“Nonviolence means refusing to work with the police”

Violence is often a sticky topic in progressive organizing, with many preferring to espouse “non-violence.” However, Kit Harrington has some serious questions about what exactly that entails:

To put it simply: In my years of activism and journalism, it’s become quite clear to me that the single biggest purveyor of violence at protests are police. Police come to peaceful protests armed for war (literally, with military surplus gear), and police are better at turning a protest into riotous violence than any other group.

The physical violence they inflict is bad enough, but the subtle damage that cops do to justice movements is a form of violence too. In their love of protecting the government and corporate property and profits, police will infiltrate your movement, entrap your members, and do everything they can to tear you apart.

Arrests of activists ruin lives. Even charges hanging over a person can ruin their mental health — just ask any of the J20 defendants who have spent the last year wondering if they’d be spending decades in prison — regardless of the final outcome of the trials.

Cooperating with police ruins lives. Police and the Feds in Charlottesville have been charging left activists who previously assisted their investigation into nazis.

Police will show up at your protest whether you want them or not. But don’t cooperate with them. Don’t thank them for being there. And as any sensible lawyer will tell you, never talk to the cops.

Getting a permit for your march is just asking the state to commit violence on your behalf. So is asking them to arrest activists you disagree with. Protecting you is not the job of the cops, especially not at a protest. Their job is to maintain order and the status quo, and your permit won’t change that. They will attack you as soon as they feel you’re making a difference.

Read more here.

-Shiv

More plaintiffs in the brutality lawsuit stemming from J20 arrests

It’s been one year since the mass arrest at Trump’s inauguration. 240 people were rounded up by police for their proximity to half a dozen vandals–some 1,800 charges would be pressed against 230 defendants, 194 of which are going to trial. While the first six defendants were acquitted of all charges in December last year, there remain dozens of trials yet to go, and any of them can secure the precedent that would further empower prosecutors to smash activist movements. The second trial group had their second round of procedural hearings on the 18th.

Coinciding with this criminal litigation is a competing police brutality and false arrest lawsuit by the ACLU. During the first trial Police Commander Keith DeVille admitted the Metropolitan Police Department’s liability “would be limited” in the event of convictions stemming from the J20 protests.

Now a mother, Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, and her child have joined the brutality lawsuit. [Content Notice: This link has footage and descriptions of police brutality]

We left early in the morning and bought day-long Metro passes. They were special inauguration passes with a picture of Donald Trump on them. A. thought these would be good for his memory box. But the memory we left D.C. with that January day felt much more sinister.

After we spent a few hours protesting, I learned that a friend was being detained. When we got to the location, people had gathered across from where a large group of protestors had been cornered by police. A. stood on the base of a lamp post so he could wave to the people he knew. He chanted “Let them go!” gleefully with other protesters. We talked with friends. We shared some of the snacks I had packed in my backpack. We were there for more than half an hour without incident.

But then, without warning, everything changed.

Colour me stunned that another 188 people are going to trial over 1,550 charges pressed during an arrest we’re not even sure is legal because they walked past a broken window.

Read more about the events that day and the lawsuit here.

-Shiv

Siobhan in VICE: The Strange Saga of Arrested Inauguration Protesters’ Seized Property

It was a crisp winter morning when Shay Horse set out to cover the protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration. The Brooklyn-based freelance photojournalist was one of hundreds of reporters who traveled to Washington, DC, to cover a demonstration that would set the tone for Trump’s presidency: defiant chants, smashed windows, and hundreds of people, including Horse, surrounded by police.

The segment of the protest Horse followed gathered around 10 AM at Logan Circle, a couple miles northwest of the Capitol. The energetic, enthusiastic crowd attracted the attention of journalists as they slowly marched south. They didn’t get far—at the corner of L and 12th streets, the march was surrounded by police, who subjected Horse and the rest of the group to clouds of pepper spray, dozens of “stingball” grenades, and strikes from batons. According to a lawsuit later filed by the ACLU, the protesters, legal observers, and journalists were hemmed in so closely by cops they didn’t have room to sit down; officers spent most of the day arresting people, taunting them in response to requests for food, water, and toilets. When they got around to Horse, he was handcuffed so tightly he lost feeling in two fingers.


