Students gather at on-campus election party, shocked by result

By: Mina Corpuz and Abigail Freeman

Published Nov. 9 Print edition of The Daily Free Press

Boston University students hunkered down at the George Sherman Union Tuesday night to watch Donald Trump clinch the presidency of the United States.

Approximately 150 students gathered at BU Central and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground for the watch party, which was organized by the Dean of Students office, the Student Activities Office and the HTC. Projectors and screens in the areas featured CNN, MSNBC and live election maps from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Nicholas Fuentes, a Trump supporter who came to the watch party later in the night, said he is excited about what Republicans will do in the next four year. He and two other supporters donned “Make America Great Again” hats and carried around a blue Trump-Pence flag.

“For the first time since 1928, the Republicans are going to control the Senate, the House and the White House,” said Fuentes, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re going to hope to do a lot of good for people with that power. This is Brexit all over again. It’s a really solid victory.”

The year-and-a-half-long campaign came down to the early hours of Wednesday, when Trump gained an upper hand in the electoral votes.

Karol Montilla, a junior in CAS, said the results were a shock, but people should remain hopeful.

“Going forward, it’s important not to lose hope,” she said at BU Central. “I don’t feel hopeful now, but it’s important not to fear the future presidency. It’s important for people to speak out.”

Students chattered throughout the night and expressed anxiety about the close results.

Cristian Morales, a first-year graduate student in the College of Engineering, said the results make him feel uneasy.

“As a gay Mexican-American, I have a lot riding on this election,” Morales said. “I also volunteered a lot during the primary season, and because I was so involved in this, it means a lot. It’s really nerve-wracking.”

When the HTC closed at 1 a.m., students went to BU Central, which stayed open for another hour.

Natalia Deibe, a junior in CAS, stayed until the end of the watch party. She said the idea of Trump winning is disturbing.

“I’m very disappointed by America in general, how bigoted and xenophobic and disgustingly racist and sexist it is,” Deibe said. “He could say whatever he wants and they would still defend him.”

Flags, banners and patriotic decorations adorned BU Central. Students posed with cutouts of the two candidates throughout the night.

An “expression board” in the BU Central alleyway allowed students to write why they voted, what issues matter to them and why elections matter.

“I have a voice and it deserves to be heard,” one student wrote in purple marker. “Communities of color shouldn’t live in fear…” another wrote in red.

Earlier in the night, students cheered when states including Massachusetts, Virginia and California were called for Clinton. They booed when CNN called Florida for Trump.

Pedro Falci, assistant director of the HTC, said the atmosphere during election night is more conversational compared to the presidential debate viewing parties hosted by the center earlier this semester.

“Here it’s kind of passive as you’re watching the results come in, but you don’t need to be glued to the TV,” Falci said. “I’m seeing a lot of anxious students questioning what’s happening.”

The ambience among students evolved from comedic to tense as the night progressed. Students began to shed tears as Trump gained strong lead with electoral votes.

The HTC viewing party became more silent as the TV monitors showed a disappointed crowd at the Clinton headquarters in New York.

Ramya Babu, a senior in CAS studying math and political science, said she felt stressed at the watch party in the HTC. She said it’s disappointing that not as many people were excited about the chance to elect the first woman president in the country.

“So much of the attacks this election have been gendered,” Babu said. “People don’t give her enough credit.”

Fatmah Alquhaidi, a student at the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs, said she came to the watch party in BU Central with friends to see how others reacted.

“What shocks me is that most people I’ve seen on social media are against Trump, but when I see the results and what voters are saying, it’s interesting,” Alquhaidi said. “I didn’t think he would get this far.”

Alquhaidi, who is from Kuwait, said she wanted Clinton to win because she is an inspiration to women around the world.

“I like girl power,” Alquhaidi said. “I like that she’s a fighter. She’s an example of not giving up.”

She made a bet that if Trump won the election, she will buy her friend a coffee. If Clinton won, Alquhaidi said her friend would buy her one.

Rita Mayoral, a non-degree student in the Metropolitan College, said learning the results in BU Central gave her more insight on the American perspective.

“Instead of seeing it from my residence, I prefer to watch it surrounded by Americans to see

what they think or their reactions,” the exchange student from Spain said. “I study journalism, so it is very important for me to understand the election from inside.”

Alex Mowen, a junior in CAS, said the results made her fear for her safety.

“I wasn’t expecting myself of being scared,” she said at around 2 a.m., as students emptied out of BU Central. “Even if Clinton wins, there is still half the country that supports Trump. I’m ashamed and disappointed all of this has happened.”

 

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Inspection records raise health concerns on BU dining halls, restaurants

Published in  The Daily Free Press September 22, 2016 – Front page

Pink mold inside an ice machine. Dirty cooking equipment. Improperly stored rice from last night.

During an inspection last winter, these were among seven health and safety violations that city inspectors found in the Warren Towers dining hall.

In fact, according to a Daily Free Press review of Boston Inspectional Services Department’s public data, approximately 40 percent of the time, inspectors found violations eateries in and around Boston University’s campus between January 2015 and September 2016.

Fifty-six restaurants, dining halls and quick food stops along Commonwealth Avenue and streets branching off of campus amassed a total of 716 inspection violations.

“The mayor’s committee is making sure everyone has a really good dining experience in the city,” ISD Commissioner William Christopher said. “Our response is to ensure that. When we find violations, we want to correct them.”

The “Mayor’s Food Court” rates violations as noncritical, critical or foodborne critical, Christopher said. For example, food that isn’t heated or cooled properly can be a foodborne critical violation, he said.

About 67 percent of violations found in and around BU campus were not critical, yet 23 percent are foodborne critical and could pose a threat to students and residents, the review found.

On average, each eatery around BU had four inspections between 2015 and 2016. The number of violations for each establishment averaged to about 12, including eight non-critical violations and three foodborne illness critical violations.

The kosher dining hall inside the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House had 24 violations — the highest of all the BU Dining Services eateries. Its violations ranged from missing allergen advisories on menus to a lack of employees who are trained in anti-choking.

The next one on the list is Breadwinners on the second floor of the Questrom School of Business, with 17 violations, 10 of which are foodborne critical violations.

The Fresh Food Company at Warren Towers had 11 total violations over the year and a half, lower than the area’s average.

On the other side of the spectrum, Basho Express, Einstein Bros. Bagels in the basement of the College of Arts and Sciences and Starbucks at 700 Commonwealth Ave. had no violations between January 2015 and September 2016.

Scott Rosario, a spokesman for BU Dining Services, said city inspections are a standard practice.

“Dining Services receives inspections at 20 locations twice a year from the City of Boston,” he said. “Most often those inspections result in a pass without need for re-inspection. Occasionally a location will receive a fail with need for re-inspection.”

Anna Nizhnik, a senior in CAS, said her friends who work with BU Dining have told her stories about things that have gone wrong.

“It’s not the best, so I’m not entirely surprised, because I’ve known the quality of the food is not the greatest,” she said. “I still like Panda [Express.] I still like orange chicken, so I’m going to go there anyways.”

The city inspects all restaurants at least once a year, and all restaurants with critical violations will be re-inspected until they pass, according to ISD.

A management team oversees dining safety and sanitation to minimize potential violations, Rosario said.

“All of the Dining Services locations that have required reinspection have received a pass after their reinspection,” he said.

For students like Max Brewington, a CAS freshman, cleanliness and safety is always a concern. Brewington hopes BU will address that in the dining halls and the George Sherman Union.

“I understand that people make mistakes and stuff, but when it comes to health concerns, they should keep safety in mind,” Brewington said. “It’ll make me think about where I’m going and to look into places before I eat there.”

Eateries pass or fail inspections based on state sanitary codes, and the information is added to a database that is publicly available online, Christopher said.

While it is common for establishments in the BU area to have violations, data shows that only two of 56 restaurants failed their inspections — the McDonald’s on 540 Commonwealth Ave. and Thai Dish Authentic Cuisine in Kenmore Square.

Most restaurants pass their inspections, Christopher said. Eateries around universities fare as well as those in other parts of the city.

“It ebbs and flows,” he said. “There’s no consistent failure that’s problematic.”

Janelle Jorgensen, a first-year graduate student in the College of Engineering, said she frequently eats at places like Noodle Street because she does not have a BU dining plan. When she is on campus, she may stop at the GSU.

Jorgensen said health and safety violations aren’t usually on her mind when she goes out to eat.

“It’s one of those things you don’t really know what’s going on until stories like this come out,” she said. “You’d like to think that your food is being made in a clean, healthy way.”

Kalina Newman and Sophia Eppolito contributed to the reporting of this article.

Boston residents donate nearly $1.2 million to presidential campaigns

Published Feb. 18 in The Daily Free Press

By: Mina Corpuz and Carolyn Hoffman

Boston residents poured nearly $1.2 million into the campaigns of those vying for the presidency in the upcoming 2016 election, according to a Daily Free Press review of 2015 campaign finance reports from the Federal Election Commission.

