Posts tagged U.K.

CFP: “No Master But God”? Exploring the Compatibility of Anarchism and Religion

A Call for Papers, via the NAASN listserv.

Call for paper proposals:

‘No Master But God’? Exploring the Compatibility of Anarchism and Religion

ASN 2.0 (‘Making Connections’) Conference
Loughborough University (UK)
3-5 September 2012

Anarchism and religion have long had an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, many anarchists insist that religion is fundamentally incompatible with anarchism, recalling that anarchism calls for ‘no gods, no masters’, pointing to the many cases of close collaboration of religious and political elites in oppressing and deluding the masses, arguing that religious belief is superstitious, and so on. On the other, some religious/spiritual radicals insist that their religious/spiritual tradition cannot but lead to a rejection of the state, care for the downtrodden and the quest for a more just society – despite of, indeed sometimes precisely because of, the acceptance (by some) of a god as ‘master’.

A number of recent publications both in religious and anarchist studies have focused on religious anarchism, but consideration of their compatibility in the first place has been rarer. The aim of this stream of panels is to explore critically and frankly the relationship and tensions between these two notions, with a view to publish its proceedings in a peer-reviewed edited collection. The size of the stream of panels will depend on the number of applicants, but the intention is to foster mutual engagement and collaboration. Proposals are encouraged from sceptical as well as sympathetic perspectives, the aim being to foster critical discussion of these themes.

Questions which may be addressed include (but are not necessarily restricted to):

  1. Is rejection of religion (and/or spirituality) a sine qua non of anarchism?
  2. What do we mean by ‘religion’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘anarchism’ when considering their relation?
  3. What is unacceptable to anarchism about religion/spirituality, and to religion/spirituality about anarchism?
  4. Are some religious/spiritual traditions inherently more compatible with anarchism than others?
  5. Why do religious institutions tend to move away from the often radical intentions of their original prophets and founders? How does this compare to non-religious institutions?
  6. What explains differences in the reception of religious/spiritual anarchism across different contexts?
  7. To what extent can religious/spiritual anarchists’ deification of religious/spiritual notions (such as ‘God’) be compared to non-religious anarchists’ deification of secular notions (such as freedom or equality)?
  8. What role do (and can) religious/spiritual anarchists play in the wider anarchist movement, and in their wider religious/spiritual tradition?
  9. What can religion/spirituality and anarchism learn from one another’s history and ideas?
  10. Is religious/spiritual anarchism really anarchist? Is it really religious/spiritual?

Please send abstracts of up to 300 words (along with name and eventual institutional affiliation) to Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos on a.christoyannopoulos@gmail.com by 31 March 2012 at the very latest. Any questions should also be sent to that address.

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:

For her own good

Someone must have slandered Jean Gambell, for one morning in 1937, without having done anything truly wrong, she was arrested. Gambell, a poor working girl in England, was falsely convicted of stealing two and a half shillings from her boss. She didn’t steal the money, and in fact the money was later found, but by then it was too late. She had already been convicted, and, more to the point, she had already come under the eye of State psychiatry. Declared feeble-minded, this fifteen year old girl was locked up in English psychoprisons for seventy years over a trivial crime that she never committed. Her family desperately tried to get her released, but could not. Eventually she simply disappeared into the system, and her brothers no longer even knew whether she was alive or dead. Jean Gambell herself repeatedly told her prison guards in a care home that she had family she could go to, but they kept her locked up, because she had been officially declared crazy and stupid and could, therefore, be dismissed as a liar. All for her own good.

Jean Gambell finally escaped the talons of the therapeutic State last month—at the age of 85, with a lifetime stolen from her—when her brother finally learned that she was alive and confined in Macclesfield Mews Care Home.

Seventy years locked up in institutions hardly seems to be a punishment that befits the crime of stealing half-a-crown.

However, it is just such a fate that befell Jean Gambell when at the age of 15, in 1937, she was falsely accused of stealing 2s 6d (12.5p) from the doctor’s surgery where she worked as a cleaner.

She was sectioned under the 1890 Lunacy Act and even though the money was later found, she has been moved from mental institution to mental institution. More recently, she went into a care home and has been lost to her family, who thought she was dead.

But last month, by chance, her brother stumbled across correspondence which led to the discovery of her existence and the family was reunited.

Her brother David Gambell, 63, who still lives in his mother’s old home in Wirral, Merseyside, received a questionnaire addressed to his mother from Macclesfield Mews Care Home.

I thought it was just a survey for old people and I was about to throw it away when I saw Jean’s name pencilled in on one corner, he said yesterday.

I couldn’t believe it. I suddenly realised that my sister was still alive. I rang the care home straight away and they confirmed that our sister was there. He and his brother Alan, who had last seen their sister as small children when she was allowed to visit home with two wardens as guards, travelled to the Macclesfield home.

They were told by staff that their 85-year-old sister was deaf, could only communicate in writing and was very unlikely to remember them.

A little old lady on walking sticks came in, said Alan. She looked at us and cried out: Alan…David. Then she put her arms around us. It was very emotional.

I am sure that what has kept her going all these years was the challenge of proving to the authorities that she had a family. The trouble was, nobody would listen to her.

The brothers spent much of their childhood in orphanages because their parents were so poor. They said that they had later discovered that their father had tried for years to get Jean freed after she was put in Cranage Hall mental hospital in Macclesfield for being of feeble mind, but was unsuccessful because her records had been mislaid.

She spent years, lost in a maze of instutitons and care homes, trying to convince people in authority that she had a family. But nobody would believe her.

— David Sapsted, The Telegraph (2007-09-29): Falsely accused woman freed after 70 years

There is one thing that is even more terrifying than the savage cruelty of the hangman State, and that is the dispassionate sadism of psychiatric State—the therapist armed with the law, the straight-jacket, the lobotomy, and a near-absolute entitlement to take your freedom and destroy your life, and call that care for your professionally-reckoned best interests.

(Link thanks to Austro-Athenian Empire 2007-10-21: The Coldest of All Cold Monsters and Anthony Gregory @ LewRockwell.com Blog 2007-10-21: Innocent Woman Freed After 70 Years.)