Category Archives: Spring 2002 (1/29/02)

Activist Repression

Santa Cruz 2 Sentenced

Environmental activists Matt Whyte and Peter Schnell were sentenced January 28, 2002 at the close of a year-long trial. Arrested in January of 2001 in Capitola, CA (near Santa Cruz) in possession of components for incendiary devices, Matt and Petey accepted a plea bargain in federal court in October 2001, pleading guilty to one of two federal charges. Matt received X months and Petey.

To reach them, or for more information on how you can help, email santacruztwo@hotmail.com or write: Santa Cruz Two Defense, PO Box 583, Eugene, OR 97440

Animal Rights Acivist Within Claws of State

Seattle animal rights activist Jonathan Batchelor has become yet another target for activist repression. While dumpster diving in Seattle in late November 2001, Jon was stopped by police and then arrested on two Virginia felony warrants for actions that allegedly took place during the Animal Rights 2001 conference in Fairfax, VA. He was extradited to Virginia in early January and is now being held without bail awaiting a trial March 6, 2002. He is desperately trying to raise legal fees and needs support. You can send contributions and support via

Jonathan Batchelor

Seattle Mutual Aid Fund

PO Box 95616

Seattle, WA 98145-2616

Bari vs. USA

Pack the courtroom as Bari vs. USA, postponed after the September 11 disaster, finally goes to trial on April 8! Now more than 11 years after a car bomb exploded under Earth First! activist Judi Bari as she drove her car in Oakland, her civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department is both more difficult and more essential. Although Judi didn’t live to see trial (she died of cancer in 1997) her spirit is powerfully present in the final days of trial preparation.

The lawsuit alleges that the FBI and the Oakland Police Department framed Judi and Darryl Cherney (who was riding with her in the car) on charges that they car-bombed themselves. Instead of trying to find the real bomber, the FBI and the OPD tried to smear Judi and Darryl’s reputation in an attempt to disrupt the 1990 Redwood Summer protests which aimed to preserve the ancient redwood trees in Headwaters forest and elsewhere.

In the ten years the lawsuit has been pending, Judi and Darryl’s lawyers have uncovered shocking evidence of FBI and police misconduct, while surviving numerous government motions to dismiss the case.

With trial approaching, community support and public awareness of the lawsuit are crucial. During the trial, events that will include a summary of the week in court are scheudled for each Thursday (more info available closer to trial):

April 11: Ward Churchill, Native American activist and author, speaking on the history of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations

April 18: the local Industrial Workers of the World will host Utah Phillips

April 25: The War Against Activists program will include discussion of violence perpetrated against activists, with speakers, music, and film clips.

May 1: Celebrate May Day with Earth First! at Ashkenaz

May 9: Copwatch will discuss problems with the Oakland Police Department, a defendent in the case.

May 16: Panel on the John Ashcroft attack on civil liberties.

May 24: the 12th anniversary of the attack on Judi Bari and Darryl Cheney. Watch for a major commeration!!

Funds are needed for the legal team who are fighting the case. Send donations to Earth First!, 106 W. Standley, Ukiah, CA, 95482, (707) 468-1660, www.judibari.org

New Anarchist Black Cross Forming

A new network of Anarchist Black Cross groups, structured around anti-authoritarian principles and the original vision of prison abolition, is forming, and is seeking input from everyone.

In November, Austin ABC, Antiprison in Europe and a Houston organizing group presented “A New Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network.” The new proposal was inspired by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin’s “A Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network,” which he wrote in 1979 to take the anarchist anti-prison struggle toward concrete solutions. The new proposal suggests a new, decentralized, consensus-based coalition of grassroots collectives inspired by the ABC movement’s original vision — a vision that sees prisons and criminalization as tools to repression of the state, that sees the support of all prisoners as important, and that sees injecting anarchist viewpoints in the mix.

Over the last 15 years, the Anarchist Black Cross movement in North America has faced a number of troubles. Throughout the 1990′s many ABC collectives disappeared, including Toronto ABC, Minneapolis ABC, Brew City (Milwaukee) ABC, Fourth World ABC, Nightcrawlers ABC and Wind Chill Factor/Chicago ABC. Along with that trend was the rise of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, which since its inception has been the subject of controversy among many anarchists for conflicts with several anarchist prisoners; its lack of support efforts for social prisoners, earth liberation prisoners and prison organizers; and emphasis on firearms trainings (via its Tactical Defense Caucus). ABCF itself had a split in 1995 over similar issues.

The new network seems to be a departure from ABCF’s work in that its focus is geared at serving all prisoners, relating anti-prison politics back into the support work, and making a break from vanguardist mindsets of past efforts. Most notable in the proposal:

“There should be no ‘party line’ of the ABC Network. As anarchists, we believe in building a culture of resistance rather than legislating it. How you or your group conducts your effort must solely up to you, although you may want to link up to some activists and resources, work through ideas, learn together and help in others’ campaigns. But regardless, how you organize your group must still be up to your local conditions and membership.

“The ABC Network should do its work in a broad, nonsectarian manner. You should not have to be explicitly named an ABC group to join. Conformity to certain naming, uniform moral/”security” codes, focus, etc., all correctly criticized in previous work, cannot be part of a successful initiative. This is a fundamental difference between the proposed Network and previous initiatives — having the involvement, input, comments, criticisms and efforts of local organizers, prisoners and groups is a necessity and privilege for an ABC Network to take shape. It is not a necessity or privilege for a network to form and communicate with activists… loose, unannounced networks are already happening. This is merely an effort to make it stronger and unite many around the ideas we’re already struggling toward.”

One of the proposal’s organizers said they authors tried to involve a diversity of movements, acknowledging that, while there may be disagreements, the fight against incarceration was important.

“We made great efforts to reflect the good tendency of many anarchist anti-prison activists who work on a class-struggle basis, rather than a dogmatic one,” wrote Ernesto Aguilar, a co-author of the new network proposal and a onetime ABCF organizer, recently. “It is essential that we legitimize, support, foster and celebrate the many facets of resistance — from the struggles waged by the Black Liberation Army to eco-sabotage against the destroyers of the planet to civil disobedience against oppressive, sexist, racist, classist laws to women’s resistance against oppression (among the most discredited and undervalued struggle today, primarily because it isn’t regarded as “political” enough to the mainly male prison movement) to the idealistic youth facing batons and pepper spray for the first time in the name of animal liberation to the anti-colonial/independence/indigenous endeavors in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the ‘First World.’ Obviously we could get into specifics of good and bad for each of these examples — what we agree with, what we don’t, etc. — but the bottom line is that, in the endgame, we’re no different from each other in the eyes of the state, and we become targets as we pose a greater challenge to their ‘way of life’ and social control.

“Ali Khalid Abdullah put the idea of solidarity (despite differences) in a very honest way in his piece on the Chattanooga Three: ‘I would give my life to defend any comrade who is being denied justice. If I felt any other way then I am fooling all of you with my pretense of being an anarchist. Of being for complete and total revolutionary change for all people, not just for some people, or one group or segment of people. I fight injustice everywhere and anywhere I see it because if I don’t that same injustice done to someone else will eventually be done to me. This is how we should be thinking and should feel about one another in the struggle for anarchist principles. But to leave one dangling and having to beg and scrounge to find the means to fight against the evils of oppression is flat out wrong and unjustifiable.’ More clearly, and from a personal level, I may not be a vegan animal liberationist, an independista, etc., but I’ll stand up with them any day against oppression.”

Last year, ABC groups across Europe, where the prisoner support movement has remained strong, agreed at a meeting in Belgium to start to build a network on their own, and indications are that they’ll connect to the new network. The forming network has set as its initial goals the growth and support of new ABC groups, getting feedback on its network proposal and eventually sponsoring an ABC meeting in North America in 2002. The last North American ABC gathering was in 1994.

