Strategic Planning Meeting This Wednesday

pius libraryThe Amnesty International St. Louis group will be holding its 2016 strategic planning meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, starting at 7 p.m. Instead of meeting at Hartford Coffee Company, we will be meeting at Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Library (pictured) in room 101C. The reason for the location change is that Hartford closes at 9 p.m., and this meeting may run longer than two hours. Pius is also more conducive to this type of meeting, and with an Einstein’s Bagel Bros. located inside, the coffee should be just as good.

What’s the Strategic Planning Meeting?

The Strategic Planning Meeting is a chance for the group to determine what human rights issues we’d like to work on, what types of events we want to have, and what we want to prioritize in 2016. If you want to have a say in any of these things, then it would be great if you attend the meeting!

You don’t have to have previously attended an Amnesty STL, or have experience working with human rights and/or Amnesty International, to attend the Strategic Planning Meeting. If you have ideas about what human rights issues we should work, or some great event ideas, or if you simply want to get started in human rights activism, then please join us!

Here are a couple of things to think about to prepare for the meeting:

  • What human rights issues should Amnesty work on this year?
  • What should we prioritize as a group i.e. membership, human rights awareness, fundraising, recruitment?
  • What kinds of events should be have to accomplish our goals?
  • What should our goals as a group be for 2016?

Meeting Details Recap

  • Who – Amnesty STL and fellow human rights activists
  • What – Strategic Planning Meeting
  • When – Feb. 10 from 7 p.m. to ~10 p.m.
  • Where – Saint Louis University’s Pius XII Library, Room 101C
  • Why – To figure out what we want to do for the rest of 2016

Hopefully we’ll see you there!

 

Join Amnesty in Miami for AGM 2016!

AGM2016placeholder

#OurWorld

Every spring, Amnesty International holds its national conference, or Annual General Meeting (AGM). The conference is a great opportunity for Amnesty members and human rights activists around the country to gather and meet, learn more about various human rights issues, learn strategies for better activism and leave feeling inspired to do more! This year’s AGM takes place in Miami, Florida during the first weekend in April and this year’s theme is “Change Our World.”

Agenda

The conference agenda isn’t set in stone, but prepare for a jam-packed weekend with great speakers and even better info to add to your human rights activism! Activities start at 10:30 a.m. EST, but the official opening isn’t until 3:30 p.m. Attend early if you’re in (or interested in) a leadership position with Amnesty. Otherwise, come at 3:30 for the official opening, or earlier at 2 p.m. for a human rights action (the specific details for the action are TBD).

How to Attend

There are a couple of things you need to know if you wish to attend the conference.

  1. Registration: You need to register for the event by March 28. Early bird registration costs $145 for non-Amnesty members and $120 for Amnesty members and ends Feb. 29. Membership is NOT INCLUDED in the registration fee. There are discounts for students, senior citizens and those on a limited income. You can register for the conference on Friday or Saturday of the event as well.
  2. Travel and Lodging: The conference is at a hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport and Convention Center. Amnesty does have a special rate for rooms at $199/night. Make sure to mention your Amnesty International affiliation to receive the special rate. The rate only lasts until March 4, so book as soon as possible. If the hotel is already full, then there are plenty of other options nearby.
  3. If you are a minor, or are considering bringing your children to the conference, then this waiver needs to be filled out and signed.

Amnesty STL Travel Arrangements

At this time, the St. Louis local group does not have any travel arrangements set. If you’re interested in attending the conference, then it’s best to plan your travel and lodgings on your own. We will announce any changes to the travel arrangements.

Hope to see you in Miami! Please contact us if you have any questions or comments regarding the conference!

 

First Letter Writing Meeting of 2016!

 

Amnesty letter writing meeting

Every fourth Tuesday of the month, our local group meets to write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world. Previously, we’ve written letters on cases in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, Bahrain, the U.S., Ethiopia, Tunisia, and many more. Writing letters may seem like a waste of time, but they work, and you can make an incredible difference in the lives of those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.

Letter Writing Meeting Details

Writing a letter isn’t hard, and only takes about 10 minutes to complete. The toughest part is actually writing a letter on a piece of paper (how often do we write anything by hand nowadays?). Whether you want to write one letter or one million, please join us tomorrow for Amnesty’s first letter writing meeting of 2016!

