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KAPJ: Showing of Documentary National Bird

drone-posterNational Bird will be shown on Tuesday February 28 at 7:30 PM in the Town Hall Room of the Leaderships Studies building at K-State.  The running time is 92 minutes. 

National Bird is a documentary directed by Sonia Kennebeck that follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time:  the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans, including our March speaker. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences.

Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. National Bird gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Its images haunt the audience and bring a faraway issue close to home.

National Bird takes a deeply disturbing look at drone warfare… artful, profoundly unsettling … Kennebeck may be a newcomer to feature filmmaking, but her grasp of the material is accomplished.” – The Washington Post

Lisa Ling is one of the whistle-blowers whose story is documented in National Bird. Whether you are able to see the film or not, this is an opportunity to hear her story and ask questions.

Ling joined the military in 1991, serving as an army medic and nurse before transferring to the Air National Guard (ANG).  In the ANG, she became a communications tech-nician working on various types of electronic equipment. Besides her overseas deployments, Lisa was mobilized, during a partial unit mobilization of the 234th intelligence Squadron to the 48th Intelligence Squadron, at Beale Air Force Base from Oct 2007-Sep 2009. The 48th  Intelligence Squadron provides in-garrison and deployed communica-tions and logistics maintenance for the DCGS (Distributed Common Ground System) – basically the “brain” behind the drones. She served 6 years on active duty and over 14 years as both active and inactive guard. She has served during peacetime and supported operations from the first Gulf War through the Global War on Terror. She has received numerous awards for her service.  She was honorably discharged in September 2012. The  DCGS is basically the brain behind the drones 

“I lost part of my humanity working in the drone program,” says Ling, contemplating the military action she was a part of as her friend meets with a family who lost loved ones in an attack near the village of Shahidi Hassas in Oruzgan Province on February 21, 2010.

Mission: The Air Force Distributed Common Ground System (AF DCGS), also referred to as the AN/GSQ-272 SENTINEL weapon system, is the Air Force’s primary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and dissemination (PCPAD) weapon system. The weapon system employs a global communications architecture that connects multiple intelligence platforms and sensors.  Airmen assigned to AF DCGS produce actionable intelligence from data collected by a variety of sensors on the U-2, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and other ISR platforms.   

CEJ Leaflet on RCPD drug law enforcement, 2010-2014

Why in Riley County is a black person nearly 7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person?

The Manhattan-Riley County Coalition for Equal Justice are local citizens concerned that racial bias may be influencing the enforcement of drug laws in Riley County. With the help of a Kansas State University researcher, the Coalition has investigated the Riley County Police Department’s official arrests reports, submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010- 2014.* Here is what we have found.

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In the U.S. black people use marijuana at roughly the same rate as white people, according to survey research covering 2001-2010.**

Between 2010 and 2014 the RCPD intensified its enforcement of state marijuana prohibition law. In the years 2010-2014 total possession arrests rose from 80 to 176, a nearly 300% increase. In these years African-American arrests climbed from 16 to 64, an increase of 400%. Clearly the burden of this intensified enforcement has been racial unequal. In 2014 black persons in Riley County were 6.8 times more likely than white persons to be arrested for marijuana possession.

We believe our findings offer strong evidence that the Riley County Police Department is treating black persons more harshly than white persons in their decisions about who to arrest for possession of illegal drugs.

We want to know why. Is the rapid increase in marijuana racial arrest inequality from 2010 to 2014 motivated by an increase in conscious or unconscious racial discrimination by individual RCPD officers? Or does it stem from department policies, training, and institutional priorities?

This is a serious matter. Currently a person found guilty of a misdemeanor drug offense, is punishable with a fine of up to $2,500, one year in jail, or both, and there is credible evidence that many employers will reject job applicants with any drug conviction on their record.

The racial disparities we have uncovered are not unique to Riley County. A comprehensive study found that the racial inequality in arrest rates for marijuana possession was 3.7 to 1 across the country – and in Kansas 4.4 to 1. It seems likely, therefore, that this racially unequal treatment by police in our community reflects a widespread anti-black stereotype in American society, associating African Americans with drug addiction and criminal behavior.

We strongly urge the RCPD to fully investigate the causes of whatever biases, practices, or policies are causing the racially unequal treatment our research has uncovered. And we demand that the RCPD eliminate the unequal arrest rates that we have found in our city and county.

