A startling Thursday night report from the New York Times outlines how President Donald Trump tried to pressure top Republican lawmakers in the US Senate to end the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia.
"It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’" Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the committee’s chairman, said to the Times.
Trump reportedly called Burr's congressional colleagues to secure assistance in pushing Burr to end the investigation. The president also urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) to "swiftly" bring the probe to an end.
An unnamed Republican lawmaker says Trump called him to suggest he investigate Hillary Clinton and her ties to Fusion GPS, which had a role in compiling the dossier on Trump.
White House spokesperson Raj Shah said Trump "at no point has attempted to apply undue influence on committee members."
But Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said Trump's behavior is a breach of the separation of powers.
"It is pressure that should never be brought to bear by an official when the legislative branch is in the process of an investigation," she said.
A full year in advance of a historic showdown on school vouchers in Arizona, the Kochs are already ladling on the cash. Through their Latino front group, Libre Institute, they have launched a six-figure ad campaign targeting Arizona moms on one of the Kochs' favorite topics, school vouchers.
The TV ads feature a variety of Latino and Anglo "moms" singing the praises of school choice; the mailings feature cookie cutter "happy families" still featuring the "Istock" watermark. The campaign is an early attempt to sway voters who will decide whether or not to expand vouchers statewide in November 2018 when Proposition 305 appears on the ballot.
The ads encourage people to go to the website, Arizonaschoolfacts.com emblazoned with the motto "Stand with Arizona's Children." The website fails to mention that it is sponsored by David and Charles Koch, two of the richest men in the world, who believe that transforming the public school system into for-profit money-making operations is the "choice" Arizona moms should be making.
In the interest of transparency, shouldn't the outreach begin with "Hola! Somos los hermanos Koch"?Historic Showdown Over School Vouchers
Here are a few facts about vouchers not featured on the Koch-sponsored website.
Vouchers originated in Southern states as a way of getting around the Brown vs. Board of education series of Supreme Court decisions requiring the desegregation of schools, as CMD has detailed.
Vouchers were taken up and promoted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council in the 1980's and was implemented into law for the first time by Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, a big ALEC booster. At ALEC today, private companies like the scandal-plagued K12 Inc. which are supported by US taxpayers and pay their CEOs millions in annual salaries ($4 million in 2017 ) are pushing hard for the privatization of US schools so they can rake in more profits.
In April 2017, the Arizona Legislature narrowly passed SB 1431, which is geared to expanding the state's small "Empowerment Scholarship Account" program, to all 1.1 million school children over time.
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (or what ALEC calls "educational savings accounts") work like school vouchers because they siphon off public taxpayer money for private and religious schools. The "accounts" were developed by voucher proponents as a way of getting around constitutional prohibitions on the use of public money for religious schools.
The bill was put forward by ALEC member and State Senator Debbie Lesko. A passel of interlinked right-wing groups, including the Koch's American's for Prosperity astroturf group, the DeVos American Federation for Children, Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the Arizona School Choice Trust, advocates for religious schools, and a passel of Bradley-funded groups like the Goldwater Institute and the Cato Institute weighed in. (The $900 million Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has spent hundreds of millions advancing private and religious school vouchers.)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law on April 6, 2017. On cue, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called the bill a "big win" for students and parents. While vouchers were initially billed as a social mobility ticket for minority or disadvantaged students, "universal vouchers" for all families -- rich and poor -- attending both private and religious schools, are now openly the goal of ALEC and most school voucher proponents.
As part of a deal to swing key GOP support the Arizona program was capped at 30,000 students, but the cap is clearly intended to be temporary. On passage of the bill, the Goldwater Institute immediately sent out a victory email stating: "Fifty years in the making, and tonight we closed the deal! Universal education savings accounts. There is a cap at 5,000 new kids per year; we will get it lifted."
But that was not the end of this story.Save Our Schools
Public school advocates formed Save Our Schools Arizona and organized to put the issue to a state-wide referendum. Arizona law allows for a "veto referendum" on laws passed by the legislature if opponents gather the requisite signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
Save Our Schools filed 111,540 signatures with the Secretary of State, much more than the 75,000 required. Secretary of State Michele Reagan announced that referendum proponents submitted a sufficient number of signatures and certified the measure for the ballot as Arizona Proposition 305 on September 8, 2017.
Proponents of the expanded voucher program resorted to classic tactics to attack Save Our Schools and its allies, including ethics complaints against signature gatherers (who allegedly failed to check the volunteer box on the form), robocalls , and lawsuits.
In August, the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity filed suit alleging irregularities with the signature collection process; this suit was quickly dismissed by the courts, but the same team filed a second suit on similar grounds, which is still pending. Moreover, AFP appears ready to primary the few Republicans who voted no on the voucher expansion. Rep. Heather Carter, who voted no on expansion faces competition by high-school teacher Brian Lesinski. Lesinski said he was inspired to run about a year ago, after completing a "leadership academy" training sponsored by Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Rather than throwing up their hands and surrendering to the outside dark money forces already invading their state, Dawn Penich-Thacker, Save our Schools Arizona Co-founder and spokesperson tells CMD they are ready to battle the Kochs.
"The Kochs and their affiliates have poured millions into Arizona over the years, yet 95 percent of families still choose public schools. Just this month, every single public school bond and tax ballot measure in the Phoenix metropolis passed by margins of two to one," said Penich-Thacker.
In state after state, citizen groups have faced big money opposition and won, most recently in Colorado where a complex web of dark money groups and a passel of institutions funded by the Bradley Foundation attempted to capture school boards to advance vouchers at the local level and failed spectacularly.
Moreover, public school advocates know that while ALEC legislators have been successful in getting limited school voucher schemes passed in state houses across the nation, these measures never succeed when they are put to the ballot.
"The Kochs, Libre, DeVos, ALEC and the rest of the ideological billionaires may be able to buy the hearts and minds of elected officials, but they can't buy the hearts and minds of regular Arizonans," says Penich-Thacker.
What do a podcaster from Portland, an actor on the CBS drama "Criminal Minds" and a retired lawyer in central Iowa have in common? They've all become activists of sorts in the last year. What's driving them is a simple weekly checklist compiled by another newbie activist: Salem, Oregon, writer Jen Hofmann. Hoffman started the Americans of Conscience Action Checklist a year ago, and now the newsletter, based in Salem, Oregon, has 70,000 subscriptions.Activists chant and display signs at at a protest prior to World AIDS Day on November 29, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Working Families Party) Ready to challenge injustice and spark real change? So are we. Support Truthout's mission today by making a tax-deductible donation.
What do a podcaster from Portland, an actor on the CBS drama Criminal Minds and a retired lawyer in central Iowa have in common?
They've all become activists of sorts in the last year, staking out a corner of their otherwise busy lives to regularly make calls, write letters and perform a range of other actions in support of democracy and equality.
What's driving them is a simple weekly checklist compiled by another newbie activist: Salem, Oregon, writer Jen Hofmann.
Hofmann started Americans of Conscience Action Checklist a year ago as a resource for friends struggling to make sense of the wave of post-election petitions on social media. In those days of outrage and confusion -- between near-daily rallies and protests -- her checklist became a menu of actions for people seeking to push back against divisive rhetoric and extremism flooding the country.
Hofmann spends 20 to 30 hours a week creating the list on a volunteer basis and over time has hit on a winning formula of well-researched, hype-free, values-based suggestions, along with a recommended reading list and a blend of positive news.
"Jen's checklist came along at a time when people were trying to figure out how best to respond," says Asha Dornfest, the Portland podcaster and author who uses it as a key resource for a women's activism Facebook group she runs. "She offered concrete action steps to take and she did it in a way that was so human … and so welcoming to a wide swath of people."
A year in, as the resistance landscape continues to shift -- with new projects joining the movement as others lose steam and fall off -- Hofmann's project continues to carve out an important niche.
Posted each Sunday, it prioritizes the important over the urgent, and under-the-radar but critical issues over what's grabbing the big headlines. Key issues range from healthcare access to immigrant justice and voting rights to the Republican tax plan. While most of what Hofmann includes on the list is political, some is decidedly not: like promoting a fundraising campaign for America's classrooms.
"I look for things that have to do with democracy getting stronger," she says.
Her checklist also has an "acts of gratitude" section to encourage readers to recognize good deeds, such as a recent "thank you" to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their steadfast commitment on climate change. She listed the European leaders' mailing addresses.
What the checklist doesn't include is noteworthy, too: name-calling and scary hype. Instead, Hofmann peppers it with something you seldom find in resistance paraphernalia: reminders to celebrate victories and practice self-care.
"We underestimate how slowly change happens, especially in democracy," says Hofmann, who makes sure to get out in the Oregon woods every week after compiling the checklist. "To keep that endurance, we really need to focus on self-care."
