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Borders vs. Scholarship and Intellectual Freedom

From the Institute for Critical Education Studies:

Abraham P. DeLeon, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas, San Antonio was refused entry to Canada today. He was scheduled to deliver a papers at the American Educational Research Association meeting and the pre-conference meeting of the Rouge Forum @ AERA, both which are being held in Vancouver, BC this weekend.

DeLeon, who holds a PhD from the University of Connecticut, does research in the areas of cultural studies, anarchist theory, post-colonialism, and animal studies in educational theory. His articles that have appeared in The Social Studies, The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Educational Studies, Equity & Excellence in Education, and Theory and Research in Social Education. He is associate editor of Critical Education, which is based at the University of British Columbia. He has also co-edited two books: Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy (Routledge, 2009) and Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education: Towards New Perspectives for Social Studies Education (Sense Publishers, 2010).

DeLeon was scheduled to deliver an AERA paper titled: "Lured by the Animal: Rethinking Nonhuman Animals in Educational Discourses" and he was also scheduled to speak at the pre-conference Rouge Forum @ AERA on "What might happen when teachers and other academics connect reason to power and power to resistance?"

Canada Border Services Agency refused to give a reasons for denying DeLeon entry to Canada. CBSA has also repeatedly denied entry to American educator Bill Ayers, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. The CBSA's actions raise serious concerns for Canadians and Americans who value free speech, open debate and academic freedom.

— E. Wayne Ross, Anarchist scholar to speak at RF@AERA denied entry to Canada

Cops are here to protect you. (#3)

Let’s review.

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. They routinely force their way into situations where they are hardly needed or wanted; they deliberately escalate confrontations in order to get control of the situation through superior belligerence; they routinely hurt people, use force first and ask questions later; and they invariably pass off even the most egregious violence against harmless or helpless people as self-defense or as the necessary means to accomplish a completely unnecessary goal. In order to to coerce compliance with their arbitrary commands, they have no trouble electrifying small children, pregnant women, 82 year old women who just want their social workers to leave them alone, alleged salad-bar thieves, 75 year old grandmothers guilty of blocking the line at a McDonald’s drive-through, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to beat a handcuffed woman bloody for demanding to use the phone, to slam a 13-year-old boy to the ground and choke him in order to arrest him for the crime of skateboarding in public, to rough up teenaged girls who don’t clean up enough spilled birthday cake or walk home too late at night, or to throw a quadriplegic man out of his wheelchair for not standing up on command. When they deal with non-police officers (the people that we call our friends and neighbors, and who the police contemptuously dismiss as civilians), they have been trained to assert full-spectrum dominance at every opportunity, and they are willing to end a tiresome argument with pain compliance techniques, which include pepper spraying lawyers who ask inconvenient questions, or using a 50,000-volt electric shock to disable an unarmed, retreating woman, or tackling a 17-year-old girl and tasering her while she lies helpless in her own bed, or shocking a man in front of his family and leaving him lying on the side of the highway (in order to make absolutely sure they could serve him with a dubious traffic ticket). It hardly matters if you cannot obey their commands because you are sound asleep in your own home. It hardly matters if you can’t move due to a medical condition, or can’t hear their bellowed orders because you’re deaf. It hardly even matters if you die. What cops can always count on is that, no matter how aggressively they escalate the confrontation in the name of control, no matter how quickly they resort to violence, and no matter how obviously innocent or helpless their victims are, they can always count on their bosses and their colleagues to repeat absolutely any lie and make absolutely any excuse in order to find that Official Procedures were followed. As long as Official Procedures were followed, of course, any form of brutality or violence is therefore passed off as OK by the boss cops, and the judgment will be dutifully repeated by fellow cops, by prosecutors, by judges, by much of the news media, and by the hordes of freelance howling cop-enablers who rush into any media forum they can find to publish excuses for any and every cop accused of brutality, while they also use absolutely any means necessary to smear, humiliate and blame any and every victim who ever comes forward.

