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Username: tcrp
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Created: Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 09:42 AM CST
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Web Page: http://www.texascivilrightsproject.org/
Email: gmosesx@gmail.com

Bio:
The Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit foundation, promotes civil rights and economic and racial justice throughout Texas, for poor and low-income people.

Guest Post: Labor Leader César Chávez's Impact Reached Beyond Abused Farm Hands


by: tcrp

Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 01:38 PM CDT

(Thanks to the Texas Civil Rights Project for this fitting tribute. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)


BY JAMES HARRINGTON

Timed for release on today's 87th anniversary of César Chávez's birthday and the holiday named for him, the movie "César Chávez: History Is Made One Step at a Time" will show in theaters around the country. It premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin earlier this month, attended by Dolores Huerta, César's indomitable organizing colleague, still active at age 83.

Also being released on his birthday is a documentary by the University of Texas at San Antonio on his organizing efforts among Texas farm workers. Its first showing will be at the United Farm Workers Hall in San Juan.

César was born in 1927 and passed away in 1993. He was one of the country's pre-eminent farm labor organizers, and an outstanding Mexican American leader. He dedicated his life to improving the wages and working conditions of one of the country's poorest and most exploited groups of workers, a large number of whom live in Texas.

He led the historic non-violent movement for farm worker rights. He motivated thousands of people who never worked in agriculture to commit themselves to social, economic and environmental justice and civil rights. And he helped grow leadership in the Hispanic community to throw off centuries of discrimination. He made history one step at a time.

Read more about his impact below the jump.

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Guest Post: MLK Called Out Income Inequality


by: tcrp

Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 09:46 AM CST

(Thanks to Jim Harrington and Texas Civil Rights Project for this guest post. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

By Jim Harrington
TCRP Director

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering 'I Have a Dream speech in 1963Every year on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, we hear snippets of his eloquent "I Have a Dream" speech and see televised scenes from that dramatic gathering of the multitude on the Washington Mall a half-century ago.

Few people, however, pause to ask what kind of speech Dr. King would give today to a similar assemblage on the mall.

We act and think as if that dream of Dr. King somehow actually had come true when he sent those words rolling across the 300,000 people in front of him.

Indeed, we airbrush the ringing challenge, even sting, of his speech. Dr. King himself was on a journey to a Promised Land he envisioned and toward which he tried to point us. That rally, after all, was officially "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," not a march for civil rights only.

In November before his death, Dr. King tied together civil and human rights with economic justice: "Violence has been the inseparable twin of materialism, the hallmark of its grandeur." In other words, civil rights only addressed the tip of the iceberg. The underlying cause of brutality and psychological violence was an economic system that perpetrated and relied on economic disparity, manipulation and injustice.

Read more below the jump.
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Immigrant Youth Turn Out for Clinics of Hope


by: tcrp

Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 08:02 AM CDT

Equal Justice Works fellow and attorney Amelia Ruiz Fischer of the Texas Civil Rights Project traveled to Laredo to provide an information session and eligibility screening interviews for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the immigrant community there.

The clinic, which Amelia organized in partnership with Adriana Rodriguez and the Laredo Webb County Bar Association (LWCBA), began with a presentation that gave an overview of DACA, including eligibility and documentary requirements. Afterwards, attorney volunteers from LWCBA and other legal volunteers interviewed interested potential applicants to determine their eligibility for DACA.

Those determined to be eligible received appointments for the first weekend in May, during which Amelia will return to Laredo to, again in partnership with LWCBA attorney volunteers, prepare their application packages free of charge.

"The session in Laredo was a great success," said Amelia. "We had over 100 people show up to listen to the presentation, and found 50 eligible applicants whom we will see in May to prepare their DACA applications."

"There's no way we could have served the great number of people we did without the tremendous help and dedication of the Laredo Webb County Bar Association's attorney volunteers," said Amelia

TCRP would like to thank Adriana Rodriguez, John Sabas Perez, the Laredo Webb County Bar Association, and the other legal volunteers for their invaluable help in assisting the Laredo immigrant community with this important legal service.

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Pro Bono Lawyers Win Press Freedom Case for BOR


by: tcrp

Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 07:57 AM CST

Jackson Walker LLP Pro Bono Lawyers Babcock, Hamilton, and Welker

Texas Civil Rights Project pro bono lawyers Chip Babcock, Nancy Hamilton, and Audra Welter of Jackson Walker, L.L.P. won an important freedom of the press case for the noted Texas blog Burnt Orange Report.

