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

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Atlanta on the move.

The folks in Atlanta were evicted from the space they occupied (Woodruff Park), and 52 were arrested. They came out of jail swinging, though, spending the night in a homeless shelter to show solidarity with the most oppressed. They'll be setting up a new, more mobile camp in an undisclosed location, retaking the park, and protesting at every event the mayor of Atlanta goes to. There's a lot in this story about their occupation that Phoenix could learn from, actually - Occupy Atlanta has been pretty creative in their showdowns with Power, and are employing a diversity of tactics. I like how they plan to hold the mayor accountable, and how they kept their unpermitted hiphop concert going by climbing onto the generator so the cops couldn't shut it down...Rock on to our brothers and sisters with Occupy Atlanta.


Occupy Atlanta protesters regroup after arrests

Associated Press via Atlanta's 11 alive news.

ATLANTA -- Just hours after being released from jail Wednesday, many members of Occupy Atlanta movement spent the night at a homeless shelter Downtown. Their stay at the shelter at Peachtree and Pine was a show of support. The shelter is being threatened with having the water turned off for failing to pay $147,000 in water bills.

Organizers of Occupy Atlanta are planning their next move and say they have a new plan in place, which includes antagonizing Mayor Kasim Reed, retaking Woodruff Park and becoming a moving target.
Occupy Atlanta plans to show up at public events that Reed will be at, to publicly decry his treatment of the movement. Members also say they they will retake Woodruff Park, despite threat of arrest. And they've said they will hold impromptu occupations throughout the city to make it harder for authorities to stop them.

At a community meeting in Centennial Olympic Park Wednesday night, protesters considered a number of options, including attempting to re-enter the park, confronting Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at a scheduled speaking event, and using the Internet and social media to schedule impromptu occupations to draw attention to problems in corporate America and politics.

Early Wednesday morning, police moved into Woodruff Park and arrested the 52 protesters who had been encamped Downtown for about two weeks. Those arrested included Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort.
Their charges included violating park hours.

Representatives from Occupy Atlanta told 11Alive News that none of those arrested had the opportunity to post bail before Wednesday morning and were told that the system to check criminal backgrounds was down. Occupy leaders said that some local attorneys were volunteering their time to help.

Most of the protesters were later granted a $100 signature bond. However, two were not granted bond becuase they had prior warrants from other jurisdictions -- one had a forgery charge from Texas, the other was held on a marijuana possession charge from Rockdale County.

Twenty-seven of the protesters said they did not have a home address. The judge said they would not be released until they provided an address.

A release from the mayor's office Wednesday morning said the park was cleared without incident. An email from the city Wednesday said the park remained closed as of 11:30 a.m., and that anyone in the park -- including members of the media -- would be arrested.

Before police moved in hours earlier, protesters were warned a couple times around midnight to vacate the park or risk arrest.

Inside the park, the warnings were drowned out by drumbeats and chants of "Our park!"

Organizers had instructed participants to be peaceful if arrests came, and most were. Many gathered in the center of the park, locking arms, and sang "We Shall Overcome," until police led them out, one-by-one to waiting buses. Some were dragged out while others left on foot, handcuffed with plastic ties.

Hundreds of others stood along Peachtree Street, booing police. They shouted "Shame!" and "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?"

By about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, most of the protestors had been cleared out.

State Sen. Vincent Fort had come to the park in support of the protesters in recent days. He said the police presence -- which included SWAT teams in riot gear, dozens of officers on motorcycles and several on horseback -- was "overkill."

"He's using all these resources," Fort said, referring to Mayor Reed. "This is the most peaceful place in Georgia. At the urging of the business community, he's moving people out. Shame on him."

Reed told reporters his security concerns increased Tuesday after a man was seen in the park with an assault rifle. He said authorities could not determine whether the weapon was loaded or not.

11Alive's Blayne Alexander spoke with the man, who called himself "Porch." He said he was an unemployed accountant, and that he did not agree with the views of the protesters, but said he wanted to protect the rights of the people to protest.

On Monday, Reed said he planned to revoke an earlier executive order allowing Occupy Atlanta protesters to stay in the park. However, he did not say when the move would happen.

Tensions Mount

Tensions between Occupy Atlanta and the mayor grew over the weekend when the protestors promoted an unpermitted hip hop festival at the park, despite contrary directives given to the group by city officials.
In a Monday afternoon news conference, Mayor Reed said the person responsible for security for the two-day festival quit last week due to issues of payment.

Reed added that advertisements for the concert, which aired on V-103 radio, said major hip hop performers, including Ludacris, were scheduled to appear at the venue. However, the mayor said, after speaking with Ludacris, he learned the musician had never planned to appear. The mayor said violence has erupted at concert venues where hip hop artists were promised and did not appear.

About 600 people showed up for Saturday's show.

With no city permit, Occupy Atlanta organizers tried to take over the event by telling vendors to set up, anyway.

"But y'all don't have a permit," one of the vendors shouted.

"We have an executive order for the whole park," said Tim Franzen with Occupy Atlanta. "We do whatever we want."

"The executive order permits Occupy Atlanta to remain in the park past 11 p.m.," Reed clarified Monday. "It does not exempt them from the fire codes or any other laws."

The mayor pointed out that in an attempt to prevent police from stopping the concert Saturday, members of Occupy Atlanta climbed onto and draped themselves over a generator.

"If that generator had caught fire or exploded, who would have been responsible?" Reed asked. "The City of Atlanta."

In a statement issued Monday night, Occupy Atlanta group members said: "The corruption of our political system by modern-day robber barons is the real clear and present danger. People are literally dying in the streets while the mayor's primary concern seems to be trying to end our attempt to shine a light on these problems."

Members of the mayor's staff were present during Wednesday's arrests.

As daylight broke, many of those who had not been arrested returned to Woodruff Park for a march down to Atlanta Municipal Court. The park itself was closed for maintenance.

While Atlanta's overnight arrests were largely peaceful, in Oakland, Calif., police shot tear gas in response to rock throwing from some of the demonstrators who had gathered there, according to authorities.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What we want: the Black Panthers' 10-point Program.

What follows is the 10-Point Program that articulated the demands of the Black Panther Party of the '60's and '70's. This seemed appropriate to post tonight since the General Assembly for Occupy Phoenix is trying to come up with a coherent, concise statement of grievances and demands. The Black Panthers didn't wait for the government to come to the People's rescue, though - they opened kitchens to feed the community's hungry children and set up free medical clinics in impoverished neighborhoods.

As the Black Panther Party matured and developed an increasingly critical and marxist analysis of the politics of their oppression, they organized with other liberation movements and street gangs to fight the state instead of each other. Consequently, the Black Panthers were systematically assassinated or locked up for life in the worst of our prisons - some have been in solitary confinement for decades. If you're serious about social change - and if you're really making any headway - just be prepared to be retaliated against. One doesn't even have to be guilty of a crime to be prosecuted and go to prison in America...

---the Black Panther Party's 10-Point Program-----


We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.


We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.


We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.


We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.


We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.


We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide our selves with proper medical attention and care.


We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.


We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.


We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are most disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpation, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Being the Change: Notes from OccupyOakland.

The following post is from The Fearless Heart blog, where Miki Kashtan has been writing insightfully about OccupyOakland. Love from Phoenix to all our brothers and sisters who were harassed and brutalized by the cops there this week...Keep the faith: from this rubble we will build a better world.


An Alternative to Demands: Notes from OccupyOakland

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

by Miki Kashtan

The OccupyOakland I visited on October 15th was not a protest. You could say that I knew it, because I have read about it before I was there. I still couldn’t understand it fully until I saw what it meant. I suspect the same is true elsewhere, though I will not presume to know.

