Posts tagged Chicago

Roe v. Wade Day #36

Blog for Choice Day * January 22, 2009

The most important thing feminists have done and have to keep doing is to insist that the basic reason for repealing the laws and making abortions available is justice: women’s right to abortion.

… There are many reasons why a woman might seek a late abortion, and she should be able to find one legally if she wants it. She may suddenly discover that she had German measles in early pregnancy and that her fetus is deformed; she may have had a sudden mental breakdown; or some calamity may have changed the circumstances of her life: whatever her reasons, she belongs to herself and not to the state.

— Lucinda Cisler (1969): Abortion law repeal (sort of): a warning to women

To-day is the 36th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade on 22 January 1973 — the day when abortion laws were repealed in every state of the United States, and the United States judiciary finally took formal notice, even if in a limited and limiting sort of way, of every woman’s fundamental human right to decide what to do with the walls of her own damn uterus. To-day marks the end of the hundred years’ war that American state governments waged for forced pregnancy, and the recognition that every woman’s reproductive organs are her own, and that she has every right, if she sees fit, to give what she will of herself, or to refuse the use of her body to Man, Fetus, and State alike.

There’s a lot not to like about the specifics of the reasoning in Roe, and it’s often frustrating that Roe is the ruling that we’ve got to celebrate, or at least defend. But if nothing else, it is worth taking a day to celebrate the pro-choice feminist movement that made Roe inevitable, and the remarkable struggle, over the course of just 4 years (from February 1969 to January 1973), pushed forward by an abolitionist movement which exploded seemingly out of nowhere, drew in and radicalized millions of women to fight for their own freedom, challenged a century and more of anti-abortion laws, defied and ridiculed all the grey eminences of Church and State, and then, amazingly, won victory after victory, with Roe as the final capstone.

The movement was new; it was led, and fought for by women; in particular, it was organized, led, and fought for by radical feminists. There had been a small, barely effectual abortion law reform movement for years before 1969, mostly led by men (mostly doctors), which argued for small reforms to existing laws (exceptions of the rape / incest / health-of-the-mother variety), and based its arguments mostly on pity for the suffering of victimized women, or else on unrelated policy outcomes, like social uplift or population control. They had made no progress to speak of after decades of activism; draconian abortion laws still stood in every state in the U.S., as they had for about a century.

But then, in February and March of 1969, while the reformists hemmed and hawed and accomplished nothing, and while liberal feminist groups like NOW mostly avoided such a divisive issue, a loose-knit group of radical Women’s Liberationists — women like Kathie Sarachild, Carol Hanisch, Susan Brownmiller, and Flo Kennedy — organized and led a series of unprecedented speak-outs and organizing efforts, concentrated in New York City and Chicago, which marked the definite beginning of a new movement, calling for the immediate and complete repeal of all abortion laws. And, just as importantly, they recognized and insisted that abortion is not just a medical issue (although it is that), or sexual privacy (although it is that, too) or an issue of the socio-economic uplift of the female sex. It is, they insisted, an issue of choice, and of freedom from the State’s invasive violence. The point is not to wring our hands and try to do right by the poor dears; the point is that each and every woman has an unconditional right to individually decide how her own body will or will not be used.

The sparks lit a fire. The fire spread. Thousands of women from across the country, many of whom had never been involved in political activism, threw themselves in with a loose-knit coalition of WL activists and radicalized women. The new pro-choice movement quickly shoved aside the male experts, both reactionary and reformist, who had dominated the discourse for decades beforehand. They insisted on their right to be heard; they insisted on their right to control their own bodies; and they argued that, because abortion is a human right, the government’s prohibition of abortion, and the back-alley butchery that went on underground because of it, was nothing more and nothing less than State violence against women. They made the urgency and the justice of the movement palpable by abandoning apologetic reformist, and by using consciousness-raising, speeches, demonstrations, and — especially — speak-outs, direct action, and public confrontations with the men who claimed power over them.

