Category Archives: Issue #118: Spring 2015

Note: to view other articles in issue #118 scroll down — they appear in the order they were printed in the paper version of Slingshot (you may have to click pages 2 or 3 for some articles)

The Problem of Black Lives Mattering

“How come with the thousands of black cops in America you ain’t never picked up the paper, turned on the TV, or the news and seen white folk crying because this black cop shot my loved one in the back of the head cause he thought the cellphone was a gun. How come you don’t see that? You think black cops is more spiritual? You think better qualified? Nah. They got enough sense to know that white folks ain’t going to tolerate it. And the only reason they do to us what they do cause you tolerate it.” -Dick Gregory

By Omar Ricks, Ph.D.

Sometimes, different people can independently arrive at the same conclusion. I didn’t start and haven’t been affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Movement, but I respect their analysis of the problem and their desire to end it. Around the same time as #BLM was starting, I, like many other people, was thinking along the same lines about what the fundamental problem was behind seemingly rampant police murders of Black people. And for once, I didn’t feel alone in centering the problem of what Black life means. If Black life doesn’t mean anything, the USA would be a genocidal slave state in which the killing and punishment of Black people is meted out and widely considered acceptable, regardless of guilt or innocence, gender, socioeconomic status, or other factors. And that’s exactly what it is.

#BLM (Black Lives Matter) is a grassroots coalition-based social movement started in the United States by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in the wake of several unpunished (or lightly punished) incidents of police killing unarmed Black people, including the killing of Oscar Grant and Kenneth Harding in Oakland, as well as Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, and Michael Brown. While it consists of people with diverse viewpoints and tactics, the movement’s central aim is to oppose the systematic normalization of Black people’s deaths, which makes violence against Black people more likely and more acceptable. #BLM began as a social media movement, but has quickly become an on-the-ground social movement with many different actors and organizations that aren’t necessarily connected as one organization but have the same general aims.

Actions and policies of the state result in the disproportionate killing, injuring, and incarceration of Black people, but the struggle for Black life to matter is not just about opposing policing practices against Black men and boys. It is also about how domestic abuse victim Marissa Alexander was not allowed to defend herself against her abusive husband under the same “stand your ground” defense in Florida law that George Zimmerman used to get exonerated in the killing of Trayvon Martin. It is also about how Black transwoman Cece McDonald was prosecuted and convicted for defending herself against a hostile and racist group of white youths in Minneapolis. It is also about how broader political practices, like the mass disenfranchisement of Florida and Ohio Black voters, the shutting down of water services to Detroit residents, and the anemic federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, show a remarkable disregard for Black lives.

Because the nature of racism is not just prejudice but also the power to enforce prejudice, these problems cannot be addressed individually, by punishing or educating those who commit violence against Black people without justification. It’s too big a problem. The conservative Wall Street Journal reported that in 2011 NYPD had more stops of young Black men in Manhattan than there are young Black men in Manhattan. And at least one former NYPD police officer has stepped forward to say that he was specifically ordered to stop young Black males at every opportunity. But he is just one officer, and NYPD just one department. Police officers everywhere have broad latitude to stop anyone they suspect may be involved in a crime and use that latitude to systematically target Black and Latino men and boys. The problem is deeper than any one department and its “stop-and-frisk” policies.

For one thing, it’s everywhere, not just New York. One report described anti-black racism as “baked into” police practices. “The root of the problem,” says #BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, “is anti-black racism.” In other words, there is a unique, deeply ingrained, and pervasive kind of racism that American society at large feels toward Black people that goes a long way toward explaining these disparities as well as many others.

And so when I wrote a correspondence for The Feminist Wire from the Democratic National Convention in 2012, there was no question that there was a problem. But as I watched the events around me, I was so disgusted by the lack of conversation among so-called leaders representing largely Afro-descended constituencies that were then and are today being disproportionately murdered without any discernible sense of national outrage or demand for major action to address the problem, that I became convinced those leaders were part of that problem. I ended my article saying the following:

“And if electoral democracy holds out no better promise than this, then there are few options that remain aside from those that Assata Shakur and George Jackson recommended. And so it was that at the Blackest convention in some time, I watched Black leaders repeatedly miss a real opportunity to assert directly and publicly that Black life matters. Middle class or not. Employed or not. Black life matters. Even raising it as a matter of discussion, apparently, is too much to ask. But I will say it again and again—our lives do matter. It is not too much to ask. And we will not be asking always.”

I was hoping (against hope!) that leaders who purported to represent my interests in Washington would make a full accounting of the fact that I want to live and that that desire means something. Instead of more discussion about how to expand and enrich the ever-shrinking Black middle class and further privatize public education and other public services, I wanted an acknowledgment that segregated spaces like those where the majority of Black people live in Detroit, East Oakland, East St. Louis, and South Side Chicago were hazards for Black health, where we were being starved of things like healthy food, potable water, a living wage, enriching education and child care, and health care. I wanted an acknowledgment that, in essence, the ghetto itself is violence against the people who live there. If something like 500 people who look like me were victims of homicide in the city of Chicago alone that year, the so-called leaders who wanted my vote — especially those hailing from Chicago — would apply all their powers to center a conversation about this horrific problem in the political discourse, addressing questions of why this was happening, especially how it related to the ongoing structural inequalities of inter-generational poverty and anti-blackness shared by victim and killer alike, and what a solution might look like that rightly targeted the systems that created and re-created these structures of power. (If your life doesn’t matter to the society, how can it matter to the people who live on your block?) If a report uncovered the fact that at least every 28 hours, a Black person was killed by law enforcement, security forces, or vigilantes in the United States, I wanted everyone in attendance at DNC to be aware of this report and push it to the middle of the conversations at the convention.

Of course, I knew this conversation could not reach its fullest expression in the asphyxiated political discourse of the electoral arena — and the especially constricted discourse the racist power structure affords Black elected officials — and that it would require movements that impact those structures in revolutionary ways. I guess I was hoping for an ethical leadership that would speak truth (regardless of whether it got to keep a posh Washington job) in the service of Black folks and the fundamentally ethical and very long Black Freedom Struggle. Unfortunately, and predictably, the inescapable conclusion was that Black existence did not matter enough for people with the reins of institutional power to risk losing their tenuous grip on that power.

So I spoke about something that I knew. It was something ringing in my ears from conversations I had been having with colleagues, all of whom were reading things like Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Saidiya V. Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection, Hortense J. Spillers’ “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” and Frank B. Wilderson’s Red, White, and Black. The problem wasn’t fundamentally one of changing practices. It was a problem of changing meaning. What does blackness mean to America? There are not-so-subtle hints everywhere.

Black people make up approximately 12 percent of the US population, but constitute more than 40 percent of the prison population.

White Americans use illegal drugs at rates that are comparable to, or well in excess of, the rates at which Black Americans use illegal drugs, but Black Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses 10 times more.

In 2012, a Black American was killed by police and security forces at least once every 28 hours. According to another report, “black teens were 21 times more likely to be shot dead [by police] than their white counterparts.”

The problem is not just that a de facto police state is ready to descend on Black people at any time, but also, more broadly, that the entire population of African Americans is perceived by the broader society (1) as a potential threat and (2) as unworthy of being listened to when we protest through legal, institutional, or other means. This problem must be viewed as a systemic one, not just an individual or institutional one, and it must be addressed on multiple levels, including not only institutionally or interpersonally but especially in our unconscious thought, the deeply ingrained thought processes that are reflected by our actions before we even have the opportunity to think. Before we can change our thinking to make Black lives matter, we must truly understand that the problem of Black lives not mattering is a problem of meaning that isn’t just individual or institutional but structural. It is rooted in what America is.

