Category Archives: Spring 2000 (3/2/00)

DIY Skillshare

Everybody knows something that other people would like to learn. Want to share your skills and learn about automechanics, beekeeping, and making soap out of waste fryer grease? Want to learn about electronics repair but can’t sit through a lecture course at your community college? Come to Berkeley May 18-21 for a hands-on free DIY Skillshare! Over 50 workshops have been confirmed, and more will come, on topics ranging from welding to seed saving to knife throwing to raising activist kids without fear!

The basic vision for the gathering is to bring together techniques, ideas, and examples of locally based, human-focused, accessible alternatives to the current corporate consumerism-oriented culture. A special emphasis is being placed on empowering women in the trades, in hopes that other women trying to break into the trades won’t have to go through all the bullshit experienced by some of the organizers. Modeled after previous skillshares like Born of Fire, the gathering will continue the expansion of the punk DIY ethic beyond zines, shows and bands.

There will be a secure shop space with carpentry and metalworking tools; the organizers are looking for donations of additional equipment. A lot of materials will be salvaged to keep the conference low-cost. There will be a display and plans available for DIY hardware and tools. Some of the equipment made on site will be donated to local community groups.

Workshop topics range from utterly wacky to the extremely practical. Think about what you can share! A zine made will be made of all the literature available during the workshops, to send to folks who can’t come.

Get in touch!

DIY Skillshare Gathering

PO Box 4934

Berkeley, CA 94704

Voicemail: (510) 496-2740 x 3957

Skillshare@onebox.com

An Urban Village in People\’s Park??

When the SF Chronicle erroneously reported that UC Berkeley was considering building an \”urban village\” on People\’s Park in Berkeley, which was supposedly discussed in a secret working paper on UC Berkeley\’s \”New Century Plan\”, it got us thinking. People\’s Park has been a pain in the University\’s side since students, radicals and community members took it away from the University in 1969 and planted as a park.

The park is a living monument to one of the University\’s greatest defeats. It proves that although powerful, the University can\’t get away with anything it wants in Berkeley. Although in 1969 police shot fleeing demonstrators in the back with shotguns, although the National Guard was called out to occupy Berkeley, and despite the passage of 31 years since these events, the Park remains and the University is no closer to being physically capable of building a dorm there than it was in 1969. The People put their bodies on the line and beat the University and the cold-hearted system it represents.

Every few years the University or the city float some idea to \”reclaim\” the Park by building dorms or something else there. In 1991, when the University anted to turn the park into volleyball courts, police again fired at fleeing crowds, that time with rubber and wooden bullets, and a few short years later, the volleyball courts had to be removed due to total disuse and constant vandalism.

Proposing an \”urban village\” is the latest great idea. Slingshot doesn\’t know what an \”urban village\” is, but it sure sounds nifty, doesn\’t it? A lot better than proposing a regular old \”dorm.\” We envision mud and grass huts-the newest straw bale construction technology-around a central village square where natives play simple computerized instruments and care for genetically engineered farm animals.

History of People\’s Park

In celebration of the 31st anniversary of People\’s Park, to be celebrated on April 30 with a street fair, concert and educational events, Slingshot presents the following history of People\’s Park for your enjoyment and education.

At the start of 1969, the site that is now People\’s Park was a dirt parking lot. The university had bought the property for new dorms in the mid-60s but then after demolishing the wood frame houses that had been on the lot (which had, coincidentally, formed a home base for many radicals which the UC Regents wanted out of Berkeley) the university never built the dorms. In the spring of 1969m after it had sat empty for some time and become an eyesore, community members decided to build a park on the lot.

Building the park mobilized and energized many of the hippies, street people, activists and regular Berkeley citizens who participated. They were doing something for themselves, not for profit or for bosses. Hundreds of people worked hard putting down sod, building a children\’s play ground and planting trees. From the beginning the ideal was \”user development\”-the people building a park for themselves without university approval, planners, etc. Seizing the land from the university for legitimate public use was and is the spirit of the park.

After the initial construction on April 20, negotiations with the university over control of the park continued for about three weeks. For a while it looked like a settlement could be reached but suddenly the university stopped negotiating and in the early morning on May 15 moved police into the park. A rally protesting the fence was quickly organized in Sproul Plaza on the UC campus. In the middle of the rally, after a student leader said \”lets go down and take the park,\” police turned off the sound system. 6,000 people spontaneously began to march down Telegraph Avenue toward the park. They were met by 250 police with rifles and flack-jackets. Someone opened a fire hydrant. When the police moved into the crowd to shut off the hydrant, some rocks were thrown and the police retaliated by firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.

An afternoon of chaos and violence followed. Sheriff\’s deputies walked through the streets firing into crowds and at individuals with shotguns. 128 people were admitted to hospitals that day, mostly with gunshot wounds. James Rector, a spectator on a roof on Telegraph Avenue, was shot and died of his wounds a few days later.

