March for our lives Boston

On Saturday, March 24 March For Our Lives takes to the streets to demand that childrens’ lives and safety become a national priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools. Add your signature to the national petition by visiting

And come to the March in Boston!

The New Bedford Democrats invite you to join them for a bus up to the March for Our Lives rally in Boston on Saturday, to march for sane gun control. If you’re meeting people, the march starts at Boston Common, Charles St., Boston, MA 02108 at noon. Here’s how to sign up for the bus:

Since this is really short notice and the bus has to be arranged, please do the following by 8:30 PM Wednesday, March 21st — that’s less than 24 hours from now!

  1. Click here to let us know if you’re coming. Give us the number of people who will be riding the bus, as well as your name and email address, so we can contact you with pickup details.
  2. There is a $15 per person fee for the bus. Write and hang on to a check for $15 to “New Bedford Democratic City Committee” and fork it over when you board the bus. If you don’t have a check account, cash is fine. If you can afford to cover fees for a starving student, be generous; give more than the minimum. If you can’t afford the fare, we’ll still get you to the rally.
  3. The bus will start in New Bedford, pick up people in Fall River, then stop in Brockton and end up in Boston. Once the route is established we’ll contact you with details of the pick up addresses and times.

Bus fare includes a sandwich from Giammalvo’s, chips, water, maybe some granola bars and apples, and Richard Drolet, the Chairperson of the N.B. Democratic City Committe, will probably make some of his excellent cookies.

Assuming the weather cooperates and enough people are interested, there will also be a sign-making party on Thursday or Friday. We have sign board for 60 signs. Your creativity is needed. Think up some slogans.


Richard M. Drolet, Chairperson, N.B. Democratic City Committee
508-801-2881 –


Thirteen Democratic Senators

I’ve written about this before and it is now closer to becoming law. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720) is a piece of legislation promoted by a foreign nation that will violate the civil liberties of Americans. It joins recent laws in Turkey and Poland criminalizing “insults” to a nation. But it is fundamentally a form of thought control that has no place in a democracy.

S.720 is co-sponsored by 51 U.S. Senators. To their shame, thirteen are Democrats: Michael Bennet (CO); Richard Blumenthal (CT); Maria Cantwell (WA); Christopher Coons (DE); Joe Donnelly (IN); Margaret Hassan (NH); Joe Manchin (WV); Claire McCaskill (MO); Robert Menendez (NJ); Bill Nelson (FL); Gary Peters (MI); Charles Schumer (NY); and Ron Wyden (OR).

S.720 criminalizes speech and forbids political expression. The Anti-Israel Boycott Act is basically a Sedition Act in disguise which punishes any American joining a boycott to oppose the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinians with a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment up to 20 years.

S.720 wants to have it both ways — doing the bidding of a foreign nation (Israel) while punishing Americans from following boycotts suggested by a foreign entity (the UN and the still-stateless Palestinian people).

Whether the bill is eventually successful or not, the ACLU notes the harm it has already done:

“On its face, the bill appears to directly prohibit boycott activity that is protected under the First Amendment. Even if the bill could be interpreted more narrowly, as some of its supporters claim, its broad language could still chill protected expression by scaring people into self-censorship. Either way, the bill would impose serious First Amendment harms.”

According to S.720’s subsection (a)(1) the bill criminalizes even gathering information about companies doing business in Israel or in occupied Palestinian territories. You post an inquiry on Facebook — for example, does Sodastream manufacture its products in the West Bank? The next thing you know, you face arrest or a fine.

Besides violating the rights of Americans, S.720 is a perfect example of the sort of foreign meddling that Democrats claim to hate. S.720 is promoted by numerous pro-Israel groups like AIPAC whose single focus on promoting Israeli interests should require it to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Even Canada is obliged to register its lobbyists but no such limitations apply to AIPAC, which literally pays American legislators to work for Israel’s interests.

Imagine if Russian lobbyists did the same — worked through a group we’ll call ARPAC — the American Russian Political Action Committee — to create legislation to criminalize sanctions against Russia and its oligarchs. Or imagine ATPAC — the American Turkish Political Action Committee — buying support to keep Americans from mentioning the Armenian Genocide or protesting Turkey’s treatment of Kurdish people.

What’s especially galling to Americans is that the Senate is telling us we can’t take political action against a foreign country knee deep in corruption — a country with a prime minister about to be indicted for criminal conspiracy. A country in which the former prime minister went to jail for bribery and influence-peddling. The Senate needs to be reminded: Israel is not our 51st state.

S.720 echoes laws in Israel which have already criminalized the BDS movement in “the Middle East’s only democracy.” The Senate bill also joins a growing list of American “gag” legislation written for agribusiness, anti-abortion zealots, and pipeline companies. The Trump administration now seems eager to join its authoritarian counterparts in China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere in policing the views of its citizens.

And thirteen Democratic senators, including Chuck Schumer, are just fine with that.

