The View from The Street

Whenever mass protests arise, I’m always indebted to the people and protestors who stand right in the thick of it. Hunter Walker, for instance, gave me quite a bit of insight into the Washington, DC. protests. For the Portland, Oregon protests, I got lucky and someone on this very network has been covering them.

1. yes, we’ve always had a few asshats in the crowd doing asshat-y things like throwing fireworks.

2. We actually didn’t have any of that last night, to the point where there was not even a single instance of coordinated banging on the fence to make noise (and not to damage the fence). Like, this shit was peaceful. 100% peaceful. No excuses peaceful. I was actually surprised we could get more than 1500 people down there for a protest like this, with real, legitimate grievances that would anger any caring heart, and have no one engaging in any of the behaviors that they’ve used to justify past attacks. No one at all. I was so fucking proud of us before the tear gas flew and chaos came down. This shit wasn’t even 1% on the protesters. This shit was all on the feds. All of it.

and,
3. Holy fuck, those assaults last night were BAD. Really bad. Mega bad. Even, if you’ll pardon the pun, MAGA BAD.

Crip Dyke has been on the case, which is amazing when you realize her ‘nym is quite literal.

And now we’re back where we started, with me telling you about the decision I had to make to stay and possibly be pushed away from the car, and because of my slower ability to flee inevitably coming into contact with cops that I **know** assault crutch users as if they were armed. If I fell, would I even be able to get up? Especially if the club was aimed at an arm or wrist?

I talk with BFF and she’s scared. We haven’t been together, but she has her own scary stories about how aggressive the cops have been tonight. She convinces me to get in the car. We’re sitting. We’re talking. We make the decision. We leave.

I felt bad retreating with others still facing the Feds’ rage, but it was the right decision.

Tonight was so bad.

If you’re listening to me, if you’ve been listening to me the past 11 days, I’m telling you, however bad the other nights have been, however much you thought those nights sounded scary, they weren’t tonight. Tonight was its own thing, a category to itself.

She has an extensive series on the protests, in fact. You can learn that expired tear gas was fired, watch as she ponders discomfort, cringe as she reveals the Feds were poisoning the air, enjoy a few flowers, witness a police-induced stampede, dream about glitter, observe people getting tear gassed without warning, sigh as people fall short, see the change that happens when Portland gets national press coverage or when the Mayor is nearby, listen to a detailed account of police violence, rewind back to when she was first tear-gassed as well as a first set of photos from the protests. It’s well worth your time.

I know it may not seem that way. Click on the first link to her blog, and you’ll see I’m only getting around to sharing these links a month after they were written. Why on Earth would I link to stale news, surely the protests stopped when the Feds pulled out?

The worst nights follow the same script: A large group takes to the streets calling for an end to police violence and systemic racism. A small fraction commits low-level crimes — often lighting small fires, graffiti-ing buildings and throwing fireworks or water bottles at officers. The police respond with force against the entire crowd.

Over the last month, demonstrators have been battered with batons as they left protests. Police have charged at crowds until they’re pushed deep into residential neighborhoods. Journalists have been shoved and arrested. Tear gas, while used more sparingly than in the early days of the protests, is threatened near nightly. And police regularly shut down protests by declaring them riots. That happened twice over the weekend, though police declined to intervene as far-right activists, some brandishing firearms, brawled with counter-protesters for hours on Saturday afternoon. […]

The mayor recognizes the problem with these scenes that play out on the streets of his city every night: non-violent protesters facing force as police respond to the misbehavior of a few. He just hasn’t found the answer.

“the weekend” referred to above is the weekend of August 22nd. The protests didn’t stop, we just stopped paying attention to them when the level of violence dropped to an “acceptable” level. As I type this, lawsuits are being launched against the US federal government over their behaviour in Portland. The events Crip Dyke documented continue to have resonance, and are due to be replicated elsewhere.

In fact it’ll probably happen this week. Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by the police of Kenosha, Wisconsin, as his three children watched on in horror. On day three of the protests against the incident, a gunman opened fire on peaceful protestors, killing two and wounding a third. By now, you shouldn’t be shocked at what happened next.

The apparent shooter, meanwhile, was seen on video walking away from the scene — his AR-style rifle clearly visible, his hands above his head. But Kenosha police who were responding to the reports of gunfire showed no interest in arresting or even questioning the man. Instead, they asked him for directions. “Is someone injured, straight ahead?” an officer asks him via loudspeaker. “Get out of the road,” said another.

He even approached an idling police car, going up close to the window, but then appeared to change his mind and walked away.

Brent Ford, 24, a photographer, witnessed the entire scene. “He had his hands up and they told him to get out of there, even though everyone was yelling that he was the shooter,” Ford told VICE News. “The police didn’t seem to hear or care what the crowd was saying.”

Yep, the police protected a murderer. After all, he was one of their own.

His connections to law enforcement, however, go beyond his vocal support of police on social media. In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday, the Grayslake Police Department confirmed that [the shooter] was a former member of the Lindenhurst, Grayslake, Hainesville Police Department’s Public Safety Cadet Program. According to a description that was recently removed from the department’s official website, the program “offers boys and girls the opportunity to explore a career in law enforcement” through “hands-on career activities,” such as riding along with officers on patrol and firearms training.

Along with the page describing the Public Safety Cadet Program, the organization’s official Facebook account was deleted after images from 2018 of a boy in a police uniform [resembling the shooter] began to circulate online.

Before he killed two people, he was apparently being thanked by the police for being there. Even as first-degree murder charges were announced against him, his actions were being obfuscated in order to make them easier to defend. And while I’m not aware of any Republican amounting an explicit defense, this is a party that celebrated two white people who brandished weapons against peaceful protesters, headed by a person who views all protestors as terrorists and fantasizes about torturing people he hates. They have innocent blood on their hands, and they’re likely to get a fresh coat of it.

We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets. My team just got off the phone with Governor Evers who agreed to accept federal assistance (Portland should do the same!) TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!

Portland could easily become the new normal in the US. This makes Crip Dyke’s series all the more vital to read.

The Crossroads

Apparently I know the solar system very well?

I attended a lecture on Carl Sagan, hosted by the Atheist Society of Calgary, and part of the event was a trivia challenge. While I wasn’t the only person at my table offering answers, my answers seemed to be the ones most consistently endorsed by the group. Assisted by some technical issues, our team wound up with a massive lead over the second-place finisher. The organizer from ASC surprised us all by saying everyone at our table could pick up a free T-shirt. I wasn’t terribly keen on wearing their logo, but I wandered over to the merch table anyway.

Sitting among the other designs was one that stopped me cold.

[Read more…]

Oh, Alberta

There used to be a rule in my province: if you worked overtime, you could be compensated in two ways. Either your boss would pay you 150% of your normal hourly rate for those hours, or they could give you an equal number of hours off in a future shift. The loophole is obvious: pressure your workers into taking time off, and you don’t have to pay them that extra 50%. The New Democratic Party plugged that loophole over a year ago, bringing us in line with other provinces.

In their election platform, the United Conservative Party pledged to reintroduce the loophole, allowing employers to fleece their employees again and hurting the bottom line of hundreds of thousands of Albertans.

The UCP also pledged to remove the provincial “carbon tax.” This also takes money from Albertans, as the tax is proportional to the amount of carbon everyone consumes. Since industry is by far the greatest polluter, it’s easy to use the taxes on them to offer rebates for ordinary citizens. Indeed, roughly 60% of us paid little or no carbon tax thanks to that trick. To make matters worse, removing the provincial carbon levy doesn’t mean Albertans are free of said “tax.” On the contrary, our federal government imposes a carbon tax if your province doesn’t have one. The UCP solution? Sue the federal government, on the grounds that… they can’t collect taxes, I guess? The UCP is almost certain to lose in court and charge the legal fees to the taxpayers of Alberta.

Oh also, the UCP want to cut the minimum wage. Not for everyone, mind you, just the workers that people don’t care too much about. Meanwhile they want to cut the business tax rate, despite Alberta already having the lowest business taxes in all of Canada, and are aiming to slash the province’s debt, at a time when we also have the smallest debt in all of Canada. Social service cuts are sure to follow.

Their platform, in sum, kneecaps most Albertans. So how on Earth can you hope to win their votes? All you USians in the crowd can probably guess this one. From the UCP platform:

  • Establish an ‘Energy War Room’ to respond in real time to the lies and myths told about Alberta’s energy industry through paid, earned, and social media.
  • Seek out and support Alberta energy companies that are willing to challenge the campaign of defamation by anti-Alberta special interests, similar to Resolute Forest Products’ defamation suit against Greenpeace for $300 million in damages.
  • Launch a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act into the foreign sources of funds behind the anti-Alberta energy campaign. The inquiry will have the power to compel witness testimony, and have a $2.5 million budget.

That’s right, the UCP is proposing a “war” against foreign environmentalists. Local ones either don’t exist, or are “fake” Albertans under foreign influence. It’s a fanciful conspiracy theory, built right into their core platform. Add in some identity politics (Campus free speech! Trudeau sucks!) and grandiose claims of chickens in every pot, and you’ve got most of their election strategy.

The missing bit is something USians are also familiar with, but may not have guessed.

The leader of the new United Conservative Party (UCP) is already promising not to act on a resolution passed over the weekend at the UCP’s first policy convention. Members voted in favour of parents being notified when their child joins an after-school club, including a gay-straight alliance. But Kenney quickly poured cold water on the idea. […]

“Let me be absolutely stone-cold clear: a United Conservative government will not be changing law or policy to require notification of parents when kids join GSAs,” Kenney said.

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United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney on Tuesday defended his pledge to proclaim the Education Act (2014), which would remove the prohibition on parental notification if a child joins a gay-straight alliance.

Kenney has faced backlash from LGBTQ advocates, teachers and parents since he announced the UCP education platform on Monday. A UCP government would proclaim the former Progressive Conservative government’s Education Act (2014) to replace the NDP’s amended School Act.

Technically Kenney didn’t lie, in the same way that Alabama technically didn’t ban abortion or William Barr technically summarized the contents of the Special Council Report. On other topics, however, he steals directly from Trump’s playbook.

Kenney’s repeated insistence Monday that the change would simply align Alberta with overtime laws in “in every other province” is not true. In every province and territory where workers can bank overtime, employers are required to pay out those hours at 1.5 times the hourly wage. In B.C., it goes up to 2.0 for anything exceeding 12 hours of overtime.

“This does not affect overtime pay. I repeat — it does not affect or diminish overtime pay,” Kenney said Monday when asked about the line in the UCP platform which he unveiled over the weekend in Calgary.

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“The NDP, of course, is running a fear and smear campaign,” Kenney said. “All we are proposing is that we return to exactly the same [overtime] rules that existed for, as far as I know, decades in Alberta without any, as far as I know, reported abuses.” […]

[Christina] Gray rejects Kenney’s contention that no one complained about the old rules. “I heard people complained during the consultations,” she said. “I know that many workers felt that it didn’t make sense for Alberta to be out of step with the rest of Canada.”

Those South of the ’49 tend to view Canadians as more enlightened and sensible. But Ontario knew who Doug Ford was via his brother Rob Ford, knew they were getting someone who ran their own partisan fake news organization, knew of all the scandals and personality cult surrounding him, knew that in Canada majority governments can do whatever they want, and yet they still handed him a clear majority. Alberta’s United Conservative Party were plagued with scandals over homophobic and racist candidates, and Albertans didn’t like the party’s leader all that much, yet also handed the UCP a clear majority. In the USA, the people involved with their horrific family separation policy could forever be tarred by the association; in Alberta, we just rewarded the guy in charge of our horrific family separation policy with high office. The government of the province next door, Saskatchewan, is looking to follow the lead of Alberta’s UCP. Out of ten provincial governments, in fact, seven skew conservative. At the federal level, the Conservative party is likely to win the next election, thanks in part to systemic racism.

It’s slowly dawning on me that Canadians are no more progressive than our US friends. And now, with the NDP officially out of power and the United Conservatives firmly in, I’m about to get a four year dose of conservatism. “Hellberta,” indeed.