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Sep 24, 20

This Is America #126: PNW Prisoners in the Crosshairs, Symbiosis on Mutual Aid Fire Relief

Welcome, to This Is America, September 24th, 2020.

On this episode, we have a special report from Perilous Chronicle, about how prisoners are directly impacted by the climate change fueled wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. This audio report is based on an article on the unfolding situation, which can be read here.

Next up, we have an interview with the Portland chapter of Symbiosis, an autonomous anti-capitalist group organizing dual power programs and initiatives in the Pacific Northwest. In the wake of the spreading wildfires, the group began to organize mutual aid fire relief efforts along with a network for many other organizations. We speak about the growing mutual aid response in Portland, the size and scale of the efforts, and much more.

All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news!

Living and Fighting

The Atlantic is reporting that the Trump administration is planning on using the Supreme Court to ensure Trump’s victory in the 2020 election just as the President refused to agree that the transition of power following the election would be “peaceful.”

According to Forbes:

The Trump campaign is discussing potential strategies to circumvent the results of the 2020 election, should Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump, by first alleging the existence of rampant fraud and then asking legislators in battleground states where the Republicans have a legislative majority to bypass the state’s popular vote and instead to choose electors loyal to the GOP and the sitting president.

This would follow the Supreme Court [decision which] affirmed in Bush v. Gore that a state “can take back the power to appoint electors.”

The Atlantic report claims that sources in the Republican Party at the local and national levels confirm that “the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors” in red battleground states.

The Jefferson County grand jury has ruled that no officers will be directly charged in the killing of 26 year-old emergency room technician, Breonna Taylor, although officer Brett Hankison will be indicted for “wanton endangerment.” Six months ago, police shot and killed Taylor after blindly opening fire following, what many witnesses described, as a no-knock raid on her apartment, in an effort to apprehend two individuals sought on drug charges. Upon violently entering the apartment, Taylor’s boyfriend, a licensed gun owner, opened fire, believing the police to be intruders, which led police to open fire, killing Taylor. Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky Attorney General, stated in a press conference today that the use of force by the other two officers in the case was “justified.”

According to Democracy Now:

One of the officers being investigated, Sergeant Jon Mattingly, has defended his actions. In an email to 1,000 other officers, Mattingly wrote, “Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.” In the email, he also called protesters “thugs,” saying, “This is not an us against society, but it is good versus evil.”

In response to the verdict, hundreds took to the streets of Louisville and across the US in anger, as National Guard, far-Right paramiliary militias, and riot police were already staged in anticipation for a mass revolt. For a roundup of action in response to the verdict, check It’s Going Down.

Meanwhile in Portland, according to The Nation, DHS agents engaged in:

Cell phone cloning involves stealing a phone’s unique identifiers and copying them to another device in order to intercept the communications received by the original device. The former intelligence officials described it as part of a “Low Level Voice Intercept” operation, declining to go into further detail…

Meanwhile in other Portland news, antifascists in Eugene Antifa have made public a treasure trove of Facebook chats from an online “Patriot” group in the Pacific Northwest. The logs reveal the group’s open discussion of political assassination and plotting violence at demonstrations and in the lead up to the 2020 election.

According to Jason Wilson at The Guardian:

Leaked chat logs show Portland-area pro-Trump activists planning and training for violence, sourcing arms and ammunition and even suggesting political assassinations ahead of a series of contentious rallies in the Oregon city, including one scheduled for this weekend.

The chats on the GroupMe app, shared with the Guardian by the antifascist group Eugene Antifa, show conversations between Oregon members of the Patriots Coalition growing more extreme as they discuss armed confrontations with leftwing Portland activists, and consume a steady diet of online disinformation about protests and wildfires.

One poster talked about police cooperation with violent far-Right groups and advocated for the kind of night time attacks which Portland demonstrators saw play out several weeks ago, when pipe bombs were thrown at protesters in a park. In a quote from the chats, one person wrote:

“Yes, going after them at night is the solution… Like we do in other states, tactical ambushes at night while backing up the police are key. You get the leaders and the violent ones and the police are happy to shut their mouths and cameras.”

Also in the Pacific Northwest, police made arrests at a mutual aid distribution hub, set up to aid those displaced by recent fires. According to a GoFundMe page set up to support those arrested:

On September 22, 2020, the Medford Police Department arrested people who’ve been living and volunteering in Hawthorne Park since wildfires in the Rogue Valley displaced thousands. The arrests include camp residents, volunteers, and journalists.

Indigenous land defenders and accomplices shut down border wall construction along the so-called Arizona-Mexico border that threatens to destroy a sacred area. As the Washington Post reported:

The Indigenous O’odham protesters pushed past security to a construction site on the Arizona-Mexico border, temporarily halting machines from erecting steel panels through their ancestral homeland.

For five hours Monday in the blistering heat of the Sonoran Desert, they prayed, chanted and burned sage to protest the Trump administration’s efforts to put up a 30-foot wall through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument…

Officials with U.S. Border Patrol and the National Park Service repeatedly ordered the group to move, warning them the site was closed to the public. But when the protesters refused, armed federal agents knocked them to the ground, yanked them apart and drew stun guns in a confrontation caught on camera.

As the Trump administration blazes forward with efforts to build and expand border fencing at the U.S.-Mexico border, this week’s clash at Organ Pipe points to escalating efforts by Indigenous groups to protect their ancestral lands — and, with it, the increasingly aggressive response from the federal officials tasked with ensuring the wall gets built.

“I would call it an uprising,” [stated one organizer]. “This administration has given Indigenous people no choice but to take direct action to make their voices heard because they’ve been silenced in every other way.”

It’s Going Down

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