Posts Tagged mass incarceration

Why Should We Have Any Confidence in a Justice Department Investigation Bringing Justice?

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son” said Barack Obama a day after the verdict of “not guilty” in the George Zimmerman trial.  “we are a nation of laws, and the jury has spoken.”

Attorney General Eric Holder assured the NAACP that he is concerned about the case, and that “the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.”

The message here is that we — those righteously outraged at the stalking death of a black youth being justified by a jury — should remain calm.  And we are told to wait on justice at the hands of a system built on slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration.  Our protests are the problem, not the underlying injustice, particularly according to Democratic Party leaders, whose purpose is to keep us passive, while they appear to “handle” the problem.

Turning your attention back to 2009, Barack Obama took office in the wake of — and because of — the disaster of the Bush regime laying waste to whole countries, attacking civil liberties, and establishing a system of indefinite detention, black sites, rendition and torture which affected tens of thousands of prisoners.  Obama famously said he wanted to “look forward, not backward,” and starkly disappointed people who were under the illusion that justice would be served on the Bush regime — or at least someone in charge of torture — by the new administration.

Protesting

Above, protesters in San Francisco react to the news that Black teenagers can be murdered with impunity.

Obama and Holder did make some promises which turned out to be aimed at pacifying critics.  The Justice Department “investigated” the CIA torture in Guantanamo, captured on videotape, allowing the perpetrators to get away with destroying the tapes.  They decided not to release the photos of the military torture at Abu Ghraib.  The Justice Department, presumably, looked into the legal justification, practice, and individual orders and responsibility for a wide range of illegitimate actions, known to be against international law, involving thousands of victims.

And then, snooze, they found nothing really wrong, or at least nothing they would prosecute. See Justice Department Ends Investigation on Alleged Use of Torture by CIA.

It’s the same old story.  The rights of people under the empire don’t matter.  And Trayvon Martin, to quote the 1857 Dred Scott Decision of the US Supreme Court, will likely be found to have “no rights the white man was bound to respect.”

I am not exaggerating here. WHEN has a federal investigation brought justice in a situation where crimes have been carried out, supported, or excused by government?

Relevant reading:

We indict the U.S. government.  Example:  For the mass incarceration of over 2.4 million people in the United States, mainly Black and Latino, a program with a genocidal impact against these groups, including torture, solitary confinement, and unjust executions.

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What Good Protest Does

Is it true that “protest for justice doesn’t do any good?”  No, a thousand times, no.

People in groups, in the streets – or in state houses screaming — articulating a strong political message changes the terms of how people see things, bringing out viewpoints that are not given voice in managed debate in ruling class media.  People arguing passionately for a cause and sometimes putting their lives on the line – especially when their message hits deeply at a sharp fault-line underlying conflict in a society – can change how whole societies view whether what a government is doing, or not doing, is legitimate.

Street protest is not the only element needed  for major social change, but it’s the one feature of mass political mobilization that’s essential.  It’s so essential that people in most of the world know to gather together, raise demands, and make noise, marching together to show determination and urgency.

Two recent examples from within the United States:

One. In spring 2012, when the news spread that 17 year old Trayvon Martin had been shot in the heart by a vigilante, wanna-be cop named George Zimmerman, and that no charges had been filed in the killing, it struck a nerve.  Was the life of a young black man really worth… nothing and of no consequence?  Hundreds, then tens of thousands rallied, marched, made popular a hoodie as a symbol of protest, and demanded Zimmerman be charged.

That is the only reason there’s a trial going on now in Florida.  And if the prosecution failed to put on a case convincing the jury beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, there better be more protest (see stopmassincarceration.org).

Harlem protest for Trayvon Martin

Harlem, July 2, 2013 NYC Revolution Club: From Harlem to the world, People stand up to say “We Are All Trayvon Martin, The Whole System Is Guilty!”

Two.  Texas legislators tried to push through a law against abortion after 22 weeks, which would close down most of the women’s clinics, and enforce motherhood for thousands of women.  Wendy Davis filibustered, and women — I know because I have friends who did this — jumped in their cars and drove from all over the state to fill the State House in support.  This support for abortion galvanized others to stay up all night, and led to much different headlines.  The bill, at that point at least, was stopped.

Just as important, people began to feel like the troops had finally come out to change the terrible direction of anti-abortion legislation, finally, and are echoing it elsewhere (see stoppatriarchy.org).