A protest, in some fundamental way, engages with the existing power structures. What I saw, instead, was a parallel existence. This was not a march attempting to make something happen through demands and goals. What I saw was a gathering of people without any urgency, setting up camp, providing free services, engaged in the activities of making life happen, engaged in educating each other, curious to learn, and intent on inclusion. In an earlier post I was expressing some concern about the absence of a vision. What I saw in the park changed my perspective. I was fully humbled. There is absolutely no absence of vision. In fact, what was so compelling for me in being there was seeing a vision being lived out. They are not making demands. Instead, in their own small way, and however imperfectly, they are creating the world in which they want to live. There is free food being served 24/7, there are supplies of all kinds, energy created by people pedaling a bike, and everyone appears to be part of an incessant conversation.

I see an astonishing potential for this form of action that I hadn’t considered previously. It makes for a movement that has no clear end point. There is nothing someone else can do in any immediate way that will give the people gathered at the park in Oakland what they are already creating for themselves. I can’t imagine what would happen, or a set of actions on the part of anyone, that would lead people to say “Now we are done and we can go home to our daily living.” They didn’t seem particularly interested in that form of daily living that has become the norm in this country. It is, in fact, that very form of daily living that this movement seems to me to be challenging.

Is their core method a conscious choice on anyone’s part? Whether or not it is, the result is confusion for many. I was confused enough to not see their vision until I was there. Having been there, I now know why I didn’t see it. The vision is not being articulated, it is only lived, as best the occupiers know how. The action is broad enough, and the articulation is sparse enough that many of us can interpret the actions as manifestations of a vision we have. Indeed, many, including myself, have done so. I can certainly see what is happening as an example and precursor to the vision of a world based on caring for human needs. Some are also urging the movement to follow specific strategies, to articulate certain demands, to go for certain goals.

The lack of clarity about the difference between demands and vision continues. I am still wishing that some vision, or many visions, were articulated even in the absence of demands. I still suspect that many would find it hard to express the positive vision they are trying to live. I imagine that were they to do so, perhaps more people would grasp what they are trying to do and be inspired, because vision tends to attract people. No accident that one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speeches was about dreaming. That being said, I don’t know what is true. My humility grows daily about this movement.

There is also a way in which talking about “a movement” is misleading. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of thought and care that’s being put into coordination, logistics, and all other aspects of continuing this massive experiment. And yet much of what happens, including actual protest actions that are taking place alongside and within this attempt to step outside the norms of living, happens through people taking spontaneous, autonomous steps.

What is most striking to me of all is how much I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone, anywhere, has the capacity to predict what could happen as a result of this new form of action. This movement has outgrown our capacity to categorize, analyze, and predict. It’s already bigger than anyone’s decision making capacity. No one can tell the people on the street what to do. I feel a slight bit of discomfort, and a whole lot of curiosity and interest in accompanying this surge. In this moment, more than anything, I see this movement as part of a large wakeup call that life is issuing to itself.

The group of people that took possession of the Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland are creating a small scale experiment in living without relying on large institutions. Anyone can join, anyone can contribute, anyone can challenge, and anyone can talk. Why would that ever want to stop?

Stay tuned for more Notes from OccupyOakland. Since writing this piece I have been to OccupyOakland once more. I attended a meeting of the newly created Nonviolence Caucus (meets daily as of October 18th, an hour before the General Assembly, by the kids’ play area) and participated in the General Assembly meeting. I plan on posting my impressions of these conversations in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The infiltration of Occupy Wall Street.

You can bet that they're already undercover among us too, trying to water down the movement or goad disaffected young people into plotting criminal actions...


Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD
Adrien Chen
October 15, 2011

From the blog

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for a month. And it seems the FBI and NYPD have had help tracking protesters' moves thanks to a conservative computer security expert who gained access to one of the group's internal mailing lists, and then handed over information on the group's plans to authorities and corporations targeted by protesters.

Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17, New York security consultant Thomas Ryan has been waging a campaign to infiltrate and discredit the movement. Ryan says he's done contract work for the U.S. Army and he brags on his blog that he leads "a team called Black Cell, a team of the most-highly trained and capable physical, threat and cyber security professionals in the world." But over the past few weeks, he and his computer security buddies have been spending time covertly attending Occupy Wall Street meetings, monitoring organizers' social media accounts, and hanging out with protesters in Lower Manhattan.


As part of their intelligence-gathering operation, the group gained access to a listserv used by Occupy Wall Street organizers called September17discuss. On September17discuss, organizers hash out tactics and plan events, conduct post-mortems of media appearances, and trade the latest protest gossip. On Friday, Ryan leaked thousands of September17discuss emails to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who is now using them to try to smear Occupy Wall Street as an anarchist conspiracy to disrupt global markets.

What may much more alarming to Occupy Wall Street organizers is that while Ryan was monitoring September17discuss, he was forwarding interesting email threads to contacts at the NYPD and FBI, including special agent Jordan T. Loyd, a member of the FBI's New York-based cyber security team.

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

On September 18th, the day after the protest's start, Ryan forwarded an email exchange between Occupy Wall Street organizers to Loyd. The email exchange is harmless: Organizers discuss how they need to increase union participation in the protest. "We need more outreach to workers. The best way to do that is by showing solidarity with them," writes organizer Jackie DiSalvo in the thread. She then lists a group of potential unions to work with.

Another organizer named Conor responds: "+1,000,000 to Jackie's proposal on working people/union struggles outreach and solidarity. Also, why not invite people to protest Troy Davis's execution date at Liberty Plaza this Monday?"

Five minutes after Conor sent his email, Ryan forwarded the thread—with no additional comment—to Loyd's FBI email address. "Thanks!" Loyd responded. He cc'd his colleague named Ilhwan Yum, a fellow cybersecurity expert at the agency, on the reply.

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

On September 26th, Ryan forwarded another email thread to Agent Loyd. But this time he clued in the NYPD as well, sending the email to Dennis Dragos, a detective with the NYPD Computer Crimes Squad.

The NYPD might have been very grateful he did so, since it involved a proposed demonstration outside NYPD headquarters at 1 Police Plaza. In the thread, organizers debated whether to crash an upcoming press conference planned by marijuana advocates to celebrate NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly ordering officers to halt arrests over possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"Should we bring some folks from Liberty Plaza to chant "SHAME" for the NYPD's recent brutalities on Thursday night for the Troy Davis and Saturday for the Occupy Wall Street march?" asked one person in the email thread. (That past Saturday, the video of NYPD officer Anthony Bologna pepper-spraying a protester had gone viral.) Ryan promptly forwarded the email thread to Loyd at the FBI and Dragos at the NYPD.

Interestingly, it was Ryan who revealed himself as a snitch. We learned of these emails from the archive Ryan leaked yesterday in the hopes of undermining the Occupy Wall Street movement. In assembling the archive of September17discuss emails, it appears he accidentally included some of his own forwarded emails indicating he was ratting out organizers.

"I don't know, I just put everything I had into one big package," Ryan said when asked how the emails ended up in the file posted to Andrew Breitbart's blog. Some security expert.

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

But Ryan didn't just tip off the authorities. He was also giving information to companies as well. When protesters discussed demonstrating in front of morning shows like Today and Good Morning America, Ryan quickly forwarded the thread to Mark Farrell, the chief security officer at Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal.

Ryan wrote:

Since you are the CSO, I am not sure of your role in NBC since COMCAST owns them.
There is a huge protest in New York call "Occupy Wall Street". Here is an email of stunts that they will try to pull on the TODAY show.