America needs Black lives to not matter. Due to centuries of negative images and stereotypes about Africans and racial blackness, in the collective psyches of the United States, throughout the Americas, and across the world blackness means, as Fanon said, “the lower emotions, the baser inclinations, the dark side of the soul.” A field of study within cognitive psychology known as implicit cognition (or implicit bias) finds quantifiable evidence of what Black people have been knowing for better than 1,000 years (had anyone with power bothered to listen): that deeply rooted negative attitudes toward people of African descent are held widely across the American population, even among those who claim to be non racist, even when other possible causes for these attitudes (like socioeconomic class or education level) are taken into consideration—and these attitudes tend to increase people’s willingness to use violence (interpersonal, institutional, or state) and punishment against Black people.

One recent quantitative study from Stanford, titled “Not Yet Human,” shows that people of African descent are commonly associated with apes at an unconscious level of mental processing. According to the study: ”this Black–ape association alters visual perception and attention, and it increases endorsement of violence against Black suspects. In an archival study of actual criminal cases, the authors show that news articles written about Blacks who are convicted of capital crimes are more likely to contain ape-relevant language than news articles written about white convicts. Moreover, those who are implicitly portrayed as more apelike in these articles are more likely to be executed by the state than those who are not.” This finding agrees with the earlier work of Stanford literature professor Sylvia Wynter, who found that police in Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 1990s commonly used the incident code “NHI” — meaning “no humans involved” — for incidents involving African Americans. While many people acknowledge this police code to have been racist, the Stanford quantitative study shows that even people who don’t think themselves racist have the same thoughts.

Other studies show that children of African descent are believed to be older, more mature, and less innocent than their white counterparts are, something that might explain why teachers suspend African American preschoolers at triple the rate of white preschoolers and why police and prosecutors are more likely to charge African American youths with harsher crimes or in adult court than they are in cases involving non Black youths. It might also explain why 12-year-old youth Tamir Rice was shot dead by police at a playground in Cleveland, Ohio, while holding a toy gun, whereas white youths are free to regularly play with toy guns in their neighborhoods.

Another set of studies (“shooter bias” studies) shows that Black males holding cell phones are, on quick glance, believed to be holding guns, while white males are believed to be holding cell phones. These studies also found that people would be quicker to shoot and slower to holster their weapons when faced with a Black male who might be holding a cell phone or a gun, compared with a white male in the same position. These studies might explain why plainclothes police shot unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo after he reached for his wallet, presumably thinking the officers wanted to see his identification or were trying to rob him.

Still other studies have shown that a stereotypically-named hypothetical Black defendant will receive a higher rate of conviction and harsher degree of punishment for the same crime than will a stereotypically-named hypothetical white defendant, even when identical evidence is presented.

A hypothetical job applicant with an African-American-sounding name is less likely to receive further consideration when a hypothetical job applicant with a white-sounding name is granted further consideration, even when both have the exact same resume except for the name at the top. An applicant for housing or mortgage will be similarly screened based on assumptions about whether they are Black or not, thereby shaping geographic segregation patterns.

African-American employees are more likely to be evaluated poorly by employers than are white employees.

Black NFL players are required to return from injury sooner than their white counterparts with the same injury. Other studies show that the medical profession is slower to give aggressive treatment to African Americans and less sensitive to the pain of African American patients.

Regardless of whether one stands on the side of addressing the problem, like the founders of #BLM, describing the problem, like researchers at Stanford, or even denying the problem or defending police murders of Black people, the central problem is not a swirling morass of practices to be altered. It is a structure. These problems of anti-black racism are not simply problems of individual or institutional practice or prejudice because they are repeated across widely disparate individuals and institutions with the same independent results. The psyche of anti-black racism is not individual or institutional. Both the psyche and the institution are networked together as part of one dynamic, fluid, and massive structure. The psyche, like the institution, is a structure. The problems of Black life mattering are hence fundamentally problems of structural power. Keith Lawrence and Terry Keleher’s 2004 essay “Structural Racism” is helpful on this count:

“Structural Racism encompasses the entire system of white supremacy, diffused and infused in all aspects of society, including our history, culture, politics, economics and our entire social fabric. Structural Racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism (e.g. institutional, interpersonal, internalized, etc.) emerge from structural racism…

The key indicators of structural racism are inequalities in power, access, opportunities, treatment, and policy impacts and outcomes, whether they are intentional or not. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually producing new, and re-producing old forms of racism.”

The problem of Black life mattering extends to unconscious levels of thinking and is not only deeply rooted, but also widely diffused and reinforced through multiple networks of power. It is therefore quite challenging to uproot without a massive change in the social structure that abolishes the ways that both personal and institutional practice, as well as individual and social frames of meaning, are tethered to the genocidal slave empire of the modern world, the United States. If we only think about the practice of prejudice without centering the ways that all racism derives from structural racism – what I call anti-blackness – we will be at pains to explain why there is so deep a reserve of animosity that can result in normalized violence toward Black people and why the mass loss of Black life does not constitute a national emergency or a cause for widespread grief. True dedication to the principle that Black lives matter will require a revolution using all means necessary to end the structure of anti-blackness.

Military Veterans and their Role in Revolution

by Michael Clift

This article is directed to veterans who are frustrated with the direction their lives have taken. The Establishment expects us to come home and get back in the game, but we know it isn’t that easy. They would like us to sink into the couch and keep our appointments, get back to working and keep waving that flag; that flag that shrouds thousands of coffins. A flag that only gets buried with “good” soldiers, not chicken shits or suicides.

They do not expect us to show up at anti-war rallies or police brutality marches; they do not expect us to produce art and poetry and beautiful things; they do not expect us to LIVE beyond our usefulness to them, they do not expect us to ride bicycles across the country, teach and speak at schools and libraries.

They do not expect us to stand up and fight back. They hope that the fight has been driven out of us. We are supposed to be too tired and wasted to struggle against them, we are supposed to be apathetic and jaded; and we are to be grateful.

Ever since the first army was mustered, soldiers have borne the brunt of a nation’s poor choices. The nation suffers whether in victory or defeat, and every victory brings more problems and gives birth to new enemies. Every defeat heaps on more suffering and discontent. There is no escaping the fact that warfare is the sad, slow, suicide of humanity.

Throughout history, soldiers have mutinied, rebelled against the chain of command, and have killed their leaders; particularly when the army is getting its ass handed to them and it seems the war is lost. And veterans have led resistance to injustice after their service. Some of the better known instances of military veterans participating in acts of civil disobedience or even outright revolt, are Shay’s Rebellion and the Bonus Army, the GI Resistance Movement during Viet Nam, and the Occupy movement. Everyone comes home knowing the war is fucked, but fewer ever stand up to say it.

art by Heather Wreckage

During the formative months of Occupy, every encampment had its share of homeless veterans spanning the generations. It was possible to share a bottle of cheap liquor with 4 generations of veterans standing in the driving rain. The veterans basically self-organized, and many were instrumental in the establishment of camp infrastructure such as medical tents, field kitchens and security patrols. They trained people in the use of radios and taught basic first aid classes in public parks. Going forward the challenge is to draw in the homeless and radicalized veterans, the ones still in possession of the strategic faculties granted to them by the United States Military, and the ones who most need to refocus their lives through this type of work, so they can come together as organized groups to combat social injustice and end war.

The veteran has a vested interest in ending the war (Now). The problem these days is that the average American civilian “…has no skin in the game” since America’s wars have increasingly come to be fought by other peoples’ children. With no draft, war is fought by poor people commanded by rich people.

Today’s anti-war movement is vigorous; it is hard at work, everyday, somewhere in the streets protesting the ongoing wars. But who is fighting against the wars? Who is sabotaging production facilities, jamming communications, interrupting supply lines? Who is blockading munitions plants, hacking the Pentagon or physically preventing military recruiters (head hunters) from coming onto our children’s school campus?

Veterans from all walks of military life need to step up their duty and reclaim some fresh living. Our hearts may still weep, yet our stories can inspire and our hands can teach. If we can provide some safety; some collective wisdom, learn from what it means to be under constant stress and hungry, and how through team work and dedication we were able to overcome our challenges, we can become an invaluable asset to the “revolution”.

I say, quite LOUDLY: Fuck the system. Fuck it for every sleepless night, every bottle of pills, every failed relationship, every lost job, every lost limb and every life wasted making those fuckers at the top richer than we will ever be. FUCK THEM for every drunk driving accident, every beaten spouse and every bottle hidden under the bed.

It is better that military veterans compost our skills and experience into a productive force for change, not succumb to the pressures of “re-integrating” into the War Culture; not throw away the GI Bill money trying to “become” a happy tax payer by getting a business degree, getting into security jobs, and all that.  Use that money for music lessons, art school…pursue your passion, and if it is business; let your business lead the way in hiring veterans for “green” jobs…do not try to fit into the social templates that are expected of you.  Recall the many jams you got yourselves out of by coming up with unexpected solutions.

To learn more about the efforts to organize veterans in SF, follow the author’s blog at:
http://occupyveteranssanfrancisco.weebly.com/

The War Against Yellowstone National Park Bison and Wolves

by Dagmar (Eggplant) Spannagel

I grew up in Berkeley in the fifties and sixties, and have been a social and animal activist for most of my adult life. I moved to Montana almost seven years ago to be closer to the wolves and Yellowstone National Park Bison that I love. My heart is heavy with pain because of the war on wildlife in Montana and in other wolf states in the west. As I write this, I am in West Yellowstone, Montana, with Buffalo Field Campaign, trying to bring attention to, and stop the current slaughter of the small population of some 4,000 genetically unique and pure remaining wild bison. This last remaining population survived from the approximately 60,000,000 sacred beasts that were slaughtered in the 1800′s to cut off the food sources of the Plains Indians, so that the Indigenous Peoples could be removed from their land, be put on reservations, and the land settled by Europeans. These Native Americans had, and still have a strong Spiritual relationship with their world, including the animals.

As I write this, over 500 Yellowstone National Park Bison have already been baited and hazed into capture facilities inside Yellowstone National Park by The National Park Service, and shipped to slaughter. They want to capture an additional 400 to 500 of these Sacred wild animals and also ship them to slaughter, This is in addition to the regular hunting season kills and Treaty Hunts. I have already shed my tears for them today. Buffalo Field Campaign needs volunteers to come to West Yellowstone to help to stop this slaughter, as well as to help to get them placed on the Endangered Species Act List.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections have been removed from wolves and management turned over to each states’ fish and game agency by a sneaky rider attached to a Congressional Budget Bill which has produced disastrous results. These states are controlled by the livestock, hunting and resource extraction industries, and government officials have a hatred for wolves and bison due to lies, fables, greed and ignorance. Here in Montana, the fourth largest state, with approximately two and one half million cattle, and over half a million sheep, 34 cows, 9 sheep, 1 miniature horse, and 1 dog have been confirmed killed by wolves. Prior to the 1995 Wolf reintroduction, there were 89,000 elk, and yet even with wolves, 2013 elk counts reached 145,000.

Yet despite these small depredation numbers and increased elk numbers, the state of Montana has a 6 month wolf hunting season, and allows trapping with no quotas on how many wolves can be killed. Each hunter can purchase 5 hunting license tags, landowners can shoot up to 100 additional wolves if they are perceived a threat (Total landowners, not each landowner). Montana Fish Wildlife And Parks, the Agency that is supposed to manage wolves, does not use non-lethal management, which haven’t been proven to work, but with USDA Wildlife Services, kills wolves for wolf/livestock conflicts, not only killing individual wolves, but removing full packs, as well as killing pups, known as “denning”, with taxpayer money, for the benefit of the already publicly subsidized livestock industry. Besides all these attacks on wolves, there are cruel and illegal killings by wolf haters such as shooting them in the gut and spine intentionally to cause the most pain. Wyoming and Great Lakes wolves have recently been returned to ESA protections due to their agencies’ mismanagement, and Montana, as well as the worst of all the wolf states, Idaho, need to have their wolves returned to Federal ESA protection to stop this carnage.

The Bison and the wolf have been proven to have tremendous benefits to their habitats, and to the other wildlife that live there, bringing health and balance to these ecosystems, so we must all fight to protect them. People that love wildlands, wilderness, and wildlife need to move to these states to bring our love and voice, and to balance out the haters, to save these sacred animals from suffering and extinction, and save these sacred places for perpetuity.

Come out here and make a difference. For more information on how to help and to how to volunteer, email bfc@wildrockies.org.

Slingshot box

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

One of the functions of media is to capture events, people and issues of the day as they unfold and transform. Reality isn’t static. When recording an event or experience, it is important to maintain the life behind the scene, to keep it fermenting. Even the format of this paper shifts. Recently the post office ordered us to mail the paper in an envelope, not put labels on the back. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand we now have more of the back cover for content where there used to be postal information. It also means we had to move the calendar to page 19.

As we go to print, the downtown Berkeley Post Office is the site of a year-long occupation. A 24-hour vigil demands that another service for the public trust not be sold and turned into more banal shops. The brokers are Richard Blum and developers who regard money above what the people who live here actually want. The vigil can use more people. Mostly, it’s a homeless encampment, which reveals the sad state of things in the Bay Area. People are either too busy making money to invest in protesting—or they are able to be on the front lines as long as they can live with abject poverty. The recent Black Lives Matter protests are a notable exception, with a consistently reinvigorating turnout. It suggests what we could accomplish if more people turned out for protests and direct action. We attempted to make a special issue in late December to document the feverish amount of activity but couldn’t rope in enough people to drop everything and write. We kept that theme as a cornerstone for this issue and we welcome more uprisings to inspire a future “emergency issue.”

Failure, loss, and disappointment are important aspects of fighting the war of resistance. Losing a cause like the post office is something we can learn from… and should. But losing a person is a deeper thing. The black lives stolen by police demonstrate how frustrating and soul-crushing death is. Losing people in the struggle creates a unique hole, for they are the people who make up the front line of engagement when it would seem that the whole world is oblivious. It saddens us that many radical aspects of a city we love, like nearby SF, are dying or being killed off. The death of anarchist poet Alfonso Texidor, a long time Mission District resident, occurred while wrapping up this issue. Late last year we lost Homes Not Jails organizer Ted Gullicksen and we also lost the Bay Guardian newspaper. The hole that they leave behind in SF is immense. We will all have to compensate. We did write one obituary this issue. It is fortunate that we didn’t have to write a second one: a long-time contributor to Slingshot and Long Haul recently had a heart attack. He was at a picnic and luckily a doctor was at the park during the emergency. Now he’s back, keeping us warm with his presence. As we proof-read the articles for this issue, he hung out downstairs, filling the room with his laughter.

Other victories arise. One of our collective member’s mother was misdiagnosed while fighting cancer and nearly lost her life. We are happy to have her first article ever in a radical journal themed around an issue she has worked on for years. Why don’t you consider putting together your thoughts and sending it to us sometime? Articles, interviews, art, photos… a lot of shit. (We don’t tend to print poetry, though.)

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editing.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot Collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Aimi, A. Iwasa, Babs, Eggplant, Finn, Hayley, Heather, Isabel, Korvin, Jesse, Joey, Longshanks, Maggie, Michael, Owlx, Snow, Soren, Suzie Quattro, Vanessa, Xander and all the authors and artists.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on August 23, 2015 at 4 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 119 on September 12, 2015 at 3 pm.

