By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
One Billion Rising launched a global day of events to bring women together to stand up to violence that is a part of daily life for some women. After a large rally in Phoenix on February 14th, One Billion Rising is challenged to keep the momentum going. Drawing a connection between the need for regular gatherings and the connection between women and the moon, one of the Phoenix event organizers Dai Lili has called for gatherings once a month held on the same day as the full moon. At two different times on Monday, February 25th, a One Billion Rising flash-mob was held at Phoenix City Hall with a dance on the steps and a discussion of what comes next. Another similar event is planned for late March.
On Tuesday, February 26th, the City of Phoenix heard arguments for and against a human relations ordinance to increase access for the disabled and LGBT communities. The City of Phoenix passed the ordinance joining other cities such as Tucson which have long standing anti-discrimination ordinances. The City Council of Flagstaff has recently voted for a similar measure and human rights advocates are calling for efforts to expand to other cities such as Tempe. After the passage of the Phoenix ordinance Angela Hughey, head of One Community, stated, “Friends, thank you for your support and participation ensuring that all Phoenix employees, residents and consumers now have equal protections under the law. Today, celebrate and enjoy yesterday’s victory. Tomorrow, we ask that you remember that our work is not done. ALL Arizona employees, residents and consumers deserve equality! Please take time out of your busy schedules, take the UNITY Pledge.”
On that same day, Arizona State Senator Ableser introduced an amendment to SB1337, a bill on CPR training, which would have included training for teachers to spot signs of mental distress. Through his business, Ableser Family Counseling, and his time on the board of the Boys and Girls Club, Senator Ableser has a history of counseling children with emotional problems. The Senator noted that after recent school shootings it is important for teachers to have training for early detection of children who might need counseling to overcome problems leading to suicide or harming others. The Amendment would have reintroduced protections from a 2013 bill SB1252 introduced by Senators Ableser, Farley, Gallardo, Hobbs, Meza and Pancrazi that was denied a public hearing by the committee chair and allowed to expire. Senator Ableser attempted to speak on the need for these protections to prevent school violence, yet he was cut short over objections on whether his amendment was germane to the CPR safety training bill.
Advocates for LGBT youth have been pushing for Arizona to join a growing number of states that have anti-bullying laws which include bullying over sexual orientation and gender identity. This year marks the third year such a bill has been introduced and died at the legislature. Senator Katie Hobbs introduced SB1423 this year which would have included bullying at charter schools, at some off-stie locations and through electronic communications. Senator Hobbs also joined with other legislators, with Senators Ableser, Farley, Gallardo, Jackson, Meza, Pancrazi and Tovar, to sponsor bill SB1051. This bill would have offered similar protections to Arizona youth. Like the bill for teacher training to detect and deal with emotional problems, the anti-bullying bills were never assigned a public comment or vote by the Education Committee Chairman Kimberly Yee. A candlelight vigil was held outside the legislature, with guests such as City of Phoenix first lady Nicole Stanton, Senator Hobbs and many advocates for ending discrimination at the Capitol on Wednesday, February 27th to ask the legislature to allow the anti-bullying measure a hearing.
At the federal level, on Thursday February 28th the Violence Against Women Act passed the House of Representatives. The bill has already passed the Senate and now will go to the President for signature. The Violence Against Women Act was originally passed in the 1990’s but expired in 2011. Renewing the act has been a source of controversy but Thursday’s vote saw many Republicans and Democrats come together to back the bill with expanded provisions. The 2013 bill includes new protections for tribal, migrant and LGBT communities and has provisions dealing with stalking that include spyware and video surveillance equipment. Supporters of the bill claim the original bill led to a large reduction in domestic violence.
On Friday, March 1st there were Take Back the Night events worldwide including one in Phoenix. Take Back the Night is an annual event aimed at getting women to speak out about abuses. Citing statistics that over 50% of sexual assaults are never reported to police and that over 90% of rapists never go to jail, the event asks for women to shatter the silence to break the violence. The Take Back the Night Foundation seeks to end sexual assault and domestic violence by breaking the cycles that lead to violence through a campaign of awareness and empowerment. The Phoenix event included a march and candlelight vigil while survivors of sexual assault shared their stories.
On the Disability Day of Mourning, the names of disabled individuals killed by family members or caregivers were read. Friday March 1st saw events across the U.S. with a local group meeting in downtown Phoenix. A candlelight vigil was held as victims’ names were read aloud. The event seeks to note that each of these lives had value. In certain cases, the death is seen as a mercy killing and “sentences have ranged from time served with probation and mental health treatment to, on rare occasions, life in prison.” Critics for ending the life of the disabled point to problems such as killing those with impaired mental functions who can’t express whether they would prefer to live out their natural life span. Also, there is a concern for elderly women, with an aging baby boomer population, that older men disproportionately tend to commit these mercy killings.