Amnesty OKC is a small group of human rights activists but they have been pretty busy the past few months. Check out the highlights of what they’ve been up to. Reposted from the Amnesty OK blog. (Note, I am a member of the chapter.)
Amnesty OKC News Roundup, Dec. 2016
Election of 2017 Officers
Amnesty International Oklahoma City, Local #238, announces the chapter officers for 2017. The election was held on Dec. 5.
Group coordinator (Chair): Rena Guay
Group Co-Coordinator (Vice-Chair): Sara Bana
Secretary: Victor Gorin (re-elected)
Treasurer: John Walters (re-elected)
The group meets monthly on the first Monday at Church of the Open Arms, 3131 N. Pennsylvania, Oklahoma City. All are welcome at the meetings. Chapter membership is open to all who support the AI mission and dues are on a sliding scale, $0 – $25, based on ability to pay.
Photo 1: Newly elected officers (L to R): Victor Gorin, Rena Guay, John Walters (not shown: Sara Bana)
Photo 2: Shot of Amnesty OKC meeting on Dec. 5, 2016
Write for Rights 2016
On Dec. 3, 2016, the chapter had its most successful “Write for Rights” event in years at the Full Circle Bookstore. Participants wrote letters in support of Individuals at Risk around the world, signed holiday greeting cards to all prisoners on Oklahoma Death Row, and added their names to a letter to President Obama seeking clemency for Chelsea Manning, an Oklahoma native who the organization considers a prisoner of conscience, serving a 35-year sentence at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth prison. The event is an Amnesty regular event to mark International Human Rights Day, which is Dec. 10.
Photos of event by John Walters: https://goo.gl/photos/NC2jiu3UsVQus6wk7
Fall legislative visits
In November, chapter members visited the offices of their US Senators and Congressman Steve Russell to discuss Amnesty USA-selected key legislation pending in Congress. On this visit, the bills were S. 3241 and H.R. 5851, known as the Refugee Protection Act of 2016, for which Amnesty USA is seeking co-sponsorship and support by members of Congress.
John Walters, who serves as the chapter’s Legislative Coordinator, said of the recent meetings: “Amnesty meets with our policymakers regularly to address serious human rights concerns in foreign nations or related to US laws. We are grateful to our congressional representatives, and their staffs, for always making time to listen to our concerns.”
“For this most recent visits with Rep. Russell, we were joined by a member of the United Nations Association of Oklahoma City, said Rena Guay, newly elected Group Coordinator for Amnesty OKC. “Members of other local groups who share our position on the bills being addressed are always welcome to join us for these bi-annual advocacy events.”
More photos by John Walters: https://goo.gl/photos/HaLrUjMV9HUG2db46
OKC Chapter members featured in Rhythm N Rights video
Chapter members John Walters, Victor Gorin and David Brinker make an appearance in a Youtube video made by Amnesty USA to promote its Rhythm ‘N Rights project, The short segment shows them staffing a table in Tulsa at a Paul McCartney concert, while wearing orange jumpsuits to symbolize prisoners incarcerated at “Girmo” the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Amnesty OKC and State Question 776
Amnesty OKC played a significant role in the grassroots effort to educate Oklahoma voters about SQ 776, though the work of its members who worked on the campaign to defeat the initiative. Member Connie Johnson served as Chair of the PAC and Sara Bana served as the state coordinator of the Think Twice OK campaign. Johnson and Rena Guay also made public presentation to groups around the state, while Guay also assisted with the web site and other online communications. Amanda Armstrong was a key volunteer as well, as events coordinator. The chapter received a grant from Amnesty USA’s Special Initiative Fund to bring two death row exonerees to the state to make public appearances for the campaign.
While the ballot measure, which sought to put the death penalty into the state constitution, was passed by 66% of the voters in the state on Nov. 8, areas in central Oklahoma where the campaign canvassed showed good results from the outreach, and “encouraged death penalty abolitionists that continued education about the realities about capital punishment can be effective” in changing minds, according to Rena Guay, Amnesty OKC’s Death Penalty Coordinator and tAmnesty USA’s State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Oklahoma.
2016 Peace Festival
As usual, Amnesty OKC had a table at the Fall Peace Festival, organized by the Peace House. This year’s event was held on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Shown: Members Leroy Ball and Doug Latham
Amnesty OKC had a table at Groovefest on October 2, at Andrews Park in Norman. The event was founded by the University of Oklahoma Amnesty Group in 1986, making it the oldest ongoing music festival in the country. The table was staffed by members Amanda Armstrong and John Walters.