Steamrolling Charter rights in street surveillance

Street surveillance, sometimes called street checks or “carding,” are a common practice for police in Edmonton, Alberta. It was recently revealed in The Star that those same police have been handing over data harvested from street surveillance to intelligence authorities–who have then, in turn, constructed profiles on entire communities without any specific allegation of criminal behaviour.

Much to my frustration, there is a substantial portion of Canadian progressives who stop paying attention after the ballot box. The Liberals aren’t “the same” as the Conservatives, but they don’t differ in a number of critical areas–including surveillance, the tool that arguably threatens grassroots organizing the most.

Cell phone video of an Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officer’s interaction with a group of young black men at a south side gym last month offered a rare close-up look at the controversial practice of carding – or street checks, as the police prefer to call it – and raises troubling questions about whether EPS is violating citizens’ Charter rights even as both the Edmonton Police Commission and the provincial justice department is reviewing the practice.

On the video, an officer can be seen engaging with a group of young men who are waiting around for a manager to give them a refund. The officer demands the men produce identification and when they question why, they are all threatened with arrest. When one of the young men says he doesn’t feel comfortable giving the officer his identification, the officer responds (at 3:07 of the video clip), “You don’t feel comfortable? How about I tell you right now that you’re under arrest for obstruction? Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

The incident – which arose out of a now-resolved commercial dispute between a business and customers (neither of which wished to be quoted on the record for this story) resulted in no arrests. No complaint that a crime had been committed was ever filed.

“While there are some occasions when an individual is required by law to provide identification,” she said, “It does not appear that the individuals depicted in the video would be required to do so as there is no lawful basis for an arrest and minimal prior investigation to justify them as being legitimate suspects.”

We asked the Edmonton Police Service if they felt the officer acted appropriately. “Based upon the information provided by both parties and a review of the incident, the EPS believes the officers’ actions were appropriate,” responded EPS communications advisor Carolin Maran.

“Reviews” and “panels” won’t stop this. It’ll be up to the grassroots organizers once again to summon enough pressure to end the practice. The same organizers who have dossiers in Canadian intelligence, because we inconvenience the State by delegitimizing their abuses.

Read more from Mimi Williams here.


From reform to abolition

Every thing in our capitalist prison system is to deny humanity, to turn people from people into things; no sex, no control over what food they have, no windows to even look outside, no upward educational opportunities, extremely limited movement, forced and hyper-exploited labor, being sold and traded to fill prison and labor quotas, being given and even sometimes called by numbers rather than their names. It is an ultimate thingification, a state of outright and complete denial of humanity in the utmost form.

–Devyn Springer, “From Prison Reformist to Abolitionist.

Springer ties together a lot of threads in this essay–how poverty is linked to the definition of many crimes, and race to poverty, and then again prison to race, back around to prison and poverty–and I think it serves as a powerful introduction to the prison abolition movements.

I’m still cutting my teeth on many of his recommendations in this piece, but I appreciated it as a start and thought you might too.


I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream… for Racial Justice

I’d drink the white tears ensuing, but my doctor says that much salt is bad for my health. Ben & Jerry’s announces its support of BLM, allocating a portion of its proceeds to non-profits working to help black voters overcome voter suppression:

“We believe that saying Black lives matter is not to say that the lives of those who serve in the law enforcement community don’t. We respect and value the commitment to our communities that those in law enforcement make, and we respect the value of every one of their lives.

But we do believe that — whether Black, brown, white, or blue — our nation and our very way of life is dependent on the principle of all people being served equal justice under the law. And it’s clear, the effects of the criminal justice system are not color blind.”

Ten cool points if you can guess what happened next. Got your bingo cards ready?

Source: Faebook & US Uncut

Source: Facebook & US Uncut

Source: Facebook & US Uncut

Somebody call the whaaambulance.

I don’t know how people even have the patience to explain this shit anymore, but I’m glad there are folks out there doing good work.

As for Ben & Jerry’s, I think I’ll have some ice cream for dinner.


White men have killed more cops than all other groups combined

Dear #BlueLivesMatter,

I question where your outrage is. You’re the type who thinks calling for police accountability is hate speech. You’re the type who’s taken the hook, line, and sinker of Faux News characterizing Black Lives Matter as a terrorist group–despite the fact that the only police casualties at a BLM rally were from someone unaffiliated with the movement. You’re keen to latch on to the more hazy or questionable cases of justified violence from police, whilst conveniently ignoring the slough of black women and men who died complying to police orders. You can see black children being assaulted by police and for some reason, this doesn’t galvanize you. Cops have been caught on camera inventing crimes to charge protesters with. And an entire police department has been indicted in keeping a teenaged girl as a sex slave for two years, but you’re still convinced bad apples are in the minority, or at the very least aren’t influential.

You’re willing to consider the absolute number of police brutality deaths as evidence that whites have it worse, but you ignore that the absolute number of people who murder police are overwhelmingly white:

Something’s afoot, though, on why we’re not hearing much about this shocking increase in the number of officers who’ve been shot and killed so far in 2016. Sadly, I think I have the answer.

