Showing posts with label abuse of police power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abuse of police power. Show all posts


why do we need to say black lives matter? a brief and partial history lesson

The African American experience in Los Angeles County, California: a brief and selected timeline of sorts.*

From 1940-1960, thousands of African Americans migrated from Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, and other southern states to California, hoping to find decent jobs, affordable housing, and equality of opportunity.

California was not quite as welcoming as advertised. Housing was strictly segregated. The Los Angeles Police Department under the governance of Chief William Parker functioned as an occupying army in all-Black neighbourhoods. The only contacts between the all-white police force and the black residents of L.A. were roundups, traffic stops, arrests, humiliations, and beatings.

August 1965. With the community at a boiling point, a traffic stop gone awry precipitates the uprising known as the Watts Riots. During the riots, Parker says: "These people came in and flooded the community. We didn't ask these people to come here."

("These people" were Americans, who supposedly enjoy a Constitutional right to travel freely between states. Author Walter Mosely on the Watts Riots: "Someone asked me, did all blacks feel this way? I told him, 99% of us do, but the other 1% is really angry.")

1982. Under Police Chief Daryl Gates, the occupation expands. When the LAPD is questioned about the many African Americans who died in police chokeholds, Gates says that African Americans were more likely "to die from chokeholds because their veins or arteries do not open up as fast as they do on normal people."**

From 1987 to 1991, Gates uses "Operation Hammer" to supposedly clean up gang violence. With no attempt to speak with or involve the community, the LAPD deploys thousands of police to African American and Latino neighbourhoods. Families are rounded up, pushed face-down in the dirt, humiliated, demeaned, arrested, beaten, with little regard for evidence. Tens of thousands are arrested; but in the majority of cases, no charges are filed.

August 1, 1988. As part of Operation Hammer, police forcibly enter apartments at 39th Street and Dalton Avenue, holding residents at gunpoint while they vandalize and destroy everything in the homes. They smash appliances, mirrors, toilets; they shred clothes and children's toys; they rip up furniture and family photos. Police spray-paint "LAPD Rules" and other slogans on the apartment walls.

The raid nets six ounces of marijuana and less than one ounce of cocaine.**

March 3, 1991. A taxi driver named Rodney King is pulled over after leading LAPD on high-speed chase. A group of officers surround King, beat him with metal batons and kick him as he lay writhing on the ground. In an age before cell phones videos, a neighbour videotapes the beating and sends it to a local news station. The beating is shown continually on TV news. Four officers are charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. The defense claims that the beating was a function of the city's ban on police chokeholds.

Despite the irrefutable evidence that all of America had seen day in and day out, none of the four officers are convicted of anything.

It is often said that the 1992 uprising/riots followed the Rodney King beating. This is incorrect. The riots were in response to the Rodney King verdict. The African American community trusted in the judicial system, believing that this time, with incontrovertible proof, there would be justice. I think of the Rodney King case whenever I hear Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll": "Now is the time for your tears."

March 16, 1991. Soon Ja Du, a shopkeeper, incorrectly assumes that 15-year-old Latasha Harlins is stealing a bottle of orange juice. A scuffle ensues. As Latasha walks away, Du produces a gun and shoots the teenager in the back of the head, killing her.

Security footage captures the incident, leaving no doubt that Du's claims of self-defense were false.

Du is fined $500 and sentenced to 400 hours of community service.

This is just some context. Context before Oscar Grant, before Michael Brown, before Trayvon Martin, before Eric Garner, before Philando Castile. Before these people in 2015, and these people in 2016, and these people, so far this year. One American city, and a few famous incidents.

If you call the US a police state, you'll be accused of hyperbole. "Go live in [current hated country] and see what a real police state looks like!" Or closer to home, just be black or brown and live in the wrong zip code.


* This post was inspired by watching "OJ: Made In America," a five-part documentary series, part of ESPN's excellent "30 For 30" docs. I may write about the OJ movie another time. This post is not intended for discussion of anything OJ-related.

** One of the US war resisters in Canada recognized army raids on Iraqi homes as a version of the police raids that were a regular feature of his neighborhood in East L.A. From that similarity, he began to see the US as an occupying power.

*** Gates is often heralded for ushering in the era of SWAT policing and the DARE anti-drug program. The former has escalated police violence while failing to protect communities, while the latter was a colossal waste of money, finally discontinued in 2002 after all studies proved it was a total failure.


what i'm reading: the new jim crow by michelle alexander

When I first heard the incarceration of African Americans in the United States referred to as a "new Jim Crow," I thought it must be hyperbole. So did Michelle Alexander, a fact she discloses in the introduction to her book. As Alexander researched the concept, the more she learned, the more she changed her mind. She changed my mind, too.

In The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Alexander builds an unassailable case that mass incarceration through the (so-called) War on Drugs is the third large-scale caste system that holds Black Americans in a second-class status. This is true even in a society that includes Oprah Winfrey, Clarence Thomas, and, of course, Barack Obama.

The first caste system was slavery. The second was the laws and customs of segregation, discrimination, and terror known as Jim Crow. The third and current system is mass incarceration. This includes rules governing local policing, key court rulings, the court system itself, the parole and probation system, and laws that discriminate against former inmates.

* * * *

The numbers are staggering. More African Americans are under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850. A greater percentage of African Americans are under correctional control now than black South Africans were during apartheid.

The US is 5% of the world population and has 25% of world's prisoners. Black and Latino Americans comprise one-quarter of the US population, but almost 60% of the prison population. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white Americans.

In terms of the War on Drugs, one might think these disparities could be explained by differences in rates of illegal activity. One would be wrong. The data shows that people of all colours use and sell illegal drugs at very similar rates. When there is a difference by skin colour, the numbers skew towards whites.
Thus, the very same year Human Rights Watch was reporting that African Americans were being arrested and imprisoned at unprecedented rates, government data revealed that blacks were no more likely to be guilty of drug crimes than whites and that white youth were actually the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to be guilty of illegal drug possession and sales.
The fact of incarceration alone is only one piece of the picture. Before incarceration, there is a series of court rulings that have gutted constitutional protections (especially the Fourth Amendment, the right to be free of unwarranted search and seizure), and make it impossible for citizens to argue racial bias in any criminal proceeding. There are draconian mandatory sentencing laws, which lead to the normalization of plea bargaining, in which people who have committed no crime plead guilty to some crime, in order to avoid a life sentence. There are huge financial incentives to municipalities to militarize their police forces, and to states for building -- and filling -- prisons.

After incarceration, the system prevents almost everyone who has been incarcerated from re-entering mainstream life. It is virtually impossible for anyone convicted of a felony to access housing, education loans, or jobs. In most states, formerly incarcerated people are stripped of voting rights and from jury rolls -- forever.

Former inmates, as Alexander writes, "will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.” Right now, about 30% of African American men are automatically banned from jury duty -- for life.

There is a terrible circular logic to the system. As a former US attorney general explained:
Law enforcement officials often point to the racial composition of our prisons and jails as a justification for targeting racial minorities, but the empirical evidence actually suggested the opposite conclusion was warranted. The disproportionate imprisonment of people of color was, in part, a product of racial profiling -- not a justification for it.

In the years following the release of the New Jersey and Maryland data, dozens of other studies of racial profiling have been conducted. A brief sampling:

• In Volusia County, Florida, a reporter obtained 148 hours of video footage documenting more than 1,000 highway stops conducted by state troopers. Only 5 percent of the drivers on the road were African American or Latino, but more than 80 percent of the people stopped and searched were minorities.

• In Illinois, the state police initiated a drug interdiction program known as Operation Valkyrie that targeted Latino motorists. While Latinos comprised less than 8 percent of the Illinois population and took fewer than 3 percent of the personal vehicle trips in Illinois, they comprised approximately 30 percent of the motorists stopped by drug interdiction officers for discretionary offenses, such as failure to signal a lane change. [These discretionary offenses are often an excuse to search vehicles or to arrest people for "resisting".] Latinos, however, were significantly less likely than whites to have illegal contraband in their vehicles.

• A racial profiling study in Oakland, California, in 2001 showed that African Americans were approximately twice as likely as whites to be stopped, and three times as likely to be searched.

Pedestrian stops, too, have been the subject of study and controversy. The New York Police Department released statistics in February 2007 showing that during the prior year its officers stopped an astounding 508,540 people -- an average of 1,393 per day -- who were walking down the street, perhaps on their way to the subway, grocery store, or bus stop. Often the stops included searches for illegal drugs or guns -- searches that frequently required people to lie face down on the pavement or stand spreadeagled against a wall while police officers aggressively groped all over their bodies while bystanders watched or walked by. The vast majority of those stopped and searched were racial minorities, and more than half were African American. . . . . 
Although the NYPD attempted to justify the stops on the grounds that they were designed to get guns off the street, stops by the Street Crime Unit -- the group of officers who supposedly are specially trained to identify gun-toting thugs -- yielded a weapon in only 2.5 percent of all stops. . . .

Rather than reducing reliance on stop-and-frisk tactics following the Diallo shooting* and the release of this disturbing data, the NYPD dramatically increased its number of pedestrian stops and continued to stop and frisk African Americans at grossly disproportionate rates. The NYPD stopped five times more people in 2005 than in 2002 -- the overwhelming majority of whom were African American or Latino.
Perhaps the most surprising portion of The New Jim Crow is Alexander's history of the War on Drugs. The "tough on crime" stance that began under President Nixon and intensified under Presidents Reagan and Clinton was born when rates of drug use and crime were low.

Today nearly one-third of African American men are likely to spend time in prison. Once released, they live in a state of permanent second-class citizenship. Alexander builds a case that the War on Drugs was not a response to higher crime rates, but a deliberate plan to dismantle the gains of the civil rights movement. If this sounds unlikely, I highly recommend reading this book.

Alexander has clearly done exhaustive research, but she doesn't exhaust the reader with statistics. Although the numbers are extremely convincing, they are woven into a compelling, readable narrative. It's a disturbing book, as it should be, and an excellent one.

* Amadou Diallo was an African immigrant living in New York City. In 1999, when stopped by the police and asked for identification, he reached for his wallet. Police later said they thought the wallet was a gun. The police shot 41 times. Diallo was 22 years old, and unarmed.

* The Wikipedia article about the Diallo murder contains this:
On March 13, 2015, Capital New York and other news organizations reported that 50 of the 15,000 IP addresses belonging to the NYPD were associated with edits, dating back to 2006, to English Wikipedia articles, including this article on the Amadou Diallo shooting. These IP addresses geolocate to NYPD headquarters at 1 Police Plaza. Detective Cheryl Crispin, a NYPD spokeswoman, said that "the matter is under internal review."


what i'm reading: your heart is a muscle the size of a fist by sunil yapa

If only Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist could be required reading. Everyone who has ever scoffed cynically at protesters. Everyone who has ever seen a mainstream news report showing a burning car, over and over and over, but not showing tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, and looked no deeper. Everyone who has ever denied police violence against peaceful, law-abiding citizens, or assumed that police violence is necessary to maintain order at protests. Every one of these people should read this book.

In this impressive debut novel, author Sunil Yapa takes us into the so-called "Battle of Seattle" -- the protests against the World Trade Organization summit in that city in 1999. But the time and place could be any of the G8 or G10 or G20 summits -- any of the meetings where the ruling elite side-step the democratic process as they carve up the world for global capitalism.

The reader sees the mass protests through the eyes of many different characters: activists, cops, delegates, restless world travelers. People in grief, people with secrets, people searching. Activists who have different motivations and different levels of experience and commitment. Cops who care deeply about their city and its people, cops who care about power and revenge. A delegate who believes the WTO is the answer to world hunger and poverty, and wants his third-world country at the table. The action takes place in a single day, and by the time the day is over, every character will be profoundly changed by the experience.

The politics of the book are obvious, but woven naturally into the fabric of the story. Most of the characters feel fully realized; rarely is anyone a billboard for an idea. The author does an especially excellent job of articulating how it feels to join a mass protest -- the deep love, solidarity, and sense of belonging it can create. He also portrays police violence fully and in horrifying detail -- a story that needs to be told.

My required-reading daydream dissolves in the light of day. The people who most need to read this book won't read it, and if they did, wouldn't believe it. They would accuse the author of fabricating and exaggerating. For better and worse, The Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is authentic, and genuine, and true. An excellent read for people who care.


thank you, colin kaepernick!

Another awesome athlete protest that I have no time to write about. I can only thank Colin Kaepernick for his courage.

Joy of Sox speaks for me: To Mookie Betts (And Others): The Right To Protest Has Nothing To Do With The Military.


what i'm reading: wild by cheryl strayed, zeitoun by dave eggers

I've just finished two truly excellent works of nonfiction: Wild and Zeitoun. Both books read like fiction, with clean, clear writing and page-turning suspense. Both document almost unbelievable, out-sized events, in one case likely unique, in the other - horribly - anything but. I highly recommend both books.

I didn't expect to like Wild. Something about the phrase "best-selling memoir" just turns me off. But when the book was chosen as one of my Library's "Raves and Faves," I was intrigued. Those are always excellent books. (I'm quite proud that all five of my Raves and Faves suggestions made the list!)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail is a story of perseverance and redemption. Her life unhinged, battered by loss and confusion, the author decides to undertake a wilderness backpacking expedition. This is no casual walk in the woods; she's chosen a trail for which experienced backpackers may spend a year in training and research. Strayed is completely inexperienced and almost comically unprepared - comic, that is, if the consequences of failure weren't potentially life-threatening. At several points in the book, I thought, "Well, she must survive, because she wrote this book...".

Wild is suspenseful, moving, sad, uplifting, heartrending, and joyous. I was filled with wonder at this woman's strength, tenacity, and resilience. Wild left me contemplating that potential in all of us.

Zeitoun is also a nonfiction page-turner. It's almost impossible to write about Zeitoun without spoiling it, and the way in which the story unfolds gives it tremendous power. Perhaps most people reading this review already know the terrible punchline.

Zeitoun is the story of one man's, and one family's, ordeal during and after Hurricane Katrina. It is a story that sits at the intersection of two American nightmares: Katrina and the post-9/11 police state.

It is an answer to every person who feels "police state" and "fascism" are hyperbole when applied to the United States. In truth, that depends on your zip code, your skin colour, and your last name.

Considering I last visited New Orleans in 1992, I have a strangely personal relationship with Hurricane Katrina. August 30, 2005, the day Katrina hit New Orleans, was one of the most momentous days of my life: the day my partner and I moved to Canada. As with any move of this magnitude, we were unplugged from the world - no TV, no internet - for a couple of days before, and at least two days after. When we were back online, I struggled to take in the magnitude of what had happened. No matter how much we read, I felt like I never caught up.

In the 10 years since, in any story about the Katrina disaster, the dates jump out at me. I can picture us clearly, driving The World's Fullest Minivan, my beloved Buster between us, Cody hunkered in a cave in the back, starting our new life. Right at those moments, tens of thousands of lives were shattered, ruined, or ended.

The Zeitouns' story is compelling, heroic, and deeply frightening. If you've ever been inclined to think, "That wouldn't happen here," or "But they would never do that", know that it did, and they already have.

As with What Is The What, Dave Eggers is using proceeds from this book to fund many very important and worthwhile causes. I highly recommend picking up a copy.


solidarity forever

Poor neglected wmtc. In addition to having absolutely zero time and mental space to write, I have some kind of head-cold-thing. So instead of trying to string words together in an order that conveys meaning, I will use this blog as a Tumblr, something formerly known as a photo blog.

I've been seeing such beautiful, creative displays of solidarity lately. These actions can be so inspiring - reminding us that we can demonstrate not only against bigotry and hatred, but for love and compassion, and for justice.

After anti-Muslim rhetoric was scrawled into an Uppsala mosque wall yesterday hundreds of residents gathered to paste cut-out hearts and messages of support onto the entrance of the building, ahead of Friday’s prayers.

The previous day police reported that a Molotov cocktail was tossed at the religious building fortunately failed to catch fire.

Hundreds gathered in the countries three largest cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo, to condemn the attacks across the country under the banner: “Don’t touch my mosque”.

Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates are the latest NBA players to join the protest against police violence.

Bryant and the Lakers wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts in the warm-up for their game against Sacramento on Tuesday night.

The Cologne Cathedral and several other landmarks across Germany went dark last night in protest against marches by Pegida, an anti-Islamization movement that has rocked the country in recent months.

Several University of Oregon football players are facing potential disciplinary action after celebrating their recent Rose Bowl win over Florida State University by chanting “no means no” — apparently in mockery of Florida’s quarterback, Jameis Winston, who was accused of sexually assault in a case that has been fraught with controversy for the past two years.

Joe Sacco's brilliant response to Charlie Hebdo attacks

Hands Up Don't Shoot


#strikefastfood: low-wage workers in 150 cities will strike today

Two years ago, fast-food workers in New York City held a one-day strike. In that historic action, the result of months and even years of organizing, about 200 workers walked out of McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, and other restaurants, to form the largest work stoppage in the history of fast-food. In the process, they launched a movement.

In the two years since then, the movement has burgeoned, and now includes thousands of workers all over the United States. Workers are rising against shockingly low pay in an industry that rakes in billions. The CEOs of the various fast-food companies "earn" about $25,000 a day. In New York City, one of the world's most expensive places to live, front-line workers in the same industry earn $7.25 an hour before taxes. 

The fast-food industry is a prime culprit in the huge and ever-growing income inequality that plagues North America, undermining what's left of democracy.

Fast-food workers want more than better pay: they want a bit of control over their own working conditions. That is, they want the right to unionize without fear of retaliation or intimidation. It's not just the fight for 15. It's the fight for fifteen and a union

Workers in the Walmart and fast-food struggles are standing in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and New York City who are protesting police abuse, recognizing, as King famously said, that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

You can support today's fast-food strike in many ways: sign a statement, tweet your support with the hashtag #StrikeFastFood, or best of all, visit a picket - offer support, listen, learn, and lend a hand. 


amnesty international urgent action network, writing for rights all year round

I knew working full-time would mean cutting back on activism. What time I can squeeze out, I'm investing in my own union, where I have much to contribute and feel I can really make a difference. I still belong to the War Resisters Support Campaign, of course, but it's been a long time since I've been able to attend weekly meetings.*

Still, I knew there was more I could do, if only from my computer. I recently took a step that will add a bit more relevancy to my life, something that seems fairly easy to do and can have an impact: I've joined Amnesty International's Urgent Action Network.

You may remember - or perhaps you've participated in - Write For Rights, a big Amnesty International letter-writing push that coincides with International Human Rights Day. I've participated in WfR a few times, and this year was contacted by someone from Amnesty Canada's Urgent Action Network, inviting me to join. I had just started my full-time job and was feeling overwhelmed with change, so I expressed interest but asked if she could contact me again later on in the year. 

She's obviously got her act together, because she did. And this past week, I joined.

The Urgent Action network is made up of 165,000 volunteers in 55 countries. You receive information on a case, and are supposed to respond within 24 hours (or as soon as possible). You can receive one case per month, or one case every-other month. Amnesty supplies writing guidelines, information about the case, and a sample letter from another past case. You write and send your own letter, based on the information you receive. Letters are supposed to be polite, short, and factual. 

If you're comfortable writing letters, it's not all that time-consuming. I see no reason why I can't crank out one decent letter each month. I told the contact person if I find I can't keep up, I'll cut back to every-other month. Amnesty offers a lot of support and is very sensitive to the demands on all our lives; if you need a month off, or want to write less frequently, you just say so.

I'm trusting the good people at Amnesty to use strategies that work. One thing's for sure: we know that evil thrives in darkness. A few hundred letters can show that the world is watching.

* My first two years of grad school, I always scheduled classes on meeting days, and the University of Toronto is conveniently located for meetings at the Steelworkers Hall. But in those days I had "only" (ha!) school plus one job. Once my library job came through, something had to go, and unfortunately that meant WRSC meetings. I would come back in the summer and during my school breaks. Then once I started working more, I had to cut that out, too. Dislike!


snowden, greenwald, miranda, and the creeping police state: one month later, we should still be disturbed

One month ago, something happened that should trouble us gravely.

Something happened that people who believe in democracy and free speech and an independent media and civil liberties and human rights should find appalling and unacceptable.

It's old news by now; anything that occurs one month ago is ancient history. I wasn't able to blog about it at the time, and in a way that is good. Events of great significance occur - our rights continue to shrink, governmental powers continue to expand, fascism and police states continue to be normalized - and we rarely have a moment to process one slippery step before we slide into another.

On August 18, 2013, a man named David Miranda was taken into custody at London's Heathrow Airport. Miranda is the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald. And Greenwald, you'll recall, is one of the two people with whom Edward Snowden entrusted his evidence of the massive domestic spy campaign being perpetrated by the US government, with the help of Microsoft, Google, Verizon, Yahoo, among other of the world's largest corporations.

Miranda was detained for nine hours under "schedule 7", some fine print in the UK's sweeping so-called anti-terrorism laws that gives police broad powers and ordinary citizens little recourse. Throughout, Miranda was denied the right to his own counsel. He was not charged with an offense. Media he was carrying was confiscated, but we know that doesn't take nine hours to accomplish.

As I said, I'm sure you read about Miranda's detention when the story broke in August, and I hope you are not so jaded that you merely shrugged, without finding it truly chilling. In any case, for the sake of this post, let's take a moment to think about it and let it sink in all over again.

The government has a massive, secret program through which it spies - constantly and without cause or provocation - on its own citizens. Someone inside the survellience program courageously comes forward to reveal it. In doing so, the whistleblower risks everything. He must leave his country, must fight for sanctuary and safety, must start an entirely new life.

