Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Revolution This Time -- Sheep vs Dogs

These young people who are leading the protests and demonstrations and the Movement against police violence, murder and impunity that is growing and spreading like wildfire around the country and now over parts of the world are truly impressive. They've shown themselves to be among the most clearheaded, determined, and able organizers and strategists that have arisen during our times of trouble (those times go back a long way now, don't they?)  and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.

Occupy and its descendants are deeply involved with the current cycle of Movement building, disruption and dissent. It is in some ways more rebellious than Occupy's encampment phase was, but the Occupy element is taking a backseat to the young black and brown men and very many women of color who are the organizational motors for the current Movement. This is strategic wisdom, given the frequent complaints during Occupy's encampment phase that the Movement was overly solicitous to and dominated by white men -- who weren't necessarily God's Gift to Teh Revolution anyway.

And there was another thing too, which I worry about in connection with the current Movement: infiltration and subversion by agents provocateur and worse whose goal is and was disruption of the Movement and ultimately its destruction. In the case of Occupy, disruption was a daily occurrence, and it was fairly obviously a coordinated effort undertaken by agents of both the public and the private sectors.

Part of the problem with Occupy, of course, was that so many people were spontaneously attracted to the Movement, and there wasn't enough time for them to get to know one another, let alone for them to learn the intricacies of direct democracy, horizontalism, and to become grounded in the various strains of anti-capitalist and anarchist thought and philosophy that had given birth to Occupy as if from Zeus's Brow. There just wasn't time. The encampments themselves were difficult environments for this process to take place, and the massed police presence which lurked on the perimeters was not particularly reassuring. When the coordinated and frequently violent and destructive crackdowns came the Movement sputtered and the flame almost went out.

But it didn't go out entirely. Instead, it went underground where it spread essentially from hand to hand, among like-minded people who found one another through their mutual interests in building a better future, repairing the earth, and being kind to one another.

It's a beautiful thing. Occupy is now deeply integrated into hundreds of communities throughout the land and abroad. Those communities of mutual interest have spawned many more, in a very organic process of growth. In turn these communities are built on such strong foundations of mutual aid that an enormous effort like Occupy Sandy could spontaneously arise when the need was greatest and could provide succor and services to the survivors of the Hurricane that the traditional disaster relief institutions either couldn't or wouldn't. The tragedy of our failed institutions was overcome through the voluntary efforts of individuals working on behalf of a common cause.

The Occupy Movement has been building an alternative infrastructure to the more and more incapable, incompetent, corrupt and failed government agencies and private sector institutions that Americans previously relied on. We can't rely on government or the private sector, or on schools, charities, churches, police, the military or what have you to routinely do the right thing in the public's interest. Not anymore -- if we ever really could. There might have been a time when the public interests and the institutional interests were aligned, but those times have long since passed.

Over and over again, the People have learned that we cannot control the actions of government or the corporate sector which has captured the government, Not more than marginally and infrequently at any rate. Government governs contrary to the public interest as one of its fundamental principles, it seems.

And then there are the police.

Oh, the Po Po.

The problem of killer cops and their impunity has been around a long time, and the People have been objecting for just as long. In the past, the issue was localized, however. Individualized. Made into an aberration, attributed to the bad apples which any force will have, yada, yada, and it was difficult or impossible to build a movement around opposition to police violence and murder and their impunity.

It was commonly believed that the incidents were rare and that by and large, the victims "needed killing" anyway because of their behavior, their past problems with the law, their drug or alcohol use/abuse, their mental condition or disability, the color of their skin, their threatening gender, their supposed gang affiliation or their poverty and homelessness. If occasionally mistakes were made and someone who shouldn't have been killed was caught in the crossfire or was targeted erroneously, oh well. Too bad so sad. The courts would order a substantial payout to the survivors from the public purse and that would be that. Until the next time, and then the cycle would repeat.

This routine went on for years and years and years. The police would commit some atrocity or other, either of abuse or murder, there would be an outcry, the police would smear the victim(s) as deserving their sorry fate, there would be a cursory "investigation" which would almost always absolve the Brave Officers of culpability (because the abuse/killing would almost always be determined to be "justified," ie: within policy) and that would be the end of it.

Everyone knew the routine. No matter what they did, the police would not be held to account. Justice would not be done.

The protests and demonstrations against police abuse were highly localized. No one actually knew the statistics of police killings or the pervasiveness of police abuse. There were no comprehensive published data. People who were attuned or involved sensed the problem was widespread enough to be considered universal, but without firm data it was -- and still is -- difficult to show.

A catalyst was needed, and it came with the egregious police execution of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March of this year. Police helmet cam video of Boyd's execution was released by the APD as evidence of "justification" for killing him, but the public strenuously disagreed. The man was mentally impaired, harming no one, and he was surrendering when he was shot multiple times, bean bag rounds were then fired and a dog was set on his paralyzed and mortally wounded body. It was absurd. More than that, it was obscene.

Boyd was literally executed, with neither trial nor conviction, for "failure to obey" correctly and swiftly enough for his killers' satisfaction. That was it, period.

The public outrage was swift and the protests were intense, but it was all built on a long history of police abuse and murder of the innocent, on a well-known police culture of violence and brutality. Police in Albuquerque were out of control, and practically everyone knew it. The killings were frequent, often outrageous, and complaints and protests were already almost nonstop by the time Boyd was executed.

The outrageousness of Boyd's execution merely escalated the public outcry and protest against police misconduct and murder that was already underway.

There were large and sustained protests, the freeway through town was even shut down briefly in protest, and the police trotted out their military gear to suppress protesters with threats and teargas and grenades, in a rather striking prelude to the current episode of protest against police violence. Protests that spread nationwide after the egregious killings of Eric Garner John Crawford III, Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, Darrien Hunt, and on and on and on and on and on and on.

This has got to stop.

It wasn't just that there was so much killing by police, it was also that the police were almost never held to account for their abuse and killing. Time after time, as the protests this summer went on, district attorneys and grand juries refused to find officers culpable in any way for their actions when they abused or killed citizens. As always, almost every killing and act of violence committed by police was deemed "justified" (ie: within policy.)

Meanwhile the dead pile up. A website called Killed By Police began tracking media accounts of police killings in May of last year. The numbers were startling. So startling, and so divergent from the "official" statistics put out by the FBI that many people refused to accept them, just as many news organizations continue to ignore them. As of today, the number of deaths caused by police since last May is up to at least 1,808. At least 1,050 have been killed so far this year. The statistics the FBI releases annually list "only" about 400 killed by police. This is not just an error, it's a gross error, and many think it is a deliberate undercount.

So far, Killed by Police is the only resource that tracks reports of police killings in almost real time. The statistics are horrifying; the annual death toll of civilians at the hands of police is greater than the death toll of soldiers in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we're starting to get an idea of how often civilians are assaulted and/or wounded by police in the US as well. The numbers are shocking: hundreds of thousands of assaults by police annually. Hundreds. Of. Thousands.

The police are engaged in war against civilians. There's no other way to put it.

It's a war in which the rules of engagement are simplicity itself: civilians must comply with police commands instantly or suffer the frequently lethal consequences; any Negro with a gun -- or thought to have a gun or other weapon -- is to be shot on sight. That is all.

Simple, direct and to the point.

According to the cult of police, civilians are sheep, the police are sheepdogs, and by definition those they kill or abuse are wolves, predators to be guarded against and killed. The problem is and has been that the police are killing a lot of "sheep" in their quest to protect the flock against supposed wolves.

The sheep have had enough.

They're not going to take it anymore.

They've risen up against the dogs that are harassing and killing them.

The police and those they serve are in a bind, to say the least. Note is made of the fact that the police don't serve the people, they serve their masters, the High and the Mighty, which until now have been content to let the police do whatever they want to civilians, kill them if they want, it doesn't matter to those the police serve, so long as the police don't interfere with or attack them -- and so long as the People, the sheep, don't rise up sufficiently for the High and Mighty to notice.

