What happened to Cherdeena Wynne? Nothing. An Aboriginal woman died in police custody

Cherdeena Wynne

In Western Australia, yet another Aboriginal woman died in police custody. Cherdeena Wynne was 26 years old, mother of three children, living with mental illness. According to Shirley Wynne, Cherdeena Wynne’s mother, at 3:30 on April 4, eight police officers entered Shirley Wynne’s home and, in the dark, wrestled Cherdeena Wynne to the floor, where they handcuffed her. According to Shirley Wynn, the officers kept calling Cherdeena Wynne by another name. Finally, after 20 minutes, the officers left the house and Cherdeena Wynne understandably terribly upset. Cherdeena Wynne ran from the house. Police encountered her blocks away from her mother’s house. Police handcuffed Cherdeena Wynne, for her “protection.” Cherdeena Wynne passed out. Officers uncuffed her, administered CPR. She revived and was taken to hospital, where she was placed in an induced coma and died, on Tuesday, April 9. Police are not investigating her death because, basically, nothing happened. It gets worse.

Cherdeena Wynne was the daughter of Shirley Wynne and Warren Cooper. Cherdeena Wynne was Noongar and Yamatji. In 1999, Warren Cooper was arrested. Warren Cooper died in police custody. Both Cherdeena Wynne and her father Warren Cooper were 26 years old when they died in police custody. Jennifer Clayton, Cherdeena Wynne’s grandmother and Warren Cooper’s mother, said, “It’s time for this to stop. I have lost my son and now I have lost a granddaughter.” Carol Roe, Jennifer Clayton’s cousin, agreed: “If kids die from natural causes you can go on, but the way our kids die we can’t go on. We are lost in the system and they don’t care two stuffs.” Carol Roe is Ms. Dhu’s grandmother, the same 22-year-old Ms. Dhu who died in custody in 2014, also in Western Australia. Ms. Dhu was arrested for unpaid parking fines. Ms. Dhu and Cherdeena Wynne were executed for the crime of being-Aborigina-women.

Monday, April 8, marked the 28thanniversary of the publication of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. That Commission studied 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody between 1980 and 1989. Of 99 deaths, 33 occurred in Western Australia, one of six states. The Commission issued 399 recommendations. At this point, a third of the commission’s recommendations lay untouched and without implementation. In 2016, at a commemoration of the 25thanniversary of the Commission, Carol Roe said, “They do the talk, but they need to do the walk and take action and help us and support us. Set the people free for petty crimes, instead of locking them up. Eighteen years ago my nephew died in custody. Two years ago it was my granddaughter. When is it going to stop, our heart still bleeds … I think Australia and the world need to see how my granddaughter was treated. Dragged around like a kangaroo. They need to look at it, let the world see. Shame, shame on Australia.”

We have described the deaths of the following Aboriginal men and women in Western Australia before: Mr. Ward, 2008Maureen Mandijarra, 2012;  Ms. Dhu, 2014. Two years ago, we described, after three years, there was still no justice for Ms. Dhu, her family, or Aboriginal women generally. Repeatedly we have seen Western Australia as the epicenter for the rising incarceration of Aboriginal women and the expanding and intensifying abuse of Aboriginal women in the various forms of detention in Western Australia. None of this is new.

Currently, there is no accountability and no justice for the deaths of Aboriginal and Indigenous women and men in Australia’s prison. Cherdeena Wynne was handcuffed in police custody when she fell unconscious. The police decided not to investigate. Nothing happened, less than nothing. It’s time for this to stop. Stop sending Aboriginal women and men to jail for drunken behavior, sleeping rough, unpaid fines, mental illness, being Aboriginal. It’s time, it’s way past time, for this to stop. 

Ms, Dhu

(Photo Credit 1: The Guardian) (Photo Credit 2: ABC)

Baby Jane Allas, Moe Moe Than, Milagros Tecson Comilang, Desiree Rante Luis: Today’s faces of abuse of domestic workers

Mary Ann Allas and Baby Jane Allas

In 2014, former domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih stood before a gathering of women and gave witness to the horrors she had endured: “My name is Erwiana Sulistyaningsih. I am 23 years old, and come from a poor peasant family of Indonesia and am a former domestic worker from Hong Kong … I chose Hong Kong because it is said to be a safe country and I had heard no news about migrant workers being abused there.” Hong Kong was not, is not, safe. Over the last month a number of women domestic workers’ stories have emerged that demonstrate both the spectacular brutality of households and the structural brutality of nation-State. These are the stories of Baby Jane Allas, Moe Moe Than, Milagros Tecson Comilang, Desiree Rante Luis.