  • Who: Amnesty International members and human rights activists
  • What: Write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world
  • When: Jan. 26, 2016 from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford Coffee Company, 3974 Hartford St. 63116
  • Why: To help those who’ve had their human rights violated and who don’t have a voice of their own

At every meeting, we have anywhere from six to 12 cases for people to choose from. Therefore, you don’t have to write letters on every single case and you don’t have to write letters on issues, countries or cases you aren’t interested in. If you want to learn more about what we’ll be working on, then below is a list of some of the countries that will be offered at the meeting, along with a short summary of the case Each bullet point includes a link to background information so you can learn more about each of the various cases if you wish.

  • Iran: Urging the government to drop charges against a filmmaker for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illicit relations”
  • Turkey: Asking the authorities to stop arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of movement through 24-hour curfews in three towns
  • Thailand: Urging authorities to drop charges against activists who peacefully asked for an inquiry into corruption allegations
  • Jordan: Urging the government to allow 13,000 Syrian refugees into the country

All We Need is You!

If interested in attending, then please join us! You don’t have to bring anything to participate in the letter writing. We will provide pens, paper, envelopes, stamps and all the information needed to write an effective letter. You don’t have to have experience writing letters to foreign governments and there’s no obligation to contribute resources or materials.

First Meeting of 2016!

amnesty business meetingWe’re 12 days into the new year, and most people have probably broken their resolutions by now. However, if your resolution is still intact, and involves one of the following:

  • Being more active in the community
  • Learning more about human rights
  • Doing more for others
  • Serving non-profits and/or other organizations working on social issues

Then tomorrow is the time to start! The Amnesty International St. Louis group is having their first meeting of the year Wednesday, Jan. 13. If you want to uphold your resolution this year or simply get involved with human rights and a vibrant community group, then here’s your chance. Below are the details of tomorrow’s meeting:

  • Who: Amnesty Local Group #105 and anyone interested in human rights
  • What: Amnesty Business Meeting
  • When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford Coffee Company at 3974 Hartford St, 63116
  • Why: To start preparing for another year of activism and to learn more about human rights issues happening domestically and abroad

You Don’t Have to Be a Human Rights Expert to Attend!

If you don’t know a lot about human rights and haven’t been involved in anything like Amnesty International before, then that’s okay! We’re constantly learning ourselves, as the different issues change regularly and we learn more as Amnesty and other organizations continue to do human rights research.

So, don’t let that stop you! We’re happy to answer any questions you may have! If you’re also interested in working one or two specific human rights issues, then that’s great. In fact, if that’s you, then you should definitely attend this meeting as that’s part of what we’ll think and talk about. We haven’t made any decisions for what we’ll do or what issues we’ll work on in 2016, so please attend if you want to have a say in our human rights activism for the year.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

18 Important Human Rights Developments in 2015

human rightsCan you believe 2015 is almost over (and that the last time we blogged was over a year ago)? We accomplished so much in the past year and half, but this post is going to focus on 2015. This year was a big year for human rights, with both major milestones and major setbacks. Here are 18 important human rights developments that have taken place, or will take place, in 2015:

January 9

Raif Badawi, a blogger and prisoner of conscience sentenced by Saudi Arabia to 10 years and 1,000 lashes is publicly flogged for the first time. While the immediate global outcry helps prevent additional floggings, he remains behind bars. Raif’s cruel and unjust sentence is upheld by the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court in June, casting a further stain on that country’s already bleak human rights record.

January 22

A young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage is granted a pardon by El Salvador’s Parliamentary Assembly – giving hope to the other 15 women languishing in jail on similar charges.

Update: One of those 15 other women is Teodora del Carmen Vasquez, who suffered a still-birth in 2007 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide.” She’s one of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights cases this year.

March 10

Amnesty calls on Mexican authorities to investigate and address torture after the United Nations releases a scathing report detailing how this sickening practice is widespread among the country’ police and security forces.

April 28

Amnesty calls on Paraguay to repeal its draconian anti-abortion law after a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after she was repeatedly raped, allegedly by her stepfather, is denied the option of an abortion.

Update: The girl, now 11, gave birth in August.

May 6

The Chicago City Council passes landmark legislation providing reparations for torture committed by former Chicago Police commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command. The reparations package marks the first time that survivors of ractially motivated police torture in the United States have been given the reparations they are entitled to under international law.

May 21

Legendary folk singer Joan Baez and world -renowned artist Ai WeiWei are awarded the 2015 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, which recognizes those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights through their life and work.

May 27

Nebraska becomes the 19th U.S. state to abolish the death penalty.

Update: Nebraska’s repeal is still in limbo. A petition drive to overturn the abolition succeeded in getting enough votes, so the state will vote on a statewide referendum in November 2016. It’s important to note that Gov. Pete Ricketts, whose veto of the death penalty was overturned by the unicameral legislature, spent $200,000 of his own money to fund the petition drive.