The day after the shootings, 3000 National Guard troops were sent by then Governor Reagan to occupy Berkeley. A curfew was imposed and a ban on public assembly was put into force. Mass demonstrations continued and were met with teargas and violence by the police. 15 days after the park was fenced, 30,000 people marched peacefully to the park, and active rebellion against the fence subsided. The fence stayed up until it was finally ripped down during demonstrations in 1972.

The Prison Crisis

The prison population in the United States reached two million people in February, and it continues to expand rapidly, seemingly unrelated to and disconnected from any effective crime control goals. The US has the world\’s highest incarceration rate per capita and also has the largest prison population in absolute terms. With less than 5 percent of the world\’s population, the US now has one quarter of the world\’s prisoners.

The expansion of the US prison population is not due to violent offenders being locked up, although every politician justifies \”get tough on crime\” policies as a solution to the threat of random criminal violence. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the thousands of new people imprisoned each year are either drug offenders-dealers and even those busted for simple possession-or drug users committing property crimes to support their expensive habits. Approximately 85 percent of arrests in Baltimore, for instance, are either directly or indirectly attributable to drugs. Eighty-five percent of the increase in federal prisoners from 1985 to 1995 were drug offenders. Police arrest more than 1.5 million people per year for drug offences, including 700,000 per year for marijuana possession or sale. Mandatory sentencing laws have all contributed to the rise in incarceration.

Spiraling incarceration rates are disproportionately and unfairly targeting racial minority populations-almost one in three African-American males born today will be sent to prison. Although only fifteen percent of the nation\’s cocaine users are African-American, approximately proportional to the Black population in the US, African Americans comprise 40 percent of the people criminally charged with powdered cocaine violations, and 90 percent of those convicted on crack charges. 74 percent of those receiving prison sentences for drug-possession are non-white, although whites use far more drugs than minorities.

The War on Drugs has completely failed to stop drugs from being used and traded in the United States, despite enormous costs both in human lives and money wasted in prisons. According to Drug Enforcement Agency estimates, less than 10 percent of drugs are seized by government officials, despite $50 billion per year spent on the War on Drugs.

Despite the War on Drugs, illegal drugs are easier for kids to get than alcohol. Almost 90 percent of high school seniors, for instance, have consistently reported that marijuana was \”very easy\” or \”fairly easy\” to obtain in annual studies from 1975 to 1998.

And the War on Drugs hasn\’t even made drugs more expensive. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, heroin and cocaine prices have consistently dropped since 1980, as the Drug War has intensified. At the same time, drug purity, along with overdoses, injuries and death, have increased.

As the incarceration crisis intensifies, it\’s time to consider alternatives: getting rid of inflexible mandatory sentencing laws and implementing harm reduction to replace the War on Drugs. Harm reduction, including needle exchange programs, drug treatment, and alternatives to incarceration which breaks up families and communities, aims to deal with drug use and abuse by attacking the harms drug use causes, rather than attacking people who use drugs. A California Department of Health study found that for each dollar spent on treatment saves 7 dollars in other social costs. Yet despite this calculus, there isn\’t enough spending to give meaningful access to treatment programs. Drug addicts need access to treatment on demand, without waiting lists.

Hypocritical politicians want to continue locking up non-violent drug offenders for a long period of time hoping it will somehow accomplish what an 80 year war on drugs, with trillions of dollars spent and millions of people imprisoned, has failed to do. Does George Bush, widely reputed to have used cocaine and other drugs and a fierce advocate of the War on Drugs, really believe that he would have been better off if he had been thrown into prison a few years back when he was \”young and irresponsible\”?

When Rights Become Privileges

I\’ve written this article for many reasons, but the most important reason of all is to make contact with the outside world. I\’m incarcerated, therefore, I\’m being denied many of the liberties that you outside the place take for granted, specifically freedom and the right to uncensored communication with the outside world. People in this country continually tout the virtues of living in this, so called, \”free society,\” but they don\’t really understand what freedom is until it is taken away. Since freedom is one of the most important God given rights we have, I felt it necessary to write this article so that I can begin an uncensored dialogue with you on the outside.

Why this dialogue is necessary is because many people all over the world think that they are free from all the repressive actions that their governments take against those citizens that they incarcerate, particularly here in the United States of America, and just because the incarcerated persons are supposed to be what the government calls \”criminals,\” society thinks its okay whatever the government does to them. But those of you who feel that way better take a look at what is going on around you because what they do to those of us who are incarcerated, they will soon be doing to you. I\’d like to share both my personal experiences with being incarcerated as well as occasional soliloquies on what is happening in the world and how it parallels the repressive measures the politicians continue to impose both on its incarcerated and free citizens.