Even if a cop arrests an assault victim for interfering with the Investigation of her own assault, and then forces her into a cell where she can be strip-searched, over her screams of protest, with male guards wrenching her arms and holding her down, we are informed that these gang rapists were Just Following Orders. Cops are also elaborately trained in the use and abuse of the legal system, and know very well which judges are most likely to absolve them of any wrongdoing. The completely unsurprising result is that violent cops hardly ever face any personal costs whatsoever for their actions: if anything happens at all, the worst of it is usually that they are given a paid vacation and an administrative reprimand, or at worst they may be fired. Even if they are fired, they are hardly ever face legal consequences for their violence, and if they do, the city government can be relied on to settle and force taxpayers to cover the tab. Even if they are sued, they are hardly ever arrested for their violence. And even if they are arrested, they are hardly ever convicted. It doesn’t even matter if they as much as confess in open court. With few exceptions, the best that most victims of police violence can realistically ever hope for by way of compensation is an Oops, our bad, and a Fuck you, civilian is what they are far more likely to get. No matter how many times these same things happen, again and again, and no matter how often they are repeated within the same police department–or even at the same shift in the same office–and no matter how widely they are repeated in so many different police departments across so many different cities and counties, every time the latest outrage comes up in the newsmedia, a cop mouthpiece can be expected to say, and the establishment media can be expected to dutifully report, that nobody should rush to judgment, that they should dismiss eye-witness testimony and even the evidence of their senses in order to give the cops every possible (and some impossible) benefit of the doubt, and that even if these cops did do something wrong, well, it’s just A Few More Bad Apples committing Yet Another Isolated Incident. If anyone so much as dares to suggest that something may be systemically wrong here, beyond what can be fixed by punishing a few bad cops, or through superficial reforms and sensitivity training, then they are dismissed by comfortable political Moderates as irresponsible crazies, while cops and their sycophants can be expected to respond with the usual fragile macho flash of crying about how they get no respect, while sanctimoniously bellowing about how they risk so much serving and protecting those who never asked for, and never freely agreed to, their service or their protection.

The result, which is completely predictable and completely outrageous, is that individual cops and entire police departments in America deliberately take on the posture of occupying paramilitary forces, with the express intent of spreading fear in what they regard as hostile territory, and that, on a daily basis, many cops routinely engage in rampant, intense, unchecked violence against anyone and everyone who happens to get in their way or look at them funny, no matter how many options the cops may have and no matter how harmless or helpless their victims may be. Thus, while investigating his neighbors, they will happily break into a suspect 60-year-old man’s home, while he is recovering from surgery, trash his house without a warrant or probable cause, rip a catheter out of his body, and leave him there to suffer without medical attention, even after they apparently found absolutely nothing to indicate his guilt:

HARTFORD, Conn. — A man alleges that police entered his home illegally and ripped a catheter from his body during a child pornography investigation that led to the arrest of two neighbors.

Andrew Glover, 60, of New Britain filed a notice with the city Thursday that he intends to pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit. He accused the officers of inflicting severe injuries as he was recovering from intestinal surgery in February.

Glover’s lawyer, Paul Spinella, said police entered Glover’s apartment Jan. 30 and Feb. 28. Glover wasn’t involved in child pornography, has not been charged and has no criminal record, Spinella said.

The poor guy, Spinella said. They ripped the catheter off his person. They assaulted the guy. He’s got major problems as a result of this. He’s a mess now.

Lt. James Wardwell, a police spokesman, said Friday that the department had not received the intent-to-sue notice and would not comment. A message was left for the city’s corporation counsel.

Glover has two years to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Spinella said officers tossed Glover’s apartment during a search Jan. 30. In February, he said, Glover returned home from the hospital after his surgery to find officers searching his apartment again. That’s when they assaulted Glover and left him alone in the apartment without calling for medical help, Spinella said.

The police didn’t have search warrants, Spinella said.

— Associated Press (2008-05-09): Connecticut Man Says Cops Broke Into His Home and Ripped Out His Catheter

Meanwhile, in Kamloops, British Columbia, in order to subdue a frail 82 year old man, on an oxygen tank, who had undergone heart bypass surgery, who could not hurt anyone outside the reach of a small knife, cops were willing to blast him three times in the chest with a 50,000-volt electric shock while he lay helpless in his hospital bed. Because they had work to get done that night:

An elderly man in Kamloops, B.C., was zapped three times on the torso by a police stun gun while lying on his hospital bed, CBC News has learned.

