containing documentation pertaining to their work. The court order sanctioning the search and seizure contained no information about any specific alleged offense that would have justified the action.  “These outrageous police raids show the poisonous climate for NGOs in Russia, and particularly in the North Caucasus,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. (Map: Wikitravel)

South Asia
Sri Lanka disappeared

Sri Lanka regime intransigent on war crimes

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that his government will withdraw from co-sponsorship of a 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for an investigation into war crimes committed on the island during the internal conflict with Tamil rebels. UNHRC Resolution 30/1 was actually a compromise measure, after the Sri Lanka government rejected calls for creation an international tribunal. The move comes weeks after the government acknowledged for the first time that more than 20,000 people who disappeared during the civil war are dead. Security forces and intelligence agencies have meanwhile intensified surveillance and threats against families of victims of enforced disappearance and activists supporting them. (Photo: UK Tamil News)

East Asia
wenzhou

China: internal resistance to bio-police state

“Citizen journalists” and “netizens” in China who are critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak are being “disappeared”—but online criticism is spreading faster than official censors can contain it, in by far the biggest eruption of dissent under Xi Jinping’s rule. At least one city, Wenzhou, has seen a street protest over the draconian controls the government is instating, in open defiance of the lock-down. Even voices from within China’s political establishment are saying this could be the biggest challenge to the regime’s legitimacy since 1989. (Image via YouTube)

South Asia

Modi and Bolsonaro: twin threat to tribal peoples

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro met in New Delhi, pledging a “new chapter” in cooperation between their two countries, especially naming counter-terrorism and exploitation of minerals, hydrocarbons and other natural resources. The juxtaposition of security concerns and extractivism is telling, as both leaders prepare to repress opposition to their plans to open the traditional territories of indigenous peoples to industrial interests. (Photo: Survival International)

The Andes
Medellin march

Colombia: protests met with repression —again

The protest wave in Colombia was revived with a national mobilization—to be again met with repression from the security forces. Protest organizers explicitly rejected violence, but police and gangs of masked men sabotaged efforts by municipal authorities to maintain the peace in the country’s two biggest cities. In both Bogotá and Medellín, the progressive mayors who defeated President Ivan Duque‘s far-right Democratic Center party in local elections last year had adopted protocols to prevent attacks on peaceful protesters by the feared National Police riot squad, ESMAD. Yet in both cities, clashes erupted, with several injured and scores arrested. In a repeat of a strategy also seen in last November’s protests, police raided the homes of two Bogotá activists the night before the mobilization. (Photo via Colombia Reports)