Filed under: Canada, Mexico, Roundup, US
Originally posted to It’s Going Down
I see…the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off… The protester determined to prove that justice matters—and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.
US President Obama
Last Tuesday, US President Obama gave his 8th and final ‘State of the Union‘ speech which continued a charade of lies echoed by all of the American ruling class that average Americans are doing better than ever, the economy is “fully recovered,” that American imperialist might will crush its enemies, concerns over police violence and mass incarceration are being addressed, and that the US is taking large steps toward stopping global warming. In all of these assertions, the reality that all of us live through is much different, and much more grim.
As the above quote illustrates, Obama paints a picture of a country where people from all classes and walks of life are coming together in a common nationalist project that would make even Donald Trump smile. But in reality, divisions around lines of race and class have grown larger as the capitalist economy has restructured itself since the recession of 2008 and the wealth gap between the rich and poor has deepened.
Since the address, the mainstream corporate media has lapped up this seemingly positive message and vision of America’s bright future and polls suggest that over 1/2 of Americans who watched the speech thought highly of it. Despite the desire of most people to try and keep a positive outlook on the state of the world, all around us, the economic, ecological, and social crises deepens. As this reality unfolds, the Presidential debates and State of the Union speech show themselves to be the empty and shallow spectacles that they are; offering to millions of viewers the feeling that “things will be alright” while across this society they are falling apart.
But as Obama touched in passing on the growing inequality in America; as the Democrats more broadly have done since the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements, their rhetoric obscures reality. Social inequality is growing and in part thanks to policies pushed and directed by both Democrats and Republicans; policies that have have stagnated wages, brought austerity to social programs, and unleashed a tide of financialization and deregulation that has led to a cycle of crisis, all the while the standard of living for millions of Americans has fallen.
This reality isn’t caused by an international conspiracy of Jews, the Illuminati, immigrant workers fleeing NAFTA, or a signal of Biblical end times: its caused by an economic system of capitalism, enforced by the governments of the world through massive violence, and made possible through an industrial civilization that is killing the planet.
— TheAngrySociologist (@SankofaBrown) January 13, 2016
And despite the rosy picture painted by Obama, the daily life of many Americans has gotten worse over the last 8 years, not better. For instance, one recent study found that around 56% of Americans have less than $1,000 to their name. In a recent Pew Research study, the once solid American “middle-class” has been shrinking in the past years since the economic crisis in 2007-8. In larger cities, people are getting rich, but it isn’t everyday workers – it’s the super-rich and upper-middle class. Development and gentrification is driving thousands from their homes while homelessness, poverty, and drug use soars. Also, this ‘recovery’ is only a come back in certain areas and for certain people. As Esquire wrote:
[W]hile the larger economy has steadily recovered from the Great Recession, the gains have not yet surfaced at the local level. Another study reports that just 65 of the 3,069 counties in the U.S. have fully recovered from the near-collapse in 2008. But it also speaks to the enduring effect of decades of wage stagnation, when many Americans’ pay has not kept up with inflation and they have been left further and further behind.
But while the working and middle class in the US has been attacked across the board in the last several decades, regardless of which party is in office, the effects have also had a very real racial component as well, with African-American and Latino families hit the hardest. At the same time, the government has responded to poverty and unemployment in major urban areas with mass incarceration, “law and order” and “broken windows” policing which has lead to the deaths of literally thousands of people, and border militarization and mass deportations of Latino workers.
Despite Obama’s “hope,” or the Left’s vision of a more “socialist” capitalism offered by Sanders, there are signs that another financial crisis lies just around the corner. As Patrick Martin wrote:
The so-called “recovery” has been a bonanza for corporate profits, stock prices, and the wealth and income of the super-rich. For the working people who are the vast majority of the population, it has been a disaster.
By most social indices, the American people are worse off in January 2016 than when Obama took office seven years ago. The real wages of working people have fallen, social services have deteriorated, pension benefits have been gutted, and cities such as Detroit and San Bernardino have been forced into bankruptcy.
