Posts tagged Riots

We need government cops because private protection forces would be accountable to the powerful and well-connected instead of being accountable to the people.

A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown. The decision wasn’t a surprise — leaks from the grand jury had led most observers to conclude an indictment was unlikely — but it was unusual. Grand juries nearly always decide to indict.

Or at least, they nearly always do so in cases that don’t involve police officers.

Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

Wilson’s case was heard in state court, not federal, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable. Unlike in federal court, most states, including Missouri, allow prosecutors to bring charges via a preliminary hearing in front of a judge instead of through a grand jury indictment. That means many routine cases never go before a grand jury. Still, legal experts agree that, at any level, it is extremely rare for prosecutors to fail to win an indictment.

If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong, said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. It just doesn’t happen.

Cases involving police shootings, however, appear to be an exception. As my colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum has written, we don’t have good data on officer-involved killings. But newspaper accounts suggest, grand juries frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials. A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment… .

— Ben Casselman, It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did
FiveThirtyEight (November 24, 2014).

Protesters in Seattle, Washington react to the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson (November 24, 2014)

I’m not invested in indicting Darren Wilson though I understand its (symbolic) import to many people, most especially Mike Brown’s family and friends. Vincent Warren of the Center on Constitutional Rights speaks for many, I think, when he writes:

Without accountability, there can be no rule of law. If Wilson is not indicted, or is under-indicted, the clear message is that it is open season on people of color, that St. Louis has declared that Darren Wilson is not a criminal but that the people who live under the thumbs of the Darren Wilsons of this country are. It would say to the cry that “Black lives matter” that, no, in fact, they do not.

I understand the sentiment that Warren expresses. Yet I don’t believe that an indictment of Wilson would be evidence that black lives do in fact matter to anyone other than black people. Nor do I think his indictment would mean that it was no longer open season on people of color in this country. If we are to take seriously that oppressive policing is not a problem of individual “bad apple” cops then it must follow that a singular indictment will have little to no impact on ending police violence. As I type, I can already feel the impatience and frustration of some who will read these words.

? It feels blasphemous to suggest that one is disinvested from the outcome of the grand jury deliberations. “Don’t you care about accountability for harm caused?” some will ask. “What about justice?” others will accuse. My response is always the same: I am not against indicting killer cops. I just know that indictments won’t and can’t end oppressive policing which is rooted in anti-blackness, social control and containment. Policing is derivative of a broader social justice. It’s impossible for non-oppressive policing to exist in a fundamentally oppressive and unjust society. . . .

The pattern after police killings is all too familiar. Person X is shot & killed. Person X is usually black (or less frequently brown). Community members (sometimes) take to the streets in protest. They are (sometimes) brutally suppressed. The press calls for investigations. Advocates call for reforms suggesting that the current practices and systems are ‘broken’ and/or unjust. There is a (racist) backlash by people who “support” the police. A very few people whisper that the essential nature of policing is oppressive and is not susceptible to any reforms, thus only abolition is realistic. These people are considered heretic by most. I’ve spent years participating in one way or another in this cycle. . . .

— Mariame Kaba, Whether Darren Wilson Is Indicted or Not, the Entire System Is Guilty
In These Times (November 17, 2014).

So, to those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively. . . . Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there’s never an excuse for violence . . . .

— President Barack Obama Remarks by the President After Announcement of the Decision by the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri
November 24, 2014

Barack Obama, President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most heavily armed military force in the world, got onto the television to tell us that there’s never an excuse for violence just as heavily-armed police throughout Ferguson began launching teargas against everyone in sight on the streets. Of course, when he said violence he meant violence by protesters. It is eerily reminiscent of Lyndon Banes Johnson in July 1967, going on national television to announce that We will not endure violence. It matters not by whom it is done or under what slogan or banner, — saying this at the height of the Vietnam War, and on the specific occasion of his decision to send U.S. soldiers and tanks down Woodward Avenue.

The police are irresponsible and unaccountable. That is what makes them the police. Unless we hold them accountable. The law, for its part, will never curtail the racist violence of the law. Only social accountability for police officers, not legal processes, can do that.

The NAACP circulated this image on social media, reading “No more Michael Browns: I support an end to police brutality and militarization.”
You had me at I support an end to police.

Abolish the police.

Also.

