Posts tagged Illinois

The Police Beat

  1. Common ground. Chicago, Illinois; London, England; Tehran, Iran; and Ramat Gan, Israel. It turns out there’s one thing the governments in Iran, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S.A. can all agree on: massive police brutality against political protesters.

  2. Lausanne, Switzerland. World Radio Switzerland (2009-06-09): Perjury claim reopens police brutality case. A cop in the Swiss city of Lausanne stopped a 16 year old Eritrean immigrant twice on New Year’s eve; the second time, they decided to douse him with pepper spray and leave him out in the woods. He tried to lodge a complaint, but the local police wouldn’t accept the complaint. When the case finally got investigated and went to trial, the cop was acquitted in court because his gang-brothers lied for him on the stand. The case is back in the news because it’s been re-opened after a former cop accused them of perjuring themselves in order to cover up police brutality.

  3. Sergeant Naofumi Nomura. Okayama, Japan. A 75 year old woman recently got Served and Protected by Police Sergeant Naofumi Nomura when he stole her purse and about 10,000 yen inside it. He was arrested after two high school boys chased him down on their bicycles. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats.)

  4. Northern Territory police. Darwin, Australia. Tara Ravens, Brisbane Times (2009-06-10): Coroner slams NT police over man’s death. Northern Territory police pulled a former journalist named Greg Plasto off the street and forced him into the hospital for a mental health assessment because they thought he was acting strangely, in their arbitrary judgment, which apparently is good enough to put you in a psychoprison these days; after he had been forced to wait nearly two hours in an ambulance, he got up and said he wanted to go outside. Rather than asking him why he wanted to go outside, or just letting him get up and walk around, a gang of up to six cops tackled Plasto, who, again, had not been accused of any crime at all, then wrestled him to the ground, smashed his head into the ground, and held him down on the ground for four minutes while he turned blue and smothered to death. The coroner who reviewed the case says that the problem is that police need better training.

  5. Officer Joseph J. Rios III. Passaic, New Jersey. (Cont’d.) I previously mentioned the case of Officer Joseph J. Rios III, who was videotaped beating the hell out of a defenseless black man, over and over again, for not having zipped up his jacket on command. (Rios, formerly a counter-insurgency soldier in occupied Iraq, remained on active patrol duty while the incident was being Internally Investigated, right up until after the video evidence was released to the public, at which point the city government’s police department let him keep his job, but put him on a desk job. Then, in response to public protest, Mayor Alex Blanco had the city government’s police department give Rios a [paid vacation](http://www.northjersey.com/breakingnews/Officeraccusedofexcessiveforce_suspended.html instead. Later, in response to ongoing protests, he had it changed to an unpaid vacation.

    Officer Joseph J. Rios III has since come out with a public statement for the press, insisting that he stands by his actions; saying (through his lawyer) that There were communications by Mr. Holloway and the officer as well as an earlier encounter during the day between the men that wasn’t on the tape (apparently thinking that verbal communications might somehow — how? — justify this relentless beat-down); he asserts that he did what was proper and (what he wrongly believes to be the same thing) he did what I was trained to do. Supposing that’s true, what does that tell you about the training?

  6. Well, if you say so …. Botched SWAT raid. Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department. Prince George’s County, Maryland. Radley Balko, Hit & Run (2009-06-20): Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department Declares Itself Blame-Free in Cheye Calvo Raid In which the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department issues a report in which it is reported that the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department did nothing wrong in the no-knock, no-evidence SWAT raid on Cheye Calvo’s family home. (This is more or less what passes for investigation when cops commit violence against mere civilians.) Sheriff Michael Jackson says the Internal Investigation’s results are consistent with what I’ve felt all along: My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities. No doubt.

  7. Oops. Our bad. (Cont’d.) Botched SWAT raid. Mustang, Oklahoma. Six heavily-armed strangers in black bullet-proof vests stormed Terry Speck’s house back in March and, without telling her who the hell they were or what they were doing in her house, told her they were looking for her 20-year-old nephew, Cory Davis. Terrified, she tried to tell them he was in prison. They didn’t believe her, so they ransacked her house for 20 minutes before they left, without ever identifying themselves. The Specks were later able to figure out that they were police by reviewing the tapes from their home security cameras. Cory Davis had in fact been in state prison since November, but apparently when an arrest warrant on new charges was issued, none of the narcs bothered to check where he was, instead of storming first and asking questions later. Of course, for being terrorized at the hands of six heavily-armed strangers for absolutely no reason, Terry Speck got an Oops, our bad from the state. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-14.)

  8. Murderers and batterers on patrol. Officer Jason Thomas Anderson. Big Lake, Minnesota. I’ve remarked before on the connections between paramilitary policing and violent hypermasculinity. So I’ll just mention, here, that it turns out that when Officer Jason Thomas Anderson is not busy shooting teenage Hmong bike-riders in the back (or shooting them five more times in the chest after they’re already bleeding on the ground), he also likes to get himself arrested on domestic violence charges.

