Posts tagged Kansas

Hello Wichita

Ani DiFranco wrote this song in 1999 for Dr. Barnett Slepian of Buffalo, New York, and for Robert Sanderson and the women of the New Woman All Women Health Care Center in Birmingham, Alabama. I can’t get through the song without crying. Even on a normal day.

hold me down
i am floating away
into the overcast skies
over my hometown
on election day

what is it about birmingham?
what is it about buffalo?
that the hate-filled wanna build bunkers
in your beautiful red earth
they wanna build them
in our shiny white snow

now i’ve drawn closed the curtain
in this little booth where the truth has no place
to stand and i am feeling oh so powerless
in this stupid booth with this useless
little lever in my hand
and outside, my city is bracing
for the next killing thing
standing by the bridge and praying
for the next doctor
martin
luther
king

it was just one shot
through the kitchen window
it was just one or two miles from here
if you fly like a crow
a bullet came to visit a doctor
in his one safe place
a bullet insuring the right to life
whizzed past his kid and his wife
and knocked his glasses
right off of his face

and the blood poured off the pulpit
the blood poured down the picket line
yeah, the hatred was immediate
and the vengeance was divine
so they went and stuffed god
down the barrel of a gun
and after him
they stuffed his only son

hello birmingham
it’s buffalo
i heard you had some trouble
down there again
and i’m just calling to let to know
that somebody understands

i was once escorted
through the doors of a clinic
by a man in a bullet proof vest
and no bombs went off that day
so i am still here to say
birmingham
i’m wishing you all of my best
oh birmingham
i’m wishing you all of my best
birmingham
i’m wishing you all of my best
on this election day

— Ani DiFranco, Hello Birmingham (1999), To The Teeth

See also:

Bleeding Kansas

I just received news that Dr. George Tiller was shot to death today in the lobby of his longtime church in Wichita, Kansas. Tiller had been singled out for special attention from both the political and the direct-action wings of the anti-abortion movement for years because he continued to perform second- and third-trimester abortions for women whose life or health would be endangered by continuing the pregnancy. Tiller was the only doctor in Kansas, and one of only a handful in the entire U.S., who would perform third-trimester abortions under any conditions. The police have detained a suspect but nothing has yet been announced officially about who committed the murder or why.

Unlike most of the bellowing blowhard sheepdogs of the world, who can’t get enough of trumpeting how they put their lives on the line, Dr. Tiller actually did so in the interest of serving the well-being and the free choices of willing patients who asked for his help in a time of crisis. He put his life on the line to provide women with life-saving safe abortions, in despite of the outrage of the entitled majority, and in the face of physical threats, day after day, showing not just boldness, but real courage, and honor.

We are, and have for a long time, been in a much more precarious position than we sometimes realize; we have spent too many years defending an ever-shrinking number of clinics and doctors against the repeated harassment, blockades, vandalism and guerrilla violence of the antis. We owe it to Dr. Tiller to remember him — to remember him and to remember Dr. Gunn, Dr. Patterson, Dr. Britton, James Barrett, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Robert Sanderson, and Dr. Slepian — to remember our dead. But more than that, we need to work in honor of their memories, and to make sure that there are no more of whom we have nothing left but names.

R.I.P., Dr. George Tiller (August 8, 1941 – May 31, 2009).

I’ll post more when I find out more.

ALL you need to know about organizing is what you can learn on the web

Alliance of the Libertarian Left Ad Hoc Global Organizing Committee

ALLies,

First things first. Do you know any individualist anarchists, agorists, mutualists, left-Rothbardians or others on the libertarian left in or nearby any of the following metropolitan areas, who might be interested in getting involved, or getting more involved, in local activism and organizing? (If that description matches you yourself, that’s good enough, too.)

If so, please drop me a line with their contact information. I have some requests from prospective local organizers who are looking for people to start locals for the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. I would love to be able to put them in touch with anyone locally who might be interested.

Which brings me to my broader topic. In principle, one of the great things about a decentralized outfit like the Alliance of the Libertarian Left is that it’s easy for supporters to organize new locals and begin building alternatives in their own community. Since there’s no central bureaucracy you need to ask for permission and no paperwork to fill out, all you need to do is find people in your hometown, declare yourself a cell of the A.L.L., and start working on actions and projects in your own community. That’s a pretty low barrier to entry. But Just organize in your own community! is a bit easier said than done. One of the downsides of a decentralized outfit like the Alliance of the Libertarian Left is that there’s little in the way of a ready-made structure or resources for people to find each other, or to know how to move the organizing forward once a core group has managed to find each other. If we’re going to do this decentralism thing, one of the things we’ll have to do is to work out decentralized methods of making these resources available to new organizers who want or need them.

