When we look at the Connecticut legislature and the U.S. Congress it seems as if government can’t or won’t do anything to protect our rights. I have outlined here nine areas where the Attorney General, acting in the interests of the State of Connecticut and its people, can and should take action.
1. Enforce Connecticut civil rights laws against local police departments that use racial profiling and violence against people of color!
Racial profiling and police violence are a national epidemic, and Connecticut is not immune. Just ask the parents of Jason Negron, a Bridgeport youth whose life was taken by police violence in May 2017. Or Ra’Shamel Rogers, who was unarmed when he was shot three times by police in Waterbury. Just ask people in Enfield, where the Town has settled nine police brutality charges against one police officer who was allowed to remain on duty for ten years before finally being fired.
Just as the federal government did in East Haven, the Connecticut Attorney General should be taking these local police departments to court for violating peoples’ civil rights. The Connecticut Attorney General should be at the forefront of the fight against racial profiling, police violence, the militarization of police departments, reliance on dangerous police tactics like high speed chases, and the over-policing of political dissent. For the local departments that are the worst offenders, the AG should tell the courts we want to put these departments under the direct control of Civilian Review Boards that are accountable to the community.
2. Get ICE (Immigration Control and Enforcement) out of Connecticut courts and schools! Defend our Sanctuary State status!
Our courthouses are supposed to be public places where every person can come and get justice. Our schools are supposed to be safe places for youth. But when federal ICE agents roam the hallways of Connecticut courts or stake out schools, they spread fear in immigrant communities. We hear about the Trump administration trying to intimidate communities like Connecticut that have declared themselves sanctuaries. The Attorney General needs to go on the offensive and sue the federal government and its agents for terrorizing Connecticut residents.
3. Build a state-wide coalition to act as the eyes and ears of the AG’s office in support of workers’ rights on the job: fight wage theft, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and unsafe working conditions by unscrupulous employers.
The Connecticut Attorney General has the power and the duty to enforce Connecticut’s laws that protect people at work. Employers violate these laws when they don’t pay minimum wage and overtime, when they discriminate against employees because of race or religion, when they sexually harass women and lgbtq workers, when they expose workers to dangerous conditions. Connecticut’s agencies that investigate these violations handle only a small portion of complaints. A coalition of labor unions, worker centers, community groups, and faith-based organizations could collaborate with the AG’s office, acting as eyes and ears and bringing forward information about employers who violate the laws, so they can be punished.
4. Defend reproductive health clinics with court-sanctioned safety zones so patients are not harassed or attacked by religious bigots.
Reproductive health clinics provide a wide range of critical services to women in our state – including abortion, a right protected by the U.S. Constitution. But anti-woman bigots jeopardize the rights of all clinic patients and clinic staff when they resort to verbal harassment and intimidation. The Attorney General’s office should make protecting women’s right to reproductive health care a high priority. That means getting court orders for safety zones around clinics so women can access services without fear. It also means bringing civil rights charges against these domestic terrorists who target women and lgbtq people in the name of fake family values.
5. Hate speech is not free speech! The right of oppressed groups to live free from fear should be protected from alt-right threats and violence!
The spread of neo-nazi and white supremacist groups calling themselves the alt-right isn’t just Donald Trump’s fault. They are aided by spineless politicians and by sympathizers in law enforcement who pretend that cross-burnings and brown shirted parades are just another form of free speech. I support antifa activists who use direct action to challenge hate speech, and I believe the Attorney General should act against groups that use speech to incite violence or terrorize others.
6. Make Connecticut a part of the global Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) campaign in defense of the people of Palestine.
The U.S. indifference to Israeli sniper shootings of unarmed Palestinian protestors – including children and journalists – on the Gaza border devalues human life, prolongs human suffering, and disregards democratic values. I support having Connecticut join with people, institutions, and governments of goodwill worldwide who have joined the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) campaign, which demands that Israel take the following measures:
Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestine refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
7. Defend our kids’ right to an education! Defend teacher’s unions! End the tide of school closures and private and semi-private charter schools taking over communities and profiting from education. Change school funding to a state-based system that prioritizes the needs of poor communities and struggling schools.
The Connecticut Constitution makes education a fundamental right, but a regressive funding formula is part of the institutional racism that has led to gross inequalities in access to education. Instead of confronting their obligation to provide equal educational opportunity to every Connecticut student, cities and towns are closing public schools, trying to smash teacher’s unions and allowing the takeover of education by private and semi-private charter schools that deepen inequality. The Attorney General’s office should be an advocate for the right of every Connecticut student to attend a quality school and receive a quality education. I favor state-based school funding that equalizes access to education.
8. Protect Connecticut’s natural resources, including our clean water. No fracking or transportation or disposal of fracking waste in Connecticut! Support the development of clean energy.
The reality of rapid climate change is being denied or ignored by those who profit from non-renewable energy, and even precious resources like clean water are not sacred to them. The Attorney General has a specific responsibility, under Connecticut’s laws, “to take such action as is deemed necessary to protect the state from damage by diversion or other interference with water from streams without the state.” Therefore, the AG’s office should be at the forefront of legal action to stop fracking, the transportation of fracking waste, and the disposal of fracking waste anywhere in New England. Our clean water supplies depend on it. So does our agriculture. I support efforts to promote and encourage the development and use of renewable energy in our state.
9. The Attorney General’s office should weigh in on the personhood of non-human animals, including apes, elephants, and whales.
The Nonhuman Rights Project has taken legal action in Connecticut on behalf of elephants kept imprisoned in a private zoo, providing convincing legal arguments that certain mammals that are similar in their cognitive abilities to humans should be treated as persons under the law. The Attorney General’s office should weigh in as amicus curiae in support of those animals who are most similar to us, and encourage the courts to recognize their personhood and order them freed from captivity.