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Kenneth Harding police murder aftermath: Victory for Kilo G

September 3, 2011

The messengers – community-controlled media-makers – refuse to be destroyed

by Malaika H. Kambon

Kilo G Perry, his family and supporters celebrate on Aug. 12 the dropping of charges against him, part of a police harassment campaign against Hunters Point activists since SFPD murdered Kenneth Harding. From left are Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter, Jeremy Miller, Elvira Pollard, Ben Allen, Kilo G Perry with his son and daughter, Remigio Fraga, Mesha Irizarry, Tracey Bell-Borden, Fly Benzo, Kim Rohrbach and Frank of SF ANSWER. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Kilo G. Perry is an Afrikan man and a man of his word. He is such a trusted man of his word that he has been dubbed “the voice of Bayview Hunters Point” by poor Black and Brown people of San Francisco. Comrade Kilo G is the producer of Cameras Not Guns, a youth educator and peacemaker, and a single father of a 3-year-old baby boy.

Recently, in keeping with the theme of Cameras Not Guns, Kilo G began filming a painful new project. Since July 16, 2011, he has been filming much of the aftermath of the SFPD murder of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding, a young Black man. Since the shooting of Harding on Third and Oakdale – in broad daylight, for lack of a transfer proving purchase of a $2 train ticket – community outrage has exploded.

When asked to describe Kilo G’s determination to see this project through, the Idriss Stelley Foundation said of Kilo G’s work:

“As part of his crucial endeavor to find the truth, Kilo G has been interviewing direct witnesses of Harding’s killing, who contend they never saw a gun in Harding’s hand. Witnesses such as Henry Taylor, who was arrested by SFPD to silence him, then released because no charges against Taylor could stick.”

In the same fashion, and for the nearly the same reasons, Debray Carpenter – better known as Fly Benzo – was arrested the week following Harding’s murder and released days later. All charges were dropped. Apparently, asking questions, seeking answers, speaking out and videography are crimes and are therefore punishable by arrest.

Accordingly, attempts were made to silence Kilo G as well. He was accused of harassing a police officer. Perry, who is neither on parole nor probation and has not committed any crime, was ordered to appear in court to answer to charges of civil harassment against a police officer, bringing the total to at least three Black men arrested for conducting an independent community-sanctioned investigation into the murder of Kenneth Harding.

And again, recent history repeated itself. On Aug. 12, in a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. in the San Francisco Superior Court, an order to show cause for civil harassment filed by SFPD Officer Julia Angalet against Keith “Kilo G” Perry was vacated and all charges filed against him were dropped. SFPD Officer Julia Angalet, oddly enough, was a no show at her own show.

The mere fact of a concerted and concerned presence of people with Kilo G for this court hearing rattled the powers that be enough that they detailed a sheriff’s officer – Officer Mendoza – to take our pictures, increase the number of officers in the hallway outside of the courtroom, detail officers to follow us to the elevator and block off the adjoining hallways that we passed through. In addition, they had both a sheriff’s department officer and a jump-suited Homeland Security highway patrol officer, armed with both a pistol and a Taser X-26, watching us while we stood outside.

And prior to court, Cpl. Castellanos of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department saw fit to inform Kilo G to “meet me at five when I get off. I get off work at 5 p.m.”

Considering the present air of community hostility toward a global police force that kills with impunity, what would be the purpose of Castellanos saying something like that if he wasn’t intending, as a representative of the SFPD, to escalate an already tense situation to a lethal state? In this reporter’s estimation, those comments can be construed as a direct threat to yet another Afrikan man’s life – particularly since they had nothing whatsoever to do with the court case, were uttered specifically to Kilo G while he was alone in the hallway outside of court, and when the officer realized that his comments had been overheard, he was denying that he’d said anything at all!

What does this mean? Well, somebody’s lying and somebody’s got something to hide. And guess what? It isn’t Kilo G and it isn’t the predominantly Afrikan Bayview Hunters Point community.

Kenneth Harding’s murder at the hands of the SFPD has sent shock ripples around the world, adding to the already daunting statistics of young Afrikans being murdered by police, while globally the corporate media ignores incidents, buries them in silence and disseminates misinformation or attempts to cover the murders up.

Witness the fact that London, England, burned earlier this month because of just this kind of murder – that of Mark Duggan, a young unarmed Black man. Cities across the world raged at the murder of Oscar Grant III as Oakland, Calif., lit up like a torch. New York erupted at the murders of 10-year-old Clifford Glover, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. Detroit is still smoldering after the savage murder of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, killed while sleeping on the couch in her own home. And let us not forget about elderly Alberta Spruill, who was literally frightened to death in New York City after police, in a “mistaken raid,” tossed a concussion grenade into her home. And the list goes on.

In the San Francisco Bay area, between 1966 and 2011, the murders of innocent people by police include but are not limited to the following people of color, disability and or transient, homeless persons:

  • Matthew Johnson, 16 – killed after running from a joy ride in a stolen car, sparking the Hunters Point riots.
  • Tony Groshe, 13 – mentally challenged youth, killed while playing with a water pistol in Potrero Hill.
  • Aaron Williams – killed in the Western Addition, aka the Fillmore.
  • Mark Garcia – died of a heart attack in the Mission District after being robbed by unknown assailants, then pepper sprayed and hogtied by SFPD, the very persons he cried out to for help.
  • Bruce Seward – shot and killed for being naked on a bench outside a BART station.
  • Idriss Stelley – an honor student shot 48 times by nine SFPD officers inside San Francisco’s Metreon Theater.
  • Gustavus Rugley – shot 36 times as he sat in his car at Alemany and Ocean by the SFPD gang task force.
  • Vinh Bui – a Bayview resident shot and killed while “holding a metal object.”
  • Randall Dunkin – a disabled man shot while sitting in his wheelchair.
  • Oscar Grant III, 22 – tortured, called racial epithets and shot to death at point blank range by BART police.
  • Raheim Brown, 20 – shot and killed by Oakland Unified School District police.
  • Charles Hill – homeless transient man beaten and shot to death by BART police.
  • Kenneth Harding, 19 – shot for lack of a transfer proving he’d paid the $2 train fare.

And the corporate media continues to cover up what the Black and Brown communities have always recognized as an epidemic of stolen lives and police brutality that has gone on for centuries and continues unabated.

Speaking at a community meeting immediately after the killing of Kenneth Harding, where SFPD Chief Greg Suhr was shouted down, a longtime Bayview resident made a telling and critical statement quoted by the October 22nd Coalition:

“A boy gets gunned down. We don’t know if there was a gun there, but we know that for 40 damn years, people have been getting gunned down in this community. People are angrier now than they were when they walked in the door. We’re a community that’s truly in pain, that’s truly frustrated and really needs some respect.”

Learning the charges against Kilo G had been dropped, jubilation erupted from his supporters: Jeremy Miller, Frank of SF ANSWER, Ben Allen, Kilo’s daughter, Tracey Bell-Borden, Mesha Irizarry and Kilo. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
This isn’t about just one bad cop in a barrel. This is about systemic violence played out with impunity to terrorize and to destroy communities. And the attempt to placate the community with articles such as the one published on the back pages of the Mercury News on Aug. 12, 2011, entitled, “Oakland police draw guns without cause too often, federal report finds,” failed its task miserably, for it comes a little too little and a lot too late and it fails to recognize the community’s need to control what happens within itself.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense advocated community control as opposed to police occupations and was successful in building such controls until it was decimated by J. Edgar Hoover and his infamous “counter-intelligence” program, COINTELPRO.

Kenneth Harding was murdered in broad daylight. Oscar Grant III photographed his killer, as did thousands of witnesses. But they are both still very dead and their killers are known and walking the earth free.

And now that neither the corporate media pundits nor their lies, nor the various police departments and their legally sanctioned killers have a foot to stand on – as their cities burn to the ground on international television – they want to make matters worse by publishing useless federal reports admitting wrongdoing on the one hand, while attempting to shoot the messengers of the people with the other hand? What’s wrong with this picture?

People like videographer Kilo G, like the Black-owned San Francisco Bay View newspaper – who had a bullet come through their window and their entire website hacked in attempts to put them out of business – and like the most famous of our peoples’ voices, internationally acclaimed journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who fights for his life on death row, while everyone from the feds to the courts to the Fraternal Order of Police of Pennsylvania try to silence his voice and crush his life and spirit – are media outlets that are unstinting in their search for and reporting of the facts.

We the people deserve to know the truth. And we must protect what we have: our people’s media, our truth tellers. For it is a sad fact of life that freedom of the press is not the sacred cow it is purported to be, because it only exists to serve corporate-political interests. And stilted political interests have turned it into a free-for-all of corruption.

In a world gone mad, embedded journalists go to wars that are instigated by whomever has the most money and report back to an ostrich-like North American populace that war is all about guts and glory and fighting the good fight for truth, justice and the American way. And the populace believes this until Superman comes home in a body bag, with varying portions of his or her anatomy missing – the corpse not being the only thing that’s covered up.

The system will even kill its own for prime public relations ratings and a percentage. Witness the Pat Tillman story, for example. He was a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals indoctrinated to fight the good fight against the “War on Terror” after 9/11. Tillman gave up fame and fortune – a $3.5 million football contract with the Cardinals and a $9 million contract with the St. Louis Rams – to die for his country and protect it from the so-called evil terrorists who had their sights set on stealing U.S. freedoms.

He joined the Army Rangers and his Army Rangers killed him, blamed it on the Afghans, gave him a posthumous Silver Star, covered up his death and fueled the U.S. war machine for two years, using him like a tool as the U.S. poster-boy, who, at 27 years old, died a national hero.

The Army of course didn’t bother to tell anyone that they’d suppressed the true findings of the coroner: Pat Tillman was assassinated from 10 yards away with an M-16, the shots being small and perfectly placed. Tillman was also listed as “an agnostic, probably an atheist” and was arranging through a friend to meet with noted anti-war historian Noam Chomsky after his tour of duty in Iraq had ended.

Tillman’s father publicly and in writing told the army to go fuck itself after the cover-up became known through the diligence of the Tillman family; and the Army then tried to reduce it to “a few typographical errors” in the information that the family was officially given as the cause of their loved one’s death.

So, significant parts of the populace now realize that cover-ups are real. And also that in-bed-with-the-State-Department journalists lie. And finally, that there is a record of history’s most prominent figures that direct substantial sums of money to perpetuate unstinting violence against those who hunt down truth. Vicious dictators and colored puppets in positions of power, political and corporate pundits, media moguls, prison and military industrial complex players et al. are some of the figures that come to mind.

Whether they be governmental, vigilante or members of that ol’ boys club called “the corporate media,” there is incontrovertible documentation that the powers that be have, do and will continue to act to silence those who air the corporate dirty laundry. Impunity is the coin they use, no matter the size of the truth being told and no matter the age, gender and or national origin of the teller.

Cover-up is the stick they wield even when their messiness spirals out of control. Then they make a movie out of it or a PR show, whichever will benefit – read, profit – them the most.

So when the poor, the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the marginalized stand up and scream foul and then prove it and then fight back, the monster of suppression rears its ugly head and tries hard to put the genie back in the bottle by any and every means necessary, however foul.

First they go into denial, when everything turns into a gun.

The wallet, transfer or medicine you reach for, the compact you use to powder your nose, magically transform into guns. The guns, whether they are invisible, visible or planted, are definitely presumed to be in your possession. Then you are killed. Witness the countless “regime” change murders: Fred Hampton, George Jackson, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to name but a few.

Next, they colonize the information.

Ever the videographer, Kilo G Perry films Officer Mendoza leading a contingent of well-armed sheriff’s deputies in the courthouse taking pictures of Kilo’s supporters and following, blocking and containing them in a futile intimidation effort. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
The poetry you speak, the rap music lyrics you spit, the documentation that says you were not where they said you were and that you are not who they say that they’re looking for magically transform into that planted, non-existent gun or that gun of “mistaken identity.”

Then you are imprisoned, exiled and or killed. Geronimo ji Jaga was a prime example of this tactic, as were Tupac Amaru Shakur, Anita Spruill, Assata Olugbala Shakur and many of the men and women who remain political prisoners and or prisoners of war from roughly 40 years ago to this day – or who died locked up – as well as those souls who are locked away and have no one and are unnamed except to their communities and friends.

Lastly, they criminalize your every movement and your very existence.

The deeds you do that help, encourage, uplift and empower get twisted and destroyed and turned into that “threat to national security” gun. Then you are disappeared. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine and the Black Panther Party are prime examples of victims of this. And when all else fails, obliteration by treaty promises unkept, gentrification, starvation and death by guns of assimilation are sure to follow.

But what happens when those of us who speak power to truth consistently, loudly, unfailingly and in various and creative ways take on the monster in the belly of the beast and beat him at his own game? What happens when the proverbial rabbit has the pen and or the gun and takes out the beast? What happens when one of us – “we the people” – or one of the people’s favorite sons or daughters stops the war, throws a wrench in the machine, refuses to disappear and lives to tell it and to keep fighting?

What happens when the power of the people wins many small battles on the road to winning the war and overturning the machine? That’s when the world changes. The madness stops. The bullets, bombs and burning crosses cease to be. We the people are winning.

We are doing this with very little in the way of material resources. This upsets the moguls of the state, who seemingly cannot breathe unless they have billions of dollars of someone else’s money – ours – at their beck and call, 24/7.

But the daily stock market crashes of 2011 are an indication that Babylon is crumbling to its wilted knees because it has squandered the rich bounty that it has systematically stolen from us and from our motherlands and from the planet Earth.

So, shooting the messenger has become a national pastime amongst the moneyed rich and connected. But the messengers are refusing to be destroyed. The messengers, like Kilo G, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Ruchell Magee, the San Francisco Bay View and so many others, are carrying on and passing the torch. The power that these brave and consistent souls wield in the road to victory, like the weapon that it is, is the power of the people.

Malaika H. Kambon is a freelance writer and photojournalist, owner of People’s Eye Photography and a master’s degree candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State University. She can be reached at kambonrb@pacbell.net.

 

Funk Season 2011: Violence at Niner vs. Raider game mirrors mayhem on Bay streets

September 3, 2011

by Kevin Weston

Oakland – The Battle of the Bay, the annual pre-season game between the Raiders and the Forty Niners, is something most football fans look forward to every summer. It just so happens that this year’s game took place in one of the worst Funk Seasons in recent memory.

Funk Season is the slang moniker for the Bay’s summer months when the weather gets (relatively) warm and the streets get hot. This year, Oakland and Richmond especially have seen acts of senseless violence impacting innocent babies, bystanders and pregnant women. The murder rate in both East Bay towns has spiked in 2011.

The Bay is on one right now.

So when fans of the NFL crosstown rivals met on the field last weekend, the violence in the stands and the parking lot of Candlestick Park eclipsed the violence on the gridiron – and it was no surprise.

The surprise was in the absence of mass violence at the typical places this kind of funk would be expected. On the same weekend as the Raider-Niner match-up, local radio station 106.1 KMEL threw its annual Summer Jam at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Big “urban-hip hop” concerts in Oakland, and specifically at the arena, have been cursed by violence since RUN-DMC headlined Fresh Fest in ‘85.

Oakland also played host that weekend to the annual Art and Soul Music Festival, which saw tens of thousands gather peacefully to party in the same downtown that was boarded up months before in anticipation of the Mehserle verdict – the controversial case involving a white transit officer killing unarmed African American Oscar Grant. Art and Soul has struggled with violence in the past.

At neither of these events, which drew crowds of young people, was there a significant violent incident.

It’s as if the old false construct, “hip hop brings violence,” has given way to “sports brings violence.” Reference the recent dustup on the basketball court between a Chinese Army club team and the Georgetown Hoyas.

Niners vs. Raiders games are always larger than life, bigger than football and filled with pain, ambiguity and fierce – bordering on fanatical – fan loyalty.

Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey makes one of his two catches in the Battle of the Bay Aug. 20 at Candlestick. – Photo: Tony Gonzalez
I have family I can’t talk to about football because they are Niners fans – and who needs that at a Thanksgiving dinner table.