Translation of “One comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh I’ve got the desire” (Viento sin Fronteras, in EL LIBERTARIO)

Here is another translation from Venezuela, once again of a one-compa-sounds-off article, this time from Viento sin Fronteras (Wind without Borders) in a rural area of Mérida, a state in western Venezuela. The article was reprinted by the Venezuelan anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a nervous translator trying to keep up with a lot of regional references that I don’t always know, and moving through a lot of material coming out more quickly than I can translate it; this is a working draft; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here. Again, there are lots of different Anarchists in Venezuela, and this is one compa’s view; there are many with different views about the attitude that Anarchists should take towards the protest. (See, for example, this previous translation of a commentary by Victor Camacho. Viento sin Fronteras is, let’s say, significantly more hands-on.)

A comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh, I’ve got the desire

Viento sin Fronteras

This is a little chronicle many are certainly familiar with. Yesterday I got up at 6 a.m. so I could get ready to go to work. I arrived at work around 7:30 am and I spent the whole day over there. At 7pm I went back to my house. When I got home I had to go down to the nearest bodega (I live in a rural area) to buy stuff for making dinner or lunch in the coming days. Well O.K., so a purchase that consists of some three potatoes, two cans of sardines, three tomatoes, an onion, laundry soap,[1] a box of cigarettes and a few cookies, comes out to 170 bolivars [≈ US $27]. Up to this point everything seems normal but it isn’t. My daily salary is 200 bolivars [≈ US $32].

Clearly, they are 200 bolivars and this leaves me only just 30 bolivars [≈ US $5] to save for paying the rest of my expenses, like the rent for example. Or the fare for public transport, if I weren’t walking to work I’d have to take 10 bolivars off these 30 that are supposed to be left over for me.

Besides this, I remembered that the last time that I went without natural gas nearly a month passed before that commodity came back to my house. And I my house, of course, a little house of 38 square meters [≈ 409 sq. ft.] where the water shuts off every day for an hour or two, with a rent that’s equivalent to nearly half the minimum wage I work for. It brings to mind that house from the housing project[2] that that the showboat[3] of the Communal Council[4] built (great affiliate of PSUV[5] certainly and an ideological reference for many here) and which was empty until two weeks ago, which he managed to sell, for no less than the discreet sum of 700,000 bolivars [≈ US $ 111,250].

Something comes into my mind, and my nerves get hotter. I spent 10 years of my life in college. I have an undergraduate degree, a master’s, and I left my doctoral thesis half done when I lost interest. And O.K., it’s not that I believe that I deserve a Ministry salary, but for some reason, and this reason for some other reason always ends up being my fault; it has been impossible for me to find a job that, without being exactly the thing for which I supposedly studied at least would permit me (and that’s what college is supposedly about) to give back to society or to whoever, a little bit of that intellectual or technical material that I supposedly acquired in those years. At times, they then give me some moments of clarity and I say: clearly, it’s that to get hooked up you have to know whose balls to yank.[6] Or I think and I swear[7] about how to set up that writing project with the ever sacrosanct words: Eternal Commander, Fellow Comrade, the Little Bird, Our Process, the Economic War, the Eternal Giant, the Legacy.[8] All this without a doubt adds to the degree of a feeling of frustration that’s growing.

And with that, what comes into my head are the contracts for the Guasare coal, the Deltana Plate, the three billion dollars that Chevron loaned us, the concessions to Chinese timber companies in the high Caroní, the death of the Sabinos, the criminalization of the Wayuu, the Red Fascist wall shooting dissident unionists, the armed forces of the government holding old women with their pans at gunpoint, ordering them to be quiet, the dead of Uribana, the 400 dying every year in prison, the intellectual authors of the massacre of El Amparo placed in the government designing the anti-terrorism laws. And so on. And so I think that late or early, me, and many people who aren’t identified one bit with the spokespeople of the opposition parties, including folks who come from the Chavista movement, are getting out into the streets to protest. And I’ll be over there, if country life lets me, handing out pamphlets to anyone who has eyes to read them. Without falling into naivete, I know that there will be plenty of imbecile fanatics for Pérez Jiménez[9] or Leopoldo Lopez[10] there with their slogans and believe me that I’ll fight them right there. Right there I’ll show that they’re the same as the others.

Oh, I’ve got the desire[11] to go out hurling stones when the police car crosses my path. Because they are some thugs and some cheerleaders.[12] Oh, I’ve got the desire to take all the trash that they aren’t capable of managing and set it all on fire in the doorway of the Mérida state government. Oh, I’ve got the desire to smash the windows of the supermarket and leave all those products tossed on the floor that I have to wait in line for on my weekend days. Oh, I’ve got the desire to catch an ATM[13] alone and try once and for all to see how the fuck you can withdraw all the money with a sledgehammer.

