Category Archives: Harvest 2007 (9/27/07)

Eyes on the police: A how-to guide

The following are exerpts of the Copwatch Manual published by Berkeley Copwatch on how you Copwatch groups monitor police activity:

Our main tactic in Copwatch is to discourage police brutality and harassment by letting the cops know that their actions are being recorded and that they will be held accountable for their acts of harassment and abuse. To this end we will:

• Record incidents of abuse and harassment

• Follow through on complaints

• Publicize incidents of abuse and harassment

• Work with the Police Review Commission

• Educate those who don’t believe that police harassment exists.

Defuse Situations

People don’t want to be arrested. As Copwatchers, we don’t want to escalate a situation to where police arrest someone as a way of getting back at us. We want cops to treat people with respect and to observe their rights. Often, cops forget that homeless people and others actually have rights. We may need to remind them from time to time. We must learn how to assert our rights and to encourage others to assert their rights without endangering someone who is already in some amount of trouble.

We do not attempt to interfere with officers as they make routine arrests. We document and try to inform the cops when we feel that they are violating policy or the law . . .

Shift Procedures

• Be sure your warrant status, bike or car is up to date. Don’t give the cops any opportunity to bust you. Assume that this could happen.

• Identification can be very helpful if the police detain you.

• Have a partner for safety as well as good Copwatching. It is very important not to confront the police alone. You must have a witness and someone who can verify your story in case of a problem

• Make sure that you are not carrying anything illegal! No knives, drugs, etc.

• Wear a Copwatch identification badge.

• Be sure that you or your partner brings things you will need to Copwatch: Incident forms, the Copwatch Handbook, Police Dept. complaint forms, Copwatch literature to distribute, tape recorder, police scanner, video recorder, cameras, copy of Penal Code

During Shift

As you observe a situation, one partner records what officers are saying or doing, while the other quietly gets information from witnesses. Consult and share information. Get a firm grasp of the situation first. Record as much information as possible. Witness names and numbers and badge numbers are important. . . . It also helps to write down when, where and what time the incident happened. If there has been an injury, encourage the person to see a doctor and take pictures of the injuries as soon as possible. Distribute Copwatch literature while you are observing a stop so that people understand that you are not just there to be entertained but are actually trying to help.

Remember that you have the right to watch the cops. You don’t have the right to interfere. . . .

When you observe police remember that you don’t want to make the cops more nervous than they already are. Keep your hands visible at all times. Don’t approach an officer from behind or stand behind them. Don’t make any sudden movements or raise your voice to the cop. Try to keep the situation calm. You don’t want to get the person in more trouble. If an officer tells you to step back, tell the officer that you do not want to interfere, you simply wish to observe.

More Assertive Style:

• Ask victims if they know why they are being arrested or detained. . . .

• If the stop is vague, ask the cop to name the Penal Code Section that they are enforcing.

• Have educational conversations with people standing around.

• Don’t piss the cop off if you can help it. Don’t let it get personal. No name calling!

• Identify yourself as “Copwatch.”

• Try to stay until the stop is concluded. Remember that Rodney King was just a traffic stop originally.

• If a person wants to take action, give them complaint forms.

• Don’t assume who is right and who is wrong. Observe and document before taking action.

Be Careful:

• Don’t inadvertently collaborate in a crime (don’t become a look-out, warning if police are coming, etc.) . . .

• Taking pictures or videotaping can be a problem if the detainee doesn’t want you to. Respect them. Tell them that you are working to stop police misconduct. If this doesn’t satisfy them, turn off the camera. . . .

• Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Don’t tell people you will get them a lawyer or take the cops to court, etc.

• Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you are asked legal questions. Better than giving out wrong information.

To see the full manual or for other information, check out www.berkeleycopwatch.org.

More than riots – G8 summit in Rostock Reveals Long Range Strategies

I wear black for the poor and beaten down… And for the prisoner who has long since served his time

(Johnny Cash)

The following text was written by people belonging to the radical left in Germany, who, like many others, have different perspectives on and opinions about the incidents of the 2nd June 2007 in Rostock during the protests against the G8-summit. One thing we do have in common is our will to resist, which in its practical realisations, with their different means of expression, is respected by all of us. Public denunciation and one-sided apportioning of blame are not our means. With this text we aim to engage in positive and negative criticism, of ourselves, and also of those with whom we have worked on a common concept of resistance over the past two and a half years.

By United Colours Of Resistance (with shortening by Slingshot indicated by “…”)

The demonstration on the 2nd June in Rostock was a success. Not despite but because of the Black Bloc and the massive resistance from the different blocks of the demonstration. The confrontation with the cops and the attack on the Sparkasse Bank produced images which unmistakably demonstrated a radical critique of current ruling conditions, as well as a disapproval of the official G8 meeting. There were so many people who didn’t want to “engage in a dialogue” with the rulers, who didn’t want to “be heard”, and who didn’t want to express “constructive critique” (i.e. take part in the organisation of capitalist exploitation).

The Rostock riots were one of the few actions against the meeting of the self-declared rulers of the world that could not be co-opted or re-interpreted. Symbols of the capitalist system were attacked directly, whether cops or banks, in order to say “no” to an unjust and oppressive world economic system.

“Attacking Capitalism” – On the 2nd June this slogan was actively brought to life as a non-conciliatory sign, carried by many international autonomous, left radical and anarchist groups and individuals. “We”, people from small or large organized groups, were not the only ones who took part in this; on Saturday many unorganized people furiously picked up stones.

The riot was not only an expression of anger at the arrogance of power, but also showed the force of our resistance to be incalculable to the police and state apparatus. This anger at the arrogance of power has to be understood against the backdrop of growing state repression, such as the raids on the 9th May 2007, as well as the massive restrictions on the right to demonstrate that have increased over the recent years, e.g. the banning of masks, police filming during demonstrations, snatch squads, regulations on the size of side banners, controls and searches before demonstrations, “walking kettles” (complete cordoning of demonstrations) and so forth.