Baby Jane Allas arrived in Hong Kong in late 2017. She left behind five children. In early 2019, Baby Jane Allas was diagnosed with third-stage cervical cancer. She took medical leave, as is her right under Hong Kong law. On February 17, while on leave, she received a letter from her employers terminating her contract. Along with the loss of job, this also meant loss of access to public medical care. That letter was a slow death sentence. Baby Jane Allas, and her sister Mary Ann Allas, also a domestic worker in Hong Kong, organized. They raised money for medical care. They sued, under both labor law and disability laws. The case is still ongoing, but supporters already note that there were many `irregularities’ in the hearing. Baby Jane Allas reported that her stay of employment was one abuse and violation of law and rights after another, but she needed the job. She’s a single mother of five children. 

Moe Moe Than’s story is one of spectacular cruelty, the “worst of its kind”, according to a judge. 32-year-old Moe Moe Than arrived in Singapore from Myanmar in 2012. She worked for a couple that refused her food, access to the toilet, time off and worse. At one point, when complained about the quality and quantity of food, the couple forced fed Moe Moe Than, and when she vomited, the forced her to eat her vomit. Her employers beat her regularly and forced her to clean in her underwear. All of that occurred in 2012. In March, seven years later, the couple was sentenced to time in prison and to compensation. This same couple was convicted of abusing an Indonesian maid, in 2017, and never served any time in prison.

Finally, there are the cases of Milagros Tecson Comilang and Desiree Rante Luis, both former domestic workers from the Philippines. Milagros Tecson Comilang arrived in Hong Kong in 1997. In 2005, she married a permanent Hong Kong resident. In 2007, she gave birth to a daughter. Comilang and her husband have since divorced, and he refused to support her application to stay. Desiree Rante Luis arrived in Hong Kong in 1991. She has three sons, all permanent Hong Kong residents, but Desiree Rante Luis had to leave, and has only seen her family while on a tourist visa. She also applied for permanent residence status. In the case of Milagros Tecson Comilang the child’s father doesn’t want to care for his child. In the case of Desiree Rante Luis, the father is a live-in domestic worker, and so can’t care for his children. This week, the court decided that both women have to leave Hong Kong and leave their children behind. Desiree Rante Luis said, “We have been waiting for a long time. I don’t know why the Hong Kong government has no heart.”

Why do the Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and so many other, governments have no heart for transnational women? It’s a good question. Here’s another good question: “Each page a victory/At whose expense the victory ball?” Bertolt Brecht asked that in 1936. It’s now 2019, 83 years later. Baby Jane Allas, Moe Moe Than, Milagros Tecson Comilang, and Desiree Rante Luis join Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, Adelina LisaoTuti Tursilawati, and so many others whose names we wait to learn. We need more than an archaeology of contemporary household atrocities. We need justice. We need justice which begins at home.  We have been waiting for a long time. 

Desiree Rante Luis and her sons

(Photo Credit 1: South China Morning Post / Xiaomei Chen) (Photo Credit 2: South China Morning Post / Edmond So)

In Algeria, once again women shouting “Barakat! Ça suffit!” demand freedom!

Friday, March 29, tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Algiers and across Algeria, rejecting the Army’s version of “compromise” and insisting on popular democracy. This is the sixth mass demonstration in six Fridays, and there have been other, smaller ones during the weeks. Already, the people have removed the forever-and-a-day President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. What happens next is unclear, as it always is, but what is clear, both from reports and from the histories of Algerian people, is that once again women are key leaders and constituents of this uprising, insurgent demand for real democracy, real equality, and real freedom. Report after report after report after report has noted the presence of women “on the front lines”, the ways in which women have retaken and reshaped the public space. These women are part of a longstanding Algerian women’s movement. Like their sisters in Tunisia, in Algeria, women have always been in the forefront of the democratic struggle, have always been the revolutionary guards.

On March 16, Algerian Women for Movement Towards Equality released a statement-petition: “We are currently experiencing a magnificent, peaceful popular uprising against the political system in place. The massive presence of women in the processions testifies to the profound transformations of our society and demands recognition of women’s rights in an egalitarian Algeria.

“This system has reigned supreme since independence using coercive and autocratic means to defeat any desire for change and democratization. In addition to the destruction of the institutions of the Republic (health, education, justice, culture, etc.), the beggaring of political life, corruption, authoritarianism and social injustices, this system has also implemented a Machiavellian strategy sustaining and reinforcing inegalitarian thinking and practices. Algerian women have paid a high price, both symbolically, formally and realistically.

“The history of the Algerian struggles testifies to the massive commitment of women to all the just and decisive struggles that the country has carried out: the War of National Liberation, the building of the independent Algerian State, the revolt of October 1988, trade union, student and democratic struggles before and after October 1988, the struggle against armed fundamentalist groups during the 1990s, etc. Alongside men, women conceptualized, developed and conducted struggles in the hope of building an egalitarian society and seeing this concrete equality lived during these difficult moments become an indisputable achievement once the goals have been achieved.

“Unfortunately, this promised equality is not yet realized. The massive schooling of girls and its procession of competent graduates, our presence in the world of work as well as the legislative and regulatory changes wrenched by decades of struggle, have not yet taken women out of their minority status in society, which remains patriarchal, and in institutions.

“The active and unconditional participation of Algerian women in the February 22nd Movement encourages us to reaffirm our determination to change the system in place with all its components, including its sexist, patriarchal and misogynistic aspects.

“On March 16, 2019, a women’s meeting was held in Algiers. After a debate and a wide consultation, it is retained as follows:

• We, the women who signed this declaration, are convinced that the construction of our common future is nothing without full equality between citizens, regardless of gender, class, region or belief.

• We must continue to be present everywhere with our colleagues, our neighbors to maintain this beautiful diversity in all processions but also to make more visible our demand for equality.

• We decided to create a feminist space that will be positioned every Friday at the portal of the Central Faculty of Algiers.

• We support and encourage similar initiatives throughout the Algerian territory and fully subscribe to all statements that consider equality between women and men as one of the priorities for the change of the current system.

• We call on all women who recognize themselves in this call to join their signatures to ours, to integrate feminist spaces where they exist or to initiate them when conditions permit, and to participate in our next meetings.

• We call to take into account the equal representation of women in any citizen initiative for the exit of this crisis.

• We condemn any act of harassment during demonstrations.

Algiers, March 16, 2019” (You can read the original and sign the petition here.)

On February 22, 2014, just before Bouteflika was to formally announce his candidacy, Amira Bouraoui– a gynecologist, mother of two, “ordinary woman” – showed up at the gates of her local university, stood there alone with a placard, and said, STOP. She said, Barakat! Ça suffit! It’s enough! Around the world, people heard a woman saying, yet again, “¡Ya basta!” Within two days, that singular action sparked a movement. For the past ten years, the Collectif Féministe d’Alger(the feminist association of Algiers) has been organizing for women’s dignity, rights and power. 

Five years later Amira Bouraoui is joined by 83-year-old Djamila Bouhired, a guerrilla combatant in Algeria’s war of independence; 17-year-old ballet dancer Melissa Ziad;  Zoubida Assoul, president of the Network of Arab Women Lawyers; Louisa Hanoune, Secretary General of the Workers Party; and hundreds of thousands of women of all ages and from all sectors of the country. They carry their decades and centuries of resistance into the spaces they seize and create. The future is now. 