No one's been more surprised at the checklist's reach than Hofmann herself, who had little to no activism cred before last year. What she did have, however, was serious organization chops and experience with research and social media.
She posted the first edition in a simple Google doc on her website and sent a link by email to about 25 people. It was shared more than 1,600 times on Facebook. By the Women's March, on the day after the inauguration, 7,000 people across the country were subscribing to it. Now subscriptions hover around 70,000.
Hofmann has heard from couples who use her list as a date-night event -- activism served up with a glass of wine. One reader was inspired to start a political book club. And a Mar-a-Lago neighbor of Donald Trump has used the checklist to fuel activism among her neighbors and as a quick go-to list for herself.
Calvin's List, an eco-action checklist, is modeled after Hofmann's. And her list has gotten shoutouts from both moderate Republicans and celebrities: Kirsten Vangsness, who stars in the CBS drama series Criminal Minds as FBI analyst Penelope Garcia, is a faithful reader, sometimes sharing it with her 618,000 Twitter followers. "Jen acknowledges everyone's humanity and focuses on condemning actions not people," Vangsness notes.
Here are other ways Hofmann's checklist is motivating people:Slogging for Change in Swing States
Many of Hofmann's subscribers are part-time activists. Not Kurt Hatcher. Before the 2016 election, the 33-year-old worked as an environmental sustainability manager at the University of Dayton in Ohio. When his state swung to Trump, Hatcher left his job to resist full time. As a leader in the Dayton Indivisibility for All (DIFA) group and precinct captain for the Montgomery County Democratic party, he spends his days on the often-tedious work of advancing progressive issues.
And while he relies on other sites for local resources, Hofmann's list has been his top resource on many national issues, such as immigration. "Jen put immigration on my radar," he says. "She created call scripts that made sense, and included links that allowed me to learn more." When a local family, threatened with deportation, contacted DIFA seeking help, Hatcher says, his group was ready to connect them with local sources -- all because of Hofmann. "Jen is our force multiplier. She enables us to do so much more than we could on our own."
Several states away, in central Iowa, a retired lawyer named Bev Clark describes how Hofmann's checklist has gotten her more engaged. Every Sunday night when it lands in her email, she prints it out and marks it up with actions she plans to pursue. "It serves as a blueprint; I don't have to scratch my head all week about what to do."
Clark -- who lives on a farm and is a gun owner -- makes calls, posts actions in a private activism Facebook group and meets with politicians.
She is a faithful follower of the acts of gratitude section on the list. "I wrote a thank-you note to George W. Bush about that speech that he gave. I told my husband "Can you believe this?'"Showing Love to a Dreamer
"Nestor is a 27-year-old Dreamer who has been at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia for nine months."
That's how Hofmann's May 21 checklist message about Nestor Avila began. A graduate of Appalachian State University who was raised in North Carolina, Avila had been detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2016.
In a tragic subplot, he later sustained a foot injury when a truck crashed into the ICE van that was transporting him. During his detention, Avila battled depression as he struggled with physical recovery. When Hofmann read about efforts by a group called Project South to expose conditions inside two ICE detention centers, she reached out to see how she could amplify the organization's work. Alerted to Avila's plight, she encouraged her readers to send notes of healing and inspiration.
The postcards flooded in. Avila hung them around his cell and, when he had his release hearing, took the cards with him as emotional support.
"Quite simply, they gave me hope," Avila wrote in an email. He was released in July and is living back in North Carolina. "I saw them as my own window to the real world."Fueling Weekly Action Groups
After the election, a Davis, California high school journalism teacher named Kelly Wilkerson toyed with the idea of starting an action list for people in her community. Instead, she found Hofmann's and used it to launch her "Thursday group." Every Thursday afternoon, eight to 10 people show up at her house for 1.5 hours to write letters, make calls, and make a difference.
Wilkerson provides a list of suggested actions along with paper, pens, stamps, and postcards -- and they get to work. She modifies Hofmann's list to add local items, but maintains the format of connecting each action to a greater value.
"I really, really like the way she organizes it, by values we all share," Wilkerson says. "That's a bit of a lodestar for me."
The result? In a year in which many such meet-ups have faded, hers remains rock-solid. She ticks off two ingredients to success: No snacks ("I had to keep it sustainable for myself") and absolute predictability. When Wilkerson is away on vacation, she has a friend run the group.Highlighting Under-the-Radar Issues
About a week after Hurricane Irma tore a path of destruction in Florida, a Miami-based nonprofit called Women's Emergency Network (WEN) that focuses on abortion access for low-income women and girls, started receiving a small stream of donations from new sources. Curious about what was behind it, program director Rebeca Ramos reached out to the new donors to ask. It turned out that in one of her checklists, Hofmann had mentioned WEN, along with other groups helping safeguard access to reproductive care for women in hurricane-swept regions.
"We were delighted, in particular because they came from new donors, which is not very usual in our line of business," Ramos says. "We also appreciated her raising awareness on important needs which are not at the forefront of people's minds in the wake of hurricanes or other natural disasters."
It is precisely why Hofmann mentioned WEN. While similar lists and resistance efforts respond to the big news stories of the day, she says, "there are a lot of [deserving] groups that that don't get mainstream visibility."
Though Hofmann's year-long activism project is successful by standard markers, she is contemplating change as she looks ahead.
"I took a step back and realized I can't do this well if I don't change my strategy," she says. "The list has grown in response to the wide range of issues that I've covered. But the general consensus that I hear is that people are tired."
With input from readers, she wants to figure out ways to make her project more sustainable and better reflect her values. Step one is to focus more deeply on fewer issues, including justice for asylum-seekers, voting access and equality.
"The sign of maturing activism is to choose," she wrote in a one-year anniversary blog post recently.
Also in the works is a nascent project to catalyze "olive branch" conversations between conservatives and progressives in the search for common ground.
"For me, it's one of many answers to the polarization problem in our country," Hofmann says. "How can we have meaningful conversations with people who aren't obvious allies? That's the direction I want to go in: more heart and more simplicity."
This week's episode includes updates on Uber's corrupt profiteering, sugar producers immoral cancer research, Trump's personal business, neglecting New York subways, UK's historic wage decline, and Norway's sovereign wealth fund. Interview with economist Stephanie Kelton, adviser to Bernie Sanders.
Visit Professor Wolff's social movement project, democracyatwork.info.
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The Republican "tax plan" is a shameless nightmare of lies and greed. It is the last stage of a corporate coup that has been slow-walking its intentions for decades. After hitting an unexpected series of snags yesterday evening, the final vote is scheduled for 11:00am this morning. Passage still seems likely, but this is still Congress and these are still Republicans. We wait, we watch.Over a hundred protesters met at Greeley Square in Midtown Manhattan on November 27, 2017, and marched along 34th Street to raise awareness against the irresponsible Republican tax plan that cuts Medicare and increases healthcare costs for older New Yorkers. (Photo: Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images) Exposing the wrongdoing of those in power has never been more important. Support Truthout's independent, investigative journalism by making a donation!
The United States Senate parliamentarian is an attorney named Elizabeth MacDonough. Her role, and the role of her staff, is to advice the Senate on proper interpretation of both the Standing Rules and parliamentary procedure. Write down her name and remember it well, for it is entirely possible that she just saved us all a hell of a lot of grief.
The pestilence passing itself off as the Senate GOP's tax bill was brought to the floor at 10:30am on Thursday for what is called the "vote-a-rama," which amounts to many hours of debate over the bill itself as well as amendments that may be added. Once those hours are up, the final vote takes place … except, nope, not last night. Full stop and back to committee, suddenly, a little before dinnertime last night.
Why? A 11th hour report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation stated yesterday afternoon that the GOP tax plan, as currently constituted, would add a trillion dollars to the deficit. Senate Republicans knew this already, of course; they just didn't want you to know. Notorious deficit hawk Bob Corker of Tennessee had insisted the bill come with triggers that would raise some taxes to offset any increases in the deficit down the line, should the GOP's rosy economic predictions not come to full bloom.
Parliamentarian MacDonough weighed in at this point and promptly scrambled everyone's eggs: No, Corker's trigger plan is not allowed under Senate rules, and if they keep the triggers in the bill, they will need 60 votes for passage instead of 51. As this thing is already hanging by a thread with only 51 votes needed, a 60-vote threshold would spell certain doom. Faced with the need to satisfy Corker, the Senate voted to throw the legislation back into committee until 11:00am today.
Quite out of nowhere, the tax bill -- which had appeared to be cruising toward surprisingly easy passage -- was in peril. "Thursday evening, senators were eyeing a wide range of options to move legislation forward," according to the Washington Post. "They are discussing adding higher taxes on upper-income Americans and modestly rolling back the bill's large corporate tax cut. But they did not have an obvious solution, given the need to add hundreds of billions of revenue back into the bill."
And let's hear it for the parliamentarian.
