September 2014 | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

September 2014

Sidney's Picks: Fast Food Arrests & Construction Tax Rackets

 The Best of the Week’s News

  • Living wage advocates turn up the heat on the fast food industry with civil disobedience in cities across the country.
  • The Justice Department will pursue a broad civil rights inquiry into the Ferguson Police Department, not just a limited probe of the Brown shooting.
  • Missouri swore it wouldn’t use a controversial drug linked to botched executions, but it did.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

NY Fast Food Workers Shut Down 42nd St. In Bid for Living Wage

Hillman Prize-winning journalist Steven Greenhouse reports on today’s fast food worker demonstrations in New York City, and across the country: 

Twenty-one workers demanding a $15-an-hour wage were arrested while conducting a sit-in outside a McDonald’s in Times Square on Thursday morning as the fast-food movement for the first time embraced widespread civil disobedience to escalate its fight.

Organizers said several hundred fast-food workers planned to sit in at restaurants in dozens of cities on Thursday. Organizers said the police arrested more than 50 workers in Detroit for such action on Thursday morning. The civil disobedience is intended to draw more attention to the “Fight for Fifteen” movement and to step up pressure on the nation’s fast-food chains. [NYT]

The living wage advocacy website Low Pay Is Not Okay has a large gallery of images from today’s protest in Times square, which it says resulted in the temporary shutdown of 42nd St.


[Photo credit: Low Pay Is Not Okay.]

The Fight Against Slavery in Mauritiana Continues

Alexis Okeowo tells the story of Biram Dah Abeid and his crusade to abolish slavery in his home country of Mauritiana. Abeid is the founder of the country’s largest anti-slavery organization, and he will stop at nothing to get slave owners arrested:

Finally, the police took the slaves to the station, and Abeid and the others followed. For a moment, the activists—schoolteachers, civil servants, the unemployed—remained in a standoff with the police there, a force of some sixty officers. Abeid walked toward a policeman. When the policeman grabbed Abeid’s shirt, Abeid butted him twice with his head. “I wanted to go to jail,” he said. “When people ask why I am in jail, they will have to know there were two slave girls, and the government refused to put the slave owner in jail.” As the activists and the police clashed, Abeid lunged at the police again, and he was arrested. He was jailed for three months; the slave owner was released after nine days. But it was a seminal victory for IRA: the first time that police had imprisoned a slave owner. The organization has since helped to put about twenty others in jail, though often for brief terms. As owners heard about the arrests, they started releasing their slaves, in a ripple of fear. Working through a network of nine thousand activists, IRA has freed thousands of slaves around the country. Haratin often refer to the former slaves as Biram Frees. [New Yorker]

In 1981, Mauritiana became the last country on earth to outlaw slavery, but the country still has the highest incidence of slavery in the world. The practice is sustained by tradition, economic necessity, and idiosyncratic local interpretation of Islam that Abeid is risking his life to discredit. 

[Photo credit: Nouakchott, the largest city in Mauritiana, by Manuel M. Almeida, Creative Commons.]