16 May 2018

Meeting minutes for May 2018

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 16 May 2018
In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Kara, Struan, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions


Minutes (Marsha)

  • March meeting: That meeting was canceled because of bad weather.
  • April meeting: Marsha will post detailed minutes when/if she finds her notes from that meeting.
    • The April meeting was attended by Prachi Rao (AIUSA Field Organizer), two first-time attendees, Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Gina, Struan, and Marsha. 
    • We wrote a total of 42 cards for Amnesty International's annual Nowruz action.
    • Some discussion about Struan possibly starting a new AI group in Swarthmore
Social Media Director's Report (Barbara)
  • Created a Facebook event (rather than a regular post) for this meeting and paid to boost it
  • The event reached over 1000 people but yielded only 6 interactions
  • Next time Barbara will boost the regular post (and not the event)

There will be an AIUSA membership call on Wednesday, 23 May, at 8 p.m.
  • Topic: refugee resettlement
  • To participate, dial 646.568.7788 and use the code 748869667
2018 Malvern Harvest Oktoberfest is on Sunday, 9 September, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Last year we got a booth for free (normally $50 for nonprofits)
  • Marsha will ask event organizer if we can have a free booth again this year
  • For this to work, lots of Group 342 members will need to sign up for a shift at the booth
  • Ideas: "pay to argue" (Jeff), book sale (Struan)
Courses on human rights issues at edX.com (Bob)
  • Find them here
  • Bob has gone through them, says they are brief and very informative
Old Business

New Swarthmore AI group
  • Was discussed briefly with Prachi at the April meeting
  • Since then, e-mail discussion with Jeff and Struan, followed by conference call with Struan, Prachi, and several AIUSA staffers
  • Seems to be a lot of pressure from AIUSA for Struan to spearhead new group in Swarthmore, but that is something he cannot take on right now
Updates and Actions
  • Peaceful Protester in Pre-trial Detention (Russian Federation): UA 90/18
  • Yet Another Environmental Defender Killed (Colombia): UA 88/18
  • Human Rights Activist Unable to Leave Country (Equatorial Guinea): UA 89/18
  • Poet Under Illegal House Arrest "Prepared to Die" (China): UA 270/17
New Business
  • AIUSA Annual Local Group Census 2018
    • Questions about contact info, activities, accomplishments, goals
    • Marsha to ask members (via Google Group) who wants their name and e-mail address included in census
  • Discussion about meeting structure
    • How to get first-time visitors to engage and return?
    • Struan's suggestion (based on experiences with past AI groups): Do letter writing first, then have some activity (usually planning for an upcoming event)
    • Marsha's suggestion (for meetings and tabling): We should come up with a concise, clear description of Amnesty International that we can all use whenever people ask "Who are you and what do you do?"
Next meeting: Wednesday, 20 June 2018, 7:30 p.m., Wegmans cafe in Malvern

12 March 2018

Bob's notes on the AIUSA 2018 Annual General Meeting

The AIUSA 2018 Annual General Conference was held during February 23–25 in Rockville, MD.  
Bob Rodini, a member of AIUSA Group 342, attended the first two days of the meeting and wrote these notes.

Friday, 5:40 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Session: "Human Rights and Climate Change"

What's at stake from climate change? Right to life, health, adequate food, water and sanitation, healthy environment. Who's in danger? One billion people in urban slums, 330 million will be displaced by flooding, 600 million will face hunger by 2080. There will be a severe reduction in water resources.

Amnesty International supports efforts to combat climate change and is currently drafting a policy regarding it.

Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9:20 a.m.
Session: "Local Group Caucuses"

What are some of the things that local groups have done in 2017?
  • Chicago group made a video about the immigrant experience and took it to local high schools for viewing.
  • Amherst group used middle-school drawings of the UN Declarations Rights to form a mosaic that was displayed in the local library.
  • Bronx group was cited for being brand new, yet very active.
  • Cincinnati group held "Savoring Syria" restaurant event for a refugee restauranteur.
  • Grand Rapids group held a live discussion on social media about the Write for Rights campaign.
  • Sacramento group got city and county to pass resolution to support of refugees and immigration.
  • Brooklyn group held a Human Rights film festival.
  • North New Jersey group (new) held a bowling fundraiser and raised $1,200.

  • There is a Special Initiatives Fund (SIF) that provides money to local groups who need funds to hold special events.
  • The Hironaka Award is given to recognize the most active local group. It was jointly awarded to the Bronx and Amherst groups.

Cynthia Gabriel Walsh and Edwin Gor are AIUSA staff whose jobs are to support local groups. They were asked specifically about access to AIUSA member information in local group areas. Current policy is they will communicate (how was not specified) with AIUSA members on behalf of a local group upon request. They also are open to proposals for sharing the member list.