As the moments tick by toward a final vote (or not; it could be another one of those days), let's take a moment to survey the terrain. The Republican "tax plan," now divided between an already-passed House bill and the currently pending Senate legislation, is a shameless nightmare of lies and greed the likes of which have not been seen by any living person on the North American continent.
If passed, reconciled and signed by Trump, this legislation will leave tens of millions of people beaten, baffled and bereft. With this, they establish a permanent inheritor class whose wealth will be so vast and untouchable that they can buy every election -- local, state and federal -- from here on out. This is not simply a tax bill: It is the last stage of a corporate coup that has been slow-walking its intentions for decades. With this bill, they're stomping on the gas:
* The overwhelming majority of the tax cuts are given to the wealthy and to corporations. The rest of us get a tax increase a few years from now to pay for this gift to the rich.
* Medicare will be slashed by $250 billion over 10 years, again to pay for the vast sums being sent up the ladder.
* This bill gives more than $500 billion to foreign investors over the next ten years, clearly making America great again in the process. Know any poor or middle-class folks who could use half a trillion dollars right here at home?
* The bill is also an attack on education: College loan deductions are eliminated, and deductions for teachers who have to buy their own school supplies are gone.
* On Thursday, the Koch network warned the Senate not to add an amendment that would help poor families eat, if doing so increased corporate taxes in any way.
* The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act is eliminated, which basically means the ACA itself is eliminated, depriving millions of affordable health insurance. People will die because of this one -- you can count on it.
* Churches have been barred from endorsing candidates and getting directly involved in politics since 1954. The House version of this tax bill would eliminate that restriction, which is already widely ignored by a number of highly political churches and religious organizations. This provision opens a huge campaign finance loophole for the GOP. Can't give any more to a candidate? Give to some right-wing megachurches with audiences in the tens of thousands and have them endorse your candidate. Praise the Lord and pass the plate.
* Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was one of the crew that defected during the ACA repeal tussle earlier this year. She has decided, this time around, that destroying the ACA and gutting Medicare are fine with her because in return, the oil and mining industries get to ravage the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, just like they've always wanted. With friends like these …
The senators who bucked Trump and Majority Leader McConnell during the ACA fight do not appear to be lining up for a reprise this time around. Murkowski, as stated, was bought off for the price of ANWR. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has signaled he will also vote "Yes," reportedly because the wind was blowing out of the southeast yesterday morning at approximately 5 miles per hour. The rest of the questionables -- among them Sens. Bob Corker, Susan Collins and Rand Paul -- have, as of this printing, not yet made their full intentions known.
There are 52 individual Republican senators who traveled 52 different paths to arrive in that chamber this morning, but all of them are there for the same single reason: to pass some version of this bill and deliver a payday to their paymasters. Period, end of file. They don't care about the deficit, the country, freedom, you, me or anything else. This is their magnum opus, their one and only purpose in life. Like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, they may die in the shallows or be eaten by bears, but they will spend themselves to get this done because it is their fundamental nature.
This page will be updated as circumstances warrant. Stay tuned.
US-led coalition acknowledges killing 800+ civilians in Iraq and Syria airstrikes | 30 Nov 2017 | At least 800 civilians have been killed by US-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, a coalition report says. It adds that the group holds itself accountable for "unintentional injury or death to civilians." "To date, based on information available, [the coalition] assesses at least 801 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve [in 2014]," Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) said in statement on Thursday.
Rolling through the gates of west end Aquadilla’s Medium/Minimum security prison Institución Correccional de Guerrero, our view widens to capture barbed wire buildings, a generator screaming a guttural something off stage left and the furious reality of captives of the state existing on the other side of liberation, scraping elbows with the humid air.
“These perimeter fences fell down during the storm and we had to position a line of armed special forces to guard the prisoners,” offers a sleepy guard in the final 3 hours of a double shift. “They are still guarding the back end 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
A post shared by Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (@mutualaiddisasterrelief) on Nov 26, 2017 at 8:10pm PST
“The warden is here, she’s coming,” a prison guard tells us. We are in this space continuing our post-hurricane jail support of ensuring captives of the state have access to clean water, calls to family and lovers, proper ventilation and correctional facility meted out “privileges.”
Outside the prison, the weather is sweltering. Inside the prison, an entire building full of prisoners have been merged with another building full of prisoners and now overcrowding is the new hurricane to survive.
When asked, FEMA higher-ups on the ground said directly to MAD Relief volunteers that they have no idea what the status of Puerto Rico captives of the state are. Not stunning given their steep red tape speed bump approach to ‘relief work’ barely encompasses the island as is.
In a sit-down meeting with Mike, one of FEMA’s operations directors, he repeatedly referred to the resources people need as ‘commodities.’ And as we attempted to work out the liberation of one of FEMA’s IRC water storage tanks, collecting dust in their warehouse since the day we arrived (and who knows how long before that) to use in conjunction with our system teams’ water filtration device for storage, Mike pointedly told us “If FEMA helps NGO’s then we’re making the NGO’s look good instead of FEMA looking good. Do you see how that is a problem for us?”
A post shared by Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (@mutualaiddisasterrelief) on Nov 30, 2017 at 9:01am PST
While we very much understand the actual problem, it’s clear that Mike and other FEMA entities collecting paychecks on Puerto Rican soil do not. The problem is a landmine of protocols that make getting any kind of aid out to the people of Puerto Rico feel more like a jailbreak then a transfer of goods that are supposedly intended to be circulated to the people who need them.
Again and again Mike referred to Puerto Rico’s debt, resting his elbows on the narrative that Puerto Rico expects the US government to do everything for them. Just don’t try to point out to him that Donald Trump owns millions in Puerto Rico’s debt- to a government that has colonized, brutalized and traumatized them for hundreds of years. “Because you can’t lay all of Puerto Rico’s problems on Trump.” After all, he did throw paper towels at hurricane survivors in those critical days after the second historic storm trampled the island. And as Mike pointed out to us, “There’s no free lunch.”
Across the island in Las Marias people line up at the Centro de Apoyo Mutual Bucarabones Unido (CAMBU) space for Mutual Aid disaster relief guerilla field medics as we prepared to hold community-requested clinics out of two classrooms. For the next 2 hours, under the light of solar lanterns held in the air above us by community members, we provide auriculotherapy, wellness checks, care for people suffering dehydration, exacerbation of chronic medical conditions, trauma and anxiety, blood sugar issues and colds and flus.
The Centro is a space providing Aid and solidarity in the community by the community.
A post shared by Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (@mutualaiddisasterrelief) on Nov 30, 2017 at 11:39am PST
Autonomous Centro de Apoyo Mutuo spaces are up and operating as community kitchens and gathering spaces where gardening, cooking, workshops, film screenings and sustainable infrastructure projects are conceptualized, are built, are installed, are open sourced as a liberated means of survival.
In Rio Riedras, we walk through inspired streets heavily decorated with street art explicitly claiming their liberation from the state in spurts, “El Desastre es la Colonia” and “Ilegales Bienvenidos.”
We enter La Olla Comun, another mutual aid centro where a crowd are cleaning up from a daily community breakfast share.
Another autonomous space, another vibrant and visceral exhibit of community seized opportunity in the face of a capitalism exacerbated climate catastrophe created power vacuum. We talked with, and handed over all of our remaining medical supplies to, a crew who was preparing to leave for one of Puerto Rico’s Superfund sites to provide medical access and relief, Vieques.
From Mayaguez to Humacao, autonomy and solidarity is taking foothold and gaining steam. The process of liberation itself is liberating.
The people want to be free.
The people will be free.
The post Criminalizing Dissent: Contested Evidence Introduced in J20 Trial Testimony appeared first on It's Going Down.
Washington, DC – The first trial of people mass-arrested during protests against Donald Trump’s Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2017 is well underway. Jurors are continuing to hear testimony from prosecution witnesses called by Assistant US Attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and Rizwan Qureshi.
The current trial group of defendants consists of six individuals, including two medics and one journalist, who were caught up in the indiscriminate mass arrest on 12th & L streets in DC on Donald Trump’s inauguration day. None of them are alleged to have committed any acts of property destruction or violence, but the prosecution claims that through their alleged conspiracy with “the group” they can still be held responsible.
The most recent hearings have seen three major components of the case established by the prosecution. An undercover officer testified to his recollection of planning meetings and protests that he attended. A detective also recounted his work extracting information from defendant’s phones, and details of cell data was scrutinized. Jurors also began to hear from the police commander who was responsible for ordering the mass arrest on January 20.