Recently I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from people who are looking for local ALL contacts, or who want to start an ALL but need help with some of the logistics (for example, with getting web space for their group). In order to help make it easier to start up new locals, I’m proposing that we establish an ALL Ad Hoc Global Organizing Committee. In fact, it’s so ad hoc, that I’ve already started it: http://libertarianleft.org/.

The purpose of the Organizing Committee is to serve as a clearing-house for currently active ALLies to help put other ALLies in touch with each other and to provide some information, some advice and some resources that will help people get going on local organizing. Any and all ALLies who are interested in participating are invited to do so. Here’s a couple ways that you can help right now.

  1. Help us network to put local ALLies in touch with each other — I’ve set up an Organizing Committee listserv for two purposes. One purpose is to do some brainstorming and scheming about methods of outreach and resources for newbie organizers to make available through the Organizing Committee website or by other means. (About which, see below.) The other important function is to for us to network so that we can help prospective local organizers find other people in their own neck of the woods. If you happen to know a lot of libertarians or anarchists outside of your hometown (or know people who know a lot of libertarians and anarchists outside of your hometown), you can help out a lot just by signing up to the list as a sort of activist matchmaker — so that if someone gets an inquiry from an ALLy in Walla Walla, say, we can check in with each other to see if anyone knows good contacts in Walla Walla.

  2. Brainstorming useful resources, information, and advice to make available through the page — for example, there’s currently a rudimentary page for helping solitary local left-libertarians find ALLies in their area for the purposes of organizing an ALL local. The page currently consists of a landing-pad that encourages them to e-mail members of the organizing committee, along with Shawn Wilbur’s ALL Frappr map as a means for people to find each other based on geographical location. What it could use are some links to useful resources and some concrete advice on other ways to get the word out. What would you suggest for things to add to this page, either in terms of services that existing ALLies can directly offer, or links we can point to, or advice we can give, on finding other like-minded people in your community?

    More generally, what would you like to see on the Organizing Committee website as a whole? What kind of services can we offer that would be most useful to you, or to prospective local organizers? What kind of information and advice do you think would help out the most? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

Finally, I’d like to mention that, as part of the Organizing Committee effort, I (Rad Geek) am making subdomains and webhosting space available to ALL locals that need them. If you are organizing, or hope to organize, a local ALL chapter, and you want web space for your group (to make contact information available, to provide some information about what A.L.L. is all about, to put up news and announcements, to provide an online landing-pad for people who see flyers or other literature that you might distribute around town, etc.), then I can hook you up. You will get use of a subdomain name of your choice (in the format yourhometown.libertarianleft.org), and, if you need it, I can provide you with free web hosting space on my own web servers. As long as traffic remains relatively low, the hosting will be completely free. If in the course of the Revolution traffic should spike to the point that I need to upgrade my servers or Internet connection to handle it, I would just ask a small cost-price-based fee to help handle the upgrade—good mutualist practice, and far less than anything you’d get from buying a commercial web hosting plan. (Solidarity economy and all that.)

Onward.

When you reach the bottom of the barrel, start digging.

From the Opelika-Auburn News (2008-03-07):

Westboro Baptist Church, a group known for protesting and picketing funerals and memorials of fallen soldiers, is planning to picket at the Sunday afternoon funeral of 18-year-old Auburn freshman Lauren Burk, according to the group’s Web site. Burk was killed Tuesday night. Police are investigating her death as a murder.

Westboro Baptist Church, established in 1955, is an Kansas-based organization lead by Pastor Fred Phelps.

The group is also planning to picket the funeral of Eve Carson, UNC student body president who was killed Wednesday morning.

Both funerals are listed on the WBC site’s online picket schedule for Sunday.

First the Phelpses came to picket the funerals of men murdered by gay-bashers.

Then they came to picket the funerals of AIDS patients.

Then they came to picket the funerals of soldiers killed in combat.

And now, having given up any pretense of having a particular target other than humanity and simple decency, they’re just showing up to any old random funeral, so long as they know that the news media will be in the area.

What they are doing now is no more, and no less, evil than what they did to Matthew Shepard’s family. I would say that the cruelty here is more bizarre, but it’s not, really, when you understand some basic facts about the Phelpses. They have shown repeatedly, by their words and their deeds, that they thrive on being hated and provoking reaction. There is literally nothing at all that is beneath them, as long as it gets their names and their websites in the news yet again. And it will.

Law and Orders #4: Wichita cops take control by shocking a deaf man for not following orders he couldn’t hear

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. In order to get control of situations that they forced their way into, they routinely hurt people, use force first and ask questions later, and pass off even the most egregious violence against harmless or helpless people as self-defense or as the necessary means to accomplish an unnecessary goal. In order to coerce compliance with their arbitrary orders, they have no trouble electrifying small children, alleged salad-bar thieves, pregnant women, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to pepper spray lawyers for asking inconvenient questions and to beat up teenaged girls for not cleaning up enough birthday cake or being out too late at night. They are willing to shock you and leave you lying on the side of the highway in order to make sure they can serve you with a dubious traffic ticket. It hardly matters if you are an 82 year old woman supposedly benefiting from a care check, or if you are sound asleep in your own home, or if you are unable to move due to a medical condition. It hardly even matters if you die. What a cop can always count on is that, no matter how senselessly he escalates the use of violence and no matter how obviously innocent or helpless his victims are, he can count on his bosses to repeat any lie and make any excuse in order to find that Official Procedures were followed. As long as Official Procedures were followed, of course, any form of brutality or violence is therefore passed off as OK.

One increasingly popular means for out-of-control cops to force you to follow their bellowed orders is by using high-voltage electric shocks in order to inflict pain.Tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to them or to others, without killing anybody in the process. But in practice, police culture being what it is, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into complying with their instructions, and to hurt uppity civilians who dare to give them lip. Among civilized people, deliberately inflicting severe pain in order to extort compliance from your victim is called torture; among cops it is called pain compliance and is considered business as usual. So shock-happy Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as high-voltage human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity. In comments at The Agitator, Robert, referring back to John Gardner’s taser assault on Jared Massey, gets the situation exactly right:

Seriously though, I’m much more worried about being tased by some overzealous cop that has had a bad morning than I am about being assaulted by a real criminal. Maybe I just read this blog too much.

MikeT makes a good point. Take the video of the guy stopped in the construction zone. Granted, arguing with a cop is stupid (you’ve got a pretty good shot at getting tased), but how would people have reacted if the guy had turned around and the cop took out his nightstick and gave the guy a couple of kidney shots with it?

Cops’ contemptuous indifference to anything other than their own domineering control of the situation, and their hair-trigger readiness to start shocking in order to coerce compliance, has led to predictable results over and over again. In California, a gang of three cops pepper-sprayed, and tasered, and beat the hell out of a 17-year-old non-verbal autistic teenager for failing to obey commands that he didn’t have the linguistic capacity to understand. In Alabama, a gang of cops tasered a man who was unable to respond to their commands because he was half-conscious from a diabetic episode. And this week, in Wichita, Kansas, a gang of cops forced their way into a deaf man’s house, found him coming out of the bath wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, and promptly immobilized him with painful electric shocks for failing to follow bellowed commands that he could not hear. At the time he was shocked, Donnell Williams was holding his hands to his ear and yelling I can’t hear!

As always, The Incident Is Being Investigated. But the people doing the investigating are more cops, i.e., people who have a personal and professional interest in making sure that they and their buddies aren’t subject to any particular kind of standards whatsoever in the use of force. Here’s how that’s going:

Officers were worried about their own safety because at the time it appeared Williams was refusing to obey their commands to show his hands. That’s when they shot him with a Taser.

Deputy Chief Robert Lee of the Wichita Police Department says, This one occurred on the worst of calls, that being a shooting. The first few minutes getting control of the scene are very, very important.

Once the facts were all sorted out, officers repeatedly apologized to Williams. Police wish it never happened, but with the information they had at the time, their choices were limited.

Do I wish there would have been some way they were notified in advance this gentleman was hearing impaired? I certainly do. No one is happy with the way it worked out, says Lee.

— Michael Schwanke, KWCH (2007-12-03): Hearing Impaired Man Tased by Police

In other words, nothing is going to happen as long as the cops can manufacture the flimsiest possible excuse that a half-naked man with no pockets or anywhere else to conceal a gun might be posing a threat to the safety of several cops with their weapons already drawn, or that they just had no way of knowing that a man is deaf when he’s pointing to his ears and yelling I can’t hear! Gosh but the boys in blue feel mighty sorry, but of course they’re not going to do anything about the fact that they tortured an innocent man over a complete mistake.

In real life, outside of government power trip la-la land, if you or I did something like that we would be expected to take some minimal responsibility and pay to make it right for the victim of our fuck-up, even if our options seemed mighty limited at the time. But since these guys are on the State’s official goon squad, some crocodile tears and an Oops, my bad will have to do.

(Story via Radley Balko 2007-12-04.)

Further reading: