I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Last Execution.

The Freedom Archives home

"Before this generation goes on to its ancestors, we should, we must, do our level best to pass on our lessons, so that they live in our people's minds and lives."
– Mumia Abu Jamal

Sad to think that anyone who might really understand how corrosive and unjust the death penalty is would make their support for abolishing it based on their right to see their own target alone executed before capital punishment goes out of style. That's hardly an ethical or professional stance for one of the foremost police organizations to take. I think they should either continue to support executions for the wrong reasons, or abandon their ignorant tradition and support abolition for the right reasons: you really can't play it both ways and maintain credibility with either camp, though.
I wouldn't trust the cops for a minute if they said they'd join us anyway, frankly.

At least this whole episode can serve to remind the rest of us to listen critically to others in the social movements we find ourselves attracted to, before jumping on board with some of the "leaders", and look at how the internal politics play. One of the things I like about organizing with anarchists is that they're explicitly anti-authoritarian, non-heirarchical, and anti-racist. Our group decisions are arrived at by consensus, not by majority vote or some wise man's decree. That causes us to have a heightened sense of insight into how our own perspectives are shaped, to challenge and explore our own political biases and ideologies and actions, as well those of our friends, and folks aren't shy about confronting BS.

Shame on anyone calling themselves an abolitionist while throwing a comrade under the bus to die like this. Please read and keep in mind that there's a whole lot going on behind the scenes politically that has nothing to do with the merits of the arguments against the death penalty itself - or the very real people on death row around the world. Viva Carolina for exposing all this, despite great personal and professional risk...and hooray for El Enemigo Común and the Freedom Archives for their solidarity with those who struggle, as always.

This is serious business - we don't have time for the BS this guy Cushing and his buddy are up to - or any of their organizations, for that matter. Stay away from the non-profit industrial complex, if you can help it, folks - they'll just take your money and zap your will to fight by letting you think they've got it covered. Communities and collectives are far more useful units of society than organizations, anyway - and less subject to corruption.

Shoot Claude an email at the bottom if you want to sign up for the Political Prisoner News list-serve from FA. That's how I got tipped off to this piece.

Viva la compañera Carolina!

Viva Mumia Abu-Jamal! is an international watchdog against state sponsored repression in Oaxaca. It is the project of a small collective of volunteers in the U.S. and Mexico. We publish and translate communiqués, articles, and other media by, about, and for social movements. Our primary focus is on indigenous peoples, women, and youth, in both urban and rural communities in Oaxaca, but we also publish about other struggles against neoliberalism throughout Mexico.

The Freedom Archives contains over 10,000 hours of audio and video tapes. These recordings date from the late-60s to the mid-90s and chronicle the progressive history of the Bay Area, the United States, and international solidarity movements. The collection includes weekly news/ poetry/ music programs broadcast on several educational radio stations; in-depth interviews and reports on social and cultural issues; diverse activist voices; original and recorded music, poetry, original sound collages; and an extensive La Raza collection.


Two articles follow

El Enemigo Común stands with Carolina and Mumia

by El Enemigo Común ( solidarity [at] )
Wednesday Jun 15th, 2011 10:51 AM

In recent days, El Enemigo Común and numerous other websites published an article by independent journalist and compañera Carolina which documented the presence of Renny Cushing in Mexico. Until recently a state legislator of the Democratic Party, anti-nuclear activist and director of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights, Cushing was invited by his old friend Al Giordano – founder and editor of Narco News Bulletin – to be a professor at Narco News’ 2011 “School of Authentic Journalism.” Presumably through his connection with Giordano, Cushing has also taken on the role as one of the U.S. organizers for the historic June 4 march from Cuernavaca to Ciudad Juárez, organized by Javier Sicilia and the Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity.

As any good journalist would do, Carolina pointed out the problematic nature of Cushing’s involvement around matters involving “authentic journalism” and social movements, noting Cushing’s major role in attempting to silence and eject Mumia Abu-Jamal from the worldwide death penalty abolition movement, solely in order to gain the favor of one of the most reactionary, violent and racist of organizations, the Fraternal Order of Police. Carolina simply posed the question: What can an individual who used his power to throw one of today’s most powerful and important voices for social justice under the bus in favor of a brutal, repressive gang of police officers, offer one of Mexico’s most important social movements? A question which resonated with us at El Enemigo Común and a question we were glad to publish without qualms. We fully stand by Carolina’s article, but most importantly, we without reservation stand behind and offer our full support to our compañera Carolina.