DC Police Commander Deville's limited testimony in court so far seems to support the claim that he targeted the 'anti-capitalist and anti-fascist' march for an abusive mass arrest based on the group's political beliefs pic.twitter.com/4Bs1uQEYZe
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 29, 2017
Testimony on Wednesday, November 29 picked up where Tuesday left off. The defense completed their cross-examination of the testimony of DC Police officer Bryan Adelmeyer, who had been sent in undercover to infiltrate “Disrupt J20” planning meetings for anti-Trump protests on inauguration day. Adelmeyer was questioned about different details of the January 8 “Disrupt J20” meeting that he attended in a church basement.
Mostly at issue was a video of the meeting, provided by Project Veritas and recently submitted into evidence by Assistant US Attorney Kerkoff. (Defense attorneys had not yet cross-examined Adelmeyer when the video was introduced during his direct testimony the day before.) When asked if the Project Veritas video had been checked by an expert for signs of tampering, Officer Adelmeyer said he didn’t know.
The defense then played portions of the video in which the timer at the bottom either jumped ahead in time or suddenly disappeared, demonstrating that the recording had been altered in some way. It was also pointed out that the government had admitted to editing the video to hide the identity of the Project Veritas employee who provided it.
Officer Adelmeyer admitted that he did not know if other Project Veritas members were at the meeting, raising the possibility that the far-right fake news entity, which boasts of using “entrapment journalism”, planted people in the video to say things which are now being used in court as evidence of conspiracy. When pressed by the defense, Adelmeyer also stated that he had been unaware that Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe pleaded guilty to “entrance under false pretenses” in 2013 after he allegedly broke into a Democratic Senator’s office.
The next witness was Detective David Evans. Evans said his job immediately after inauguration day, along with US Attorney Special Agent John Marsh, was to extract as much information as possible from cell phones and other electronics seized from those arrested at 12th & L streets. Evans stated that he used a Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) made by the Israeli company Cellebrite to “download basically everything inside the phone.”
Extraction reports taken from each of the defendant’s phones was then presented. Information displayed on monitors in open court included detailed information about the specific Android phone (SIM, IMEI #, etc) as well as the defendants’ hotspot passwords and whether location services were enabled.
Detective Evans clarified that on phones with encryption enabled, he was only able to access basic device information and not the contents of the phone storage. (iPhones have encryption enabled by default, while many Android devices do not.)
One Cellebrite extraction report showing data taken from one defendant’s cell phone reportedly contains over 10,000 pages. In early 2016, we published an investigation detailing how data taken from phones by police using Cellebrite UFED devices is often then fed into NSA-preferred intelligence software to map out social networks.
Assistant US Attorney Kerkhoff proceeded to show emails and texts sent to a phone seized from a defendant. She offered emails containing basic information meant for street medics, as well as a jail support form, and asserted they were evidence of a premeditated criminal conspiracy. A short exchange of texts between two defendants who were arrested in the kettle at 12th & L just a few minutes after they arrived at the march, gave insight to the prosecution’s case.
The following messages were cited by Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff as evidence of a conspiracy because the messages show “their efforts to get her [the defendant] with the group and her efforts to join the group.”
-“Marching down 13th now.”
-“I’m on Rhode Island and 1100”
-“I’m chasing y’all down 13th”
-“Turned on K”
Assistant US Attorney Kerkhoff made statements that seemed to claim that by continuing to seek out the protest march despite seeing a “trail of destruction” (Kerkhoff’s words) behind it, defendants in this text exchange were therefore involved in a conspiracy with the people who caused the damages.
The majority of texts and emails the prosecution showed from seized phones contained basic dispatch messages such as ‘medics needed in this area’ or other logistical info about time and location of different protest events, such as the locations of blockade actions at inauguration checkpoints. Other texts showed street medics discussing whether or not they would wear red tape identifying themselves at different protest events scheduled throughout Inauguration day.
No cell phone data provided as evidence in Wednesday’s hearing appears to have any bearing on the current defendants, except to show that some of them were either receiving updates about basic protest logistics or discussing in real-time their efforts to locate and attend a protest march.
Brett Cohen, defense attorney for Alexei Wood, a photojournalist who is currently facing a felony prosecution for covering the Trump inauguration protest, stated that DC Police seized several items of media equipment from Mr. Wood.
Before Judge Leibovitz ended court for the day, DC Police Commander Keith Deville began to testify. Deville was in charge of ‘Civil Disturbance Response’ on Inauguration Day & reportedly issued the order to carry out the indiscriminate mass arrest at 12th & L.
In what little testimony he did give before the clock ran out, Deville seemed to demonstrate a personal bias against anarchist protesters, saying “this particular group was going to be problematic … they were anarchists.”
Police radio from January 20 was played, along with a video compilation of helicopter footage, included a revealing exchange between Deville and an unknown subordinate. Asking about a different group than the group of people in and around the anticapitalist and antifascist march whose mass-arrest he would order, Deville said “Is that group anarchist-type or just protests[sic]?” to which the DC police officer replied, “There’s some anarchists but they’re not all anarchists.”
Commander Deville’s testimony is expected to continue at length on Thursday, November 29. Our previous post: Trials Begin for Trump Inauguration J20 Protests
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The post Oaxaca: Cultural Caravan in Defense of Mother Earth and Our Territories appeared first on It's Going Down.Editor’s note: This caravan is being called for by the Indigenous Rights Defense Committee (CODEDI), an autonomous and anti-capitalist organization comprised of 45 indigenous communities in Oaxaca. The caravan will end with an event held on a reclaimed coffee plantation, now a self-sustaining center promoting indigenous autonomy.
To the People of Mexico
To the Media
Indigenous peoples are profoundly connected to Mother Earth though planting, harvest, communal work, food and education. That is to say, their entire cultural identity is connected to their territory, since for all of history, that is where they have lived.
At these moments in the communities of Oaxaca, a constant threat of territorial dispossession exists in order to implement mining, hydroelectric and wind farm projects. More recently, the special economic zones, far from benefiting the communities, harm their form of life. These death projects only bring misery and illnesses, and cause the rupture of the social fabric. The current governments implement structural reforms that facilitate the entrance of transnational corporations effecting in this way the local economy. The water is privatized. The cost of electric energy is very high effecting the poorest sectors of the population. Health services in the communities are terrible. The lack of infrastructure makes it so not all children have access to education. The fields are devastated from the entrance of genetically modified seeds, fertilizers and other chemicals that the government sends to the people through their assistance programs. All of this is taking place in the communities while businessmen become millionaires at the expense of the people.
This year, the territory of Oaxaca was beaten by natural disasters like the strong rains after the earthquakes. These events demonstrated the lack of preparation of the government to respond before such events, but also that they don’t care about the people, but only act as they do during election years. These events also demonstrated the solidarity and organization of the people to move forward supporting each other mutually amongst themselves. The help didn’t only arrive in the form of supplies, but also in the form of communal work. The people came together to offer voluntary work to help rescue what little remained standing and to prevent the machinery of the government from turning it into trash. While the people helped themselves amongst themselves, the government only planted fear and prevented the reconstruction to be carried out.
As people of Oaxaca, we see in our cultural expressions a form of resistance. Thus, from the regions we mobilize ourselves into a caravan-march that will begin in our territories and will conclude in the Finca Alemania where we will share music, dance, poetry, sports, food, theater, fruits of the land and products elaborated by the hands of the campesinos.
We reject these neoliberal policies implemented by these governments at the service of the capitalist system. We will not permit the privatization of of life. For this reason, we invite everyone to join these work days of struggle and resistance that we will carry out December 1-8. We will gather in Santa Cruz Park in the bays of Huatulco at five in the evening on December 1st where we will initiate a caravan-march toward our organizational center, the Finca Alemania (CODEDI).
No to the megaprojects in our territories!
Presentation with life of the 43 normalistas of Ayotzinapa!
End to the criminalization of social protest!
No to the structural reforms!
For the defense of our rights and our territories. Not one step back!
Centro de Capacitación Finca Alemania CODEDI, 20 de noviembre de 2017.
The post UConn Shuts Down Lucian Wintrich and ‘Unite the Right’ Proud Boy appeared first on It's Going Down.The following report comes from someone who was on the ground at the University of Connecticut, where students and community members confronted Alt-Lite troll and conspiracy theorist Lucian Wintrich and his friend and associate, Sal Cipolla, a member of the Proud Boys who attended the neo-Nazi ‘Unite the Right’ rally and is friends with white supremacist organizers.
“The organizers booked the event under false pretenses and on short notice, in a craven attempt to catch the community off guard.”
On November 28th, members of University of Connecticut’s administration decided to provide a platform for Lucian B. Wintrich, a self-described Alt-Lite or ‘New Right’ provocateur, misogynist, anti-trans, conspiracy theory peddling, hate-mongering troll, and in doing so cosigned his message of hatred and violence towards minorities. [Editor’s Note: Lucian Wintrich, who has White House press credentials, gave a speech entitled, “It’s Okay To Be White,” a reference to a neo-Nazi meme popularized on 4chan’s /pol/, an imageboard associated with the Alt-Right and where Wintrich often finds conspiracy theories to signal boost for the Alt-Lite publication he writes for, The Gateway Pundit.] The organizers booked the event under false pretenses and on short notice, in a craven attempt to catch the community off guard. Leading up to the time of the “lecture,” members of the community contacted officials within UConn’s administrative offices, urging them to cancel it. Alas, the school’s official twitter released this all too predictable deflection:
“UConn does not bar speakers on the basis of content. Free speech, like academic freedom, is one of the university’s bedrock principles. That being said, a particular speaker’s or group’s presence on campus doesn’t indicate UConn’s endorsement of the presenter or their message.”
Fuck off with that marketplace of ideas bullshit.Inside the Lecture Hall
So, with the full endorsement of UConn’s higher-ups and a robust police security detail, the coward held what amounted to a pathetic farce of a hate speech. Dead-eyed and sporting a tuxedo, the third-rate Milo, having mastered the art of PowerPoint slide transitions, clumsily recited from his print-out, smirking as he sipped milk (an Alt-Right dog whistle for white purity), between jabs at minorities. Surely his mind swelled with delusions of free speech martyrdom as members of the audience relentlessly booed and jeered.
At one point not long into the speech, two people briefly approached the podium; on their way out, one of them nabbed the coward’s print-out from the podium. Wintrich immediately ran after them and can be seen on video assaulting the person who’d taken his papers, pulling their neck and hair as he did so. Police quickly intervened, and escorted Wintrich into the men’s bathroom in the front lobby, generating uproar from the massive crowd of students outside.
This move by the pigs was a transparent protective measure intended to shield their precious little champion of intellectual discourse from the buzzing mob—a public arrest provided them an excuse to wait out the crowd and, if that failed (which it did), escort him with a full security detail into an unmarked cruiser. The charge filed: breach of peace in the 2nd degree, is a joke compared to what can be seen in videos of the attack.
Outside the Lecture Hall
“The crowd roared as Wintrich was escorted into the lobby bathroom. A window was smashed. Then another. Tension between the people and the pigs reached a fever pitch when one cop began yelling at a student of color who had been standing directly in front of one of the glass doors.”
The location for the event changed hours before Wintrich was set to appear, from the large and vulnerable Arjona building to the single-room, impregnable fortress of Andre Schenker Lecture Hall. No matter, as many hundreds of students swarmed the small building, keeping tight as they emanated a powerful energy of resistance (many were likely eager to see who among their fellow Huskies worships at the altars of hate).
The crowd roared as Wintrich was escorted into the lobby bathroom. A window was smashed. Then another. Tension between the people and the pigs reached a fever pitch when one cop began yelling at a student of color who had been standing directly in front of one of the glass doors. The pigs opened the door and grabbed the young person, pulling them into the lobby.
The crowd erupted, grabbed onto the young person, and successfully de-arrested them. In the commotion, a smoke bomb was tossed into the lobby, causing the glass-paned room to fill with smoke and the fire alarms to sound. This was likely done to force the pigs to evacuate the coward, so he’d have to face the crowd head-on, as well as to provide a diversion to aid in the de-arrest. Wintrich and his pig protectors remained inside the bathroom, and the crowd held its position as the pigs tried to flush out the smoke (they picked up the smoke bomb and threw it out one of the rear exits).
“the dean, Eleanor B. Daugherty, created a diversion so the police could escort the coward safely to an unmarked cruiser. She falsely announced that Wintrich would be brought out through the front while he was whisked out through a rear exit.”
Eventually, the dean, Eleanor B. Daugherty, having cravenly conspired with the police, created a diversion so they could escort the coward safely to an unmarked cruiser. She falsely announced that Wintrich would be brought out through the front while he was whisked out through a rear exit. Many people were not fooled, and descended upon Wintrich as he was gently placed into the cruiser. At least one person physically blocked the cruiser’s path before being overpowered by pigs. You know the old chant: “Cops and Klan and university officials whose heads are so far up their asses that they think nazis are totally OK go hand in hand!”
There was an intense feeling of fear and upset felt by many minority students in the crowd after Wintrich was whisked away and the demonstration began to die down. They came to UConn to pursue their dreams, and for the administration to create an environment where they feel unsafe as they do so is unforgivable.After the Event
Somehow, after Wintrich assaulted someone at his blatantly white-power lecture, Daugherty became disappointed in the hundreds of counter demonstrators (many of whom are people of color). That she can witness the power of her students’ total rejection of hate and conclude that, “No, you just need to hear the nazis out, OK?” is a testament to the deep cowardice of centrists. Shame on her for blinding herself to the truth that welcoming hate-mongers onto college campuses is itself an act of violence. Wintrich’s assault on that person happened because of her decision to defend a racist, sexist, transphobic scumbag and his allies.
Proud Boy and attendee of the neo-Nazi ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Sal Cipolla, livestreams the Lucian Wintrich event.
A cursory glance at Wintrich’s employer’s website, thegatewaypundit.com, clearly depicts a platform for hate-mongering. “But no,” say UConn’s administrators, “let’s hear him out. Surely this child is merely an armchair debate away from snapping out of his white supremacy, misogyny, and hatred for the poor!”
For some context, let’s briefly revisit just a few recent events that have taken place on campus in Storrs:
“the counter demonstrators, given virtually no time to prepare, displayed an impressive diversity of tactics to shut this scumbag and his cronies the fuck down.”
Or how about the micro-aggressions faced every single day by countless minority students? Racism is alive and booming on college campuses across America, and when a racist speaks, there is no “discourse”—it’s just hate. When minority students voice their concerns, administrators have a responsibility to listen, and to ignore them in the name of some myth about “The Marketplace of Ideas” is to explicitly endorse hatred and violence. There is no equivalence between minorities speaking out against racists and racists spewing hatred—no intellectual debate, no carefully worded explanation.
Ultimately, the counter demonstrators, given virtually no time to prepare, displayed an impressive diversity of tactics to shut this scumbag and his cronies the fuck down. Shame on UConn for kowtowing to bigots! To racists in Connecticut and everywhere, stay the fuck in your holes.
These are some of the people involved in organizing the event:
Joseph Gatti, the main organizer of UConn’s chapter of the far-Right/Alt-Lite group, Turning Point USA. He uses the College Republicans as a front to mask the group’s organizing on campus.
Sal Cipolla, doting stooge to Wintrich and a self-described member of the Proud Boys, was also involved in the assault and livestreamed the event, standing behind Wintrich as protection during his talk. Presumably based in Oceanside, NY. Pure scum, nothing more.
Sal with Lucian, presumably before or after the speaking event. This is currently Sal’s Facebook image. Source: Facebook
Editor’s Note: Sal Cipolla, beyond being a Proud Boy, was also an attendee at the neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally. While Wintrich has attempted to distance himself from the white nationalist section of the Alt-Right since August 12th, his working closely with Cipolla shows that he still has strong connections with open fascists and white nationalists, while also signal boosting and mainstreaming their talking points.
A video of Sal at the neo-Nazi, Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. From: One People’s Project
A photo of Sal with former KKK and neo-Nazi leader, David Duke, at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Source: Facebook
Sal with neo-Nazi podcaster and Unite the Right organizer, Mike “Enoch” Peinovich. Source: Facebook
Sal with Lucian Wintrich on the Gavin McInnes show. Source: Facebook
Sal Cipolla’s Facebook page featuring him posing with Lucian Wintrich wearing the same outfit from the campus speaking event. His background image features a fasces, a symbol associated with fascist movements. Source: Facebook
Eleanor B. Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, who decided to amplify the voice of a troll on her own campus, endangering her students and feeding the toxic climate on her campus.
by Rick Paulas, via the New York Times
Anti-fascist activists believe in dressing for the job they want. Right now, many think, that job is punching Nazis.
In late August, a crowd of thousands — primarily leftists and liberals — cascaded down Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley, Calif. They were marching on a spattering of right-wingers, Trump supporters and Nazis who were gathering under the mission to say “no to Marxism in America.” At the front of the march were about 100 people dressed in head-to-toe black.
According to many people present, this was the largest so-called black bloc they’d seen. This medley of black-clad anarchists, anti-fascists (known as “antifa” activists) and their fellow travelers was a response to the previous week’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. There, protests ended with 19 injured and 32-year-old Heather Heyer killed when James Fields, an admirer of Hitler who demonstrated with white supremacists, drove his car into a crowd.
This mass of solid black descending upon the park in Berkeley, hunting for fascists, was an intimidating aesthetic. That’s by design.
“Cops wear camouflage when they arrest people in city drug raids,” said Ben, a Bay Area activist. “But they’re in a city. It doesn’t help them, but it makes them look more intimidating.” Ben says he has participated in protests since 2000, including Bush/Gore, Occupy Oakland and Black Lives Matter. (The Times agreed to use only his first name because of the threat of harassment, online or otherwise, by activists.) “A group of people all dressed in black can be intimidating,” he said.