Frank Lasser, 82, appeared fragile Thursday when he showed the Taser marks on his body and talked about the ordeal he went through Saturday.

They [police] should have known I had bypass surgery, Lasser told CBC News.

Lasser has had heart surgery and needs to carry an apparatus to supply oxygen at all times. He was in the Royal Inland Hospital Saturday due to pneumonia but has since been released.

RCMP said nurses called police after Lasser became delirious and pulled a knife out of his pocket.

Lasser told CBC News that he sometimes becomes delusional when he can’t breathe properly. He said he couldn’t explain why he refused to let go of the knife even after the Mounties arrived. I was laying on the bed by then and the corporal came in, or the sergeant, I forget which it was, and said to the guys, OK, get him because we got more important work to do on the street tonight, Lasser said.

And then, bang, bang, bang, three times with the laser, and I tell you, I never want that again.

Kamloops RCMP said Thursday that officers had no other option but to deploy the conducted energy weapon when Lasser refused to drop his knife.

— CBC News (2008-05-09): RCMP subdue hospitalized man, 82, with Taser

In Philadelphia, a police commissioner says that, while On the surface, it certainly does not look good, people should not rush to judgment over an aerial video which clearly shows a swarm of Philadelphia police officers dragging suspects out of a car, then repeatedly beating and kicking them while they lay handcuffed and held down on the ground. Remind me again of how the good guys who do this are morally any different from the Bloods or the Crips?

The reason that you should suspend your judgment on this vicious gang beat-down of helpless, restrained suspects by a huge crowd of the Gangsters in Blue is that The video is the video … We have no audio. You don’t know what was going on at that moment when the officers approached the vehicle. There will be an investigation and we will move on.

Well. I am sure that after The Matter Is Investigated, and nothing of any consequence happens to these dangerous, heavily armed, tightly-organized gangs of batterers, the Philadelphia Police Department and city government sure will move on, with business as usual, and not a damn thing will change. Besides which, think of how hard the poor cops have it when a fellow cop was killed on the job not long ago. Because those trained professionals who, at every opportunity, sanctimoniously inform us of all the risks that they voluntarily take on For Our Own Good, cannot possibly be expected to do their jobs without beating the shit out of helpless captives if it should ever happen that one of them is hurt or killed. This is how these dedicated public servants serve and protect the public: by hurting innocent or helpless people under their power, by taking out the stress and risks of their own chosen profession on members of the public who pose no threat to them, and then by lying, dissembling, making excuses, and crying about it if anyone should happen to take issue with this reign of terror being carried on by peace officers in the name of Public Safety. Cops are here to protect you. Cops are here to protect the hell out of you, whether you want it or not, and you had better not get in the way.

When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police department almost invariably doing everything in its power to conceal, 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, it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, and that any blanket condemnation of American policing is a sign of hastiness and unfair prejudice. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant 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.

(Via Scott Hagaman @ Scottish Nous 2008-05-10: Is Bad Cop Redundant Yet?, Mike Gogulski @ nostate.com 2008-05-09: Philadelphia police beating restrained suspects: video, Lindsay Beyerstein @ Majikthise 2008-05-09: Cops tase 82-year-old heart patient in bed, and Pam Spaulding 2008-05-09: Canada: 82-year old heart patient Tased in hospital bed.)

Further reading:

“What kind of victory is that?” Jane Rule on Government-approved Gay Marriage

Jane Rule, a feminist before the Second Wave and a pioneer lesbian novelist before Stonewall, died last month at the age of 76. She was born an American but moved to Canada with her lover Helen Sonthoff, where they would live for the rest of their lives, in order to escape the persecution of the McCarthy era. In her novels, she was known for her nuanced and sympathetic portraits of lesbian characters’ lives–one of the first novelists to write books about lesbians in which her characters lived through ordinary human problems, were not punished for their sexuality, and were not treated as psychological freaks. Her essays, columns, and correspondence were notable for her generosity, patience, and also vigorously independent thought. Although she wrote passionately and movingly about her own life-long love affair with Helen, she was sharply critical of the gay rights movement’s efforts to win State recognition for gay and lesbian marriages. Here is what she wrote for the Spring 2001 issue of BC Bookworld; while I’d urge a radical people-power solution to problems of welfare, based on mutual aid between workers rather than State redistribution, the rest of the essay is almost entirely right-on. The solution is not to lodge same-sex relationships firmly under the eyes and the bootheels of the marital State; it is to free everything that’s valuable in both straight and gay love, intimacy, and commitment from the State’s stifling embrace.