I’ve got the desire to give thanks in person to the folks who set SEBIN’s trucks on fire[14] because they’re a murdering intelligence agency that tortures and persecutes political dissidents. I’ve got the desire to go up to that student leader, who’s really an ally of PJ,[15] and tell her to shut her mouth, that she’s a wanker,[16] that it’s her fault (and that of those mamelotracios[17] that she obeys) that the protest — which could have been a good way to lock up the pigs[18] and a place where we’d all recognize that all these demands are the vindication urgent for EVERYONE — was converted instead into a slogan, pretty much belonging to their own partisan interests.

The year is just beginning and it doesn’t promise to be a year for calm ones. Well, let the storm come.

— Ganas no me faltan (21 Feb. 2014). Very imperfectly translated by Charles W. Johnson

  1. [1] Lit. jabón azul, a specialized kind of soap used especially for laundry (although it can also be used for household cleaning or for personal hygiene).
  2. [2] misión vivienda, a huge public housing construction project launched as part of the Bolivarian Missions sponsored by the government, and administered through government-approved community councils.
  3. [3] Cantamañanas, more accurately, someone who promises to do something and never does it.
  4. [4] Orig. Spanish: CC, i.e., Consejo Comunal, a local council which, among other things, administers government funds granted under the Bolivarian Mission programs.
  5. [5] United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the current ruling political party.
  6. [6] Venezuelan slang, jalar bolas, lit. to pull balls, fig. to flatter or sweet talk with an ulterior motive.
  7. [7] Ambiguous: reniego, meaning either potentially reneging, cursing, detesting, renouncing a religion, or, significantly given the context, uttering blasphemy.
  8. [8] comandante eterno, compañero camarada, el arañero, nuestro proceso, la guerra económica, el gigante eterno, el legado, all nicknames or honorary phrases associated with the Bolivarian Socialist government and especially with the cult of personality around Hugo Chávez.
  9. [9] Presumably Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1914-2001), right-wing military dictator of Venezuela 1952-1958. A few of the more right-wing opposition groups explicitly identify their goals with perezjimenismo.
  10. [10] Leopoldo López Mendoza, leader in the right-wing political opposition party Voluntad Popular, arrested earlier this month and imprisoned on terrorism charges after the outbreak of street protests in Venezuela.
  11. [11] Ganas no me faltan, common phrase, meaning I don’t lack the desire or I don’t lack the urge.
  12. [12] Matraqueros, lit. those who use matracas, a kind of spinning noise-maker popular with diehard Latin American sports fans.
  13. [13] Cajero del banco, which can refer either to an ATM or to a human teller. From the reference to smashing with sledgehammers, I assume (hope?) from context that this is referring to smashing up a machine to get at the cash inside of it.
  14. [14] Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, the main national intelligence agency and political police force in Venezuela.
  15. [15] Primero Justicia, a center-right party in the political opposition, run by Henrique Capriles, a right-wing opposition leader who has condemned the street protests.
  16. [16] Pajua, from paja, lit. masturbation or fig. wankery, in the sense of talking bullshit.
  17. [17] Original Spanish, untranslated. I don’t have a good idea of what this means, even after consulting with native speakers from South America. (It’s not in any slang dictionaries I have access to, either.) Our best guess is that it’s probably a portmanteau profanity of some kind and that it’s probably intended to suggest something like cocksuckers.
  18. [18] I am not at all sure that this is a correct translation. Orig. Spanish: que podría haber sido una buena tranca de cochina. Tranca is a lock or a door-bolt, cochina literally means sow, but cochino/a are also used as the masculine and feminine forms of an insult meaning nasty or dirty. This phrase, taken as a whole, doesn’t seem to be an idiomatic expression, or at least, does not seem to occur anywhere else on the Internet.

Riots and gender

From Suzie at Echnidne of the Snakes. Reposted without further comment, to elicit thought and conversation.

Riots & gender

Large-scale violence rarely triggers a public discussion of gender, even though men and boys are the majority of perpetrators. Consider last week’s mayhem in Britain: Although some women participated, most of those involved have been young men from poor areas, the Guardian reported.

The civil liberties of male suspects are being discussed, and for good reason — some sentences sound absurd. But what about the rights of women who wanted to go about their business, without ending up in a mob of angry men? The threat of male violence restricts the lives of women, but people have become so accustomed to it that it often goes unquestioned.

Concepts of masculinity play a large role. A man may get respect through violence, or with the right consumer goods. After all, marketing tells us how men should look and what stuff they need. But it does the same for women, and we’re not nearly as likely to break a store window to get what we want or to gain respect. . . .

