8.16.2016 In Depth Look

CC BY-SA by Elvert Barnes
CC BY-SA by Elvert Barnes
A smattering of analyses, replete with enough evidence to indict the entire ruling class–and in some people’s minds to crank up the manufacture of pitchforks and guillotines–of operating various racketeering enterprises through means of police state tactics that would make proud the apparatchiks of Berlin during Hitler’s reign, to begin an item from ColorLines that demonstrates the calculated perfidy that so-called forces of order deploy in order to target, harm, and undermine activism for human rights and social justice and such, one of the many such examples that center ‘race’ as the key element of this depredation—in the context of which both the overall portal of a recent Rutherford Institute listing and an essay by Institute Director John Whitehead about government’s current criminal enterprise are critically important to peruse; and in the context of which a selection of materials from hither and yon make powerful statements about these matters, such as just one of hundreds of accounts, this one from Atlantic Magazine, about the hideous barbarism of Baltimore’s–and many or most other–urban policing operations; such as a ‘they-can’t-make-this-shit-up’ look from Hyperallergic about two Detroit-area graffiti artists who face up four years in prison for protest-tagging; such as an investigative overview from Activist Post about the occasional practice on the part of secret police of turning on their ubiquitously deployed informants  and charging them with the ‘terrorism’ and other ‘crimes’ that they are supposedly snitching on for hire; such as an incisive explication from New Yorker about the obvious link that connects cash extraction to aggressive policing and deadly force; such as a briefing from TruthDig, via Black Agenda Report, about erstwhile ‘progressive’ Barack Obama’s plans to amplify rather than cut back militarized policing tactics; such as an examination  by Hechinger Report of Mississippi’s wanton and brutal use of police in its public schools–

CC BY-NC by Inventorchris

which are of course disproportionately Black in their enrollment, an aggregation of instantiation that could go on at length, if not forever, so that the knowledge no longer surprises that the U.S. far outdistances all other lands in its incarceration rate, about which a second Activist Post posting informs intrepid readers that prisoners across America–who are almost without exception exemplars of slavery and involuntary servitude–are preparing for a general strike in the second week of September, an announcement that unfortunately fits quite neatly with the release of three volumes  of protocols    from the Department of Defense that reveal not only that posse comitatus is practically a dead letter but also that the planning is advanced indeed for military interventions inside the United States by troops who supposedly serve the same nation, a complete compilation of being on the verge, or in the thickets, of fascism here in the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ that all too many folks explain by referring to race or other matters of identity, according to some interlocutors   whom scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens should ponder a grave and likely lethal error, a guarantee of the division that inevitably conveys conquest to those who are seeking surcease and power instead of oppression and deprivation: “(In relation to organizing and protest everywhere, for example in Missouri, targeted arrests are) ‘retaliation,’ legal observer Rose says of (Melissa) McKinnnies’ felony charge.  ‘Police don’t like the Lost Voices because the group brought so much national attention to Ferguson.  They are using this random assault charge that didn’t really happen the way they say it happened and definitely didn’t involve her.’

Ferguson Day 6, Picture 12 by Loavesofbread - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons
Ferguson Day 6, Picture 12 by Loavesofbread – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons

Lost Voices sparked the ire of local authorities by camping outside 24 hours a day and holding almost daily protests that included shutting down traffic on West Florissant Avenue, not far from where officer Darren Wilson killed Brown.  McKinnies’ trial is scheduled to begin on September 15Colorlines’ calls to St. Louis County police were not returned.

So far, McKinnies’ case has drawn very little media attention or national discussion.  She’s not a member of a national organization or clergy network and she lacks the name recognition of a DeRay Mckesson, the Teach for America administrator from Baltimore who came into prominence for his prodigious use of social media in cities rocked by racialized police violence.  Large national organizations, clergy groups in particular, tend to have legal and communications support in place before members are arrested at protests.  With those resources, people who stage civil disobedience actions are generally released from jail within hours without being charged.
(Jasmine) Richards, the Black Lives Matter–Pasadena founder who faced the bizarre lynching charge, had national support from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) network.  Leaders such as Patrisse Cullors spoke out about the injustice and irony of a Black woman facing serious time for a charge intended to stop White mobs from abducting Blacks they wanted to lynch from police stations.  Richards’ case also received mainstream media attention, likely due to its novelty, and that attention probably helped her get a sentence of 90 days in jail instead of four years in prison.  Colorlines’ calls to the Pasadena Police Department were not returned.

Baton Rouge is one of the latest hotspots for mass arrests.  During protests that began four days after officer Blane Salamoni fatally shot Alton Sterling—and two days after Micah Xavier Johnson allegedly killed five Dallas cops—officers in Baton Rouge arrested some 185 people for charges such as obstructing a highway of commerce and failure to obey officers.  Arthur ‘Silky Slim’ Reed, founder of Stop the Killing Inc., a local group helping to lead nonviolent demonstrations in response to Sterling’s killing, says these mass arrests are not designed for public safety.  ‘The goal is to discourage the protests,’ says Reed, a family friend of Sterling who himself was arrested on July 9 for disturbing the peace and ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’—a creative term police used to describe his presence among young protesters.  ‘It’s not about responding to lawbreakers.  These are BS charges.'”—Color Lines
CC BY-SA by Elvert Barnes
CC BY-SA by Elvert Barnes
        “What we have is a government of wolves.
Worse than that, we are now being ruled by a government of scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.  Does the government pose a danger to you and your loved ones?  The facts speak for themselves.rect3336 space
We’re being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers—a standing army.  While Americans are being made to jump through an increasing number of hoops in order to exercise their Second Amendment right to own a gun, the government is arming its own civilian employees to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorizing them to make arrests, and training them in military tactics.  Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities.  There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines.  That doesn’t even begin to touch on the government’s arsenal, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, and the speed with which the nation could be locked down under martial law depending on the circumstances.  Clearly, the government is preparing for war—and a civil war, at that—but who is the enemy?navy war military
We’re being robbed blind by a government of thieves.  Americans no longer have any real protection against government agents empowered to seize private property at will.  For instance, police agencies under the guise of asset forfeiture laws are taking property based on little more than a suspicion of criminal activity.  In one case, police seized $53,000 from the manager of a Christian rock band that was touring and raising money for an orphanage in Thailand.  Despite finding no evidence of wrongdoing, police kept the money.  Homeowners are losing their homes over nonpayment of taxes (for as little as $400 owed) and municipal bills such as water or sewer fees that amount to a fraction of what they have invested in their homes.  And then there’s the Drug Enforcement Agency, which has been searching train and airline passengers and pocketing their cash, without ever charging them with a crime.money funds
We’re being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards.  American satirist H.L. Mencken calculated that ‘Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.’  By and large, Americans seem to agree.  When you’ve got government representatives who spend a large chunk of their work hours fundraising, being feted by lobbyists, shuffling through a lucrative revolving door between public service and lobbying, and making themselves available to anyone with enough money to secure access to a congressional office, you’re in the clutches of a corrupt oligarchy.  Mind you, these same elected officials rarely read the legislation they’re enacting, nor do they seem capable of enacting much legislation that actually helps rather than hinders the (prospects) of the American citizen.rect3336 space
We’re being locked up by a government of greedy jailers.  We have become a carceral state, spending three times more on our prisons than on our schools and imprisoning close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite the fact that crime is at an all-time low and the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population.  The rise of overcriminalization and profit-driven private prisons provides even greater incentives for locking up American citizens for such non-violent ‘crimes’ as having an overgrown lawn.  As the Boston Review points out, ‘America’s contemporary system of policing, courts, imprisonment, and parole … makes money through asset forfeiture, lucrative public contracts from private service providers, and by directly extracting revenue and unpaid labor from populations of color and the poor.  In states and municipalities throughout the country, the criminal justice system defrays costs by forcing prisoners and their families to pay for punishment.  It also allows private service providers to charge outrageous fees for everyday needs such as telephone calls.  As a result people facing even minor criminal charges can easily find themselves trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of debt, criminalization, and incarceration.'”—The Rutherford Institute
        “Revenue-generation policies trap poor people in a cycle of debt, but (Alexes) Harris argues that these policies can also create dangerous conditions for violent confrontations with law-enforcement officers.  Philando Castile, for instance, had been pulled over forty-six times in fourteen years, and had ‘racked up more than $6,000 in fines,’ according to NPR, before he was pulled over for a minor violation and shot by a police officer, on July 6th.
‘Philando Castile was killed for the broken tail-light,’ Harris said.  ‘Mike Brown was killed for the manner in which he was walking down the roadway.  Eric Garner was killed for city-code violations for selling cigarettes.  Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, was killed for allegedly possessing a switchblade.’  She added, ‘All of these killings, the initial interaction was for ticky-tack fines and fees that gave the police excuses to stop these young men in the street.’

(Such practices create a powder keg with a burning fuse).  That tension, fuelled by fears of being locked up for not being able to make payments, was evident in the case of Walter Scott, who was gunned down by a white police officer on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston, South Carolina.  The officer, Michael Slager (who has been indicted by a federal grand jury), pulled Scott over for a non-functioning brake light.  Scott’s family speculated to the New York Times that he decided to run from the officer in large part because he owed $18,000 in court fines and lapsed child-support payments.
Alec Karakatsanis, a former public defender and a co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights group, says the Walter Scott case is hardly an outlier.  In July, Karakatsanis helped win a $4.7-million settlement against the city of Jennings, Missouri, to compensate nearly two thousand residents who had been jailed simply because they were unable to pay their court bills.  ‘The more people you have who know that the jurisdiction is going to illegally jail them just because they’re poor, the more people you have that are afraid of the cops, and the more evasive actions they’re going to take,’ he said.

At the core of the issue is a criminal-justice system that has exploded in size in the past two and a half decades.  From 1993 to 2012, annual criminal-justice expenditures rose seventy-four per cent, from $157 billion to $273 billion, according to Council of Economic Advisers.  But the report noted that, rather than raise taxes to cover the costs, ‘state and local governments . . . have increasingly turned to monetary sanctions as a source of additional revenue.’  The burden of payment now falls on offenders, and on the poorest of the poor.  In a report published in 2010 by the Brennan Center for Justice, researchers analyzed criminal-justice debt in the fifteen states with the highest prison populations, and reported that eighty to ninety per cent of those charged with criminal offenses ‘qualify for indigent defense.’  As a result, some people can never pay the fines.  Another eye-opening study, commissioned by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and published in 2014, interviewed nine hundred and forty-three people who were under supervision for a felony.  They were asked if they had ever committed a crime specifically to pay off court fines.  Statewide, seventeen per cent of the respondents said they had committed a crime—mostly selling drugs—to pay off fines.  In counties where the question was asked by an independent interviewer, rather than a probation or corrections officer, the percentage was even higher: In Marshall County, Alabama, forty-three per cent of the respondents admitted to committing crimes to pay off official debts.rect3336 space
If people are willing to commit a crime in order to pay off court debts, it stands to reason that a significant number of people with outstanding court debts would be willing to run from police, who are seen, essentially, as debt collectors.  This is likely the case in many black communities.  A July, 2016, report by the Harvard economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr., also found that, when black Americans interact with police officers, the police are more likely to use physical force.”—The New Yorker
        “On September 9, prisoners across the United States will participate in coordinated work stoppage and hunger strikes in an attempt to what they view as prison slavery.  The nationwide action is the result of years of frustration and organizing by prisoners and their support networks outside of the prison bars.
To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.  This is a call for a nationwide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on Sept. 9, 2016.  They cannot run these facilities without us.rect3336 space
The event is being planned by a number of groups, including The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), Free Alabama Movement(FAM), Free Virginia Movement, Free Ohio Movement, Free Mississippi Movement, New Underground Railroad Movement (CA), Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People, and Families Movement (FICPFM), and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.  The FICPFM has also scheduled a national conference for September 9 when the strikes begin.

‘Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls,’ reads a statement announcing the strikes.  ‘Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on Sept. 9, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs.  This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.’

The September 9 nationwide strike will also mark 45th anniversary of the notorious Attica prison uprising.  On September 9, 1971, around 1,000 of Attica prison’s 2,200 inmates organized a riot that lasted five days and claimed the lives of 33 prisoners and 10 prison guards.  During that time the prisoners took 42 guards hostage and released the The Attica Liberation Faction Manifesto Of Demands.  The manifesto contained 27 demands, including  better medical treatment, fair visitation rights, an end to physical brutality, better sanitation, and improved food quality.  In the 45 years since the Attica riot, the American prison population has exploded to never before seen levels of incarceration.  As The Influence notes, the massive growth in prison population is largely due to the failed War on Drugs.”—Activist Post
        “If a prime purpose of thinking and study and discussion and learning ends up as something like reasonable action that improves human life, then theoverwhelming majority of SOP mediation that happens today in this largely intellectual and dialogic sphere is, viewed most optimistically, counterproductive and absurd.  This assertion might appear quixotic and clearly makes a disputatious claim.  However, this essay will contend that at least provisionally it proves that contention, in relation more exactly to broadcast or otherwise distributed discourse about social conflict that reputedly involves ‘race,’ ‘racial differences,’ ‘racism,’ and so forth.

Bob Jagendorf
Bob Jagendorf

In essence, because precisely one human race exists, ‘racism’ only addresses a socially developed concept about a false idea, that different races with different biological qualities in fact are a part of the human condition, a popular and yet completely incorrect conceptualization of human social relations that inevitably colors and distorts what happens among diverse social actors, probably in a completely toxic, and ultimately in a totally self-destructive, fashion.

(At the same time, the horrific murder and theft of “the legacies of slavery” do exist, about which) (a) first point to make clear is that color did not always mean darkness, or diminution, nor did it ineluctably lead to an impunity to butcher and discriminate against those whose surface hues were dun or brown or charcoal.  As a respected expert on Elizabethan culture quoted an even more venerated authority about Othello, ‘(she) situates the play ‘at a crossroads in the history of ethnological ideas when emergent racial discourses clashed with the still-dominant classical and medieval paradigms.’  Those who follow along will see that point more fully in the coming preface.  For now, we can aver that a primary legacy of slavery in the period of capitalism’s infancy was to overthrow most chances that dark skin under a bourgeois rubric could mean power or wealth or high station.rect3336 space
At least as much as any other correlative, the capacity to resist force against oneself or one’s friends or one’s family is a sine qua non of social potency.  In the United States, the uncounted thousands of police and vigilante murders—and hundreds of thousands of assaults—each decade fall with such massive disproportion on people of color, and Black folk first among these assaulted populations, that any notion that chance determines this fate must look surreal.  The very fact of the disparity is explosively ubiquitous at all compass points, both ideological and cultural, in mediated assessments from every possible place on our planet.rect3336 space
Rather than offering details on the panoply of recent men and women whom uniformed, militarized authorities have shot to death or otherwise slain, whether their surnames sound like Boyd or Brown or Crawford or Garner or Gray or Harris or Hicks or Hill or McKenna or Martin or Rice or Scott or Valencia—themselves part of an only casually tracked social set, over the past quarter century, of plus-or-minus tens of thousands of citizens cut down despite brandishing neither armament nor other credible threat against their killers—today’s analysis merely points out that a major disparity marks this population.rect3336 space
As many as three quarters of them descend from former slaves or ‘conquered’ peoples of the hemisphere, even though no more than a third or so of the overall population have such roots.  Moreover, an even higher majority of the killers were Gringos of one stripe or other, and literally none of the ‘executioners’ who were Black ever dispatched a White person.”—The Southeast Review of Media, Culture, & Politics