Here Are New, Disturbing Pictures of the Arrest of Cecily McMillan http://gawker.com/here-are-new-disturbing-pictures-of-the-arrest-of-ceci-1572470447 … via @Gawker #OWS #Justice4Cecily
Tags: #occupy movement, cecily mcmillan, Criminal Justice, ows, police brutality, roger hollander, sarah lazare, zuccotti
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Roger’s note: this is a follow-up to an article I posted a few days ago. Take a good look at our police state and criminal injustice system.
Jurors express shock and regret upon learning guilty verdict could land Cecily McMillan in prison for 7 years
A majority of the jury that found Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan guilty of “felony assault” of the very police officer who she says sexually assaulted and brutalized her appears to be remorseful that the 25-year-old could spend up to seven years behind bars.
Nine of the 12 people who served on the jury have penned a letter to Judge Ronald Zweibel begging for a “lenient” sentence that avoids any prison time. The letter, obtained by the Guardian and dated Tuesday, states:
We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan. We would ask the court to consider probation with community service. We feel that the felony mark on Cecily’s record is punishment enough for this case and that it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.
The letter follows initial reactions of shock and regret from some who served on the jury—which was not informed of the verdict’s severe sentencing guidelines during the trial—once they learned McMillan could be incarcerated for years. One juror expressed “remorse” to the Guardian on Tuesday, stating, “Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous. Even a year in jail is ridiculous.” Martin Stolar, criminal defense attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel for McMillan’s case, said two other jurors had contacted him with similar expressions of regret, according to the Huffington Post.
During McMillan’s trial, the jury was not informed of the severe sentencing guidelines for the verdict, as is the standard in the United States, except for death penalty cases. Furthermore, they were denied key evidence throughout the trial.
McMillan’s conviction on Monday shined an international spotlight on what critics charge is a failed “justice system” that routinely sides with police—no matter how bad their behavior, dismisses survivors of sexual violence, and criminalizes dissent.
McMillan is described by her supporters as “a 25-year-old organizer” who “has been politically active for over a decade — most notably in the Democratic Socialists for America, the anti-Scott Walker mobilization, and Occupy Wall Street.”
She was one of approximately 70 people detained late the night of March 17/early morning March 18, 2012, when police violently cleared a memorial event marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. McMillan, who had stopped by the park to meet a friend, says she was sexually assaulted by police officer Grantley Bovell while she attempted to leave the area.
“Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards,” according to a statement by support group Justice For Cecily. “Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.” Following the attack, McMillan underwent treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Despite numerous allegations that Bovell has inflicted excessive force while on duty, as well as photograph and video evidence of injuries sustained by McMillan—including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, it was McMillan who was put on trial for felony charges of assaulting Bovell.
According to McMillan’s supporters, what followed was a trial riddled with injustice, in which Judge Ronald Zweibel showed repeated favoritism towards the prosecution. Zweibel imposed a gag order on McMillan’s lawyers, excluded key physical evidence, and ruled that information about Bovell’s past violent behavior, and violence the night of McMillan’s arrest, was not relevant to the case.
“To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan’s elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned,” wrote journalist Molly Knefel, who was present the night of McMillan’s arrest.
McMillan, is planning an appeal, but the process could take six to nine months. Meanwhile, Justice for Cecily organizers report that they have been able to visit McMillan where she is being held at Rikers Island, and she has released the following message to her supporters:
“Thank you again for all that you’ve done and continue to do for me- ya’ll are very much loved, and make me feel loved when I’m lying here at night. Please do not feel like there’s anything more you could have done— you all went above and beyond any expectations I had or any standards anyone would have set. Also, please don’t worry about my safety – it is difficult in here, but people (especially the inmates but also many of the corrections officers) have been very kind; several women (re-incarcerates) have taken me under their wing, giving me tea, sugar extra milk and the paper (NY Daily News).“
Tags: roger hollander, sexual assault, Criminal Justice, sarah lazare, police brutality, occupy wall street, zuccotti park, ows, cecily mcmillan, grantley bovell
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Roger’s note: There is nothing new about police brutality in democratic America, but historically we always see an escalation when protests against the injustices of our capitalist utopia themselves escalate (during the Great Depression, for example). What is frightening is the level of militarization of urban police forces and governments at all levels preparing for mass incarceration as protests rise in proportion to the economic, military and environmental crises at the same time that what was left of constitutional guarantees such as habeas corpus have disappeared.
‘This has become something bigger than Cecily McMillan. It’s about protests and dissent.’
People across the United States responded with outrage after Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was found guilty Monday afternoon of “assaulting” the very police officer who she says sexually assaulted her.
Over 100 people rallied in New York City’s Zuccotti Park Monday night and, according to advocates, messages of support immediately began pouring in from across the country.
“I know Cecily would be in gratitude for how much people care,” Stan Williams of support group Justice for Cecily told Common Dreams. “But this has become something bigger than Cecily. It’s about protests and dissent.”
McMillan’s supporters on Monday filled a New York court room with cries of “Shame!” when the 25-year-old organizer was handed a guilty verdict and then promptly handcuffed and taken away to Rikers Island, where she is currently detained pending sentencing. In a Democracy Now! interview Tuesday morning, Martin Stolar, criminal defense attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel for McMillan’s case, derided her felony verdict—that could land her a sentence of two to seven years with a chance of parole—as “ridiculous” and vowed an appeal.
McMillan was one of approximately 70 people detained late the night of March 17/early morning March 18, 2012, when police violently cleared a memorial event marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. McMillan, who had stopped by the park to meet a friend, says she was sexually assaulted by police officer Grantley Bovell while she attempted to leave the area. “Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards,” according to a statement by Justice For Cecily. “Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.” Following the attack, McMillan underwent treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Yet, despite numerous allegations that Bovell has inflicted excessive force while on duty, as well as his previous involvement in a ticket-fixing scandal, it was McMillan who was put on trial for felony charges of assaulting Bovell.
According to McMillan’s supporters, what followed was a trial riddled with injustice, in which Judge Ronald Zweibel showed repeated favoritism towards the prosecution and imposed a gag order on McMillan’s lawyer.
Facing photographic and video evidence of McMillan’s bruises following the attack, including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, as well as the testimony of dozens of witnesses, the prosecution went so far as to claim that McMillan had imposed the injuries on herself.
“In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible,” writes journalist Molly Knefel, who was present the night of McMillan’s arrest. “And not only was Officer Bovell’s documented history of violent behavior deemed irrelevant by the judge, but so were the allegations of his violent behavior that very same night.”
“To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan’s elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned,” Knefel added.
Yet, according to Kristen Iversen writing for Brooklyn Magazine, McMillan’s verdict is not just the outcome of one unfair trial, but rather exposes “systemic” failures of justice: “The failure is that McMillan was given the exact kind of trial that our system is set up for, one that supports the police no matter how wrong their behavior, one that dismisses victims of sexual assault in astonishing numbers.”
Lucy Parks, field coordinator for Justice For Cecily, said McMillan’s supporters are busy figuring out next steps, with plans to organize petitions, call-in days, and other mobilizations in the works.
“We’re also trying to bring together communities of U.S. activists and anyone who feels strongly about this trial to try and heal and move forward and broaden the conversation about the justice system to talk about more people than just Cecily,” Parks added.
Reactions and reports are being posted on Twitter:
Retweeted by Lavene.DerKat
Even the jurors themselves in the #Justice4Cecily case regret their decision. https://occupywallst.org/article/jury-regrets-convicting-cecily-mcmillan/ … pic.twitter.com/0s0RnFJQfBRetweeted by Mukha Kaloev
Cecily is the 99%, and we need to stand with her now. SIGN this petition to demand #Justice4Cecily: http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-andrew-cuomo-mayor-bill-deblasio-governor-cuomo-and-mayor-deblasio-pardon-cecily-mcmillan-now … #OWSRetweeted by Evelyn Hammid
RT @StopMotionsolo: An excellent article on the trial, the jurors, and its aftermath. #Justice4Cecily http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/06/cecily-mcmillan-juror-occupy-activists-jail-sentence?CMP=twt_gu …Retweeted by Trent Engel
Jury Regrets Convicting OWS Protester Of Felony Assault Of An Officer http://gothamist.com/2014/05/06/jury_that_convicted_ows_protester_o.php# …. #Justice4Cecily“
Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio, Pardon Cecily McMillan NOW! http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-andrew-cuomo-mayor-bill-deblasio-governor-cuomo-and-mayor-deblasio-pardon-cecily-mcmillan-now?recruiter=91829256&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_mobile … #Justice4Cecily
They made an example of #CecilyMcMillan: dissent will not be tolerated. http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23526-cecily-mcmillan-verdict-proves-dissent-is-dangerous … @truthout #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by Janice Gintzler
Even the jurors themselves in the #Justice4Cecily case regret their decision. https://occupywallst.org/article/jury-regrets-convicting-cecily-mcmillan/ … pic.twitter.com/0s0RnFJQfBRetweeted by To The Starz
Even the jurors themselves in the #Justice4Cecily case regret their decision https://occupywallst.org/article/jury-regrets-convicting-cecily-mcmillan/ … pic.twitter.com/RJV5hHroXJRetweeted by Mike Flugennock
Banks pay fines. Occupiers do time. http://becausefinanceisboring.com/post/84944005414/cyrus-vance-why-jail-bankers-when-you-can-jail-bank … #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by Lee Wilson
They made an example of #CecilyMcMillan: dissent will not be tolerated. http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23526-cecily-mcmillan-verdict-proves-dissent-is-dangerous … @truthout #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by Merton Gaudette
Jury Regrets Convicting OWS Protester Of Felony Assault Of An Officer http://gothamist.com/2014/05/06/jury_that_convicted_ows_protester_o.php# …. #Justice4Cecily pic.twitter.com/ILcMIPGXV1Retweeted by Kaye
Even the jurors themselves in the #Justice4Cecily case regret their decision. https://occupywallst.org/article/jury-regrets-convicting-cecily-mcmillan/ … pic.twitter.com/0s0RnFJQfBRetweeted by anoknps
Even the jurors themselves in the #Justice4Cecily case regret their decision https://occupywallst.org/article/jury-regrets-convicting-cecily-mcmillan/ … pic.twitter.com/RJV5hHroXJRetweeted by Zoe Alif
Banks pay fines. Occupiers do time. http://becausefinanceisboring.com/post/84944005414/cyrus-vance-why-jail-bankers-when-you-can-jail-bank … #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by Robert Campbell
Jury Regrets Convicting OWS Protester Of Felony Assault Of An Officer http://gothamist.com/2014/05/06/jury_that_convicted_ows_protester_o.php# …. #Justice4Cecily pic.twitter.com/ILcMIPGXV1Retweeted by Tommy Miles
Cecily is the 99%, and we need to stand with her now. SIGN this petition to demand #Justice4Cecily: http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-andrew-cuomo-mayor-bill-deblasio-governor-cuomo-and-mayor-deblasio-pardon-cecily-mcmillan-now … #OWSRetweeted by fr0g5
They made an example of #CecilyMcMillan: dissent will not be tolerated. http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23526-cecily-mcmillan-verdict-proves-dissent-is-dangerous … @truthout #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by Robert Campbell
Even the jurors themselves in the #Justice4Cecily case regret their decision https://occupywallst.org/article/jury-regrets-convicting-cecily-mcmillan/ … pic.twitter.com/RJV5hHroXJRetweeted by UCanCallMeSOSA
Retweeted by W. Renee McEwan
Retweeted by Antti Rautiainen
Banks pay fines. Occupiers do time. http://becausefinanceisboring.com/post/84944005414/cyrus-vance-why-jail-bankers-when-you-can-jail-bank … #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by Occupy Network
Retweeted by Mary Clinton
Retweeted by Miro Collas
Jury Regrets Convicting #OWS Protester Of Felony Assault Of An Officer http://gothamist.com/2014/05/06/jury_that_convicted_ows_protester_o.php … via @gothamist #Justice4Cecily
An OWS activist was assaulted by a police officer. She’s being sent to Riker’s Island for it today. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/04/the-trial-of-cecily-mcmillan/ … #Justice4CecilyRetweeted by TheCitizen
RT @other98: Banks pay fines. Occupiers do time. http://becausefinanceisboring.com/post/84944005414/cyrus-vance-why-jail-bankers-when-you-can-jail-bank … #Justice4Cecily
“NYPD: “we get to sexually assault you, and if you don’t let us, we…” #Justice4Cecily #MyNYPD http://www.supernoder.com/newsium.php?ref=myNYPD …
Retweeted by mechan-onymous
Retweeted by Captain Swing
Jury Regrets Convicting OWS Protester Of Felony Assault Of An Officer http://gothamist.com/2014/05/06/jury_that_convicted_ows_protester_o.php# …. #Justice4Cecily pic.twitter.com/ILcMIPGXV1Retweeted by alexis goldstein
Retweeted by Melinda Coleman
Retweeted by Saysewahum
Nearly 2.5K ppl have signed this petition demanding #Justice4Cecily. You? http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-andrew-cuomo-mayor-bill-deblasio-governor-cuomo-and-mayor-deblasio-pardon-cecily-mcmillan-now …Retweeted by Liz Meldon
Retweeted by [allshiny]
American State of the Union: A Festival of Lies February 1, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis, Trade Agreements, War.
Tags: bruce a. dixon, crack cocaine defendants, Criminal Justice, doj, drug war, economic inequality, eric holder, executive powers, glen ford, h. rap brown, hunger strikes, imam jamil al-amin, leonard peltier, mass incarceration, minimum wage, Obama, obama sotu, pelican bay, police brutality, police militarization, political prisoners, prison state, prisons, roger hollander, sotu, state of the union, supermax prison, tpp, trade agreements, unemployment
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Roger’s note: here are two articles from the same source, the black agenda report web site, analyses you are not likely to find in the mainstream media.
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Before the nation and the world, President Obama pledges to take “action” against “economic inequality,” while simultaneously holding secret negotiations on a Trans Pacific Partnership trade scheme that will quicken the pace of the global Race to the Bottom, deepening economic inequalities. “Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide.”
“When you say ‘jobs,’ he says tax cuts – just like the Republicans, only Obama first cites the pain of the unemployed, so that you know he cares.”
“Believe it,” said the current Prevaricator-in-Chief, in the conclusion to his annual litany lies. President Obama’s specialty, honed to theatrical near-perfection over five disastrous years, is in crafting the sympathetic lie, designed to suspend disbelief among those targeted for oblivion, through displays of empathy for the victims. In contrast to the aggressive insults and bluster employed by Republican political actors, whose goal is to incite racist passions against the Other, the sympathetic Democratic liar disarms those who are about to be sacrificed by pretending to feel their pain.
Barack Obama, who has presided over the sharpest increases in economic inequality in U.S. history, adopts the persona of public advocate, reciting wrongs inflicted by unseen and unknown forces that have “deepened” the gap between the rich and the rest of us and “stalled” upward mobility. Having spent half a decade stuffing tens of trillions of dollars into the accounts of an ever shrinking gaggle of financial capitalists, Obama declares this to be “a year of action” in the opposite direction. “Believe it.” And if you do believe it, then crown him the Most Effective Liar of the young century.
