Professor told he's not safe on campus after college protests

Citizens for Legitimate Government - 2 hours 42 min ago

Professor told he's not safe on campus after college protests | 25 May 2017 | As a biology professor for 15 years at Olympia's The Evergreen State College, Bret Weinstein has seen his share of protests, but he's never been afraid of being on campus until this week. "I have been told by the Chief of Police it's not safe for me to be on campus," said Weinstein, who held his Thursday class in a downtown Olympia park.

Categories: News

Anadarko Execs Buy up Depressed Stock After Lethal Colorado Explosions

deSmog - 2 hours 56 min ago
Anadarko stock prices going down

Buy low, sell high. It's a maxim taught to stock traders from day one and one which Anadarko Petroleum's upper-level management seems to have taken to heart in the aftermath of the April gas line explosion that blew up a Colorado home, leaving two dead and one badly injured. 

Since the explosion, five members sitting on either Anadarko's board of directors or executive officer team have purchased a combined $2.6 million worth of company stock, totaling over 46,700 shares, according to data on and first reported by investor analyst site Anadarko's stock price has fallen nearly $10 per share since the April 17 blast.

However, the trouble may have just begun for the Texas-based company at the center of Colorado's hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom. On May 25, an Anadarko oil well exploded just a few miles from the mid-April gas line explosion site. That incident, also in Firestone, Colorado, left one dead and three others injured.

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New York Attorney General: Feds Must Address Bakken Bomb Trains. Feds: Maybe Later?

deSmog - 5 hours 21 min ago

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has joined with attorneys general from California, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, and Washington in calling for limits on the volatility of crude oil transported by rail. The failure of federal regulators and Congress to address this known safety issue has led Schneiderman to continue to pressure regulators on it.

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Add Another to the List of Former Trump Campaign Staffers Lobbying for Foreign Clients

Truth Out - 9 hours 19 min ago

Former Trump campaign officials haven't exactly been bashful about cashing in on their ties to the president in the lobbying sphere. Take Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager. Shortly after the election, he cofounded a lobbying and consulting firm, Avenue Strategies, boasting to domestic and foreign clients of his administration ties. He left the firm in early May, after news outlets reported he failed to register as a lobbyist even as he was pitching face time with the president to clients.

Now, another name on the Trump campaign's payroll, Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, who was a communications adviser and spokeswoman, will be representing a foreign client, the government of Malaysia.

According to a Department of Justice filing, 45 Group, a project under Baumgardner's firm, Mona Lisa Communications, will represent the government of Malaysia with "government relations and public relations services." (Yeah, we know that didn't clear anything up.)

CRP's Foreign Lobby Watch shows the only other Malaysian activity in 2017 coming from an "export promotion agency" pushing Malaysian rubber for car parts. But the nation has had an image problem, what with questions about its human rights record and corruption scandals. Two large firms, APCO and Quinn Gillespie & Associates (the latter of which has disbanded) have represented Malaysia in the past to "promote positive US/Malaysia relations" and create public relations strategies.

Many of Trump's big policy pushes impact the small southeast Asian nation. Malaysia was one of the 12 nations included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Trump withdrew from via executive order on his third day in office. And the president's immigration order troubled politicians in Malaysia, where 60 percent of the population is Muslim.

Trump signed an additional executive order at the end of March aimed at punishing "trade cheaters," requiring the Secretary of Commerce to publish a report next month that calls out countries with which the US has significant trade deficits. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross singled out Malaysia as one of those, as well Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Canada and others.

Baumgardner's group received $250,000 on May 9, which also included "business consulting services for activities that are not governed by FARA."

Baumgardner worked for the Trump campaign from January to September 2016. She also held government posts in the George W. Bush administration, serving as the press secretary for the US Department of Energy from 2008 to 2009 and as a press representative for the White House from 2002 to 2007. She also was deputy communications director for former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.

While her social media profile highlights her work for Trump (she writes of being "one of the first national television surrogates" for the candidate), she quit in September, reportedly in a dispute about the campaign's direction in Florida.

This is far from the first instance of former Trump campaign workers-turned-lobbyists drumming up foreign clients. Barry Bennett, who was a senior adviser to the campaign, cofounded Avenue Strategies and remained there after Lewandowski left; Avenue has inked contracts with the Northern Mariana Islands and the Venezuelan government-owned oil company CITGO, the latter of which is paying Avenue $25,000 per month. Sonoran Policy Group (SPG), which employs three former Trump staffers including Stuart Jolly, a national field director for the campaign, has managed to snag New Zealand, the Czech Republic and -- just last week, immediately before Trump visited the country -- the Saudi Interior Ministry. Brian Lanza, a deputy communications director for the campaign, is at Mercury, which this year has signed the Embassy of Qatar, the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, and the Japanese embassy.

Former Trump campaign officials haven't exactly been bashful about cashing in on their ties to the president in the lobbying sphere. Take Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager. Shortly after the election, he cofounded a lobbying and consulting firm, Avenue Strategies, boasting to domestic and foreign clients of his administration ties. He left the firm in early May, after news outlets reported he failed to register as a lobbyist even as he was pitching face time with the president to clients.

Now, another name on the Trump campaign's payroll, Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, who was a communications adviser and spokeswoman, will be representing a foreign client, the government of Malaysia.

According to a Department of Justice filing, 45 Group, a project under Baumgardner's firm, Mona Lisa Communications, will represent the government of Malaysia with "government relations and public relations services." (Yeah, we know that didn't clear anything up.)

CRP's Foreign Lobby Watch shows the only other Malaysian activity in 2017 coming from an "export promotion agency" pushing Malaysian rubber for car parts. But the nation has had an image problem, what with questions about its human rights record and corruption scandals. Two large firms, APCO and Quinn Gillespie & Associates (the latter of which has disbanded) have represented Malaysia in the past to "promote positive US/Malaysia relations" and create public relations strategies.

Many of Trump's big policy pushes impact the small southeast Asian nation. Malaysia was one of the 12 nations included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Trump withdrew from via executive order on his third day in office. And the president's immigration order troubled politicians in Malaysia, where 60 percent of the population is Muslim.

Trump signed an additional executive order at the end of March aimed at punishing "trade cheaters," requiring the Secretary of Commerce to publish a report next month that calls out countries with which the US has significant trade deficits. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross singled out Malaysia as one of those, as well Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Canada and others.

Baumgardner's group received $250,000 on May 9, which also included "business consulting services for activities that are not governed by FARA."

Baumgardner worked for the Trump campaign from January to September 2016. She also held government posts in the George W. Bush administration, serving as the press secretary for the US Department of Energy from 2008 to 2009 and as a press representative for the White House from 2002 to 2007. She also was deputy communications director for former N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.

While her social media profile highlights her work for Trump (she writes of being "one of the first national television surrogates" for the candidate), she quit in September, reportedly in a dispute about the campaign's direction in Florida.

This is far from the first instance of former Trump campaign workers-turned-lobbyists drumming up foreign clients. Barry Bennett, who was a senior adviser to the campaign, cofounded Avenue Strategies and remained there after Lewandowski left; Avenue has inked contracts with the Northern Mariana Islands and the Venezuelan government-owned oil company CITGO, the latter of which is paying Avenue $25,000 per month. Sonoran Policy Group (SPG), which employs three former Trump staffers including Stuart Jolly, a national field director for the campaign, has managed to snag New Zealand, the Czech Republic and -- just last week, immediately before Trump visited the country -- the Saudi Interior Ministry. Brian Lanza, a deputy communications director for the campaign, is at Mercury, which this year has signed the Embassy of Qatar, the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, and the Japanese embassy.

Categories: News

What Bail Does Is Coerce Guilty Pleas

Truth Out - 9 hours 20 min ago

Janine Jackson: National Mama's Bailout Day aimed, successfully, to get dozens of incarcerated black women home for Mother's Day. The action could be supported with data: Black women are 44 percent of the US jail population, 80 percent of women in jail have young children, 82 percent are in custody for nonviolent offenses, and many are not convicted of anything at all. Or we could ask philosophically: Given that our society predicates a great deal on the idea of law as an equalizer, is it acceptable that anyone is jailed for an inability to pay a cash amount?

Well, Mama's Bailout Day was about data and ideas, but first and foremost, it was about mamas. Our next guest was one of the organizers behind it. Arissa Hall is project manager at the National Bail Fund Network, which is housed at Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. She joins us now by phone from Brooklyn. Welcome to CounterSpin, Arissa Hall.

Arissa Hall: Thank you for having me.

One of the things I appreciate about this action, about Mama's Bailout Day, is that it's lateral. It's about a system, the bail system, but it's not an action that simply says, hey, look at this bad system. It's person to person. What can you tell us about how Mama's Bailout Day came to happen?

It came to happen at a convening that about 25 people attended, hosted by the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table, and also Color of Change, in Atlanta at the end of January. And this convening was specifically about bail. We were in a brainstorming session, and folks were just bringing up ideas -- interventions in the bail system, or how we can highlight that bail system. Mary Hooks, who is the co-director of SONG, Southerners On New Ground, offered up the idea of a national bailout, which then was accepted by the larger group, and specified as, we should do it around Mother's Day, and highlight how we celebrate mothers, but how all mothers are not celebrated, specifically marginalized black moms who find themselves detained.

Brandon Patterson at Mother Jones quoted Mary Hooks from SONG saying, "Black people have a tradition of using our collective resources to buy each other's freedom." And she also said, "The sooner we can get folks out, the ability for them to mitigate their cases increases and the less collateral damage they are likely to incur." And again, that point, that this action looked at the bail system from a communal perspective -- what's the impact on communities -- I think that's one of the other interesting things about it.

Yeah. I work at National Bail Fund Network. Bail funds have always been a community thing, and whether that has been at the church, where folks have collected their resources to bail out a member of the congregation, or someone kin to someone at the congregation, it always has been communal and it always has been basically a form of resistance, resisting the system which imposes these fines on us for our freedom. Unfortunately, as Mary says, black folks are very familiar with that sort of communal gathering, and communal gathering of resources for liberation, as it goes back to during slavery, when black folks also had to buy their freedom. So this is a long tradition of purchasing our freedom, and we've seen this evolve. And here we are for Mama's Bailout Day…recognizing this has always happened -- at smaller scales, but definitely happened before.

Right. Well, the harm is communal and the help is communal, in this case.


But it also has a special relevance with bail. I read an op-ed in the Washington Post by a law professor named Jocelyn Simonson, who was saying that the modern conception of setting bail is that a judge is weighing the interests of an individual defendant against those of a larger community. And so when the judge sets bail, they're saying they're doing it on behalf of the community. And so bail funds like you work with are saying: not in our name.

Right. And that's the fallacy, one of the many fallacies of bail. A lot of judges and magistrates and bail commissioners say things such as, these people pose a risk to the community. And the way that they measure this risk is usually from risk assessment tools, which ask these very standardized questions that we've seen to be very biased, and based on the score that you get, bail will be set. So that's how the system is basically determining who's a risk to our community, and the community has no say-so in that. So yes, we are saying, not in our name.