A conversation about the rivalry between a diehard East Bay Pirate (Raiders) fan and someone that bleeds Niners’ red and gold can quickly go from football to below the belt – almost personal attacks on the cities themselves and the people in them. That’s true for families and even more so between complete strangers.

The Bay Area’s football rivalry can be traced to the long stretch of futility the Niners went through in the ‘70s, while the Raiders were competing for championships. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and the West Coast offense put San Francisco on the football map at the same time the Raiders blew town for LA in ‘82.

Many Raider fans switched jerseys at the time and went to the other side of the water, so there is a percentage of Niner fans out there who I consider turncoats.

I remember how empty the town felt when we realized the Raiders, the symbol – along with the Black Panthers – of a distinctly Oakland movement in culture, had suddenly vanished. During playoff years, preachers would have to end services early so praising Jesus wouldn’t compete with the 1:00 p.m. Houston game. We are that serious about the Raiders.

The 2011 Bay battle took on all the negative psychic energy of the communities that those fans represented at Candlestick that Saturday afternoon.

The Raiders are known for their blue collar, down to earth, colorful and crazy fans, mirroring the team archetype that emerged in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. The Raiders were castoffs. Unruly, hard-hitting, rule-skirting bruisers who punked lesser teams and destroyed similarly talented squads through sheer underdog-attitude-driven determination.

The Aug. 20 Battle of the Bay was fought in the stands at Candlestick as well as on the field. – Photo: Ben Margot, AP
Just like the other little city by the Bay that had to force the country to respect it, the Raiders came to embody Oakland and when they moved back home in ’95, I was beyond happy.

Many African Americans moved to Oakland from San Francisco after being ejected by gentrification out of the Fillmore and, like the Japanese before us, we watched other people move into Harlem West. My family left San Francisco in 1975 for East Oakland, the year before the Raiders taught the Bay how to win Super Bowls by pummeling the Minnesota Vikings.

Oakland accepted you, embraced you like a new lover after a bad breakup. San Francisco was the harlot that stepped on your heart while laughing.

Niner fans are typically seen as bandwagon riding, sushi eating, wine-drinking snobs living alternative lifestyles – and corporate-like in their winning dominance through the ‘80s to the latter part of ‘90s. In Raiders fans’ minds, Niner fans take on the arrogance of a hedge fund manger or Silicon Valley engineer. We worked at UPS and they owned startups.

Both teams have gone through a long period of decline and many of their fans are going through a similarly bad time – shaky, at best, employment, foreclosures, rising prices for food and gas, limited access to quality education on every level due to budget cuts and the ever increasing freakish level of gun violence.

Oakland accepted you, embraced you like a new lover after a bad breakup. San Francisco was the harlot that stepped on your heart while laughing.

Add this current reality to the history of Raider-Niner animosity and it’s easy to see how Candlestick became the vortex for all the negative energy happening on our streets in 2011. Someone getting shot that day at that game was inevitable.

Kevin Weston, longtime contributor to the Bay View in the ‘90s, is a writer at New America Media, where this story first appeared. Contact him at kweston@newamericamedia.org, Facebook or Twitter.

 

Grassroots radio gives voice and life to democracy

September 3, 2011

Speech to the Grassroots Radio Conference Aug. 14

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Loris Ann Taylor, JR Valrey and Sylvia Richardson were the keynote speakers at this year’s Grassroots Radio Conference in Kansas City Aug. 18-20, and JR’s film, “Operation Small Axe,” was screened. According to its mission statement, KPFA is supposed to be the kind of radio Mumia describes. Tune in 94.1 FM or kpfa.org and take a listen, especially on Wednesdays, 8-9 a.m., when the Morning Mix is hosted by JR and Block Report Radio.
Ona Move! Long Live John Africa!

Dear friends, attendees at the Grassroots Radio Conference: Thank you for your invitation. I join y’all today, this way, by necessity; but we are joined by our common love of radio, still a vibrant medium.

This is a challenging time for all of us, whatever our field of endeavor.

That’s because the new economic pressures of globalization and capitalist acquisition are battering at the doors, trying to buy up everything of worth – to privatize it, to sell it off to the highest bidder.

For many community and non-commercial broadcasters this means precisely what it meant (and means) for corporate media: its destruction as a medium in which people can have any faith and trust. It means its transformation into corporate propaganda megaphones for the state and the wealthy.

We saw what that meant in the disaster that is Iraq: Imagine that 10- or a hundred-fold! We need look no farther than England, where one media conglomerate, U.K. newspapers like The News of the World, virtually selected the prime ministers – for decades – and through them, decided what laws would be passed and social, economic and even national security policy. They hacked thousands of phones, paid off cops for information and ran politicians with the fear of exposure.

Essentially, this media conglomerate ran the government for its own interests, making a mockery of democracy.

And despite the recent scandals, it’s still been obscured that what this corporate media did went far beyond violations of privacy – it was crimes against democracy.

As grass roots broadcasters, your task is to give voice and life to democracy. That means using your mics and cameras to air the voices at the bottom of the well. Those many people who are hungry tonight – hungry, despite the cornucopia of food that gluts supermarket shelves or that gets destroyed, buried and reimbursed by government grants.

Those many who are homeless – in the richest nation since Rome – veterans who’ve returned home, armless, legless, what do they think of their “leaders” who sent them to war with lies?

If the corporate media’s job is to sell fear, conflict and ignorance – and it is! – yours is to show courage amidst adversity, cooperation, community, complexity and the sheer genius and brilliance that exists in all of humanity. Yours is to show how war is – and has ever been – the sport of kings.

Loris Ann Taylor, JR Valrey and Sylvia Richardson were the keynote speakers at this year’s Grassroots Radio Conference in Kansas City Aug. 18-20, and JR’s film, “Operation Small Axe,” was screened. According to its mission statement, KPFA is supposed to be the kind of radio Mumia describes. Tune in 94.1 FM or kpfa.org and take a listen, especially on Wednesdays, 8-9 a.m., when the Morning Mix is hosted by JR and Block Report Radio.
As the national economy craters, we will see the lives of the poor, the working class and those who used to consider themselves middle class grow increasingly desperate. Your reporting can show the size and scope of such desperation and thereby inform and educate about how deeply it goes.

Most media rely on newspapers – but that may be changing. For papers across the country are losing an average of 10 percent of their readership per year. For most young people, TV network nightly news is not only a snoozer, but irrelevant.

Surely, these mediums are feeling the effects of the flight to the Internet. According to recent news reports, for the first time, cable and satellite subscriptions have declined, perhaps a reflection of the economy – pinching pennies.

But guess which medium is growing? Radio.

NPR (National Public Radio) virtually doubled its listenership in the last few years. Some may question whether their stations, especially community or public stations, can really compete with corporate radio. Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, industry deregulation led to vast corporate station ownership, the abolition of the fairness doctrine and, for many Black radio stations, the end of news.

Why should this be of interest to community, progressive and public broadcasters? A University of Chicago study of Black youth radio listeners found that 60 percent – 60 percent – of this audience disliked the station’s music programming!

In essence, these audiences are being force-fed a diet of music that they barely tolerate! What if, at the end of the dial, they found music, news and information that spoke to them with fundamental respect, that told their stories, that gave them voice, agency and simple human dignity?

How could that be anything but irresistible?

It would be groundbreaking and mark the re-emergence of popular radio that discards the cookie-cutter, disrespectful and lower-common-denominator corporate approach that has made such radio so empty.

The reason radio works is simple. It is human voices – in the dark. Telling stories – connecting people with people.

Talented musician Macy Gray sings: “There is beauty in the world.” To show this, to share it – that too is your task.

For it will take far more than mere will to transform this nation; it will take hope, and love, and faith.

People have to be able to see and sense a better way forward. By your work, you can provide glimpses of what that way sounds like.

© Copyright 2011 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.,” available from City Lights Publishing, www.citylights.com or (415) 362-8193. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light at: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Greene, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesburg PA 15370.

 

The 1966 Hunters Point rebellion: The fight must go on

September 2, 2011

Interview by Alka Joshi, introduction and transcription by Natasha Reid

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Hunters Point rebellion, touched off Sept. 27, 1966, by the police murder of Matthew Johnson, 16, and put down after only 128 hours with massive force. Although the young “rioters” did little damage beyond breaking some windows and overturning a police car, Gov. Pat Brown, father of current Gov. Jerry Brown, declared martial law and called in the National Guard – described by Sun Reporter editor Tom Fleming as “19, 18-year old kids, and they’re scared” – who patrolled Third Street on foot and in tanks. Mayor Jack Shelley sent SFPD sharpshooters, who shot into the Bayview Opera House, where children had sought sanctuary. The repression left scars that make it hard for people who lived through the rebellion to talk about it 45 years later. The Bay View encourages those who remember to share your story so that what should be a proud chapter in Black history of defying injustice is never forgotten.
With the current wave of uprisings across England – after police murdered Mark Duggan, 29, Black father of four, and beat a 16-year-old girl at the peaceful protest led by Mark’s family outside the police station when she asked police why they shot him – and the insurgence of flash mobs across the United States, sparked by unrest in Black communities in cities from Chicago and Kansas City to Philadelphia, where Black youth face problems of unemployment, poor education and constant demonization and vilification from the police, media and wider U.S. demographic, it is appropriate to call on the history of rebellions by our people.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, riot is the language of the unheard; and so it comes as no surprise that the language of our underclass is of the same dialect that it has been for decades and even centuries, as the socio-political issues that plague Black communities have refused to subside and the outcry of our people continues to ring a mere murmur in the ears of the power elite and our fellow world citizens.

The Bayview community erupted in 1966, at the height of the civil rights movement, upon the unlawful police killing of 16-year-old Black youth Matthew “Peanut” Johnson. Police killings continue to haunt Black communities not only here in Bayview Hunters Point – rest in peace, Kenneth Harding – or even the Bay Area – Oscar Grant and Raheim Brown, to name but two stolen lives, remain in our hearts – but across the Atlantic too, in Black communities suffering the same injustices that burn fury in the consciousness of our people: a people of peace.

Our people of peace, when provoked tirelessly by the evils of police brutality, gentrification and a near genocidal prison system, stand together and claim a united voice: the voice of rebellion.

So to those young rebels fighting the oppression of Black people today in America, the United Kingdom and across the world, we stand in solidarity with your vision. The fight began long before the 1966 rebellion and continues to live on in the consciousness of every man and woman who has the courage to stand against the white supremacist state in which we live.

The following interview, conducted earlier this year by Alka Joshi, talking with her neighbors in Bayview Hunters Point who lived here then, gives an inside look at the 1966 uprising. Those rebels are present today in the consciousness of our youth: Our plight necessitates the continuation of their fight.

Man: That chain of events – [Nat] Burbridge [president of the San Francisco NAACP] had to take a stand on something. And the issue was: murder.

Woman 1: I realized that it was just, they were fighting for the right to be enabled to walk down the street and be equal, just like anybody else.

Man: I’m not just gon’ let you get away with doing anything to me and expect me to like it. And my stand is, is to fight back.

Woman 1: We were havin’ an Indian summer; it was warm that day.

Man: We were, you know, out in front of the house playing, like little kids do, and we heard tires squealin’ and saw a guy in a stolen car and he’s just wheelin’ around the schoolyard and doin’ doughnuts and stuff like this. At that time it was real exciting, ‘cause he was too young to be driving.

Man: Police cruisers came into the schoolyard. I can remember him doing a doughnut and heading towards the south end of the schoolyard and slammin’ on the breaks; the car slammed into one of the school benches and he jumped out and took off runnin’. He went to jump off the top of this little hill and I heard the gun crack; and I saw the body contort. They shot him! But they shot him in the back.

Mind you, I was a kid then. So I really didn’t understand all of the grumblin’ and the anger and stuff like this – I didn’t make the connection then. Well, he stole a car, he did somethin’ wrong; but, they didn’t have to kill him.

Newscaster from 1966 clip: It was as if a war had broken out on San Francisco’s city streets [the sound of people screaming in the background].

Woman 1: I could hear my mom on the phone, talkin’ about a riot; and, it’s like, you know, what is goin’ on? And then my brother, he says, he goes down to Third Street and he said the National Guard is out there. I can still visualize all the helicopters; I remember the police cars and paddy wagons that was goin’ back and forth.

Man: [inaudible] comin’ from everywhere, a lot of police sirens and stuff like this.

Woman 1: Shots were fired around the Opera House, which was just down the street from my school.

Man: A whole lot of Black people gathered in the streets and they were shoutin’: “Piggy, wiggy! Ooo ooo, you gotta go now. Oink oink.”

Woman 1: It was really, it was just a mess, it really was. It really, really was a mess.

Woman 2: I have been in Bayview for 48 years. My parents purchased a home here a month before I was born.

Man: My dad was in the Navy.

Woman 2: My dad was in the military. He was a porter on the Southern Pacific railroad. 1964, when they came here and bought the house, [there were] very few places that would allow Blacks to move [in]. But finally, I was someplace where I could run up and down the street and have a big back yard, and I was just so happy. I was just so happy in the Bayview.

Man: Third Street was a beautiful place. We didn’t even have to go out of the community, basically, for anything. Everything we needed was right there. It was such a thrill to have a quarter and to be able to go to Third Street, to the candy store.

Woman 1: Half of the counter was full of candy. And it was so, it would just be so fun to go down there and just pick up all the candy you want!

Everybody would come home and do their homework; and if it was a nice day, somebody would try to talk their parent into hangin’ outside. If we had one parent outside, everybody was able to stay out. And sometimes one parent would fix hot dogs and chips, or one parent would fix French fries and maybe a sandwich; and we all shared it together.

And we would get on somebody’s stairs or we would sit in the driveway and just sit out and eat and have fun.

Woman 2: The demographics when we moved in ’64 here was very diverse. White, Black, we had an Asian family that they still live down there.

Man: This was all Russian and Italian before we moved down here: Russian, Italian, a few Chinese, but no Hispanics.

Woman 2: Didn’t feel any type of racial tension, really didn’t at all. At least I didn’t. Everybody was just so nice. I can still look around and think about – I probably went into everybody’s house on this whole entire block.

Things were so different: If you as a child was rude to someone, or another neighbor saw that you were doing something, they would go and tell your parents, but they would spank you!

Woman 1: Then you went home and got disciplined. You got disciplined at school, [so] you walk down the street and somebody don’t know what happened [says], “What you doin’ goin’ home at this time of day?” You got in trouble with them; you got in trouble with who was at home; and then, you might even get in trouble when your daddy came home [laughs].

Woman 2: The stores that were down on Third Street – I didn’t even think anything about walkin’ down Third Street. We would go shopping down Third Street all the time, walk down there never worried about anything really happening. It was really a nice place to shop.

Woman 1: One family on the other block, they would get tickets for the Giants and we would pack up a lunch and we would go walkin’ off to Candlestick. And then, the thing about it, it wasn’t just African American children: We had all nationalities, all religions. But we had a good time.

Woman 2: You have to remember the shipyard was still open too. And you hear the Navy that was down there – you could hear it in the morning, you could actually hear the trumpets with revelry, taps in the evening at 10 o’clock and just sailors all over the place, just all over the place. You couldn’t even get a seat on the bus ‘cause it was just packed with the sailors! So I thought that was cool too, how we had the Navy …

Man: After the riots, most of the business started movin’ out. Immediate. They got the glass back in the place pretty quick, but, as I can remember, [a] few places stayed empty.

After the ’66 riots, that’s when the white flight took and people moved down to the Peninsula, mainly to escape from here. And that’s when Bayview really got a bad reputation. And it was that nobody cared; nobody cared at all and I felt it was so sad to walk down Third Street or drive down Third Street and see all these abandoned places and nobody cared any more. People just packed up and they left.

Some of the places, they’re still there but they’ve changed over the years. They’ve changed owners. At Third and Palou, we had Rexall drugstore; we had, oh God what was that, it was like a five and dime store; it was just all these cute little boutiques and places you could go in and buy …

Man: With the riots and stuff, what the riots and stuff did was basically just highlight the injustices. Some of my best friends back then were white, so, you know, it really messed me up. All of that to me, kinda liked shaped me as a child.

