Last night the Bloomington City Council showed support for a law that would discourage discrimination against people based on housing status. The measure would amend the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, which already bans discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, ancestry, disability or national origin. The ordinance also discourages discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Several speakers last night said there has been evidence of employers and landlords treating homeless people differently than other applicants for jobs or housing. A change to the ordinance would allow those individuals to file formal complaints with the city’s Human Rights Commission. We bring you a portion of last night’s discussion now for today’s WFHB community report. In the interest of transparency, the sponsor of the legislation is City Council member Dorothy Granger, who is also a staff member at WFHB.
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Twenty-three local residents voiced their opinions before the Monroe County Council last night, as the Council considered whether to approve a $3,000 grant to Planned Parenthood. The local clinic requested the money to help pay for contraceptives, STD testing and medical examinations. Planned Parenthood has been under fire in recent weeks after an anti-abortion group released a series of heavily edited videos intended to defame the organization.
The videos focus on a program in which patients donate fetal tissue to be used in medical research. Although several speakers referred to the videos last night, Bloomington’s clinic does not offer the tissue donation program, nor do any other Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana.
Earlier this summer, Bloomington High School North made national headlines when students there decided to form what they called a Straight Pride Group. The group was reportedly going to offer “specific supports for heterosexual students”. Many saw the group as being anti- LGBTQ. After a public outcry, the group’s faculty sponsor backed out and the group never officially formed. Last week, WFHB’s BloomingOUT hosted a discussion that issue and others with the gay-straight alliance at Bloomington High School North. Hannah Jesseph is a member of the alliance and
Greg Chaffin is the faculty sponsor. We bring you a portion of that conversation now for today’s WFHB
community report. Chaffin begins by discussing the origins of the gay-straight alliance at North.
Our feature was produced by Joe Crawford along with the crew of BloomingOUT.
On August 18th, the Monroe County Plan Commission recommended changing the county’s zoning regulations to include solar farms in the list of possible operations, or what the Planning Department calls ‘Conditional Uses”, in four of the county’s zoning types. Today, we will hear a report from Assistant News Director, David Murphy, on this proposed change for today’s WFHB community report.
The Monroe County Community School Corporation has been considering asking local voters to renew a special property tax introduced in 2011. The levy was approved by 63 percent of voters in 2010. That vote put the tax in place for six years. It’s set to expire at the end of 2016. Property owners are charged an extra fourteen-cents on every one-hundred dollars of assessed property value, and that money goes to the school corporation. The stated reason for the supplement was to make up for cuts in state funding of K to 12 public education. MCCSC staff, including the superintendent, have recommended seeking renewal. Assistant News Director David Murphy spoke to the President of the Board of Trustees of the MCCSC, Keith Klein, and to Cathy Fuentes-Rohrer, a parent of four school age children and the Chairperson of the Monroe County-South-Central Indiana chapter of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.
Earlier this year the Indiana legislature passed a law barring what are referred to as serious sex offenders from voting on election day if their precinct is located in a school. The law passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. It makes it a Level 6 felony for an offender to enter a school property. Earlier today the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit alleging the new law is unconstitutional. News Director Joe Crawford spoke with the attorney working on the case and we bring you that conversation now for today’s WFHB community report.
Our feature was produced by Joe Crawford.
As a new group of college students enter Bloomington this week, the city government is publicizing its resources aimed at making the community welcome to diverse populations. Last week, the hosts of WFHB’s Bring it On spoke with city’s Safe and Civil City Director, Rafi Hassan, about how that department responds to instances of bigotry and what resources it offers to residents. We bring you now a portion of Hassan’s conversation with hosts Cornelius Wright and Leila Randle, for today’s WFHB community report.
Today we bring you an extended interview recorded in Istanbul by longtime Bloomington resident and WFHB correspondent Filiz Cicek. Cicek spoke with an activist who had just survived a bombing as he was attempting to cross into the Syrian area of Kobani.
Kobani is the name of both a city and a larger area in northern Syria near the border with Turkey. Kobani is also part of Rojava, referred to by some as Western Kurdistan.