People are so used to "that's just the way it goes," that a lot of us haven't just sat down -- even people that are mostly impacted by the bail system -- haven't had an opportunity to just sit down and reflect on, just why does this system exist, and what's the point of this system?


I remember talking to a friend about bail before we went down to Atlanta, and I was telling him, bail is supposed to just be a guarantee. You know, the reason that bail is set up is so it's the guarantee that you come back to court. And he was like, I had no idea. That's the theory behind bail, is that, hey, if Arissa gets arrested, if she pays $100 to the court, because she wants her money back (because bail is supposed to resolve once the case is resolved), she'll come back. And what we know is that that's not true, because when we pay bail through bail funds, these folks have no financial risk, as they haven't put up their own money, and they do come back to court.

The main barriers to coming back to court are usually that there's no interest in the defendant, in their lives; so you can have a doctor's appointment or your mother's birthday or you have to work, and they don't care about that when they set court dates, right? Or they don't care about if $3 or $2.75 to get to court is a financial barrier, and you have children and…. So it's just real-life factors that create barriers for you to go back to court, but it's not the money of bail that creates barriers. And what bail does is it coerces guilty pleas, and it makes you…. Yeah, you don't fight. In 90 percent [of cases] in our country, people plead guilty, instead of actually having to go to court and fight for trial.

And another thing that I find is, if you are in jail -- and again, you are supposed to be innocent, right, innocent until proven guilty -- these folks have not been proven guilty, which is very important to remember. Being in jail is harmful on so many different levels, but another way that it causes harm is that you can also get more charges on you while you are in jail for various different reasons, which also then creates a larger barrier for you to be released.

And listeners may remember the case of Kalief Browder; that was just a bail story. That was years that a young man spent on Rikers Island not convicted of anything.

Right. Right. And Kalief was an anomaly, in the sense that he didn't plead guilty, because he wasn't guilty, and he wouldn't do what most people do, which is plead guilty just to get out, right? He wanted the system to do as they say, which is give a fair trial.

Well, media talk about inequality, and they talk about talking about inequality, but I'm always struck at how little interest they can muster when an actual mechanism of inequality is laid before them. And I was actually thinking about the federal appeals court ruling that said that if a person has suffered wage discrimination in the past, has been paid less due to sexism or racism or their intersection, that it's okay for that inequity to be reproduced and perpetuated forever, because employers can base your pay on your previous pay.


And I thought, well, here's a chance -- we're actually seeing inequality be reproduced. And the media reaction was like, eh, you know, what are you gonna do? So I have to say that I was surprised a little bit to see a kind of earnest reaction to Mama's Bailout Day.


I expected a lot more cynicism. What did you make of the media, and how can reporting help, do you think, on this issue?

Yeah, the media was definitely surprisingly gracious about Mama's Bailout Day, and I'm not sure why. I think that it touched a lot of people, because mothers.


Right? Because of that sort of familial connection -- we all have mothers, regardless of what our relationships to them are. So that was a good thing, and part of the strategy with the Bailout, a good thing that all of us could connect to. But then also recognizing that people's lives should not be contingent on their familial ties, and having children or things like that. So just highlighting both of those, it caused a lot of conversations around bail, around our ideals, around innocence and guilt, our ideals around who's worthy and who's unworthy, and it forced continued conversations. So I think that the media was definitely helpful in that way, in just lifting up these stories and these injustices. And I think what the media can continue to do is continue to lift up these stories and the injustices, and also have people ask these questions as to, why is bail being set?

And then, I know in the beginning you said "lateral," but what we've learned from Mama's Bailout Day, and what I've learned from working at the National Bail Fund Network, is that bail is so different, depending on where you are. And that's part of just how the system works to make it harder for you to actually fight against it. The New York City bail system is very different than California's bail system. So that was definitely something that we had to navigate, in figuring how this action could be successful.

We've been speaking with Arissa Hall of the National Bail Fund Network, housed at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. You can still get information on Mama's Bailout Day at Arissa Hall, thank you so much for joining us today on CounterSpin.

Thank you. Thank you.

Categories: News

Armed police to patrol trains for first time amid terror threat

Citizens for Legitimate Government - 17 hours 25 min ago

Armed police to patrol trains for first time amid terror threat | 25 May 2017 | Armed police are patrolling trains for the first time ever after the UK's terror threat level was increased. From Thursday afternoon, firearms officers with the British Transport Police (BTP) boarded trains with the intent of keeping passengers safe in the wake of the Manchester bombing.

Categories: News

Beyond Reactive Politics: Working Toward the Wholesale Reorganization of Society

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

We've taken as fact that the nation started in slavery and genocide and can't be redeemed but the country has always carred a revolutionary promise that has yet to be fulfilled, says activist and Ayni Institute trainer James Hayes. Movements, such as AllOfUs and Yes We Can in Ohio, are taking on the challenge of winning power for a multiracial anti-establishment democracy.

 Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)Hundreds of demonstrators march through the streets of Seattle, Washington, May 1, 2017. (Photo: Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)

Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same. Today's interview is the 41st in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with James Hayes, a trainer with the Ayni Institute who formerly was an organizer with the Ohio Student Association.

Sarah Jaffe: You posted something on Facebook talking about the need to go beyond Trump, to think beyond Trump, to really think just not about resistance but about revolution -- actually fundamentally changing society. I wanted to talk about that because I think it does occasionally get lost in the wealth of horrors that Trump provides us.

James Hayes: I think this question of "How do we move from just being in the mode of resistance and rebellion to actually figuring out how we actually reorganize society?" ... is the central question for our movements and for our generation and for those of us who really want to deal with the fundamental problems that produced a Trump presidency in the first place and that are producing these right-wing populist movements all across the world.

Fundamentally, I think part of what we have to do really is be clear on what we mean when we talk about a revolution. The word gets thrown around so much.... Someone commented [on Facebook] that Hillary Clinton's presidency would have been revolutionary. I am like, "Wow. There are a lot of different ideas about what a revolution is." I just wanted to open up the conversation. I also have my own thoughts about how we can get more clear on what it means to fight for revolution. I think it is probably the most central question right now because even the centrists and the neoliberals are part of the resistance now and I don't think we need to try to stop them from taking that title. I think it is actually useful that they are in that mode and they don't have a clear vision for how to actually fix these problems.

But people across the country who know that we need health care for all, we need free college, that we need to deal with inequality, and we need to address racism and misogyny, people have been offering solutions for how to fix this country for a long time. We just need to get out of their way.

I have been watching all these movement groups come up over the last several years that really are thinking much, much bigger, and that doesn't often get covered. It doesn't really come across when people say, "This is a group that is fighting police brutality," and of course, you are fighting police brutality every day, but there are also so many bigger conversations that are happening that I think need more space in public.

So often our movements are stuck in a [reactive] phase and posture because there is so much happening urgently that we have to address, but [in] the last several years I have seen ... a lot more people who are asking very deep questions about "How do we actually move beyond just being against police brutality, against racism, and those things?" [and] really figuring out what we're for, and figuring out "What is the strategy to get there?" We definitely need more spaces for that.

After the election it became even harder to have that space because of how pressing everything was. Then, after the inauguration, Trump starts signing all these executive orders one after the other and we saw people jumping into the streets, but now the resistance is still strong and with the firing of Comey it is getting stronger, even. But this question of "How do we actually move forward?" isn't really being addressed. Even in the movements, I think part of what is going to have to happen is our social movement leaders are going to have to start taking responsibility for answering that question and then also fighting to have the power to govern society, to actually put those answers into motion, rather than just sort of being in the social movement space forever.

It is interesting because people are thinking seriously about "What would it look like if we took power?" Bernie Sanders had a lot of flaws but also presented this moment to think about "What if our people could win? What if we were in charge?"

Yes, definitely. For me, the day after the election, I was just kicking myself that I didn't do more personally and also as a participant and leader in that movement to push us to engage even more with the election and the Sanders campaign in the primary. I wasn't really sold on him as a person, as a candidate, but after the election I was thinking, "Wow, Bernie came so close" and started to reassess how I wanted to engage questions around electoral politics and whatnot in the future, because ... we honestly could have had [a Bernie Sanders presidency]. The times we are in right now are so different than what I expected at the beginning of the election.

I don't think I fully appreciated how ripe these times are for populist political campaigns. I think part of that is due to how successful the movements have been at polarizing society and exposing the deep problems [that] the traditional political establishment doesn't have any answers for. And Bernie Sanders was the best that we had to try to address some of these things. Hopefully, moving forward, we continue to find other folks to run, but it is looking like 2020 is going to be really slim in terms of people to support.

You work with a couple of national organizations that are thinking about and working on social movement strategies. I would love to hear a little bit about that work that you have been doing.

I have been working with the Ayni Institute, which is a training institute that supports a couple different training programs and communities of practice. The training program that we support that is doing the most work I would say is the Momentum training program, which is really looking at "How do we create mass popular social movements that can give participants what they need to maintain a balance of autonomy and unity so that we can grow in a distributed, decentralized way, but have a set of principles and what we call DNA to really help guide the movement?" A lot of the thinking has been influenced by civil resistance theory and some of the folks from struggles like Otpor in Serbia and the writings of Erica Chenoweth and a lot of folks, but in the last couple of years, there have also been groups in the country, such as Cosecha and IfNotNow, which have launched based on Momentum theory, the Momentum frameworks and also have gone through a process to develop their own DNA.

It is really amazing to watch how fast each of those movements have grown in terms of their membership and their leadership and types of actions that they are able to take on. I am really excited about Momentum. We just finished doing a Momentum training at the end of February for about 95 leaders from across The Movement for Black Lives and it was really a special experience. I am really excited to see what comes out of some of those conversations that we had just a couple meetings ago.

You also mentioned that you have been working with AllOfUs.

Yes, I've been working with AllOfUs, which is a project that is being pulled together by a lot of people who've been coming out of the social movements that we've seen arise over the last several years, people who see the limitations and also the strengths of social movements and really want to figure out how [to] take on the challenge of winning power so we can govern and not just be on the outside looking in, protesting, but actually take over so we can set the direction of the country moving forward.

Part of what is driving the team to come together is a desire to really reclaim the identity of the country, and there's been a lot of conversation about how we need to resist Trump. There was an interesting conversation that Michelle Alexander was a part of: She named Trump as the resistance in opposition to all of the progressive forces throughout the history of the country that have been really pushing to make true those words on parchment that say liberty and justice for all, that all human beings are created equal, that this is a country that could be home for everybody who calls it home.

That's what really excites me the most. I feel like the left has ceded this idea of the country to the right wing and to the worst elements of the nation, and we've just sort of taken as fact that the nation started in slavery and genocide and can't be redeemed. But we actually think that there at the beginning of the country was a revolutionary promise that has yet to be fulfilled and that's the major task of our generation today and successive generations to come is to keep figuring out how do we fulfil the revolutionary promise of America, and defeat Donald Trump in the meantime.