February 1969 was an important month in the abortion struggle. Larry Lader, a biographer of Margaret Sanger, summoned a handful of professionals in law and medicine to the Drake Hotel in Chicago for the organizing conference of NARAL, the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws. (NARAL became the National Abortion Rights Action League in 1974.) The conferees targeted specific states where they believed the repressive codes could be knocked down. New York, with its liberal constituency, was a top priority. Bills ranging from modest reforms (in cases of rape and incest) to outright repeal of all criminal penalties were already in the legislative hopper.

Betty Friedan, one of the main speakers at the Chicago NARAL meeting, reflected the changing political climate. At NOW’s founding convention in 1966, she had bowed to a clique that insisted that abortion rights were too divisive, too sexual, and too controversial for the fledgling organization, but since then a groundswell of younger members had stiffened her spine. NOW was being inundated by kids, one member observed. The kids from New York, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and elsewhere pushed through an abortion plank at NOW’s 1967 convention.

And the kids were forging ahead with their own tactics. On the same wintry day in mid-February when NARAL’s founders were traveling to Chicago for their first conference six state legislators held a public hearing in Manhattan on some proposed liberalizing amendments to the New York law. Typical of the times, the six legislators were men, and the spekaers invited to present expert testimony were fourteen men and a Catholic nun.

On the morning of the February 13 hearing, a dozen infiltrators camouflaged in dresses and stockings entered the hearing room and spaced themselves around the chamber. Some called themselves Redstockings, and some, like Joyce Ravitz, were free-floating radicals who were practiced hands at political disruptions. Ravitz, in fact, had been on her way to another demonstration when she’d run into the Redstockings women, who convinced her to join them.

As a retired judge opined that abortion might be countenanced as a remedy after a woman had fulfilled her biological service to the community by bearing four children, Kathie Amatniek leaped to her feet and shouted, Let’s hear from the real experts—women! Taking her cue, Joyce Ravitz began to declaim an impassioned oration. Ellen Willis jumped in. More women rose to their feet.

Men don’t get pregnant, men don’t bear children. Men just make laws, a demonstrator bellowed.

Why are you refusing to admit we exist? cried another.

Girls, girls, you’ve made your point. Sit down. I’m on your side, a legislator urged, raising the temperature a notch higher.

Don’t call us girls, came the unified response. We are women!

The hearing dissolved in confusion. When the chairman attempted to reconvene it behind closed doors, the women sat down in the corridor, refusing to budge.

Stories appeared the next day in the Times (Women Break Up Abortion Hearing), the New York Post (Abortion Law Protesters Disrupt Panel), and the Daily News. Ellen Willis slipped out of her activist guise to do a report for Talk of the Town in The New Yorker. Nanette Rainone filed for WBAI radio and the Pacfica network. Barely a month old, Redstockings, with an assist from the radical floaters, had successfully dramatized the need for woman as expert in the abortion debate.

Five weeks later, on March 21, 1969, Redstockings staged a public speak-out, Abortion: Tell It Like It Is, at the Washington Square Methodist Church, a hub of antiwar activism in Greenwich Village. For some Women’s Liberation founders, the speak-out was the movement’s finest hour. Astounding, is the way Irene Peslikis puts it. It showed the power of consciousness-raising, how theory comes from deep inside a person’s life, and how it leads directly to action.

Peslikis had organized the panel and coached the women who were willing to speak. The idea, she says, was to get examples of different kinds of experiences—women who’d had the babies that were taken away, women who went to the hospital for a therapeutic abortion, women who’d gone the illegal route, the different kinds of illegal routes.

Three hundred women and a few men filled the church that evening as Helen Kritzler, Barbara Kaminsky, Rosalyn Baxandall, Anne Forer, and a few other brave souls passed a small microphone back and forth. Baxandall broke the ice with a touch of humor. I thought I was sophisticated, she joked into the mike. My boyfriend told me if he came a second time, the sperm would wash away, and I believed him.

Another woman recounted, So there I was in West New York, New Jersey, and the doctor had these crucifixes and holy pictures on the wall, and all he wanted was nine hundred dollars. I took out a vacation loan and I’m still paying it off.