Woman 2: There was some Maltese out here and that was sad too, to see them leave. They used to have their social club on Oakdale.

Man: I remember one kid that happened to be a good friend of mine named Michael Wilson, ended up gettin’ caught up in that mess and he was only 6 or 7, but he was down on Third Street with the rest of ‘em, you know. And I can only wonder today, if that had anything to do with him, you know, bein’ in and out of prison, you know, like myself.

Woman 2: People who wore uniforms, like even like mailmen, anybody that was in a uniform, they took it as like that they were the cops or something – that you don’t belong here type of thing.

Man: Somewhere around here shortly after, they would bus in children from the other neighborhoods …

Woman 2: When I got old enough to move away – I left when I was 17, soon as I graduated – I was just so happy to get away from here.

Man: The mentality of the people is totally different now than it was back then. We’d look out for you. If we saw you everyday, then you’d have people lookin’ out for you. Now people, especially in the Bayview, really don’t care. They see a crime happenin’ and they look the other way, “Oh well.” That’s the way it is, you know. So there is no, no genuine love and care and any more.

Woman 2: I hated this place so much, just hated it, because of everything that had happened in the past and all the violence.

News broadcast from ’66:

News anchor: “Is there going to be more trouble tonight?”

Interviewee: “I don’t know if there’s gonna be more trouble and if I did know I wouldn’t say, because I don’t think, I wouldn’t trust a white man as long as I live – never again. I know I gotta go to him for a job. I know I gotta go to a white man’s school and I’ll go. But if they don’t want to treat me right, I ain’t got to beg, ‘cause I wasn’t accustomed to beggin’: I got pride.

Woman 2: I think that the kids that did it, they had so much anger anyway simmering inside of them. I don’t think that it was something that could have been avoided. There was just too many deep rooted anger. If it wasn’t that [the police killing] it would’ve been somethin’ else, I think, it would’ve been somethin’ else.

But yeah, I kind of wish they would’ve found a more constructive way of going about things. I mean, didn’t they, I mean Martin Luther King was still alive at that time. It’s like, didn’t they pay attention to, you know, anything that he said, you know? He would have never consented to that sort.

So but what I would of hoped to happen is that it never happened.

Man: If you suffered some of the things that we suffered as a people, as a people, there’s a lot of stuff – we gon’ make you go on and we gonna stand up. We gonna support each other. I don’t think the law is always right, because there’s an element of humanity there. I mean, what is morally right? Not according to the law, but by human beings.

Alka Joshi, who recorded this interview, was born and raised in India until the age of 9, when her family immigrated to America. She graduated from Stanford and worked for 25 years, then in the advertising industry before enrolling in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. Earlier this year, she interviewed three of her African American neighbors to learn more about the lingering emotional and economic scars that stem from the Hunters Point rebellion 40 years ago. Joshi can be reached at creativewiz@earthlink.net. You can listen to this interview at http://www.samizdat.me/oral-history-san-francisco-bayview-1966-race-riot/.

Natasha Reid, who transcribed the interview and wrote the introduction, is a writer of Zimbabwean and Scottish descent. She holds an honors law degree, though her real passion lies in journalism and political awareness. You can contact her at tash.reid7@gmail.com.


John Avalos for Mayor: Overcoming the obstacles to staying in San Francisco

September 2, 2011

by John Avalos

John Avalos
For the last 10 years, I’ve been championing the protection of services and programs that benefit working class and poor communities, as well as advocating for jobs and the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing in San Francisco.

From my years with Coleman Advocates to working as a union organizer for Justice for Janitors, during my years as a legislative assistant in the District 6 Supervisor’s office and since becoming District 11 supervisor, most of the legislative work I’ve done is to serve low-income families.

This work is important to me because I grew up in a working family and this is my community. I grew up the middle child of seven siblings. Our father was a longshoreman, a second-generation Mexican-American, and grateful to have good work to support his family. Our mother worked as an office manager, and they relied on the community where we grew up to help raise us right.

We moved away from this community when I was in high school and I was able to see, for the first time, the vibrancy and warmth that this extended family of teachers, parents, neighbors and activists brought to my family’s life. My life in San Francisco has been dedicated to finding and building that supportive community for my family and other working families.

Times have changed and spiraling housing costs, a lack of job opportunities and high rates of incarceration and recidivism are among the major obstacles to communities like the people of Bayview Hunters Point being able to stay in San Francisco.

Jobs

The first obstacle I want to address is jobs. My work in championing the local hiring legislation for construction is emblematic of my commitment to guaranteeing the City makes good on its promise to many of our communities, especially the African American community, to provide real job opportunities.

In the last decade, development that has ultimately driven out many working people and families was promoted under the banner of providing jobs, as was the case with the Hunters Point Shipyard, and our local hiring legislation is a token of my efforts to ensure the City follows through on that pledge. As mayor, I will work with organizations that serve these communities to take decisive action.

As mayor, I will work to expand local hiring, not just for construction but for other sectors, including government jobs. Local hiring will provide job opportunities to the many San Franciscans who need it, but will also ensure that our dollars are spent in our local stores and go back to our local tax base.

I will work to diversify our economic base, so that there will be jobs for all people, not just those who have had access to higher education. As mayor, I will support small business and micro-enterprises, especially those that provide opportunities for residents who face multiple challenges finding employment.

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development should work to serve the employment needs of San Franciscans, and low-wage workers should be the top priority. As mayor, I aim to ensure the office works more closely with our Office of Community Development, public school system, City College and state college to help create real pipelines for local hiring into living-wage jobs.

In conjunction with the office, my administration will prioritize serving our residents, especially low-wage workers. I recognize that the only way working people and people of color can stay in San Francisco is if they are able to find employment. Providing opportunities for employment is and has to be a top priority for the person who sits in Room 200.

Housing and transportation

The second major obstacle that I see to keeping our communities in San Francisco is a lack of affordable housing. To me, “affordable housing” means the preservation of our City’s economic, cultural and racial diversity. This is why affordable housing has been one of my top priorities during my years as supervisor.

I worked to secure $30 million for new affordable housing opportunities, drafted the first effort to create a sustained funding source for affordable housing and created the City’s Rental Subsidy Program for Low-Income Families, which provides rental assistance for those struggling to stay in their homes.

As mayor, I plan on introducing a bond measure to fund affordable housing. Over the past 15 years, a stagnating economic climate and a lack of availability of funds has contributed to fewer and fewer San Francisco renters and a decrease in development in affordable housing. The last time an affordable housing bond measure was approved by voters was Prop A in 1996.

The bond will help build affordable apartment housing and also provide assistance to low-to-moderate income families hoping to buy a home for the first time – including an added incentive for those purchasing homes in need of rehabilitation – as well as to those families facing foreclosure. This bond measure would not simply supplement existing funding programs; if approved by voters, it would be a realistic, progressive approach to permanent funding for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of affordable housing in San Francisco. It is crucial that we continue to support development in our communities, but that the development we work on is both safe and sustainable.

It isn’t enough to create legislation that advocates for affordable housing opportunities; working-class residents in this city need a mayor who will be an active advocate, ensuring that this legislation is effective and that help is given to the communities who need it most.

Prevention means getting to the roots of the problem

To me, safety means getting at the root causes of violence: a lack of opportunity, poor-performing schools, lack of affordable housing, family support and healthcare. As mayor, I will commit to fighting for greater access for all to these life-sustaining services and programs. Most essentially, we need to shore up and improve our reentry services for people coming out of the justice systems, so they can be reconnected with their communities and the services that should be benefitting them.

Visit John Avalos’ campaign website, http://avalosformayor.com/. In this November’s election, voters can vote for up to three of their favorite candidates, ranking them 1, 2, 3. The Bay View believes that either of two candidates would be San Francisco’s best mayor ever and is endorsing both Jeff Adachi and John Avalos for mayor.

 

Jeff Adachi for Mayor: Making government work for the people, by the people

September 2, 2011

by Jeff Adachi

Jeff Adachi
I am running for mayor of San Francisco because I believe that we, the people, can bring change to City Hall and make the government work for the people and by the people, as the Constitution guarantees. I believe that I have a clear understanding of the challenges our city faces, and the administrative experience necessary to meet those challenges.

It is imperative that our next mayor initiate a sustained effort to reverse the current trend of Latinos and African Americans leaving the Bayview and other neighborhoods in our city. I understand how important this is.

My platform is job creation, clean and safe streets, and effective, honest government. The top of my agenda includes an aggressive jobs program, a small business micro-loan program to encourage entrepreneurship, creating the best possible public schools, and building more affordable and middle-class housing – issues which all directly affect the African-American community and other communities in San Francisco.

As mayor, my primary focus will be on jobs. My first program will be to provide 1,000 micro-loans of up to $40,000 each to small business entrepreneurs. Studies have shown that each business that is successful creates as many as 7.8 jobs. These are jobs that help revitalize our neighborhoods by providing opportunities for women, people of color and others who might not otherwise qualify for bank loans to start their own companies.

I will also require competitive bidding on all contracts and work to enforce the local hire law, bravely championed by Supervisor and fellow mayoral candidate John Avalos. John took a lot of heat from labor unions for taking up this issue and deserves credit for putting some teeth into the local hire law.

As mayor I will also focus on education. I will find the money in the City’s budget to reinstate summer school for all kids and provide paid internships and jobs for all kids who want them – these are critical pathways for young people who seek to become successful. I have already developed one of the most effective internship programs in the City, which provides internships for over 200 students each year. I know I can replicate this success on a city-wide basis.

I will work to stop violence in our communities. I will forge a working relationship between police and community-based organizations to provide effective interventions for individuals involved in gangs and violence. I will also ensure that the police are accountable to the community, and that officers who commit misconduct are dealt with appropriately. Recently, the public defender’s investigation of police officers seen on video barging into homes without warrants resulted in significant reforms and a pending investigation by the FBI.

In order to understand my motivation to become mayor, please let me tell you a little bit about myself and about my family. My great-grandparents came to San Francisco in 1890 from Hawaii, where they had emigrated from Japan. They settled in Bernal Heights, where they lived and raised their family until the 1906 earthquake, when they relocated to Stockton, California, and became farmers.

My grandparents and parents were interned in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. They lost everything and had to start anew after four years of imprisonment. They lived in poverty for many years and were only slowly able to rebuild their lives. These injustices led me to law school and a career as a public defender.

After graduating from U.C. Hastings in 1985, I was hired as a deputy public defender at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. I worked my way up the ladder and was elected public defender by a 10,000 vote margin in 2002. I was re-elected without opposition in 2006 and again in 2010, with 199,000 votes.

When I was first became public defender in 2003, I had a vision of a Public Defender’s Office that went beyond just providing legal representation to people in court. I saw an office that could help people turn their lives around and be a vehicle for social change in the community.

I opened the first Clean Slate office in Bayview at the Southeast Community Center to help people clear their criminal records so that they could rejoin the workforce and lead productive lives. This program grew to four satellite offices and helped over 20,000 people over its 12 year history.

I formed Bayview BMAGIC Program in 2004, an organization that has grown into one of the most vibrant collaborative organizations in the city, meeting every month, taking on issues of concern to the community and empowering its members to make change. It has become a model of what is possible, distributing over 4,000 backpacks and school supplies to children each year, providing literacy programs and book fairs, as well as building the capacity of youth and family agencies to provide better outcomes for the children and families they serve. BMAGIC’s success led to the formation of Mo’MAGIC in the Western Addition, which has provided similar support there.

By improving accountability and efficiencies in my office and by partnering with community stakeholders, as your public defender I have been able to save money and create new programs that have transformed the criminal justice system. I want to bring these same skills to the Mayor’s Office.

I am truly honored to receive the support of the Bay View newspaper and Mary and Willie Ratcliff. They have never hesitated to help a person in need, and I try to live by their example. I pledge to be a mayor who makes a difference.

Please visit my website at www.jeffadachiformayor.com. Thank you.

In this November’s election, voters can vote for up to three of their favorite candidates, ranking them 1, 2, 3. The Bay View believes that either of two candidates would be San Francisco’s best mayor ever and is endorsing both Jeff Adachi and John Avalos for mayor.

 

Libya: Colonialism lives!

September 2, 2011

Editorial by Milton Allimadi, publisher and editor, Black Star News

A Black Libyan executed by “rebels” Aug. 26, 2011, his body left to decompose
So now in addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, we have Libya, thanks to U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

No other three countries – and leaders – in the world could today commit the crime of abusing United Nations resolutions to wage a war of aggression against a sovereign country on a stated premise that was clearly a pretext, as unfolding events in Libya confirm.

The basis of the war of aggression is simple: To the victors belong the spoils. Indeed, in addition to the fabulous oil and natural gas riches of Libya, the victors get to write the story – the unfolding one – and tomorrow’s history.

This will be guaranteed by the downstream media – The New York Times, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. Any other media interpretation of this war of aggression and conquest will be dismissed as “alternative” or “radical” perspectives, on “fringe” media outlets.

Such is the dangerous world in which we’ve lived in for some time now. George Orwell saw this decades ago: Where daytime is night, black is white, good is bad and where criminals are determined by what the downstream media say.

The excuse for the Iraq war of aggression was the hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that never existed. Meanwhile, thousands of American lives were lost on this false pretext, possibly more than 1 million Iraqi lives, unimaginable physical destruction to property was caused, and on-going destabilization of Iraq that will last for years was created.

At the end of the day, the defense offered by the George W. Bush administration was that the world rid itself of a nasty dictator who had been in power for too long. So what, if he was not involved in the 9/11 attacks? Given the opportunity and given the time, he would one day have been involved in an attack of similar magnitude on the U.S. or on U.S. interests.

There were no criminal prosecutions on the Iraq war. In retrospect, we now know why. The Obama administration wanted to preserve for itself the right and the ability to also wage a war of aggression under incredible pretext.

Change no one should believe in. Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney must feel fully vindicated.

So, in Libya the pretext was that Resolution 1973 was needed to prevent Muammar al-Qaddafi from massacring his own people in Benghazi.

Forget the fact that the civil war had actually been launched from Benghazi and that in the initial stages the military progression was marching from East to West, Benghazi to Tripoli, and not vice versa.

Also let alone the fact that the summary executions were being committed in Benghazi – as they have also been in Tripoli by the “rebels” in recent days. The rebels’ spokespeople at The New York Times are conveniently ignoring the story, including the beheading of suspected rebel opponents, Black Libyans and migrant workers from elsewhere in Africa.

The Wall Street Journal, on June 21, 2011, reported on the ethnic cleansing of the entire Black population of Misrata by “the Brigade for Purging Slaves, Black Skin,” a story that was ignored or downplayed by other downstream media such as CNN and The New York Times.

With its wanton 24/7 bombardment, it’s also likely that NATO attacks actually claimed the lives of more Libyan civilians than al-Qaddafi’s armed forces did during the six months so far of this war.

In any event, arguing over Resolution 1973 is now meaningless, since events have revealed the Western countries’ true intentions over Libya.

It was no mere civil war: NATO, especially British and French forces, were and are fully engaged in war against al-Qaddafi’s army. In the beginning there was some nonsense talk that NATO would strike against both combatant sides when each side committed abuses against civilians. When was the first or the last time that NATO struck against “rebels”? The so-called rebels in fact include special force soldiers from Qatar and British and French commandos.

The United Nations also passed Resolution 1970 barring the supplying of arms to Libya. It was France that violated that resolution by dropping weapons in Western Libya to arm fighters brought in from Benghazi, through Tunisia, and from Qatar. Who will impose sanctions against the conquerors?

The Libya aggression also effectively killed the United Nations. Ban Ki-Moon has become an assistant U.S. secretary of state.

Meanwhile, the African Union’s peace proposal was completely rejected. The plan called for a ceasefire, creation of humanitarian corridors, a new constitution and democratic elections. Muammar al-Qaddafi actually accepted it as did Benghazi after an AU meeting in Equatorial Guinea: It was the U.S., Britain and France that rejected the proposal.

After all, when you have elections, your “side” could actually lose. Voters who vote freely can never be fully trusted, after all. The outcome of a war of aggression, pursued with superior weaponry, has a more reliable outcome – as events in Tripoli this week show.

By rejecting the AU plan, the entire African continent was publicly emasculated and humiliated by Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy. The lame excuse? There was some nonsense talk that Libya under al-Qaddafi was a major financial contributor to the African Union and investor in many African countries. The United States cuts the check for the United Nations and for NATO; by the same logic, the U.S. and NATO should not be involved in Libya.

So all along, though NATO permitted South African President Jacob Zuma to fly to Libya twice to negotiate an end to the war, all along Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy knew that the war would be pursued to the end. The AU rejection may come to its logical conclusion when the new Benghazi-controlled Libya applies for EU membership.

Libya’s resources, including 44 billion barrels of proven reserves, could help stabilize France’s tottering economy. Back in the day, overseas colonies helped France maintain a higher standard of living.

So, the whole world was shown that affairs of Africa are determined in Washington, London and Paris – not by the African Union. What did these African leaders really think: that their countries were actually independent? Well, now President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy have relieved the world of this pretense.

What’s more, Africa today doesn’t have, on the scene, statesmen who possess the type of intellectual and moral caliber commanded by Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere or Kenneth Kaunda; these men could have effectively rallied global opinion against the war of aggression on Libya.

There is no purpose in African presidents ever coming to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting as they do here in New York every September and October. To do what? To complain about how Africa was ignored on the Libya war and how Africa has always been ignored? Then what?

Bringing a delegation to New York is costly: The monies wasted should be directed at some schools or clinics in these African countries.

Meanwhile, African countries and African people should focus on winning true independence. This can only start when many of the current rulers are swept away and replaced by elected leaders who have the interest of Africa at heart and who can defend Africa against the return of Western imperial conquest for Africa’s resources.

So welcome to the 21st century, where the recipient of a Noble Peace Prize is also champion of war of aggression, conquest and recolonization.

The audacity of arrogance.

Milton Allimadi, publisher and editor in chief of The Black Star News, New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, can be reached at Milton@blackstarnews.com. Allimadi has also worked for The Journal of Commerce, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The City Sun.

 

Call the doctor: Walmart needs urgent care for a bad case of ‘uh oh’

September 2, 2011

Sign the petition challenging Walmart to stop its fear mongering and demonizing Congo – click HERE

by Rebecca Cech

Move over, Nivea ad, there’s a new publicity gaffe in town. On Aug. 9, 2011, Walmart released a video (posted below) for their back-to-school campaign series titled “Urgent Care.” The commercial, originally posted on their Walmart YouTube channel, features three teenage boys communicating by smart phone to identify an unknown skin condition. The affected boy leans over while his friend lifts his shirt with the end of a golf club to inspect an area on his back. Meanwhile, a third boy at another location browses a “Web MD” page on leprosy, asking if the boy with symptoms has “been in the Congo recently.”

When the answer is “no,” he responds: “OK, well it still might be contagious. I think maybe you should call 911.” Upon hearing this, the boy inspecting the rash recoils and begins to clean the end of his golf club as though it were contaminated. The commercial is only 30 seconds long, but, in its brevity, it manages to mislead its viewers, entrench damaging stereotypes and endorse a cavalier attitude about the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The commercial manages to mislead its viewers, entrench damaging stereotypes and endorse a cavalier attitude about the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This commercial offers up a variety pack of bad information. Research reveals no mention of Congo – either one of them; there are two – anywhere on the Web MD page that the boy references in the ad. Leprosy is a disease neither unique to Congo nor currently a high risk in the country. In fact, the World Health Organization site states that the DR Congo reached a stage of elimination for endemic leprosy in 2007.

Without a medical rationale for a special connection between the country and leprosy, why would The Martin Agency, which produced this ad for Walmart, represent Congo as the source of the boy’s disease? It’s likely they chose Congo for affect alone – because of its associative power to conjure everything frightening to the mainstream American imagination.

Why would Congo be represented as the source of the boy’s disease? because of its associative power to conjure everything frightening to the mainstream American imagination.

Disaster thrillers like the film, “Outbreak” (1995), have encouraged this popular idea, ensuring that the Congo continues to serve as a potent symbol of contagion. This portrayal has a long history and traces back to early travelogues and turn-of-the-century representations like the novel, “Heart of Darkness.”

Conrad’s novel, at least, had the sense to demonstrate that a great deal of death and disease in Congo has come at the hands of people hungry for profit. He called the ivory trade in Congo “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience.” Nowadays, instead of providing ivory for leisure class items like billiard balls and piano keys, Congo provides minerals for a technological cornucopia, as modern processors require coltan and Congo has an estimated two thirds of the world’s reserve.

A great deal of death and disease in Congo has come at the hands of people hungry for profit.

Walmart cannot prove that the phones it sells are free from the minerals fueling conflict in the Congo, making it possible that the corporation actually contributes to the problems there. Either way, Walmart’s attitude is part of the problem. To reference the poor health conditions in the Congo offhandedly encourages viewers to see disease there as a natural characteristic of the country rather than a symptom of particular problems.

When you’re driven off your land because your homestead is sitting on precious minerals and somebody wants access to them, and when you subsequently end up far away from home, underfed, exhausted and left no alternative but to live in close quarters and in sub-par conditions with thousands of others in the same position, what is the cause of the disease you contract in that displacement camp?

Making that illness seem like the result of “uncivilized” or “backward” conditions would be a serious distortion of the truth. There are specific and revealing causes for conditions that support disease, namely conflict and poverty. The public deserves to know that now, as in Conrad’s day, exploitative and destabilizing activities are as much to blame for conditions of disease in Congo as bacteria or viruses.

There are specific and revealing causes for conditions that support disease, namely conflict and poverty. Exploitative and destabilizing activities are as much to blame for conditions of disease in Congo as bacteria or viruses.

Besides encouraging negative stereotypes about the Congolese, the Walmart ad also stigmatizes millions who suffer from disease. This is not only insensitive but contributes to medical risk. On its page devoted to leprosy in Congo, for instance, The Leprosy Mission Australia explains that: “Fear and stigma associated with leprosy causes many patients to hide out undiagnosed in remote areas. This tragically leads to severe disabilities and irreversible damage to their bodies unless they can get the medical treatment to stop progression of the disease.”

The public needs to understand that “leprosy is not highly infectious.” Why was it featured in the ad as such? Again, it seems most likely that the Martin Agency simply chose leprosy out of a heebie jeebies hat, because the reality of this condition seemed remote from American experience and conjured ideas of untouchability.

What if the boy had been browsing the Web MD page for AIDS instead? The uproar would have been immediately deafening. Walmart and the Martin Agency could probably have anticipated that the estimated 1 million people living with HIV in the United States as well as their family, friends and people of decency all over would immediately recognize the harm in that kind of message and raise the alarm.

It is clearer in the American imagination that, where AIDS is concerned, “Stigma is of utmost concern because it is both the cause and effect of secrecy and denial, which are both catalysts for HIV transmission.” The same logic can apply to many diseases, transmissible or not. Attitudes like the one in the Walmart ad erode public empathy and shut down lines of communication vital to those in need of care.

Attitudes like the one in the Walmart ad erode public empathy and shut down lines of communication vital to those in need of care.

Anger about this ad has begun to go public and grow some legs. So far, the loudest dissenters have been several of the approximately 62,000 Congolese living in the United States who are mobilizing to express their discontent. Concerned citizens have been organizing on Facebook, discussing protests and boycotts. Activists have called for Walmart to take down the ad and issue an apology, and the giant retailer has begun to show signs of recognizing its misstep.

By 11 a.m. on Aug. 24, the offending ad was no longer available where it had been officially uploaded on YouTube. However, eyewitness reports confirm the commercial’s airing on TV, so the problem is not limited to internet exposure.

A simple retraction is unlikely to satisfy those who recognize the impact of this public misinformation. For now, the ire seems directed at Walmart, but the Martin Agency, AT&T and Web MD are also culpable for their part in producing and endorsing the ad. We will have to wait and see if these companies can turn this blunder into an opportunity to show “urgent care” for the injured dignities of those who already battle public stigma and prejudice.

My recommendation to them: Quit aiding miseducation and take your “back-to-school” commitment seriously. Study your mistake and be responsible for what you learn.

Rebecca Cech authors www.congostory.org, using culture, art, scholarly studies in post-colonialism and four generations of family life in Congo to inform her advocacy.

Open letter to Walmart from Kambale Musavuli, Friends of the Congo

Mike Duke
Chief Executive Officer
Walmart Home Office
702 SW Eighth Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611

RE: WALMART BACK-TO-SCHOOL AD “URGENT CARE” BY MARTIN AGENCY

Dear Mr. Duke:

My name is Kambale Musavuli. I am a Congolese human rights activist and spokesperson for Friends of the Congo. I am writing to lodge a formal complaint against your “Urgent Care” advertisement released Aug. 9, 2011, on the web and on TV networks as part of the Walmart back-to-school campaign. This ad, created by the Martin Agency, constitutes a serious offense to Congolese people in particular and Africans in general.

The ad misinforms viewers and customers alike, encourages prejudicial attitudes toward Africans, and desensitizes its audience to the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century, which is grossly under-reported and widely misunderstood.

1. Misinformation: The ad depicts a student researching WebMD on his smart phone as a means to diagnose a friend’s skin condition. In the process, he suggests that the Congo is either a unique or high-risk source for leprosy and that he has pulled this information from the WebMD website. Research reveals no mention of Congo on WebMD’s leprosy page. The World Health Organization’s site referenced by WebMD states that leprosy in the Congo reached a stage of elimination in 2007. The same page confirms that 100 cases of leprosy occur annually in the U.S., meaning that one would not have needed to leave the country for exposure. Viewers are wrongly encouraged to associate leprosy with the Congo without any logical basis for the connection.

2. Prejudice: The ad is only 30 seconds in length, making full characterization of any place or people logistically impossible. However, the Congo has long held a space in Western imagination as a symbol of fear and contagion. With this historical and cultural context, referring to the country as shorthand for disease further entrenches prejudicial stereotypes. The ad encourages us to laugh at the idea that a Caucasian American middle-class freshman would travel to the Congo. The joke hinges on the improbability of his visit, either because of the boy’s race, nationality, income or age. Congo’s undesirability as a destination remains a strong overtone throughout. Viewers are encouraged to think of the Congo solely as a place to be avoided and feared.

The Congo has long held a space in Western imagination as a symbol of fear and contagion. Referring to the country as shorthand for disease further entrenches prejudicial stereotypes.

3. Desensitization: The media has not adequately covered the conflict in the Congo, despite the fact that it has the most human casualties worldwide since World War II. Nearly 6 million people have died in the last 15 years of Congo’s conflict, many from disease because of poor living conditions and displacement. Part of the reason why the conflict receives little coverage is the lack of interest by American viewers. By referring to disease in Congo as a joke, the ad encourages viewers to dismiss conditions of struggle and conflict in the country as “normal” and, therefore, unworthy of attention, intensifying an already serious case of inattention and mis-education about Congo in particular and Africa in general. In fact, it plays into the vilest stereotypes about Africa that desensitize Americans about the place and the people.

While no one means to treat advertisements as public service announcements, they nevertheless function as strong public messages. Ads have power, and this one constitutes a particularly aggressive form of ignorance. It is questionable to benefit as a corporation from the sale of technological products like smart phones while suggesting publicly that the poor living conditions in Congo are an unrelated misfortune, especially when metals found in the phone may play a role in fueling the conflict in the Congo.

Ads have power, and this one constitutes a particularly aggressive form of ignorance.

I am just one of thousands of supporters, Americans and Congolese, demanding that Walmart take responsibility for its negative impact with this ad. At minimum, Walmart should:

1. Remove the “Urgent Care” ad from all forms of media circulation (TV networks, web etc.),

2. Issue a press release delivering a public apology to the Congolese people about the ad, and

3. Educate and sensitize a.) your staff (especially the Marketing Department who approved the release of this ad) and b.) your customers by providing teaching materials that explain the situation in the Congo and what Walmart is doing to practice responsible sourcing as it relates to the Congo’s mineral resources.

Through your reparative actions, I ask you to fulfill your 2010 statement that Walmart “will make the absolute most of our opportunity and capacity to lead as a retailer, as a company, and as people who truly care about serving and helping other people around the world.” Thousands of people eagerly await your response and evidence of this commitment.

Sincerely,

Kambale Musavuli
Spokesperson
Friends of the Congo

Editor’s note: The letter was delivered on Monday, Aug. 29, and signed by M. AREEN at the Walmart office, according to Fedex.

Kambale Musavuli, a Congolese native, is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. He can be reached at kambale@friendsofthecongo.org. You can follow him on twitter @kambale and visit him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kambalemusavuli. To learn more about the Congo and the Walmart protest, visit http://www.congojustice.org and https://www.facebook.com/groups/CongoAdProtest/.

 

Pelican Bay SHU prisoners plan to resume hunger strike Sept. 26

September 1, 2011

by Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford)

This drawing has come to symbolize the California prison hunger strike and the solidarity it has generated. It was contributed by Rashid Johnson, a prisoner in Red Onion Prison, Virginia.
We had our last and final meeting with Undersecretary Scott Kernan on Aug. 18, 2011. Sitawa and the rest of the negotiators were very disappointed with the outcome because the undersecretary’s horns came out for real!

All the same, we are going forward with our indefinite hunger strike, which will start on Sept. 26, 2011. We know they probably have manipulated some new attempt to deal with us, but what they fail to realize is that we were never playing. If these people think we are going to remain under this tortuous treatment, then they will get the body count that they seek or a bunch of hospitals filled up throughout the state.

This is the only way to expose to the world how racist prison guards and officials have utilized policy in order to torture us. And we have the material to expose them because many of us suffer from serious medical conditions or a lack of medical treatment, which we inherited right here in SHU.

We are being deprived of every basic human necessity in order to continue our suffering. For example, I suffer from “trigeminal neuralgia” – a nerve disease* that hit me for the first time in January – and if you know anything about this disease, you will know it’s the worse pain ever known to mankind.

If these people think we are going to remain under this tortuous treatment, then they will get the body count that they seek or a bunch of hospitals filled up throughout the state.

I question how I even got this disease, because I’ve always been healthy and taken care of myself – but this quack doctor left me with an ear infection for eight months; then this happened. Do you know what these clowns gave me for treatment? Tylenol!

So, CDCR’s dehumanizing labeling, where they say we are gangs or gang leaders, is only to dehumanize us to the world in order to treat us how they see fit.

CDCR’s dehumanizing labeling, where they say we are gangs or gang leaders, is only to dehumanize us to the world in order to treat us how they see fit.

They did this with the Natives when they called them “savages,” they did it with our ancestors when they kidnapped them from the continent saying they were three fifths human being, two fifths monkey/ape etc. – which justified enslaving them/us for over 400 years and counting.

They did this to poor whites who were indentured servants; so we must realize that nothing has changed, only the process. So, I appreciate the time and love you all have given to us and you can believe that we will not yield until justice is achieved. We went into this trying to save lives, if possible, but we see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.

We see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.

So, I say we respect and love you all and, again, thank you all. And trust me when I tell you, we are dealing with criminals who run and oversee these prisons. They do not give a hoot about law and order.

This letter was received by the Bay View on Sept. 1. Send our brother some love and light: James Crawford, D-05996, D1-117U, PBSP-SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. He is the writer of “The Call,” the formal announcement that alerted the world to this massive hunger strike, in which 6,600 prisoners participated, according to CDCR’s own records. As the strike was about to begin, he wrote “SHU prisoners sentenced to civil death begin hunger strike,” explaining the reasons for the strike. Most recently, he wrote “This hunger strike is far from over” to say that he and his comrades would most likely have to resume the strike.

* According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes a stabbing or electric-shock-like pain in parts of the face.