This campaign has been strategically aimed at preventing, effectively blockading and making impossible the large meetings of rulers (WTO, G8, IMF). In our opinion, due to the militant clashes during the WTO conference in Seattle in 1999, the IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague 2000 and the G8 summit in Genoa 2001, the G8 states decided to hold future G8 summits far away from large cities and metropoles, instead meeting in rural areas where they mistakenly believed the potential for resistance to be weaker. If we can keep up the massive and intensive resistance over the next years, G8 meetings may only be able to held high up in the mountains, at the North Pole.

In Germany, many militant activists joined the “make capitalism history” block organized by the Interventionist Left (IL). This block was a “closed” Black Block, open to all autonomous and anarchist groups. With hindsight, this concept allowed for the joint militant actions that followed later, and made them easier. The character of this block was made clear in the mobilizing posters of the IL, which depicted masked up and helmeted demonstrators.

During and especially after the attacks on the police and banks, representatives of the different organizations who had helped organize either the large demonstration or the blockades planned for the following days made desperate attempts to distance themselves. Together with the mainstream press, they tried to depoliticize this militant form of resistance. The result of these distancing attempts was that the mainstream media reported exclusively about “violence” (that is naturally only acceptable if It’s exercised by the state). This is an old and well-known game, and from the German media organizations like “Spiegel”, FAZ and TAZ we don’t expect anything different. Thus the declaration “make capitalism history” went completely unheard in the media in the next few days.

. . . .

Within an anti-state orientation, the struggle for the acceptance of militant resistance is an important counter-hegemonic struggle. The struggle for the acceptance of militant resistance is at the same time also the struggle for the acknowledgement of how violent the circumstances are that we live in. To speak seriously of racist border regimes, the ruthless logic of capitalist exploitation and wars of aggression, can only mean militant resistance. Of course this is still only about a symbolic struggle. To throw stones at window panes or heavily armoured cops does not mean smashing capitalism. It’s about sending a non-conciliatory message to a system that holds human beings in contempt. No more, no less.

Well-meant but in the end just as distancing is to say “The cops started it”

We know that the police have many ways of manipulating situations: agent provocateurs, direct attacks for trivialities (like wearing a black baseball cap or black scarf), or they invent something. All of this happened in Rostock.

Added to that you have a media which at the first opportunity took on board and spread any lies the cops come up with. At the demonstration there had been 400 injured cops, of which 30 were injured severely – later it materialized that it was 30 injured, of which only 2 were severely injured. The Rebel Clown Army supposedly attacked individual police with acid; in reality this was soapy water, used to blow bubbles. The police denied having used agents provocateurs during the summit; as the police press officer stated: “There are no plain clothes officers at demonstrations”. The same day, many different videos appeared showing how a police officer from Bremen, all clad in black, was exposed as a plain clothes officer on duty. There are many more examples, but the fact that the cops often attack us must not be used at every demonstration as the sole explanation for militant resistance.

We don’t have to apologize for questioning the state monopoly over violence. We wanted to attack and we did so in Rostock, even if that particular time and place was not what we had had in mind! Already in 1999 at the time of the protests in Seattle against the WTO conference, which so many of the people in the anti-globalization movement refer to positively, an anarchist group, the ACME collective, issued a so-called “Black Block Communiqué” titled “Peasant Revolt.” It detailed reasons for the necessity and legitimacy of attacking capitalist symbols in Seattle and smashing windows of multinational corporations such as the Bank of America, US Bancorp, GAP, Starbucks, McDonalds, Nike Town, Levi’s etc.

At last, constructive criticism!

Other criticisms should be more important to us. Yes, not everything went well in Rostock. For example, it would have been much nicer if the “make capitalism history” block hadn’t dispersed at the end of the demonstration and before the attack on the Berlin police unit, but had collectively and resolutely moved into the center of town. There, there would have been enough capitalist targets that “uninvolved” people would have been less endangered. But seemingly this was neither wanted nor planned. Much later there was an attempt by a few hundred masked up people to go to the town center. However, they only got the first bank, which was smashed.

With hindsight, we lacked a new meeting point to continue. The attack on the lone standing police car has to be questioned. Many militants criticize that after the windows of the cop car were smashed, the two unprotected police officers who were sitting in the front of the car were attacked with stones and poles. Severe injuries could not have been ruled out. Some of us believe that the limits of legitimate militancy were exceeded here, because it’s not our aim to (severely) injure police officers.

At the subsequent riot at the Rostock Harbour too many comrades and in some case “uninvolved” people were hit and injured by bottles and stones. We have to find ways to make sure that people are not injured by people throwing things from the back rows. For people that don’t want to be involved with these kinds of militant confrontations there has to be a way for them to retreat properly. Responsible militancy also means drinking the contents of the bottle the night before and not at the demonstration. Here everyone is called on to approach people who booze at demonstrations! We have to admit to ourselves that we haven’t yet reached a point of responsible militancy. This is difficult and was not necessarily to be expected in Rostock; all of us were amazed at the number of people that were there. Lack of experience, however, should not be a reason to not conduct militant demonstrations.

It’s much more the case that a new culture of demonstration is needed to make militancy 1. more accepted, 2. safer for everyone and 3. more successful. This can only happen if afterwards people don’t boast, “I was there and then I gave the cop…”. We need a debate about militancy. This can happen through texts like these, discussions at autonomous plenary meetings, during the preparations for the next demonstration etc. Criticism has to be taken seriously and has to be understood as a call for better militant organization.

Swords to ploughshares, stones to messages…

Not only the actions themselves but also the communication of their intended message has to be better organized. The dictum, “actions speak for themselves” might be true, if attacks on capitalist symbols are successful. Sometimes, like in Rostock, it’s not true. After Saturday, we didn’t manage to communicate the legitimacy of militant resistance against the violence of state and capitalist relations.

This certainly has something to with potential repression. There were numerous requests to get a participant to the riots in front of a camera. The possibility to communicate our motivations and reasons via the media was there, but on the whole there was nobody who had the courage or even thought it right to do so. This is also the case for the Campinski Press Group that was run by people from the autonomous spectrum. Even “our” press group ignored some of the press statements . . .

It has been shown how important it is to better use and support our own structures such as Indymedia, free radios etc. This includes a broad discussion within our radical left spectrum about how to deal with the press and the question of its role as the “fourth power of the state”. In the end it was well-known faces that appeared in the media, whose comments were a relief after the previous media smear campaigns, but they were given by individuals without the backing of groups.

