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Legal Commentary: Blawg Review
Blawg Review #303
Where the hell did this take place? Tunisia? Egypt? Bahrain? Libya?
The Ponce Massacre is a violent chapter in the political history of Puerto Rico. On March 21, 1937 (Palm Sunday), a march was organized in the southern city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. The march, organized to commemorate the ending of slavery in Puerto Rico by the governing Spanish National Assembly in 1873, was also formed to protest the incarceration by the U.S. government of nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, a Harvard educated lawyer, on sedition charges. Today, he is honored in the Casa de la Masacre and the Pedro Albizu Campos Park, a passive recreational park in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
After the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico in 1898, the Island's political status within the US became a subject of ardent conversation within Puerto Rican political circles. A number of political parties sprung up as a result of this, with platforms founded on the differing ideologies of what such relationship with the US should be. The three basic platforms were independence, statehood, and commonwealth, an in-between status of greater local autonomy while still being a territory of the US.Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Civil Rights in Puerto Rico: The Commission, 70p, np, May 22, 1937.
(The Commission was formed to investigate the circumstances surrounding violent actions by the Insular Police of Puerto Rico, a force somewhat resembling the National Guard of the typical U.S. state that answered to the U.S. appointed governor. The affray took place in Ponce, Puerto Rico?s second largest city, on March 21, 1937. A large contingent of the Insular Police had been assembled to enforce an order from the Governor forbidding a planned parade by members of the Nationalist Party, a group that, while non-violent, fiercely advocated Puerto Rican independence. At least 14 persons were killed and another 64 injured when the police suddenly opened fire both on the Nationalists who were assembling to parade outside their clubhouse and also upon the many bystanders. An official report on the incident was submitted to Ernest Gruening, Director of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The report alleged that an official investigation had been made on the scene, that the investigation had determined that the police had been protecting themselves after first being shot at by the Nationalists, and that following the affray a quantity of arms and ammunition had been discovered in the Nationalists? clubhouse. This version of events was echoed in the American press. However, after hearings held in Ponce and elsewhere on the island, the Commission?s report carefully lays out the facts discovered and concludes that: no official investigation had in fact been conducted; only the militia were armed; what occurred was in fact a police riot, and that; the ?only possible descriptive title? was ?massacre.? It also revealed a fact till then unknown, namely that the local Prosecuting Attorney had resigned in protest at what he considered the untruthful official version of events. While principally focused on the Ponce incident, the report also touches upon the state of civil liberties generally in the U.S. colony. The Commission was headed by Arthur Garfield Hays, one of the founders of and longtime General Counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, headquartered in New York. The rest of the commissioners were distinguished Puerto Rican citizens.)The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Puerto Rico National Chapter, documenting the current human rights crisis in Puerto Rico, says the First Amendment is under seige.
While the world celebrates the democratic revolution in Egypt, major violations of basic human rights are occurring in our own backyard. Since Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño came into power two years ago, free speech has been under all-out assault.Jacqueline Hall writes, "police brutality, constitutional violations and government sponsored propaganda are rampant and currently destroying civil liberties in Puerto Rico. Though nearly everyone is aware of the recent uprisings in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, the injustices being suffered by Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, are hardly mentioned in mainstream media."
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) [March 12, 2011] urging it to intervene in serious human rights and civil liberties abuses reported to be occurring against the people of Puerto Rico at the hands of the territory?s government. The ACLU asked that DOJ conclude its ongoing investigation of allegations of serious incidents of police violence and the suppression of free expression ? including numerous reports of violent attacks against peaceful protesters and racially motivated police abuse ? and take action to end these egregious practices.National Guard ends year of policing in Puerto Rico. Yay!!! Mission accomplished.
In other news, the ACLU is Looking on the Bright Side During Sunshine Week.
Jeff Jarvis says, "The US has a chance to move on from a history of clandestine foreign policy ? instead it acts like a clumsy spammer."
Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler argues against the prosecution of Wikileaks, detailing government and news media "over-reaction".
Bruce Ackerman (Yale) and Yochai Benkler (Harvard) are circulating a letter protesting the inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning?s detention and asking for law professor support. Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris reports on the letter and email campaign.
