Posts tagged Brooklyn

Occupied Territory

Day after day, our political leaders remind us of human rights violations happening all across the world, yet they often fail to recognize and stand up against the violations happening in their own backyards. In communities of color, young people feel under siege. Kimani’s murder and the resistance displayed by young people in response must be taken as a continued call to action. We must ask ourselves: why are we allowing this to happen? Where have we failed in organizing a long-term movement?

Omowale Adewale, a father and community organizer from Brooklyn has a radical solution: The only negotiation I want conducted on my behalf with the police is withdrawal of their paramilitary troops from my community, which includes community affairs, helicopters, police horses, barricades, he says, likening the need for police to turn over control of our communities to that of the US Military’s efforts in withdrawing from Iraq. His words echo the sentiment running through Flatbush in this traumatic moment.

— Rosa Clemente, Why Did Kimani Gray Have to Die?
in EBONY, 18 March 2013 (second boldface added)

Cops Are Here To Protect You (Cont’d)

Happy Ides of March! To-day is Tyrannicide Day (observed); to-day is also the International Day of Action Against Police Brutality. I don’t know why anyone would be so paranoid or anti-government or anti-cop as to call for protests against police brutality. Everyone knows that cops are here to protect you.

  • Unnamed 19-year-old single mother, Milwuakee, Wisconsin [t/w: sexual violence committed by a police officer]: a 19-year-old single mother, who has chosen to remain anonymous, had a brick thrown through her window, and someone trying to kick in her front door, so she called 911. When the police showed up to help, they took her brother outside and sent her boyfriend out of the house; then one of the cops, Police Officer Ladmarald Cates, rapist on patrol, took the opportunity to corner her while she was alone and repeatedly rape her. When she tried to get outside to tell other police about what happened to her, her rapist grabbed her, spun her around, and had her arrested for assaulting a police officer. She was held in jail for 12 hours while other police called her a liar until she was finally taken to a hospital to be tested with a rape kit. Then they sent her back to the county jail and imprisoned her for four days without any charges ever being filed against her. The police force eventually fired Cates for idling and loafing on duty [sic!] after they confronted him with DNA evidence of the rape, but the local DA declined to prosecute. The survivor was eventually able to find a lawyer who helped her take the case to the Feds for a civil-rights complaint; when they investigated, they found out that before he raped her, Police Officer Ladmarald Cates had already been investigated five times before for illegal behavior, including three previous allegations of sexual abuse. (The local DA had declined to prosecute in those cases, too.)

  • Bassil Abdelal of Chicago, Illinois: Abdelal, the owner of B&B Beauty Supply on the West Side of Chicago, was robbed at gunpoint last year while trying to close up his store. Somebody who saw what was going down called the police from a CTA station, so the robbers ran out of the store. He stepped out to see where they were going to, and picked up a gun they had dropped to protect himself. Then, when the police showed up to help, Abdelal dropped the gun, but they shot him 11 times while he screamed Don’t shoot; I am the store owner. Then they handcuffed him in the ambulance and denied him medical treatment while they questioned him. Then they came by the hospital again in the middle of the night and handcuffed him to the bed, and harassed and interrogated him in repeated visits for over a week.

  • Delma Towler of Altavista, Virginia: Towler, an 83-year-old woman, called 911 to report a burglary at her home. Then she went out into her own backyard, with her gun to protect herself; the police, showing up on the scene to help, gunned down Delma Towler — shooting her three times and killing her in her own backyard — for not responding to shouted orders that she could not hear without her hearing aid. According to the press report, The officer, who hasn’t been named, has been placed on administrative leave … . He is believed to be a veteran [sic] with more than 10 years’ experience in the force… . The Altavista Police Department chief Clay Hamilton said an internal investigation found the officer involved was not at fault as he followed department policy.

  • Kristen Walker and her boyfriend James, of Rochester, New York [t/w: traumatizing harassment, sexist language, physical violence against a rape survivor by police]: Walker (who is white) and her boyfriend (who is African-American) were harassed by a security guard while shopping in a convenience store late at night earlier this month; then after leaving the store found that they were being followed by police officers. It turns out they were being followed because the security guard — himself an off-duty RPD police officer — had called 911 to tell his buddies that he thought Walker and her boyfriend were suspicious because they were carrying a massive amount of cash on them (they had just gotten their tax return). So, hot on the scent of a possible drug seizure, two police cruisers pulled them over and multiple officers swarmed the car to demand ID and interrogate the two of them separately. When Kristen Walker asked why they pulled them over, the cop replied None of your fucking business, we don’t have to have a fucking reason to stop you. When she pointed out they need to have reasonable suspicion to justify a traffic stop, the police officer told her Yeah?, you smart ass little bitch, get the fuck out of the car. Then he grabbed her by the arm to pull her out of the car and wrenched it behind her back, marched her over to the police car and slammed her head on the trunk. Walker, a rape survivor, was alarmed and told the cops she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the sexual assault; they ignored her and had both male officers conduct a pat-down search. One police officer told Walker I should beat the fuck out of you, and threatened to pepper-spray her in the face while she was hand-cuffed in the back of the police-cruiser. When she asked for the name and badge number of the police officer, he told her Blow me you little whore, and shut the car door. While she was in tears, a female officer came by, looked inside, and said Aw, look at the little baby crying. When the police failed to find anything in her car, and another police officer told told her they were going to release her and her boyfriend, she again asked for their names and badge numbers, and the cop told her If you get their names and badge numbers you’re either going to jail for disorderly conduct or they’ll take you to the hospital for a mental health arrest. When she got home, she dialed 911 and asked for a supervisor to get the names and badge numbers of the police officers who had pulled them over, interrogated her, harassed her, humiliated her in the most vulgar and violent ways, searched her, beat her, threatened her repeatedly with even more extreme physical violence, re-traumatized her and violated her civil rights in every way over carrying too much cash which is, as you may know, not actually against any law. The officer on the phone explained why they had been singled out for being stopped and searched but also refused to give her the names or the badge numbers of the officers who did it. When a local journalist put up a story about it on the Internet and contacted the city government in Rochester, he was told that they will not be releasing the names of the officers pending an internal affairs investigation.

  • All domestic violence victims, New York, New York: the New York Police Department recently issued an order to all police ordering them to run criminal checks on victims who call 911 to report domestic violence to the police. So now if your partner is beating you, and you call 911, when the police show up to help they will also be checking your name in all NYPD databases to determine whether they’ll be arresting you for anything including for minor offenses like unpaid tickets. According to the New York Post, A [police] source said that even if detectives wanted to take pity on someone who was battered by a spouse, they would feel pressure to make an arrest to avoid getting in trouble with superiors. We have every right to arrest that person at that moment, the source said.

  • All K-12 students, Pennsylvania: Bristol Township School District allows them. Neshaminy and Pennridge schools do not. And Palisades is discussing whether to permit them. But most local school districts have no specific policy on strip-searches of students. Without a policy, there are no guidelines, meaning students can be forced to take off all clothing if suspected of carrying prohibited contraband or material that could pose a threat [for example, dangerous substances like ibuprofen —R.G.]. Statewide, more than 100 school districts have adopted a policy example provided by the Pennsylvania School Board Association in 2009, which sets out the circumstances in which it believes a strip-search would be reasonable and necessary. Palisades introduced its proposed strip-search policy during the school board’s Feb. 6 meeting, leading several parents to speak out against such searches. It defines when administrators could legally strip-search students: a reasonable suspicion that something was being concealed that would be a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the school population and could be recovered only by the removal or searching of a student’s clothes… . There are no possible suspicions that could possibly make it reasonable for school administrators or resource-cops to ever have the power to force a student to undergo a strip-search.

  • Charlene Holly, six children, and the family dog, Samson, of Chicago, Illinois. Nine Chicago police officers, lead by Officer Patrick Kinney (the rest of the officers are not named in court documents), broke down the door and forced their way into Holly’s apartment, dressed in army fatigues and with guns drawn, screaming Get on the ground! and demanding at gunpoint that an 11 month old child show his hands. They killed the family dog by choke-dragging him up from the basement and then left him in the upstairs laundry room, where he died. When the police finally showed their warrant, the warrant said that it was for a man named Sedgwick M. Reavers and it was made out for the second-floor apartment at 10640 S. Prairie Street. The apartment that this paramilitary squad had broken into, with guns drawn, was the first floor apartment. When Samuel Holly, Charlene Holly’s husband, tried to make a complaint about the wrong-address storm-trooper raid, the warrantless search and the killing of their dog, the police would not take his complaint over the phone; when he showed up at the police station the next day, they refused to take the complaint, and told him that he should have made a complaint last night.

  • Deborah Braillard, of Maricopa County, Arizona: Braillard, a diabetic, was arrested on minor drug charges and thrown into the Maricopa County jail. She died in jail because the sheriff’s office denied her medical care for three days, even after other inmates warned the jailers that she needed help. This was back in 2005; the story is in the news again because the Maricopa County sheriff’s office has just agreed to make Maricopa taxpayers pay $3,250,000 to Braillard’s family in order to settle the case, after a judge ruled that jurors could be told that key evidence in the case had been destroyed by the sheriff’s department. Of course the people who personally decided to imprison Deborah Braillard and to kill her by denying her access to needed medical care will never pay a cent out of their own pockets.

  • Ferdinand Hunt and Sidney Newman, of New Orleans, Louisiana. Hunt and Newman, two black teenagers, were hanging out on Conti Street after a Mardi Gras parade, waiting for Hunt’s mother to come back from getting some food. Nine plainclothes State Police officers and a NOPD cop then rushed them, surrounded them, and then — in spite of neither young man posing any physical threat at all — were caught on video throwing them across the sidewalk into a wall and beat them. The state troopers claimed that while they were patrolling the French Quarter, they noticed two individuals who appeared to be juveniles and decided to ID them; this is, apparently, how they go about finding out who’s who in New Orleans.

