Archive for May, 2012
One of the joys of traveling to speak is meeting the people at the other end of e-mail, as I did in Madison this past weekend at the Veterans for Peace Memorial Day commemoration. In addition to putting up a “Memorial Mile” of thousands of tombstones marking U.S. deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan, they had an anti-war contingent in the official city parade where they reported strong crowd support. At the afternoon commemoration, they made a point of reading names of Afghans killed in the U.S. War on Afghanistan.
Yesterday in Madison, and before that, over more than a week of protesting NATO in Chicago, I heard similar responses from people working against U.S. wars when I asked what questions they encounter from the public. We find lots of people against the war in Afghanistan, but not willing to criticize the Democrats, or Obama, for expanding it. One woman said “I need help answering when people say ‘Give Obama more time.’”
One way to go at that question is to challenge people with what the Obama administration has done. In April 2010, the Crimes are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them statement began that work:
In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.
Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report makes the point that Obama is not the “lesser of 2 evils,” but “the more effective evil.” Revolution provided concrete examples of Six Ways Obama has been Worse than Bush, including assassinations on Presidential order; blaming youth for their own oppression; threatening war on Iran; more deportations of immigrants; escalating drone war and persecuting whistle-blowers.
Update May 8: “On Tuesday, city officials notified National Nurses United that they were ordering nurses to accept new, less visible, locations for the protest, under threat of cancelling a long approved permit for the public event – even though the G-8 leaders will now be 700 miles away from Chicago on that date in the backwoods of Camp David, Md.” At a press conference Wednesday, “NNU will outline a legal challenge to the city’s demand and discuss other plans responding to the city’s move” (from a press release from National Nurses United regarding the suppression of their planned May 18 protest in Chicago against the NATO Summit).
The NATO International Security Force, which we all know is actually led by the U.S. military, killed a woman and her 5 children in an airstrike in southwestern Afghanistan Sunday, and then yesterday expressed “regret” for what they call their “mistake.”
Military tribunals, the crowning achievement of a US system of indefinite detention and torture aided by and including NATO member countries, and which defense attorneys assert are rigged by the U.S. to assure the execution of 5 men in Guantánamo, have begun, in the process of continuing the unending U.S. war on terror.
U.S. drone strikes, halted briefly because of protest from the government of Pakistan (presumably a sovereign country) began again last week, killing 4 people in a school. Of course these victims were called insurgents; everyone killed by U.S. drones is a militant, by definition. NATO is now a major purchaser of U.S. drones, and has a vast role in aiding the covert U.S. strikes.
The most heavily armed empire in world history occupies and has destroyed whole countries, has a system of indefinite detention and torture in place, and is expanding secret military operations across the region.
But according to this empire, the biggest danger to peace is some hundreds or thousands of people protesting the Chicago meeting of the NATO military alliance next week? According to the purveyors of war crimes, the people decrying the destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are the ones to fear and lock up, while the war-makers and torturers are given even more power to war critics into criminals?
Public opinion is being prepared for this criminalization. The Chicago press has featured reports on plans to evacuate Chicago because of “unrest;” on the deployment of National Guard troops to quell protests; on plans to reopen a closed prison in Joliet to house arrested protesters; on heavily armed federal teams sweeping through the central city; on closing down the public transport system in the city; and more.
Despite the measures which Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s former White House enforcer, wanted in place against protest, a well-publicized battle was successful in getting a permit for the march on Sunday May 20 at Grant Park. With the removal of a long-held permit to march on Friday May 18 by National Nurses United, the City is trying to force protest further away from city center, supposedly because rocker Tom Morello will be performing at their rally.
No matter how they parse the words of the First Amendment, what the federal authorities (who are the ones running the show in Chicago) are doing is criminalizing protest in advance. As they did at the Republican Convention in St. Paul in 2008; at the G-20 in Pittsburgh in 2009; in response to the Occupy movement, they are putting measures in place that will sweep up people who are assembling and speaking based on the content of our protest message. The message to the general public is that protest should be feared, not a system that perpetrates war crimes and mass denial of civil liberties.
We state clearly and publicly, in advance: It’s right to protest the crimes being carried out in our name, in public space, near the NATO meeting. We protesters are not the endangering the people; the danger to humanity is a system which uses police-state measures to back up war crimes. The following measures are in place, or have been proposed:
* Sending arrested protesters to an old prison in Joliet.
The idea was then ditched, as the place is falling apart (To Joliet jail for NATO offenders? Sun-Times, Apr 28, 2012).
“Another contingent of guard troops will conduct a large-scale domestic response drill outside Cook County during the summit weekend, ready to provide support in the event of any problems in Chicago, said Maj. Troy Scott, deputy director of domestic operations for the Illinois National Guard.”
