Friday, April 27, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Fifteen thousand take to Montreal streets as Quebec government plays semantics, blocks negotiations
It didn't take long; as always, the consensus among the media came quickly: Downtown turns into battlefield, Another demonstration goes sour, Montreal student demonstration turns violent, Violence breaks our during student protest...
At the end of a day where 15,000 people took to the streets, a day that saw the provincial government play the worst kind of politics during negotiations with student representatives, you'd be hard pressed to get any of that from the night's headlines.
Also invisible from those opening lines are any mention of police actions. Actions which, if you were watching the live stream from CUTV, checking out clips on Youtube, or even following nearly any twitter feed (let alone if you were actually at the protest), did more to set off tensions than anything protesters did tonight.
The day's events were set in motion by Education Minister Line Beauchamp's announcement that she was expelling the Coalition Large de l'Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale from the negotiating session meant to find a resolution to the 11-week-old student strike that has swept the province. CLASSE represents 50 per cent of the 180,000 students on strike and were largely responsible for launching the strike in the first place. They have also been a constant thorn in the side of the government, organizing the most radical acts of civil disobedience and maintaining a firm line of demanding the continuation of the province's tuition fee freeze.
Why were they expelled? After the coalition adopted a clear position against violence towards people, but encouraging civil disobedience, Minister Beauchamp demanded that CLASSE agree to a 48-hour truce for negotiations. During this time, they would be allowed to organize traditional protests (which they did Wednesday afternoon), but not engage in economic disruption. While CLASSE did not have a mandate to sign a truce, they did state that they had no disruptive actions planned for the next 48 hours. The Fédération des Étudiants Universitaire du Québec as well as the Fédération des Étudiants Collégial du Quebec (FEUQ and FECQ) had already previously spoken out against "violent actions," including acts of vandalism and civil disobedience.
At Monday at 4pm, all three associations sat down with government representatives for the first time since the strike began.
Less than 40 hours later though, it was all over.
Since the start of the strike, CLASSE has maintained a website featuring a Google Calendar that showed all student actions across the province, including those that involved what the government defines as disruptive or violent actions. This didn't appear to be a problem to start the truce, but it did serve as the excuse to end the truce when a march announced on that calendar on Tuesday night included at least one count of property destruction, and confrontation with police that resulted in five arrests.
Clearly looking for a pretext to once again attempt to split the tuition freeze movement and to marginalize the association with the most radical - and persistent - membership, Line Beauchamp took to the airwaves at 2pm Wednesday, announcing that CLASSE was expelled from the negotiations. Within several minutes, the other two federations walked away in solidarity.
A protest had already been called a week earlier for Wednesday night, and the government's arbitrary discussion to cut short negotiations - before, by most accounts, they had even really started going - led to people understandably being angry and looking for a way to express that.
As Daniel Crespo, on of the organizers od last night's demonstration, told Cyberpresse:
«Évidemment on souhaite une manif énergique. Calme, c'est pas le mot...En ce moment, je crois que le sentiment qui se vit au sein des étudiant-e-s c'est la colère. Alors le calme, je ne crois pas qu'on en ait.»"Obviously, we're hoping for an energetic demo. Calm isn't the word...Right now, I think the feeling students have is anger. So 'calm'? I don't think we we have any."
That said, I have been in the middle of much angrier marches than what hit Montreal last night.
Fifteen thousand people were in the streets last night. Fifteen thousand who were fed up with a government that earlier in the day essentially spit in the face of the student strike movement, demonstrating the same condescension, arrogance and rejectionism that has characterized their approach to this movement, one of the largest social movements in the history of not just Quebec, but of Canada.
And despite all this anger, it was mostly channeled through chanting and speeches. All it took though was a few paint balloons and six broken windows before 15,000 people were announced illegal. Targeted for property destruction were banks, Loto-Québec and a Military recruitment centre: not random targets, but symbols of the government and the economic powers which are behind the push for higher tuition fees and with them higher debt. When the government refuses to negotiate in good faith for over two months, and slams the door when negotiations finally begin, is it any wonder that people would turn their frustrations on the symbols of that government and those who back them?
The response of police was unannounced and muscled. I was just a few metres from where the first percussion grenade went off, in the middle of the crowd, and I feel confident saying that the use of these weapons came before most - if anyone - in the streets knew that the march had been declared an illegal assembly. It was only after that the crowd scattered that a voice was heard over the police loudspeaker announcing the march an illegal assembly. And looking to accounts posted on social media, I'm definitely not alone in that assessment. By the time the announcement was heard, police were already forcing into the crowd, separating it with small groups of people scattering in all directions near the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine.