Approximately 2,500 donations from Boston went to the eight remaining candidates in the 2016 race. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received 1,264 donations, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trailed slightly behind with 1,052 and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had 82 contributions from Boston residents.

The FEC sets a maximum donation of $2,700 for individuals per election, according to its website, but PACs and party committees can donate more on a yearly basis.

Seventeen state senators and legislators donated during the filing period. Sixteen of them gave to Clinton, and one gave to Rubio.

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim and Boston Chief of Staff Daniel Koh donated $300 and $500, respectively, to Clinton. Massachusetts Port Authority CEO Thomas Glynn and Boston Medical Center CEO Kate Walsh also contributed the maximum amount to Clinton’s campaign.

Business leader John Fish, of Suffolk Construction Management, gave $2,700 to Republican candidate Rubio, while automobile dealer owner Ernie Boch Jr. gave $2,700 to Republican candidate and businessman Donald Trump.

In August, Boch hosted a fundraiser at his Norwood home and contributed approximately $86,937 to the Trump campaign, but a significant amount had to be returned, for it exceeded the donation maximum. This deduction is reflected on the FEC filings.

Those who previously held office, including former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and former Massachusetts Govs. Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis also donated to Clinton’s campaign.

Overall, the Bay State contributed nearly 22,000 donations, totaling close to $6 million. All of the donations in Massachusetts came from approximately 7,200 individuals.

Individuals are allowed to contribute multiple times until they reach the maximum. One donor gave 90 small donations to the Sanders campaign.

Sanders collected more than 10,000 total donations from Massachusetts, and a third of those were from individual donors. He raised nearly $1 million overall with an average individual donation amount of about $90. This number is higher the $27 average contribution Sanders boasts about in rallies and debates.

With the exception of Trump, all the candidates raised at least $100,000 and received at least 100 donations in the commonwealth. Trump garnered nearly $50,000 while Clinton collected more than $3.5 million.

Massachusetts donors gave 2 percent of all campaign donations completed within the 2015 filing period.

James Johnson, a history professor in the Boston University College of Arts and Sciences, said individuals donate to campaigns because they are attentive citizens.

“I think people donate because, this election in particular with the vacancy in the Supreme Court, the stakes are extremely high,” Johnson said. “And those of us who follow and care about the course of our country want to do everything possible.”

Johnson said it is not surprising to see a large number of Massachusetts residents donating to Democratic campaigns.

“It’s perhaps not surprising in the fact that much of the Democratic establishment is based in Boston,” Johnson said. “I also think that as the spotlight shifts from one primary state to another, those who are new to the political process will kind of wake up and look around, and maybe there would be a surge for Bernie Sanders.”

Jon Roberts, also a history professor in CAS, said the amount of money a candidate raises does not guarantee a win.

“There’s not necessarily a correlation between who gets the most donations and who finally triumphs in the primary,” Roberts said. “I think if there’s one thing that recent elections have demonstrated, it is that money can’t buy an election in all cases.”

Several residents emphasized the importance of keeping campaign donations public.

Nick Cyrus, 26, of Jamaica Plain, said transparency in regard to campaign donations is important.

“I think it’s important that all campaign donations are public,” he said. “People have to reveal when they’re giving their money to something so political, and it’s good that anyone can see that.”

Candice Brooks, 37, of Back Bay, said she was not surprised that a majority of donations from Boston went Clinton’s way.

“I think it’s interesting that … a majority of the money from the area is going towards Hillary,” she said. “She has a lot of supporters in the area, and I think it’s interesting to see when pockets of the country have a tendency to vote for the same person.”

Spencer Gregson, 29, of Brighton, noted how important it is for people to see when public officials are giving their money to political candidates.

“It’s cool to look at where the money is coming from,” he said. “I think it’s good to see when people who are common household names in the area have given plenty of money to one candidate.”

Tsarnaev moves forward with appeal process

Published in The Daily Free Press Dec. 3 print

By: Mina Corpuz and Julia Metjian

While currently serving time in a maximum security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev looks to have a new day in court to challenge his death sentence.

The 22-year-old, who would have graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in May, instead saw the end of a two month trial that resulted in conviction on 30 counts and later the death penalty on six of the 17 counts that carried it, The Daily Free Press reported.

Back at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole heard three motions, which dealt with reconsidering the counts against Tsarnaev in a new legal context, access to firewalled information and restitution for victims, the FreeP reported Wednesday.