 

Hearing on Solitary Confinement: seeking compassion in the capitol

September 1, 2011

by Wanda Sabir

The most moving testimony at the Aug. 23 Hearing on Solitary Confinement at the state capitol was from former SHU prisoners, such as Earl Fears, and SHU prisoners’ families, such as Glenda Rojas. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Denise, Marilyn, Anna and I, with Harriett at the wheel, left West Oakland BART in the second carpool wave for Sacramento Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 9:30 a.m. to attend a pre-rally for the historic California Assembly Hearing on Solitary Confinement. Linda Evans was hosting the program when we arrived that muggy warm morning just in time to hear state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, chair of the Public Safety Committee of the California State Assembly, speak about the reason for a hearing to discuss the conditions in California’s Secure Housing Units (SHU). He said the legislators were all very curious. “This is an issue that gives Assembly people pause, (as) it is so politicized, but we have been able to tap into that compassionate part of people. They know that something needs to be done. They don’t necessarily want to be the ones who do it, but we will make sure that it happens.”

This legislative curiosity theme was affirmed by many All of Us or None members who’d lobbied legislators earlier that morning (the 7:30 a.m. BART carpool shift). One friend, Brother Fred Abdullah spoke of how clueless and uninformed about the situation most if not all of the four politicians he met with that morning were. Later on, the two rows directly in front of the panelists were filled with unidentified men and women, all members of the California legislative team or CDCR staff. I watched their shifting body language – arms folded across chests, legs crossed. Boredom was not evident even in the face of such physical indicators of denial.

State Capitol Room 4202 was full from the balcony to the main floor – it was good the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation panel (CDCR) presented last. They would have been laughed out the room – their presentation so absent of any real data, especially when it came to the sentencing standards for prisoners sent to secure housing units or SHUs. From the first panel with a former SHU inmate, Earl Fears, SOULJAHs, The Movement, a family member of an inmate at Pelican Bay, Glenda Rojas, and an articulate clergyman, Rev. William McGarvey, Bay Area Religious Campaign Against Torture, to the panel of experts presenting research perspectives on SHU, the lobbyists against SHU confinement presented irrefutable arguments. I called them the A-Team.

Jitu Sadiki tells the crowd at the rally on the capitol steps what he lived through in the SHU. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Fears eloquently shared horror stories of his incarceration at Corcoran SHU. There is prison and then there is prison, the SHU its own island within a horrific system of confinement. He said that any time grown men, hard and tough men would break down and cry, the terror had to be real. Rev. McGarvey gave a history of the introduction of solitary confinement, a Quaker practice, into corrections, a practice later suspended for 20 years because of its potential for abuse, then reinstituted. McGarvey echoed Fears examples that spoke to the brutality of California’s penal system, and spoke of the time when prisoners began to be given human rights.

There was a lot of history about Pelican Bay, its construction and CDC’s hopes based on a new model addressing gang activity called the Security Threat Group Identification and Management Policy or STG. Certification, Debriefing, Observation, Risk Assessment, Security Threat Group (STG), Security Threat Group Member, Security Threat Group (STG) Suspected Member, Sensitive Needs Yard, Threat Assessment, Validation, heinous and contested policies can all be traced to the 2007 adoption of The Security Threat Group Identification and Management Policy, which supposedly “incorporates national standards and approaches to the handling of security threat group (STG) members housed in California’s adult institutions” (CDCR Policy Statement).

The second panel shifted the narrative to an analysis of CDCR policy of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation with opening comments by Charles Carbone, J.D., prisoner rights attorney. Carbone spoke about the whole gang culture paranoia which seems to define CDCR policies, especially at Pelican Bay. He showed how having the high maintenance population in the SHU didn’t decrease crime or make the prison any safer. In fact, the opposite was true. Sensory deprived, the fact that these men were willing to sacrifice their lives for an opportunity to break the silence and expose the conditions of their confinement, a sentence not based on a verdict by a jury of their peers, rather on the word of a bureaucrat at Pelican Bay on the word of someone forced to debrief or snitch for favors. The accused could find himself plucked from circulation 8-10-22-32 years – the sentence indeterminate which could mean life.

Former SHU inmates speaking at the rally earlier that morning shared how they were recovering from solitary confinement, PTSD and other psychoses associated with such treatment, how they needed continual psychiatric help post-SHU, how the SHU permanently affected their ability to function in society.

A survivor of the SHU speaks out at the rally prior to the hearing about what his T-shirt calls the “California Department of Corruption.” – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Laura Magnani, regional director of the American Friends Service Committee, shared a report, “Buried Alive: Long-Term Isolation in California’s Youth and Adult Prisons,” which she authored, that addresses the confinement of women and how solitary confinement stretches an already precarious and potentially sexually exploitative situation for women in isolation. She also defined torture and gave numerous statutes that pertained to human dignity and human rights. Dr. Terry Kupers, M.D., MSP, the Wright Institute and Craig Handy, professor of psychology at U.C. Santa Cruz, talked about the effects of long term confinement on inmates. All panelists gave concrete and useful suggestions to the Public Safety Committee, Assemblymembers Holly J. Mitchell, Nancy Skinner, Curt Hagman and vice chair Steve Knight present, with two absences, Jerry Hill and Gilbert Cedillo, on how to make Pelican Bay into an environment that promoted rehabilitation. It got kind of testy at times, especially when CDCR presented. One could see where the assembly’s sentiments lay.

SHU inmates cannot have colored pencils or hobby crafts, photos or contact visits. One woman spoke of how her niece would like a photo of her dad. Mothers spoke of the prison’s refusal to allow their visits. One mother hasn’t seen her son in six years. Another mother said her grandson hasn’t seen his father since he was two, he is now thirteen. One man cried as he recalled the torture he was subjected to in the SHU. Holding his daughter he spoke of the arbitrary nature of the abuse which for him continued when he was released in the form of police harassment.

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None, spoke of his first visit to Pelican Bay. Tuesday, Aug. 23, was his wedding anniversary and he’d planned to go to the cemetery and reflect. He told the story of JT, who has been in the SHU since 1988. The man is losing his color – melanin is not magic. JT has been eligible for parole for 35 years. It’s these men, the leaders, who are targeted by administration, the ones who write the 602s, prepare writs and call into account their captors.

The Bay View thanks Assemblyman Tom Ammiano for holding this hearing and maximizing the opportunity for former SHU prisoners and families of current SHU prisoners to speak. Here he leaves the rally to go into the capitol to convene the hearing. – Photo: Tom Ammiano
The final panel of two was CDCR. Of the five demands, none were addressed. It would have been so easy to say – SHU inmates can have photos taken for family members; SHU inmates will be allowed access to an open yard where they can see the sky – that the debriefing or snitching prereq for release is eliminated. Not a chance. None of the demands were met, articulated or addressed by CDC reps Scott Kernan, undersecretary of operations, or Anthony Chaus, chief of correctional safety.

It was the uninterrupted procession of voices from the audience: children, parents, friends and advocates that eloquently closed the day. One woman spoke of how CDCR denied her brother from donating his kidney to his sister, a match, and she subsequently died. One man was promised a phone call and then at the last minute stipulations were made – he had to debrief. Two women, one an attorney, were able to share first hand stories and relay messages from the men, whom they’d seen just a week ago. One of the requests was for better more nutritious food from vendors, tapes for mental health, proctors for educational exams, and a larger property allowance – now the men can only have one shoebox full of personal belongings.

I wished I’d been able to get over to the Crocker Museum to unwind, reflect and process the experience. As it is, I sat in a TJ parking lot, writing under a street lamp, my car light shorted out.

The CDC tacks on the R – when the idea of rehabilitation in an environment structured to inspire fear is ridiculous. The questions Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell raised about the arbitrary nature of CDCR policies as relates to SHU inmates were on point and showed how out of control this California department is. That the head of CDCR, Secretary Matthew Cade could not appear at this important and unprecedented hearing was a further slap in the face of this process and an indictment as to how far Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and other elected officials will have to go to address this injustice. At the rally when I spoke to the Assemblyman he said he was determined to host other such conversations, like one already on the death penalty. He said, he didn’t think there were two sides and that he wanted to shine some light on the subject and get people to start discussing this issue and coming up with remedies that (legislators) could push forward. He said he didn’t “want to be stonewalled too much – I understand things move a little slowly but I don’t want to be put off, so I plan to have other hearings, report back hearings (addressing) any commitment to change from the CDCR. We are looking at this (Hearing) as the very first step.”

Ammiano legislative policy supporters Skinner and Mitchell and Hagman gave strong comments and asked tough questions of Scott Kernan. We hope this hearing touched, as the chair said, the compassionate side of people in the room with the hope that change is not up to CDCR (smile). We also hope the next hearing is at Pelican Bay in Crescent City. To stay abreast of Pelican Bay news, check out: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com and www.sfbayview.com and also check out several special shows on Wanda’s Picks radio featuring Dorsey Nunn along with a mother, Dolores Canales, whose son is in the SHU, Elder Freeman, Manuel La Fontaine, Linda Evans and Deirdre Wilson. Linda was the emcee at the rally Aug. 23. Another recent interview is with LSPC attorney Carol Strickman: www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.

 

Is Britain burning with racism and economic inequality?

September 1, 2011

by Colin Benjamin

Jobless Londoners wait in a welfare line in South East London. Overall unemployment in the U.K. is approximately 2.46 million, with 1.49 million people claiming unemployment benefits in the U.K. – Photo: Mark Large
For days, the world witnessed the flames of discontent and disenchantment engulfing the urban streets of England in the aftermath of the shooting death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by the Metropolitan Police Service on Aug. 4.

Politicians like Prime Minister David Cameron have attempted to characterize this serious social turmoil as simply the work of “opportunistic criminals.” Can it be denied racism and economic inequality lie at the heart of this explosive uprising?

On Aug. 6, England ignited with the worst violence and destruction seen since the legendary 1981 insurrection. At least five people died, some 2,000 people were arrested and over 1,000 charged in relation to the disturbances. Allegedly, a peaceful march organized to protest the shooting of Mr. Duggan detonated into mayhem when a 16-year-old girl was attacked by police and beaten. Some claim she threw a rock at police. Marchers say she was forcefully demanding answers to why Mr. Duggan was shot.

The disturbances started in Tottenham, North London – where Duggan was shot – but then spread to several areas of England, including Ponders End, Wood Green, Enfield Town, Brixton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool, Medway and Bristol. Initially, police claimed Duggan, who they allege is a drug dealer and gang member, fired a shot at them before they returned fire.

It has now been established that Mr. Duggan did not fire on the officers. In a shockingly insensitive speech, Prime Minister Cameron said: “This is not about poverty, this is about culture. In too many cases, the parents of these children – if they are still around – don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.”

If the prime minister really believes poverty isn’t a primary factor in this insurrection by Britain’s underclass, then he’s troublingly imperceptive to the problems of a significant segment of his society. Tensions between England’s police and Blacks have erupted, periodically, for decades. In fact, this current uprising is nearly a replica of the one that transpired in 1981. In that year, an urban uprising scorched several areas in England. The major fracases were in Brixton, London; Handsworth, Birmingham; Chapelton, Leeds; and Toxteth, Liverpool. The uprisings started in Brixton on April 10, 1981, before spreading.

Several factors, including high unemployment and inferior housing, created an environment of despair. Police brutality and harassment also created a tense atmosphere, especially as it related to the “Sus Law” – for “suspected persons” – and the infamous so-called “Operation Swamp 81.”

The “Sus Law,” based on the concept of stop and search, eerily similar to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, was a racially based police-profiling tool used, principally, to target those of Caribbean heritage. The “Sus Law” was scrapped as a result of the 1981 insurrection. However, this prejudiced police practice was reinstituted – people like Mr. Cameron lobbied for it – in 2010.

To make matters worse, the community was still recovering from the Jan. 18, 1981, New Cross Fire. The fire killed 13 Blacks who were attending a birthday party. Many suspected the fire was started by racists, but the police dismissed that assertion.

Black Britain accused police of whitewashing the investigation. The great Jamaican-English poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, a forceful voice in addressing racism and economic injustice for decades, memorialized the atrocity in his haunting poem, “New Crass Massakkah.”

Amid that backdrop, on April 10, a Black youth was stabbed, presumably during a robbery. Apparently, instead of rushing him to the hospital, the police proceeded to interrogate him. The assembled crowd deemed the police insensitive, especially after it was said the youth died.

Youth unemployment in the U.K. is at 936,000. Pictured are two Asian-British students protesting outside Downing Street on March 16, 2011, in London. Students protested austerity cuts to their Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which funds the higher education of 16-19-year-olds from low-income families. – Photo: Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images Europe
Consequently, the crowd unleashed a furious attack against the cops. Over the next three days, community resentment was taken to the streets, where some 300 police officers were injured and 50 police cars destroyed. Over 100 businesses were looted and some 80 people were arrested. In the coming days and months, the uprisings spread to Handsworth, Chapelton, Toxteth and Sheffield.

Unfortunately, bad history repeats itself when lessons that should be learned aren’t. The current rage playing out in poor Black neighborhoods of England is an example of that truism. English politicians are debating whether they should suspend austerity cuts to decrease the numbers of police. Why aren’t they examining the economic inequality and police brutality lying at the heart of this crisis?

The prime minister insinuates the anger witnessed by the world is just a reflection of bad parenting and gangs. That observation is a sure prescription for future problems. Why are white people always telling us institutional racism is only in our heads?

There is one more outrage to address here: mainstream media’s failure. This uprising is instructive in its similarities to the underclass uprisings that happened in America during the ‘60s. They all stemmed from the same socio-political problems: economic inequality, institutional racism and police harassment.

Why aren’t they examining the economic inequality and police brutality lying at the heart of this crisis?

The 1968 Kerner Commission fingered the media as partly responsible for white America’s ignorance of the plight of inner-city people and, by extension, the “riots” of 1967. The commission characterized the media as being “shockingly backward.”

England’s establishment media is also “shockingly backward.” Take for example that awful “interview” conducted by BBC reporter Fiona Armstrong, who denigrated one of the most important Black journalistic voices in England, Darcus Howe.

The BBC decided to seek analysis from Mr. Howe, who resides in those very communities white reporters, in England and America, often avoid and simply label as crime areas.

During the “interview,” Mr. Howe sought to give a comprehensive evaluation of the problems in England’s Black community. But Ms. Armstrong repeatedly interrupted him, probably because he didn’t seek to whitewash the real causes of the community’s frustration and fury. The interview got worse when Ms. Armstrong said: “You are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself?”

The exchange ended when Mr. Howe retorted: “I have never taken part in a single riot. I’ve been part of demonstrations that ended up in a conflict. Have some respect for an old West Indian Negro and stop accusing me of being a rioter. You just sound idiotic.”

In a statement, the BBC said, “We’d like to apologize for any offence that this interview has caused.” They also claimed, “The presenter did not intend to show Mr. Howe any disrespect” and “The interview included a poorly phrased question about rioting.”

Does the BBC think the only thing wrong here is a “poorly phrased question?” Doesn’t the BBC realize Ms. Armstrong’s ridiculous questions are an example of the clueless insensitivity many whites have toward the societally created ills plaguing Blacks?

Why isn’t the BBC telling us how 333 Blacks were killed in police custody since 1998, without a single conviction? Shouldn’t the BBC be exploring how veteran reggae musician Smiley Culture could’ve committed suicide, reportedly stabbing himself during a police raid on March 15, 2011?

Make no mistake: These so-called “riots” were an insurrection against institutional racism and inequality. But if politicians keep saying no, how will England prevent the future inferno?

Colin Benjamin is a staff writer at Black Star News, New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, where this storyfirst appeared.

 

Six years after Katrina, the battle for New Orleans continues

September 1, 2011

Political power has shifted to whites, but Blacks have not given up their struggle for a voice – and justice

by Jordan Flaherty

New Orleans police arrest a man on the Danziger Bridge Sept. 4, 2005, five days after Katrina, the same day police shot six other people there. – Photo: Alex Brandon, Times-Picayune
As this weekend’s storm has reminded us, hurricanes can be a threat to U.S. cities on the East Coast as well the Gulf. But the vast changes that have taken place in New Orleans since Katrina have had little to do with weather and everything to do with political struggles.

Six years after the federal levees failed and 80 percent of the city was flooded, New Orleans has lost 80,000 jobs and 110,000 residents. It is a whiter and wealthier city, with tourist areas well maintained while communities like the Lower 9th Ward remain devastated. Beyond the statistics, it is still a much contested city.