(Photo Credit: NPA2009 / DR)

What happened to Annabella Landsberg? Just another agonizing death in HMP Peterborough

Annabella Landsberg

Annabella Landsberg died, or was executed, September 6, 2017, at HMP Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire, England. Two years later, an inquest is taking place. Annabella Landsberg fled Zimbabwe, following a gang rape. She was HIV+; she was also diabetic. At the time of her death, Annabella Landsberg was 45 years old and the mother of three children. The story of her death `begins’ September 2, 2017. On September 2, Annabella Landsberg lay on the floor, saying she couldn’t get up. She grabbed at the sink, trying to stand. When an officer walked in, she grabbed at the officer’s leg. A second officer pressed the alarm. The staff decided that Annabella Landsberg wasn’t having difficulties standing but rather was being “obstructive”. They left her on the floor. That was 6 pm, September 2. The staff left Annabella Landsberg on the floor, without food or medication, until 3 pm the next day. Throughout that time, staff report that Annabella Landsberg was “moaning and mumbling incoherently.” No one did anything. Finally, a nurse came in, told Annabella Landsberg to stand up, called her “pathetic”, threw water on her, and left. A second nurse came in, decided that perhaps Annabella Landsberg wasn’t malingering, called the ambulance and off she went. On September 6, she died … or was executed. Just another day in the hellhole that is HMP Peterborough.

Since its opening in March 2005, HMP Peterborough has been touted as a model private prison. Sodexo Justice Services `manages’ HMP Peterborough, which houses, or contains, both men and women. The women are mostly remand prisoners, awaiting trial. Everyone is supposed to be short-term, low level, and generally available to `rehabilitation.’ Peterborough brought to the United Kingdom, and in large degree to the world, “payment by results,” in which the prison corporation would be paid based on prisoner re-entry results. Some in England wondered if Peterborough might be the way forward, the path out of the neoliberal prison forest. Some in the United States did as well. It wasn’t. In 2017, payment by result was dropped and replaced with something even worse.

From September 11 – 27, 2017, days after Annabella Landsberg died, the Chief Inspector of Prisons conducted an unannounced inspection of Peterborough: “Most women only stayed at Peterborough for a few weeks and in our survey 89% said they arrived at the prison with problems; 65% of women said they felt depressed and over a quarter said they felt suicidal. Worryingly, 66% said they had mental health problems … We were particularly concerned about safety, and this is the first women’s prison in several years to have been assessed as ‘not sufficiently good’ in this area … Since our last inspection … outcomes had deteriorated in Safety and Respect.” The Inspector described the deteriorating conditions: “Use of force was far too high at more than double what we usually see in women’s prisons; we saw examples where not every opportunity to de-escalate the situation had been used. Use of strip- searching was also too high, which was particularly disappointing given the heavy investment in training staff about how past trauma can be reignited in the prison setting.” 

In 2013, Nadine Wright, a woman living with mental health illnesses, heroin addiction, and isolation, did not receive her benefits, and so was left barely living, desperately poor, somewhere below hand-to-mouth. Nadine Wright stole some food, was arrested and sent to Peterborough. Nadine Wright was pregnant when she was arrested. While in her cell, with a nurse in attendance, Nadine Wright went into labor and suffered a miscarriage. The nurse then left the cell. She left the fetus in the cell. No one came to clean up the cell. Nadine Wright had to clean up her own blood: “There was blood everywhere and she was made to clean it up. The baby was not removed from the cell. It was quite appalling. It was very traumatic. She only received health care three days later, after the governor intervened.”

The line from Nadine Wright to Annabella Landsberg is direct. What crime did Nadine Wright commit that she should have been tortured so? Attempted survival. What crime did Annabella Landsberg commit that she should have suffered the contemporary version of being drawn and quartered? Attempted survival. The staff carried out the crimes committed in HMP Peterborough but they were designed and committed by the State. How long, and how many more iterations of Nadine Wright and Annabella Landsberg, must we `discover’ before something is finally done?

(Photo Credit: The Guardian)

Japan joins the list of nation-States `apologizing’ for forced sterilization

When she was 16 years old, Junko Iizuka was forcibly sterilized.

On Thursday, March 14, all major parties in Japan agreed to pass a measure, probably in April, that would “deeply apologize” and offer compensation to victim-survivors of forced sterilization. The compensation would be a one-off payment of around $28,700. Now we know the value of life in Japan … and elsewhere. Survivors and their supporters and advocates argue that the compensation is way too little and way too late. Japan suspended its 48-year program of sterilizing those who might produce children described as “inferior”, under a law called the Eugenics Protection Law. The youngest known victim was 9 or 10 years old; 70% of those sterilized were women and girls. Since 1996, women and supporters have organized and demanded recognition, compensation, apology, dignity and justice. It only took 23 years to arrive at something approximating any of their demands, and that was largely due to a barrage of civil suits initiated last year. Forced sterilization is a formative element in contemporary nation-building, and Japan is not an outlier in this matter.