Sleeping with a suitcase under the bed

What would you do if immigration agents came for you and separated you from your children? Breaking apart families was never a central mission of previous Republican and Democratic administrations, but with Trump many parents are now faced with having to plan for unimaginable cruelties of a racist deportation machine. It may not be 1935 but, if you are someone sleeping with a packed suitcase under the bed, it sure feels like it.

On Thursday Helena daSilva Hughes of the Immigrants Assistance Center and Corinn Williams of the Community Economic Development Center, both in New Bedford, hosted a workshop given by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s (MLRI) Emily Leung. Roughly 40 attendees represented a spectrum of local social service, academic, health care, and legal organizations and they had come to learn about legal tools immigrants can use to protect the welfare of their children if they face deportation.

Leung discussed the Trump administration’s “shift in enforcement,” which was a diplomatic way of describing ICE’s shift from deporting dangerous individuals to going after the easiest people to round up. The MLRI attorney discussed adaptations to, and the function of, the Caregiver Authorization Affidavit and Temporary Agent Appointment documents, both already in use within the Commonwealth. Neither of these legal documents grants guardianship of a child to another adult — a last resort if a child is young and the deportation is irreversible — but they permit a caregiver to make important decisions for a parent who can no longer advocate for her own children.

It was a lively meeting with many questions asked and answered. Leung dispensed practical advice on storing and collecting identity and travel documents — and ending by stressing the importance of committting important phone numbers to memory. By the time you need to make that phone call you’re already in ICE custody — and they’ve got your phone.

For more information go to the MLRI website or to Mass Legal Help. You can find workshop resources in English and Spanish — and more translations would be welcomed.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has published a similar Emergency Planning Guide for Families in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

* * *

The Immigrants Assistance Center (IAC) and the Community Economic Development Center (CEDC) both perform important work of helping immigrant families — whatever their status.

Check out the Benefit Concert for the IAC at the Greasy Luck Brewpub, 791 Purchase St., New Bedford, MA 02740, on Saturday, February 24th, from 5-8pm. Buy your tickets here.

And please support the work of the CEDC by making a generous donation.

Defend our defenders

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court…” — Miranda warning

Everyone’s heard the Miranda warning and the promise of public counsel. But few know how precarious the system is, how overworked public defenders are, or that the funding of public defenders is really just an afterthought — in even the most liberal of states.

In Massachusetts the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) provides legal representation to indigent people in criminal and civil cases and administrative proceedings in which there is a right to counsel. CPCS attorneys, social service advocates, investigators, secretaries and other professionals, also known as MassDefenders, work on behalf of poor people on criminal, juvenile, child and family, mental health and other civil commitment cases.

MassDefenders work hard for the most disadvantaged people in the Commonwealth. But CPCS staff have been working for years without a voice in the terms and conditions of their employment. Although public defenders receive some of the benefits provided other state employees (pensions and healthcare), they do not currently have the right to collective bargaining.

In 2004 the Supreme Judicial Court addressed a shortage of lawyers due to stagnant rates of compensation that hadn’t changed since 1986, noting the rates were “among the lowest in the nation.” Today there are signs that Massachusetts is again approaching another crisis.

On March 6th, starting with an early morning rally outside Superior Court in Fall River (186 S. Main St.) at 8:15am, Massachusetts public defenders will again demand their collective bargaining rights.

Later in the day, at 4:30pm, MassDefenders will attend a public hearing at Superior Court in Taunton (9 Court St.) organized by CPCS management to hear from the public on rate increases for bar advocates and other appointed lawyers. Like CPCS lawyers, bar advocates are attorneys contracted to represent poor people and do similar work as public defenders.

Public defenders and bar advocates are often the first to hear about injustices visited upon those in county and state prisons. Strengthening public defenders’ rights strengthens opposition to prison abuses, mass incarceration, solitary confinement and the systemic racism in the “justice” system. Defenders with the protections collective bargaining confers can also be powerful advocates for the lawful and humane treatment of people detained in immigration cases.

Defend our defenders.

For more information contact Ben Evans at or at 401-258-4239.

Never allowed to escape his past

Last week social networks were buzzing with reports that UMASS Dartmouth had rescinded the 2017 acceptance of a black student who had been honest about prior gang affiliations. Right after Martin Luther King day, and right in the middle of Black History month, a young black man had new options snatched away by nervous administrators at a campus in a lily-white community. At a campus meeting on Monday angry students voiced concerns about racism and fairness.

The university for its part shed absolutely no light on the issue. According to a campus spokesman, “We’re just not going to be engaged in a conversation about an admissions case about an individual student.” Whatever the actual facts, the university’s ham-handed refusal to discuss circumstances or safety concerns — or to engage in a “conversation” with students or the wider community — will with good reason be interpreted as a coverup of some good-old-fashioned racism, and less as the well-intentioned effort to keep students safe. The university might as well have invoked “national security.”

UMASS Dartmouth is a public university. Many of us studied there. Many of us know students, employees, faculty, ex-faculty, and regularly attend campus events. Before it joined the UMASS system it was very much a local university, and it still is. In every way it is our university. And the public is entitled to some answers. The administration must open up about the circumstances and reasoning behind changing its mind about this student. And it must publicly and transparently deal with concerns that this was racism again rearing its ugly head in the age of Trump.