This whistleblower, Edward Snowden, entrusts two people - one journalist and one filmmaker - with the evidence he has gathered. And the partner of the journalist is detained under anti-terrorism laws.

Large numbers of ink and pixels have been expended on this topic, but I saw none more responsible and less equivocal than those from Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. He writes:
On Sunday morning David Miranda, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, was detained as he was passing through Heathrow airport on his way back to Rio de Janeiro, where the couple live. Greenwald is the reporter who has broken most of the stories about state surveillance based on the leaks from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald's work has undoubtedly been troublesome and embarrassing for western governments. But, as the debate in America and Europe has shown, there is considerable public interest in what his stories have revealed about the right balance between security, civil liberties, freedom of speech and privacy. He has raised acutely disturbing questions about the oversight of intelligence; about the use of closed courts; about the cosy and secret relationship between government and vast corporations; and about the extent to which millions of citizens now routinely have their communications intercepted, collected, analysed and stored.

In this work he is regularly helped by David Miranda. Miranda is not a journalist, but he still plays a valuable role in helping his partner do his journalistic work. Greenwald has his plate full reading and analysing the Snowden material, writing, and handling media and social media requests from around the world. He can certainly use this back-up. That work is immensely complicated by the certainty that it would be highly unadvisable for Greenwald (or any other journalist) to regard any electronic means of communication as safe. The Guardian's work on the Snowden story has involved many individuals taking a huge number of flights in order to have face-to-face meetings. Not good for the environment, but increasingly the only way to operate. Soon we will be back to pen and paper.

Miranda was held for nine hours under schedule 7 of the UK's terror laws, which give enormous discretion to stop, search and question people who have no connection with "terror", as ordinarily understood. Suspects have no right to legal representation and may have their property confiscated for up to seven days. Under this measure – uniquely crafted for ports and airport transit areas – there are none of the checks and balances that apply once someone is in Britain proper. There is no need to arrest or charge anyone and there is no protection for journalists or their material. A transit lounge in Heathrow is a dangerous place to be.

Miranda's professional status – much hand-wringing about whether or not he's a proper "journalist" – is largely irrelevant in these circumstances. Increasingly, the question about who deserves protection should be less "is this a journalist?" than "is the publication of this material in the public interest?"

The detention of Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back." There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won't do it in London. The seizure of Miranda's laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald's work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like "when".

We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack. But at least reporters now know to stay away from Heathrow transit lounges.
The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression issued a stern caution about this, noting:
The protection of national security secrets must never be used as an excuse to intimidate the press into silence and backing off from its crucial work in the clarification of human rights violations. . . . The press plays a central role in the clarification of human rights abuses.
This is good, but useless. The forces that shape our world are increasingly decided outside any democratic body, whether in a G20 Summit or an arcane provision of a law that no one has read or debated. The UN's warning is a sneeze in a storm.

UK journalist Philip Bump also explains why this should cause us concern, and points out a few people who care, and a few who don't.
David Miranda, who was detained for eight hours and 55 minutes by British authorities over the weekend because they thought he was carrying NSA documents for The Guardian, is taking legal action against the government — a move that could crystallize the conflict between state security and journalism.

The British government's conflation of journalism with terrorism in the case of David Miranda is problematic largely because journalism, like terrorism, is no longer performed by discrete, centralized entities. Instead, journalists and those performing journalism around the world operate in small cells or individually. You post a video of police detaining a suspect to your Facebook wall, and you're committing an act of journalism — one that authority figures may not see as subject to First — or Fourth — Amendment protections.

In the battle with the security state, those who might commit acts of journalism have three choices: acquiesce, push back, or step away.

Miranda, who is Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald's partner, is choosing option two. The BBC reports that Miranda is taking legal action of an unspecified nature, challenging his detention and seeking to prevent the government from reading the information on the devices it collected. What that information is may only be known by filmmaker Laura Poitras, the person with whom it originated in Berlin, but there's little doubt it includes encrypted files related to the Snowden leaks.

The British Home Office released a statement about the Miranda incident. It reads, in part:
If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that. Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.
The most important word in that statement is "would." Not "could" help terrorism — a standard so loose that it might apply to millions of pieces of information and real-world objects. But "would." The British appear to be echoing the NSA's line that detailing how the government does its work is itself an aid to terrorists. (A claim perhaps undermined by the recent embassy closures.) It also appears to echo the argument made by the government in the Bradley Manning case: publishing information is aiding the enemy.

There are some to whom this argument is compelling. The British paper The Telegraph defends the authorities' action in detaining Miranda, as does the editor of Kernal magazine. (His article begins "PRISM blogger Glenn Greenwald’s Brazilian boyfriend, David Miranda…," providing a clear indicator of where his argument was headed.)

Rising to the defense of the American government is Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker. Toobin was criticized for his critique of the Snowden leaks earlier this month; Tuesday's essay is a continuation of that critique. "To be sure, Snowden has prompted an international discussion about surveillance," Toobin argues, "but it’s worthwhile to note that this debate is no academic exercise. It has real costs." Those costs are literal — the NSA having to build new surveillance systems — and figurative: "What if there is no pervasive illegality in the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs?" Toobin states that there is "no proof of any systemic, deliberate violations of law" revealed by Snowden, then noting of the Post revelations about privacy violations that "it’s far from clear, at this point, that the N.S.A.’s errors amounted to a major violation of law or an invasion of privacy." Incidental violations of privacy law, averaging seven a day, are acceptable to Toobin, as a cost-saving measure.

Those specific defenses aside, the intentions of the British authorities cannot be considered outside of the context of their behavior. Late Monday afternoon, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger revealed the paper's encounters with British authorities over this information. In a weirdly archaic move, representatives of the government's intelligence arm forced the destruction of hard drives containing Snowden information, as though that limited their ability to travel. The authorities threatened Rusbridger, prompting the paper to decide to move its reporting on the topic out of the country.

And then there's the treatment of Miranda himself. For eight hours, he was denied the right to his own counsel. The end result was confiscation of his electronic media, something that could have been accomplished in less than an hour. But, Reuters reported on Monday, that wasn't all that the authorities hoped to accomplish.
One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government's detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden's materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.
In other words, intimidation.

The Columbia Journalism Review offers a broader sense of the effect on journalism — behavior performed by far more than just journalists.
In light of Rusbridger’s disclosures, it’s even clearer that the detention of Miranda is part of an attack on American journalists authorized at the highest levels of the British government, and it’s an attack that is at the very least implicitly backed by the Obama administration. …

This is police-state stuff. We need to know the American government’s role in these events—and its stance on them—sooner rather than later.
The founder of law site Groklaw offered her response to the government's surveillance systems in a post this morning. In short: she's closing the site. That's stepping away from the fight, and a natural reaction to intimidation. But only one of the three responses — acquiescing, pushing back, or avoidance — offers the hope of reform.
And finally, for reference, The Guardian has an excellent page full of stories and links about what's at stake: The NSA files.


jeju island and the constitution-free u.s.-canada border: empire and resistance, at home and abroad

I've been hoping to write about this for months, but the right post and adequate time never seem to arrive at the same time. Rather than put it off any longer, I'll pretend this is Tumblr or Pinterest or somesuch, and post it here without additional commentary.