From 1935 to 1976, Sweden sterilized womenit deemed socially or racially inferior. `No one’ know about this program until it was revealed in 1997. In 1999, Sweden agreed to pay victim-survivors a one-off payment of $22,6000. Then, in 2012, it was `revealed’ that Sweden required transgender people to undergo sterilization. The law requiring sterilization was passed in 1972, but “no one” knew. In February 2012, thirty years after its passage, the law was repealed

Japan now joins the list of nation-States dealing, and not dealing, with their histories of forced sterilization: PeruSouth AfricaNamibiaIndia, to name a few that have addressed the issue in the last few years. Sometimes the ostensible reason is health care, particularly HIV; or population control; and the list goes on. No matter the immediate explanation, the reason is always “protection.” In the past few years, in the United States, CaliforniaVirginiaNorth Carolinahave addressed their histories of forced sterilization. The United States has not addressed its history of forced sterilization of Native women. Nor has Canada.

The Japanese government will not say if forced sterilization operations under the now-defunct eugenic protection law were unconstitutional”. 

Every program of forced sterilization had a justification. Every later discovery offered an alibi, most of which argued `the times were different’. That was then. The problem is that now is then, as then was now. Forced sterilization of women and girls is baked into the formation of citizenship in the modern nation-State, every single one without exception. It is the signature of nation-State modernity. As long as the State produces and reproduces hierarchies of citizenship, that’s how long the nation-State will find ways to accommodate forced sterilization of women and girls. For `our’ protection and security. There is no apology deep enough to address that constitutive and absolutely ordinary atrocity.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Hurst /The Guardian) (Image Credit: PBS / Truman State University)

Yet again, we face, or don’t, the fearful symmetry of white supremacy

March 15, 2019, and the news, once more, is terrible. In Christchurch, New Zealand, 49 Muslim worshippers massacred in the name of white supremacy. Off the coast of Morocco, 45 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. Three years ago, all that was human drowned in the seaall that was holy had been profaned, and we thought, we hoped, we were at last compelled to face with sober senses our real conditions of life, and our relations with our kind. Seven years ago, we thought it might be too late to sing songs beyond mankind. We thought there had to be songs to sing, and that those songs had to begin by turning swords into ploughshares, immediately, right away. And then we moved on, which is to say we went nowhere.

Today, the news and much of the world is filled with discussions of “white supremacy.” The butcher of Christchurch was “deep” into white supremacist culture. The drowned migrants, many of them women and children, had to take to the sea because Europe (and the United States and Australia) have declared a “just war” on migrants of color who are represented as an “invasion” at the border and in the homeland.

There are no more songs to sing; even silence fails us, as we fail silence. Here’s how the news from Christchurch was contextualized, “Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city, which is known to have an active white-supremacist subculture.” Known to have an active white-supremacist subculture. What kind of knowledge, what kind of knowing, is that which knows and does nothing? White supremacy is hate; white supremacy is a hate crime. It is not a preference; it is a deadly assault always already in motion. 

Having survived, at times regretfully, the Holocaust, Paul Celan tried, and failed, to turn the pain, horror and anguish of mass violence into the possibility of understanding. Poetry is what emerges from that failure. May it not be too late.

Whichever stone you lift

Whichever stone you lift – 
you lay bare 
those who need the protection of stones: 
naked, 
now they renew their entwinement. 

Whichever tree you fell – 
you frame 
the bedstead where 
souls are stayed once again, 
as if this aeon too 
did not 
tremble. 

Whichever word you speak – 
you owe to 
destruction

(Image credit: Meditatioprodomo)

Women farmworkers of Immokalee have spoken: “We are tired of excuses! We want justice!”

Lupe Gonzalo

Last Friday, March 8, women and allies commemorated International Women’s Day, a day that honors the March 8, 1917 march of over 100,000 women workers through the streets of St. Petersburg, calling for the overthrow of the czar. Four days later, the czar was gone. From the outset, International Women’s Day was International Women Workers’ Day. The women farmworkers of Immokalee, Florida, like women farmworkers around the world, know this lesson in their bodies as well as their days and nights, and they teach it every single day. This year, as in years past, they are taking that lesson to school, to universities in North CarolinaOhioMichigan and Florida, to be exact. Their message is clear and direct. As Lupe Gonzalo, a farmworker organizer leader of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, told the assembled at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill: “You cannot claim light and liberty while doing business with companies like Wendy’s… This message is for all of the university administrations: We are tired of excuses! We want justice!” We are tired of excuses! We want justice!

For over twenty years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been organizing to create justice in the fields. They have fought against slavery in the fields, and in so doing established anti-slavery and anti-trafficking networks. They have fought against sexual violence and exploitation in the fields and developed some of the most stringent and effectively monitored codes of conduct in the agricultural industry anywhere. The Coalition began its Campaign for Fair Food in 2001, and in 2011, signed its first formal Fair Food Program agreement, this with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. That first agreement included “a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process.” From the outset to today, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has insisted that workers have to be in charge of the pursuit of dignity and justice. At the core of that insistence has been the women members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who, from the outset, argued that every so-called watershed moment had to be understood as “a movement, not a moment”. From their campaigns to bring growers, grocery chains and restaurant chains to the table, the women of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has insisted that labor rights are women’s rights are women workers’ rights. The companies that have heard, or were forced to hear, that argument include Yum! Brands aka Taco Bell, McDonald’s , Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway, Bon Appétit, Compass, Aramark, Sodexo, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle, Walmart, Fresh Market, and Ahold USA. 

For the last few years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been pushing Wendy’s to come to the table. Their campaign, Boot the Braids, has called on universities and colleges to join the boycott of Wendy’s. This month’s iteration of that campaign is the 4 for Fair Food Bus Tour, targeting universities in four states. Thus far, the University of Michigan announced that Wendy’s will not return to campus until it signs and abides by the Fair Food Program standards.From the beginning of the Wendy’s campaign, and before and beyond, women farmworker organizer leaders have insisted that every part of the labor system must engage with the dignity of women workers as part of the struggle for dignity for all workers and as part of the struggle for dignity for women workers in particular. This is what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers means when they discuss worker-driven social responsibility linked to worker-to-worker popular education, research and leadership formation. Again, you cannot claim light and liberty while doing business with companies like Wendy’s. That message is for everyone: We are tired of excuses! We want justice! NOW is the time!

(Photo Credit 1: Coalition of Immokalee Workers) (Photo Credit 2: Forest Woodward / Facebook)

What happened to Brianna Beland? Just another death in the Charleston County Jail

Brianna Beland

In August 2017, 31-year-old Brianna Beland “died” in the Charleston County Jail, the same jail in which Joyce Curnell “died”, in July 2015. What happened to Brianna Beland? The same thing that happened to Kellsie Green, in Alaska; Jessica DiCesare, in Massachusetts; Madaline Christine Pitkin, in Oregon, and so many other drug dependent women who needed help and got jail. Brianna Beland is just another day in the life of the cruel and usual treatment of women in jails across the United States, where women go to jail and die.

The story of Brianna Beland’s death is almost as short as her life. In April 2017, Brianna Beland was arrested for shoplifting a pack of coloring pens, worth $3.94. Brianna Beland had no previous convictions. She did have a debilitating heroin habit. She also had a four-year-old daughter and a partner. Brianna Beland was given a May court date, which she missed. Her partner died in June “while fishing off the coast of Virginia.” Brianna Beland worked cleaning vacation rentals and was studying to become a paralegal. On Monday August 14, she was picked up on a bench warrant and given a choice of 25 days in jail or paying a fine of $1,030. Brianna Beland “chose” jail. On August 16, Brianna Beland started vomiting and feeling nauseous. On August 17, she passed out in the yard. On August 18, Brianna Beland was moved to the infirmary. Brianna Beland kept falling out of bed; she couldn’t walk or move. She said she felt that she was burning up and asked for help. The nurse left Brianna Beland to attend to other patients “because it took priority over a patient being hot.” The nurse returned an hour or so later, and “found” Brianna Beland “unresponsive”. On August 19, a little while after midnight, Brianna Beland was pronounced dead. In December 2018, her family sued the Charleston County Jail, the doctor, and the medical service.