Principally we think it’s more sensible to publish opinions of groups and associations that have been collectively discussed before hand, instead of individuals, mostly men, raising their own profiles with their interpretations of events. This is our starting point for an antagonistic movement. The goal should be to evaluate and publish the events of Rostock together, not to leave this to self-proclaimed or even designated spokespersons. Lamentably, this happened continuously.

Even the left scene newspaper “Analyse und Kritik” only gave space to male individuals to voice their views and comment. . . . This is a step backwards. Obvoiusly it’s neither a coincidence nor the product of anti-patriarchal analysis that primarily men were allowed to speak or wanted to speak. We don’t want to make blanket accusations in this respect, but we think that there was at the very least a lack of the necessary sensibility.

In the end, we have to look to ourselves too. We hadn’t only hoped for but had wanted riots. The media reaction was predictable. With our silence, we left the space to NGOs spokespersons, ATTAC and IL, which led to distancing. We have to face this dilemma and urgently need to discuss how to communicate militant praxis at demonstrations, as well as how to deal with the media.

Dress for the moment

Although he doesn’t want to know, Ulrich Brand’s suspicions can be confirmed: “I suspect (although I don’t know and I don’t want to know!) that people who march in the Black Block and even those who take action, are otherwise part of similar political contexts as many other demonstrators.” Being militant at a demonstration is not about identity – at least it shouldn’t be – It’s a tactic with strengths and weaknesses just like any other tactic. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes it’s not. In Rostock it was useful in order to give the G8 resistance a non-conciliatory note.

For an Emancipatory Militant Resistance

“There must be a better world somewhere” (BB King)

Frontier Gardening – bringing green spaces to the urban jungle

Throughout the city of San Francisco residents are returning nature to the public fabric. Unlike the vast, open greenery of Golden Gate or other city parks, these spaces are cultivated directly by members of the community, on a scale which makes sense to the particular needs of people living there.

These spots blossoming around the city are not locked away for private use; they are part of public and community life. They are part of the neighborhood. They are not the projects of ‘New Urbanism’ and don’t come from any planning department, nor are they official beautification projects, though they do make the city more beautiful. They are not administered through the city and do not have professional groundskeepers. There are no budgets, boards, permits, or lawyers.

They are evidence of an emerging viewpoint in which nature belongs as a part of the city, where urban residents have a direct connection to natural processes and reclaim some of the space that has been devoted to other enterprises such as commerce, industry, transportation, etc.

These micro spaces vary in scale from a cultivated windowsill facing a public street to a fully-developed community garden. Private and community gardens are, of course, an established part of the urban environment. Emerging now are the often contested spaces, where “guerrilla gardening” and creative use of parking spaces are gaining interest. Some folks are even making a “claim” on parts of larger parks. The claim they make, however, is not for private gain. They do have an agenda, but it includes notions of biodiversity, community involvement, native plantings, food security, soil sanctity, etc.

Urban residents are encouraging do-it-yourself green spaces to enter the public environment.

The Life and Death of an Urban Garden

At the corner of Fulton and Stanyan streets, there is a lot where corn stalks grow among discarded Starbucks containers. A graffiti on the pavement reads :

Where did the garden go?

I saw it go

I saw it taken away

Fucking Bastards!

If you watch the site carefully at night, you might even see someone harvesting potatoes or gathering ingredients for a salad. What is going on here?

There once was a lot here which, as some of the residents say, was merely “Collecting trash”. The residents complained for some time about the blight of the trash-strewn lot to a largely unresponsive landlord. The lot in question had been sitting for 20 years. The bounty of the lot included “weeds, trash, dog shit, and heroin needles.” So some folks neighboring the lot decided to use it in a different way.

A small group got together and cleaned out the space, removing weeds, cleaning up the trash and other refuse, and creating a space they would be able to plant in. An abandoned lot was fast becoming a fledgling community garden.

Within twenty minutes of the first planting, one of the gardeners remarked, people from the neighborhood became curious. And some folks became involved — after all, it was their community.

When it was clear that the garden was to be a reality, the gardeners made contact with a property-management firm that handled the lot for the landlord, who lived out-of-town (way out — Hawaii, actually). The property manager intimated that he couldn’t see any harm in what was happening, and didn’t deem that “official permission” from the land owner would be necessary.

So it looked to the gardeners as if they had been sanctioned to keep up their activity.

Meanwhile the garden flourished. Plantings included artichokes, garlic, fava beans, potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, chard, tomatoes, and quinoa. The gardeners had street parties, music, and barbecues in the new community space, but unexpectedly, the land owner became aware of the situation and demanded that the garden be destroyed. The landlord wanted everything ripped out.

The site underwent a complete transformation, but the owner wanted everything put back the way it was.

When the site was set for ‘removal’, the gardeners occupied the garden for five days. Members of the community also came out to support the garden. A neighborhood watch was formed to look after it. Three and a half weeks went by before the property management company paid a crew to remove the garden.

As one of the former gardeners remarks, “Gophers were our second-biggest pest in the garden. They did almost as much damage as the capitalists.” The gardeners have become galvanized to look for other spots in which to plant, but the community does not have its garden anymore.

But plants have a tenacity that no removal crew can easily overcome. Many of them are coming back even as the lot fills again with the wandering garbage that blows through the city.

Space Reclaimed

Streets used to be a lot like the living rooms of the city, available to all the public for a variety of uses. Now most streets are treated solely as traffic conduits for private automobiles. What’s worse is that even more space is required for the cars that aren’t being used, the ones that must “park”. The going rate for a few feet of downtown space in which to leave your car can be up to three dollars per hour. What a deal! Parking is the dominant land use in many areas.

But what would happen if you put in your quarter and instead of rolling a car into the space, you rolled out some sod?

Last September, the group Rebar (www.rebargroup.org) took several car parking spots throughout the city and made them into temporary green spaces. They transported their materials by bicycle and set up miniature parks in San Francisco’s downtown, in the South-of-Market area (SOMA), in front of city hall (in the Mayor’s parking spot, which was empty as the mayor wasn’t around) and several other locations.

The parks each had a different design and theme. Some were a basic public park with benches and trees, while others were elaborate garden paths or tea gardens.

The groups navigated their bicycles through San Francisco traffic, hauling everything they needed in trailers. Some items included fully-grown trees in large pots and full-scale benches. It is an inspiring sight indeed to see a tall tree squeezing its way through an urban traffic snarl without any hang ups.

The parks had an immediate positive effect. Once they were set up, they transformed the urban space dramatically. Passersby used the parks as places to relax, to have lunch, to meet and talk with others, to take the sun, and of course to think about how we treat urban space. When the meter ran down, they would just pop another quarter in and go back to reading, people watching, or laying on the grass.

Of course there is a two-hour time-limit for all downtown parking spots, so Rebar would take the trees and benches down, roll the sod back up, and move to another site once their two hours were up.

Rebar converted more than a dozen parking spots into parks in San Francisco, while other people did the same thing all over the world. It happened again this September as well. But arts groups aren’t the only ones reclaiming urban space for a green city.

Within the confines of the enormous Golden Gate Park, a gardener started a tiny native plant garden in a somewhat obscure corner of the park. This garden was accomplished by fiat, without going through the typical channels that community gardens often go through (after all, it’s already a green space — a park. Why make a garden there? Or so the thinking might go).

Green grass is great to play frisbee on, and big trees are very pretty and great for shade, but in terms of biodiversity, there isn’t much going on in the lawn. Ecologists have a pet-term for lawns: green deserts.

Over time, the gardener peeled back more of the grass as his garden grew. There is now a diverse mix of native plants in this little corner of Golden Gate park. And the amount of space in the park is so vast that the native plant garden in no way diminishes the experience of the park, only adds to it. Plus, it is an in-tact seed bank for native varieties of plant life. A library of species, if you will.

The Garden in the City

Clearly people are thinking about urban space in new ways. There are even single-block neighborhood organizations dedicated to planting charming sidewalk gardens like the one on Fillmore street in the Lower Haight neighborhood. Residents are becoming emboldened to actively manage their own environment, whether publicly or privately “held”. There are even people planting seeds in soaked clay balls and throwing them over fences, planting gardens that way. Witness the “illegal” fruit-tree plantings or the vegetable-growing tradition of People’s Park in Berkeley.

Guerrilla gardeners are taking to the city with trowels and soaked beans, sowing new life into the urban environment with methods like those of graffiti artists.

All cities are built on top of what were once natural, intact ecosystems. But most cities, especially since industrialism, have kept an extremely tenuous relationship with nature — typically it’s a patch of green grass in a sea of development. Things got even worse after the automobile, when the streets themselves became largely devoid of life because life was too slow, too organic for the mechanized mobility that became an international obsession.

But as we all know, if we don’t constantly re-pave, things grow up through the cracks. Grasses grow inside of potholes; tree roots tear up pavement. Nature is still here demanding a reckoning. Perhaps the push toward “Garden Cities” should have been a push toward city gardens.

Many cities are now building their own soils, growing their own food, and rediscovering nature. Some have even argued that this is where the ever-elusive “frontier” is sprouting up once again.

www.rebargroup.org

Reject Liquified Natural Gas – the world needs long term solutions not more fossil fuels

People are mobilizing to prevent the construction of numerous liquified natural gas (LNG) ocean terminals around the US which will increase dependence on fossil fuels, contribute to global climate change and delay the development of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power. Major fossil fuel corporations and their puppet, the National Petroleum Council, are currently pushing to develop a global trade in LNG similar to the current global trade in oil. Such a global trade is precisely the wrong direction to be heading given the environmental realities associated with the emission of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. Concerned inhabitants of the earth need to do whatever we can to stop the construction of any new LNG infrastructure and channel the money that would be spent on this short-term, unsustainable technology into sustainable energy sources.

Direct action is already happening. Over a hundred people used fishing boats, sailboats and kayaks August 13 to cross the Colombia River from Wahkiakum County, Washington so they could occupy a beach at Bradwood, Oregon where NorthernStar Natural Gas is seeking to build a huge liquified natural gas import terminal. The action came at the conclusion of the West Coast Climate Convergence. If built, the terminal’s peak daily capacity would be twice the average daily use of Oregon natural gas consumers. There have been other protests against LNG terminal proposals in Vallejo, Calif; Tijuana; Harpswell, Maine; and Eureka, Calif.

LNG – A primer

Liquified natural gas is a technology for moving natural gas from areas where it is plentiful to areas where natural gas is scarce. Natural gas (mostly methane) is the type of gas people burn in gas stoves, water heaters, and dryers. It is also one of the major fossil fuels used to produce electricity. About one-third of the natural gas burned in the US is used to generate electricity according to the US Energy Information Administration. Oil companies drill wells to tap deposits of natural gas and then pipe the gas to the end user. Since natural gas is distributed fairly evenly around the world, most natural gas used in the US and around the world is from local sources. However, heavy US use of North American natural gas deposits for decades — plus ever increasing demand — are threatening to bring natural gas shortages to the US.

That’s where LNG comes in. Energy companies make LNG by super cooling natural gas to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit until it becomes a liquid. Once it is liquid, it can be loaded on ships and moved around the world. A number of countries that have huge natural gas reserves — Algeria, Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago — want to liquify their gas so they can export it to the USA. They can’t move it unless it is cooled — natural gas is usually moved via pipeline and it would be too expensive to build a pipe between, say, Indonesia and Los Angeles. When the gas is liquified, it only takes up 1/600th the space it takes in a gaseous form.

Liquifying natural gas is very expensive and uses massive amounts of energy. Although natural gas is frequently considered the “greenest” of the fossil fuels — because burning it gives off relatively less carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas than burning coal — burning natural gas still gives off billions of tons of carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change. Burning LNG is even worse because the process of liquifying the gas, moving it via ships, and then heating it to re-gassify it means that even more CO2 is emitted to get a particular job done. According to Powers Engineering, using LNG gives off 20 percent more CO2 than using regular natural gas.