  • Kimani Gray of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York: plainclothes cops swarmed Kimani Gray, a 16 year old boy, late at night, claiming that he adjusted his waistband and attempted to leave when he saw them. So instead of letting him leave peacefully, they pulled him aside and confronted him. Then they shot at him 11 times, killing him. They claim he was pointing a gun at them. Gray was hit with seven of the 11 shots fired; three shots hit him in the back. Less than a year before, plainclothes NYPD drug cops shot and killed an unarmed 23-year-old woman, Shantel Davis, only blocks away. After vigils and protests against police violence in Brooklyn in the wake of the most recent shooting, riot cops set up roadblocks on Church Avenue, grabbed Gray’s sister Mahnefah off the street, kettled protesters and arrested 46 people, mostly for disorderly conduct..

  • Jabbar Campbell of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York [t/w: homophobic language, graphic photo of injuries inflicted by police against a gay man]: Jabbar Campbell, a gay African-American man living in Brooklyn, threw a gay-pride party at his apartment. Police got an excessive-noise complaint related to the party; but when a squad of police showed up at the apartment, they claim that he ignored their demands to discontinue a party and then pushed Sergeant Juan Morero, attempted to flee and flailed his arms at cops and behaved belligerently. Campbell denies that that’s true — but whether it is or not, what happened next is that a gang of nine cops forced their way into the building, deliberately turned off a surveillance camera in the building, and then proceeded to hold him down and beat him repeatedly, punching him in the face and striking him with clubs and flashlights until he lost consciousness, all the while screaming You fucking fag and homo. He was taken to Kings County Hospital with a black eye, a split lip and a bloodied mouth, needing 9 stitches and then taken to jail for 24 hours on charges of resisting arrest, attempted assault and marijuana possession. Police questioned party-goers about whether they were having gay orgies or screwing each other. When Campbell filed a lawsuit against the NYPD over the beating, more armed men, wearing police jackets, broke into his house without a warrant and with their badges hidden from view, refusing to give their names, demanding ID from the gusts at Campbell’s house and searching everyone there. According to Jabbar Campbell, the officers who attacked him are still on the job, although they are being investigated by IAB (internal affairs bureau) and the ADA.

  • Stanley Gibson of Las Vegas, Nevada: Gibson, a 43-year-old US Army veteran suffering from severe anxiety and depression, had a series of run-ins with police over the course of two days and was acting increasingly erratic and disoriented. Police boxed in Gibson’s car on the road; when he refused to come out after an hour, the cops decided to force him out by breaking his windows with beanbag rounds and then filling the car with pepper-spray. Instead, Police Officer Jesus Arevalo fired seven live rounds from his rifle, killing Gibson, who was disoriented, completely unarmed, and had made no attempt either to come out of the car or to attack the police. Back in December, a government grand jury declined to indict Arevalo on murder charges after evidence was presented during hearings closed to the public and Gibson’s family. Now that the case has already been decided using secret evidence, Metro is using Gibson’s case as the first case for their new Police Fatality Public Factfinding Review, a public process created by Las Vegas Metro Police Department’s Sheriff Douglas Gillespie and the Las Vegas Police Protective Association’s Chris Collins to replace the previous Coroner’s Inquest system for police shootings with a new system intended to make the hearings less adversarial and promote the dissemination of information to the public. (To the public, natch; this only goes one way. In the new dissemination-system there is no opportunity for testimony from witnesses, no power to compel police to testify under oath, and no representation from the victim’s family or non-police witnesses.)

  • Alex Landau of Denver, Colorado [t/w: reporting of racist language and extremely graphic photos of injuries from the beating]: Landau, a 19-year-old Community College of Denver student, was pulled over by police, allegedly for an illegal left turn. Cops escalated the traffic stop into a drug search; when they asked to search the trunk of his car, Landau refused, and asked whether they had a warrant — so a group of cops punched him in the face, then beat him for several minutes, after he fell to the ground, with fists, a radio, and a flashlight. They pressed a service revolver to his head and threatened his life. The cops claim they thought they saw a gun, but Landau was in fact completely unarmed. After they stopped beating him the cops laughed at him and said, Where’s that warrant now you fucking nigger? [sic] Then they dragged him across the grass and left him to bleed; they denied him medical treatment for so long, while getting photos taken for their paperwork, that he went into shock on the way to the hospital. He needed 45 stitches and suffered a broken nose, a concussion, and brain injuries from his severe beating at the hands of the police.

Data-less Trend Story of the Year

I know, it’s early, but I feel like this one is going to be hard to top. Last week, in the pages of the New York Times, we learn, from a completely impressionistic, completely dataless smattering of interviews that some vaguely-defined mass of hipsters from Brooklyn are starting to ponder the unthinkable: a move to the suburbs, and beginning an as-yet completely undocumented mass exodus from Brooklyn Now if you read through the story you will find that this reporting is based on a series of interviews with a handful of married couples, several of them with young children and almost all of them in their late thirties, punctuated in the middle by an interview with a professional realtor who has a direct financial and self-promotional interest in talking up the trend. Now of course neighborhoods and boroughs are constantly changing and it’s perfectly possible that something interesting is really systematically going on[1] — actually there are a few different interesting things that might be systematically going on. Or it might be nothing.[2] In either case this would certainly be an interesting topic to get some systematic data on.