Politics continues to shape how the changes to New Orleans are viewed. For some, the city is a crime scene of corporate profiteering and the mass displacement of African Americans and working poor; but for others it’s an example of bold public sector reforms, taken in the aftermath of a natural disaster, that have led the way for other cities.

In the wake of Katrina, New Orleans saw the rise of a new class of citizens. They self-identify as YURPs – Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals – and they work in architecture, urban planning, education and related fields. While the city was still mostly empty, they spoke of a freedom to experiment, unfettered by the barriers of bureaucratic red tape and public comment. Working with local and national political and business leaders, they made rapid changes in the city’s education system, public housing, health care and nonprofit sector.

Along the way, the face of elected government changed in the city and state. Among the offices that switched from Black to white were mayor, police chief, district attorney and representatives on the school board and city council, which both switched to white majorities for the first time in a generation. Louisiana also transformed from a state with several statewide elected Democrats to having only one: Sen. Mary Landrieu.

While Black community leaders have said that the displacement after the storm has robbed African Americans of their civic representation, another narrative has also taken shape. Many in the media and business elite have said that a new political class – which happens to be mostly white – is reshaping the politics of the city into a post-racial era.

“Our efforts are changing old ways of thinking,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, shortly after he was elected in 2010. After accusing his critics of being stuck in the past, Landrieu – who was the first mayor in modern memory elected with the support of a majority of both Black and white voters – added, “We’re going to rediscipline ourselves in this city.”

The changes in the public sector have been widespread. Shortly after the storm, the entire staff of the public school system was fired. Their union, which had been the largest union in the city, ceased to be recognized. With many parents, students and teachers driven out of the city by Katrina and unable to have a say in the decision, the state took over the city’s schools and began shifting them over to charters.

“The reorganization of the public schools has created a separate but unequal tiered system of schools that steers a minority of students, including virtually all of the city’s white students, into a set of selective, higher-performing schools and most of the city’s students of color into a set of lower-performing schools,” writes lawyer and activist Bill Quigley, in a report prepared with fellow Loyola law professor Davida Finger.

In many ways, the changes in New Orleans school system, initiated almost six years ago, foreshadowed a battle that has played out more conspicuously this year in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey and other states where teachers and their unions were assailed by both Republican governors and liberal reformers such as the filmmakers behind “Waiting for Superman.” Similarly, the battle of New Orleans public housing – which was torn down and replaced by new units built in public-private partnerships that house a small percentage of the former residents – prefigured national battles over government’s role in solving problems related to poverty.

The anger at the changes in New Orleans’ Black community is palpable. It comes out at City Council meetings, on local Black talk radio station WBOK and in protests. “Since New Orleans was declared a blank slate, we are the social experimental lab of the world,” says Endesha Juakali, a housing rights activist. However, despite the changes, grassroots resistance continues. “For those of us that lived and are still living the disaster, moving on is not an option,” adds Juakali.

W.C. Johnson of the group Community United for Change protests outside federal court in New Orleans in June on the opening day of the trial for five current or former New Orleans police officers charged in deadly shootings of unarmed residents on the Danziger Bridge shortly after the flood. All five defendants were convicted in the case. – Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP
Resistance to the dominant agenda has also led to reform of the city’s criminal justice system. But this reform is very different from the others, with leadership coming from African-American residents at the grassroots, including those most affected by both crime and policing.

In the aftermath of Katrina, media images famously depicted poor New Orleanians as criminal and dangerous. In fact, at one point it was announced that rescue efforts were put on hold because of the violence. In response, the second-in-charge of the New Orleans Police Department reportedly told officers to shoot looters, and the governor announced that she had given the National Guard orders to shoot to kill.

Over the following days, police shot and killed several civilians. A police sniper wounded a young African American named Henry Glover, and other officers took and burned his body behind a levee. A 45-year-old grandfather named Danny Brumfield Sr. was shot in the back in front of his family outside the New Orleans convention center.

Two Black families – the Madisons and Bartholomews – walking across New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge fell under a hail of gunfire from a group of officers. “We had more incidents of police misconduct than civilian misconduct,” says former District Attorney Eddie Jordan, who pursued charges against officers but had the charges thrown out by a judge. “All these stories of looting, it pales next to what the police did.”

District Attorney Jordan, who angered many in the political establishment when he brought charges against officers and was forced to resign soon after, was not the only one who failed to bring accountability for the post-Katrina violence. In fact, every check and balance in the city’s criminal justice system failed.

For years, family members of the victims pressured the media, the U.S. Attorney’s office and Eddie Jordan’s replacement in the DA’s office, Leon Cannizzaro. “The media didn’t want to give me the time of day,” says William Tanner, who saw officers take away Glover’s body. “They called me a raving idiot.”

Finally after more than three years of protests, press conferences and lobbying, the Justice Department launched aggressive investigations of the Glover, Brumfield and Danziger cases in early 2009. In recent months, three officers were convicted in the Glover killing – although one conviction was overturned – two were convicted in beating a man to death just before the storm, and 10 officers either pled guilty or were convicted in the Danziger killing and cover-up. In the Danziger case, the jury found that officers had not only killed two civilians and wounded four, but also engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy that involved planted evidence, invented witnesses and secret meetings.

The Justice Department has at least seven more open investigations on New Orleans police killings and has indicated their plans for more formal oversight of the NOPD, as well as the city jail. In this area, New Orleans is also leading the way: In a remarkable change from Justice Department policy during the Bush administration, the DOJ is also looking at oversight of police departments in Newark, Denver and Seattle.

In the national struggle against law enforcement violence, there is much to be learned from the victims of New Orleans police violence who led a remarkable struggle against a wall of official silence and now have begun to win justice. “This is an opening,” explains New Orleans police accountability activist Malcolm Suber. “We have to push for a much more democratic system of policing in the city.”

In the closing arguments of the Danziger trial, DOJ prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein fought back against the defense claim that the officers were heroes, saying the family members of those killed deserved the title more. Noting that the official cover-up had “perverted” the system, she said, “The real heroes are the victims who stayed with an imperfect justice system that initially betrayed them.” The jury apparently agreed with her, convicting the officers on all 25 counts.

Jordan Flaherty is a New Orleans-based journalist whose award-winning reporting from the Gulf Coast has been featured in a range of outlets including the New York Times, Al Jazeera and Argentina’s Clarin newspaper. The author of “FLOODLINES: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six,” he can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org, and more information about “Floodlines” can be found at floodlines.org. For speaking engagements, see communityandresistance.wordpress.com. This story originally appeared in the The Root.

 

Family blamed for Aiyana Jones’ killing by police; police, prosecutor stonewall lawsuit

September 1, 2011

by Diane Bukowski

Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, shown on her birthday with her brother and sister, was shot to death as she lay sleeping beside her grandmother by Detroit police raiding the wrong house.
Detroit – The City of Detroit, its police department and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office are apparently conspiring to stonewall a civil lawsuit against Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley. The officer shot 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones to death in her home May 16, 2010, as other members of a “Special Response Team” in an armored vehicle threw an incendiary grenade inside. The home, on Lillibridge, is in a desperately poor area on Detroit’s far east side.

Meanwhile, Weekley’s attorneys have filed documents blaming the child’s family and even her neighbors for her death and maintaining their client’s innocence.

“The First 48” TV series and its producer Kirkstall Rd. Enterprises of New York additionally have refused to provide their videotapes of the assault on the Jones home, which they were filming as it occurred.

“Plaintiff has been attempting to take Officer Weekley’s deposition since last year,” attorney Geoffrey Fieger, representing Aiyana’s parents, wrote Weekley’s attorney Kenneth Lewis on July 22.

“Defense counsel has stonewalled the discovery process at every turn, forcing the Plaintiff to file several motions with this court in an attempt to obtain the most basic information pertinent to Aiyana’s death. This Court has instructed the Defendant and the City to cooperate with the Plaintiff in the discovery process, yet there has been no substantive discovery to date.”

Fieger also said, “The prosecutor has not released investigative materials.”

In response, Lewis filed a motion for a “protective order,” which will be heard by Third Circuit Court Judge Daphne Means Curtis on Thurs. Sept. 1, at 2 p.m. in Room 1007 at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2 Woodward Ave.

The motion asks that depositions of Weekley and other police, as well as documentation from the prosecutor’s office, be kept secret, or “sealed.” It claims that Weekley faces possible criminal charges and sets strict limits on the contents of the deposition, which is to take only one hour. “No protective order, no deposition,” Lewis wrote.

“The Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee (JAJC) vehemently objects to this request on the grounds that the Detroit Police Department needs to provide transparency into what actually happened when Aiyana was killed by its officers,” said JAJC chief Roland Lawrence.

“The family of Aiyana Jones and the citizens of Detroit have been tortured enough and need some answers. Any reasonable person will conclude that the Detroit Police and Mayor Dave Bing and others are hiding something, and that ‘something’ does not smell good. Both the criminal and civil cases must move quickly to the center stage without further delay.”

Weekley’s attorneys, from the wealthy law firm of Plunkett and Cooney, are being paid unknown sums by city taxpayers. According to court documents, they have refused to present their client for depositions five times in the last year.

On March 1, Judge Curtis ordered that “depositions take place as soon as possible after completion of the Michigan State Police (MSP) investigation, or as soon as reasonably practical after May 6 regardless of whether the Michigan State Police investigation is concluded.”

In 2006, Judge Curtis ruled in support of the Detroit Police Commission when it blocked the promotion of three-time killer cop Eugene Brown to sergeant, but her ruling was overturned on appeal and Brown was promoted.

On March 5, the MSP announced that it had completed its investigation and turned over the results, along with a request for a warrant for an unidentified “male suspect,” to Worthy. Worthy has since said that she is conducting her own investigation and given no indication as to when it will conclude. In the past, her office has declared it is still investigating police killings cases long after they had closed the files.

Watch this video, “Mertilla Jones, Aiyana’s Grandmother, Speaks About Shooting,” and another by Fox News at www.sfbayview.com
Weekley’s attorneys claim a federal investigation is also open, based on media reports published in August 2010. But U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in May of this year, “We are currently awaiting the conclusion of the state process before we consider federal action.”

After their motion for a protective order, Plunkett & Cooney scheduled depositions for Aiyana’s family members, a move which Fieger’s firm blocked by requesting that they not be deposed until after Weekley’s deposition takes place.

Plunkett & Cooney previously filed a “Notice of Non-Party Fault,” according to documents in the court files.

“This was an attempt to spread the blame for his [Weekley’s] reckless shooting to eight individuals he claims are partially or entirely responsible for Aiyana’s death, including anyone present in the home and even any next door neighbors,” says a filing from Fieger’s firm.

On Dec. 10, 2010, Plunkett & Cooney alleged without proof that members of Aiyana’s family were engaged in “drug dealing, vehicle theft and illegal utility hook-ups.” They also accused Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, of participating in the previous shooting death of 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake and said it is likely that he is the “male suspect” named by State Police in their investigative report.

They cited media reports that Chauncey Owens, who lived upstairs from Aiyana’s family and who was the individual police were seeking when they killed Aiyana, was to testify that her father gave him the gun used to kill Blake in exchange for a lighter sentence. In fact, Owens’ court files show he named another individual. His sentencing, originally set for this past May, has been postponed until Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 9 a.m. in Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt’s courtroom at the Frank Murphy Hall.

Plunkett & Cooney additionally claimed Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones “interfered in the execution of the search by unlawfully touching the defendant and causing his weapon to accidentally discharge.”

Jones was arrested and held for several days after she watched her beloved granddaughter die in front of her eyes. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, at the time an assistant chief, publicly withdrew the contention that she interfered with Weekley and released her without charges at the time.

The family’s actions “created unsafe living conditions for Aiyana Stanley-Jones and placed her in extreme danger,” Plunkett & Cooney wrote. “If Plaintiff Aiyana Stanley-Jones sustained any injuries or damages as alleged in the amended complaint, same were caused in whole or in part by the aforementioned Non-Parties.”

Various elements in the city, including talk show hosts Mildred Gaddis and Angelo Henderson, have encouraged such speculation. As a result, there has been no mass outpouring of rage in Detroit against the child’s killing by police, although there is outrage around the world.

In a letter to Fieger’s firm, Davis, Wright & Tremaine, LLP, on behalf of Kirkstall Rd. Enterprises, the producer of “The First 48,” refused to comply with a court-ordered subpoena for the film of the incident from Fieger’s office.

They claimed that the subpoena could only be issued through New York courts, and even then, they would not produce it because they claim to be covered by “New York Civil Rights Law 79-h(c),” known as the “Shield Law,” which allegedly protects a reporter’s privilege.

The Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee is asking that individuals phone Judge Daphne Means Curtis at 313-224-2240 to express their opposition to the protective order.

Detroit-based journalist Diane Bukowski, publisher of The Voice of Detroit, “the city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought,” where this story originally appeared, was an investigative reporter for the past decade for the Michigan Citizen newspaper and has been an activist in union and people’s struggles for 40 years. She can be reached at diane_bukowski@hotmail.com.

Mertilla Jones, Aiyana’s Grandmother, Speaks About Shooting: MyFoxDETROIT.com

Fieger Press Conference: Aiyana Jones: MyFoxDETROIT.com 

 

Free African political prisoner Victoire Ingabire

August 31, 2011

by Ann Garrison

“Don’t give up. He will never jail a whole nation.” – Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

Victoire behind bars
We need an international movement to free Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Her case is important to African people all over the continent and in the Diaspora and to all of us, all people.

The weight on Victoire’s shoulders is that of resource war, the ongoing wars for the world’s natural resources that threaten to destroy the whole planet. The fate of her tiny East African nation, Rwanda, is intertwined with the resource war in Rwanda’s vast, resource rich neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, site of the most lethal conflict since World War II. The Congo conflict has taken over 6 million African lives since 1998 alone.

Background of the Congo conflict, in Rwanda and Uganda

In 1990, the U.S. and Uganda backed the invasion of Rwanda, from Uganda, by an army of ethnic Tutsis who had grown up in Uganda, the children of Rwandan refugees. Four years of bloody civil war left over a million Rwandans dead, and Rwanda then joined Uganda and Burundi, the other two nations on Congo’s eastern border, in invading Congo, first to overthrow Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and then to overthrow his successor, Laurent Kabila, the onetime ally who had proven less than compliant in their project: the ongoing occupation, de facto colonization and resource plunder of eastern Congo.

A peace treaty was signed in 2003, but the death toll in Congo continues to rise. The majority of war dead perish of hardship after being driven from their resource rich land, rich in minerals, timber, cropland, fresh water, oil and natural gas, everything that feeds the world’s industrial and military industrial machines and the global capitalist system’s insatiable demand for profit.

Victoire

I don’t believe that Victoire went home to Rwanda, after 16 years spent first studying, then working and raising a family in the Netherlands, to take on so much weight, the weight of resource war threatening the whole world, but that is the broad context in which her own people are suffering. She said she was returning home because she could no longer stand to see her Rwandan people suffering so, under such brutal dictatorship. By that time, January 2010, she had emerged as the most inspiring and intellectually forceful leader in the Rwandan Diaspora.

I first became aware of Victoire when I saw demonstrations amongst the Rwandan Diaspora in Europe. She was then under house arrest in Rwanda and they were lined up in Brussels, holding her picture and chanting “Victoire! Victoire! Victoire!”

As a journalist, I maintained my distance for some time, making my way through all the available information and asking myself, “Who is Victoire?” I knew American radicals who were suspicious of her. They imagined that she was the Pentagon and State Department’s chosen successor to Paul Kagame.

I still don’t know just why they imagined that, though it seemed perhaps because she hadn’t been arrested, or rather, had only been placed under house arrest, forbidden to leave Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, to speak to the majority Rwandan population, rural peasant farmers, whom she hoped to represent. Her political party was not allowed to register and she was not allowed to run in Rwanda’s 2010 presidential election.

Victoire was finally arrested and incarcerated two months after the election she had been excluded from, and several days after the last time I spoke to her for Pacifica Radio station KPFA. We had by then spoken many times, for KPFA and for WINGS, Womens’ International News Gathering Service. She has been in maximum security prison ever since.