The Heterosexual Cage of Coupledom

Over thirty years ago, when homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalized, Trudeau said that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

Until a few months ago that privacy was respected.

Now the government has passed a law including gay and lesbian couples as common-law partners with the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual common-law partners. Any of us who have lived together in a sexual relationship for over two years must declare ourselves on our income tax forms, or we are breaking the law.

With one stroke of the pen all gay and lesbian couples in Canada have been either outed if they declare or recriminalized if they do not. Our bedroom doors have come off their legal hinges.

Why then is there such support for this new law among gay people? Svend Robinson spoke in favor of it the House. EGALE, the national organization for gays and lesbians, encouraged its passing.

It is celebrated by all of them as a step along the road to total social acceptance, to a day when those of us who wish to can be legally married, our relationships just as respectable as those of heterosexuals.

But common-law partnerships were never about respectability. They were forced on couples as a way of protecting women and children from men who, by refusing to marry, were trying to avoid responsibility, free to move on when they felt like it without legal burdens of alimony and child support, without claims on their property or pensions.

There are some gay and lesbian couples raising children who, because they are not allowed to marry, may find a common-law partnership useful for benefits in tax relief, health benefits, pensions, if they can afford to expose themselves to the homophobia still rampant in this country. The law may also protect those who are financially dependent on their partners from being cast aside without financial aid.

But the law, far from conferring respectability, simply forces financial responsibility on those perceived to be irresponsible without it. What about those poor who are unable to work because they are single parents or ill or disabled?

The single mother on welfare has long had her privacy invaded by social workers looking for live-in men who should be expected to support her and another man's children. Now single mothers must beware of live-in women as well. The ill and disabled will also be forced to live alone or sacrifice their benefits if their partners have work.

Over the years when we have been left to live lawless, a great many of us have learned to take responsibility for ourselves and each other, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, not bound by the marriage service or model but on singularities and groupings of our own invention.

To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship. With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-defined prisons, not volunteering to join them there.

We should all accept responsibility for those who must be dependent, children, the old, the ill and the disabled, by assuring that our tax dollars are spent for their care. We should not have any part in supporting laws which promote unequal relationships between adults, unnecessary dependencies, false positions of power.

No responsible citizen should allow the state to privatize the welfare of those in need, to make them victims to the abilities and whims of their legal keepers. Human rights are the core responsibility of the government.

The regulation of adult human relationships is not.

To trade the freedom we have had to invent our own lives for state-imposed coupledom does not make us any more respectable in the eyes of those who enjoy passing judgment. We become instead children clambering for rule, for consequences to be imposed on us instead of self-respecting, self-defining adults.

Those of us who want to legalize our relationships for the protection of our children, for our own security, for whatever reason, should have the right to do so but not at the expense of imposing that condition on all the rest if us.

What we have now is neither the right to marry nor the right to remain private and independent in our relationships.

What kind of victory is that?

— Jane Rule, BC Bookworld (Spring 2001): The Heterosexual Cage of Coupledom

Via Women’s Space / The Margins 2007-12-02.

Taser first, ask questions at the autopsy.

Here is what I said a few days ago about the widespread use of tasers by American cops, in response to a recent case in Alabama:

Tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to them or to others, without killing anybody in the process.

In practice, of course, cops and police culture being what they are, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into complying with their bellowed orders, and to hurt uppity civilians who dare to give them lip. They often do so even when the supposed offense that they’re responding to is completely trivial; they often start tasering, or keep on tasering, after their victims have already been rendered helpless by the circumstances or by an earlier use of force. Since any complaints of excessive force are always handled by their fellow cops, the investigations almost always end up concluding that Official Procedures were followed, as if that made everything O.K., and throwing the complaint into the rubbish bin without doing anything at all. So shock-happy Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as 50,000-volt human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity.