 

Volume 1, Number 118, Circulation 20,000

Printed March 5, 2015

 

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

 

Phone (510) 540-0751 • slingshot@tao.ca slingshot.tao.ca • twitter @slingshotnews

 

Holding Physical Space – infoshops, coops, radical spaces

Compiled by Jesse D. Palmer

Here’s some radical spaces Slingshot found out about since we published the 2015 Organizer, plus some corrections to the Organizer. These spaces are the Bert to the Ernie of recent militant street action coast-to-coast. Each needs the other to build an enduring radical grassroots movement because you need to hold physical space to build the deep communities that are so crucial. Visit these spaces or find one near you with Slingshot’s on-line radical contact list: slingshot.tao.ca/contacts

La Conca / Ovarian Psychos Bicycle Brigade – Los Angeles, CA

A community center featuring fiilm screenings, self defense classes, shows, and women’s bicycle events operated by an all-women-of-color feminist bicycle collective. Their website says “we envision a world where women are change agents who create and maintain holistic health in themselves and their respective communities for present and future generations.” Hell yeah. 1214 East 1st St. Los Angeles, CA 90033 ovarianpsycos.com

Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore – Sylmar, CA

Social justice bookstore with events, classes and social groups dedicated to Chicano culture and history, women’s health, empowerment and writing, and bilingual open mics. They also promote local protests, actions, and anti-capitalist gatherings. 13197 Gladstone Ave, Unit A, Sylmar, CA 91342 818-939-3433 www.tiachucha.org

Backspace – Fayetteville, AR

A DIY show, art and event space. 541 W Meadow St. Unit H, Trailside Village Fayetteville, AR 72701

Eso Won Bookstore – Los Angeles, CA

Indepenent Black-owned social justice-focused bookstore. EsoWon means “water over rocks”. 4327 Deghan Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90008 323-290-1048. Esowonbookstore .com

Change Point – Reno, NV

A harm reduction drop in center with HIV testing, safe injection supplies, condoms, hygiene items with coffee and pastries. Anyone is invited to visit. They focus on injection drug users, homeless people, sex workers, people in extreme poverty and transgender people. Operated by Northern Nevada HOPES. 445 Ralston St. Reno, NV 89503 775-997-7519 nnhopes.org

Chuco’s Justice Center – Inglewood, CA

Community center for education and organization with a focus on incarceration / police brutality and also a hub for dozens of grassroots groups. 1137 E Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302 323-235-4243

Cocoon Room – Milwaukee, WI

A show space and art gallery. 820 E. Locust Street Milwaukee, WI 53212

Yin-Yang Fandango & The Tango Tea Room – Corpus Christi, TX

A privately owned vegan/veggie cafe that has space for art and activist materials and is a local counter-culture hangout. 505 S Water St #545 Corpus Christi, TX 78401, 361-883-9123

Heart of Art Gallery – Los Angeles, CA

A DIY gallery and venue for women, youth, trans and members of the LGBTQIA community. They also run an animal rescue project. 1907 Rodeo Rd. Los Angeles, CA 90018 heartofartgalleryla.com

Dill Pickle Food Co-Op – Chicago, IL

A cooperative grocery store selling healthy and sustainable food. 3039 W Fullerton Ave., Chicago, IL 60647, 773-252-2667 dillpickle.coop

LA Fort – Los Angeles, CA

An art co-op/community center (Do It Together space) that provides low cost artist workspace, music practice space and hosts craft nights, poetry readings, workshops and art openings. They are working through government red tape to re-open an all-ages show venue. 736 Ceres Ave Los Angeles, CA 90021. thelafort.weebly.com

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement – Des Moines, IA

A non-profit grassroots organization focused on environmental and economic justice. 2001 Forest Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311 www.iowacci.org

Vermont Workers’ Center – Burlington, VT

A non-profit grassroots organization focused on worker and labor issues. 294 N Winooski Ave., Burlington VT 05401 802-861 4892 www.workerscenter.org

Pehrspace – Los Angeles CA

Community art space and all-ages music venue. 325 Glendale Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90026 213-483-7347

Raíces Infoshop y Cocina Vegana – Tijuana, Mexico

An infoshop with a book store, bilingual zine and book library and free internet. They host ESL and Spanish classes, movies, shows and DIY workshops. They share the space with a vegan café. 8232 Santiago Argüello, Centro, Tijuana, B.C. Mexico raicestijuana.wordpress

East Village Arts Collective – London, Ontario, Canada

A show space / community art gallery that hosts workshops and events. They host Food Not Bombs and Black Flag Anarchist Free School. 757 Dundas Street, London, ON. N5W 2Z6 Canada. eastvillagearts.ca

Corrections to the 2015 Slingshot Organizer

- We published the wrong address for Resistencia Books in Austin, TX. The correct address is 4926 E. Cesar Chavez St. Unit C1, Austin, TX 78702 512-389-9881.

- The Furnace in Albany, NY no longer exists.

- Laughing Horse books in Portland, OR closed after almost 30 years in existence.

- The Burrow in Winona, MN has closed.

- The address for Ojata Records in Grand Forks, ND is wrong. The correct address is 1300 University, Grand Forks, ND 58203 701-757-4002.

- Acme Artworks in Chicago, Il is not at 2251 W. North Ave. It might be at 1741 N. Western Ave or it might not exist anymore. If you live in or visit Chicago, please let us know.

- The Real School / Dragon Valley in Houston doesn’t seem to be at 2805 Wichita anymore. Let us know if you have their new address.

- Word on the street is that Station 40 in San Francisco might close soon.

- We got mail returned from Krank it Up in Tallahassee, FL and the phone number we published for them doesn’t work, but the internet seems to indicate they exist, so please let us know what is up if you’re in Florida.

- In Slingshot #117 we printed a correction to the Organizer indicating that the LA Infoshop was a private business not an infoshop. Since then Slingshot collective member Alex has visited and he writes “I think it’s unfair to simply write it off as a private business. It’s a print shop that is privately owned, but they are in the process of starting to print their own materials as an Infoshop and I think there’s a lot of potential in that.”

 

 

Not Our City Anymore

By Longshanks

1967: If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

2015: If you’re coming to San Francisco, be sure to bring some dollars for your fare.

Six unforgettable and unforgivable years ago I moved to San Francisco, hoping to flourish in a libertine paradise of limitless self-expression, and ran straight into a wall of disappointment. My naive hopes of hedonistic revelry in a sort of mirror universe where queers ruled and everyone got along were violently shattered. What I found were the glimmering fragments of a fallen utopia usurped by greedy opportunists and conservative reformers, embroiled in a full-scale class and culture war, as various groups of people sharply divided fought for limited resources in a compact space and the cost of rent was outrageous… and rising. I lost my job, house, and direction in life completely, then experienced a radical rebirth, became a squatter and fell in love with life outside the capitalism box, and arrived at a “free living” philosophy that I believe will influence the rest of my life.

Standing presently at a crossroads in my life, I’d like to record my impressions of the City’s disturbing transformation, touch on ways I’ve felt degraded and subhuman due to being homeless, and highlight the consciousness-raising adventures I’ve had here with shout outs to some people and places with whom I feel connected as well as the profound liberation that grew out of my experience of having no fixed home. I’m permanently changed and a little shellshocked by all that’s happened, excited but uncertain about the future, for me and for SF, which is, as Candace Roberts sings in her great new music video that you should definitely find on YouTube (http://youtu.be/-yoRVJzQAe0), “Not my City any more.”

During my first two years in the Bay Area I was violently mugged and assaulted in Fruitvale, got a good job with a global hospitality company but then lost it due to PTSD resulting from the Fruitvale incident, shared a house in the Richmond (my first in SF) with a creepy and perverted older man who terrorized me when I couldn’t make rent, escaped that nightmare to an SRO, worked for the 2010 Census, learned a lot about SF history, moved into a house atop Mt. Davidson (highest elevation in the City) where one of my housemates was a maniacal con artist living under a false identity who tricked me into giving him money, wrote for SF’s main LGBT paper the Bay Area Reporter (now a pale conservative shadow of its radical roots), got a job as a clothing checker at a club called Blow Buddies which had nothing to do with blow dryers, then moved into a flat on Folsom Street with a British witch dominatrix thinking I’d finally found my “Tales of the City” niche, only to lose my job and realize I couldn’t make rent. I was burned out by stress and the fruitless quest for employment, which required me to be passionate about brands and advertising (yawn), knowledgeable about technologies I couldn’t afford, or willing to go the route of human exploitation. I checked “none of the above,” and fell into the abyss.