From other parts of the march have come reports of police on horses charging crowds, excessive use of pepper spray and gas, battoning and tear gassing. It was only after this excessive intervention that the more aggressive tactics - a car lit on fire, more windows smashed, rocks thrown at police - took place.
Some will clearly argue that once a single window is broken, that the law is broken and police have every right to intervene. But can six broken windows justify the police aggression documented last night? And if six broken windows can make 15,000 people targetable for dispersion and arrest, then what does a tear gas cannister to the chest, or a concussion grenade to the eye, or a baton to the head or ribs, or a car ramming through a crowd equal? All are clearly more dangerous to the health and safety of individual people: police aren't taking on objects when they agress, they are taking on flesh and blood.
When all was done - around 1am - 85 people were arrested (80 in a mass arrest near St-Dominique and des Pins at the very end), and accounts of police brutality were innumerable on social media, and students and supporters were vowing to fight on.
This morning, Quebec Premier Jean Charest was once again denouncing student violence as the obstacle to continue negotiation, playing out the same tired lines he and Minister Beauchamp have had on repeat for weeks. Tired lines that have, and will, do nothing to end this conflict.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
From a student protest in Chile. The signs say: Love it!
Death on the Border: Shocking Video Shows Mexican Immigrant Beaten and Tased by Border Patrol Agents
A new PBS documentary exposes the tasing and beating death of a Mexican immigrant by U.S. border agents in California and has renewed scrutiny of what critics call a culture of impunity. In May 2010, 32-year-old Anastasio Hernández-Rojas was caught trying to enter the United States from Mexico near San Diego. He had previously lived in the United States for 25 years and was the father of five U.S.-born children. But instead of deportation, Hernández-Rojas’s detention ended in his death. A number of border officers were seen beating him, before one tasered him at least five times. He died shortly afterward. The agents say they confronted Hernández-Rojas because he became hostile and resisted arrest. But previously undisclosed videos recorded by eyewitnesses on their cell phones show a different story. "All eyewitnesses that we spoke to basically tell the same story of a man hogtied and handcuffed behind his back, not resisting, being beaten repeatedly by batons, by kicks, by punches, by the use of a taser, for almost 30 minutes until he died," says reporter John Carlos Frey, whose exposé aired in a national television special last Friday night as part of a joint investigation by the PBS broadcast, "Need to Know," and the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. We also speak with Hernández-Rojas’s widow, María Puga. "My husband was tortured. He was severely beaten. And they’ve destroyed an entire family," says Puga, speaking through a Spanish-English translator. "All we want is justice. And we need your help to get that justice."http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/24/death_on_the_border_shocking_video
Thursday, April 19, 2012
The investigation was prompted by the discovery of a document that suggests that the group, known as the Jump Out Boys, considers officer-involved shootings to be a badge of honor.
Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives have launched a probe into what appears to be a secret deputy clique within the department's elite gang unit, an investigation triggered by the discovery of a document suggesting the group embraces shootings as a badge of honor.
The document described a code of conduct for the Jump Out Boys, a clique of hard-charging, aggressive deputies who gain more respect after being involved in a shooting, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. The pamphlet is relatively short, sources said, and explains that deputies earn admission into the group through the endorsement of members.
The sources stressed that the internal affairs investigation is still in its early stages and that little is known about the Jump Out Boys' behavior or its membership.
Still, sheriff's officials are concerned that the group represents another unsanctioned clique within the department's ranks, a problem the department has been grappling with for decades.
Last year, the department fired a group of deputies who all worked on the third, or "3000," floor of Men's Central Jail, after the group fought two fellow deputies at an employee Christmas party and allegedly punched a female deputy in the face. Sheriff's officials later said the men had formed an aggressive "3000" clique that used gang-like three-finger hand signs. A former top jail commander told The Times that jailers would "earn their ink" by breaking inmates' bones.
Other cliques — with names like Grim Reapers, Little Devils, Regulators and Vikings —- have been accused of breeding a gang-like mentality in which deputies falsify police reports, perjure themselves and cover up misconduct.
The investigation into the Jump Out Boys is focused on the sheriff's Gang Enforcement Team. The unit is divided into two platoons of relatively autonomous deputies whose job it is to target neighborhoods where gang violence and intimidation area concern.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, described parts of the memo to The Times. The pamphlet extols hard work and other positive virtues, but there is concern that some of the language conflicts with department expectations.
Most notably, sources said, was a positive depiction of officer-involved shootings. A distinction is made, sources said, between cops who have and cops who have not been involved in shootings.
