Report from Chicago: Americans Take to the Streets for Human Rights

By Julienne Grant

20170121_101055I’m writing this not only because I’m inspired, but also so our FCIL colleagues abroad can get a first – hand account of what Americans accomplished on Saturday.  This morning I set out for what I expected to be a local march in Chicago, perhaps 20,000 people rallying for women’s rights.  What I encountered instead, was a massive turnout of over 250,000 citizens – of every age, race, sexual orientation, and religion – taking to the streets for a demonstration of unity.  There were babies in strollers, Muslims, transgender people, Jews, senior citizens, African-Americans, teachers, suburbanites and urbanites, immigrants, artists, and men and women from every neighborhood, every collar county, and even some contiguous states.  These were citizens who were angry and wanted to be heard.

The messages they carried were compelling and forceful – some humorous, some even poetic.  There were signs in French, Spanish, English, and Arabic.  There were large signs and small ones – some visually stunning, while others were simple, in handwritten scrawl.  All, however, were powerful –  clear, thoughtful, and direct. Some content cannot be repeated here, but I mention these as a representation of what was on people’s minds: “women’s rights are human rights,” “we are the noisy majority,” “hope not hate,” “the most important word in a democracy is we,” “men of quality don’t fear equality,” and, possibly my personal favorite, “it takes a village to raze a village idiot.” This was not just about women;  it was broader than that. It was about human rights, and it was about the fear of a new government that doesn’t recognize them (i.e., that just doesn’t get it).

This gathering20170121_110721 of some quarter of a million vocal people, however, was amazingly peaceful and polite, and for just a few hours in a city that is marred by violence, there was kindness and compassion. There was a bond between strangers, and it felt hopeful and good. Even the oft-maligned Chicago cops who were there to maintain order were digging it; there was no profiling and no use of force.  Above our heads in the clogged downtown streets, the el trains slowed down; the drivers pumped their fists, and the passengers waved and nodded their approval.  It was empowering and energizing, and it was an outlet for all who felt marginalized and unheard.

My phone was pinging with texts and pictures from everywhere in the country–from a cousin who was marching in Boston, from a friend at a rally in a small town in Oregon, and word spread through the crowd about Washington, Denver, New York, and Los Angeles; millions of Americans were out in droves. There was strength in numbers, and for anyone abroad who thinks Americans are complacent, this should prove them wrong.  I’m encouraged, I’m proud, and I’m hopeful.

Know a Good Candidate for FCIL-SIS Vice Chair/Chair Elect?

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The Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS) of AALL is still seeking nominations for Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect and Secretary/Treasurer.

The position of Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect requires a three-year commitment, as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect, Chair, and Immediate Past Chair, and will be expected to attend the AALL annual meeting the first two years.  The position of Secretary/Treasurer requires a two-year commitment, and the holder of this office is expected to attend the AALL Annual Meeting both years.  More information is available in the FCIL-SIS Bylaws.

Please be sure to first confirm the interest of anyone you would like to recommend for either position! Self-nominations are also welcome.

Nominations are due by Thursday, December 15, 2016. 

If you have any questions or wish to submit a nomination, please contact:

Dan Donahue, Chair, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

Gabriela Femenia, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

Deborah Schander, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

George Tsiakos, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

Martinique’s Grand Library and “Josephine Beheaded”

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By: Julienne Grant

Happy New Year! I spent part of my holiday break cruising around the eastern part of the Caribbean.  Starting in San Juan, we stopped at five ports of call—Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Thomas.  I’m in the process of writing an article on the legal systems of these islands, so I won’t dive into that material so much here. What I will do, however, is share a little about one of the more unusual public libraries I have seen—the Schœlcher library in Martinique. (Keep in mind as you read this, that I’m currently living in a city with a public library that has sculptures of green owls perched on top of it.)

Martinique is a French overseas department and territory (département et territoire d’outre-mer) and has a population of somewhere around 386,000.  Its capital, Fort-de-France, is a captivating seaside community that has a European vibe, with a Caribbean beat.  Although the French flag flies here, and the euro is king, it is the sounds of Creole and reggae that flood the city streets.

On the rue de la Liberté, across the road from a decapitated statue of Empress Josephine (more on this below), sits Fort-de-France’s crown jewel, its public library.  The building itself is an elaborate and exotic structure with a Byzantine-style cupola.  Designed by French architect Pierre-Henri Picq in 1884, the building was first erected in Paris, and then dismantled and shipped for re-assembly in Martinique. That this glorious building still stands is a testimony to the genius of its designer, as the island is prone to earthquakes and hurricanes.

The library itself is named after French abolitionist Victor Schœlcher, who drafted the 1848 decree that abolished slavery in the French colonies. Schœlcher donated his own private library in 1883 to the General Council of Martinique for the purpose of creating a public library.  One of the library’s mandates is to preserve heritage materials related to the island.

