Black Lives Matter Rallies in Valley Start July 8

There will be Black Lives Matter rallies in Amherst at 6 p.m. on July 8, in Greenfield on July 9 at 9 a.m., in Holyoke on July 10 at noon, in Springfield on July 11 at 3 p.m., in Northampton on July 12 at 6 p.m., and in Brattleboro on July 13 at 5 p.m. The local chapter of Jobs With Justice www.jwj.org is helping to promote the events.

The Amherst event will be at the town common. More information is at:

www.facebook.com/events/627695780714899/?notif_t=plan_user_invited&notif...

The Greenfield rally will be at the town common. Details are at:

www.massslaveryapology.org/flyer%20for%20vigil%207-2-16.jpg

The Holyoke rally will be at the corner of Hampden and Maple streets. Details are at:

www.facebook.com/events/1772999662976373

The Springfield event is a march. It starts at city hall. More information is at:

www.facebook.com/events/1715002158765631

The rally in Northampton will be on the steps of city hall. For more information, contact Jeff Napolitano at JNapolitano@afsc.org or by phone at (413) 584-8975.

The Brattleboro event is a march. It starts at the corner or Main and High streets. Details at:

www.facebook.com/events/878598308940651

According to www.DemocracyNow.org, as of July 8, "Protests against police brutality are spreading across the country in the wake of the police killings of African American men Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. In Oakland, California, more than a 1,000 people blocked Interstate 880 for hours. Hundreds more marched in Denver, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Baton Rouge. More than 40 people were arrested amid a massive march in New York City. In Minnesota, thousands of people attended vigils for Philando Castile outside the Montessori school where Castile had worked, and outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul."

On July 7 in Dallas, Texas, five police officers were shot and killed by Micah Johnson, a U.S. military veteran who fought in Afghanistan. Six officers were wounded in the attack. Police then killed Johnson.

Josh Horwitz is director of a group that lobbies to pass stricter gun control laws, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence www.csgv.org. He said on July 8, “Today my heart is breaking for the law enforcement community in Dallas as we struggle to grapple with the deaths of the five officers who were shot and killed, and the wounding of nine other individuals, including two civilians, after a peaceful (Black Lives Matter) protest.”

A key demand of the Black Lives Matter movement is accountability for police officers who kill people without justification.

Another key demand of the movement is reducing the number of people in prison. No other nation on earth incarcerates such a high percentage of its people. As of 2008, the USA had about 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. "England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63." That's according to "U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations," an article by Adam Liptak that appeared in the New York Times on April 23, 2008. Those numbers were virtually unchanged as of 2013, the most recent year for which data is available.

About 14 percent of Americans are black. About 38 percent of people in American prisons are black. The book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond explains why the average black person is much poorer than the average white person. Rich people can afford better lawyers.

About half the people in U.S. prisons are there for non-violent crimes, mostly related to drugs. Suzi Wizowaty is a former elected member of the Vermont legislature. She runs a group that works to reduce the number of people that Vermont imprisons. The group's web site is www.VermontersForCriminalJusticeReform.org.

Vermont is one of just four states that does not release data on the state's incarceration rate for Latinos. In federal prisons, Latinos are incarcerated at a far higher rate than white people, according to this web page, which is published by lawyers in Northampton:

www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/raceinc.html

A group that Works nationally to reduce the prison population has a web site at www.EllaBakerCenter.org.

While the chances of dramatically reducing the USA's prison population may seem small, in 1989, the chances of Nelson Mandela -- who was then seven years into a life sentence in prison -- becoming president of South Africa were also small. In 1994, Mandela was elected president and one of the world’s most brutal and racist governments was overthrown.

In the United States, 150 years ago, ending slavery seemed unlikely. Women in the USA fought for and won the right to vote in 1920. Mass movements of ordinary people win justice.

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