* * * * *
From Save Jeju Now:
The Save Jeju Now website is an up-to-date record of the ongoing nonviolent struggle to stop the Jeju naval base construction project currently being forced upon Gangjeong Village, a tiny town located on the southern tip of Jeju, the Peace Island, in Korea. Since 2007, The South Korean government has been oppressively trying to build a war base, falsely and absurdly named the “Civilian-Military Complex Tour Beauty Port”, on top of the village and its precious environment despite the opposition of a strong majority of the villagers (94% of voters). The base will be used by the U.S. military in its strategy to contain China in the Asia-Pacific through aggressive US missile defense system equipped destroyers.

Jeju Island was designated as “The Peace Island” by the Korean government on Jan. 27, 2005 as part of a formal apology for the 1948 “4.3 Massacres”, in which government forces and rightwing thugs slaughtered 30,000 Jeju civilians and burned 70% of the the island’s villages to the ground as the people rose up against the U.S. lead move towards the division of Korea. Now the forced base construction is bringing renewed state violence on the people of Jeju in what some consider a 2nd ”4.3″. The people of Jeju and Korea aspire for Jeju to be a true peace island, with no war base, to set an example for the establishment of a truly peaceful Asia Pacific.

Situation updates, calls for action, pictures, videos, and news are posted regularly in English and sometimes in Mandarin and Japanese. Through this site we hope to battle the lies and misinformation spread by the Korean Government, the Korean Navy leadership, and Samsung and Daelim, the primary construction companies which are illegally operating. We hope to spread the real truth about the deception, violence, and cruelty which the residents of Gangjeong Village and thier supporters have faced since 2007.
The Save Jeju Now blog.

* * * * *

Living Under Drones

No Drones Network

No Drones New York State

Drones Watch

Living in a Constitution-Free Zone, by Todd Miller

* * * * *

Is the US a police state? That depends on where you live: what country, and what zip code.


land of the free: anti-drone activist removed from flight and detained

Via Common Dreams:
Pakistan's anti-drone politician and former cricket-star, Imran Khan, was taken off an international flight from Toronto to New York for questioning over his political views, and his critical stance on US foreign policy, immigration officials have confirmed.

"I was taken off from plane and interrogated by US Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop," Khan tweeted yesterday after his questioning.

Ali Zaidi, an official in Khan's party demanded "a prompt and thorough inquiry into this sordid episode" and "an unconditional apology from the US government".

Khan was on his way from a public lecture in Toronto to a fundraising event in New York. He was eventually released and allowed in the US. He added: "Missed flight and sad to miss the fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance."

Khan, leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI), and Prime Minister candidate in next year's elections in Pakistan, has been a loud voice in the anti-drone movement in Pakistan. Khan recently lead a high-profile anti-drone march aimed at south Waziristan along with US peace activists from the group Code Pink and 15,000 others.

Khan maintains that US drone strikes in Pakistan and around the world are counterproductive because they have resulted in thousands of innocent civilian deaths, cause great hardship in the country and drive up anti-US sentiment and militant recruitment.

In an interview with BBC News last month, Khan stated that if he were elected as Prime Minister he would opt to shoot down US drones that invade Pakistan, should the US and the international community continue to ignore pleas to stop the fatal strikes in the region.


dispatches from post-racial america: stop-and-frisk on a national level

Remember when Barack Obama was elected, how international media declared that racism in the US had been vanquished? How academics and pundits started using the term "post-racial" to describe US culture?

Was that before or after the tea-partiers paraded around with pictures of monkeys and openly called for assassination?

Before or after US cities made practice into official policy with "stop-and-frisk"? That's the racism-based method of urban policing, in which police stop, frisk, interrogate, and otherwise harass millions of African-American and Latino men who are simply walking down the street. (The NYPD seems to be succumbing to pressure and cutting back - although of course not abandoning the tactic.)

Now we have some hard evidence of what many of us have known all along: in US airports, the Transportation Safety Authority performs stop-and-frisk on a grand scale. Bravo to the TSA workers who came forward with this.
More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

In interviews and internal complaints, officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s “behavior detection” program at Logan International Airport in Boston asserted that passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for “suspicious” behavior.

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one white officer, who along with four others spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. . . . .

At a meeting last month with T.S.A. officials, officers at Logan provided written complaints about profiling from 32 officers, some of whom wrote anonymously. Officers said managers’ demands for high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals had led co-workers to target minorities in the belief that those stops were more likely to yield drugs, outstanding arrest warrants or immigration problems.

The practice has become so prevalent, some officers said, that Massachusetts State Police officials have asked why minority members appear to make up an overwhelming number of the cases that the airport refers to them. . . .
One of the comments on this story says:
Let's see--if you are black and dressed casually, you look suspicious. But you are also suspect if you are black and wear expensive clothes and jewels. And if you dress practically and casually for a flight (i.e, in sweatpants and t-shirt) and you're black, well, you're still suspect. What should black folks wear that won't make them suspect? Why am I even asking?
Now about that whole post-racial thing.


coming soon to a canadian town near you: the fbi

I seldom play the scary "US is taking over Canada" card, but if the Harper government was any deeper into Washington, you'd need a colonoscopy to find them. I blogged about this here, and I'm glad to see the CBC recognize the issue. This is scary, dangerous, and truly disgusting.
When the Conservative government passed its controversial omnibus budget bill last month, it included new powers for certain U.S. law enforcement agents that critics say could have ramifications for Canadian sovereignty.

The Integrated Cross Border Law Enforcement Operations Act now makes it possible for American officers to cross the border into Canada where, as the act states, they have "the same power to enforce an act of Parliament as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."

This means they'll be armed and have the powers to arrest suspects in Canadian territory.

For years, law enforcement agents without the authority to cross into neighbouring waters have complained that suspected drug traffickers or smugglers could flee one country by boat and go to another to evade arrest. Officers from one country would have to stop at the border of the other.

Now, small crews, made up of Canadian and U.S. officers specially designated and trained for cross-border policing, can go back and forth across the maritime border, all the while subject to the laws of the country they are in.

Initially limited to small crews on boats

There are conditions, however. The law, which, focuses on combating cross-border crime on waterways shared by Canada and the U.S., pertains specifically to water-based operations.

The crews consist of about five people at most. In U.S waters, a crew may include four U.S. Coast Guard officers and an RCMP officer patrolling on a small U.S Coast Guard vessel. On the Canadian side, RCMP officers will be on a Canadian vessel with one U.S. Coast Guard officer.

RCMP Supt. Warren Coons, director of the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, stressed that the cross-designated American officers "have to be under the direction and control of a Canadian law enforcement officer" when the vessel crosses into Canadian waters. Similarly, Canadian officers are under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard officer if they enter U.S. territory.

"Sovereignty is something I take very seriously, and I understand the concerns that Canadian citizens have, because quite frankly I had those same concerns, and so do the U.S. officers," Coons said. "But having said that, safeguards are in place to ensure that U.S law enforcement officers are not allowed to conduct law enforcement activity in Canada unless they’re strictly under the direction and control of Canadian law enforcement officers."

But critics aren't so satisfied. Before the law was passed, the NDP argued that the issue was too important to be included in the omnibus bill and should have been voted on separately.

"This is a highly controversial integrated border enforcement program that jeopardizes Canadian sovereignty and potentially compromises the personal privacy of individual Canadians," wrote NDP MP Brian Masse, critic for Canada-U.S. border issues.