Individuals Supporting the Manhattan-Riley County Coalition for Equal Justice

Muefua Lewis, President 2015-16, K-State Black Student Union
Justice Davis, President 2014-15, K-State Black Student Union
Shaun Dowdell, President, K-State American Ethnic Studies Student Association Jeremy Briggs, K-State Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work John Exdell, Chair, Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice
Rev. Jonalu Johnstone , Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Manhattan Bryon Williams, Advisor to K-State Black Student Union
Rev. Rachel Williams-Glenn , Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Caela Simmons Wood , First Congregational United Church of Christ
Pastors Richard Gehring and Barbara Krehbiel Gehring, Manhattan Mennonite Church Rev. Paul Allen, First Christian Church, Manhattan KS
Rev. Patrick Funston, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Manhattan KS
Edith Guffey, Conference Minister, KS-OK Conference of the United Church of Christ Rev. David A. Jones (Campus Pastor, K-State Ecumenical Christian Ministries)

*We are very grateful to Will Chernoff for his research on Riley County racial inequalities in marijuana arrests. Mr. Chernoff has a M.S. in Statistics is currently a Ph.D. student at Kansas State University. The Department of Justice Uniform Crime Reports is the source of data on white and black annual marijuana arrests. The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program was the source for determining the number of white and black residents in Riley County.

** American Civil Liberties Union, “The War on Marijuana in Black and White”, p. 48.

The 15 Common Ground Issues of the Kansas People’s Agenda

We the People of Kansas, the supreme governing body, do so demand:

Economic Justicedsc-0046_orig

We believe in Kansas workers’ right to unionize, in a living wage, in progressive taxation requiring those at the top to pay their fair share, and in the reduction of sales tax on food.

Equitable Public Education

We believe that Kansas kids have a right to a high-quality public education with adequate resources equitably provided according to need.

Health Care Access

We believe that all Kansans should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, mental health and substance abuse services, and that women’s reproductive healthcare providers should not be unjustly targeted.

dsc-0050_origRacial and Indigenous Justice

We believe that all Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous people of Kansas deserve to be treated fairly with dignity, protected from overzealous policing, and be provided equitable opportunity in all facets of life.

Anti-Corruption Policy

We believe that the Kansas government must be ethical, accountable, and transparent. Political bribery, secret dark money, and lobbyist contributions must end. There can no longer be a revolving door between elected public office and corporate special interest.

Gender Equity

We believe that women in Kansas deserve equal pay for equal work. Women should be protected from discrimination and abuse in the workplace, at school, and in our community, and that women have the inherent right to make their own reproductive choices.

LGBT Rights

We believe that Kansans of all gender identities and sexual orientations deserve the right to live, work, and raise families without discrimination.

Children Protections

We believe no child in Kansas should go hungry, that our foster system must address abuse faster, and that disabled children deserve the best we can provide.

Voting Rights

We believe that Kansans of all gender identities and sexual orientations deserve the right to live, work, and raise families without discrimination.

Responsible Gun Policy

We believe in responsible gun ownership that requires background checks on gun purchases, training for a concealed carry permit, and that guns should not be allowed on school grounds, campuses, and in public buildings.

dsc-0054_origImmigrant Rights

We believe that refugees and immigrants in Kansas, both documented and undocumented, benefit the economy and should have the right to drive legally, purchase insurance, and attend colleges and universities.

Criminal Justice Reform

We believe that Kansans deserve a demilitarized highly trained community-focused police force, and a fair criminal justice system that aims to rehabilitate individuals and protects youth from the school-to-prison pipeline.

Infrastructure Investments

We believe that the road, rail, & water systems of Kansas must be improved. Internet access for all communities is a necessity, and a renewable green energy infrastructure is critical to our security and future.

dsc-0028Environmental Stewardship and Sustainable Agriculture

We believe in protecting the Kansas environment by banning fracking, rehabilitating our waterways, supporting local family farms, and reducing our overall carbon emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Religious Freedom

We believe religious minorities have the right to practice their faith free from fear, discrimination, and political scapegoating.

We demand progress and equity in opportunity and outcome in all measures of human life, right, and dignity.

We demand. May it be so.