Lies of omission are even more despicable than the overt variety, because they hide. The potentially most devastating Obama contribution to economic inequality is being crafted in secret by hundreds of corporate lobbyists and lawyers and their revolving-door counterparts in government. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as “NAFTA on steroids,” would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom that has made a wasteland of American manufacturing, plunging the working class into levels of poverty and insecurity without parallel in most people’s lifetimes, and totally eviscerating the meager gains of three generations of African Americans. Yet, the closest Obama came to even an oblique allusion to his great crime-in-the-making, was to announce that “new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help [small businesses] create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” Like NAFTA twenty years ago – only far bigger and more diabolically destructive – TPP will have the opposite effect, destroying millions more jobs and further deepening worker insecurity. The Trans Pacific Partnership expands the legal basis for global economic inequalities – which is why the negotiations are secret, and why the treaty’s name could not be spoken in the State of the Union address. It is a lie of omission of global proportions. Give Obama his crown.
“The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, described as ‘NAFTA on steroids,’ would accelerate the global Race to the Bottom.”
The president who promised in his 2008 campaign to support a hike in the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011, and then did nothing at all to make it happen, says this is the “year of action” when he’ll move heaven and earth to get a $10.10 minimum. He will start, Obama told the Congress and the nation, by issuing “an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.” Obama neglected to mention that only new hires – a small fraction, beginning with zero, of the two million federal contract workers – will get the wage boost; a huge and conscious lie of omission. The fact that the president does not even propose a gradual, mandated increase for the rest of the two million shows he has no intention of using his full powers to ameliorate taxpayer-financed poverty. We can also expect Obama to issue waivers to every firm that claims a hardship, as is always his practice.
What is Obama’s jobs program? It is the same as laid out at last year’s State of the Union, and elaborated on last summer: lower business taxes and higher business subsidies. When you say “jobs,” he says tax cuts – just like the Republicans, only Obama first cites the pain of the unemployed, so that you know he cares. “Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.” Actually, Obama wants to lower tax rates for all corporations to 28 percent, from 35 percent, as part of his ongoing quest for a Grand Bargain with Republicans. For Obama, the way to bring jobs back to the U.S. is to make American taxes and wages more “competitive” in the “global marketplace” – the Race to the Bottom.
In the final analysis, the sympathetic corporate Democrat and the arrogant corporate Republican offer only small variations on the same menu: ever increasing austerity. Obama bragged about reducing the deficit, never acknowledging that this has been accomplished on the backs of the poor, contributing mightily to economic inequality and social insecurity.
Obama offers nothing of substance, because he is not authorized by his corporate masters to do so. He takes his general orders from the same people as do the Republicans. That’s why Obama only speaks of minimum wage hikes while Republicans are in power, rather than when his own party controlled both houses of Congress. Grand Bargains are preferred, because they are the result of consensus between the two corporate parties. In effect, the Grand Bargain is the distilled political will of Wall Street, which feeds the donkey and the elephant. Wall Street – the 1 percent – believes the world is theirs for the taking, and they want all of it. Given this overarching truth, Obama has no choice but to stage a festival of lies.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
Barack Obama, the State of the Union and the Prison State
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
For a generation now, predatory policing, the war on drugs and the prison state have been government’s most frequent intersection with young black Americans. The gossip before this year’s State of the Union was that the president would now do by executive order all those good things Republicans have blocked him on the last 3 years. Does that include reining in or rolling back the prison state? Should we hold our collective breath?
“…Obama campaigned in 2007 and 2008 saying he would pass legislation raising the minimum wage…”
In the days before this year’s State of the Union address, we heard a lot about how Barack Obama was finally about to unleash the mighty executive powers of his office to accomplish some of the many great things he’s always wanted to accomplish, those mostly unspecified things which evil and immoral Republicans have prevented him from doing. From long experience dating back at least to the Clinton era, the White House and Democratic party know this is an attractive picture to many, one that conveniently excuses Democrats in office from even trying to accomplish the real demands of the millions who vote them into office.
Barack Obama campaigned in 2007 and 2008 saying he would pass legislation raising the minimum wage and making it easier to organize unions so people could stand up for their own rights in the workplace. The president apparently lied. Once in office with a thumping majority in both houses of Congress the president promptly froze the wages of federal workers, and made no move to protect union organizing or to raise the minimum wage. Four and five years later, with the House of Representatives safely under Republican control, the president has begun to make noises about how “America deserves a raise” and has finally declared that federal contract workers will soon have to be paid a minimum of $10.10 per hour.
Although Barack Obama’s career, and those of the entire black political class are founded on the notion that they and the Democratic party somehow “represent” the aspirations and political power of African Americans, the policy concerns of black America were nowhere to be found in last night’s state of the union. The speech contained no mention of the persistent gap between black and white unemployment, or the widening gaps between black and white wealth, and reaffirmed his commitment to “Race To The Top” an initiative to privatize public education in poorer communities across the country.
” Obama could halt the construction and opening of the new federal supermax prison…”
And of course, no cluster of issues impact black America more savagely and disproportionately than police practices, the drug war and the prison state. African Americans are one eighth the US population, but more than 40% of its prisons and jails. Together with Latinos, who are another eighth and make up nearly 30% of US prisoners, people of color are a quarter of the US population and more than 70% of the locked down. No cluster of issues would benefit more from a few presidential initiatives and well placed strokes of the pen than police practices, the drug war and the prison state.
Here are just a handful of things President Obama and his party could and would do, things that Republicans are powerless to prevent, which would make a large and lasting impact upon the communities they purportedly represent.
With the stroke of a presidential pen, Barack Obama could halt the construction and opening of the new federal supermax prison at ADX Thomson in Illinois, also called “Gitmo North.” Citizen activists in the president’s home state last year managed to close down the state’s brutal supermax prison at Tammsbecause they know that supermax prisons do not rehabilitate, they are instruments of torture pure and simple. Ordinary citizens know that torture should not be a career, or a business governments engage in. Even Obama’s own Bureau of Prisons is on record as wanting to examine whether the regimes in supermax prisons across the country constitute torture. It’s time to look for that presidential pen.
The president could take public notice of the alarming militarization of police forces across the country and the wave of police shootings of civilians. Far more persons die in the US of police gunfire than of terrorist incidents and school shootings. The feds play an enormous role in the funding, training and arming of thousands of local police departments across the country, through its grants to the state-level training and certification agencies, and its authorization of the sale of military equipment to police departments. The result is that every county and town in the US now has a SWAT team, employing shoot-first-question-later tactics, and although African Americans are far from the only victims of unchecked police violence, a black person is killed by police, security officers or vigilantes once every 28 hours. Again, this is a case for a presidential statement, a few orders to underlings and that mighty executive pen.
The president could order his Justice Department to reconsider its objections to the retroactive reduction of unfair and disproportionate sentences to crack cocaine defendants. When the president signed the so-called Fair Sentencing Act reducing the crack to powder cocaine penalty ratio from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1 thousands of defendants should have been eligible for immediate release. But Obama’s and Eric Holder’s Justice Departments have gone to court repeatedly to keep them behind bars. Our civil rights establishment from the Mark Morials and Al Sharptons down, seem more invested in the prestige of the president than doing justice to prisoners, and so have politely refused to call Obama and Holder on this glaring disconnect between their public pronouncements and their actual policies. The mighty presidential pen in the hands of Barack Obama could have made a big difference here any time in the last several years, and still can, if only he will.
The president could use his mighty executive powers to release some long-time political prisoners. There’s Iman Jamil Al-Amin, the former H. Rap Brown who distinguished himself laying the foundations for what passes for black political empowerment, risking his life registering voters and conducting Freedom Schools in rural Alabama with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the mid and early 1960s. After repeated attempts by Georgia officials in the 1990s to frame Al-Amin for shootings, one of these stuck long enough to get a shaky conviction in 1999. As pressure for a retrial from local community activists built up and even in the face of protests from establishment figures like former Atlanta mayor, congressman and ambassador Andy Young, Georgia officials transferred Al-Amin into federal custody in the dead of night, and the feds spirited him away to the hellhole at ADX Florence in Colorado where he has been for more than a decade. With a stroke of that might executive pen, President Obama could send Al-Amin back to Georgiawhere his family and attorneys could visit him, and pressure would mount on Georgia authorities to give him a new trial, in which he might well prove his innocence.
The president could pardon or grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, a Native American leader who has served a decade longer in prison than Nelson Mandela did for an offense that nobody at his trial even alleged he actually committed. Peltier is recognized around the world as a political prisoner. His continued imprisonment shows that many wounds from the 60s and 70s were never healed, and his release would demonstrate that this president acknowledges the need for this healing. After almost 40 years, Leonard Peltier surely deserves to come home.
President Obama could acknowledge the wave of hunger strikes and protests in prisons across the country, and name a commission to investigate how we can reverse the expansion of prisons, guarantee the re-absorption of former prisoners into society, and reverse the culture and law which discriminate against and punish former prisoners and their families for the rest of their lives. Right now a number of prisoners at Menard Penitentiary in the president’s home state of Illinois are waging a hunger strike, with demands that differ little from those raised by prisoners in California’s Pelican Bay last year, and those in Virginia, Georgia, Ohio and elsewhere.
We must not imagine that rolling back the carceral state is something no government on earth has ever done. Right now in Venezuela, that nation is confronting a crisis of crime, the practical limits of prison expansion, and of what kind of society they want to build. They’re taking a different path than so-called “progressives” here, who seem upset only about prisoners who are factually “innocent” and only about prisons if they’re privatized. Venezuela is frankly committed to shrinking its prison population and exploring models of restorative rather than punitive justice. There really are other ways to go, if we have the will and the vision our Democrats and Republicans lack.
Obama’s Attorney General has learned how to let the words “mass incarceration” roll off his lips fluently, after his recent discovery that such a thing actually exists. The president opined that Trayvon Martin could have been his own son, minus the status, the privilege, the neighborhood and a few other things. But that mighty presidential pen that can call commissions, impose directives, re-set priorities and make all manner of changes by executive order, changes that no evil and immoral Republicans can block or reverse, at least until they re-take the oval office, is still in that desk drawer, or wherever Barack Obama keeps it. He hasn’t found it the last five years in office. Maybe he will discover it in these last three.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and serves on the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be contacted via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.e pointed out repeatedly the last five years, there are boatloads of things a president anxious to serve the will of the people could do with the stroke of a pen
Tags: #occupy movement, abby zimet, michael premo, occupy wall street, police brutality, police lies, political protest, roger hollander, video evidence
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by Abby Zimet
In the first jury trial stemming from Occupy Wall Street protests, activist and community organizer Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges after his lawyers presented video evidence that directly contradicted the story told by police and prosecutors. Premo was facing felony charges of assaulting an officer during a demonstration in Lower Manhattan that also drew clergymen. Police said he tackled officers as they were kettling protesters, but unearthed video from Democracy Now showed that in fact police threw him down to the ground. Lesson of the day: Keep filming.
Keep those cameras running folks. It’s your only protection. The fact that the police lied about what they filmed is just incredible. Thanks to a Democracy Now camera man this guy is free.
In the police version of events, Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer’s bone.
Now the only question is how did the cop get his bone broken. It clearly wasn’t by this protester.
I suggest if you attend a protest carry a charged camera, know how to turn it on fairly easily, carry a bandana and some form of glasses for pepper spray and ear plugs. And buddy up. Never be out there on your own
Cases add up of LAPD assaults on restrained suspects November 19, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in California, Los Angeles, Police.
Tags: LA Times, lapd, los angeles, natasha lennard, News, police, police brutality, roger hollander, Taser
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A cop Tasered a handcuffed women in fourth case in recent months of LAPD using force on detainees
The LA Times reported over the weekend that an LAPD officer was witnessed shocking a handcuffed woman with a Taser gun while “joking with other officers at the scene.” Just days after a federal jury ruled that Chicago police officers upheld an entrenched “code of silence” in covering up each others’ wrongdoing, reports have emerged to show that Los Angeles cops have lied for two years about the Tasering incident.
The LA Times reports:
Officer Jorge Santander… appeared to lie about the December 2010 incident repeatedly in written reports. The three other LAPD officers who witnessed Santander stun the woman all corroborated his version of events when first questioned and failed to tell supervisors that one officer had recorded a video of the encounter, the records show.
The video shows Santander firing the Taser without warning and later displaying a Superman logo he wore on his chest beneath his uniform, according to the records. Off camera, another officer is heard laughing and singing.
… This marks the fourth time in the last few months that cases have come to light in which LAPD officers are accused of using force on suspects who had been restrained.
… In August, a security surveillance camera captured an officer violently throwing a handcuffed woman to the ground with any apparent provocation. Days later, the Times reported on a July incident in which a video camera in a patrol car recorded a female officer stomping her heel onto the genitals of a woman who was being restrained by other officers. That woman died after being forced into the back of a patrol car, although there is no evidence that her death was caused by the officer’s kick. And this month The Times learned about a botched arrest in July, in which a handcuffed man was mistakenly shot by officers after he escaped custody.
Despite statistics suggesting that there are around 1,700 cases per year of inappropriate force with less than lethal weapons by the LAPD, “department officials rejected the idea that the cases add up to a larger behavioral pattern,” reported the LA Times. “Cmdr. Andrew Smith called them ‘isolated, unrelated cases in which officers got out of line’.” However, the police officers’ attempts to slide Santander’s Taser incident under the rug echo the police culture indicted last week by a federal court — whether LAPD officials admit to a pattern or not.
Anaheim fights back against outrageous police killing July 24, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in California, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.
Tags: anaheim, anaheim police, answer coalition, cviil liberties, first amendment, manuel diaz, police abuse, police brutality, protest, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: watch the video from beginning to end (the link is in the second paragraph). Among other things you will see the police unleash a vicious police dog, who attacks a babe in arms. Unfortunately, what we are seeing here is not atypical. Police forces around the nation have been brutalizing peaceful demonstrators with unprecedented degrees of violence since the beginning of the Occupy movement. Repression against Americans and Canadians who are exercising their right to demonstrate against racism, war, social injustice, etc. has become the unofficial policy in our so-called democracies.
On Saturday, July 21, Anaheim police shot and killed Manuel Diaz. According to the OC Register, “A 17-year-old who lives in the neighborhood said she saw the shooting from about 20 feet away. She said Diaz had his back to the officer and was shot in the buttocks area. Diaz went down on his knees, and she said he was struck by another bullet in the head. The other officer handcuffed Diaz, who by then was on the ground and not moving, she added.’They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face,’ she said.”
Witnesses say Manuel Diaz was simply hanging out when police began harassing him. In response to the killing, friends and neighbors began gathering in their front lawns. Then, without warning, Anaheim police began firing rubber bullets, beanbag shotguns, and pepper-spray bullets indiscriminately into the crowd which included children–even unleashing a police attack dog on a woman holding a child. In the harrowing video, you can clearly see baby strollers and toddlers in the line of fire.
In response to the killing, people immediately came from the area to protest. On Sunday, a large group picketed outside the Anaheim Police Station where the police were holding a press conference about the killing. As the protest grew, demonstrators, who were led by victims of police abuse (including young children), held a protest inside the police station.
As the community continued to mobilize, the Anaheim police then killed another resident on Sunday night. Witnesses say the victim was already handcuffed when he was shot. Another spontaneous demonstration continued until about 4am.
As the situation develops, the ANSWER Coalition will continue to be on the ground supporting the community in their struggle for justice. History shows us that there is no accountability or justice unless the people fight for it. The community will continue to mobilize in order to hold the killer cops and police department accountable.
How you can help:
- Help pack the Anaheim City Council meeting Tuesday, July 24 at 200 South Anaheim Boulevard, Anaheim, CA 92805. Picket starts at 4pm, meeting begins at 5pm.
- Be sure to attend next Saturday’s protestagainst Downey police for the killing of Mike Nida, another victim of police violence.
- Make a donation to help support the fight for justice.
ANSWER LA has been organizing against police brutality in southern California for years in response to the scourge of police violence directed at working-class communities.
Tags: berkeley, berkeley police, civil liberties, first amendment, Homeland Security, nick sibilla, oakland police, ows, police, police brutality, roger hollander, uasi
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Roger’s note: As a UC Berkeley graduate, who as an undergraduate took part in free speech and anti-war protests, I maintain an abiding interest in the city and the campus. The militarization of American police forces is an ominous development, and it is no coincidence that Berkeley is in the vanguard given its long and proud history of non-violent first amendment protest. An imperial nation such as is the United States, which supports and spreads violence around the globe, will eventually see that violence erupt on its own shores. This is surely the case with what we are witnessing today. One is reminded of Malcolm X’s prophetic (in response to the Kennedy assassination): “the chickens have come home to roost.
The police departments for Berkeley, Albany, and the University of California system have partnered together to buy an armored personnel carrier (APC). Not quite a tank, the APC is a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck, better known as a BearCat.
If approved, the APC will be paid for by a $200,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Created in 2003, UASI funds counterterrorism measures in “high-threat, high-density urban areas.” From FY 2003 to 2011, over $6.5 billion was appropriated for UASI. In FY 2012, UASI had funding worth $490 million.
However, David Muhlhausen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has criticized UASI: ”Currently, there appears to be a virtual absence of independent, objective evidence indicating the effectiveness of UASI…Increased spending does not equal increased effectiveness.” Daniel Borgstrom, a former US Marine now active in the Occupy movement, recently urged the Berkeley City Council to reject the APC and police militarization: “I’m asking, please stay out of this urban warfare stuff.”
Meanwhile, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan praised the BearCat, calling it “a defensive resource” necessary to protect officers from being killed. But according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks the deaths of law enforcement officials, no officers from UC Berkeley or Albany have been killed in the line of duty and only two Berkeley police officers have ever been killed by gunfire. The last Berkeley police officer killed in the line of duty was in 1973. Furthermore, as Radley Balko observes at the Huffington Post:
We’re now about halfway through 2012, and this year is on pace to be the safest ever for America’s police officers…Fifty officers have died on duty so far this year, a 44-percent decrease from last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). More remarkably, 17 have died from gunfire, down 55 percent from last year. (21 died in traffic accidents, the remaining 12 in various other incidents.) If the second half of this year follows the first, fewer officers will have died on duty this year than in any year since 1944, a time when there were far, far fewer police officers.
In addition, there have been significant concerns about armored vehicles’ ability to violate civil liberties and increase police brutality. A spokesman for the UCPD insisted that the BearCat “is not going to be used for protests or crowd control…it’s nothing to be feared.”
However, police in nearby Alameda County (which includes Oakland) used a $323,000 grant from Homeland Security to buy an APC from Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater). That APC was even used to suppress protests by the Occupy in May 2012. The Inter Press Service elaborates:
Locally, police militarisation was evident at the Nov. 9, 2011 Occupy Cal demonstration at UC Berkeley, where combat-gear clad police injured peaceful protesters with baton strikes, and on Oct. 25, 2011 in Oakland, when similarly armed police nearly killed a young former Marine when they fired a tear-gas canister that hit him in the head.
Due to mutual aid agreements, whereby law enforcement agencies can assist each other, the UCPD could share the APC with both the Berkeley and Albany police departments. The decision to renew mutual aid has previously been postponed, thanks to efforts by the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, which is advised by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
As Emily Odgers noted earlier this year, turning police into soldiers has eroded the Constitution:
This clash between Occupy protesters and police highlighted a need to stand in support of the protection of First Amendment rights. In the past ten years, there has been a decay of constitutional freedoms in America and the only way to get them back is through cooperative grassroots movements.
This is not just an issue for Occupiers or other activists; the First Amendment applies to everyone and it is necessary that the rights described within it are preserved for all, if they are to be preserved for any.
Tags: benjamin shingler, graham hughes, michael moore, mick jagger, montreal police, montreal protest, police brutality, quebec, quebec liberals, quebec strike, roger hollander, snl, student strike, student tuition
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Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS
For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 300 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called “non-life threatening injuries.”
Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.
Riot police used tear gas and sound grenades to try to break up the protest, which was deemed illegal moments after it began for not complying with the new law. The result was a series of violent exchanges between small groups of protesters and police in pockets throughout the downtown core.
One video circulated online captured what appeared to be a police cruiser moving forward briefly with a protester on the hood, before the protester jumped off to the side and the cruiser sped away. Police later denied a rumour that a person had been run over.
Two journalists from local newspapers also reported being arrested and later released.
The legislation passed Friday was intended to put an end to three months of student protests, but it appears only to have given the movement momentum.
“I think the government put the police in a difficult situation,” said protester Nino Gabrielli, who got his Master’s last fall at a Montreal university. “I think the population is mobilizing around this thing.”
As the scenes of unrest played out in the city the movement also gained some celebrity support.
Montreal’s Arcade Fire wore the movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live. Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore also gave his support to the students, featuring links about the issue prominently on his website.
“Their uprising is inspiring,” he tweeted to over a million followers. “One of the most amazing mass protests of the year.”
The global hacker collective Anonymous took an interest as well, releasing two videos denouncing the legislation and the planned tuition increases. The group, which regularly hacks into government websites around the world, warned of future actions in Quebec.
“Resistance is futile,” a computer-modulated voice stated in one video. “The hour of war has come.”
The website for the Quebec Liberal party and the province’s Education Ministry were down for portions of the weekend in an apparent cyber attack. Anonymous, however, did not claim responsibility.
The newfound support came during a weekend marked by violence and vandalism. The unrest reached a climax with a blaze of plastic traffic cones and construction materials lit Saturday during a melee on a busy downtown street.
Meanwhile, police came under criticism on Sunday over an altercation caught on video that shows patrons on a bar patio getting pepper sprayed.
Surveillance footage, played in a loop on one of Quebec’s all-news stations, shows several people sprayed by riot police at close range. Customers are seen scrambling to get inside the bar as a police officer knocks over tables and chairs.
Another video from a local TV station shows the officers took action after one was hit by a flying chair. The chair was then flung back toward the patio. The bar owner said police went too far and he’s considering taking legal action.
“People were falling on each other running inside to get away from the pepper spray, breaking things, and then people left by the back exit,” said Martin Guimond, who runs the Saint Bock brasserie in the city’s lively Latin Quarter. His waitress was initially going to call 911 after it happened.
“And then she said, ‘But wait, it’s the police that are doing this,’” Guimond recalled. “That’s when you realize there’s a total loss of security.”
Police didn’t return a request Sunday for comment about the incident, which occurred only steps from where the fires were set.
Police were newly armed on the weekend with Bill 78, which lays out regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people. It includes requiring organizers to give eight hours’ notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they’re being held.
The City of Montreal also adopted a new bylaw that threatens protesters who wear masks with heavy fines. But it failed to deter dozens of protesters from wearing masks Saturday or Sunday night, and police said they would use the new law with discretion.
Montreal police took a tougher stance on the weekend than previously seen during the nightly marches. The march was almost immediately declared illegal on both Saturday and Sunday because, police said, they weren’t provided with a protest route and bottles and rocks were thrown at police.
Local Police Stockpile High-Tech, Combat-Ready Gear December 22, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Occupy Wall Street Movement, War on Terror.
Tags: #occupy movement, andrew becker, fargo, g.w. schulz, Homeland Security, local police, militarization, n.d., police, police brutality, police departments, s.w.a.t., swat team, terrorism, war on terror
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Published on Thursday, December 22, 2011 by Center for Investigative Reporting
If terrorists ever target Fargo, N.D., the local police will be ready.
Atlanta Police S.W.A.T. members searched a building for a shooting suspect in July of 2010. More than ever before, police rely on quasi-military tactics and equipment, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found. (John Bazemore) In recent years, they have bought bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers in foreign wars. For local siege situations requiring real firepower, police there can use a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. Until that day, however, the menacing truck is mostly used for training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.
“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” said Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”
Fargo, like thousands of other communities in every state, has been on a gear-buying spree with the aid of more than $34 billion in federal government grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
The federal grant spending, awarded with little oversight from Washington, has fueled a rapid, broad transformation of police operations in Fargo and in departments across the country. More than ever before, police rely on quasi-military tactics and equipment, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
No one can say exactly what has been purchased in total across the country or how it’s being used, because the federal government doesn’t keep close track. State and local governments don’t maintain uniform records. But a review of records from 41 states obtained through open-government requests, and interviews with more than two-dozen current and former police officials and terrorism experts, shows police departments around the U.S. have transformed into small army-like forces.
Since Occupy Wall Street and similar protests broke out this fall, confusion about how to respond has landed some police departments in national headlines for electing to use intimidating riot gear, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. Observers have decried these aggressive tactics as more evidence that police are overly militarized. Among them is former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, who today regrets his “militaristic” answer in 1999 to the infamous “Battle in Seattle” protests.
Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of equipment bought with the federal grants reads like a defense contractor catalog. High-tech gear fills the garages, locker rooms and patrol cars in departments across the country.
Although local officials say they have become more cautious about spending in recent years, police departments around the country are continually expanding the equipment and tactics of their jobs, despite, in many cases, the lack of an apparent need.
The share of federal grants for Fargo and the county it anchors is more than $8 million, a considerable sum for terrorism defense given its remote location and status as one of the safest areas in America. Fargo has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there have been no prosecutions of international terrorism in the state for at least a decade, if ever.
North Dakota’s biggest city is a humble place set on plains so flat that locals like to say you can watch your dog run away for two weeks. Yet all patrol officers in Fargo now carry an assault rifle in their squad car.
Fargo police Lt. Ross Renner, who commands a regional SWAT team, said the world is a dangerous place, and the city wants to be ready for anything.
With that in mind, Renner pushed for military-style assault rifles to become standard issue in department patrol cars.
“It’s foolish to not be cognizant of the threats out there, whether it’s New York, Los Angeles or Fargo. Our residents have the right to be protected,” Renner said. “We don’t have every-day threats here when it comes to terrorism, but we are asked to be prepared.”
Other communities also have ramped up as well. In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone. In Garland County, Ark., known for its pleasant hot springs, a local law enforcement agency acquired four handheld bulletproof protective shields costing $600 each. In East Baton Rouge, La., it was $400 ballistic helmets. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. And for police in Des Moines, Iowa, it was two $180,000 bomb robots.
Homeland security and law enforcement officials say the expenditures and modern training have helped save civilian and police lives. Do the armored vehicles and combat dress produce a sort of “shock and awe” effect? Lt. Jeremy Clark of the West Hartford Police Department in Connecticut hopes so. He said it can persuade suspects to give up sooner.
“The only time I hear the complaint of ‘God, you guys look scary’ is if the incident turns out to be nothing,” said Clark, who organizes an annual SWAT competition.
But the gear also can be used for heavy-handed – even excessive – tactics. In one case, dozens of officers in combat-style gear raided a rave in Utah as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. An online video shows the battle-ready team wearing masks and brandishing rifles as they holler for the music to be shut off and pin partygoers to the ground.
Arizona tactical officers this year sprayed the home of ex-Marine Jose Guerena with gunfire as the man stood in a hallway with a rifle that he did not shoot [PDF]. He was hit 22 times and died. Police had targeted the man’s older brother in a narcotics-trafficking probe, but nothing illegal was found in the younger Guerena’s home, and no related arrests had been made months after the raid.
Police say greater firepower and more protective equipment became increasingly necessary not only as everyday criminals obtained deadlier weapons, but also in response to 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. They point to a 1997 Los Angeles-area shootout with heavily armed bank robbers and the bloody 2008 shooting and bombing attack in Mumbai, India, which left 164 people dead and 300 wounded.
Every community in the country has some explanation for why it needs more money, not less, to protect against every conceivable threat. It could be a shooting rampage at an amusement park, a weapon of mass destruction hidden at a manufacturing plant, a nuclear device detonated at a major coastal port. Nothing short of absolute security seems acceptable.
“The argument for up-armoring is always based on the least likely of terrorist scenarios,” said Mark Randol, a former terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service. “Anyone can get a gun and shoot up stuff. No amount of SWAT equipment can stop that.”
Law enforcement leaders nonetheless bristle at the word “militarization,” even if the defense community itself acknowledges a convergence of the two.
“I don’t see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society,” said former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, now chairman of Kroll Inc., the security consulting firm. “And we are a gun-crazy society.”
SWAT competition underscores training
They appear on a grainy video in slow motion, wearing battle fatigues, helmets and multi-pocketed vests.
Figures move through the scene as though on a mission. One large man with a pistol strapped to his hip swings a battering ram into a door. A colleague shoots a flash-bang grenade into a field. A third man points an assault rifle into the distance, peering at his target through a scope. A fourth, holding a pistol and wearing a rifle strapped to his back, peeks cautiously inside a bus.
The images unfold to the pulsing, ominous soundtrack of a popular video game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
These are not soldiers in a far-flung warzone. They are members of the Massachusetts State Police competing at a SWAT team competition in Connecticut. The video, posted on YouTube, underscores the training and devotion tactical officers bring to their jobs. It also illustrates the level of force police units across the country can now deliver.
The annual Connecticut SWAT Challenge, hosted by the West Hartford Police Department, is one of numerous contests and exercises that have flourished since the terrorist attacks, as ultra-equipped, better-trained units sought to enhance their skills. The number of participating units more than doubled in five years, to nearly 40 teams by 2009, and dozens of sponsors seek to ensure their products and logos are on display.
One such sponsor sells ThunderSledge breaching tools for smashing open locked or chained doors. Another, Lenco Armored Vehicles, assembles black, bulletproof box-like trucks on oversized wheels that can fit up to 15 officers. Options include radiation detectors and hydraulic rams. KDH Defense Systems markets body armor to police that matches protection “used by some of the world’s most elite warfighters.”
Clark, of the West Hartford police, says he started the competition precisely because of the new counterterrorism spending. State and local governments weren’t willing to match it with costly training necessary for the gear to be used effectively and safely. Clark is startled by the number of SWAT teams falling below the 16 hours of minimum monthly training recommended by the National Tactical Officers Association. Without proper maintenance, only luck remains.
“Luck is not for cops. Luck is for drunks and fools,” Clark said. “Invariably, what happens with a police officer is he slips and falls, he breaks his back, he’s paralyzed for the rest of his life. Some suspect gets shot with an M4 (assault rifle) through the neck, and he’s out of the hospital in a day. Police officers and military guys never seem to have that kind of stubborn luck.”
Competitions in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston use grant cash to create realistic and elaborate challenges, said Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, who created the Urban Shield event in 2007.
In one scenario, officers with goggles, rifles and fatigues swept through the cabin of a boat. Flames poured from an exploded vehicle during another. Video of the 2009 Urban Shield – with its own heart-thumping doomsday music – depicts tactical teams moving carefully through darkened quarters, roping down the sides of buildings and leaping from a van. Images of 9/11, the Columbine shootings and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California appear with the words “train, adapt, overcome.”
Special ops supplier Blackhawk Industries – founded by a former Navy SEAL – was among several elite Urban Shield sponsors this year.
Ahern points to a real-life recent case that tested area responders. A gunman killed three people and injured seven others in October at a Cupertino, Calif., cement plant where he reportedly clashed with co-workers. These incidents aren’t infrequent, Ahern insists.
“When you say low probability, I think we deal with these issues on a fairly regular basis,” Ahern said, adding that police “identify infrastructure, potential targets, in our area and try to have our teams train at those actual sites.”
No one knows for sure the number of SWAT teams nationwide. But at a time when the crime rate has been dropping, the number of police associated with SWAT duties has gone up. The National Tactical Officers Association, which provides training and develops SWAT standards, has about 1,650 team memberships, up from 1,026 in 2000, according to Executive Director John Gnagey.
“What we’ve always said is if you don’t have a specific need, you shouldn’t have one,” Gnagey said, referring to SWAT units.
Convention showcases latest tactical gear
The giant showroom in Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center provided a vivid picture of how the nation’s law enforcement agencies are arming and armoring themselves. Chicago hosted the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in late October. Some 800 exhibitors set up booths in 180,000 square feet of noisy space, many displaying military-style gear as thousands of police and other law enforcement professionals wandered the expo, dazzled by the latest gadgetry.
The sights and sounds are bewildering for a casual observer.
Electronic blasts and booms pour from the IES Interactive Training booth, where attendees chose among a shotgun, handgun and assault rifle with realistic recoil to aim at uncooperative suspects and inanimate targets on a life-size screen. Other booths offered combat-style apparel, such as one vest with a “Never Forget” patch, stirring up the memory of 9/11. At the Blackhawk booth, a mannequin was dressed head to toe in heavy-duty dark attire, a rifle slung from its neck and an additional sidearm strapped to its thigh. Another mannequin wore a full-face black mask.
Then there was the panoply of weapons. Colt’s Manufacturing Co. offered a selection of assault rifles. The most popular among cops? An M4 semi-automatic, “closest to what the military issues,” a salesman said.
Elsewhere, police officials admired a jumbo armored vehicle in camouflage green emblazoned with the words, “Greater Salt Lake.” It was built by Massachusetts-based truck maker Lenco, which also assembled the beefy BearCat that the Fargo-area SWAT team began using last year. The display vehicle had a battering ram affixed to the front. A man who answered questions about it showed off a remote gas delivery system that can be attached to the ram for spraying tear gas into a building from a long steel spear.
Advertising materials throughout the expo send a uniform message: The world is fraught with peril, and new high-tech gear is a solution.
“As criminal organizations are increasingly armed with military-style weapons, law enforcement operations require the same level of field-tested and combat-proven protection used by soldiers and Marines in Iraq, Afghanistan and other high-risk locations,” reads one brochure for the Oshkosh Corp.’s burly “tactical protector vehicle.” Minus passengers and cargo, it weighs more than two standard F-150 pickups built this year.
Colt makes its own appeal for a family of assault rifles: “The fundamental law enforcement mission profile has undergone drastic changes since the days of Sam Colt’s ‘gun that won the West.’ … Colt’s current law enforcement products have benefitted from decades of field and combat experience.”
Security market for state, local agencies growing
Security analyst Dilip Sarangan of Frost & Sullivan, which tracks the homeland security industry, said security spending by governments and the private sector is “event-based.” Both are suddenly willing to budget more when tragedy ignites new anxieties, such as after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the 2005 London train bombings, the Mumbai terrorist attacks and, most of all, the 9/11 hijackings.
“That’s what their business is, unfortunately – anytime something bad happens, they make money,” Sarangan said.
The homeland security market for state and local agencies is projected to reach $19.2 billion by 2014, up from $15.8 billion in fiscal 2009, according to the Homeland Security Research Corp.
New opportunities are making major defense corporations more a part of our domestic lives.
Lenco, manufacturer of the BearCat and other SWAT vehicles, has sold more than 300 of its trucks to law enforcement agencies around the country. It also markets vehicles to the Defense Department, some for use in fighting improvised explosive devices. The company does not disclose sales figures, but a spokesman said more have been sold since 9/11.
In 2007, British defense giant BAE Systems spent $4.5 billion to buy a company called Armor Holdings, which had subsidiaries that made and supplied police equipment, such as riot shields, hard-knuckle gloves, Delta 4 tactical helmets and laser sight mounts for AR-15 assault rifles.
Minnesota-based Alliant Techsystems, the Army’s primary provider of small-caliber ammunition, acquired in recent years two major tactical equipment suppliers, Blackhawk Industries and Eagle Industries. Company executives told shareholders that Blackhawk was a “highly profitable business,” with $115 million in predicted sales this year.
While such companies also outfit sporting enthusiasts and the military, law enforcement agencies are cast by Alliant as essential customers “in the rapidly growing security market.”
Local officials assert that homeland security grants, used to pay for the type of equipment showcased in Chicago, have slowed. But the grants still add up to a lot of spending: The Department of Homeland Security awarded more than $2 billion in grants this year, and President Barack Obama’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act pumped more than a half-billion dollars into existing grant programs.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is largely responsible for distributing homeland security grants. It operates a website known as the Responder Knowledge Base, which serves as a sort of war-on-terror catalog listing what local governments are allowed to buy with readiness funds.
One item featured is an armored bulldozer with a thick front shield and propelled by “tank-like, all-terrain tracks.” The manufacturer, Dolmen Corp., says police operate in an increasingly violent world, where the arms race between good guys and bad guys is constantly escalating.
The firm says the military-style vehicle allows police to “gain the edge on crime.”
Gnagey, of the tactical officers association, said there’s a sense among some local police that the price increases when makers know it’s being paid for with federal funds. The minute new equipment arrives, he joked, “if it’s painted black and called SWAT, the price doubles.”
But the evolution continues. In the Phoenix area, Sheriff Joe Arpaio claimed this year to have his own air armada of private pilots he could dispatch to monitor illegal border crossers. He called it Operation Desert Sky. Arpaio also picked up a full-size surplus Army tank, complete with treads.
The city of Ogden, Utah, is about to launch a 54-foot, remote-controlled “crime-fighting blimp” with a powerful surveillance camera affixed to its belly by the end of the year.
Standard-duty officers seen daily on the streets of Los Angeles were retrained to break in and kill terrorists without negotiating, under an assumption that the attackers could have a death wish and not be interested in resolving matters peacefully. Many officers were also equipped with assault rifles.
Bratton, the former police chief, said in an interview that terrorism had been a low priority early in his career. By the time he retired in 2009, it consumed a significant part of his workday. After the Mumbai attacks, Bratton believed he had to act fast to prepare for such an event.
“We were not structured for that type of attack,” he said. “Within six months, we were.”
Las Vegas rushed forward as well. Everyday patrol officers were given additional training, and each shift now has “in-the-box” squads that can meet at a pre-determined location and respond as a group to would-be campus or casino attackers. Squad members carry additional gear in their cars, including gas masks, body armor and high-powered rifles.
“When you go to a substation now at a police department and you see someone walk out to their car to start their shift, no longer are they just walking out there with a briefcase,” said Las Vegas Sheriff Doug Gillespie. “They’ve got other equipment they’re taking with them that if the situation arises, they put that on and they use it.”
Charles Ramsey, who was police chief in Washington, D.C., during 9/11, said officers in the nation’s capital began to train for multiple simultaneous attacks. The Mumbai bloodshed, which took place after Ramsey headed to Philadelphia in 2008, also served as a spur for him to make further changes and spend more money to up-armor his force.
Some 1,500 beat cops in Philadelphia have been trained to use AR-15 assault rifles – akin to the high-powered weapons issued to war fighters.
“We have a lot of people here, like most departments, who are ex-military,” Ramsey said in an interview. “Some people are very much into guns and so forth. So it wasn’t hard to find volunteers.”
Preventative measures critical, Fargo police say
Fargo is not a place anyone associates with crime or terrorism. Its combination of friendly folk, low housing prices and high employment has garnered it recognition as one of the best places in the country to live. It is home to one of Microsoft’s largest campuses and North Dakota State University.
Officials in Cass County, which includes Fargo, began buying gear in 2002. The spending on police gear rose from tens of thousands a decade ago to millions.
Police there said such spending is more than justified as a preventative measure. North Dakota has what could be perceived as targets, and the FBI established in Fargo one of its 104 Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Critical energy and agriculture sectors drive the booming economy in the remote border state. Drones used in the war on terror and homeland security are stationed at or operated from air bases in Grand Forks and at the local Fargo airport.
In addition, they say, some right-wing militias and white supremacists have been long-standing threats.
Fargo police justify the purchase of their SWAT truck, saying that with regular maintenance and low miles, it could serve the force for 30 years. They point to past shootings, like a 2004 incident in which a former Army ranger shot at SWAT team members and pinned down one officer who could have been aided by the truck.
In their minds, if it saves even one life, it’s worth the cost.
Other purchases, like the bomb-detection robots, are shared with federal agencies in Fargo that have outposts, but not the resources. The local police also say they’ve taken a regional approach to spend wisely, leveraging federal grants to buy equipment that has multiple uses.
“It doesn’t make sense if we only use it for terrorism activity, and it doesn’t make sense if we only use it for criminal activity,” said Fargo police Capt. Patrick Claus, a former SWAT commander.
Some residents agree. Tim Kozojed, a corn and soybean farmer in Hillsboro, 40 miles north of Fargo, said he believes police ought to have the equipment they need. But he also believes they must spend money wisely. He’s not certain that’s happened with the grants.
“I’m very reluctant to get anxious about a terrorist attack in North Dakota,” Kozojed, 31, said. “Why would they bother?”
Claus, who was responsible for buying some of Fargo’s military-style gear, including the BearCat truck, understands such thinking. But he contends it’s misguided, and he and other law enforcement authorities are obliged to prepare as well as they can.
“We prepare for the worst and hope it never happens,” he said. “But how many fires do you have to have before you buy a fire engine?”
This story was edited by Robert O’Harrow, Robert Salladay and Mark Katches. It was copy edited by Nikki Frick.
Tags: #occupy movement, academic freedom, dave zinn, fbi, first amendment, graham spanier, linda katehi, militarization, national security, non violence, penn state scandal, police brutality, roger hollander, uc davis
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Two shocking scandals. Two esteemed universities. Two disgraced university leaders. One stunning connection. Over the last month, we’ve seen Penn State University President Graham Spanier dismissed from his duties and we’ve seen UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi pushed to the brink of resignation. Spanier was jettisoned because of what appears to be a systematic cover-up of assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s serial child rape. Katehi has faced calls to resign after the she sent campus police to blast pepper spray in the faces of her peaceably assembled students, an act for which she claims “full responsibility.” The university’s Faculty Association has since voted for her ouster citing a “gross failure of leadership.” The names Spanier and Katehi are now synonymous with the worst abuses of institutional power. But their connection didn’t begin there. In 2010, Spanier chose Katehi to join an elite team of twenty college presidents on what’s called the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, which “promotes discussion and outreach between research universities and the FBI.”
Spanier said upon the group’s founding in 2005, “The National Security Higher Education Advisory Board promises to help universities and government work toward a balanced and rational approach that will allow scientific research and education to progress and our nation to remain safe.” He also said that the partnership could help provide “internships” to faculty and students interested in “National Security issues.”
FBI chief Robert Mueller said at a press conference with Spanier, “We knew it would not be necessarily an easy sell because of the perceived tension between law enforcement and academia. But once we’ve briefed President Spanier on the national security threats that impact all of you here at Penn State and at other universities, it became clear to all of us why this partnership is so important. “
But the reality of this partnership is far different. Its original mandate was about protecting schools from “cyber theft” and “intellectual property issues.” As has been true with the FBI since Hoover, give them a foothold, and they’ll take off their shoes and get cozy. Their classified mandate has since expanded to such euphemisms as “counter-terrorism” and “public safety.” It also expanded federal anti-terrorism task forces to include the dark-helmeted pepper-spray brigades, otherwise known as the campus police.
As Wired magazine put it in 2007, “presidents are being advised to think like ‘Cold Warriors’ and be mindful of professors and students who may not be on campus for purposes of learning but, instead, for spying, stealing research and recruiting people who are sympathetic to an anti-U.S. cause.”
Chancellor Katehi said in 2010 that despite these concerns, she was proud to join the NSHEA because “it’s important for us to learn from the FBI about the smartest, safest protocols to follow as we do our work, and it is equally important that the FBI has a solid understanding of matters of academic freedom.”
Sacremento’s FBI special agent in Charge, Drew Parenti, praised her involvement, saying, “The FBI’s partnership with higher education is a key component in our strategy of staying ahead of national security threats from our foreign adversaries…. we are very pleased that Chancellor Katehi has accepted an appointment to serve on the board.”
As for the actual meetings between the presidents of academic institutions and the FBI, those discussions are classified. If you are a rabble-rousing faculty member or a student group stepping out of line, your school records can become the FBI’s business and you’d be none the wiser.
Chris Ott, from the Massachusetts ACLU, said of the NSHEA, “The FBI is asking university faculty, staff, and students to create a form of neighborhood watch against anything that is so called ‘suspicious.’ What kinds of things are they going to report on? Who has the right to be snitching? One of the scary things is who [on the campuses] will take it upon themselves to root out spies?”
In the wake of the scandals that have enveloped and now destroyed the careers of Spanier and Katehi, the very existence of the NCHEA should now be called to question. Given the personal character on display by these two individuals, why should anyone trust that the classified meetings have stayed in the realm of “cyber theft” and intellectual property rights? What did the FBI tell Chancellor Katehi about how to deal with the peacefully assembled Occupiers? Was “counter-terrorism” advice given on how to handle her own students?
As for Spanier, how much of Sandusky’s actions at Penn State, which were documented on campus but never shared with the local police, was the FBI privy to? Why did the school hire former FBI director Louis Freeh to head up their internal investigation? Does that in fact represent a conflict of interest? And most critically, did the “chilling effect” of a sanctioned FBI presence at Penn State actually prevent people from coming forward?
When Spanier was asked in 2005, if he was concerned about whether a formal partnership with the FBI would cause objections he said, “If there is an issue on my campus, I’d like to be the first person to hear about it, not the last.” In the context of recent events, it’s probably best to let those words speak for themselves. But fear not for the futures of these two stewards of higher education and academic freedom. Maybe Spanier can put his experience as a federal informant to good use from inside a federal prison. As for Katehi, if, as suspected, she’ll be unemployed shortly, perhaps she can take advantage of one of those fabulous internship opportunities having the FBI on campus provides.
Dave Zirin is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and the newly published A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.com, New York Newsday and The Progressive. He is the host of XM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio. Contact him at email@example.com