Burnt Orange Report was sued by a perennial Democratic candidate for judge in Dallas County after reporting on his bizarre behavior at a book signing. The team at Jackson Walker won a motion to dismiss the case as frivolous.

"This is a great victory for the free press," said Texas Civil Rights Project Pro Bono Coordinator Scott Medlock. "The media has to be free to criticize public figures, especially candidates for judicial positions which are extremely important but often ignored."

Burnt Orange Report is "Texas' largest group political blog," and is one of the most-visited blogs in the state. It is a grassroots organization, covering politics in Texas. "Independent voices like Burnt Orange Report are vital in the digital era," said Medlock.

"Making sure these independent news sources can report freely on important issues is why we have a free press. TCRP gives its sincere thanks to the lawyers at Jackson Walker who worked pro bono to win this case."

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US Senate Ready to Wipe Out Email Privacy in America


by: tcrp

Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 09:21 AM CST

(An important issue. - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)

By Renato Ramírez
Chairman of the Board and CEO, IBC-Zapata
&
James C. Harrington
Director, Texas Civil Rights Project

The U.S. Senate will soon vote on a law that would gravely undermine Americans' privacy and give expanded, unbridled surveillance over people's e-mails to more than 22 government agencies.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee, has capitulated to law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Justice Department, and is sponsoring a bill, authorizing widespread warrantless access to Americans' e-mails, as well as Google Docs files, Twitter direct messages, and so on, without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.

Leahy's bill would only require the federal agencies to issue a subpoena, not obtain a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause. It also would permit state and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans' correspondence stored on systems not offered "to the public," including university networks.

Even in situations which still would require a search warrant, the proposed law would excuse law enforcement officers from obtaining a warrant (and being challenged later in court) if they claim an "emergency" situation.

Not only that, but a provider would have to notify law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell its customers they've been the target of a warrant, order, or subpoena. The agency then could order the provider to delay notification of customers, whose accounts have been accessed, from three days to "ten business days" or even postpone notification up to 360 days.

Agencies that would receive civil subpoena authority for electronic communications include the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the NLRB, OSHA, SEC, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission. There is no good legal reason why agencies like these need blanket access to people's personal information with a mere subpoena, rather than a warrant.

One might expect better of Leahy, given his liberal credentials; but he has been quite disappointing. In fact, he had a hand in making the Patriot Act bill less protective of civil liberties. Nor has the Administration been helpful in this regard, quite to the contrary. Expectations of "law and order" types might not be as high in terms of protecting civil liberties, but they should not be as unsatisfactory as they are with proponents of constitutional freedoms.

The revelations about how the FBI perused former CIA director David Petraeus' e-mail without a warrant should alarm us all, who have less power and prestige than he did.

If the Fourth Amendment is to have any meaning, it is that police must obtain a search warrant, backed by probable cause, before reading Americans' e-mails or other communications. If we are to preserve our constitutional protection from warrantless searches, unreviewed by the courts, we need to let our U.S. Senators from Texas hear from us immediately and resoundingly.

We cannot allow the government to undermine our rights, bit by bit, even in the name of national security, which too often is the mantra it so casually uses. As Ben Franklin said, those who give up freedom in the name of security deserve neither.

This abridgement of our fundamental rights affects us all -- conservative, liberals, and libertarians alike. Our allegiance to the Constitution must be non-partisan. Write or call your Senators -- now.

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Bring Back the Right to Vote as it Was a Few Years Ago


by: tcrp

Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 09:26 PM CST

(The past two years have seen an unprecedented assault on American voting rights, from decreasing early voting locations and hours to requiring a poll tax in the form of a photo voter ID. Here with some further commentary on this issue is the Texas Civil Rights Project. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

by James C. Harrington

Director, Texas Civil Rights Project



In the not too distant past, America did much to make it easier for people to vote.  The national government passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act to undo the vestiges and practices of voter suppression based on race and ethnicity; state and local governments instituted early voting, facilitated absentee ballots, lengthened polling hours, and made electoral registration as easy as mailing a postcard.


Expanding the franchise has been long and painstaking, extending back more than a hundred years.  The15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution started off this tedious process in 1870, enfranchising men, regardless of race (although Jim Crow undermined that right). It then took 50 years to establish the same right for women, with the 19th Amendment in 1920.


Carmen Limas, LUPE - RGV

Carmen Limas of LUPE - Rio Grande Valley (lupergv.wordpress.com)

Voting is the most important action we do as Americans.  Elections are how we fashion our society, set our values, and govern ourselves. Some countries are so committed to democratic participation that voting is mandatory.


