Archive for the ‘Police’ Category

After Ferguson

December 7, 2014

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The widespread anger at the verdicts in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases is striking. Back in the 1990’s, I was involved with a group that organized around police violence in Los Angeles. We would hold panels at which people would tell heartrending stories about their loved ones being killed by the police. For the most part, the media didn’t pay much attention to this. We would organize demonstrations against police violence, sometimes gettting several hundred people at these events, but they were never anywhere near as large or as militant as the protests we are now seeing.

I think there are several reasons for this change. The most obvious difference between now and then is the development of social media. People now share on the Internet stories that used to get buried in the back pages of local newspapers, which has created greater awareness of the problem of police violence. There is also the alarming militarization of the police, a process that has accelerated since the 9/11 attacks. Stories about no-knock raids ending in tragedy have become almost a regular feature of the news. There is the obvious fact that racism is involved with these killings. And it seems that people are finally just getting fed up. The inspiration for all this are the demonstrations in Feguson, where a largely black population has been living in a virtual state of occupation by a white police force.

It’s hard to say at this point where all this will lead. The protests will likely peter out after a while, but they may start up again with the next killing of an unarmed black man by the police. (And you know this will happen sooner or later, probably sooner.) These demonstrations challenge two fundamental aspects of our criminal justice system: the virtual immunity of the police to prosecution, and the targeting of poor and minority communities. The resistance to change will be fierce, not just by the police, but by the entire government and much of the media.

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Citizenfour

November 29, 2014

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Citizenfour is a documentary by Laura Poitras about the recent revelations of NSA spying on US citizens. For those who have been following this scandal, this film will reveal nothing new. It is primarily of interest as an historical document. There is footage of the first meeting between Snowden and Greenwald and Poitras in hotel room in a Hong Kong. In these scenes, Snowden appears confident, yet one sometimes senses a feeling of anxiousness in him. He is clearly concerned about what might happen to him. (Snowden has been criticized for seeking refuge in Russia, which is a dictatorship. This film tells us that he had intended to fly from Moscow to Ecuador. He no doubt had to give up this idea in the face of the US’s manhunt for him. A plane carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales was forced down because it was suspected that Snowden might be hiding on board.)

Citizenfour ends by hinting that there are even bigger revelations to come. Yet it never really addresses the question of why the government is doing so much spying. Is it really about the “War on Terror”, or does the government have a deeper motive? In one scene, Jacob Appelbaum suggests that the government collects this information so that it can target people who get too much out of line. This may sound conspiracist to some people, but it should sound plausible to anyone familiar with the FBI’s Cointelpro program.

You are being watched. Always remember that.

The Cecily McMillan Trial

May 6, 2014

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The guilty verdict in the Cecily McMillan trial is a reminder that we do not live in a democracy but in a police state. It is meant to remind us that the police can do anything they want to us, and there is nothing we can do about it.

What I find significant about this trial is that of all the people in OWS that they could have targeted, the police and the prosecutors chose McMillan. She is not an anarchist, and she is not a Marxist. She has fairly mainstream political views. The point they seem to be making is that they are willing to go after anyone.

Big Brother

June 7, 2013

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The recent revelations about massive government spying on the American people should come as no surprise. Indeed, they merely confirm what many of us have suspected for quite some time now. It’s worth noting here that all this obsessive information gathering did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombings from happening. The reason for this should be obvious: no terrorist with half a brain is going to discuss his plans over a cell phone or over the Internet. Even the Tsarnaev brothers, who weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs, knew better than that.

So, how concerned should we be about this? As long as you aren’t doing anything illegal, you shouldn’t be too concerned. The government, however, keeps expanding the boundaries of what is illegal. (In New York state, for example, it is now a felony to annoy a police officer. During the time I lived in New York, I got the impression that the cops there were a bit touchy. I imagine it can’t be that hard to annoy them.)

The Internet is a useful organizing tool, but it clearly has its limits and it should be used with caution. Those who have argued that the Internet is the solution to all the Left’s problems should reconsider their position. It’s clear that the Left can’t rely solely upon the Internet.

Homeland Security and the Politics of Helplessness

May 22, 2013

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A new report from the Center for Media and Democracy documents how this nation’s anti-terrorism police collaborated with businesses to attack the Occupy movement of 2011 to 2012. Alternet reports:

    The report specifically looks at the activities of “fusion centers,” or law enforcement entities created after 9/11 that transform local police forces into counter-terror units in partnership with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. The fusion centers devoted a lot of time–to the point of “obsession,” the report notes–to monitoring the Occupy movement, particularly for any “threats” to public safety or health and to whether there were “extremists” involved in the movement.

