NY Times: Walmart employee trampled to death

. . . Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.

… “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

… A Wal-Mart spokesman, Dan Folgleman, called it a “tragic situation,” and said the victim had been hired from a temporary staffing agency and assigned to maintenance work. Wal-Mart, in a statement issued at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said: “The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this tragic time.”

Wal-Mart has successfully resisted unionization of its employees. New York State’s largest grocery union, Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, called the death of Mr. Damour “avoidable” and demanded investigations.

“Where were the safety barriers?” said Bruce Both, the union president. “Where was security? How did store management not see dangerous numbers of customers barreling down on the store in such an unsafe manner? This is not just tragic; it rises to a level of blatant irresponsibility by Wal-Mart.”

What is wrong with these people?! It is one thing to go out and try to get bargains (many of my friends and family enjoy doing this as an annual tradition and have fun doing it — and I must confess that I have become quite the fan of the Big Lots store in Lawton), but it is something else when morally bankrupt selfish people like this would actually behave in this manner, by actually killing to get a bargain.

I personally think criminal charges should be brought against a lot of people involved in this tragedy. Here’s my list of suggested indictees for the DA’s office in that community…

1. The Wal-Mart corporation and the Wal-Mart store manager. — If things were at the point that they couldn’t keep the crowds back, the they should have announced that they weren’t opening at all on that day and that they were calling the police to clear the crowd. Wal-Mart’s failure to prevent this forseeable tragedy was criminal.

2. When a windows shatters like this, people in the crowd had to know that there was extreme danger. I think anyone who crossed the line and entered the store through the broken window should be charged. I’m not a NY lawyer so maybe I missing something, but I see potential charges of — criminal trespassing, manslaughter, negligent homicide, assault and battery, et al.

3.If security cameras actually capture images of people stepping on this poor man, they should be charged with murder.

What is also incredibly disgusting to me is that this Wal-Mart RE-OPENED a few hours later. WTF!!! Talk about disrespect!

Frankly i am so disgusted and so angered, I can’t see straight. And to add insult to injury, the man killed was a temp worker. He likely was being paid very low wages and had no benefits. And now he is dead.




Stories like this make me wonder if there is any hope for America at all. (and I’m sorry but this happened in the era of Obama, so obviously his election isn’t going to solve most of these problems)

In fact I would go as far as to say that if our political leaders had any guts at all, they would proclaim a national day of mourning and ask that all of the retail stores shut down for a day. Why not? I think we all need a breather to ask where our country is going?


Colorado Springs Independent: Trading uniforms— Two Fort Carson desertion trials shed light on the route from post to prison – by J. Adrian Stanley

I got a real kick of how Adrian (btw, despite the spelling of her name,she’s a woman) described me in this story…

James M. Branum has a Southern drawl that stretches words like warm taffy. You might suspect this big guy with a big mustache of having a worldview shaped by sweet potato pies, American flags and Bible study.

You’d be at least partially right.Branum was raised a conservative Christian and an unquestioning patriot. But about five years ago, he began examining his long-held beliefs.”I had been challenged by a Catholic at that point about being pro-life, and this person said, ‘How can you call yourself pro-life if you support the war and support the death penalty?'” Branum says.

Branum began gravitating toward passivism, and rejecting the idea that your own country is superior. Now, Branum is a Mennonite minister in Oklahoma. He’s also an attorney, representing soldiers who want out of the military — conscientious objectors, and those with health problems, family hardship or harassment claims. Every case is different….

(One tiny correction, I started asking the questions regarding the morality of war about 8-9 years ago. This journey of questioning reached a bit of a climax 5 years ago when I joined the Mennonite church.)

From here, Adrian tells about the Tony Anderson trial. She does a great job (especially with the accompanying picture) of showing Tony’s youth and the vulnerable honesty he let the court see when he gave his statement.

On the Daniel Sandate case, she lays out the basic story quite well, but it the final sentence that really clicks. It was and still is the big question looming before Daniel Sandate an those who care about him. And I won’t ruin the punch for you, so go read the article.