Yet, in the last few years, politicians have moved to make voting more difficult, reversing decades of progress.  We have seen a pattern of voter-suppression laws and actions across the land. These methods are aimed at certain groups of people, whose interests would be significantly different from those in power.  But denying the franchise is un-American.  We all have to live by what the majority speaks, and we must do all we can to have as many speak as possible.


Since 2011, 19 states have passed laws to make voting more difficult.  Thirteen states now require voter ID, six of them with very strict laws.  Altogether, these ID laws affect 10 percent of the electorate.  Six states have reduced early voting; and six states have tightened voter registration laws, making it more difficult for groups, such as the League of Women Voters, to conduct registration drives.


The argument is that this is to control fraud, although in reality there are extraordinarily few incidents of fraud, and absolutely none on any large-scale.


Not only is there scant evidence of voter fraud, but those who rail against this make-believe reality show little concern about paperless balloting.  E-voting is fraught with error and the real possibility of hacking and manipulation, as has happened already in numerous polling places around the country.  Nor without a paper trail can there be a recount, if needed.  E-voting is far greater threat to electoral integrity than any voter fraud.


There are other dangers to elections.  The Citizens United Supreme Court decision unleashed a torrent of money so that millionaires and corporations shamelessly far outspend the average citizen and now can tell their employees how they should vote.


Some $2 billion has gone into the 2012 presidential campaign so far, with more to come.  This grossly disproportionate power endangers and undermines a democracy. And that money could have been better spent on educating kids, setting up job skills training, improving medical care in the poor and rural areas of our nation, and so on.


If we want a democracy that works and flourishes, we have to reverse course and facilitate voting for everyone.  Early balloting, weekend-end voting, and same-day registration are all worthy of strengthening.  We might even consider a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and limit campaigns to 60 days, as do many countries.


We need to return to encouraging and assisting people to vote, not impede them.  Our democracy depends on it.
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DREAMers Win 'Fair and Just' Decision from President


by: tcrp

Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 11:32 AM CDT

A Victory for DREAMers

Texas Immigrant Advocates:
DREAM Act Back on Front Burner


Public News Service

AUSTIN, Texas -- With the Obama administration's decision Friday to defer the threat of deportation for hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented U.S. residents, immigration is fast emerging as the sleeper issue this election season.

Texas border-community advocates are predicting an increase in political activity by so-called "DREAMers" -- individuals brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children -- as they feel more free to speak out without fear of revealing their legal status.

Esther Reyes, a member of the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, says risk-taking DREAMers who have been occupying Obama campaign offices around the country in recent weeks deserve much of the credit for the new policy.

"This is a result of the work of the students, more than anything. It was certainly a testament to their hard work and their boldness and courage to stand up for their rights and justice."
The Texas Civil Rights Project hailed the Obama Administration's decision to stop deporting and begin giving work permits to younger undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have since led law-abiding lives.

TCRP Director Jim Harrington called the decision "fair and just."

"It's not been fair to penalize young people whom their parents have brought to the United States without proper documentation.

"Nor was it fair to deport them back to countries they've never known, many without the ability to speak the language or without family with whom they could live.

"It was also unfair to them and to our society that these young people could not get a higher education or become productive members of our community. The prior policy had created a sub-class of young people who had to live in fear in the shadows of society."

View the Press Release at the TCRP Blog

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the decision was just the latest step in the administration's year-old commitment to focus deportation efforts on unsavory criminals. Eligible immigrants can request deportation relief in two-year increments, as well as apply for work permits.

While Reyes applauds the move, she says groups like the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition -- which she directs -- will be monitoring its implementation to be sure applicants and their families aren't exposed to unexpected legal risks. She adds that the effect of the policy shift will be limited, unless Congress bolsters it with legislation.

"We also need full, permanent relief for our undocumented students, because this does not provide a path to citizenship. That is what all undocumented immigrants in this country really are fighting for: to be recognized."

In 2010, "DREAM Act" legislation won majority support in both houses of Congress, but did not survive a filibuster. Reyes hopes the renewed political focus on immigration issues will eventually lead to comprehensive reform of the nation's entire immigration system.

Critics call the Obama policy a politically motivated overreach of authority and backdoor amnesty. Texas Congressman Lamar Smith says it will have "horrible consequences" for unemployed Americans. However Reyes counters that bringing immigrants out of the shadows will allow them to contribute more fully to the economy.