SF’s longrunning and recently revamped Street Sheet asserts that “no one chooses to be homeless” and that “most homeless people in SF were residents before they became homeless.” Both are true in my case. I spent the first month in a parking lot. If I didn’t leave by 7am, a parking lot worker would wake me up and hustle me out. Still, I was luckier than the people camped out on the sidewalk in front of the lot. City workers came by every morning at 5am and gave them five minutes to clear themselves and all their stuff off the sidewalk or get sprayed with cold water.

Policies like this have earned SF a reputation as, to quote a Food Not Bombs organizer, “one of the nastiest cities toward homeless people.”

Eventually I left the parking lot, wandered the hills and valleys awhile in grim solitude, and started using speed as a way to stay up all night. I got enough to eat thanks to food stamps and the soup kitchens, and only occasionally resorted to stealing to make ends meet, and only from large corporations. (Such as Goodwill, which has grown profitable by taking things freely donated and marketing them at steadily rising rates; I think we should bypass Goodwill completely and set up a free market to give the stuff directly to poor people.)

Occasionally, I showered at the multi-service center in SoMa, but hated the prison-like feel of the place and its depressed and depressing security guards, and my hygiene took an unavoidable plunge. I rented a storage space for my clothes and other valuables, only to lose it and everything I owned later on.

Whether it was courage that drove me, or apathy that made me not care, I defied the police and sensational news stories I’d read about missing people and burned corpses and set out to explore all the parks, devoting the most time to Golden Gate Park of course, bewildered by the sheer size and complexity of that labyrinth, which completed my sense of having entered another world… one that the tourists will never know.

The parks were closed at night, and police were known to raid Golden Gate Park with dogs in the pre-dawn hours (another barbaric policy), but in daytime I could sleep there with less fear of harassment; I became nocturnal, further isolating me from the mainstream. All over I found little forts and hiding places, remnants of camps left by others, and way too much litter. I grew up in national parks and got in the habit of picking up after myself outdoors, no excuses. Perhaps if we all did so, there would be less opposition to drifters crashing in public spaces.

That being said, SCREW the no camping rule, in SF or anywhere else. If a person has no other option, they can spend the night in any park or public space where they feel safe, with or without a tent, end of story. Laws or ordinances to the contrary are inhumane and devoid of compassion, and I do not recognize them. Your inconvenience at having to look at homeless people while you walk your dog in the morning takes a back seat to other people’s basic need for sleep and shelter.

One man let his dog mock-attack me in my tent early in the morning, startling me awake.

Another time I woke early to a woman’s voice calling, “WAKE UP, it’s time to move on, the police have been called!” When I zipped open my tent to ask her why she felt the need to call the police about someone sleeping, she held up the bag of dog shit in her hand and replied, “I’m cleaning up.”

And one afternoon as I was taking a nap on the Civic Center lawn, a surly police officer kicked my foot to wake me up, told me I was too close to the playground, and when I reacted angrily, he gave me a ticket with a court date.

What is wrong with these people? Frankly, I don’t see how parks that are designated public can be closed anyway, it seems like a lawsuit needs to happen at some level to challenge that. Recent attempts to get a “homeless bill of rights” passed are on the right track, but have failed so far in SF and Sacramento. I guess the state’s homeless people lobby doesn’t have deep enough pockets.

Early on I made a friend named Alix who influenced my course, a visionary with a DIY art space called the Big Gay Warehouse, located in gentrification-resistant Bayview. Once I discussed with Alix my surprise at how quickly I’d adapted to this animalesque life of sleeping outside and foraging by night, and how I related more to raccoons than humans at times.

“This should feel strange, since it’s so different from how I was living just two months ago, but for some reason it doesn’t.”

She replied that a lot of people were feeling the same call back to nature, that the future for people like us might be to leave the city to the drones and the corporations and return to the land, like the Radical Faeries at their sanctuary in Wolf Creek, Oregon.

In the short term, she recommended I hook up with Occupy Wall Street, who had just set up camp in a plaza by the waterfront and were making quite a scene.

After the night it rained and I woke up literally lying in a puddle of cold water, I decided to ditch the park and follow up on Alix’s lead.

And that’s when everything changed.

Many people shit on Occupy later, and veteran activists were occasionally scornful of the “johnny come-latelies” and weekend warriors who emerged from the woodwork with excellent intentions but few clues. But Occupy for me was the gateway to a liberation I had not previously known to be possible, the death of my former self as a round peg in the square wheel of capitalism and the portal to a new life that I have come to view as infinitely more satisfying. How I miss – well, sort of – the golden calamities of the Occupy SF tent camp (occurring nearly nightly), with its police confrontations, clamoring discordians stirring shit up in drunk and hungry rage, and Department of Public Health inspection media storms! It was so nice of DPH to suddenly care about us.

More importantly, through Occupy I hooked up with Homes Not Jails, which became my surrogate squatter family for the next two years (2011 to 2013.) We fought a lot and had personality conflicts, and public drama-filled meetings that ran way too long, and I drifted away from the group eventually into a private escape universe of trauma recovery. When I finally emerged from that solipsism bubble, it seemed everyone had dispersed, so I never got a chance to say it really, but I loved those HNJ kids. When we descended at night on the city like a squad of housing ninjas going about our extralegal but wonderful work, all the drama flew out of the window and we were united. Every time we cracked a new house, I felt like I was 18 years old again, with a whole life of infinite possibility before me.

At first, I used the newfound total freedom of homelessness for self-indulgent reasons. I gravitated away from the HNJ model of organized public actions toward a solitary program of sleeping occasionally in public parks, stairwells, and other weird vacant empty spaces I find during my catlike prowlabouts through the City. But gradually I developed a sense of social responsibility and a wish to re-engage the real world. The resistance movement is under attack, but my recent experiences of volunteering at the Tenants Union and with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (antievictionmappingproject.net) have convinced me the movement is not dead, but merely changing, as it must in the face of new challenges.

The old SF is shrinking but can still be found in some great places, such as Diamond Dave’s radio show at Mutiny Radio (pcrcollective.org, 2781 21st St @ Florida) every Friday 3p to 6p; Eviction Free SF, which holds public meetings every Wednesday 6pm at the Redstone Building (2926 16th St @ Capp in the Mission); and VolxKuche, a veggie/vegan “people’s kitchen” that convenes on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of each month at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist, 110 Julian Ave @ 15th St in the still-radical inner Mission.

Join the movement and protest the proposed installation of a 350-unit luxury condo building at 16th and Mission, and help Station 40 (3030B 16th St) fight its unlawful detainer (a press conference was about to take place just as this article went to press), so Food Not Bombs can continue to prepare and serve food there. Don’t let Mission Street become Valencia Street Part II: the Extremely Gentrified Sequel.

As for myself, SF has changed me in some ways that will surely be lasting. Life is exciting when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep tonight. If severe instability is the price to pay for something approaching true autonomy, for now, I will pay it. I would so much rather live life on my own terms, investing my time and energy in meaningful work and in communities I care about, than spend every morning waiting for a bus that’s too crowded to take me somewhere I don’t want to go.

+11+ longshanks@spaz.org

I’m not white: one person of colors’ experience in radical spaces

By A. Mutt

If you think it’s not hard being a woman of color in this world, try walking down the street as one. Not only do I get harassed about my body, but also about my race. “Are you Mexican?” “You look Japanese.” “Hey, white girl!” I get the last comment a lot and it makes me want to stop and correct the person, but I think that comment is more about my privilege than race. My mom is Salvadoran and Pacific Islander and my dad is Mexican, German and French. I’m thankful for my diverse background, but I know next to nothing about my heritage since I come from a broken family and never took an interest in it growing up. The older I get, the more I’d like to dig up my roots, especially now, where people of color are getting more visibility and a chance to speak up and change this crazy, messed up world.

While at times it makes me sad that I’m not close with my family, I am grateful that my upbringing has turned me away from traditional roles in society and instead gravitated me towards the anarchist and punk communities in the Bay Area. In these circles I find diversity and like-minded people of all races, backgrounds, sizes, ages, and gender, yet I can’t help but notice that a lot of people in my social scenes are white people of privilege. One day my friend and I were talking and I made a comment about how many white people I live with and how it made me uncomfortable. She flat out told me “But you’re white.” “No I’m not,” I said defensively. “Well technically you are.” This conversation not only upset me, but it made me question my ENTIRE identity and I wondered to myself, “Am I white?” Of course the answer is no, I am mixed and proud. Comments like the one made by my friend are harmful in many ways. Not only did they discredit my background and identity, but they didn’t stop and listen when I told them that I wasn’t white, nor did they ask questions about what I had just told them.

I’ve also felt discomfort in the very collective that I volunteer for, which is Slingshot. The Long Haul Infoshop, where we make the paper, is a very special place to me. I have felt welcomed since day one and continue to retreat to the infoshop when I need to recharge my batteries or when the world is getting me down. The people who are “regulars” are not just anarchists, but weirdos, wingnuts, queers, and one of a kind people who I don’t meet anywhere else. Sometimes I go there to read and listen in on the exciting conversations that occur on any given night. Topics that are discussed range from what happened at last night’s protest  to fun questions that are asked at the beginning of the anarchist study groups (one night they asked what everyone’s favorite cake was and most people answered “Pie.” How contrary).

Not everybody who hangs out at The Long Haul works on the paper, though. In fact, the Slingshot collective numbers seem to have dwindled due to member burnout or new volunteers feeling intimidated. In the past year, I’ve taken a step back from volunteering due to some attacks on my writing. A lot of the articles that are turned into Slingshot are at the academic level and that makes me feel intimidated to turn anything in since I’m mostly a self-taught writer. There is also a gender imbalance in the collective and I wonder where the people of color are at? Me and another volunteer brainstormed last summer about doing a call out on the slingshot collective about the lack of female presence and how it seemed like the leadership roles were not divvied up fairly and how certain members seem to dominate the space. Not only that, but I sometimes feel like I am asked to attend meetings and volunteer because I’m seen as one of the token POCs in the collective, but things are changing. At a recent meeting, there were more female-assigned people working on the paper and that made me feel a lot more comfortable and made me want to volunteer more of my time.   The paper is not perfect and maybe it never will be, but it’s a continued source of inspiration for many people around the world, which is evident in the letters and emails we receive everyday. Slingshot has helped shape my political beliefs and I’ve learned a lot from the collective process and the flaws within it. I’d love to see more POCs write articles and contribute to Slingshot because I know we have a lot to say.

 

Notes on the day-to-day activities of the police state

By Arjun Pandava

“The police occupy our community as a foreign troop occupies territory.” –Huey P. Newton, 1968, Interview from jail.

Recent civil unrest in the United States has dragged into mainstream spotlight the violent relationship between state security forces and America’s Black population—specifically, the fact that Black people are routinely killed during security operations. But killings are only the tip of the bloody iceberg of violence and dehumanization that defines the state’s relationship with Black communities, communities of color in general, and the working class—a fact that mainstream narratives about police violence often seems to miss. For your standard American liberal, the response to police killings is to quickly put forward policy proposals around grand jury reform, or talk about citizen oversight committees, or other reforms that are underpinned by an ideology that sees the system as one that just needs a few tweaks to “get right”.

As radicals, our inclination must be to oppose this kind of superficial analysis and, as Angela Davis famously put it, to “grasp things by the root” and understand the fundamental dynamics of what we observe in the world. This requires recognizing and investigating into the ways that the state deploys surveillance and day-to-day acts of coercion against criminalized communities, as well as how this deployment is underpinned with the logic of capital accumulation.

Surveying State Violence

Ferguson, the municipality that first sparked the waves of anti-police rage that swept the nation, is a town which has undergone a demographic transformation in the past decade or so; as the housing and labor markets ebbed and flowed, working-class Blacks moved (and were displaced) into the cheaper apartment complexes in the city. Lock-step with the demographic changes, state security forces saw fit to erect “concrete barriers, fences, and gates” around targeted areas; Michael Brown’s apartment complex was so heavily barricaded that most of the time there was only one way in and out for residents.1 This practice of targeting working-class Black communities was one that was reproduced in municipalities across St. Louis County, and one that occasionally went too far even in the eyes of local state leadership. Take Darren Wilson’s employment history, for example: previous to his position with the Ferguson Police Department, he was an officer with the Jennings Police Department—a department so endemically corrupt, and so over-the-top in its racist brutalization of local population, that in 2011 the city council voted to fire the entire department and create a new one from scratch.2

It is important to place the violence of the state security forces into the context of economic exploitation. Within days of the Michael Brown killing and amidst the unrest that rocked Ferguson, a local law non-profit released a damning report about the racist and predatory nature of municipal courts in St. Louis County. The presented evidence pointed toward the fact that the budgets of local governments were heavily dependent on extracting money from working-class Black communities through punitive fines, facilitated by a Kafka-esque maze of regulations, bureaucratic barriers, and surveillance.3,4 Residents who are fined for minor infractions such as broken tail-lights, speeding, failing to signal a turn, etc., are regularly asked to appear in court, which comes with additional fees—it is routine for courts to order defendants to pay fees that are triple their monthly income. Failure to pay these fees can result in jail time, which itself comes with fees that are stacked on top of the original court fees, creating a brutal positive feedback cycle that can lock people into poverty.

It was found that of all the municipalities in St. Louis County, three were especially prone to systemic, predatory behavior—one of these three was the Ferguson Municipal Court. The Ferguson courts and the local police routinely and disproportionately stop and search Black residents: while Blacks are 67% of the population, they are 86% of all traffic stops, and are twice as likely to be searched and twice as likely to be arrested as are Whites. Persistent harassment is a highly lucrative strategy for the city; in 2013 Ferguson Municipal Courts raked in $2.6 M from fines and court fees, in addition to issuing over 24,500 warrants (on average, about 3 warrants per household). In what appears to be a revenue-maximizing strategy, the court (which is only open three times a month) routinely starts sessions half an hour before the official start time, and locks the doors five minutes after this time, making it incredibly easy for defendants to miss their appointment and have warrants issued for failure to appear.

In addition, the content of court proceedings reinforces the idea that these are revenue generating entities: defendants who are too poor to pay fines are regularly threatened with three to four days of jail time by the judge, and coerced to call anybody and everybody they know who could give the courts money—a practice that is disturbingly similar to how a criminal enterprise might negotiate a hostage deal. Dimensions of Kafka-style bureaucracy are also apparent, with one individual recounting a story of how the courts refused to let her in with her child, and was subsequently charged with child endangerment when she left her child outside; and several stories where people show up in court to pay fines for driving with suspended licenses, only to get pulled over right outside the parking lot because a cop inside the court room overheard this information.

In-depth studies of predatory and extractive policing tend to be hard to come by; but information about routine violence during day-to-day security operations around the country is far too easy to acquire. In Philadelphia, the police who operate in one particularly poor Black community are described by a University of Pennsylvania researcher as being “at full-fledged war with residents—they beat up people under arrest, steal from suspects, smash up homes while serving warrants and use the results of surveillance to turn lovers or family members against one another”.5 In Washington D.C., police routinely use a tactic labeled by locals as “jump-outs”, where multiple officers arbitrarily ambush groups of people by jumping out of unmarked cars, rushing them with weapons drawn, and then searching and interrogating detainees hoping to find contraband or glean information. Targets are usually young Black men, and many report being ambushed several times a week while out with friends and family.6 And in Cleveland—where twelve-year old Tamir Rice was gunned down while holding a toy gun—violence as routine policy was at such an absurd level that it attracted a review by the Justice Department, which blasted the department as “chaotic and dangerous”; the report reviewed incidents such as one where a woman was beaten on her front porch after she had made a joke at a nearby officer, and another where a young man was beaten while handcuffed in the back of a police car, and also noted that Cleveland cops had hung up a sign at one police station that labeled it as a “forward operating base”—making Huey P. Newton’s half-a-century-old comments about the police as an occupying force still ring dangerously true.7 And as in Ferguson, all of this day-to-day violence of the state is tinged with the logic of capital accumulation; just through the widespread practice of civil asset forfeiture, where the police can confiscate money and property at their own discretion, state security forces across the nation have pulled in revenues in excess of $2.5B—much of it seized from individuals who were never convicted of a crime.8

In Oakland, state security forces mimic Ferguson by adhering to a policy of prowling working-class Black and Latino neighborhoods for people to detain and search. Data collected between April 2013 and October 2014 shows that out of 44,1142 stops, Black people made up 59% of stops (while composing 28% of the population); while White people made up 13% of the stops (while composing 26% of the population). The data also showed that after being stopped, Black people were three times more likely to be searched than White people. 9 On further analysis, the data shows that a majority of these stops were for minor traffic violations (67%), a significant number of which were for trivial vehicle code violations—essentially punishing the poor for being unable to afford repairs to keep old cars up to code, and replicating the cycle of fines, court fees, and jail time that is endemic in places like Ferguson. 10

In addition, California police departments and city elites seem to be getting increasingly fond of using gang injunctions—a tactic where cities can label “gangs” as a public nuisance, and order accused gang members to stay away from certain areas and no longer associate, gather, or travel with one another. Gang injunctions are supposedly to protect the communities and neighborhoods onto which injunctions are placed; unsurprisingly, they typically criminalize communities of color (especially youth) and make it easier for the state to place residents under surveillance. Much of this is because once an initial injunction is signed off by a judge, there is very little oversight (sometimes none) over who gets added onto the list by police.

Furthermore, it seems that California police departments have siphoned off some of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial spirit and have been deploying novel methods of surveillance and coercion. One of the most disturbing trends in this entrepreneurship has been the use of “gang injunctions”, where cities place curfews and restraining orders on accused gang members preventing them from being in certain areas and outside at all during certain times, as well as restrictions on who they talk to and associate with. Between 2006 and 2009, four injunctions were placed in four San Francisco neighborhoods with a high level of alleged gang activity—which also happened to be areas targeted for development, raising accusations from locals, and even a District Supervisor, that injunctions were being used as a tool for gentrification and a way to profile, harass, and monitor the target communities’ predominantly Black and Latin@ residents.11 There are certainly serious questions raised by the fact that many of the accused “gang members” are not actually gang members at all, but people that have dropped out of the gang life, or are only associated with gangs by proxy of being friends and family of the accused (a quality of injunctions that is particularly widespread in Los Angeles).12,13 In Oakland, the gentrification angle seems clearer; two injunctions placed in North Oakland and Fruitvale were marketed by the Oakland police as being a good way to target hotspots of violence—despite the fact that neither area has the highest rates of gang activity, although they are adjacent to areas slated by the city for redevelopment.14

On Fighting Back

If there is one thing clear from this survey of the underlying forces of state security operations in the United States, it is that the material conditions that created the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s continues to exist today. Communities of color, particularly Black people, face continuous dehumanization and outright violence at the hands of the police; and today, arguably unlike the 1960s, this violence stems not just from the state’s need to control a potentially rebellious population, but also from decades of neoliberal restructuring of state institutions and the development of profitable methods of extracting capital from populations rendered superfluous in the eyes of global capitalism.

One of the main reasons why the Black Panthers—and more particularly, the strategies they deployed—had such a rapid rise in popularity and support in the few short years after they were founded in 1966 was because they created immediate and tangible benefits for people, that created obvious incentives for joining or at least being supportive. Initially, the Party was founded as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as simply a self-defense group for Black people against police. The benefits were clear: by carrying out armed patrols of the police, harassment and violence was reduced. Today, such benefits might even be compounded by self-defense squads not only being able to reduce physical violence, but economic violence as well and acting directly against the predatory policing that can throw one out of a job, out of a rented home, and into a cycle of (deeper) debt and poverty.

This kind of direct, immediate rebellion against the state was what was needed in the late ‘60s—much to the dismay of political and economic elites and local so-called “community leaders”, who continuously tried to reign in and pacify participants of the increasingly violent riots that rocked cities across the US during this time period. In this sense, the Panthers did not so much lead the insurgency that was to grip the US in the years to follow, but rather simply read and understood the signs that were becoming increasingly obvious about the need for armed resistance and outright rebellion against the status quo. This situation echoes what we are beginning to see today, where “community leaders” and establishment elites chastise and repress militants in Ferguson and Oakland, while refusing to do anything about the conditions and policies that sparked the rage in the first place.

However, it is critical to understand that the Panthers did not gain popularity just because of their open militancy against the state; just as important—perhaps more so—were the social programs and community-based enterprises that they established, that addressed the day-to-day needs of impoverished Black communities, like food and medical care, that neither government institutions nor private businesses were willing to provide. The Panthers opened up breakfast programs, health clinics, and other critical services that—just like self-defense squads—had immediate, tangible benefits to either joining the Panthers or being supportive. And when the self-defense squads evolved from not just confronting and fighting the police, but also attacking institutions of capitalism (robbing banks, sticking up heroin dealers, expropriating cash from exploitative businesses), both the military power of the Panthers as well as their ability to support community-owned services were bolstered.

This kind of materialist analysis is critical for understanding and arguing not just how to resist the police state, and not just how to resist state and capital in general, but how to turn resistance and rebellion into a revolutionary movement. Radical action can intervene in the direction and dynamic of how capital flows, resist and invert the extraction of wealth from the masses that is capitalism’s equilibrium state, and create the economic platform on which revolutionary struggle becomes a self-fulfilling process.

And let us make no mistake that revolutionary struggle is essential to solving the question of police violence, entangled as the institution of security is to the institution of property. As long as class society exists, so too will the propertied classes use violence to defend and expand their holdings, and keep society divided in terms of race, ethnicity, and nationality. Only in attacking capitalism, redistributing wealth, and allowing people and communities to have autonomy over economic and political decision-making, can we end the racist, extractive violence of the police.

 

 

Honor phil africa! free the move 9! free all class-war prisoners!

By Gerald Smith

MOVE member Phil Africa died at the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, PA, on January 10, 2015. Phil Africa had been locked down since he was framed up, along with the rest of the MOVE 9, for the killing of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp, during the 1978 cop siege of MOVE’s Powelton Village home.

Upon learning of Phil Africa’s death Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote the following: “[Phil Africa] was born William Phillips, on Jan. 1, 1956, but few people called him by that name. Most people knew him as Phil, and after joining the revolutionary naturalist MOVE organization in the early 1970s, most called him Phil Africa. He was part of the confrontation of Aug. 8, 1978, in Philadelphia, where nearly a dozen MOVE members were charged in connection with that conflict, in which a cop likely died from friendly fire – but MOVE members were charged. Phil Africa was among 9 MOVE men and women charged and convicted in a hotly disputed trial, of third degree murder. So disputed, in fact, that several days after the trial, Judge Edwin Malmed would admit, in a locally broadcast interview, that he ‘Hadn’t the faintest idea’….”the faintest idea” (his very words) …who killed the cop.

“The 9 MOVE members were sentenced to 30 to 100 years: the longest in Pennsylvania history since third-degree became law in PA. Judge Malmed reportedly acknowledged the illegality of such a sentence, telling those sentenced that it may be reversed on appeal, but, for now, it would hold them. It appears Malmed believed the State Appellate courts were fairer than even they believed.

“But not to people named Africa it seems. For today, 37 years after the events of August, 1978, the fact that 7 remaining men and women are still in prison is nothing short of a scandal.The MOVE men and women should’ve been free, at least 7 years ago, when they reached their minimums. But this is Pennsylvania, where madness passes as normality.

“Phil lost a son back in the mid–70s, when police trampled his child, Life Africa. On May 13, 1985, when the police bombed a MOVE home, another son, Little Phil, was among the 11 people shot and burned to death.

