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Video: Black Lives Matter at South Bay House of Correction in Boston

26 Nov

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Last night, I went to an action called #IndictBoston organized by Daunasia Yancey and the Boston chapter of Black Lives Matter. We where there not just to protest the decision not to indite Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, but to also challenge state-sanctioned violence in all its forms against people of color. We shut down several highway ramps in Boston and made a sustained and gutsy effort to physically break the police line on the ramp to I-93. That place is also the site of the South Bay House of Correction where protestors chanted to the prisoners, “We see you…black lives matter!” The prisoners seemed glad to be seen.

Watch the video.

Tsarnaev photo leak embarrassment to Mass State Troopers

23 Jul
DzhokharTsarnaev

Sean Murphy released this image because he thought the magazine cover glamorized Tsarnaev. With the sculpted abs, nipple peek, and pose from the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, this photo does just as much.

The matter of the “Rolling Stone” with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover won’t go away. Just when things should have been cooling off, Sgt. Sean Murphy, a Massachusetts State Trooper and tactical photographer whose job it was to take photos of the stand-off with the younger Tsarnaev, acted without authorization and sent “Boston Magazine” his photos of the bloody Tsarnaev coming out of the boat.

Why?  Because Murphy decided his opinions on the divided issue of the magazine cover took precedence over his job description, the regulations of the law enforcement agency he belongs to, the trust that the public has placed in him, and the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Even if you hated that magazine cover, you should have a problem with the way Murphy acted.

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Murphy (who runs the site trooperphotography.com) got an immediate one day suspension. Rather than tactfully faking some remorse over this blatant breach of professional conduct, he’s puffing himself up as a hero. The Huffington Post quotes him saying:

As a professional law-enforcement officer of 25 years, I believe that the image that was portrayed by Rolling Stone magazine was an insult to any person who has every worn a uniform of any color or any police organization or military branch, and the family members who have ever lost a loved one serving in the line of duty.

Aside from the maudlin rhetoric and the fact that people accused or convicted of killing police are on the covers of newspapers and magazines all the time, it doesn’t matter if Murphy is right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if a magazine is an insult to “fill in the blank.” Everyone is insulted by something. It was Murphy’s job to keep those pictures in house, not send them to the press.  Releasing them wasn’t heroic.  It was a lousy thing to do.

US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz apparently agrees and told the “Boston Globe” through a spokesperson that Murphy’s release of these photos “was completely unacceptable.” Ortiz seems like a terrible person, and her overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz might have driven a good young man to his death.  I’d like to see her follow up on this with the same ruthless tenacity.

But that’s unlikely as, according to Ortiz’s office, they “have spoken with the Massachusetts State Police, who have assured us that the release of the photos was unauthorized and that they are taking action internally in response.” Murphy’s hearing began today in Framingham behind closed doors. In the wake of this first session, a Massachusetts State Police spokesperson said:

State Police will conduct an internal investigation into Sgt. Murphy’s release of departmental photographs to a media outlet last week. The investigation, which is expected to take several weeks to complete at the minimum, will determine whether Sgt. Murphy violated State Police rules, regulations, policies or procedures. State Police took from Sgt. Murphy his use-of-force equipment, badge, and identification, and he will be assigned to administrative duties while on restricted duty. Additionally, he is being transferred from the Office of Media Relations to the Division of Field Services.”

The family of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer allegedly killed by the Tsarnaevs, supports Murphy’s actions.  If Desmond Tutu and Oprah supported Murphy too, it wouldn’t change the basics.  The release of the photos was a violation of the public trust. Society gave Sean Murphy not just a camera but a gun, and a badge, and tons of authority. In return, he gave us as an oath, literally, that he would follow the rules.

Of course, following orders can be a really bad thing. Nazi Germany showed us that. People who break the rules can be heroes. Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning showed us that. But Murphy didn’t break the rules to save lives or call attention to hidden injustice. He did it because he felt insulted by a magazine cover. Nevertheless, in true #BostonDumb fashion, Murphy has received an outpouring of support. He will probably profit from his misconduct in numerous ways.

Can you trust law enforcement? 

This isn’t about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It’s about you.  Can you trust law enforcement?  If you are assaulted, can you trust that cops won’t release evidence photos of your bloody face or naked body? If someone you love is arrested, do you want their case handled professionally or should the cops, lawyers and judges create their own rules as they go along?  When a police car is in front of your house, do you want to be terrified?

The release of photos is a relatively minor thing in this country where people are brutalized and killed by the police every day. But it’s still a thing. Health care professionals obey the dictates of HIPAA. Priests mustn’t violate the sanctity of confession. If police and troopers really want to be seen as “law enforcement professionals” rather than uniformed thugs, much needs to be changed.

This drama created by Sean Murphy hasn’t helped anybody except, possibly, himself.  As for the negative effects, he hasn’t hurt Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or the editors of the “Rolling Stone,” or people that disagreed with him.  All that Murphy has injured is the reputation of the law enforcement community and the trust that good people place in it. 

Jill Stein on running to lose, being too political, and whether justice is possible under capitalism

14 Jun

Marisa Egerstrom, Jill Stein and Rene Perez in the space shared by UNregular Radio and DigBoston

Our guest on “Banned in Boston” last night was Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate in 2012. We discussed the protests in Turkey this month centered in Gezi Park and what Stein calls “a general outbreak of justice and democracy.” Then, addressing the question “how do we turn public will into political will?” Stein described being excluded from a recent rally against tar sands in which she was deemed “too political” too speak. After that, we turned to a statement by Slavoj Žižek, perhaps the most high-profile philosopher of our time, in which he alleges far-left candidates run to lose. Before wrapping up, we wrestled out an answer for the big question, “are peace and justice are possible under a capitalist system?”

Along the way we touched upon austerity, the Black Agenda Report, breaking up the banks, eviction blockades, the Economic Bill of Rights, fair trade, the Forward on Climate rally, Greece and Latin America, fracking, the Green Shadow Cabinet, the Green New Deal, Left Forum, lesser evils, Noam Chomsky, Occupy Wall Street, parliamentarianism, police brutality and intimidation, predator politics, presidential elections, suppression of free speech, tar sands blockades against TransCanada, tree hugging, wars for oil, unions and the labor movement, Barack Obama, local Socialist candidate Seamus Whelan (misidentified as “Sean Whelan”), Chuck Turner of the Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts, Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada, the perceived lack of ethnic diversity in the Green Party, and even FDR’s New Deal.

This episode was co-hosted by Marisa Egerstrom of the Protest Chaplains, Rene Perez who is known to some as the “man in the Yellow Hat,” and me, John Stephen Dwyer. Thanks to Noah Evans, Chris Faraone, Liam Leahey, and Jeff Nunes for submitting questions , Evan Greer (our guest on next week’s show) for the music, and to Occupy Boston for their support . To stream or download the mp3 file for this episode click here.

“Banned in Boston,” a weekly radio show that delivers radicalism with a local accent, is broadcast live every Thursday night, 8 pm on UNregular Radio and as repeats on Metacomet Radio. John Stephen Dwyer, author of this blog, is one of the hosts.

Respect authority. Just kidding.

8 Jun
John Ford, Nelson Terry, Rene Perez, Marisa Egerstrom and Marisa Egerstrom

John Ford, Nelson Terry, Rene Perez, Marisa Egerstrom and Rob Potylo in the UNregular Radio studio with Jackie Soriano as technical producer.  Photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

A superior episode of “Banned in Boston” went out June 6, 2013 on UNregular Radio. Musician and comedian Rob Potylo was back on the panel to entertain and tell us why he’s been banned from so many other radio stations. We discussed the release of Cameron D’Ambrosio, aka Cammy Dee, the Massachusetts teen arrested and charged with “communicating terroristic threats,” and then remark on how the Obama administration has been collecting millions of telephone records from Verizon customers under a secret court order. After a break in which we enjoyed some of Rob Potylo’s new music, Marisa Egerstrom of the Protest Chaplains interviewed Derin Korman, a friend from Turkey who helped us understand the violence in Istanbul this month. The show was tech produced by Jackie Soriano with co-hosts John Ford, Rene Perez, Nelson Terry and me, John Stephen Dwyer, in the studio. I hope you like it. Click here to listen.

Political protest as an “adults only” activity

9 Mar

To all the parents out there? How can protests and movements better cater to you? What would you like to see at rallies, meetings, marches, etc.?”

That was a question asked today on the Facebook page of Occupy Boston. “Kids corner…lots of juice, diapers, non-MSG and non-sugar snacks” was among the typical responses. I disagree and don’t think the presence of children is appropriate at a real protest.

The purpose of a protest isn’t recreation, or socializing, or fresh air and exercise, or spending quality time with children, or making us feel a false sense of “having made a difference.” These needs can be better filled by other activities.

The purpose of a protest should be to create a shock that demands a response. Political will isn’t created until people without power do something that makes people with power break a sweat and say “oh damn, either we react or this will get worse for us.” Shock and response is the pattern of history.

Are you sad now because I said you shouldn’t take your kids to protest? Don’t be. You can still attend pseudo-protests like the “Forward on Climate” rally held on February. They called it a protest, but it was nothing but a polite, permitted march through the deserted streets of DC on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Vis-à-vis the false sense of accomplishment it created, it was literally worse than if people stayed home.

If you want take your kids to a parade disguised as a protest, be my guest. They’ll be plenty of them in 2013, organized by well-scrubbed, college-educated folk with plenty to lose. Tear away the social and recreational aspect of one of these farces and there’s almost nothing left. They are fun, however, for those who think you can make an omelet without breaking any eggs.

How do you know if you’re at a real protest or not? Ask yourself if civil disobedience is involved, and if it feels like someone might be pepper sprayed by the police. If the answer is “no” to both of these questions, then I hope you and the kids enjoy playing your theater roles. If the answer is “yes,” then congratulations. You’re probably at a real protest. Now get your kids the hell out of there as fast as possible.

Chris Dorner, the pope, capitalism, and the case against Occupy Boston

15 Feb

Listen to the “Banned of Boston” gang as they argue, rant and joke about topics including Benedict XVI, the execution of Chris Dorner, Obama’s State of the Union Address, Suffolk County dropping its case against Occupy Boston activists, the possibility of peaceful revolution, the problem of capitalism, the problem of fascism, the problem of racism, and the problem of -isms.  Thanks to co-hosts Rene Perez and Nelson Terry, guests Ruth Garcia, KC Hoye, Garret Kirkland, Mass Krawitz, Jeff Nunes, and technical producer Liam Sherry.   To hear the February 14, 2013 episode, click here.

You might also want to read “Charges against Occupy Boston have been dropped.  So why aren’t we celebrating?”

Charges against Occupy Boston have been dropped. So why aren’t we celebrating?

8 Feb
Boston Police arresting Occupy Boston protestors on October 11, 2013. Photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Boston Police arresting Occupy Boston protestors on October 11, 2013. Photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Five activists from Occupy Boston were scheduled to begin trial this Monday.  But today, without warning, the Suffolk County District Attorney dropped the charges against them and 22 others who refused to take the deals offered by prosecutors.

When I heard this, I thought it was time to celebrate.  I was there at the Boston Police raids in October 2011 and December 2011.  I’ve seen how looming legal action has taken its toll on good people from Occupy Boston.  Urszula Masny-Latos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and a woman I’ve grown to trust, even said the following in a press release:

We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.

But this dropping of charges isn’t being done to exonerate the activists involved.  It’s being done to avoid giving the arrestees and their attorneys a platform.  Reading more of Nation Lawyer Guild press release, it’s easy to see why the District Attorney wants to unlock horns with Occupy Boston and the NLG:

Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government.  In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored. The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.

Mitt Romney and Robert Gallery?  That could have been a very interesting day in court.  I’ll be watching closely to see what happens next.  Some folks are talking about the possibility of a civil trial.  In the meanwhile, take a look at the rest of the NLG’s press release here and this intense post by Allison  “Una Spenser” Nevitt at the Daily Kos that points out some serious problems with a report given by the Boston Globe.

If you are sympathetic to the ideas that fueled the Occupy movement, please donate to the NLG.  Without their constant and continued assistance, we basically would have been at the mercy of the cops and the courts.  A direct link for that is here.

Massachusetts marijuana laws still allow prosecution for small amounts

19 Jan
Yep, even this lil nugget of "Bubba Kush" could land you in jail.

Yep, even this lil nugget of “Bubba Kush” could land you in jail.

From a legal standpoint, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts isn’t the most dangerous place to light up a joint.  Through voter decision, marijuana was decriminalized in 2009. More recently, the people of Massachusetts voted in favor of medical marijuana at the general election last November.  It is still possible, however, to be arrested and given up to two years in jail for a tiny amount of pot.

Here’s how.  “Possession with intent to distribute” carries up to two years jail time and a fine of up to $5,000.  The amount doesn’t matter.

And in February 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Council ruled that “possession with intent to distribute” applies even if there is no sale has been made and only small, decriminalized amounts of marijuana are involved.  The case before them involved Shawn M. Keefner, arrested 2010 smoking a joint on a porch in Great Barrington.  Cops allegedly found him carrying three gram bags and some suspicious messages on his phone.

Maybe Keefner was a small time weed dealer, maybe he wasn’t.  But the laws are currently in place so that even cutting a dime bag for your bestie can land you in jail.  Caveat venditor.  Carrying weed in more than one container probably invites trouble too.  But hey, if they want to arrest you bad enough, they’ll find a reason whether you’re breaking any laws or not.  Be careful, but don’t get paranoid.

“Super Glue” action against TransCanada leads to 8 arrests in Massachusetts

8 Jan
January 7, 2012 action against TransCanada in Westborough, MA; photo via Students for a Just and Stable Future

January 7, 2012 action against TransCanada in Westborough, MA; photo via Students for a Just and Stable Future

Eight young adults were arrested yesterday after they glued their hands together with cyanoacrylate adhesive during a sit-in protest at TransCanada offices in Westborough, a Central Massachusetts town about 28 miles (45.47 km) west of Boston.

