April 7: Advocacy Updates from WoMN Act

Advocacy updates related to equity and justice

Updated April 7

Leondra Mitchell, WoMN Act

Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion to bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, going through Northern Minnesota. The pipeline disrupts untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples. It was proposed in 2014 by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company. It has been heralded as an example of how governments have undermined Indigenous sovereignty and exposed communities to land degradation that threaten their lives and livelihoods. 

Two perspectives on the issue: 1) fossil fuel infrastructure is harmful, 2) pipelines are a source of job creation in rural communities (see this clean energy plan created by several rural Minnesota voices in 2016). Non-Indigenous activists do not always recognize the real harm this pipeline can cause Indigenous people in the region, such as disruption of hunting, fishing, and wild rice cultivation, and increased vulnerability to sex trafficking.

Minnesota Women’s Press has several related stories on this topic:

Other Forms of Environmental Racism

Research shows that low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with poor air quality, pollutants, and limited access to clean water. North Minneapolis, a predominately Black community, has more contaminated land and less public green space than the rest of the city. The Northside Glenwood neighborhood has 44 contaminated sites per acre compared to only 8 sites in the South neighborhood of Kenwood.

Studies show that residents in poor urban neighborhoods experience higher levels of pollution-related health conditions, such as asthma. In the Twin Cities in 2008, fine particle pollution caused an estimated 2,152 deaths with people of color disproportionately represented. Climate change can worsen such disparities, due to temperatures rising in industrial urban neighborhoods at higher rates.

The CREATE initiative, spearheaded at the University of Minnesota, provides maps and area-specific education on this topic.

Support community-based organizations like the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council, which is working to address these discrepancies.

Minnesota Women’s Press has several related stories on this topic:


Updated March 31

Last week The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled a person who is sexually assaulted while intoxicated does not fit the designation for a more serious charge, if he or she consumed the alcohol or drugs voluntarily. This is an overturning of a lower court’s ruling on a sexual assault conviction. The Supreme Court’s ruling did not change the law, but rather, reflected it. Currently, Minnesota Statute 609.341 Subdivision 7 rules that “mentally incapacitated” is defined as “a person under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, anesthetic, or any other substance, administered to that person without the person’s agreement.” Because of the charge the state presented the defendant with, the higher court was bound to this law and unable to convict the alleged assailant.

The problem with this bill’s outdated language is that it omits victims who may have voluntarily consumed alcohol, narcotics, or other substances that may have left them completely incapable of consenting to sex. This language needs to be updated to include voluntary consumption, which would ensure that justice can be served to victim survivors like the one in this 2017 case. However, that change cannot come from the judicial branch in Minnesota; it can only come from the state legislature. Below are suggested calls to action regarding this issue.
 

CALLS TO ACTION:


UPDATED March 24

HF 723 – African Immigrant Family Outreach Bill

This bill, authored by Representative Thompson would establish grant funding to reduce and eliminate abusive and bullying behaviors among youth and adults within both the African immigrant and African American communities. The legislation offers many recommendations that are worth reading. Among them includes a program to identify and assess factors and influences that make African immigrant and African American youth vulnerable to recruitment by violent organizations and a program to implement protective skills and positive coping skills to deal with bullying, domestic abuse and interfaith family violence.

 CALLS TO ACTION:



H.R. 1620 Violence Against Women Act

Minnesota Congresswoman McCollum is a cosponsor of this national legislation, which would expand and strengthen protections for survivors of domestic abuse – particularly for Native, transgender, and immigrant women. The landmark law was reauthorized several times since, but lapsed in 2019 after a stall in the Senate. This act has passed in the house, and awaits a vote from Senators, and later a signage from President Biden, the bill’s original author in 1994.

CALLS TO ACTION: 


HF 1152 – Clean Slate Act 

Another important criminal justice reform related effort was heard on February 23rd. This legislation, authored by Representative Long, would enact automatic expungements for some nonviolent crimes and controlled substance use in low degrees. That means a person’s record would be sealed to employers, colleges, and landlords, but not law enforcement.

CALLS TO ACTION: Read this article to learn more about the Expungement debate and related restorative justice initiatives. The best way to prevent those who committed low level crimes from never getting a second chance is to end the ruthless and relentless mass incarceration in the United States related to drug charges. Organizations who are actively working to change the narrative that you can support include: The MOSAIC Fund for JusticeRestorative Justice Community Action, and Minnesota Freedom FundLet your representatives know that you stand for sensible criminal justice reform to end the cycle of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities. 


HF 1403 – Pregnant and Postpartum Inmate Placement

This bill, introduced by Representative Becker Finn, authorizes the placement of pregnant and postpartum female inmates in community-based programs in certain circumstances, which is a big step in restorative and reparative justice programming. The legislation passed unanimously in committee on March 5th and has been celebrated by Prison Rights Groups.

CALLS TO ACTION: Learn more about pregnancy, motherhood, and postpartum for incarcerated women.Consider supporting any of the following organizations who seek to help inmate mothers: Motherhood Behind BarsThe Minnesota Doula ProjectPrison Activist Resource Center



H.R.1280 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Congresswoman for Minnesota’s 5th district, Ilhan Omar is a co-sponsor of this national legislation which passed the US House on Thursday, March 4th. This legislation will eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, ban chokeholds, and mandate data collection on police encounters. 

CALLS TO ACTION: Listen to this NPR podcast about qualified immunity, and what a world with a widely reformed (or eradicated) law enforcement would look like. Consider purchasing tickets to this virtual event hosted by Twin Cities PBS about implicit bias in the criminal justice system.Hear the compelling and resonant words of George Floyd’s family in the wake of the legislation’s passage.Continue to say the names, tell the stories, and do the work to help Black communities heal from the re-traumatization that this trial brings.

Details: WoMN Act