However, what we get from the New York Times is, instead, a colorfully illustrated discussion of the stunning news that when a subcultural demographic was partly identified and defined by the fact that they are young, then eventually they will get old. And when they get older — especially once they get into their mid- to late-30s, and especially if they get married and have kids — then many of them will move out of the big city and into the suburbs. And when people of a particular age reach the particular age where some of them start moving to the suburbs, it turns out that those who do take their fashions and their market niches with them.

Also, this reporter has discovered that people who are now in their late 30s and raising children find the city they’re living in no longer feels as carefree as it did when they were young, unattached, and had fewer responsibilities.

I am sure that the bakery with the bird silhouettes is really quite cute.

  1. [1] The theory of the article is that gentrifying hipsters and artistes are now being driven out of Brooklyn by the real-estate prices they helped to drive up. Maybe. Or maybe not. This is the sort of thing you’d want to collect data on.
  2. [2] In the absence of any data, of course, we have no idea how many people are moving out, and no idea how many people, with what sorts of backgrounds, are or are not moving in to replace them.

The Police Beat

  • Police torture in the U.K. Metropolitan Police Department. London, England. Narcs working for the London city government’s Metropolitan Police force are under investigation for allegedly waterboarding prisoners in order to coerce evidence in an interrogation for a marijuana case.

  • Botched SWAT raid. Officer Allen Hill. North Richland Hills, DFW, Texas. In 1999, a paramilitary SWAT squad stormed a house in North Richland Hills (a little city near Fort Worth) based on a search warrant based on a confidential informant’s uncorroborated claim that the house was full of marijuana. When a bunch of heavily armed strangers broke down his door and stormed into his house, Troy James Davis allegedly grabbed a gun and pointed it at the home invaders. (His mother believes that the gun was planted by police. I don’t care whether it was or not; a man’s got a right to defend his home when armed strangers bust their way through the door.) The cops gunned him down. Turns out there were no drugs anywhere in the house. Turns out that the warrant was based on a completely unvetted e-mailed tip from an anonymous snitch. Even the cop who gunned Troy Davis down now says it was a wrongful death and he never should have been there. Now, ten years later, after a long lawsuit, the city government has settled up with the victim’s parents for $100,000. They will, of course, send along the bill for this murder to a bunch of innocent North Richland Hills taxpayers, who had nothing to do with it.

  • Rapists on patrol, (cont’d.) Officer Thomas Tolstoy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Officer Thomas Tolstoy, a narc in Officer Jeffrey Cujdik’s increasingly notorious shake-down squad, used the opportunity of his team’s repeated evidence-less hyperviolent paramilitary drug raids to repeatedly pull women in the houses being raided into side rooms in order to sexually assault them [possible trigger warning]. At least two women have come forward independently so far to testify against Tolstoy. Tolstoy has not yet been charged with any crime; the department’s response so far has been to reassign this accused serial rapist to an easy desk job for the past three weeks. (Via Radley Balko 2009-06-02; as Balko says, If these were normal citizens, and not cops, they’d have been indicted by now.)

  • Officer Anthony Abbate. Chicago, Illinois. Officer Anthony Abbate has finally been convicted of aggravated battery by a Chicago judge. Abbate was caught on video throwing, punching, and kicking a 26-year-old woman named Karolina Obrycka. She was tending bar when Abbate, who was drunk and off duty, tried to shove his way behind the bar to steal a drink after she refused to serve him anymore. After she told him to move and he refused, Obrycka tried to shove him back out from behind the bar. So Abbate beat the living hell out of her, and then called it self-defense when he came up for trial. Well, why not? After all, he hit his little head, and he only had, what, about 125 pounds on her? Abbate waived his right to a jury trial, knowing that out-of-control agents of the State have much better chances with a government judge; he was initially charged with 15 different counts, all of which but one were dropped in the course of the two-day trial. Had he been on the clock rather than drunk out of his mind when he did the battering, that one would almost surely have been dropped, too. We know this because of…

  • She fell. (Cont’d.) Officer Wayne Simoes. Yonkers, New York. See William Grigg, Pro Libertate (2009-05-30): Just a Child With A Temper [Trigger warning. Includes graphic images of and video of Irma Marquez’s injuries, suffered at the hands of a male police officer.] In which the male State once again once again assumes the role of a stereotypical abusive husband. A 44 year old woman named Irma Marquez tries to get a look to see if her niece, who was injured in a fight that had just been broken up, is O.K. The medical worker on the scene shoved her away; she stumbled back into the cops. At which point Officer Wayne Simoes tries to wrench her arm behind her back in order to arrest her (for what?); she tries to shake his hand off of her arm, and he responds by picking her up and body-slamming this drunken middle-aged woman face-first into the floor, then jamming his knee onto her back and cuffing her in order to arrest her for disorderly conduct and interfering. [Trigger warning.]

    The story is in the news again because a jury just recently voted to acquit Officer Wayne Simoes on all charges.

