The Texas Civil Rights Project last week filed a lawsuit against four San Antonio police officers, saying they “brutally dragged” an activist who staged a sit-in at the Mexican Consulate two years ago, then unjustly arrested his four friends waiting for him outside a local hospital. The lawsuit names the Texas Indigenous Council and Antonio Díaz, who founded the group, as plaintiffs in the case.
On April 29, 2009, Rodolfo Macias, a long-time political activist with a penchant for public protest, staged a sit-in at the local Mexican Consulate after he was denied political asylum, Díaz said. When consulate officials tried to close the building for the day, they took the rare step of calling local police onto what is considered Mexican territory.
Macias, an undocumented immigrant, suffered a hairline fracture to his femur while being dragged out by police, the lawsuit states.
Díaz, who was on the phone with Macias during the ordeal, gathered friends to meet at the Metropolitan Hospital downtown, where Macias was taken after his arrest.
Díaz and the others stood on the sidewalk outside the hospital, but were soon met by several officers telling them to leave or face arrest. “At first, they mainly seemed mad because we had a camcorder,” Díaz said.
Díaz returned to Bexar County Jail last week with six volunteers to hold a voter registration drive. “So many of them don’t even know that they can vote, they don’t know they have that right. … It’s about equality to begin with for us. They have to have the same access.”
Díaz and the volunteers registered over 200 inmates before the deadline despite hitting a wall of misinformation at almost every step. Many of the prisoners and some guards wrongly thought any incarceration excluded inmates from the voting process. However, only felony convictions sever inmates with their right to vote — a right that can be regained after completion of punishment (including incarceration, parole, or any supervision), according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“We know that those that end up in jail don’t always understand their rights,” Díaz said. “When `prisoners` start to understand they have the same rights as their guards, they may start to realize, as far as their civil rights are concerned, they’re equals.”
Equality may have been one of those notions that occurred to former inmate Joe Sanchez when former Bexar County jailer Daniel Melgoza Jr., 54, was kicking him in the head back in 2004. Last week, Melgoza was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for denying Sanchez his right not to be kicked in the head and then lying about it. Now it appears a new investigation into possible jailer abuse has gotten underway.
Paperwork released to the Current under state open records law includes two complaints by inmates about two additional jailers. According to a letter written to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Jason Medina has been held at Bexar County Jail since late 2008 awaiting trial for a weapons-related charge. In the letter, Medina claims a jailer assaulted him in September of 2010 — an assault Medina claims was caught on videotape. A hand-written note on the letter states that Jail Administrator Roger Dovalina had approved an internal investigation into the case. Jail spokesperson Linda Tomasini said Chief Deputy Dale Bennett was handling the case (Bennett, however, referred questions to internal affairs). It was unclear as of press deadline whether an investigation has been opened in a second complaint, filed in October 2010 by inmate Rey Prado. In his complaint, Prado suggests that a jail guard sexually assaulted him in a utility closet and that after he filed grievances against the jailer, that jailer threatened his life several times and threatened to rape him. “I am in fear of my life and in fear from further assaults sexually/physically from my assailant,” Prado writes, before restating a request for a restraining order against the jailer.
Improvement has been too slow to come to San Antonio ISD, and prominent, otherwise-progressive local Dems — like San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro — are frustrated enough that they’ve turned against an established Democratic school board member to support a board member of a deeply troubled charter school who supports educational vouchers for the state and boasts connections to one of SA’s most controversial conservative advocates.
State Representatives Ruth McClendon (D-San Antonio), Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), and Mayor Castro all endorsed Joy McGhee over SAISD Board President James Howard, her lone opponent. The endorsements came despite the Texas Democratic Party’s stated opposition to a voucher program, which party leadership warns would “siphon off limited public education funds for inequitable, unaccountable voucher and privatization schemes.” The endorsements also flew in the face of party. McGhee voted as a Republican in the 2004 primary.
McGhee is president of the board for the “academically unacceptable” School of Excellence in Education that was taken over by the Texas Education Agency after it was discovered that taxpayer money was being misspent.
According to WOAI, the School of Excellence board members ignored information showing that former superintendent Ricky Hooker was misusing taxpayers’ money, and the TEA subsequently confirmed that Hooker used a School of Excellence credit card to pay for personal expenses and airline tickets for himself and his wife.
Jaime Castillo, Mayor Castro’s spokesperson, said that the mayor believes, considering SAISD’s TEA ranking of academically unacceptable status, many of the long-serving SAISD board members need to be replaced. But Castillo also said that Castro is just now becoming aware of some of McGhee’s history and positions. “Obviously we didn’t turn over every stone,” he said.
McGhee and McClendon both failed to return calls seeking comment. Villarreal, who has a child attending SAISD, said that more parents should be on SAISD’s school board. Villarreal endorses McGhee because she has children who attend SASID and because she is “committed to changing the direction of student performance” there.
And with a voucher program already tried and failed, according to Villarreal, that ideological divide has no bearing on Villarreal’s endorsement. He added that any ideological or philosophical similarities between James Leininger and McGhee are irrelevant to most voters. “What’s most important to me is what’s happening in the classroom.”
Leininger, one of the richest people in San Antonio and the state, has funded nonprofits and political candidates who oppose honest sex education. Leininger-supported elected officials and nonprofits have supported what many consider anti-enlightened standards for Texas textbooks, restricted legal recourse for consumers and employees, and opposed gay rights, women’s rights, and unions. A relationship between Leininger and McGhee would likely have developed when McGhee went to work for Leininger’s holding company, Mission City Management, where she worked for about seven years, according to her website.
It comes as no shock that some Republicans in the Lege consider transgendered individuals out of line with their “moral ideals,” but a duo of GOP lawmakers announced this week their plans to roll back what little progress Texas made on transgender rights just two years ago.
Legislation drafted by state Senator Tommy Williams of Houston and Representative Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham would prohibit trangendered people from using proof of a sex change operation to obtain a marriage license in the state of Texas.
Williams has claimed the state constitution clearly defines marriage “between one man and one woman,” and that he’s trying to scrub the state law passed in 2009 in order to line it up with the Texas Constitution. Not to be outdone, Perry’s office has said the governor never even intended to let transgendered people marry when he signed the bill in the first place, insisting the sex-change language made it into the 2009 bill under the radar.
The fear among LGBT advocates is that the move would not only ban future marriages but could retroactively invalidate existing ones. Dan Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democrats, remarked, “If you’re all for family values, how could you advocate for nullifying loving marriages?”
“To me, this smacks of a small-minded ignorance. … We were hoping we could avoid legislation that targets the LGBT community, but it seems this year they’ve decided to pick on the ‘T’.”
Ruby Krebs, a local transgendered activist and San Antonio Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio board member, remarked, “Of course this hurts me. It doesn’t give me the opportunity to live a normal life, and it’s just so stupid that it’s almost not worth commenting on. … `Lawmakers` should be up there doing real work, not throwing political footballs.”
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