Success Story

Solidarity Sing-Along awarded "Civil Libertarian of the Year" award by ACLU

WNPJ member group Solidarity Sing-Along was awarded ACLU of Wisconsin's Civil Libertarian of the Year award for 2011. The award was presented on March 17th in Milwaukee  at the ACLU's annual Bill of Rights Celebration.

Accepting the award for the group, Sing-Along director Chris Reeder said, "Prior to last year, I thought about my first amendment rights, but only in an abstract way. I knew of them, and I valued them, but I had not made an effort to use them, and I hadn’t worked to protect them. That all changed when I began attending the Solidarity Sing Along. And now, after having stood in my state’s capitol and sung, every weekday, for an hour, without a permit, for over a year, over three hundred times now, I’ll never look at those rights the same way again. What I think about now, every day, is how easily those rights can be taken away if we don’t defend them. More importantly, how easily they can be taken for granted if we don’t exercise them." (Read MORE to see photos: Members of Solidarity Sing-Along at the ACLU event....)

Portland, Oregon city council says "Bring Our War $$ Home!"

On January 12th, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt a "Bring Our War Dollars Home" resolution that "praises United States troops and their families, applauds the end of the Iraq War and supports the further drawdown of troops in Afghanistan with funds being redirected to domestic priorities." Before the vote, the Council heard from members of the community who pointed to urgent unmet needs in the city of Portland. Chani Geigle-Teller from  Sisters Of The Road spoke about cuts to funding for housing causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units, while Toby Green of the Laborers 483 Public Employee Union spoke about one-half billion dollars in deferred maintenance that needs to be done in Portland alone.

Come join in the Solidarity Sings-long in Madison

All welcome to join the (almost) DAILY Solidarity Sing-along, a member gorup of WNPJ! We sing Monday through Friday, from 12 noon - 1 pm in Madison. Usually we sing inside the Capitol Rotunda on Mondays through Thursday - and outside at the State St. corner of the Square on Fridays. Bring your guitars and musical instruments for this special Friday event. We have the songbooks! See you at the Sing!  Questions?

Community members bring gardens, green space to Appleton

Thanks to the hard work of several community groups and neighbors - including Ronna Swift of WNPJ member group Fox Valley Peace Coalition - a former country club will be transformed into a multi-use community space in Appleton.

"The more than century-old, 77-acre private golf club [will be redeveloped] into a community-based market garden and public green space, which will be called Riverview Gardens," reports the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Massive sing-along turnout forces DOA to back down

After weeks of controversy surrounding a new policy that would require groups of four or more protesters to seek a permit from the state 72 hours in advance of a protest and potentially pay for police at the cost of $50 per hour per officer, the Wisconsin Department of Administration is now saying it will not take any steps to enforce the policy. According to Channel 27 news, "DOA spokesperson Jocelyn Webster reiterated the agency's stance today that no arrests will be made for violating the policy," saying that "if someone is holding an event without a permit, they will be given a permit application and strongly encouraged to apply, but that Capitol Police will take no action beyond that." The reversal comes after more than 500 people packed the Capitol rotunda to take part in Solidarity Sing-Along, a singing protest that has taken place in the Capitol every weekday since March 11th. See the full story here...

Senate votes for accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan

In a surprising vote, the Senate passed by a voice vote an amendment authored by Colorado Senator Jeff Merkley (left) that requires the President to "expedite transition of responsibility for military and security operations to the government of Afghanistan and provide a plan to Congress for bringing troops home faster within 90 days of passage of the resolution." The Obama administration has previously stated a committment to "transition" the Afghanistan combat mission to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, while also planning to keep U.S. troops and bases in the country past that date. The Senate vote calls for the President to present a plan for an earlier withdrawal of U.S. forces, but does not require a set timetable. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies described the vote as a sign that "the message of the longstanding and still rising U.S. majority — 63 percent in the most recent polls want to end the war in Afghanistan — is finally being heard in the Senate."

Madison workers give thanks to WRC

Just in time for Thanksgiving, WNPJ member group Worker Rights Center scored a significant victory for employees of the Madison-based cleaning firm Dirt Destroyers, which had failed to pay employees for hours worked, for travel time or overtime worked. Dirt Destroyers had refused to pay, even after the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development-Wage & Hour Division had investigated the company and ruled in favor of the workers. After the workers came to Worker Rights Center for help, WRC put out an alert, and the owner was soon deluged by emails and calls. WRC reports: "After a few days of this, and after his story changed a number of times, the owner finally relented and paid workers who had been waiting in one case for four months to get paid."

Hundreds win release after reform of sentencing rules

More than 500 federal inmates won release from prison last week, due to a change in federal sentencing policy which brought sentences for crack cocaine closer to the penalties for powder cocaine. (Photo: Susan Cardwell hugs her brother Darryl Flood as he arrives at a bus station in Woodbridge, Va., after his release.) The disparity in sentences for crack versus powder had long been criticized as racially discriminatory because it disproportionately affected black defendants. The Fair Sentencing Act passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Obama reduced the disparity for future cases, and this summer the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets federal sentencing policy, decided to apply the act to inmates already serving time. The releases are the result of months of work by public defender offices around the country, which reviewed hundreds of files of potentially affected inmates.Gil Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio reports...

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