Her Rwandan support team now reports that she is ill, without a doctor’s care. This worries me because, earlier this year, Rwandan American Law Professor Charles Kambanda told me that he did not believe Rwandan President Paul Kagame would release her from prison with her faculties intact. Pasteur Bizimungu, Kagame’s last major challenger, has been released, but he is, by all accounts, not the same man who entered Rwanda’s prison system, one of the most overcrowded and notorious on earth. Rwanda’s per capita prison population is second only to those of the United States and Russia.

Professor Kambanda said that Victoire is a great leader, capable of leading Rwanda, whose conflict has spilled into eastern Congo, to real reconciliation – between African people who have been manipulated by foreign powers to the point of human catastrophe. But Kambanda also thinks Victoire is such a great leader that Rwandan President Paul Kagame will never let her leave prison alive, or with her faculties intact.

I hope he’s wrong, because we need her. Rwanda, Congo, Africa and the world need her.

Free Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza!

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News, the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own blog, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at ann@afrobeatradio.com.

 

Release my mother, son of terminally ill blind prisoner asks Gov. Jerry Brown

August 31, 2011

Join the press conference sponsored by Families to Amend California Three Strikes (FACTS) on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 11 a.m., in the Governor’s office, 300 South Spring St., downtown Los Angeles, to discuss the possibility of parole for Patricia Wright

by Alfey Ramdhan

Patricia Wright
Senate Bill 1399, Medical Parole, authored by state Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, reduces spending in California by allowing parole of severely medically incapacitated inmates posing no threat to public safety.

Senate Bill 1399 creates a medical parole process to alleviate the burden on taxpayers of providing expensive medical care and around-the-clock armed guards for inmates who are permanently medically incapacitated.

California spends millions of dollars every year guarding physically incapacitated prisoners. California has a $10 billion budget deficit. California taxpayers will spend nearly $2 billion to pay for the health care needs of state prisoners. A large percentage of those funds are used for a small group of severely incapacitated inmates.

Offenders sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole are not eligible for medical parole. The only hope these offenders have is clemency from Gov. Jerry Brown. A crime involving receiving stolen property worth $400 or more is considered a felony in California.

My mother, Patricia Wright, received two felonies each for two 99-cent toys I stole in 1989 when I was 7 years old. I am now 28. In March 2011, Gov. Brown was willing to sign my mother’s clemency application until the governor discovered my mother had two felonies for these two toys.

California Penal Code Section 4802 states: “In the case of a person twice convicted of felony, the application for pardon or commutation of sentence shall be made directly to the Governor, who shall transmit all papers and documents relied upon in support of and in opposition to the application to the Board of Prison Terms.”

My mother, Patricia Wright, received two felonies each for two 99-cent toys I stole in 1989 when I was 7 years old. I am now 28. In March 2011, Gov. Brown was willing to sign my mother’s clemency application until the governor discovered my mother had two felonies for these two toys.

The New York Innocence Project, co-directed by Barry Scheck, has accepted and is currently investigating Patricia’s criminal case. None of the DNA evidence from her case matched for the third strike, which is a different criminal case.

My mother, who was incarcerated in 1991, is diagnosed with fourth stage terminal cancer. She is severely incapacitated and has been housed at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, Calif., the past 16 years. I am hopeful that Gov. Brown will be willing to sign and approve clemency for my mother, Patricia Wright.

Patricia’s blog is www.nancylockhart.blogspot.com . Her petition: please grant compassionate medical release for Patricia Wright at PatriciaWright.change.org

More reasons to support the release of Patricia Wright

Geri Silva of FACTS writes: “Patricia Wright has terminal cancer and has been given six months to live. In 1998, Wright was convicted of killing her husband, a crime which was committed 17 years before. There was NO evidence to link her to the crime and absolutely NO motive which had any merit. The esteemed Innocence Project has taken her case.

“The family has been fighting for her freedom since her conviction, but now their fight takes on renewed vigor. They want Patricia to be allowed to come home to spend her last days with her family. The governor has been asked to grant her clemency and, though he is sympathetic, he insists that his hands are tied because Wright has three felonies on her record. Those three felonies consist of a murder she did not commit and the ‘theft’ of two 99-cent toys taken by her 7-year-old son in June 1989.

They want Patricia to be allowed to come home to spend her last days with her family.

“The family has been informed by the Senate Public Safety Committee that according to California penal codes 4851and 4852, the governor has power to grant pardon and clemency without going through the Parole Board or the Supreme Court. According to Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, FACTS, and all in support of Patricia, he has not only the right, but a moral imperative to release Patricia immediately.”

Wendy Jason, in “Patricia Wright Deserves Freedom,” writes: “Arletta Wright has spent the last 14 years advocating for her sister. …

“According to Arletta, Patricia is ‘the kind of person who will give you the clothes off her back.’ When she was 18, she bought her disabled mother her first home after saving her earnings from after-school jobs for three years. One of eight children, Patricia took on the role of primary caregiver for her younger siblings when their mother passed away. Arletta recalls that Patricia often took in homeless people, and was always the first to step up when someone needed help.

“In the 14 years that she’s been incarcerated, Patricia has missed her own five children’s high school graduations and weddings, as well as the births of her six grandchildren. …

“There’s no reason for Patricia to remain incarcerated. She poses no risk to society and it doesn’t appear that she ever did. Further, releasing the 1,500 sickest inmates would save $500 million, notes Isaac Ontiveros, communications direct for the group Critical Resistance, echoing comments made by J. Clark Kelso, the federal receiver in charge of the state’s $1.5 billion annual prison health system. Even those who listen to their wallets more than their hearts should be able to see the rationale in sending Patricia home to those who love her.

 

Unleashing the African genius: an interview with legendary historian Ashra Kwesi

August 30, 2011

by Minister of Information JR

Dr. Ashra Kwesi, acclaimed historian, will be speaking Saturday, Sept. 3, 6 p.m., at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., in downtown Oakland.
The African historian Ashra Kwesi will be bringing a level of scholarship to the Bay Area that hasn’t been seen since Professor Theophile Obenga moved back to the Congo. What is unique about Ashra Kwesi and the other great professors like Dr. Ben, Dr. John Henrik Clark and Dr. Cress Welsing, to name a few, is that they put their scholarship to use in this war that African people are fighting for self-determination all over the world.

He will be speaking on Saturday, Sept. 3, 6 p.m., at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., in downtown Oakland. Come check it out.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell about your upcoming speaking engagement at the Joyce Gordon Gallery? What is going to be covered?

Ashra Kwesi: I will cover “The African Origin of Civilization, Reclaiming Our African Genius” from the “Books in Stone in Egypt.” I will reveal first hand information from the ancient temples, tombs and papyrus papers recorded in Egypt when African people were teachers of the world.

The lecture will cover the ancient history of the African Nile Valley that gave birth to civilization; Imhotep, the world’s first physician and grand master teacher; the African science of observing the universe that produced the world’s first calendar; the African mystery schools, prototypes for the world’s universities; and the destruction of Black peoples’ history from the ancient temples and tombs of Egypt.

This information is based on my 31 years of study and tour experience in the African Nile Valley. Fourteen of those years I spent as an assistant to the noted kemetologist, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan.

M.O.I. JR: What is the importance of African youth having a consciousness about African history early on in life?

Ashra Kwesi: It gives children a clear identity of themselves, their people and what African people have done historically. Since African history predates a lot of their Western education, it empowers and informs not only youth, but parents and educators.

M.O.I. JR: What is the importance of parents being involved in their children’s education?

Ashra Kwesi: Positive African-centered parental involvement takes children in a clear-cut direction, while giving them a strong purpose in life. An understanding of their ancient history offers a confident, life-changing option to both children and their parents.

How does it affect the self-esteem of the child? Knowledge of African history stops children from being insecure in the European classroom setting. It provides them with confidence that strengthens them while preparing them for life, work and to be successful in the future. It also motivates them, promotes leadership skills and helps to eliminate behavioral issues.

M.O.I. JR: What are four things that you would recommend for parents to do to unleash the African genius in their children?

Ashra Kwesi: A: Expose them to books about African historians, writers and inventors. B: Place African art in our homes to remind children of their roots. C: Have ongoing conversations about the greatness and struggles of African people. D: If financially possible, take them to Africa for an eye-witness account of African greatness.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit blockreportradio@gmail.com.

 

Bayview Library: building down, price up $2 million

August 29, 2011

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

On July 12, when demolition of the old Bayview Library was getting underway, all the construction workers were white. – Photo: Natasha Reid
On the corner of Third and Revere, where the Bayview Library used to be, nothing is left but bare ground. One of the few places in the neighborhood where youngsters felt safe and enriched and everyone was welcome is gone.

If the City had allowed the low bidder to build the new library, it would have been at least halfway to completion by now. The youngsters who love the library would be watching their parents and older brothers and sisters build a beautiful new library for them to return to in a matter of months.

Liberty Builders, my general contracting company, was that low bidder. If you’ve been reading the Bay View for at least a year, you know that the City awarded the contract, I signed and returned it, and then the City snatched it back. Their flimsy excuse was that my insurance broker was a day late submitting a certificate proving I had auto insurance, even though I’d given the City a certificate for that same auto insurance policy over four months earlier.

On Aug. 18, a library activist friend called and suggested I check out the agenda for the Library Commission meeting later that afternoon. Item 2 on the agenda was described like this: “Branch Library Improvement Program Budget Transfers Action (Discussion and possible action to increase BLIP program reserve through transfer of Visitacion Valley Infrastructure fund revenue; and transfer of funds from program reserve to increase Bayview Branch Library Project budget).”

They weren’t talking about transferring a little bit of money; no, the Library Commission that day approved a transfer of $1.7 million. On top of the $310,000 extra the City is unnecessarily paying KCK Builders, the second low bidder – that’s how much higher his bid was than Liberty Builders’ bid – the “progressive” City of San Francisco is paying a total of over $2 million more taxpayers’ dollars for choosing to put a white contractor in charge of building the new library instead of sticking with the low bidder, a Black contractor.

I went to the Library Commission meeting that day, and Claude Carpenter went with me, even though he was recovering from surgery. Claude was the first president of the African American Contractors of San Francisco, and I was the second. He knows and I know and you know the good that an infusion of construction jobs would do for this community. That’s why I bid to build the new Bayview Library.

Construction workers make good money, enough to support an extended family, and a Black contractor who cares about the community will be happy to hire you even if you’ve been locked up, as so many have these days. The trouble is that because of hostility from City Hall, the number of licensed Black contractors in shape to bid City work can be counted on one hand with a few fingers left over.

When a .44 caliber bullet was shot through our window at 1:45 a.m. on May 13, 2010, from the roof of the bank next door, Mary Ratcliff reported in the Bay View, “(Willie) Ratcliff has a strong hunch it was fired by someone trying to scare him into withdrawing from the competition for the contract to build the new Bayview Library.” The bullet was fired exactly one week before the City issued the final bid package for the library. Read more in “Bullet through Bay View’s window: Who’s afraid of Black power?”
We told the Library Commission that they could save that $1.7 million to buy more books and keep the library open more hours if the City would sit down with me and Claude and others in the community with decades of experience hiring our own people and work out a way to get construction of the new Bayview Library back on track. Today, as you can see whenever you pass Third and Revere, our beloved library is nothing but a vacant lot.

Ho hum, who cares? The long struggle for construction work by Blacks in Bayview Hunters Point – that was the other demand besides an end to police violence that kicked off the world famous Hunters Point rebellion 45 years ago, on Sept. 27, 1966 – has been a snoozer at City Hall among the powers that be. But it’s not any more.

This morning, the struggle over the Bayview Library literally woke people up all over San Francisco when it was the main story on the front page of today’s San Francisco Chronicle. I applaud the Chronicle for taking the issue on, but I wish they’d told the real story. The writer, Stephanie Lee, also attended the Aug. 18 Library Commission meeting. We talked then and she called and interviewed me later by phone. Not a word I told her made its way into the story she wrote.

She wrote that the library’s price is up more than $2 million because subcontract bids are coming in way high, but she didn’t say why. Two main reasons were expressed at the meeting. White contractors complain about the workers, saying Bayview Hunters Point workers will drive up the price, implying they’re inexperienced – and that’s true for the younger folks; Blacks here have been locked out of construction since 1998 – and hinting they’re also slow, stupid and lazy.

Black contractors know the truth – that Black construction workers are the best in the business. What Black contractors complain about is bonding and financing, saying the City won’t let them bid without it, when everybody knows that banks and bonding companies are racist to the core. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has told cities over and over again not to exclude Blacks when banks and bonding and insurance companies keep them out of the game – not due to their ability but due to their color.

I’ve spent a lifetime – and so have Claude and other veterans of the struggle – figuring out how to put our people to work in spite of all that. I would have used those techniques if the City had let the low bidder – Liberty Builders – build the library. And it’s not too late. I’m waiting for a call from Mayor Ed Lee inviting us to the table to work out a plan using contractors and workers who live here to build the library our children are waiting for.

And I know that when one of our two favorite candidates for mayor – we’re endorsing Public Defender Jeff Adachi first and Supervisor John Avalos second – replaces Ed Lee, we’ll really put our people to work, not only on the library but year ‘round, year after year.

Mike Hannegan of KCK Builders, who was given the Bayview Library contract almost immediately after the City snatched it back from me, even though his bid was $310,000 higher than mine, has no idea how to put our local Black contractors and workers to work. He’s not even from here.

The Chronicle story claims that KCK is “a company in the Bayview,” but I went to visit Mike shortly after the City gave him the contract last November. I went to the address on Egbert that he’d given the City.

What I found was another company’s office suite. The owner showed me Mike’s office: a room that was almost empty except for a desk and chair.

I agree with one person quoted by the Chronicle: Library Commissioner Larry Kane said regarding the extra $1.7 million, “Obviously, I would prefer not to have that money spent, to keep that money for hours and librarians and library services.” So would I, and so would you no doubt.

Dr. William Mason, president of the Metro East Black Contractors Organization (MEBCO), and attorney Eric Vickers fight for economic equity in St. Louis.
The Chronicle reports, “So far, 10 of the 27 subcontracts are set to be awarded to Bayview companies.” Bayview companies, hmm. This is the “low rent district” for office and warehouse space, and non-Black contractors are flocking to it. But a Bayview Hunters Point address doesn’t guarantee a commitment to the people who live here.

If it’s any comfort, we in San Francisco are not alone. Blacks are fighting City Hall in other cities to put their people to work. Our old friend Eric Vickers in St. Louis, a lawyer who’s nationally known for fighting to stop the now nationwide lockout of Blacks from construction, made the news this week in a local Black paper, the Rivercity Examiner.

He and Dr. William Mason, president of the Metro East Black Contractors Organization (MEBCO), want to shut down the Mississippi River Bridge construction. When the agency in charge, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) wanted to meet anywhere but East St. Louis, the Rivercity Examiner wrote:

“What IDOT obviously didn’t realize was that their refusal to meet in the very city of the citizens that they were depriving of opportunity further showed their racist perspective on Blacks. It was a continuation of their discriminatory principles and practices. They could make the arrangements for Whites, by the truckloads, to go into East St. Louis (a city which is 99.5% Black) to work on the bridge project and take the money back to their White communities, but they certainly couldn’t participate in a meeting to discuss the depth of the outrage of the Blacks who were affected by the deprivation.”

They’re fighting discrimination on the multi-million dollar renovation of the local library too. The Rivercity Examiner made a video that’ll make your blood boil. Watch it below. It shows 97 workers walking onto the worksite one morning with their big lunch boxes – so they won’t have to spend their money at a Black restaurant – and guess what? Every one is white.

If we don’t intervene soon, that could be the sight that we and our children will see live every day that the new Bayview Library is under construction – if it ever gets started – for the next year and a half. Sounds a lot like the five years we were locked out of building the light rail, the one the T-train runs on, the one Kenneth Harding was exiting when a couple of cops asked for his transfer as proof he’d paid his fare.

He ran, they shot him, he died … just like Matthew “Peanut” Johnson 45 years ago this month, whose police murder sparked the 1966 Hunters Point rebellion – or riot – that made headlines around the world and showed the world that Bayview Hunters Point is one fierce neighborhood.