Judy Gabree hurtled forward. I went to eleven hospitals searching for a therapeutic abortion. At the tenth, they offered me a deal. They’d do it if I agreed to get sterilized. I was twenty years old. I had to pretend I was crazy and suicidal, but having the abortion was the sanest thing I’d done.

More women added their personal testimony. I was one of those who kept quiet. Irene Peslikis had asked me to be one of the speakers, but I chose an easier path and played Village Voice reporter. My front-page story, Everywoman’s Abortions: The Oppressor Is Man, was the only substantive coverage the landmark speak-out received. Some retyped it in Chicago for the newsletter, which carried the news to activists around the country.

Another journalist, in aviator glasses and a miniskirt, was taking notes in the church that evening. She hovered near Jane Everhart, a NOW member, and whispered What’s going on?

Everhart whispered back, Sit down and listen!

Gloria Steinem was a friend of Women’s Liberation in 1969, but she had not yet thrown in her lot with the movement. Her plate was already overflowing with causes. Gloria spoke out against the war in Vietnam on late-night talk shows, raised money for liberal Democrats and Cesar Chavez’s farmworkers, and wrote earnest pieces on all of her issues for the popular magazines. Genetically endowed with the rangy limbs and sculpted features of a fashion model, Steinem glided through the rarefied world of radical chic expertly building her political connections. Beneath the exterior of the celebrity journalist was a woman who yearned to save the world.

Steinem received a shock of recognition when a Redstocking quipped, I bet every woman here has had an abortion. Hers had been done by a Harley Street practitioner in London during the late fifties after she’d graduated from Smith. Later she would say that the speak-out was her feminist revelation, the moment that redirected her public path. That night, however, she was working on a tight deadline. She threw together a hasty paragraph for the political diary she wrote for New York magazine. Nobody wants to reform the abortion laws, she explained in print. They want to repeal them. Completely.

The Redstockings abortion speak-out was an emblematic event for Women’s Liberation. Speak-outs based on the New York women’s model were organized in other cities within the year, and subsequent campaigns to change public opinion in the following decade would utilize first-person testimony in a full range of issues from rape and battery to child abuse and sexual harassment. The importance of personal testimony in a public setting, which overthrew the received wisdom of the experts, cannot be overestimated. It was an original technique and a powerful ideological tool. Ultimately, of course, first-person discourse on a dizzying variety of intimate subjects would become a gimmicky staple of the afternoon television talk shows, where the confessional style was utilized for its voyeuristic shock value. Back then, personal testimony was a political act of great courage.

— Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, pp. 106—109

By 1969, thousands of women in Chicago could find safe, affordable abortions through Jane, an underground, woman-run abortion service organized by members of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union. In 1971, the movement won its first major aboveground political victory, with the repeal of state abortion laws in New York. And then, only two years later, they won the nation-wide repeal in January 1973. That’s something to remember, and to celebrate.

To-day, as part of Blog for Choice Day, NARAL would like bloggers to write about your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress. But, as much as I might like for the now-ruling Democrats to roll back the past 8 years of new restrictions on abortion rights, I think the most important lesson to remember on this day is not to put your hope in the politicians and their power-plays. As noxious as Bush Jr.’s regime may have been, we can’t afford to forget that it was not George W. Bush, but pro-choice Bill Clinton who spent eight years presiding over the most intense and coordinated legal assaults on abortion rights in the post-Roe era — the emergence and proliferation of TRAP laws and procedure bans from 1992 to 2000. Politicians make political decisions, and even the most principled are subject to political forces beyond their personal control, and when we put our hope for social change in their hands, whatever convictions they confess and whatever parties they swear to, they will throw it away as soon as it suits them, again, and again, and again.

If not politicians, then who should we put our hopes in? But the answer should be obvious: we must put our hope in ourselves, in our own power, and our foremothers’ power, and our sisters’ and brothers’ power, to come together and change the world.

Like all anniversaries, this is a good day for remembering, and for honoring. One of the things I think it is most important to remember on this day, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the way in which the occasion is attached to a legal ruling handed down by nine men in black robes, is a matter of strategy. It is all too easy to make the latest political cockfight out as the be-all and end-all of pro-choice activism; to realize, correctly, that the legal position of abortion rights is really precarious and to leap, incorrectly, to the conclusion that if Roe falls, that will be the end of it. No it won’t. The pro-life State had its guns trained on us before, and we beat it. If it turns its guns on us again, that will be terrible, but we will beat it again nevertheless. Perhaps by once again forcing the hand of state legislators or the courts. Or perhaps not. There are other ways to get it done. Here is how a group of women in Chicago took matters into their own hands, years before Roe, without the blessing of the male experts and in defiance of the man-made Law, in order to make justice for their sisters a reality.

Radical women in Chicago poured their energy into Jane, an abortion referral service initiated by Heather Booth, who had been a one-woman grapevine for her college classmates. In 1971, after Booth’s departure, some of the women took matters into their own hands and secretly began to perform the abortions themselves. Safe, compassionate terminations for a modest fee became their high calling—a model, as they saw it, for women’s empowerment after the revolution.

Leaflets appeared in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the University of Chicago bearing a simple message: Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane at 643-3844. The number rang at the home of one of the activists who volunteered to be Jane. As word spread and the volume of calls increased, the service acquired its own phone line and an answering machine, a cumbersome reel-to-reel device that was one of the first on the market. Volunteers, known inside the service as call-back Janes, visited the abortion seekers to elicit crucial medical details (most important was lmp, the number of weeks since the last menstrual period), then another level of volunteers scheduled an appointment with one of the abortionists on the group’s list.

At first the service relied on Mike in Cicero, who was fast, efficient, and willing to lower his price to five hundred dollars as the volume increased. Mike gradually let down his guard with Jody Parsons, his principal Jane contact, an artisan who sold her beaded jewelry and ceramics at street fairs and was a survivor of Hodgkin’s disease. The clandestine abortionist and the hippy artisan struck up a bond. When Mike confessed that he was not in fact a real doctor but merely a trained technician, she cajoled him into teaching her his skills. Jody’s rapid success in learning to maneuver the dilating clamps, curettes, and forceps demystified the forbidden procedures for another half dozen women in Jane. If he can do it, then we can do it became their motto.

Madeline Schwenk, a banker’s daughter who had married at twenty, six months pregnant with no clue whatsoever about how to get an abortion, moved from counseling to vacuum aspiration after Harvey Karman, the controversial director of a California clinic, came to Chicago to demonstrate his technique. Madeline was one of the few women in Jane who was active in NOW, and who stayed affiliated with the Chicago chapter during the year she wielded her cannula and curette for the service. I’d get up in the morning, make breakfast for my three kids, go off to do the abortions, then go home to make dinner, she reminisces. Pretty ourageous behavior when you think about it. But exciting.

Jane’s abortion practitioners and their assistants were able to handle a total of thirty cases a day at affordable fees—under one hundred dollars. A doctor and a pharmacist among the women’s contacts kept them supplied with antibiotics.

Fear of police surveillance in radical circles had its match among clandestine abortionists who relied on a complicated rigamarole of blindfolds and middlemen. Jane straddled both worlds. Abortion seekers gathered every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at a front apartment, usually the home of a Jane member or friend, and were escorted by Jane drivers to the Place, a rented apartment where the abortions were performed. The fronts and the Place changed on a regular basis. New volunteers, brought into the group by counselors and drivers, went through a probation period before they were told that women in Jane were doing the abortions. The news did not sit well with everyone. Turnover was high, from fear and from burnout, although the service usually maintained its regular complement of thirty members.

Jane lost most of its middle-class clientele after the New York law [repealing the state’s abortion ban] went into effect. Increasingly it began to service South Side women, poor and black, who did not have the money to travel out of state, and whose health problems, from high blood pressure to obesity, were daunting. Pressure on the providers intensified. Audaciously they added second-trimester abortionsby induced miscarriage to their skills.