The prelude to the current nation-wide rebellion against the "sheepdogs" in Albuquerque this spring and summer demonstrated that the High and Mighty would be forced to notice. The Department of Justice released a scathing report against the Albuquerque Police Department's pattern and practice of violence, unjustified use of force, incompetence and unconstitutional policing. The city and police department have entered into an enforceable consent decree that reforms some of the department's practices and requires extensive reporting. There has not been a police killing in Albuquerque since August, though there have been a number of incidents which in the past would have led to summary execution.

Police killings continue in the rest of the country, many of them as outrageous as that of Tamir Rice in Cleveland. The protests against them have gained strength, largely through the efforts of those young people who have spearheaded the Movement since the killing of Mike Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO, in August.

The protests have involved a growing array of Americans, from lawyers and medical professionals staging die-ins, to students walking out of schools, to professional sports players signaling their dismay with police conduct through various means like tee-shirts and "hands up" gestures. Even congressional staffers and DC city workers have walked off the job and expressed their sympathy with the protesters.

Tens of thousands march against police murder and brutality in cities all over the country. Over 600,000 Americans are said to have participated in the demonstrations last Saturday.

The protests continue every day. The Oakland, CA, police headquarters was blockaded for over four hours on Monday, vigils are held constantly,  traffic on freeways and city streets is brought to a halt by protests routinely, the all-important Christmas shopping season is disrupted, Chanukah this year is dedicated to the idea expressed everywhere in the protests: "Black Lives Matter." Jews and Muslims march together against police violence.

We may soon see Christian clerics saying "Enough" and joining the Movement.


Stop the killing. Black lives matter. Stop. Cease fire. End the murder. End the madness.

The focus on Black lives is due to the fact that throughout the country, Black people have long been the main targets of police abuse and murder, and due to the fact that so many of those killed by police have been Black men who are instantly executed like Tamir Rice was or John Crawford. Police got word of a "Negro with a gun." That's all they need. Rice and Crawford were shot on sight, simply because of reports that they were armed and Negro. No other reason at all. And of course, like almost all cases of summary execution by police, their killers were absolved by DA/Grand Jury. The Brave Officers feared for their lives... they can't be held to account when they're so frightened. Right? As everybody knows. a Negro with a gun is an existential threat to all mankind. Right? Must kill on sight. Right?

Well, no.

The people say no.

The sheep are corralling the dogs.

The revolution this time is a revolution of conscience and consciousness. There is no resolution yet, but it will come. The pressure on authority cannot be resisted forever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"A Pretty Good Day For The Revolution"

[Title taken from a comment posted at FDL yesterday].

Yes, it was a pretty good day for the revolution (small "r" so far this cycle) yesterday when a coordinated effort by numerous groups banding together with BlackOut Collective seized and shut down the Oakland (CA) police headquarters and held it for 4 hours and 28 minutes as a memorial to Mike Brown and in honor of so many of those killed by police in Oakland and around the country.

It was both a moving tribute and an expression of the full blown disgust and anger so many Americans share at the terror inflicted on fellow Americans by out of control and unaccountable police.

One action does not a Movement nor a Revolution make, to be sure. But the cumulative effect of all these actions all over the country, sustained by determined young people and their allies, is a wonder to behold, and that wonder can lead to revolutionary change in consciousness and behavior -- and that's the point of all these actions.

I saw an articulation yesterday regarding the underlying issues and objectives of the current actions, and I ransacked my own archives. So much of it seemed so familiar. So much of what we were going through just a few years ago with Occupy and police issues has been repeated in response to the outrage and protests over the incessant killings by police, so many of them unarmed black men. Similarity is not identity, but Occupy activists understood quite clearly that the police behavior toward them was merely mirroring what had been going on in communities of color for generations -- it was in no way comparable, but it was a reflection.

So much of what people have been yearning for -- which I have long characterized as "dignity, justice, community, and peace" -- has been cynically thwarted and subverted by a ruling elite which sees its own interests as the only interests that matter. Shooting people down in the streets, as the police so often are wont to do, is simply one of the tactics used by Our Rulers to keep the rest of us in line.

It doesn't matter who they shoot or why; it matters that they shoot, and shoot to kill, so as to serve as a warning to everyone else. It is no longer "Get outta line, the man come and take you away," it's "Bang, bang, you shot me down."

It's been happening in communities of color, especially in black communities, for as long as there has been a United States, and long before that. For as long as Europeans have colonized and conquered the Americas, the Other has been subjected to whatever torments their oppressors choose to indulge in. The original sins and some of the methods of genocide and chattel slavery live on in contemporary America, despite all the calls to "get over it" and "move on."

Shutting down freeways, shopping malls, bridges and intersections, walking out of work and school, all are effective tactics used during the current period of unrest following the repeated killings by police of unarmed and/or nonthreatening individuals by roided up rangers on a mission of murder. They are not engaged in shootouts with desperadoes. Far from it. They are hunters and killers, not protecting and serving, but seeking out "righteous battle," targeting and executing whoever gets in their sights.

Yesterday's tactic in Oakland was to shut down the police headquarters itself.

According to Bella Eiko who was livestreaming part of the action, previously it had been nigh unto impossible for protesters to get to the police headquarters in Oakland as it had been barricaded by police and traffic was diverted away from it. Yesterday morning, however, a dedicated cohort of black activists and white and Asian allies made their way to the building and chained themselves to the doors; one intrepid soul used climbing gear to successfully mount the flagpole in front of the building and unfurl a "Black Lives Matter" flag showing the images of some of those who have been killed by police in Oakland and elsewhere in the country.

So far as I could tell from the videos and tweets that I saw yesterday, the police were caught completely off guard. Their shields were down; their defenses were penetrated. And the action -- completely nonviolent -- put them in a very bad light indeed. For once, they could not even protect and serve themselves -- the only people who really matter in their universe.

Throughout the country, let it be noted, police and government offices in general have taken to barricading themselves against the public. Police stations are some of the most heavily guarded and barricaded locations, but all government offices sport layers of security and barricades to keep the public at bay. During protests, there will often be phalanxes of police surrounding their "forts" -- police stations and offices.

In Ferguson, I noted that the only places protected by police and National Guard when the Darren Wilson nonindictment was announced were the police and fire department buildings. Everything else was on its own, and where vandalism and arson were being committed, there was no police or fire department presence at all.

The police protect their "fort" and almost nothing else. It's happened again and again, in many other places besides Ferguson.

But yesterday, the Oakland main "fort" was compromised, and the police could do nothing but let it happen.

Well, they did nothing but let it happen.

Whether they could have done anything to prevent it or fight it, I don't know.

Ordinarily, under typical circumstances, they would have used gas and grenades and batons and rubber bullets, the full panoply of hardware and brutality, to break up and disperse the demonstrators and the throngs who gathered to watch.

Ordinarily they would have arrested all the demonstrators -- violently in some cases -- and they would have hauled them all off to Santa Rita where they would have been processed as slowly as possible, and more of them would be assaulted and injured by police and guards.

Though there were preparations and expectations that the police would respond to this action with their typical violence and brutality, they did not. They appeared to be slow to respond at all. Did they not notice what was going on, or were they told to stand down?

As I watched some of the action unfold, I became suspicious that something was going on behind the scenes that curbed the OPD's general penchant for violence in the face of protests. Someone was telling them to cool their jets, put away their weapons, and let this thing play out.

I assume it was the chief. But perhaps someone was telling him to cool it. Perhaps it was the City Manager/Administrator (currently Henry Garner, who I know nothing of) -- who is in charge of the police in Oakland, not the Mayor or City Council.

And perhaps someone in authority over the chief and the city administrator (who could that be?) was telling both of them to stand down.

If that's the case, then I'd say something has finally penetrated the thick skulls of the Highest of the Local Mighty and they got the message: "Back the fuck off or...?" Or what? Revolution? This time they may feel it's real or has the potential to become real if they push against the protests too much.

The point has been made, too, that this action in Oakland was planned and executed by BlackOut Collective together with white and Asian allied affinity groups who consciously used their privilege as a shield for everyone against police violence and brutality. They knew the risks of what they were doing, but they also understood that because they weren't black they would have a certain level of protection from police violence.

And so it was. Not only were they protected from police violence, most of them weren't even arrested, and those that were arrested were released apparently within minutes.

It was as stark a demonstration of the nature of privilege in this society as I've ever seen. Except for a strong presence at the beginning of the demonstration, black folk were kept in a kind of kettle or cage across the street and were allowed to watch while white and Asian allies conducted their action with little or no interference or presence by police. Only the ones who blocked the doors and the street were taken away, but it's not entirely clear that more than a few of them were arrested (25 are said to have been arrested). According to reports, all of  those who were arrested were subsequently released. The ones around the flagpole and the "Flagpole Homie" who climbed the pole and stayed there for 4 hours unfurling the "Black Lives Matter" flag were allowed to leave with neither citation nor arrest, though arrests of all and charges to be filed had been previously announced by the Oakland PD PIO.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, some of the activists from Ferguson who initially were not allowed to address the crowd assembled for the "Justice For All" rally organized by The Reverend Al Sharpton on Saturday spoke at what looked like a hotel conference room about why they shut shit down, including the rally until they were allowed to speak. They spoke about why and about how important the tactics of inconvenience and discomforting the comfortable are in this struggle.

I think they're brilliant:


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

This is Bella Eiko's video of the last hour and a half of yesterday's action in Oakland.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

And a link to earlier in the day:

This is a copy of a statement by those who organized the action yesterday:

For those of yall that have seen the action today that shut down the Oakland Police Department for 4 hours and 28 minutes, that was why this was posted this early in the AM, to give context to how this came about. Local black organizers, connected to The BlackOut Collective, Black Lives Matter, and #BlackBrunch, held down the very center of the action, with their message #BlackAndBreathing. Members of their groups were giving overall political direction. Multiple Affinity Groups (teams) of about 200 non-black folks, under the name Bay Area Solidarity Action Team, locked down to doors all around the building, scaled the flag poles and dropped a #BlacklivesMatter banner with the faces of Oscar Grant, Mike Brown, Alan Blueford, and Renisha Mcbride, and Tamir Rice. Blockade team with lock boxes at the base. Other allied POC, including an Asian affinity group #Asians4BlackLives locked to the front doors. Two intersections were blockaded as well, including folks in wheelchairs using them as blockade devices. The logic was allies leveraging their privilege to support the black reclamation of space, especially in front of the #OPD, an institution known for its violence on black lives. By the end, many more people in the streets supporting. Everyone safe, everyone who was arrested is out. Action demands lifted up national demands from #FergusonAction. Lots of lessons and mistakes along the way, looking forward to debriefing and learning more from this experience to keep it moving in a good way.
(h/t hotflashcarol at FDL who was in the thick of Occupy Oakland back in the day and has many stories to tell.)

The key here is that this aspect of the revolution is being led by the young. Those of us of a certain age and background are thrilled to see it. We can't tell them what to do -- and most of us won't try. The young are the ones who will find their way through this period of cruelty. And they're doing it.

They have shown a resolute intent to build a better world for themselves and for the future, and I for one cannot but be filled with respect and admiration.

Their voices have been heard, but we're not to the point of resolution. Not yet.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Impunity vs Inconvenience

During the latest round of protests against police violence, murder and impunity, activists have repeatedly shut down freeways through many cities as well as taking over major intersections for anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more.

There have been nearly constant complaints that these tactics of inconvenience are alienating would-be supporters. It may or may not be true, but the simple fact is that the inconveniences of freeway shut-downs and other roadway difficulties are commonplace, everyday occurrences. They're routinely caused by construction and reconstruction, wrecks, police chases, loose dogs or cattle, you name it. One's convenience is forever being messed with, and most people long ago came to grips with it.

Yet when protesters shut the freeways down or hold a die-in at the shopping mall or disrupt a meeting of the powerful to ensure their voices are heard, pearls are clutched and garments are extensively rent over the inconvenience these dambed protesters cause and how much trouble they're making to no object whatsoever.

It's bizarre. Especially in contrast to the complete impunity with which police and many of the high and mighty seem to operate. Compared to the injustice of that impunity, the inconvenience of a protest shut-down ("If we don't get it, shut it down!" "Who shuts shit down? We shut shit down!") is as nothing. Compared to the looting of the entire economy and everybody's pocketbooks conducted by the titans of finance, the sporadic and mostly targeted looting that took place in Ferguson and a few other places is nothing. Compared to the destruction of whole communities caused by both the police and the titans of finance, the arson that took place during some of the protests (attributed to the protesters but without evidence or proof) was nothing.

Impunity is the keyword here. Some people, agencies and institutions seem to have it. Others do not. The police get away with mayhem and murder all the time, and they are celebrated and praised for it. The financial sector loots with complete impunity -- and they are rewarded when they do something particularly outrageous particularly well.

The military seemed to set the standard in Iraq and Afghanistan for the use of force and impunity we see among police. In Iraq, any Iraqi seen with a weapon was subject to summary execution. Hundreds or thousands of Iraqi civilians attempting to protect their homes and property from the invaders or from criminals were shot on sight. In Iraq and Afghanistan, if a military transport was caught in traffic or a native-driven vehicle or pedestrian was in the way of a military transport, crushing the vehicle and everyone in it, running down the pedestrian, or what have you to get through to their destination was routine. Check-point murders were almost too frequent to count. If the Iraqi or Afghani native didn't instantly obey the commands of the checkpoint officers, and the officers perceived any kind of threat from the native, lethal force was authorized and employed with some relish. If there was a resistance attack on troops, troops were authorized to open fire on everyone in the vicinity, and in "clearing" buildings, everyone found inside, regardless of status, was subject to immediate execution. Every Iraqi and Afghani male between the ages of 16 and 60 was usually seen as a threat and a combatant, again, regardless of status, and many were killed simply because of their gender and age.

Iraqi and Afghani dogs and donkeys were considered existential threats and were often shot on sight. Wounded civilians and fighters were often left unattended, and in one particularly horrifying incident in Fallujah documented by Kevin Sites, a line of wounded men sitting against the wall of a mosque were shot to pieces by brave American soldiers, and one was shot dead lying on a stretcher as the hopped up troop who killed him screamed "He's faking he's dead!!!"

These and many, many other murders during the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were considered "justified" so long as those committing them were following the rules of engagement, rules that were never clearly articulated to the local population, rules that could always be invoked and interpreted to absolve the killers of culpability. Thus many thousands died most of them innocent of any transgression they knew of, and the troops committing the homicides got away with it.

The situation is not exactly analogous among domestic police forces, but it is very similar. Similar enough for the comparison between domestic police and an occupying army to be frequently noted.

The only time troops were seriously held to account was over sexual offenses and issues. And so it seems to be among domestic police forces as well. Those who are caught in sexually compromised situations may well wind up in court for their trouble, but let them kill someone or run them down, or otherwise leave a trail of blood behind them, and they might just get a medal and a parade. It's a totally screwed up institutional situation in which there is no justice -- at least no justice by any definition the victims and survivors would recognize.

And yet the perpetual injustices of a warped and insensitive system are somehow to be endured by the victims and survivors while a few minutes' inconvenience caused by those protesting this insanity is considered intrusive and alienating, even by many "good liberals."

It's bullshit.

People are dying and there is no justice. Individuals, families, and whole communities are being destroyed by police and by policies of those on high, and there is no justice.

The fact that someone might have to wait a while during a protest against injustice and impunity is just too damn bad. Deal with it.

"No justice, no peace! No racist police!"

From what I've seen, the protests have been remarkable in many ways. The numbers getting out into the streets to protest police impunity and injustice and demand police accountability are impressive. As I've said, we've -- finally -- reached the tipping point on the issue of police violence and murder, and changes will come.

How it will resolve is still something of a mystery, though, and I don't trust those in power and authority to do the right thing. They certainly won't do so on their own, and they will only do as little as possible under pressure. They seem to revel in the mock-military bloodshed they commit and do not want to give it up willingly. So we'll see.

In the meantime, abundant respect and praise to the protesters. Solidarity!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

From The Stimulator

This was last week's episode. It gives you an idea of how the news and images from Ferguson and elsewhere were being seen through the anarchist lens of Frank Lopez (aka The Stimulator) and what plans are being made for the coming year.

Ferguson Redux from the stimulator on Vimeo.

The efforts to bring justice to so many cases of police violence and murder has inspired a huge outpouring of creative energy.

Once again, there's something happening here...

