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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

First Person Report: Boston’s March for George Floyd

The Daily Escape:

Boston, May 31, 2020 – all photos by Kendall Lavoie

(What follows is a first person report by friend of the blog, Kendall Lavoie. She, her fiancé and a few friends drove from western Massachusetts to show support for George Floyd at a demonstration in Boston.)

Eight years ago, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, my eyes were opened to how cruel and unjust the world can be for people of color, especially in this country. Every year since then there have been multiple instances of unpunished police brutality, many lives lost, and still no progress or real change.

When I saw the video of George Floyd being killed in the street I was filled with sadness, anger, and a drive to do something.

Yesterday, we haphazardly constructed signs that we decorated with our slices of free speech, gathered medical supplies, and headed to Boston to join our fellow citizens in need. We wore PPE and tried our best to socially distance, which is difficult in a crowd, and we will be self-quarantining for 14 days as a result of the contact we made yesterday.

When we arrived in Boston, we first joined an early march along the streets to the Boston Common. We listened to people talk about how they felt while we knelt in the gravel and grass. Some quotes from the early march include:

“Don’t let this moment be fleeting. You gotta live this shit as a lifestyle.”
“Why is my color a crime?”
“This is a movement of us, all of us.”
“True allies that are out here today willing to put their health on the line, that’s what makes this different- everybody had to take a risk to be the fuck out here today.”

 

We marched to the State House and peacefully stood outside for a bit, and then dispersed and went our separate ways.

The late march started at 6:30 in Dudley Square. The amount of people who showed up was just incredible- almost the entire time I couldn’t see the front of the crowd or the end of it. Community support from residents and businesses was amazing throughout, motorists showed their support despite being blocked by our marching at times, and there was a real sense of people coming together for change.

We marched toward the Common once again for about an hour and a half. I heard one man say:

“This is the proudest I’ve been of my city in a long time. Look at all these people, they actually care.”

The sun set while we sat in the Common and made our way up the steps to the State House once again. Some started setting off fireworks, and others climbed the fence and architecture in the front of the statehouse. Aside from a few people who threw trash over the fence (and were immediately called out by the rest of the protesters with the chant “stop throwing shit”), we were completely peaceful. We weren’t blocking traffic as there were no civilian cars at this point, and later when there were, we made a pathway for them to get through.

The crowd began to thin out as people went home, and we decided to give it a few more minutes before we headed back to the car. We started handing out our medical supplies since it looked like we wouldn’t be needing them, and maybe others would want them for later protests.

That’s when the Boston PD sent three cruisers speeding into the crowd. No warning, I just turned to my right and people were running and screaming. The first one sped past, and the second one was inches from me. I actually hit the third with my sign out of instinct to “push” it away from me because it was so close.

This was a blatant baiting tactic to incite the violence that ensued. I was angry, the people around me were angry, we started chanting “THIS WAS PEACEFUL!” and some started throwing things over the fence. When they sent the cruisers back through, they got blocked this time and the National Guard came out of the State House and began firing rubber rounds into the crowd, striking one girl in the ankle who we helped, and another in the ribs.

On another pass through, a protester threw a frozen water bottle at the side mirror of a cruiser and it detached. The back window was shattered by another flying object. People threw their milk jugs at the cruisers and the National Guard sent an armored car through the crowd.

The crowd fractured and began to move off in different directions. We walked down the side of Boston Common where a garbage fire burned in a barrel and many had embedded their signs in the wrought iron fence. Police were in full riot gear, and in the distance smoke billowed from something large burning, which we later learned was a cop car.

We crossed the street and a girl stood there rubbing her face and crying. She had been pepper sprayed, saying she was too close to the perimeter as she was trying to videotape a man being beaten in the corner by police. This 18-19 year old girl apologized profusely for seeming to inconvenience us as we poured milk in her eyes. Her friends stood by her and helped her find her phone and we parted ways.

