Posts tagged Colorado

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.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers victory in Denver; struggle in Miami

This month brings a couple of big news updates from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their ongoing wildcat labor campaign to raise wages and improve conditions for Florida tomato-pickers. First, an important victory — the CIW has won an agreement with Chipotle. Second, a reminder about interconnections, alliances and new campaigns in Florida, with the ongoing pickets and migrant farmworkers now joining the struggle against the School of the Americas.

From Denver — victory in the long-running Chipotle campaign:

CHIPOTLE SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH CIW TO JOIN FAIR FOOD PROGRAM

DENVER, October 4, 2012 – Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker-based human rights organization, have reached an agreement that brings Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable food to the CIW’s Fair Food Program. The agreement, which will improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers in Florida who pick tomatoes for Chipotle, comes in advance of the winter tomato-growing season, when most of the nation’s tomatoes come from growers in Florida.

The Fair Food Program provides a bonus for tomato pickers to improve wages and binds growers to protocols and a code of conduct that explicitly include a voice for workers in health and safety issues, worker-to-worker education on the new protections under the code, and a complaint resolution procedure which workers can use without fear of retaliation. The Program also provides for independent third party audits to ensure compliance.

With this agreement, we are laying down a foundation upon which we all – workers, growers, and Chipotle – can build a stronger Florida tomato industry for the future, said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. But more than this, today’s news marks a turning point in the sustainable food movement as a whole, whereby, thanks to Chipotle’s leadership, farmworkers are finally recognized as true partners — every bit as vital as farmers, chefs, and restaurants — in bringing ‘good food’ to our tables.

. . .

Chipotle becomes the 11th company to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, which is designed to create a sustainable tomato industry through respect for the rights and concerns of all involved. The Fair Food Premium paid by participating buyers like Chipotle is used to help participating growers improve wages and working conditions for Florida farmworkers.

— Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Chipotle Mexican Grill, joint press release, October 4, 2012. Emphasis added.

CIW announced that with this agreement, all plans for upcoming actions against Chipotle have been cancelled. Chipotle is now participating in the penny-per-pound program through its agreement with CIW.

From Miami:

CIW, allies join forces in Miami to protest Publix, School of the Americas, in support of human rights!

More Publix actions in the pipeline…

All too many CIW members came to this country years ago fleeing widespread political oppression in their home countries at the hands of military dictators and their subordinates who had one thing in common — they were trained at the School of the Americas (SOA),[1] an infamous military training facility located at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. The SOA boasts a long track record of graduates responsible for brutal human rights violations in CIW member home countries including Haiti, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Because of this deep connection, and because the struggle for human rights is without borders, the CIW has joined with members of the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) for nearly a decade in their untiring efforts to end human rights abuses throughout Latin America. This past weekend in Miami was no exception, as CIW members and their families joined SOAW members for a march in Miami . . ., then continued from there, with the support of the SOAW marchers, to a march on a Miami-area Publix store that stretched a full city block:

There are many more Publix protests in the weeks ahead, including a picket at the grand opening of the Dunedin Publix (902 Curlew Rd) this coming Thursday morning, Oct 18th, at 7:30 AM. We’ll be there bright and early for the ribbon cutting, so don’t miss it!

You can contact us for more details on how you can join us at the Dunedin picket, and other Publix protests in the month of October, at workers@ciw-online.org.

— Coalition of Immokalee Workers, October 15, 2012.

As I said in 2005, after the CIW’s first big groundbreaking victory in their Taco Bell campaign:

This is a major victory for the CIW and for farmworkers as a whole. There’s a lot that organized labor can learn from it: how CIW won while overcoming barriers of language and nationality, assembling a remarkable coalition in solidarity (from students to fellow farmworkers to religious organizations and onward), drawing on the dispersed talents of agitators and activists in communities all across the country, and making some brilliant hard-nosed strategic decisions (e.g., the decision a couple of years ago to begin the Boot the Bell campaign—which hit Taco Bell where it hurts by denying it extremely lucrative contracts with college and University food services). I only know a bit of the story from following the boycott, and I already know that it’s a pretty remarkable story to tell. I look forward to hearing more.

It’s also — although you won’t hear this as much — a major victory for government-free, syndicalist labor organizing. The CIW is not a bureaucratic government-recognized union; as a form of organizing it’s far closer to an autonomous workers’ syndicate or a local soviet (in the old sense of a democratic, community-based workers’ council, not in the sense of the hollow state apparatus that the Bolsheviks left after the party committees seized power at bayonet-point). Of course, not having the smothering comfort of the US labor bureaucracy to prop them up has often made things harder on the CIW; but it’s also made them freer, and left them free of the restraints on serious and innovative labor activism that have held the government-authorized union movement back for the past 60 years. (Example: the strategic decision to target Taco Bell in the first place—that is, the whole damned campaign that allowed the Immokalee workers to win such a huge improvement in their standard of living—was a secondary boycott, and so would have been illegal under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act and the Landrum-Griffin Act. But since the CIW doesn’t need a permission slip from the NLRB to engage in direct action, they won the day—not in spite of, but because of their freedom from government restraints on labor organizing.

— Charles Johnson, El pueblo unido jamás será vencido,, Rad Geek People’s Daily, March 23, 2005.

As I wrote a few years later, after their victory in a campaign to win an agreement from Subway:

The Blockheads of the world may insist that unions survive only through violence, and win only through either the intervention of the State or vigilantism against non-unionized fellow workers. Yet somehow, today, I find this message from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — and a similar e-mail from their allies in the Student/Farmworker Alliance — a southern Florida farmworker’s union that uses nonviolent protest, secondary boycotts, and other creative pressure campaigns on behalf of Florida tomato pickers, and which (because it is a farmworkers’ union) has no access at all to the government labor relations bureaucracy. Somehow, they have survived. Somehow, they have won — again. . . . Fellow workers, the C.I.W.’s ongoing series of inspiring victories for Florida farmworkers are both an inspiration and a reminder. We should never forget the power of creative extremism and wildcat unionism — a power that needs no government, no ballot boxes, no political bosses, no Officially Recognized labor bureaucrats, no lawyers, and no Changeling political parties. It’s the power that fellow worker Joe Ettor reminded us all of, as he and his fellow workers struggled to a hard-won victory in the great Bread and Roses textile strike of 1912, when he said:

If the workers of the world want to win, all they have to do is recognize their own solidarity. They have nothing to do but fold their arms and the world will stop. The workers are more powerful with their hands in their pockets than all the property of the capitalists. As long as the workers keep their hands in their pockets, the capitalists cannot put theirs there. With passive resistance, with the workers absolutely refusing to move, lying absolutely silent, they are more powerful than all the weapons and instruments that the other side has for attack.

Yes, we can do it—ourselves. And we will.

— Charles Johnson, Victory to the Farmworkers!, Rad Geek People’s Daily, December 2, 2008.

It’s great to see CIW’s radical presence and their ongoing victories in campaigns that highlight the deep connections between neo-imperialism, military statism, and the deep, artificial, violently-backed inequalities of state capitalism. They know what’s up, and they have been an inspiring example in the kind of creative extremism that gets the goods.

Also.

  1. [1] SOA was rebranded as WHINSEC, the Western Hemphisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, in 2001.

Monday Lazy Linking

The Clean Water Act Vs. Clean Water

Market Anarchists probably haven’t written about the environment as much as we should. But not because we don’t have anything to say about it. When we do address environmental issues specifically, one of the things that I think market Anarchists have really contributed to the discussion are some key points about how ex ante environmental laws, intended to curb pollution and other forms of environmental damage, makes some superficial reforms, but at the expense of creating a legal framework for big polluters to immunize themselves from responsibility for the damage they continue to cause to people’s health and homes, or to the natural resources that people use from day to day;[1]. And, also, how legislative environmentalism in general tends to crowd out freed-market methods for punishing polluters and rewarding sustainable modes of production. For a perfect illustration of how legislative environmentalism is actively hurting environmental action, check out this short item in the Dispatches section of this month’s Atlantic. The story is about toxic mine runoff in Colorado, and describes how statist anti-pollution laws are stopping small, local environmental groups from actually taking direct, simple steps toward containing the lethal pollution that is constantly running into their communities’ rivers — and how big national environmental groups are lobbying hard to make sure that the smaller, grassroots environmental groups keep getting blocked by the Feds.

In the surrounding steep valleys, hundreds of defunct silver and gold mines pock the slopes with log-framed portals and piles of waste rock. When water flows over the exposed, mineral-laden rock in and around the mines, it dissolves zinc, cadmium, lead, and other metals. The contaminated water, sometimes becoming acidic enough to burn skin, then dumps into nearby streams. So-called acid mine drainage, most of it from abandoned boom-time relics, pollutes an estimated 12,000 miles of streams throughout the West—about 40 percent of western waterways.