The questions of power and institution building are ones that have been fraught for a lot of people on the left and particularly electoral politics. It is interesting to see the way that is shifting. Speaking of power in your communities, talk about some of the work that has been going on in Ohio where you are. I guess we can start with policing.

In Columbus, just this past weekend, we actually had about 500 people come down from all over the state. There was a march organized by a bunch of different organizations around racial justice. Folks went to the governor's mansion, where the governor doesn't actually live, but the taxpayers still pay to have the lawn cut and all of that, to deliver this message from several mothers of young men who had been murdered by police in the last year who were there.

There have been several pretty high-profile police murders in Columbus. They haven't [broken] nationally, but in the city a lot of people are talking about them. Thirteen-year-old Tyre King was murdered in September. Twenty-three-year-old Henry Green was murdered last June. In January of this year, Jaron Thomas was murdered. Jaron Thomas was the man who was calling 911 for help. He was calling for help because he was having a schizophrenic episode and he told them that. When the ambulance showed up, there were also multiple cruisers who showed up, as well. He ended up in a coma after the police beat him and died in the hospital later. A few weeks after that, over 100,000 dashcam videos were erased or lost or misplaced, never to be found again. Then, [just a couple of weeks ago], the cop who shot and killed 23-year-old Henry Green last summer ... was not indicted after a grand jury convened for a little while in that investigation. Then, a week after he was found to not need to go to trial, he was caught on camera stomping another man's head into the ground while [the man] was already handcuffed. Now, people in the community are calling for him to be fired, as well as the officer who killed Tyre King.

There is a lot of organizing going on both around the issue and significant issue-based campaigning and protesting and movement-building work, but also, there is actually an electoral challenge happening in the city. There is a group here called Yes We Can that is running folks for city council against the establishment incumbent Democrats. It is a really exciting time in the city because while we have a lot of the movement work going on and people are mobilizing, we also have this very real electoral threat and there is a nice movement ecology developing in the city with a lot of different types of organizations supporting each other.

It is exciting to see even in the midst of all the tragedies that continue to happen here, the way people are finding creative ways to come together and fight. There is so much resilience in this community. Honestly, everything in this country is so crazy, but the community here really grounds me and helps me remember that we always have to keep fighting. 

Can you talk a little bit more about the Yes We Can effort and the grappling with local electoral politics?

In my city there has been one person in my lifetime who has run for city council and is not an incumbent and won. Everyone else, they were either appointed to be on city council [after somebody stepped down] ... so in their first election, they actually run as an incumbent. There is really a hegemony of the sample ballot here, where if you are on the Democratic Party's sample ballot and they say, "These are our endorsed candidates" then you win. If you are not, you lose.

There is a really high bar of entry into local politics here if you are not part of the Democratic Party establishment, you haven't waited your turn and been picked. So what is happening with Yes We Can is really exciting because for the first time in the last 20 years there is actually a chance to see some people run with real vision for how to help the city and not just the city, but is connected to a national strategy about "How do we fight back against Trump's America?" because in Ohio we have already been dealing with Trump's America with our state legislature. Then, also, Columbus is such a progressive city, certainly in comparison with the rest of the state, but there is still so much that happens here. On the same night that the mayor and city council members declared the city a sanctuary city, there was a 4,000-person protest at the state house where people were protesting the Muslim ban. Later, a bunch of us, including myself, we got maced. There were a bunch of Muslim youth, Somali refugees -- we have a huge Somali population here in Columbus. A lot of young Muslim kids are out just standing against the Muslim ban and a few hours after the city was declared a sanctuary city, we were all maced. That serves to illustrate the kinds of issues that are ripe in the city.

Yes We Can -- they had the primary on May 2. All of their candidates, they are running for city council and also for school board, and all of the candidates made it through the primary and are going to be facing off against the incumbents in the general election. I think things are going to get really interesting here, personally.

The question of primarying Democrats seemed to come up a lot in early days around Trump's cabinet being confirmed and certain people voting for Trump's cabinet nominees. But then these days, because of Trump, it seems like there is a doubling down of criticism of people who dare to suggest that Democrats might also be part of the problem. I wonder if you have been experiencing any of that.

Without a doubt. I haven't been really involved in the Yes We Can campaigning, but I have seen both people saying, "Don't come after us," but also people saying, "You are not even a Democrat. You have all these other ideas." It is the Democrats narrowing their own base of support. It is not very logical politics. You want to have more people on your team.

I see it all over the place. It is part of the reason I wrote that Facebook post the other day about needing to distinguish between the resistance and the revolution, because these folks who don't want to deal with the idea that Democrats might be part of the problem -- they just want to take us back to the world of Barack Obama. A world where Guantanamo is still open, where we are still involved in multiple wars, where we bail out the banks and don't bail out homeowners, where Black people are being shot down every two weeks on Facebook Live and it is fine. That is the world they want to go to and want to live in and want to stay in. They don't want to deal with the fact that we have to move forward.

The thing is, it doesn't even matter what they want. We are moving forward regardless of whether they want to deal with these issues or not. But, it is just emblematic of the issues of mediocre leadership from the Democratic Party across the board. I know, because I used to work [as] ... a page in the statehouse. I was like, "Man, I like all these people. I don't think they are bad people, but mediocre leadership."

Going forward, thinking about specifically electoral politics, some of the things we have seen this year. We have seen Chokwe Antar Lumumba get through the Democratic primary in Jackson, khalid kamau in Georgia. I am wondering what you are thinking about electoral politics moving forward.

A couple of years ago I would have said, "No, I would never run for office." Now I am sort of reassessing a lot of things. I definitely think the folks at Yes We Can have done a great job in our city. In other cities, there are folks who are doing the same thing. I think there are also ways to use electoral politics to engage people around issues, using ballot initiatives. I know there is a lot of interest in bringing ballot initiatives to the state that we can use to really build new alliances with different types of folks, particularly around criminal justice reform. One in six people in the state of Ohio has a family member who is incarcerated or has been incarcerated or themselves have been incarcerated. It is an issue that affects so many people.

So we were looking at stuff like Prop 47 in California and thinking, "Would there be an ability to do something like that in this state in 2018?" Part of why we want to do that, too, is because in 2018 is when we have the governor's race in the State of Ohio. If a Republican wins, I will probably end up moving from the state because it will probably be until 2030 until we can actually do something about the gerrymandered districts. There is a lot on the line right now in my state. I think there will be people running for office. I think we can have people run for Congress and run for Senate and maybe not in Ohio -- our Democratic senator is pretty good, relatively, but maybe we should primary them all.

How can people keep up with you and your work and sign up to get some of your trainings?

People can go to the Ayni website and check out any upcoming trainings that are available. The next training that we are doing is in July. It is going to be a four-day training called Movement Ecology. It is going to be very exciting. Folks should also check out @TimeForAllOfUs on Twitter and also on Facebook. I don't really get on social media much myself, but my Twitter is @ContrabandJames. Those are the best ways to keep up with me right now.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.  

Categories: News

Loose Lips

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago
Categories: News

Empire Files: Buying a Slave -- The Hidden World of US-Philippines Trafficking

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

Human trafficking is a hidden industry that brings in $150 billion in illegal profits every year. In the United States, tens of thousands are trafficked annually -- the biggest clients being major hotel chains and foreign diplomats. 

The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world. 6,000 Filipinos -- mostly women -- leave the country every single day to work, because of mass unemployment and poverty. Tricked by placement agencies, thousands end up living as virtual slaves.

Damayan, a New York-based organization led by Filipina domestic workers, is fighting this underground crisis. Abby Martin speaks to several members of the organization about how this exodus of women has devastated a generation of families, and how they are fighting back.

Categories: News

"From Laughable to Inevitable": $15 Minimum Wage Hits Congress

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

 Fibonacci Blue)Fast food workers on strike for higher minimum wage and better benefits in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 24, 2016. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

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Answering the call from millions of underpaid American workers who for years have pounded the pavement demanding a living wage, progressive lawmakers on Thursday unveiled legislation in both the House and Senate that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, "reversing the growing trend of income inequality between the top and everybody else," as stated by Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made the $15 minimum wage a pillar of his 2016 presidential bid, said as he introduced the bill alongside Scott and others that he knows the idea "is a radical concept for our Republican friends, but we believe in the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, that if you work 40 hours a week or 50 hours a week you should not be living in poverty."

Under the Raise the Wage Act, which currently boasts 152 Congressional co-sponsors, the federal minimum wage would increase incrementally until reaching $15 an hour in 2024. Beyond that time, future increases would be adjusted with inflation, "to make sure the minimum wage will never again fall woefully out of date," as Scott said. The bill also eliminates the subminimum wage for tipped workers by gradually increasing it until it reaches parity with the federal minimum wage.

During the Thursday press conference, Sanders explained that it has been 10 years since Congress updated the federal minimum wage. "Since 1968," he said, "the minimum wage has lost more than 25 percent of its purchasing power as millions of America work longer hours for lower wages."

"The erosion of the federal minimum wage is the major reason why 43 million Americans are living in poverty," Sanders noted. "Healthcare costs are going up, childcare costs are going up, college costs are going up, housing cost are going up, but wages for millions of workers are not going up," he said.

"So, if you want to know why people all over this country are angry, why they are bitter, why they are disenchanted with their government, the truth is they are asking why it is that the people on top are doing fantastically well and yet their standard of living is going down," Sanders added.

We cannot rest until every worker in America has the right to make at least $15 an hour.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 25, 2017

The legislation was rolled out the same week that fast food workers, advocates with the organization Fight for $15, and other progressive groups held a series of protests targeting restaurant giant McDonald's, which they described as the "Donald Trump of corporations."

On Thursday, Fight for $15 and other advocates celebrated the new legislation and credited the national grassroots low-wage workers movement with pushing lawmakers to this point.

"Think back to five years ago: President Obama had yet to call for even a $9 an hour federal minimum wage, and the two members of Congress brave enough to call for $10.10 an hour were considered crazy," said Kansas City McDonald's worker and Fight for $15 leader Terrence Wise. "Then something crazier happened: 200 fast-food workers walked off their jobs in New York City, sparking a movement for $15 an hour and union rights that spread across the country."

"Twenty-two million Americans now have won raises, totaling $62 billion," Wise continued. "We've gone from laughable to inevitable. With this bill introduced today, it's clear that our Fight for $15 has set a new standard. Democrats across the board support $15 an hour, because they know it's the bare minimum workers like me need to support our families. We're going to keep striking, marching, and speaking out until every worker in the country wins $15 an hour and union rights."

Similarly, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), wrote on Twitter Thursday: "The #RaiseTheWage bill is a direct result of working moms and dads speaking out against a rigged economy. #FightFor15"

The Economic Policy Institute applauded the introduction of the legislation and encouraged Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act, saying it will "help make up for lost ground, directly or indirectly lifting wages for 41.5 million workers -- 29.2 percent of the wage-earning workforce."

Meanwhile, other progressive leaders and organizations chimed in with support for the #RaisetheWage bill.

It’s long past time to #RaiseTheWage to $15/hour nationwide. This is about basic dignity. Poverty wages are a disgrace & an injustice.