Is that intimidation the motive or just a benefit? Do black bloc practitioners dress up because, as many progressives wonder, they want to commit crimes? What do they get out of “masking up”? Where does uniform merge with tactic?
Stephen Loewinsohn for The New York Times
By now, you know the look. Black work or military boots, pants, balaclavas or ski masks, gloves and jackets, North Face brand or otherwise. Gas masks, goggles and shields may be added as accessories, but the basics have stayed the same since the look’s inception.
It’s impossible to say which anarchist street movement first donned all black. The generally agreed-upon genesis for the bloc’s current incarnation is the Autonomen movement of the 1970s, which grew out of class struggles in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and beyond. (Antifa groups, an overlapping but not at all identical set of people, trace their lineage back further, to those who fought against the rise of Hitler; generally, where there is “fa,” there’s been “antifa.”)
According to a history distributed by an anarchist news service in 2001, by Daniel Dylan Young, a continuing struggle in Germany between squatters and police evictors culminated in a 1981 action in which activists dressed in “black motorcycle helmets and ski masks,” wearing “uniform black clothing.”
Nearly immediately, the benefits of such a uniform were realized.
“Everyone quickly figured out,” Mr. Young wrote, that “having a massive group of people all dressed the same with their faces covered not only helps in defending against the police, but also makes it easier for saboteurs to take the offensive against storefronts, banks and any other material symbols and power centers of capitalism and the state.”
Both the ease of uniform procurement — the barrier to entry is just getting black clothes, with only your own ethical purchasing guidelines to steer you — and the aesthetic’s effectiveness allowed black blocs to spread. During Ronald Reagan’s visit to Berlin in 1986, a group of 3,000 showed up, according to Mr. Young; in 1999, a bloc of 500 was part of the “March for Mumia” in Philadelphia, protesting the imprisonment of the journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. That same year, between 100 and 300 people became the bloc at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
A demonstrator belonging to the so-called black bloc in Genoa, Italy, on the second day of the Group of 8 summit meeting in 2001. Credit Agence France-Presse
It was a look so successful that the bloc’s greatest enemies considered adopting it. As Mark Bray details in his incisive “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” there have been occasional attempts to co-opt the bloc look by right-wing fascist groups. That’s died down recently, with the loose overlapping affiliation of nationalists, white supremacists and Nazis instead adopting an overdressed, old-fashioned style often referred to as “dapper.”
So, while they wear khakis and white polos, the black bloc are left with some particular defensive and offensive benefits of their very own.
The creation of mass anonymity protects practitioners from the threat of post-action doxxing by white supremacist groups, a process by which their identities and contact information, including addresses and places of employment, are publicized. People at home can use this information to harass and threaten. Similarly, police and other agencies have staff devoted to documenting demonstrations, and they work to identify people on film and video. These are among the reasons that some anarchists and anti-fascists advocate smashing cameras at demonstrations.
As surveillance techniques have advanced and proliferated — the rise of the high-resolution portable phone camera along with social media means more documentation and more distribution than ever — practitioners have evolved from covering up obvious markers like tattoos, birthmarks and scars to hiding biometric indicators like ears and noses. Some in black blocs say they have heard of people placing weights in belts to alter their gaits.
“I’ll often look through pictures from the demonstration and see if I can spot myself in any of them,” said Elle Armageddon, a Bay Area activist and writer. “If I can’t find any pictures of myself, I feel like I’ve done O.K.”
A protester at Occupy Oakland in 2011. Credit Stephen Loewinsohn
Elle Armageddon (likely not a birth name) is the author of “The Femme’s Guide to Riot Fashion,” published at the website of CrimethInc., which describes itself as a “rebel alliance — a decentralized network pledged to anonymous collective action.” The guide recommends that femmes, meaning people of any gender, with long hair use tucked-in braids, and that they layer masks for full facial coverage. It also reminds us all that “shoes make or break an outfit.”
There is solid beauty advice as well: “A layer of glitter or highlighter dusted over your cheeks can serve double duty, showing off your glorious bone structure while simultaneously providing a helpful way to determine which side of your bandanna was in contact with your face and which side is saturated in tear gas particulate.” (Also, jean shorts are probably not ideal.)
There is more practical advice on how to dress for a riot. One should decide on organic or synthetic gloves before participating in an action: Wool and cotton may allow chemical contaminants, like pepper spray, to absorb, while nylon can melt if you grab something hot, which historically has included some kinds of tear-gas canisters but can include various things on fire.
One Antifa “fashion don’t” is carrying cellphones. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that 72 agencies in 24 states and Washington, D.C., have “simulators” that mimic cellphone towers in order to track people.
Masked demonstrators marched down Market Street in San Francisco in 2017. Credit Stephen Loewinsohn
These defensive methods work only if there are enough black-clad others nearby. A single person in all black and multiple face masks is an eye grabber. This effect of anonymity-by-mass has allowed for the offensive side of bloc tactics to flourish. The uniformity camouflages those who participate in illegal acts like property damage, refusing police orders or physical assault against white supremacists or Nazis. This willful protection of the group is embedded in the style’s aesthetic.
“People sometimes do things that are illegal, but I think they’re ethical,” Ben said. “I’m happy to be in this mass that creates anonymity for those people, even if they’re doing things I’m not willing to do.”
Tactical considerations aside, it’s this emotional connection with other members of the bloc that many practitioners highlight the most in interviews. “Uniformity of characteristics” and a visual sense of equality have a way of, as research published in 2015 put it, giving “rise to feelings of solidarity.” It’s why soldiers and police have uniforms. It’s why sports teams have apparel for themselves and their fans, why brands have logos and consistent colorways, why fascists get slightly too-short versions of David Beckham haircuts and pin frogs to their lapels.
But unlike hierarchal uniforms like those of the military, say — or even the difference between worker and management clothes at somewhere such as McDonald’s — black bloc fashion allows no room for rank to enter the style. It’s all black and that’s it.
(Other leftist movements use similar techniques. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico, which rose after the 1994 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, takes the approach of cultivating equality through anonymity by wearing balaclavas or handkerchiefs over the face, but pairs them with the militant gear of armed struggle or indigenous elements.)
Min, an activist who participated in the Inauguration Day actions in Washington known as J20, and who asked to be identified only by her first name, said that, because of the cold that day, many bloc practitioners were also dressed in parkas. This had the effect of erasing almost all identifying characteristics, including ethnicity and gender.
A demonstration in Berkeley, Calif., in August 2017. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
“It was like a goth party,” Min said. “There were queer people, black people, white people, Asian people, and, because, we were all wearing black, there was no way to even think about the things that are often barriers to our connection.” Min said this anonymity, where she was unable to identify even people around her, had a way of purifying her actions. “There’s a difference between me helping you because I know you and care about you, and me helping you because I want you to be helped,” she said.
Min is an artist. For her, this is one of the most unappreciated aspects of black bloc as a style. It’s tactical, and practical, and it’s also an art form with the effect of building solidarity long after the boots go into the closet. The experience of being enveloped in anonymity helps retain the movement’s ideology, after the balaclavas get folded up and stacked in the drawer.
“In spheres where we don’t have uniforms, we really embrace individuality,” Min said. “But black bloc creates a feeling of ‘Who you are is who I am.’ Of ‘It doesn’t matter who I am when we’re fighting together.’”
A version of this article appears in print on November 30, 2017, on Page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Black Is Always in Fashion.Tags: black blocMSMfashioncategory: Essays
The post Update on Mexican Anarchist Prisoner, Luis Fernando Sotelo Zambrano appeared first on It's Going Down.An update on anarchist prisoner Luis Fernando Sotelo Zambrano. Read more about him here.
On November 9th of this year, the writ of amparo filed by Los Otros Abogadoz against the ruling of the Appeals Court regarding the case of Luis Fernando Sotelo Zambrano was resolved. The ruling condemned our compañero Luis Fernando Sotelo Zambrano to 13 years and 15 days in prison and ordered him to pay for damages reaching more than 8 million pesos (roughly $430,000). The sentencing was related to the supposed crimes of attacks on the routes of communication, attacks on public peace, and damage to property.
It is important to highlight that in the writ of amparo we presented, technical and judicial arguments were put forth regarding the analysis of the three aforementioned crimes, demonstrating that full criminal responsibility of Luis Fernando is not proven. Likewise, it argued against the constitutionality of Article 362 of the Penal Code of Mexico City, demonstrating that the crime of attacks on public peace violates human rights, and above all, is an instrument of social control utilized by the Government of Mexico to criminalize and repress social protest.