But the world demand for energy is so huge that the transactional costs of making and moving LNG are overcome by the profits that can be made. Right now, the use of LNG is fairly limited. There are about 40 LNG receiving terminals located in Japan, South Korea, the US and some European Countries and about 136 ships which transport more than 120 million metric tons of LNG every year. About 70 percent of the world trade in LNG goes to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea which have limited domestic gas supplies. In the US, there are currently import terminals in Everett, Massachusetts; Cove Point, Maryland; Elba Island, Georgia; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Peñuelas, Puerto Rico.

There are currently proposals on the table to build dozens of more LNG import terminals around the US — in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Maine, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, New York and California — according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the lead agency that approves the construction and operation of LNG terminals. If you are near a proposed terminal, you can join efforts to oppose that terminal.

In 2003, federal reserve chairperson Alan Greenspan said LNG was a “hot topic” and noted that LNG could play a big part in meeting the future energy needs of the US. The US Department of Energy predicts that US LNG imports will increase from 2 to 8 percent of U.S. natural gas consumption by 2010.

Building each new import terminal costs $500 million – $1 billion. The liquification plants built at the point of production are even more expensive — a typical one costs $1-3 billion. Dozens of each type are on the drawing board. That is a long term investment that could be made in solar or wind technology so that natural gas — in any form — wouldn’t have to be burned to generate electricity in the first place. Building a brand new, world-wide LNG infrastructure will lock the world into burning more and more natural gas for generations to come by making it possible for people in areas where natural gas supplies are being depleted to exploit overseas supplies.

The Green Alternative

If LNG terminals are not built in the US, the US will have to rely on its own, domestic natural gas supplies along with imports from Canada and Mexico. As these supplies get more scarce compared with the growing demand, the price of natural gas will gradually rise and alternatives to burning natural gas will become more attractive and will be constructed. US natural gas demand is predicted to increase as much as 30 percent over the next 10 years, most of it going to make electricity.

The most concrete alternative to natural gas — which is technologically available right now — is to generate electricity from solar, wind and other re-newable sources, rather than from natural gas. A quarter of the US land mass has sufficient wind to generate electricity cheaply and just seven southwestern states have enough solar power to generate ten times the total current US electricity consumption, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

Both solar and wind are economically viable, although a bit more expensive than gas fired electricity. Without LNG, natural gas prices will gradually rise and zero emissions electricity will eventually be cheaper than gas fired power. Currently, only economic crumbs are being invested in non-global warming alternatives — the big money is being spent on developing more fossil fuel infrastructure, like LNG. In 2006, about $4 billion was invested in wind in the US, vs. $340 billion on oil and gas globally in 2005.

Burning natural gas to generate electricity emits about 400 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity, or between 480 and 560 grams of CO2 per kwh if LNG is burned — there are more emissions because of the energy required for liquification, transportation and re-gassification. Natural gas fuels about 19 percent of US electricity. For comparison, burning coal (which generates half of the electricity in the US) emits 770 – 830 grams per kwh. Using solar, wind, wave energy, geothermal or hydro emit no CO2 other than the CO2 emitted to initially build the generating facilities.

Of course the US needs to stop burning coal to make electricity, too, but it is a false choice to say the only options for making electricity are either natural gas or coal. Both of these fuels are causing climate change. If all US electricity was made from gas, not coal, the climate would still change, just a bit more slowly. Zero emissions alternatives are the only true green technology.

If the money that is to be spent just on LNG infrastructure projects — import terminals and liquification plants — was spent on building windmills and solar farms, the US could switch its dependence on natural gas for generating electricity to climate neutral alternatives.

Contrast this to a future where untold billions are spent to develop LNG import terminals, liquification plants and ships to carry the LNG. All the gas moved around will be burned, making the problem of global climate change worse and worse. Eventually, the gas wells will run dry — natural gas is a finite resource — and the sustainable alternatives described above will have to be constructed anyway — assuming climate change hasn’t so damaged the earth’s life-support systems that human beings aren’t going extinct by then. Can’t we just build the alternatives now?

LNG expansion can still be stopped — people around the US are organizing to oppose specific terminals in their communities. Many of these efforts are effective because of strong “not in my backyard” politics based on fear of LNG accidents and pollution.

Understanding of the need to reduce burning of fossil fuels to avoid global climate change has increased dramatically over the last year or two. Now its time to move this consciousness beyond the armchair and into the streets. A few corporations seeking short-terms profits are making decisions that will change weather on the whole planet. Is one of these corporations based in your town? Will one of the LNG import terminals be built near you? What can you and your friends, neighbors and community do to stop LNG?

36 years later – COINTELPRO is back! Free the SF 8!

On January 23, 2007, eight men were arrested for the 1971 slaying of San Francisco police Sergeant John Young as well as participating in a conspiracy to “kill police” which allegedly occurred between 1969 and 1973. The case was originally dismissed in 1975 on the grounds that the only evidence was based on the “confessions” of three men, two of them among the defendants, which were extracted through severe and extensive torture. The third man was given immunity in the original trial and has since provided inconsistent, self-contradicting testimony which he himself has recanted. The only other evidence is mysterious forensic evidence consisting of a gun which was never produced and DNA which does not match that of any of the defendants. Were the circumstances of the case not so severe, one would be tempted to see this “investigation” as something more akin to a cross between the Keystone Cops and the CIA’s MKULTRA program than the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence Program), but incompetence, illegality, and a complete lack of human decency on the part of the police have never guaranteed an acquittal before, and in today’s “counterterrorist” environment, this is all the more true. Public displays of public awareness and militant action are highly crucial.

The eight men are Herman Bell, Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom), Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Henry Watson Jones, Richard O’Neal, Harold Taylor, and Francisco Torres. John Bowman and Ronald Bridgeforth were the ninth and tenth people implicated by the police in the case, but John Bowman passed away in 2006 and Ronald Bridgeforth, though still being sought, has not been seen since 1969. Bowman, along with Boudreaux, Brown, Jones, and Taylor, were indicted by a grand jury in 1975, all refused to testify and were subsequently imprisoned until the conclusion of the investigation later that year, whereupon they proceeded to form the Committee to Defend Human Rights and produced the video “Legacy of Torture” which describes the Grand Jury investigation as well as fairly graphic descriptions of the Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib-like “interrogation techniques” originally used against Bowman, Taylor, and self-repudiated “witness” Ruben Scott. All eleven of these men were at the time Black Panther Party members or supporters; it is clear, they were arrested for who they are, not anything they’ve done.

