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This is what a police state looks like. (Part 3 of ???)

Show me what a police state looks like…

This is what a police state looks like!

In the interest of equal time, this footage comes from the streets of Occupied Denver, during the protests outside of the Democratic National Coronation. While police repression was much less severe in Denver than in St. Paul, the city government’s use of fascist free speech zone cages was much more extensive, and the paramilitary cadres in Denver engaged in plenty of their own pre-emptive raids on activists, round-ups and mass arrests, pepper-spraying, beatings with batons, and all the rest.

Remember that so-called electoral democracy — in fact, nothing more than an imperial elective oligarchy — never means that we (meaning you and I and our neighbors) are respected as sovereign individuals or left alone to manage our own affairs. What it means is that a highly organized, heavily armed elite insists on the privilege of representing us, ruling over us, and ordering us around, on the excuse that, once every several years, we are given some minimal opportunity to select which of two tightly regimented political parties will take control of the ruling apparatus. It is, in other words, not freedom, but rather a Party State, in which we are given only the choice of which of two bureaucratic political parties might control our lives and livelihoods, with their authority supposedly justified by the ritual of elections and the mandate of popular sovereignty. And if the people (again, meaning you and I and our neighbors) should dare to think that we might challenge the authority of the regime supposedly representing us, you’ll find that it’s the people that go out the window, not the rigged electoral system or the parties’ grasp on the authority supposedly derived from those people.

See also:

Cops are here to protect you. (#7)

Trigger warning. The video footage and news report include both video and a verbal description of a male cop shouting misogynistic curses and using sudden physical violence against a woman trying to find out why another protester had been arrested.

This special edition of Cops are here to protect you is brought to you from the streets of Occupied Denver, during the recent police riots against people protesting the Democratic National Convention.

Government cops protect you by yanking random dark-skinned men out of the park for no clear reason. Then, if you should walk up and try to take some photographs of what’s happening, or ask them why they’re arresting a dark-skinned man who, as far as anyone could tell, was standing around not doing anything wrong, they’ll protect you by jabbing you with a stick. Then, if you should dare to verbally demand that your public servants stop jabbing you with a stick for asking questions, they’ll make sure you’re good and protected by screaming Back up, bitch! in your face and slamming you to the ground with a body check from the same stick.

Oh, and then grabbing you and hauling you away to jail when you try to talk to reporters about what just happened.

The woman shown on video being shoved to the ground by a Denver police officer says the officer hit her four times with his baton in an incident she describes as unprovoked.

CodePink protester Alicia Forrest, 24, was released on $500 bail Tuesday night and has a court date for late September, she said Wednesday at an anti-war protest march through the middle of Denver.

I’m a little sore, she said, but I’ll make it.

Forrest is a former fashion designer from Los Angeles.

She and others were asking officers why they were arresting another protester Tuesday afternoon outside Civic Center Park when the officer poked her twice with his baton. He then pushed her with the long side of the stick once, Forrest said, before yelling, Back up, b—- and shoving her hard to the ground.

The final shove was captured by a Rocky videographer.

. . . I was taking photos (and) he kept hitting me with his baton, she said. I was so shocked that he did that.

Forrest and CodePink said the officer was reassigned and can no longer interact with demonstrators, but that could not be immediately confirmed Wednesday.

Forrest was in jail about five hours, then spent another two hours talking with the Denver Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, she said.

— Paul A. Anthony, Rocky Mountain News (2008-08-28):

I suppose it’s for the best that he can’t get all interactive on demonstrators’ asses anymore. But if it is true that he acted improperly enough to yank him from protest control duty, then isn’t also the case that he violated the rights of an innocent woman with his use of force? And, if so, why is this dangerous thug — who feels perfectly free to beat an unarmed woman with a stick, while screaming misogynistic curses at her, apparently for nothing more than daring to give him lip — why, I say, is he not in jail on charges of assault and battery?

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¡Chipotle, escucha: estamos en la lucha!

Fellow workers,

Here is what Coalition of Immokalee Workers organizer Lucas Benitez had to say at a press conference celebrating the C.I.W.’s remarkable victory in the Burger King penny-per-pound passthrough campaign:

Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Social responsibility in this country’s food industry is inevitable, and though the exploitation of Florida’s farmworkers remains unconscionable today, company by company we are building a path toward justice. The next steps are up to those companies that stand before us in the road ahead.

There are companies — like Chipotle in the restaurant world and Whole Foods in the grocery industry — that already make claims to social responsibility yet, when it comes to tomatoes, fall far short of their lofty claims. It is time, now, that those companies live out the true meaning of their marketers’ words.