On May 3, 1972, near the conclusion of a busy work day in an eleventh-floor apartment on South Shore Drive overlooking Lake Michigan, Jane got busted. Seven women, including Madeline Schwenk, were arrested and bailed out the following day. The Chicago Daily News blared Women Seized in Cut-Rate Clinic in a front-page banner. The Tribune buried Lib Groups Linked to Abortions on an inside page. Six weeks later the service was back in buinsess. Wisely, the women facing criminal charges selected a defense attorney who was clued in to and optimistic about the national picture. She advised them to hang tight—some interesting developments were taking place in Washington that could help their case. (After the January 1973 Roe decision, all outstanding charges against the seven were dropped.)

The activists of Jane believe they performed more than ten thousand abortions. It’s a ballpark figure based on the number of procedures they remember doing in a given week. For security reasons they did not keep records.

— Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, pp. 123—125

The repeal of the abortion laws in the United States wasn’t a gift handed down out of benevolence by a gang of old men in robes. It was struggled for, and won, by women in our own times. It didn’t take ballot boxes; it didn’t take political parties; it didn’t take clever legal briefs. It took radical women who stood up for themselves, who challenged the authority of self-appointed male experts and law-makers, who spoke truth to power, who took things into their own hands and helped their sisters, in defiance of the law, because they knew that they had a right to do it, and to hell with any law and any government that said otherwise. Radical feminists who built a movement for their own freedom over a matter of months and decisively changed the world in less than five years. It’s not just that we owe the Redstockings, Cindy Cisler, Heather Booth, Jody Parsons, Madeline Schwenk, and so many others our praise. They do deserve our cheers, but they also deserve our study and our emulation. They did amazing things, and we — feminists, leftists, anti-statists — owe it not only to them, but to ourselves, to honor them by trying to learn from their example.

Further reading:

Whiteness studies 104: Class, cuisine, and authenticity

Here’s a story from NPR’s Weekend Edition (2008-10-05) that I was listening to while cooking for last week’s Food Not Bombs picnic. The occasion for the story has to do with the seasonal noise and with the really insipid theme of finding out where the dictatorial candidates like to eat, but while I’m not at all interested in where Barack and Michelle Obama like to spend their money, I am interested in the real topic of the story, which is the chef Rick Bayless and his Chicago restaurant, Topolobampo. Topolobampo specializes in central Mexican cuisine — in particular, the metropolitan cuisine that you can get from gourmet restaurants or the street vendors in the megalopolis of Mexico City. Bayless is a white boy from Oklahoma City who loves to cook central Mexican food, and who created his restaurant in part because he wanted to make a kind of Mexican food that most Estadounidenses have never tasted, in spite of the tremendous number of Mexican restaurants in just about every city and town in the U.S.

Most of us have never had the kind of Mexican food that Bayless makes because most Mexican restaurants in the U.S. serve northern Mexican food — the usual menu of enchiladas, fajitas, beef tacos, tamales in corn husks, burritos, carne asada, refried beans, salsa picante, huevos rancheros, and so on. That’s the cuisine that developed in the ranching and farming borderlands, in northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S. I’m glad that there are folks trying to introduce Estadounidenses to other kinds of Mexican food; what I’m less glad to hear is how fellow white boy Daniel Zwerdling insists on describing this distinction between Frontera cuisine and Distrito Federal cuisine in is interview with Bayless. (You have to listen to the audio report; most of this is not in the printed summary.)

But the cooking here is totally different than what you find in most Mexican restaurants in the United States . . . . At Topolobampo, don’t even think about burritos and refried beans. The truth is, the food most Americans [sic] think of as Mexican is actually Tex-Mex food. It’s the rustic cooking that farmers and cowboys ate along the border.

When Topolobampo opened almost 20 years ago, it was the first restaurant in the United States that served the kind of gourmet dishes you might find in Mexico City. . . .

How did a boy from Kansas City [sic], like you, end up being one of the main people who showed Americans [sic] what real Mexican cooking is really about?

. . . Over the next few minutes, he’s going to teach you to make steak tortillas with grilled onions and guacamole—the way Mexicans really eat them.

. . . You know what’s really puzzling? It’s like, Americans totally fell in love with French cooking, and French cooking became a huge deal in the United States. Italian cooking—huge deal in the United States. Right across the border, they have this incredible cuisine; you know, why didn’t Americans [sic] fall in love with that sooner?