  • Bashers on patrol. Brooklyn, New York. In Crown Heights last month, a gang of cops rolled out to investigate a call about unruly and intoxicated people outside a night-club. When J.G. (Jeanette Grey, a 31 year old black lesbian) and Tiffany Jimenez (a 19 year old Latina lesbian) heard the noise outside and ran out to see if their friends were O.K., the cops (who were busy ordering bystanders to disperse when the two left the club) then grabbed them (for interfering, or whatever), slammed them to the ground, beat the two women with nightsticks while they tried to surrender, shouting You fuckin’ bitch-ass dyke and We are having some dyke pussy in here tonight during the beating, and then arrested them for resisting arrest. The NYPD assures us that the complaint is being internally investigated.

  • Now they want a task force. Officer Andrew Dunton. New York, New York. Meanwhile, also in New York, David Patterson, arbitrary Governor over the state of New York, wants a high-profile special political task force to investigate the fatal shooting of an innocent black man by a couple of NYPD cops while the man was trying to use his handgun to protect himself from a criminal trying to break into his car. The cops had a history (1, 2 of repeated civilian complaints [sic] year after year. Wonder why Patterson would put his neck out to demand this high-profile independent task force instead of the usual internal investigation? Oh, yeah, because the victim was an off-duty cop.

  • Warminster Police Department. Warminster Heights, Pennsylvania. Rich Pietras, Bucks County Courier Times (2009-05-29): Moms complain of excessive force by police. Lydia Isaac’s car got clipped in a hit-and-run and she pulled into a laundromat parking lot to confront the man who did it. The argument got heated and the cops got called. While they were busy Investigating, Lydia’s son 13-year-old son Marc Isaac got on his cell phone to call his dad to let him know what happened. The cops ordered Marc to wait where he was; when he continued walking, trying to explain that he was on the phone with his dad, five of the cops grabbed him, slammed him down onto the hood of his mom’s car, and then, while this 13-year-old boy was being physically restrained by five grown-ass men, beat him on the side of the head with a flashlight or baton, and then maced him.

  • Officer Kristen Johnson, Officer Nicholas Webster, Officer Robert Buquo, Officer Glenn Pearson, an Lieutenant Lynn Young. Mesa, Arizona. Four Mesa police officers and a lieutenant are under separate internal investigations. In the one case which has grabbed all the headlines, a woman miscarried a 12-to-14-week pregnancy in a motel room; when the manager called 911 and three cops showed up, they reckoned the most appropriate thing to do with a woman grieving the loss of her baby was to arrest the father on some drug charges and then wrap up the miscarried fetus and flush it down the motel room toilet. Meanwhile, Officer Nichoas Webster is being Internally Investigated after he was caught on tape slamming a hand-cuffed man’s head against the trunk of his police car and then slamming him into a chain-link fence. This Dangerous Individual was being transported to jail on suspicion of urinating in public and jaywalkinng.

  • Sergeant Mark Crowe, et al. Bryan County, Georgia. Back in April, Tommy Lee Williams was working out in his grandmother’s yard when a white narc named Mark Crowe (then a deputy for the county government’s sheriff) rolled up and started hassling him, repeatedly calling him Leroy. (Crowe claims that he thought Mr. Williams was someone else, an old classmate of his. Crowe was in the neighborhood on other business, and apparently not in uniform at the time, so as far as Mr. Williams knew Crowe was just some random stranger yelling Hey Leroy at him while he was trying to get some yard work done.) Mr. Williams asked Crowe why he was messing with him, and then told him to go away. According to Mr. Williams and other witnesses, Crowe responded by going off on a tirade against Williams, calling him boy and nigger along the way.

    According to Crowe himself, Mr. Williams responded to the exchange of words by cussing Crowe out from the private property of his grandmother’s front yard, and then approached his car, at which point Crowe decided to arrest Mr. Williams for the non-crime of cussing at a police officer who hassles you. Then Crowe tied to grab Williams, and when Williams struggled, eventually called in two of his gang buddies to pull Williams down into a ditch, hold him down, handcuffed him, pepper-sprayed him, beat him in the head with fists and batons, and tasered him. When Williams’ family and neighbors tried to get the cops to stop this gang beat-down, five of them, including his 81-year-old grandmother, were arrested on charges from obstruction of police to terroristic threats. The cops also seized the cell phones they were using to take photos of what was happening. This rampaging police riot against an 81 year old woman and an unarmed man who was being held down by three heavily-armed cops is of course dignified as a melee by the local papers.

    The six victims of this racist police rampage filed suit in the county Superior Court, then withdrew and re-filed the suit in federal court after the local court refused to order the police accused of participating in the beating from patrolling the neighborhood where their victims live. In any case, all this is in the news again because, in the meantime, the city government of Pembroke decided to appoint Sergeant Mark Crowe as chief of their police force.