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) May 25, 2017

Today marks 10 years since President George W. Bush signed the last federal minimum wage increase. It's way past time to #RaiseTheWage.

— Civil Rights (@civilrightsorg) May 25, 2017

We stand with Democratic leaders who are calling for passage of the #RaiseTheWage Act today #Fightfor15

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) May 25, 2017

Our Nation’s Workers Need a Federal Minimum Wage They Can Live On - NELP's Christine Owens #RaisetheWage #Fightfor15

— NELP (@NelpNews) May 25, 2017

We should listen to the hard-working men and women in the #Fightfor15 movement and raise the nationwide minimum wage to $15 per hour.

— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) May 25, 2017
Categories: News

Are EPA Scientists in Trump's Crosshairs?

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

Anyone worried that the Trump administration will politicize or interfere with sound scientific research heard a warning shot earlier this month, when nine members of the Environmental Protection Agency's 18-person Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) suddenly learned that they would not be offered a second three-year term. A weakened BOSC means a dysfunctional EPA research process that could lead to environmental degradation.

 LW / TO)The Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC. (Photo: NRDC pix; Edited: LW / TO)

Anyone worried that the Trump administration will politicize or interfere with sound scientific research heard a warning shot earlier this month, when nine members of the Environmental Protection Agency's 18-person Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) suddenly learned that they would not be offered a second three-year term. The BOSC is a group of experts that monitors and advises EPA's internal research departments on their methodology in exchange for travel expenses and a modest honorarium.

According to people familiar with the process, the EPA typically offers to renew panel members for a second term, and in January, Robert Kavlock, the acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development (of which BOSC is a part) told the panel's members who were up for renewal that they could expect to stay on.

Then, on May 5, he told them that they wouldn't be renewed after all. He did not give any reason.

"I'm not familiar with a case like this where people were not renewed for a second term," says Genna Reed, science and policy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a pro-science think tank and advocacy organization that has criticized the EPA's move.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

Anyone inclined to give the EPA the benefit of the doubt would note that the agency's mandate's mandate for filling out the committee stipulates that "balance in work sector/employing institution and geographic distribution area is desirable." And while renewal might historically have been automatic, the essence of a three-year term is that it can indeed end in three years, without cause. This episode could simply be a new administration getting its bearings, starting fresh and — while violating traditions — not breaking any rules.

An EPA spokesperson gave only the following emailed statement in response to a query from

EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors serve three-year terms and are reviewed every three years. Because advisory panels like BOSC play a critical role reviewing the agency's work, EPA will consider the hundreds of nominations through a competitive nomination process. Individuals who have previously served one term can, of course, apply through the competitive process.

But it's also worth considering the context. This is just the latest salvo in an ongoing war between Republicans and the scientific community.

In March, the House of Representatives passed two bills on a party line vote that would attack the EPA's fact-gathering process. One, the "HONEST Act," would prevent the EPA from using scientific data that isn't fully available to the public. This may sound innocent, but it is as misleading as the measure's Orwellian name. The bill's actual purpose is to prevent the EPA from accessing research published in journals with pay walls or owned by universities. The other bill would stack the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) with industry flunkies. Meanwhile Trump has appointed Scott Gottlieb, a doctor on the payroll of pharmaceutical companies, to run the Food and Drug Administration.

The president's budget proposal cuts 31 percent from the EPA, more than any other Cabinet-level agency. Those cuts would disproportionately fall on the research side of the EPA's work. Funding for the agency's Office of Research and Development would be halved.

The backdrop of budget cuts is part of what makes the BOSC turnover so concerning, say experts, because a politicized BOSC will likely have a say in which aspects of the EPA's research are cut and which remain.

Earlier this month, two members of the EPA BOSC's Sustainable and Healthy Communities Subcommittee resigned, sending a letter in protest, because the subcommittee's chairs, Robert Richardson and Courtney Flint — an environmental economist at Michigan State and a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University, respectively — were among those not renewed. (BOSC members chair subcommittees, which have more members who serve only on them.)

"They weren't renewed, even though they were perfectly capable and they were excellent co-chairs," says Carlos Martin, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. "My concern is having rigorous scientists, engineers and researchers who are in a good position to advise other researchers. That methodological quality may not be secure."

Although the rest of that subcommittee and the other subcommittees are still intact, the BOSC itself is almost empty. In addition to the nine new vacancies, it has four unfilled seats, due to other members having recently finished their terms, leaving only five current members.

"It's going to be difficult for the committee to function with those numbers," observes Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University and one of the nine BOSC members who was not renewed. "It's hard to reach a quorum of 18 with only five members."

A cynic might say dysfunctionality is actually the point, a step in Trump adviser Steve Bannon's planned "deconstruction of the administrative state." The panel's next meeting isn't slated until August, so perhaps some or all of these seats will be filled by then, although past members say their vetting process took months or even years. "We are hopeful things will move forward in a timely fashion," Deb Swackhamer, chair of the BOSC's Executive Committee, told

In the past, membership on the BOSC came through internal nominations. Going forward, the EPA says, there will be an open application process and former members are welcome to apply. EPA spokesman J.P. Freire told The New York Times that the agency hopes to increase geographic diversity and representation from a wider array of universities.

One line of Freire's in The Times, however, stuck in the scientific community's craw: "The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community," he said, referring to the EPA's climate science-denying administrator Scott Pruitt.

To critics, seeking input from regulated industries is a politicized approach because BOSC reviews only research methodology, not pollution regulations. Saying it needs industry perspectives is sort of like saying industry should have input into the arrangement of the periodic table.

"I think it's missing the point of the Board of Scientific Counselors, which is selected to represent an array of scientific expertise," says Flint. "It's not meant to represent sectors [of the economy]; it's meant to represent domains of science."

A weakened or dysfunctional BOSC means a weakened or dysfunctional EPA research process. And that, in turn, could mean environmental degradation. For example, Flint's committee focused on local communities. So, she says, "if there's an oil spill, first responders want to know what products they should use with certain types of fuels or contaminants. If they don't have the right tools, that could compromise the response."

But that's a worst-case scenario and one that will be avoided if the EPA replenishes the committee with credible, unbiased experts. Says Flint, "I hope the country can get back to having a democratic process where experts and scientists can be reviewing agencies' work."

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Categories: News

Falling Between the Sun-Scorched Gaps: Drought Highlights Ethiopia's Internally Displaced Persons Dilemma

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

 James Jeffrey / IPS)Women and children at an IDP settlement 60km south of the town of Gode, reachable only along a dirt track through the desiccated landscape. (Photo: James Jeffrey / IPS)

Displaced pastoralists gather around newly arrived drums of brown water as a water truck speeds off to make further deliveries to settlements that have sprung up along the main road running out of Gode, one of the major urban centers in Ethiopia's Somali region.

Looking at the drums' brackish-looking contents, a government official explains the sediment will soon settle and the water has been treated, making it safe to drink -- despite appearances.

A total of 58 internally displaced person (IDP) settlements in the region are currently receiving assistance in the form of water trucking and food supplies, according to the government.

But 222 sites containing nearly 400,000 displaced individuals were identified in a survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) between Nov. and Dec. 2016.

The majority have been forced to move by one of the worst droughts in living memory gripping the Horn of Africa. In South Sudan famine has been declared, while in neighboring Somalia and Yemen famine is a real possibility.

Despite being afflicted by the same climate and failing rains as neighboring Somalia, the situation in Ethiopia's Somali region isn't as dire thanks to it remaining relatively secure and free of conflict.

But its drought is inexorably getting more serious.  IOM's most recent IDP numbers represent a doubling of displaced individuals and sites from an earlier survey conducted between Sept. and Oct. 2016.

Hence humanitarian workers in the region are increasingly concerned about overstretch, coupled with lack of resources due to the world reeling from successive and protracted crises.

The blunt fallout from this is that currently not everyone can be helped -- and whether you crossed an international border makes all the difference.

"When people cross borders, the world is more interested," says Hamidu Jalleh, working for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gode. "Especially if they are fleeing conflict, it is a far more captivating issue. But the issue of internally displaced persons doesn't ignite the same attention."

 James Jeffrey / IPS)An old man squatting outside his shelter in an IDP settlement in the region around Gode. (Photo: James Jeffrey / IPS)

In January 2017 the Ethiopian government and humanitarian partners requested 948 million dollars to help 5.6 million drought-affected people, mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

Belated seasonal rains arrived at the start of April in some parts of the Somali region, bringing some relief in terms of access to water and pasture. But that's scant consolation for displaced pastoralists who don't have animals left to graze and water.

"Having lost most of their livestock, they have also spent out the money they had in reserve to try to keep their last few animals alive," says Charlie Mason, humanitarian director at Save the Children Ethiopia. "For those who have lost everything, all they can now do is go to a government assistance site for food and water."

Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, crossing a border entitles refugees to international protection, whereas IDPs remain the responsibility of national governments, often falling through the gaps as a result.

In the early 1990s, however, human rights advocates began pushing the issue of IDPs to rectify this mismatch. Nowadays IDPs are much more on the international humanitarian agenda.

But IDPs remain a sensitive topic, certainly for national governments, their existence testifying to the likes of internal conflict and crises.

"It's only in the last year-and-a-half we've been able to start talking about IDPs," says the director of a humanitarian agency covering Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But the government is becoming more open about the reality -- it knows it can't ignore the issue."

The Ethiopian government has far fewer qualms about discussing the estimated 800,000 refugees it hosts.

Ethiopia maintains an open-door policy to refugees in marked contrast to strategies of migrant reduction increasingly being adopted in the West.

Just outside Dolo Odo, a town at the Somali region's southern extremity, a few kilometers away from where Ethiopia's border intersects with Kenya and Somalia, are two enormous refugee camps each housing about 40,000 Somalis, lines of corrugated iron roofs glinting in the sun.

Life is far from easy. Refugees complain of headaches and itchy skin due to the pervading heat of 38 – 42 degrees Celsius, and of a recent reduction in their monthly allowance of cereals and grains from 16kg to 13.5kg.

But, at the same time, they are guaranteed that ration, along with water, health and education services -- none of which are available to IDPs in a settlement on the outskirts of Dolo Odo.

"We don't oppose support for refugees -- they should be helped as they face bigger problems," says 70-year-old Abiyu Alsow. "But we are frustrated as we aren't getting anything from the government or NGOs."

Abiyu spoke amid a cluster of women, children and a few old men beside makeshift domed shelters fashioned out of sticks and fabric. Husbands were away either trying to source money from relatives, looking for daily labor in the town, or making charcoal for family use and to sell.

"I've never seen a drought like this in all my life -- during previous droughts some animals would die, but not all of them," says 80-year-old Abikar Mohammed.

 James Jeffrey / IPS)Displaced pastoralists helping a weak camel to its feet (it’s not strong enough to lift its own weight) using poles beneath its belly. (Photo: James Jeffrey / IPS)

As centers of government administration, commerce, and NGO activity, the likes of Gode and Dollo Ado and their residents appear to be weathering the drought relatively well.