"A program that cedes sovereignty, reduces privacy and requires significant new investment must be fully debated and understood prior to its implementation," he said.

Land-based agreement to come

Although the law deals with Canadian and U.S. waters, some are raising concerns that the next phase of the plan, a land-based version of integrated policing, could be more problematic.

Stuart Trew, a spokesman for the Council of Canadians, said the act in its current form is already a "pretty serious compromise of sovereignty when it comes to policing and security."

"Are we just going to expect down the road when they do expand this program … [that] it just becomes normal to expect armed American agents on Canadian territory?" Trew said.

"How do you define a border operation? How far inland does it go? These are things that need to be dealt with in an open way. Instead they seem to be negotiating through mostly closed-door talks with U.S. officials."

William Anderson, Ontario research chair in cross-border transportation policy at the University of Windsor, said that he is a supporter of the current act, but a land-based version could be more complicated.

"Most people worry that you have a foreign law enforcement officer making an arrest, carrying a gun on Canadian territory. I think it becomes a little bit more difficult to control on land than it is on water, just by virtue of the fact that with water you're in a boat and [officers] can't get too far away from each other."

So far, the government has revealed few details about the land-based version of the plan. The Beyond the Border plan, agreed to by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S President Barack Obama in 2011, had called for two land-based pilot projects to begin this summer.

Government officials will only say that consultations are continuing, with the possibility of pilot projects starting no earlier than the fall.

'Hot pursuit' exception

However, the current act does allow for American officers to come on Canadian soil in extreme situations, also known as the "hot pursuit" exception.

"If a person on a boat is suspected of committing a serious offence and now are trying to get away and they hit shore, [U.S. officers] are allowed to go on shore and pursue in those circumstances," Coons said.

"If they’re working in the Niagara-St. Catharines area, we don’t expect to see them in downtown Toronto. It's just under a very specific circumstance where everybody would expect for public safety reasons that the officer continue with the pursuit of an individual.”

But Coons said if a pursuit involved multiple suspects, it's possible that the RCMP officer could be separated from the U.S. officer. As for how much time a U.S. officer can be on shore or how far inland, Coons said "common sense prevails."

The project, named Shiprider, began in Detroit-Windsor area in September 2005, and was followed by two pilot projects two years later in Cornwall-Massena (Ontario-New York State) and the Strait of Georgia (British Columbia and Washington state).

In 2008, Canada and the U.S. negotiated a framework agreement. Legislation was introduced twice, but died because Parliament was prorogued.

The Canadian and U.S. officers involved in the program have all been trained at the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, S.C., where they are educated in Canadian and U.S. law, including criminal code, privacy laws and sovereignty and cultural issues.

Coons said they are still in the process of negotiating the final details of the water-based program with the U.S. Coast Guard and that it should launch in the next several months.


marxism 2012 program notes: the quebec student strike, or why every canadian needs to bang on a pan

I want to begin my posts from Marxism 2012 with the Quebec Student Strike, because it's currently the most important progressive development unfolding in Canada.

By now it should be obvious that the Quebec student strike is not only a student strike and is not only about Quebec. It should be obvious, if the corporate media wasn't ignoring, minimizing, scoffing at, or narrowly spinning this major story.

I posted ten things everyone should know about the Quebec student strike, cribbed from the Montreal Media Coop. It's a good list, and the full story is worth reading. But here's the most important takeaway: this is not only a student movement against an increase in tuition fees. It is a widespread, student-led movement against the austerity agenda, and against the attempt to transform Quebec from a socialized culture where services are universally accessible, or nearly so, to a privatized, user-payer system where access can be purchased by those who can afford it.

That's a fight for every one of us.

What follows are my notes from an inspiring panel discussion about the Quebec Student Strike, then an item from Socialist Worker analyzing the strike in relation to English Canada.

I do my best to accurately represent the Marxism talks based on my notes, but any errors or misrepresentations are mine.

Xavier LaFrance
Student Organizer

The student strike launched in February, but the campaign against the tuition increases was going on for months prior to that. There were months and months of meetings, and there were smaller, local days of actions, and occupations of government and university offices - a continual escalation of pressure on the government.

The student unions held a series of general membership meetings ("G-Mems") in order to gauge the interest in and mandate for a strike. The strike was over the $1,625 tuition hike, but it was also much broader than that. The strike aims to make more students and the general population aware of the government's bid to create a "user-payer culture", in place of our culture based on social payments. The government says it's in the midst of a cultural revolution - using these austerity measures to reshape Quebec society.

This is the largest student strike in Quebec history. In 2005, there was a strike for seven weeks. Right now, the 2012 strike has been on for 16 weeks. At its peak, on March 22, 300,000 students demonstrated through the streets of Montreal, many of them on a one-day strike. Since then, 190,000 to 200,000 students have been on continuous strike. There have also been hundreds of local creative actions.

For two months, the government refused to bargain, then said it would bargain, but not with CLASSE [the more militant, broader-based union]. The two other student unions, FECQ and FEUQ, which in the past had been more conservative, more like lobbyists than unions, stood in solidarity and refused to bargain unless CLASSE was at the table.

[FECQ = Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (in English : College students federation of Quebec)

FEUQ = Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (in English : University students federation of Quebec)

CLASSE = Coalition Large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale étudiante]

There has been tons of police repression - arrests, police-led violence, court injunctions, and of course the "special law" 78. But it's still going on "and I don't see it stopping any time soon". For 32 nights in a row [as of the date of this talk, May 26], there have been nightly marches, and now we've added the clanging of the pots and pans, as many of you know. "The spirit is incredible. The sense of collective power that you see and hear is absolutely amazing."

CLASSE continues to defy Law 78 both in courts and in the street.

The basic organizing principles of the Quebec student movement has two currents. On one hand are lobbyists. These are more corporatist, not combative, and not especially democratic. The other is the activist, combative, democratic student unionism. The basic tenets, principles, and tactics of this current were inspired by combative labour unions.


We believe in education as a right, to be publicly funded, accessible to all. We see this as a social responsibility, and we have a broader perspective which leads to specific demand.

We mobilize membership with specific interests to defend.

We keep the student population as informed as possible, in order to mobilize, thus building a base of power.

We don't just send representatives to the media or to meetings with their own ideas - the model of executives holding meetings detached from the membership base. Here, the leaders are connected to the base democratically and collectively. Representatives only have power through the base.

We connect our struggles to other struggles, and form alliances with other social groups with similar aims.

They key is that we are a democracy. This is the key difference between the student movements in Quebec and Ontario. In Ontario, people are against the tuition hikes, but they have nowhere to take their opposition, no effective mechanism of protest. There are no general membership meetings here, so there is no way to collectively, publicly react.

This is most crucial. A mobilization committee is needed to rebuild tradition of general membership meetings. Through that process, through struggle, people transform themselves individually and collectively. "I knew this theoretically, but I saw it for myself in 2005. Now, through this process, the two more corporatist, lobbyist unions are becoming both more democratic and radical."

Sibel Epi Ataogul
Attorney representing CLASSE, member of the International Socialists

The strike is the workers' most powerful tool. It is the one concession the ruling class has made to unionized workers, and they don't want to see it expand into other realms of society. As a lawyer, I got involved with the Quebec Student Strike when the injunctions started coming in.

