Posts tagged Bay Area

Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d)

Here are the after-effects of some SWAT-police non-lethal force in California, which burned a man to death earlier this month, and set his family’s house on fire in the process. Turns out he was the wrong man, and they were at the wrong house.

According to the Monterey County Weekly, the same police force that burned down the Serrato house and killed Rogelio Serrato in the fire are probing what went wrong in the operation [sic]. Public-spirited fellow that I am, I’ll do what I can to help them figure it out. Here’s what went wrong:

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. Among the most highly trained, and therefore most domineering and violent, are the members of urban SWAT teams, who go beyond everyday bullying and instead are trained to think of themselves as paramilitary strike forces who are occupying hostile territory, and engaged in a war of classic counter-insurgency.

As such, police in general, and police assault forces especially, are trained to enter every encounter with the goal of taking control of the situation, by means of setting up confrontations in situations (no-knock raids, late-night forced-entry raids, etc.) where their chosen targets are most likely to be disoriented and easily terrorized, and by responding with maximal force in the volatile, disorienting confrontations that they create. For the sake of this maximal-force approach, they are equipped with an arsenal of weapons ranging from tasers and clubs to handguns and assault rifles, up to, and including, military helicopters and tanks. Worse, with all these weapons, they have institutionalized a culture of fact-free assertion and lies about highly dangerous weapons that they consider to be categorically non-lethal — and thus to be used as a first resort, in virtually any situation, as long as it might give the cops a tactical advantage over people who they intend to bring under their control (whether or not these people have ever committed any crime at all). These weapons continue to be used with no hesitation and no restraint, and continue to be called non-lethal force, no matter how many people are killed by them. There are, for example, tasers, portable electric torture devices which were originally sold as a less-deadly alternative to using a hand-gun in potentially life-threatening confrontations, but which cops now freely use for as part of pain compliance techniques[1] in everyday confrontations with the public. This would be bad enough on its own, but part of the reason they are used so freely is because they take no real exertion for cops to use, and are consistently billed as non-lethal by police and media, even though there are hundreds of documented cases of people dying after being subjected to repeated taser shocks.

Another non-lethal device, which is especially heavily used by SWAT assault forces during paramilitary forced entry house raids, are so-called flash-bang grenades. These grenades, frequently referred to as non-lethal diversionary devices are actually incendiary grenades, which police hurl into rooms full of people in order to set off an explosion, which they hope will disorient and terrorize the people in the room — many or most of them completely innocent people who just had the misfortune of being in the same building — right before the assault force storms in with guns drawn. This is exactly what they did when they surrounded Rogelio Serrato’s house.

So why were they at Rogelio Serrato’s house anyway? Well, they had a search warrant to serve. They say were going to serve the search warrant using these hyperviolent, extremely dangerous stormtrooper tactics because they believed that Serrato had been with a man who shot up a music club on New Years’ Day. But by the time they got out to Serrato’s house, they already knew that they had the wrong address and the wrong man: he wasn’t at the club when the shooting went down, and the identification of Serrato as the man who was with the shooter was simply a case of mistaken identity.

Nevertheless, even though they found out that Serrato had nothing to do with the violent crime which had supposedly mobilized the SWAT team and justified the decision to storm the house in a paramilitary raid, it did turn out that he had a couple of warrants out on misdemeanors which had nothing to do with the shooting. So, they decided they were going to go ahead and arrest him.

Now, you might think that, once they had found out they were at the wrong address, and the only reason they had to worry about Rogelio Serrato at all was a couple of misdemeanor beefs having nothing to do anyone getting shot, they might have backed off a bit on the level of force; perhaps even just left a couple cops to wait around and pick him up next time he went to work or to the supermarket. But, no. I mean, look, he’s a Suspect Individual, and what’s the point of having such a fine, well-armed paramilitary assault force, if you’re not going to use it?

So instead they surrounded the house, bellowed into their bullhorns, and then, when he didn’t come out on command, they decided to make a hyperviolent forced-entry raid in order to roust him out. So they hurled a couple of their non-lethal incendiary grenades into the house, which exploded, and set the house on fire. Rogelio Serrato, who was — remember — known not to be the man they were after; who was — remember — never suspected of anything other than having a couple misdemeanor warrants out — was killed in the house fire.