Read more in VICE.

-Shiv

Fundraiser against felony rioting

When news first broke out of the mass-arrest at J20 (Trump’s inauguration), I expected a non-specific blanket charge as a means of intimidation. I was wrong, as it turns out–the Department of ‘Justice’ alleged eight blanket charges, not just one–but the basic principle remains the same: Hold the group accountable for the actions of a few. While many liberals have tsked tsked about the anarchist presence at the J20 protest, they seemed to miss the actual point: If the J20 charges stick, that’s a blank cheque to not only mass-arrest protesters, but slap them with enough charges to imprison them for life as long as someone tips over a garbage can. It is, effectively, the single greatest assault on American civil rights that can occur in a single trial, regardless of how you feel about anarchists (this is without going into the fact that they’re facing 75+ years for wearing the same colours as someone who broke a window).

Well, as it turns out, the police and prosecutors haven’t waited for the trial. Felony rioting, a crime so loosely defined that you can be charged for being present around someone else’s property destruction, has been applied another ~250 times at protests since J20. Counter Repression Spokes is planning a fundraiser to support the legal organizations that have been helping the accused navigate their trials. These groups include Dead City Legal Posse (for J20); One People’s Project, who have been tracking violent extremist activities that go largely ignored by police; and St. Louis Legal Fund, for bail and defence lawyers for the St. Louis protesters who rightly objected to the acquittal of Jason Stockley, a police officer who admitted on camera that he intended to murder Anthony Lamar Smith, and who attempted to frame Smith by planting evidence.

Please consider donating to the fundraiser here. And also considering raising awareness in your own activities about the way prosecutors across the United States are using felony rioting charges to mass-arrest protesters.

-Shiv

Who the flying fuck thought arrest quotas was a good idea?

Ever wondered what it would look like if the cops were actively incentivized to misbehave?

Wonder no longer.

Follow my words here carefully. In 2013, a federal judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, in a 193 page ruling, stated that New York’s horrendous “stop and frisk” police tactic was unconstitutional because it unfairly and disproportionately targeted “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” She did not rule that “stop and frisk” in and of itself is unconstitutional, but that the way New York was administering it, on the backs of people of color, was. The facts were undeniable, but the practice itself was not overruled.

A staggering 5 million incidents of stop and frisk took place in New York since 2002. Nearly 90% of those stops were of people who were found to be completely innocent. The overwhelming majority of stops, of course, were done against black and Latino residents of the city. When the practice was formally disbanded in New York City after Judge Scheindlin’s decision, it was seen as an enormous victory for police reforms. And it was, but something that is perhaps even more nefarious than stop and frisk unofficially rose up within the NYPD to take its place — a crisis of false arrests driven by an unwritten quota system being overseen by precincts across the city.

Just three days after Donald Trump was inaugurated, New York City agreed to something that is so scandalous, so huge, that only the incoming presidency of Donald Trump could’ve outshined it. New York City agreed to pay $75 million (that’s $75,000,000) out in a police corruption case that should’ve rocked the city and the nation to its core. They likely chose that date and time on purpose. The case had been in litigation for years and years, but the city chose one of the most fragile, news heavy times in the history of modern American media to drop an absolute bomb. The city admitted that it was forced to dismiss over 900,000 arrests and summonses because they simply didn’t have the evidence to back them. These weren’t 900,000 stops that were made, but 900,000 legal actions accusing people of crimes that they did not commit. They were all bogus. Not 9,000. Not 90,000 — which seems like an outrageous number, but 900,000. Not only that, but the case actually had its very own deleted email scandal, where every almost every single email Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly ever sent was deleted — never to be found again. Yeah, really.