On the Volokh Conspiracy, Kenneth Anderson discusses Libya and the Three Modes of the Security Council.
"We go to war??. against Libya? and we?ll see what happens." Charon QC, a UK law blog.
In a post on Opinio Juris headlined "Guatemalans Bring Class Action Against United States for Syphilis Medical Experiments" Roger Alford notes, "As a legal matter the claim is weak. The statute of limitations has long since run on the claims, the United States enjoys sovereign immunity, and the Guatemalan victims are not within the class of individuals that enjoy constitutional protections. The U.S. Constitution simply does not travel abroad to protect foreigners against the foreign misdeeds of the United States." That's one of the benefits of being Puerto Rican, apparently.
Eugene Volokh at the VC reports on the case of Elton Simpson, indicted for knowingly and willfully making a materially false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Speaking of uprisings, Simon Fodden at Slaw.ca has penned an interesting blog post about Luddites and the Law.
Speaking of Luddites, Brian Tannebaum has a thoughtful review of Gary Vaynerchuk's new book, The Thank You Economy.
Ron Coleman at Likelihood of Confusion says the dark side clouds everything.
Josh Gerstein, writing Under the Radar, reports that the Justice Department has released portions of a detailed legal analysis from 2004 of President George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.
Christopher Danzig (hope that's a pseudonym;) is a new writer at Above the Law, who makes a good case that suing hundreds of anonymous people will not make you popular.
Scott Greenfield says dead lawyers have no enemies.
Rick Horowitz closed his law office for most of last week. This post explains why.
The National Association of Environmental Law [ANDA: Asociación Nacional de Derecho Ambiental] is hosting their 6th environmental conference from March 23 to April 5, 2011, at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras Law School.
United States Plus One ? The Prospect of Puerto Rico as the 51st State: When HR.2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010 passed the House 223 - 169, it barely gathered a whimper of press.
The prospect of America gaining a new state would normally be newsworthy, yet H.R.2499 missed out. Meanwhile, decade old perceptions of Democratic gerrymandering, and opinions based on the 93 and 98 failed plebiscites re-surfaced.This 78 Minute Audio Documentary speaks with the participants themselves, and looks into the decades long debate over Puerto Rican Statehood.
On March 21st, the anniversary of the Ponce Massacre, it's perhaps time to look into the history of Puerto Rico and reconsider its relationship with America, if for no other reason than you don't want to be like this Ward guy.
"For over a century, the people of Puerto Rico and the United States have woven a lasting political, economic, social, and cultural relationship. Today, this relationship is strengthened and renewed by more than four million U.S. citizens who call Puerto Rico home and nearly equal number of Puerto Ricans living on the mainland who travel back to Puerto Rico for business, vacation, or visits to see family and friends. We honor their contributions to the Nation and welcome their vigorous participation in helping to develop, shape, and implement the recommendations presented in this Report."In a statement, the Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, called the White House Task Force Report an historic document, one that says that resolution of Puerto Rico?s status issue should be an urgent priority, discusses the economic situation on the Island in detailed fashion, and offers recommendations in important areas like health and education.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, MARCH 11, 2011
Governor Luis Fortuño and Other Puerto Rican Leaders React to White House Status Report
If you get the chance to visit Puerto Rico, be sure to meetup with Santiago Lampón, a Puerto Rican lawyer and a very gracious host, who blogs at Vieques and the Law. Click on the photo below if you'd like to learn more about his "small island" off Puerto Rico.
And on that recollection of my recent sojourn in Puerto Rico, I leave you with this post by Jodi Ettenberg, who writes at Legal Nomads about how travel helps us keep life in perspective.
Next week?s Blawg Review will be hosted by George M. Wallace, an insurance lawyer who blogs on Declarations and Exclusions and at his personal blog, a fool in the forest, where he's hosted Blawg Review many times before. You'd be a fool not to tune in next week -- and the week after that!
Blawg Review has information about future hosts, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed. Mirriam Seddiq, who hosted Blawg Review #301 a couple of week's ago, apparently has writer's blawgk. Whatabout you?
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