  9. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for filming the police. Richmond, Virginia. Richmond police were dealing with a lot of drunks down in Shockoe Bottom at 2:00am last September. Joanne Jefferson decided to observe and film how the cops were handling people in the crowd; so the cops responded by ordering her to leave, then grabbing her arm, slamming her into a wall, and then forcing her down onto the ground and arresting her for impeding traffic. The story is now in the news because the Richmond D.A. has decided to drop the charges against Ms. Jefferson. Even though filming the police on public property is not a crime, and even though the D.A. has determined that the police had absolutely no basis for arresting Ms. Jefferson, let alone grabbing her, slamming her into a wall, and forcing her down onto the ground in order to do so, he thinks that the officers did not act with excessive force. If the appropriate level of force is zero, how is this not excessive force? Nevertheless, the D.A. has stated that he sees no evidence that would support a criminal investigation of a police officer.

  10. Arresting an innocent priest for filming the police. Officer David Cari. East Haven, Connecticut. East Haven cop David Cari arrested a Roman Catholic priest, James Manship, for filming police treatment of Latino immigrants in East Haven. The police report claims that he had to be arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer because he was holding an unknown shiny silver object in his hand (with the obvious intent to suggest that the cop thought it might have been a gun) and struggled with a cop who tried to take it from him. Turns out that the video footage from the camera shows Officer David Cari asking the priest Is there a reason you have a camera on me? Manship replying I’m taking a video of what’s going on here, and Cari approaching Manship and saying, Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with that camera. The police department’s lawyer says You’ve got to conclude that he was out there with a video camera in an attempt, in my view, to provoke the police to do something. (Well, whatever you want; but if cops just can’t help but do something like arrest an innocent man for a non-crime when provoked by the public they allegedly serve trying to record their behavior, then why should such dangerous thugs continue being cops?) (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-01: Caught on Tape.)

  11. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for raising her voice at a police officer. Officer Bobby Wright and New Mexico State Police. Española, New Mexico. In New Mexico, a couple of State Police, responding to reports of shots fired in the area, rolled up on Dolores Jacquez, a 17 year old pregnant girl, and her boyfriend, who were sitting in a car minding their own business. They pointed automatic rifles at the two of them and ordered them to stand outside the car with their hands in the air. Her boyfriend has only one leg, which made it hard for him to do what they were ordering. Rather than acting like human beings, and in spite of the fact that neither of these kids had committed any crime, the State Police shoved the 17 year old pregnant girl and her one-legged boyfriend down to the ground. During this absolutely pointless manhandling, Jacquez spoke angrily to the officers, raising her voice while talking to them, using profanity at times; for which the State Police decided that she and her boyfriend ought to be arrested. So they shoved her into their patrol car and called up a city government cop, Officer Bobby Wright, to take her to jail. When she asked what would happen to her boyfriend, he replied Shut up, [expletive]. Then he handcuffed her to a bench at the State Police station, making the cuff so tight that it cut into the skin and left a mark on her wrist for days, refused to let her use the bathroom, and threatened to make the cuffs even tighter if she did not shut up. This complaint makes at least the fourth complaint for brutality or unlawful arrests against Officer Bobby Wright. The State Police never bothered to file any charges, because, of course, cussing at cops is not a crime. But while you can beat the rap, you can’t beat the ride, so they arrested the kids anyway, because they could. The State Public Safety Department has settled the separate lawsuit that Jacquez filed against the two State Police cops for terrorizing her, roughing her up and arresting her for speaking angrily; public servants that they are, the State Public Safety Department will be sending the bill for the settlement to a bunch of innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the assault or the false arrest.

  12. Four broken ribs for approaching a police officer. Modesto, California. Back in January 2007, Margaret Shepherd went out to a Modesto bar with her son to celebrate his 21st birthday. One of her son’s friends got thrown out of the bar and a scuffle appeared to break out between the bar’s security guards and some other people in the party. Ms. Shepherd, who had nothing to do with any of this, tried to approach some cops who were in the club to ask them what the hell was going on. So they broke four of her ribs, arrested her for resisting arrest, and then threw her in a paddy-wagon and refused to get her medical attention while she struggled to breathe in the back of the wagon. The story is in the news again because a jury just cleared the cops of any civil liability for this hyperviolent assault on an innocent woman who had done nothing other than try to ask the cops what was going on.

  13. Beating and pepper-spraying a man after he’s been handcuffed for arguing with a police officer. Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams. Valley, Alabama. Amy Weaver, Opelika-Auburn News (2009-06-09): Third claim filed against Valley, police. Valley cops Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams forced their way into 64 year old Joseph E. Coker’s home. Joseph E. Coker wasn’t accused of any crime; they were looking for his son, Brandon Coker. Joseph Coker and Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer got into a verbal argument, so McBrayer threatened to pepper spray him for arguing with a cop who was intruding into his own home. So McBrayer ordered Officer Danny Williams to handcuff this 64-year-old man; then, after he was already being handcuffed, Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer pepper-sprayed him in the face; then he pried open Coker’s right eye and pepper-sprayed him again, directly in the eye. Then they forced him down onto the ground and, while he was still cuffed and physically restrained, smashed his nose so hard he passed out and had to be hospitalized. After going on this unprovoked hyperviolent rampage against a 64-year-old man in his own home, McBrayer and Williams arrested Coker in the emergency room for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. This is the third claim of police brutality filed against the Valley police department in the last three months. The boss cops in Valley refuse to comment on any disciplinary actions because the incident is being Internally Investigated. (Via @InjusticeNews.)

