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January 28, 2012

Oakland now using petty "lawfare" to harass and fine Occupy Oakland out of existence

Stung by Bad PR, City Officials Adopting New Tactics to Suppress Occupy Oakland | Occupy Wall Street | AlterNet
Oakland officials have taken a new tack in their suppression of the Occupy movement, one that seems addressed to the city's public relations problems. Gone are the mass arrests, “less-lethal” weaponry and tear gas, replaced with a kind of "lawfare" on the few protesters who remain in the plaza at the foot of Oakland City Hall where the occupation's tent city once stood. Authorities are no longer routinely claiming that Oakland's occupiers are rioters, arguing instead that they are blocking public access to walkways and possessing unpermitted property -- conduct that may or may not, in fact, be protected under the First Amendment as "expressive" political activities. Over the last month, the arrests have come in fives and tens, repeatedly targeting some of the same few and most visible activists. "One of the things the Oakland Police Department is looking at is changing our strategies on how we deal with these protests," says public information officer Johnna Watson. "We want to do something that's more effective. And one of the things we're looking at is when we have repeat offenders, we don't want to just keep arresting them -- we want to implement other tools that the law allows us." . . . These new tactics began in mid-December, when Oakland city administrator Deanna Santana told the occupiers at Frank Ogawa plaza outside city hall that they were "creating a threat to public welfare." On December 17, police began issuing citations at the plaza for offenses such as, in one case, leaning a bike against a wall while reading poetry aloud. Tickets handed out to the jovial Interfaith coalition group said only "umbrella." Two people were arrested for refusing to give up blankets, sleeping bags and other property that police alleged was connected with unpermitted lodging. . . .

January 27, 2012

Rhode Island town turns on high school girl after she sues to have a prayer display removed from her school

Rhode Island City Enraged Over School Prayer Lawsuit - NYTimes.com
A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion. In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion. State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a popular talk radio show. Three separate florists refused to deliver her roses sent from a national atheist group. The group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. “I was amazed,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, which is based in Wisconsin and has given Jessica $13,000 from support and scholarship funds. “We haven’t seen a case like this in a long time, with this level of revilement and ostracism and stigmatizing.” The prayer, eight feet tall, is papered onto the wall in the Cranston West auditorium, near the stage. It has hung there since 1963, when a seventh grader wrote it as a sort of moral guide and that year’s graduating class presented it as a gift. It was a year after a landmark Supreme Court ruling barring organized prayer in public schools. . . .

UK court rules that copyright covers even the *composition* of an image

So taking a photo in the same place where someone else took a photo can now be a crime. What the fuck? Photographers face copyright threat after shock ruling (update 26 Jan includes pic) news - Amateur Photographer - news, camera reviews, lens reviews, camera equipment guides, photography courses, competitions, photography forums
UK souvenir maker Temple Island Collection Ltd has won a ruling against New English Teas which it had accused of breaching copyright by using a photo of a London bus on its packaging. Welcoming the news, Temple Island Collection's managing director Justin Fielder – who shot the image in August 2005 and then manipulated it using Photoshop – said: 'As creator of the Red Bus image, and originators of the product concept, we gave New England Teas the opportunity to license with us and work collaboratively, but this was declined.' The case, heard at the Patents County Court in London on 12 January, could have serious implications for photographers, according to photographic copyright expert Charles Swan, a lawyer at Swan Turton, who said: 'His honour Judge Birss QC decided that a photograph of a red London bus against a black and white background of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, with a blank sky, was similar enough to another photograph of the same subject matter to infringe copyright.' He added: 'The decision is perhaps surprising, given the commonplace subject matter of the photographs. The judge himself admitted that he found it a difficult question, but in the end he decided that a substantial part of photograph one [Temple Island's image] had been reproduced in photograph two [New English Teas'].'