Posts tagged Louisiana

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:

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Don’t forget.

  • The world is awesome.

  • People are awesome. You don’t need plans, or politics, or power. Put them up against people, and people will win every time. People came up with that video. Also, other people came up with this.

  • Technological civilization is awesome. (In case you’re wondering, it’s awesome because it’s made of people.)

  • Books are awesome. Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times (2009-05-29): Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader

  • To-day is awesome. It’s an anniversary. My love and I were married three years ago today. If the normal online rounds are held up for a while, well, that’s why.

Solidarity.

  • In memory of George Tiller. feministe (2009-05-31): In honor of Dr. Tiller (if you would like to donate in memory and in honor of Dr. Tiller’s work). Among others, the National Network of Abortion Funds has established a George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.

  • IQSN, L.A. I.M.C. (2009-05-27): Solidarity with Queer Bulgaria on 27 June 2009. A day of international actions in solidarity with the LGBTQ Pride march in Sofia, Bulgaria. Last year’s march was attacked by neo-Nazi groups who decided to Keep Our Children Safe with a campaign of roving basher gangs and by slinging molotov cocktails and small explosives at the marchers. International Queer Solidarity Network calls for a European mobilization, with support from the United States, that will stand in solidarity with Queer Bulgaria for this year’s march.

News.

Comment.

Historicize.

Communications.

You got served and protected #4: how Portland Police Bureau Officers Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane used a “welfare check” to throw Contia Orsby out on the streets

(Via private correspondence from an ALLy in Occupied Cascadia.)

Here’s something I wrote about last year in my article for The Freeman:

Had the city government not made use of its supposed title to the abandoned land [to fence off the lot that the Umoja Village shanty-town had been built on], it no doubt could have made use of state and federal building codes to ensure that residents would be forced back into homelessness—for their own safety, of course. That is in fact what a county health commission in Indiana did to a 93-year-old man named Thelmon Green, who lived in his ’86 Chevrolet van, which the local towing company allowed him to keep on its lot. Many people thrown into poverty by a sudden financial catastrophe live out of a car for weeks or months until they get back on their feet. Living in a car is cramped, but it beats living on the streets: a car means a place you can have to yourself, which holds your possessions, with doors you can lock, and sometimes even air conditioning and heating. But staying in a car over the long term is much harder to manage without running afoul of the law. Thelmon Green got by well enough in his van for ten years, but when the Indianapolis Star printed a human-interest story on him last December, the county health commission took notice and promptly ordered Green evicted from his own van, in the name of the local housing code.

Or, hell, they might not even bother with the regulatory formalities. Sometimes the cops just roll up on you for a welfare check and then take the opportunity to steal your home.

For example, Contia Orsby is a 58 year old black woman, who has spent most of her life helping sick people and, as far as I know, never did any real harm to anybody. She’s originally from Louisiana, and now living in Occupied Portland. She used to work as a geriatric nurse, but three years ago, she hurt her back so bad on the job that she couldn’t work anymore. The hospital gave her $14,000 to live off of for the rest of her life and then pawned her off on the state welfare bureaucracy, because they could, and the state welfare bureaucracy gave her the usual waiting time of forever, because they could. (They stay paid no matter how they act, and where else is she going to go?) When the money ran out, she got some help from her church, and when that ran out, she started living in her car. Which is cramped, and unpleasant, but sometimes safer and easier than trying to find people to put you up, and certainly safer than living on the streets.

Until July 4, 2008, when a pair of Gangsters in Blue decided to roll up on her and search her as part of a welfare check. Here’s how they looked out for her welfare—by stealing her car and throwing her out on the street.

On July 4, Portland Police Bureau Officers Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane rolled up on Orsby at 2 pm as she was slumped in her car outside an apartment complex on SE 122nd. They searched Orsby and found a pair of brass knuckles in her pocket, which she claimed she was using as a key ring. The officers charged Orsby with having a concealed weapon, driving with a suspended license, and driving without insurance. Instead of taking her to jail, they towed her car, handed her the citations and drove off, leaving her homeless on the street.

All three charges against Orsby were thrown out last Thursday, September 11, after the district attorney’s office declined prosecution.