June 1

Amnesty declares the expiration of the USA Patriot Act a symbolic repudiation of the claim that “national security” justifies giving the government an indefinite license to commit systematic rights violations.

June 8

U.S. District Judge James Brady grants Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox unconditional release after he has languished in solitary confinement for more than four decades and had his conviction overturned three times. The State of Louisiana has appealed the ruling and Amnesty continues to advocate for Albert’s freedom.

June 26

The Supreme Court of the United States issues a historic ruling affirming the right of same-sex couples across the country to legally marry.

Amnesty marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with a global push for governments to respect the ban on torture and hold torturers accountable.

July 9

Amnesty calls on Chinese authorities to end their assault on human rights lawyers after more than 200 lawyers and activists were targeted by police in a nationwide crackdown.

August 7

Amnesty marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by shining the spotlight on the use of lethal force and racially discriminatory conduct by law enforcement officers and calling for reforms at the local, state and national levels.

August 11

An Amnesty investigation on sexual abuse by UN peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic sends shock waves globally, leading UN Sec. General Ban Ki-moon to remove the head of the Peacekeeping Operation and triggering a call for reform of accountability measures for UN peacekeeping troops around the world.

September 8

A Union of Protection: Amnesty International’s Agenda for Refugee Protection in Europe is released, setting out the urgently needed changes in Europe’s approach to the escalating refugee crisis.

September 15

Amnesty USA brings Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, to Washington to lobby the U.S. government to do more to convince Saudi Arabia to free Raif and respect the rights of all people.

September 23

Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were pardoned by Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. In August, Amnesty International had said the guilty verdicts handed down against the two journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were an affront to justice that sounded the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt. Journalist colleague Peter Greste, who had left Egypt, had also been convicted in his absence.

September 25

The U.K. government announces that Shaker Aamer, held for over a decade without charge at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, will be transferred to the U.K., where his family resides.

December 4 – 18

Amnesty International holds Write for Rights, the world’s largest human rights event, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to send letters on behalf of 12 cases of individuals at risk, including prisoners of conscience.

Update: Join Amnesty STL for their own Write for Rights event on Dec. 12! We’ll be at Schafly Bottleworks from 4 – 9 p.m. writing letters and having a good time. If you want to take action against human rights abuses and help those in need, then please stop by on Dec. 12 to write some letters! Even just one letter would make a huge difference!

How to Get to the 2014 Midwest Regional Conference

Amnesty International Midwest RegionalThis year’s Amnesty International Midwest Regional Conference, if you haven’t yet heard, is in St. Louis at the Sheraton St. Louis City Center. If you’re not from St. Louis, or familiar with the Gateway to the West, then that information just sounds nice. The upcoming event, although awesome, also sounds too far away or too expensive for many in the Midwest to attend.

However, that’s an assumption that simply isn’t true for this year’s regional conference. Fortunately, for Amnesty members and human rights activists, the venue for this year’s conference is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from a major mass transit center. So, getting to this year’s conference is easier than ever before, no matter the transportation option. Here’s how to get to the 2014 Midwest Regional Conference:

By Plane

Flying is the most expensive way to get to St. Louis, even if your flight is just an hour or two. But, if you choose to get to St. Louis by airplane, then getting to the Sheraton St. Louis City Center from the airport is very easy.

  1. From the airport terminal, follow the signs directing you to the nearest Metrolink station. Lambert International Airport has two terminals, but each terminal has its own station.
  2. Purchase a two-hour ticket to ride the Metrolink. A two-hour ticket costs from the airport costs $4.00 (it will cost half as much when you need to go back to the airport). The ticket machines do accept debit and credit cards, but they also only give you change in $1 coins.
  3. Make sure you validate your ticket at the red validation stands BEFORE getting on the train. The stands are either located next to the ticket machine or at the entrance to the station platform. Security guards do walk through the stations to check your tickets and aren’t very lenient to tourists. Those who ride with unvalidated tickets are fined, so don’t take your chances.
  4. The trip from the airport to the CIVIC CENTER metro station is about 45 minutes, so enjoy the ride until you come to the CIVIC CENTER station (pictured below). The station is right across the street from the Sheraton (you can’t miss it), so simply exit the train at this stop and walk across the street.
  5. Enjoy the Midwest Regional Conference!