But the attitude is troubling because officer-involved shootings, even those that are within policy, are expected by the department to be treated as events of last resort. Sheriff's officials have warned against forming rogue subgroups because they threaten to stress allegiance to the clique and subvert loyalty to the department and its policies.
Sheriff Lee Baca's spokesman said the department is taking the issue seriously, and detectives are gathering evidence and conducting interviews.
"We're going to be looking at this right now, but it really could be a fantasy, something that's not true but right now we're going to find out exactly what is and what isn't and that will determine what our next step is," spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
Whitmore declined to discuss details of the investigation or the contents of the document. Asked about the language that portrays shootings in a positive light, he said, "The last thing anybody wants to do in law enforcement is shoot a weapon."
Whitmore said Baca understands that deputies might bond and form social groups with close co-workers but prohibits cliques when "it does not embrace the integrity to do what is right."
Historically, within the Sheriff's Department, the groups have been tied to patrol stations. In one instance, a federal judge called one of those groups, the Lynwood Vikings, a "neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang" that had engaged in racially motivated hostility. As part of a 1996 settlement, the county agreed to retrain deputies to prevent such conduct and pay $7.5 million to compensate victims of alleged abuses.
Affiliation with such groups reaches the highest levels of the department, all the way up to Baca's second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, who the sheriff acknowledged in an interview last year still had his Vikings tattoo.
In February, The Times reported allegations that a supervisor inside the sheriff's Compton station aimed a gun at the head of a fellow sergeant, who alleged the threat was part of a vendetta motivated by ties to a secret deputy clique.
Maria Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York who specializes in police ethics and training, said police subcultures can provide officers with much needed support in a dangerous job. But she said that closeness can become problematic.
"Solidarity is one of the main things of police subculture," she said, "so the closer the group, the higher the possibility that various cases of misconduct will be covered up."
An Iraqi boy in an orphanage drew his mother and slept in her arms.
Image credit: imgur
A federal appeals court says three Seattle police officers did not employ excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a visibly pregnant woman for refusing to sign a speeding ticket.
The lawyer representing Malaika Brooks said Monday that the court’s 2-1 decision sanctioned “pain compliance” tactics through a modern-day version of the cattle prod.
“To inflict pain on a person if that person is not doing what the police want that person to do is simply outrageous,” said Eric Zubel, the woman’s attorney. “I cannot say that loud enough.”
Zubel said he would ask the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear Friday’s 2-1 decision that drew a sharp dissent from Judge Marsha Berzon:
“Refusing to sign a speeding ticket was at the time a nonarrestable misdemeanor; now, in Washington, it is not even that. Brooks had no weapons and had not harmed or threatened to harm a soul,” (.pdf) Berzon wrote. “Although she had told the officers she was seven months pregnant, they proceeded to use a Taser on her, not once but three times, causing her to scream with pain and leaving burn marks and permanent scars.”
The majority noted that the M26 Taser was set in “stun mode” and did not cause as much pain as when set on “dart mode.” The majority noted that the circuit’s recent and leading decision on the issueconcerned excessive force in the context of a Taser being set on Dart mode, which causes “neuro-muscular incapacitation.”
Stun mode, the court noted, didn’t rise to the level of excessive force because it imposes “temporary, localized pain only.”
The majority reversed a lower court judge who said the woman’s rights were violated. The lower court’s failure to distinguish between the two levels of pain modes “led the court to err in finding excessive force.”
The woman was driving her 12-year-old to the African American Academy in Seattle when she was pulled over on suspicion of speeding in 2004. The child left the car for school and a verbal spat with the police resulted in the woman receiving three, 50,000-volt shocks, first to her thigh, then shoulder and neck while she was in her vehicle. An officer was holding Brooks’ arm behind Brooks’ back while she was being shocked.
Brooks gave the officer her driver’s license, but Brooks refused to sign the ticket — believing it was akin to signing a confession. She was ultimately arrested for refusing to sign and to comply with officers asking her to exit the vehicle.
“A suspect who repeatedly refuses to comply with instructions or leave her car escalates the risk involved for officers unable to predict what type of noncompliance might come next,” Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall wrote for the majority. She was joined by Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain.
“Therefore, while using the Taser three times makes this a closer case, we find that it does not show excessive force in light of the corresponding escalation of Brooks’ resistance and the fact that it was the third tasing that appeared to dislodge her such that the officers could finally extract her from her car and gain control over her,” Hall wrote.