Against the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War, in late 2013 a left-wing revolution took place in Kobani and Rojava. The revolution established a society based on direct democracy, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Rojava’s government is formed by ethnically inclusive popular assemblies and it has a feminist army of women’s militias that has been key in fighting the Islamic State.
Yet less than a year after this revolution, in the fall of 2014, the area came under siege from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Most of the city of Kobani was destroyed and much of the population fled to Turkey.
However by January the people of Rojava had driven the Islamic state out of Kobani. In late July a group of leftist youth activists from across Turkey travelled to the border near Kobani with the goal of crossing over to help the local people rebuild.
On July 20 a bomb was set off during a press conference in the Turkish border town of Suruc, killing at least 32 people and wounding more than 100 more. It is believed that supporters of the Islamic State were behind the attack.
Cicek was able to speak with Ramazan Basar, a survivor of the bombing. The interview was originally recorded in Turkish and was translated into English by Leyla Keskiner. Voice-over by Dan Young. Editing by Dan Withered.
FC: I am here with Ramazan Basar in İstanbul. Welcome to WFHB News…. Can you introduce yourself to our audience Ramazan?
RB: My name is Ramazan Basar. I was born in Mardin in 1986, but I live in Istanbul now. I’ve studied journalism and now work as a freelance journalist. I also lived in Boston for about four months, in 2010.
FC: You got wounded during a bomb attack recently…
RB: I was part of a group who had volunteered to build a library, plant trees, and also to donate toys to the children of Kobane. We came to Suruc for a short period of time. We were almost 300 people from different cities, Most of us did not know one another; though some did. I went on my own, independent of any affiliation.
FC: How did this relief campaign started? How did you hear about it? How did people gather?
RB: The campaign was announced over the internet, it resonated among the socialist, anarchist, leftist, democratic, progressive, oppositional youth…
FC: I believe you’ve been working on this relief organization for almost three months now
RB: I don’t remember exactly, but I guess it took two or three months to get organized
FC: Did you go on a bus?
RB: Yes, we did
FC: Did you spend a night in Suruc before the attack? Can you elaborate how the attack happened? Starting from the beginning of the trip?
RB: The trip was like going on a picnic. We shared food and laughter. There was a perfect camaraderie and collaboration among us. We were among the first groups to arrive in the city.
There was none of the usual security search by any of the police when we arrived, nor while the road. But some of our friends said the police asked for their identity cards. There wasn’t any special security measures at the Suruc cultural center either. Not by the state, nor by the local government or by any of the NGOs. And we felt no need to search or suspect our friends – because what we were doing was an act of good will and compassion done in collaboration.
We weren’t there to fight, we went there to rebuild, to reconstruct. We had no idea that we could be facing an attack, we had no idea that such good intentions would be so violently attacked. We never thought we would end up being the target of such a dirty trick.
FC: You said that your group was not searched by the police upon entering Suruc but others were. Were you traveling in groups?
RB: We were on different busses. At the city entrance, police stopped some of the busses and checked people’s identities with a routine general information surveillance or GBT background check. This resulted in two of our friends being put under custody as military service deserters. But no one’s bags were searched, at least not that I’ve heard about.
FC: It seems you didn’t worry about safety, nor did the police. So you went directly to the cultural center in Suruc? Were they expecting you there?
RB: The relief mission was previously announced, and so everything was within the knowledge of the state.
FC: Were they waiting for your arrival at the center?
RB: Only the employees of the center and the other young people who wanted to help us were waiting for us. There was no precautions nor there were people other than the ones who would aid us when we crossed the border. The members of the association (Federation of Socialist Youth Associations) were present.
FC: So the members of the association in Suruç knew you were coming. When did the attack happen? Immediately upon your arrival?
RB: The attack happened on the day we arrived. We read our press release at the cultural center, and there was a small pop first. It sounded like a champagne bottle had popped, or one of those confetti gizmos. Then a few seconds later there was the big explosion… I was playing with my phone then, sitting by myself on a bench further away from the epicenter of the event. I fell, and my phone was shattered. Immediately there was dark smoke, and I saw dead bodies, and body parts, and brain matter. There were flames everywhere, and burnt, darkened bodies.