Seventy-one percent of police who’ve been shot and killed this year weren’t murdered by black men with cornrows or hoodies. They weren’t gunned down by Latino gang members in low-rider drive-bys. Those stereotypes would be too convenient. Instead, 71% of police who’ve been shot and killed so far in 2016 have been killed by good old-fashioned white men.

You haven’t seen these stories on Fox News or Breitbart because they don’t fit their narrative of blaming police violence on the Black Lives Matter movement or President Obama. Because “scary” black faces can’t be flashed across their screens, they don’t even tell the stories at all — which suggests they don’t care so much about police, but about using police deaths like a political football.

You best believe that if a 59% rise in the number of police officers shot and killed in the line of duty could be blamed on immigrants, Mexicans, or black folk, it would be a regular conservative talking point.

Instead, Donald Trump has never mentioned these fallen officers on the campaign trail because it may have very well been his supporters who did the shooting for all he knows.

It appears that blue lives only matter to popular conservatives when they are taken by somebody they can easily demonize. In the meantime, police groups continue to protest a black woman when a black woman hasn’t killed an officer in years.

Welcome to America. 2016.

So you mean one of the most vivid violent actions you can take against the State–the murder of its officials–is primarily carried out by white people??

Where be all the white terrorist posters and media pundits?


Fuck your blue lives, #SayHerName

White privilege confession time: In my budding years as a soon-to-be social justice advocate, I was a bit wrapped up in my own problems to really step outside of my shell and listen to black activists as they described repeated patterns of police brutality. Then Ferguson happened. I didn’t quite hit #BLM mode right away, but I started to pay attention, and by now I have seen the absurd double standard enough to securely say “fuck you in your fucking idiotic skull” if you’re a Blue Lives Matter type.

A five year-old. Police shot a five year-old, while he was in his mother’s arms.

Three officers with the Baltimore County police arrived at Korryn Gaines’s apartment around 9:20 a.m. on Monday to serve warrants to her as well as a man who also resided there.

The man was wanted on an assault charge, while Gaines, 23, had an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court after a traffic violation in March.

According to police, no one responded to 10 minutes of door knocking, even though they could hear several people inside. When officers obtained a key to the apartment, they found Gaines sitting on the floor — her 5-year-old son was wrapped in one of her arms. In her other hand was a shotgun.

Seems like the endless patience police have for deescalation vanishes in a puff of smoke when the shooter is black.

If that kid were white, the negotiations would’ve lasted for days.

#BlackLivesMatter. #SayHerName.



BLM to Marshal the Vancouver Dyke March

Black Lives Matter has been asked to marshal the upcoming Dyke March in Vancouver. This announcement has been made following the decision of BLM to not participate in this year’s Pride at Vancouver: (all emphasis original)

A Pride flag does not shield us from racism, discrimination and violence. In fact, as researchers and activists are well aware, being queer makes PoCs more vulnerable to interpersonal, institutional and structural violence. Because there are relatively few queer Indigenous and PoC folks (particularly those who identify or are read as Black) represented in Vancouver, it is imperative that Pride makes space to actively include these groups. There is a difference between “diversity” and “inclusion”. Tokenistic representation is different from intentional, self-motivated participation in an organization and an organization’s events. We encourage the Vancouver Pride Society to take action in pursuing the latter.

At our vigil on Sunday we successfully negotiated a basic police presence from the Vancouver Police Department. We acknowledge that in certain contexts police presence to perform a job of civil service may deter acts of homophobia and violence, especially at designated queer events such as Pride. However, we cannot divorce the policing institution from its historical and continued violence against Indigenous and PoC communities, racial profiling, or inaction around our missing Indigenous women. We stand with BLM-Toronto and many other BLM chapters in their discontent with police being involved in the parade itself.

BLM-Vancouver had not directly heard from the Vancouver Pride Society before the statement was released publicly online despite the Society’s stated intentions of inclusion and a desire to reach out to us.

We will not be taking part in the Pride parade, by participation or protest, and have instead chosen to focus our energy elsewhere. The Dyke March responded positively to the recent events in Toronto and, with compassion and dignity, have invited BLM-Vancouver to lead as Grand Marshall this year as part of their contribution to Pride. We have responded to that positive message of solidarity and humanity and are pleased to be involved with several other QTBIPoC-centred events as well. We do this not only because we feel that Pride no longer represents community action, resistance and revolution but also as an act of solidarity with BLM chapters across North America to whom Pride parades have been made inaccessible. We wholeheartedly support the actions of other BLM chapters such as BLM Toronto and BLM San Francisco and although we may not face the same immediate threats of police brutality, we refuse to participate in the whitewashing, armament and exclusivity of any Pride Parade unless concrete and explicit commitments to the contrary are made.

In case you’re wondering, the Vancouver Dyke March is also trans-inclusive, and recently committed in its trans-affirmation policy to including trans folk among their leadership positions. Remember my bit about BLM being better at intersectionality and trans affirmation than the mainstream cis gay movement? Thank you Vancouver Dyke March & Black Lives Matter for demonstrating my point.

I’m a little too broke to go this year… but damn, I can’t wait to go next year.


Signal boosting: BLM & Toronto Pride

Over on The Orbit, Ania covers why police force participation at Pride festivals is a betrayal of Pride’s roots:

The demands were in response to a series of moves by the PRIDE organization in Toronto that has been gradually eliminating Queer focused PoC spaces in Toronto. It was in response to the fact that there has been a lot of white washing happening in queer communities and many vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, trans woman and specifically trans women of colour, and native people, have felt themselves being pushed out in various was from queer communities.

It is a struggle many people who belong to multiple vulnerable groups find themselves facing in spaces meant to cater to one or more of those identities. Black women faced with feminist spaces that prioritize white women’s concerns, trans women who are actively discriminated against or are forced to deal with TERFs in nominally “safe” spaces, disabled people who face meetings related to feminism, race issues, trans issues, etc. being held in inaccessible spaces or without the benefit of accessibility measures like interpreters.

The response to the protest has been mixed. While some, myself included, have been praising it not just for bringing awareness to the plight of PoC and black people in particular in both Canada and the US, but at the same time taking a moment to carve out a space as well for other vulnerable communities, many other people have condemned the protest.

One of the biggest complaints that I’ve seen so far has to do with the request that Police no longer be allowed to have a float or booth at the festival or parade and future events. Many people seem to feel that this is unfair to officers who are themselves QUILTBAG.

In order to understand the request however, there needs to be a bit more of a consideration of history on multiple levels.

The thing I love about the BLM movement is that it has always been rock solid on intersectionality. This is why I support and celebrate PoCs leading the charge–with BLM at the helm, they’ll have space in their protest for black trans women, and that’s enough for me to feel represented. On the topic of race relations, my role as a white woman is to signal boost and expand the platform of PoCs; on the topic of gender variance and the violence we face, it is important that sharing my own experiences does not occur over the voices of less privileged trans women. I know my perspective will be accessed; experience tells me this is less likely to happen when it’s white cis gays leading the group.

Ania explains how the violence doesn’t have to be brutal from police (although it sometimes still is, even in Canada), the police still antagonize and make difficult the lives of Queer PoCs. Having them officially represented at Pride means forgetting where Pride came from. White cis gays like to talk about how much progress has been made without acknowledging how much more work still needs to be done. They complain about political agendas being brought to a protest that was originally about political agendas.

If there were ever a time to point out how the L and the G have been antagonistic to the T and the B and the Q, now would be it.


Black Lives Matter protests Toronto Pride

Toronto Pride has developed a reputation for being overwhelmingly white and cis. The criticism could likely be levied against any Pride, with its shift towards cis gay men and corporations downplaying the original intent of Pride: a protest. It was never meant to be a movement towards white cisheterosexist assimilation.

Black Lives Matter reminds us of that:

Members of the Black Lives Matter Toronto group briefly halted the Pride parade today, holding up the marching for about 30 minutes.

The parade didn’t re-start until after Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a document agreeing to the group’s demands.

“It’s always the appropriate time to make sure folks know about the marginalization of black people, of black queer youth, black trans youth, of black trans people,” [Williams] said. “We are not taking any space away from any folks. When we talk about homophobia, transphobia, we go through that too … It should be a cohesive unit, not one against the other. Anti-blackness needs to be addressed and they can be addressed at the same time, in the same spaces,” she said.

In a news release, the group said Pride Toronto “has shown little honour to black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communities. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of black spaces at Pride that have existed for years.”

The group released a list of demands, including a commitment to increase representation among Pride Toronto staff, and to prioritize the hiring of black transgender women and indigenous people.

One of the other demands also called for the exclusion of police floats, although not necessarily police members, from participating:

But Khan told CBC News her group is not looking to exclude officers who identify as LGBT from participating in Pride events, but it opposes floats accompanied by uniformed, armed officers — calling them a stark reminder of the history of brutality faced by the LGBT community and visible minorities.

“To be clear, we said, ‘No floats. No police floats,'” Khan said. “But we have no desire to police the police in terms of whether they should actually be there or not when they’re LGBTQ-identified.”

Khan said her group’s actions are in keeping with “histories of resistance” that have long been a part of the tradition of Pride.

“If we think about the dyke march that happened 20 years ago, gay men were saying, ‘Why should you have your own Pride?’ … Twenty years later it’s an integral part of what Pride is all over the world. We’re saying, should we wait 20 years before black lives are also considered an integral part?”

Canada has a “less bad” record of police brutality than America, sure. But it’s certainly worth reminding the overwhelmingly white Pride Parade that black folks, and black queer folks, still deal with a lot of antagonism and prejudice even if it’s not outright brutality, and that police brutality still happens even if less often.

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