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Protests Will Continue

Tomorrow is a National Day of Resistance, National Day of Action, with demonstrations announced for dozens and dozens of cities.

The video below is one of many that have been produced and posted on behalf of the victims of police violence and the growing resistance movement.

It is our duty to fight
It is our duty to win
We must love each other and support each other
We have nothing to lose but our chains
Assata Shakur -- "To My People" 1973 

What Then Must We Do?

It's the perpetual question, no?

Not all of us can do as much as we might want to do in the face of so much adversity, but at the same time, many more have been taking the risks to do something about what's been going on, so it's quite possible for some of us old folk to step back and let the young do what they must to bring about that Better World we know is possible.

When I saw the pictures of congressional staffers walking out and posing with their hands up on the steps of the Capitol yesterday, I knew the long-awaited tipping point had come. No more could the status quo of perpetual police murder with impunity be maintained. Something would change.

This doesn't mean that a resolution to the problem has been achieved or ratified, but it does mean that the Powers have noticed there is a Problem and have decided intervention is necessary. Police departments will follow certain orders, but they cannot and will not reform themselves absent firm and direct orders for change -- and perhaps not without a good deal of behavior modification along the way.

In that regard, I'm reminded of that insane freak (Lt Col) Dave Grossman who goes around in a kind of ecstatic religious trance speaking before large audiences of police officers, telling them that their highest accomplishment is "killing in righteous battle" -- essentially absolving them by declaring their actions "righteous" by nature. They are "sheepdogs" as he puts it, "protecting the flock" from the "wolves."

Dogs, even sheepdogs, can go rogue and start killing the sheep, and that's what's happened. There have been few or no controls on the behavior of the police with regard to their duties for many years, and the situation reached a crisis point with the execution of a homeless mentally ill man in Albuquerque in March. Many tried to blame the victim for his own demise, as almost always happens in the case of police murders and executions, but this time there was a significant push-back from the public.

Message: "No! Stop. The. Killing!"

There were months of demonstrations and protests against police violence in Albuquerque, some of which involved shutting down the freeway through town and other direct actions to discommode the comfortable and powerful. At times, these protests were met with militarized and violent police responses which drew national attention to the problems created by abusive police and the militarization of police.

The DoJ had been investigating complaints against he Albuquerque Police Department for many months, but there was little sign they would release findings any time soon. The persistent public protests appeared to affect the department's investigators enough to move process forward, and a scathing report was released in April documenting numerous cases of inappropriate use of force and deadly force in a pattern and practice of "unconstitutional policing" which would have to change.

There was a spate of police killings following the release of this report, most of them questionable if not completely outrageous, and then things started to change. There has not been a police killing in Albuquerque since August, and in October the city and DoJ entered into a consent decree to reform the Department, mostly focused on training and reporting, but including disbanding a notorious APD kill-squad and otherwise curbing the use of force and deadly force by the Department while building a genuine crisis intervention policy and program that would reduce police violence when dealing with mentally ill people in crisis.

So far, it's held.

The issue was police violence and murder and the complete impunity with which the police operated. It was obvious that the city administration was taken aback by the response to the killing of James Boyd in March. They had no idea that such a killing would trigger so much passion and outrage. Until the release of the DoJ report, the city's police and administration had insisted there was nothing wrong with what was going on. Business as usual meant that there would be a police killing to two a month, every one of them justified by the DA, and that would be that. Those who died obviously needed killing, or they wouldn't have gotten in the way of police bullets, amirite?

The way it was, according to police and civic officials, was the way it was supposed to be. When the People rose up in outrage and demanded change, however, Authority was non-plussed. When a greater Authority than the local police and civic officials said "You done bad," there seemed to be something of an awakening in City Hall and the Police Department.

Wait. They were doing it wrong? So it seemed.

Meanwhile, elsewhere the killing went on and on and on. Eric Garner, Mike Brown, John Crawford, Kajieme Powell, Vonderrit Myers, and so many more. The dead kept piling up. The People's outrage and fury kept growing.


The plea from the People went largely unheard, however. Outside of Albuquerque, the official response was a blank stare, followed too often by a bullet, a taser, a chokehold. Someone would die, at the rate of two or three a day, day in and day out, as documented by the only resource that is compiling media reports of police killings in almost real time, "Killed by Police." More than a thousand have died at the hands of police so far this year, and that number tracks closely with reports of police killings in years past. The problem has been, however, that until Killed by Police started tracking media reports of police killings, there were no comprehensive national statistics on the matter; it was purely up to local police departments to voluntarily report to offices in Washington, DC, and the resulting numbers announced by the FBI each year were vast undercounts.

The casualty list is enormous, far greater by orders of magnitude than the number of police killed by gunfire or other acts of violence against them. FAR greater. No one knew. Further, as the dead piled up and reports of killings of unarmed victims were collected, it became clear that black men and boys were particularly vulnerable to police violence, being shot on sight -- often on video -- based on... what? Their gender and color and the intrinsic "threat" that represents to Power?

Further analysis has shown that Native American men are almost as vulnerable to police violence. The mentally ill and the poor of any gender, race or ethnicity face similar vulnerabilities.

I've long been convinced that most of these deaths are preventable, that 90% or more of police killings are not justified by the facts and necessity. They are matters more of convenience or willful acts of murder and terror.

Police kill because they can and because it suits their nature -- and they know they will get away with it almost always.

The People have risen up in their multitudes and demand -- yes, demand -- that the killing stop.

The People are doing what they must do. And yes, doing what they must do sometimes discommodes the comfort and convenience of the unvictimized, and it sometimes shames the powerful. Given the number of dead at the hands of police, a little inconvenience is a relatively minor cost to bring attention to and hopefully correct an out-of-control social problem.

What did the sign say during Occupy? "Sorry for the inconvenience, we're trying to change the world."

Photo by Ben Terrett, Creative Commons license
Actually, the inconvenience is necessary.

And I'm not sorry at all.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Crisis of Legitimacy -- Updated

Protests over police violence and lack of accountability have roiled the country since the repeated failures of prosecutors and grand juries to indict police officers for the murders and summary executions that they commit. The protests and demonstration in solidarity with #Ferguson and Michael Brown and Eric Garner are spreading abroad as well. The movement that has arisen since the issue of police violence and lack of official accountability became the paramount social issue of the year looks to be growing as demonstrations continue to disrupt the routines of the comfortable and authority seems unable to cope -- except with more violence against nonviolent civil disobedience and hunkering down to protect their fortresses. How striking it has been to witness the police giving free rein to vandals, arsonists, and looters in Ferguson and elsewhere while vigorously attacking and dispersing crowds of nonviolent protesters or simply forming protective cordons around police stations.

Governments all over the United States and much of the world are facing a crisis of legitimacy, as more and more of them unleash violence and murder on their own people and refuse to conduct their operations in the People's interests.

Most clearly and immediately, that refusal is manifest in the continuing refusal to hold police accountable for their murder and execution of unarmed citizens. But there is so much more: the refusal of the Justice Department to prosecute the horrifying crimes against humanity committed by agents of the US Government; the refusal to address the issue of disparate and racist "justice" in this country; the refusal to hold bankers and financial fund managers criminally liable for imploding the US and global economies, forcing millions upon millions of Americans into poverty; the constant brutalization of the innocent; the lawlessness at nearly every level and branch of government; the endless warring against phantom enemies, some of which are the direct creations of our own spooks; the everpresent and pervasive domestic spying... the list goes on and on.

The Crisis of Legitimacy is the product of all these things and more.

The Crisis of Legitimacy is the result of years and years of failed institutions, failed policies, and the absence of the rule of law.

It has come to a head with the current wave of #ShutItDown and #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations.

Everywhere we turn, the Powers That Be and their agents react to the demands of the People with violence and contempt. The protests only grow. The inconveniences only grow. There will be continued disruption until and unless the concept of "justice" -- real justice, not the pretend version that practiced today -- is restored.

At the same time, Authority is being de-legitimized. Police are routinely taunted and defied. Elected officials -- when they aren't hiding behind their barricades -- are rudely dismissed as corrupt and incompetent. The school administrators cannot keep students in class. Teachers join in the demonstrations.