Bowman, Taylor, and Scott were arrested in New Orleans by then-San Francisco policemen Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz, who were working in conjunction with the F.B.I., which was then in the midst of the now-infamous “COINTELPRO”, which relied heavily on illegal techniques such as warrantless surveillance, harassment, intimidation, occasional assassinations, keeping organizations swamped in court cases based on manufactured evidence, coerced testimony, and perjury. Bell and Muntaqim have been in prison as a result of another of these spurious cases since 1973. When Bowman, Taylor, and Scott didn’t give the answers McCoy and Erdelatz wanted, they were turned over to the New Orleans police whereupon they were “interrogated” with cattleprods, slapjacks, beatings, verbal abuse, various forms of water torture, and various other means for several days. Though the case was initially thrown out, nobody was ever charged for this. McCoy and Erdelatz now work for the Department of Homeland Security. It was McCoy and Erdelatz who came to Harold Taylor’s home in 2003 to question him as a prelude to the grand jury investigation in 2005. “I haven’t been the same since” says Taylor.

The Black Panther Party was ultimately identified very explicitly as the primary target of COINTELPRO and it was the extreme excesses of an already excessive program used against the Panthers which ultimately brought the program down, at least in name. Unfortunately, many of the illegal tactics used by COINTELPRO “back in the day” are no longer illegal as a result of the Patriot Act. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Some think we should sacrifice our civil liberties for security against the so-called terrorists, but as Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who seek to exchange freedom for security deserve neither.”

Bell and Muntaqim are not eligible for bail due to their continued incarceration on previous charges. The other six defendants were initially given $5,000,000 bail apiece but have since had it reduced on appeal and are, as of this writing, out. All eight, of course, face the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison and Bell and Muntaqim face the possibility of a second conviction in addition to the one they have spent the last 34 years behind bars for. It is of paramount importance to bring as much public scrutiny as possible to bear on this and all COINTELPRO-smelling cases as possible, not to mention the Patriot Act and government’s current disregard for whatever marginal adherence to international human rights law it ever had. What you do matters! Please do anything you can to help these brothers.

“MKULTRA” refers to a C.I.A. program in the 1950′s revolving around notoriously bizarre experiments and the use of hallucinogenic drugs as possible truth serums, Weapons of Mass Disorientation, etc.

For more information, contact the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights at freethesf8@riseup.net

Blank spots on a map: a lecture by Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen, author of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights, and the upcoming book I Could Tell You But You Would Have to be Destroyed By Me, delivered a lecture to a standing room only crowd at Krober Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus on Monday, September 17, 2007.

Paglen lists his job titles as: geographer, artist, and an amateur anthropologist. He has a flair for social engineering and research reminiscent of 1980s computer hackers.

I saw his exhibit of fake passports used by FBI agents last year, at an art show about terrorism and surveillance, that showed his imaginative and sensitive approach to these questions eating everyone but discussed by no one.

The talk opened with photographs of McCone Hall, home to Trevor’s office, also named after a former CIA chief. In a chance encounter with a pilot outside his office, Trevor learned of the restricted areas where pilots are forbidden to land. The pilot referred to these areas as “The Box” and collectively as a “Black World.”

Trevor’s obsessive research focuses on the Pentagon Budget, tracking aircraft flight patterns online and visually, and dogging, outfoxing, and cornering personnel involved in these operations into giving up information. He also collects and studies peculiar patches worn by military personnel with mottos related to secrecy.

Pentagon Budget

The Pentagon Budget allows $30 billion dollars for secret projects. Trevor claims much of this money is spent on projects in the American Southwest. The first secret military project to be disclosed was tests of jet planes, followed by the nuclear bomb, which required more labor and materials than the entire auto industry.

Trevor went through the Pentagon Budget line by line, highlighting projects with secret budgets. With names like Pilot Fish, Chalk Coral, Retract Maple etcetera, it sounds like we should ask the Pentagon planners what kind of drugs they are on and where we can get some.

Tracking Flights

“Geography pays off like a loose slot machine.” Trevor demonstrates this in his book Torture Taxi, where his careful research shone light on the abominable extraordinary rendition program, the practice of transferring prisoners from the US to other nation states whose governments commonly practice torture as law enforcement. He discovered the front companies being used for these flights and tracked the individual planes as they criss-crossed the world carrying torture victims. He visited sham offices and traced dozens of corporate directors to a single PO Box in Virginia (which is also shared by a pilot indicted in Italy). Trevor’s research into these extraordinary rendition flights is used by anti-torture activists internationally, and provided solid facts that added thrust to the growing movement to end this abhorrent violation of international law and human rights.

Trevor went to great lengths to unravel the secrets of these flights and even join alumni organizations during their reunions. He found absurd commemorations of operations they would like to celebrate but are not permitted to openly acknowledge, such as awards for “Significant Achievements in a Remote Location.”

Patch Collecting

He suspects the military patches he collects were associated with secret operations. His research is fascinating and gives insight into the peculiar military culture of hazing, abuse, secrecy, and brainwashing. Secrecy is ubiquitous in military culture, especially research and development, but Trevor’s particularly nauseating examples show clearly how disturbed, sick, and damaging military culture can be.

The “Bird of Prey” patch is associated with a secret aircraft declassified in 1992, and the “Desert Prowler – Alone and On the Prowl” brought out a Southwestern association he is fascinated with. Other mottos directly reference a nightmare world of secrecy: “A Secret Squadron”; “A Lifetime of Silence Behind the Green Door”; “National Reconnaissance Office, We Own the Night”; “Don’t Ask – None of Your Fucking Business”; “Let Them Hate So Long As They Fear” and “I Could Tell You, But Then You Would Have To Be Destroyed By Me.”

In a less mysterious vein, he showed a University of California patch whose motto was “In Bombs We Trust, Let There Be Nuclear Light.”

Trevor ended with this defiant note of opposition to militaristic culture and support for revolution: “Their [the military's] motto is ‘Let them hate so long as they fear,’ and those are the guys running the show until we take over collectively.” Trevor’s research is shedding light in a black world, if only there were a million like him.