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in Woolwich. But the Guardian points out that it happened after the riots there, not during, as had been first reported. Now we are free to ignore it, just like most rapes, which get no political analysis.

Next time a girl or woman gets raped, why don’t women take to the streets and smash any business that caters to men? Oh, never mind, men would strike back harder, just like British authorities are upping the sentences for the rioters.

Most conservatives consider those who stole and/or destroyed property as criminals. In response, Naomi Klein writes about the riots as political. When people in politics and business loot their own countries and others, Klein says, you can expect those hit hardest to hit back. She calls this physics, but it appears to be a physics of men, since the highest authorities are predominantly men. How do we change society so that men aren’t hurting us from above and below?

. . . Unlike gender, there has been much discussion of race and ethnicity in regard to the riots. The Guardian reported that people of all races and ethnicities participated, while some white conservatives are blaming blacks and/or Muslims. There needs to be an examination of culture as it intersects with gender. For example, will street crime lead to greater restrictions for some women?

Why is it so easy to see class, race and ethnicity but not gender?

— Suzie, Riots and Gender, at Echidne of the Snakes

Free Flow

From England, via CNN:

(CNN) — British Prime Minister David Cameron thinks he’s found some culprits to blame in the recent riots that have rocked London and other cities — Facebook and Twitter.

Saying the “free flow of information” can sometimes be a problem, Cameron’s government has summoned those two social-networking sites, as well as Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, for a meeting to discuss their roles during the violent outbreaks.

Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media, Cameron said Thursday during an address to Parliament. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.

Cameron said that government officials are working with authorities to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

… Cameron, a Conservative, seems to have support for a potential crackdown, even from members of the opposition Labor Party.

Free speech is central to our democracy, but so is public safety and security, said Ivan Lewis, the shadow secretary of culture in the House of Commons, according to London’s Guardian newspaper. We support the government’s decision to undertake a review of whether measures are necessary to prevent the abuse of social media by those who organize and participate in criminal activities.

— Doug Gross, CNN (2011-08-11): In wake of riots, British PM proposes social media ban

I’m sure it’s true that the free flow of information sometimes can be a problem for the project of social control that Mr. David Cameron and his organization represent.

But here’s the thing. If the free flow of information is a problem for your project or organization, the problem you have is a problem is with your project or organization — not a problem with the free flow of information.

If public safety and security is so bloody important, well, then the Metropolitan Police and the British government have obviously proven incapable of providing it. And now they have nothing to suggest but (1) scapegoating service providers and the basic facts of sociality for their manifest failure; and (2) doubling down on exactly the sort of violence, institutional opacity, and coercive control that sparked the protest and the riots to begin with. I suggest that, after all this, we need to look at whether it would be right to shut Mr. Cameron’s organization down.

Street Thugs

From England:

So far, police have arrested more than 1,700 suspects. About 1,000 of those have been charged. Of those convicted some are receiving what seem to be tough sentences.

Take Anderson Fernandes. He faces possible jail time for stealing two scoops of ice cream during a Manchester riot. There are other cases involving petty theft like stealing a bottle of water, a cake and chewing gum.

. . . Politicians and the public [sic] have demanded tough sentences.

And that may explain what seem to be particularly harsh sentences for Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenen. They each got four years in prison for using Facebook to incite a riot, or rather failing to incite a riot.

Both invited their Facebook friends to join in the looting with a “smash down” at an appointed place and time. No one showed up, however, except for police who promptly arrested them.

. . .

But many also feel that harsh punishments are necessary to let offenders know the riots were not a free-for-all without consequences.

Riots and looters trashed the pretty and normally placid suburb of Ealing, west London last week. The day after, I stood in the riot debris and an elderly woman stopped for a chat.

She lamented the state of Britain’s youth and suggested one way to deal with it. They should bring back … execution, she said grimly, drawing a finger across her throat.

— Atika Shubert, CNN World (2011-08-17): Riot sentences stir backlash in UK

I’m reminded of the time that Lyndon Johnson took a brief break from napalming Vietnamese children to get on the TV in July 1967, in order to speak out on the riots in Detroit, and to declare that We will not endure violence. It matters not by whom it is done or under what slogan or banner. It will not be tolerated. Which is why — under the slogan of public order and the banner of the United States government — he sent tanks and soldiers down Woodward Avenue, so that they could massacre unarmed teenagers at the Algiers Hotel, and join the local police in gunning down looters and curfew violators.