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I side with Antonio Martin

24 Dec

Even if Antonio Martin had a gun, and this is one of those surprising times when police aren’t lying, he didn’t die because he pulled a gun and was shot in self-defense. He was extra-judicially executed, dying on the ground a long time as no ambulance was called. In a spectacle akin to lynching, his dead body was displayed for the public, including his mother and friends, for hours.

Martin might have been shot in self-defense. Maybe. But he died because he was executed without trial, he died because he didn’t have enough class and ethnic status to make his death a PR problem among those who support the police, he died because there’s a multi-billion dollar machine of state-sanctioned violence that’s ready to kill you at any moment, especially if you’re brown or poor.

Most simply, he died because the dozens of professional decision makers involved decided not to take him to the nearby hospital to be saved. He died because dozens of professional decision makers watched him die, slowly, on the cold asphalt.

The two cops killed in Bed-Sty this weekend? I publicly refused to mourn them because they were paid instruments of state-sanctioned violence who died on duty in service to our empire. That doesn’t mean I’m glad they died, or that I didn’t pray for them and their families. It just means I know what side I’m on.

Which side are you on?

Talk about Ferguson with your family?

28 Nov

Did you talk about Ferguson with your family over Thanksgiving? I did. Like most liberals, they’re sympathetic to civil rights issues but horrified by the looting and vandalism that’s taken place in response. I navigated this with two points of argument. First, I pointed out that there’s nothing unusual about the killing of Mike Brown; the only reason it’s still in the news (and being talked about at white dinner tables) is because the community response hasn’t been entirely peaceful.

Second, I brought it close to home and asked, “When Ireland fought for independence from Britain, would you tell the people fighting for freedom to follow the rules of the game laid down by their conquerors?” I added that in centuries recently passed, whenever Irish tenants attacked a landlord or his property, legislators would say “We are fighting for land reform in Parliament and your violent actions create anti-Irish sentiment that harms our efforts.” But without fear of violent uprising, most members of Parliament had no motive to pass land reform; it happened because rich people feared for their wealth and for their lives.

My points were seen. I love my family.

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.

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.

Fill in the Blank

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. 

Hey Jimmy Carter, let’s do some anarchist shit together

19 Jul
Jimmy Carter speaks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in 2011 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Jimmy Carter speaks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 2011 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

The United States is an evil empire and presidents are bad people that do really terrible things.  Mass murdering war criminals Bush and Obama should be sharing a jail cell. We might throw Bill Clinton and Reagan’s corpse in there too.  But I got to be honest.  I like Jimmy Carter.

No, 88-year old Carter isn’t a radical. Don’t expect to see him chilling at the Lucy Parsons Center or talking theory at the Center for Marxist Education.  But it’s obvious this dude is ten miles left of the the average politicized Democrat on Facebook with their war apologetics and Obamadolotry.

“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” Jimmy Carter said that three days ago, according to Der Spiegel, and it’s certainly spot on.  And a while back, he told CNN that Edward Snowden’s NSA leak “has probably been, in the long term, beneficial” to the United States.

And check this.  Last summer, Carter wrote an article called “A Cruel and Unusual Record” that was published in the New York Times.  Other media outlets remarked about it, and people shared the links, then it was forgotten.  But it says a lot.  Here’s how it starts:

The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.  Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public.

Carter goes on to criticize “the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely…a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress.”  He describes how recent laws “allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications.”  And here’s Carter’s take on Obama’s foreign policy:

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

He’s said that unchecked campaign contributions are “legal bribery.”  He’s called for the close of Guantánamo Bay and says US policy is violating the “basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”  Even looking at it strategically, he says “instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.” 

Good.  Jimmy Carter knows what’s up.  Maybe he’s our Great White Hero.  Maybe he has some plan to give power to the people and take it away from the plutarchs and sociopaths in Washington and Wall Street.  So what should we do, Jimmy Carter?

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to mentions course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years. 

Persuade?  How, by sending perfumed valentines to our senators?  Damn it, Jimmy Carter.  I guess you got a lot of criticisms and zero plan to change anything.  But we can still chill together.  I got zero plan too.  And maybe we can work on your delusions that this country was ever moral.

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.

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.

“Tonight the President said he would end the drone wars”

13 Feb
2010 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

2010 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

Last night, Barack Obama gave a State of the Union address that began with a quote from John F. Kennedy telling us that his task as president was “to report the State of the Union.  To improve it is the task of us all.”

What came next might surprise some people.  Keegan O’Brien, a student and activist in Boston, encapsulated it as follows:

Tonight the President said he would end the drone wars, repeal any law that indefinitely detains Americans, repeal any law that gives our government the right to kill someone on suspicion on anything, tax the rich their fair share, propose a single payer health care plan, decriminalize drugs and fund rehabilitation centers, enact a plan to phase out all oil and gas drilling, reunite families torn apart by immigration raids, dramatically reduce the military budget, guarantee housing as a human right, and work hard to pass inclusive non-discrimination policies across the board. #NOT

Obama did actually say some good things he plans to do, like improve education and fight to raise minimum wage to $9 per hour.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he was lying.  A transcript of Obama’s speech is posted at the Washington Post.

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.