FC: Yes, it looked like hell on TV.
RB: It was a horrible tragedy for mankind. I still cannot come to my senses. The sounds keep echoing in my ears. With the explosion I’ve temporarily lost my hearing, which is going on for five days now. I have a piece of shell fragment in my left arm.
FC: Couldn’t they remove it?
RB: The hospital was very busy, they gave priority to the severely wounded ones. And the doctors said that removing it may cause more damage to my arm, and there will be no consequences from leaving it in. I’ve decided to keep it in my arm, as a token of the event, as a memory of my friends who died in the event.
FC: So you’ll keep living with this shell fragment in your body?
RB: To be honest, I don’t want it to be removed, so as long as I live I will remember what happened, and honor my friends who have lost their lives. The doctors said that there will be pain in the next couple of weeks, and later that will also go away. So I am not planning to get it removed from my body, I’ll carry it as a medal of honor.
FC: How did you come back to Istanbul?
RB: Our friends from Urfa, from the Socialist Youth Association, and members of the HDP , or the Peoples’ Democratic Party, hosted us in their homes for a few days, after my release from the hospital. Then I’ve got my ticket, and again independent of any group or organization I came back to Istanbul, to my family.
FC: Your family must be in shock, too.
R.B: Yes, they are.
FC: What are your plans now? Or are you in any state to even make plans just yet? I can see that you are still in shock. What goes through your head?
RB: I am not planning to stay in Turkey in the long run. I am planning to apply for political asylum. My struggle for a better world can continue, my urge to help people to change their lives can continue anywhere. But here in Turkey, we are under threats; our phones are tapped, people send us hate messages, threatening us.
FC: What kind of messages, can you give us an example?
RB: They say “300 people could have died instead of just 32” “We are after you, we will not forget you”.. things like this. There were also a few twitter messages that were threatening, and I had to block those people. The paranoia continues.
FC: Do you think that people are doing this on their own? Or is this part of an organized activity?
RB: I believe that all these massacres of Reyhanlı (Rey-han-lu), Diyarbakır (dee-YAHR-bahk-EHR) and Suruç (Suruch) are connected, and they are planned, organized and carried out by government officials, in order to scare and terrorize people; to destroy their unity and solidarity.
I don’t think these happen as independent and individual events; they are connected. They are organized from the top in order to create an atmosphere of chaos, which the authorities can then exploit for their own purposes. I believe that people in power are the ones benefitting from this chaos. The ones in power always gain from this atmosphere. Chaos, struggle, resistence, violence always benefit the ones in power.
FC: Do you believe that some people are trying to silence you?
RB: Not just me, but they are trying to silence all those who think differently, who are outcast, who fight for democracy and freedom and who advocate for human rights. They want to silence those who are controversial or who are opposing [the system]. All of us face such threats.
But we will not be intimidated by it. You perhaps know the saying “I’d rather be furious than miserable.” Yes we are miserable and sad, we are in great pain, but we are also furious. Not in a violent way, nor is this fury a source of physical threat to anyone. Instead it aids and fuels our impulse to move forward with the struggle, to fight for democracy, freedom and human rights.
We want everyone to be able to enjoy life and live in a free atmosphere. But I…I cannot express myself properly. Because I’ve lost my hearing temporarily, and I feel shocked, disoriented and a bit confused by it all…
FC: Lastly I want to ask, for the audience who may not have been following the recent events in the Middle East: You said were taking toys to the children of Kobani. What has been happening there? Why did you want to go to Kobani?
RB: For the last 3 years, Kobani has been under the attack of ISIS, the Islamic terrorist organization. This organization has been beheading people or enslaving them, including raping
women as sex slaves. They are monsters.
But there are oppositional forces like the YPG, or People’s Protection Unit, who are fighting against ISIS. The whole world is watching the opposition fighters with pride
We also wanted to be part of the ongoing rebuilding effort of the Middle East, even if for a few days. Kobani is under threat. After four months of struggle they drove out the ISIS occupation.
That area is Kurdistan land. It belongs to Kurds. But There are also other people like Turkmens, Yazidis, Süryanis, Arabs, Christians there. They also have a right to live there. Altogether they are building the city back up again.
They are all fighting against the dark, against the fundamentalism. The world is supporting this opposition coalition; the US, France, Germany, Italy are supporting their cause. Everyone should unite against terror organizations like Al-Kaida or ISIS. Especially in Turkey.
Our friends who lost their lives were safeguards of secularism and freedom, and the people who attacked us are representatives of the darkness, backwardness, and barbarianism. There is no third way, you either take side with secularism and freedom, or with darkness and backwardness.
What we have gained from the creation of the Republic of Turkey can only be furthered by improving its democracy. Or we can go backwards like Iran, or Afghanistan or Pakistan.
It was the same game that was played in those countries. First they killed the leftists. No body acted. Then they killed people in the opposition. Then they killed the moderate people who thought like themselves. Now they are bombing the mosques, killing one another.
We have to further what the Turkish Republic started: secularism, freedom, democracy. If we can freely walk around at all today, it is because of people who have fought for freedom, such as our friends who just died. These were people who shared the last bits of food that their mothers prepared for the road with their fellow goodwill ambassadors and freedom fighters on the journey. They had different visions for the future.
But to be different is always regarded as a threat in the Middle East. We believe now it is time to change the ominous direction of the region and give youth a chance.
FC: Even though ISIS assumed responsibility for the bombing, you believe that they were not alone?
RB: ISIS assumed responsibility but I believe others who supported ISIS logistically, who provided arms under the cover of medical aid, or those who allowed them to cross the border are equally responsible. Those legitimate powers who are in a relationship with this illegitimate power are going to cause more trouble.
Turkey is playing a dangerous game, and it will lose. Nobody is dumb, we can see through it all, we see the game they are playing. This has to stop and Turkey has to turn its face back towards to the West once again now. It has to deny violence, and support freedom.
The Solution Process for peace with Kurds should continue. There should be more effort made to win the hearts and minds of Kurds, who, just went through a very challenging election process, successfully.
HDP, the Peoples Democratic Party is not only for Kurds, but also for Turks, Greeks, Circasians, Alevites, Sunnis, and so on; it embraces peoples of various backgrounds in Turkey. They are a party that supports everyones freedom, within which everyone feels free to express themselves. This is what I believe. We must cary this freedom movement forward. We must live in coexistence and in peace. All lives matter. Let no one die. Let everyone express themselves freely and live freely as they wish. And that what will change the society for the better.
FC: We tired you quite a bit today…
Not at all.
FC: We wish you good luck. And thank you very much for being here today, and being alive.
An IU Professor’s Upcoming Book Is On Low-Wage Worker’s; A Conversation With A Home Health Care Worker In Indianapolis
A professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law has published a book telling the stories of low-wage workers, such as janitors, fry cooks, and health care aides, trying to fight their way to middle-class incomes in Indianapolis. Professor Fran Quigley also writes about the struggles of union organizers with whom he says the workers have found common cause. We’ll hear from Quigley next Tuesday, when he’ll be featured on WFHB’s Interchange, starting at 6 p.m. For today’s WFHB community report, we bring you a conversation with Chalondias Smith, a 66-year-old home health care worker in Indianapolis who will also be featured on Interchange. Smith is a member of the Service Employees International Union.
Interchange host Doug Storm spoke with home health care worker Chalondias Smith of Indianapolis earlier today. Portions of that interview will also be featured on WFHB’s Interchange next Tuesday starting at 6 p.m. Storm will also speak next week with IU law professor Fran Quigley, who has published a book about the struggles of low-wage workers in Indianapolis.
Earlier this year, a majority of hourly employees at Bloomingfoods Cooperative Grocery signed up as members of Local 700 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Management of Bloomingfoods agreed to recognize their employees membership and, with the help of a facilitator, the union and management then negotiated a tentative collective agreement. It was subsequently ratified and signed by both sides. Assistant News Director David Murphy spoke to Jeff Kimbrough, of Local 700, and Paula Gilbertson, Acting General Manager of Bloomingfoods, for this WFHB community report.