There is no substitute for determined protest against the outrages which come at us.  The actions of a few can ignite the outrage of many.  Otherwise, the status quo holds, and people conclude “there is nothing you can do.”

And it’s particularly important to come out at certain moments when days and hours matter.

Such as when the government of the world’s largest empire revokes the passport of a whistle-blower who happens to have exposed vast criminal surveillance of whole populations by that government, and threatens the governments of any country who might provide him asylum.

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STOP Stop & Frisk Queens Trial Today: Defense Coming Up!

After the prosecution rests today, defense will move to have the charges dismissed.  As we said Monday, after the prosecution’s main witness, the 103rd precinct commander testified, it’s clear they have no evidence that anything at the 103rd was actually disrupted by our protest.  See the trial blog report.

It remains an outrage that this trial is even happening.  But the defendants and attorneys are determined to put stop-and-frisk on trial.

The cross examination of the Commander was enjoyable and memorable.  Many thanks to Marty Stolar, Tom Hilgardner and Meg Maurus for skillful and passionate work preparing for it.

Highlights today:  We hope the defense begins, and expect to hear witnesses who participated in the November 19, 2011 protest in Jamaica Queens.

AND we’ll be outside the court 1:00 pm talking to the press, then delivering 1200 messages to the D.A. to drop the charges.  We hope you can come out (E/F train to Union Turnpike/Kew Gardens).  The trial may continue into next week, after the Monday Veteran’s Day holiday.  Court will end at 1:00 pm Friday because of a juror request — and by Thursday we’ll have a sense of how fast it will go.

Even if you can’t come out, you can support in key ways:

  1. We need $300 for a rush transcript of Monday’s testimony.  Donate online, or send a check.
  2. Facebook & Tweet posts on our Trial Blog, and forward this message.  There are still 6-7 trials, with 19 defendants in four boroughs, arising from the wave of mass civil disobedience we began last fall.
  3. The October 30 benefit, postponed because of the storm, will likely be rescheduled for Thursday December 6.  YOU are needed on the promotion team, or to collect food/drink donations, clean up, work the door, etc.  Contact debra@worldcantwait.net to volunteer.

FRIDAY:  For all of you uptowners- we have a special request for support.
9:30 Friday November 9.  Bronx Criminal Court 265 E. 161st Street.
Court Support for Jeffeth James
Bronx Criminal Court
James was viciously beaten by NYPD, yet is facing charges.  This is the incident where Noche Diaz and 2 others were arrested observing the NYPD.  See News12 coverage.

Join Noche Friday morning if you can, in providing support to Jeffeth and his family.

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Stopping the Police State Growing Around Us

Brownville Brooklyn, November 1, 2011

(Henry James Ferry - WeAreTheOther99.com)

Over the last few weeks, there have been many protests to stop police brutality in NYC.  I’ve been at two very dynamic and inspiring civil disobedience actions to STOP “Stop & Frisk,” including the most recent on Tuesday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the NYPD stops people at the highest rate.  Most are young men, but I met several men way over 40, and a woman in a wheelchair who have all been stopped in the area.

28 people were arrested almost as soon as they stepped in front of the 73rd Precinct.  It took until sometime today to get them all out of jail. The last young man released, a 2011 college graduate, just cannot find a job.  He has no arrest record, no tickets, but they still held him almost 48 hours for not having a photo ID.  He just told me on the phone however, that despite dealing with mice and nasty conditions, it was a “much-needed” experience, and he learned a lot from the men he was locked up with.  Going home? No, “I’m going right back down to Occupy Wall Street. THANKS for getting me out!”

This campaign is not stopping, and I am so happy to be doing it with such vibrant, committed, radical people, from clergy to communists.   A question came up at a meeting, from someone who had been arrested in the first action in Harlem, “Are we only trying to stop one policy of the NYPD, or are we thinking about more?  I’ve been stopped and frisked in other cities, including in other countries.”  It’s systematic.

On October 22, I was at my 16th consecutive annual protest to “Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.”  Once again, heart-breakingly, the parents and siblings of people killed by the police got their chance to speak.  I thought mainly of how many years the toll has piled up.  And these are only a few cases!  Hmm, it’s systematic.