Leap to Justice! – Leap day action night – February 2008

Leap Day Action Night 2008 — Friday, February 29, 2008 — is only a few months away and affinity groups and individuals all over are laying plans to disrupt business as usual. Leap day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed into a spontaneous, inspirational rebellion against dreary business as usual. Every other day, the wheels of global industrial capitalism spin around, running over our freedom and the earth in the process. Leap day offers an opportunity to go beyond protest — merely decrying what we’re against — and focus on living life in a positive, creative, loving, cooperative, sustainable fashion without domination of others or the earth.

This will be the third Leap Day Action Night. The first was organized somewhat as a joke in 2000 in response to too many boring, scripted, single-issue protests. It was raucous — a mob of finger puppet-armed radicals with a bicycle sound system re-enacted the Seattle WTO protest by shutting down local banks and chain stores, smashing TVs, and simulating sex acts on dumpstered mattresses in the street. The police were too confused to control the mayhem! In 2004, Leap Day went global with protests in the UK and several US cities.

The ideal Leap Day Action is not organized and does not take months of planning, lots of meetings or e-mail lists. What it takes is inspiration, creative proposals that have never been tried before run amok, and a dash of recklessness. It takes some word of mouth, fliers or some way to invite both your friends and folks you’ve never met. Oh the joy to finally be in the streets with no police around — because this isn’t a ritualized confrontation at a well-policed World Bank meeting or two-party convention.

Let’s stop just talking about freedom and start creating chaos in real time — getting back to the roots of rebellion instead of running our activist efforts like we’re trying to replicate the computerized, bureaucratic structures of “the man”!

Leap Day Action Night is local — fitting the local needs each of us knows best. This avoids the need for airline tickets, hitchhiking and road trips. Every single town and neighborhood has corners that need beautification with a garden, a flaming barricade, a free market, a bicycle drive-in. Every business district has a slumlord, chain store, bank or corporate headquarters crying out for exposure and outrage.

It is amazing that with the war, global warming, corporate speedups, homogenization of culture — a million oppressions — there are so few outbursts of rioting, strikes, protests, sit-ins, direct actions. Maybe this is because people are convinced that resistance doesn’t work anymore — or because people feel too isolated to rebel. Maybe we’re all waiting for someone else to start it. Well, at this point, resistance is our only hope. The system won’t reform itself. Nothing is going to change because people sit around and complain in the privacy of their own armchair.

On Leap Day it is up to each of our individual initiative. This is primarily a joy — an opportunity for freedom, self-determination, courage, innovation, community and love. What will you do? What have you never thought of before — or what have you always imagined but never had the excuse to try? We can’t let the grind of daily life make us forget the spark of being alive, and we can’t let the systems of oppression crush our spirit. Leap for it!

Check www.leapdayaction.org for info.

Skullface

Up until recently, I hadn’t heard much about The Secret World of Terijian. However, earlier this summer, I attended an environmental gathering where a little girl asked me to read it to her. Written as what seems to be a short children’s book, it has the potential to open up the inner child in every one of us. By the end of the first chapter that morning, there were three of us sitting in a small circle, reading to each other aloud.

The magical story of The Secret World of Terijian is divided into somewhat long chapters, told in the wide-eyed romanticism one might experience in the early stages of life. It starts out as the main character, Connor, young, shy, and imaginative, meets his new neighbor, Moriko. Together, they explore the wooded area behind their homes, through games of make-believe and the real life struggles they encounter along the way.

It is in that secret forest which Connor and Moriko encounter a beautiful hawk, and her babies who have yet to learn how to fly. Further into the woods, they stumble across a monster of a bulldozer cutting down the trees to make way for the rest of the a new housing development in the children’s neighborhood. In order to save the young birds and the tree they live in, the children brainstorm ways to kill the machine before it kills any other animals.

The book follows Connor and Moriko as they disobey their parents, sneak out late at night, and make friends with the elves who also reside in the trees of the forest. Their struggle is one that will both warm your heart and fuel your revolutionary spirit. Written by an anonymous author, it provides an interesting twist to the Crimethinc. Collective’s effort to educate the masses, including those young and old alike.

The Secret World of Terijian is an enlightening look at just how the destruction of the earth’s natural habitat effects everyone, from six year old adventurers to thirty-six year old construction workers, from birds to elves and fairies. It shows just how much can be accomplished when you stand up and fight for what you believe in, no matter how insignificant you may think you are or how scared you are in the beginning. Even U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, Karin J. Engdall, thinks so: “… The story line of this children’s book romanticizes the activities of the Earth Liberation Front and encourages children to become involved in similar criminal conduct …”

Nicole

As I understand it, in the summer of 2006, seven young Black lesbians from New Jersey, Patreese Johnson, Renata Hill, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Chenese Loyal, Lania Daniels, and Khamysha Coates, were hanging out in New York City’s West Village when Dwayne Buckle, an aggressively heterosexual Black man selling DVDs on the street, sexually propositioned Patreese. Refusing to take no for an answer, he followed them down the street, insulting and threatening them by yelling things like: “I’ll fuck you straight, sweetheart!” During the resulting confrontation, he first spat in the face of one of the women and threw his lit cigarette at them, then he yanked the hair of another, pulling her towards him, and then began strangling another. A fight broke out, during which Patreese Johnson, 4 feet 11 inches tall and 95 pounds, produced a small knife from her bag to stop Buckle from choking her friend.

Some male onlookers ran over to physically deal with Buckle in order to help the women. Buckle, who ended up hospitalized for five days with stomach and liver lacerations, initially reported on at least two occasions that the men-not the women-had attacked him. What’s more, Patreese’s knife was never tested for DNA, the men who beat Buckle were never questioned by police, and the whole incident was documented on surveillance video. Yet the women ended up on trial for attempted murder. Dwayne Buckle testified against them.

It’s not easy to be sure of the facts here. For one thing, the media coverage was savage, calling the women things like a “wolf pack of lesbians.” The pro bono lawyers for the young lesbians would later have to buy the public record of the case since the judge, Edward J. McLaughlin (who ridiculed and expressed open contempt for the women in front of the jury all throughout the trial), would not release it. And as of late August 2007, the defense team still didn’t have a copy of the security camera video footage. Nevertheless, the upshot was that after the better part of one year spent sitting in jail, four of the seven women were convicted and sentenced in June 2007 to jail terms ranging from 3 1/2 to 11 years. The oldest of the convicted women was 24, and two of them are mothers of very small children.