On Friday, Walmart announced that it will close 269 stores, 154 of them in the US, and eliminate 16,000 jobs. The Walmart statement, coming on the heels of multi-store closure announcements by Macy’s and Sears-Kmart, highlighted the worsening slowdown in the real economy globally and in the US that underlies the turbulence on stock and bond markets. It also reflected the reality of falling wages and mounting income insecurity affecting broad layers of the US population.
[I]n the US and the other older industrialized countries, there has been a sharp decline in business investment in the productive forces. Instead, the vast profits of banks and corporations have gone largely to parasitic activities such as stock buybacks, dividend increases and mergers and acquisitions.
Earlier this week, Albert Edwards, a strategist at Societe Generale, told an investment conference in London that global economic developments would “push the US back into recession.” Predicting that there will be a new financial crisis “every bit as bad as 2008-2009,” he noted, “We have seen massive credit expansion in the US. This is not for real economic activity; it is borrowing to finance share buybacks.”
Now, with China slowing rapidly, Brazil and Russia in deep recessions, and the other emerging market economies sinking under the impact of falling commodity prices and rising debt, the inherently unstable financial house of cards is beginning to collapse.
In the meantime, industrial civilization continues to approach meltdown in a real way, as more and more cities are rocked by drought, horrific weather patterns due to global warming, poisoned water, and more. But in the midst of all this, grabbing headlines in the last few weeks has not been an autonomous social force that is anti-capitalist, but instead a group of far-Right members of various Patriot and militia movement groups who have taken over a wildlife refugee in eastern Oregon outside of the small town of Burns.
In the face of the Bundy occupation, the Left has largely ignored poverty stricken white communities and laughs at the current occupation with hashtags of #yallqaeda and #yeehadas. Meanwhile, what has the Left done? By and large it has consolidated itself in big cities into non-profits, NGOs, and paid union leadership. Meanwhile, the far-Right has been hard at work organizing and building dual-power in these areas; setting up separate courts and police services in rural Oregon under the leadership of groups like the 3%ers and Oathkeepers. Meanwhile, these groups are pushing an extreme right, racist, anti-immigrant, and pro-capitalist agenda. For instance, the calls to “open up” public lands to private interests (ranching, mining, logging, etc) appeals to many poor and working-class rural whites because it comes with it the prospect of jobs.
Across the US, it’s in this reality that the autonomous far-Right is attempting to gain a foothold, especially through the Trump campaign, much as they did during the farm foreclosure crisis in the 70s and 80s with groups (which helped give birth to the current Patriot movement) such as Possee Comitatus, which promoted a Neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic world view. In the mainstream, the Republican party feeds off this autonomous base, and pushes to attack the poor and working-class at every angle. From pledging to cut food stamps, to destroying unions, to speaking out against the raising of the minimum wage. These attacks mean disaster for all of the poor and working-class: white, black, brown, red, and yellow.
As anarchists and autonomous anti-capitalists, we have to remember our history not only in North America, but also across the world. Historically, the power of our forces was not just based in urban industrial areas, but also in rural, agricultural ones. From Mexico, to Spain, to Korea, to the Ukraine. In the US, groups worked to organize rural workers in the timber industry and in the fields regardless of the color, all in the face of racism and against groups such as the KKK. In recent history, we’ve went up against everything from Mountain Top Removal to the effects of meth addiction in rural areas. But our work is just beginning.
In that spirit, let’s get to the news.
Mexico on Fire
As we briefly mentioned in last week’s round up, violent riots which injured 66 police officers broke out in Oxchuc, Chiapas, after police tried to clear people from a municipal building. One report read:
The dispute for power in Oxchuc between the mayor and the local deputy, Cecilia López Sánchez, also of the PVEM, intensified with the burning of the city hall two days before the mayor would take possession of the office on last October 1, for the second time in less than 15 years.