Rosanna Cavallaro, a professor at the Suffolk University Law School, said the fact that Tsarnaev was given a hearing is telling of the law system in the United States.

“In our system, even as someone who is reviled, someone who we think is horrible, who has admitted to the crime, is still going to get a lot of process, [and] a lot of very careful consideration of whether the way we’ve decided that they’re guilty is a fair way,” Cavallaro said. “We’re going to have another court here for the third time, for the same question.”

Within two weeks of his sentencing hearing, attorneys for Tsarnaev filed a “placeholder” motion for an appeal, the FreeP reported July 8.

“The government failed to prove each and every element of each and every charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt, and failed to prove each and every fact required to warrant the death penalty beyond a reasonable doubt,” the complete motion from Aug. 17 states. “In the alternative, the Court should order a new trial as to both guilt and/or penalty in the interests of justice, and the trial should be held in a different venue.”

In a Sept. 30 motion, the prosecution opposed Tsarnaev’s request to change the venue of the new trial, citing that Tsarnaev had no evidence that the jury was affected by factors like press coverage and social media.

Motions to change the court location of the trial were also denied by O’Toole.

Jack Greene, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, said due to the ongoing media coverage, finding unbiased jurors would have been difficult.

“Certain events get so much media coverage that it’s almost impossible to find people who might not know about the case,” Greene said. “So major cases like [this] it’s hard to find people in other parts of the country or Massachusetts that weren’t aware of the fact that there was a bombing event.”

Changing the venue of the trial, Greene said, would not have had a significant impact on the outcome of the trial because “people will be prejudiced.”

David Rossman, director of criminal law clinical programs at the Boston University School of Law, said the probability of a successful appeal for Tsarnaev is low.

“Since all of these claims were already presented to the trial judge before the trial began, the prospect of success is very slim,” Rossman wrote in an email. “Only about 10 percent of federal convictions succeed.”

The ruling for the appeal at the federal level will take about one year, Rossman said, adding that it is unlikely any judge will alter any decision that has already been made.

Cavallaro said a lawyer’s decision to advocate for an appeal is commonly observed in a court of law regardless of the likelihood of success.

“It’s what we call zealous advocacy. [Lawyers] exercise every option, they try everything,” Cavallaro said. “Even if it’s not likely at all to be useful, they still do it. So I think the lawyers know that there’s virtually zero chance that they will win on this motion, but they will still argue it as zealously as they know how.”

Several residents said relocating to a different city would not have a significant impact on the outcome of the trial.

Joe Conley, 29, of West Roxbury, said although it is common for a lawyer to make a case for an appeal, it is not appropriate in this case.

“The capacity exists for [Tsarnaev] to be appropriately judged in the city,” he said. “It’s the defense attorney’s job to argue it, but I don’t think that ultimately it’s correct.”

Hannah Mecaskey, 27, of West Roxbury, shared a personal perspective on Tsarnaev’s impact on the city of Boston.

“One of our friends was running the marathon that day,” she said. “She wasn’t hurt, but I think that a lot of people thought a lot about doing long distance runs, and it definitely impacted people as to whether or not they would do these runs. There’s been a big rally for more safety.”

Dominic DiLuzio, 30, of Jamaica Plain, said he does not think that moving the trial to a different location would have made a difference in the verdict.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the guilty verdict,” he said. “We know who did it. It just comes down to what the punishment would be in the end, but overall we know he did it. So I guess it’s just a matter of getting a punishment that [the lawyers] are comfortable with.”

Clinton pushes infrastructure plan, support for workers in Boston

Published in The Daily Free Press Nov. 30

With an endorsement from Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and support from several trade unions, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke about plans to bolster the economy and help workers Sunday afternoon at Faneuil Hall.

“There were lots of ladders [to the middle class], and people were often give a boost to get on that first rung. Now there are those who have turned those ladders down and left them in disrepair and are fighting us for putting them back up,” Clinton said to the crowd. “Well, I’ll tell you one thing. As your president, we’re going to have ladders of opportunity available for anyone willing to work hard.”

Hard Hats for Hillary is a group of trade unions including the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers that are endorsing Clinton for president.

Walsh said he is endorsing Clinton because he believes she is a champion for children, healthcare and human rights, while possessing the drive and experience to serve as president.

“It’s never been more clear. We need a champion in the White House for human rights, for working families and for the American working dream,” Walsh said to the crowd. “ … [We need] a candidate who doesn’t just talk the talk, but actually gets the job done. There’s only one candidate for president, and she’s standing right behind me.”