— GT 2007-11-11: Taser first, ask questions later

Meanwhile, in Canada, a gang of four cops in the RCMP has killed a man by electrocution. The victim was Polish immigrant named Robert Dziekanski, who had been detained in a secure area in the Vancouver International Airport. He became agitated and could not communicate with the employees, since he did not speak English. When the cops showed up to try to talk to him, he was is standing with his back to a counter and with his arms lowered by his sides. That didn’t stop them from whipping out their tasers and shooting him within 25 seconds of arriving on the scene. They shot him at least three, and possibly four times, including at least once while he was convulsing on the ground while offiicers were kneeling on him and handcuffing him:

An eyewitness’s video recording of a man dying after being stunned with a Taser by police on Oct. 14 at Vancouver International Airport has been released to the public.

The 10-minute video recording clearly shows four RCMP officers talking to Robert Dziekanski while he is standing with his back to a counter and with his arms lowered by his sides, but his hands are not visible.

About 25 seconds after police enter the secure area where he is, there is a loud crack that sounds like a Taser shot, followed by Dziekanski screaming and convulsing as he stumbles and falls to the floor.

Another loud crack can be heard as an officer appears to fire one more Taser shot into Dziekanski.

As the officers kneel on top of Dziekanski and handcuff him, he continues to scream and convulse on the floor.

One officer is heard to say, Hit him again. Hit him again, and there is another loud cracking sound.

Police have said only two Taser shots were fired, but a witness said she heard up to four Taser shots.

Robert Dziekanski falls to the floor as an RCMP officer looks on.Robert Dziekanski falls to the floor as an RCMP officer looks on.

A minute and half after the first Taser shot was fired Dziekanski stops moaning and convulsing and becomes still and silent.

Shortly after, the officers appear to be checking his condition and one officer is heard to say, code red.

[R]etired superintendent Ron Foyle, a 33-year veteran of the Vancouver police who saw the video tape, said he didn’t know why it ever became a police incident.

It didn’t seem that he made any threatening gestures towards them, Foyle said.

The video was recorded in three segments. The first segment shows Dziekanski before police arrive.

He is clearly agitated, yelling in Polish, and appears to be sweating. He can be seen taking office chairs and putting them in front of the security doors. He then picks up a small table, which he holds, while a woman in the arrivals lounge calmly speaks to him in apparent effort to calm him down.

… In the second segment, Dziekanski picks up a computer and throws it to the ground. Three airport personnel arrive and block the exit from the secure area, but Dziekanski retreats inside and does not threaten them.

Then four RCMP officers arrive in the lounge. Someone can be heard mentioning the word Tasers.

Someone replies, Yes, as the officers approach the security doors.

… People in the lounge can be heard clearly telling the police Dziekanski speaks no English, only Russian. His mother later said he only spoke Polish.

Police enter the secure area with no problems and can be seen with Dziekanski standing calmly talking with officers. They appear to direct him to stand against a wall, which he does.

As he is standing there, one of the officers shoots him with a Taser.

— CBC News (2007-11-15): Taser video shows RCMP shocked immigrant within 25 seconds of their arrival

Meanwhile, the cops responded by confiscating the eyewitness’s digital camera, refusing to return it as they’d promised, and then issuing blatant lies about the number of officers on the scene, the number of times they tasered their victim, and whether or not there were bystanders nearby at the time of the attack. The video, which directly contradicts police statements, has only been released to the public since the eyewitness, Paul Pritchard, retained a lawyer and threatened to sue.

Since they have been forced to release the video of the killing, the Mounties have promised that The Matter Will Be Investigated, of course. But the official excuses are already being manufactured as we speak.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr said no one can judge what happened to Dziekanski by just watching the video.

It’s just one piece of evidence, one person’s view. There are many people that we have spoken to, RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

What I urge is that those watching the video, take note of that. Put what they’ve seen aside for the time being. And wait to hear the totality of the evidence at the time of the inquest, Carr said.

— CBC News (2007-11-15): Taser video shows RCMP shocked immigrant within 25 seconds of their arrival

What ought to happen after the inquest is that these four Mounties end up in the dock on a charge of murder, in light of their reckless use of violence and their depraved indifference to human life. What will probably happen, instead, is a collective shrug of the shoulders from the Federalis and some sanctimonious official lectures on how important it is to cooperate with airport security.

(Story thanks to Elinor, in comments.)

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