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Beware the State; celebrate the Ides of March!

As you may know, there are only 10 more ranting days left until Tyrannicide Day, which this secessionist republic of one celebrates every year on March 15th, in commemoration of the nearby anniversaries of the assassinations of Gais Julius Caesar and Alexander II Nikolaevich, the self-styled Caesar over all the Russias. As in years past, (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), although my time for the celebrations may be limited by the weekend trip to San Francisco that I’ll be just getting back from.

Here's a Tyrannicide Day logo, with a cartoon silhouette of a T. rex with a crown on its head and an asteroid hurtling at it from the sky, with the slogan SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS printed on top.

In any case, I’m happy to receive word through diplomatic channels that this secessionist republic of one’s Ministry of Culture will not be alone in celebrating this international holiday. If you happen to be in the area of Asheville, North Carolina, the Firestorm Cafe & Books will be hosting a celebration on Monday, March 15th in honor of the holiday. Plus, they’ve designed this awesome logo for their holiday event.[1]

For those of you who are new to this holiday, I can tell you what Tyrannicide Day is all about. Lights please:

Today, March 15th, commemorates the assassination of two tyrants. Today is the 2,051st anniversary — give or take the relevant calendar adjustments — of the death of Gaius Julius Caesar, the military dictator who butchered his way through Gaul, set fire to Alexandria, and, through years of conquest, perfidy, and proscription, battered and broke every barricade that republican institutions had put in the way of military and executive power, until he finally had himself proclaimed dictator perpetuus, the King of Rome in everything but name. On March 15th, 44 BCE, a group of republican conspirators, naming themselves the Liberatores, rose up and stabbed Caesar to death on the floor of the Senate. Meanwhile, Thursday, March 13th, was also the 127th anniversary (give or take the relevant calendar adjustments), of the death of Czar Alexander II Nikolaevitch, the self-styled Caesar of all the Russias. Alexander was killed by grenades thrown by a group of anarchist conspirators on March 13th, 1881 C.E., in an act of propaganda by the deed. In honor of the events, the Ministry of Culture in this secessionist republic of one has proclaimed March 15th Tyrannicide Day (observed), which is kind of like President’s Day, except cooler. Instead of another dull theo-nationalist hymn on the miraculous births of two of the canonized saints of the United States federal government, Tyrannicide Day gives us one day in which we can commemorate the deaths of two tyrants at the hands of their equals — men and women who defied the tyrants’ arbitrary claims to an unchecked authority that they had neither the wisdom, the virtue, nor the right to exercise. Men and women who saw themselves as exercising their equal right of self-defense, by striking down the would-be tyrants just like they would be entitled to strike down any other two-bit thug who tried to kill them, enslave them, or shake them down.

… There are in fact lots of good reasons to rule out tyrannicide as a political tactic — after all, these two famous cases each ended a tyrant but not the tyrannical regime; Alexander II was replaced by the even more brutal Alexander III, and Julius Caesar was replaced by his former running-dogs, one of whom would emerge from the abattoir that followed as Augustus Caesar, to begin the long Imperial nightmare in earnest. But it’s important to recognize that these are strategic failures, not moral ones, and what should be celebrated on the Ides of March is not the tyrannicide as a strategy, but rather tyrannicide as a moral fact. Putting a diadem on your head and wrapping yourself in the blood-dyed robes of the State confers neither the virtue, the knowledge, nor the right to rule over anyone, anywhere, for even one second, any more than you had naked and alone. Tyranny is nothing more and nothing less than organized crime executed with a pompous sense of entitlement and a specious justification; the right to self-defense applies every bit as much against the person of some self-proclaimed sovereign as it does against any other two-bit punk who might attack you on the street.

Every victory for human liberation in history — whether against the crowned heads of Europe, the cannibal-empires of modern Fascism and Bolshevism, or the age-old self-perpetuating oligarchies of race and sex — has had these moral insights at its core: the moral right to deal with the princes and potentates of the world as nothing more and nothing less than fellow human beings, to address them as such, to challenge them as such, and — if necessary — to resist them as such.

— GT 2008-03-15: Tyrannicide Day 2008

Anyway. How about you? How are you planning to celebrate Tyrannicide Day? Got any plans? A favorite tyrannicide to highlight for this year’s ceremonies? A party to throw? If you are or do, send some fraternal greetings my way; I’d be glad to hear how you plan to pass the holiday.

Just ten more days, y’all. Beware the State; celebrate the Ides of March!

  1. [1]Which has the advantage of combining multiple visual puns with some remarkable skill, and which, for a dinosaur nerd like me, is like the funniest thing ever.

Rapists on patrol (#7). Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson.

Trigger warning. This post includes extended quotations from a newspaper article that includes narrative descriptions of sexual violence, battery, and other forms of abuse committed by a male police officer against four different young women. It may be triggering for past experiences of sexual or physical abuse.

Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte, North Carolina. Last week, the Charlotte city government’s police force fired and then arrested Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson, for using the power of his badge and the threat of arrest to pull over, abduct and then rape at least two different young women off the street within a period of a week and a half in late December. The police force’s spokesman is keeping mum about it, but apparently Jackson was still out on patrol after the first woman came forward to the police — and raped the second victim during the time he was allowed to stay on the road. This is what Police Spokesman Captain Brian Cunningham considers act[ing] in a swift and appropriate manner.

On Wednesday, Jackson, 25, was arrested after two young women told investigators he had pulled them over on traffic stops and sexually assaulted them. He was on duty in a marked patrol car at the time, according to police.

The first incident allegedly occurred on Dec. 18 but wasn’t reported until Monday. Police Chief Rodney Monroe said Jackson — wearing his uniform and driving his police cruiser – pulled over a 17-year-old girl, forced her into his car, drove to another location and forced her to commit sex acts.

CMPD began its investigation after a relative of the girl called police Monday.

As detectives investigated the allegations, Monroe said, a 21-year-old woman reported Tuesday night that she too had been assaulted by Jackson under similar circumstances. That assault, she said, occurred on Monday.

Police would not say what time on Monday they received the first complaint, or how much time passed before the second attack occurred.

— Ely Portillo and Gary Wright, Charlotte Observer (2010-01-01): Ex-officer had past reports of violence

The reason that Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson was given a badge and a gun and the power to detain and arrest in the first place is because the city government’s police force decided to hire him even though he had already been taken to court two different times for threatening violence and battering women:

Court documents reveal that Jackson’s past included two allegedly violent episodes in Mecklenburg County. The first was in 2003 when Jackson, then 19 and a student at UNC Charlotte, was dating a 15-year-old Harding High School student.

The girl’s mother sought a restraining order against him in May 2003. The defendant threatened my daughter by telling her she was going to get hers and catch one, the mother wrote.

Jackson tried to hit the teen with a car and pushed her into a locker, according to the mother’s complaint. He was later summoned to court after being accused of violating a restraining order, but was found not guilty in August 2003.

In 2005, Jackson was working at Off Broadway Shoes on South Boulevard and still studying at UNCC when his 21-year-old girlfriend sought a restraining order against him.

The defendant grabbed me by the face several times, screaming and yelling…, the girlfriend wrote in her complaint. The defendant hit me in the back of the head, slapped my face, pushed me down in the floor, forcing (me) in (a) walk-in closet.

The judge ordered Jackson to stay away from the victim and not own or carry any firearms [for the duration of the restraining order].

— Ely Portillo and Gary Wright, Charlotte Observer (2010-01-01): Ex-officer had past reports of violence

The police admit that they were already aware of the 2003 domestic violence complaint when they decided to hire and arm Jackson. They claim that they weren’t aware of the 2005 restraining order — but, of course, they claim to do background checks before they hand out badges and guns, and the restraining order was a matter of public record, and could easily have been discovered if they took the time to follow up on the 2003 complaint, to see whether it was part of a pattern of behavior. In other words, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department chose to hire, train, arm, and put out on patrol a man who they already knew, or already should have known, to be a hyperviolent control freak with a history of violence against women. Who then went on to become a serial rapist, using the legal and martial weapons that they gave him to single young women out, force them into his car, abduct them, and force sex on them against their will. Police Chief Rodney Monroe has mentioned to the press that he thinks it would be naïve to believe that Jackson hadn’t raped other women while out on duty.

See also:

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.

Slavery in Florida’s tomato fields

(Via the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.)

The Florida Tomato Growers’ Exchange is a cartel and legislative lobby which represents more than 90% of Florida’s tomato growers. Over the past year or so, the F.T.G.E. has moved aggressively to discredit the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and to destroy their penny-a-pound pass-through system, through which tomato buyers can volunteer to pass along one penny per pound of tomatoes bought, which would go directly towards increasing the wages of the farmworkers who picked those tomatoes. Since these bonuses are paid directly by the tomato buyers, and not by the farm bosses, it costs nothing for the farm bosses to implement, so I’m not entirely clear what the F.T.G.E.’s interest is here — but, if I had to guess, I would suspect that the campaign is mainly just part of a larger scorched-earth campaign against the C.I.W. as such and anything that they do, for fear that widespread success here would strengthen the organization, embolden them in their campaigns against exploitative and brutal treatment by growers, raise worker’s expectations about pay and conditions, and raise their hopes about what can be accomplished by uniting together. Along the way the F.T.G.E. has teamed up with Burger King (who later broke ranks and struck a penny-per-pound deal with the C.I.W.) and with a Republican state congressman, repeatedly making unfounded insinuations that the C.I.W. was skimming graft off of the penny-per-pound system (actually, payments are held in an escrow account and audited by an independent, third-party firm), and denouncing nonviolent protest and consumer boycotts as extortion, apparently on the claim that plantation owners have a God-given right to have their tomatoes bought, on terms set by the plantation owners and not by the buyers, and that any peep of protest or suggestion that buyers might freely choose not to buy tomatoes grown and picked under certain kinds of labor conditions is tantamount to a threat of violence. They’ve also made a special effort to spread a number of exculpatory distortions, obfuscations, half-truths, evasions, and lies about wages and conditions for tomato pickers in central Florida. For example, trumpeting the hourly wage rate that tomato-pickers can make during picking hours in the peak harvest season — about $12-$13/hour — without mentioning such minor details as the number of hours available, the unreliability of work, the fact that workers can only make that much for half the workday or so, that a few months of backbreaking work usually have to last the workers all year, and that, as that the annual income of farmworkers comes out to about $10,000/year or so, which is to say, that most farmworkers live in extreme poverty.