Matt Davis, Portland Mercury (2008-09-18): Towing the Line: Cops Take Car, Leaving Older Disabled Woman Homeless

In real life, outside of statist power-trip La La Land, if you fuck something up that doesn’t belong to you, for no good reason, you pay for it. Normally, if a pair of gang-bangers rolled up you and rousted you out of your car, against your will, when you weren’t doing anything at all to harm a single living soul, sanctimoniously claiming it was for your own good, then searched you, and rifled through your papers, then demanded to know why you were carrying a pair of brass knuckles (as if it mattered—if she were carrying them for her own protection, what’s wrong with that?), then called you a liar and declared your papers insufficient justification for your existence, and then, finally, used all this as an excuse to jack your car and threaten you with a fine you can’t pay or forced confinement in a jail—if they did all this, I say, and they got caught out, those gangsters would be in jail and they would be expected to return the car they’d stolen and pay for what they did out of their own pockets. But because these gang-bangers were Gangsters in Blue, and because they acted with the biggest gangster of all, the State Law-and-Order Protection Racket, at their back, when these charges were dropped, and the whole thing declared a big mistake, Portland Police Bureau Officers Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane are virtually guaranteed never to suffer a single adverse consequence for their obvious, pointless, and cruel violation of poor people’s property rights. And neither they nor their bosses, the collaborationist puppet government of Occupied Portland, will do anything to make it right, beyond an Oops, our bad; in fact, they feel perfectly happy to force Contia Orsby to pay hundreds of dollars that she doesn’t have, just to recover her own property from the fence they sold it to.

CONTIA ORSBY, 58, stood with the deacon of her church on the lot of Andy’s Towing on SE 82nd last Friday afternoon, September 12. She was there to retrieve her all-white 1988 four-door Cadillac Brougham, bought five years ago for $4,700 from a used car lot up the street, during more fortunate times. It had briefly been her home, until police confiscated the vehicle on Independence Day.

Orsby had already handed over $400 to the towing firm, and $225 to get a release for her vehicle from the courthouse. Still owing $600 more, the manager of the towing company had generously cut her a deal.

He told me if I promised him $200 from my next disability check, I could come and get the car today, she said.

Too bad, because the towing firm had lost the keys: They called a locksmith, and tried to charge Orsby for the cost of cutting some new ones.

We’re doing you a favor, the manager told her. We’re only supposed to keep the car, technically, for 30 days.

Orsby refused to pay for the locksmith, and ultimately, the towing company handed over her car. Her deacon, Albert Woods, from the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ United on NE 30th, had taken the afternoon off to drive Orsby to the towing lot. He shook his head.

They wouldn’t treat her like this if she were the president, that’s for sure, he said.

Matt Davis, Portland Mercury (2008-09-18): Towing the Line: Cops Take Car, Leaving Older Disabled Woman Homeless

It’s true, and the management were certainly acting like dicks to her. But why can they get away with that kind of behavior? Simply because, as the fence for the cars stolen by the State, they have no reason to care about making things easy on you, or Contia Orsby, or anybody else. Why should they? They get most or all of their business from people like the President, not from people like you—people who are part of the State, a monopoly outfit which pays for itself through extortion rackets and robbery just like the screwjob they pulled on Contia Orsby, and who use their positions of political power to evade taking any responsibility for their own violations of the liberty and security that their cops and their so-called Law and Order are supposed to protect. Like any other fence, this one doesn’t much care about your life or your livelihood, and he doesn’t much care about helping you recover your stolen property. He serves the racket, not you. Do away with the racket, and you’ll do away with the other petty criminals and hangers-on that take their cuts from the loot.

You can contact the Portland Police Bureau to let them know what you think of their welfare checks and of Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane’s efforts to force poor people out onto the street, at:

Portland Police Bureau
1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97204

You can send comments to Chief Rosie Sizer at chiefsizer@portlandpolice.org, or call her office at (503) 823-0000, or send a FAX to (503) 823-0342.