Here’s the lawsuit:

Try not to explode when reading more here.

-Shiv

Can I get a cookie for not being a fucking murderer, too?

Remember that time people were celebrating a video of a cop handing a black woman an ice cream cone instead of a ticket or a bullet?

Did anybody notice how fucking absurdly low our standard of behaviour is for cops? (Royal “Our” here–I largely mean white people who are not habitually profiled by the police).

A few months ago when I was walking to the store with my teenage son, a cop followed us on a busy highway, at a walking pace, all the way to the store. He stared at us coldly the entire time. When we entered the store parking lot he followed us in there too. Driving slowly behind us, all the way to the entrance of the store. He stayed there until we went in.

My son was shaking with fear the entire time. “Don’t say anything,” I said quietly, “Don’t make any sudden moves, don’t look at him. Just walk. We’ll be okay soon.”

“I shouldn’t have to be this afraid, Mom,” my son said, his voice wavering.

“I know, baby,” I said.

We entered the store feeling grateful to be alive and aware that if the police officer had decided otherwise, we would not have been.

Today, when I saw this video which has gone viral these past few days as a “feel-good” cop story, I finally made the connection. The video is of a black woman being pulled over by police. There is terror on her face as the officer walks up to her car. His gun is at her eye level. But the officer doesn’t reach for the gun — instead, he reaches for two ice cream cones to hand over to her and her passenger. Her terror gives way to the almost tearful relief that she is not going to come to harm at the hands of these officers. At least not today.

I haven’t killed anyone today. Does that mean should get heaps of praise?

Is that really our standard now?

Hey, I’ve gone an entire day without shooting someone, somebody give me a pat on the fucking head and a gold fucking star.

Jesus fuck.

-Shiv

 

Signal boosting: WeCopwatch

The Establishment has an interview with the creators of WeCopwatch, a group that trails police officers and records their activities during arrests so as to corroborate allegations of police brutality. (emphasis mine)

The WeCopwatch members spotlighted in the documentary — Kevin Moore, David Whitt, and Ramsey Orta — have stepped behind the lens to record police brutality in New York, Baltimore, and St. Louis.

In addition to revealing the importance of exposing abuse, the documentary shines a light on the aftermath of such activism. Orta’s video of Eric Garner’s last words-turned-mantra, “I can’t breathe,” as he died in a headlock on a sidewalk in Staten Island went viral, prompting him to take several interviews. Copwatch reveals this made him a target for the police, who surveilled him until he was brought up on charges. Orta was eventually arrested and found with a gun, and later charged with second-degree criminal possession. Ramsey, too, was arrested, on gun charges and for domestic violence; he maintains his innocence on the latter, and says he’s been harassed by the police since filming Garner’s death.

Copwatch points out that this might be the “cost” that members of the grassroots organization face as they challenge a broken system set up to fail them at every turn.

The film, which just had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, has plans for more festival appearances in the U.S. and Europe in the coming weeks, and is currently pursuing digital and theatrical distribution. I spoke with director Camilla Hall about police brutality against African Americans, knowing your rights, and the process of making her crucial film.

Read more here.
-Shiv

Small sigh of relief

You probably heard of the 15 year-old girl who was manhandled, handcuffed and then pepper-sprayed by Police in Maryland, after she had sustained a concussion from a collision. It was a sickening example contributing to a long demonstration that police are unwilling to de-escalate when it comes to black people. For being assaulted, she was charged with assault, putting the future of this girl at risk all because she didn’t lick the boots of the police just so. 

Thankfully, the charges have been dropped. Frustratingly, she apologized, even though it was the police who assaulted her. The cops, of course, walk away with no consequences.

But, at the very least, this is one person who gets to live another day without being railroaded into prison…

Small victories.

-Shiv

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?

-Shiv