Either it’s a criminal offense to try to stop someone from choking your friend or these women have been slandered in the media and locked up for being nonwhite, openly lesbian, unfeminine, unwealthy in a gentrifying neighborhood, and for refusing to submit to a bully. (Dwayne Buckle OR the judge-take your pick.)

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

If you are able to help with the women’s appeal (with legal research, financial contributions/fundraising efforts, doing research on the judge and district attorney on the case, stuff like that), you might want to contact FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment), which is a community organization for transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, queer, and questioning youth of color. This group seems to have taken on some of the responsibility for helping the imprisoned women in this case. FIERCE is located at: 147 West 24th Street, 6th floor, New York, NY 10011 (646) 336-6789 www.fiercenyc.org

As of mid September 2007, Patreese Johnson, Terrain Dandridge, Venice Brown, and Renata Hill could be contacted as below:

Patreese Johnson # 07-G-0635 AND Renata Hill # 07-G-0636

are being held at

Bedford Hills Correctional Facility P.O. Box 1000 Bedford Hills, NY 10507

Terrain Dandridge # 07-G-0637 AND Venice Brown # 07-G-0640

are being held at

Albion Correctional Facility 3595 State School Road Albion, NY 14411-9399

The most up-to-date information I’ve been able to find about this situation is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/justice4newark4/

There is an on-line petition in support of the four imprisoned lesbians at http://www.petitiononline.com/theseven/.

If you have a little extra, please consider kicking a few dollars toward the appeal effort (you could talk to FIERCE about that). You might want to write a quick letter or e-mail to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, or Edward J. McLaughlin (the judge in this case), or some sympathetic politician (heh), or the DJ at a politically progressive radio station, who might help spread the word on the air. Even if all you do is inform some people who didn’t already know about this situation, it might end up helping in some way.

Skullface

“. . . Security culture is a set of customs shared by a community whose members may engage in illegal activities, the practice of which minimizes the risks of such activities.” – Wikipedia

Creating a security culture is about understanding the destructiveness of “big-mouths” and boasting. The practice extends far beyond not talking and ensuring the confidentiality of your internet conversations. It also means watching your friends and creating an environment where lying, gossip, bragging, and indirect bragging are not welcome.

Observing security culture is not the same as being so paranoid about everything and everyone that you become paralyzed and ineffective at resisting the system. Government surveillance has two distinct purposes — actually monitoring individuals with an eye towards arresting or repressing them, and even more importantly, making everyone think they are always being watched. People who spend all their time worrying about being watched don’t do anything in the first place, and the government knows this. The government doesn’t have enough resources to watch everyone all the time. The trick to getting security culture right is not making silly mistakes, and yet not losing the spirit and courage necessary to fight the system.

Many common behaviors violate security culture and should be avoided. Nocompromise.org defines four categories :

“Liars– To impress other activists, they claim to have done actions. Such lies not only compromise the person’s security–as cops will not take what is said as a lie–but also hinders movement solidarity and trust.

Gossips– Some weak characters think they can win friends because they are privy to special information. These gossips will tell others about who did what action or, if they don’t know who did it, guess at who they think did what actions or just spread rumors about who did it when they really have no clue. This sort of talk is very damaging. People need to remember that rumors are all that are needed to instigate a grand jury. Usually gossips are also liars which only worsens the situation.

Braggers– It is possible that some people who partake in illegal direct action might brag about it to their friends in an attempt to receive respect and admiration. If someone did such a thing, it would not only jeopardize the bragger’s security, but also that of the other people involved with the action (as they may be suspected by association), as well as the people who he told (they can become accessories after the fact).

Indirect-Braggers– Indirect-braggers are people who make a big production on how they want to remain anonymous, avoid protests, and stay “underground.” They might not come out and say that they do illegal direct action, but they make sure everyone within ear-shot knows they are up to something. They are no better than braggers, but they try to be more sophisticated about it by pretending to maintain “security.” However, if they were serious about security, they would just make up a good excuse as to why they are not as active, or why they can’t make it to the protest. It is doubtful these people ever really do anything.”

Often, we break our own rules when we get too excited. Even simply reminiscing the blows we caused our oppressors is a risk; especially the blows we hope to cause in the future. Sometimes we need to step back and look at groups and individuals involved with resistance work. Not everyone can be trusted.

So how do we do this?

NEVER talk about you or someone else’s involvement with underground or illegal groups. NEVER ask someone else about their involvement in past or present illegal actions or groups. NEVER talk about you or someone else’s plans for future action. NEVER allow yourself to become vulnerable to someone asking these sort of questions or talking about illegal actions.

Affinity groups are made up of people in very small groups that you are familiar with. These groups should have full trust in each other, but you should be as careful as ever when working with others. No conversations concerning future actions should be over the internet, the phone, snail mail, or any car or home of an activist. If it is important to mention an action, protest, or illegal activity, do not mention specifics.

If you are detained or arrested, do not answer questions that could implicate you or anyone else in a future or previous crimes. It is better to stay silent, no matter what coercion is used against you. They may ask you why you were at the protest or action, who you usually meet with, what groups you’re a part of, what the times and dates of future protests and meetings are, or what your beliefs are. They may offer to let you go or to give you time off your sentence or try to pick at your weaknesses and tell you that your comrades are lying to you. If you don’t respond, eventually, they will give up.

When you encounter people with poor security skills, do not shun them immediately. Try to educate them on discussions that are not appropriate. There are cases where the circumstances are too peculiar and the people involved are too sketchy. In these cases, it is best to avoid these people and situations. It is better to criticize actions and not engage in witchhunts for suspected cops in the absence of solid information

Activists are restless and resistance is on the rise. Some people are adopting radical and confrontational tactics. The more we organize and are effective, the more police forces will escalate their activities against us. For direct action movements to continue, we need to make security one of our strengths.

To Know • To Will • To Dare • To Keep Silent