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Journalist sues Utah tar sands refinery for illegal “terrorism” police detention

SALT LAKE CITY—An award-winning independent journalist filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tesoro and the Salt Lake City Police Department for illegally detaining him and accusing him of terrorism for taking photographs of a refinery. 

Jesse Fruhwirth posted a video on the Internet (see below) of December 16, 2013, when an ice storm and power outage prompted a major pollution event at Tesoro’s tar sands refinery in the Rose Park neighborhood.

"I was in bed reading and through my window suddenly I could see that the night sky was ablaze as if all of Rose Park was on fire," says Fruhwirth. "Only the refinery was on fire, but I knew that such huge flare offs were extra dangerous events for babies, old people and sick people and I thought it was important to film the fire that might severely sicken or kill some of my neighbors that night."

Fruhwirth also filmed the interaction he had with a police officer who ordered him to stop filming. In the video, Salt Lake officer Yvette Zayas tells Fruhwirth that she detained him for taking pictures of “critical infrastructure,” that she would refer her report to a “Joint Terrorism Task Force” to protect “homeland security.”

Zayas is simultaneously a paid employee of Tesoro and SLCPD, but that night she was working directly on Tesoro’s payroll.

Zayas nevertheless was wearing her city-issued police uniform, carrying her city firearm, driving the city’s squad car, and accessing the public dispatch system. The Rent-a-Real-Cop program, Fruhwirth says, is blatant corporate welfare and has been gaining more critics as harmful corporations like Tesoro and controversial political organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council have hired real city police to work exclusively for them.

"Police are given virtually perfect immunity to arrest and sometimes even to kill people supposedly because cops work for the public interest to ‘keep the peace,’" Fruhwirth says. "So it’s incredibly dangerous and dishonest for the city to rent policing power to powerful corporations so that cops completely ignore the refinery’s deadly crimes and meanwhile shut down the law-abiding journalists trying to expose them."

The civil rights lawsuit filed in federal district court Wednesday (attached) names as defendants police chief Chris Burbank, mayor Ralph Becker, Tesoro as well as Zayas.

Others have faced similar intimidation. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment’s Dr. Brian Moench faced off with officer Zayas at Tesoro as well. “The exact same thing happened to me back in July [2013],” he says. 

Fruhwirth aims for a ruling declaring such detentions illegal as well as exposure of the Rent-a-Real-Cop program. But he also hopes to bring attention to the story that enticed him to film the refinery in the first place.

"Tesoro’s use of tar sands as a feed stock brings some of the poisons killing multitudes of indigenous people in Alberta down to Rose Park, a neighborhood that’s home to many people of color and recent immigrants," Fruhwirth says. "It’s a journalist’s obligation to document an especially poisonous night, at an especially poisonous facility that uses especially poisonous products like tar sands. It’s classic environmental racism and it’s killing my neighbors and Athabascans alike."

Fruhwirth was twice a finalist for the Reporter of the Year by the Utah Society of Professional Journalists and has worked to expose police murders and police brutality.

He is represented by Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic.

To read the complaint, click here

Jesse Fruhwirth

Stewart Gollan

Big news coming soon….

Utah 4Ps has had to take a break this summer due to other projects heating up.

But there’s big news about to break—and unfortunately you won’t read about it here first.  

But the fight started here. And it’ll end here as well. Stay tuned and we’ll see you back here in a couple months. 

Former West Valley City detective charged in Danielle Willard shooting


It’s not enough.

He’ll be behind bars 4 months.  No longer.

Just a cynical prediction.

Sim Gill is the only one with power to make it more than that.  And he already blew it.

The typical way people find themselves incarcerated for long periods is with “stacked” (or inflated and gratuitous) charges that lead to “high stakes” plea bargains. 

In this case, if Sim Gill really wanted to put Shaun Cowley away for a long time, he would have charged him with at least 2 if not 3 or four felonies.  That way, Cowley would be facing actual life in prison and that nothing like actual life in prison to put someone in the mood to take a plea deal that puts them away for a long time.

The lack of stacked charges means Sim Gill is only goaling for a short stint for Cowley.

And that’s exactly what I’ve been expecting—because Gill is primarily a politician, not primarily a seeker of justice.  Many people I love have more complicated feelings than that about Gill—especially now that they’ll be working so closely with him and relying on him so much—but mark my words:

Don’t trust this guy. 

Watch a clip from Tonje Hessen Schei’s new documentary about drones. The film identifies the unit responsible for CIA operations in Pakistan, and alleges the flights are operated by the US air force, which raises questions about the legal safeguards for military pilots. The film also shows how the military recruits young gamers to fly different types of remotely piloted aircraft.

Reminds me of this quote: 

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

-Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967


Ana Cañenguez family meets with ICE after petition denials, promised no detention

OGDEN–Ana Cañenguez received a letter from Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) stating that her petition for a stay of removal has been denied. Ana will meet with ICE today on their request and their written promise that they will not detain her.

TODAY: April 7th 9:15 am
Press Conference/Rally
Update on Ana Cañenguez and Family Case
2487 South 1620 West Ogden, Suite E 84401

ICE wrote in a letter that Ana will not be “taken into custody” at this meeting but as legal options become increasingly spent, concerns about Ana’s family are higher than ever (see PDF attachment).

The Salt Lake Dream Team, friends of Ana, and community members will be present at this time to document what occurs, as well as hold ICE accountable to their word of not taking Ana into custody.

Ana will be addressing the press concerning her case after the meeting.

For more information visit the Salt Lake Dream Team Website:

Prison profiteer’s own party set to oppose private prisons—or will they?


The Salt Lake County Democratic Party is considering formal opposition to private prisons in its proposed platform. This development is extremely inconvenient to the very rich prison profiteer and wannabe politician, Jane Marquardt, an executive at her family’s private prison company. 

In December 2012, Marquardt was the target of what time has shown to be a truly devastating direct action that outted her as a prison profiteer as she sought a state Democratic Party office. Sycophants and friends rallied around her initially, but that support has gone pretty quiet as far as I can tell. 

Marquardt is vice chair of the world’s third-largest prison corporation, Management and Training Corporation based in Centerville, Utah (now with a much bigger HQ!). Marquardt lives in a cheesy but giant McMansion in the wealthy hills above the state capitol in Salt Lake City. 

The Democratic party will approve its platform April 12. 

Will Jane’s political friends and sycophants have the nerve to publicly oppose the party’s proposed platform? Private prisons are, after all, Marquardt’s business and the source of her vast wealth, which she showers on political allies.

Will Jane’s heavy investments in politicians help sway the party against this platform proposal, or has Jane’s political fortune really sunk this low this fast?

<film> Torture: Americas Brutal Prisons

Documentary Description:

This programme shows that abuses like those documented in Abu Ghraib are commonplace in the USA’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons. Prisoners are shackled and hooded for their own protection; pepper spray is used as an alternative to physical force, but in sufficient quantities to cause second-degree burns; beatings are frequent and sometimes fatal. The programme suggests that the cause is not a few bad apples, but a pervasive culture of dehumanization and brutality.

Detainees in GEO detention center on hunger strike demand improved living conditions, health care

From Not One More Deportation:

On Friday, March 7th, 1200 people held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, one of the largest immigration prisons in the country, began a hunger strike and work stoppage. They are putting their bodies on the line to protest the on-going deportations overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the inhumane conditions at the for-profit detention center owned and operated by the GEO Corporation.

Inspired in part by the February 24 #Not1More deportation action at the detention center, the hunger strikers timed their action to begin on Friday. On Fridays, the people facing imminent deportation are separated and processed for deportation, weekly events that contribute to the nearly 2,000,000 deported during the Obama administration. The hunger strikers join a nation-wide movement of resistance against unprecedented levels of detention and deportation.

Apart from calling attention to the unrelenting deportations, the hunger strikers demands include

– Improved food quality
– Improved treatment (including medical treatment)
– Increased pay for work in the facility (the current pay is $1.00/day)
– An end to exorbitant commissary prices
– Fundamental fairness and justice


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