Near Silverton, the problem became bad enough to galvanize landowners, miners, environmentalists, and local officials into a volunteer effort to address the drainage—work that has helped avert a federal Superfund designation and restore a gold-medal trout population downstream. With a few relatively simple and inexpensive fixes, such as concrete plugs for mine portals and artificial wetlands that absorb mine waste, the Silverton volunteers say they could further reduce the amount of acid mine drainage flowing into local rivers. In some cases, it would be simple enough just to go up there with a shovel and redirect the water, says William Simon, a former Berkeley ecology professor who has spent much of the past 15 years leading cleanup projects.

But as these volunteers prepare to tackle the main source of the pollution, the mines themselves, they face an unexpected obstacle—the Clean Water Act. Under federal law, anyone wanting to clean up water flowing from a hard-rock > mine must bring it up to the act’s stringent water-quality standards and take responsibility for containing the pollution—forever. Would-be do-gooders become the legal operators of abandoned mines like those near Silverton, and therefore liable for their condition.

— Michelle Nijhuis, The Atlantic (May 2010): Shafted

Under anything resembling principles of justice, people ought to be held responsible for the damage they cause, not for the problems that remain after they try to repair damage caused by somebody else, now long gone. But the basic problem with the Clean Water Act, like all statist environmental regulations, is that it isn’t about standards of justice; it’s about compliance with regulatory standards, and from the standpoint of an environmental regulator the important thing is (1) that government has to be able to single out somebody or some group to pigeonhole as the People In Charge of the site; and (2) whoever gets tagged as taking charge of the site, therefore, gets put on the hook for meeting the predetermined standards, or for facing the predetermined penalties, no matter what the facts of the particular case and no matter the fact that they didn’t do anything to cause the existing damage.[2]

The obvious response to this should be to repeal the clause of the Clean Water Act which creates this insane condition, and leave the people with a stake in the community free to take positive action. Unfortunately, the best that government legislators can think of is to pass a new law to legalize it—i.e., to create yet another damn bureaucratic permit, so that shoestring-budget community groups can spend all their time filling out paperwork and reporting back to the EPA instead. Meanwhile, the State of the Debate being what it is, even this weak, hyperbureaucratic solution is being opposed by the lobbying arms of several national environmental groups:

In mid-October, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado introduced a bill that would allow such “good Samaritans” to obtain, under the Clean Water Act, special mine-cleanup permits that would protect them from some liability. Previous good-Samaritan bills have met opposition from national environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and even the American Bird Conservancy, for whom any weakening of Clean Water Act standards is anathema. Although Udall’s bill is narrower in scope than past proposals, some environmental groups still say the abandoned-mine problem should instead be solved with additional regulation of the mining industry and more federal money for cleanup projects. If you support cleaning up the environment, why would you support cleaning up something halfway? asks Natalie Roy, executive director of the Clean Water Network, a coalition of more than 1,250 environmental and other public-interest groups. It makes no sense.

— Michelle Nijhuis, The Atlantic (May 2010): Shafted

All of which perfectly illustrates two of the points that I keep trying to make about Anarchy and practicality. Statists constantly tell us that, nice as airy-fairy Anarchist theory may be, we have to deal with the real world. But down in the real world, walloping on the tar baby of electoral politics constantly gets big Progressive lobbying groups stuck in ridiculous fights that elevate procedural details and purely symbolic victories above the practical success of the goals the politicking was supposedly for — to hell with clean water in Silverton, Colorado, when there’s a federal Clean Water Act to be saved! And, secondly, how governmental politics systematically destroys any opportunity for progress on the margin — where positive direct action by people in the community could save a river from lethal toxins tomorrow, if government would just get its guns out of their faces, government action takes years to pass, years to implement, and never addresses anything until it’s just about ready to address everything. Thus Executive Director Natalie Roy, on behalf of More Than 1,250 Environmental And Other Public-Interest Groups, is explicitly baffled by the notion that the people who live by these rivers might not have time to hold out for the decisive blow in winning some all-or-nothing struggle in the national legislature.

