Civil Rights & Community Groups Urge Governor Brown to Veto Costly, Wasteful Bill Intended to Suppress Human Rights Boycotts

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August 30, 2016
Media contact: David L. Mandel:

The Coalition to Stop AB 2844, comprising more than 100 national, state and local organizations, including civil liberties, human rights, faith-based and community groups, calls on California Governor Jerry Brown to veto Assembly Bill 2844, which passed the state Assembly on Tuesday after passing the Senate last week. AB 2844 is both an attack on the constitutional rights of Californians and a waste of taxpayer money, estimated to cost upwards of $140 million annually, according to the California Department of Finance, which opposes it.

AB 2844 is intended specifically to suppress boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian rights. Although it was amended multiple times following opposition from constituents, AB 2844 remains a threat to the First Amendment right of all Californians to engage in human rights-related boycotts, as has been stated by such civil rights groups as the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights the ACLU, and Palestine Legal. According to the ACLU of California, AB 2844 “evidently seeks to burden and deter constitutionally-protected speech by targeting those who criticize or protest actions by the Israeli government.” (For further reference, see this recent Los Angeles Times editorial, Boycotts of Israel are a protected form of free speech.)

The Coalition to Stop AB 2844 commends Governor Brown for his past support of farm workers during their boycott campaigns and urges him to stand once again on the right side of history by vetoing AB 2844 and any similar measures that come before him.

“Boycotts are a time-honored, constitutionally protected form of speech,” said Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. “Indeed, it was various forms of boycott and divestment that nourished the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the U.S. civil rights movement. BDS should be embraced as a nonviolent strategy to challenge Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and other human rights abuses. Governor Jerry Brown should veto AB 2844.”

“Government should not be in the business of punishing supporters of BDS, whether corporations, universities, organizations or individuals, by denying them contracts,” said Nasser Barghouti, a member of the steering committee of the US Campaign to End The Israeli Occupation and board member of ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “AB 2844 is unconstitutional because it strikes at the heart of the First Amendment and legal precedent upheld by the Supreme Court. The Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality may be an inconvenient truth for many politicians, but they do not have the right to violate my constitutional rights as an American in an attempt to suppress it. I call on Governor Brown to veto AB 2844 without hesitation.”

“As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, which has endorsed a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements built illegally on occupied Palestinian land, and a supporter of a wide range of other social justice and human rights causes, I’m deeply concerned by AB 2844 and urge Governor Brown to veto it,” said Reverend Michael Yoshii, pastor of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda. “BDS is a nonviolent response to the violence of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands and human rights violations. Just last week, faith organizations, including the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ, issued a statement affirming the right of churches to use boycotts and other economic measures in support of Palestinian human rights, in the face of anti-BDS bills like AB 2844 that have been introduced in states across the country.”

“Regardless of the hoops and hurdles the sponsors have gone through to amend AB 2844, the purpose of this bill is and has always been to punish and suppress First Amendment-protected BDS campaigns for Palestinian rights,” said Rahul Saksena, Staff Attorney with Palestine Legal. “The bill’s sponsors and supporters have been clear about that from the start. Governor Brown has an enormous opportunity to stand up for the democratic and constitutional rights of Californians by vetoing AB 2844.”

The Coalition to Stop AB 2844 urges Governor Brown to be fiscally responsible and reject this wasteful effort to suppress a diverse, inclusive, grassroots human rights movement by vetoing AB 2844 and any similar measures that come before him.

The Coalition to Stop AB 2844, representing more than 100 national, state and local organizations, including civil liberties, human rights, faith-based and community groups, was formed to support the constitutional rights of Californians to engage in boycotts and other economic acts of conscience in support of Palestinian human rights and other social justice struggles. It includes Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, Palestine Legal, Friends of Sabeel North America, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and CODEPINK: Women for Peace.



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