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Thankful on Thanksgiving

27 Nov

Thanksgiving afternoon, but I can’t stop thinking about the ‪#‎IndictBoston‬ action on Tuesday night. I’m thankful I was able to attend, and I’m thankful white people present seemed mindful of participating in the action without trying to direct it, make speeches, etc. I’m thankful to have been there when Daunasia Yancey yelled “white allies to the front” and that I was able to respond. I’m thankful that my eyeglasses got broken and not my skull. I’m thankful for the painkillers that are easing the back ache I walked away with. I’m thankful to have seen dozens of familiar faces at that march, most of them friends from Occupy Boston. I’m thankful for the honor of participating in that action, and I’m thankful that today I’ll be eating food with loved ones. But I’m thankful, also, that I won’t forget Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and millions more souls killed or incarcerated by state-sanctioned violence who won’t be eating a Thanksgiving meal today. I’m thankful, also, to be mindful today of this holiday in the context of white imperialism and native genocide. Am I happy? Am I sad? I don’t know, but I’m thankful.

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.

Os Gemeos mural in Dewey Square to be replaced by $17,000 seascape

3 Aug
How do you feel about $17,000 in public resources being used for this?

How do you feel about $17,000 in public resources being used for this? (Photo by Jennifer Taylor for Boston Globe)

A brightly-colored mural by Os Gemeos (Brazilian twins Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo) has looked down on Dewey Square since it’s instillation in July 2012.  Since the site attracted little attention before Occupy Boston set up camp in 2011, some associated the masked figure with a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  More neutral parties simply described him as a kid in mismatched pajamas.  Either way, it’s soon to be painted over.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has commissioned Matthew Ritchie to install a 5000′ square abstract seascape to take it’s place, the Boston Globe reports.  It’s scheduled for installation the week of September 16 and is expected to be replaced about a year and a half later, the same schedule as was set for its predecessor.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, an organization that has come under fire for financial matters, is funding the $17,000 installation. According to Geoff Edgers:

The collaboration, to be announced Monday at a Boston Arts Commission meeting, is part of a residency for Ritchie that will include a multimedia performance with members of the rock bands The Breeders and The National, concerts at the museum and elsewhere, and a video project to be produced with the ICA’s teen program. But the biggest splash for the public will come on the exterior of the Big Dig ventilation building in Dewey Square.

Edgers also notes that Os Gemeos mural now in place “made national news when the local Fox television affiliate posted an image of it to a Facebook page, inspiring comments accusing the brothers of creating an image that resembled a terrorist because of the way the face was partially shrouded in clothing.”

I love public art, but this $17,000 price tag makes me squeamish.  How do you feel about it?  Please comment below.

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. 

Zimmerman verdict sends harsh message to youth, Harvard sends harsh message to its workers

22 Jul

 

Rebecca Jackson  of Trinity Boston Foundation

Rebecca Jackson of Trinity Boston Foundation

On “Banned in Boston” last week we welcomed Rebecca Jackson to talk about the Zimmerman verdict’s frightening implications for young men of color. In the second half of the program, Geoff Carens and Le Le Lechat joined us to discuss the ongoing struggle against shady labor practices at Harvard University.

Rebecca Jackson on the Zimmerman verdict

Rebecca Jackson is a social worker with Trinity Boston Foundation  and is involved with B-SAFE, a program in Boston designed to keep young people learning, growing, and out of harm’s way during the summer months. The program helps kids of different ages, but Rebecca’s role within it brings her in particular contact with young men of color who have been trouble with the law and, because of that, might be regarded with less sympathy from the general public than Travyon Martin has received. Speaking on this point, she said:

I felt like how can I go to work on Monday…and try to work with these young men, and tell them that their lives are valuable, and that they have meaning, and that they mean something not just to me but, sort of, to the greater society when a man has been let free for killing one of them? And my boys are in some ways much more actually threatening than Trayvon Martin was…He did not have any of those risk factors. So how much more painful is it? How much more of a clear message is it, that’s being sent, that they really don’t matter?

Geoff Carens and Le Le Lechat on unfair labor practices at Harvard

In the second half of the show, we talked to union organizers Geoff Carens and Genevieve alias Le Le Lechat as they described unfair firing and other shady labor practices taking place at Harvard University. There’s a shocking contrast between Harvard’s altruistic facade and the grim reality of how workers there are sometimes treated. The day after the interview, Geoff and Genevieve braved a heatwave to protest on behalf of mailroom coordinator Nassim Kerkache and other Harvard employees. For more details, see the articles posted by “The Harvard Crimson” and the Boston IWW.

Rebecca, Geoff and Genevieve were great guests with important things to say. The entire July 18, 2013 episode is available for streaming or downloading. 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.

Can a card-carrying socialist get elected to Boston City Council?

18 Jul
Terra Friedrichs and Seamus Whelan in the studio on July 11, 2013.

Terra Friedrichs and Seamus Whelan in the studio on July 11, 2013.

Seamus Whelan, our first guest on “Banned in Boston” last week, is running for a seat on Boston City Council.  He’s also a member of Socialist Alternative who often mentions the Occupy movement and its ideals.  Seamus, a native of Ireland, had some good things to say and his accent was a nice change from what we usually hear in the studio.

Terra Friedrichs, our second guest, was every bit as interesting.  She wants to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so that it clearly states corporations are not people and money should not equal political power.  What’s better, she’s identified a specific process that can force such a proposal to come before legislature.  It’s an exciting idea.

To listen, 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.

Evan Greer plays live on “Banned in Boston”

27 Jun

Evan Greer joined us in the studio on June 20, 2013 for an episode of “Banned in Boston” Imageand a good time was had by all. We had some interesting conversation about things that matter, and got a few questions answered, but mostly we just sat back and enjoyed a private mini-concert just for us and our listeners. If you want to hear the goodness, please 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.

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.