Being duly impressed with the exterior of the building, I decided to check out the interior space.   Although my French is poor, the reference librarian on duty spoke wonderful English and was kind enough to provide an impromptu tour of the place.

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Although the interior is showing signs of wear (including a few cracks resulting from earthquakes), it is still quite grand. The domed ceiling is exquisite, and there is a striking portrait of Victor Schœlcher hanging in the atrium. The collection is impressive and covers everything from literature to law, including the most current Dalloz French codes. (As an overseas region of France, French national law applies in Martinique, but can be modified to address situations specific to the island.) What really impressed me, however, was how busy the library was.  This is not simply a relic from an earlier time; it’s a working and modern library that is being heavily used.

Finally, a word about the decapitated statue of Empress Josephine across the street. Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon I’s first wife, was born and raised in Martinique.  Although she may be the island’s most famous citizen, she is also probably the most despised.  Her family owned slaves, and she was purportedly instrumental in convincing Napoleon to reinstate slavery in the French colonies in 1802.  The marble statue was mysteriously beheaded in 1991 and was later splattered with red paint around Josephine’s delicate neckline.  The gory headless statue still stands, overlooking the lovely La Savane park. For an interesting read on the statue, see the Prologue (“Josephine Beheaded”) to Cultural Conundrums: Gender, Race, Nation, and the Making of Caribbean Cultural Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Two Views of Runnymede: Magna Carta at the Library of Congress and the British Library

By: Gabriela Femenia 

As has been widely noted, 2015 is the 800th anniversaryLOC Magna Carta of Magna Carta, the revolutionary charter between King John I and his barons often cited as the foundation of basic Anglo-American concepts of protected liberties, rule of law, and good government.  There have been many events planned to commemorate its importance this year, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see two of the best: the traveling Lincoln Cathedral manuscript and related exhibit at the Library of Congress in December, and the magnificent display of multiple manuscripts at the British Library last month.

Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, at the Library of Congress November 2014 – January 2015, was a ten-week exhibit sponsored by the Federalist Society, and therefore strongly focused on tracing the arc between Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. In addition to displays explaining Magna Carta’s history and featuring one of the four surviving original copies, parts of the exhibit specifically connected Magna Carta to our constitutional rights to due process, trial by jury, and habeas corpus.  A very interesting additional section on Magna Carta in popular culture demonstrated how this medieval document of limited impact in its own century has nonetheless managed to resonate deeply and broadly in the popular imagination in more recent times.

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Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, at the British Library until September 1, 2015, was naturally much larger in scope, as many more manuscripts and objects were available for display within the United Kingdom than could travel to the U.S.  Among the highlights, the exhibit features all four surviving 1215 manuscripts, copies of the 1225 reissue, one of Thomas Jefferson’s two drafts of the Declaration of Independence, and, delightfully, a map of William Penn’s Pennsylvania detailed enough for me to identify approximately where my house is. In addition to the richness of the collection, the exhibit featured wonderfully-executed video and multimedia enhancements to assist the visitor in following Magna Carta’s evolution from its critical reissue under Henry III, through its role in the growth of the common law on both sides of the Atlantic, and down to the modern development of international human rights law.

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Even if you can’t make it to London, much of this additional content is available at the British Library’s website, asare high-quality images of most of the items, making it possible to experience some of the outstanding curation and to glean fun ideas for your FCIL reference and teaching activities.  If this really piques your interest in Magna Carta and its contributions to the development of both the common law and international law, you may even consider signing up for the University of London’s upcoming MOOC, Freedom and Protest:Magna Carta and its Legacies, beginning June 15.

DipLawMatic Dialogues Seeks Contributors!

DipLawMatic Dialogues seeks contributors!  We are currently in need of book reviewers, film reviewers, columnists, and one-time contributors to submit content relevant to the mission of the FCIL-SIS and of the blog.  If you have an idea, please contact us at aall.fcil.blog@gmail.com or fill out the contact form on the Contributors page.  If you don’t have an idea yet, but would like to contribute, feel free to contact us and we will help you to develop a topic!

We are also looking for volunteers to blog from and about this year’s AALL Annual Meeting in San Antonio, as well as ALA, SLA, various chapter annual meetings, and any other upcoming relevant conferences.  Please contact us if you are interested in covering these events!

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Welcome!

Dear FCIL-SIS Members,

Hello, and welcome to the newly rebooted FCIL-SIS blog!  We, the Publicity Committee, hope that it will serve as an entertaining and informative way for our group to share information on foreign, comparative, and international law and legal research, as well as to reach out to readers from other professions and let them know what we do.

Although we are still working out which types of content will be posted and how, we welcome your suggestions and ideas.  If you are interested in contributing to the blog or have ideas for columns or other content, please fill out the comment form on our Administrators page to submit them for consideration.  As the new blog takes shape, we will be reaching out to the group members and soliciting contributions via our listserv, website, and/or social media.  In the meantime, we hope that you will enjoy looking around and forwarding us your suggestions.

Sincerely,

Susan, Neel, and Loren, Publicity Committee