"As we approach a looming deadline on our contract, I can't help but get more infuriated at the corporations that cry they have no money to offer janitors a modest wage increase, healthcare for workers and their families, protection and respect for our immigrant workers and their years of service. This photo is a reminder, at least to me, of what starting a movement looks like. Here, LAPD is seen doing what they do best; serving the wealthiest among us by protecting their property. Some would say this iconic photo truly captures the struggle of our janitors. But it's not this photo they remember: its the man featured in it. He died as a result of his injuries. I support our janitors. And I march beside them in whatever direction they choose to go. Hasta la victoria siempre!"
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
n January 30, 2012, just after joining the General Population at SCI Mahanoy,Mumia Abu-Jamal penned a note to all of us—“My dear friends, brothers and sisters ...”—thanking us for demonstrating solidarity powerful enough to secure his release from “the hole.” After 30 years on death row he can finally for the very first time see the sky and touch another human being. Thirty years.
Call it administrative segregation, disciplinary confinement, security housing, or restricted housing, in the United States today at least 80,000 prisoners are in some form of isolated confinement. Our efforts to get Mumia out of solitary, like our previous efforts to get Mumia off death row, are made within this larger context. They are part of the much larger struggle for justice—a justice that will extend to all prisoners. The next step is freedom.
"The Woman Has died due to the Injuries Sustained, confirmed dead on March 24th 2012 Innocent muslim mother of five beaten nearly to death, with doctors saying there is no chance of Survival. Assailants broke in to her home, and savagely beat her leaving her body in a pool of blood to be discovered by her 17 year old daughter, with a note saying "go back to your own country, you're a terrorist" El Cajon - A woman found beaten in the head with a tire iron, was hospitalized. Shaima Alawadi, 32, a mother of five, was found unconscious by her 17- year-old daughter on Wednesday around 11:15 A.M. A note telling her to "Go back home", was found at the residence. A family friend Sura Alzaidy, told the San Diego Union Tribune about the note, which authorities did not disclose. The note told the woman and the Alawadi family to "Go back to your own country. You're a terriorist". The woman is of Iraqi descent." Submitted by @Alsamaray_
In a 5-4 ruling, justices say it's more important to screen out weapons and drugs than to preserve the privacy of those arrested.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused to halt routine strip-searches of new jail inmates, including those arrested for minor offenses, saying the need to screen out weapons and drugs outweighed the right to privacy.
The 5-4 majority ruled it would be "unworkable" to require guards — who at large county jails must screen hundreds of new inmates — to spare those who may not appear dangerous.
The decision is a defeat for civil liberties groups and a New Jersey man who was strip-searched twice after he was stopped on a highway and taken to jail, where he spent six days, over an unpaid fine that he had already paid.
"Jails can be even more dangerous than prisons, because officials there know so little about the people they admit," said JusticeAnthony M. Kennedy.
He noted thatTimothy McVeigh,the Oklahoma City bomber, was arrested and taken to jail for a traffic offense. Outlawing close "visual inspections" of some new inmates would raise "the risk of increased danger to everyone in the facility," Kennedy said for the court's conservative bloc.
Two years ago, county officials in Chicago agreed to pay a $55-million settlement to a large class of arrested people after a federal judge ruled that routine strip-searches were unconstitutional.
Lawyers said many states had laws that forbid strip-searches except when police or guards had reason to suspect that a person entering the jail might have a weapon or drugs.
The justices said counties might want to adopt policies against putting people behind bars, even temporarily, for unpaid fines or traffic violations. But they refused to adopt such a policy as a matter of constitutional law.
American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Steven Shapiro said the ruling "jeopardizes the privacy rights of millions of people who are arrested each year." They can be strip-searched, even if they "may be in jail only for a few hours," he said.
Albert Florence, a finance director for a car dealership, was driving his wife and three children in his new BMW in 2005 when he was stopped by a New Jersey state trooper. Florence was handcuffed, put under arrest and taken to jail because of an outstanding warrant. It was all a mistake. His fine had been paid.
But Florence was held for six days in two county jails, including in Newark. He was required to remove his clothes, shower and undergo a "visual examination" by a guard. After his release, he sued the two counties for violating his privacy and subjecting him to a humiliating strip-search.
Kennedy emphasized that the court was ruling only on the strip-searches, not on the circumstances of Florence's arrest. He also noted that the Essex County Jail in New Jersey admitted 25,000 inmates a year. Chief Justice John G. RobertsJr.and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence ThomasandSamuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with his opinion.
In dissent, JusticeStephen G. Breyersaid it was unreasonable to subject possibly innocent people to humiliating searches. He said at least 10 states, including California, Florida and Illinois, limited the use of strip-searches.
"In my view, such a search of an individual arrested for a minor offense that does not involve drugs or violence is an unreasonable search forbidden by the 4th Amendment," Breyer wrote. JusticesRuth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan agreed.
The case was Florence vs. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County.