— Daniel Zwerdling, interviewing Rick Bayless A Meal Fit For A Candidate: Barack Obama
NPR’s Weekend Edition (2008-10-05)

See, the kind of Mexican food you’re used to doesn’t count as incredible cuisine because rustic cooking from border provinces doesn’t even count as a cuisine. Cuisine is what rich people in big cities who use gratuitous French loan-words eat. And the kind of food they make in northern Mexican states like Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja California, and in former northern Mexican states like Alta California, New Mexico, and (especially) Tejas,[1] doesn’t count as real Mexican cooking either, because a bunch of farmers and cowboys and immigrants don’t count as real Mexicans. Only rich Mexicans who eat in gourmet restaurants in metropolitan Mexico City do.

In reality, part of the solution to Zwerdling’s puzzle may be that Estadounidenses had trouble with finding this incredible cuisine they supposedly have right across the border, seeing as how those Mexico City restaurants where people eat this kind of food aren’t right across the border; Mexico City is hundreds of miles away from the Rio Grande. If you go right across the border you’ll be somewhere like Juarez or Nuevo Laredo or a little border village, and they’ll be serving those swamps of refried beans … and melted cheese. But NPR-listening white folks in the U.S. of A. are expected to take the very local and peculiar cuisine of Mexico City to represent the real cuisine of the entire United States of Mexico, because NPR-listening white folks in the U.S. of A. have mostly come to believe that world food is arranged not by the messy clustering of ecological, economic, and cultural factors that actually influences how people eat, but rather by the basically military reality of discrete nations separated by fortified political borders. And, having come to believe that, we have mostly come to identify the authentic national cuisine of any given country with the preferences of the rich and powerful people sitting on the political, media, and mercantile centers inside those national borders — that is, the preferences of those who spend a lot of time eating cuisine, and little or no time growing or raising the food that goes into it.

What white people in the U.S.A. generally want, when they have the money to get it, is to eat like rich city people eat all over the world; different countries provide new brands, new spices, and, perhaps most importantly for the sort of white people who listen to NPR, new ways to distinguish yourself from the déclassé white people who don’t know or don’t like or can’t handle the real stuff. Perceived authenticity is the important thing here, and what’s perceived as authentic for any given country — and, therefore, fit for white people in the U.S. to eat — is determined not by culture, but by political economy and the orders of power and wealth.

1 Because southern and central Texas were especially important to the development and spread of this kind of food, it’s often been tagged as Tex-Mex — although a lot of what gets tagged as Tex-Mex is really common to northern Mexico in general, and a lot of it comes in distinctive styles that come out of other old population centers, especially in California and around Santa Fe.

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#5)

… But it must just be the summer heat, right?

In Maryland, a state police Red Squad spent a year and change infiltrating anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, and put the names of nonviolent activists onto terrorist and drug-trafficking watch lists:

The ACLU released 43 pages of [Maryland] state police summaries and computer logs Thursday - some with agents’ names and paragraphs blacked out — that it obtained from the state attorney general’s office through a lawsuit based on Maryland’s Public Information Act.

The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters’ freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.

Many of the spies’ reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state’s attorney might take on the death penalty.

Yesterday, [former Maryland Governor Bob] Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was sympathetic to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

But he added, We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they’ve received and to make decisions accordingly.

— Jonathan Bor and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun (2008-07-19): State police spying decried

For example, one of the decisions that cops accordingly make is to harass, assault, restrain, and imprison innocent people who try to photograph them and document how the cops are treating the people they interact with. (Apparently this intelligence thing isn’t a two-way street.) They are, of course, happy to invent completely fictional crimes based on nonexistent laws in order to do so. Thus, in Johnson County, Tennessee:

Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and it’s hard to find one without that camera feature. It’s convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop.

The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.

… A Johnson County sheriff’s deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.

He says you took a picture of me. It’s illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer, said Conover.

… The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.

He said if you don’t give it to me, you’re going to jail, said Conover.

Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didn’t want to incriminate himself by talking to us.