Those of us who worried that the Department of Homeland Security created after the 9/11 attacks would be used to suppress political dissent have seen our worst fears realized. The government and corporations did everything they could to crush a non-violent movement that spoke people’s anger at the greed of the banks and of Wall Street. The result has the near stifling of any resistance to the corporate agenda.

In such an atmosphere, it is no surprise that people turn to conspiracy theories to explain their problems. Conspiracy theories are the opiate of the politically defeated. Greg Palast’s good buddy Alex Jones – who last month claimed that the Boston Marathon bombings were a “false flag operation” – has suggested that the recent tornado in Oklahoma was the work of a government-owned weather machine. According to Media Matters:

    Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller’s subject. While he explained that “natural tornadoes” do exist and that he’s not sure if a government “weather weapon” was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government “can create and steer groups of tornadoes.”

    According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft “in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things.” He added, “if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that’s the thing, we don’t know.”

The price that we pay for having let Bush and Obama create a police state is a long descent into national infantilism.

Some Thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombings

April 24, 2013

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Although the police are to be commended for having solved this case so quickly, there are still some things about this episode that a leave one feeling uncomfortable. Such as the unnecessary decision to completely shut down the city of Boston. (Common sense dictated that Dzokhar Tsaraev would likely be found in or near Watertown, and, indeed, he was found hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard in that very city.) Or police officers in military gear searching people’s homes without warrants. Or the government’s refusal to read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights.

The Constitution is really the only thing that holds this fractious country together, yet we increasingly treat it as something disposable, like Kleenex. Mayor Bloomberg of New York recently announced:

    The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry. But we live in a complex word where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.

This is coy. Bloomberg has made it clear that he has nothing but contempt for the Constitution, as when he ordered the police to attack Occupy Wall Street protestors, or in his “stop and frisk” policy that targets minority youths. He no doubt drooled as he added:

    We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff. That’s good in some sense, but it’s different from what we are used to.

We already have lots of cameras in our society. Photos and videos taken by private citizens helped the police to pick out the suspects. Hizzoner is specifically referring to surveillance cameras by the police, likely to be positioned to keep the world safe for Wall Street hedge fund managers.

And then there is the question of the motives of the Tsarnaev brothers. There is a substantial amount of evidence that Tamelan was attracted to radical Islam, but Dzhoubar attended a party at UMass-Dartmouth shortly after the bombings, which is not the sort of behavior that one would expect from a Muslim fundamentalist. I suspect that there is a complicated story here, one which we learn about as more evidence comes to light.

Dzhoubar has been charged with using a “weapon of mass destruction”. It used to be that this term only referred to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. It now applies to pressure cooker bombs. No doubt it will soon apply to firecrackers. (But not, of course, to assault rifles!)

Conspiracy Trolls Busy at Work

April 17, 2013

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Mike Adams

Hardly had the smoke cleared from the bombs at the Boston Marathon, than our nation’s conspiracy trolls were hard at work, assuring us that this was another “false flag operation”. You see, any time a shooting or bombing happens, it’s a false flag operation by the government. It’s simply impossible for anything to happen in this country without the government being behind it.

Just ask Mike Adams (his friends call him the “Health Ranger”.) He is the editor of NaturalNews.com, which, I’ve been told, gets over 4 million unique hits each month. According to Wikipedia:

    Adams is an AIDS denialist, a 9/11 truther, a birther and endorses conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

So, name just about any stupid idea you’ve ever heard, and chances are that Mike Adams believes it’s true. (Yeah, you guessed it, he believes in chemtrails.) For Adams, life is just one long, bad episode of The X-Files.

Not long after the bombings, Adams wrote on his website:

    The official story of the bombing is that terrorists detonated two bombs at the marathon finish line and that the Boston bomb squad magically located a third bomb one mile away, identified the bomb, rigged it with explosives and initiated a “controlled explosion” all in less than an hour! (Absurd.)

No, that is not the official story, and it has never been the official story. Shortly after the bombings, there were news reports about a third explosion occurring at the JFK Library, but it later turned out that this was just a fire in the equipment room. The police did search the library for a bomb, but they never claimed to have found one. So, Adams invents an “official story”, and he then proceeds to punch holes in it. Brilliant.

Adams later tells us:

    …the mainstream media is pushing a new narrative that blames “right-wing extremists” for the bombing, even without a shred of evidence to back that up.