But as soon as you leave city limits you begin to spot the animal carcasses littering the landscape, and recognize the smell of carrion in the air.

Livestock are the backbone of this region's economy. Dryland specialists estimate that pastoralists in southern Ethiopia have lost in excess of 200 million dollars worth of cattle, sheep, goats, camels and equines. And the meat and milk from livestock are the life-support system of pastoralists.

"People were surviving from what they could forage to eat or sell but now there is nothing left," says the anonymous director, who visited a settlement 70km east of Dolo Odo where 650 displaced pastoralist families weren't receiving aid.

The problem with this drought is the pastoralists aren't the only ones to have spent out their reserves.

Last year the Ethiopian government spent an unprecedented 700 million dollars while the international community made up the rest of the 1.8 billion dollars needed to assist more than 10 million people affected by an El Niño-induced drought.

"Last year's response by the government was pretty remarkable," says Edward Brown, World Vision's Ethiopia national director. "We dodged a bullet. But now the funding gaps are larger on both sides. The UN's ability is constrained as it looks for big donors -- you've already got the U.S. talking of slashing foreign aid."

Many within the humanitarian community praise Ethiopia's handling of refugees. But concerns remain, especially when it comes to IDPs. It's estimated there are more than 696,000 displaced individuals at 456 sites throughout Ethiopia, according to IOM.

"This country receives billions of dollars in aid, there is so much bi-lateral support but there is a huge disparity between aid to refugees and IDPs," says the anonymous director. "How is that possible?"

Security in Ethiopia's Somali region is one of the strictest in Ethiopia. As a result, the region is relatively safe and peaceful, despite insurgent threats along the border with Somalia.

But some rights organizations claim strict restrictions hamper international media and NGOs, making it difficult to accurately gauge the drought's severity and resultant deaths, as well as constraining trade and movement, thereby exacerbating the crisis further.

Certainly, the majority of NGOs appear to exist in a state of perpetual anxiety about talking to media and being kicked out of the region.

While no one was willing to go on the record, some NGO workers talk of a disconnect between the federal government in the Ethiopian capital and the semi-autonomous regional government, and of the risks of people starving and mass casualties unless more resources are provided soon.

Already late, if as forecast the main spring rains prove sparse, livestock losses could easily double as rangeland resources -- pasture and water -- won't regenerate to the required level to support livestock populations through to the short autumn rains.

Yet even if resources can be found to cover the current crisis, the increasingly pressing issue remains of how to build capacity and prepare for the future.

In the Somali region's northern Siti zone, IDP camps from droughts in 2015 and 2016 are still full. It takes from 7 to 10 years for herders to rebuild flocks and herds where losses are more than 40 percent, according to research by the International Livestock Research Institute and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"Humanitarian responses around the world are managing to get people through these massive crises to prevent loss of life," Mason says. "But there's not enough financial backing to get people back on their feet again."

Categories: News

Unending Grief: Murder of Dontre Hamilton by Police Continues to Haunt Family

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

 Kate Deciccio)Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was slain by police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 30, 2014. (Image: Kate Deciccio)

Three years after murdering Dontre Hamilton simply for sitting in a park in a white area of Milwaukee, the officer who shot Hamilton 14 times is living off a settlement from the police department for suffering PTSD. Meanwhile, Dontre's mother has received nothing and is still dealing with the trauma. 

 Kate Deciccio)Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was slain by police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 30, 2014. (Image: Kate Deciccio)

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This profile is part of an ongoing series of narratives, originally started in 2015, focused on people who have been killed by the police. It is an attempt to counteract media bias, which often vilifies these men and women, both young and old. These stories have been captured through the voices of the victims' family members. I have been fortunate to meet the families and then connect them with each other throughout the years through my work in various organizations. 

The other day, I was walking through Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, a city whose county jail is its largest mental health facility, at about 10 pm. The night was chilly, but I stopped walking to watch two white police officers yelling at a presumably homeless, most likely mentally ill elderly Black woman sleeping on the pavement.

"You better get up or you're going to jail," one of the two officers yelled at her, as the other proceeded to kick her. The officers' attention then turned to me to ask why I was standing there. I told them I was there to ensure that they did not hurt her. Black and Brown people dealing with mental health care issues have frequently been the targets of police violence.

Dontre Hamilton was one of those people. On April 30, 2014, police officer Christopher Manney killed him in Milwaukee.

"From the moment Dontre was born, I was honored to be a part of his life," says his mother, Maria Hamilton. Dontre was born with asthma, so Maria paid extra attention to him throughout his childhood.

"I had to nurture him and become a nurse in some incidents. He had pneumonia a couple of times.... He had to have a treatment daily with the asthma," Maria continues. Despite his health issues, Dontre had a normal childhood and was able to play sports, which he played through high school with his brothers. "The asthma didn't consume him because he was normal like any child. I just watched him more and cared for him a lot," Maria says.

Eventually, Dontre got over his asthma, and he continued to do all of the normal things that kids do. "He had a peaceful spirit about himself. He enjoyed being around the smallest children and playing game[s] ... Dontre was a babysitter at the age of 9 years old," Maria explains. Maria laughs, recalling times she asked to borrow money from her son because he was always saving his money, never buying superfluous things for himself.

Not only did Dontre work for money, but he also spent a lot of time helping the homeless community in Milwaukee. "I told him, 'You can't do that. You don't know those people.' But he said, 'Mom, they need help,'" Maria says.

Maria explains that Dontre's loving and selfless character shaped the choices she's made in her life, too.

"I am so grateful and thankful to be a part of his life because I was learning and being prepared to do the work that I am doing right now," Maria says, referring to the foundation she founded, Mothers for Justice United.

Dontre was doing well until about 2011, when he was 28 years old. It was then that his family began to see a change in him. "He was talking and no one was in the room. He was calling me and other family members to see if we were OK because he was having premonitions," Maria says.

She began calling 911 when Dontre experienced an episode, not knowing that they would not or could not send someone to come out and evaluate him. They would only send the police. "At that time, I was not afraid of [Dontre]; I just knew that something was wrong," Maria explains.

The situation changed a bit in 2013. "Silverware and knives and stuff were missing out of the kitchen. I would find them hidden in different parts of the house. I would wake up and windows were open. I really felt unsafe, so I called the police to come take him and have him evaluated," Maria says. Instead, the police just detained him in jail. There was never an evaluation.

It was at that point that Maria began working with an organization that operated a group home. Dontre was able to move into the home. While he was staying there, he had an episode in February of 2013. "His neck was cut, and he was stabbed in his neck with scissors; we don't know if it was self-inflicted or not," Maria tells me.

At that point, Dontre was finally formally evaluated, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and put on state Medicaid. However, he was not allowed to come back and live in the group home. The organization gave no explanation to the family.

"[Doctors] put him on shots, and it was actually helping. He was assigned a social worker and a provider that helped him get to his business. He was doing OK," Maria explains. Once he began treatment, Dontre stopped having episodes.

However, soon his access to treatment was cut off.

"He went in December to an outreach facility to get his medication, and they told him he wasn't insured anymore. So until February 2014 he wasn't on medication," Maria says.

In response, she went to the facility that handles state insurance and asked what had happened to Dontre's insurance; it turned out his insurance had been rejected due to a glitch. However, since it had been 90 days, the facility could not give him medication without a new evaluation. Dontre was not scheduled for his evaluation until May of that year.

"By this time, he was scared and leaving the apartment, and he would wander around a lot. There were times we couldn't find him," Maria sighs.

It only got worse from that point on. One night Dontre left the house at around 11:00 pm to go to his brother's house. "He called me and told me someone was going to kill him. He walked about four miles to the hotel downtown. I was talking to him on the phone," Maria says. She was able to calm him down, and he got to a room and slept for eight hours. He then called in the morning to make sure Maria was safe and to let her know he was still afraid that he would be killed if he left his hotel. So, he called his brother, who told him he would meet him at his home later that day. He wouldn't see his brother that day.

"At about 2 pm that day, Dontre was murdered. He told his brother that he was at the park just chilling," Maria tells me, crying.

Dontre was sitting in Red Arrow Park, located in downtown Milwaukee, in broad daylight, not bothering a soul. "Someone called the police and said there was a homeless guy too close to them. They went and told the manager at a nearby business, who then decided he wasn't doing anything wrong. They called 911, who asked for Chris Manney, the beat cop in that area," Maria says.

The dispatcher left a message for Manney later on, telling him not to go to the park, as it turned out that Dontre was doing nothing wrong. Manney went anyway.

"He snuck up on Dontre and started hitting him with the baton. He was trying to get him to leave the park. Dontre would've suffered some brain swelling had he been taken to the hospital for the excessive times he had been beaten with that baton," Maria says, as she chokes back tears.

Dontre could not take the blows any longer, so he grabbed Officer Manney's baton. In response, Chris Manney shot him 14 times. Fourteen times. He emptied his clip on the unarmed 31-year-old Dontre.

This happened in broad daylight. Dontre Hamilton was pronounced dead at 3:31 pm in a park that sits right across from city hall. There were 60 witnesses, and the mayor, along with other city officials working in buildings surrounding the park, heard the gunshots that took Dontre's life.

"We live in a segregated city. Milwaukee is so divided," Maria starts to say, but then begins to cry. She continues, "We have certain areas like that particular area, that Black people are not in, unless they work in that area. Everyone ran to their [office] window and actually saw Dontre lying there. My child laid there for four hours in that park," Maria says softly as she chokes back tears. 

"People don't even realize that Black people live in Milwaukee," Maria explains. "It's horrible here, our education is the worst, we have the most Black incarceration, we have the worst education system in the world."

Only 6.5 percent of Wisconsin's population is Black, and the state's most sizable Black population is in Milwaukee -- 40 percent.

Approximately a week before Dontre's murder, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had signed into law a policy that the police could not investigate a police officer in a murder investigation. The state's justice department was supposed to lead the investigation, but instead, the Milwaukee police did.

Christopher Manney was fired, but there were no charges. Moreover, Dontre's story was distorted in the media.

"[The police were interviewed] in the news the next morning," Maria says. "They didn't know he had a mental illness, and they assumed he was homeless. They said a homeless man was killed after having a scuffle with the police. They said he was a robber, a homeless man."

Officer Manney had no marks on his person, only the nick on his thumb where he pulled the trigger. Dontre had 21 bullet holes in him, including in his spine. His thumb was shot off because he tried to cover his face.

Although Officer Manney was fired, he received money for suffering through "post-traumatic stress disorder." The Hamilton family has not received anything.

"I know that the trauma that I have lived with," Maria says. "No human being should have this. Nobody should have to cope with this. Thank God Dontre's siblings are grown men.... I don't know what I would've done if I had small children."

After Dontre's death, Maria started Mothers for Justice United as a way of connecting mothers so that mothers can begin healing together and collaboratively work toward ending police terror.

Maria was never afraid of the police, really, before this incident. "My mom was a police officer, and I considered the police [to] be Mr. Friendly if we needed anything," Maria says. Now her views have changed. Still, she does not solely blame Officer Manney. She blames the whole police system for allowing an institution to exist that criminalizes Blackness.

While Manney is living on money he received from the Milwaukee police, Maria almost lost her home because of the grief with which she is suffering. "I was about to be homeless, because I've been living on my life savings, because of funeral costs. I have disassociation and depression. I couldn't work but that didn't [qualify me] for disability," Maria explains.

"Justice for me looks like Milwaukee reevaluating the entire police system," says Maria Hamilton.

"Justice for me looks like Milwaukee reevaluating the entire police system," she says. Justice for me looks like fixing housing in Milwaukee."

On Mother's Day in 2015, Maria led the Mothers' March in Washington, DC. She explains that she is able to do this work because of her beautiful son's continued influence on her life. "His smile, his eyes, his soul are so comforting in my life and even in death. He's talking to me. He gets me up in the morning, and I thank him so much for the time I've spent with him," Maria says. 

Maria is constantly working, and constantly seeking support for Mothers for Justice United.

"This isn't my work," she says. "This is God's work. I relive Dontre's life every time I hear a mother's story. We need to tell our stories in order to go through life and in order to have a life."

Categories: News

Economic Update: Worker Co-ops as Our Economic Future

Truth Out - 18 hours 43 min ago

This week's episode discusses Trump's 2018 budget, Ford's undemocratic decisions, the US opioid epidemic, the Swiss vote to end nuclear power, Harley-Davidson moving jobs overseas and how Canada is outlawing overbooking on planes. The episode also includes an interview with John Curl, author and co-op worker, on importance of worker co-ops.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

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Categories: News

When Concerns Of Cultural Appropriation Risk Supporting Intellectual Property

Anarchist News - 19 hours 31 min ago

From C4SS by William Gillis

The latest entry in panics over social justice comes from my hometown, where some folks have created a list shaming restaurants and foodcarts that were owned by white people but sold “non-European international cuisine.” One of the more annoying restaurants on that list has now closed as a result of hate mail. While the existence of this list (and derivative lists) has generated the sort of furious apoplexia you’d expect in the culture wars, it raises some complex subjects.

On the one hand boycott lists are in some real sense both the market at work and a matter of freedom of information that enables people to have more informed agency in their choices. On the other hand five years ago the social justice milieu broadly swore up and down that their discourse on cultural appropriation was a serious and engaging critique of the way historical injustices echo forward through cultural performance and that no one cared if white people made burritos. Now what was the textbook strawman has apparently become an active frontier.

And yet there are also good reasons to boycott several of the restaurants that were brought up in this list. Infamously some smug yuppie opened a British restaurant in a historically black neighborhood named “Saffron Colonial” that romanticized Britain’s colonialism. This is insensitive to say the least. Colonialism was an unfathomable atrocity and the British Empire in particular was a genocidal machine that rivaled the Third Reich. Its name deserves to be spat on and its victims mourned for the rest of eternity. There is no future for our species but one in which “colonial” is a curseword. Unfortunately such a future is still poorly distributed and there are many still blithely unaware of its monstrosity or who feel no compulsion to acknowledge it. It’s not “erasing history” to react with disgust at someone attempting to open a holocaust themed deli. There are subjects where basic etiquette calls for degree of somberness and respectful attention to historical trauma. Or at least if the knife of irreverence is to be wielded on such subjects it should be done with care and attention to power.

The creators of the original restaurant list objected that they don’t oppose white people making “non-white” food at home but rather in a market context where they could drive people of color out of business. Yet it’s annoying that this minor distinction resonated as legitimate with some leftists. To assert that people shouldn’t sell food not of “their culture” is to embrace the paradigm of intellectual property entirely, albeit with the same pretenses as a “creative commons non-commercial” license — the rotten core presumption of information ownership left totally unchallenged but now with a superficial progressive sheen.

For as long as I’ve been an anarchist I’ve staunchly held two hardlines: anti-racism and freedom of information. I see these as some of the most immediate and basic prescriptions that follow from anarchism’s aspirations and anyone that knows me knows the intensity and severity of my opposition to both. Increasingly popularized notions of “cultural appropriation” appear to many to bring these two commitments to a head, and so this might be a good time to revisit how cultural appropriation can avoid constituting an intellectual property claim, but also how the two paradigms can creep into overlap and how I believe anarchists should break when the tension arises.

While the specific instantiations of racism and intellectual property in our world are directly responsible for the deaths of many millions, the suffering of countless more, and the immeasurable sabotage of humanity’s advancement as a whole, it’s important to note that our opposition to them is not contingent upon said historical particulars. Racism and intellectual property are also evil in the abstract; they divide minds and slice away our options, constraining our freedom. Both racism and intellectual property inflict immense network damage on society, restricting the flow of information and thus our capacity for agency. Even if the historical footprint of white supremacy and IP law were somehow removed, even if the explicit violence underpinning them was abolished, the very logic of racism and intellectual property is one of oppression. Even if racial segregation was “voluntary” and information ownership was sustained by nonviolent social norms they’d still be deeply objectionable for anarchists and we would push to change such norms.

It’s also important to note that anarchism or any commitment to abolishing all power relations — not merely some flavors of them — obliges some constraint in our means. It’s causally incoherent to attempt to gulag someone into liberation. And there are externalities to many strategies that make them intolerable for anarchists even if they can accomplish their goals. Some limited goals can be achieved by brutal means that establish new tyrannies, but the goal of abolishing power itself cannot. At the same time this does not oblige pacifism or pretending as though the institutional horrors of our world do not exist. Murder is bad but the numbers clearly work out if you can murder Hitler to save millions from being murdered. Ends and means are interconnected, even if they are not precisely one-to-one.

With these considerations in hand I think the resolution between the ideals of anti-racism and freedom of information is relatively straightforward.

Cultural exchange is great; effectively mocking something of deep symbolic value to oppressed people you’re not a member of is shitty. Are you sticking a historically repressed religious symbol up your ass? Not respectful. Are you perpetuating a caricature of a class of people? Not respectful. Now obviously there’s a place for being not respectful. It’s fucking awesome when members of oppressed groups generate their own Piss Christ equivalents, because ultimately fuck being respectful to the idols of any culture/religion, but suffice to say folks associated with the colonization or authoritarian suppression of a culture/religion doing such is generally a bad look, to say the least.

Most people understand that it’s just different when a white person uses the n-word versus when a black person does. Regardless of a specific individual’s intent, the history and context of racism understandably affect perceptions and reactions. The same is of course true when a white person wears a headdress. Of course as always with any incantation of “member of oppressed/oppressor class” there’s often a lot of category fuzziness and it’s important not to treat shit like a rigid legal system. Anarchists are concerned with ethics where most of social justice discourse has concerned itself with enforcing social norms, two quite different undertakings.

Where we must dismiss “cultural appropriation” entirely and strenuously is when it starts operating like a collectivist intellectual property. Like people expecting to hold a monopoly on the production of a certain cloth pattern. Abolishing the evil of intellectual property is infinitely more important than someone’s pet strategy for getting a tiny bit more money into the hands of POC. There’s a difference here between “spend money at POC businesses to counteract white supremacy a little bit” which is fine and good and “if a white person sells a burrito that’s unethical” which is the logic of IP.

Note the distinction. There are many means of providing subsidies to oppressed peoples to counterbalance systemic injustice. It’s not worth grabbing any and every possible one, and there’s something to being honest and direct about urging a counter-subsidy without dressing it up in some kind of claim to cultural ownership.

Just as you can’t solve white supremacy by empowering the police or the state, you also can’t solve white supremacy by empowering intellectual property. If white-owned businesses selling burritos are pushing people of color out of a market they used to monopolize and leading to economic immiseration then we should address the diffuse but ultimately violent foundations of institutional white supremacy subsidizing said businesses or holding back POC businesses, not try to patch up the status quo through horrifyingly short sighted strategies of legitimizing collective intellectual property. And let’s not forget that ultimately economic monopolies of any kind are bad.

If the point is to repair the economic damage done by white supremacy then why should we feel more compelled to subsidize a latino owned restaurant selling burritos than a latino owned restaurant selling stroganoff?

The true answer is obviously the expediency of appealing to unfortunately widely existing indoctrination in intellectual property, plus a lurking cultural nationalism / separatism that the left is bad at rejecting when it’s not completely explicit. Another answer is that many feel white owners are prone to misrepresent cuisines they’re not native to. Such concerns are actually fine and legitimate, but also a distinct issue. A list of restaurants misrepresenting traditional cuisines is different than a list white owned restaurants.

It’s long been noted that a part of the ideal of freedom of information is a commitment to accurate identification of authorship and origin. Many of the sins addressed in “cultural appropriation” critiques actually address the slicing away of information. An ethical obligation to be honest is not remotely the same thing as claiming that the originator of an idea owns it and should be able to control its reproduction.

Of course the most common criticism of “cultural appropriation” discourse is that it deals in sweeping aggregates, tying race to culture in a way that’d make the nazis proud, and also collapsing the fluid complexities of the real world into simplistic morality tales of group A and group B. It’s one thing to speak of culture in the sense of a fluid ecosystem of ideas and practices too messy to make any clear divisions within, it’s another to speak of some kind of monolithic, static and totalizing culture, some kind of singular collective entity with clear insides and outsides.

At the same time discrete cultures do exist in the nationalist sense; we do not live in a world merely of individuals networked in ways that defy all simple representations but one of oppressively constructed arbitrary “races”, “nations” and “cultures” — this is simply a historical fact, albeit a sad one and further a fact anarchists ultimately aspire to dissolve.

We all recognize that colorblindness is willful blindness and the suppression of knowledge and agency in a world of constructed races. Something similar is true with cultures and the historical and institutional racism. Yet we must also remember that any “culture” distinct and persistent enough to even be spoken clearly of much less claim ownership of anything is itself already arguably imperialist, certainly dangerously nationalist. It may be a dick move to wear dreads, bindis and war bonnets, but at the same time Rastafarianism was imperialist, Hinduism was imperialist and the Lakota Sioux were imperialist — just because the crimes of such societies/cultures/nations utterly pale in comparison to European colonialism and the countless mass graves of white supremacy doesn’t mean they’re not ultimately objectionable too.

As an anarchist I don’t swallow the poisonous “quick fix” of backing smaller nations against bigger ones. Trying to “equalize” power relations is ultimately no fix for power relations themselves; the goal is liberation from power relations, not equal constraint under them. We believe in backing individuals in rebellion against their nations and tearing down all borders. There’s certainly a place for “don’t be a racist douchecanoe, recognize the symbolism and perceptions broadly at play in cultural artifacts as a result of institutional racism”, in no small part because attentiveness to the unique experiences and trauma of other people is deeply in line with the ideals of freedom of information. But at the end of the day anarchism means being culture traitors or it means nothing. We long for a day when cultural miscegenation has proceeded until culture is impossible to be differentiated into distinct cultures, when culture is a fluid mess to be splashed about in, not something that constrains or defines us.