Approximately 1,000 people attended the rally held in the marketplace’s Great Hall. Those who did not make it inside the ticketed event watched remarks outside on a video screen.

Local elected officials including U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark of the 5th district of Massachusetts, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and leaders from the state legislature and Boston City Council were also present.

“My job plans starts with investing in infrastructure,” Clinton said. “Not just because infrastructure jobs are good paying jobs and not because we desperately need to invest in building our future again, though we do, but because investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”

Noting the rough winter Boston faced and how public transportation struggled, Clinton emphasized how it could be improved with a national infrastructure bank. Approximately $275 billion would go to additional investment in regional and national projects, she said.

Clinton also looks to create a national energy system and expand access to broadband Internet as part of her goals to better connect communities.

Without a strong workforce, Clinton said, the potential for infrastructure cannot be realized. She thanked the trade unions for “investing in their workforce” and “preparing the workforce of tomorrow.”

Members from the IUPAT wore black shirts while those from LIUNA wore orange shirts. They joined others from the crowd to hold up signs saying “Fighting for us.” The crowd was lively and cheered for many of the key points Clinton made.

“I want us to be ready for the future, but more than that, I want us to shape the future,” Clinton said. “I want our cities to be in the forefront of cities anywhere in the world. I want our workers to be the most competitive and productive in the world. I want us want us once again to thing big and look up beyond the horizon for what’s possible in America.”

In closing, Clinton talked about how although her parents came from difficult backgrounds, they “believed in this country” and how she hopes her granddaughter can grow up in a world where everyone has the same opportunities.

Wes Kennedy, 55, who is visiting from Los Angeles, said he used to work for the Democratic National Convention in Washington and is a longtime supporter of the party.

“She’s clearly our nominee and I wanted to hear what she had to say,” he said. “It was great. [What she had to say] was very uplifting [and] spot on. She’d make a great president.”

Scott Duhamel, assistant to the General President of the IUPAT, said he thought the rally was a success.

“It was a hell of a great way to kick off Hard Hats for Hillary,” he said. “She has the support of hard hats unions, nine of them so far out of the 17. We hope to see more jump in.”

Daniel Kontoff, an activist protesting outside the Great Hall from Brighton, said Clinton is not the best candidate for the people because of her track record.

“People don’t look at her voting record,” he said. “They’re very ignorant about who she is. She’s all about Wall Street … I’m here to educate people and protest their ignorance.”

Hannah Shimanski, 19, a campaign volunteer and student at Fisher College, said she enjoyed hearing Clinton talk about issues important to workers unions.

“The fact that she came and spoke in such a historical place and the weight of the endorsement from Walsh is great and possibly means she can come back to Boston more,” she said. “Everyone seemed interested and going in Hillary has a lot of support in Boston.”

Legal action against Bill Cosby proceeds in Massachusetts

Published in The Daily Free Press Oct. 13

With countless women making allegations of sexual assault against him dating back to the 1970s, actor and comedian Bill Cosby is facing three lawsuits related to some of these claims.

On Saturday, attorney Gloria Allred, representing Judy Huth in a case against Cosby out of Los Angeles, said the actor appeared in Boston Friday for deposition to make statements that can be used as evidence.

“We will be filing motions with the court in connection with the disposition,” Allred said at a news conference at the Omni Parker House. “ … We will also be seeking to take a further deposition of Mr. Cosby at a later date.”

Huth was 15 years old when Cosby allegedly gave her large amounts of alcohol and sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, according to court documents.

Due to a protective order on Cosby and Huth’s depositions, Allred did not specify where Cosby’s deposition took place. The proceedings lasted nearly eight hours, Allred said, but she did not comment on the information discussed.

Allred also did not disclose the location of Huth’s deposition, which will take place Thursday.

“The court wants to be sure that both parties receive a fair trial, but the Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Karlan recognizes that the public has an interest in this case,” Allred said. “On December 22, 2015, Judge Karlan will take these concerns into account when he makes a further decision regarding which portions of the transcript of the depositions should remain sealed and which portions, if any, should be made public.”

Cosby also faces a defamation lawsuit by three women who allege that he drugged and sexually assaulted them. Disparaging comments made by Cosby’s agents about Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Triatz’s accusations have damaged their reputations, according to court documents.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni, based in Springfield, denied a request to throw out the suit.

“The court recognizes that some jurisdictions do apply a version of the conditional self-defense privilege, which allows individuals, in certain circumstances, to publish defamatory responsive statements necessary to defend their reputation,” Mastroianni wrote in a 38-page ruling. “However … such a privilege does not permit a defendant to knowingly publish false statements of fact.”