"These undocumented youths have demonstrated their commitment to this country. We have to recognize what they're actually doing."

The government has set up a hotline, 1-800-375-5283, for questions about eligibility and how to request "deferred action status."

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX



Attorneys, Immigrants Laud Obama Decision

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- An Obama administration policy announced Friday will stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and allow them to obtain work permits. Although there are some stipulations, El Paso, Texas, attorney Daniel Caudillo says the atmosphere at the annual immigration lawyers' conference in Nashville, Tenn., over the weekend was one of celebration.

Gaby Pacheco
View DREAM advocate Gaby Pacheco
speaking at the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington DC (ABC News)

"We're excited to see cases like these come to a halt. I can very quickly think of several cases where there was nothing else that we could do. We ran out of options and that person had to ultimately leave the only country that they've known as home."

Opponents complain the deferred-action order is political and merely a stopgap. Caudillo points out that, at this time, there is limited information about how the order will be implemented.

Marcela Diaz is the executive director of a statewide immigrant advocacy organization known as Somos un Pueblo Unido. She says that while this order will not affect a large population of New Mexicans, it will have a more immediate, positive effect because of state education policies.

"Back in 2005, in a statewide effort that Somos activists and -- ultimately -- legislators moved forward, undocumented immigrant students have access to in-state tuition and financial aid."

A recent graduate of the University of New Mexico, Mayté Garcia, has been working for passage of the Dream Act since before Barack Obama was President. During the Iowa caucuses in 2008, she appeared on C-SPAN, posing a question to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"I asked her if the Dream Act was a priority of hers in her first 100 days. She didn't respond to the question, but she said she would look into it."

Garcia says this declaration by President Obama means everything to her. She describes the first thing she plans to do to celebrate his decision.

"I am going to hold my daughter in my arms and cry and pray and say thank you for this opportunity."

Garcia says Obama's administrative order is at least a temporary end to living in limbo. It means she can return to school and will be able to teach in this country.

Beginning today, individuals can call the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hotline, 1-800-375-5283, or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hotline at 1-888-351-4024, with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming application process.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM
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Four Solutions for Veterans in the Texas Justice System


by: tcrp

Mon May 28, 2012 at 08:50 AM CDT

(In honor of Memorial Day, Texas Civil Rights Project presents a powerful reminder of the challenges our veterans can face once they come home.   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Vietnam War Memorial with Nurse and Wounded Soldier
The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) Justice for Veterans Campaign is a program to help those military veterans who:  
    -- are struggling with physical and mental health-conditions related to their service

    -- all too often find themselves struggling with the criminal justice system as well.
There is a significant correlation between incarceration and the mental  health conditions faced by veterans: 40% of veterans with PTSD symptoms  commit a crime after discharge from wartime service.  As a result,  veterans are severely over-represented in the criminal justice system:  nationwide, 10% of prison and jail inmates once served in the military,  the majority in wartime.

In 2011, the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) received a grant from the  Texas Access to Justice Foundation to help address the needs veterans  in the criminal justice system.  TCRP is working with existing  stakeholders and a network of pro bono attorneys to reach out to those  veterans before, during, and after their incarceration.

Standing on a Precarious Edge

Transitioning from military life to the civilian world can be a daunting  and stressful change under the best of circumstances.  And we are not  in the best of circumstances.  Significant numbers of men and women are  leaving military service today carrying burdens that are too great for  them to bear.

On October 7, 2001, the United States launched Operating Enduring  Freedom in Afghanistan.  Less than eighteen months later, on March 20,  2003, the United States launched Operation Iraqi Freedom.  A 2008 RAND  study estimated 1.64 million troops, up to that point, had been deployed  to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today’s estimate exceeds  2 million.

Estimates vary regarding the number of returning vets who are suffering  from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury  (TBI), but none of them are good.  The same RAND study estimated about  31% of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from  either a  mental health condition (e.g. PTSD or major depression), TBI, or both.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur  after exposure to traumatic events such as combat, natural disasters,  assaults or motor vehicle accidents.  Symptoms  can include nightmares,  flashbacks, intrusive memories, feeling numb and detached from people,  insomnia, irritability and hypervigilance.

Traumatic Brain Injury is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a  penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.   Symptoms of mild TBI can include headaches, poor concentration, memory  loss, sleep disturbances, and irritability-emotional disturbances.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), from 2002 to 2009,  1 million troops left active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and became  eligible for VA care.  Of those troops, 46% came in for VA services.  Of  those Veterans who used VA care, 48% were diagnosed with a  mental  health problem.