Universities are full of people with all sorts of baggage. The UMASS university system was once run by Whitey Bulger’s brother. Despite suspicions he knew where his fugitive brother was hiding, it never seemed to keep William Bulger off a campus or prevent him from becoming president of the Massachusetts Senate. Plenty of white students have had offenses expunged from their records. But this particular student never had the same courtesy extended to him. Despite his best efforts to take a different path in life, this young black man has now been barred from the university for a past that men like him are never permitted to escape.

Prepare for the 2018 MassDems convention

Massachusetts Democrats are getting ready for the 2018 convention in Worcester. The following information might be useful if you are thinking of jumping into the Blue pool.

The MassDems Convention

The 2018 Massachusetts Democratic convention is an Endorsing Convention — which means that state primary candidates will be vetted at the convention. To appear on the Democratic primary ballot on September 4th, candidates need 15% of the convention delegate vote, so you may have noticed that candidates are scrambling to contact party activists. This year’s convention is also considering charter amendments — changing the rules by which the state party operates. Action Together has a good writeup on what will go on at the convention:

Action Together also has a good summary of how you can jump in:

First things first

Start by attending your Democratic town caucus. You can’t be a delegate if you’re not attached to a local committee. Today was the first day of the caucuses. Check to see when yours is being held:

A little light reading

The rules for delegates, alternates and “add-on” delegate selections will leave you with heartburn and a headache. In general, there are an equal number of male and female delegates and alternates. There are also a number of “add-on” delegates, also gender-balanced, who represent various identities: minority, gender, sexuality, disabled, etc.

You must be registered as a Democrat at the time of your town caucus to be elected as a delegate or alternate. Add-on delegates can register as Democrats at the caucuses. Delegates must be present at the caucuses unless they are serving in the military, and they must not have publicly supported non-Democrats within the last 2-4 years. There may be some exceptions for absences at the caucuses if prior notice has been given in writing to the local chair. Consult your local chair and familiarize yourself with the Convention documents and the various forms and registration deadlines. And don’t show up late for your caucus!

In case you missed the email

You may find additional information in an email the MassDems sent to all town and city Chairpersons:

Get on Richard’s list

Richard Drolet is a good guy to know if you’re a SouthCoast Democrat. He is the Chairperson of the New Bedford Democratic City Committee, which arranges a bus to the convention for Democrats from New Bedford and neighboring towns. Get on Richard’s email list to be advised of City committee meetings (which are open to members of neighboring towns) and plans for travel to the 2018 Convention in Worcester.

Courage needed

Few people who listened to Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech could fail to miss his remarks on minorities and immigrants. This is a demagogue playing to a far-right base by expanding a deportation machine. This is an unrepentant racist who now makes it clear he doesn’t want even legal immigration if it involves brown people.

In New Hampshire since last summer American citizens on I-93 have been stopped at roadblocks in Thornton, forced to show their ids, and had their cars searched in violation of what’s left of the Fourth Amendment. In Fort Lauderdale last week, agents stopped and boarded a Greyhound bus and again demanded to see everyone’s id. A video of the spectacle provoked widespread condemnation.

This is not a sign of a healthy democracy, nor is it an America most of us want to live in. It’s a little too reminiscent of the pogroms of Germany of 1935. And this is why we need the Safe Communities Act, now before the Massachusetts legislature.

State legislators want to protect the public, and they also want to provide law enforcement officials with the tools to do it. Anti-immigrant organizations like FAIR, and spokesmen for FAIR like Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson, would have us believe Trump’s claim that an overwhelming number of immigrants from Latin America are rapists and cartel members. Those who know the immigrant community know that this is complete hogwash. But some legislators fear making the wrong call.

Hodgson and his former segregationist friend Jeff Sessions claim the Safe Communities Act is a “sanctuary” bill that prevents immigration agents from doing their job. Sessions, like Hodgson, even wants to arrest mayors of cities who won’t deputize their police as ICE agents.

But nobody’s stopping ICE from doing its work. The Safe Communities Act now moving through committee simply says that Massachusetts taxpayers aren’t picking up the tab for federal policing, and we’re not going to go out of our way to deputize our police and prison officials as ICE agents. The bill also says “no” to registries of Muslims, Latinos — or anyone else on the wrong side of the president.

Fear merchants like Tom Hodgson are hoping you won’t read the legislation and will believe whatever they tell you about it. But the Safe Communities Act is 154 lines double spaced, and it’s not difficult to read or understand.

An important calculation the legislature must make when voting on “Safe Communities” is whether the risks to democracy of expanding the president’s deportation machine outweigh any benefits of getting rid of what the president calls “bad hombres.” Most of the deportees we’ve been hearing about recently are guilty of 20 year-old DUI’s and other low level offenses. Expanding a police state to go after them will have only negative consequences.

Let’s leave the determination of dangerousness to local cops and DA’s — and not willingly join the president’s pogrom against brown people. Encourage your legislator to pass the Safe Communities Act. The quality of our democracy literally depends on more states passing courageous legislation like this.