For the last three months, hundreds of Sánchez Gómez opponents have held marches and carried out roadblocks to demand her dismissal and the formation of a municipal council, with the argument that she divides the population and benefits from her position as mayor that her husband Norberto Sántiz López had. After different proposals, state authorities called the dissidents to a meeting in this city last Friday to deal with the theme, but the 38 members of the commission were detained by the police.
Rosales Acuña explained that after the detention, which occurred after noon on Friday, hundreds of Oxchuc indigenous blocked the highway that communicates this city with Ocosingo and Palenque, at the place of the municipal headquarters. They took possession of a tractor-trailer and two buses and blocked a street to impede the passage of state police vehicles. He added that at night more than 500 police entered the municipal capital, which led to the confrontation with sticks, stones, machetes and other objects. “We have 66 injured, between state and municipal police who resisted the aggressors’ attack for more than three hours, after they found out that their leaders had been arrested,” he assured.
He reported that only eight of the agents were hospitalized, of which two are “delicate” and were moved to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. “They were injured with rockets, Molotov cocktails, sticks, stones and other objects.” He expressed that before, during and after the confrontation, the dissidents set fire to three State Preventive Police trucks, two small trucks of the Trustworthy Police and two buses belonging to commercial lines, besides damaging a tractor-trailer. He stated that they vandalized 15 houses, among them that of the municipal president and of the Indigenous Peace and Conciliation Judge, Rogelio Sántiz López, who together with two of his sons remained held this evening.
A gathering of indigenous people’s from Chiapas and Oaxaca recently took place in Southern Mexico, bringing together people from across the long contested Chimalapas territory to discuss various struggles against environmental destruction and displacement. One report stated:
January 11, a communal assembly in which those in solidarity could hear the position of the people and understand the problem facing them. With the presence of several villages of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, we glimpsed the strengthening of ties in the defense of territories and the problem of dispossession of indigenous lands lies not only in Chiapas and Veracruz by cattle barons and other caciques (sell-outs), who not only want the wood source of enrichment sawmill companies, but also water, oxygen, wind, land and gold, the wealth of this system of accumulation by dispossession. Here precisely lies the problem that has attacked indigenous peoples since the beginning of colonization. So the fight is the same for the people who defend life, dignity and mother earth.
People associated with the group, Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth Defense Front:
…denounced the illegal imposition of the Naucalpan-Toluca highway project, by Enrique Peña Nieto and the Higga Group, through the company Teya SA. According to them, the project will devastate close to 4 million square miles of Sacred Forest. They also denounced the constant assaults on the community by the State which include political imprisonment, persecution, attacks, death threats, military encirclement of the community and the continuation of the works despite two injunctions that force the company to stop work.
We call upon indigenous and peasant communities, students, teachers, women’s organizations and in general to groups of Mexico and the world, to speak out against ecocide in San Francisco Xochicuautla.
December 23 marked ten months since the forced displacement of the inhabitants of the village of Primero de Agosto, who are still receiving threats to this day. In a public statement they made known the latest acts of harassment, which happened between December 28, 2015, and January 5, 2016. On at least three occasions, their encampment was approached by ejidatarios (communal landholders) from Miguel Hidalgo and members of the organization Historical Independent Centre of Agricultural Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC-H) in order to threaten the inhabitants. They fired shots at ten metres and on January 5 “C. Carmelino Pérez López forced down, tried to physically injure and threatened to kill and kidnap” one of the representatives of the inhabitants. According to the statement, regarding the people in general, the man said ” […] go and tell your compañeros or whoever that if you don’t accept what we want and what the government says, we will kill you, your father, your representatives […] and for the ejidatarios that are with you…let it be clear that one of these days we will enter to evict them, we will rape their wives and all the women who are in their plastics [plastic makeshift tents] and we will rob your homes like we did the last time, we have weapons of all calibres, we have grenade launchers.”
The use of paramilitaries against the indigenous population fighting for their land has a long history. One recent report writes:
The Indigenous population near the town of Tila in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas say they will not stop fighting for their land to be returned to them, even when faced with violence and intimidation from paramilitary groups.
Fernando Camacho reported Thursday that tension was mounting in the town of Tila as the Chol Indigenous community continue to fight for their land in the face of the growing presence of paramilitary groups. “We live in fear because many masked paramilitaries entered here and the population could not go out into the streets because we had to be careful,” one Chol community member told teleSUR. According to the Chol community, some 130 hectares of land was illegally taken from them three decades ago in order to create the municipality of Tila. They argue this is a violation of their rights.
When the community “started to raise their voices for the return of their land, irregular armed groups began to appear,” reported Camacho, adding that paramilitaries have acted in violent ways to fix problems in the community that local authorities failed to resolve. “Historically in Chiapas, paramilitary groups have been the means of counterinsurgency used by the state government, with the endorsement of the federal government obviously, to deal with conflicts in the region and to support the argument that they are conflicts between communities,” Magdalena Gomez, a specialist on indigenous issues in the region, told teleSUR.
The latter, added Gomez, was one tactic used by the government to explain the massacre in 1997 in the nearby town of Acteal. Paramilitaries entered the town and killed 45 men, women and children, in what authorities said was a conflict between communities. The same climate of confrontation and threats exists in Tila today…
Ash J reports from Mask Magazine:
On January 3, one day after the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) celebrated their 22nd anniversary, 12 members of the EZLN’s The Other Campaign were bagged by police in Morelos, Mexico. The Other Campaign is a group of EZLN supporters who aim to build connections between the EZLN and grassroots groups across Mexico in order to fight neoliberalism. The 12 EZLN supporters were stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint who insisted on conducting a “routine” search. The 12 people called their comrades for support while the soldiers called for police backup. The police then violently arrested the 12 Other Campaign members, paraded themthrough nearby communities, and detained them in the town of Jojutla. Three of the arrested were minors and were soon released, but the other nine remain locked up. The Other Campaign claims that this incident is one of many instances of Mexico security forces harassing them.
Puerto Rican Statues Vandalized
According to War Against All Puerto Ricans:
The statues of four former presidents of the United States were recently smeared with red paint, and the word “Assassins” was painted on the sidewalk in front of them, in a public park in San Juan. Herbert Hoover, Teddy Roosevelt, and two other US presidents now have blood red eyes, foreheads, cheeks and stomachs. Three individuals were accused of painting the presidents.
Paseo de los Presidentes was built at a cost of $987,000 on Constitution Avenue, on the south side of the Capitol Building of Puerto Rico. According to Senator José R. Nadal Power, in whose district thePaseo is located, the painting of the presidents is an outrage and “all protests and expressions must occur within the limits of legality and respect.”
Senator Nadal Power is technically correct. But the painting of the presidents is also an early warning signal. A storm is growing in Puerto Rico. A profound sense of outrage, and historical injustice, is mounting throughout the island. At some point, this outrage will boil over. The painting of the US presidents is one of the early and milder signs, of the storm that will follow. In fact, it will be more than a storm. It will be a tropical hurricane. Try as they may, the US will not be able to ignore it.
Members of the West Valley Phoenix Antifa group successfully stopped a group of racists from harassing day laborers trying to find work. They have more actions planned and we wish them well. This is exactly the kind of activity that builds bonds and cuts to the heart of the anti-working class nature of white supremacy. A report from social media reads:
Phoenix anti fascists with West Valley Phoenix Antifa organized to confront racists harassing a day laborer boycott at a Walmart in Phoenix, AZ. About 20 ANTIFA stood between the boycott solidarity demo and 20 armed, angry bikers. The racists were unable to get near the day laborers for the duration of the rally.
We kept the bikers and white supremacists at bay and they never made the goal of getting “their” corner back. They’re growing in numbers and audacity though so we’re looking for more support. If you’ve got three hours to spare on a Saturday morning, come on out and show these bigots what’s up! Solidarity with the trabajadores!
Elsewhere, Rose City Antifa reports that Jacob Albert Laskey is out of jail for the 2002 neo-Nazi attack against the Beth Israel synagogue and is looking to rebuild the third positionist fascist group, American Front (AF). They report:
Jacob Albert Laskey, the ringleader of a 2002 neo-Nazi attack against the Temple Beth Israel synagogue in Eugene, Oregon, has been released from federal prison and has promptly returned to white power organizing on the outside.
In particular, Laskey is trying to rebuild the American Front, a bonehead (racist “skinhead”) organization that has fallen into disarray in recent years. Laskey states that he was released from prison on October 13, 2015. Soon afterward, Laskey established a major online presence and began to network with other neo-Nazis. On November 28, Laskey stated on Twitter that he had been on “GPS home confinement”–instead of living at a halfway house–since the day before. (Laskey still appears on the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator, with a release date of January 12, 2016–presumably when Laskey is no longer under reentry program supervision.) Laskey gives his current location as Medford, Oregon.
Disturbingly, one of the people Laskey is now in networking with is Christopher Vertrice Lord. Lord, who currently lives in Idaho and plays in the racist musical project Beer Hall Putsch, was convicted of an earlier 1994 rifle attack on Temple Beth Israel while Lord was living in Oregon and affiliated with the American Front.
Like with the campaigns for Barry Goldwater, Pat Buchanan, and George Wallace, White Nationalists have thrown their hats hard behind Trump. The Neo-Nazi outfit, the American Freedom Party (AFP), is currently doing robo calls and campaign work for Trump. As Idavox writes:
On Friday, the American Freedom Party, a White supremacist political party, announced in a press release that its chairman, William Johnson Johnson, via his newly-established American National Super PAC, began the campaign, urging Iowans to either caucus for the billionaire real estate developer or urge their Republican friends to do so. Johnson speaks in the robocall, calling himself “a farmer and a white nationalist,” and is also joined by Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance. “We don’t need Muslims,” he says in the call. “We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”
Taylor’s American Renaissance announced earlier in the week that its fifth conference at the Montgomery Bell Park Inn in Dickson, TN will take place May 20-22. In their announcement, Trump was cited as one source of hope for racist White people in the upcoming year “Donald Trump says what millions of Americans have thought for years–and is much too popular to be silenced,” the announcement read. “Ann Coulter’s Adios, America! sounds the alarm against Third-World immigration–and is a huge best-seller. An Alt Right of young, cocky pro-whites terrifies liberals and conservatives alike. And a Muslim invasion is giving new life to the European ‘extreme right.’”
In Baltimore, people also showed up to confront a group of neo-Confederates, but only a couple showed up. Check out these tweets:
— J. M. Giordano photo (@jmgpix) January 16, 2016
— The Real News (@TheRealNews) January 17, 2016
In Washington, DC, Native and migrant organizers protested the recent ICE raids ordered by Obama. According to DC Direct Action News:
On the 16th of January, migrants backed by Native American activists protested in front of the White House to demand not only and end to the recent terror wave of ICE raids, but all deportations. At the climax of the protest activists laid flowers around the borders of a cutout of the part of Turtle Island claimed by the US, saying” we are here because you’re there.” As this was done a long list of destructive US interventions in Latin America and the Middle East that generated migrants was read out.
Fight Against Gentrification
In big cities, the fight against gentrification continues. In San Francisco, a pastor was joined by friends and neighbors in an attempt to stop the Sheriffs from evicting him. Check out an audio report here. This lead to a standoff over the period of several days. One report reads:
Yul Dorn, a pastor, social worker, and lifelong Bayview resident, was supposed to be evicted this morning. About 50 activists, union members, and church members gathered to blockade his home on Las Villas Court and prevent sheriff’s deputies — bodily, though not violently — from removing Dorn and his family.
Meanwhile in Portland, hundreds of people took to the streets in protest of attacks on renters. During the march, several masked demonstrators tagged the county courthouse with anarchist and squatter graffiti.
— FireWorks (@FireWorksBAY) January 16, 2016
In Oakland, a group of people defaced the outer construction wall of what will be the new Uber HQ with graffiti, paint bombs and even a molotov cocktail. Flyers were left at the scene with the following text:
It’s what we hear all the time. It’s what our neighbors heard when their slumlord discovered he could triple their rent due to the increase of wealth bursting through the poor and working class communities of the greater Bay Area. It’s what our buddies heard when they were sentenced to years in Santa Rita for graffiti or some other petty shit. It’s what the city meant when they said yes to Uber, to the violently out-of-control housing market, to evictions and deportations and police-executions of black and brown people.
Uber is just one of the monsters threatening our homes and livelihoods. This action alone won’t stop all the brutal displacement and criminalization. But we hope it sparks a more persistent and unrelenting attack against these vicious capitalists.
Because we won’t be thrown out of the town without a fight.
In Washington, DC:
On the 9th of January, community activists defied the closure of McMillan Park to the public, holding an underground dance party in the man-made cave complex beneath the site. These caves will offer potent defense possibilies if in the future it becomes necessary to hold the park against bulldozers and condo development by physical occupation.
Class War in the USA
Teachers’ in Chicago have launched a sick-out for several days to protest the closure of close to 100 schools. According to Jerry White:
Educators in the city are protesting deplorable conditions in the schools, which have only worsened during six years of state-controlled emergency management, and the threatened bankruptcy of the school district by April. The sick-outs were launched independently of the DFT (Detroit Federation of Teachers), which has long collaborated with state and local officials in the attack on teachers’ jobs, wages and benefits, and in the diversion of public resources to for-profit charter school companies, testing firms and consultants. Since 1999, the membership of the DFT has fallen from 12,500 to 7,000 during the last teachers’ strike in 2006, to as few as 3,000 today.
Teachers were apprehensive about what they were going to hear from union officials but listened as the head of the DFT’s parent union, the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten [a close ally of President Obama], used a combination of false praise, lies and threats to dampen the resistance of teachers. Weingarten flew in from her Washington, DC headquarters to contain the insurgent teachers’ movement, which has both encouraged and given expression to the growing mood of social protest among educators and far broader sections of the working class.
— David Chiarelli (@davidchiarelli) January 16, 2016
Sensing the rebellious mood of the audience, Weingarten and other officials suggested that the union might call for a strike authorization vote, but not at the current meeting. All of this was empty rhetoric. The AFT and its local affiliates have all but banned strikes. Teachers at the Detroit meeting were increasingly restive as union officials outlined a bogus campaign of TV ads, toothless protests at the Detroit International Auto Show and social media campaigns. As complaints grew louder, Weingarten began shouting at teachers at the microphone.
“They say they have no money. But this is a city with professional sports teams spending millions on players and with billionaires like Mike Ilitch and Dan Gilbert. Earley is getting paid $300,000 and each of his staff members $100,000 but there is nothing to teachers and aides. I know one first grade teacher who is going to have 40 kids in her room when they combine classes.
“The rank and file should have rose up long ago. I’m from the old breed when we would go on strike every three years. The union stopped that. But we have a new breed coming up who are not going to take this, whether they are teachers or autoworkers.”
In San Francisco:
— OccupyBayAreaUnited (@OccBayAreaUtd) January 11, 2013
— OccupyBayAreaUnited (@OccBayAreaUtd) January 11, 2013
Meanwhile, people in Oakland protested a fast food giant to reinstate a fired worker:
— Occupy Oakland (@OccupyOakland) January 16, 2016
— Sassmaster Deane (@sassmasterdeane) January 16, 2016
— Dave Id (@DaveId) January 16, 2016
Flint Water Meltdown
On Wednesday, just one day after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder mobilized the National Guard in response to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, he was forced to admit that ten Flint residents had died as a result of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease likely linked to the city’s contaminated drinking water.
Those deaths are in addition to the 9,000 children likely to have been put at risk for lead poisoning. Even small exposures of children to lead can permanently lower intelligence and academic achievement, and the effects cannot be corrected.
— R. Saddler ????? (@Politics_PR) January 16, 2016
The city’s spiraling public health disaster is the result of its move in April 2014 to draw its drinking water from the Flint River, after the Detroit water department demanded higher rates in the aftermath of the Detroit bankruptcy. The Flint River, having been used as a dumping ground for chemicals by local industry for decades, was widely known to be polluted, but state-appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley argued that a cost savings of $5 million over two years—to be passed on to the city’s creditors on Wall Street—justified the move.
As peopled protest, the Democrats said the water in Detroit was ok to drink:
Democratic Party officials declared that the water was safe in the face of mounting protests by residents. Throughout early 2015, city officials even falsified the results of tapwater tests in order to downplay the presence of lead. On Tuesday, the Detroit News reported that the US Environmental Protection Agency had indications as early as February that drinking water in the city of Flint was contaminated, but took no action to inform the population, even as state and local officials sought to publicly reassure residents that the water was safe to drink.
A look at Flint, the birthplace of General Motors, tells a different tale. In 1978, the city employed 80,000 autoworkers. Today, this figure stands at about 5,000. Flint has an official poverty rate of 40.1 percent, making it the second-most poverty-stricken city of its size in America, behind Youngstown, Ohio, another former icon of American industry.
A staggering two-thirds of the city’s children live in poverty, 10 percentage points higher than Detroit, America’s poorest large city. To an extent even greater than Detroit, the city’s population has dwindled and most of its historic buildings have either been demolished or stand vacant.
— Judy Stone (@DrJudyStone) January 9, 2016
Even as government officials were forced to admit the scale of the disaster taking place in Flint, teachers in Detroit were engaged in a mass sick-out in defiance of their union that closed 60 schools, protesting dismal school conditions that left buildings covered in dangerous mold with huge gaps in flooring and no heat.
The conditions in Flint and Detroit reveal the reality behind the Obama administration’s claims of an “economic recovery” in America’s manufacturing cities, and the triumphal assertions by politicians and the media that the bankruptcy of Detroit—which sold off city assets to speculators and slashed the pensions of municipal workers and retirees—has brought about an economic turnaround.
About 200 activists protested outside Flint City Hall on January 8th against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s inadequate handling of the city’s water crisis. Many activists called for Rick Snyder to resign or face criminal charges for his role in the administration that switched the water source for the city to the Flint River, then stayed silent when presented with evidence that the new water had toxic levels of lead in the water — over 900 times the EPA limit according to some estimates.
Now, a new fear has risen among residents of Flint, Michigan, who have been dealing with lead tainted water since 2014. A recent rise of Legionella or “Legionnaires’ Disease” has produced 87 cases of the disease, 10 of which were fatal in Genesee County.
The rare disease has been linked to poor management of water filtration systems and infrastructure, and the rise in cases came after Genesee County switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River for the city’s water supply. The money-saving move initially led to a spike of lead poisoning in children.
According to MTV, as of last week, 11 people had already been killed by police in 2016 and The Guardian reports that 26 people have as of this writing. If these numbers are correct, then that means that police are continuing to kill about 1.5 people per day.
Cherese Jackson reported on the growing ‘culture of violence’ within the Chicago police:
The men in blue have embraced a culture of learned and socially transmitted customs and behavior of expectations about how people in the community should act in relation to law enforcement. Reportedly, people fear the men in blue more than they fear the high volume of gang activity dominating Chicago’s streets…a large group of members within this “secret society” share common beliefs, language, and values. Just as in traditional gangs, members hold specific statuses and are expected to fulfill the designated roles. The Chicago Police Department has long been at odds with the community. The Chicago men in blue have a history of violations; between 2004 and 2013 they reportedly paid more than $500 million in police settlements.
In 2015, according to the New York Times, more than 99 percent of all complaints from civilians against Chicago men in blue have resulted in no disciplinary action to the accused officer. Civilians filed over 28,000 complaints against the CPD between 2011 and 2015. During this time, 97 percent of the complaints resulted in no action taken. The officer who killed Laquan McDonald, firing 16 shots at the victim, was previously the subject of at least 18 complaints from civilians but had never received any discipline.
The police department assigned to govern Chicago also operates an off-the-books interrogation compound which, according to lawyers, is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site. This nondescript facility is a warehouse on the west side of the city known as Homan Square. It has long been the home of secretive work by special police units. Victims who have been taken to the facility have complained of being denied access to basic constitutional rights “while unjustly held hostage.” However, the CPD has denied that Homan Square was home to any unusual or illegal behavior.
Police are now using a new form of technology that assesses a person’s potential for violence, much like the “pre-crime” technology already being used by some police departments. According to the Washington Post:
While officers raced to a recent 911 call about a man threatening his ex-girlfriend, a police operator in headquarters consulted software that scored the suspect’s potential for violence the way a bank might run a credit report. The program scoured billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social- media postings. It calculated his threat level as the highest of three color-coded scores: a bright red warning.
The man had a firearm conviction and gang associations, so out of caution police called a negotiator. The suspect surrendered, and police said the intelligence helped them make the right call — it turned out he had a gun.
As a national debate has played out over mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, a new generation of technology such as the Beware software being used in Fresno has given local law enforcement officers unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, ensure the safety of officers and the public, find suspects, and crack open cases. They say that last year’s attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have only underscored the need for such measures.
But the powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists, who say they represent a troubling intrusion on privacy, have been deployed with little public oversight and have potential for abuse or error. Some say laws are needed to protect the public.
What’s more grim, is that it is entirely possible that such “threat assessments” will be later used in court in favor of police who shoot and kill people that they encounter. “It’s okay judge, not only did I fear for my life, they were a code red!”
Meanwhile, as the MLK weekend unfolded, people took to the streets against the police across the country. Once again, it’s important to see through the often radical rhetoric of many organizations to the liberal logic on display. But that doesn’t necessarily mean shit didn’t get disrupted:
No police presence so far as protestors shut down metro line against 2014 killing of Noah Aguilar pic.twitter.com/5tG62z60Tz
— Brittany Murray (@BrittanyMMurray) January 16, 2016
— call me FRESH (@IamParisFresh) January 16, 2016
— Dave Id (@DaveId) January 17, 2016
The campaign against Skanska, lead by No New Animal Labs held a variety of actions this weekend in NY. Here are some tweets:
— No New Animal Lab (@NoNewAnimalLab) January 16, 2016
— No New Animal Lab (@NoNewAnimalLab) January 12, 2016
Want another reason that technology is never a neutral tool? US government big-wigs have been meeting with corporate reps to find ways to better monitor things they don’t like online. Fusion writes:
They think the heads of tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and Google can do more to help them keep the world safe. And so counter-terrorism officials got tech executives to spend a day with them in San Jose last Friday. Among the topics on the agenda were consumers’ access to encrypted communications that aren’t easily intercepted by the government (a horse that’s so beaten to death that it’s been zombified) and a new idea posited by the policymakers: some kind of technological system that could detect, measure, and flag “radicalization.”
A terrorist-hunting algorithm isn’t a completely off-the-wall idea. Financial companies have proposed scanning Facebook postings to help determine people’s credit worthiness. There are already products for police departments that dole out “threat scores” to individuals based on scanning public social media activity and looking for key words; one police department’s use of a “beware algorithm” was recently revealed by the ACLU of Northern California.
What’s interesting is that looking past the “concerns” over drugs and ‘teen sexting’ is the references in police algorithms to #BlackLivesMatter protests. Check out this picture from Media Sonar, a company used by Fresno, police in California:
People with Facebook and the government have also wondered if a system of ‘flagging’ of radicals and terrorists can be found that will allow the government to be alerted. Other companies have also built data-bases on radical individuals.
It’s Going Down!
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