Joseph Cammarata, the attorney representing Green, Serignese and Traitz, said they plan to take Cosby’s deposition as soon as possible, and preferably in Massachusetts because it is where Cosby resides.

“My clients are heartened that they have an opportunity to present their case in court and the ability to restore their good names and reputations,” Cammarata said. “We look forward to vigorously pursuing the case and the opportunity to present our case to a jury and let them decide who is telling the truth.”

Model Chloe Goins also filed a lawsuit against Cosby on Oct. 6 seeking damages for harm she has faced after an alleged sexual assault. Goins was 18 at the time of the alleged incident in 2008.

In a deposition from a 2006 lawsuit unsealed in July, Cosby admitted to obtaining prescription Quaaludes and giving them to women with the intent to have sexual contact with them.

As a result of sexual assault allegations and the unsealed deposition, several universities have severed ties with Cosby by discontinuing scholarships and rescinding honorary degrees.

Martin Singer, Cosby’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

Several residents said they support the legal action being taken against Cosby.

Stephanie Silva, 32, of Allston, said she is glad to hear about charges being pursued against Cosby in light of his terrible actions.

“Everything I’ve heard about Bill Cosby and his actions has been disgusting and horrifying,” she said. “Honestly, there should be legal action taken against him and I hope he is punished for his actions.”

Jeremy Breu, 27, of Brighton, commented that just because Cosby is famous doesn’t mean he shouldn’t face consequences for his terrible actions.

“You know, everyone has to be held accountable for their actions, even famous people, especially famous people. Bill Cosby did some really terrible things and it’s good if he’s facing consequences for it,” he said. “Just because someone is famous and has done well for themselves does not mean they should get to get away with doing whatever they want.”

Amine Zlaoui, 33, of Brighton, said people are justifiably outraged at Cosby and he should be penalized for everything he has done.

“Everything that’s been revealed about Bill Cosby is absolutely despicable,” she said. “It’s good the lawsuits are moving forward. He did a lot of terrible things to a lot of people and everyone is really angry, as they should be. He needs to be punished for everything that he has done.”

Olivia Quintana contributed to the reporting of this article.

 

Thousands flock to rally with Bernie Sanders

Published in The Daily Free Press Oct. 5, 2015

Continuing to draw large crowds, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke out about various forms of inequality before more than 20,000 supporters Saturday at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Supporters filled the space to capacity, leaving a crowd outside on the adjacent Lawn on D. The rally is the third largest Sanders has hosted, behind those in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, which both took place in August.

“I want you to think not small but big,” Sanders said to the crowd. “This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and I want you to think about all that we can we accomplish … [we can] create a nation where everybody no matter their race, religion, disability or sexual orientation realizes the full promise of equality is our birth right as Americans.”

Climate change activist Bill McKibben, National Nurses United Co-President Karen Higgins, Boston Carmen’s Union President Jimmy O’Brien and University of Massachusetts Boston nursing student Jillian Brelsford addressed the crowd before Sanders took the stage.

Sanders called income inequality “grotesque” and the worst it has been since 1928. To fight that, he proposed addressing issues including unemployment and pay equity.

“Wages in America are just too damn low,” Sanders said. “ … That is why we have got to realize that the minimum wage is a starvation wage. That minimum wage has got to be raised to $15 an hour. It would not be a left wing extremist idea to say to someone that works 40 hours a week, that that person should not live in poverty.”

Members of the crowd waved “Bernie 2016” signs and a group of eight stood together and held up the letters “B 4 Bernie,” or Boston for Bernie. The crowd responded to many of Sanders’ remarks by cheering or booing.

Sanders offered support to those affected by the Friday shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and spoke about how stricter gun laws need to be enacted to prevent similar acts of violence.

“Guns should not be in the hands of people who should not have them,” Sanders said. “We already have a system of background checks that needs to be strengthened. Gun violence is a result of a so called ‘gun show loophole.’ Gun dealers are not licensed and sell weapons and avoid instant background checks. That has got to stop.”

Reforms to the criminal justice system also need to be made, Sanders said, to continue to address institutionalized racism.

Sanders said family values, as members of the Republican Party see them, do not support women’s right to make decisions about their bodies and gay individuals’ choice to marry.

“To conservatives and pundits the government should not be involved in our lives. Give me a break,” Sanders said. “… I have four kids, seven grandchildren and I’ve been married for 27 years. We believe in family values.”