  14. Bludgeoning a stabbing victim after he was already handcuffed to a wheelchair. Officer William Cozzi. Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Officer William Cozzi, a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was caught on video handcuffing a stabbing victim to a wheelchair, in the hospital emergency room, and beating him with a sap. He was called into the emergency room help the man out after he had been stabbed by a female companion. But his victim was drunk, and Cozzi was busy Investigating, so he got frustrated at the alleged beneficiary of this investigation, and decided to deal with his frustration by shackling the man to a wheelchair and beating him with a sap. Then he made up some complete lies for his police report about his victim having attacked him and hospital workers. After the video came out, Cozzi plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and got 18 months of probation.

    Later, a series of scandals over repeated and unchecked police brutality and corruption within the Chicago Police Department forced Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis to refer the case to the FBI for a federal civil rights investigation. Cozzi was just recently convicted and sentenced to three years in federal prison. In response, the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago has made a public complaint about the fact that Cozzi will go to prison for beating the hell out of an innocent, wounded assault victim who was shackled to a wheelchair at the time, and who Cozzi was supposedly called in to Protect and Serve. Terence Gillespie, Cozzi’s defense lawyer, says that This is a message to all those officers in blue out there that after 15 years on the job you’ll get thrown under the bus.

    (See also the case of Hope Steffey for cops beating the hell out of an assault victim who gets too frustrating while the cop is doing his Investigating.)

  15. Gang-beating a man after he’s been handcuffed. Officer Brian Quilici, Officer Ronald Pilati, and Officer Jerome Volstad. Fox Lake, Illinois. Three off-duty cops — one on the Richmond city government’s police force, and two on the Spring Grove city government’s police force — went to a bar in Fox Lake to get drunk back in April 2005. Along the way they got into a verbal argument with a man named Ryan Hallett. When he tried to leave, the three cops followed him out of the bar, handcuffed him, and then beat him down to the ground while he was cuffed. Then, while Hallet was lying on the ground, one of the cops, Officer Brian Quilici, kicked him in the face so hard that he Hallett suffered a broken facial bone and later had to get multiple surgeries. Fox Lake police who responded to this mob beat-down by their gang brothers recommended that their victim, Ryan Hallet, be prosecuted, until a series of newspaper reports revealed that Officer Brian Quilici had already racked up multiple complaints for harassment, battery and disorderly conduct, somehow without charges ever having been filed against him or his job prospects having been hurt in the least. After the newspaper stories forced their hand, the State Police eventually started their own investigation, and Qulici was eventually charged and convicted of mob action, official misconduct, and obstructing justice, which got him a two-year prison sentence. His comrades-in-arms, Officer Ronald Pilati and Officer Jerome Volstad, plead guilty on misdemeanor charges. The story is in the news again for two reasons. First, because a federal jury recently imposed a $450,000 judgment against Quilici and the city government of Richmond for the beating. (The Richmond city government will, of course, force innocent taxpayers to pay for the government’s decision to keep an out-of-control hyperviolent cop on their police force after multiple complaints.) Secondly, because a state appeals court just threw out Officer Brian Quilici’s conviction, on the grounds that the judge in the original criminal trial should not have confused the jury by telling them that A police officer executing an arrest outside of his jurisdiction has no greater arrest powers than a private citizen executing a citizens’ arrest. Because arrest powers would have made it O.K. to pick a start fight, handcuff your victim, and then kick him in the face while he’s lying on the ground?

  16. Highway robbery. Officer Jonathan Lutman. Slidell, Louisiana. In Louisiana, Slidell Police Officer Jonathan Lutman repeatedly used his police car to pull over Latino drivers (whom he targeted because he thought they’d be less likely to report the stick-up) and then demanded that they hand over their wallets. When he had the wallet, he would rip out the cash and pocket it. Officer Jonathan Lutman stole about $3,000 on these highwayman traffic stops before two of his victims reported him. The story is in the news again because he plead guilty to 12 counts of malfeasance in office in May. If you or I or any other non-cop were convicted of practicing highway robbery (in the most literal sense) while armed with a dangerous weapon, we would be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than ten years and not more than ninety-nine years, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. But since Officer Jonathan Lutman robbed people using a government-issued weapon and under color of government authority, he plead guilty to a crime that normally carries a 5 year prison sentence. And then the judge suspended the sentence, and gave Lutman probation instead, and ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats: Copping a Plead.)

  17. Corporal Jason King. South Bend, Indiana. After a high-speed chase, Corporal Jason King was filmed on his dash cam beating up the Suspect Individual he was arresting, even though his victim posed no threat and was not resisting arrest. The Chief of Police in South Bend punished Corporal King by giving him a 30-day unpaid vacation and dropping his rank to patrolman.. When even the Chief of Police concedes that he was needlessly assaulting and battering a man who posed no physical threat, why isn’t Corporal Jason King going to jail?