After analyzing the decision regarding the amparo, we realized that the criteria of the judges of the Second Tribunal Court were polarized. Two of them backed the amparo regarding the commission of the aforementioned crimes, but reiterated the constitutionality of 362. The dissenting judge declared that article 362 is unconstitutional, but that our compañero should not to be absolved of the crime of attacks on public peace. However, the writ of amparo was approved by a majority, passing the harsh and institutional criteria of the “imparters of justice”.
Now, the Fourth Criminal Court of Mexico City has ten days to void the sentence dictated against Luis Fernando on December 7th, 2016. It would have to emit a new resolution where they comply with the requirements of the collegiate court in their decision regarding the writ of amparo. An act that would mean a reduction in sentence.
Without doubt, their intention is evident, to keep our compañero in prison. This exemplary punishment is meant to warn all those that organize, struggle and work in solidarity with the social causes and against the injustices that are committed in our country every day. Once again, we see that the Judicial Power is at the service of those who truly exercise power in Mexico: the businessmen.
Regardless, we will continue the judicial battle as we have done during these three years, since we took on the legal defense of Luis Fernando Sotelo. Today more than ever, we reiterate our commitment and word to the freedom of all of the political prisoners kidnapped by the terrorist state.
Freedom to Luis Fernando Sotelo!
Freedom to Miguel Peralta!
Free to all of the prisoners that resist and organize from below!
Los otros Abogadoz, November 2017
The post Medford, OR: Train Stopped In Solidarity with the Olympia Train Blockade appeared first on It's Going Down.
The following anonymous communique was submitted to Puget Sound Anarchists, and claims that individuals in solidarity with the #OlympiaBlockade took the following actions. For more solidarity actions, go here.
From Puget Sound Anarchists:
A few days ago, inspired by the Olympia train Blockade, we used copper wire to signal a blockage and disrupt rail traffic near Medford Oregon. Railways are easily accessible and everywhere. Sabotage is fun and easy.
-some more anarchists
I didn’t see it until 8:30 in the morning, while shirking my duties and privileges as a college student to pay attention in class. Dark, blurry videos and photos populated Oly Stand’s Twitter, posted only a couple of hours ago. “#olympiablockade against #fracking raided this morning!” tweeted Demand Utopia. “There are over 50 cops from multiple jurisdictions and armored vehicles. There is a work crew and about 4 heavy pieces of equipment (backhoes, bulldozer/bobcat, cranes). In addition to aircraft that is circling the #OlympiaBlockade” tweeted Olympia Stand, accompanied by more dark photos. Lastly, a simple text tweet: “The #OlympiaBlockade has been raided. More updates soon,” given around 5 in the morning.
I struggled to make out shapes and forms in the dark setting, pictures of black streets illuminated by phone flashes and distant street lights – squinting hard, the outlines of cops in full riot gear became apparent. POLICE is emblazoned on their chests in another photo. A video depicted a large truck being backed into the area; while silenced on the autoplay, an industrial beast growled and grunted. Another tweet by Olympia Stand read, “All the comrades are out of the #OlympiaBlockade. No arrests have been made.” I could only imagine a bunch of punk kids, spray-painting a wall with magic spells, conjuring tricks in tarps to resurrect a giant anti-capitalist hydra, and scrambling to the hills to watch it duke out with the industrial complex’s own monster.
If I had gone to Olympia that morning, all I would’ve seen is a collection of tarps and folks’ personal belongings, spilling out of a Bobcat, hopefully back onto the rail it was trying to “clean up”. I half-wondered out of my anger whether the sunflower seed butter and charcoal I donated was still in the wreckage.
From the high point on Jefferson as it leaves 8th Street, the Blockade truly was a circus with its poles rooted in the gravel, nestled among Scots broom and Himalayan blackberry. Blue and brown tarps haphazardly held together, probably leaking water somewhere somehow, upturned pallets and spray-painted slogans, the statement to no one and everyone in general, “Our Port Supports Fracking with Our Tax$”, and the rainbow variant of the Antifa flag, it culminated in a beautiful visual disaster that lived, respiring with the strong northbound gusts, cardiac rhythms beat out by a kid really going at it on a bass tom. The Blockade had grown since my last time there. A watch tower platform resting on cinderblocks, ceilinged with a tarp, hugged the staircase leading into the south part of the Blockade like a inebriated kid struggling to stand. A small barrel fire stirred nearby, and the two kids monitoring the south huddled over it. One of them was the same kid who radio’d me in the first time I came around. Elsewhere in the camp, a tarp structure labeled as a free skool was set up on the south side of the tracks. Scattered on the inside table were a few Crimethinc publications and a sign labelled “quiet zone”, or as-quiet-as-a-kid-banging-on-a-bass-tom-can-get zone. Nearby, a new tented room was set up, straddling ever-present mud puddles in the gravel.
In-and-out kids of all various backgrounds came and went, twenty-somethings, Evergreen kids, transient kids, homeless folk, thirty- to forty-year-olds bearing donations every once in a while… the daytime crew, as I was told, was a lull. The inside of the structure during the day was dormant, with most folk napping without stirring on the couches scattered about in the space. Even the pigs, as I patrolled and south and radio’d in sightings, seemed not half-concerned with the Blockade. When nights came, fairy lights, tea candles, and barrel fires lit up the Blockade, and even more folks from further strains of life came in to hang around the bonfire. Artifacts, namely, a flyer, read out a list of events happening on Saturday afternoon: Decolonizing Language, Radical Herbalism, Climb Training… Punk concerts and film screenings also transpired (and I am still sore that I missed them). On Monday I roasted marshmallows with two others, sucking the chemical combustion right off the makeshift skewer, and that was just as alright too.
The Blockade was truly a circus.
The cacophony of voices at the Blockade denied the Port of Olympia’s desire to classify it into one concise list of demands, one opinion – that’s what makes it beautiful. The desire was obvious when Port commissioners “invited” members of the Blockade to an “advisory” session on Monday night’s meeting as part of a “dialogue”, “in the interest of harmony” in Port Commissioner Downing’s words. He left empty-handed but iron-fisted. A representative of the Tulalip Tribe and the Indigenous Caucus, a land and water protector, demanded that the Port consult indigenous folk in their decision-making. In reference to Standing Rock, she says “We don’t always agree among ourselves, but [indigenous people] gathered at Standing Rock to make a stand… because we feel so strongly about this”.
What follows are some excerpts of commissioners’ responses to “general public opinion. Port Commissioner Zita, the “liberal” of the three commissioners (and honestly the only somewhat pleasant one), placates “I hear a lot of people concerned about the blocked train tracks.” and “We have an opportunity to listen to people, to work with the City, to work with the Olympia Police Department, to work with the public, to try to compromise, communicate, work for a peaceful settlement.” Commissioner Downing: “I believe in global warming and it’s a bad situation and we need to do something about it… so let’s work towards a solution.” Commissioner McGregor: “…it’s unfortunate that other companies in this community that provide well-paying jobs are being impacted by the fact that the trains are sitting… and [the train’s cargo] is production that they need to get into in order to make some of the great things that we buy at the store called Pepsi or Coke or whatever they’re bottling at the time…” It sounds like the woman who announces for Sound Transit Express buses, “Approaching: Apocalypse and Slow-Burning Extinction.”
Some voices of or associated with the Blockade did show up that night. The same representative of the Indigenous Caucus pointed out the Port’s claim that there are only two affinity groups organizing the Blockade. In response: “There are many affinity groups coming together and no one group speaks for the Blockade, the action… It’s a little more complicated [than last year].” She spoke of the threat of fracking to water and communities, of escalating natural disasters, of 1000-men worker camps imperializing upon Native bodies in Canada, of indigenous resistance. Another voice (whom I had trouble with distilling into one unified statement, funnily enough) defended the effectiveness of direct action, since “writing letters doesn’t really get you anywhere.”, proclaimed unity of folk at the Blockade with indigenous resistance, democratic control of Port development amidst “million-dollar townhouses being built on Port land… when we have people out in the cold, things that the community needs.” One voice representing a Libertarian Socialist caucus had a set list of demands they wanted, consultation and consent of indigenous folk, democratic control of the Port, no more fossil fuel transport, a transition to green jobs out of the Port and cooperative economy in Thurston County, shoreline ecological restoration. Even a “Voltairine de Cleyre” spoke at the meeting.
In response, Commissioner McGregor, expressing his frustration with a lack of unity of demands of the Blockade, quoted a recent list of demands, “… I went online and looked at some of the social media out there, and I find something from someone called ‘Us at the Olympia Commune’,” (cue my bright shining eyes), “… ‘We have investigated our desires and come up with some ideas about what we really want the result of this Blockade to be. Number one: Make the Port a beach again. Two: Blow up the sun… the complete destruction of time itself’…” (cue numerous anarchist cackles), “…‘that while science still exists, one of us is, be endowed with…’ and I’m not sure how to say this, ada.. adamaytium-laced skeleton… I mean how serious are [these lists of demands]?”