Also, just a reminder that I am still raising money to help pay for the costs of defending Daniel Sandate. I am still $500 short of what I need to pay my local co-counsel (Bill Durland) and to cover my own expenses and time. Please consider giving.


Mennonite Weekly Review: Goshen policy on anthem topic for debate

I’ve posted a comment on this story (which you can read by following the link above and scrolling past the story), but on further thought have decided to discuss this in more detail here. First, though, let’s look at Goshen College’s response to this story and the local press coverage of the situation…

Goshen College: Background on recent events related to Goshen College and the National Anthem (at the bottom of this story are links to some of the local/national media coverage, except that the South Bend Tribune story can only be found via Google cache now)

The Mennonite (reprinting a story from the Goshen News): Conservative radio host upset with no-anthem policy at Goshen College

Going back to the substantive issue at hand, I am proud that Goshen College is not only standing firm in its practice but also using the opportunity to witness to others about the non-violent teachings of Christ. However, this pride is tempered by the fact that I have learned that many Mennonite colleges have chosen to not follow our tradition and instead have chosen to bow down before the idols of nationalism and militarism. Here’s a quote from the Mennonite Weekly article that describes this great wrong…

Goshen is not alone in that tradition; Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., and Hesston (Kan.) College also do not play the anthem.

However, other U.S. Mennonite schools — Bluffton (Ohio) University, Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., and Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University — do play the anthem before sports events.

I am stunned by this news. I am writing to the schools in question (but particularly to Bethel College, which is heavily supported by my own Western District Conference) to ask them to justify this practice, and further to ask why Mennonite Churches should support them if they continue to practice this idolatrous mixing of faith and patriotism.

And for those of you who think I’m making too much out of nothing . . .



I’m a wobbly again

I let my dues lapse in the Industrial Workers of the World shortly after finishing law school (partly due to poverty and partly due to not being sure if a lawyer could be a wobbly — in other words, is my place of relative privilege as an attorney something that makes me not a worker anymore?), but after talking to the General Secretary of the IWW I’ve decided to reinstate my membership.

My reasons for doing so is that I want to solidify my own commitment to labor justice and to purposefully throw my destiny in with those of the rank and file workers.

I could certainly be a different kind of lawyer (and if I was, I don’t think I could be part of the IWW), but instead I have purposely chosen to identify with workers (in this case, the poor desperate kids who join the Army and who want to be free). And this identification isn’t purely a matter of ideaology, as I don’t make much money doing this.

And I don’t need or want employees (partly because I can’t afford them but mostly because I don’t like the “employer-employee” mindset… I don’t want to be bossed around by anyone else, so I sure don’t want to boss anybody else around) so I think that area doesn’t exclude me from eligibility to be a member of the IWW either.

Anyway hopefully you’ll see more news from the global struggle for labor justice on this blog in the future, as I’ll be getting one of the best labor publications around (The Industrial Worker


An injury to one is an injury to all  Industrial Workers of the World



I was sent this picture tonight via email. It means a great deal to me, as it gives some degree of tangible proof regarding the oral history in my family of our Cherokee roots. (my ancestors, like many, did not sign the Dawes rolls) 

 Ella England


(you can click on the thumbnail above to see a full-size picture) The girl on the right-hand side is Ella, my great-great-grandmother. Her grandmother is in the center. 


GIRightslawyer.com: The Daniel Sandate case


MindFreedom.org: If it’s Wednesday, then Ray Sandford is Getting Escorted from His Home for Another Forced Electroshock — Minnesota Resident Gets Involuntary Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) On A Weekly Ongoing *Outpatient* Basis. Action: How You Can Easily E-mail Minnesota Governor

The past Wednesday morning after the historic USA election what were you doing?

I know what Ray Sandford, 54, was doing.

Each and every Wednesday, early in the morning, staff shows up at Ray’s sheltered living home called Victory House in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, adjacent to Minneapolis.

Staff escorts Ray the 15 miles to Mercy Hospital.