— Darius Radzius, WJHL (2008-07-11): Man Arrested For Unlawful Photography

Carlos Miller elaborates on the same case:

Gangsters in Blue Ben May and Starling McCloud

Update: I talked to Scott Conover Wednesday morning and he said they delayed his court appearance to Sept. 3rd, which sounds familiar because they kept doing the same thing in my case. (I was arrested last year for photographing cops against their wishes). In my case, I took it as a sign that they were hoping the delay would cause the media interest to die down.

After arresting Scott Conover for unlawful photography in Mountain City, Tennessee last June, Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Starling McCloud threatened to arrest Conover’s 12-year-old daughter with the same charge after she snapped two photos of her father getting handcuffed.

As it turns out, she is a better photographer than her father because she actually managed to photograph the camera shy deputy.

… It won’t be the first time [Scott Conover has] faced off against the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in court.

A couple of years ago, we had problems with the sheriff, so we sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, he said.

But the problems started even before that, after he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns.

They beat the shit out of him, he said. The guy’s lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriff’s department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.

Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, which he said is modeled after the Tiki Bar in Key Largo.

They were wolf-packing my customers, he said. They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.

Conover struck back by suing them.

… On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family had left the Last Chance Saloon after picking up the nightly earnings and were on their way back to Jammers. His wife was sitting in the passenger’s seat. His son and daughter were in the back seat.

Up ahead were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

The lady who was driving doesn’t drink, he said. Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger’s seat.

Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud — who has been on the force only 18 months — told him that photographing him was illegal.

I asked, what planet are you from?, Conover said.

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy.

Conover’s wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the IPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didn’t delete the photo.

The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.

I threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.

By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May, who is in the dark uniform in the above photos. McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.

Conover’s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.

He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, You better not go back there or else we’re going to have some real problems, he said.

McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.

At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.

He then turned to me and said, I’m charging you with disorderly conduct.

Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail — and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with — he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer.

— Carlos Miller, Photography is Not a Crime (2008-08-05): Deputy threatened to arrest 12-year-old daughter for unlawful photography

Meanwhile, in Ohio, posturing macho paramilitary cops gunned down an unarmed woman holding nothing other than her baby boy. They fired high-powered rifles, blindly into a room they couldn’t see, because they saw a shadow on the wall during their cock-swinging commando SWAT raid. Please remember that cops are hired and trained to keep you and me safe, so obviously no matter how many unarmed women these heavily armed, trained professionals mow down in a wild attempt to save their own skins, the warrior mindset means never having to say you’re sorry.

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

— Radley Balko, Hit and Run (2008-08-05): Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

Over in Chicago, the arbitrary governor over the state of Illinois has declared that what Chicago needs is yet another elite tactical team to patrol inner city neighborhoods, complete with state troopers and military helicopters.

Calling violence in Chicago out of control, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday offered to lend state troopers and National Guard helicopters to the city to augment the Chicago Police.

The governor is considering forming an elite tactical team to help the Chicago Police fight gang problems, a source said, adding that the unit could later be sent across the state to deal with gang problems at any city’s request.

— Chicago Sun-Times (2008-07-17): Gov. says Chicago out of control

Meanwhile, the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona proposes that we ought to combat inner city crime using the strategic hamlet surge tactics that have made for such a brilliant success in the occupation of Iraq.

We might look at what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City, when he became mayor of that city. … And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc.

Do you feel safer now?

(Stories via Darian Worden (2008-07-18): Martial Law 2008, Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-08-02): The Fascist McCain On Solving Neighborhood Crimes, Ali @ ThinkProgress (2008-08-01): McCain suggests military-style invasion modeled on the surge to control inner city crime, etc.)

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The CALL for Chicagoland Anarchy

There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!

—Last words of August Spies (1887-11-11), Chicago anarchist, organizer, and Haymarket martyr

Via Bob Kaercher:

I and The One Who Is Called Soviet Onion have recently been discussing via e-mail the prospects for founding a Chicago area chapter of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. I for one think it would be a tremendous achievement to establish an ALL chapter in a city rich in the history of American radical politics. CALL (Chicago Alliance of the Libertarian Left) strikes me as a particularly cool acronym.