I know there will be many of you who feel that whatever happens to me I deserve because I\’m incarcerated, but if you feel that way, the you should, at the least, have the nerve to investigate my claims and find out for yourself what kind of person I am so that you can make your own determination of whether or not I\’m a \”fellow human being\” or a \”menace to society\” like the politicians try to make me and all other persons incarcerated out to be. Don\’t simply rely on a politician to tell you that I should be here, or that I shouldn\’t be treated like a \”human being\” wile I\’m here just because I\’m incarcerated. If you do just a little research on the last several political campaigns that you happen to hear about or participated in, you will find that the politicians always play on the fears of people about crime whether it was real or imagined simply to win an election. Most politicians use crime as a political issue because it is \”politically correct\” to do so. It is a win-win situation because all the candidates can chant the same mantra (get tough on crime) and have a winning issue. The politician will take one incident of a crime and make everyone in society think that crime is running rampant, but in reality it was only an isolated incident. Since society rewards politicians by electing and re-electing them because of the crime issue, then people like myself suffer because that politician then begins to implement more repressive measures. One thing society doesn\’t understand is that the more they reward politicians for making repressive laws, the more all free people\’s liberties will eventually be trampled on.

Here is one example of how the repressive laws that the politicians make for prisoners affect your liberty. When DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid or Genetic Fingerprinting) was found to be more unique than fingerprints to positively identify individual people, the politicians began to require all prisoners to have their genetic fingerprints placed on record so that if any prisoner\’s DNA was found at an old crime scene or future ones, then that prisoner can be charged with that crime, and that seemed like a good law, but son after that law was implemented many politicians began to examine how else that DNA fingerprinting could be used.

The mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, in the beginning of 1999 ordered his police force to start taking DNA samples from anyone who was arrested. This move certainly will open the doors soon enough for everyone to be tested because if a person who is just arrested can have DNA taken from them, then what will stop them from taking it from people that they just stop for minor traffic violations? Whatever happened to the person being arrested declared \”innocent until proven guilty?\” If the New York police department can get away with taking DNA from people they suspect of committing a crime, then how much longer will it be before they just take it under general traffic stops? Once society accepts people being DNA fingerprinted without even being convicted of a crime, then what will stop them from requiring it from everyone? Certainly these tactics could sound like something that could only have existed in Nazi Germany. However, this is going on in the United States of America right now!

Since society doesn\’t think DNA fingerprinting is a problem for people who haven\’t been convicted of a crime, then wouldn\’t it make sense to test everyone in the United States of America? Wouldn\’t that help to solve all the unsolved murders and rapes, or at least the guilty person or persons wouldn\’t be able to stay in this country because of the fear of being tested. Better yet, why don\’t the governments of the world test the whole world\’s population and then all unsolved murders and rapes would be solved. But don\’t think DNA fingerprinting use would stop there.

What about using it to detect genetic flaws so that parents could abort their \”genetically flawed children\” before they are born, or the knowledge can be used to cut medical care cost by detecting who will have expensive diseases at they age, then they can be charged accordingly while they are healthy enough to pay for it. Don\’t think these actions won\’t come about. The government doesn\’t have any problem implementing any of these scenarios if you sit back and allow them to do it. The things I\’ve mentioned may seem extreme or even far fetched, but the DNA fingerprinting Pandora\’s box has been opened, and it started with a law politicians introduced solely to affect prisoners, but now it is affecting society as a whole. The more politicians get rewarded (getting elected and re-elected) by society for making repressive laws, the more all free peoples\’ liberties will eventually be trampled on.

Freedom in this country and around the world is becoming less of a reality simply because the people are giving them up for the illusion of being safe from crime. This crime issue is a \”false issue\” created by politicians. The more they make society think crime is running rampant, the more of your freedoms are taken away. Since people are so willing to give up many of their personal freedoms just because of a politician claiming that that is what is necessary to prevent crime, then I have to do my best to sound the alarm because I know first hand that the politician is a liar and will do anything to get what he/she wants. This article was written in order to show you how what they do to me affects the rights you think you have as a free person in society. Since I\’m incarcerated, I can tell you how the repressive laws they create for me parallel the ones they are creating for you, but to stop them you must become actively involved with groups that oppose the politicians that are creating the repressive laws.

Feel free to correspond with me. Any correspondence will be appreciated and promptly answered.

Tyronne Glenn #AM-6697

Drawer – K

Dallas, Pennsylvania 18612-0286

Pay Attention!

Greetings from the bowels of a Federal Gulag where I am currently being held hostage with hundreds of thousands of others, all victims of Draconian Federal Drug Laws and the mandatory minimum sentences these injustices entail.