And still, those in power insist that there's nothing they will do or can do to correct the legal, social, and economic injustices that they have fostered and that the People are now calling to account. There is nothing they can do but to crackdown even harder on dissent.

As they do, their legitimacy evaporates. The "mandate of heaven" -- the right to rule -- is withdrawn.

That's what's happening now.

UPDATE: The Tipping Point, it has come:

It is now virtually impossible for police and DAs to continue absolving killer cops from culpability and accountability.

It will nevertheless continue until and unless the financial costs of doing so become too onerous...


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

O Taos

Mabel Dodge Luhan House, "Los Gallos," Taos, NM, December, 2014

"On another topic...

Last weekend was Our Taos Weekend.

We haven't been up to Taos for more than thirty years, and that time it was very brief, with a stop at La Fonda on the Plaza to see the D. H. Lawrence paintings, then turn around and get the holy hoo-hah out of there. Pronto.

Well, I couldn't breathe you see. I was a pretty heavy cigarette smoker in those days, and I lived essentially at sea level in Sacramento. Taos is at about 7,000 feet altitude, and anyone from sea level is going to feel lightheaded from the apparent lack of oxygen A smoker like I was is liable to panic, and I did

Ms. Ché, on the other hand, had a different set of issues. Earlier in the day, we'd stopped at Meteor Crater in Arizona. It's a remarkable formation, a remarkable site, and we spent quite a while exploring the crater rim, reading about the impact that caused the crater and otherwise enjoying the scenery and contemplating the Apocalypse.

The shop displayed lots and lots of crystals of one sort or another, and Ms. Ché picked up an amethyst chunk to inspect it more thoroughly. Immediately, she started feeling poorly, and she set it down. She said to me, "We have to get out of here. I just did something I shouldn't have."

I asked her what she'd done. "I picked up a crystal. They say you shouldn't do that unless you're prepared for what might happen. I wasn't. I feel awful."

She looked awful, too. So we left. We stopped in Gallup over the New Mexico line an hour or two later, where she doused her face with water and sat for a bit in the sun. Then we headed the rest of the way to Taos, and got there just before sunset.

I managed to find the Plaza somehow and locate La Fonda on the Plaza; the paintings were in a room off the lobby, and a man was there taking money (I think it was $4 admission) and allowing folks to wander around the room looking at the dozen or so rather naive but racy paintings D. H. Lawrence had created while a guest at Mabel Dodge Luhan's house somewhere in town. I had no idea where her place was, and at the time, it wasn't open to the public. I was interested in the paintings because I was involved in a project, a play (I don't recall the title now) that centered on -- or at least mentioned -- D.H. and Frieda Lawrence's time in Taos and I'd been doing a lot of research. Seeing Lawrence's paintings was one of my objectives in coming to New Mexico that time. I saw them. Once I did, it was time to go...

We drove back to Santa Fe and spent the night at a quirky old motel -- I want to say it was the El Rey, but Ms. says no, it was another, just as old, but not as well known. Of course, I'm sure we've stayed at the Crossroads in Albuquerque as well, and she says no, it was another, similar place, but not close to the freeway.

By morning, both of us had recovered, and we spent the rest of the week exploring New Mexico before we had to return to California and the drudgery of everyday life. Well, such as it was. (Our "everyday life" was often quite unusual... but that's another story for another time.)

I never wanted to go back to Taos, and if Ms Ché did, she didn't tell me. In fact, she says she barely remembers being there at all on that trip. I didn't want to go back in part because I couldn't breathe at that altitude, and in part because it was such a ridiculous place full of unreconstructed hippies, charlatans, new agers, and spiritualists who had no idea what the fark they were doing. And of course there were the Famous Artists, Musicians and Movie Stars. Yet another destination ruined by colonization. By that time, we'd had more than our fill of those types. Oh, yes, more than our fill.

We'd already been involved in The Show Business (as we liked to call it) for more than ten years and would be for another twenty or so, but when it came to those aspects that involved "fame" or the "famous," we tended to step back. At that time, I worked freelance as director and designer and was contemplating opening a theater that would focus on original works by women and people of color, developing brand new works for the stage, and seeing where that would lead. That project would be another few years off, however.

So Taos was a destination for the D. H. Lawrence connection but really nothing else, and when we traveled to New Mexico after that, we stayed in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Santa Fe was difficult for me in those days, too, because of its altitude -- also about 7,000 feet. Albuquerque was OK at 5,000 feet. Well, relatively speaking.

I stopped smoking in 1997 and gradually my lungs recovered, though the last time I had a CAT scan, the pulmonary doctor showed me all the "pockets of emphysema" that I hadn't gotten rid of. Nevertheless, the altitude doesn't bother me so much any more. Our place in New Mexico is at 6,300 feet, and I barely notice it's not at sea level. Santa Fe is a frequent destination these days, and the altitude has not been a problem.

Taos might have been a problem, but there was no reason to go there, so it wasn't an issue.

Then something happened. José Montoya died. Now José was a preeminent figure in Chicano literature, someone we knew in Sacramento through our associations with members of the Royal Chicano Air Force. We didn't know he was from New Mexico, that in fact had been born and raised not far from where we live now. I found out that he had died from a friend who had been with him only a few days before. There was a memorial scheduled in Albuquerque, and we decided to go, to pay our respects and to remember.

Many Chicano poets from all over the Southwest spoke at the memorial and read their own works and José's, and there was music and José's daughter made remarks, and it was a fine time. One of the poets was Jimmy Santiago Baca, who always makes quite a splash -- as is his way. He and José were apparently close for a long time. Maya Angelou had just died, and Jimmy made it a point to speak ill of her. Now wait, we thought. Dissing Sister Maya at a memorial for José Montoya? How rude. But Jimmy didn't care. He had things to say about the way certain authors of color  like Sister Maya were hailed and celebrated -- even though their work wasn't necessarily that good in his estimation -- whereas Chicano/Latino/Hispano poets and writers whose work was brilliant (in his estimation) were ignored by the market. Why was that? Racial discrimination was still apparent, wasn't it? It was just different now... certain authors of color could advance, but not Chicanos.

Jimmy read his own powerful poem and then he read something of José's and both were very good. The crowd at the memorial applauded lustily. He'd touched a nerve and moved the audience greatly.

Ms. Ché knew of Jimmy Santiago Baca long before his appearance at the memorial for José Montoya, but I didn't. It was my first exposure to him and his work, and I found both to be intriguing. I was very impressed with his poetry, his fierceness, his determination, and his warmth. But he dissed Sister Maya, and that was just wrong. 

Some months later, we got a notice about the premier in Santa Fe of a documentary film about Jimmy Santiago Baca called "A Place to Stand," and we decided to go. It's a remarkable film about a remarkable character, the writer and teacher himself, whose life has not been like everybody else's, not by a long shot.

He announced a writing workshop intensive in Taos to take place in December and invited attendees at the film to come on up. It would be at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. It would be wonderful.

Ms. Ché thought this might be interesting, so she got in touch with the organizer and after some back and forth, she made arrangements to attend.

The workshop was last weekend. She didn't want to drive herself, so I drove her up to Taos on Friday, but I didn't stay. I went back home then returned on Sunday to pick her up. She had, she said, an amazing time at an amazing place, among amazing people (she said there were sixteen at the workshop) -- and she had written some remarkable works even if she said so herself.

Really? Indeed. When I got there to pick her up, she met me at the car, looking a bit worn out, actually. I asked her if she was all right. "Oh yes, just tired, that's all. It's been quite a weekend." She collected her things from her room in the Juniper House and then we went up to the Big House to check out -- and pick up a couple of more books. As we did, we encountered Jimmy. He was effusive in his praise of Ms. Ché and her works. She had done something he had not seen before in his many workshops, and he was so grateful. She'd "opened up the sky." Whatever that meant, and he didn't know, but it sounded good. Other attendees said what she had done had helped release their own inner spirit, and helped them come to grips with what they needed to see and feel and write about... yep.

She was very happy and very tired, and she said she felt at home at Mabel's Place, "Los Gallos." It was, she said, one of the most intense and inspiring experiences of her life, and she was very grateful.

She said she felt that Mabel's Place itself was part of the reason why.