  18. Officer John Mailander and Officer Mersed Dautovic. Des Moines, Iowa. Two Des Moines city government cops were responding to an unrelated emergency call back in September; a car with a black couple in it failed to immediately yield, so instead of driving on to the emergency, the cops stopped the car, screamed orders and pulled the driver, Erin Evans, out of the car, and, when her boyfriend, Octavius Bonds, tried to get them to stop assaulting her, blinded him with pepper spray, and then beat him black and blue with batons, breaking his left hand and his right arm, and cracking his head open with a gash so big it took eight staples to close. Then they lied about it in their police report to try and cover up their brutality. The story is in the news again now because Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw just recently fired the two cops responsible for this out-of-control assault on helpless victims who had not committed any crime. So, great, they lost their jobs. Why aren’t these dangerous assailants in jail?

  19. Quid custodiet…? Officer Paul Abel. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh cop Paul Abel was an eight year veteran of the police force, and also a former counter-insurgency soldier in the U.S. government’s war on Iraq. He had already racked up three outstanding complaints against him for brutality and filing false police reports on the night he went out to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He decided to drive drunk — after four beers and two shots. Some dude came by and punched him in the face while he sat in his car at the stoplight. So Officer Paul Abel got out, grabbed his government-issued gun, and drove after the suspect. Then, with a blood alcohol level over 0.111, he rolled up on a young man from the neighborhood named Kaleb Miller. Miller says he wasn’t the man who punched Abel; two tow-truck drivers, who were in the area and saw the punching happen, say that Miller looks nothing like the man who did punch Abel. But Officer Paul Abel, drunk off his ass, decided that he had his man, so (out of uniform, at 2 in the morning) he charged up on Miller, waving his gun around, and bellowing arbitrary commands to get down on the ground. Miller didn’t get down quickly enough, so Officer Paul Abel grabbed Miller, pistol-whipped him five times, and then accidentally shot him in the hand. Even the Pittsburgh Police Chief had to publicly announce that The gentleman who was in the physical altercation [sic] is an innocent victim as far as we can tell. The story is in the news now because, when Abel was brought up on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and DUI charges, he opted for a trial before a government judge (because government cops know that they are much more likely to be acquitted by a government judge than by a jury), and Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning has just recently acquitted him on all charges, even the DUI. Manning himself called the beat-down, pistol-whipping, and shooting inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised. But Manning chose to dismiss all the charges because Officer Paul Abel is a cop, and therefore (according to Manning) he cannot be held legally responsible for his admittedly inappropriate, imprudent, and ill-advised hyperviolent beat-down against an admittedly innocent man. Because, according to Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, cops are a class apart, who cannot be held to account for their unrestrained violence in mere civilian courts; or, in his own words, It is not the obligation of this court to police the police department.

    So if the courts don’t police the police, who does?

    The answer is, of course, that most of the time, nobody does. Other arms of the government hardly ever hold government police accountable for abuse because they fob off responsibility to the discretion of their legally-privileged-and-immunized enforcers. The government police hardly ever hold other government police accountable for abuse because they have no incentive to restrain the conduct of their fellow government cops, and a distinct professional interest in giving their colleagues as much latitude as possible in the exercise of unchecked power over their chosen targets. And nobody outside of government can hold police accountable for abuse, because government refuses to recognize the right of any independent person or association to sit in judgment of its own actions, and so has legally declared the State and all its agents accountable to none save God alone. And if you want to know why, week after week, you see the same pattern of rampant, relentless, unchecked, unaccountable, unrepentant, overwhelming and intense violence, committed by government cops against people who are obviously harmless, helpless, or defenseless, in the defense of police prerogatives and inflicted against the very people who they are allegedly being privileged and paid to Serve and Protect — well, that’s pretty much why.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  20. Because the cops we have are already doing so much… Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments, North Las Vegas Police Department, and Henderson Police Department. Carson City, Nevada. Meanwhile, in the capital of Nevada, the bosses of several Nevada police departments — which currently pay the second-highest average police salaries of any state in the U.S. — rolled into the state legislature in the state of Nevada demanding the second half of a quote-unquote More Cops tax, a special tax increase to be inflicted on Nevada taxpayers, in the midst of the state’s worst economic crisis in three generations, solely for the purpose of hiring even more police to go on saturating Nevada city streets and doing all the things that cops do with their time, on our dime, and supposedly in our names.

See also:

The Police Beat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What do you think that says about the policies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

Over My Shoulder #45: How Empire comes home in sado-statism and police brutality. From Fred Woodworth, “Evil Empire Notes,” in The Match! # 107 (Summer, 2009)

Here’s the new rules:

  1. At the top of the post, make a list of the books you’ve read all or part of, in print, over the course of the past week, at least as far as you can remember them. (These should be books that you’ve actually read as a part of your normal life, and not just something that you picked up to read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Pick one of those books from the list, and pick out a quote of one or more paragraphs, to post underneath the list.

  3. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, which should be more a matter of context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than they are a matter of discussing the material.

  4. Quoting a passage absolutely does not entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the books:

  • Sonia Johnson (1989). Wildfire: Igniting the She/Volution. (Albuquerque: Wildfire Books. I picked it up some time ago through BookMooch.)
  • Richard Gombin (1975), The Origins of Modern Leftism. Translated from the French by Michael K. Perl. (Baltimore: Penguin. Picked up this very week for 49¢ from the Shaman Drum used books sale rack!)
  • Fred Woodworth, The Match! Issue No. 107 (Summer, 2009). (Tucson: Fred Woodworth. PO Box 3012, Tucson, Arizona 85702. I picked my copy up last week from May Day Books in Minneapolis.)

And here’s the quote. This is taken from Fred Woodworth’s Evil Empire Notes, Issue No. 107 of The Match! (Summer 2009; also, incidentally, the 40th anniversary issue of The Match!). This was airplane reading, taken in somewhere in the sky between Minneapolis and Las Vegas.

GIVEN all the millions of horrifying stories in the naked country, now and then it’s good to pluck out one to hear an authentic voice rather than a statistic. Amnesty International printed up this one, by Donald Boyd of Chicago:

I have been a victim of racial profiling since I was 17 years old. Once when I was walking to the cleaners, I stopped to talk with some young men…. When I walked away, the police just automatically accused me of purchasing drugs. Two officers jumped out of a car and kept asking What did they sell you? I repeatedly replied no one sold me anything. … They cuffed me and drove me to a police substation.

… The next morning they loaded 45 people into a van made for 32. The men were almost all black and Latino. When we arrived at the jail, sheriff’s deputies, dressed in riot gear, met us. They shouted obscenities and threats. The deputies assaulted several people, including me, for supposedly not complying with their every word.

At each step in the process—arrest, detention and bond hearing—we were lined up, and numbers were scribbled on our arms with black marking pens…. In court, you appear before a judge, but via a television screen. You don’t get to speak, and the judge never even looks you in the face…. They treat our communities with disdain and contempt. I had to hire a lawyer and spend thousands of dollars to get the charges dismissed….


AS Law becomes increasingly complex, with hundreds of thousands and even millions of laws stacked on top of each other, almost no one can confront officialdom in any way without a lawyer. But what happens when your lawyer takes your money and does no work, don’t file basic motions or writs, and essentially shafts you? Not much. Bar associations have a cap of compensatory payments they sometimes make to incompetent or dishonest lawyers’ clients, but the amouts are often based on century-old, or even older, stated maximums. And it’s next to impossible to go after such a lawyer legally, because to do so you need… another lawyer.


. . .

EIGHT COPS raided a home in Minneapolis in ‘08. They shot up the place, accidentally not killing anyone. Well, it was the wrong house (there is no right house for something like this). This is completely comparable to a surgeon amputating the wrong leg, but if the doctor who did this to you then got a commendation from the medical association, wouldn’t you feel absolutely floored? So did the family whose home was raided and shot up. All eight cops received medals.

Undoubtedly this sounds like hyperbole or mere rhetoric, but the simple fact is that there is no conceivable way anyone can interpret this but as an official statement of Good Work, Men to stupid, negligent, incompetent thugs for terrorizing and injuring innocent people.


NOT SURPRISINGLY, when humanitarian spirit is dead in officialdom it’s not partly alive; it really is extinct and defunct. Also in Minnesota, a poor wild bear somehow got a plstic jar or bucket stuck on its head. Official solution: shoot the bear. No sympathy for an unfortunate creature; no imaginative or bold remedy. Just kill.


AS REPORTED by the Washington Post, prison guards at Prince George’s County Jail in Maryland are apt to be the kind of guys the average person expects to hear of as BEHIND bars. An investigation by the paper found guards who’ve been charged with assault, theft, beating and threatening their wives with death, having sex with prisoners, robbery at gunpoint, and other crimes.

Among the nine officers was Mark R. Bradley, whose then-wife asked for a protective order in 1998, claiming he had threatened, taunted, punched and slapped her… When she reached for the phone, Bradley who had been on the force for almost four years, yanked it away… His wife recalled him saying: Call the police… Make me lose my job. I’ll kill you. Almost a decade later, he was still on the payroll at the jail, despite three protective orders issued against him in the late 1990s. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to assaulting another woman, whose rib was broken. The woman, who had been pregnant with his child, told police that after a beating days earlier, she had a miscarriage. A judge put Bradley on probation and ordered him to take an anger management class.


AIRPORT FASCISM is being extended to railroads. Amtrak, the railroad passenger company, has brought in a SWAT-style phalanx of agents in full combat gear to sweep through train stations, randomly screening and searching passengers. The randomly chosen passengers will have to place their bags on a platform and be swabbed with chemicals that are claimed to react to traces of explosives. You can also be ratted out by dogs.


ONE OF THE factors that propelled the United States as far along into the police state that it now is, was the Vietnam War. There’s plenty of evidence that soldiers in ALL wars become brutalized, but something extraordinary seems to have taken place in Vietnam. Whatever it was, American men who went there (and survived) tended to come back in a vicious state of mind. Ordinary people were their enemy. They made up stories (essentially none has ever been verified) of people spitting on them when they arrived at stateside airports; and they formed cliques of us-versus-them. Looking for work, a high proportion of them went into law enforcement, and there they reinforced and amplified the already-existing us versus them mentality, ratcheting the propensity toward police brutality to amazing heights.

Now the same thing is happening with Iraq. Our guess is that the psychological corruption happens when soldiers fight amid a culture and a language that has few points of contact with the west and with Indo-European languages. It is one thing to fight, say, Germans or Italians, whose general culture is largely familiar (same religions, for instance) and whose languages have a large percentage of words that are the same or nearly enough so to be comprehensible even to the monolingual standard American youth. But in Vietnam—and now in Iraq—these military people are surrounded by words and behaviors utterly alien to them. Our own idle theory, therefore, is that this operate on their minds in such a way that the enemy becomes completely dehumanized. This creates the us-versus-them, and when they return to the USA, they still have it.

Then they go into law enforcement.

Already we are beginning to read about cases in which police—now Iraq war veterans—are opening fire on people merely running away from them. And already, too, the convoluted excuses are starting to evolve: Re-experiencing a war zone is one of several classic signs of combat stress reaction, says the Department of Veterans Affairs. If persistent and untreated, the Department goes on, this can result in post traumatic stress disorder.

Whatever verbal gimmickery you haul out to gloss over the facts, the truth is that these men (generally they are men) have been ruined, corrupted fatally and irretrievably, by being sent out to murder masses of people for no good reason in a country where they ought never to have gone. Mostly it’s their own fault, too, since ultimately it was their own volition that was compliant in their going there.

The bottom line is that Bush’s freudian effort to surpass his father’s Panama coup by similarly taking Saddam Hussein, unresisted by the press and the American people at the outset, is now going to result in thirty or forty more years of ever-worsening police violence against the public here. With this on top of everything else—the overpopulation, insanely burgeoning law-pollution, disastrous shift to digital culture, etc.—America is rapidly turning into an unliveable hell. Then add global warming.


IMMIGRATION PRISONS, where you’re sent for not having adequate proof of being a so-called citizen, are the new concentration camps of the Evil Empire. There are now a whole class of persons of various ethnicities who are afraid to travel outside of the towns or cities where they live, because of the possibility of being stopped by some profiling trick excused as a broken taillight, and then being sent sprawling into a cell at an immigration prison.

A recent well-publicized case in some of the larger newspapers (and excluded from the local dailies) concerned one Hiu Lui Ng, who’d come to the US from Hong Kong. Making the mistake of going to immigraiton headquarters in New York City to get a green card (legal authorization to live and work in this country), he was grabbed and put behind bars. There he developed cancer, was in severe pain, laughed at by the medical matrons, and eventually died from the rampaging and untreated disease.

. . . They denied him a wheelchair and refused pleas for an independent medical evaluation. Instead, … guards at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, dragged him from his bed on July 30, craried him in shackles to a car, bruising his arms and legs, and drove him two hours to a federal lock-up in Hartford, where an immigration officer pressured him to withdraw all pending appeals of his case. (New York Times.)

One out of hundreds of thousands.

— Fred Woodworth, Evil Empire Notes, in The Match! Issue No. 107 (Summer, 2009). 19–21.

See also:

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:

In reply to a reply by J.H. Huebert and Walter Block

J.H. Huebert and Walter Block have recently published an essay which claims to be a reply to Roderick Long’s essay on left-libertarianism for Cato Unbound. Huebert and Block insist that they are going to set the record straight on the correct libertarian view of these matters. But it’s not clear that they have succeeded in even setting the record straight on Roderick’s view of these matters. For example, I think they have clearly and grossly misread him on the question of selective tax breaks for politically-connected big businesses. (Roderick never claimed that getting selective tax breaks are morally equivalent to receiving a government subsidy; only that firms or practices that get a comparative advantage from government taxes on their competitors are, like firms or practices that get a comparative advantage from government subsidies, not good examples of the free market at work.) Similarly, their attempt at a response to Roderick’s claims about big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, and the importance of using government-subsidized roads to the success of their business model, wavers between an attack on a claim that Roderick never made — that Wal-Mart deserves blame for their successful exploitation of government-subsidized roads — and willfully obtuse replies to the claim that he did make — that Wal-Mart’s road-dependent business model shouldn’t be counted as an example of the free market at work, and that if Wal-Mart had to pay the full costs of its business model, without government subsidies to cross-country freight trucking, it would lose some or all of the comparative advantage that it currently holds over smaller and more local competitors. (Did you know that, since we all use government roads sometimes, that means we are all getting a subsidy like Wal-Mart? Hey, you know, back in May I got a $600 check from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which was supposed to be for economic stimulus. Just like how AIG gets $85,000,000,000 checks from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, for the sake of economic stimulus! So how could I possibly claim that AIG gets government privileges that I don’t enjoy? Well. See my discussion with Will Wilkinson in a comment thread about the original article.)

In any case, though, Roderick has promised a reply, which I eagerly look forward to. My main reason for mentioning Huebert and Block’s essay here is that it contains a link to my old post Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)! (2004-05-01), and four paragraphs which purport to be a reply to my argument, and the claims Roderick makes on the basis of that argument. Here are those four paragraphs:

Those Poor Unions

Long also laments that our hampered free market doesn’t give unions enough power. He writes: Legal restrictions on labor organizing also make it harder for such workers to organize collectively on their own behalf.

Given that the law allows some workers to not only organize themselves but also coercively organize others, it’s not clear what Long is talking about. To support his claim, he cites a blog post which laments that U.S. labor laws do not go far enough. We should support current labor laws, says Long’s source, but ideally we will return to the days of more militant unions.

You remember militant unions – the kind that used to (and, well, still do) beat and kill workers who do not cooperate with them. Long and his comrade, of course, make no mention of the unions’ bloody history.

Unions are like a tapeworm on the economy, sucking sustenance out of businesses. The entire rust belt is a result of unions demanding wages higher than worker productivity. The present problems of the Detroit Three (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors) are mainly dues to their foolishness in not withstanding the unwarranted demands of the United Auto Workers. But, Long can rejoice: under an Obama administration, these economic scourges are likely to obtain even more power.

— J. H. Huebert and Walter Block (2008-11-24): In Defense of Corporations, Tax Breaks, and Wal-Mart

This is a bizarre misinterpretation of my post, and hard to understand how anyone could make it other than through utter carelessness or willful misreading.

The post that they are referring to was the first in a series of annual May 1 posts, commemorating International Workers’ Day — a grassroots labor holiday originally organized by anarchists, to honor the memory of the five anarchist organizers and agitators who were murdered by the state of Illinois after the Haymarket Riot.

Block and Huebert claim to be puzzled by what Roderick could mean when he says that, due to government regimentation of labor unions, labor organizing is substantially more restricted than it would be in a free market. I’m unclear as to what they find unclear, because if it was not clear to them already, the footnoted post by me, which they claim to have read, goes ahead and lists several of the restrictions in question.

The Wagner Act was the capstone of years of government promotion of conservative, AFL-line unions in order to subvert the organizing efforts of decentralized, uncompromising, radical unions such as the IWW and to avoid the previous year’s tumultuous general strikes in San Francisco, Toledo, and Minneapolis. The labor movement as we know it today was created by government bureaucrats who effectively created a massive subsidy program for conservative unions which followed the AFL and CIO models of organizing—which emphatically did not include general strikes or demands for worker ownership of firms. Once the NRLB-recognized unions had swept over the workforce and co-opted most of the movement for organized labor, the second blow of the one-two punch fell: government benefits always mean government strings attached, and in this case it was the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which pulled the activities of the recognized unions firmly into the regulatory grip of the federal government. Both the internal culture of post-Wagner mainstream unions, and the external controls of the federal labor regulatory apparatus, have dramatically hamstrung the labor movement for the past half-century. Union methods are legally restricted to collective bargaining and limited strikes (which cannot legally be expanded to secondary strikes, and which can be, and have been, broken by arbitrary fiat of the President). Union hiring halls are banned. Union resources have been systematically sapped by banning closed shop contracts, and encouraging states to ban union shop contracts—thus forcing unions to represent free-riding employees who do not join them and do not contribute dues. Union demands are effectively constrained to modest (and easily revoked) improvements in wages and conditions.

— GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)!

Of course Block and Huebert are right that government patronage grants substantial illegitimate privileges to a certain kind of union (the establishmentarian, conservative unionism of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win [sic]). But those privileges come at the cost of accepting an extensive and intrusive set of government regulations on official union activity. The result is not only a violation of the rights of employers to refuse to bargain with union reps, but also a substantial government subsidy for conservative unionism as against competing forms of union organizing, like those practiced by anti-establishmentarian, radical unions like the Industrial Workers of the World — tactics like minority unionism (crowded out of the market by government-subsidized majoritarian collective bargaining), wildcat strikes (illegal under the Wagner Act), secondary strikes and boycotts (illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act), general strikes (ditto), union hiring halls (double ditto), and so on. The combination of government privilege with government controls may benefit the select outfits that toe the establishmentarian line and get their hands on the government loot. But it does so at the expense of the goals that those organizations supposedly support — in this case, organizing workers for the sake of greater control over the conditions of their labor. I know that Walter Block is perfectly well aware of the way this works when it comes to tax-funded education vouchers for private schooling: although the selected schools that receive the vouchers may profit, the availability and quality of education suffers, because of the way that government privileges squash unofficial competitors who do not qualify for the government hand-out, and also because of the way that government controls restrain the activities that the remaining privileged-and-regulated schools can perform. Have Block and Huebert failed to apply the same analysis to privileged-and-regulated labor unions, and the availability and quality of labor organizing, because they are simply ignorant of the restrictions imposed on NLRB-recognized unions? Or because they are aware of the restrictions, but it hasn’t occurred to them that they might matter as much as the government-granted subsidies?

One way or the other, the post closes by calling for the immediate and complete repeal of the Wagner Act and the Taft Hartley Act, and the complete abolition of the National Labor Relations Board, and all other forms of political patronage and political control in labor organizing, which I argued would always hold the labor movement back from its professed goals:

Don’t get me wrong: the modern labor movement, for all its flaws and limitations, is the reflection (no matter how distorted) of an honorable effort; it deserves our support and does some good. Union bosses, corporate bosses, and government bureaucrats may work to co-opt organized labor to their own ends, but rank-and-file workers have perfectly good reasons to support AFL-style union organizing: modern unions may not be accountable enough to rank-and-file workers, but they are more accountable than corporate bureaucracy; modern unions bosses don’t care enough about giving workers direct control in their own workplace, but they care more than corporate bosses, who make most of their living by denying workers such control. The labor movement, like all too many other honorable movements for social justice in the 20th century, has become a prisoner of politics: a political situation has been created in which the most rational thing for most workers to do is to muddle through with a co-opted and carefully regulated labor movement that helps them in some ways but undermines their long-term prospects. It doesn’t make sense to respond to a situation like that with blanket denunciations of organized labor; the best thing to do is to support our fellow workers within the labor movement as it is constrained today, but also to work to change the political situation that constrains it, and to set it free. That means loosening the ties that bind the union bosses to the corporate and government bureaucrats, by working to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, and abolish the apparatus of the NLRB, and working to build free, vibrant, militant unions once again.

— GT 2004-05-01: Free the Unions (and all political prisoners)!

The comments expressing some watered support for the actually-existing labor movement are grossly misrepresented by Block and Huebert as support [for] current labor laws (in fact, the point was that the labor movement deserves some watered support in spite of the baleful effects of government labor laws on it). And my call for all existing government labor laws to be repealed and replaced with nothing but free association is, astonishingly, glossed by Block and Huebert as a [lament] that U.S. labor laws do not go far enough.

This is followed by a tirade about my use of the word militant to describe my ideal for free unionism. This is apparently taken, just as such, to be an endorsement of vigilante violence against non-union or anti-union workers, by unions of the kind that used to (and, well, still do) beat and kill workers who do not cooperate with them. This is an absurd and unwarranted misreading. Of course, there have been unions whose members used vigilante violence to achieve their goals. I find the use of aggressive violence, against fellow workers or against anyone else, to be completely reprehensible. But that’s not what militancy refers to in the context of labor organizing. Labor militancy is a term of art that refers to the degree to which unions are willing to use confrontational tactics with bosses, as opposed to back-room negotiations or appeasement of the boss’s demands — where confrontational means just that, not violent. Some militant unions endorsed confrontation in the form of violence against bosses, or their property, or scabs. Others refused to on principle, and expressed their militancy through strictly nonviolent forms of confrontation. I agree with the latter, and what I have argued for in more or less everything I have ever written about unions is the principle that fellow worker Joe Ettor set out when he was working to help organize the great Lawrence textile strike of 1912 with the IWW:

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 & instruments that the other side has for attack.

Block and Huebert complain that I make no mention of the unions’ bloody history. (An odd claim, since they seem to think that my use of the adjective militant is an explicit reference to it.) But I may as well complain that Block and Huebert make no mention of the bloody history of bosses who called out hired muscle, injunction-wielding courts, city cops, state militia, or the federal military to commit every sort of atrocity against striking workers, their wives, and their children. If Block and Huebert have not mentioned the extensive use of aggressive violence by bosses, who have always been far more politically powerful and had far greater resources for hiring on thugs than the unions had, and who were frequently able to call out the repressive forces of the State itself in addition to their own thugs — if they have not mentioned it, I say, because (of course, of course) they don’t agree with it, and intend only to defend the actions of bosses that are consonant with libertarian principles, then that’s fine; but then the reason that I didn’t spend a long time talking about vigilante violence by unionists is because (of course, of course), I don’t agree with that, and intend only to defend the actions of union organizers that are consonant with libertarian principles. But if Block want violence mentioned, then it is totally irresponsible for them to insist on such a wildly distorted and one-sided presentation of the matter, since unionists were victims of far more intense and far more systematic violence than they ever committed, and since much (but by no means all) of the violence attributed to unionists was in fact defensive force against those same company and government thugs.

Huebert and Block close with a laughably overheated ritualistic denunciation of labor unions as a tapeworm on the economy, sucking sustenance out of businesses, and an astonishing monocausal theory of middle-American industrial decline, on which the entire rust belt is a result of unions demanding wages higher than worker productivity (!). Apparently decades of unsustainable malinvestment, public-private partnerships with city, state, and federal governments, corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, bail-outs of failed business models, etc. have nothing to do with it.

But whether all that is accurate or inaccurate is something best hashed out elsewhere. For right now, my main concern is how wildly Block and Huebert have misrepresented the position that they claim to be arguing against, in the attempt to make it seem as though this overheated denunciation of state unionism had anything to do with the freed-market unionism that I advocate, or that Roderick endorsed via footnote. It is inconceivable that a post whose primary purpose was to condemn the effects of government labor laws and to call for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and the Wagner Act, for the immediate and complete abolition of the National Labor Relations Board, and in general for the exorcism of all political command-and-control (including all enforced recognition, all political patronage, and all political regulation) from organized labor could be reasonably read as support for current coercive labor laws, let alone a call for their expansion (!). An error like that must either be the cause of extraordinarily careless reading, or willful misrepresentation. In either case, Block and Huebert ought to be embarrassed that they have published it.