To get a free copy of “A New Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network,” you can go to www.anarchistblackcross.org on the Internet or send a self-addressed stamped (first-class) envelope to P.O. Box 667233, Houston, Texas 77266-7233.

Revolting Against the Tyrany

A History of Direct Action and Social Change in early America

The people who make history are almost never in the history books. Anonymous people performing Direct Action have always been responsible for social change. All legislative reforms have been in response to Direct Action. Any legislative reforms have always been minimal, just enough to enable the elite to maintain their power.

Direct Actions leading to the American Constitution

The Constitution was never designed to preserve freedom. It only restricts the freedoms that the people had already achieved.

Corporate greed was responsible for the first English settlements in North America. Both the Jamestown and the Pilgrim colonies established charters or contracts with the Virginia and Plymouth Companies respectively, (groups of wealthy London merchants), before sailing for the New World. These charters limited all exports and imports to the English corporations as well as establishing the colonial governments. The Jamestown Charter was immediately challenged upon landing by the removal of Captain John Smith from the ruling council. The pilgrims revoked their charter altogether and replaced it with the famous ‘Mayflower Compact’.

Likewise, North Carolina’s colonists revolted against a constitution, written by John Locke. which called for an establishment of a newly created hereditary nobility of Landgraves and Caziques who would rule the colony under a hereditary chief officer called a Palatine. The Palatine and his deputies were immediately seized and imprisoned upon their arrival in the colony. The colonists did eventually submit, but Locke’s constitution was never implemented.

Similar pressures throughout the colonies forced England to recognize limited representative government. By the 1760′s, each of the original 13 colonies had a freely elected lower assembly. This assembly could propose laws and act as a limited check on both the appointed upper assembly and the Royal Governor. England continued to regulate trade and other external matters, while allowing the colonies to govern their own internal affairs.

Of course this freedom only applied if you were white, property holding and male. Despite very early attempts to establish equality by several of the original governors, (such as James Oglethorpe and William Penn), the colonists rapidly duplicated the class structures that they had in England. The upper and middle classes migrated here with their servants. Indentured servants comprised of convicts and/or the desperate poor of England were sold in all of the colonies. Once these ‘persons of vile and low condition’ worked off their indentures, they were little better off. Colonial legislatures passed laws restricting their rights, (particularly the right of assembly). Their conditions were only improved by constant struggle and rebellion against the upper classes.

In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led a rebellion of frontiersmen, indentured servants, and black slaves, which burned Jamestown and forced the Royal Governor to scurry back to England. There were tenant farmer rebellions against the property owners in New Jersey in the 1740′s and in the New York’s Hudson valley during 1740′s and 1760′s. When threatened with eviction by the state of New York, Ethan Allen and his “Green Mountain Boys” led a rebellion that was responsible for the formation of Vermont. The Regulator Movement” in North Carolina in the 1760′s resulted in the death of over 2,000 men. However, it also led to the passage of land and tax reform legislation.

These rebellions were not confined to the farmers and frontiersmen. In 1636 indentured servants and fishermen mutinied in Maine. In 1663, Maryland faced strikes. In Boston during 1648 the shoemakers and coopers both organized guilds and in 1675 Boston ship carpenters issued a formal protest against conditions. There were labor strikes and stoppages New York City in 1677, 1684, 1741, and 1746. There was an ironworker’s strike in 1774, a printer’ strike in 1778, and a sailor’s and rope maker’ strike in 1779.

Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson redirected this emerging class anger from the wealthy merchants, planters and the British to the British exclusively. The founding fathers wanted a revolution to establish property and import/export rights and not human rights. Minimal improvements did occur after the revolution. Pennsylvania abolished property qualifications for voting and several other colonies lowered them. In several colonies, small tenant farmers were given portions of land formerly owned by Pro-British landlords. Nevertheless the basic class structure remained.

The Bill of Rights was only added to the constitution after the first congressional assembly due to overwhelming popular pressure. The constitution was written to protect the rights and privileges of the wealthy from future revolution. It permits minimal social reforms, while maximizing the opportunities for the upper classes to accumulate wealth.

Direct Actions leading to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation

Nowhere in American History is the efficiency of direct action more evident than in struggles of the African Americans. It is one of the greatest American myths that Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves. The slaves emancipated themselves, (working with a coalition of black, white, male and female abolitionists).

Previous slave rebellions had forced the south to perpetuate itself as an armed camp. Thousands of fugitive slaves radicalized any white Northerners with whom they came in contact and inflamed them against the south and its ‘peculiar institution’. Slaves rebelled by minimizing production on the plantations.

Consequently, by 1860, the agricultural economies of many southern states, such as Virginia and the Carolinas, were in shambles. The only way the institution of slavery could survive was by selling slaves to the western territories. The south seceded from the north out of economic necessity, fearing the Republican Party’s platform banning any further expansion of slavery. Lincoln then waged the civil war to preserve the rights a handful of greedy white northerners to continue to make profits. He was forced to issue the emancipation proclamation after a year and a half of an increasingly unpopular war in order to: forestall British or French intervention, regain popular support for a war that the North did not appear to be winning, and aid in the enlistment of Black troops.

Direct Action is seldom quick and always dangerous for the participant. But, it gets results. There were over two hundred and thirty slave rebellions and plots before 1860. The first conspiracy of slaves and poor whites was recorded in Virginia in 1663. It would take two hundred years for that conspiracy to come to fruition.

Gabriel Prosser (1800 VA ), Denmark Vesey (1821 SC ), and Nat Turner (1831 VA) led a series of armed insurrections that terrified the slave owners in Virginia and the Carolinas. Both Prosser’s and Vesey’s attempted rebellions were large (Vesey’s conspiracy involved an estimated three to six thousand men), well organized conspiracies that only failed due to a combination of informants and bad luck, (a flood washed out the bridges the day that Prosser gathered with over 900 followers to seize the Richmond armory). Nat Turner did have a temporary success. Together with an estimated sixty to ninety men, he seized the town of New Jerusalem with its arms and ammunition. He spared the poor whites but slew over seventy-five of the white planters and their families. These rebellions all failed in their immediate goals, but they ultimately acted as source of inspiration for many. And if you think they no longer inspire consider this: the South Carolina legislature recently refused to allow a statue of Denmark Vesey to be erected on the statehouse grounds, already littered with Confederate war memorials, on the grounds that he ‘advocated violence’.

Resistance was not confined to the southern states. In 1829, a black Bostonian who had emigrated from North Carolina named David Walker published, “An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World”, which advocated Afro-American unity and a direct rebellion against the Southern plantation owners saying, ” . . .they want us for their slaves, and think nothing of murdering us . . . therefore, if there is an attempt made by us, kill or be killed. . . and believe this, that it is no more harm for you to kill a man who is trying to kill you, than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty.” This publication was distributed both in the north and widely (though clandestinely), in the south. It earned him a bounty on his head of $3,000 dead or $10,000 alive in several southern states. He also helped move Benjamin Lundly, William Lloyd Garrison, and other white, prominent, anti-slavery advocates from moderate reconciliation to a strong abolitionist stance, but someone earned that southern bounty. David Walker was dead and believed poisoned within three years, (and two re-issues), of the “Appeal”.

After 1843, the “Appeal” was republished and distributed by a former slave and Presbyterian Minister, named Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, together with his own “Address to the Slaves of America”. “Address” called for an immediate violent revolution, invoking the heroism of Vesey and Turner. It was originally submitted as a proposal to a national convention of Black leaders in Buffalo NY but failed to pass by a single vote and vehemently opposed by Fredrick Douglas who pronounced it “too radical”. But “Address” inspired the black northern communities to a more militant and organized response and was also widely read by the abolitionist organizations, which by that time had exceeded one quarter of a million registered members.

The trickle of fugitive slaves had turned into a flood. The 1840′s and 1850′s saw a dramatic increase in anti-slavery sentiments and any pro-slavery legislation that was passed by Congress only fueled this opposition. The passage of the “Fugitive Slave Act” resulted in the formation of black and white armed vigilance committees that actively opposed the slave-hunters, often at gunpoint. Many former slaves crossed back into the south to help their brethren escape. We only know of a few names but there were many more; Harriet Tubman, Jane Lewis, Elizabeth Anderson, John Mason, and Arnold Cragston.

The history books teach us that the abolitionist movement culminated with John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Is this really the case? The indications were that the both the black and white abolitionists were growing stronger and more militant. Could an independent south have survived: deprived of any geographic expansion, living in constant anticipation of slave rebellions, and, due to the abolitionists, hemorrhaging its main marketable commodity? Maybe, all Lincoln did was preempt a foreordained revolution and guarantee Afro-American economic and political enslavement for the next 140 years.

The Black Bloc, the Pagans and the Dog That Bit the Baby

Report from the IMF Meeting in Ottawa

Three days of actions against the meetings of the IMF, the World Bank, and the G20 in Ottawa, Canada November 16-18 were successful in showing that, even during the climate of increased repression after September 11, and even on very short notice, we could mount a strong opposition to the institutions of globalization. The IMF/World bank meetings, which were to have been held in Washington DC Sept. 29 and 30, were rescheduled and moved to Canada after the September 11 attack. Our protests went well, especially considering the organizers had only three weeks notice to pull together a mobilization.

The organizers of this action took some big risks. First, attempting to call an action on such short notice was extremely difficult. Nevertheless, they mobilized probably 3-5000 people for three days of events.

Secondly, they explicitly invited all factions to sit down at the table and coordinated events to attempt to leave space for both committed nonviolent actions and actions that support a diversity of tactics. This process wasn’t always smooth, but overall the result was a deepened level of trust between many groups in the movement.

Friday, OCAT, the Ontario Coalition Against Tories, CLAC, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence of Montreal, and the Black Touta of Toronto held a rally at which I spoke, and then a snake march through downtown Ottawa. The snake march was fast and spirited: the idea was to keep moving, avoid confrontations with the police, and disrupt downtown. Towards the end of the march, a few people broke windows at a McDonald’s and tore down an anti-choice sign. This was the only real property damage that occurred during the weekend.

On Saturday, we gather at LeBretton flats to march in the Peace March. Our cluster, a group of Pagans, became the Living River, bringing blue cloth, signs and flyers to focus attention on issues of water. The IMF and the World Bank include the privatization of water delivery services in the structural adjustment programs they impose on the third world. With privatization, the costs of drinking water rise beyond the ability of the poor to pay. Water, as a crucial resource, is in shorter and shorter supply, and within the next few decades many places will be facing shortages. The control of water resources may soon be as hot a political issue as the control of oil.

The River had a good contingent, probably sixty people, together with the Mothers and Midwives. Canadian activist and midwife Betty Ann Davis brought The Baby-a giant stocking doll that looks like newborn baby with an umbilical cord of knotted nylons attached to a giant helium balloon of the Earth. A contingent of the black bloc came to support the march.

We all started off together, marching in perfect peace and harmony until out of nowhere a contingent of riot cops in full gear set up a turnstile roadblock. They were spread out across the road and the march was required to walk between them, while snatch teams picked out individuals to be searched or arrested. We knew they would be targeting the black bloc, who as we said had been doing nothing other than peacefully marching, so we mingled them amongst the River. The cops ran in and grabbed a young man, pulling him out of the flow and throwing him to the ground. The march broke down. People were screaming and cops were snatching kids and crushing them on the pavement while more police dogs then I’ve ever seen were snarling and lunging. Mothers with babies in strollers were frantically trying to get away.

On the side, the cops held a group of the bloc at bay, menacing them and others with snarling police dogs. A few of us jumped in between to protect the bloc and confront the police. “Your dog bit me!” a man next to me was crying. One man was on the ground, being attacked by a dog who bit him nearly down to the bone. The level of sheer, uncalled-for repression united everyone. As Betty Ann said, “When the dogs bit The Baby, it confirmed my solidarity with the black bloc.”

While a couple of us kept the attention of the cops in front, Lisa and some others found an opening and pulled the bloc through and back into the body of the march. We quickly moved on. The bloc was thanking us as we moved away. On the move, we organized the River to surround them and keep them away from the edges of the March where they could be easily snatched. Further along, the police again tried to split the march.

The River had the bloc well protected on one side, but on the opposite side our ranks were thin. The police ran in to attempt to grab the bloc, and from the other side cops came in to push the rest of the march back. They drove a line across the road, pushing our contingent, the back end with bloc and Pagans and others all mingled, away from the main body of the march. Riot cops on the side had the dogs which were menacing people. The police line was in formation, chanting “Move! Move!” in unison as they tried to push us back. They were clearing the intersection. We moved back, slowly, and then sat down to make it harder for them to move us. The cops stopped. On the other side of the intersection, the cops moved away and the crowd surged back toward us–trapping the line of police who were facing us. They then had to thread their way out leaving us the street. We jumped up, cheered and moved on, laughing and chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” It was a moment of triumph. The bloc linked up, chanting, “The bloc supports the Pagans, the Pagans support the bloc!”

On Sunday, we went down to the courthouse in the morning to do jail support. We had called for a ritual at the human rights monument at noon. Another small affinity group wanted to do a die-in at the barricades. We combined ideas, coalescing with a group of French students who were doing a mock military march, formed up in groups of four, chanting “Gauche, gauche, extreme gauche.” “Left, left, extreme left,”. We did a very simple grounding-with no sound system everything had to be repeated to be heard. We called in the elements with a word or two, got everyone dancing, and then danced down the street, or marched in formation, depending on your preference, to the War Memorial.

The faux military march marched around, then died. One by one, people called out what was dying, and threw themselves dramatically down on the ground. When the dead started to look restless, I began a heartbeat on the drum, they revived, and we danced a spiral, raising a very sweet cone of power. Then the students lifted up ‘corpses’ and carried them to the barricades, dropping them down and dragging them up to the metal barriers.

We read the Cochabamba declaration, written by the people of Bolivia after they took their water supply back from privatization by the World Bank and IMF. It declares water to be a sacred trust and human right to be guarded by an international treaty. We brought out our Reverse Wishing Well filled with Waters of the World and colorful marbles. We passed it around, inviting people to make a wish for that better world that is possible, and to think about what they would do to make it real. We went off to have coffee and cake and leaflet in the market, encouraging people to think about alternative ways to show love and affection besides shopping at corporate stores.

The protests were successful in showing that, even during the climate of increased repression after September 11, we could mount a strong opposition to the institutions of globalization. But more than that, they gave us a chance to try out on a smaller scale some practical street solidarity. We have a lot of differences in the movement, ideological, tactical, differences of style. We’re trying hard to hold those tensions, and so far, we’re more successful than any movement I’ve been a part of before. But it’s a fairly new attempt, and not easy. We’re bound to make mistakes, and bound to let each other down. Still, with all the difficulties and frustrations, we need each other. In these times of increased repression, we’ve got to watch each other’s backs. When the dog bites The Baby, there’s no other choice.

Legalize Squatting

Abolish the Word Homeless

I’m becoming less and less tolerant of the use of the word homeless to describe people who don’t pay rent to live in houses. The reason, I think, is that it reflects our unwillingness to think critically about housing. When we call someone homeless we are inherently passing a judgment on them. We are saying that if you don’t live in a Western house made out timber there is something wrong with you. The truth is not everyone wants to live this way. Some people like sleeping outside. And sleeping outside does have some serious advantages. You get to see things like the sky and stars. And it can be a generally good experience under the right circumstances. Of course, weather can be a problem. That’s what shelter is for. But more and more people are are questioning the idea that a western style house is the way to go. Houses which rely on timber can be considered unsustainable when they deplete our forests. They can also force us to spend our entire life working at an unsatisfying job to pay rent or a mortgage. Some people are exploring alternatives which can be more sustainable and affordable, such as using materials such as straw, dirt, canvas, or recycled tires.

I know that most people who sleep outside are not there by choice. But, I still don’t think homeless is the right word. Whether people sleep in a shelter, in the woods or under a bridge, home is wherever you are. And some of us consider the earth our home. It’s no longer safe to assume that everyone wants to live in a traditional house. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t help houseless people find the shelter that they need. Just that we should respect a diversity of living preferences. Some houseless people on the west coast are choosing to live together in camps. And they are joining together with local activists to win recognition from city governments. Oregon has agreed to work with Dignity Village to find a permanent location. And Santa Cruz, California has said it will allow Camp Paradise to stay at its current location.*

Instead of classifying people as ‘homeless’ we need to work together to make sure that everyone has a stable and secure living situation. And we need to oppose laws that criminalize people who don’t pay rent every month. The real cause of ‘homelessness’ is capitalism’s intolerance of anyone who lives outside its system of private property, ownership and domination.

A Window on Palestine

Twisting History

Zionists and others claim that Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years before the rise of Islam, and therefore present day Israelis have merely reoccupied their own land to which, as the original inhabitants, they have a greater right than those who have actually lived on the land this past three thousand years.

Mazin Zumsiyeh, of Yale University states that Israel did not “become a nation” in 1312 B.C.E. Israel of today has little to do with “Israel” of 3000 years ago. It is like comparing apples to oranges. Illene Beatty, in Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan writes: “The extended kingdoms of David and Solomon, on which the Zionists base their territorial demands, endured for only about 73 years . . .Then it fell apart . . . [Even] if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C. we arrive at [only] a 414 year Jewish rule.”

Even if this ancient period of Jewish rule gives present day Israel historic rights to rule the land, the present Israeli occupation of Palestine is the only occupation where the natives did not survive and where they could not continue to live. Qumsiyeh writes that archaeologists at Tel Aviv University have shown that cities-states and kingdoms were routinely made and obliterated in the ancient land of Canaan while the natives survived and continued to live. In more recent times, the five hundred year occupation of Palestine by the Turks, the British and the Jordanians never involved expulsion of Palestinians from their lands.

Another take on ancient history is that the Israelites evolved from the local Canaanites and thrived. This is based on archaeological evidence, not the stories of the bibles which were never intended to be taken literally. Even if one is to take the stores of the bible literally, there is plenty of “evidence” in the bible that Hebrews prospered with Adomite and other Canaanites.

The argument has been made, most famously by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that there never were any Palestinians, just nomads wandering in the desert. Edward Said in the “The Question of Palestine” states: “Palestine became a predominately Arab and Islamic country by the end of the seventh century. Throughout the years, these people believed themselves to belong in a land called Palestine, despite their feelings that they were also members of a large Arab nation. Despite the steady arrival in Palestine of Jewish colonists after 1882, it is important to realize that not until the few weeks immediately preceding the establishment of Israel in the spring of 1948 was there ever anything other than a huge Arab majority. For example, the Jewish population in 1931 was 174,606 against a total of 1,033,314.”

In the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, over 700,000 Palestinian refugees were created, there were massacres and 500 villages were destroyed. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, Israel is not and has never been interested in a negotiated diplomatic solution that is reached with secular moderate Palestinians. According to Noam Chompsky “Israel’s purpose is to integrate the Occupied territories, to reduce or eliminate the Arab/Palestinian population and eliminate any manifestation of Palestinian nationalism or culture.” This has always been the case: J. Weitz head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department wrote in his diary in 1940: “There is no room for both peoples together in this country . . . We shall not achieve our goal of being an independent people with the Arabs in this small country. The only solution is Palestine, at least Western Palestine (west of the Jordon River) without Arabs . . . And there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, not one village, not one tribe should be left.”

The Palestinian refugee Right to Return is a pivotal issue. First, it is important to note that, under any conditions, confiscation of land is against the laws governing wars as well as various rulings by the UN. A common argument against the Right to Return is that there is not enough room in present day Israel to accommodate large numbers of returning Palestinian refugees.

Dr. Abu Sitta has shown that room for returning refugees is not the problem. 78% of Israelis live on 14% of the land. Therefore, states Dr. Abu Sitta, 86% of Israel is controlled by 160,000 rural Jews who exploit the land and heritage of over 5 million refugees packed in refugee camps and denied the right to return. For example: the refugees in Gaza are crammed at a density of 4,200 persons per sq. km. Dr. Abu Sitta asks: “If you were one of those refugees, and you look across the barbed wire to your land in Israel, and you see it almost empty, at 5 persons/sq. km. (almost one thousand times less density than Gaza!!) what would you feel? Peaceful? Content? This striking contrast is the root of all the suffering. It can only be eliminated with the return of the refugees.”

Water rights form another crucial issue that is not commonly discussed. In the various “peace” accords of the past decade, the Palestinians have not gained back their rights over water. When I was in the Occupied Territories I saw lush lawns of the settlements that were in stark contrast to the much more highly populated refugee camps that sometimes had no water at all for days on end. Dr. Abu Sitta writes about Israeli water consumption and agriculture: “Irrigation takes up about 60-80% of the water in Israel, 2/3 of it is Arab water. Agriculture in the southern district alone uses 500 million cubic meters of water per year. This is equal to the entire water resources of the West Bank now confiscated by Israel. This is equal to the entire resources of upper Jordan including lake Tiberias for which Israel is obstructing peace with Syria. Total irrigation water, a very likely cause of war, produces agricultural products worth only 1.8% of Israel’s GDP. Such waste, such extravagance, such disregard for the suffering of the refugees, and such denial of their rights is exercised by 8,600 Kibbutzniks who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. When the refugees return to their land, they can pursue their traditional agricultural pursuits, and no doubt this will take up the slack in GDP. More importantly, peace will be a real possibility.”

The late Israel Shahak, an Israeli Holocaust survivor who spent his childhood in a concentration camp, has written extensively on Zionism and Israel. He notes that: “The main danger which Israel, as ‘Jewish state,’ poses to its own people, to other Jews and its neighbors, is its ideologically motivated pursuit of territorial expansion and the inevitable series of wars resulting from this aim.”

Many believe that irreconcilable religious differences between Jews and Muslims are the root of the problems Palestine. In my travels to Palestine I have met many elderly Palestinian refugees who told of the Jewish neighbors they had before they were expelled from their land. Sometimes these elders would weep at the memory of their old friends, their land and previous life. The Palestinian elders said that since the Nakba (the 1948 expulsion by Israeli forces), the only Jews they see are soldiers who beat and humiliate them. I have personally experienced a range of responses from Palestinians to my being a Jew; ranging from the enthusiastic emotional responses mentioned above to a complete nonplussed response, as the only thing that truly matters is if one is against the occupation or not.

In summary, I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Abu Sitta when he states: “In practical terms, it is entirely feasible to plan the return in such a way and in such phases that the Jewish residents will not feel any effect, except the pleasant feeling that a true peace is a reality at last.”

Something out of Nothing

The four-story stairwell of the Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, town of Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine was the site of the Break the Silence Mural Project (BTS). The Ibdaa cultural center provides a safe haven for the people, especially the young people, of Dheisheh refugee camp. There are many classes offered, a computer center, a dance troupe (also called Ibdaa), which tours internationally (when travel permits can be acquired), sports teams, and a place to hang out. On the top floor is a restaurant where adults gather daily. There is a guesthouse on the second floor that is mostly used by international people who are coming to witness the occupation, do research projects or conduct civil disobedience actions. The Middle East Children’s Alliance and Palestinians from Dheisheh administer the Ibdaa Center.

The BTS/Ibdaa Mural Project was created by youth who have all grown up under the increasingly brutal occupation. Since the Oslo Accords in 1991, settlement building that was supposed to cease actually has increased by 25%. Palestinian land is now separated into Cantons, from which people cannot leave. Therefore, Palestinians are essential incarcerated in outdoor prisons. I met people who had not been outside of an area of 2 or 3 square miles in many years. Newly built bypass roads that only the Israeli settlers are allowed to use crisis-cross the land. Palestinians, when allowed to travel, must use indirect, dangerous roads that are in great disrepair. Their travel times have tripled or quadrupled. Roadblocks that are erected capriciously make passage by car impossible. Checkpoints, where Palestinians are typically made to wait for hours in the searing sun only to be turned back by rude soldiers, delay travel or make it impossible. People have literally died begging for passage at checkpoints, unable to reach medical assistance.

The incarceration of Palestinian people, especially of males is pervasive. One can be held up to six months without being charged under ‘administrative detention.’ Every male and every male child we met had been arrested or beaten by the soldiers. Every Palestinian knows someone who has been killed by Israeli soldiers in the context of the occupation. Each child’s father had been to prison and tortured, and often the family has witnessed the arrest.

For example, one evening we had dinner at the home of one of the young painters, Khaled. His mother told several stories: “One time during a curfew Khaled, at age 7, wandered from the house. Some Israeli soldiers found Khaled and brought him back to the house and they said ‘Now we are going to beat him in front of you.’ I screamed ‘No-you can’t do this to my child.’ And I tried to stop them. They started to hit my child and I tried to grab him and they hit me and pushed me down. I couldn’t do anything . . . and I cried and cried. Finally they left and I held my child and I am crying and crying.”

Khaled’s mother also told us how the soldiers would come to their house every once in a while during dinnertime. “They came to the table where all the food was in bowls and they turned all the bowls upside down and dumped all the food onto the middle of the table. After breaking a few dishes they would leave, saying to us ‘Now-eat your dinner.’”

In spite of the conditions described above, the young people we worked with were enthusiastic, talented, courageous and extraordinarily funny and playful. The Palestinians are very resilient and were savvy about politics. The most important issue for the people we spent time with was a keen awareness that their situation is largely unknown to the world. They want to tell the world what has happened to them. Khaled’s mother told us that we could be a “window onto Palestine for the American people.” We agreed to do the best we could.

On our first day we met with the artists who were selected to work with us because of their interest and skills in art. These young people all spoke very little English, the BTS members spoke no Arabic, and without the translations of Khaled, the project would have been a veritable Tower of Babel. Also joining us that first day were the directors of the Ibdaa center. The agenda items were: the theme of the mural and where to paint the mural.

In a very short amount of time decisions were reached. The place for the mural was to be the stairwell and the theme was to be the history of Palestine, one era per floor. Floor one: Before the Nakba (Nakba means the “catastrophe” of 1948, when Israel was founded, refugees created etc.), the second floor was the Nakba, and the first Intifada (Uprising), the third floor was the Second Intifada, and a tribute to all who have lost their lives, and the fourth floor ends the mural with hopes and dreams for the future.

We spent the next week designing the mural in a collective process while the walls were primed. We often heard gunfire and this first week there was a particularly high incidence of it. There were several settlements, built since the Oslo Accords, whose residents bombed and shot at the Palestinian towns. Palestinians returned the fire. Some Palestinians were armed to varying levels of sophistication, however, no Palestinians were armed to the level of the Israeli settlers and military. There were always Israeli tanks in position, Apache helicopters hovering and machine gun toting soldiers at the check points. Weapons of destruction and their effects were always in evidence. The walls of the camp and of the town of Bethlehem were plastered with posters showing those who had been killed. Men and boys of all ages, from a German doctor who had lived in the West Bank for 20 years, shot on his way to help someone who was wounded, to 12 year old boys who had perhaps thrown a rock, or stood near someone who had.

Another evening during our first week the camp was shelled. We were eating in the restaurant on the fourth floor and there was a tremendous explosion. Everyone ran downstairs, and I found that my greatest concern was that I might not get to finish my dinner. I believed that nothing could go wrong. I realized later how I used a kind of manic denial in order to cope with the situation. Fifteen minutes later everyone went back up to the restaurant. For the Palestinians this was a common occurrence and a ‘normal’ part of everyday life.

We painted 12-15 hours a day on the mural for the following three weeks. It was a very intense process. We normally worked all night when it was cooler, and since most of the fighting took place at night it was too never-racking to sleep anyway. A total of 30 people participated in the mural painting, some painting for a week, some for an afternoon.Description of the Ibdaa Mural

The first section shows the land before the formation of the state of Israel. It has soft rolling hills, sheepherders and a poem that foreshadows the longing for home that soon will be reality.

A potent symbol included in this section is the cactus, whose name in Arabic means patience. When the 500 villages were destroyed in 1948, the root systems of the cactus survived. In the ensuing 54 years the cactus groves have grown back, like ghosts, showing where the villages once stood.

The Palestinian flower is in the first section of the mural. It is the anemone and has the colors of the Palestinian flag. During the first Intifada (1987-91) the flag was outlawed to the point where if a Palestinian was merely wearing the colors of the flag he or she was risking a confrontation with the Israeli military. An artist friend of ours said that an Israeli soldier told him to stop painting the Palestinian flower or he would be arrested. Our friend said that since that time he had painted thousands of them.

The mural depicts Handala on the second floor. Handala is a cartoon figure of a refugee boy drawn by the very popular political satirist Naji Al-Ali, who was assassinated in London in 1987. Everyone in Palestine knows Handala. Handala cartoons hung in most homes I visited, Handala t-shirts were commonly worn, and there was Handala graffiti on many walls of the camp.

Keys and barbed wire run throughout the mural. The keys are depictions of the literal keys that all refugees have to the homes from which they were expelled. Many people still have the deeds to their houses in addition to the keys. The barbed wire is a reference to the imprisonment that Palestinians experience and to the literal barbed wire that surrounded the refugee camps. The refugee camps have existed for a long 55 years and people have attempted to create as normal a life as possible. The camps are now towns, the tents replaced by cinder block houses, the sanitation facilities improved from an inadequate number of outhouses, etc.

The mural includes an olive tree, a very important symbol. Many people wear olive tree necklaces. They are a symbol of home and the land. As olive trees take so long to mature, they are a potent sign that Palestinians have been cultivating the land for a long time. The olive tree provides sustenance and many Palestinians made their living from olive trees, that is, before the Israelis destroyed 200,000 olive trees. I was reminded how when I was in elementary school in the 1960′s, we collected money to send to Israel to plant fir trees. We were told that there were no people there before Israel, maybe just a few nomads wandering around in the desert. I remember how I felt when I realized that those stories were very far from the truth, and that the trees were being planted on land that had been very much lived on.

On each landing of the stairwell is a 15-foot window around which we painted large stones like the ones Palestinian building are built of. On each stone is written the name of a Palestinian village or town that was destroyed. Everyone who came to the Ibdaa center looked for the stone that had the name of his or her village written on it.

The mural depicts the resistance of the first and second (current) Uprising. The spark for the current Uprising, now in its 15th month, with 805 Palestinians and 239 Israelis killed, was General Ariel Sharon’s visit to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the sacred day of Friday accompanied by a thousand soldiers. This was the last humiliating straw as conditions for the Palestinians had only become worse since the 1991 Oslo ‘Peace’ Accords.

There is a wall that honors those who have died in the Intifadas or Uprisings. It depicts a young man from Dheisheh camp who was assassinated by the Israelis. He was a popular youth and people came from all around to see his portrait, including his family members. Underneath the portrait are many lit candles that represent the others who have died. People said that those who have fallen light the way and the memories help those who are alive to not give up.

The hopes and dreams for the future are expressed by dancers from Ibdaa dance group dancing on the tops of the buildings of Dheisheh Camp. An old man holding an infant up to the sun – to the future and freedom follows this image.

Next to the sun is a poem by JoJo White in English and Arabic. In 1996, 23-year-old JoJo White was shot to death in cold blood. His parents helped to fund the BTS mural project as part of the JoJo White Solidarity Project, which helps to fund peace and justice programs. JoJo wrote this poem when he was 11 years old.

Peace

If I could change the world

I’d dismantle all the bombs

If I could change the world

I would feed all the hungry

If I could change the world

I would shelter all the homeless

If I could change the world

I would make all people free

I cannot dismantle all the bombs

I cannot feed all the hungry

I cannot shelter all the homeless

I cannot make all people free

I cannot because there is only One of me.

When I have grown and I am Strong

I will find many more of me.

We will dismantle all the bombs

We will feed the hungry

We will shelter all the homeless

We will make all the people Free.

We will change the world

Me and my friends All together, together At last

The last image in the mural is a six foot keyhole, through which can be seen a beautiful landscape – the land of Palestine.

The Break the Silence Mural Project is a developing new projects. We are available for slide presentations and discussions about our experiences producing public art in Palestine under the Israeli occupation. We have a video about murals BTS painted with Palestinians during the first Intifada, in 1989 available for purchase. Our website is under construction: www.break thesilencemuralproject.org Or we can be reached: Break_thesilence@yahoo.com

Mayday

MAYDAY

WEST COAST REGIONAL

anticapitalist convergence

AUTONOMOUS FESTIVALS OF RESISTANCE

SF BAY AREA APRIL 26TH ~ MAY 1ST

Mayday is an ancient holiday of spring, celebrating the rebirth of the world and the bounty of nature. It is also International Workers’ Day, which marks workers’ struggle for liberation from those who would exploit others for their own profit. As such, the spirit of Mayday in human history has roots and significance much deeper than any political conjuncture.

In view of this we invite all people to come together in the spirit of Mayday and join in autonomous festivals of resistance expressing the indomitable force of life which will not expire in this darkest hour of civilization.

We do not see what we do as lacking in legitimacy and do not seek to appeal or accommodate to existing hierarchies of power in an effort to boost our own standing.

We hope that people with a shared vision can bring their own initiative and inspirations to organize events that would enrich these festivals, each in their own way. We do not seek subordination from those we work with and do not think that people need our approval to make their inspirations a reality. We would like to work together based on freedom and trust, and to offer help, mutually. We believe this in itself is valuable. We do not seek to form organizations or hierarchies, but would rather form friendships.

Together, anything is possible.

If you would like to organize or help organize an event as part of the festivals or need assistance with housing, etc., please contact us.

For more information 415-820-9658


mayday-info@festivalsofresistance.org

Brothers Is a Beautiful Thing

It is hard to believe, but Brothers Liquor, long-time supplier of refreshment to the Long Haul’s neighborhood, has been pinned down as the root source of all drug dealing, reckless driving, loud music, and general evil-doing in the south Berkeley stretch of Shattuck Avenue. In fact, one might even posit that Brothers Liquor is the source of all Black People in the neighborhood. Or so you might think after hearing testimony at the Berkeley City Council meeting January 15, 2002 regarding the designation of Brothers as a public nuisance. The City Council certainly was blown away by the evidence: they went from designating the store a public nuisance to revoking the owner’s business license at the close of the public hearing.

Neighbors organized in a group called PAIN, People Against Insanity in the Neighborhood, complained of drug dealing, prostitution, public pissing, shitting, and sex, loud music, and rudeness on the part of the store owners.

Strangely enough, a completely different scene was portrayed by another group of neighbors. The latter group of supporters spoke of caring owners who knew them by name and would extend store credit, and appreciated the safety of having a well-lit place open late at night on the way home from BART (commuter trains). Supporters also pointed out that many of the complaints leveled at Brothers’ could be equally applied to the Starry Plough, a well-known Irish pub a block away. Furthermore, supporters noted that, while they felt perfectly safe in the Brothers’ parking lot, drug dealing is common all along that stretch of Shattuck Ave.

It was shocking but true: almost all those opposed to the store were white, while Brothers’ supporters were majority black. By the end of the meeting the city council chamber was split nearly down the middle. Such a racial divide in the backwards South, sure, but in fair Berkeley? A number of the black speakers mentioned prejudice and carried signs denouncing the racism in the ruling.

Few benefit from street drug dealing and reckless driving, but it is extreme and utter bullshit that Brothers take the heat for these activities all along the 7 block stretch. Brothers is not responsible for what people do before or after they come to the store. Or is the liquor store responsible for alcoholism? This scapegoat has been drawn and quartered by the white homeowners in the area. Of course people should have input into what they live next to. But when two distinct stories are told by sizeable groups of people divided down color lines, the whole situation needs to be carefully examined in light of race and class privilege.

Doomed to Die A Correctional Slave

CORCORAN STATE PRISON – 1996

It’s another hot sweltering August afternoon at California State Prison Corcoran. A few hundred prisoners mill around the yard, some exercising, while others hang in small groups talking about family, wives, lovers and just about anything else that will take their minds off their confinement.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, a loud intrusive alarm sounds. Over the prison intercom system a booming voice announces, “CODE-3, ALL INNMATES LAY FACE DOWN UPON THE GROUND!” Most have already hit the dirt. Others dive for it.

A gray haired black man in his sixties and two younger companions near the basketball court are late responding; they stand out like wall flowers at a high school dance. A flock of pigeons roosting on a nearby rooftop, startled by the commotion, takes pandemonious flight.

Guards with guns appear in the surrounding gun towers. Except for the sound of running feet and jiggling keys, the yard becomes ghostly quiet. Prison Guards (who prefer to be called Correctional Officers, but whom prisoners refer to as “Bulls”, “Hacks”, “Screws” and “Turn Keys”) dressed in tan and green uniforms come running from every direction, looking for the source of the alarm.

Overhead, guards in the gun towers watch their every move, scanning for potential targets. Adrenaline surges. The tension is as thick as tree sap, as both prisoners and guards wait to see if this is the real deal or just another false alarm.

While everyone waits, a handful of officers head for the three wall flowers. A few nerve racking minutes later, the intercom announces, “CODE-4 FALSE ALARM, RETURN TO NORMAL PROGRAM.” Prisoners start getting up, dusting off their blue denim pants and chambray shirts. That is, all except for the wall flowers. The rest of the prisoners return to their previous activities as if nothing happened, while slyly eyeing the officers surrounding the remaining three. The three are told to stand and are warned about not responding more quickly to alarms. Emphasizing their displeasure, the surrounding guards strip search the three in full view of the rest of the prisoners and guards.

Although the strip searching guards are male, female guards are scattered about the yard. They, like the other prisoners and guards, witness the trio’s humiliation as they are forced to get naked and endure the dreaded strip search. Even from the distance, I can hear the words: “Put out your arms; turn over your hands; raise your arms above your head; open your mouth and stick out your tongue; now pull down your bottom lip and show me your gums; now your top lip -open wider and roll your tongue around in your mouth; now run your hands through your hair (even though the three are black men with closely cropped hair); skin back your foreskin; lift your balls; turn around and bend over and spread your cheeks; keep them spread and cough three times; now let me see the bottom of your feet.”

While the three endure this humiliation, I notice their nervous, fearful glances at the nearest gun tower. They know, as I do, the tower guard’s gun sights were trained on them, just in case they make the wrong move. Knowing Corcoran the way I do, it wouldn’t take much to start guns blasting. When the strip search is over, the men still aren’t allowed to get dressed or put on their underwear (which is usually the case). The three are lectured several more minutes before they’re told to get dressed. Finally, the three deflated men are allowed to join the rest of the prisoners and things returned to normal, or as normal as they could be inside a maximum security prison. One of the three, a friend of mine walks over to me and says, “Did you see that, man? Did you see that? They treated us like slaves at an auction. All ’cause we hit the ground a little late. I told ‘em we was looking out for Mr. Green, he being an older brother. But they wasn’t giv’en a damn. They wasn’t hearing anything we had to say. You know man, it’s bad enough for us younger brothers to go through this shit. But it gotta be a bitch, to be in your sixties and have men and women the age of your grandchildren telling you to bend over and crack a smile. That’s cold shit man; doing us like that. Like we ain’t shit. Stripping us in front of those females, just like they did those brothers back in the slave days. It ain’t right I tell you. It ain’t right. We is slaves.”

“You’re right,” I respond earnestly, “We are nothing but slaves, California Correctional Slaves.”

THE CASE FOR CORRECTIONAL SLAVERY

For most Americans, the word slavery invokes dark and evil images of by-gone eras; disturbing images, of millions of chained Africans taken from their native lands and sold into brutal lifetime bondage. However, if I were to suggest that in year 2000 slavery was still present and institutionalized in the United States of America, few would take me seriously. In fact, most would openly laugh at the idea. Despite this knee jerk reaction, I predict that after reading my article, any laughter will quickly disappear and I seriously doubt if those people will ever again find the idea of “Correctional Slavery” the least bit amusing! At any rate, a powerful argument can be made that slavery does indeed exist in America, and I believe there is considerable empirical evidence to support this conclusion.

A perfect historical analogy of a similar type of enslavement were the debtor prisons of Europe. Laws were written that created criminal conduct where there should not have been. Under such laws, tens of thousands were imprisoned for economic crimes; crimes such as failing to pay debts or bills. The law of the day required the imprisoned to work off their debt. Most, however found this an impossibility, because their daily incarceration costs, their room and board, was taken out of any money they earned. These costs far exceeded the amounts paid for their labors while imprisoned. As a result, imprisonment became life time bondage. Whole families were imprisoned and labored under these draconian laws. The only beneficiaries of such cruel laws were those who used this cheap labor to enrich themselves. Eventually, these debtors were used to colonize the New World under indentured servant laws.

Just as debt in Europe became a criminal offense, drugs have become America’s entrapment tool to enslave hundreds of thousands. Just like imprisoned debtors, American prisoners are finding these modern laws are leading to long periods of imprisonment, if not a lifetime. This bondage for profit, is hidden under the guise of CRIMINAL JUSTICE.

Correctional Slavery is probably the most insidious and cleverly disguised form of slavery ever visited upon a human population. Not because it’s the most physically brutal form of slavery to ever exist, but rather because it masks itself under the guise of justice.

Before continuing, it may be helpful to first define the term “Correctional Slavery” and explain why I equate this form of incarceration with slavery. Correctional Slavery as defined here, is processing people into a criminal justice system for the express purpose of economic gain. This “gain” is derived from the pockets of hard working taxpayers who are manipulated into believing that incarceration is the only thing that separates them from the violent criminal hordes. These beliefs are reinforced by the media and popular culture.

Currently our Criminal System is using its citizens’ “criminal behavior” as reason to enslave them. Not just enslave them, but using sentencing-enhancement schemes, to enslave for increasingly longer periods of time.

The problem I address is basic and fundamental: at what point does the legitimate function of the Criminal Justice System end? And, at what point does the system begin to manufacture criminals for profit? For example, intentional acts that directly harm people or their property are clearly criminal acts. However conduct that does not directly harm people or property is not true criminal conduct. That is, conduct that offends moral values, even the majority’s, should not be considered a crime. It’s because our system has not made that distinction that it must be labeled a Correctional Slave System.

To be more precise, the drug laws, which are discriminatory by their very nature, allow some to be enslaved for engaging in the same conduct that others engage in legally. All drugs, whether licit or illicit are ingested by the user to obtain some feeling of euphoria. However, our society has chosen, for some insane reason, to make some drugs legal and others not. I call this policy insane because in many cases the licit drugs are far more dangerous and harmful then the illicit ones. For example, alcohol and tobacco are legal drugs that kill far more people, than all the illicit drugs combined, yet they are legal. Marijuana, heroin and cocaine are illicit not because they are more dangerous, but based on custom and religiously based moral objections. In other words, if you use the legal drugs, you can do so with impunity; regardless of the physical harm those drugs do to the body, and regardless of the social cost to families and society. The only exception to this rule is, if while intoxicated, you harm someone or their property. If, however, you are allergic to the legal drugs (for example alcohol or tobacco), or have some other aversion, to these drugs- yet you still crave to alter your state of consciousness and take an illicit drug, you face criminal liability. Why? Because you failed to use society’s drugs of choice.

It has been estimated that in California, 60% to 75% of the prison population have drug related crime. In the Federal Prison System it is estimated that 60% of its population have been imprisoned for mere possession of drugs under mandatory sentencing laws — without intent to sell. These drug laws are inherently discriminatory and make no practical sense, that is, unless you factor in the proposition that these laws create criminal activity where there otherwise would be none. In so doing, the laws create a criminal class as human fodder for the Criminal Justice System. This enriches the system, fueling its expansion.

This, I call SLAVERY!

According to a RAND study, entitled “Investing in Prisons or Prevention … The State Policy Maker’s Dilemma” (1998), statistical data shows that even though the crime rates have declined from their peak level in the 1 980s and early 1 990s, there are still continuing demands for harsher sentences and less reduction of time for good behavior. These demands, along with the stricter handling of parole violators, insure that prison populations will continue to grow. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) figures, the number of prisoners in state and federal facilities increased another 5% (BJS), while the reported violent crime rate declined nationwide by 8%. Peter W. Greenwood, the author of that study, has determined that twenty years ago prison costs represented only 1% or 2% of most state budgets. Now it is in the range of 8% to 10% and for the past five years represents the fastest-growing budget category.

It would be interesting to know the exact amount of money California spends on its entire “Criminal Justice System,” including all criminal courts, all law enforcement agencies, jails, prisons, parole and probation departments. These numbers would also include all auxiliary costs, for example, the Department of Justice and Attorney General’s Office budgets dealing with criminal matters; all salaries, equipment, training, construction and any other costs of all the above. The media will not publish this complete economic picture and I suspect the reason is that, if known, the public would find the cost prohibitive and rebel. If correctly tallied, the total cost of the criminal justice system would be closer to 1/4 to 1/3 of the entire state budget. I suspect that Media will not fully investigate and report on the true economic impact of California’s or this country’s war on crime, because crime is the media’s cash cow. It would be no exaggeration to say television is the greatest promotional tool for the new slave system. If you doubt this, consider how many television shows there are about law enforcement, the courts and lawyers. Watching these shows will give the definite impression that it’s the “good guys” versus the “bad guys”. This non-subtle propaganda is mind manipulation. Such shows have skyrocketed in numbers, even though crime has plummeted over the past decade.

In discussing Correctional Slavery, it is necessary to examine the so called “Criminal Justice System” (which should be simply called the Criminal System), and examine its three major components: (1) Law Enforcement: (2) The Judicial System: and (3) the Prison and Correctional System, along with its recycling arms- the Parole and Probation Departments. I prefer to call these three components the: (1) “Entrapment and Capturing System,” (2) the “Processing and Justification System,” and (3) the “Bondage and Warehousing System.”

Examining how these three system’s work will demonstrate why I have come to the conclusions I have. This examination will revolve around the California Correctional System, which I refer to as a “World Class Slave System” and is probably the most insidious in the United States. Remember, each state has its own penal system, as does the federal government; all share the same basic goals and many of the same components. Therefore, a careful look at California’s Criminal Justice System will serve as a general review of them all.

THE PRISON AND CORRECTIONAL SYSTEMS: BONDAGE AND WAREHOUSING

Even though the national crime rate and rate of violent crime have declined since 1991, there is still the cry for more and longer incarceration,despite clear evidence that prisons do not work. Studies show the states with the highest budgets for law enforcement, courts, prisons, parole and probation departments also have the highest crime rates. It is clear, if you increasingly create criminal statutes, and build more prisons, you will inevitably find bodies to fill them. Christopher Stone, the head of New York’s Vera Institute of Justice, believes that prisons can be “factories of crime”.

The 1998 RAND study cited earlier, concluded that in 1985, the number of inmates held in state and federal prisons was less than 750, 000. By 1995, that number had risen above 1.5 million (BJS 1996). Those numbers appear even more ominous when you consider that it took from this country’s inception until 1990 to incarcerate a million people; however, ten years later, in the year 2000, the United States prison population had ballooned to over 2 million. It took only ten years to double a prison population that had taken over 200 years to accumulate.

In 1977 the inmate population of California prisons was 19,600. Today it’s over 180,000 and rising, even though crime in California, like the nation’s, has declined since the early 90′s. The state has spent over 5.2 billion dollars in prison construction in the past fifteen years, making California not only the largest, but the most overcrowded prison system in the United States. The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has estimated it will need at least 6.1 billion dollars over the next decade to just maintain the current level of overcrowding. California’s jails are just as overcrowded. (“The Prison Industrial Complex” by Schiossier, Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1988) According to that 1988 study, roughly two thirds of the prison inmates are parole violators. Of those 80,000 returning parole violators, 60,000 committed only technical violations not involving new crimes. For example, violations like failing to notify one’s parole officer of a change of job or address.

I don’t believe that everyone involved with the Criminal System either thinks in terms of enslaving people for profit or incarcerating for maximum terms, though some clearly do. I said at the beginning of this article, the slave system is deviously and cleverly disguised within the legitimate System. Not surprisingly, many of the Correctional Slaves would be just as surprised by this description of their plight, as are those who incarcerate and maintain them, so thorough and effective is the propaganda machine.

Despite the victims’, perpetrators’ and unwitting employees’ lack of knowledge, the fact remains, the System itself has taken on the mantle of “Evil”. Ignorance, like ignorance of the law, is no excuse, nor does ignorance absolve the guilty of crimes against humanity.

REALISTIC SOLUTION #1: AMNESTY AND DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION

AMNESTY: Fully 60 to 75 percent of both state and federal prison populations can be rehabilitated and rehoused at half to one-third of the present cost. This can be done by creating community based programs in which many prisoners are returned home and placed in work, education and vocational programs. Prisoners would be enrolled in an eight hour a day program in which they are required to work four hours a day, and attend either education, vocational or a combination of both the other four hours. The ex-offender would receive minimum wages for the work program and a modest grant for educational and vocational programs.

For offenders who need closer supervision, instead of direct release, there would be two year community based halfway houses. The offender would live in these halfway houses and required to attend the same type of programs. Income from their work would go to housing and expenses. They would also be required to save a portion of income for their eventual release.

Both categories of prisoners would sign Anmesty Contracts. This would allow them to avoid serving the balance of their sentences upon successful completion of this program. If they fail, they would be returned to prison. If they commit new crimes while in the program, their full sentence would be reinstated, plus time for the new offense; Such prisoners would be ineligible for the Anmesty program in the future.

To avoid labor complaints, the ex-offenders would work on community based projects and environmental cleanups.

REALISTIC SOLUTION #2 DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION:

Along with instituting the Amnesty program, both state and federal governments should eliminate criminal drug laws. Churches and all God fearing people should rise up and demand our government get out of the business of enslaving people based on what drug they use. It is a national disgrace that our society enslaves some for doing the same thing that others do legally with a different, but often, more dangerous drugs. Decriminalization will allow us to move toward treatment. The most important thing that decriminalization will do however, is remove the profit equation and thereby removing 99% of all the drug related violence. This will also go a long way toward reducing all the other negative aspects of an illegal drug lifestyle. This will save Americans billions of dollars and untold lives. Most of all, it will take us out the slave business and return morality and true justice to the criminal system.

On November 7, 2000, the citizens of California passed Proposition 36, allowing first and second time minor drug offenders to receive drug treatment rather than jail or prison. Don Novey of CCPOA had fought to defeat Proposition 36, hoping to keep this class of drug offenders within the California Department of Corrections. Their defeat bodes well for those enslaved because of their drug preference. It is to be hoped, that America is waking up to the reality of the Government’s failed “War on Drugs”; as well as its barbaric practice of enslaving its citizens for drug use. Proposition 36 holds out a tiny glimmer of hope that California Correctional Slavery, in it’s present form, may be ending, or reducing the massive prison population.

CORRECTIONAL TRAINING FACILITY- NORTH (SOLEDAD) — 2000

It’s December, midday and unseasonably warm, despite the start of winter. The CTFNorth “A” Yard is teaming with inmates taking advantage of the summer like weather.

CTF-North consist of two almost identical yards. Each has two three tiered, rectangular buildings. Cell windows look out over the yards like hundreds of small eyes. Across from these buildings are huge dorms. Behind each dorm looms cyclone fences and a manned gun tower. Another gun tower is located between the yards. Others are spaced along the perimeter. Surrounding CTF-North are several tall fences crowned with spiraling razor wire: razor wire, whose spiked edges sparkle like glittering flesh eaters.

Small clumps of inmates circle the yard, while others sit or lay on the grass. Other inmates work out on pull-up bars. Across from the pull-up bars 18 yard phones are in use. A long line of inmates patiently await their turn.

A group of lifers sits on the worn wooden bleachers over looking the baseball diamond. They are discussing recent court cases involving lifers and the Governor’s no parole policy.

Despite the Sun’s warmth, I feel a sudden chill as the discussion turns bitter.

“I was sentenced to 7 years to life,” says one man. “Yet, I’ve been down 30 years. I had a date and they took it for no reason. I should’ve paroled 15 years ago.”

“What about me,” says another. “I got 15 years to life, and was eligible for parole after ten years. I’ve served 23 years.”

“What do you think the courts will do,” someone asked?

“The same thing they always do,” came a voice from the back of the bleachers. “Nothing!”

“What do you think they will do Sonny?”

Everyone knew I had a paralegal degree and knew I had a reputation as a pretty good jail house lawyer. Therefore, when it came to the law, my words carried weight.

Expectant eyes turned to me. These were eyes looking for reassurance. Perhaps, they wanted to hear a comfortable lie: the comfortable, feel better- even though it’s a lie- kind.

I wish I could have obliged them, but I couldn’t. I thought of the past two, and now the current Governor. All, who briefly flirted with presidential and national aspirations. All, who collectively whittled lifers’ parole down to a mockery. Current Governor Gray Davis, despite protests, refused to parole any lifers during his first year in office. Only grudgingly did he release a few in his second year. These releases came only after a constant bombardment of bad press.

I took a deep breath and looked into all those soul weary eyes, and said, “We’re slaves, California Correctional Slaves. They’re not going to give up their slaves easily.”

I turned away from disappointed eyes, lowered heads and drooping shoulders. I turned from eyes, sinking into oceans of misery and self pity; eyes, caught in nightmarish Correctional Quicksand.

I looked toward the distant mountains and the descending Sun. I could no longer feel its warmth. My soul felt cold, my heart heavy — weary. Not even thoughts of Christmas, which was only a few days away, could lift my spirits.

I wondered (like all the others) was I doomed to die a Correctional Slave?