News

Merton Awardee of 2017 Lifts Up the TMC

By Neil Cosgrove and Bette McDevitt

(Photo Caption: Vince Warren speaking at the Thomas Merton Award Dinner. Photo credit: Steve Capri)

Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), called the Thomas Merton Center “an extraordinary beacon for peace and justice” at a press conference prior to his organization’s receiving the 2017 Thomas Merton Award.  As for CCR itself, Warren said the group had two basic aims, to “use laws creatively to fight government and corporate abusers” and to enlarge public awareness of inequality because “social justice happens when people raise their voices.”Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), called the Thomas Merton Center “an extraordinary beacon for peace and justice” at a press conference prior to his organization’s receiving the 2017 Thomas Merton Award.  As for CCR itself, Warren said the group had two basic aims, to “use laws creatively to fight government and corporate abusers” and to enlarge public awareness of inequality because “social justice happens when people raise their voices.” When he spoke at the Award Dinner, he reviewed the challenges that we have faced in our shared struggle to maintain our civil rights over the years, and when he spoke of the present time,….he  broke away from his historical narrative with these words “You’ve got to be kidding me!!” He brought the house down; we knew well what he meant. Warren had made himself familiar with the history of the Merton Center, and commended  the audience for the  wide range and depth of activity and projects that TMC has taken on over the years, and  reminded us  that the Merton Center had been one of the most heavily surveilled peace groups in the country during the the 1980’s. On the same day as the Award Dinner the Trump administration announced it would remove Temporary Protected Status for nearly 60,000 Haitian immigrants as of mid-2019, even though, according to National Public Radio, 20% of those immigrants own homes, and 27,000 of their children have been born in the U.S. Warren observed that “black immigrants, particularly black immigrants from Haiti, have the least amount of political capital.” Consequently, CCR will continue to support efforts to prevent the deportation of those immigrants. Mr. Warren also deplored the current situation in Puerto Rico, noting that CCR was “challenging the privatization of Puerto Rican utilities prior to the hurricane.”  He described how supplies have been commonly shipped to armed military bases “with no access to the people.”  Desperate storm victims who seek to get at those supplies therefore become criminalized. CCR has been in the forefront of legal efforts to protect the human rights of Guantanamo detainees since the prison began operating in 2002.  Warren said his organization’s approach to assisting the original detainees, now 41 in number, has been necessarily “improvisational,” balancing legal strategies with “political realities.”  He said CCR has been “thinking about a range of approaches” that cannot be revealed just yet, while suggesting one challenge might be that the “justification for keeping them there 15 years later has to be different.” Warren gave credit to his colleague and TMC member, Jules Lobel, attorney, professor at University of Pittsburgh Law School, and past president of CCR. He praised Lobel, lead attorney in the  landmark case Ashker v. Governor of California, a successful challenge to long term, indefinite solitary confinement that has changed the lives of thousands of prisoners.  When asked what he saw during the past year as the most egregious violation of constitutional rights, Warren stated that “all violations are terrible.”  Then he added that when a president under investigation “claims the power to fire the person investigating him” and seeks to further protect himself by attacking the media and organizers, “that’s what we have to keep our eye on.”

Categories: News

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s