Unfortunately my story is typical of thousands of other. I stand convicted of the \”catch all\” conspiracy statute. The total evidence against me consisted of the testimony of two individuals purchased by the government with a promise of leniency. The fact that I had never even heard of most of my alleged co-conspirators, much less conspired with them was irrelevant. They seized my meager assets and ruined my credit. I chose to plead guilty because they had such an \”air tight\” case against me and promised to let my wife go free. (And of course my wife has since divorced me.)

When I first arrived here at F.C.I. Petersburg in the rolling hills of Virginia, I was actually somewhat disillusioned. I had visions of tennis courts, a golf course, and a state of the art health spa. \”Club Fed\” here I come! Never mind that I had spent the previous five months in a dungeon called the Alexandria Detention Center followed by thirty-seven days shackled hand and foot traveling the highways and byways of the good \’ole USA in order to be transported a mere one hundred and twenty five miles from where I started from. This should have been my first clue that my vision was nothing more than a \”necessary illusion.\”

But it wasn\’t. I had considered myself a well-informed American. After all, I did read the Washington Post religiously and caught the Nightly News with Tom Brokaw at least three nights a week. What more was there to know? Besides, my attorney assured me that he had everything under control and there was nothing to worry about. Wrong!

That was a little over three years ago and I have long since stopped looking for the tennis courts. My \”necessary illusion\” has been shattered by the reality of my nightmare. A nightmare supported by the fact that the United States has a larger percentage of it\’s population in prison than any other country on earth. More than two million human beings currently languish behind bars. One out of thirty five Americans are under the control of the criminal justice system and if the present rate of incarceration holds steady, one out of twenty Americans, one out of eleven men, and one out of four black men can expect to spend part of their life in prison. Upwards of sixty percent of these are incarcerated for drug offences. It makes me wonder what kind of \”message\” current drug policy advocates are trying to send when one out of nine school age children has one or both parents in prison. As this rate continues to climb, the government is sure to be successful in breeding an entire generation of embittered and disenfranchised drug war orphans.

And don\’t think for a moment that you and your family are immune because \”we don\’t do drugs\” or \”I only smoke pot\”. As the criminal justice juggernaut swells out of control, \”innocent until proven guilty\” has lost all meaning. You can be sucked into the prison industrial complex on little more than a whim and spend a lifetime seeking relief and you or your loved ones will be gone – locked up for ten years to life.

I was due to be released as early as April, 1999 but my request for halfway house placement was denied even though a lifelong friend and confidant offered to let me stay at her place for as long as it takes to get back on my feet. The Bureau of Prisons in it\’s infinite wisdom denied my release plan with no reasonable explanation. Yesterday, my \”case manager\” handed me a list of homeless shelters and offered to allow me a phone call in order to make the \”necessary arrangements.\” I told him thanks but no thanks, I no longer have the strength or courage needed to make that kind of call…

Editors note: The author has since been released from prison. He can be reached at:

Richard Geer

C/o 612 Green Street

Winchester, VA 22601

Tree-sitters Forced to Ground

Tree-sitters at the Minnehaha Free State near Minneapolis/St. Paul, where activists are occupying land to block a reroute of Highway 55, were forced to the ground after a nearly fatal 10 day showdown with police last fall. The tree-sitters were in trees slated for destruction by the highway project. Highway 55 is a major commuter highway; the contested reroute would shave 3 minutes off the trip from downtown to the Mall of the Americas and is largely opposed by taxpayers.

Reroute construction has already claimed over 300 trees in a 10-block area of Minnehaha Park, the first state park in the U.S., including 13 trees cut by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in self-proclaimed retaliation against 13 McAllister University students who locked themselves in the MnDOT office.

Additioanl areas slated for destruction include Coldwater Spring, the last clean spring in the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul area; a Mendota Dakota burial ground and ceremonial site; and four 250 year old Bur oaks planted in the four directions at the burial site.

LAPD Scandal Nothing New

As people who read the front pages of the corporate media may know, a \”scandal\” engulfing the Los Angeles Police\’s Ramparts Division and spilling over into other parts of the department has shown officers to lie, plant evidence, beat and even kill innocent people. This is not a scandal. This is normal police activity.

Interestingly, the wider the investigation spreads, the more police abuse and corruption it uncovers. Heads of the department are busy trying to contain and rationalize it by coming up with excuses such as the department has grown too quickly recently, or that officers have been overzealous in their desire to stamp out gangs and drugs.

In reality, the investigation could and should grow to include every police department in the country, if not the world, because such \”misconduct\” is really routine operating procedure for police. It is not a few bad apples or an isolated case of administrative oversight. Every cop, every cop brass, and anyone who truly knows the workings of the police knows this to be true. It is only the \’blue code of silence\’ that ever keeps it from becoming more widely known.

Let a thousand investigations bloom!