“Phil was an extremely talented artist and painter. He was a man with a gift of lightness, a witty sense of humor, and an ever-present smile.”

The ongoing situation in Ferguson, MO, has brought to the attention of millions of Americans and people around the world the vicious nature of racist US capitalism. Despite the fierce resistance on the streets against the murder of people of color, with the passing of Phil Africa, we are reminded that there are still scores of political prisoners being held in the belly of the beast for the crime of participating in resistance movements of past decades.

May 13, 2015 is the 30th anniversary of the bombing of MOVE by the police of their Ossage residence. 11 people died as a result of this massacre, including 6 children.

Responding to calls from various organizations, collectives, and prisoner support groups across the US to commemorate this horrific event, we here in Oakland are starting to talk about activating our networks and organizations to built support for class war prisoners, continue the fire of the rebellion started in the winter of 2014, and draw connections between the battle against racist police terror and the struggle to free all class war prisoners in the US.

Towards this end, we are envisioning a series of panel discussions, film screenings, and an educational conference to work towards the release of the remaining MOVE 9 and all class war prisoners. We are also interested in generating a call for autonomous actions to be carried out around the time of the anniversary to encourage various groups and organizations to take action on their own accord. We envision:

1) A panel discussion composed of various members of different organizations and collectives supporting political prisoners that discusses the need to support Prisoners of the one-sided ClassWar the 1% is currently waging against us and the role of revolutionary solidarity in movements of struggle.

2) A film screening of the newly released documentary film, *Let the Fires Burn,* which features never before seen footage of the police campaign against the MOVE organization.

3) An educational conference designed to share information about political prisoners that brings together a wide network of support organizations fighting for the release of all class war prisoners.

This message is the first in an attempt to create a dialog with comrades we believe may be interested in such activity. We have yet to secure our venues. Nevertheless, if you are interested in speaking to us on this project further, please respond by contacting us at: nomorelockeddoors@riseup.net

 

Police Brutality & Mental illness: some thoughts on social work and de-escalation

By an anonymous social worker

For the past year and a half, I have been a working professional with a nine to five schedule. What is different about my job is who I work with and the type of work I do.

I am employed by a mental health non-profit to be part of an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team. Supported by federally distributed tax dollars, we see each of the people we help at least three times a week and base their appointments off their individualized needs. Some people need therapy, some need help with grocery shopping, some need to get a free HIV test, others need to be accompanied to 5 different doctors, and most need someone to take a walk in nature with them and encourage them to get away from their television set for a few moments.

At times, I will use the word client to refer to the people we help. I am not in love with this word, but I assure you that I am using it as a way to dictate my professional relationship with these people and not to imply that I feel I am above them or that I am handling them with figurative safety gloves.

Most were hospitalized involuntarily and/or voluntarily multiple times — usually diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. Our world is not necessarily built in a way that makes sense even to many without a mental health diagnosis. For those with severe and chronic mental illnesses, navigating it all without a support system is nearly impossible and sends them back into unpleasant institutional settings in which they lose their autonomy.

Sometimes, their family and friends have passed on or have become burnt out and we are their entire support system. We do our best to facilitate and link our people to natural (non-professional) support systems, so that they do not become disempowered. Our job is to keep our “clients” out of the hospital and out of jail cells. Our goal is to teach and facilitate healing. We want to help them live as independently as possible.

Many of the people we work with have been some of the most wonderful people I have come into contact with. Regardless, they still go through cycles and phases in which they might present as inappropriate, threatening, suspicious, or sociopathic to the untrained eye. Unfortunately, the untrained eyes in our society often belong to people who wield power, such as police officers. They do not understand how little is needed to interact with someone who is making violent or threatening statements. They have often not been socialized to understand that validation and empathy can and will take us further than corporal punishment.

Some write statements like I just made off as hippie swill. It sounds too simple and too idealistic. I have grown up in a sick world and refuse to live in ignorance, yet I still believe it to be true with every ounce of my being.

I have been in situations in which I know many police officers would have drawn their guns. Once, I was at a tall and built young man’s house, alone with him for an appointment. This is not unusual for me. It was only my second time meeting with him.

He said that he wanted to shoot me. A police officer might have pulled out their gun, or made defensive and aggressive statements to reassert their power, escalating his paranoia. I noticed that he was sitting back against his couch with relaxed body posture. I wanted to help him maintain this. I chose to ask him if it was me, the social worker, that he wanted to shoot, or if it was the voices he was currently hearing that seemed to be causing him anguish.

He clarified, no, it is definitely you that I want to shoot. I remained calm. I stated, if I wanted to shoot someone in my house, it would probably mean that it’s because I don’t want them in my house anymore. Would you like me to leave?

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I really want you to leave.”

I honored his request and left. He did not follow me or chase me, so I did not have a need to involve anyone else in the situation. If I had called the police, he would have been endangered further in ways that one might not anticipate. Even if a police visit stayed peaceful, his lease terms stated that if the police came, his landlord would break the lease. The punishment for having a short period of decompensation at the hands of a biological brain disorder could have been homelessness, police brutality or death. By simply not making assumptions and asking what he wanted, we avoided a situation that could have turned violent.

I am a white woman in my mid/late 20s and weigh about half of what this person did. I am what many people call “tiny.” To me, the irony of police brutality is that the men who shoot innocent people are certainly much stronger than me and sometimes those they are violent towards. They are more capable than me of physically defending themselves. They are told to be fearless and expected to behave fearlessly. However, they are trained to treat everyone as a potential threat, drilling fear into their minds. Fear is a primary emotion, and anger is a secondary emotion born from fear, sadness, and pain. Our patriarchal structure dictates that masculine beings and masculine institutions jump straight to the secondary emotion of anger with violence to match it.

Society might tell you that I am weak, small, and hopelessly feminine. Yet, I believe that how I respond to a potential threat at my job shows that I, and all of my colleagues who do this work, are much stronger than those who shoot people who became sick, who made a mistake, or who simply existed at the wrong place at the wrong time. I have had men tell me that I must not really want to work, given my chosen career. Trust me – this is work. But this is the work I was made for. It is strange to exist in a world that desperately needs what I do, while undervaluing it.

Police brutality continues and each day I am sickened by the newest story of a situation that could have ended peacefully in three minutes instead of turning into a tragedy.

Let’s say I go into work tomorrow, and another client states that they want to shoot me, but this time they pull out a loaded gun. If I decide to respond by also drawing a gun, I would lose my job and have my license taken away at the very least. If I shot them, I would likely receive consequences far beyond that. Why are police officers not held to these standards? If I am expected to do my job, which is to listen, empathize, clarify, and validate, why are police officers not expected to do this also? Like me, they interact with people from all walks of life on a regular basis and they need to be trained to do what we do.

We need more social workers and less police officers. I do not find it a coincidence that social work, like teaching or being a primary caregiver, is primarily female dominated, and thus undervalued, understaffed and overworked, while the police force is male dominated and nurtured by the system. My coworkers and I regularly put our lives on the line to empower people, regardless of race, gender, class, etc., who are struggling on deeper levels than I could ever imagine. Police have repeatedly shown that they would rather oppress and physically harm people of color and those with low incomes simply for daring to exist or wanting to move freely.

This continues to be supported and perpetuated, while mental health workers everywhere experience burn out and high turn over because of lack of emotional, societal, and financial support. When a mental health worker quits and gets replaced, that is a brand new person that many will have to learn to trust again. Trusting others can be hard after a life of being brutalized. The system expects them to live off of $750 a month. Society calls them lazy because they don’t/can’t work and the system cuts assistance if they try. With all these hardships, that trust and connection with another human being can make an enormous difference in somebody’s life.

I encourage those interested in working or volunteering in mental health to engage in radical self-care and to remind yourselves that you are learning and using priceless skills, even if others try to convince you that it’s a waste of time – that you are worthless or weak. I am hopeful that one day, there will be more client-centered mental health workers than police officers and that we can train the police on how to de-escalate situations using communication.