I’ve said before that urban poverty as we know it is exclusively the creation of the State, and now I’ll add that this is especially true of homelessness as we know it. I don’t mean to claim that in a genuinely free society, with freed people, freed labor, and freed markets, with freedom for the poor and with no political patronage for the rich, that nobody would ever have to scratch by on short money. And I don’t mean that nobody would ever have to live without a house or apartment for a while due to short money. That would be a lot less common if people were free to scratch money together through creative hustling, to lower their fixed costs of living, and to join together for voluntary, neighborhood-based mutual aid, without having to bear the burdens of State-imposed taxes, usury laws, vagrancy laws, prohibition laws, border laws, business license laws, zoning laws, business laws, professional licensing laws, building codes, health and hygiene codes, fines and forfeitures, eminent domain land grabs and politicized development rackets, welfare bureaucrats, social workers and cops, and the rest of the whole taxation-and-regimentation government apparatus that constantly robs, cages, and busybodies poor people, all while sanctimoniously declaring that it’s all For Their Own Good, like one big welfare check on the Contia Orsbys of the world. If people were free of all that, hard times would be a lot less hard, but nobody can realistically promise an end to all tough times or shitty situations, whether by Anarchy or by any other means. Some people might lose their jobs, some people might go hungry, and some people might lose the roof over their heads. But homelessness as we know it — as a long-term, self-reinforcing downward spiral of destitution, in which hard times force people out onto the street, exposed to the elements and to danger from other people, or into overcrowded and dangerous institutional shelters — only exists because the State — the city and state governments, in particular — has a fixed policy of repeatedly sending gangs of thuggish police and busybody case-workers and bureaucratic inspectors around to hassle so-called vagrants; to subject them to constant citations, fines, arrests, and pointless humiliations; to roust them up out of any place that they settle in to stay; to violate their rights to homestead unused land, and to obstruct, invade, trash, or tow away any transitional, intermediate, or otherwise informal sort of shelter that poor people might try to arrange for themselves. It’s one thing not to be able to afford the sorts of houses and apartments and long-term rooming arrangements that journalists and economists and sociologists count as homes for the purposes of statistics and public debate. It’s quite another to be thrown out on the street without any kind of reliable shelter, and we all ought to recognize that as the child of the State. In that sense, all homelessness is forced homelessness, and all homeless people are the internally displaced refugees of the State’s ongoing War on Poverty and campaigns of economic cleansing.

But a rich man he says that Pig Hollow must go:
It’s a place where the crooks rendezvous.
But don’t you suppose if they burned down the bank,
They might flush a scoundrel or two?

And don’t you suppose if a bum with a torch
Set fire to some big fancy hall,
The cops’d come down like a blood-thirsty hound
And flat nail his hide to the wall?

It seems like the laws are all made for the rich;
They’ve got you, boys, win, lose, or draw.
Try as you may to keep out of the way,
You just get burned out by the law.

— Utah Phillips, Pig Hollow, on The Telling Takes Me Home (1975)

That’s how Contia Orsby got served and protected by Portland cops: by being thrown out of the car that is her home, on the excuse of a bunch of petty so-called crimes with no identifiable victims, having it towed away, and then, months later, when the State magnanimously allowed her to be left the hell alone, by being forced to pay to get it back even though she was never convicted of any crime, victimless or otherwise. If you’re baffled that cops could get away with these kind of outrages, it may help to remember that in a lot of American cities, there just is no such thing as a civil police force. What we have would be better described as thuggish paramilitary units occupying what they regard as hostile territory: like any occupying force, the people they go after the first and the hardest are generally the people who are most vulnerable, and like any other occupying force there is no real recourse for anything they may choose to do on their patrols. Here as elsewhere, they are going to serve and protect us, whether we want them to or not, and if we don’t like it then they’ve got plenty of guns and clubs and cuffs to make sure they can protect the hell out of us all anyway.

See also:

Ihre Papiere, bitte

From Drug War Chronicle (2008-08-22): Feature: The Drug Checkpoint That Wasn’t — Louisiana Lawmen Play Fast and Loose with the Constitution:

In its 2000 decision in Indianapolis v. Edmond, the US Supreme Court held that the city’s effort to attack the drug trade by holding a checkpoint to look for drugs was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection of the right to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures. But in the years since then, a handful of departments across the county, usually in the South, have brazenly trumpeted their resort to drug checkpoints.

The latest department to step into the breach was Louisiana’s Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office, which held such a checkpoint last Thursday night near the town of Starks. Following the lead of sheriff’s deputies, the local newspaper was all over the story.

Narcotics checkpoint a success, blared the headline in Monday’s Derrider Daily News story on the police action. The article went on to explain how, following complaints of drug dealing in the neighborhood, police decided to take action:

The Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office set up a Narcotics Checkpoint Thursday night near Starks, Louisiana, the local paper reported. Due to several complaints coming from the Fields area, the BPSO put together a joint operation with the help of Sheriff Ricky Moses and the DeRidder city police department. The operations utilized several BPSO deputies as well as the new Drug Interdiction team led by Detectives Dale Sharp and Greg Hill. Seven police units total were used for the operation in addition to four other units performing regular patrols.