Really? I haven’t noticed. To be fair, Adams probably doesn’t actually pay attention to the mainstream media, since he knows that everything they say is a lie. He also notes:

    It is impossible for a bomb squad to have located, analyzed, rigged and detonated the third bomb in under an hour, especially when it was located one mile away, at the Kennedy Presidential Library.

Which is no doubt why the mainstream media don’t claim that they did any such thing.

Adams then comes to this shocking conclusion:

    Although it’s still a bit early to know for certain, this looks more and more like a planned event that was deployed by the Boston bomb squad, called a “drill,” then used as a pretext for the President to call for TSA agents to be on the streets at all future sporting events.

    And that, in turn, is the run-up to the TSA occupation of America, which has always been the goal of Obama. Remember that back on the campaign trail, he announced he wanted to build a “civilian national security force.”

That’s right! Obama can’t settle for the FBI, the CIA, the ATF, the National Guard, Homeland Security, the Federal Marshals, the Secret Service, and local police departments. No! He must have TSA agents groping us on the streets! Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

I gave in to my morbid curiosity and looked at some of the other posts on Adams’s website. I found one entitled Should you leave the USA before the collapse? Words of wisdom from someone who tried. (I wont’ comment on Adams’s use of capitals.) By “collapse”, Adams means that the US is becoming a police state. (I would argue that the US is already technically a police state, but I will leave that for some other time.) Adams begins by talking about how he has visited other countries and found them wanting in various ways. He then advises people to move to Texas instead:

    Because Texas has its own power grid unlike the rest of the nation. Texas can grow its own food. [Texas has also been known to have severe droughts.] Texas is the energy capital of the nation and can produce natural gas, diesel, oil and even jet fuel. Texas has masses of armed patriots who own more guns than they do pairs of shoes, and that makes Texas practically impenetrable to any invading force. [Does this guy know anything about history?]

    For example, suppose North Korea launches an ICBM into the high atmosphere over North America and unleashes an EMP weapon that destroys nearly all electronics.

    This could theoretically be followed by a naval invasion of forces from Red China [sic] and North Korea, both of which suffer from too many young males that can hardly be fed and might as well be thrown at some enemy nation as cannon fodder.

This could theoretically be followed by Martians landing in New Jersey and killing every human being, so they can then leave their dying planet and colonize Earth.

Life’s a bitch, huh?

Manhunt

February 8, 2013

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The fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police all over Southern California have been carrying out a manhunt for a former LAPD officer, Christopher Dorner, who has gone on a killing spree. As the New York Times tells it:

    The police across Southern California were on high alert in a dragnet that appeared to stun even a part of the country familiar with dramatic police hunts. Teams of police officers were dispatched overnight to guard uniformed officers and their families, tactical officers set up lines of defense outside the fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department, and motorcycle officers were ordered to retreat to the safety of patrol cars.

“The fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department”. Sounds impressive, no? And what happens when the denizens of this fortress swing into action? The Times immediately tells us:

    In Torrance, two women delivering newspapers were shot and wounded by police officers who mistook the vehicle they were driving for the one identified as belonging to the gunman.

So police officers opened fire on a vehicle without knowing who was inside it. I suppose it’s easy to mistake two women for one man. The LAPD expressed regret for the incident:

    In a press conference Thursday morning, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck confirmed that police shot innocent bystanders during the hunt for Dorner. He detailed the two victims’ gunshot wounds:

    “One has a minor gunshot wound and is in the process of being released. The second person is in stable condition, with two gunshot wounds,” said Chief Beck. “Tragically, we believe this was a case of mistaken identity by the officers.”

You think so, huh? And is it a tragedy because it was a case of mistaken identity, or is it a tragedy that they only believe this was a case of mistaken identity?

I suppose we shouldn’t be too outraged by this. After all, we have a president who draws up a weekly kill list and orders drone attacks without much concern for the legal or moral consequences. The LAPD are clearly in step with the twenty-first century.

Stand Your Ground

March 25, 2012


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The murder of Trayvon Martin has drawn people’s attention to a peculiar law that exists in Florida. Called the “Stand Your Ground” law, it states that one can use deadly force if “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony”. What I find disturbing about this law is that it diminishes the importance of objective truth. From a legal standpoint, what actually happened is no longer important, only what one person perceived to be happening.

A recent court case in Miami illustrates the problem:

    As critics assail Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in the wake of the killing of an unarmed Miami Gardens teen in Sanford, a Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday cited the law in tossing out the case of a man who chased down a suspected burglar and stabbed him to death.