Regarding immigration, Sanders said people should be given support and a path to citizenship. A comment  made by Republican candidate Donald Trump about Mexican immigrants being “rapists” and “murderers” will not be tolerated, Sanders said.

Political participation is an issue especially for young adults, people of color and the working class, Sanders said, because getting people to vote is one way to bolster democracy.

“When we increase the voter turnout, it ain’t gonna be contested,” Sanders said. “We’re going to win hands down.”

Approximately 25 percent of people said they would vote for Sanders in the democratic primary, second behind former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has 46 percent, according to a Friday poll from Reuters and Ipsos.

Clinton stopped in Boston Thursday to speak with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey about drug addiction, The Daily Free Press reported.

Sanders ended his remarks by welcoming people to “the political revolution,” and walked off stage to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” He shook hands with members of the crowd and later went outside on the lawn to speak with those who did not make it inside.

Several attendees said they were impressed with Sanders’ ideas and they will continue to support him.

Grove Harris, 57, of Cambridge, said income inequality needs to be addressed and Sanders is the candidate who will do it.

“His values are in the right place,” she said. “He is practical about economic change and has got the big picture square in mind.”

Nadia Noormohamed, 22, is a student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and said she looks forward to seeing youth participate in the primary vote.

“If he can win the primary then he can win the election,” she said. “It’s not just about coming to rallies and posting on social media. It’s about getting out the vote.”

Maura Embler, 49, of Woburn, attended with her family and said she saw Sanders speak in Washington before he announced his candidacy for president.

“I will support him at the primary with my vote,” she said. “I’ll continue to spread the word. It’s exciting because I have been waiting my whole life for someone who is as well spoken as him. I hope he can get past the primaries

Leaders, activists look forward to BPD body camera pilot

Published in The Daily Free Press Sept. 24 print

Following nearly a year of conversation between activism groups and state leaders, the Boston Police Department is closer to implementing a pilot program to test the use of body-worn cameras for officers.

“I’ve never said no … I just want to get it right so we’re not wasting all kinds of money and we’re not invading peoples’ privacy,” Boston Police Department Commissioner William Evans said in a Sept. 15 interview with Jim Braude on WGBH’s news talk show Greater Boston.

Evans said he has been working with BPD’s legal staff, unions and potential vendors to get the program started.

“I wish I could snap my fingers and it would happen tomorrow, but there’s so many issues regarding privacy,” Evans said. “There’s so many issues on cost and hiring people. It’s not an easy overnight fix.”

Bonnie McGilpin, a spokesperson for Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, said the mayor shares Evans’ sentiments about the use of body cameras.

“Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans agree that body cameras for Boston police officers could be a valuable investment in our police force,” McGilpin said in a statement. “But they believe that body cameras are only one tool in police work, and do not address the fundamental problems of inequity in our communities.”

Beyond body cameras, Walsh wants to focus on addressing inequality, strengthening community relations and building trust between residents and officers, McGilpin said.

Walsh first endorsed a body camera program for BPD last year, which came out of a national conversation about the deaths of several unarmed black men at the hands of police, The Daily Free Press reported on Dec. 11, 2014.

Segun Idowu, co-founder of the Boston Police Camera Action Team, said the group supports the pilot and appreciates Walsh and Evan’s change of heart, but added that BPCAT members remain “cautiously optimistic.”

“We again wanted to meet with them so we could offer our opinions on the fact that it should be a very extensive program where it should be up to a hundred officers that are wearing this or more, and they’re not just in the black community,” Idowu said, “because even though this is an issue that is spurring out of what was happening in Ferguson, [Missouri,] every community has to live with this.”

Idowu said BPCAT worked on a general policy that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation, with ideas stemming from conversations with members of the community and law enforcement.

“The policy we produced is essentially something that responds to those concerns and we also feel is fair to the officer. We didn’t want to create something just out of our emotional response to what we saw in Ferguson and Baltimore and Staten Island, [NewYork].”

Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey introduced the policy as an ordinance at an August City Council hearing, leaving it up for consideration and eventually a vote.

BPCAT also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts to create a more specific body camera policy, which was released on Sept. 16.

Christopher Ott, a spokesman for the ACLUM, said working on policy and informing the community can play a role in whether a body camera pilot is finally put in place.

“In order for this program to work, it needs to have community support,” Ott said. “Body cameras help promote accountability on both sides of the badge. Unfortunately we have seen incidents caught on camera, but [cameras] have helped bring people to justice and spread awareness. It goes both ways.”

The Massachusetts State Police is also looking into body cameras, said spokesman Tom Ryan. A committee has been formed to consider their use, and the group will give their recommendation to MSP Superintendent Richard McKeon later in the fall, Ryan said.

Several residents said they look forward to a body camera pilot for BPD.

Yandara Botelho, 22, of Brighton, said body cameras can support both the police and whomever they are interacting with.

“It should be something natural or just an auxiliary thing,” she said. “They should do their job the same way because for me the cameras are to help them do their jobs.”

Carlen Lopez, 38, of the South End, said recorded interactions between the police and public can provide clarity.

“If you let it be known to the residents that police officers have body cameras, they will be aware that they’re being recorded,” she said. “It’s not that it was a hidden camera or whether it was on. As long as you have awareness I don’t see how it’s invasion of privacy.”

Lukas Posh, 20, of Brighton, drew parallels between the debates going on in Boston with those going on in his home country of Germany.

“I’m rather in favor of them,” he said. “If the police behave correctly there’s no consequences of behavior. The police stay anonymous as long as they haven’t done anything wrong.”

The labor beat: How student journalists cover campus workplaces

Published Sep. 21, 2015,  the Student Press Law Center

I spoke to Elaina Koros about covering negotiations between Boston University service workers and SEIU 32BJ and the university.

In addition to overseeing coverage as Campus Editor, I reported when members of the union voted on strike authorization and subsequently about the settlement agreement and its impact.

Obama visits Boston, pushes paid leave at Labor Day breakfast

Published The Daily Free Press

U.S. President Barack Obama urged support for paid leave for workers Monday at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s Labor Day breakfast.

“We’ve got millions of people who can’t care for a loved one with a serious illness without losing a paycheck or risking their job,” Obama said in his speech. “I’m calling on Congress to take a cue from the rest of the world, work together in a bipartisan fashion, find a way to make paid leave, paid family and medical leave a reality for all Americans.”

An executive order, signed by Obama on Monday, would require federal contractors to give workers up to seven paid sick days annually.

Nearly 700 labor union members and organization supporters gathered at the breakfast held at the Park Plaza Hotel.

Supporting workers, Obama said, ultimately helps the entire country.

“When you make sure everybody gets a fair shot and a fair shake, and you’re fighting for decent wages for workers and making sure they’ve got decent benefits, when you reward people who are playing by the rules, that’s how everybody does better,” Obama said. “That’s how America gets ahead.”

Obama also addressed concerns of the middle class, work going on in Washington and the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Leaders including Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Massachusetts Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Steve Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, a national trade union, offered remarks at the breakfast, highlighting the role unions play and the issues they support.

Walsh talked about how labor unions have made the country stronger, but added that more can be done to bring in more people of color and women.

“Labor can’t afford to be divided or distracted,” Walsh said.

Warren spoke about how union members laid the ground to advocate for workers.

“Unions were on the front lines in the fights for the minimum wage, for social security, for Medicare and for the Voting Rights Act,” Warren said. “Corporations and billionaires already had a powerful voice in this country. Unions made sure working people had a strong voice, too.”

Tolman said labor unions have helped push issues important to all workers.

“The labor movement gives us collective power to improve quality of life for all and to create a society of people over profit,” Tolman said to the crowd. “To my union brothers and sisters, when we work together and fight together, we win together.”

Before the breakfast began, nearly 100 Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority workers protested by the Park Plaza Hotel to express opposition to privatizing the MBTA.

Several attendees expressed support for the ideas shared during the breakfast and what leaders are doing to address them.

Don Schaefer, 68, a member of the Service Employees International Union Local 3 for firemen and oilers, said it’s a relief to see attention paid to improving work conditions.

“I’m just so sorry we have to be hearing things now about work that needs to be done,” he said. “I was part of the ’60s generation that went out in the streets to bring justice to the country. It’s really uplifting about correcting wrongly neglected social ills.”

Monalisa Smith, president and CEO of Mothers for Justice and Equality, said she appreciates that leaders are taking part in the national conversation about workers.

“It’s very exciting, very encouraging to know there’s an emphasis to help individuals working to get housing and other services they need to protect and build a middle class in America,” she said. “I hope to see a real reinvented emphasis on ending poverty, which leads to ending street violence.”

Veronica Turner, executive vice president for the SEIU 1199 for healthcare workers, said Obama is an example of a leader that supports working people.

“It’s an expectation of mine that our elected officials support working people … the economy is so bad right now and so many working people are struggling,” she said. “I’m a huge fan and I don’t agree with all that he [Obama] says, but I believe he is right where working people need to be.”