  • Technically local groups are required to pay an assessment fee of $50 per year to AIUSA.
  • There are 105 local groups in the USA.

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Panel: "Hope for Humanity: America's Refugee Stories"

Margaret Huang cited these victories for AIUSA in 2017:
  • U.S. Senate passed a resolution to support LBGT rights in Chechnya.
  • 82 prisoners of conscience released.
  • Washington state senate abolished the death penalty.
  • AIUSA dues-paying members rose to over 200,000 (after falling the previous year).

Next a panel discussion (very similar to panel discussion at Mid-Atlantic region meeting last November) took place. Discussion was led by Denise Bell and included three refugees (two of whom were held at the Berks Family Detention Center), a translator, and an immigration lawyer (Bridget Cambria). The refugees told their stories of navigating the asylum process.

Saturday, 11:15 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.
Panel: "How You Can Help Free Prisoners of Conscience around the World"

AIUSA groups have these mechanisms:
  • Urgent Action Network (but only 12,000 of AIUSA members belong)
  • Case commitment (there are 270 unclaimed cases—contact iar@aisua.org for one)
  • Annual Write for Rights campaign

The currently celebrated Human Rights Defenders (HRD) case is that of Taner KiliƧ and the Istanbul 10. The Istanbul 10 have been released but still face charges (many are not Turkish citizens but some are). Taner was to be released, but the court reversed its decision and never released him.

AIUSA will push the HRD case for Leila De Lima. She was judge in the Philippines who assailed Duterte for extrajudicial killings. Subsequently, she ran for the Pilipino Senate and won. Trumped-up charges have been brought against her, and she has been in prison for one year.

Saturday, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Keynote address by Philip Alston and AIUSA awards

(I did not take detailed notes, but I was impressed by Philip Alston's remarks. He is an academic who works on human rights issues and has written many reports for various UN agencies. He has coauthored several academic textbooks on human rights.)

Saturday, 2:40 p.m. to 3:55 p.m.
Session: "Working Party on Resolutions"

(There are two resolutions to be voted on at the AGM. Both relate to the abolition of regional conferences and voting on resolutions at the AGM.  The entire time was spent on the wording of the first resolution. The real voting was to take place on Sunday, but it wasn't clear if there would be enough agreement whether to have a vote or not.)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Panel: :Decolonize NOW: Indigenous Rights Are Human Rights"

This turned out to be a panel discussion led by an AIUSA moderator and four panelists. The panelists were all Native American activists: Jenni Monet (journalist), Simon Moya-Smith (journalist), Sarah Deer (law professor), and Tara Houska (attorney). Deer had authored a report on sexual violence against Native American women. Monet and Moya-Smith documented prejudice against Native Americans in stories in the press. Houska was at Standing Rock during the pipeline protests.

Barbara's notes on the AIUSA 2018 Annual General Meeting

The AIUSA 2018 Annual General Conference was held during February 23–25 in Rockville, MD.  
Barbara Quintiliano, the social media coordinator for AIUSA Group 342, attended the first two days of the meeting and wrote these notes.

Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International  
Shetty encouraged attendees to remain steadfast and courageous in their defense of human rights. The current state of human rights around the world is particularly dire, as numerous national leaders have been violating the rights of their citizens with impunity. He cited Donald Trump’s disregard for human rights as a grave aberration from the stance of previous American presidents. 
Amnesty International has been purchasing more paid advertisements with a resulting increase in contributions. The organization will continue its two-pronged approach: solidarity (members protesting human rights violations worldwide) and agency (grass roots efforts by residents defending human rights in their own countries).
Shetty presented a short video of an address given at Harvard University by J. K. Rowling. Rowling shared memories of having worked for Amnesty International in her twenties. She cited a conversation with a torture survivor as turning point in her life.  
Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights for the Human Rights Council of the UN Office of the High Commissioner and a professor at New York University School of Law.
Alston spoke about Amnesty International’s advocacy on behalf of those living in extreme poverty, stating that it is not really a new concern. AI framed poverty as a violation of human rights from the beginning, but the Cold War and the rise of authoritarian regimes prompted the organization to focus its efforts on freeing prisoners of conscience and abolishing the death penalty. He cited examples of the covert and overt disenfranchisement of the poor in today’s world:
o   criminalization of homelessness
o   decrease in social services and other austerity policies
o   tax reform with a resulting decrease in existing social services
o   imposition of fines and fees on the poor (“the Ferguson effect”) to fund social services no longer adequately supported by local taxes
o   privatization of parole management
o   voter suppression
Alston emphasized that there is a major assault on welfare programs in process and that this has massive human rights implications. He recommended that the human rights community “change its tone” and speak out boldly demanding “the right to know that I’ll have a meal tomorrow and the right not to work in precarious employment.”
Panel: "State-Sponsored Killings: Impacts of Systemic Racism on the U.S. Death Penalty and Killings by Police" (panelists: Ngozi Ndulue, senior director of criminal justice programs at the NAACP; Shujaa Graham, death penalty exoneree; Kathleen Lucas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and AIUSA death penalty abolition coordinator for Pennsylvania; Katrina Johnson, justice system reform advocate)
A moving panel discussion on the injustices of police shootings and the arbitrary and biased application of the death penalty. Ngozi Ndulue recalled the personal experiences that led her to become an attorney and to work for the NAACP. Kathleen Lucas spoke about the need to abolish the death penalty. Katrina Johnson, whose cousin was shot by a police officer, spoke about her work to reform the criminal justice law and to provide compensation for families.
 Sujaa Graham’s testimony (found between the 12-minute and 29-minute marks of this video) was particularly riveting. Subjected to no fewer than four trials for a murder he did not commit (the first trial before an all-white jury), Graham was finally acquitted and is now an anti-death penalty activist. 