We have been heavily monitoring Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous.

"Thanks Tom," Farrell responded. "I'll pass this to my counterpart at NBCU."

Did the FBI and/or NYPD ask him to monitor Occupy Wall Street? Was he just forwarding the emails on out of the goodness of his heart? In a phone interview with us, Ryan denied being an informant. "I do not work with the FBI," he said.

Ryan said he knows Loyd through their mutual involvement in the Open Web Application Security Project, a non-profit computer security group of which Ryan is a board member. Ryan said he sent the emails to Loyd unsolicited simply because "everyone's curious" about Occupy Wall Street, and he had a ground-eye view. "Jordan never asked me for anything."

Was he sending every email he got to the authorities? Ryan said he couldn't remember how many he'd passed on to the FBI or NYPD, or other third parties. Later he said that he only forwarded the two emails we noticed, detailed above.

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

But even if he'd been sending them on regularly, they were probably of limited use to the authorities. Most of the real organizing at Occupy Wall Street happens face-to-face, according to David Graeber, who was one of the earliest organizers. "We did some practical work on [the email list] at first—I think that's where I first proposed the "we are the 99%" motto—but mainly it's just an expressive forum," he wrote in an email. "No one would seriously discuss a plan to do something covert or dangerous on such a list."

But regardless of how many emails Ryan sent—or whether Loyd ever asked Ryan to spy on Occupy Wall Street—Loyd was almost certainly interested in the emails he received. Loyd has helped hunt down members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous, and he and his colleagues in the FBI's cyber security squad have been monitoring their involvement in Occupy Wall Street.

Meet the Guy Who Snitched on Occupy Wall Street to the FBI and NYPD

At a New York cyber security conference one day before the protest began, Loyd cited Occupy Wall Street as an example of a "newly emerging threat to U.S. information systems." (In the lead-up to Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous had issued threats against the New York Stock Exchange.) He told the assembled crowd the FBI has been "monitoring the event on cyberspace and are preparing to meet it with physical security," according to a New York Institute of Technology press release.

We contacted Loyd to ask about his relationship with Ryan and if any of the information Ryan passed along was of any use to the agency. He declined to answer questions and referred us to the FBI's press office. We'll post an update if we hear back from them.

We asked Ryan again this morning about how closely he was working with the authorities. Again, he claimed it was only these two emails, which is unlikely given he forwarded them to the FBI and NYPD without providing any context or explaining where he'd gotten them.

And he detailed his rationale for assisting the NYPD:

My respect for FDNY & NYPD stems from them risking their lives to save mine when my house was on fire in sunset park when I was 8 yrs old. Also, for them risking their lives and saving many family and friends during 9/11.

Don't you find it Ironic that out of all the NYPD involved with the protest, [protesters] have only targeted the ones with Black Ribbons, given to them for their bravery during 9/11?

I am sorry if we see things differently, I try to look at everything as a whole and in patterns. Everything we do in life and happens in life, there is a pattern behind it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupy Phoenix Council of Color: Occupy the Court

The newly-formed Occupy Phoenix Council of Color will be meeting this week to discuss

Occupy Maricopa County Superior Court

Tuesday, October 25, 5:30pm
Cesar Chavez Plaza (look for placard on Washington Street side)

We will be discussing our upcoming occupation of the Court, which will take place on Thursday, Oct. 27 @ 8:00 a.m. (event notification to come).

Judges and prosecutors are protected by the absolute immunity clause of the 11th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, thus have no accountability for their actions. We will show up at the Court in solidarity with our brothers and sisters; sons and daughters, etc. who are subject to persecution in this system...while at the same time show up with our makeshift white t-shirts with the words "End 11th Amendment Immunity" written in permanent marker on the front. We will discuss the laws and rules of the court, our roles while occupying, and our demeanor and behavior in the court room. This meeting will also double as our first General Assembly.


Occupy Phoenix Council of Color

Black and Brown Unity

The continents of Africa and South America; Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean have been the subject of imperial occupation by Europeans since the early 1500s. The people of said places have been subject to various enslavement, murder, rape, displacement, incarceration, oppression and discrimination ever since.

U.S. media have made great efforts to pit Black and Brown (B&B) against one another since the early 20th century. Isolated gang violence in Los Angeles, CA, New York, and here in Phoenix between Black and Brown has been sensationalized and glorified in U.S. media to aid in its goal of divide and conquer.

Occupy Phoenix Council of Color is our opportunity to come together not as Black and Brown, but as a singular people fighting the same imperial forces. No matter what media and government attempt in dividing us, we are too similar to not recognize the obvious:

-B&B made up 70 percent of the U.S. prison population in 2009.

-B&B are disproportionately murdered, assaulted and harassed by police

-B&B are disproportionately disenfranchised because of malicious felony convictions

-B&B are far more likely to live in poverty than their European American counterparts

-B&B immigrants are viewed as "aliens" and "anchor babies" in the USA

-B&B are disproportionately taken advantage of by mortgage banking malfeasance

-B&B families are too often fractured because of the U.S. "justice system"

This forum was created so B&B can have open, frank and honest conversation about the issues that truly effect us. We are in complete solidarity with the 99%. There are, however, some who feel their opinions and concerns are shut out of the broader movement, and feel more comfortable in a setting such as this.


We will plan and discuss our agendas, and finalize our demands from our government in the near future. Welcome all!

MCSO Jails: Graves v. Arpaio winding down.

"Time to Indict"
National Chalk the Police Day,
4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix
October 1, 2011

Unfortunately, there are more than a few minor issues with the county jails that remain unresolved. There continues to be a culture of abuse among MCSO officers and a larger CJ system which minimizes such behavior, a poison which seeps from the top on down. The conditions in the jails today - particularly the medical neglect and the abuse that the mentally ill have been subjected to - are still unacceptable. Even I didn't get my medications in jail.

Sadly, that won't be likely to change much until Arpaio is out of there and someone who respects human and civil rights is in.
We'll see if this electorate has it in them to do better than him next time around.

------------from the AZ Republic------------

34-year Maricopa County jails suit nears end

Last issues don't need hearing, attorneys say

The inmates, jails and sheriff have all changed since a class-action lawsuit was filed over county jail conditions 34 years ago, but ongoing concerns kept the lawsuit alive.

That legal action, which over time changed the way Maricopa County holds and treats inmates, appears finally to be coming to an end - if the Sheriff's Office can attend to a few minor issues in the next few months.

Attorneys for inmates and the Sheriff's Office scheduled to present their cases to a federal judge last week in the decades-old fight canceled the hearings after lawyers on both sides agreed they were close enough to resolving a final few issues that they did not need to go before a judge.

"If, in fact, we do what we intend to do, it should be done - no hearing, nothing," said Jack MacIntyre, a sheriff's chief deputy.

It would be a milestone. For years, county jails have been subject to court-ordered oversight to ensure that inmate conditions improved. While a separate piece of the lawsuit targeting Correctional Health Services - a taxpayer-funded agency that provides constitutionally mandated health care to inmates - will continue under court oversight, the fact that the rest of the Sheriff's Office's jail operations could emerge from oversight is significant.

If the Sheriff's Office can, by early March 2012, increase the caloric intake of inmates, address overcrowding in a holding facility and prove there is proper sanitation, the agency will emerge from court oversight. Those requirements were part of an amended judgment issued by a federal judge.

"We're pleased to see that the sheriff is agreeing to cooperate and resolve and come into compliance with the second amended judgment," said Sharad Desai, an attorney representing the inmates.

