Posts tagged Florida

By the book

In Escambia County, Florida, a gang of unnamed sheriff’s deputies shot an unarmed, 60-year-old black man 15 times while he was standing in his own front yard trying to get a cigarette from his aged mother’s car, sending him to the hospital with a gunshot wound in his leg. The police lit him up because they barged onto his property at a quarter till three in the morning, came up behind him, drew down on him and shouted at him out of nowhere to get his hands up. When he didn’t react the right way, quickly enough, to bellowed commands of these belligerent, heavily armed strangers, they opened fire on him.

[Roy] Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home.

A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call.

Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, Get your hands where I can see them.

He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.

He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire.

It was like a firing squad, he said. Bullets were flying everywhere.

— Kevin Robinson, Deputies shoot man in his front yard
Pensacola News Journal (29 July 2013)

For shooting an unarmed man standing in his front lawn, who posed no threat to them, the unnamed police officers have been given a paid vacation from their government jobs.

Last Thursday, Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan gave an interview with CNN in which he defended the shooting and the deputies responsible for it, and that it is within standard protocols to open fire because Middleton did not comply with their commands.

According to Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan in a CNN interview Thursday, the police officers who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton in the driveway of his and his mother’s home acted entirely within their limits in response to a 911 call for a suspected car theft… . On Thursday, Morgan defended the officers’ actions as standard procedure because Middleton “did not comply.” Asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo how police could justify 15 shots at a 60-year-old man, Morgan said the officers saw a metallic object in Middleton’s hand as he made a “lunging movement” toward them. Middleton explained this in his account: He turned around because he thought the entire thing was a practical joke played by a neighbor.

“Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” Morgan said.

— Rebecca Leber, Florida Sheriff: Officers Who Shot Unarmed Black Man In His Driveway Followed ‘Standard Protocols’
ThinkProgress (August 1, 2013).

Let’s suppose that all that is true, for the moment. (There is actually no reason at all to take the police at their word on this, but let’s assume for the sake of argument.) If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was something that leaves the police comfortable from a training perspective, then what does that tell you about the training? If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was strictly by the book, what does that tell you about the book?

Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d)

(Via Thaddeus Russell.)

An 18-year-old skater died yesterday after Miami Beach Police officers caught him tagging a building and then Tasered him.

Details about the death are still murky, but what is clear is that Israel Hernandez died before dawn Tuesday morning after cops caught him spray painting near 71st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Police have yet to comment on the killing, but an officer near the scene confirmed that cops had fatally Tasered someone. Hernandez’s friends on the Miami Beach skate scene are devastated.

“I just cant believe it,” says best friend Rafael Lynch, on the verge of tears. “I still have his hat and his board. They still smell like him. It’s crazy.”

Update: MBPD has released a statement and incident report confirming that Hernandez died after being Tasered. Police chased Hernandez after catching him tagging a building and used the electronic weapon [sic —RG] when he refused to stop.

— Michael E. Miller, Teenager Israel Hernandez Dies After Miami Beach Cops Catch Him Tagging, Taser Him
Miami New Times (Aug 7, 2013).

From GT 2011-01-28: Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d):

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

  1. [1] That is, torture.

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.

Show me what a police state looks like… (2012 edition, part 1 of ????)

These are from the streets of Tampa, Florida. The first is from Brian Miller, via Radley Balko (August 28, 2012) (via my cousin Emily): it’s a picture of the out-of-town police brought in to Tampa to guard the 2012 Republican National Convention. The others are from many sources, collected in Examiner.com’s article on the use of the newest technology in civilian surveillance and police weaponry in Tampa and Charlotte.

* * *

Show me what elected government looks like…

(A photograph of a line of State Troopers in heavy body armor and riot gear.)

This is what elected government looks like.

* * *

Show me what a police state looks like…

(A photograph of two police officers on a boat with a mounted carbine pointing off toward the top of the photo.)

This is what a police state looks like.

(A photograph of a huge crowd of bicycle cops arresting a young man in a Misfits t-shirt, while other bike cops hold onlookers off at a distance.)

* * *

From the Examiner.com article:

Officials in Tampa are preparing for mass arrests; Orient Road Jail has been vacated to ensure that the 1,700 beds can be utilized if needed. It has been reported that an Occupy Tampa protester was arrested on August 27, 2012, for refusing to remove his mask at the request of the police. Occupy Tampa has also reported that homeless people are being arrested near the convention by ‘secret service.’

Tampa received a $50 million federal grant just for security. Tampa bought high-tech security cameras, body armor, and an armored tank. During the RNC, Tampa will have boat patrols armed with fully automatic .308 caliber rifles. Trapwire surveillance systems have also been installed throughout Tampa . . . .

. . . According to 2012Tampa.com “The Convention is designated by the Department of Homeland Security as one of only four National Special Security Events (NSSE) to be held in 2012; other examples of potential NSSE events include G-8/G-20 Summits and the World Bank/IMF meetings.”

— Chris Time Steele, Examiner.com (August 27, 2012): From the DNC in Denver to the RNC in Tampa, the surveillance state grows

* * *

(A photograph of a crowd of sheriffs walking past an MSNBC pavilion.)

* * *

Here is what I wrote a few years ago, during the paramilitary occupations of the Twin Cities during the last Republican National Convention.

. . . 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.

— GT 2008-09-03: This is what a police state looks like (part 1 of ???)

* * *

(A photograph of a line of police in body armor and riot gear standing in front of a group of seated, unarmed protesters in casual dress.)

* * *

Also.

From 2008.

Oops, our bad (cont’d).

Sage Wisdom. Daily Brickbats (2011-06-17):

A Broward County, Florida, sheriff's deputy spotted Robin Brown when she was bird watching one day. He thought that the sage she had with her was marijuana, and a field test seemed to confirm that. He didn't arrest her then, but confiscated the sage and sent it to the crime...

Want to guess how much compensation she might be able to get from police and state prosecutors to make up for the harassment, arrest, abduction, sexual assault, torture, and confinement that they inflicted on her, a completely innocent bird-watcher, based on nothing more than belligerent ignorance, a fraudulent "field kit," and pure, callous negligence?

Ha, ha, it's a trick question. Even if she does win her lawsuit (which will be hard; the system overwhelmingly favors immunity for government violence), the police and prosecutors will never pay anything for the damages she's awarded. Government police and state prosecutors never pay for what they do to innocent people; you pay for their crimes instead, when they send the tax bill on to you.