  • Tallman Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Speaking of racial slurs and melees, in New Bedford, Mass., a gang of over a dozen cops stormed a poor, mostly-Latino neighborhood on Tallman Street in pursuit of a single young man, Jonathan Natal, for allegedly riding a minibike with no helmet and without a license. When he didn’t stop on command, they chased him; when he ran off on foot and hopped into nearby backyards, they called in 12 more cops and shoving people to the ground, knocking down doors, storming houses, calling the residents spics and yelling at them to shut the fuck up along the way. When they found Jonathan Natal in a stairwell, they arrested him and beat him black and blue while he tried to surrender. (The cops say he raised his arms, which apparently they took as a sign that he wanted a fight. Of course, if you don’t raise your arms when the cops come at you, they’re liable to shoot you.) Evelyn Natal, Jonathan’s 38 year old mother, was arrested while she was standing on her porch trying to find out what was happening to her son. When people gathered on public streets to observe what the cops were doing, and had the temerity to verbally berate police on public property, the cops ordered them to disperse. When people in the neighborhood started filming the police rampage on cell phone cameras, the cops slammed them to the ground and snatched the cell phones. When Jolanda Rivera, an 18 year old young woman, walked towards the cops, they slammed her to the ground and arrested her for disturbing the peace. When Louis Natal, a 22 year old young man, ran away from the cops, a gang of the cops chased him down, slammed him to the ground, and started punching him over and over again. (I guess he’s lucky they didn’t kill him for running away.) When his father, Luis Natal, 49, tried to find out what was happening to his son, they arrested him, beat him up, and pepper-sprayed him. When John Hernandez refused to let cops into his house without a warrant, they forced their way in, beat him up, and arrested him for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer. In the end, the cops arrested 14 people in the course of this police rampage. Once again, this one-sided assault, in which a large group of people observed and verbally berated police officers who were storming through public and private property, and the police responded by yelling racial slurs, breaking down doors, breaking down doors, invading houses, handcuffing people, holding them down and beating the hell out of them, torturing them with pepper spray, forcibly arresting them whether they moved towards officers, away from officers, or just stayed put in their own homes, etc., etc., etc., is described as a melee and a near-riot (referring to the berating of the bystanders, not the massive violence of the heavily-armed police) by the local papers. City Councilor Steven Martins, alleged representative of the people living on Tallman Street on the arbitrary Council over the city of New Bedford, explains it all by saying They were back there, chasing that individual [sic], because he went to that neighborhood. And other people got involved when they shouldn’t. A police sergeant assigned to the North End station told the papers that folks in the neighborhood get upset when the police try to crack the whip a little or enforce the laws.

    Here’s a little history quiz for the day. Historically, in the U.S., what kind of social relationship is associated with cracking the whip in order to get people to fall in line with what you want them to be doing?

  • NOPD Tactical Unit. New Orleans, Louisiana. In New Orleans, cops working for a tactical unit of the city government’s police force kicked in the door of a house after midnight in order to serve a warrant on Leonard Dillon, who the police suspect of conspiring to murder a witness in an upcoming trial. After breaking down the door and shouting commands to come out, they grabbed Dillon’s 15 year old nephew, forced him down, and handcuffed him. When they got their hands on Leonard Dillon, they handcuffed him, knocked him down, and then, while he was handcuffed, began kicking him in the crotch while he was restrained. When his nephew tried to look over at what was happening, the cops kicked him in the jaw so hard that he had to be sent to the children’s hospital later with facial lacerations. After Dillon was arrested the cops he had to be hospitalized for broken bones in his face, a lacerated liver, and damage to his testicles so severe that he had to undergo surgery. The cops claim that they took him down while he was resisting and trying to get a gun to use against them; Dillon denies it; but in either case, whatever he was trying to do, how is this kind of savage beat-down once he has already been restrained, justified by anything resembling self-defense? The NOPD say that an internal investigation is underway; meanwhile, last week, the NOPD also took the time to hold a public press conference to praise the work of the warrant squad.

  • Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Salt Lake County, Utah. Two years ago, a Salt Lake County couple had some coworkers over to their house for a work party to get a video presentation done. It ran late; they got to drinking while they worked; they got a bit loud; they started singing karaoke. The couple’s 16 year old kid complained over the phone to a friend that he couldn’t sleep. The friend then decided that the best thing to do would be to call the police. The county sheriff then sent out six deputies, to do some servin’ and protectin’ by investigating a noise complaint (about noise that only people inside the house were complaining about?). When Stephen M. Perry refused to let police inside his house without a warrant, the Gangsters in Blue forced their way in through the door, pepper-sprayed Perry and two of his guests, and repeatedly tortured the same two guests with a taser. Then these out-of-control hyperviolent thugs, who stormed a house without a warrant over a noise complaint, used repeated pain compliance to torture innocent people for asserting their right to be secure in their home from busybody police, and then proceeded to arrest their three victims on charges of disorderly conduct (in their own home?), resisting arrest (arrest for what?), and assault on police.

    A jury threw out all of the charges against Perry and his guests. They then filed suit against the six deputies for excessive force and violation of their civil rights in the warrantless search. The story is in the news because the Salt Lake County government has decided to cover the cost of a $60,000 settlement for these deputies’ out-of-control violence. Public servants that they are, they will, of course, send the bill to county taxpayers who had nothing to do with this rampage. Meanwhile, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Lt. Don Hutson said an internal affairs investigation found no violation of policies by the officers.

    What do you think that says about the policies?