    Greyston Garcia was charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Pedro Roteta, 26, whom he chased for more than a block before stabbing the man.

    The case illustrates the difficulty police and prosecutors statewide have experienced since the 2005 law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat in the face of danger, putting the burden on a judge, not a jury, to decide whether the accused is immune from prosecution.

    In Sanford, police have cited the Stand Your Ground law in their decision not to arrest a neighborhood watch volunteer in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17. A Seminole County grand jury will decide on whether the man who shot Trayvon, George Zimmerman, 28, should face homicide charges.

You see, Garcia claimed that he thought Roteta was about to stab him.

A man chases another man down the street and stabs him to death, and a judge considers that to be “standing his ground”.

We are living in dark times.

Occupy Eugene to Be Evicted

December 21, 2011

Late in the evening on Monday, December 19, a man who had apparently been in a fight was found unconscious at the OE occupation site. An OE medic performed CPR on the man, who was then taken to a hospital. The next day, the city council held an emergency meeting about this. This certainly isn’t the first time in Eugene’s history that a homeless man has been beaten up, but it appears to be the first time the City Council has considered such an event important enough to justify an emergency meeting. They voted 5-2 that the police should close down the occupation site “soon as practicable”. The decision may have been influenced by a letter that the Eugene Police Employees Association sent to Mayor Piercy, in which among other things, they claimed that “There is open drug use and distribution. There is prostitution of minors. There are used hypodermic needles on the ground inside and outside the tents.” I have been to the occupation site, and I have not seen any of these things. (That’s right, kids, the police are not our friends.)

The following morning OE sent out this press release:

    OE medics help to save another life at W/J Park despite generator noise hampering efforts; 25 OE organizers arrive within minutes to help keep site calm for Eugene Police and Medics

    On December 19th at approximately midnight a brief altercation occurred at the Occupy Eugene site. An extremely drunk individual with a heart condition came onto the OE site and started a fight with an OE occupant. Peacekeeper calls for de-escalation assistance went unheard because of the noise made by the four generators which now surround the site since high-powered security light towers were installed last Friday. Apparently Eugene Police were on site; the unconscious and injured instigator required CPR which the OE medic administered as EPD arrived on the scene. The man is in stable condition.

    This is the 5th time that OE first responders have helped to save a life.

    More than two dozen Occupy organizers and supporters arrived within minutes of notification. After establishing facts regarding the situation, they coordinated a peaceful vigil at the crime scene. Members of OE involved in the incident were given full community support. OE police liaisons provided relevant information to EPD officers. Police Chief Kerns, Lieutenant Kamkar, and City Councilor Ortiz were also on site. Lieutenant Kamkar did not expect any arrests as of 1:30am.

    This press release has been approved by the General Assembly of Occupy Eugene.

After the council’s decision, OE released this:

    Occupy Eugene Responds to Eviction by City Council

    Occupy Eugene is saddened by the City Council’s decision to evict protestors from Washington-Jefferson Park only 5 days before Christmas. The emergency meeting and decision to evict represents a clear betrayal of the collaborative relationship established between OE and the City.

    This decision will serve as further motivation to protesters here in Eugene and around the country to continue to struggle against unjust laws and regulations that propagate social and economic injustice.

    Occupy Eugene is grateful that some attempt was made to accommodate the immediate need for a safe place for homeless folks currently living at Washington Jefferson park by expanding car camping. However, this limited action will have little long-term impact on the problem of homelessness in Eugene and does nothing to replace the ability of the community to come together to solve its own problems.

    Over the course of the occupation in Washington Jefferson Park, the citizens of Eugene, homeless and not, have created a community to address immediate problems and root causes of homelessness.

    For the first time many of Eugene’s homeless population have had a consistent, safe place to sleep, three meals a day, medical care, job skills training, and a community to engage with based around mutual respect and equality. We invite the City of Eugene to take up a similar strategy in their attempts to address homelessness.

    As was reiterated in the City Council meeting by Mayor Kitty Piercy, we hope that the eviction will happen peacefully without any force or violence. The official Occupy Eugene response to the eviction by the City of Eugene will be nonviolent.

    The Occupation will continue with or without camp.

    This press release has been approved by the general assembly of Occupy Eugene.

One point that needs to be made here is that Washington-Jefferson Park has long been a high-crime area. (It is the one area of Eugene where I do not really feel safe at night.) Some members of OE initially opposed occupying this park for precisely this reason. It was only after the city had blocked OE from other sites that the decision was made to go there.

Whatever happens at this point, Occupy Eugene will continue to grow.