Seeing it, experiencing it for myself, was part of the reason I wanted to go back to Taos this time, finally, after thirty or more years. I'd heard about Mabel's Place in Taos, seen pictures of it, read descriptions, and knew some of its history. But being there was quite a different experience than the distant observation one can make from books and such.

I could see almost immediately why so many luminaries made the trek from wherever they were from and wanted to stay at this rambling, creaky old place adjacent to Taos Pueblo lands. It's a mile or so from the Plaza, but it feels like it's in another realm altogether. The Big House rambles and creaks along a ridge above an empty acequia. There is a spectacular view of Taos Mountain from the upper floors, an entire glassed room, the Solarium, is at the very top of the house and views go on for many miles. But the house itself, though large, is very cozy and warm and welcoming. It feels like "home" just as Ms Ché had said.

I can only imagine what it must have been like before Taos was ruined and became a tourist mecca, and this place, almost alone, was the center of a literary and artistic firmament.

At any rate, being there myself, with Ms Ché, I felt some of the energy of the place and the many that had been there before us. It was/is remarkable.

We're making plans to go back and stay for a while for the sake of it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On the Other Other Other Hand....

White folks confronting a police line in Berkeley a few hours ago:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
Last night, Elon James White was adamantly denouncing the "highjacking" of the protests against police violence by ignorant or worse white folk who should step back. He seemed most annoyed with the handful of "anarchists" who were going around setting fires and breaking windows in Berkeley, he says they bring disrepute on the Movement.

He says these demonstrations are about police violence and murder -- of Black people. "Black lives matter..." Remember?  Eric Garner? Michael Brown? Not "all lives," BLACK lives. But so many of the demonstrators in Berkeley -- where he is -- are privileged white student asshole jerks who know nothing and care less about the oppression of African Americans and are only looking for their moment in the spotlight.

Tonight, however, he seems to be terrified on the one hand, elated on the other, wanting to denounce, and yet... there's something happening here...

They shut down I-80 in Berkeley. They went out onto the freeway and shut down traffic to and from San Francisco and the East Bay in both directions for however long they were able to hold the line, and Elon freaked out and had an anxiety attack. He does not approve.  #ICan'tDrive became a new hashtag.  They shut down BART. They shut down Amtrak, too. This is going too far.   

Apparently hundreds were arrested -- volunteered to be arrested?? -- at an Emeryville shopping mall.

But I really can't tell what's going on from the Twitter Machine or any of the livestreams I've checked. It's disruption and chaos and yet...

There's something happening here...

Somehow the message is getting through: Slowly. Haltingly.

This has got to stop, the police murders have got to stop, the oppression of black folks and the destruction of black lives, families, and communities has got to stop. Until it does, the People -- black and white and all the other colors together -- are going to take action. Some of it will be nice and polite and friendly and manageable. Some of it won't be. But action there will be until this intolerable situation changes for the better.

It can be done and it will be done.

"Sorry for the inconvenience. We're trying to change the world here."

And then there's this: 

Dear White Protesters: 
As I walked through the streets of Berkeley tonight listening to the overwhelmingly white crowd chant things like “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” I felt uncomfortable. I passed white people holding signs that said “I can’t breathe” and I felt uncomfortable. Then, when we were instructed to sit down in the middle of the main street that runs through downtown Berkeley and were made to listen to a white person on a bullhorn declare “All lives matter!” I felt invisible. Ignored. Forgotten.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

"Whose streets?" As a Black person in this country, I am well aware that the streets belong to white people. I am not empowered or made more safe by hundreds of white people chanting that the streets belong to them. The street in Ferguson where Mike Brown was murdered and lay dead for 4.5 hours should have belonged to him, but it didn’t. He’s dead. He’s not coming back. That’s because the streets belong to white people.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

"This is what democracy looks like?" You’re right. Democracy has always meant that (for reasons you’re well aware of but like to pretend you don’t remember or don’t matter anymore) black people are a consistent minority in this country and thus must petition white people for our basic human rights. Democracy means voter ID laws and poll taxes. Democracy in America is a white majority dictating whose voice matters. Democracy is white liberals telling black folks to calm down and go the polls (and vote for Democrat) as if Bob McCulloch isn’t a "democrat." As if Jay Nixon isn’t a democrat. As if our president isn’t Black and it hasn’t done shit to lower the ever mounting body count of Black people gunned down in the streets by police and vigilantes. As if any Black politicians in a non-majority Black district can get elected, much less reelected, without catering to white people’s feelings. I know what democracy looks like and it hasn’t done very much for people who look like me.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

"All lives matter?" NO THEY DON’T AND THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT! Black people’s lives don’t matter, that’s why I’m out in the streets, to get people to realize that my life has worth. I have to protest to get people to even think about the possibility that if the police or some vigilante gun me down, it’s not because the genetic defects believed inherent in my blackness finally manifested and I had to be put down before I became more of a threat to white america. White america doesn’t need a reminder that "all lives matter," it needs to be made to recognize and respect that Black lives matter.

It’s Black bodies that are bleeding and dying in the streets. It’s Black bodies that can’t breathe. It’s Black bodies that are seen and treated as threats to whiteness as we shop in Wal-Mart, play in parks outside our homes, walk home with a pack of Skittles, sleep in our beds. It’s Black bodies that have hung like strange fruit from the trees of this nation for centuries.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

Stop whitewashing our movement. Stop pretending that “All lives matter” means anything other than “HEY ME TOO! WHAT ABOUT MY WHITE FEELINGS! DISREGARD THE ACTUAL REALITY OF BLEEDING AND DYING BLACK PEOPLE AND CATER TO THE HYPOTHETICAL AND EXTREMELY RARE POSSIBILITY THAT POLICE OR VIGILANTES WOULD BE ABLE TO EXTRAJUDICIALLY MURDER A WHITE PERSON AND FACE NO CONSEQUENCES!” Black people know our lives don’t matter because white people’s hypotheticals matter more than Black people’s reality.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

Stop cannibalizing our movements with hashtags about every other life but ours. Stop plagiarizing Black people’s actual struggles for fictionalized white pain (I’m looking at you Hunger Games, with your whitewashed protagonist. “The Hanging Tree?” For real?). Stop scrambling to stand atop the growing pile of dead Black bodies to use it as your makeshift platform to secure more privileges and status for yourself. Stop using protests that should be about Black lives to exercise your white angst, break shit under the cover of darkness, and then bask in the bright light of white privilege while Black lives are declared to be worth less than the windows you broke.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you. This IS about making Black Lives Matter.

Our streets shouldn’t be burial grounds for Black people. Black people’s rights shouldn’t be put to a vote. Black people should be allowed to breathe, walk, exist, without fear.

So, if you’re actually here for making Black Lives Matter, put down your “I can’t breathe” signs (because you can, and that’s the point) and pick up one that declares Black Lives Matter (because right now they don’t, and that’s the point). Get off the ground and stand in solidarity as Black people “die-in” (because it’s not white bodies lying dead on our nation’s streets, and that’s the point). Hand over the bullhorn to a Black person (because your voice doesn’t need a bullhorn to be heard, and that’s the point).

And please, stop saying #AllLivesMatter…until they actually do.
It's true, yes, and yet tragically police violence and killing is not solely about blacks -- unless we want that division to rule us forever.

I got into this issue with people who didn't know anything about the killing spree the Albuquerque Police Department were on for years. Remember that? No? It's forgotten now? Well, I haven't forgotten. And I got into the issue of that killing spree -- which has mercifully paused if not completely ended; there hasn't been a police killing in Albuquerque since August -- with people from out of town and out of state who claimed the police must have been targeting blacks... And I scratched my head and looked at the statistics and said, "No. Not really." Less than 10% of those killed by police were black. "Then they must be targeting Indians and other people of color." Well, that might be closer, but only because most of those killed had Latin last names. In New Mexico, a lot of folks whose last names are Hispanic look "white." Unless you knew them, you wouldn't know they were Hispanos. So, no, the killing spree wasn't based on color or ethnicity. More than half of those killed by APD, however, suffered from mental illness of one sort or another. A significant number were drug users/abusers. Many -- not all -- were poor.