Many of the dynamics pointed out by critics of cultural appropriation are valid and worthy of note or serious response. It fucking matters that the flow, drift and mutation of culture has been shaped not just by free association but by systemic violence. While an idealized variant of globalization is the apex of anarchist aspirations we are all the poorer for the processes by which actually existing globalization has so far occurred — and some of us in specific are quite a lot poorer for it. Yet there has always been a grave risk of “cultural appropriation” discourse dissolving into appeals to the perceived legitimacy of intellectual property — granting cultures, nations or collectives the assumed right to “own” ideas, practices, or other such technologies. The left has a longstanding tendency to assume that the collectivization of tyranny is the same thing as its abolition, just as it has repeatedly fallen into a reflexive embrace of nationalisms of the oppressed assuming such to be the only path of resistance; both despicable tendencies are ever lurking in discourses around cultural appropriation. What’s irritating about social justice discourses is a tendency to obscure or avoid honest ethical and strategic discussions by jumping ahead to trying to socially pressure certain behaviors. But certain codes of behavior always carry underlying logics or justifications; social justice has provided a means for folks with goals or strategies that wouldn’t be accepted by many explicitly (like ownership of information, racial or cultural segregation) to push for the normalization of their abstract premises via hyperparticularized conversations about tactics and behavior.

I should clarify despite my critiques here that I’m bullish about social justice discourse on the whole — in no small part because I subscribe to old fashioned enlightenment notions like the best arguments tending to rise to the top. I think the explosion of attention to things like cultural appropriation in the last decade is a staggering testament to the intellectual singularity unleashed by the internet and freedom of information. I have never felt much need to step in and call out toxic dynamics or deadend analyses in part because I have such high estimation for discourse itself. Traditionally marginalized people sharing their unique experiences and perspectives and hashing things out is exactly what the ideal of freedom of information promised. The occasional fallacy or outbreak of opportunistic browbeating is of so little concern in comparison to the stultifying silence and unexamined oppression that preceded widespread internet adoption that I’ve never had much but laughter at those hyperventilating about social justice toxicity and overreach. It happens, to be sure, but it’s as silly an “existential threat” as radical islam and those deeply worried about such things betray their own lack of faith in debate, empathy and the unquenchable acid of cultural miscegenation. Just as the internet perceives censorship and intellectual property as damage and routes around, humanity perceives nationalism and cultural segregation as damage to be routed around.

There is no border through which we will not carve, no wall through which we will not break. Liberation is ultimately to be found in connection, not division — in sharing, not stealing. The only justification for ownership is scarcity, and culture should never be scarce.

Tags: culturefoodidentity politicspiratesintellectual propertycategory: Essays
Categories: News

Manchester attack: UK resumes US intelligence-sharing after leak row

Citizens for Legitimate Government - 21 hours 21 min ago

Manchester attack: UK resumes US intelligence-sharing after leak row | 25 May 2017 | British police have resumed intelligence-sharing ties with US law enforcement after they were temporarily stopped in a row over leaks about the Manchester bombing investigation.

Categories: News

Students berate professor who refused to participate in no-whites 'Day of Absence'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 23:18

Students berate professor who refused to participate in no-whites 'Day of Absence' | 25 May 2017 | A mob of students at a Washington state liberal-arts college confronted a professor and demanded his resignation for writing an email questioning the propriety of a race demonstration in which white people were invited to leave campus for a day.

Categories: News

Crossing Paths in New Terrain: Philly, Revolt, the Left & Trump

It's Goin Down - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 22:34

The post Crossing Paths in New Terrain: Philly, Revolt, the Left & Trump appeared first on It's Going Down.

This text is in part a reply to the “Drinking From the Cup of Fascist Tears: Boston Report Back” but is generally meant to be respond to the shifting political terrain since Trump won the election in November of 2016. All unattributed quotes are from the Boston Report Back.

The social terrain been changing in Philadelphia. For the last half a year, since Trump’s election campaign through to his current presidency, I’ve seen more and different types of opposition to the political system. This opposition takes many forms; an increase in the popularity of anti-fascist organizing, a re-emergence of black blocs within larger demonstrations and as their own demonstrations, and a broadening of progressive ideology to include revolutionary perspectives in the face of the Trump administration. This change of terrain has me both excited and worried.

An influx of leftist organizations and groupings has me nervous. Since November, I’ve found myself in the street running alongside leftist militants more than I have since 2012. I’m not interested in changing minds or offering the “truth,” instead, I’m interested in clearing up some misconceptions and clarifying the positions of some anarchists in Philly. This way when tensions arise between insurrectionary and leftist perspectives, when we inevitably step on each other’s toes (as must happen when paths cross, as opposed to run parallel), they can be understood for what they are, differences in approach, perspective, and trajectory.

New Energy and Practices

With the arrival of militant leftists willing to take conflictual action, the space to act and experiment has expanded and changed. For some time insurrectionary anarchists have dismissed most marches and demonstrations, jaded and bitter, after too many bad experiences with activists (despite their often fiery rhetoric). Every now and then some of us would attend a march or rally, but for the most part those places felt unwelcoming. Seeing so many people taking to the street in black has been exciting. The spread of anonymous attendance, material preparedness, and uncompromising messaging is appealing to say the least, not to mention that many within these blocs are not showing up empty handed. Many of us are trickling back into the streets, once again donning our black masks, excited to see what new potential exists for us on this new terrain.

The spokes councils and other open ended forums that have sprung up mesh well with our informal and affinity based approach. They provide space to share information and coordinate action without taking away individual or group autonomy, or becoming decision-making bodies, that aim to steer the entirety of an action.

These changes are exciting, the space and energy have made more things feel possible. They have created more lines along which solidarity can be shown, and also more tensions between political tendencies that can hopefully complement each other rather than detract from the overall struggle against this miserable world.

Philly Before Trump

Anarchist and anti-fascist struggle here has not always looked like it does today. For a long time progressive and revolutionary forms of struggle took different and less militant forms, with Trump around this has changed, insurrectionary anarchists have and most likely will continue to share the streets and take similar action with progressive and revolutionary leftists. However things were happening before Trump. I’d like to clear up some generalizations that don’t take into account how things have been.

“In Philly, blocs work closely in a sphere of mutual respect with local Left organizations to make sure that everyone is on the same page when actions combine the interests of multiple groups.”

The statement that Philly black blocs work closely and in a sphere of mutual respect with left organizations erases years of activity in Philadelphia. Black bloc is a tactic, not a group. No political tendency has a monopoly on it, nor can it be spoken for as though it was a formal group. It might look like black blocs have mutual respect for the left if we only look at blocs that have taken place since Donald Trump’s election, but even then when we squint we see blocs that don’t fit that narrative.

The recent past has seen more black blocs within larger demonstrations, or as demonstrations of their own, many of these have been organized in coordination with left groups, but again not all. When looking into the past one can see the use of black bloc being upsetting to leftists. Whether organizing autonomous blocs to clash with police and disrupt civil society in solidarity with rebels in Ferguson in 2014, or the various attempts to escalate conflict during more Black Lives Matter protests than we care to count, to organizing against prisons as part of the nation-wide prison strike, to attacking police and business from within recent anti-Trump and anti-fascist protests, use of black bloc has mostly received mixed reviews until recently. This may be because for many insurrectionary anarchists, the black bloc was never meant to be a symbolic or spectacular display. For most of us black bloc is a way to hide our identities while we engage in forms of struggle we expect will bring about repression from the state or other groups intent on protecting the social order. Black bloc is a tactic we use to further our goals, not a representation of struggle we sacrifice and delay our desires for.

“Philly anti-fascist groups have moderated our own political urgencies to smash fascists and the state for the sake of building these relationships due to the advantages that strategic alliances with sympathetic noncombatants can provide.”

The above statement (like the one about black blocs in Philly) skips over the anti-fascist and anti-state activity here that has, and continues to take, an uncompromising position. The injured fascists, the damaged cars, the doxxing, and the hours of research were not the results of moderation. Before Trump won the election, a lot of anti-fascist activity here took place in a less spectacular context. White supremacists were confronted by occasional demonstrations, like Lief Erikson day for example, but mostly a less visible opposition did the job. Efforts to expose, sabotage, or otherwise disrupt fascist organizing were uncompromising whenever they could be. Potential alliances were not dismissed completely, but the times when they were prioritized over directly striking at white supremacy left us feeling disappointed.

Watering Down Of Struggle

It’s not hard to find someone opposed to neo-Nazis; only the most conflict avoidant liberals wring their hands when a self-described white supremacist gets punched in the face. It’s harder to come across people who are in opposition to society and all the racist trappings that hold it together: work, police, gender, colonialism, government, prisons, etc. While not so distant memory reminds me that whole cities burned in response to unexceptional policing, and that prisoners across the country attempted to destroy the prisoner labor economy, it leaves me concerned to see the so much of the struggle against white supremacy retreat into a defensive one focused on a specific administration and a specific brand of overt racism. For me it’s not enough to want to defend myself and my friends from Trump and the white supremacists he has emboldened, I need to struggle against the society, the civilization, that created them. To sound cliche, radical for me means grabbing a hold of problems by the root.

I’m worried that the new wave of antifa oriented struggle will leave behind the wider fight against white supremacy, and the state (which necessarily includes anti-fascism anyway). While as an anarchist I am against the existence of fascism and fascists, I am also convinced that white supremacy and authoritarianism are much more powerful and popular in the form of the state and society. Police and snitches are a much bigger threat to my existence than self-described white supremacists or nationalists. I’m not going to dismiss them as non-enemies (I’ve connected a pole to a skull, a rock to a racist, surely not for the last time). The rioting across the U$A against police and race (aka anti-blackness, aka white supremacy aka…) was more interesting to me than the more narrow, “most common denominator” focus on overt and/or self-described white supremacists.

Additionally, these riots confronted many of the same white supremacists, while continuing to fight forward on their own terms. Angry crowds confronted Oath Keepers, right-wing militias, and other organized racists bent on policing the joyful chaos, without having to seek them out or deviate too far from their attack on society at large. The antifa struggle seems to be an entirely defensive one, focusing only on the most socially unpopular forms of white supremacy while leaving the rest of society mostly unchallenged. As a defensive struggle it doesn’t push toward an anarchic unknown, but toward a moment that many can agree was better, the moment before Trump’s election, or the moment before he ran for office, as though he didn’t emerge from a racist society that will continue to exist for as long as we do not to destroy it, whether he remains in office or not.

Hierarchy Rears Its Head

“Would-be bloc participants need organizers to let them know how they’re going to win the day rather than resigning themselves to a loss.”

“Boston bloc leaders…”

“…our troops…”

“Being a militant vanguard against the fascist tide means simultaneously moderating two fronts – the enemy front, against which we must stand strong and push hard – and the allied front, to which we must stay close enough to encourage support for our militancy.”

I am against hierarchy. I don’t want to lead or be led. I want to organize with friends, not organize “the struggle.” It’s up to each individual to make their own path, without coercion or outside authority. Being against hierarchy means being against any sort of vanguard, bloc leaders, or acquiescence to being someone’s troop. Everyone who attends an action or demonstration has their own idea of what winning the day is (let’s not even get into a critique of the idea of winning). No one needs an organizer to tell them how to win, since there are at as least many ways to win as there are people present. The notion that someone needs an organizer to let them know how to win, is paternalistic at best and authoritarian at worst, it assumes that individuals can’t make their own agenda of how they want to struggle, that it’s possible for an action feel like a victory to everyone.