The checkpoint resulted in three arrests for marijuana and hydrocodone possession, a quarter pound of marijuana being tossed from an unknown vehicle’s window, and a number of traffic citations.

If this really was a drug checkpoint, it is clearly unconstitutional, said Steve Silverman, executive director of the constitutional rights defense group Flex Your Rights.

Well, O.K., whatever. If you are ever hauled into court as the result of one of these checkpoints, that’s important information to have. But the problem is that cops are, as a rule, better at manipulating the court than you are; they are trained in how to exploit loopholes, how to manipulate people, and how to get cheap sympathy from judges and juries. As Silverman himself says:

If people went to court and fought it, the evidence would be dismissed — unless they consented to a search. The sheriff down there must know checkpoints like this are constitutionally questionable, but they can still ask people to consent, and they know how to phrase that request in such a way that people are likely to consent, he said.

The problem with these roadblocks and checkpoints by uniformed highwaymen, which impose blanket screening of ordinary people by police and which intimidate or force everyone to submit to interrogation and searches, treating anyone who happens to be on a particular road as a presumptive criminal, who needs to prove her innocence to the police in order to be left alone to go about her own business, based on no probable cause whatever — and all in order to find and imprison a handful of nonviolent drug traffickers, who are violating absolutely nobody’s rights, who are doing a peaceful and productive service for willing customers, whose only crime was to defy a senseless government prohibition on the kinds of chemicals that people may willingly put into their own bodies — the problem with that, I say, has nothing to do with whether these internal checkpoints and constrictions on peaceful people’s freedom of movement and security in their persons and effects, happen to be consistent or inconsistent with a fundamentalist reading of the words scribbled onto a 200-year-old piece of paper. The real problem is not that this kind of Ihre Papiere, bitte treatment is unconstitutional; it’s that it’s tyrannical. Tyranny is bad enough whether or not the Nine can be convinced that it can be excused on a legal technicality, and the reasons why are moral, not constitutional. Even when cops can invent absurd technicalities in order to convince a judge (who is always willing to be convinced that another State employee was acting within bounds) that their extraction of searches through intimidation, coercion, and the inevitable recourse to the threat of arbitrary arrest on any of the countless vague laws that nobody can possibly avoid violating in daily life, all somehow amounts to consent. And those of us who oppose the drug war, and the police state that has emerged in order to prosecute it, ought to be more clear and less timid about saying so. We don’t need The Law on our side to be right. If the Constitution allows that kind of brigandry and tyranny, then the Constitution itself is tyrannical. If the Constitution does not allow it, then it has been demonstrated as thoroughly as you please that the Constitution can do nothing effective to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist, and certainly undeserving of our deferential appeals.

In related news, holiday bloggers should keep in mind that there are only 7 more ranting days left before International Ignore the Constitution Day.

See also:

State of emergency

Border laws kill.

In a recent post, Stentor does a good job of explaining one of the (many) reasons why.

Second [of a couple immigration-related stories] is Border Patrol’s declaration and half-hearted not-quite-retraction of a policy of checking immigration status during natural disaster evacuations. The result is to make many Latin@s — including those with legal status up to natural-born citizen — reluctant to evacuate, either because they fear consequences for themselves (if I flee my house without my passport, I still have my skin and my accent, but others don’t have those advantages), or because of the consequences for their family and community members. So not only are people being unnecessarily exposed to natural disasters, they’re also being set up so they can be blamed for choosing to stay behind a la the poor black non-evacuees during Katrina. This links in to the sanctuary cities and Sheriff Joe issue in terms of making every occasion an occasion for checking people’s status, regardless of whether such singleminded focus on immigration enforcement undermines the government’s other duties. It also reveals an important aspect of disaster management — disasters intensify people’s interactions with the State. Complying with disaster management plans puts you in direct contact with police, the national guard, and other direct agents of state coercion, whereas failure to comply puts you wholly outside their protection (or even in direct opposition to them, as a possible looter). This would be fine, even beneficial, if you are on good terms with the state — if you trust it to be acting in your best interests. For people who have a longstanding antagonistic relationships with the state, however — such as people of color and immigrants — natural disasters are a prime occasion for the state to increase its pernicious interference. And all of this applies not just to the immediate disaster management (evacuation, etc.) but also to the longer-term recovery process.

— Stentor, debitage (2008-06-10): Deporting Valedictorians And Hurricane Evacuees

Read the whole thing.

(Via comments on feministe 2008-06-15.)