Such statements of support are unfortunately necessary, as since the publication of Carolina’s article Al Giordano has launched a one-person campaign: not to defend his actions or those of Renny Cushing; nor much less to respond to the facts put forward by Carolina; but instead to defame Carolina in the most vile of terms. Giordano has shared with anyone who will listen, and even those who aren’t interested in his ranting, that Carolina is spreading “bullshit” and is a “coward and counterinsurgent in style” and possibly a “provocateur.” Such attacks are appalling coming from anyone, and are even more disturbing when issued by the editor of Narco News. We at El Enemigo Común categorically and emphatically repudiate and denounce Al Giordano’s baseless attacks against Carolina.

Carolina has been an integral part of El Enemigo Común for several years, just as she has been to many, many other organizations, independent media formations and social movements. Her tireless dedication to documenting, promoting and participating in innumerable just struggles in Mexico, the U.S. and beyond is nothing short of remarkable. Through her decades of involvement she has rightly earned the respect of compañeras and compañeras worldwide. This in part can be seen by the support she has received from several independent media outlets in response to Giordano’s outrageous attacks. Likewise, at El Enemigo Común, we are honored and privileged to be able to work alongside her.

Contrary to Giordano’s statements, it is his spurious attacks on Carolina that threaten the integrity of social movements and their support networks. Stating or implying that someone may be a counterinsurgent or provocateur is the height of irresponsibility, as he should well know. It is truly lamentable he chose to sink to such a low.

In the meantime, here at El Enemigo Común we will continue in our efforts to spread bilingual news, analysis and calls to action regarding and in support of social movements in Mexico and beyond – including the Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity – and throughout, proudly counting Carolina among us.

x El Enemigo Común

Letters of Support for Carolina


Anti-Mumia “abolitionist” Renny Cushing tries to clean up image in Mexico

Published: May 31, 2011

For Renny Cushing: May the light and shadow of Mumia Abu-Jamal follow you all the days of your life. May you vomit every time you look in the mirror. And may your portrait be hung in the gallery of the Fraternal Order of Police forever.

For 29 ½ years, the North American State ––its police, district attorneys, courts, news media–– have sought to silence the revolutionary African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal once and for all. Now they have some accomplices who call themselves “abolitionists” to help them do their job. One of them is visiting in Mexico in an apparent attempt to polish his tarnished image by tagging onto the movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity sparked by the esteemed poet Javier Sicilia and embraced by the EZLN and thousands of Mexican people. His name is Renny Cushing. Several questions arise, and the first is this: How can a person who has lost all dignity offer anything to this movement?

Who is Renny Cushing? Ex anti-nuke activist and death penalty opponent, he is a Democratic Party politician, has been a State Representative in New Hampshire several times, and is Director of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights.

What is he doing in Mexico? Al Giordano’s old friend and mentor was invited to be a teacher in the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism in May, 2011. Al Giordano is the founder and editor of Narco News.

What does a politician allied with one of the most brutal police organizations in the U.S. have to do with authentic journalism? I don’t have the slightest idea.

What is he planning to do now? To the misfortune of the highly respected poet Javier Sicilia, the EZLN and tens of thousands of Mexicans engaged in the process of building a movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity, Renny Cushing is one of the United States organizers who will take part in the new Caravan that leaves from Cuernavaca for Cd. Juárez this coming June 4. This was reported in an article written by Lucero Mendizábal and published in Narco News on May 22, 2011.

What the Narco News article doesn’t mention

It’s highly possible that the reporter doesn’t know that Cushing was one of the supposed abolitionists who tried to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal on March 4, 2010, when they walked out of the Fourth World Congress against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland on March 4, 2010, in an outrageous protest against a phone call to the Congress by the death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

It’s also doubtful that Javier Sicilia has heard of this shameful episode.

The obvious question is this: Did Al Giordano know about it when he invited Cushing to Mexico?

The motives of the movement bosses? In a confidential memorandum dated December 21, 2009, they explained why they’ve fallen so low: They don’t want to offend the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)! Why? Because they want police support in order to end the death penalty in the United States.

How did people find out? In his article, “The Politics of Death: Throwing Mumia Abu-Jamal under the Bus”, published on his site “This Can’t Be Happening”, writer Dave Lindorff exposed the sordid proposal. He says that the leaders had signed a confidential memo addressed to the French organizers of the World Congress titled “Involvement of Mumia Abu-Jamal endangers the US coalition for abolition of the death penalty.”

The memo signed by Cushing and others says: “In 1999, the world’s largest association of professional law enforcement officers, the Fraternal Order of Police, announced a boycott of organizations and individuals who support Abu-Jamal. Bills have been introduced in both houses of the US federal legislature condemning the naming of streets for Abu-Jamal. The result is that Abu-Jamal, rather than abolition of the death penalty, becomes the issue and the focus of attention. That is dangerously counter-productive to the abolition movement in the US.”

That is to say, the FOP campaign against Mumia Abu-Jamal has been vicious and relentless, but abolitionists shouldn’t combat this campaign; instead they should abandon the most emblematic prisoner in the struggle against the death penalty.

The memo continues: “The voices of the Innocent, the voices of Victims and the voices of Law Enforcement are the most persuasive factors in changing public opinion and the views of decision-makers (politicians) and opinion leaders (media). Continuing to shine a spotlight on Abu-Jamal… threatens to alienate these three most important partnership groups.”

Right. In a police state like the United States, all that activists can do is ally themselves with the police. Oh yes, and with the Innocent and the Victims. It seems that even though Mumia has always maintained his innocence in the death of policeman Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981, and even though he has been unjustly caged in conditions of torture for 29 ½ years, he doesn´t qualify as one of the “most important partners” of this movement.

And so Renny Cushing and the others have no qualms whatsoever about isolating and expelling a righteous political prisoner who has attracted thousands of people to the abolitionist movement ever since the publication of his first book Live from Death Row (1995), in which he puts a human face on all the horrifying statistics of the official destruction of life behind the walls.

They also think it’s perfectly all right to do whatever they can to please the very police organization that has been trying to kill Mumia for over 29 years and that is responsible for thousands of deaths, imprisonments, beatings and acts of terror in the streets of Philadelphia and the entire nation.

It’s important to note that the counterparts of the FOP in Mexico are responsible for a large part of the violence against the civilian population of the country.

What does Renny Cushing have to offer the movement now being built in Mexico?

Upon suffering the death of his son, Javier Sicilia voiced the sentiments of thousands of Mexican people who have taken to the streets to shout “We’re sick of this shit!” The poet has not only had the courage to denounce politicians, political parties, drug traffickers and the government, but has also demanded the resignation of Mexico’s top cop, Genaro García Luna. And what would Renny Cushing do in his place? Kiss García Luna’s ass to gain his approval? That would be consistent with his practice. Is collusion with the main perpetrators of social violence the way to win peace? Is it the way to win justice? Is it the way to show dignity? This is what we could expect from Renny Cushing.

And what does Mumia Abu-Jamal have to offer to our movements?

Here is the text of an interview with Mumia by Marlene Martin of the Campaign against the Death Penalty:

MAJ: I thank the Campaign to End the Death Penalty for your wondrous support. When the letter was read to me, I felt an odd mix of rage and disbelief. It speaks volumes of the movement and why it is so moribund. Once again, a white elite “polices” (pun intended) the movement, making sure it’s not too “radical” and is acceptable to the system. That ain’t a movement; it’s a regression!

MM: When you heard that a group of abolitionists walked out of a meeting to protest your speaking, what was your reaction?

MAJ: Well, I didn’t know these people, so it didn’t make any sense to me….

MM: Should abolitionists partner with law enforcement?

MAJ: …The role of abolitionists is not to be taken lightly. They were revolutionaries fighting against one of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in American society: Slavery.

You know the one group that abolitionists never bothered to recruit? Slave-owners. They knew that this was a waste of time. The current movement that uses that name clearly hasn’t used that lesson from history.

We forget how Lincoln hated abolitionists with a passion, and demeaned them in his speeches. Cops as abolitionists is just as nutty as the idea of slave-owners turning against the source of their wealth and status.

MM: One of the sentences in the memo reads, “The support of law enforcement officials is essential to achieving abolition in the United States.”

MAJ: Abolitionists should deeply study the history of their forbears­ and learn these lessons of history. That history is struggle­ sometimes unpopular, always controversial, but socially transformative. They can’t make deals with the devil and expect anything other than hell.

MM: In order to win abolition, do we need to be more practical and less radical? That is the implication of the memo.

MAJ: The abolitionist movement is, unfortunately, echoing history here, for after the Union triumphed in the Civil War, they put away their placards, silenced their songs and declared victory. When they walked away, they allowed Reconstruction to be a half-hearted failure.

Their departure from the field allowed politicians to betray millions of newly freed Africans to the tender mercies of the former Confederates­ who launched a campaign of terror that lasted for a century.

Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” There was no struggle and guess what? There was no progress!

MM: What should abolitionists do?

MAJ: Let us become that which we revere and remember. Let us BE abolitionists, strengthened by the positive contributions of our ancestors, Black and white. Let us STRUGGLE­ to make progress. Let us build the movement by making it Blacker, more Latino, and more working class. Let us understand that social movements change history.

MM: Have you received any apologies from anyone of the folks that walked out?

MAJ: No apologies (unless like the memo, they kept it a secret).

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