There, Ray is given another of his weekly electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments, also known as electroshock. All against his will. On an outpatient basis.

And it’s been going on for months…

If you read the rest of this alert, you’ll find out that Ray Sandford’s conservator, Tonya Wilhelm of Luthern Support Services of Minnesota, actually said that the law said that no one could publicly talk about Ray’s case without her consent (even though Ray himself had contact Mind Freedom for help).

I don’t think there is such a law (and if there is, it is unconstitutional as all get out), so that’s why I’m reposting this action alert.

Mind Freedom International encourages all concerned people to contact the Michigan governor, Lutheran Support Services of Michigan, and the Evangelica Lutheran Church of American (which runs LSS) to demand that Ray Sandford’s right to be free of invasive and terrifying procedures that are given to him against his will. Here’s the link with info on how to do this.


Disloyal Opposition: Yes, we can draft your ass  (thanks to AJY for sending me this link)I would be ok with the option of service to one’s community in exchange for free college education, but not for some kind of massive “civil defense force.” This is not a good sign for what is to come under Obama. I hope I am wrong. 


Such a heart-breaking email to read, but the quote from Anne Lamott (in bold-type below) says it all. Dawn will still come. Prop 8 passed by such a small margin, so it is time to take this fight to the next level.

Prop. 8 was a direct blow against ALL MARRIAGE, gay and straight. In fact as a straight man, I wonder if I fell in love and wanted to be married, would it be right to enjoy the rights denied to gay people? Prop 8 taints what should be a noble and beautiful thing — a commitment to love another person “until death do us part.”

So, this fight ain’t over. The right to love is at stake, and its hard to think of anything more sacred than that.

Dear James M., We had hoped never to have to write this email.Sadly, fueled by misinformation, distortions and lies, millions of voters went to the polls yesterday and said YES to bigotry, YES to discrimination, YES to second-class status for same-sex couples.And while the election was close, and millions of votes still remain uncounted, it has become apparent that we lost.There is no question this defeat is hard.Thousands of people have poured their talents, their time, their resources and their hearts into this struggle for freedom and this fight to have their relationships treated equally. Much has been sacrificed in this struggle.While we knew the odds for success were not with us, we believed Californians could be the first in the nation to defeat the injustice of discriminatory measures like Proposition 8.And while victory is not ours this day, we know that because of the work done here, freedom, fairness and equality will be ours someday. Just look at how far we have come in a few decades.Up until 1974 same-sex intimacy was a crime in California. There wasn’t a single law recognizing the relationships of same-sex couples until 1984 — passed by the Berkeley School District. San Francisco did not pass domestic-partner protections until 1990; the state of California followed in 2005. And in 2000, Proposition 22 passed with a 23% majority.Today, we fought to retain our right to marry and millions of Californians stood with us. Over the course of this campaign everyday Californians and their friends, neighbors and families built a civil rights campaign unequalled in California history.You raised more money than anyone believed possible for an LGBT civil rights campaign.You reached out to family and friends in record numbers — helping hundreds of thousands of Californians understand what the LGBT civil rights struggle is really about.You built the largest grassroots and volunteer network that has ever been built — a coalition that will continue to fight until all people are equal.And you made the case to the people of California and to the rest of the world that discrimination — in any form — is unfair and wrong.We are humbled by the courage, dignity and commitment displayed by all who fought this historic battle.Victory was not ours today. But the struggle for equality is not over.Because of the struggle fought here in California — fought so incredibly well by the people in this state who love freedom and justice — our fight for full civil rights will continue.Activist and writer Anne Lamott writes, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” We stand together, knowing… our dawn will come.Dr. Delores A. JacobsCEOCenter Advocacy ProjectLorri L. JeanCEOL.A. Gay & Lesbian CenterKate KendellExecutive DirectorNational Center for Lesbian RightsGeoff KorsExecutive DirectorEquality California


A quote for today

“We are not as divided as our politics might suggest” – Barack Obama