Beneficiary Spotlight: Meet Kalliope and Nicole

Staff and Board at the RFC are constantly moved and often outraged by our beneficiaries’ incredible stories of activism and oppression. While we wish to share the details behind our grants with our supporters who make our work possible, our first priority is to protect the privacy of our beneficiaries.

However the families profiled below are very public with their activism and have agreed to allow us to tell their stories. They are involved in progressive movements which have been among those most targeted for repression in recent years. We share their experiences with you to celebrate their courage and demonstrate the positive impact of your support.

The RFC first heard of Camilo when he joined the growing GI anti-war movement and took a stand against the Iraq War. After seven months in the Middle East, five months of which were spent in combat in Iraq, he received a two-week furlough to come home. As he explained in his initial request for support for his daughter, “Nicole,” “Far removed from the fear of dying… I decided I could no longer, in good conscience, continue to be part of an endeavor I knew in my heart to be criminal, immoral, and against all I held to be precious and valuable.”

Camilo held a press conference to declare that he would no longer be a part of the “oil-driven” war. An all-military jury found him guilty of desertion. He was sentenced to 12 months in a military prison, demoted from Staff Sergeant to Private, and given a bad conduct discharge.

Nicole’s initial RFC grant, made in 2004 when she was five years old, was an Attica Prison Visit award to allow her to visit Camilo in a military prison. Subsequent grants supported Nicole’s music lessons and attendance at a nurturing school. Deepening their connection to the RFC community, Camilo performed at the 2007 Celebrate event in Boston, and Nicole was one of the youngest participants at our most recent Family Gathering. Click here to see a video of Camilo telling his story; here to read Camilo's recent Huffington Post article "Why I Won't Go Back"; and here to read about United States v. Camilo E. Mejia-Castillo, a petition filed on Camilo's behalf requesting review by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. (Camilo seeks reversal of his conviction, restoration of his rank, and backpay.)

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In early 2008, Briana Waters was facing trial for arson as part of the Bush administration’s efforts to target environmental activists using post-9/11 domestic terrorism legislation. These “Green Scare” cases treat environmental activists as terrorists and add years to prison terms with “sentencing enhancements.” Although none of the activists involved in Briana’s case were accused of injuring any human or animal, Attorney General Gonzales described environmental activist groups as “the nation’s number-one domestic terrorist threat.”

Despite maintaining her innocence, Briana was convicted of arson and sentenced to six years in federal prison. Ignoring recommendations from the judge that she serve her time on the West Coast so she could be near her support network and young daughter, the Bureau of Prisons designated her to FCI Danbury, on the East Coast, 3000 miles away from her daughter.

The RFC paid for childcare for Briana’s four-year-old daughter, Kalliope, to be with her mother and father during the out-of-state trial. Briana wrote in a later request for assistance, “My daughter is my life. All this time that we have been forcibly separated is irretrievable… I was barely making it through with the weekly visits [while incarcerated at FDC Seatac awaiting sentencing], and now I am faced with the unimaginable torture of not seeing her for months at a time.” Since Briana’s incarceration, the RFC has provided several Attica grants to allow Kalliope and her father to travel cross-country to visit Briana in prison. Visit www.supportbriana.org to learn more.
 
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