Most of the voices at the Blockade didn’t show up to the meeting. Most were roasting and toasting by the fire, probably eating dinner, banging on the one bass tom, fucking around on the 6-string-made-five guitar, smoking weed, having “a fun time”, and having “pizzas […] delivered, and turkeys and chickens… they’re gonna have a dance” as Commissioner McGregor said. The circus makes a good theatre without even having to act.
The pictures on Twitter are in daylight now: the pigs in black riot gear and the green armed forces came with their industrial machines and swept away everything material, seizing the belongings of a person across the way who wasn’t even involved in the Blockade. “Militarized Police force of this size needed to break up peaceful water protectors? Is this necessary?” writes Oly Stand on their Twitter page. It was a strategic show of force to impose fear, to counter the almost 2 weeks of momentum the Blockade created; thank Whoever that no one physically was injured or arrested (as of late November 29th).
There was never room for negotiation with the Port. There was never anyone who would listen on the Port’s side to economically inefficient demands. There was also never any one person who could negotiate on the part of the entire Blockade, only a blaring roar that reverberates not in conference rooms, but on colonized, occupied Nisqually and Squaxin land, on spray-painted walls, in musical instruments, through skillshares. The entropy is high with each varied opinion on what would be best for the world, while everyone simultaneously creates that new world every day. Despite the disunity, no one in the Blockade settled on status quo, only settled on the tracks. On my second day out I noticed how beautiful it was, the train tracks, capitalism’s instruments, pointing straight at kids sharing weed, sleeping quietly, eating donated food, talking and chilling, playing music, sharing skills and giving aid where aid is needed – when the Blockade became a Commune, it was all a normal circus. While the Blockade is gone, the Commune remains – the fire smell trailing off my clothes yet is a testament to that.
My favorite piece of art from the Commune (that I hope still lingers) is on the west wall of the building kitty-corner northeast of the blockade. It humbly reads: “delete the port”. Delete every port, indeed.
Concerns over fracking are “not as bad as people may think”, but suggesting the technology is safe is “ridiculous”, according to a leading shale gas expert.
Professor Richard Davies, a petroleum geologist at Newcastle University, is used to engaging in difficult debates. He has repeatedly come under fire from both sides of the fracking debate for trying to shed light on the environmental and social impacts of shale gas exploration.
Today, it has been announced that he is to receive commendation for the John Maddox Prize. The prize, handed out by campaign group Sense About Science, aims to recognise the work of individuals who promote science and evidence on matters of public interest despite facing difficulty or hostility in doing so.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12395'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: frackingRichard DaviesINEOSINEOS Shale
via the Salford Star
The Manchester and Salford Anarchist Bookfair, which has been going for 16 years, kicks off at Partisan on Cheetham Hill Road next Saturday, 2nd December, and has everything you'd expect from a full on, seven hour radical event.
Sponsored by The Cunningham Amendment, the longest surviving anarchist journal in the UK, the Bookfair has loads of anarchist stuff but a hell of a lot more besides.
Our favourite is the intriguing 'radical bird walk' called Reclaiming the Hides where, instead of spying on the winged wonders through binoculars, the walk and talk sets out to "explore the radical examples set by birds, and to reframe birdwatching as an act that, while not revolutionary in itself, is one worthy of anyone who wants to build a better world"...included will be "references to class war, the disestablishment of nation states, polyamory and alternative forms of parenting".*
Amongst the eleven talks at the Bookfair, there's also one on 'conspiracy theories', one on 'anarchist approaches to youth work' and a session on 'Spycops' in which activists targeted by spycops talk about the issue.
Other fascinating talks include Personalities out of Politics, Issues into Politics!, including an update from the Zapatista Communities in Mexico, and Subvertising and Détournement with the Brandalism Collective...
"The art of subverting advertising is growing in popularity as a means to reclaim public space from corporate messages" states the blurb "In this session, we'll look at some of the critiques of corporate advertising centred around consumerism, gender stereotypes, environmental justice, cultural values and the right to the city concept. We'll also take a look at the some of the latest creative methods from around the world in taking back public space."
Meanwhile, there's loads of stalls featuring everything from radical 'zines to DIY record labels, to collective book publishers, to social justice causes.
Stalls include ACORN, a tenants union starting a branch in Manchester; the Mary Quaile Club, which specialises in linking working class history with contemporary political issues; Street Edge Manchester, a radical working class sports and martial arts club where you pay-what-you-can-afford; the ace AK Press, a worker-run collective that publishes anything and everything independent and amazing; and Pumpkin Records, a collective that does records, gigs, festivals and recordings, and invites anyone to get involved.
For the first time, this year, the Salford Star is also having a stall at the Bookfair, where we will be flogging our latest line of hoodies, sweatshirts and mugs, and we'll have old 'collectable' copies of magazines available: plus our volunteer journalists, photographers and helpers will be on hand to discuss any crucial Salford issues.
The Manchester and Salford Anarchist Bookfair is where alternative Manchester and Salford comes together in a connecting showcase. If you've had enough of the endless Christmas markets and festive hype, this is the ultimate antidote...
There's also an after-fair party from 7pm to 11pm starring the relatively named Crywank, Epic Problem, Bolshy, Rotting Monarchs and Kiss Me, Killer... The after-fair show is £5 entrance in advance – for more details click here
The Manchester and Salford Anarchist Bookfair
Saturday 2nd December 11am-6pm
19 Cheetham Hill Road M4 4FY
The event is free entrance.
For further details and a full list of stalls and talks see www.bookfair.org.uk
* The Reclaim The Hides walk and talk is due to happen between 2pm and 4pm and is free (donations welcome). Anyone interested is asked to register in advance for confirmed details – click here. For further information also see the Facebook event page – click here
Full list of talks...
11:30am: The Future Anarchist Society
A talk by the Anarchist Federation North
12:30pm: Clousden Hill
An experiment in integrating new technology with co-operative living and working in the 1890s. Their story still offers insights into the problems of communal life and the relationship between 'utopias' and the wider world
1:30pm: 21st Century Anarcho-Syndicalism
Outlines how anarcho-syndicalism is adapting to the current rapidly changing economic and social climate.
2:30pm: Conspiracy/ WTF Capitalism
Plan C deliver a condensed version of the talk on conspiracy theories that was given at this year's Fast Forward Festival
Activists who are, or have been targeted by spycops talk about the issue. Plus an update on the state of the public inquiry on undercover policing.
4:30pm: In Defence of Youth Work
Discussion of anarchist approaches to youth work
12:30pm: Unlikely Heroes
Walter Lewis talks about his time seeking out and visiting small scale, organic farmers and growers across England and Wales, many of whom are motivated by an environmental activism.…
2pm Radical Birdwalk
2:30pm: An Introduction to the IWW
Interactive workshop in which participants can learn some of the up-to-date techniques which the IWW uses for on-the-job action. The IWW is a grass roots union that has struggled for workers' power around the globe since 1905.
3:30pm: Subvertising and Détournement with the Brandalism Collective
Will look at some of the critiques of corporate advertising centred around consumerism, gender stereotypes, environmental justice, cultural values and the right to the city concept, plus the latest creative methods from around the world in taking back public space.
4:30pm: Personalities out of Politics, Issues into Politics!
Update from the Zapatista Communities in Mexico, and information and debate on their most recent initiative as part of their long-term thinking.
You are invited to participate in a research study conducted by Avery Edenfield, an assistant professor in the English Department at Utah State University. The purpose of this research is to better understand writing culture and practices in cooperatives. This form includes detailed information on the research to help you decide whether to participate in this project. Please read it carefully and ask any questions you have before you agree to participate. ProceduresYour participation will involve answering questions in an interview format. The interview will last about 45 minutes. You will be asked a series of questions about writing practices and research in your workplace. If we have collaborated previously, I may include notes on our prior meetings in my study. These notes will be anonymized and will remove any personal identifying information. Read the rest and participate in the survey Go to the GEO front page
The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYC NOWC), a trade association for worker-owned cooperatives in the metro New York area, is hiring a Operations Manager
About the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives
The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives is dedicated to sharing and cultivating the educational, financial and technical resources of its members and supporting the growth of worker cooperatives for social and economic justice. We offer assistance to existing and new worker cooperatives in all communities within the New York City metropolitan area, with a focus on the development of cooperatives within marginalized communities.
We are a young nonprofit membership organization working to engage with and advocate for worker-cooperative businesses in NYC. Our programs include membership services (legal, marketing, business advising and technical assistance), education and advocacy supporting community-based, worker-led businesses as tools to reduce inequality and strengthen the economic and social fabric of NYC.
Go to the GEO front page
The last time American consumer debt was this high was.. well…NEVER. But now, it seems we are engaged in a high stakes game of consumer debt roulette. And the House … Read the rest
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