This time, let’s settle our differences with City Hall at the negotiating table. Mayor Ed Lee, we’re waiting for your call.

Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff can be reached at (415) 671-0789 or publisher@sfbayview.com.

 

The hunger strike was a success

August 29, 2011

by Brian Keith Barnett

Corcoran SHU cell
The prisoncrats, as expected, seek to downplay and minimalize the success of the mass hunger strike that began on July 1, 2011, by its typical damage control tactic of spoon-feeding their spin to their Sacramento Bee stoogie who, like most of the public, believe their misleading and inaccurate assertions.

Yes, the public is gullible and has been for years as demonstrated by the fact that the “three strikes” law has not been amended or repealed. The public has been given provocative innuendo for the purpose of perpetuating the myths that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) approve – which has recently been demonstrated as the state’s most dangerous and supposedly most hardened prison gang leaders preferred to use nonviolent means of protest in the form of deprivation of self.

The state’s law enforcement has thought for years that gang leaders have been calling hits and directing gang activity from within the state’s most secure, most oppressive gulag and that violence against California’s citizens is the reason the CDRC needs to operate and maintain special Security Housing Units (SHUs) in addition to what has been an unquestioned free hand in how prisoners are treated.

Regulations prohibit work stoppages and wildcat-type strikes, which would affect the profits of the prison industry authority and joint ventures as well as the property belonging to the wealthy that prisoners risk their lives to protect during fire season. Such protests would be violently put down and multiple rule violations would be charged. There would be seizures of personal property and loss of good time credits and privileges at the very least. Only the prisoner would suffer a loss.

Yet the hunger strike took all of the prisoncrats’ usual options off of the table since even the moving around of prisoners would not be effective. Without their normal options, prisoncrats began to feel impotent.

The so-called prison gang leaders are promoted and demoted by custody for their purposes and, contrary to the spin of CDCR officials, do not think in terms other than of violence as a means to an end – be it direct violent attacks on correctional staff and officials or their families and friends when they can be identified and found – so as to force change through fear and intimidation by way of the typical street thug mentality that, ironically, prisoncrats have adopted.

The secretary of the CDCR, Matthew Cate, issued a prepared statement in which he said, “Hunger strikes are dangerous and ineffective” – the inmate appeal process is dangerous and ineffective – “as a means for prisoners to attempt to negotiate.” However, what the secretary did not say but is only obvious is the fact that the hunger strike has resulted in additional overwhelming medical problems with attendant expense on an already overburdened prison healthcare system, which for the CDCR is more costly than the shooting and gassing of prisoners, violent or nonviolent, with their customary zeal.

Prisoncrats, as any conscious prisoner knows, couldn’t care less about the health of any prisoner. But they do care about the expense of the constitutionally mandated medical care that they must provide to all prisoners, which is quite costly. And the prisoncrats, while the hunger strike ended on Wednesday, July 20, 2011, went to extreme lengths to ensure that all prisoners knew it – which included a notice on the institutional information channel, where the prisoncrats contend that they enlightened the hunger strikers in the Pelican Bay SHU of their alleged plans – that they claim to have had since January – to review and change some policies that, frankly, have only recently been privy to the prisoncrats, to this well-informed writer’s knowledge.

It is highly unusual for prisoncrats to openly admit to anything and accountability is a very well ignored responsibility, to the point of being an institutionalized joke, yet the secretary has claimed that some policies relative to SHU prisoners and alleged gang management need some rethought. This is positively specious since, over the past 20-25 years, prisoncrats have invested a lot of effort in promulgating a highly disingenuous gang culture in California prisons that has, in most cases, been manipulated to perform tasks at the prisoncrats’ whims.

That’s what the new generation of self-proclaimed actives – or active gang members on the line and in the SHU and Ad Seg – have adopted and the politics of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) encourages, which keeps prisoners feuding with each other for prisoncrat amusement and benefit in addition to being bought and sold by their prisoncrat controllers.

The prisoncrats do not want to eliminate what they have encouraged in this prison system to justify its excessive budget. The hunger strike may have only lasted 20 days but it was like a shot across the bow of the CDCR’s battleship by an enemy the prisoncrats cannot mobilize their massive might, violent resources and infrastructure against.

The hunger strike may have only lasted 20 days but it was like a shot across the bow of the CDCR’s battleship by an enemy the prisoncrats cannot mobilize their massive might, violent resources and infrastructure against.

Yes, the hunger strike was a success and it got their attention in such a way that their burgeoning healthcare pocketbook was being robbed by the Service Employees International Union rather than the CCPOA. That means the customary violent responses of custody personnel were, for that time, rendered impotent and they do not have any real workable contingency for dealing with a nonviolent form of protest that they cannot crush with a violent response. So yes, the strike was a success, as are solo hunger strikes in solidarity and struggle.

Send our brother some love and light: Brian Keith Barnett, T-38323, Corcoran SHU 4A-112-041, P.O. Box 3476, Corcoran CA 93212-3476.

 

Virginia earthquake shakes U.S. awake to nuclear power danger

August 29, 2011

by Janette D. Sherman, M.D.

This photo of the North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Central Virginia’s Louisa County was taken at the hot water discharge to Lake Anna in August 2006. – Photo: Mort Fryman, The Virginian-Pilot
I live in a steel and concrete high rise building across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. The whole room heaved and shook and then it looked like a poltergeist had set my rocking chairs into motion. This was the earthquake of Aug. 23. The quake measured a 5.8 magnitude with the epicenter less than four miles deep, thus the shaking was felt from North Carolina to New England.

News cameras showed people congregating outside of buildings, including the Pentagon in D.C. and in New York City, as people evacuated. Friends and family from the West Coast called to remind me, “Duck and cover,’’ the safety procedure either ignored or forgotten.

The quake was centered in the small town of Mineral, Virginia, just 84 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and has been followed by at least four aftershocks – the most recent measuring 4.5 and occurring at 1:07 a.m. on Aug. 25.

Located also in Louisa County and about 10 miles from the epicenter are the two North Anna nuclear power reactors that initially lost off-site power. They were automatically taken off line, but one of the plant’s four backup emergency generators failed immediately after the earthquake. The owner, Dominion Power Co., said the disrupted water flow posed “no risk to the public.”

For earthquakes, each increase in level of magnitude is 10 times the previous whole number, thus the March 11 quake in Japan that measured 9.0 was more than 300 times greater than the Virginia quake. That is of little comfort to those who live in proximity to the North Anna Nuclear Power plant, where water levels dropped 22 inches in one day.

Dominion reports that each of the plant’s two nuclear reactors pumps 1 million gallons of water a minute into the North Anna Lake. The North Anna plant is built to sustain a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. Calculated on the basis of the event of Aug. 23, which was only 4 times less, there’s not much cushion for comfort.

Following the Japanese disaster, MSNBC news – based upon Nuclear Regulatory Commission data but not released by the NRC – did an in-depth report on earthquake risks at U.S. nuclear plants. The following are the 10 plants with the greatest risk of core damage caused by an earthquake, with North Anna coming in seventh:

1. Indian Point 3, Buchanan, N.Y., 1 in 10,000 chance per year

2. Pilgrim 1, Plymouth, Mass., 1 in 14,493

3. Limerick 1 and 2, Limerick, Pa., 1 in 18,868

4. Sequoyah 1 and 2, Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., 1 in 19,608

5. Beaver Valley 1, Shippingport, Pa., 1 in 20,833

6. Saint Lucie 1 and 2, Jensen Beach, Fla., 1 in 21,739

7. North Anna 1 and 2, Louisa, Va., 1 in 22,727

8. Oconee 1 and 2, Seneca, S.C., 1 in 23,256

9. Diablo Canyon 1 and 2, Avila Beach, Calif., 1 in 23,810

10. Three Mile Island, Middletown, Pa., 1 in 25,000

The NRC’s odds consider both the chance for a serious quake and the strength of the plant’s design.

The risks of a quake at North Anna were known as far back as 1970. In 1975, then-owner Vepco was fined $60,000 – the maximum allowed by law – for building the plant over a known geologic fault, the Washington Post reported at the time. Vepco was convicted of making 12 false statements to the NRC about the fault’s existence.

A concern equal to that of core damage is that of the water-filled pools used to store spent fuel at most U.S. nuclear plants. Bob Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, has noted that the North Anna reactors are of the Westinghouse Pressurized Water design; and since going online in 1979 and 1980 respectively, the reactors have generated approximately 1,200 metric tons of spent fuel containing about 228,000 curies of highly radioactive materials – among the largest concentrations of radioactivity in the United States.

The spent fuel pools at North Anna contain four to five times more spent fuel than their original designs intended. The spent fuel rods must be stored under water to keep them from overheating and releasing high levels of radioactivity.

As in Japan, U.S. nuclear power plant spent fuel pools do not have steel lined, concrete barriers to cover reactor vessels to prevent the escape of radioactivity. They are not required to have backup generators to pump water to keep used fuel rods cool if offsite power is lost, as happened at Fukushima.

Even though they contain these very large amounts of radioactivity, spent reactor fuel pools in the United States are mostly contained in ordinary industrial structures designed to protect them against the weather, but not against earthquakes, plane crashes or foreign or domestic intrusions.

Even though they contain these very large amounts of radioactivity, spent reactor fuel pools in the United States are mostly contained in ordinary industrial structures designed to protect them against the weather, but not against earthquakes, plane crashes or foreign or domestic intrusions.

Nearly 40 percent of the radioactivity in North Anna’s spent fuel pools is in the form of cesium-137, an isotope that is carcinogenic, damages genetic cells and concentrates in soft tissues of the body. It, like strontium-90, also released from nuclear plants, will take three centuries to dissipate.

On the West Coast of the United States are the Diablo Canyon – near San Luis Obispo – and San Onofre – north of San Diego – nuclear power plants. Each is located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean – “The Ring of Fire Quake Zone” – and upwind of large populations.

There has been concerted effort to close all nuclear power plants and close first those that are located in areas of earthquake activity. Even if this were accomplished today, we as a society have no feasible plan to store the tons of waste already created by the 104 nuclear plants that are currently licensed in this country.

As taxpayers, we have paid billions to support nuclear power plants. Spending to develop solar power could solve much of our energy problem, teach new skills to our citizens and provide much needed jobs – building and maintaining alternative sources of power.

We must concentrate on distributed solar energy – power sources that are built, used and owned locally – not owned by a controlling corporate power. Distributed solar and wind energy eliminates the need for long-distance, costly transmission lines.

If we learn anything, we must learn about and pay attention to the harm still occurring from Chernobyl that exploded 25 years ago and from Fukushima that continues to spew radioactive materials into the air and water. We can do better: Conservation, wind, solar and other technologies are available if we as citizens demand them.

Dr. Sherman is an internist and toxicologist. She is the contributing editor of “Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.” The information in the book will help you understand the serious and continuing hazards from nuclear power. She can be reached at www.janettesherman.com and toxdoc.js@verizon.net.

Editor’s note: Dr. Sherman is internationally recognized for her expertise on the effects of radiation. In light of the danger worldwide, particularly on the West Coast of the U.S., from the Fukushima meltdowns, the worst nuclear disaster in history, she is so eager for everyone to know what a lifetime of research has taught her that she has had her book on Chernobyl, the ultimate authoritative source on the subject, reprinted and is making it available to the public for only $10; its original price is $150. You can order it at www.sfbayview.com. Look for the ad on the right side of the page.

 

Real talk on three strikes

August 27, 2011

by Richard Wembe Johnson

This is the D corridor, where Richard Wembe Johnson lives – if you can call it living – in the Pelican Bay SHU. The California Department of Corrections hosted a few major media reporters Aug. 17 in a rare tour of the SHU, but they were denied access to this corridor. – Photo: Julie Small, KPCC
For many years, the “three strikes” law has rained havoc and waste over the state of California, plunging its state debt increasingly deeper each and every year, which the taxpayers are paying for without any real justification. In getting the three strikes law passed in the first place, the general public was duped into believing that the law was directed to all those violent repeat offenders – child molesters, murderers, rapists and so on.

Quite naturally, anyone with common sense would view voting in favor of the law as a way to protect themselves and their communities from violent predators. Unfortunately, however, the people were tricked into a false belief: that the law was about ensuring safety and justice. Both can’t be further from the truth! Instead, any repeat offender regardless of the offense became a victim of this potential death sentence, condemned to a minimum of 25 years to life for as little as a DUI, petty theft, petty drug possession, petty check passing and so forth.

These are crimes, but do they rise to the level deserving of a life sentence for the perpetrators? On the surface it would seem like everything was above board and all about order and justice, yet a closer inspection would reveal the ugly truth about the law and its real implications.

From its origin, the politicians – in their quest for power and, for a few, retribution – played on the pain, hurt, fear and of course lack of insight of the people to push the law forward with all its hidden agendas and flaws. They knew that the climate was ripe for getting the three strikes law passed, so they lied, deceived, tricked, coerced and did everything else possible to have it their way.

Unlike previously, when most punishment was reflective of the crime, this law clearly demonstrates an aggressive and reckless push by certain politicians and lawmakers who are benefiting from this injustice that is costly not only monetarily but morally and socially as well.

By creating these outlandish draconian laws, the profiteers are amassing huge profits rooted in the prison industrial complex and its many, many subsidiaries that are constantly growing, rivaling big business. The politicians who are proponents of these laws aren’t so concerned with law; their main objective is the power that is generated in public office – especially if you’re seen as hard on crime, not to mention being soft on big business, with, of course, the desire to elevate yourself politically.

The three strikes law doesn’t alter nor deter crime. If anything, it makes matters worse: A person who is committing crimes has no incentive to rethink whether to commit a violent crime when the punishment is the same, whether violent or not. This is also applicable to those confined in these warehouses that are essentially rotting.

When you take an in-depth realistic look into the prison system, institution by institution, you see these prisons are on lockdown more often than not. What rehabilitation is gained from prisoners being entombed in their cages doing nothing but percolating in bitterness and defeatism, while the taxpayers pay the cost?

How can anyone expect to fix a problem by contributing to it? Sometimes, in order to fix something, you must first tear it down and restart from scratch, piece by piece. Granted, nobody in their right mind wants a continuation of crime in their communities, but until you can attack the causes rather than apply useless measures contributing to the effects, the problem will only intensify. With each passing year, the prison expenses increase, growing a larger deficit than the preceding year, thus begging the question: How long will it take for the people to recognize the sham for what it is?

How can anyone expect to fix a problem by contributing to it? 

Those elected and nonelected officials on their own personal quest for power aren’t serving those who entrusted them with the responsibility of fixing the problems generated by overcrowding and mismanagement of public funds allocated for prisons. If they’re proven to be inept, then they should suffer the consequences of their wrongdoing and incompetence. This should be the duty of the people by popular vote, based on real facts.

There have been at least a couple of attempts to amend the three strikes law. Thus far they have failed because the powers that be continue to lie and disrespect the people’s intelligence.

Until the voters take matters into their own hands and stand up for their rights, they will continue to be victimized by a corrupt and deficient system, sucking the life and blood out of the people. There are workable solutions to California’s prison crisis that could improve the entire economy in California, as well as the safety and wellbeing of both the community at large and those held behind the walls. But until you’re able to come to terms with the problem, you’ll never find the key.

Overcrowding first and foremost must be addressed in a sensible and informed manner: When you bring down the population, you bring down the costs. If you constantly increase the population, then, without fail, you increase the expenditures. It can’t be simpler.

Nonviolent criminals weren’t a part of this equation at the inception and shouldn’t be a part of the problem now. Spending nearly $50,000 a year per prisoner isn’t progress, nor is sentencing a prisoner to life because he stole a pack of biscuits, wrote a $10 check or possessed a small amount of drugs. Treating prisoners like commodities is wrong and there are repercussions for this mistreatment that are costing the people and abusing the use of their tax dollars.

Send our brother some love and light: Richard Wembe Johnson, K-53293, SHU D2-218, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. During the July 1-21 hunger strike that originated in the Pelican Bay SHU, he wrote “A hunger striker’s journal,” Parts 1 and 2, Part 3 and Part 4, that enlightened readers on issues of great concern to prisoners. This story was written Aug. 15, 2011.

 

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