Another man down the street had someone guiding him because he had been tear gassed, but refused our help. Farther, we came to a street where police were surrounding a girl on the ground. People were shouting and I started recording, getting closer so she wouldn’t be alone. The police came at us with wooden batons and pushed us back. The girl was helped up and stood at the edge of the crowd crying and demanding to know the name of the cop who pushed her down, breaking her box of belongings and dragged her across broken glass. I didn’t get the name or badge number of the officer because he refused to turn around, but another officer retrieved her box of things and we left as they radioed in to “come wipe down the street.”

We helped get glass out of her ankle and gave her a bandage. We gave her the badge number of one of the officers, in hopes that she could get the other one via that, somehow. The man who assaulted her refused to identify himself and is paid by tax dollars.

While we were helping her, squads of police cars flew past us down the street. In the distance we could hear popping, and I’m still unsure if it was fireworks or rubber rounds. We walked an hour back to the car, checking in with people on the way who let us know where to avoid as we did the same.

We learned later that the police had shut down the T after demanding that everyone go home.

As we drove home, I tried to process what I had just been a part of. I’ve always supported police. I was raised with the mantra, “don’t talk to strangers… except for police.” They were always heroes, always there to protect me, and the bad ones were negligible in comparison to the greater good. After last night my opinion has changed.

I saw how my fellow Americans are treated by police when they try to protest peacefully for their rights. I saw how the Boston Police Department acted like cowards and used their vehicles as weapons. And I saw the power that people can wield when they come together.

We won’t stop until they stop, WE DEMAND CHANGE NOW. Get out there and do something about it!!!

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging — Protesting and Looting Edition — May 31, 2020

Last Monday night in Minneapolis, 46-year old George Floyd was arrested. Police officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground, crushing his throat. Floyd died an hour later.

What happened next has played out time and time again in American cities after high-profile cases of police brutality. Vigils and protests were organized in Minneapolis and around the US to demand police accountability. Google the name of any large city in the US along with “police brutality” and your search will return many pages of results.

But while Minneapolis investigators waited to charge Chauvin, unrest boiled over. News reports soon carried images of property destruction and police in riot gear. This has now morphed into the Minnesota governor calling out the National Guard.

Wrongo can’t claim to understand race issues in America, but he thinks that we should take a minute to re-read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. In his letter, MLK identified “the great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom” not as the KKK, or the South’s White Citizens Councils. He said it was white moderates, people who:

  • Are more devoted to order than justice
  • Prefer the absence of tension to the presence of justice
  • Say they agree with your goals, but not your methods for achieving them
  • Constantly urge patience in the struggle, saying you should wait for a more convenient time

If you have watched the news for the past 40 years, you know that the Moderate is one stumbling block to universal justice. The Moderate’s tools are things like Non-Disclosure Agreements, loyalty to the team, and to the power of the hierarchy. Moderates may not be at the top of the power pyramid, but as long as Moderates can kiss up and kick down, they’ll hang in there, waiting for a better time to think about bringing justice to all Americans.

When it comes to violence in our cities, as Elie Mystal says in The Nation, it’s hard to name a city in America where the police aren’t working for white people. The police know it. And deep down, white people know exactly whom the police are supposed to protect and serve, and they know it’s not black and brown people.

Disagree? Go to any white suburb in America. Cops aren’t wandering the streets, people aren’t being arrested and neighbors aren’t being sent to prison. It’s easy for most of us to think that the George Floyd’s of America are simply a tragic cost of doing business, that a looted Target is evidence of the need for more policing.

We can hold more than one thought in our heads. People should be free to demonstrate, and that sometimes leads to rioting. Both are forms of protest. Wrongo doesn’t condone looting. But it’s also a form of protest. If you argue it’s not, then refresh your memory about the Boston Tea Party, when white protesters dressed up as minorities and looted to make a point about taxes.

If you are upset about protests, and were also pissed off at Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, you are probably a Moderate. People first need to be able to identify racism when they see it before they can understand the racial issues underpinning what happened in Minneapolis this weekend.

If you woke up today angry, confused, or frustrated about the direction our country is heading: VOTE!