Brianna Beland’s story mirrors that of Joyce Curnell, who also “died” in the Charleston County Jail two years earlier. Joyce Curnell also was arrested for shoplifting, also had no prior record, also was picked up on a bench warrant. Given the “choice” between jail or paying $2200, Joyce Curnell chose to pay, monthly. She couldn’t keep up the payments, and so “chose” jail. Joyce Curnell struggled with alcoholism. Her son believed that in jail Joyce Curnell would get help.  Joyce Curnell went into the jail, vomited time after time, told the staff she needed help, was given a garbage bag, and, within 27 hours of entering the jail, was “found” dead.

Both Brianna Beland and Joyce Curnell lived in trailers. For working poor women, and especially those who live and struggle with alcohol and drug addiction as well as with mental health issues, the contemporary architecture of the United States is simple and direct: take a trailer, overlay it with a jail, and overlay the two of them with a graveyard. The families sue, and generally win, but there’s neither justice nor peace nor resolution therein. There is no justice nor peace in a land in which a woman life is worth the same as a $3.94 pack of coloring pens.

(Photo Credit: Live5News)

In Sudan, women demand freedom … again!

On December 19, 2018, in Sudan, people took to the streets to protest a precipitous rise in bread prices. Since then, the protests have persisted and grown. As so often in food uprisings, the price of food was the visible spark that revealed an undergrowth of fire, and, again, as so often, women of Sudan set and sustained the spark. Remember June 2012, when women students responded to astronomical increases in transportation and food prices? A few university women students took to the streets, shouting “Girifna!” “Enough is enough!” Within days, their small demonstration inspired a sandstorm, which was met with severe State repression. Remember the Sudanese women of June 2012? Remember September 2013, when, again in response to austerity measures this time involving gasoline prices, women took to the streets? This time the protests started in rural areas and then moved to the cities. Then others joined in and, again, the protests turned into a national crisis, which, again, was met by severe repression. Remember the Sudanese women of September 2013, and the Sudanese Women’s Union of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Sudanese who have organized continually from the 1950s on, for women’s autonomy and national dignity? Remember them? They’re back.

While the world press has only fitfully noticed the ongoing protests across Sudan, it has taken note of the leading role of women in those demonstrations. On Friday, December 28, across Sudan, people protested in the streets and were quickly met with force: “The demonstrations were the most widespread since the protests began in the city of Atbara on December 19 in response to the government raising the price of bread from one Sudanese pound to three. They were also notable for the large number of women taking part, including one led by women in the Tuti Island area of Khartoum.”

As the demonstrations grew and persisted into January, more and more women joined in, despite or because of the government’s increasingly violent response: “Dressed in headscarves, they can be seen in nearly all the footage shared on social media, which in turn has helped to convince even more women to take to the streets.” Twenty-six-year-old Aseel Abdo explained, “I will continue to protest, even if it takes years to bring down this regime … This regime has some of the worst laws against women. You could be arrested for wearing trousers or if your scarf is not covering your hair properly.”

As the demonstrations grew and persisted into February, women took to the frontlines of the demonstrations. They organized in prison, they organized on the streets, and they called for revolution. That was not a surprise. As women’s rights activist Hala Al-Karib noted, “The price of bread was a trigger for protests, but it’s not about bread, it’s about equality. It’s about dignity, it’s about freedom. The government has an Islamic militant ideology which at its core aims to exclude women from the public space. For 30 years, women in Sudan have fought against this oppression, so it’s no surprise they are out in significant numbers now … I am very hopeful and I haven’t been this hopeful before. There is such a strong demand for change and, as women, we have played a very strong role in opposing this regime. There’s no turning back now.”

Women have marched to women’s prisons to protest the incarceration of their sisters, demanding freedom, chanting, “Long live the struggle of Sudanese women!” When the security forces attacked women, they used all-women Facebook websites to identify the perpetrators and demanded justice.

Today marks the beginning of the third month of persistent, sustained and expanding protests in Sudan. Call it a wave, a revolt, a revolution, a sandstorm, whatever you call it, remember that women are setting and sustaining the momentum. Long live the struggle of Sudanese women! It’s about freedom. Remember the Sudanese women of 2018 and 2019?