This direct action against TransCanada was one of six this same day across the US.  Protests also took place at TransCanada offices in Milwaukee, WI and in two locations in Houston, TX.  In Maine, activists targeted TD Bank, an important financier for Keystone XL, while people in Detroit, MI went after Chase bank, another major source of money for the project.  The protests are part of a nationwide week of action against the tar sands pipeline that is snaking its way across North America.

The people arrested at the Massachusetts sit-in range in age from 20 to 22 and are students or graduates of local universities including Brandeis, Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and University of New Hampshire.  Their names are Emily Edgerly, Devyn Powell, Lisa Purdy, Shea Riester, Ben Thompson, Benjamin Trolio, Dorian Williams and Alli Welton.  They’ve posted bios about themselves online.

While members of the group have said they acted independently, all are affiliated with 350 Massachusetts and some have connections with Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), an organization described on their website as “a student network fighting to ensure a just and stable future for our generation and the generations to come that are threatened by runaway global warming.”

They entered the building at 2 pm.  A post from Chris Faraone describes how they “marched up to the energy behemoth’s third floor office, sat in a circular formation with their backs touching, and began to click-in. By 2:10, crew members were fully chained and glued to one another, with fast-drying adhesive dripping from their hands and their bike locks.”  A contradictory report from someone involved with the action says they did not apply glue to their locks although that was their original plan.

They were inside until a few minutes after 5 pm, having successfully locked down the office until close of business.  By 6 pm, the protestors were at the police station, some of them still attached by chains.

Later, a comment on Facebook from 350 Massachusetts assured, “Students are now in jail being processed. Their chains and superglue have been removed.” Another post later in the night reported, “Students released!”  The Boston Globe reported that they each paid $40 bail and that nail polish remover intended to dissolve the glue wasn’t really needed.

Marla Marcum, an activist involved behind the scenes, told me that the protestors were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct and that the Boston Globe report of “disturbing the peace” is incorrect.  Marcum said that the police thanked them all for being so positive and cheerful when released and added, “They were the nicest group of police I ever experienced. We told them we would be coming back…one said with a big smile on his face, ‘You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.'”

The protestors will face arraignment in Westborough District Court at 8:30 am tomorrow and have  issued a statement that begins:

Today we stand together as representatives of a desperate generation who have been forced into this position by the reckless and immoral behavior of fossil fuel corporations such as TransCanada. Our political leaders have failed countless times to stand up to the tyranny of fossil fuel giants and take the necessary steps to solve the climate crisis. Their failures have disrupted and destroyed millions of lives.

The eight arrestees show their release papers in this image posted on the 350 Massachusetts page on Facebook

The eight arrestees show their release papers in this image posted on the 350 Massachusetts page on Facebook

This text regarding the January 7 action will be updated as more facts are available.  I’m expecting some phonecalls, and tonight starting 6 pm at First Church Cambridge (11 Garden Street, Harvard Square) there’s a gathering that includes a 350 Massachusetts meeting and preparations for the big protests taking place later this month in conjunction with Tar Sands Free Northeast.  It looks like some of the arrestees will be there, and I’ll try to have some of them on Banned in Boston this Thursday to say more about what happened and why.

In the meanwhile, please donate to the fund that helps make attention-getting actions like this possible.

Murtaza Nek of Occupy Boston arrested

5 Jan

Murtaza NekMurtaza Nek, an MIT grad who many will remember from Occupy Boston, was arrested yesterday afternoon in East Texas as part of the ongoing Tar Sand Blockade.

Nek was apparently arrested for refusing to cross the street when told to do so by the police. There’s video of this at the link below.  According to social justice advocate Dorian Williams:

 “Many of you may know Murtaza Nek as he has been an active participant of 350 Massachusetts and Students for a Just and Stable Future. Recently he took a trip down to Texas to contribute to the Tar Sands Blockade’s fight against the construction of the southern leg of Keystone XL Pipeline. As of 11:50 am on January 3rd, Murtaza was arrested in Texas while trying to provide direct support to his friends partaking in a particularly vulnerable tree sit for the Tar Sands Blockade…For those of who have not had a chance to meet Murtaza, he has been an amazingly strong and dedicated ally in this movement. Having accomplished Climate Summer this past year, where he biked from town-to-town across Massachusetts supporting climate action and discussion, Murtaza brought back his organizing and bike power here. Every week, Murtaza would bike from Worcester to Cambridge and back to participate in SJSF and 350MA meetings, helping organize and participate in actions targeting fossil fuels like tar sands and natural gas. Now he needs our commitment and support in return.”

Nek, who address is listed as Vienna, VA in his arrest record, is charged with interfering with public duties. His bail has been set at $1,500 and supporters are being asked to donate what they can towards the appropriate legal fund. More information (as well as video) about the aerial tree blockade and the brave people involved with it can be found here.