Civic Center Regional Conference

By Amtrak

The Amtrak may only be convenient for a few people since St. Louis is directly serviced by three Amtrak routes: two from Chicago and one from Kansas City, Mo. Although Amtrak is one of the more affordable transportation options, many will have to take the train to Chicago or Kansas City first before getting on a direct route to St. Louis.

  1. Find a way to get to Chicago or Kansas City, whichever is closest to you.
  2. Take the right Amtrak route, which would be the Illinois Service (Chicago), Missouri River Runner (Kansas City), or the Texas Eagle (Chicago).
  3. Exit at the St. Louis Gateway Station, also known as Amtrak Station STL, which is pictured below.
  4. Make your way past the Metrolink station to reach 14th street. Cross 14th street to reach the Sheraton, which is pictured above.
  5. Enjoy the Midwest Regional Conference!

Civic Center Metro Station

 

By Greyhound

The Greyhound buses may have a bad reputation, but the bus is one of the more affordable and convenient ways to travel to the conference this year. The Greyhound station, just like the Amtrak and the Metrolink station, is right across the street from the conference hotel.

  1. Schedule your trip with Greyhound. Our research found that only four cities in the Midwest have direct, express routes to St. Louis: Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Champaign, Ill.
  2. You may have to leave Thursday or early Friday to make it to the conference on time. Those coming from Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan will have to leave on Thursday or miss Friday’s activities.
  3. Those coming from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and other parts of Missouri can leave early Friday morning and still make it on time.
  4. Those in Minnesota and Wisconsin can either choose the express route from Minneapolis or Milwaukee or can choose to leave Thursday if you are coming from another part of the state.
  5. Enjoy the train ride.
  6. Make your way past the Metrolink station to reach 14th street. Cross 14th street to reach the Sheraton, which is pictured above. The bus station and the train station are in the same building, although the loading areas are in two different spots.
  7. Enjoy the Midwest Regional Conference

Hope this Helps

Many Amnesty members may decide against attending this year’s regional conference because the St. Louis location is too prohibitive. Hopefully, our explanation of the various transportation options makes attendance less of a hassle since it’s easy to get to the Sheraton via Amtrak, Greyhound or airplane. None of these options requires city knowledge to navigate the streets. Mass transit will take you to the conference in one trip.

Metro station photo courtesy of NextStop STL.

Amtrak station photo courtesy of Count on Downtown.

Save the Date: The 2014 Midwest Regional Conference

Amnesty International Midwest RegionalMark your calendars to bring human rights home! The 2014 Amnesty International Midwest Regional Conference is in St. Louis this year! The three-day conference is scheduled for October 24-26 as the Sheraton St. Louis City Center in downtown St. Louis, right across the street from the Civic Center Metrolink station on 14th Street.

Pencil in the Dates Today

The registration page for the conference isn’t available yet, but if you are sure that you want to attend the conference, then make sure to book your rooms at the hotel now! Hotel rates for the conference are $85 per night, but the rate only lasts until Sept. 20 and are subject to availability. Besides the discounted room rate, conference attendees will also receive free Internet access in the room and discounted parking at the rate of $10 per day.

If you’re perhaps interested in volunteering, then we will be announcing when the volunteer sign-up page is live on the Facebook event page as well.

If you want to know when the registration page goes live, which should be before the end of the month, then please pledge your commitment to attend on our Facebook event page. This page will feature any and all updates regarding the conference, including when the registration page goes live and when we finalize speakers and sessions for the conference.

What to Expect from This Year’s Conference

Speaking of the sessions and workshops, the final agenda for the conference is still being determined. However, we already know of a few topics that will be covered, whether through a panel discussion, a workshop, a main speaker, or through a community action that will take place over the weekend. Those topics include:

  • Gun Violence
  • The Death Penalty
  • Write for Rights and prisoners of conscience around the world
  • Identity and Discrimination with women and/or the LGBT community
  • Security and Human Rights, such as Guantanamo Bay, Torture, Drones or Surveillance (it’s possible more than one of these topics will be featured)
  • Immigrants’ Rights, Criminal Justice, Environmental Justice or Worker’s Rights (it’s possible more than one of these topics will be featured)

Our Chapter is Participating!

Not only is the Amnesty International St. Louis chapter attending the conference, but many members of our chapter are also on the Planning Committee for the conference. This means the success of the conference rests with the local chapter, and we are proud of that responsibility. Our goal is to make this conference the best Midwest Regional Conference yet, and the best regional conference this year of all the regions. We believe we can achieve this goal, but reaching our goal won’t be possible unless you attend!

Please mark your calendars today for the last weekend in tomorrow! Please help us bring human rights home!