The strike evolved completely organically, through a system that has been established in francophone educational institutions. The student associations all have strike protocols in their charters. The CEGEPs, where many students attend between high school and university have strike protocols, in which teenagers are negotiating their own agreements. So the concept of a strong student union and a student strike are part of the culture.

The instructors - also in unions - mostly honoured the student strike and didn't teach during the strike. Teachers also acted as mediators between students and those teachers who continued to teach and didn't honour the strike.

The injunctions came because the strike went on for so long. Some students wanted to return to class, even though they are still adamantly against the fee hikes. The students who wanted to go back to class were in minority. They were not winning votes. This was a clash between people's personal plans to continue their education, and the majority wishes within a culture of direct democracy.

The government was and is trying to frame the strike as a "boycott," which is an option of individual choice. A boycott is based on a consumer model: "You paid for your chocolate bar and you can eat it anytime you want, and no one can stop you from eating your chocolate bar."

But this was and is not a boycott! A strike is a collective action. It's not "I won't go to class". It's "there will be no class". A strike says you see yourself not as consumers of an educational product, but intellectual workers. It says, "We are part of the process and if we’re not part of the process, the process will stop."

An injunction is the edge of the rule of law. It is so completely discretionary. An injunction seeks to preserve the status quo until evidence can be heard from all sides, and a final decision will come later, balancing interests. In some cases, an injunction is necessary. Someone wants to cut down a tree. Someone wants the tree preserved. It could take a long time for the parties to gather evidence and the court to hear all the evidence, and by that time, the tree has been cut down, and the argument is moot. An injunction says: preserve the status quo. Don't cut down the tree, and the court will hear all the evidence and rule on it later.

In this case, the injunction was being served between a democratic mass movement versus an individual student who wanted to go to class. This views the action as a boycott, not a strike. "They can have that ideology, but it’s not going to change the reality."

So people did not respect the injunctions, and the injunctions became more and more restrictive, ordering school administrators to call the police to arrest striking students. Despite this, because there was so much unrest and turmoil, classes did not take place. So despite the injunction, the view of the class as an individual right did not prevail.

Then came the special law. Special Law 78 requires schools to suspend sessions unless an agreement is made with the student union. It recognizes that right now the situation is too volatile for there to be classes.

It also places huge limits on the right to protest. It forces teachers to teach and not respect the strike. It contains clauses saying there cannot be a student protest within 50 metres of any educational grounds if the protest has the effect of denying anyone access to class.

The main problem with the law is the general provisions regarding the right to protest. Any gathering of more than 50 people has to be communicated to police. Not to the City, not to any elected official, but directly to police. The police then have the unilateral right to say no, to change the route, at their own discretion. It gives the police the power to decide where and how people will express themselves.

Special Law 78 is the movement of power within a representative democracy to the armed wing of that system.

And from the reaction of CLASSE and the reaction on the streets, you can see the law is having the exact opposite effect. The law does not work. "People who would have never gotten out of their houses to support the students are now saying, I’m going to go outside with my pots and my pans...!"

Two groups of people did give their route to the police, but then the protest didn’t follow that route. 200,000 people went on their own route. The police couldn’t arrest them all.

Sibel told a great story of her own experience on the first night of the "casseroles" demonstrations. She went outside, very tentatively, with one friend, and they kind of sheepishly banged a little on their pots and pans. Then three people came along and joined them, and the five of them had a little more confidence to bang away. Then someone came along and said, "It's happening in front of the church on such-and-such street." They all ran off, a few blocks away, and there were 100 or more people banging on pots and pans! And more and more kept coming out, until there were too many to all stand on the sidewalk and they spilled over to the street...

Monique Moisan
Montreal-based activist, leading member of Quebec Solidaire

The strike is not students vs non-students. It is a class struggle. Many parents of students are involved. At times parents have acted as shields between students and the police.

Students organized a day to talk about a social strike with community groups. People in the community are often isolated. They have many issues but are not prepared politically. 230 people attended this meeting! They understood that the student struggle is their struggle, too.

When there are more than 200,000 people in the streets, they can't all be students! In a city of 1.5 million people, it couldn't be. But the media still calls it a "student strike". The students in Quebec are leaders of a social movement that is much wider than the student struggle. It has caused people to think about the problem as a whole - not only fees, but the entire culture of a user-payer society.

People understand that if the students lose this struggle, the rest will follow: health care, transit, city services - all will be privatized.

From the discussion...

The students haven't won yet, but Charest's plan has been completely destroyed. He wanted to provoke the student movement and use public opinion to his own advantage. He knew if he announced a 75% tuition increase there would be a student strike. Then for two months he ignored the strike. So that part of his plan worked. But then he couldn't control it. He couldn't divide it. And now he can't even end it with repression.

His plan was to destroy his political opponent on the right. He thought he would win over their base by being tough on students and unions. He had no idea that he would provoke the biggest social movement since the 1970s!

And he didn't count on another political party: QS. Quebec Solidaire is "a fish in water" in this movement.

[Ed note: this shows you an important tenet of activism. You never know.]

* * * * *

There have been massive job losses in Quebec over the past year, just as there were in Ontario in 2008. Now links are being forged between students and the labour movement. Busloads of students went to Alma, Quebec to support the locked-out Rio Tinto workers, and labour unions have donated money and other help to the striking students.

These are the methods and mechanisms that we need to learn and adopt in Ontario. Demanding that the student union leadership call a strike won't work. A strike that is not built and prepared will end up in a setback, potentially disastrous. In order to be successful, it has to arise from a process.

* * * * *

Quebec Solidaire has a representative in the National Assembly of Quebec, Amir Khadir, and what a difference that has made! To have a spokesperson at that level, to get that media coverage, to get the real story and demands into the public view. Membership in QS has soared since the student strike.

We must press the NDP to do the same!

* * * * *

"General Membership Meetings are the same thing as pots and pans. That's the real social media." We can't just transplant the Quebec experience to Ontario.

The strike arose from the Quebec tradition of mass demonstrations among students. It doesn't exist in Ontario yet: but it can be built. It won't happen from the top down. We have to build from the base.

* * * *

From Socialist Worker:
How do we spread the Quebec Spring?

The Quebec student strike is inspiring people across Canada who would like to see a similar mass movement against austerity. But how we spread the Quebec spring?

Some say the Quebec spring is unique, and Quebec certainly has its own particular conditions that are important to understand.

From the experience as an oppressed nation within the Canadian state, the people of Quebec have a strong history of resistance—including the biggest anti-globalization protests in 2001, the biggest anti-war protests in 2003, and the biggest May Day protest in 2004.

Quebec students also have a tradition of mass strikes, most recently the 2005 strike that forced the government to give back $103 million in cuts.

That experience cannot be spontaneously summoned across English Canada, but that doesn’t mean that the struggle can't spread.

The Quebec Spring is a combination of past local experiences along with inspiration from global revolt. That people in Quebec have called the strike wave the "printemps erable" — meaning maple spring but sounding like Arab Spring — shows the links with the global revolt. But how do we spread it?

Some are impatiently demanding that the leadership of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) simply call a strike, or arguing that radical students organize on their own— counterposing the Quebec student organization CLASSE with other student unions. But this ignores the way in which the Quebec student strike — and strikes in general — are built.

Hundreds of thousands of students didn't go on strike because CLASSE told them to. The strike was built from below since the end of last year, and CLASSE—which numbers in the tens of thousands—has built unity with other student unions FECQ and FEUQ.