  • Internal investigations. New Jersey. The ACLU has filed a report documenting that the numerical majority of New Jersey’s local police departments violate New Jersey’s legal requirements for handling so-called civilian complaints. 63% of local police agencies demand, in violation of state law, that complaints be submitted in person (so that victims of police violence have to go down to the police station in order to lodge a complaint); 49% do not allow anonymous complaints. 79% of agencies refuse to accept complaints filed by a minor without back-up from an adult; in 50 cases over the past 10 years, the investigators never even bothered to interview the person who made the complaint. Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi says that the guidelines exist because a complaint process can do either of two things: Is it a shield for police misconduct? … Or is it … doing what it’s supposed to be doing? I dunno; I’m inclined to say that, in most cases, the answer is that it’s both; the only reason you’d think there’s a distinction here is if you had some odd ideas about what, in the eyes of the State, this kind of process is supposed to be doing.

  • Yet Another Isolated Incident. Officer Joseph J. Rios III. Passaic, New Jersey. In Passaic, New Jersey, a 49 year old black man named Ronnie Holloway was walking down the street minding his own business. It was a warm night and he had his sweatshirt open, showing part of his chest and belly. A cop car rolled up to the street corner and the cops yelled at him from out the car, ordering him to zip it up his jacket.

    When he didn’t promptly respond to this arbitrary bellowed command, Officer Joseph J. Rios III got out of the car, grabbed ahold of Holloway, repeatedly slammed him into the ground and against the hood of the car, and punched him in the head over and over again, and then got out his baton and started beating his victim in the ribs with it, all while Holloway made no move of any kind to fight back or resist in any way at any point. A nearby restaurant’s surveillance camera recorded the beating; it also recorded his gang-sister, Officer Erica Rivera, standing around, doing nothing, then turning her back on the beating and walking away to call in some backup (!), rather than lifting one finger to stop this sustained assault on a defenseless man who had committed no crime. [Possible trigger warning. Raw footage shows extreme violence against an unarmed, non-resisting man.]

    Then, when the gang of other cops rolled up, they arrested the victim of this relentless beating for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and wandering for the purpose of obtaining controlled dangerous substances. In an opinion piece on the beating by Jerry DeMarco wonders how they got resisting arrest from a man who can be seen never to have lifted one finger to physically resist anything; a fellow Passaic County officer writes in to clarify that, quote-unquote:

    For the record, ‘Resisting Arrest’ is not just when a subject is fighting an Officer. Refusing to obey verbal commands, stiffening your body, putting your hands in your pocket, lowering your center of gravity, assuming a fighting stance, possessing a menacing demeanor on your face, refusing to get/stay on the ground (Instead, he got back up), while saying [something threatening], in a totality of the circumstances, regardless if he was fighting the male Officer or not, more than constitutes Resisting Arrest!

    In other words, according to at least one active member of the Passaic County police force, you can be arrested for resisting arrest simply for refusing to obey an arbitrary order from any police officer, or indeed if the cop just doesn’t like your posture or your demeanor.

    Meanwhile, DeMarco himself, although disturbed by the beating, insists that Passaic police beating is an isolated incident, period [sic] and that A speeded-up video of a cop beating a seemingly defenseless man doesn’t prove law enforcement nationwide is unleashed and barbaric.

    True enough, but all the other fucking cases nation-wide, do.

When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police themselves invariably do everything in their power to justify, ignore, cover up, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be — when cops routinely act on the understanding that they have an unchecked plenary right to issue arbitrary commands to civilians and to arrest, beat, and torture people for disobedience or just for shouting some unkind words at a cop — when the only possible recourse is to lodge a complaint with the cops own colleagues, who, every week, shrug off these relentless assaults and rapes committed by their officers using their government-issued arsenal of small weapons and the color of their legal authority to an internal investigation, — and when, even under the best possible circumstances, the main outcome of such an investigation is that the cop responsible will be given a vacation or possibly lose their job, while the city government steps in to shield them from any personal civil liability for their crimes by offering some money taken right out of the pockets of working folks who had nothing to do with the crime — it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there’s no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, or blanket condemnations of policing in major American cities are somehow a sign of hastiness or unfair prejudice against good cops. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of violent control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, unrepentant, and unaccountable abuse against powerless people—or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

See also:

Metropolitan secession

(Via Serf City 2008-01-31.)

Here’s something I mentioned some time back during a conversation about secession, decentralism, and decoupling the revolutionary doctrine of secession from the noxious notion of states’ rights:

I mean, one kind of decentralist politics that you might endorse would be to advocate the secession of urban centers from the surrounding states and a decentralist order that’s partly based on people forming a network of poleis around these urban centers. Certainly there are a number of cities (New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Austin, Atlanta …) where enough people are disgusted enough with their state governments that this kind of idea might have some real traction. After all, the power of suburban and exurban and rural counties to lord it over cities through majoritarian control of the state government is, or at least ought to be, just as much a concern for decentralists as the reverse.

So it’s interesting to read that Peter Vallone, a City Council rep from Queens, was proposing something like that earlier this year—stressing, in particular, the way that Albany’s tax-eaters parasitically exploit the wealth that the City produces, and the futility of trying to make your voice heard in a majoritarian regime where you’re outnumbered and have no right of exit:

Emboldened by Mayor Bloomberg’s testimony in Albany this week that the city’s taxpayers pay the state $11 billion a year more than they get back, a City Council member is offering legislation that would begin the process of having New York City secede from New York State.