(Photo Credit: News24 / AFPTV / AFP)

Today’s witch-hunt: Caroline Mwatha and Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz

“The witch-hunt, then, was a war against women; it was a concerted attempt to degrade them, dehumanize them, and destroy their social power. At the same time, it was in the torture chambers and on the stakes on which the witches perished that the bourgeois ideals of womanhood and domesticity were forged. In this case, too, the witch-hunt amplified contemporary social trends. There is, in fact, an unmistakable continuity between the practices targeted by the witch-hunt and those banned by the new legislation that in the same years was introduced to regulate family life, gender and property relations.”            
Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

The news this week reminds us that the witch hunt is thriving and in process. In Kenya, human rights defender Caroline Mwatha disappeared and then was found, dead. Police quickly determined that the cause of Caroline Mwatha’s death was a “botched” abortion. While questions abound concerning that report, not in question is the severity of Kenya’s restrictions on abortions and on women’s access to reproductive health care and justice. In El Salvador, yesterday, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz walked out of the hellhole of Ilopango Women’s Prison, where she had been held for almost three years for “aggravated homicide”, which judgment was based on Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz not having sought prenatal care while she was pregnant. We live in the world that spins between Caroline Mwatha and Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz.

On February 6, Caroline Mwatha was reported missing. Caroline Mwatha lived and worked in the Dandora neighborhood of Nairobi, where she had founded the Dandora Community Justice Centre. Caroline Mwatha was well known for her investigations into extrajudicial killings, specifically, and police abuses more generally. She was a fierce and dedicated human and women’s rights defender and warrior. At the same time, she was a pregnant woman living in Kenya. According to certain reports, Caroline Mwatha chose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. According to all reports, Kenya is an especially dangerous place in which to make that choice. That danger is caused by especially harsh restrictions as well as by government political policies. In November 2018, Marie Stopes Kenya, the single largest provider of safe abortions in the country, was forced to close its abortion operations. Meanwhile, also last year, the government reported that every year in Kenya about 2,600 women die from unsafe abortions. That’s seven women every dayWhat killed Caroline Mwatha? Evelyn Opondo, Africa director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, put it simply: “Caroline did not have to die. Her death was preventable. She is just one of so many women who are killed needlessly due to unsafe abortion in clinics run by ‘quacks’.” Caroline Mwatha did not have to die, but she was executed by state policy.

In July 2017, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was found guilty of aggravated homicide. Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was a high school student at the time, who was repeatedly raped by a gang member. She became pregnant. She didn’t know she was pregnant. She knew that she had stomach pains, but, because she also was bleeding, she thought she wasn’t pregnant. Then In April 2016, she gave birth in the bathroom of her family’s home. She passed out. When she regained consciousness, she was arrested. At the trial, medical experts couldn’t ascertain whether the fetus died in utero or after the birth. The prosecution maintained that Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz had not sought prenatal care because she didn’t want the child. The judge agreed, and sentenced Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz to thirty years in prison. After a little less than three years in the hellhole of Ilopango Women’s Prison, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz was granted a new trial. Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz can stay out of prison until a new trial, April 4. Mariana Moisa, of Agrupacion Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, or Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, noted, “In 2019 we shouldn’t be fighting for the presumption of innocence when a woman loses a pregnancy. We shouldn’t have to be proving that motherhood is not related to crime. We should have full human rights as Salvadoran women.”

Kenyan activists mourn the death of Caroline Mwatha. Salvadoran activists celebrate the release of Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz. These are pages in the history of the witch-hunt. While both Kenya and El Salvador explain their anti-abortion policies as a consequence of their being “religious”, the tie that binds the two is the marriage of patriarchy and capitalism at whose altar the power and knowledge of autonomous, self-aware women is demonized and criminalized. Caroline Mwatha wanted help, and instead she was given a death sentence. Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz needed help, and instead she was given a 30-year-sentence, which is akin to a death sentence. That’s the modern witch-hunt, and it must end now. It’s time, it’s way past time, to demand justice for Caroline Mwatha, Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz, and all the women subjected to the witch-hunt. Shut it down … now!

Evelyn Beatríz Hernández Cruz 

(Image Credit: Hivisasa) (Photo Credit: BBC / AFP)