But we’re not just looking for like-minded left-libertarians in the Chicago metropolitan area. If you live anywhere in northern Illiniois, northwestern Indiana or southern Wisconsin, we’d love to hear from you.

What do I mean by “like-minded”? As Charles W. Johnson (of RadGeek.com) sums it up on the web site for the Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left, we are looking for

[I]ndividualists, agorists, market anarchists, mutualists, voluntary socialists, and others on the libertarian left. We oppose statism, militarism, sexism, racism, and the prevailing state capitalism fraudulently labeled the free market. We are for peace, individual freedom, truly freed markets, solidarity, voluntary cooperation, and mutual aid. We fight for liberation…using education, nonviolent direct action, and cooperative counter-institutions—not petitions, symbolic protests or electoral politics. We are working to build a new society within the shell of the old.

If you’re interested and in the northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin/northwestern Indiana area, by all means drop me a line at the e-mail address to your right. Charles has already been kind enough to set up a web site domain for us. All we need now is a fancy new web site to park in it.

Once we can get some folks together electronically, we can then proceed to gather everyone physically at the most convenient location—perhaps a place we can grab a bite to eat, a drink, or at least a cup of coffee—and discuss how to proceed.

Agora! Anarchy! Action!

— Bob Kaercher, The Postmodern Tribune (2008-06-05): CALLing ALL Chicago Area Libertarian Lefties

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter….

You already knew that Chicago patrol cops are planning to carry M4 assault rifles in the inner city and Springfield, Massachusetts cops plan to switch to black, military-style uniforms in the inner city in order to restore a sense of fear.

But wait, there’s more.

In Tulare County, California, the county sheriff’s office has formed a new, dedicated Gang Unit to engage in saturation patrols of the south end of town, to pull over suspicious cars (any guess on what color suspicious drivers are likely to be), get in the faces of suspect young men (any guess on what the color of those faces will be?), and generally to make sure that certain members of the public are afraid to use public spaces. By putting more heavily-armed police officers on the streets, they claim to be taking weapons off the streets. Gang Unit mouthpiece Sergeant Harold Liles says that the purpose of all this letting them know we are here, and the streets belong to us.

In Wilmington, Delaware, a new charter school is in the planning stages. It will enroll as many as 600 inner-city high school students — or rather, Cadets — for training in jobs for the front lines in the Nation’s [sic] homeland security. The Academy will require its teenaged cadets to wear uniforms, give them extensive physical training during and after school, offer homeland security training as an after-school activity, and offer a choice of vocational curricula ranging from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) through prison guard, water rescue, paramedic, fireman, professional demolition and emergency response operator.

Meanwhile, in the great northwest, Montana Highway Patrol used to carry M14 rifles in the trunks of their patrol cars in case of an emergency. Soon they will all be carrying AR-15 assault rifles strapped to the front seat of the car. Montana Highway Patrol mouthpiece Jerril Ren says that For the most part, they’re trying to make them [high-powered assault rifles] more readily available to the officer and said that the higher-powered guns were necessary for now-common tactical situations.

The Palm Beach County, Florida sheriff’s office is now training and arming regular cops on the beat with AR-15 assault rifles.

Inner-city patrol cops in Miami have also been carrying assault rifles for the past few months, at the behest of city Police Chief John Timoney.

Johnson City, Tennessee patrol cops were already armed with handguns and shotguns. Now they have started a new weapons program to ensure that at least some patrol cops are carrying other, special weapons on every patrol shift. They won’t say in public what those weapons are or how many they are putting onto the streets.

The Washington County, Tennessee sheriff’s office just got a grant from the federal government to arm their patrol cops with AR-15 assault rifles.

And if you’re wondering why all these stories have suddenly hit the news so close to each other, over just the last month, in so many different cities and counties, my suspicion is that you’ve got the answer right there: the United States federal government, which spent the past 30 years or so involving itself in state and local law enforcement agencies through the use of tax-funded training, grants, and equipment sales for paramilitary SWAT teams and anti-terrorism task forces, now seems to be making use of those same grants to more heavily arm and more thoroughly militarize ordinary patrol cops on the highway, in the inner city, and in rural sheriff’s offices.

Do you feel safer now?

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