Then there’s the issue of working conditions, and the accusations of slavery in the tomato fields. The C.I.W. has already, several times in the past, been directly involved in busting up slave rings on Southeastern U.S. produce farms. Thus, they have focused a lot of their rhetoric on exposing the use of violence and coercion against farmworkers. But, the F.T.G.E. insists on their Industry Facts webpage:

Myth: Farmworkers are denied their fundamental labor rights by being held and forced to work in slave-like conditions.

Facts: Florida’s tomato growers abhor and condemn slavery. Charges that growers have enslaved workers are false. On numerous occasions, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has asked for evidence that would substantiate allegations of slavery and have received none. The Exchange stands ready to help authorities prosecute any instance of slavery.

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

Five Immokalee residents pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to charges of enslaving Mexican and Guatemalan workers, brutalizing them and forcing them to work in farm fields.

The 17-count indictment in the case — one of the largest slavery prosecutions Southwest Florida has ever seen — was originally released in January. It alleged that, for two years, Cesar Navarrete and Geovanni Navarrete held more than a dozen people in boxes, trucks and shacks on the family property, chaining and beating them, forcing them to work in farm fields in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina while keeping them in ever-increasing debt.

Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy called it slavery, plain and simple.

One of the six original defendants, Jose Navarrete, pleaded guilty in May to five charges.

The two ringleaders, Cesar and Geovanni Navarrete will likely serve 12 years and face fines between $750,000 and $1 million each. Sentencing is set for December.

Although the case was set to go to trial Tuesday, the defense and the government reached plea agreements at the last minute.

In federal court, if you go to trial and lose, the sentences are extremely severe, said Geovanni Navarrete’s attorney, Joseph Viacava of Fort Myers. We were happy to negotiate a resolution that caps our client’s liability and puts him in a favorable position come sentencing.

Molloy is happy too.

This is an excellent resolution, he said. The bad guys go to jail and the many victims get to go on with their lives.

Plus, he said, every time there’s a slavery conviction, We get two or three more reports of similar cases. So getting the word out about these prosecutions is extremely important, Molloy said.

Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has helped prosecute six slavery cases (including this) that freed more than 1,000 workers, also were pleased with the outcome.

The facts that have been reported in this case are beyond outrageous — workers being beaten, tied to posts, and chained and locked into trucks to prevent them from leaving their boss, said coalition member Gerardo Reyes.

How many more workers have to be held against their will before the food industry steps up to the plate and demands that this never — ever — occur again in the produce that ends up on America’s tables?

— Amy Bennett Williams, Ft. Myers News-Press (2008-09-03): Five plead guilty in Immokalee slavery case

And what did the ever-helpful, standing-ready, slavery-abhorring F.T.G.E. do about all this? Not a god-damned thing. Well. That’s not entirely true. They did do something. Specifically, on November 20th of last year, while they were busy going on a high-profile press junket with Burger King to smear the C.I.W., their yellow-dog auditing agency, S.A.F.E., did stop in to visit Immokalee and issue a public statement declaring that their audits have found no slave labor. As it happened, on the very same day that statement was issued — November 20th, 2007 — three tomato pickers reached the Collier County sheriff’s office on foot, and reported that they had just escaped out of the ventilation hatch of a box truck where they had been held against their will by the Navarette gang. So while workers were first telling the world about the violence and enslavement they had suffered, the F.T.G.E. and its agents did go out of their way to publicly declare that all those abuses simply did not exist.

The farmworkers’ struggle is one of the most important labor struggles in the United States today, and the way that the C.I.W. is carrying it on, in the face of tremendous opposition, nasty smear campaigns, repeated threats of legal coercion, and still managing to get so much done by so many workers, for so many of their fellow workers, in a really remarkably effective bottom-up, worker-led community workers’ organization, is nothing short of heroic. And inspiring. But, well, I’m sure that all of the F.T.G.E.’s verbal abhorring and condemning of slavery is also greatly appreciated.

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.

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