All posts by Sparrow

Haunted by Disease-Ridden WWII Death Camps, Jewish Activists Push to Free ICE Detainees as COVID-19 Strikes First Facilities

Haunted by Disease-Ridden WWII Death Camps, Jewish Activists Push to Free ICE Detainees as COVID-19 Strikes First Facilities

Anne Frank didn’t die in a gas chamber; she got sick in a crowded and unsanitary ICE-like concentration camp

Responding to the imminent threat of the COVID-19 pandemic killing hundreds or even thousands of vulnerable ICE detainees, the Jewish-led immigrant rights organization, Never Again Action, is escalating its months-long direct action efforts (e.g. shutting down ICE’s DC headquarters for half a day in July) to get detainees released from cruel and now life-threatening ICE concentration camps across the United States (the former head of ICE has said detainees “must” be released). Local Never Again Action chapters across the country will be conducting actions in coalition with other immigration justice partners to demand that state governors use their emergency powers to take immediate life-saving action that thousands of doctors have said are necessary to prevent certain and unnecessary deaths. Actions will continue throughout the week, starting in Boston on Thursday, New Jersey on Friday and other cities later in the week across the US.

“Governors can save hundreds of lives right now by releasing these detainees,” said Never Again Action’s Boston spokesperson, Elizabeth Weinbloom. “An outbreak at one of these facilities will make them as deadly as Dachau. Murderous intent is not required for a facility to become a death camp; inaction will have the same effect.”

There were six successful actions last weekend employing a variety of tactics:

  • Two “caravans to save lives” were organized at Newark, New Jerseycorrectional centers, in partnership with ICE Free New Jersey. Over 100 cars participated on Sunday March 22nd at Hudson County Correctional Center; a video from this action has gone viral with almost 200K views (the earlier caravan was at the Essex County Correctional Center on Friday, March 20th). Both actions were in solidarity with detainees inside who have been on hunger strikes for their freedom. As of Sunday, March 22nd, Hudson had two confirmed COVID-19 cases and was on lockdown.

  • In New York City and Boston, activists projected images of Anne Frank onto their immigration court houses, drawing an explicit parallel between the intentionally unsanitary conditions in Holocaust concentration camps and the current conditions in ICE camps. At least 38 incarcerated people and employees at New York City’s Rikers Island Correctional Facility have now tested positive for coronavirus. Meanwhile, Bristol County Correctional Center medical personnel stated last week that “the infection of the whole ICE facility population is inevitable and will occur within the next thirty days.” The JFK Federal Building in Boston, which houses Massachusetts’ U.S. Immigration Court, is across the street from the New England Holocaust Memorial, which memorializes those the Nazis murdered by disease as well as by gas and bullets.

  • Protesters in the Bay Area and Minneapolis held car rallies outside their governors’ mansions. As many as 25 cars were outside California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s residence, and a comparable number confronted Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz at his home.

All the actions were carefully scripted to comply with CDC COVID-19 guidelines; Never Again Action is one of the only activist groups in the country currently carrying out direct actions in the new “shelter in place” era.

Visuals from our actions are available to media: 

“The spread of COVID-19 will turn detention centers into de-facto death camps,” says Alyssa Rubin, Never Again Action’s national campaign director. “ICE is not interested in the health and safety of their detainees. We demand that governors use their emergency powers to order the release of all immigrant detainees in their state.”

Actions will continue throughout the week, starting in Boston on Thursday, New Jersey on Friday and other cities later in the week across the US.

About Never Again Action

Never Again Action is a mass mobilization of Jews, immigrants, and allies who are organizing to shut down ICE. We come together as a group of differently affiliated Jewish organizers because we understand it to be our community’s obligation to stand up when we see history repeat itself and to declare that Never Again means Never Again for anybody. We need to empty the detention centers before COVID turns them into death camps.

Chelsea Manning

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team: Chelsea Manning Released After EDVA Grand Jury Probe Expires

Alexandria, VA — Judge Anthony Trenga today ordered Chelsea Manning’s release from confinement, after the apparent conclusion of the grand jury to which she had been subpoenaed, and before which she refused to testify. He further ordered that she pay $256,000 in fines which accrued each day she refused to cooperate with the grand jury. 

Needless to say we are relieved and ask that you respect her privacy while she gets on her feet.

Statement From Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team: Ms. Manning is Recovering in Hospital, Scheduled to Appear in Court Friday

Statement From Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team: Ms. Manning is Recovering in Hospital, Scheduled to Appear in Court Friday

Alexandria, VA — On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Chelsea Manning attempted to take her own life. She was taken to a hospital and is currently recovering. 

Ms. Manning is still scheduled to appear on Friday for a previously-calendared hearing, at which Judge Anthony Trenga will rule on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from her May, 2019 refusal to give testimony before a grand jury investigating the publication of her 2010 disclosures. 

In spite of those sanctions — which have so far included over a year of so-called “coercive” incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fines — she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse.   

Ms. Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself. 

Writing in a 2019 letter to Judge Trenga, Ms. Manning said: “I object to this grand jury … as an effort to frighten journalists and publishers, who serve a crucial public good. I have had these values since I was a child, and I’ve had years of confinement to reflect on them. For much of that time, I depended for survival on my values, my decisions, and my conscience. I will not abandon them now.” 

Her actions today evidence the strength of her convictions, as well as the profound harm she continues to suffer as a result of her ‘civil’ confinement — a coercive practice that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently said violates international law. 

Prior to her current incarceration, Ms. Manning served seven years in a military prison under unusually difficult conditions, including eleven months of solitary confinement. 

For more information about Chelsea’s ongoing legal situation visit:

Read Chelsea’s letter to Judge Anthony Trenga HERE

Read more about the UN Rapporteur on Torture’s letter calling for her release HERE

Those interested can send letters and words of encouragement to Chelsea at the following mailing address:    

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning
William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

Legal Team Files Motion to Release Chelsea Manning

Legal Team Files Motion to Release Chelsea Manning

Alexandria, VA — Today, attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen filed a Motion to Release Chelsea Manning, based on evidence, including an expert’s assessment of Chelsea’s personality profile, and a public condemnation of her “coercive confinement” by Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

Ms. Manning has now been incarcerated at Alexandria Detention Center for nearly a year, due to her principled refusal to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the publishers of her 2010 disclosures. She may be held for up to 18 months or until she agrees to cooperate. She is also fined $1,000 for each day she refuses to testify, those fines now total approximately $230,000.

According to Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Ms. Manning’s attorney:

“A witness who refuses to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena may be held in contempt of court, and fined or incarcerated. The only permissible purpose for sanctions under the civil contempt statute is to coerce a witness to comply with the subpoena. If compliance is impossible, either because the grand jury is no longer in existence, or because the witness is incoercible, then confinement has been transformed from a coercive into a punitive sanction, and thus is in violation of the law.”

As Ms. Manning explains: 

“My refusal to testify continues, predicated on my long standing belief that grand juries, as they function in the contemporary era, are often used by federal prosecutors to harass and disrupt political opponents and activists through secrecy, coercion, and jailing without trial. 

“My own current confinement reinforces my belief in their tendency to be abused in practice. I cannot agree to participate in such a process. No matter how much you punish me, I will remain confident in my decision. I have been separated from my loved ones, deprived of sunlight, and could not even attend my mother’s funeral. It is easier to endure these hardships now than to cooperate to win back some comfort, and live the rest of my life knowing that I acted out of self interest and not principle.” 

Today’s filing includes a personality assessment by Dr. Sara Boyd, suggesting that Ms. Manning is constitutionally incapable of acting against her conscience. “Ms. Manning exhibits long standing personality features that relate to her scrupulousness, her persistence and dedication, and her willingness to endure social disapproval as well as formal punishments,” it reads. “Ms. Manning … has not wavered in this decision-making regarding cooperation for the past [eleven] months and she did not make any statements indicating that… there was any information that could be provided to her that would change her mind.” This report provides yet more evidence that Ms. Manning will not be moved by confinement, and must therefore be released. 

Also included in the brief is a letter dated November 1, 2019, from U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, who concludes that the practice of coercive confinement constitutes “torture” in violation of international laws ratified by the United States. S.R. Melzer recommends that Chelsea be released “without further delay” and that her fines be “cancelled or reimbursed” since they are impermissibly punitive, being “disproportionate to the gravity of any offence she may have committed.”