Peter Vallone Jr., a Democrat who represents Queens, is pushing the idea, and the Council plans to hold a hearing on the possibility of making New York City the 51st state.

I think secession’s time has definitely come again, Mr. Vallone, who spearheaded a similar push in 2003, told The New York Sun yesterday. If not secession, somebody please tell me what other options we have if the state is going to continue to take billions from us and give us back pennies. Should we raise taxes some more? Should we cut services some more? Or should we consider seriously going out on our own?

During a visit to Albany this week, Mr. Bloomberg called on lawmakers to give the city its fair share of tax revenue and said that the state took in $11 billion more from New York City than was returned in the state budget. Mr. Vallone says that the state’s demands on the city in worsening economic times now make it necessary to dissolve the political bands, which have connected them.

Not only is it about self-determination and self-rule, but it’s about fairness, Mr. Vallone said. It’s something we see every year in the budget. They take $11 billion from us and give us back a mere pittance and they make it seem like they’re doing us a favor to give that pittance back. Somehow they missed the point that that is New York City’s own tax money and we deserve it.

— Benjamin Sarlin, The New York Sun (2008-01-30): A Secession Plan Is Floated for New York City

Of course, Vallone is an elected Democrat, and like any politician, he takes a perfectly good radical idea and waters it down with stupid concessions to power: immediately after decrying the way majoritarian state government swindles people in New York City and denies them control over the fruits of their own labor, he goes on to propose that New York City ought to fix it by seceding from New York State, and then subordinating itself directly to the majoritarian rule of the United States federal government as the 51st state. I suppose there’s something to be said for cutting out the middle-man, but if you think that’s going to stop you from having billions taken from you and getting a pittance back, well, I have a fine bridge in the autonomous city-state of Brooklyn that you might be interested in buying.

And, like a politician, he proposes a stupid means to his stated ends:

Mr. Vallone’s legislation would create a commission to study the issue and then recommend whether to put it to a referendum. Since secession would have to be approved by the Albany legislators, its passage would be unlikely.

— Benjamin Sarlin, The New York Sun (2008-01-30): A Secession Plan Is Floated for New York City

The idea of holding a direct referendum is fine; but making that referendum contingent on a politically-appointed council of Experts is a waste of time and energy. If you want New York City to be free, begging Albany to let your people go isn’t about to work. You’ve got to just start talking with your people about getting up and leaving, whether Albany likes it or not. I mean, Christ. Supposing that you talked it up and got it organized and actually had enough people in New York City behind you, what are they going to do about it? Boycott Manhattan? Invade the South Bronx? Why wait on their permission?

The answer, of course, is that this is most likely half-sincere at best, and in large part an act of pointless political grandstanding by Vallone, which he would not be attempting but for the fact hat he can be sure it won’t go anywhere. But even if his plan won’t, it’s very interesting, and worth the attention of genuine secessionists and real revolutionaries, that a party hack from Queens figures there’s enough of that kind of sentiment in his neighborhood that he can exploit it for an applause line. And that other dissident city council members would be willing to endorse the same logic in the course of public political debate:

Another to council member, Simcha Felder, who chairs the Governmental Operations committee, said the bill will be considered this year.

It certainly has merit, Mr. Felder said of the proposal. Why in the world should New York City be held hostage to the state? It just doesn’t make sense.

Mr. Felder acknowledged that the bill would face many hurdles, but said it deserved a debate.

I think the people in New York City are very interested for the most part in it. The question is the people outside New York City in New York State who have been eating the fruits of our labor for all this time. They aren’t going to be ready to just say forget about it.

— Benjamin Sarlin, The New York Sun (2008-01-30): A Secession Plan Is Floated for New York City

So don’t give them the opportunity. Why choose a strategy that requires you to wait on them to get ready for your freedom? If the people in New York City really are very interested, then do what every successful independence movement in history has done: stop worrying about what the people who oppress and exploit you will say about it. Get talking, get organized, declare independence and then, if the state keeps trying to issue you orders, act like you mean it — by ignoring those orders and treating the people who issue them the same way you’d treat any other lunatic who thinks he’s Napoleon. Of course, a strategy like that is hard. Of course, it’s likely to fail. (Lots of independence movements have.) Of course, it will take years to organize and win even if it doesn’t fail. But it is a strategy that might possibly succeed, which puts it ahead of plans for having the city government petition the state legislature. And it’s also a strategy we can start talking about now. And talking about that may start a lot of other conversations that are worth having, about taxes, war, empire, and the rest.

New York City ALLies: how many people do you know who are very interested in the idea of an independent New York City, which is no longer held hostage to the state? Remember that interest and sympathy and idle wishes are enough to start with: conviction and solidarity and organization are things that you can build by getting people to take the idea seriously, by educating them about it, by dispelling their ars, and by showing them that another City is possible. So, are there possibilities in doing anti-imperialist education, outreach, and, ultimately, organizing to free Occupied New York from the Empire State?

If so, let’s talk about how to do it. Maybe we can start in the comments here. Free the New York 8,274,527, and all political prisoners!

See also: