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And then this happened…

Zahid Chaudhry can stay home.

On March 12, Judge Paul DeFonzo restored Zahid Chaudhry to the legal resident status he had been granted in 2001. Thus ends a 17-year saga of mistreatment and frustration during which Ann and Zahid Chaudhry and a large group of faithful supporters persevered in their opposition to the US government’s continuing efforts to deport Zahid. The Immigration Services attorney reserved the right to appeal the decision, but for today, Zahid is home.

Citizens to the rescue!

In the March issue of WIP, we covered an important election at a normally little-noticed agency, the Thurston County Conservation District. The election was seen as one that might enable two disruptive board members to wrest control of the agency and its operations from the Executive Director. A few votes could make all the difference.­ In the preceding Board election a total of 271 people voted.

This time was different. A few thousand scruffy people showed up for the combined plant sale-election on a cold Saturday morning in March. 2,101 of them voted for Paul Pickett, an environmental engineer and the candidate supported by environmental activists. 275 voted for Joe Hanna, a support enforcement officer.

The farming community and the rest of us can look forward to the District returning to its historic mission along with the restoration of an orderly and objective process for conducting business.

Vindication for the Olympia Co-op and its support for BDS.

A Washington court has finally dismissed as meritless a suit that had been lodged against the board of the Olympia Food Coop. Almost 8 years ago, the Co-op Board moved to support Palestinian civil society’s call for a Boycott-Divestiture-Sanction (BDS) movement to put pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine. Five members of the co-op then sued the board and its individual members, hoping to undo the decision and to collect monetary damages from the board members. Initially, their suit was deemed a SLAPP action (1) and thrown out, with the plaintiffs required to pay the costs. After the state Supreme Court found fault with the SLAPP statute and sent the case back to lower courts, the plaintiffs essentially abandoned the suit until recently.

“We are thrilled to be found in favor of for a second time on this frivolous lawsuit,” said defendant Grace Cox. “We are proud of our attorney team, and proud of our community for supporting us, and grateful for the outpouring of solidarity from around the world. Taking a stand for economic and social justice is at the heart of the co-op’s mission. Given Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights, we would have failed in this mission had we not approved a boycott.”

Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech. The two organizations report widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and anti-Semitism and baseless legal complaints targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights.

The Co-op was represented in the case by CCR Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood, along with attorneys Bruce E.H. Johnson and Brooke. E. Howell of Davis Wright Tremaine of Seattle.

(1) SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, designed to deter public activism.

Bryson and André are home.

Brothers Bryson Chaplin and André Thompson were sentenced to jail for assault after being shot in the back by Olympia Police officer Ryan Donald, responding to a call about shoplifters in May 2015. André was released last Fall. Bryson was picked up in February in a stretch limo labelled Warrior. Puyallup Tribal Councilman James Rideout “Uncle Jim” had arranged the pick up to take Bryson and his family to a ceremony welcoming him home by breaking bread with the community at the Puyallup Little Wild Wolf Youth Center on March 4. (from Crystal and Renee Chaplin)

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