There were specific targets for killing, in other words, but it wasn't black folks because they were black. Those targeted for killing were people with mental conditions, regardless of color, especially if they were poor or homeless; drug suspects or known users/abusers, again, regardless of color, and supposedly armed suspects, regardless of color, especially those who ran from, fought or resisted police.

These are the universal police targets for killing in this country.

In some jurisdictions, the effect of this universal targeting falls disproportionately on black and brown victims, but the targeting goes on regardless of color.

Making the issue entirely about race is a classic means of division. Telling white folks to step back is one thing, but insisting that black lives are the only ones that matter, or that only or mostly black folks are the victims of police violence and killing -- because they're black -- defies reality. And who does that serve?

White folks should be stepping back and should not try to hijack or betray the pain and suffering of their black comrades in this struggle. But black folks should welcome their comrades as well, regardless of color, gender, status or other attribute. For it is when the People are united in struggle and persistent in their demands that Authority and Power trembles.

Solidarity matters.

Monday, December 8, 2014

On The Other Other Hand -- What Went Down In Berkeley The Last Two Nights Is Appalling

[Two hour archived video of the protest action and police response in Berkeley on Saturday. There was a similar protest and police response last night as well. This video can be difficult and frustrating to watch because of poor lighting and frequent hand-held shakiness, but it gives an idea of what was going on and it gives the lie to the nearly universal media premise that protesters somehow "become violent." It is the police who unleash violence on non-violent protesters.]

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Thousands gather in Berkeley, California, take it to the streets, and express their displeasure with the lack of justice in this country. Police hunker down at The Fort (the Berkeley police station.) Demonstrators call police "cowards; murderers!" Police react with violence.

Concerned Officials say "We need a conversation about race...."

We need more than a "conversation"  in the wake of the civil disobedience these last several months. Much more than a "conversation."

We need the killing to stop.

We need police to cease fire.

That's it. Right there. Non-negotiable. The necessary pre-condition to "talks." Stop the killing.

It's not about black on black or white on white crime. It's about police killing. That's the issue. It's been about police killing all year long.

This is the primary social issue in America -- and it has been for the whole year. It didn't start with Eric Garner and Mike Brown. There had been protests of police killings for years; police killings were averaging around a hundred a month, and it was unacceptable.

Police were almost never held to answer or account at trial for their killings of too often unarmed or mentally ill suspects. They simply killed and killed and killed. Many times, their killings led to protests in the streets that were widely ignored. The police had -- and in many cases still have -- a lock on the media's attention, and whatever they say happened is broadcast as if it were truth and fair and right and just.

But the People have long known otherwise.

They've known about police impunity, police lies, police violence, murder and misconduct for as long as they've been alive.

This year, however, finally, police outrages became the principal social issue in the United States.

And that's led to numerous mass protests and civil disobedience in cities all over the country, some of the initial ones in Albuquerque over police misconduct and killing that had been going on unchecked, even "unnoticed," by city officials for years. "There's nothing wrong here. Albuquerque has the BESTEST police in the whole damn country!"

In many cases, again starting in Albuquerque, the protests have been met with highly inappropriate militarized police -- shooting grenades and gas and rubber bullets at non-violent but angry crowds of citizens and residents who are fed up with police violence and demand that it stop.

There were many, many precursor demonstrations to the widespread protests and persistent civil disobedience Authority is facing now throughout the land. Authority chose not to pay attention. Authority demanded compliance and went about its business of looting, pillaging and killing as if nothing had happened. Authority was deaf to the pleas of the People. Authority was blind to the suffering. Authority had no answer but the back of its hand or a gunshot to the head.

Authority was at war with the People.

This had to stop. Making it stop seemed nigh unto impossible.

But it's not impossible.

And the killing will stop.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Not Quite Ready

Saw some of the Shut It Down actions in New York via JamesFromTheInternet's livestream last night, and I was impressed by the size of the crowds -- estimated at 15,000 or more --  by the time I had to head to bed. This is good.


The decision to hold off on Shutting Shit Down until after the workday ended for many/most New Yorkers is somewhat puzzling. The police themselves shut down the Brooklyn Bridge and other sites to prevent the protesters from doing so. And the police have adopted tactics that split the crowds of marchers and protesters into numerous rather easily controlled elements which they then lead either in circles or into dead ends, causing a kind of "natural dispersal."

NYPD is skilled at these tactics. They used them against Occupy as well. They work to dissipate the energy of crowds of protesters and limit the effectiveness of actions. So far, it appears that demonstrators in New York have not found successful countermeasures, though it's obvious that they are aware of the tactics used against them.

Meanwhile I was catching up on some of the actions in St. Louis and watched an archived video shot by Rebelutionary_Z at Webster University in Webster Groves. A contingent of students gathered and marched on campus (one I'm somewhat familiar with, though obviously it's changed in the last 30 years), police and campus security in the lead. This happened at St. Louis University one time too. All of a sudden the march stopped and confusion reigned. Something had happened. There were outbreaks of anger, police lines were formed to prevent resumption and progress of the march, and there was considerable tussling in the crowd as they attempted to find out/figure out what was going on.

Eventually, the cause of the disruption became known. Someone had been arrested at the back of the march. It was one of the banner-carriers, a banner that reads "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" -- a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. This banner has been used in a number of actions and demonstrations in the St. Louis area.

According to reports from witnesses, the arrest had been a "snatch and grab" -- another anti-protester tactic widely used by police these days, and often seen during G-20s and other Big Gatherings of the Mighty, as well as during Occupy's hey-day in the public eye. "Snatch and grabs" are a form of kidnapping in which putative leaders are targeted by police and removed suddenly, often dramatically dragged away by a phalanx of police. Other times, random protesters are similarly targeted and dragged away. Almost always, the only pretext for the arrest of these individuals is that they are strategically placed where the effect of their kidnapping/detention will have the greatest impact on the crowds. This is a link to a video of a similar kind of police action in San Francisco during the #Ferguson protests in which a man who vocally challenged an officer is suddenly grabbed and thrown down, arrested basically for mouthing off. It is a nasty and ought to be an illegal tactic, as charges against snatch and grab victims are rarely pursued. The point is to disrupt and discourage the protesters, and it often works.

It worked in Webster Groves in that the march on campus immediately stopped and the participants then spent twenty or thirty minutes wondering what was going on and/or arguing with police. Eventually, the police said that the man who had been arrested would be released on no bond, provided that the crowd abandoned the march and dispersed. They did so.

Whether the man was ever released, I don't know, but I read this morning about another incident that demonstrates the level of contempt police have for those who are engaged in protest against police violence, and the lengths they are prepared to go to stifle dissent.

Yesterday, a member of the Ferguson Commission who attended a meeting with the President at the White House on Tuesday was arrested by St. Louis Metropolitan Police and charged with assault for his participation in an action at St. Louis City Hall. This was clearly a targeted arrest aimed at intimidating the young man, Rasheen Aldridge, Jr. He's been very vocal about the issue of police abuse in St. Louis, and has participated in numerous demonstrations since the killing of Mike Brown in August. He's also received a lot of press and media coverage, especially after he was appointed to the Ferguson Commission.

His arrest comes on the heels of the failure of the St. Louis County Grand Jury to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown and the failure of the Staten Island Grand Jury to indict Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner in July. It's worth noting (again) that the man who recorded the video of Eric Garner's take-down and arrest, Ramsey Orta, the man who provided the video proof that Pantaleo used an unauthorized chokehold in the take-down, leading directly to Garner's death, was indicted by another Staten Island Grand Jury on unrelated weapons charges, and his wife was arrested shortly thereafter. 

The issue here is the tactic of "making life miserable" for troublemakers. It's a tactic widely by police and Authority in general to silence dissent.

These are not random incidents or coincidences, these are dissent suppressing tactics on full display.

Even the appointment of commissions and meetings at the White House are strategic elements in a cynical campaign by Power to curb and disrupt dissent, protest, and uprisings of all kinds.

They work.

These tactics can be countered, and the disruption of protests and other actions can be thwarted, but it doesn't appear that the organizers of some of the current protests and actions are attempting to do so. I don't know whether it's a strategic choice to let events unfold as they will, or it is a lack of preparedness to counter the kinds of disruptions the police are engaging in.