Advocates say it has been a long time coming.

Three inmates held in the First Avenue Jail brought the original lawsuit against then-Sheriff Jerry Hill in 1977, asking a federal court to intervene over conditions they claimed were "degrading, inhuman, punitive, unhealthy and dangerous."

Court documents and news reports from the time depict jails that appear brutal compared with the spartan facilities Sheriff Joe Arpaio now proudly operates.

The unsentenced inmates complained in court filings of cold food that could contain glass or spit and meat that was sometimes uncooked or dropped on the floor and served for dinner; of rodents and insects living in 136-square-foot cells with up to eight inmates who weren't allowed to shower for days; and of going days, weeks, even months without seeing the sun or getting the chance for recreation.

Patrick Schiffer was a young attorney at the time working in a Community Legal Services office when he took the case in 1979, and while he calls the case the most fun he has had as a lawyer, he also recalls the horrid conditions.

"They had 8-by-21-foot cells with eight people and a toilet at the end, so only about three guys could stand up at a time and they spent 24 hours a day in there because the day rooms between the cells were stacked with mattresses," he said.

Schiffer's work on the case also made him skeptical about the county's commitment to change the jail system. Correctional Health Services' ongoing court oversight and Arpaio's inclination to make life hard on inmates leave Schiffer wondering about the effect of the court orders to improve conditions over the years.

"That's been the problem from Day One of the judgment," Schiffer said. "They don't follow what they promise to do. They do some of it."

The condition of jails in Maricopa County was not unique at the time.

In the early 1970s, federal judges began getting involved in cases about prison conditions at the state and county levels, and what they found was shocking, said Michele Deitch, an attorney and University of Texas professor who served as a court-appointed monitor in Texas prisons.

By the mid-1980s, nearly 40 states were operating all or parts of their prison and jail systems under some sort of court order, she said.

"A lot of these problems were invisible for a long time. I think there were abuses in these facilities for many, many years. A lot of it was sort of swept under the rug," Deitch said. "When all the testimony about these conditions started coming out, they couldn't be ignored. So judges started imposing remedies to fix these conditions."

Many of the cases, including Maricopa County's, took decades to resolve because it took years to get funding, build new facilities and change the culture of jail systems to meet the court-ordered remedies, she said.

A federal judge first issued guidelines on legal compliance for Maricopa County jails in 1981. That judgment was amended in 1995. Then in 2001, the Sheriff's Office tried to terminate the judgment under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which states that decrees on jail conditions are up for dismissal after two years unless inmates can show their constitutional rights are being denied.

That led to U.S. District Judge Neil Wake's 2008 ruling that unconstitutional conditions persisted in the county's jails. Wake issued a second amended judgment, which the Sheriff's Office is now trying to prove it has complied with.

Despite the long-running legal battle and the millions spent to litigate the case, MacIntyre said the lawsuit has had a lasting impact on jail operations.

It played a role in the county's decision to seek funding for new jail facilities, including the Lower Buckeye and Fourth Avenue jails, and caused detention officials to closely examine the way they treat and house inmates, he said.

"There's certainly been some benefit from that. But it's time," MacIntyre said. "The system has benefited from it, but it's time to return all the management back to the Sheriff's Office."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From Those who have Faced Occupation for Centuries...

"Save the Peaks: Defend Sacred Sites"
The Firehouse Gallery, Phoenix
August 21, 2011

----------From a member of the Indigenous Resistance in Canada----------

An Open Letter and Appeal

to the Global “Occupy Wall Street” Movement -

From Those who have Faced Occupation for Centuries

~Kevin Annett

My name is Rawennatshani and I am an adopted member of the Turtle clan of the Onkwehonwe people, known to you as the Mohawk Nation. My name was given to me by the Clan Mothers of my Nation and it means, “One whose wise and powerful voice warns the people”.

Your battle today against a global corporate dictatorship that is destroying our world and its people is the same struggle our Nation has fought for much longer than you. For centuries, we have lost most of our land and our people to a triple assault from colonial governments, their partner churches, and land-hungry corporations. Today, like you, we are all perched on a cliff of final extinction.

I am speaking to you today in my own capacity to invite you to come and sit with us under the tree that is our Great Law of Peace and join our forces, so that together we can reclaim the earth, our children, and our very lives.

This year, members of our Onkwehonwe Nation joined with five other indigenous nations here on Turtle Island, and with allies in Ireland and the Basque nation, to proclaim a Public Banishment Order against the institutions that are committing genocide against us, and against our children.

The colonial state known as Canada, its sponsor the Crown of England, and the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada, have been ordered by us to forever leave our territories because they caused the death of more than 50,000 children in their murderous “Indian residential schools”, and have not returned their remains for a proper burial.

In our tradition, as in yours, those who have been killed and denied a proper burial must wander forever until they are acknowledged, honoured and returned to their families. Help us then to give these innocent children the rest they have been denied.

We have asked the world to honor our Banishment Order, and to refuse to support or fund these genocidal organizations. Today, we ask you to do so, and more, and that is to help us occupy the buildings and lands of these churches and governments, and return them to the indigenous nations from whom they were stolen.

Our network has already delivered the Banishment Order to these churches, but they have refused to comply. We are therefore taking the next step of occupying their facilities and using them to house and feed our people, many of whom are destitute.

This occupation is also the only way we have to recover the bodies of the 50,000 children who were cruelly starved, tortured, raped and murdered in these residential schools, for many mass graves sit near former residential schools, and these churches refuse to surrender the remains of our children, or disclose the evidence of their fate.

The Roman Catholic church itself is one of the world’s largest and most murderous corporations, and has placed itself and its child-raping ways above any law. Our long-term aim is to bring the Vatican and other churches to trial for their crimes against humanity and for their role in laundering dirty corporate money and investing in the arms trade and in planet-raping companies.

The genocide by this church and others against our people is part of the same force that is now exterminating our planet and endangering the future of all the nations.

We therefore ask you respectfully to consider undertaking the following actions in your campaign:

1. Pass a motion supporting our Banishment Proclamation and pledging actions to occupy the buildings of these churches. A copy of the Proclamation is attached.

2. Join us in these occupations and reclamations.

3. Pass another motion supporting the efforts of our Onkwehonwe Nation of the Grand River in Brantford, Ontario, who have begun our own inquiry and excavations on the grounds of the oldest Residential school in Canada, to find and re-inter the remains of our relatives killed there.

4. Invite speakers from our Nation and the Human Rights Tribunal we are affiliated with to address your gatherings and share the evidence of the ongoing genocide of our peoples.

5. Educate yourselves about our history and campaign by sharing these websites:

The land you occupy was taken from us at the cost of millions of our lives. Help reverse this wrong by standing with us today.

I thank you and ask the blessings of all our ancestors and the Four Directions on all of us,

I am Rawennatshani of the Turtle Clan, Onkwehonwe Nation of the Grand River - Affiliated with The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (Brussels) –

Ph: 250-591-4573 (Canada)


Note: A You Tube posting of this Appeal is forthcoming.



Issued against the Corporations known as the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, and United Church of Canada

By Elders in Council from the Inuit, Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Anishnabe, Basque and Gaelic Nations under traditional and sovereign Land Law Jurisdiction

As of this day, Sunday, September 18, 2011, your organizations, their clergy and officers, are forever banished from our territories and lands, and your property and wealth are claimed and re-possessed for the use and benefit of all our people.

Your right to operate on our land has been forfeited by your rape, torture, and murder of our children, by your refusal to change and do justice, and by your betrayal of your own faith and public trust.

Depart, Now and Forever

If you continue to operate on our land after September 18, 2011, your clergy and officials will be in a state of criminal trespass and public mischief, and will be subject to immediate arrest and detainment by our Common Law Peace Officers.

We call upon all the members of these churches to honor this Banishment Order by withdrawing their financial and material support for these criminal corporations posing as religious bodies, lest they be found guilty of complicity with these crimes.

This Banishment Order will be enforced through direct, non-violent actions by our people to peacefully occupy the church properties of these corporations, and use them to house the homeless and feed the hungry.

We invoke the Great Law of Peace and the Sovereignty of our respective Nations as we proclaim the Permanent Expulsion and Banishment from our communities of the Roman Catholic Church, Inc., the Church of England, Inc. (Anglican-Episcopalian), and the United Church of Canada, Inc.

Posted at these churches around the world at 11 am, local time, Sunday, September 18, 2011 - Issued under the authority of the Council of Nine Traditional Elders of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Chruch and State - Jeremiah Jourdain, Convener (Anishnabe-Cree Nation)

.............................. .............................. .............................. ......

Read the truth of genocide in Canada and globally at:

This email is hosted by Jeremiah Jourdain on behalf of the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) and Kevin Annett - Eagle Strong Voice (adopted May 2004 into the Anishinabe nation by Louis Daniels - Whispers Wind).

Kevin can be reached at or - and phone messages can be left for him at 250-591-4573 (Canada)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Joel Olsen Bringing the Ruckus: Whiteness and the 99%...

----from Bring the Ruckus----

This piece was written by Joel Olson, a member of BtR-Arizona, as a contribution to ongoing debates about the occupations taking place in the U.S. 
A printable PDF of this piece is available for download here, and a readable PDF is available here.
Whiteness and the 99%
By Joel Olson
Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of occupations it has sparked nationwide are among the most inspiring events in the U.S. in the 21st century. The occupations have brought together people to talk, occupy, and organize in new and exciting ways. The convergence of so many people with so many concerns has naturally created tensions within the occupation movement. One of the most significant tensions has been over race.

This is not unusual, given the racial history of the United States. But this tension is particularly dangerous, for unless it is confronted, we cannot build the 99%. The key obstacle to building the 99% is left colorblindness, and the key to overcoming it is to put the struggles of communities of color at the center of this movement. It is the difference between a free world and the continued dominance of the 1%.

Left colorblindness is the enemy

Left colorblindness is the belief that race is a “divisive” issue among the 99%, so we should instead focus on problems that “everyone” shares. According to this argument, the movement is for everyone, and people of color should join it rather than attack it.

Left colorblindness claims to be inclusive, but it is actually just another way to keep whites’ interests at the forefront. It tells people of color to join “our” struggle (who makes up this “our,” anyway?) but warns them not to bring their “special” concerns into it. It enables white people to decide which issues are for the 99% and which ones are “too narrow.” It’s another way for whites to expect and insist on favored treatment, even in a democratic movement.

As long as left colorblindness dominates our movement, there will be no 99%. There will instead be a handful of whites claiming to speak for everyone. When people of color have to enter a movement on white people’s terms rather than their own, that’s not the 99%. That’s white democracy.

The white democracy

Biologically speaking, there’s no such thing as race. As hard as they’ve tried, scientists have never been able to define it. That’s because race is a human creation, not a fact of nature. Like money, it only exists because people accept it as “real.” Races exist because humans invented them.

Why would people invent race? Race was created in America in the late 1600s in order to preserve the land and power of the wealthy. Rich planters in Virginia feared what might happen if indigenous tribes, slaves, and indentured servants united and overthrew them. So, they cut a deal with the poor English colonists. The planters gave the English poor certain rights and privileges denied to all persons of African and Native American descent: the right to never be enslaved, to free speech and assembly, to move about without a pass, to marry without upper-class permission, to change jobs, to acquire property, and to bear arms. In exchange, the English poor agreed to respect the property of the rich, help them seize indigenous lands, and enforce slavery.

This cross-class alliance between the rich and the English poor came to be known as the “white race.” By accepting preferential treatment in an economic system that exploited their labor, too, the white working class tied their wagon to the elite rather than the rest of humanity. This devil’s bargain has undermined freedom and democracy in the U.S. ever since.

The cross-class alliance that makes up the white race.
As this white race expanded to include other European ethnicities, the result was a very curious political system: the white democracy. The white democracy has two contradictory aspects to it. On the one hand, all whites are considered equal (even as the poor are subordinated to the rich and women are subordinated to men). On the other, every white person is considered superior to every person of color. It’s democracy for white folks, but tyranny for everyone else.

In this system, whites praised freedom, equal opportunity, and hard work, while at the same time insisting on higher wages, access to the best jobs, to be the first hired and the last fired at the workplace, full enjoyment of civil rights, the right to send their kids to the best schools, to live in the nicest neighborhoods, and to enjoy decent treatment by the police. In exchange for these “public and psychological wages,” as W.E.B. Du Bois called them, whites agreed to enforce slavery, segregation, reservation, genocide, and other forms of discrimination. The tragedy of the white democracy is that it oppressed working class whites as well as people of color, because with the working class bitterly divided, the elites could rule easily.

The white democracy exists today. Take any social indicator—rates for college graduation, homeownership, median family wealth, incarceration, life expectancy, infant mortality, cancer, unemployment, median family debt, etc.—and you’ll find the same thing: whites as a group are significantly better off than any other racial group. Of course there are individual exceptions, but as a group whites enjoy more wealth, less debt, more education, less imprisonment, more health care, less illness, more safety, less crime, better treatment by the police, and less police brutality than any other group. Some whisper that this is because whites have a better work ethic. But history tells us that the white democracy, born in the 1600s, lives on.

The distorted white mindset

No one is opposed to good schools, safe neighborhoods, healthy communities, and economic security for whites. The problem is that in the white democracy, whites often enjoy these at the expense of communities of color. This creates a distorted mindset among many whites: they praise freedom yet support a system that clearly favors the rich, even at the expense of poor whites. (Tea Party, I’m talking to you.)

The roots of left colorblindness lie in the white democracy and the distorted mindset it creates. It encourages whites to think that their issues are “universal” while those of people of color are “specific.” But that is exactly backwards. The struggles of people of color are the problems that everyone shares. Anyone in the occupy movement who has been treated brutally by the police has to know that Black communities are terrorized by cops every day. Anyone who is unemployed has to know that Black unemployment rates are always at least double that of whites, and Native American unemployment rates are far higher. Anyone who is sick and lacks healthcare has to know that people of color are the least likely to be insured (regardless of their income) and have the highest infant mortality and cancer rates and the lowest life expectancy rates. Anyone who is drowning in debt should know that the median net wealth of Black households is twenty times less than that of white households. Only left colorblindness can lead us to ignore these facts.

This is the sinister impact of white democracy on our movements. It encourages a mindset that insists that racial issues are “divisive” when they are at the absolute center of everything we are fighting for.

To defeat left colorblindness and the distorted white mindset, we must come to see any form of favoritism toward whites (whether explicit or implicit) as an evil attempt to perpetuate the cross-class alliance rather than build the 99%.

The only thing that can stop us is us

Throughout American history, attacking the white democracy has always opened up radical possibilities for all people. The abolitionist movement not only overthrew slavery, it kicked off the women’s rights and labor movements. The civil rights struggle not only overthrew legal segregation, it kicked off the women’s rights, free speech, student, queer, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and American Indian movements. When the pillars of the white democracy tremble, everything is possible.

The only thing that can stop us is us. What prevents the 99% from organizing the world as we see fit is not the 1%. The 1% cannot hold on to power if we decide they shouldn’t. What keeps us from building the new world in our hearts are the divisions among us.

Our diversity is our strength. But left colorblindness is a rejection of diversity. It is an effort to keep white interests at the center of the movement even as the movement claims to be open to all. Urging us to “get over” so-called “divisive” issues like race sound inclusive, but they are really efforts to maintain the white democracy. It’s like Wall Street executives telling us to “get beyond” “divisive” issues like their unfair profits because if you work hard enough, you too can get a job on Wall Street someday!

Creating a 99% requires putting the struggles of people of color at the center of our conversations and demands rather than relegating them to the margins. To fight against school segregation, colonization, redlining, and anti-immigrant attacks is to fight against everything Wall Street stands for, everything the Tea Party stands for, everything this government stands for. It is to fight against the white democracy, which stands at the path to a free society like a troll at the bridge.

Occupy everything, attack the white democracy

While no pamphlet can capture everything a nationwide movement can or should do to undermine the white democracy and left colorblindness, below is a short list of questions people might consider asking in movement debates. These questions were developed from actual debates in occupations throughout the U.S.
  1. Do speakers urge us “get beyond” race? Are they defensive and dismissive of demands for racial justice?

  1. If speakers urge developing “close working relationships with the police,” do they consider how police terrorize Black, Latino, Native, and undocumented communities? Do they consider how police have attacked occupation encampments?

  1. If speakers urge us to hold banks accountable, do they encourage us to focus on redlining, predatory lending, and subprime mortgages, which have decimated Black and Latino neighborhoods?

  1. If speakers urge the cancellation of debts, do they mean for things like electric and heating bills as well as home mortgages and college loans?

  1. If speakers urge the halting of foreclosures, do they acknowledge that they take place primarily in segregated neighborhoods, and do they propose to start there?

  1. If speakers urge the creation of more jobs, do they acknowledge that many communities of color have already been in chronic “recessions” for decades, and do they propose to start from there?

    Attack capitalist power—attack the white democracy.
    Build the 99%!
    People of color at the center!
    No more left colorblindness!

    Prosecuting police violence: MCAO falls short with Gerster, Keesee.

    "Prosecute Police Violence"
    Maricopa County Central Courthouse, Phoenix.
    June 2011

    I went to former MCSO detention officer Kevin Gerster's sentencing in Maricopa County Superior Court today. He entered a plea deal in August in which the prosecution offered him 6 months in county jail and two years of probation for all his crimes. Both the assaults were ruled as "non-dangerous, non-repetetive", too, which is bullshit. He broke one guy's jaw and five months later beat another prisoner repeatedly. Judge Bill Brotherton took his assaultive behavior and pre-meditated crime (giving a buddy the address of a former prisoner, which the buddy used to find and assault him) more seriously than the prosecutor's office, though, and sent him to jail for a year instead.

    In arguing for the judge to follow the plea agreement recommendations, Gerster's attorney cited the mitigating circumstances that ultimately kept the guy from going to prison instead. He has has no prior record, considerable community and family support (two of his former colleagues were present), took responsibility for his actions (he actually reported these incidents to supervisors when they happened and they left him on the job caring for mentally ill prisoners). He won't ever try to work in law enforcement again, and is now driving a cab. She even tried to get his probation fees reduced due to them being a hardship because he has child support payments to meet (the judge wouldn't consider that until he's done with jail).

    Gerster himself argued that he had been in a stressful job and was just "caught up in the moment" when he did what he did, and was sincerely remorseful that he had embarrassed his family and his employer (he said little - if anything - about regretting the harm he did to his victims - as well as to the public's trust.)

    These excuses didn't go over so well with Brotherton, and Gerster received a stern lecture from him about how he had a higher standard of conduct to meet than non-public servants regardless of stress because of the power he wielded, especially since he was working with "vulnerable" prisoners in the mental health unit. Brotherton pointed out that all of Gerster's criminal actions resulted in people being injured, and that the tampering with criminal records charges involved pre-meditated criminal actions that hurt others. It's a wonder he didn't send him to prison, he was so articulate about why Gerster deserved more than just six months in jail.

    But the guy has a young daughter and family members who have suffered through this prosecution and the public shame with him, which is unfortunate for them (his fault, not ours), and Brotherton seemed to really weigh the mitigating factors - some of which I'm sure I don't know about, like the supervisors failing to take action to remove him from his job when it was clear he couldn't handle it. That made me want to see them in court, too, not just Gerster.

    I stayed to watch him be put into cuffs by his former colleague, but didn't get the sense of satisfaction that I thought I would from it - I'm still a prison abolitionist, after all, and it's uncomfortable arguing for prison for someone, even a bad cop. For all I know the guy is mentally ill and asked for treatment before he escalated to the level of assaulting vulnerable people. In any case the MCSO was negligent in ignoring his abusive conduct, and should take some responsibility too.

    In the end here's what Gerster plead to:

    Agg Assault on his first victim (the guy whose jaw he broke in June 2010): Class 6 felony. 2 years probation concurrent with 6 month jail term, and suspended prison sentence (he could face 2 years in prison if he violates his probation);

    Agg Assault on his second victim (William Hughes, who has assaulted last November): Class 6 felony. 2 years probation concurrent with 1 year in county jail, and suspended prison sentence (could face two years on this, too);

    Unauthorized access to the criminal database and release of information (I'm not sure exactly what this charge was called, but it's a class 1 misdemeanor, down from a felony). 1 year probation concurrent with other sentences; suspended prison sentence (again, this could be 2 years at the ADC if he violates his probation - though he'll be in jail all that year anyway).

    I'm still disappointed with the county attorney's office on this - they could not have lost at trial because of the video evidence - the whole world witnessed these assaults on Youtube, so I don't know what their excuse is for being so soft on him, but I'm glad Brotherton wasn't. Just keep in mind folks, that if any of those prisoners were in a position to defend themselves and tried to, they'd be facing a ten year sentence for assault on a peace officer, so don't think I'm calling any of this justice. I wanted him to go to prison - just not bad enough to shout it at the judge.

    More troubling to me is that the other assaultive officer caught on video, Alan Keesee, plead guilty to aggravated assault (a class 1 misdemeanor) last month and was sentenced to only 3 months of unsupervised probation. His judge was Gottsfield; the prosecutor of record was Ed Leiter. That's less of a punishment than a friend of mine got for disorderly conduct at a protest - she got 30 days in jail and a year probation. Even I'm facing six months in jail for refusing to vacate a city park - now that's ridiculous.

    Finally, a reminder to folks that tomorrow (October 22) is National Day Against Police Brutality: there will be an action at the 4th Avenue Jail at 10am. Join us if you can.

    You can find updated Superior Court court records at this link.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Occupy PHX: Reach out to The People before the police.

    Just sent the following appeal to the emails listed on the Occupy website as contacts for the group, as well as to the administrators for the newer site. I hope that through one of these avenues, folks going to the GA meetings (which I can't seem to get to myself) will raise these concerns with the group:

    "Decriminalize Homelessness"

    October 1, 2011: National Chalk The Police Day
    4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix
    (art by Ian the vedge)

    "I strongly feel as if Occupy PHX gets our way on occupying space (which it sounds like we have) or dismissing charges from Saturday (which I doubt will happen), then we should collectively demand that the exception to trespassing and anti-camping laws be extended to the thousands of homeless people in Phoenix who aren't just fighting for their freedom of expression, but for their very lives out here and being arrested for it. Elizabeth Venable, in the cc here, can provide you with the report they prepared for the city council on their experiences of being criminalized and harassed. When I read it, I wept. Seriously. Maybe she and the homeless campers who have been organizing around this issue will be willing to do a workshop at the Plaza sometime about it all.

    Along those lines, Occupy Phoenix - if it's truly inclusive of all liberation movements - needs to work harder to do outreach to those communities most subject to state violence and police brutality, so you can include our voices in the General Assemblies before working so hard to get the cops to join. We don't feel safe with the police like newly disaffected middle class white folks do - which is what this movement is beginning to look and sound like, not like the whole 99%. If you truly want to embrace the rest of the 99%, reach out to the victims of state violence (like my roommate) not the perpetrators first.

    If you just want to represent the middle class's interests, though, then go love the police. They may be part of the 99%, too, but do not be mistaken that they are the part that makes it possible for the other 1% to screw us all - and they aren't about to all walk off the job: most believe they're doing the "right" thing, even "helping" homeless addicts and mentally ill people by taking them to jail, where they'll theoretically be "safe", have a place to sleep, and get food (if you went to jail last weekend, you know that it's neither comfortable or safe there)...Cops are already undercover among us I assure you, and if more cops were on board and pushing their agendas - or have us enthusiatically embracing them, the most oppressed - like the homeless campers so many PHX cops harass - will pull out or stay away.

    Also, the decision by the GA to not just ignore the action around the corner at the 4th Ave Jail on Saturday at 10am (International Day Against Police Brutality) but to then schedule and publicize a competing event is really an insult to people who have been organizing with oppressed communities for a long time. That was profoundly disappointing, though it's symptomatic of the lack of a real critical analysis of how corporate and government power really work. I myself, will be putting my energy into the action at the jail that morning, not at the would Cesar Chavez, if he were here. At the very least you should ask Phoenix Copwatch (here's their facebook, too) to put on a workshop or something at the Plaza that day and acknowledge police brutality, racial profiling, neglect and abuse of prisoners, etc. as issues affecting real people as part of the formal line-up of activities."


    Peggy Plews

    POSTSCRIPT: Occupation allowed in Chavez Plaza, but not sleeping.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Lemons on the Phoenix Occupation's first night...

    With great video footage from Dennis Gilman. I adore Stephen Lemons, but I for one, do advocate the complete overthrow of capitalism...

    ----------------from the Phoenix New Times--------

    Part one of Gilman's report from the front lines of Occupy Phoenix

    My focus is, and must remain, through November 8, the recall of state Senate President Russell Pearce in Legislative District 18. That means there's a lot going on that I won't be able to cover till after the recall election, including the Occupy Phoenix protests that happened over the weekend.

    Fortunately, my fellow newshound Dennis Gilman has been enthusiastically following the protests from the beginning, and has been keeping me up to date on everything going on. I was worried Saturday night that peaceful protesters would be hurt for simply wanting to stay in a public park overnight in Phoenix.

    Thankfully, it does not appear that anyone was seriously injured, though there is a young woman being dragged away by the neck in Gilman's video and that was unnecessary. According to the Phoenix Police Department, 46 were arrested Saturday night and charged with criminal trespass, a class three misdemeanor.

    There were some reports online of pepper spray being deployed, but Gilman says he did not smell or see any, and I have yet to see any of that in either his footage or any other footage from other outlets. Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sergeant Trent Crump says pepper spray was not used.

    In this respect, it seems, the Phoenix PD did not employ excessive force.

    Why didn't the city manager and the cops just allow the protesters to stay? Yes, there's a curfew in the park, and there are people living nearby. But I suspect the helicopter and the overwhelming police presence did as much to disturb folks as the protesters. Left to their own devices, I tend to think they would have bedded down quietly for the night. Heck, they were even seen cleaning up the parks they were in.

    As we all know, not all ordinances or laws are enforced 100 percent of the time. Keep that in mind the next time you see a politician jaywalking downtown. Both the cops and city officials have discretion in such matters.

    Also, the cops should remind themselves that they are simply workers employed by the state. The Arizona Legislature has been hacking away at their benefits. Idiots like City Councilman Sal DiCiccio would privatize their function in a heartbeat if he could get away with it. Governor Jan Brewer is eyeing cop and fireman pensions with visions of knives and hatchets filling her tiny brain. So, remember who really represents your interests and respects the role you play.

    There is a faint echo in what happened over the weekend in Phoenix to actions taken against the Bonus Army of 1932 by then President Herbert Hoover and General Douglas MacArthur. There have been some vets in the Occupy crowds, you see. According to Channel 5, one of them was arrested on Sunday.

    Hoover ordered the military to run WW I veterans out of D.C., when they camped out in the capital. This, in the midst of the Great Depression. One wonders what will happen when all of our soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan to find a country impoverished by corporate greed, with few jobs to offer the newly unemployed.

    I for one am not knocking capitalism. Nor are many of the protesters. This isn't the French Revolution. Nor is it the Winter Palace circa 1917.

    Yet, for capitalism to work as it should, there has to be a vibrant middle-class. Ordinary people have to have a stake in our society. Otherwise, we're not talking about capitalism, we're talking about plutocracy.

    I like what economist Paul Krugman had to say in the New York Times recently about Occupy Wall Street:

    "What's going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street's Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They're not John Galt; they're not even Steve Jobs. They're people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens."

    I'm lucky. I have a job, one that provides me with medical benefits. There are millions in this country, however, who are not as lucky. It should be the essence of patriotism to want to see your fellow countrymen be able to feed themselves and their children and have access to the same medical care our politicians enjoy.

    But that sort of patriotism is obviously not the province of the one-percenters.

    For an alternative viewpoint sure to tick off lefties, check out my colleague James King's take on the protests. Some of the responses to his sarcasm show that such sarcasm has had its intended effect. Note to the King-haters: When a blog garners a gazillion comments, that blog is by definition a roaring success.

    Pelican Bay: This is what Democracy Looks Like...

    Please continue to support the California Hunger Strikers. See their five core demands below and sign the petition here if you haven't yet already.

    ---------------- from Truthout-----------------

    California Prison Hunger Strike Ends, Conditions of "Immense Torture" Continue

    by: Victoria Law, Truthout | Report

    Imagine a concrete room no more than eight by ten feet. It has no windows, only a perforated steel door facing a solid concrete wall. Fluorescent lights stay on 24 hours a day.

    Now imagine being locked in that room.

    This is the reality for 1,111 people locked in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California's Pelican Bay State Prison. The SHU comprises half of the prison. It is explicitly designed to keep prisoners in long-term solitary confinement under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Men are locked into their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Food is delivered twice a day through a slot in the cell door. They are allowed five hours a week of exercise in a cement yard the length of three cells with a roof only partially open to the sky.

    Prison administrators place men in the SHU either for a fixed term for violating a prison rule or for an indeterminate term because they have been accused of being prison gang members, often by confidential informants and highly dubious evidence. Prisoners who have been "validated" as gang members are released from the SHU into the general prison population only if they "debrief" or provide information incriminating other prisoners. Debriefing can be dangerous to both the prisoner who debriefs and his family on the outside. In addition, prisoners are often falsely identified as gang members by others who debrief in order to escape the SHU. One does not necessarily need to be a gang member to be sent to the SHU: jailhouse lawyers and others who challenge inhumane prison conditions are disproportionately sent to the SHU. Mutope DuGoya is one of those men: he states that, in 2001, despite his work with Code 4, the prison's Scared Straight program and his record of remaining free of violations for six years, he was placed in SHU on the word of a confidential informant. (Letter from DuGoya, dated September 21, 2011.) Another prisoner, who has been in SHU for 21 years, writes, "Because I am here with people who the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] have labeled as being gang-involved, the CDCR uses that to confirm that I am involved with a gang." (Letter from person in Pelican Bay SHU, dated September 26, 2011.)

    These atrocities are not limited to Pelican Bay. California holds nearly 4,000 people in SHUs and nearly 14,500 in other forms of segregation within its prison system. Over 240 of these people are women, who are often guarded and watched by male staff, even when they are undressing, showering or on the toilet. Transgender and transsexual prisoners are often likely to be placed in isolation.

    Pelican Bay State Prison opened in December 1989. Almost immediately, prisoners began filing complaints about abusive conditions.

    In 1993, over 3,500 prisoners signed onto Madrid v. Gomez, a class-action lawsuit that charged prison officials with abuse and violation of their human rights. In 1995, the federal court issued injunctions aimed at eliminating excessive force, improving health care and removing prisoners with mental illness from the Security Housing Unit. Although he stated that conditions "hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable," the presiding judge stopped short of declaring the physical structure of long-term solitary confinement unconstitutional.

    In 1994, Steven Castillo, who charges that prison administrators placed him in SHU in retaliation for his hunger strikes and numerous lawsuits against CDCR, filed Castillo v. Alamedia. Seven years later, in 2001, Castillo and approximately 1,000 other prisoners at Pelican Bay and a second California prison launched a six-day hunger strike, protesting the prison's gang policy. The strike was suspended after California State Sen. Richard Polanco intervened and vowed to help broker a resolution. Although Polanco's office convened several meetings between corrections officials and prisoners over the next year, no changes resulted. In 2002, Castillo and 60 prisoners at Pelican Bay again launched a hunger strike. The strike lasted three weeks, but no changes in CDCR's debriefing policy occurred.

    In 2004, ten years after Castillo v. Alamedia was filed, a settlement agreement was reached that, ostensibly, would reshape the debriefing policy governing release from SHU. However, the substantial changes promised never happened and, seven years later, conditions in SHU remain fundamentally unchanged.

    In 2010, prisoners at Pelican Bay drafted and sent a Formal Complaint about conditions to lawmakers, prison and CDCR officials and then-Governor Schwarzenegger. "CDCR's response was 'file a grievance if you haven't already,'" recalled Todd Ashker, a co-author of the Complaint. "Then we were locked down, even more, in our cells from July 2010 to February/March 2011." During that time, the prisoners agreed that "something had to be done ... It was agreed, a peaceful protest via hunger strike was our best option, the goal being to expose the illegal policies and practices to the mainstream media (and thereby masses of people) and, with outside support, pressure/force meaningful changes!" (Letter from Todd Ashker, dated September 25, 2011.)

    On July 1, 2011, SHU prisoners began a hunger strike with five core demands:

    1. Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;
    2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;
    3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;
    4. Provide adequate food;
    5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

    "No one wants to die," stated hunger-striker DuGoya. "Yet under this current system of what amounts to immense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms."

    Over the course of the three-week hunger strike, at least 1,035 of the SHU's 1,111 inmates refused food. The strike spread to 13 other state prisons and involved at least 6,600 people incarcerated throughout California.

    Outside prison walls, family members, advocates and concerned community members took action to draw attention to the hunger strike. In Oakland, supporters held a weekly vigil on Thursday evenings. On July 9, supporters organized demonstrations in cities throughout the US and Canada. On July 18, 200 family members, lawyers and outside supporters from across California converged upon CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, delivered a petition of over 7,500 signatures in support of the hunger strikers and then marched to Governor Brown's office to demand answers. That same day, supporters in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City and Philadelphia also held solidarity rallies.

    On July 14, two weeks into the strike, CDCR Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan spoke to representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. He promised that their demands would be addressed and that the CDCR would enact positive changes over time.

    On July 20, Kernan and other CDCR administrators again met with hunger strike representatives. Again, Kernan made assurances about positive changes to SHU and stated that he would provide specifics about their demands in a couple of weeks. The hunger strike representatives met and discussed Kernan's proposals. They decided to temporarily suspend the hunger strike to allow CDCR a grace period to fulfill their promises.

    The next month, on August 19, prisoner representatives met with Kernan and other administrators. Kernan had no specific plans regarding the hunger strikers' core demands, but, as the prisoner representatives noted, offered only "very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing-informant status." The representatives asked that specific details be provided on paper to all SHU sections. Kernan agreed to begin providing documentation within two weeks.

    Sparked by the hunger strike, its ensuing publicity and community pressure on legislators, the California Assembly's Public Safety Commission held a hearing on SHU conditions on August 23. Former SHU prisoners, family members, attorneys, advocates and psychiatrists testified about the need for substantial changes to SHU policies and practices. CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, who was a negotiator with the hunger strike representatives, also testified.

    On August 31, SHU staff issued memos stating that prisoners would be allowed to have handballs on the yard and the ability to purchase sweatsuits. If they remained free of disciplinary violations for one year and gained committee approval, they would be allowed to have a yearly photo taken and to purchase art pens and drawing paper from the prison canteen. None of the core demands were addressed.

    In addition, many strike participants were issued a disciplinary memo stating, "Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director's Rules and this documentation is intended to record your actions and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior."

    Prison officials have retaliated against the hunger strikers in other ways. According to Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, "Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough. It's clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike."

    On September 2, a memo entitled Gang Management Proposal (dated August 25) was issued to the four principal representatives of the hunger strike. Hunger striker Antonio Guillen wrote that the proposal is, "by far the most punitive and restrictive program I have ever seen. It is way worse than what we have in place now and that's saying something because the current program is, in part, what prompted the hunger strike." It also widens the criteria from "'traditional prison gangs' " to "anyone they consider to be problematic." (Statement from Guillen that came with a letter dated September 27, 2011.) Kernan himself alluded to this during his testimony on August 23: "We believe that the current process, which targets six prison gangs, needs to be modified and what we really need to do is identify security threat groups ... our policies target just the prison gangs today and we're not capturing the inmates that perhaps should be segregated from our population."

    Despite these threats, prisoners throughout California resumed their hunger strike on September 26. By the third day, nearly 12,000 were participating. The strike spread not only to 12 prisons inside California, but also to prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma that are housing California prisoners.

    In response, the CDCR classified the strike as an organized disturbance and transferred hunger strikers form the SHU to Administrative Segregation, where they lose access to all of their personal possessions and are denied access to their mail (including legal mail). According to recent interviews with the men, they have only a jumpsuit, a mattress and a thin blanket. The transfer could also negatively affect parole decisions. The retaliation has caused the number of hunger strikers to drop. In addition, hunger strikers at other prisons report that the CDCR has been undercounting the number of participants, refusing to mark men as hunger strikers if they drink liquids or touch the food tray.

    Prison officials have also retaliated against outside supporters: Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus, had been involved in extensive discussions with corrections officials, including Kernan and leaders of the strike. On September 29, the Department of Corrections placed them under investigation, alleging that they "violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR." Both attorneys are banned from all California prisons until the investigation is concluded. Attorneys who were able to visit reported that the CDCR has the air conditioning on high in 50-degree weather.

    On October 13, prisoners at Pelican Bay ended their nearly-three week hunger strike after the CDCR guaranteed a comprehensive review of every prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation under new criteria. Two days later, hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison stopped their strike to allow time to regain their strength.

    "This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we've seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers' demands," says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, "But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We'll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process."