My Idea Of Freedom

“Anarchy cannot exist when individuals or social groups are dominated — whether that domination is facilitated and enforced by outside forces or by their own organization.”
Post-Left Anarchy: Leaving the Left Behind

As insurrectionary anarchists our goal is insurrection, this much should be obvious. What that means is less simple and will differ from person to person. Broadly it can mean we are interested in moments of rising up against authority and social relations of domination. Some of us include revolution in this trajectory, many of us do not. Revolt is its own reward. Each of our experimentations with insurrection look different, for some it tends toward the personal, individual pursuit of fulfilling anti-authoritarian desire, for others it tends to be a social and even communal path, shared with others in revolt against this world.

I organize with others informally, along lines of affinity. This means I don’t try to build mass organizations tasked with taking on every aspect of struggle, instead I act with others to accomplish specific tasks without forming a permanent organization. This informal organizations are made up of people who feel drawn to both each other and the group’s intended project.

I’m not against working with leftists when our paths run parallel, I don’t expect a pure struggle of only isolated anarchists. I decide who I act with based on the affinity I feel toward someone. As any two people get to know each other, the appeal of doing certain things together goes up or down. The deepening of affinity — through conversations, shared experiences — can lead to taking action together. I’m open to working with anyone whose long, medium, or short term goals line up with mine, whether leftist, anarchist, or otherwise.

“What organization are you in?” “What group is doing this?” These questions and others like them point toward the sometimes confusing nature of an informal approach. Informal means not building membership organizations, instead coming together around specific projects (writing a text, planning a demonstration, carrying out an attack, etc) then disbanding. An informal organization exists for only as long as it takes to complete a project or until it is abandoned. There’s no membership lists, whoever takes part is in. Permanent organizations get bogged down by the task of maintaining themselves, are more susceptible to repression, and tend toward bureaucracy.

I am for the attack. I don’t believe the powers that be will step down, and I can’t just walk away from society. As anarchists there are so many aspects of this world that we are against, what better way to get rid of them than to strike at them? Besides the material damages, attacking heals the attacker, reminds them that they’re not completely domesticated, allows them to leave behind the obedience and compromise of daily life, and sharpens their daggers for when they find ourselves in larger revolts.

I am for revolt pointing toward rupture with society, not revolt as a means of social progression. I don’t believe that progress is good, or that things are getting better over time. Rupture means as complete a break with the existing order as possible, whether for a minute or a month, alone or across the whole city. There’s no clear path toward it, only constantly experimentation with what might bring it about. Some believe that when ruptures are taking place closer and closer to each other in both time and space, this can lead to revolution. Others feel that rupture is a good time in itself and needs no justification.

Philly, Spring 2017

Categories: News

When they Knock on your Front Door: Preparing for Repression

It's Goin Down - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 22:04

The post When they Knock on your Front Door: Preparing for Repression appeared first on It's Going Down.

Yesterday, May 24th 2017, police  in the Bay Area raided two houses and arrested one person in connection to the recent protests in Berkeley California. In this moment of increasing state repression, we must be vigilant in protecting ourselves, each other, and our communities.

Never speak to the police. Remember that any response can incriminate you and others. You have a right to remain silent, but not to lie – even to say “I don’t know.” Better responses are “I have nothing to say to you.” or “No comment.” We recommend practicing how to respond to emergency situations such as raids where police are particularly threatening and nefarious about getting you to speak to them.

Share this information with friends and housemates,
particularly those who are intimately tied to political communities but are not that involved or invested in them. These are often the people the state targets to get information on wider activist communities.

Political repression in any form has the common purpose of undermining our movements as a whole, even when it seems particular individuals are the targets. Therefore it is extremely important that we all get prepared for further repression. We do this  by supporting each other in remaining calm and brushing up on some basic know-your-rights information as well as being mindful of how we communicate on the internet.

Here are some links with helpful info to get you started:

If an Agent Knocks
This booklet is the best know-your-rights manual to dealing with law enforcement encounters that we’ve come across. Although it was written for how to handle encounters with federal agents, the information is just as useful in situations with local police. The first chapter, which is only 8 pages, covers law enforcement visits and searches. The booklet also covers state infiltration, surveillance, grand jury resistance, and special considerations for non citizens.

Time to Beef up Defense Against Far-Right Doxxing
Now that there’s a far right, internet-based movement growing in this country, we have to deal with attacks on two fronts: the state, and the far right. The alt-right might put you on the radar to the state and/ vis versa. If our personal information is available online, the alt right can find you and “doxx” you, meaning they publicize your name, address, phone number and your family members’ names, addresses and phone numbers for the purpose of harassing and intimidating you. Below is an article with tips on preventing this from happening, along with a list of websites that the alt-right uses to uncover people’s sensitive, personal information.

Security in a Box – Digital security tools and tactics
The state can and does monitor activists’ communication and internet activity. This website is an excellent resource for giving you step-by-step guides to encrypting and securing your various devices and computer operating systems. It also goes over encrypting email.

Resisting Grand Juries
With resistance comes repression and unfortunately often repression leads to more repression. We can help damage control this by always refusing to talk to law enforcement. Sometimes investigations result in grand juries. It is important to be prepared to remain silent if subpeoned to a grand jury. We should all prepare ourselves to support those who refuse to testify. This website has tons of information on grand juries, how they work, and the importance of resisting them. We particularly recommend reading the “Statement of Resistance” written by a collective of folks from various movements in the Bay Area and endorsed by dozens of groups, political prisoners, and former grand jury resisters.

Lastly, if you or anyone you know has been approached by law enforcement or has been visited at their homes or jobs please contact the National Lawyers Guild at 415-285-1011 to access legal advice, resources, and support.

Solidarity is our best weapon in the face of repression. Lets use it!

Categories: News

#OpLove 2017: Nashville Antifascist Action Meets Community Needs through Mutual Aid

It's Goin Down - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 21:33

The post #OpLove 2017: Nashville Antifascist Action Meets Community Needs through Mutual Aid appeared first on It's Going Down.

“Could I have a pair of those socks? You can never have too many socks!,” a young man, in his mid-twenties exclaims as I lift the laundry basket teeming with pairs of fresh, clean socks. “Of course, take whatever you need.” I cheerfully respond. As he inspects the socks and hygiene items we have available, I grab him a sack lunch, chocolate pudding cup, spoon, and I reach for a bottle of Gatorade. “Orange or red, what’s your preference?” I ask. “Either is fine, surprise me!” he beams. I grab an ice cold red Gatorade from the cooler and hand it to him. The weather is glorious, mid-70’s with a light breeze emanating from the Cumberland river. I invite the young man to sit and eat with me so we can talk. He tells me he has been working a temporary contract job sorting automotive parts. He has the scratches and cuts on his arms to prove it. I offer him some Neosporin, band-aids, and antiseptic wipes for his wounds, which he gladly accepts. “I’ve been working 5 weeks now. If I can make it to 90 days, I’ll get hired on with benefits and I get a $2/hour raise!” he gushes. “That sounds wonderful! I’m very proud of you.” I affirm. We make gentle chit-chat while he gobbles his lunch under the mid-day sun.

These are the typical interactions members of Nashville Antifascist Action (Nashville AFA) have when performing #OpLove, an operation pioneered by Anonymous in which we take 100-200 sack lunches to the downtown area to feed the unhoused and less fortunate. Our group collaborates with Anonymous Nashville (and surrounding areas) and Rebel Headquarters, a national liberal activist group with a Tennessee chapter (RHQ-TN). We set up a table with baskets filled to the brim with shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, mouthwash, toothpaste, tissues, maxi pads, first aid items, socks, bras, lighters, tobacco, and over the counter pain reliever medicine (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen). We invite anyone who needs these items to help themselves and take whatever they require. Our members fill backpacks with lunches and drinks and walk around the downtown area handing out lunch to whoever needs it, or depositing sack lunches and drinks next to folks who are still sleeping on the greenspace.

It is an act of mutual aid, rooted in compassion and love for fellow human beings. On this particular day, we distribute more than 160 lunches over the course of 3 hours. Feeding the hungry is a major specific aim of this project, but the additional central goal of our operation is to restore the dignity of these folks through positive human interactions. As we hand out food, clothing, and hygiene items, we offer a gentle touch, kind words, prolonged conversations, respectful eye contact, or a warm embrace if they are inclined. The results are infectious. Many recipients finish their lunch and conversation and ask if they can take a few lunches and walk with us to aid in distribution to others.

“We should walk down to Hobo Park! There are at least a dozen people there and even some kids who would love to have some pudding!” one man exclaims. So, we trek down to the small park facing the Nashville Public Library and disseminate aid there as well. As we approached the scene, we park and begin disseminating lunches and drinks to folks. A Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) officer moves his car so that we can park and unload our baskets and bins full of food, clothing, and hygiene items. The entire park was veritably surrounded by MNPD cruisers on all sides. I distributed fresh clean undergarments to a woman who tells me she is 12 weeks pregnant with twins. She and her partner are trying to get space in the Mission together so that they can be a family when the babies arrive. Mere moments later, another MNPD officer approaches us and instructs us to vacate the parking space so he can have it. A member of Rebel Headquarters attempted to reason with him, to no avail. We quickly distributed our last few remaining items and vacated the park.

As we walk back to the riverfront, one of the members of Anonymous stops to hand a sack lunch to a group of unhoused teens selling street art. He purchases a hand-sized painting of a blue skull from the group. Nearby, a dog sleeps curled-up in a guitar case belonging to a street musician. The child of a RHQ-TN member stops to give the musician a sack lunch and pet the sleeping dog. A recipient of our sack lunch asks one of the Anons if he can try on his Guy Fawkes mask. They acquiesce with alacrity, and we take turns taking pictures with him. Members of Rebel Headquarters also try on masks and take pictures.

It cannot be overstated how impactful #OpLove is to all involved. It reconnects our community and builds collaborative coalitions between leftist activist groups, teaching us how to effectively work together to accomplish worthy goals. Activism is hard, stressful, thankless work, which often has little signs of progress. #OpLove provides instant evidence of its effectiveness. Needs are met, the hungry are fed, wounds are dressed, and spirits are lifted in a matter of moments. It is worthy to note that the lunches we constructed included a complete protein, a carbohydrate source, a serving of fruit, and a healthy drink and we were able to put these lunches together at an average price of $1.10/lunch. This work strengthens the ties between members of our affinity group as well. It is important to note that while some police will be accommodating to #OpLove, many in law enforcement will likely try to obfuscate your efforts, as they did with our group. Nonetheless, we encourage all anarchist affinity groups and their affiliated collaborators to engage in #OpLove or similar actions for community support.

For more information on how we accomplished our #OpLove, feel free to send us a message at our page here..

Categories: News