We can't turn our backs on mass student organizations or expect them to call a strike that has not been built from below (which would invite failure).

The CFS organized a pan-Canadian day of action against tuition fees on February 1 and occupied the Ontario Education Minister's office on April 5. If we want to spread the Quebec spring we need to learn the lessons and build a mass student movement from below, uniting with and strengthening the CFS.


fbi to operate within canada, cbsa using us-style tactics: the deep integration we should fear and protest

The CBSA harassing political journalists trying to enter Canada: bad.

The FBI free to operate within Canadian borders: worse.

Years ago when people stoked fears of co-called "deep integration" between Canada and the United States, conversations tended to focus on tangible signs like a North American currency. I admit I wasn't concerned. Now, trends like this speak to an even more insidious and troubling integration.

Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of Jacobin, and a reporter for In These Times, reports on his treatment on his way to Montreal:
There weren’t any bright lights or stress positions, but it was definitely an interrogation. Crossing over to Canada yesterday, I had the unusual experience of being detained for a few hours.

It started off innocently enough. I filed off a Montreal-bound Greyhound bus at the border with a few dozen others to go through customs. As usual, I was paid extra attention. Security officials may notice me, because I look suspiciously Muslim, but it’s a small price to pay for having enough melanin to pull-off a salmon-colored blazer.

Reasonably, a border official asked me why I was visiting Canada. . . . It was all going well enough, though, until I was asked what I did for a living. I said that I just graduated from university on Sunday. Oh, so you’re unemployed? That’s where they got me. My precarious employment is a point of personal pride. Of course, I wasn’t unemployed. I do administrative work and write on occasion. Probably should’ve left out that last part. I was whisked away from my lovely new bus friends. . . .
It ended, as Cory Doctorow writes in Boing Boing, with
a going over from Canadian border cops who accused him of being 'political' for knowing about health insurance, and of being a 'bigtime journalist embedded in the student movement,' then demanded his phone and details of his contacts.
Political journalists in solidarity with the resistance in Montreal are not welcome in Canada. But the FBI is. The RCMP plans to take "baby steps" to get Canadians used to the idea of living in a US-style police state. Embassy Magazine, via Yahoo! News, reports that:
...the Harper government is moving forward on several initiatives that could give U.S. FBI and DEA agents the ability to pursue suspects across the land border and into Canada.

But, according to a RCMP officer, they're doing it in "baby steps."

"We recognized early that this approach would raise concerns about sovereignty, of privacy, and civil liberties of Canadians," RCMP Chief Superintendent Joe Oliver, the Mounties' director general for border integrity, told the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on May 14.

"We said 'Let's take baby steps, let's start with two agencies to test the concept, let's demonstrate to Canadians and Americans that such an approach might work."

Baby step 1, according to Embassy Magazine, has already happened in the form cross border pilot projects allowing Canadian and American agents in each others waters.

Step 2 is the 'Shiprider' program which will make it permanently legal for U.S. agents to be certified as police in Canadian waters. This is on track to be passed into law by the Harper government's omnibus budget bill, C-38.

And step 3, is to roll out cross-border policing over land.

Embassy also notes that the government is not ruling out U.S. aerial surveillance over Canadian territory.

These initiatives are part of the much-touted perimeter security initiative between Washington and Ottawa, designed to provide a thicker wall of security around the continent while easing trade barriers at the borders.
Smaller, more personal incidents of border friction are a frequent occurence. A woman in Maine is suing the CBSA over an incident with an overzealous border guard. It's good to see people fight back against that sort of power-abuse and bullying. But the larger picture requires a much bigger fight.

Canadians weren't asked whether we want the FBI operating in our country. And it's going to occur without our consent. Our only chance to stop it is to speak out in massive numbers, like the people in Quebec are doing. Because by now it should be clear that it's not just Quebec students in the street, and the fight isn't just about tuition fees. (More on that here, and more coming soon.)

Canadians, we need to wake up - we need to reach more of our apolitical neighbours - and we need to make noise.


montreal, nous t'aimons! show us how it's done!

On the 100th day of student protests, 250,000 people take to the streets! Supporters bang on pots and pans from their windows! Solidarity rallies in New York and Paris!

Montreal, we are with you!

ten things everyone should know about the quebec student movement

From Coop média de Montréal:
1. The issue is debt, not tuition.

2. Striking students in Quebec are setting an example for youth across the continent.

3. The student strike was organized through democratic means and with democratic aim.

4. This is not an exclusively Quebecois phenomenon.

5. Government officials and the media have been openly calling for violence and fascist tactics to be used against the students.

6. Excessive state violence has been used against the students.

7. The government supports organized crime and opposes organized students.

8. Canada’s elites punish the people and oppose the students.

9. The student strike is being subjected to a massive and highly successful propaganda campaign to discredit, dismiss, and demonize the students.

10. The student movement is part of a much larger emerging global movement of resistance against austerity, neoliberalism, and corrupt power.
Extended thoughts on each of these points can be found here.

solidarity with striking quebec students. shame on charest and all supporters of bill 78.

I haven't blogged much about the enormous, sustained and absolutely brilliant student strikes and demonstrations in Quebec. I've just been watching them from afar with admiration and deep respect.

Now that the Quebec government has adopted the draconian Bill 78, the stakes are raised even higher. The students and unions of Quebec are doing the heavy lifting for all of us, fighting not only for the right to affordable education, but for basic rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

From Jessica Squires at Socialist Worker:
Upon adoption of Bill 78 on Friday, May 18, 2012, Quebec is now, in terms of democratic rights, in its worst situation since the War Measures Act of 1970. The Charest government is seeking to ban student strikes altogether—a tactic used by the Quebec student movement on a regular basis, and tacitly accepted, by administrators and government, since 1968.

The law is a direct attack on student unions, their right to organize, collect fees, and demonstrate. It imposes severe fines on anyone either organizing, encouraging, or participating in demonstrations on campus or within 50 metres of a campus, and anyone impeding access to classes.

Worse still, it requires all protest organizers, no matter where in Quebec or what reason, to notify police eight hours in advance of any gathering of more than 50 people. And it requires unionized workers to deliver classes, no matter the working conditions. It holds demonstration organizers responsible, legally and financially, for any “misbehaviour” by participants—effectively requiring organizers to police their own ranks.

The law has a sunset clause of just over a year, thus ensuring it will be in force during the next Quebec general election, which must be called between now and next spring.

But it is already clear that the people of Quebec, students in particular, are not ready to take this lying down. “When laws become unjust sometimes you have to disobey them and we are thinking seriously about this possibility,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, head of the CLASSE student union, during a media conference with all three major trade union leaders.

Unions were quick to denounce the law, as were the bar association and many other important social movement groups. Although it is now technically illegal to do so, some, including left-wing Québec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir have begun talking publicly about massively organized civil disobedience.

If Charest was seeking social peace through this law, or hoping to distract from the scandals dogging his administration, he is sadly mistaken. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on the evening of May 18, in the 24th consecutive night-time demonstration since a brutal police crackdown almost a month ago. The demonstrations, expected to continue daily across Quebec, have taken on a new tone: jubilant, determined, defiant.

Charest may be hoping the summer will cool things down. But Quebec’s spring shows no end in sight.
The story gives context to both the student strikes and the government's reaction. Read more here.