Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, A Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other civil rights leaders spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But where were the female civil rights activists? At the historic march, only one woman spoke for just more than a minute: Daisy Bates of the NAACP. Today we are joined by civil rights pioneer Gloria Richardson, the co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland, which fought to desegregate public institutions like schools and hospitals. While Richardson was on the program for the March on Washington, when she stood to speak she only had a chance to say hello before the microphone was seized. Richardson is the subject of a pending biography by Joseph R. Fitzgerald, "The Struggle is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation." Richardson, 91, joins us to discuss the 1963 March on Washington and the censorship of women speakers; the Cambridge Movement to desegregate Maryland; her friendship with Malcolm X; and her assessment of President Obama and the civil rights struggle today.
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Tens of thousands of people gathered in the nation’s capital on Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, originally held on August 28, 1963. People filled the National Mall as speakers reflected on the progress in achieving the goals outlined by the event’s most famous speaker, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We spend the hour featuring highlights from Saturday’s event, with voices including 13-term Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march; Rev. Jesse Jackson; Rev. Al Sharpton; Julian Bond, former chair of the board of the NAACP and one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; the AFL-CIO’s Arlene Holt Baker; professor and author Michael Eric Dyson; and Medgar Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams. "This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration, nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration," King’s son, Martin Luther King III, told the crowd. "The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more. Paramount to Martin Luther King Jr.’s fervent dream was a commitment that African Americans gain full economic opportunity and not be confined to basic mobility from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. Today, with 12 percent unemployment rates in the African-American community and 38 percent of all children of color in this country living below the level of poverty, we know that the dream is far from being realized."
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Days after a federal judge approved the force-feeding of hunger-striking California prisoners protesting long-term solitary confinement, we air an exclusive audio recording of a prisoner who has not eaten since the protest began on July 8. Todd Ashker, one of the authors of the call to hunger strike, has been held for years in the Secure Housing Unit at Pelican Bay Prison after he received a life sentence for killing an inmate in 1987. We also hear from California Correctional Health Care Services spokesperson Joyce Hayhoe, questioned by Democracy Now!'s Renée Feltz. And we're joined by Azadeh Zohrabi, a member of both the Prisoners Mediation Team and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, as well as a Soros Justice Fellow at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
One day after a military judge handed down a 35-year sentence for leaking classified U.S. files to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning announced a gender transition to female under the name Chelsea Manning. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning said. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition." The announcement has raised many issues about how Manning will be treated in military prison, whether she will have access to hormone therapy and broader issues about transgender rights. We’re joined by two guests: Lauren McNamara, a transgender activist in Florida who became an online confidant of Manning in 2009 and later testified at the military trial; and Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.
The Syrian government is facing growing pressure to allow an international probe of an alleged chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian opposition says government forces fired poisonous gas into rebel-held neighborhoods of Ghouta, killing hundreds of people. Video posted on YouTube this week shows frantic scenes of overwhelmed hospitals, dead children and countless bodies. If confirmed, it would stand to be the most violent incident in Syria since the rebel uprising began two years ago and one of the worst toxic attacks in decades. The alleged attack occurred just days after U.N. inspectors arrived in the country to investigate previous attacks. We’re joined from Syria by Razan Zaitouneh, a lawyer and human rights activist who works with the Human Rights Violation Documentation Center. "We couldn’t believe our eyes," Zaitouneh says of witnessing the attack’s aftermath. "I haven’t seen such death in my whole life." We also speak with Patrick Cockburn, a longtime Middle East correspondent for the London Independent who recently returned from reporting in Syria. His latest article is "The evidence of chemical attack seems compelling — but remember — there’s a propaganda war on."
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In breaking news, defense attorney David Coombs has shared a statement announcing Bradley Manning’s gender transition to female and name change to Chelsea Manning. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning says. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition." Coombs said Manning had not wanted his sexual identity issues to become public, but they did after his arrest in 2010.
Just after Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday — and before Manning’s announcement of a gender transition earlier today — independent journalist Alexa O’Brien sat down with Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, for his first interview about the case. O’Brien was one of only a handful of journalists to cover the entire Manning trial and was the first to make transcripts of the proceedings publicly available. We air the interview in a Democracy Now! exclusive. Coombs talks about the government’s use of classified evidence, Manning’s reaction to the sentence and how much of the court record was hidden from the public. "I can’t believe that was actually the sentence he received," Coombs tells O’Brien. "Anyone who sat through the hearing and heard all the evidence, even in the closed sessions, there is not evidence there where you would think 35 years would be the appropriate sentence. I wonder now if there had actually been damaged or if he had really intended to harm the United States or wanted to obtain personal gain from selling classified information, just what the sentence would have been. Because this was a person who had true intentions. He wanted to help America. He wanted to get people to think about what was going on in Iraq. He didn’t have an evil motive in what he did."
Army Private Bradley Manning was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison and dishonorably discharged for leaking more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy. The sentence is much longer than any punishment given to previous government officials who have leaked information to the media. Manning could be released on parole in about seven years. In a statement released just after the sentencing, Manning has asked President Obama for a pardon. "When I chose to disclose classified information I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others," Manning said in a statement read by his attorney, David Coombs. "If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society."
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One week out from the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — and just days away from a major march this Saturday commemorating the event — we spend the hour looking at much of its forgotten history. More than a quarter-million people came to the nation’s capital on August 28, 1963, to protest discrimination, joblessness and economic inequality faced by African Americans. Many now consider the march to be a key turning point in the civil rights movement. We explore the largely untold history behind the march and how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, like his own political legacy, remains widely misunderstood. "I think today, the way the speech and the march are understood is wrapped in the flag, and seen as one more example of American genius, when in fact it was a mass, multiracial, dissident act," says Gary Younge, author of "The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream." "The powers that be really did not want this [march] to happen. The march was policed like a military operation." We also speak to historian William P. Jones, author of "The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights." "It really had a very profound effect on shifting the national conversation, even within the civil rights movement itself, toward a major focus on the connections between racial equality and economic justice," Jones says.
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The Obama administration has acknowledged it had advance notice British officials were going to detain David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has revealed the National Security Agency’s massive spy practices. Miranda was held Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport under Section 7 of the British Terrorism Act for nine hours — the maximum time he could be detained without charge. Miranda has just announced legal action against the British Home Office for his detention. Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed Snowden’s classified documents or handed them to British authorities. "At its core, what is at stake is the ability for a human being to have dignity and for journalists to have integrity with their sources, [threatening] the whole concept of a free democracy," says computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, who has been detained and questioned numerous times at airports. "And I don’t mean that as hyperbole, but if everything is under surveillance, how is it that you can have a democracy? How is it that you can organize a political function, or have confidentiality with a constituent, or a source, or with a friend or a lover? That’s an erasure of fundamental things that we have had for quite some time." We’re also joined by longtime British attorney Gareth Peirce.
On the heels of President Obama’s signing of a measure keeping federally subsidized student loans at a relatively low rate through 2015, Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibbi joins us to discuss how the high price of U.S. college tuition and the federal expansion of student debt to pay for it pose a major threat to the economy. In his new article, "Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal," Taibbi writes: "The dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan interest rates are almost irrelevant. It’s not the cost of the loan that’s the problem, it’s the principal — the appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008. ... Throw off the mystery and what you’ll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults." Taibbi says the federal government is poised to make $185 billion over the next 10 years on student loans, with no way out for the young borrowers: "Even gamblers can declare bankruptcy, but kids who enter into student loans will never, ever be able to get out of this debt."
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