Posts By: Homelands

Minnesota’s 9th Judicial District Court has dismissed the criminal trespassing charge brought against Alan Weisman after Alan was arrested, strip-searched, and held in solitary confinement on June 7. He was in northern Minnesota to cover the protests against Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 pipeline for a forthcoming book and for an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

The gross misdemeanor charge was dismissed “without prejudice,” which means that it can be refiled if the authorities decide to pursue it. Meanwhile, Alan’s attorney is exploring the possibility of filing a civil suit in federal court for illegal arrest, suppression of his First Amendment press freedom rights, and other violations.

“I’m enraged by the deliberate denial of my press freedom by a sheriff who knew exactly who I was,” Alan said. “Protecting writers and journalists to bear witness to their doings is crucial to our species’ future, and I’m grateful that Author’s Guild, PEN America, CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists], and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have proved stalwart.”

Alan was arrested by deputies of the Northern Lights Task Force, which is composed of sheriffs from 18 northern Minnesota counties and funded by Enbridge Inc. to protect its pipeline against protests.

For more information about the arrest and detention, read the CPJ’s detailed account of the incident.

“To counter mounting climate catastrophes,” Alan Weisman writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, “tar sands must stay in the ground. Anything else risks incinerating our species’ future.”

Alan traveled to northern Minnesota in early June to cover protests against Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 oil pipeline for the LA Times article and for a book he is writing on humanity’s best hopes for getting through the coming challenging decades.

The Line 3 pipeline is designed to carry crude oil extracted from western Canadian tar sands to a terminal on Lake Superior. Native American tribes have led the resistance to the project, which would cross more than 200 rivers and streams. Climate activists have argued that oil derived from tar sands is up to three times dirtier than conventional oil, and that burning it will make it impossible to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals. Both groups have called on the Biden administration to halt the pipeline project.

On June 7, Alan was detained and strip-searched during a mass arrest by sheriff’s deputies and charged with gross misdemeanor trespassing. He faces a hearing on July 16. The Committee to Protect Journalists, Homelands Productions, and other organizations and colleagues have condemned the arrest and called for charges to be dropped.

You can read the entire op-ed here. If you encounter the LA Times’ paywall, try opening a Private, Incognito, or InPrivate window in your browser and pasting the link there.

Journalist, author, and Homelands cofounder Alan Weisman was arrested on June 7 while covering the Line 3 anti-pipeline protests in northern Minnesota. He was charged with gross misdemeanor trespassing and released after five hours. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for an explanation of why Weisman was arrested while clearly working as a journalist.

“It is outrageous that officers from Minnesota’s Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department held journalist Alan Weisman in detention for hours, strip-searched him, and went through his equipment,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York.”

Weisman, who was working on an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times and collecting information for a book, was wearing two lanyards with press credentials when a sheriff’s deputy tapped him on the shoulder and said he was under arrest. “It was very clear that I was a journalist,” he told CPJ, saying that he had a notebook in his hand and was conducting interviews at the time. 

You can read CPJ’s alert here.

“Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza, with its unconscionable numbers of civilian casualties, is proof of a bankrupt U.S. policy,” writes Sandy Tolan in the Daily Beast. To make progress toward a lasting peace, America “must confront the tragic mess it helped create, and abandon the foreign policy its own inaction undermined.”

Tolan is the author of two books about Palestine, The Lemon Tree and Children of the Stone. In an opinion piece published on the day Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, he argues that America’s decades-long failure to hold Israel to account has destroyed any hope of a two-state solution. “Israelis, Palestinians and Americans must find the courage to build something new,” he writes.

You can read the entire piece here.

In 1991, Homelands co-founders Sandy Tolan and Alan Weisman traveled to the Dominican Republic to report on Haitian sugar cane cutters working in near-slavery conditions on Dominican plantations. Their story, Sugar and Sorrow in Hispaniola, aired on NPR’s All Things Considered as part of the Vanishing Homelands series.

Listener Joel Abrams of Boston has never forgotten it. “If you had asked me was I interested in farm workers in Haiti, I would have said no,” he told NPR recently. “But I listened to this, and it really made me care about them and brought them to life as people for me and in a remarkable way.”

On May 5, All Things Considered aired excerpts from Sandy and Alan’s story as part of NPR’s 50th anniversary celebration. You can listen to it here. In a medium as evanescent as radio, it is beyond gratifying to know that the work lives on in people’s hearts.

Not only that — this particular story will have another afterlife. Sandy has been working on a podcast series about his search for Lulu Pierre, one of the cane cutters he and Alan met 30 years ago. He’s also producing a piece on Haitian cane cutters for Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. We’ll let you know when there’s something to listen to.

One morning in Milwaukee in 1972, Homelands’ co-founder Sandy Tolan read in the sports pages that his childhood hero, Henry Aaron, was getting hate mail and death threats for following his dream. Aaron, the superstar outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, was approaching what was then considered the greatest record in sports: the career home-run record of 714, held by the legendary Babe Ruth.

Aaron was Black and Ruth was White. During his chase, Hank received 929,000 letters. Some cheered him on, but many were filled with racist hate and violent threats. Outraged, Sandy sent a letter of his own. “We’re rooting for you up here in Milwaukee,” he wrote.

Remarkably, Aaron responded.

Henry Aaron died on January 22 at age 86. In an essay in The Atlantic, Sandy recounts what Aaron wrote to him in 1972 and describes how the correspondence led to Sandy’s first book, Me and Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-Five Years Later (2000). The book was ostensibly about a ballplayer and a fan. In fact, it – like Aaron’s life – was about much more than that.

Read the essay here.

In December, as Covid-19 rates surged in Los Angeles, Sandy Tolan and his wife Andrea Portes rented out their LA house and drove to Arizona. They planned to fly from there to Florida to fetch their son, who was visiting his “biodad” in Miami.

But then they had a better idea. Why not just keep driving? Not only did flying seem unsafe in those days of contagion; a road trip would be a chance to reconnect with a vast and beautiful country far from the coastal centers of chaos. And so they took to the road.

Sandy calls the trip his “Late Covid American Sojourn.” You can follow his adventures, both physical and philosophical, on Facebook or Medium.

Photo from Big Bend Ranch State Park, TX, by Sandy Tolan.

The spectacle of far-right hate groups launching violent attacks around the country cannot obscure the deeper changes that are transforming political and social life in Arizona and other western states, writes Ruxandra Guidi in a commentary for High Country News.

The January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol occurred as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s win in formerly red Arizona, where Ruxandra lives and teaches. She says the lesson should not be lost on us.

“The Black-, Latino- and Indigenous-led civic movement that delivered our state’s election shows us that there are consequences for discriminating against communities of color, disenfranchising voters and underestimating their power and contributions to society,” she writes. “Arizona isn’t just the most predominant Western electoral battleground: It is a template for the future of the Western U.S.” 

Read the entire commentary here.

Photo: An organizer leaves a flyer at a home in a South Tucson neighborhood. Photo by Bear Guerra.