So, Monterey County sheriff’s office, here is what I have found in my probe, which I will helpfully share with you. What went wrong here is that the cops believed they were on an operation that required an extraordinarily violent storm-trooper raid, even though they already knew that their original reason for being there turned out to be a complete mistake, and even though they also already knew that the man whose family they were attacking was wanted only on a pair of misdemeanor warrants. In the interests of better protecting their own hides during this needlessly violent high-stakes operation, they felt free to make use of dangerous incendiary grenades which are perfectly capable of setting a building on fire. No matter how many people or buildings are set on fire due to the use of these grenades, police consistently blame the victim (e.g., in another case: It’s unfortunate that those guys packed that house with materials that were flammable[2]), and just go right on asserting that these explosives are non-lethal force, and defend them as tools which provide the necessary means to the police’s completely unnecessary operations. They even have the gall to tell the press that these dangerous explosives are a life-saving tool, when explaining how they just killed a man by using them.

Do you feel safer now?

(Via Dr. Q @ CopBlock 2011-01-19.)

See also:

  1. [1] That is, torture.
  2. [2] !! Apparently a right-thinking, responsible citizen keeps their house on the assumption that at any moment police might be throwing incendiary grenades into their living room.

Four armed deputies nosing around at SubRosa

The Santa Cruz Sentinel inaccurately reported yesterday that the government District Attorney’s office had mounted a smash-and-grab raid on SubRosa Cafe, the Anarchist space in Santa Cruz that has been black-baited and scapegoated over the past month for a riot they had nothing in particular to do with. The situation in Santa Cruz got pretty scary, with SubRosa collective members receiving frequent harassment and death threats from Respectable Citizens. What actually did happen sounds here sounds worrying, but the SubRosa collective has made clear that the newspaper story is wildly inaccurate. There has been no raid so far — although there were four armed deputies dispatched to nose around on a pretty flimsy pretext:

Four armed deputies visited SubRosa Wednesday May 19th. SubRosa was closed at the time. They told a neighbor they wanted to talk to SubRosa staff about worker’s comp issues. One of the deputies was an inspector from the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office.

Beyond this unsuccessful visit, SubRosa has not had any contact with law enforcement. SubRosa was not raided, and our door was not broken. We did not, and do not call the police.

SubRosa is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and has no paid workers and is an all-volunteer space. SubRosa has a business license to operate in the City Of Santa Cruz. SubRosa is in compliance with all city and county fire codes, zoning requirements, entertainment permits, health codes, workers compensation, and sales tax requirements. No workers comp claims have been filed, nor have we been contacted by the Division of Workers Compensation.

— SubRosa (2010-05-21): A Word About the Reported Raid

It sounds to me like the District Attorney’s office and the po-po would like to take the opportunity to go fishing for connections between SubRosa and the riot. Which is worrisome. Not the same thing as the raid the Sentinel spread sensationalistic rumors about — but still a reason to worry, and to offer your support and solidarity to SubRosa if you believe that they should not be threatened, attacked or harassed by the state’s armed goons solely on the basis of their political beliefs. If you’d like to support the SubRosa project, I’m sure they could use it these days;

Donations

SubRosa is fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)(3) non-profit and your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. We will happily provide you with a tax-deductible receipt.

We can accept donations by check, money order, or credit/debit card.

If you can’t make it down to SubRosa, one-time donations can be sent to:

SubRosa
703 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

— SubRosa: Support

The Black Scare in Santa Cruz

From Vandals Strike Downtown Santa Cruz, City on a Hill Press (2010-05-06):

Emily Bernard, a manager at Dell Williams Jewelers, was shocked by the event.

. . . While the police department has not publicly verified individuals or groups that are involved except the two transients arrested . . ., it is investigating the group of vandals as a possible anarchist organization.

Business owners and Santa Cruz community members alike [1] are focusing their blame on SubRosa, an anarchist café, partly because one of the men arrested admitted picking up fliers for the event there.

We can’t let [an] anarchist café exist now that we know the potential of what they can do and publicize, Bernard said.