The repression thing, too, is systematic.  The policing of political protest — and I think this is why the authorities really hate the idea of Occupy Wall Street in Brownsville, Brooklyn — is about repressing dissent.  Tana Ganesa asks a good question today on Alternet, “Why is OWS Blanketed with NYPD Cameras, and Are Police Breaking the Law?”  She writes about the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative’s office where Wall Street firms have access to the footage taken by thousands of surveillance cameras

The surveillance gadgetry available to the NYPD, and apparently to the very finance industry forces that OWS is protesting, is sophisticated. There are license plate readers that can capture license plate numbers and match them to a database. The cameras can be programmed to alert officers to activities like loitering, and people can be followed as they move from camera to camera.

Mostly, police departments don’t have the legal authority to maintain records on people not suspected of criminal activity, but increasingly, that’s just what they do.  From the first week of Occupy Wall Street, officers from NYPD’s TARU, the Technical Assistance Response Unit, have ringed the plaza, constantly scanning activity, and peoples’ faces.

This whole “police state” atmosphere doesn’t begin and end with local police departments.  Ken Theisen, in Spying is US: Obama Administration Spends $80 Billion to Continue and Expand Bush Spy Programs details how these programs are growing nationally, with a budget of $80 billion over the last fiscal year

“Only” about $3.5 billion of this amount was spent on Iraq and Afghanistan according to the Department of War.  So how are they spending the other $76 billion?  A look at the 2010 Washington Post Series called TOP SECRET AMERICA   gives you an idea of where much of the money goes.

This machine carries out a systematic, criminal repression of the people.  That’s why the mission of World Can’t Wait is to end the crimes of our government.

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Join Me to Stop “Stop & Frisk”

On Friday, October 21st, I plan to join in a non-violent civil disobedience action as part of a new and very important, courageous, campaign to stop “Stop and Frisk.”

I am answering a call issued by Cornel West and Carl Dix to engage in non-violent civil disobedience to stop this illegal policy of the New York Police Department.   Carl and Cornel say:

The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011! That’s more than 1,900 people each and every day. More than 85% of them are Black or Latino, and more than 90% of them were doing nothing wrong when the pigs stepped to them…WE ARE STOPPING ALL THIS.  YOU MUST JOIN US IN DOING THAT.

To be clear, I have never been stopped or frisked by the New York police solely because of my appearance, as 1,900 men are, every day, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, who is also fighting “stop and frisk.”  I haven’t been thrown up against a wall, detained, questioned or jacked up solely because I fit a vague description. But, I don’t want to live in a city where people have to go through this.

I have been arrested over the years, but so far, solely in the process of protesting injustices ranging from U.S. wars of occupation to murders by police, or the targeting of abortion providers by people who wanted to kill them.  I believe people have to take action to stop injustice.

That’s exactly why I’m joining Carl, Cornel, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, Rev. Stephen Phelps, Rev. Omar Wilks, and others in an action to stop the NYPD from what they say is a practice which is “illegal, racist, unconstitutional and intolerable.”

Carl Dix, interviewed today in Revolution, described why he, Cornel and others decided that mass resistance to “stop and frisk” is necessary

The intensifying brutality being enforced in the inner cities is like a slow genocide that could be accelerated.  This must be met by unleashing resistance that is broader, fiercer and more determined.  And unleashing this kind of resistance around Stop and Frisk in NYC on October 21 and nationwide on October 22 would have a powerful positive impact on the situation.  It could speak to very real questions people have.  It can bring to the people occupying Wall Street a sense of how the police brutally enforce inequality and oppression 24-7 in the ghettos and barrios across the country.  And it can address the question many oppressed people have of whether there are any forces that would stand together with them in fighting the hell the system brings down on them or are they alone in this fight.  This resistance could contribute to creating a sense that things really don’t have to be this way among a diverse and growing section of the people.

So, all of you who want to do some good, who feel beaten down, or who feel unstoppable, join this action in some way.

Follow @StopMassIncNet on Twitter.

Send a support statement to debrasweet@worldcantwait.net.

Join us in taking the action, or come along to cheer us.  As the call says

If you are sick and tired of being harassed and jacked up by the cops, JOIN US. If you have had enough of seeing your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your aunts and uncles and fathers stepped to and disrespected by the cops, JOIN US. If you don’t want to live in a world where people’s humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy—it does happen, all the damned time—you need to JOIN US too—you can’t stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name.

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