Wrongo has looked hard for fun cartoons, without success. Here’s the best of the week. Sadly, her hope can only be aspirational:

How times have changed:

From 2016. All you need to know about demonstrating in America:

For Sunday, we include a rarely heard protest song written in 1966 by Malvina Reynolds (1900-1977). She wrote “Little Boxes” and many other songs. She wrote “It Isn’t Nice” as an answer to those who value order above justice. Here, “It Isn’t Nice” is sung by Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers:

Sample lyric:

It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
It isn’t nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

It isn’t nice to carry banners
Or to sit in on the floor,
Or to shout our cry of Freedom
At the hotel and the store.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice,
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that is Freedom’s price,
We don’t mind.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Our Thin-Skinned Blue Line

When we see each other as enemies, we are the Middle East, and we can no longer work together for the common good. Consider what happened last week at a Minnesota WNBA basketball game:

Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, praised the officers walk out:

I commend them for it… If [the WNBA players] are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.

What is lost in the police union grandstanding was that the Lynx jerseys in question read “Change starts with us, justice and accountability” and on the back had Philando Castile’s and Alton Sterling’s names along with “Black Lives Matter” and the Dallas Police Department shield. How is that seen as anti-cop? This highlights how thin-skinned police forces around the US are whenever criticism emerges about bad policing.

But what can be done?

The most recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics quadrennial “Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2008” shows that there are 17,985 state and local law enforcement agencies with at least one full-time officer or the part-time equivalent in the US. All of them are managed by local, county or state governments, and the majority of police are members of a local union. Wrongo is not anti-union, but the social identity of being in law enforcement cultivates a code of unduly protecting members, hiding evidence, and blindly supporting the position of other officers simply because of their collective identity. The “Blue Wall of Silence” around cops is the excuse to cover up bad behavior in the face of investigation.

Creating an equivalency between #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter is wrong. Consider this thought from Jonathan Russell, Professor and Chaplain at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture:  (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

A black life is a life under the threat of social death, a social life constituted by precarity and the potential of imminent death…Blue lives have no analogous history, no precarious location from which their collective lives need recovery…Blue lives are not…living under conditions similar to black life. It is the history of black lives not mattering that gives meaning to the hashtag. Blue lives have no such analogous history.

Russell goes on to say:

Blue lives have always mattered, present and past. Their experience of social space is (for the most part) one of…deferential treatment… It is profoundly misrepresentative and disrespectful to develop an analogous hashtag, as if blue lives have an analogous experience of social life in America as black lives have. This hashtag is wrong in so much as it connotes that the lives of law enforcement officers have failed to matter sufficiently in the broader public consciousness.

For the umbrage-takers out there, relax. Wrongo isn’t saying that cops don’t deserve respect, they do. He thinks that cops have a tough job, and that we must mourn any cop killed on the job. But, we can’t be blind to the power of this confrontation between #Blue and #Black to tear us apart.

Here is ginandtacos: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

I keep holding out hope that we will learn something from this, that police can say to themselves “All those Dallas officers wanted was to do their job and go home alive at the end of the day” and have some moment of inspired transference wherein they realize that every black person they pull over in a traffic stop wants the same...

More from ginandtacos:

If most cops are good cops as we are repeatedly told – and statistically that’s true, as most departments have a few officers who account for the majority of complaints – then it is time for the Good Cops to stop participating silently in a broken system. It’s time for Good Cops to do something about Bad Cops.

Is this realistic, given the Blue Wall of Silence and the power of the police unions, who go ballistic at the merest hint of criticism? Politicians who criticize their PDs are seen as “weak on crime.” However, when police unions are part of any decision to fire a cop, what is the alternative? Two additional considerations:

  • An armed society makes for nervous and trigger-happy law enforcement officers.
  • Police have an expectation of immediate and absolute compliance with every command. Anything less is deemed justification for using force.

Fixing all of this will take action on multiple fronts. We have to soften the Blue Code. We need to see fewer guns on the street. We need to reform police protocols.

We need to talk to each other.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 10, 2105

Our Havanese dog Bandit lost his fight with an autoimmune disease at age 15 this past Tuesday:

DSCN5103

Gonna miss him terribly.

Turning to other news, what does the Dallas attack against police mean for the rest of this American summer? As Mark Shields said on PBS, “events are in the saddle”, and there is a distinct feeling that our leadership is not only not in control, but they have no answers.

No one knows what the reaction will be to New Orleans, Minneapolis and Dallas:

COW Dallas Reaction 2

Despite all we know, we can’t escape our need for Gunz:

Culture of Violence

Some truths demand an explanation:

COW Broken Tail Light

Our satellite in orbit around the giant gas planet Jupiter found something horrifying:

COW Gaseous Titan

The Brits waited seven years for the Chilcot report on Tony Blair’s role in the Iraq War:

COW Chillicot Report.gif

Really, is W. sorry? Maybe he’s sorry he got 4500 American soldiers killed, and another 32,000 wounded. And unknown numbers of American military damaged mentally. Or, that the Middle East is totally destabilized. Or, that our economy crashed. Or, that the country is totally polarized. Maybe he’s sorry, but that’s highly doubtful.

You know, it was OKAY  because a Republican did it.

That’s the mission he accomplished.

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Monday Wake Up Call – October 26, 2015

From the NYT:

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said on Friday that the additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police brutality may have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive.

Comey is lending his support to a meme called the “Ferguson Effect”. As the “Ferguson Effect” theory goes, police have slowed down enforcement due to public scrutiny, which has led to more crime, including homicides. In the absence of tough policing, chaos reigns.

Ever since Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, MO last year, people across the country have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and the mistreatment of black men and women. At the same time, police officers and pundits began arguing that demonstrators are jeopardizing community safety, pointing to rising violent crime rates.

This theory for the uptick in violence in some cities is partly based on a cherry-picking of violent crime data, since some increases actually occurred BEFORE the Ferguson demonstrations, and in general, the data are unclear. We know that far more people are being killed in America’s cities this year than in many years. And to be clear, the increases are largely among people of color, and it’s not cops that are doing the killing.

Most of America’s 50 largest cities have seen an increase in homicides and shootings this year, and many of them have seen a huge increase. These are cities with little in common except being in America—places like Chicago, Tampa, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Orlando, Cleveland, and Dallas.

So something big is happening, but what? Comey thinks he knows, and in Chicago, he floated the same idea as Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently floated, that cops are not doing their job because people have started taking videos of police interactions with their smart phones.

Here is snippet of what Comey said:

I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, ‘we feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.’…I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.

If Comey’s impression both of the Ferguson Effect, and the role of cameras is correct, cops have stopped doing the job we pay them to do because they’re under amateur surveillance.

If Comey’s right, what he’s describing is the chilling effect of surveillance, the way in which people change their behavior because they know they will be seen on camera. That the Director of the FBI is making this claim is more striking, since the surveillance cops are undergoing is targeted, and by the public. It is not the total government surveillance (such as the use of small planes and stingrays to surveil the Baltimore and Ferguson protests), which both the FBI and NSA use in inner cities.

Comey can’t have it both ways. Since he said in Chicago that surveillance has a “chilling effect”, that it makes cops feel under siege, maybe he should consider the implications of what he is saying about surveillance by his own agency and the NSA of all Americans.

If the targeted surveillance of cops is a problem, isn’t the far less targeted surveillance conducted on Americans a much larger problem?

And why can’t Americans hold two diametrically opposed ideas in their minds at the same time? We love the police, and want them safe. But, the real problems in US law enforcement have to be addressed.

And why does Comey imply that we need to accept a trade-off between a brutal police state and weakened policing? Why can’t we have civilized police who focus on getting the real bad guys, instead of choking a man to death for selling loose cigarettes?

So, wake up Mr. Comey! Show us data that support your feelings, or get in line with the data we have. To help you wake up, here is Humble Pie doing “30 days in the Hole”, from their 1972 album, “Smokin’”. The song was featured in “Grand Theft Auto V”:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

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Is Our System More Like Huxley, or Orwell?

Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it. – Judge Learned Hand

Yesterday was Human Rights Day. Maybe, with all that has happened to our human rights in post-9/11 America, it is a good time to look very carefully at the current spate of bad outcomes for people who draw attention from our police. One question is, who still believes in our system? Below is one answer that points to where we are:

Trust the police Here is the poll question that produced the above response:

How much confidence do you have in police officers in your community to not use excessive force on suspects: A great deal, a fair amount, just some, or very little confidence?

Note that “no confidence” was not an option for your answer. One way to look at the poll is that it shows that our system is working exactly as it is intended to work. From Ian Welsh: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

If a police officer tells you to do anything, you do it immediately. If you do not, anything that happens to you, up to and including death, is your problem. The legal system exists today to ensure compliance.

And if you fail to do what is asked, the police will say, “He/she was non-compliant.” That is a way that this part of the American system performs as designed. It rewards compliance, it identifies those who will not obey laws, or who will fight or organize against the system, and then it works to push them down.

In our system, the wolves and the sheep self-identify, they know which group they belong to. If an injustice is committed, if people protest, the most aggressive protestors, even if not violent, are arrested. Our oligarchy is built on the idea that we must keep people from effectively resisting. More from Ian Welsh:

Any part of the population which is inclined to resist, must be taught that it cannot resist. Get out millions to demonstrate against the Iraq war: it will not work. Protest against police killings of African Americans, it will not work.

Occupy Wall Street? That didn’t work either. The system operates in two ways to repress and control people. America’s system has been 80% Huxley and 20% Orwell for decades, but now, the ratios are approaching 50/50. Let’s unpack the Orwell vs. Huxley worldviews: (h/t highexistence.com)
huxley_orwell1

 • Orwell feared the government would ban books.
• Huxley feared that there would be no reason to ban books, because no one would want to read them.
• Orwell feared the government would deprive us of information.
• Huxley feared they would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be invisible in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.
So, we became the trivial culture that Huxley feared. Now, the powers that be are tilting to Orwell to nudge us toward a captive culture.

Huxley’s vision of how human nature or human aspirations could be manipulated for the purposes of the controlling elite rings true in the US. But, Orwell’s depiction of the controlling/interlocking elites of allegedly opposed factions (R’s vs. D’s, government vs. private sector, Wall Street vs. Main Street) is truer than ever before.

So, both are right. Orwell’s fear is already a reality in the East (North Korea, China, Iran) and Huxley’s fear is reality in the West (US, Scandinavia, UK).

Look at how easily the citizenry acquiesced to militarized police in Boston a couple of years ago. Tanks rolled down the streets and officers dressed like they were in Afghanistan demanded that people go inside their houses, for their “safety”. This “army” then searched for the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. This took place over a huge area—whole towns. Was this just the police testing their new toys? Or was it also something darker… like a test of how far the government can go with the Security State? It didn’t hurt that the people got to say they were “Boston Strong” and got the rest of the country to buy in to that.

Power and information are continua. The Orwellian vision tends towards power, while the Huxleyian view tends toward information. However, they are neither separate, nor divisible. Human history has always used deceit as a tool, backed by power, while the biggest bullies have tried to control things since prehistory.

Both manifest legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, wherein the government becomes the largest organized crime syndicate, controlled by the best organized criminals. Welcome to America.

These “crime syndicates” are destroying the foundations of our society, creating the twin near-religions of the State and the Corporation.

The system will not change until the people who want change have enough power to force change. But first, they have to open their eyes to what is happening: Ordinary citizens cannot change the system if the elites don’t agree with the changes the plebes want to make. If they try, they will be arrested or killed at the scene. This must change first.

After that, we can begin working to restore the fundamental systemic change that we brought about during the times of FDR through LBJ.

 

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