21 February 2018

Meeting minutes for February 2018

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 21 February 2018
In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Kara (in person!), Brendan, Tatiana, Marsha

Welcome and Introductions


Minutes (Marsha): All past minutes are up to date and posted on our blog

Social Media Director's Report (Barbara)
Spent $20 for two-day post boost on Facebook
Reached 387 people, 38 engagements ("likes")


The AIUSA Annual General Meeting will be held 23–25 February 2018 in Bethesda, MD. 

  • Information is at https://www.amnestyusa.org/take-action/events/amnesty-internationals-2018-annual-general-meeting.
  • Bob and Barbara will attend and take notes to share with us.
  • Bill Schomp plans to attend too.

Updates and Actions

  • Jeff presented several happy updates to Urgent Action cases!
  • Former POC [Prisoner of Conscience] Feared to be in Detention Again (China): UA 212/17
  • New Threats against Indigenous Community (Kenya): UA 6/18
  • Hundreds Arrested, Whereabouts Unknown (Sudan): UA 35.18


  • 5-minute university: "Defending the Human Rights of Groups" (Barbara)
  • Next month: the death penalty (Brendan)

New Business

  • Prachi and the t-shirts (Marsha): 
    • We've long been interested in getting some official Amnesty International attire to wear at our meetings and other events but have been unable to source any ready-made items and hope to print our own designs.
    • In a recent e-mail to our group Prachi Rao (our new regional field organizer) mentioned t-shirts. Does she have some or know where we can get some?
    • Barbara has been communicating directly with Prachi for some time and will ask her about t-shirts. If Prachi says she can help us with this, we will need a volunteer from our group to take on the task of working out the details with her to order/print them.

Next meeting: Wednesday, 21 March 2018, 7:30 p.m., Wegmans cafe in Malvern

17 January 2018

Meeting minutes for January 2018

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 17 January 2018
In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Gina, Struan, Kara (via Skype), Brendan

Welcome and Introductions


Our annual Write for Rights event was held on 20 December 2017.

  • Our work included 8 appeals, 53 cards, 1 tweet (on behalf of Ni Yulan), and 1 post (freeistanbul10.tumblr.com).
  • Prachi Rao, our new field prganizer, was unable to attend this event but has promised to come to one of our monthly meetings.

AIUSA now allows local groups to submit their meeting information to the AIUSA events page at https://www.amnestyusa.org/take-action/events/. Barbara listed our January meeting (with photo) and will list us each month.

The AIUSA Annual General Meeting will be held 23–25 February 2018 in Bethesda, MD. 

  • Information is at https://www.amnestyusa.org/take-action/events/amnesty-internationals-2018-annual-general-meeting/
  • Jeff, Bob, and Barbara have registered to attend.


Urgent Action Victory! Missing Bangladeshi Academic Returned Home (Bangladesh: UA 252.17)


Death penalty news (Brendan): The new district attorney of Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, has pledged to end Philadelphia's use of the death penalty. 

“5-minute university”: At our February meeting Barbara will do a short presentation about some of the groups that AI has defended.

  • Indigenous Community Forcibly Evicted (Kenya, UA 6.18)
  • Attack against Indigenous Defender Patricia Gualinga (Ecuador, UA 8.18)
  • 529 Patients Are Still Awaiting Medical Evacuation in Eastern Ghouta (Syria, UA 275.17)

Next meeting: Wednesday, 21 February 2018, 7:30 p.m., Wegmans cafe in Malvern

Meeting minutes for May 2018

Meeting minutes for Wednesday, 16 May 2018 In attendance: Jeff, Barbara, Bob, Kara, Struan, Marsha Welcome and Introductions Reports Minu...