“CBS News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area. It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”
According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone. “Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said (accompanied by picture of demonstrators amidst flames, who knows where…).
* Vague Speculation about “Unrest” Concerns about NATO Summit Violence Leave Chicago Guessing CBS News reported on April 29:
“There also are reports that a heavily armed security team will start making a very public appearance around federal buildings in the Loop this week. Officials with the Chicago NATO host committee were completely in the dark. They had no reports of any such plans. A source told CBS 2 that security forces in full battle gear would not be seen this week.”
“The FAA says private planes may be shot down if they fly within ten nautical miles of downtown Chicago during the summit. The only planes allowed will be commercial passenger and cargo carriers, and police and military aircraft.”
* Surgical strikes against anyone in protests who “crosses the line” beyond First Amendment activity… as defined by the Secret Service?
“Police will embrace “First Amendment activity,” she told the building managers, and will surgically deal with those who cross the line into vandalism. She was asked how many demonstrators could arrive in Chicago who aren’t now part of a permitted group.
“If I had that crystal ball, I’d be solid,” she said.
Many building managers said that overall they were relatively satisfied with the level of information they are getting and are willing to trust the police and federal authorities to keep things under control.
“I understand they haven’t got everything figured out yet,” said Wes Stoginski, assistant engineer at a building on 13th Street near the Illinois Central rail line. But Stoginski also said he knows where the variables are.
“You can’t legislate against lunatics,” he said.”
(This is the only somewhat oblique reference I could find to the CPD extraction technique of arresting the people they see as leaders, which they did at the mass March 20, 2003 arrests. The civil suit by NLG based on those arrests was just settled for $6.2 million to demonstrators. In the pre-trial discovery, that technique was documented.)
“In a memo titled Operation Red Zone, the protective service said the increased security will be extended throughout the South Loop area often referred to as the federal complex. It includes the Kluczynski Federal Building, the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse and the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Several buildings just east on State Street are also in the so-called red zone.
“The memo notes there have been no specific or credible threats at federal facilities ‘related to terrorism by international terrorist organizations’ but that the area around the complex will be ‘directly and indirectly’ affected by protests in the days before and after the summit.”
Debra Sweet, Executive Director, World Can’t Wait, To Receive 2012 American Humanist Award as “Heroine”
For immediate release
May 7, 2012
Contact: Lina Thorne 718 825 9119
Debra Sweet, World Can’t Wait Director, will receive the 2012 American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Humanist Heroine Award. The award will be presented at the AHA national conference on June 9 in New Orleans and is a joint presentation of the AHA and its Feminist Caucus. Since 1982, this award is given annually to women who promote and advance the ideals of human rights and gender justice using a non-theological approach. Past awardees have included Judy Norsigian, Robin Morgan, Julia Sweeney and Amy Goodman.
Debra Sweet helped establish and continues to lead World Can’t Wait in its mission to “stop the crimes of our government,” including unjust military occupations, covert drone wars, torture and indefinite detention as well as reversing the fascist direction of U.S. society. She has worked with abortion providers for thirty years, organizing community support and helping them withstand anti-abortion violence. Since the age of 19, when she confronted Richard Nixon during a face-to-face meeting and told him to stop the war in Vietnam, Debra has been a leader in the opposition to U.S. wars and military occupations.
Sweet will be leading World Can’t Wait’s efforts in protesting NATO’s meeting in Chicago, May 20-21, where the U.S. and its military allies will discuss the continuation of US/NATO presence in Afghanistan until 2024.
Annie Laurie Geller, Co-President, Freedom from Religion Foundation, nominated Debra for this award. “Debra Sweet, more than any person I know, embodies heroism: for women, for peace, for the progression of humanity,” she says. “She inspired me, her classmates, the city of Madison, Wisconsin and the entire nation when, as a student, she met President Richard Nixon. Her courage to openly express the views of most Americans toward Nixon and the war was an electrifying moment that touched many and opened our eyes to personal activism. She has gone on to dedicate her life to peace and progressive causes, including feminist issues.”
On Friday, May 4, Sweet was convicted with 19 others of disorderly conduct for a 2011 protest against the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy. “700,000 people were stopped, questioned and frisked by the NYPD last year, the great majority of them Black and Latino, in violation of their constitutional rights and their humanity,” said Sweet. Fellow defendants in the non-violent civil resistance were Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University; Vietnam war resister and revolutionary leader Carl Dix; clergy, students and residents of the Harlem community who had been victimized by the policy. Dr. West called Sweet “a long-distance freedom fighter whom I deeply respect and love.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION about The American Humanist Association, contact: Brian Magee, (202) 238-9088 extension 105, Mobile: (202) 681-2425. FOR MORE INFORMATION about Freedom from Religion Foundation, contact: Annie Laurie Gaylor (608) 256-8900.