My sense is that we are still in the "precursor" stage of a potential rebellion and revolution. Activists and Americans in general are not quite ready...

It could be decades before they are "ready." We won't know the day, the how, or the why until it comes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dream Defenders Storify Civil Disobedience Tips

Shut It Down!

The irresponsible action of Grand Juries and prosecutors which fail to indict killer police has rent the fabric of society in ways that may not be possible to repair. Obviously something is very wrong. Systemic and institutional failures abound, but the continued killing with impunity by police all over the country has caused the public to reach a tipping point.

This has got to stop.

Grand Juries and prosecutors who enable police impunity are on the wrong side of history. The People have been saying "NO MORE!" for years, and the institutions of law and government have essentially said "Fuck you!" time and time again. The People have been patient, the People have been forbearing and long-suffering as the People will be, but as the chant says, "Ain't no power like the power of the People, 'cause the power of the People won't stop."

And today, as yesterday when the Grand Jury's decision not to indict Brave Officer Pantaleo for killing Eric Gardner was announced, the People arose and said, 

Shut It Down

And so it began. Large parts of New York and other cities came to a standstill, building on actions that have been taking place in many parts of the country for months, at least since the demonstrations in Albuquerque over the egregious shooting of a homeless, mentally ill camper, James Boyd, in the Sandia foothills in March. 

One of those protests included shutting down I-25 through the city, and in the continuing round of protests against police violence around the country, shutting down freeways and highways and major intersections has become a primary tactic. 

"Ain't no power like the power of the People, 'cause the power of the People won't stop."

Shopping malls are shut down. Traffic comes to a standstill. Students walk out of schools. Employees take to the streets. There is no other option at this point, because there are no functioning institutions for justice. Police are out of control, and there is no way (yet) for the government or the law to rein them in. 

The People have to do what they must, and that means they must shut it down until and unless those in power act responsibly, hold police to account, and rein in the murderous rampage they've been on. 

The whole damned system is guilty as hell. 
The failure is systemic, infecting police forces all over the country, some more amenable to reform than others, but almost all engaging in serious incidents of abuse of authority and murder under color of authority. It's a crisis that has had a particularly horrible effect on black men and communities of color.

Until and unless this crisis is addressed comprehensively and pro-actively, there will be extended protests and demonstrations which will effectively shut down "business as usual."

Sorry for the inconvenience. We're trying to change things around here.

When even some of the most reactionary interests in the country recognize that there's something deeply wrong with the way policing is done in this country, we know the tipping point has come.

The White House has declared its determination to "do something about" police militarization and to institute police reforms that will enable the more widespread use of body cameras by police. As many have pointed out, however, the Eric Gardner killing was videorecorded and has been available widely ever since. Apparently it mattered not at all to the Grand Jury which refused to find the officer culpable. However another Grand Jury did indict the man who recorded the incident. So there is that. It's not "justice" by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an example of how the very concept has been twisted into meaninglessness.

Shutting things down is a necessary step under the circumstances. Making "business as usual" impossible in as many places as possible for as long as possible and ratcheting up the pressure day by day is a classic tactic of nonviolent resistance. It has already resulted in some movement by the Powers That Be. They are resistant, of course, to any change in the status quo. But when the People refuse to cooperate in their own oppression any longer, the Powers face a dilemma. They can try to suppress the protests with even more violence, or they can yield. Both have been attempted in various cities and in various ways.

Soon after the release of the DoJ report condemning the Albuquerque PD for its violence and unconstitutional policing, for example, there was a sudden upsurge in police killings. I think there were five in the weeks following the release of the report. Attempts were made to suppress the protest and prevent protesters from accessing the halls of government and power. The demonstrations continued, culminating with a march through the University area that involved thousands of demonstrators. 

Police and the city administration got the message: their continued killing spree had to stop. And it did. So far, the truce has held for months, and the APD has taken a serious PR approach to dealing with the public and the pain and outrage caused by their years of murder and mayhem. 

The shut down actions all over the country and in some places abroad are slated to continue until there is a comprehensive program in place to curb police murder and mayhem and to eliminate the impunity with which police have conducted their policing for far too long. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The HandsUpWalkOut Action in New York Yesterday

StopMotionSolo -- who's been documenting actions since the days of Occupy -- covered the Hands Up Walk Out demonstration in Manhattan yesterday, often at considerable peril to himself. The embedded video below shows the end of the demonstration, nearly three hours after it began.

The demonstrators were mostly highschool students who walked out of class and assembled at Union Square, where, led by the Raging Grannies, they marched and chanted -- and then headed for the streets. They made their way through the streets of Manhattan -- chased and herded by police -- until they reached Times Square where they assembled and heard from speakers about police violence and murder, and how it had to end. Then they made their way further on where about a hundred of them listened to impassioned speakers tell of how their future was being stolen and it was up to the survivors to claim the future for themselves. Powerful and stirring sentiments from the young, powerful shaming of the rulers and their police.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Perhaps the most moving testament starts at about 41:37 in the video.

Links to earlier videos from the day's action:

The Yearning

"Hey hey, ho ho, 

These killer cops have got to go!
Hey hey, ho ho,
These racist cops have got to go!"

That's one of the older chants being used during the current series of anti-police violence actions in Missouri and all over the country. 

People, particularly young people, are fed up with the killer-cop culture that's infected police -- apparently everywhere. By and large they seem impervious to the plaints of the People, and they seem to lack any hint of conscience and compassion as well. Witness Darren Wilson's attitude toward his killing of Mike Brown.

The summary execution of little Tamir Rice in Cleveland is one of the most egregious examples of the police killer culture -- simply drive up and shoot and then leave the victim to bleed out until dead or nearly so. It's incredible. And yet versions of that horrible scenario have been happening for decades, and something like it happens practically every day somewhere in this country.

And of course there are the constant lies out of police forces everywhere about these killings. The lies began immediately when little Tamir Rice was killed, but we've seen the practice of constant lying about these killings for many a long year. The lies are always accompanied by smear campaigns against the victims. In the minds of police, it is always the fault of the victim -- who always needed killing anyway. No matter the facts, it's always the victim's own responsibility that he or she got dead, never that of the police who killed them.

Racism, of course, is part of the pathology that infects police forces. As some historians have pointed out, civil police forces (as opposed to military) began as slave patrols and militias, the purpose being to control the restive Africans forced to work for slave-masters, kidnapped for bounty, used and abused for the profits and convenience of the planter-class.

When civil police were established as a department of city administrations, the racism that was at the basis of slave patrols and militias was transferred to police departments, amplified and extended to encompass anyone or any group designated "The Other" -- if you weren't white, prosperous, and "normal," you would be subject whatever abuse and murder the police cared to commit, and for the most part, there would be no consequences and no justice -- for you.

In some ways, it's gotten better. There are some modest controls these days that didn't exist when I was a boy. On the other hand, because of the original sins and the nature of policing in this country, the racism at its foundation is still apparent in the astonishingly high arrest, killing, and incarceration rates of blacks and other minorities compared to whites.

And young people yearn for it to stop.

That's what the demonstrations breaking out all over the country are all about. The demonstrators demand -- yes, demand -- that this crap stop, that the killing stop, that the war police are conducting on the people stop.

End it. Now.

It's clear the police are stunned. They don't understand why the People would be up in arms about what to the police is their highest duty and accomplishment -- killing the Bad Guys, even if the Bad Guy is little Tamir Rice. He was a Negro With A Gun, and according to all the best practices and protocols, Negroes With Guns are to be shot on sight. That's how the police protect you'n'me you see. We should be grateful, we should honor them with parades and medals.

Of course the young don't see it that way. Not even. The young -- especially -- see the police preying on and villainizing the most vulnerable over and over and over again, brutalizing and killing with impunity. Particularly the mentally ill and minorities. Over and over and over again. Without remorse, without conscience, without any understanding that what they're doing is destroying lives, families and communities -- and it has got to stop.

It's clear that police are by and large confused and offended by the lack faith and understanding the young have for the difficult "split-second" choices police must make and the peril they are always in from the predators they must neutralize every day.

Even if it's little Tamir Rice.

There are demons to slay after all.


The young yearn for an end to this madness.

And they won't rest until it ends.