“The key issue before Judge Trenga is whether continued incarceration could persuade Chelsea to testify,” said Ms. Meltzer-Cohen. “Judges have complained of the ‘perversity’ of this law: that a witness may win their freedom by persisting in their contempt of court. However, should Judge Trenga agree that Chelsea will never agree to testify, he will be compelled by the law to order her release.

“The evidence overwhelmingly supports the claim we have made from the beginning: Ms. Manning cannot be pressured into betraying her principles. If her confinement is not having a coercive impact, it has exceeded its permissible scope, and Ms. Manning must be released.”

Many organizations have come out in support of Chelsea and her principled stance, including: Amnesty International, Fight for the Future, Internet Archive, Defending Rights & Dissent, Media Alliance, Oakland Privacy, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Queerious Labs, Demand Progress, RootsAction, and Lucy Parsons Labs. Likewise, many friends and family made public statements or submitted letters of support to the judge in her case, Judge Anthony Trenga, including:  Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Stipe, Thurston Moore and many others.

As of the time of this statement, a petition launched by Fight for the Future at demanding that Chelsea be released has garnered a significant demonstration of public support, with more than 60,000 signatures

For more information, Frequently Asked Questions, Legal Precedents, and a complete archive of statements from Chelsea, including her letter to Judge Anthony Trenga explaining the history of Grand juries and her objections to them, see the new website at

A Note to Editors

Chelsea Manning is represented by Moira Meltzer-Cohen, appellate attorney Vincent Ward, and local counsel Chris Leibig and Sandra Freeman.


Motion to Release Chelsea Manning

More than 60,000 people call for judge to release Chelsea Manning, Press Release

What’s the difference between coercive and punitive incarceration?

How does a judge determine whether a witness is incoercible?

What factors are used by the judge to make an “individualized determination” regarding the intransigence of the witness?

How have grand juries and contempt sanctions been used or abused in the past?

Chelsea Manning Responds to United Nations Rapporteur’s Call For Her Release – UN Special Rapporteur on Torture: Release Chelsea Manning immediately, January 2, 2020

Letter to the US Government: Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, by Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, November 1, 2019

Executive Summary: Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Release, by Kelly Wright (Motion filed May 6, 2019)

Organizations Supporting Chelsea Manning

Individuals Supporting Chelsea Manning

UN Orders Canada to Halt Work on Trans Mountain Pipeline

UN Orders Canada to Halt Work on Trans Mountain Pipeline

Blue River BC — A new United Nations report orders Canada to cease construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline until informed consent is obtained from the Secwepemc people. 

“Now it is clear to the whole world every minute that Canada continues construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is a violation of the basic human rights of Indigenous people.”

That was how land and water defender Kanahus Manuel responded to the newly released United Nations report that has denounced Canada’s major resource projects on Indigenous lands saying they could “cause irreparable harm to indigenous peoples rights, culture, lands, territories and way of life.”

The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was also, “disturbed by the forced removal, disproportionate use of force, harassment and intimidation by law enforcement officials against indigenous peoples who peacefully oppose” the large-scale development projects and committee members were “alarmed by escalating threat of violence against indigenous peoples.”

“What is different about this UN report” says Manuel, “is they are not only condemning Canada, they are ordering that Canada cease major resource developments on Indigenous lands.”

Manuel, whose Tiny House Warriors have set up a village on the Trans Mountain Pipeline route near Blue River B.C., says this UN report clearly sets out Canada’s criminal actions against us.

The report orders Canada to cease construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and to cancel all pipeline permits and permission, until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from all the Secwepemc people. The UN body also ordered Canada to cease work on the Site C dam and on “the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people, until they grant their free, prior and informed consent, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult.”

The Human Rights Committee also condemned the “violent arrest and detainment” of Kanahus Manuel herself when her wrist was broken during a violent assault and arrest by RCMP officer at her home and protest site along the pipeline route.

The Committee further demanded that Canada refrain from using force against Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and associated security and policing services will be withdrawn from their traditional lands.

Responding to the recent revelation that the RCMP was preparing to use “lethal force” against land protector, the UN ordered Canada to explicitly prohibit the use of lethal weapons by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, against indigenous peoples.

“This condemnation by the United Nations it a first step,” Manuel said. “We will now be calling on Human Rights organizations from around the world to come to our territory to monitor the situation. We are asking for the world to step in to help us to oppose the dirty oil pipeline on our land and to fight against Canada’s criminal behaviour.”

Read the UN CERD Report HERE