And there are companies — like Subway and WalMart — that, by the sheer volume of their purchases, profit like few others from the pernicious poverty of workers in Florida’s fields. They, too, must step up now. After eight years of this campaign — and the very public commitment of the three largest fast-food companies in the world to the principles of Fair Food — they can no longer claim ignorance of the problem nor can they say that the solution is not possible.

So to all of you who have marched with us, organized petition drives with us, prayed with us, and struggled with us, today is a day to celebrate this hard-fought victory. Tomorrow, with renewed energy and purpose, we begin our work again to make respect for fundamental human rights in Florida’s tomato fields truly universal.

— Lucas Benitez, quoted in Coalition of Immokalee Workers Breaking News (2008-06-09): The Road Ahead in the Campaign for Fair Food!

The C.I.W. and the Student-Farmworker Alliance are taking the fight to Chipotle, a corporation supposedly priding itself on food with integrity, with whom they have repeatedly tried to meet for negotiations, but who responded by claiming that they would investigate (ah, investigation; cf. suggestions #3 and #6), and, in the meantime, would suspend buying from Florida growers (!), rather than simply taking direct action, as they easily could, to raise Florida tomato-pickers piece rate by passing through the extra penny per pound. In April, C.I.W. and SFA organized protests at Chipotle headquarters in Denver. The C.I.W. has released a one page letter that you can print and deliver to the manager of your local Chipotle restaurants. I’m not a fan of the complaints of being excluded from the normal regime of federal labor regulation on wages, conditions, and organizing; the denial of that bureaucratic crutch and shackle is precisely what has freed the C.I.W. to use the kind of fight-to-win tactics that they are using, and to win the impressive victories that they have won. Other than that regrettable cap-doffing to the State labor bureaucracy, however, it’s clear, to the point, and offers a quick and easy opportunity for you (yes, you) to get involved in the beginnings of what’s sure to emerge as another creative, powerful, and ultimately victorious bottom-up, decentralized campaign of agitation and radical labor solidarity. Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Chipotle Manager,

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been presented with the opportunity to foster real social responsibility in its tomato supply chain by working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization of farmworkers that has been internationally recognized for its work defending basic human rights. Instead, Chipotle claims to have suspended purchases of Florida tomatoes while it unilaterally investigates already well-documented human rights abuses in Florida’s fields.

The supposed need for an investigation of the human rights crisis in Florida’s fields today is mystifying. According to readily available Department of Labor statistics, tomato pickers in Florida face deplorable conditions, including:

  • Sub-poverty wages — Tomato pickers make, on average, $10,000/year;
  • No raise in nearly 30 years — Pickers are paid virtually the same per bucket piece rate (roughly 45 cents per 32 lb. bucket) today as they were in 1980. At today’s rate, workers have to pick nearly 2.5 TONS of tomatoes just to earn minimum wage for a typical 10-hr day;
  • Denial of fundamental labor rights — Farmworkers in Florida have no right to overtime pay, even when working 60-70 hour weeks, and no right to organize or bargain collectively.

Even worse, numerous modern-day slavery rings, in which workers are held against their will and forced to work through violence or threats of violence, continue to operate in the fields. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has assisted the Department of Justice in uncovering, investigating, and successfully prosecuting 5 such cases — involving more than 1,000 workers — since 1997.

The three largest fast-food companies in the world have recognized these dehumanizing conditions and moved to address them, giving workers new hope for meaningful reform in the nation’s agricultural industry. In 2005, after a 4-year national consumer boycott, Yum Brands (parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and others) reached an historic agreement with the CIW to directly improve wages and working conditions in its tomato suppliers’ operations by paying a penny more per pound for its tomatoes and working with the CIW to implement an enforceable code of conduct to protect farmworkers’ rights. McDonald’s and Burger King followed suit in 2007 and 2008, respectively, reaching agreements with the CIW that met and expanded upon the Yum! Brands accord. All three fast-food leaders have recognized the fact that their high volume purchases of tomatoes give them the leverage they need to demand more humane working conditions in their suppliers’ fields.

Chipotle however, has remained indifferent to the deplorable conditions faced by workers in its tomato supply chain. Nearly two years have passed since Chipotle launched its investigation and many questions now beg to be answered. Where are the results of Chipotle’s inquiry into Florida’s farm labor conditions? Where has Chipotle been purchasing tomatoes in the meantime, and how do workers fare in those fields? Is Chipotle actually supplying its East Coast restaurants with tomatoes from Mexico (the only other viable option to Florida tomatoes during nearly half the year), despite the immense increase in the cost and carbon footprint of Chipotle’s food that would result from such a decision? Or is Chipotle still in fact purchasing Florida tomatoes, despite its claims to have suspended purchases from Florida? Are transparency and human rights not a part of Chipotle’s definition of Integrity?

Please contact Chipotle Corporate Headquarters in Denver and let them know that you and your customers want them to join with Yum, McDonald’s and Burger King as leaders in true corporate social responsibility by:

  • Paying a penny more per pound for the tomatoes that Chipotle purchases and ensuring that this increase is passed along to tomato pickers in the form of increased wages; and

  • Working with the CIW to implement an enforceable code of conduct to ensure fair and safe working conditions for farmworkers in Chipotle’s tomato supply chain.

Thank you.

— Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Dear Chipotle Manager

Print yourself out a copy and deliver it to your local Chipotle to explain why this issue will affect your burrito-purchasing decisions in the future.

More action alerts and a flyer about Chipotle that you can hang locally are promised soon. Keep an eye out for it: this should get interesting, and there’s likely to be a lot more to come.

Victory to the farmworkers!

See also:

Cops are here to protect you. (#6)

Cops are here to protect you by stopping an upset man from cutting himself with a knife by shouting at him in a language he doesn’t speak, then, after he fails to obey commands he couldn’t understand, by tasering him, firing pepperballs at him, and then shooting him dead — with several shots fired after he had dropped the knife.

All for his own good, of course. It became necessary to kill Odiceo Valencia in order to save him.

Cops are here to protect you by pulling you over if your car seems suspicious to them and then, if you want to know what you were pulled over for, pulling you out of the car, getting up in your face, and shouting, Ever get smart-mouthed with a cop again, I show you what a cop does, threatening to arrest you for some fucking reason I come up with, bragging that they can come up with nine other things to arrest you for, insisting, when you tell them that their conduct is being recorded, shouting I don’t really care about your cameras, ’cause I’m about ready to tow your car, then we can tear ’em all apart, and then proceeding to give you a ten-minute lecture on how you should properly address your public servants.

Please note that Officer James Kuhnlein’s dash cam tape from that night was inexplicably missing when Brett Darrow filed a complaint with the St. George police department. Actually, I don’t think it’s particularly difficult at all to explain what happened to the tape.

Cops are here to protect you by pulling you over for possibly speeding and then arresting you on a 10-year-old dog violation. Then, since they just can’t be bothered to wait half an hour until your sister arrives, leaving a 15 year old girl and a 7 month old infant stuck alone in a car on the side of the road at 11 o’clock at night.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.—A Grand Junction woman says a state trooper left her baby and her teenage niece unattended in her car for 25 minutes one night when he took her to jail after a traffic stop.

Keio Saupaia said Trooper Jeffrey Vrbas pulled her over at about 11 p.m. on April 28 when she had her 7-month-old daughter and 15-year-old niece with her.

She said Vrbas contacted her sister to come get the children, but that he didn’t wait for the sister to arrive before taking Saupaia to jail.

If that was me, I could have been charged with child abuse, she told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ed Clark confirmed to The Associated Press Monday that Vrbas had arrested Saupaia. Clark said he doesn’t dispute Saupaia’s account but declined to discuss specifics of the incident.

Clark said the matter had been handled internally, but he declined to say whether Clark had been disciplined or to give any other details, citing confidentiality rules covering personnel matters.

I just ask the public to trust that we would handle this appropriately, he told the AP in a telephone interview.

— Denver Post (2008-05-19): Woman says trooper left her baby, teen alone in car at night

But why the fuck would anyone trust them to handle it appropriately?

Trust is earned, not bestowed, and in the case of out-of-control cops like Trooper Jeffrey Vrbas, there is no empirical evidence at all to justify putting trust in the police department administration to do a damned thing about it, beyond possibly ripping him for causing a P.R. problem. When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police department almost invariably doing everything in its power to conceal, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously irresponsible or dangerously out-of-control the cop may be, it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, that the same police department that hires and trains these goons ought to be trusted to handle it internally (which means secretly), and that any blanket condemnation of American policing is a sign of hastiness and unfair prejudice. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant 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.

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Goodbye’s too good a word, babe

In light of the late unpleasantness in Denver, the pair of ridiculous small-government conservative tools nominated, and the Party bosses running the convention, who saw fit to so transparently stage-manage the process of choosing a contemptible conservative drug prohibitionist and a contemptible conservative warhawk as their party’s mouthpieces, I think that congratulations and thanks are due to Aster for pointing out the perfect reply–and all that really needs to be said, at this point.

Well, it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe,
If’n you don’t know by now.
And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe;
It’ll never do somehow.

When your rooster crows at the break of dawn,
Look out your window and I’ll be gone.
You’re the reason I’ll be travelin’ on;
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

. . .

So long, honey babe;
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell.
Goodbye’s too good a word, babe;
So I’ll just say fare-thee-well.

I ain’t a-sayin’ you treated me unkind;
You could’a done better, but I don’t mind.
You just kind of wasted my precious time;
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

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