— Jenny Cain & Julia Reis, City on a Hill Press (2010-05-06): Vandals Strike Downtown Santa Cruz

I don’t know why Emily Bernard thinks that the existence of an anarchist café should be subject to her personal sufferance. She manages a business, but she doesn’t own downtown Santa Cruz. SubRosa pays their rent to a landowner who is willing to have them, and they have as much of a right to be there as anybody else. But in any case, the SubRosa community space is being scapegoated, harassed, and targeted by other business owners for eradication, for no other reason than the fact that they are Anarchists.

See also:

  1. [1] Sic — The article is operating on a rather selective notion of who counts as a Santa Cruz community member (apparently Johanna Isaacson, Simone Chandler, and other Santa Cruz residents who support, or are part of, the SubRosa collective, don’t count).

Rad Geek answers your questions (Cont’d)

Received in my e-mail inbox this past Monday, from someone who has not yet learned that half of all human decency in political thinking is just learning to keep your personal pronouns straight.

From: fuck you
To: AnarchistCafe.org working group
Subject: Message for AnarchistCafe.org working group
Date: 05/03/2010 09:47 AM

You fuckers started a riot in Santa Cruz!!! Why would you have a site like this???? You cased tens of thousands of dollars in damage!

In order:

  1. No, I didn’t.

  2. Because some people evidently don’t understand the ideas of Anarchism or what Anarchism stands for as a social movement. So, I think it’s cool for Anarchists, and people curious about Anarchism, to have places where they can meet each other in an informal environment and talk about what anarchy might mean.

    That, or I’m trying to make it easier for people to organize riots in Santa Cruz, California. You decide.

  3. No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

I’m sorry to hear that rioters smashed up some stores in downtown Santa Cruz and spray-painted some circle-As around the place. But I, fucker that I may be, had nothing in particular to do with that. Neither, incidentally, did most Anarchists in and around Santa Cruz. Some Anarchists believe in street riots as a worthwhile tactic for social transformation; others don’t. In any case, those who want to holler about property damage ought to holler at the individual people who went out and committed it, not at any random stranger who happens to wear the same symbols or read the same books.

Anyway, Comrade You did not provide an e-mail address with the message, so I can’t reply directly. However, they seem to have written me because they had me confused with the SubRosa Cafe in Santa Cruz — which is currently being bearing the brunt of an increasingly nasty campaign of black-baiting, scapegoating, harassment, and direct threats from local Chamber of Commerce types, based solely on their political beliefs, on the assumption that, since they are part of the International Trotskyist-Anarchist Conspiracy, the riot is obviously their fault, even though they had nothing to do with it. In light of which I can only say that I regret that I have no affiliation with the fine folks behind such a wonderful community space. However, the message did inspire me to add a new Spaces section to the AnarchistCafe.org website, where I’m happy to include a listing for the SubRosa project. If you’re in the Bay Area, I encourage you to drop in and show your support. The SubRosa organizers also have a list of Ideas for creating a supportive atmosphere in Santa Cruz.

The present anarchy of our commerce (cont’d)

So, here is the latest on the Alliance of the Libertarian Left at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair.

First — I’d like to give a big shout-out to the three very generous donors who chipped in to cover all of the costs for the table registration fee and the shoestring-budget travel expenses from Las Vegas to San Francisco. Thank you! You’re awesome. Seriously.

Second. Along with the selection of booklets and buttons that we had at last year’s Bay Area bookfair, and last month’s bookfair in L.A., James Tuttle from Tulsa ALL will be bringing along some new literature from ALL and from Corvus. And Southern Nevada ALL will be bringing along a passle of new literature, including four new Market Anarchy Series zines and several new button designs. If you’re curious, or interested, we’ve added the new items to our distro page. If you need some literature and merchandise for your ALL local, or just want to pick some up for yourself, check it out — everything’s available either as an individual item or for discounted bulk orders. It’s a great way to get the word out; also a way that you can pick up some solid left-libertarian materials while helping us defray the costs of supplies and printing for the Bookfair.

Here’s a sampler of the new booklets and buttons we’ve got in at the Distro.

Market Anarchy #13: Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin

Charles Johnson (2008)

(Specially commissioned by James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL.)

Government is Violence / think Anarchy for consensual alternatives [ALL] (1.5″)

Market Anarchy #14: Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved

Roderick Long and Charles Johnson (2005)

(Specially commissioned by James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL.)

Deporten a La Migra! [ALL] (1.5″)

The Best of BAD Press: Tracts in Individualist Anarchism 1986–1999

BAD Press (2001)

i don’t pay war taxes [ALL] (1.5″)

MA15: Property to the People! Expropriate the Expropriators!

Where Are The Specifics? Karl Hess (1969)

NO BORDERS / NO STATE [ALL] (1.5″)

MA16: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity

Charles Johnson (2008)

(Specially commissioned by James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL. Ships on or after March 1, 2010.)

The General Strike

Ralph Chaplin 1933)

(Produced and distributed by Southern Nevada ALL for an ad hoc organizing committee of the IWW in Las Vegas.)

Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities

Timothy C. May (1994)

Market Anarchy Zine Series: full print run

16 Market Anarchy zines for $1500

I’d like to take special note of a couple new items in the Market Anarchy series . There is, first, the most recent issue (#15), which is a reprinting of Karl Hess’s Where Are The Specifics?. For those of you familiar with Rothbard’s (in)famous Confiscation and the Homestead Principle (already part of the Market Anarchy series, as Market Anarchy #1: All Power to the Soviets!), this is the article by Hess that Rothbard was riffing on when he wrote that essay. (The two were first published together in a single issue of Libertarian Forum, along with a polemic against the government assault on People’s Park.) Since the two are of a set, to go along with All Power to the Soviets! I gave the Hess booklet the title Property to the People! Expropriate the Expropriators! Hess’s article is shorter than Rothbard’s, and raises a lot more questions where Rothbard aims for a specific answer (Hess asks what would become of General Motors in a free society; Rothbard tries to answer the question). But it’s notable, among other things, for Hess’s shout-out to militant reclaim-the-land movements in the Southwest U.S. / northeast Aztlan, and for the really excellent programmatic statements at the beginning, on the difference between the defense of individual property and freed-markets, on the one hand, and apologetics for actually-existing property claims and the typical business practices of state capitalists, on the other.

And, second, there is the upcoming issue (#16), which is — at long last — a reprint of my essay Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism, which will be freely available for reprinting with attribution at the end of February 2010. (As a result, the booklet ships on March 1 at the earliest.) It used to cost somewhere between $60 and $80 to get a printed copy of the essay; come March, it can be yours in an attractive booklet edition for only $1.75. The essay ranges pretty widely, from the anarchist case against limited government to radical equality to the interconnection of struggles and thick conceptions of libertarianism to individualist anarchist engagements with radical feminism, the labor movement, and the great capitalist conflation controversy. Thus: The purpose of this essay is political revolution. And I don’t mean a “revolution” in libertarian political theory, or a revolutionary new political strategy, or the kind of “revolution” that consists in electing a cadre of new and better politicians to the existing seats of power. When I say a “revolution,” I mean the real thing: I hope that this essay will contribute to the overthrow of the United States government, and indeed all governments everywhere in the world. You might think that the argument of an academic essay is a pretty slender reed to lean on; but then, every revolution has to start somewhere, and in any case what I have in mind may be somewhat different from what you imagine. For now, it will be enough to say that I intend to give you some reasons to become an individualist anarchist, and undermine some of the arguments for preferring minimalist government to anarchy. In the process, I will argue that the form of anarchism I defend is best understood from what Chris Sciabarra has described as a dialectical orientation in social theory, as part of a larger effort to understand and to challenge interlocking, mutually reinforcing systems of oppression, of which statism is an integral part—but only one part among others. Not only is libertarianism part of a radical politics of human liberation, it is in fact the natural companion of revolutionary Leftism and radical feminism.

(This booklet edition of Liberty, Equality, Solidarity was, incidentally, made possible by a generous commission from James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL.)

Anyway. If you’re there at the Bookfair, these items and some others will be out on the table for you to check out. If circumstances force you to be square rather than there, they are all available now through the Southern Nevada ALL Agitprop & Artwork Distro.

Enjoy!