Learn more below the jump.

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Honoring Cesar Chavez on his Birthday


by: tcrp

Fri Mar 30, 2012 at 10:50 AM CDT

(Thanks to Texas Civil Rights Project and Jim Harrington for this great piece commemorating Cesar Chavez. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

By James C. Harrington
Director
Texas Civil Rights Project

As a veteran civil rights attorney, I have often been struck about how quickly a leader's legacy disappears from one generation to the next.

Perhaps this is because, as a society, we do not do a good job of creating a narrative about important leaders, which we pass on to our children and those who come after them. All that remains, at best, is their name - not the history of their struggle or the depth of their impact on society.

One such narrative we should keep alive is the legacy of César Chávez, whose birthday we commemorate on March 31.  Cesar was born in 1927 and died in 1993.  He was one of the nation's preeminent farm labor organizers, and one of country's outstanding Mexican American leaders. He dedicated his life to improving the wages and working conditions of one of the country's poorest and most exploited groups of workers, a large share of whom are in Texas.

César lead the historic non-violent movement for farm worker rights. He also motivated thousands of people, who never worked in agriculture, to commit themselves to social, economic, and environmental justice and civil rights.  And he helped grow leadership in the Hispanic community to throw off centuries of discrimination.

César's impact is reflected in the holiday designated for him in eleven states and in the parks, cultural centers, libraries, schools, and streets carry his name in cities across Texas and the United States.  In Texas, his birthday is an optional state holiday.

César knew the hard life of farm laborers firsthand.  He had to leave school after eighth grade to work in the fields as a migrant to help support his family.  After serving in the U.S. Navy, César coordinated voter registration drives and campaigns against racial and economic discrimination, and, in 1962, he helped found the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.

César led the first successful farm workers union in U.S. history and won the first industry-wide labor contracts in American agriculture.  The union helped achieve dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits, humane working conditions, and other protections for hundreds of thousands of farm laborers.

César believed in the peaceful tactics of Mohandas Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: fasts, boycotts, and strikes. People felt the justice of his cause. When he died, more than 50,000 people of all walks of life marched in his funeral procession under the hot Delano, California sun.

César's influence on Texans extended far beyond the thousands of Texas farm laborers who worked as migrants in California.  His efforts to open the doors of colleges and universities to the Hispanic community reached deep into Texas, and, in turn, opened to doors to economic and political opportunity.

We do not measure César's life in material terms, but rather as that of a person who stood, and worked, for equality, justice, and dignity for all Americans, and who inspired many others to do the same.

César's birthday should not be just a day on which we honor his name, but a day on which we tell his narrative and on which we re-commit ourselves to the struggle to make our community and our country a better place for our children and grandchildren.

====

Harrington is Director of Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit foundation that promotes civil rights and economic and racial justice throughout Texas.  He worked with César Chávez in Texas for 18 years.

http://www.texascivilrightspro...

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Remember the Crawford Five - Or How to Fight City Hall and Preserve the Constitution


by: tcrp

Thu Jan 26, 2012 at 07:57 AM CST

"Texas towns have a tradition of turning their dislikes into city ordinances," wrote the late great Molly Ivins and her co-author Lou Dubose, Editor of the Washington Spectator. "But the extent to which Crawford would go to shield the president from all dissent was extreme even by the standards of the Great State."

In Chapter Two of their book, Bill of Wrongs, Ivins and Dubose spin the tall Texas tale of the Crawford Five, who fought for their right to display dissent in the semi-adopted home town of the President of the United States.

"Two years after Bush took office, Crawford's protective bubble for the president was challenged, putting the Constitution to a test before a Texas jury that was a sure bet to pick order over law.'"

Crawford Five on YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Following the May, 2003 arrest of four anti-war protesters and "a long-haired man who had walked down the street from the Crawford 'Peace House,'" the busted activists called upon legal assistance from TCRP Director Jim Harrington and a trial was convened at the Crawford city auditorium.

Read how a civil rights lawyer and five grassroots Texas activists -- "a church secretary, a middle school teacher, an AmeriCorps volunteer, and employee for the nonprofit Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and a Crawford peace activist'" -- all made history as they fought City Hall and defended our Constitutional Rights to assemble and speak free.

Read "A Zone of Their Own"
[in pdf format: 1.7 MB]
http://texascivilrightsproject...

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