The near-term prospects of Udall’s half-hearted legalization bill don’t look good. The conclusion from the Atlantic is despair:

Just a few miles from Silverton, in an icy valley creased with avalanche chutes, groundwater burbles out of the long-abandoned Red and Bonita gold mine. Loaded with aluminum, cadmium, and lead, it pours downhill, at 300 gallons a minute, into an alpine stream. The Silverton volunteers aren’t expecting a federal windfall anytime soon—even Superfund-designated mine sites have waited years for cleanup funding, and Udall’s bill has been held up in a Senate committee since last fall. Without a good-Samaritan provision to protect them from liability, they have few choices but to watch the Red and Bonita, and the rest of their local mines, continue to drain.

— Michelle Nijhuis, The Atlantic (May 2010): Shafted

(Illustration by Mark Jeffries.)

But I think if you realize that the problem is built in, structurally, to electoral politics, the response doesn’t need to be despair. It can be motivation. Instead of sitting around watching their rivers die and waiting for Senator Mark Udall Of Colorado to pass a bill to legalize their direct action, what I’d suggest is that the local environmental groups in Colorado stop caring so much about what’s legal and what’s illegal, consider some countereconomic, direct action alternatives to governmental politics, and perform some Guerrilla Public Service.

I mean, look, if there are places where it would be simple enough just to go up there with a shovel and redirect the water, then wait until nightfall, get yourself a shovel and go up there. Take a flashlight. And some bolt-cutters, if you need them. Cement plugs no doubt take more time, but you’d be surprised what a dedicated crew can accomplish in a few hours, or a few nights running. If you do it yourself, without identifying yourself and without asking for permission, the EPA doesn’t need to know about it and the Clean Water Act can’t do anything to punish you for your halfway clean-up.

The Colorado rivers don’t need political parties, permits, or Public-Interest Groups. What they need is some good honest outlaws, and some Black-and-Green Market entrepreneurship.

See also:

  1. [1] See, for example, Kevin Carson’s Monbiot: One Step Back and Fred Foldvary on Green Taxes, or my brief comments over at Alas, A Blog
  2. [2] Ex ante regulation, by definition, isn’t about looking at particular cases, and it isn’t about looking back to who caused what; it’s about identifying, licensing, controlling, and penalizing agents according to the situation right now. That sounds all progressive and forward-looking and practical, until you realize that the direct effect is to make sure that nobody who gives a damn about their community is able to afford to take responsibility for dealing with preexisting damage; all kinds of positive action get burned out, and all that’s left are cash-strapped, overworked government programs, which can proceed because government has made up the doctrine of sovereign immunity in order to protect its own enterprises from being held legally responsible for anything.

Rank and file

The week before the election, I complained about an ad that DNC political hacks sent out, which (wrongly, and dangerously) suggested that political change amounted to nothing more than, and ended with the success of, an effot to get some millionaire professional politician installed in office. It turns out that MoveOn agrees with me, and they’re working on organizing Fired up and ready to go gatherings in every community the can, to keep their grassroots organizing moving forward. I know because they sent me an e-mail about it. <Well, bully for them. However, having read some of the comments that MoveOn specifically selected to represent the sentiments they were hearing from their members, when they asked about what to do after the election, I can’t say I’m terribly heartened by their idea of what kind of organizing you do after an electoral victory:

From: Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn.org Political Action
Date: 3:01 PM
To: Rad Geek
Subject: Fired up and ready to go

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We need to continue the same level of involvement and commitment to whatever this Presidency needs of us to accomplish all that we believe can be done. Yes we can, Yes we did, and Yes we will!—Judith C., Salem, MA

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We have to be prepared to go through with whatever we need to—even if that means some sacrifice. Obama will lead the way!—Sarah A., Greer. SC

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Let Barack know that we stand ready to go to work. Take advantage of our energy and enthusiasm for the common good, put us to work.—Jeff R., Boulder, CO

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Be willing to work with him and make personal sacrifice for the good of our country and our children’s future.—Stephanie L., Laguna Niguel, CA

I don’t know whether these sentiments are actually representative of the MoveOn membership, or whether MoveOn selected a few unusual comments that seemed most useful to their purposes. But in either case, this sort of sentiment — that grassroots, street-level organizations should stand ready, not as a countervailing social force to direct recently-elected politicians and to keep them on track for the grassroots’ own agenda, but rather as shock troops for some messianic leader to issue marching orders to and put … to work, even at great personal sacrifice, for whatever the leader may require — is the sort of thing that ought to disgust anyone who genuinely believes in people-powered community organizing, and ought to terrify anyone who believes in the principles of a free and open society.

I’ve seen that movie before, and I know how it ends.

I guess it really is time to Move On.

See also: