Coming Conflagration

First published on The Big Smoke.
June 30, 2021

If you need any more evidence that elected officials have no intention of giving anything more than lip service to actions necessary to mitigate climate change, you need look no further than the upcoming so-called Independence Day holiday in the United States.

Despite ongoing drought, record-breaking heat, and significant fire damage caused in prior years, they have done nothing to prevent the profitable sale of explosives (aka “fireworks”) to individuals who more than likely do not know how to use them safely and will detonate them while intoxicated.

As a brief respite begins from three record-shattering days of heat that buckled roads, shut down the Portland metropolitan transit system, sent more than 500 people to the hospital just in Multnomah County and killed at least 63 people statewide, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) banned firework usage “until further notice.”

However, this ban was announced three days before the holiday weekend starts, after people have already set off fireworks every night for a week, and includes no enforcement. (PF&R went so far as to dissuade people from calling 9-1-1 to report fireworks.) Nor does it include any restrictions on the very lucrative sales of fireworks. Those sales continue at a brisk pace and we all know that no one will purchase pyrotechnic devices and not blow them up.

Clark County, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, banned both the use and sale of fireworks. Until midnight on July 4. Those who live in (or adjacent to) states that allow untrained individuals to own and detonate incendiary equipment are very familiar with fireworks exploding until the wee hours of the morning July 4 as well as the weeks preceding and following the holiday. The best that can be expected from the Clark County ban will be fireworks commencing at midnight July 5.

PF&R apparently has more authority than other Oregon fire departments. Jurisdictions elsewhere in the Portland metropolitan area are merely begging people to find other ways to celebrate more safely. After numerous people already purchased their rockets and bombs currently available on every street corner, in every grocery shop, at every discount store.

Nearly 90 percent of the American West is under drought conditions. More than three-fourths of Oregon entered May in some stage of drought. And yet, nothing was done in the months leading up to this utterly predictable situation to prevent the coming conflagration.

In 2020, from June 23 through July 6, fireworks started 44 fires in the City of Portland. The 2020 California El Dorado Fire, started by fireworks used at a “gender reveal” party, burned 22,680 acres starting in El Dorado Park near Yucaipa. Fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires reported to local U.S. fire departments in 2018 causing five deaths, 46 serious injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage. In 2017, a 15-year-old boy igniting fireworks during a burn ban started the Eagle Creek Fire, which ravaged nearly 48,000 acres on both sides of the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon and caused millions of dollars in damages.

Over and over, U.S. citizens prove they are not capable of safely handling fireworks–sacrificing fingers, eyes, and homes to explode rockets and grenades in their driveways. Yet, no one is brave enough to shut down the industry and eliminate the profits. Even in states such as Oregon which ban some more dangerous fireworks, people just drive across the river to acquire the more deadly explosives available in Washington.

I wrote this poem in 2015. No one would publish it (although it was accepted in 2017, that publication went under before this was published) until Portland Metrozine included it in the Summer 2019 issue. It was rejected almost 200 times. Unfortunately, denial doesn’t change facts.

Forgotten

Fire sweeps across the west,
burning fields, forests,
houses, and boats.

Drought parches farmland from
Pacific coastal
states to Rockies.

Seas rise, encroaching on
beaches, putting the
islands at risk.

Storms tear through our cities
during fall, winter,
summer, and spring.

Yet still those in power
deny climate change
even exists.

At best they’ll blame nature,
claim humans are not
responsible.

They refute the data,
ignore evidence
of their own eyes.

And so we’ve reached the point
of no return, when
we can’t survive.

The planet will continue
happier without
such parasites.

All that we’ve taken, we’ve
built, we’ve learned, soon will
be forgotten.

Voices of the Unheard

First published on The Big Smoke.
June 16, 2021

June. Midsummer. Pride Month. And, for many jurisdictions, the month to pass an annual budget.

Overwhelmingly, those budgets prove that elected officials do not listen when they invite their constituents to attend “hearings” about how they should spend taxpayers’ money. We saw it in their faces on Zoom. We watched them turning off cameras, eating their lunch, sending texts, driving, or, in the ultimate message about how much value they put on their constituents’ opinions, relieving themselves.

“They don’t listen. They just nod.”

Photo of a laptop computer with a zoom meeting, faces blurred, on the screen. A ceramic coffee mug sits next to the keyboard. The back of a chair, matching distressed dining room table, is visible behind the cup.This month, city after city and county after county are following the example set by the U.S. government and even the most “progressive” states when approving their budgets. Either they have unconditionally retreated or completely circumvented any political promises to protesters that they would reduce police funding. They continue to pour billions of dollars–often at the expense of key government programs, mental health services, education, housing, etc.–into the always gaping, never appeased, maw of police/sheriff/trooper budgets to the benefit of almost no one except those wearing the uniforms/badges.

In Minneapolis, where the city council promised to replace the police department with a public safety department after a cop, with three others watching, murdered George Floyd, voted instead to spend $6.4 million to hire dozens of officers  while the police chief coordinated with public relations professionals to protect his budget.

In the U.S. Congress, the so-called George Floyd Act, which would not have saved George Floyd’s life, hands $750 million more to police. “Protesters have been demanding to defund the police to keep us safe; not spend millions of dollars to investigate how we die. We know how we die–the police.”

In cities around the world, millions of people took to the streets over the summer to protest police brutality and abuse. Across the United States, hundreds of municipal, county, and state governments held hearings during which thousands of people demanded they stop militarizing law enforcement (which neither reduces crime nor increases officer safety) and slash police budgets.

Every single elected body then ignored their constituents to one degree or another. Instead, they listened to the lies pushed by slave patrols police officials and the associations that represent them about how they cannot provide what they call public safety without more funds and complete immunity for the crimes they commit while on duty.

Except police define “public safety” as protecting property owned by the wealthy, the corporations, the privileged. As anyone who does not fit into those categories and has had their house burgled, their car stolen, their wallet/identify lifted will report, the police do nothing to prevent or solve the crimes they are victims of. Those who are beaten, raped, murdered–even when the police are not the ones committing the offenses–rarely receive assistance from cops. Police certainly do not prevent any of those crimes. They often enable them by ignoring complaints of violence committed by white people against those who have dark skin, speak a foreign language, wear religious clothing, are not straight, etc.

At best, the cops might arrest someone after someone has been crippled, traumatized, killed; coerce a confession from them; and close the case. Whether or not the person arrested was the actual perpetrator does not matter much to them. Especially if that person is Black, brown, or Indigenous; houseless; consumed drugs at any time in their life; shoplifted groceries when they were hungry; painted some graffiti art; or once got a speeding ticket. Those demographics and behaviors make anyone arrested for any reason a criminal who should be locked up for life according to cops who routinely consume drugs stolen from suspects and evidence rooms, pilfer millions of dollars from innocent civilians through forfeiture, vandalize vehicles at protests and through malicious traffic stops, ignore all traffic laws, and commit a multitude of other crimes.

And the refusal of elected and appointed officials to listen to their constituents is not limited to police funding. A few examples:

  • The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), ignoring all data proving that building more freeways does not decrease traffic congestion and tolling the highway creates traffic problems on surface streets, is pushing both agendas despite the objections of everyone in the city of Portland (except, of course, the contractors and developers who stand to make millions). Meanwhile, people continue to die on Portland streets classified as state highways that “ODOT refuses to fix with basic safety measures”.
  • Missouri lawmakers, claiming “voters didn’t understand the potential cost”, are sabotaging a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution which would have given thousands of low-income adults access to health insurance.
  • In Florida, voters passed a constitutional amendment aimed at allowing felons who have served their sentences to vote. Lawmakers immediately circumvented voters by requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations” before their rights could be restored. In addition, Florida Republicans are now trying to prevent ballot-initiative drives by restricting fundraising capabilities.
  • People in the three-county (Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas) Portland metropolitan area demanded transit police be defunded and that money used to eliminate fares. Instead, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office took command of TriMet’s Transit Police after Portland Police Bureau participation was withdrawn by the city council.
  • Idaho voters passed a ballot initiative to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Not only did Idaho’s legislators attempt to prevent state residents from receiving benefits, in retribution they also worked to curtail the ballot initiative process.
  • South Dakota state legislators repealed voter-approved restrictions on campaign finance and lobbying.
  • Sheriffs in 20 of Washington’s 39 counties are refusing to enforce restrictions on access to and use of so-called assault weapons which were overwhelmingly approved by voters.
  • State legislators in Utah overhauled both medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion bills drafted and supported by voters.
  • After collecting hours upon hours of video showing that Portland Police routinely and brutally attack peaceful protesters and journalists with weapons of war (attacks which have already resulted in at least one settlement with the city with multiple additional lawsuits filed) and numerous complaints about “peace police” telling other protesters how they should behave, the city of Portland decided to spend thousands of dollars on “conflict resolution training for…the protesters”.

Since voters making their opinions known via the ballot box, initiative petitions, and public “hearings” are getting between elected officials and their donors, the obvious solution for elected officials is to eliminate the ability of many of those people to vote. Almost 400 voter suppression bills have been put before legislatures in all but two of the “united” states just this year.

Those elected officials have made it clear that it does not matter to them what the vast majority of citizens wants. They are elected to represent a small minority dedicated to sustaining white supremacy and the privileges it grants them. Clinging to power, the wealthy, the corporations, the privileged, and their elected toadies will do everything to retain it.

Voting, testifying at public hearings, initiatives, petitions, and letter writing campaigns will not change that.

“There are many in our community that want to pretend last year did not happen,” Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty told a group of protesters memorializing George Floyd on May 22, 2021. “That it was a bad dream … and they just want to wake up and go back to normal. I refuse to go back to an unjust normal.”

It is going to be a very long, very hot summer.

If I Were Police Commissioner

First published on The Big Smoke.
May 12, 2021

Last week, Civil Rights advocate Zakir Khan asked “If you were the Police Commissioner of the Portland Police Bureau what would be your first move?”

My answer wouldn’t fit in a tweet because I’ve thought quite a bit about the ramifications of municipalities negotiating contracts with so-called police unions that, in reality, should be classified as hate groups. Other than contract negotiations, these associations actually have nothing in common with the labor unions that police actively engage in attacking. And these associations consistently put Black, Indigenous, and other non-white people in danger by protecting racist officers, advocating reinstatement of criminal cops removed for cause, and fighting even miniscule reforms through lobbying and lawsuits.

Photo of the chest and arms of a person wearing a long-sleeved blue dress shirt writing on a multi-page document with black and gold pen.If I were police commissioner (of any municipality), my “first move” would be immediate cancellation of contract negotiations with whatever association represents officers, such as the Portland Police Association (PPA), the oldest association of law enforcement officers in the United States. Instead, I would have a contract written and offered to all members of that organization on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Anyone who didn’t sign it by the current contract’s expiration date (June 30, 2021, in Portland) would no longer be employed as a police officer.

This would have one of two results:

  1. The possibility of meaningful reform and a police force that actually served and protected all citizens of any municipality that applied this option, or
  2. All members of that police force quitting.

Either option is a win for the city budget, the citizenry, and especially for those who are routinely harassed, injured, and murdered by police.

What would this fantasy contract include?

  • Total elimination of qualified immunity by requiring that all police officers to agree to take personal responsibility for all actions performed while on duty including, but not limited to, payment of any settlements or judgments for wrongful death, denial of civil liberties, inappropriate use of force, false arrest, etc.
  • All police employees must reside within the municipality for which they work. For example, all Portland Police officers, more than 80 percent of whom currently live out of town and out of state, must reside within the city of Portland. Any employees living outside the city who wish to retain their employment would have one year to relocate.
  • All police officers, including those currently employed, must receive training from social service and mental health professionals in de-escalation techniques and other ways to stop a crime in progress without resorting to force. Any officer who does not demonstrate proficiency in these techniques would be put on probation until that is rectified. Any use of force when de-escalation was an option would be grounds for termination and revocation of police certification.
  • Attendance at any workshop that teaches ambivalence regarding use of force, “killology”, or an equivalent philosophy justifying/mitigating police injuring and murdering civilians, will result in immediate dismissal and revocation of certification.
  • All police officers, including those currently employed, must receive a thorough and complete education in systemic racism, colonialism, and white supremacy taught only by individuals who have suffered under those paradigms and who are paid adequately to develop and teach appropriate curricula. To continue employment, officers must prove they understand the consequences of systemic racism, colonialism, and white supremacy in the United States and their state/city of residence for those who are not white, straight, cis, native born, Christians speaking English as their first language. Any evidence of prejudice and bigotry on the part of an officer will be grounds for immediate termination and revocation of certification.
  • All police officers, including those currently employed, must receive a thorough and complete education in the difference between consensual sex work and human trafficking taught only by current or former sex workers who are paid adequately to develop and teach appropriate curricula. To continue employment, officers must prove they understand the difference between consensual sex work and human trafficking including trafficking for domestic and agricultural labor.
  • All police officers, including those currently employed, must receive a thorough and complete education in types of neurodivergence taught only by qualified psychologists and individuals on the spectrum who are paid adequately to develop and teach appropriate curricula. To continue employment, officers must prove they understand the difference between the behavior of someone on the spectrum, someone who has other mental health diagnoses, and someone who is using drugs.
  • All weapons must be registered, including those personally owned by officers. Any officer found in possession of any unregistered weapon will immediately be terminated and their certification revoked.
  • All munitions, including those classified as “less than lethal” must be strictly accounted for and their use documented and justified with verifiable facts.
  • No current police officers will be eligible to continue employment if they meet any of the grounds for termination listed below at any time, past, present, or future.
  • Membership or participation in any group that espouses white supremacy, nationalism, racism, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and/or misogynistic sentiments and/or disparagement of any religion (including but not limited to Indigenous religions, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Paganism) will be grounds for immediate dismissal. This includes posting any information supporting any of those attitudes to social media. No one with any involvement in any group designated as a hate group will be eligible for employment in any capacity by the police force.
  • Any police officer who injures or kills an individual will immediately be placed on unpaid leave; required to surrender their weapons, uniform, badge, and police certification; and restricted from interaction with the public until the case is investigated and resolved. The officer will be required to answer questions about the event within 24 hours and may only be accompanied to that interrogation by their attorney. No other police officer or representative of any organization may participate on behalf of the officer in any questioning. Investigations will always be conducted by an outside body such as the citizen review board.
  • If an officer is found to have caused harm to an individual without being able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they did so to protect their life or the life of another, that officer will be terminated, their police certification permanently revoked, and they will be required to stand trial for any and all crimes committed. While it is possible that such an officer may not be found guilty of any criminal offense, they will never again be allowed to work as a police officer or carry a weapon and they will be liable for any civil penalties resulting from their actions
  • Any police officer found to be in violation of any department standards or policies on or off duty will immediately be terminated and their certification revoked.
  • Any police officer convicted for any criminal offense on or off duty, including DUI, will immediately be terminated and their certification revoked.
  • Police officers convicted of more than two moving traffic violations per year, or more than five in total, will be terminated and their certification revoked.
  • Any traffic enforcement officer who neglects to ticket a police officer will be terminated and their certification revoked.
  • Any police officer who witnesses any crime committed by any other officer, does nothing to prevent an officer from causing harm, and/or does not immediately report the criminal/harmful activity to their superior will be considered an accessory. They can be criminally charged as an accessory, terminated for aiding and abetting a criminal, and liable for any civil penalties assessed by a court of law.
  • Armed police officers will only respond to calls involving actual threats to human life and safety. No armed officers would engage in:
    • traffic enforcement
    • enforcement of drug possession or prostitution laws
    • answering calls about an individual experiencing a mental health crisis (unless there is a credible and confirmed evidence the individual is threatening to use a lethal weapon)
    • property damage and theft
    • protest response
    • directing traffic
    • harassing/arresting houseless individuals who have not committed any offense unrelated to not having a home (e.g., sleeping on the street, camping in the park, food preparation in public)
  • Any citizen complaints about inappropriate behavior, harmful actions, and/or abuse by a police officer including, but not limited to, domestic violence, threats, coercion, animal abuse, and racial harassment, will be investigated by a citizen review board with the power to determine appropriate discipline including unpaid leave, additional education, and termination of a police officer for violation of department standards, policies, city code, and/or state and federal laws. Any police officer terminated by the citizen review board will also have their certification revoked.
  • This citizen review board also will be the only entity to which a police officer can appeal if they believe they have been wrongfully disciplined and/or terminated. The citizen review board’s decision will be final.
  • No former or current police officers or employees of the police bureau will be allowed to serve on the citizen review board. No prosecuting/district attorney may serve on the citizen review board until a minimum five years after they have retired or worked in a different aspect of law. No more than 25 percent of the citizen review board can be currently or previously elected officials.
  • Any officer terminated for any of the above reasons automatically loses all access to any pension funds accrued on their behalf. Any pension contributions deducted from their paychecks will be held toward payment of damages until the statute of limitations expires and/or all court cases are resolved. No interest accrued on the withheld amount will be owed to the officer.
  • Any officer who resigns rather than face discipline as outlined above will have their certification revoked and will forfeit their pension. They will still be liable for any civil penalties assessed by a court of law.
  • Police officer pensions will be based only on the amount of annual pay earned by the officer at the time of retirement and will not be influenced by selecting specific periods of time. Overtime pay will never be used to calculate pension amounts. Police must contribute a portion of their salary to their pension fund.
  • Membership in police associations will be allowed unless/until that specific association has been designated as a hate group. However, police associations will have no standing in contract negotiations and will not be permitted to advocate on behalf of officers under any circumstances. Any police association involved in lobbying any elected official must register as a lobbying organization and follow all legal requirements for lobbying organizations and individuals.
  • Police officers will be required to hire and pay for their own legal counsel in all criminal and civil proceedings.
  • A portion of the money saved by anticipated reductions in the police budget due to attrition will be used to create and/or fund separate departments. Employees of those separate departments will be educated in methods of and certified responsible for:
    • traffic enforcement
    • directing traffic during events (including protests) and at the scene of crimes, fires, and traffic collisions
    • responding to mental health calls
    • property damage/theft investigations
    • investigating major crime such as rape, murder, shootings, assault, etc.
    • answering calls to emergency and non-emergency numbers, differentiating between actual threats to human life/safety and all other situations including callers who exaggerate circumstances in order to weaponize police responses, and making appropriate referrals based on callers’ demonstrated needs

Employees of these divisions will not be permitted to carry lethal weapons. They will only be able to issue citations and will not have the power to arrest anyone. In the event a perpetrator of a major crime is identified by investigators, that information will be turned over to police officers for the purpose of arresting the suspect. Police officers will be responsible for safely taking a suspect into custody and remanding them over to the courts. No information about any suspect will be made public until/unless they are tried and found guilty in a court of law. Sharing information about people who have received citations and/or been arrested will result in the termination of the person who leaked that private information.

Any additional funds saved from the police budget resulting from the above changes will be returned to the municipal budget specifically earmarked for housing, social services, education, and restitution.

Congress Has Blood of Babies on Their Hands

Joseph Goebbels would have been proud of U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici‘s “both sides” answer to a Valerie’s question about the bloodshed in Palestine during a town hall phone call on Saturday, May 15. As her constituent, I was just embarrassed by her ignorance and/or complicity. Because, there is no “both sides” to apartheid, genocide, and settler colonialism.

People crowding the streets of London carry signs demanding freedom for Palestine and waving the Palestinian flag to protest Israeli apartheid and genocidal attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
11 May 2021 – Emergency Rally For Jerusalem, Save Sheikh Jarrah protest in London. (Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash)

Israel forces began terrorizing eastern Jerusalem five days before a single rocket was launched by Hamas. Slaughtering women, children, and civilians, destroying their homes, is not a “conflict” you “deescalate”.

Mobs of armed Zionists (aided by Israeli police) who dragged Palestinian women and children out of their homes and attacked them in the street proved that apparently the only problem Israelis have with the Shoah is that they weren’t the ones murdering children and openly declaring genocidal war.

Did Bonamici miss Kristallnacht 2.0? This time it was Jews breaking all the glass and celebrating the destruction/deaths.

Bonamici and the U.S. Congress have the blood of Palestinian babies on their hands. By signing the Deutch-McCaul letter (along with Q-conspiracy believers Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, along with other Congressional racists), by continuing to fund the Israeli military so U.S. arms-selling corporations can profit, she and her colleagues gave Israel carte blanche for apartheid and genocidal violence.

That letter, not anything Hamas did, triggered this current violence . Because the primary purpose of the atrocious Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians is to keep Netanyahu in power so he can avoid criminal charges. Sound familiar?

For the record, I was born to a family of Jewish immigrants and my grandparents escaped pogroms in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and what was then Palestine. I lost family I will never know in the Holocaust. However, I will not stand by and not speak out against a government doing the exact same things Hitler’s did.

Never again is now. Step up or step down, Bonamici.

You. Can. Not. Reform. This.

First published on The Big Smoke.
April 19, 2021

On Friday, Portland, Oregon, police murdered an unarmed man who had no home, had expressed a long-time (unfortunately validated) fear of cops, and who may have been experiencing a mental health crisis. They were responding to a call about a different man possibly experiencing a mental health crisis in Lents Park. The cops fired impact munitions at Robert Douglas Delgado’s body and prevented anyone from offering medical attention until seven and a half minutes after police shot him (four minutes after arriving at the scene) almost five full minutes after he finally stopped moving, attacked with chemical weapons those who gathered to mourn the victim and protest his murder, and ate pizza over the corpse which they left lying in the grass for hours while they tried to “find” the gun they claimed was in his hand when they shot him. (Some reports before the fact that they had shot the “wrong” man was released, included the existence of a replica handgun, but cops are known to carry those to drop at a scene when they’ve murdered yet another unarmed person. Three days after the shooting, police produced a photograph of a toy handgun with an orange tip identifying it as fake that they allegedly found at the scene. Audio released at the same time “does not indicate that Delgado had a gun — or replica gun — in his hand at the time he was shot. … none of the officers on the ground say they see a gun in Delgado’s hand before” shooting him.)

This all took place:

  • after police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, murdered 20-year-old Daunte Wright in front of his girlfriend during a traffic stop and then brutally attacked those who rallied to protest his death and the reporters who covered those protests;
  • before a “trigger happy” cop placed on administrative leave for sexually abusing a child murdered three people in Austin, Texas;
  • during the same week that Chicago police finally released the video showing how many times and how many ways they lied about their murder of 13-year-old Adam Toledo;
  • while Derek Chauvin’s defense attorneys did their best to put his victim, George Floyd, on trial for Floyd’s own murder including smearing him with false overdose theories and other lies.

Image of a black sign with "Defund Brutality" written in white block print over three red fists and the outlines in white of two raised hands.For reference, Brooklyn Center police — who shot at protesters from tanks and continued using tear gas and other “crowd control munitions” after the Brooklyn Center’s city council passed a resolution “banning dangerous crowd-control tactics including the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, and protester kettling” – gained national recognition as a “police reform model” last summer.

In Portland, a federal judge found in February of 2020 that the police department was in “substantial compliance” with a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice reached after DOJ found officers often used excessive force on people who were experiencing a mental health crisis. Portland recently launched a pilot program in Lents — the Portland Street Response team — which is supposed to answer calls for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis rather than police. The Portland Street Response was not sent to the scene because the caller (possibly a member of a group notorious in Lents for attacking the houseless and which organized a “back the blue” rally the day after the murder) claimed that a man “acting erratically” had a gun. It also should be noted that the murderer, Zachary Delong, has expressed support for Michael Brown’s killer Darren Wilson and that Delong’s boss, East Precinct Commander Erica Hurley, is under investigation by the Secretary of State for violating Oregon law last month. In addition, Portland Police are currently under investigation by the DOJ for brutal attacks on protesters, failing to file use of force reports, and using flawed, possibly unconstitutional logic to clear themselves of alleged misconduct.

All of the above represents just a few of the incidents that occurred in less than a week of egregious police malfeasance and murder in the United States of America.

Over and over again, politicians at federal, state, and municipal levels play the “reform” game. They pass laws, enact codes, and implement policies which police then ignore, fight in court, and/or claim are in violation of their contracts. Most of the time, even if the police obeyed them, the laws/code/policies changes touted by reform politicians won’t even prevent the most egregious violence and brutality that police inflict. The U.S. House of Representatives’ so-called “Floyd Act”, passed March 3rd, “could not have even saved George Floyd’s life” or all those police have murdered since Floyd died, begging for his life, on May 25th, 2020.

Portland is preparing to revive, yet again, the racially biased, ever name changing Gang Enforcement Team (GET) Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) Focused Intervention Team without ever discussing with those who experience and understand the causes of gun violence whether or not this program offers any solutions. “Adding more police is like putting sugar on shit. It makes it taste a little better, but it’s not really changing anything. You may prevent murders, but you won’t stop the problem. You’re just going to have a lot more guys in jail… a lot more families without fathers. Then what?” asks Mike “Bretto” Jackson, former gang member who’s now a hip hop artist and youth mentor.

Meanwhile, using gun violence as an excuse, the agencies that claimed deputizing local law enforcement as federal officers last year was only temporary have announced a “gun violence collaboration” that includes Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who ran for office as a progressive reformer. Collaborating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Portland and Gresham police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office “entered into a voluntary agreement … to “deputize a small contingent of local law enforcement officers”.

Because Portland public officials don’t understand, or refuse to acknowledge, that correlation does not equal causation. In reality, gun violence spiked across the country during the pandemic, resulting in overall gun homicides at the highest rate in more than 20 years. “The COVID-19 pandemic worsened many of the underlying conditions that contribute to community gun violence risk — poverty, unemployment, food and housing insecurity, ” according to Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, who researches violence prevention at the University of California.

One of the centerpieces of reform is the call to require police to wear body cameras. But there has been no reduction in police violence as more and more departments spend millions of dollars incorporating this requirement and citizens with smart phones fill the Internet with videos of egregious police conduct. And we have a multitude of video evidence of police brutally attacking and maiming the thousands of people who gather to protest police behavior, no matter how peaceful.

“Rather than thinking that they ought to be chastened by being caught on tape beating, tear-gassing, and pepper-spraying protesters, perhaps doing all this in full view of the public is the point. They’re not afraid of being filmed, because being filmed simply reinforces the central theme: If you come to protest, an action that explicitly challenges the order and my place in it, this is the consequence,” Patrick Wyman wrote last June. It’s “about sending a message: Try to hold us accountable, and we’ll find you. Whether the violence is real or merely threatened, the goal is public acknowledgement of this order, rooted in racial inequality and the protection of property.”

Mass arrests of protesters across the country are “all about intimidation” of people who vocally oppose police brutality, said Detroit Will Breathe organizer Tristan Taylor. “It says something about the nature of policing when that’s a uniform tactic.” The vast majority of citations and charges against protesters were ultimately dropped, dismissed, or otherwise not filed, but “police response created this whole additional public health crisis that wasn’t something people talked about much, but, in the moment, that was one of the biggest issues we were concerned about,” said Tyler Crawford, the National Lawyers Guild director of mass defense.

Reform is not possible when, as Colin Kaepernick stated in his introduction to a 30-part series demanding abolition, “The central intent of policing is to surveil, terrorize, capture, and kill marginalized populations, specifically Black folks.” He echoes the words of Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Party co-founder, “The police are in our community not to promote our welfare or for our security or our safety, but they are there to contain us, to brutalize us, and murder us.”

Organizations with roots in capturing and punishing Africans who attempted to escape carceral slavery, whose members ignore the law themselves while using it to capture, incarcerate, and kill those who are not white, cis, straight, able-bodied, males — or otherwise do not fit in what their limited worldview defines as citizen — cannot be reformed. They must be abolished.

Legislators Fail at Police Reform

First published on The Big Smoke.
January 28, 2021

In response to the massive protests against police brutality and cops murdering BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), the Oregon State House of Representatives, along with many other jurisdictions, have proposed more than half a dozen bills intended to address the egregiously violent behavior by so-called “peace” officers.

The biggest problem with these types of legislation and/or policies is that they’re built on the false premises that law enforcement officers obey the law and that if they just get more training their innate brutality and already criminal behavior will end. But police officers only enforce laws. They do not obey them.

  • Portland Police Bureau officers repeatedly violated a court order forbidding them from shooting impact munitions at nonviolent protesters. They are still shooting impact munitions at nonviolent protesters. They were instructed by Mayor Edward Tevis “Ted” Wheeler, who is also the Portland Police Commissioner, not to use tear gas. They continue to use tear gas.
  • Seattle Police violated a court order limiting the department’s use of pepper spray and blast balls during Black Lives Matter protests again and again and again.
  • Lethal chokeholds are still used, repeatedly, to kill and incapacitate Black people, including teenagers, even when states pass legislation forbidding them, even when police departments adopt policies prohibiting their use.
  • Police routinely violate department policies to kill and maim civilians, especially BIPOC, and often face minimal, if any, penalties.

Photo shows police in body armor, carrying shields, spraying protesters with chemical weapons.And, these are just a few examples. You cannot reform a historically white supremacist institution by requiring that the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training adopt rules (House Bill 2932) prohibiting police and reserve officers from participating in white supremacist and militant groups and demonstrating overt and explicit expressions of racism. This still allows for surreptitious and cryptic expressions of racism, including racial profiling. Plus, there’s nothing in that bill to keep bullies, domestic violence perpetrators, sexual offenders, murderers, etc. off the police forces where they now serve. Legislation to require psychological screening creates no meaningful change if it does not specify any traits, besides racism, that would prevent someone from being certified as a police officer.

In addition, each and every single one of the bills before the Oregon House Judiciary Subcommittee On Equitable Policing include the words “except” or “unless” (with the exception of HB 2936, which only directs rules to be written and I guarantee those rules will include enough “except” and “unless” to make them toothless).

Cops lie. They are trained to lie. They are legally allowed to lie under some circumstances. And they do so by default. They enjoy lying. They will lie to justify their violations of any legislation passed that includes an “except” or an “unless.” They will memorize those exceptions and will always have their justifications ready, the same way they now claim that children with toy guns, young men with cell phones, and protesters with umbrellas and shields are threatening them. Civilians with no weapons are so menacing, according to police that, despite body armor and guns, cops are always in fear for their lives.

Some of the bills under consideration in Oregon only give lip service to reform. For example, if House Bill 2932 passes “The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission shall establish a statewide database of reports of the use of physical force by peace officers and corrections officers. The database must be searchable and available to the public. The commission shall substitute an individual randomized number for an officer’s certification number” [emphasis mine].

Portland Police discovered this type of freedom from accountability last summer when they removed their badge numbers and names from their uniforms so they could not be identified in the videos showing them beating, shooting, and gassing protesters, throwing them onto the ground, and piling on top of them. What is the point of collecting information about violent officers if they cannot be identified?

Despite the ineffectiveness of the proposed legislation, the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs and the Portland Police Association (PPA)—the organization representing rank-and-file officers with the Portland Police Bureua (PPB)—opposed the bills, calling them “anti-police” and raising concerns that a database, which does not identify offending officers, could “dangerously” help the public obtain their personal information. Although police routinely invade and/or fire guns into civilians’ homes, often under false pretenses or using erroneous information, there are no documented cases of civilians attacking police in their own homes unless they were already known to each other. Moreover, police routinely plaster photos of those who are arrested but have been neither tried nor convicted of a crime all over the Internet and social media and often list those individual’s birthdates, ages, and sometimes even addresses.

And then, of course, there is House Bill 2943 which will make it even more difficult to discipline repeat offenders, police officers who even prosecutors do not trust to give unbiased or honest testimony. By not allowing departments to use evidence that law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, HB 2943 protects those offending officers from disciplinary actions when they kill, maim, and otherwise brutalize civilians.

Even though they won’t acknowledge it, legislators know the police are murderous bullies and abusers. Otherwise, there would be no need for House Bill 2931 which requires that someone who arrests another person “ensure arrested person receives medical assessment”. If cops had any morals, if they cared one whit about the people they claim to “serve and protect” that bill would be considered a waste of paper and time. But it is necessary. Because the same police who run crying to seek medical attention when they bruise their knuckles beating up a “suspect” or pull a muscle dragging someone across the pavement, routinely keep those they have critically injured in handcuffs, block medics from helping police brutality victims, and book people into jail with broken bones, severe contusions, concussions, cuts, and more serious injuries.

As someone who has studied and written about police brutality and the militarization of police across the country for decades, I maintain that abolishing police departments as they currently exist is the only way to “reform” the police. There is no way to reform a culture that finds mowing people down with Sports Utility Vehicles,* running bicycles* over people in the street, shooting men in the back,* slamming teenagers* onto concrete, etc. acceptable. [*Content Warning: extreme police violence.]

Unlike how they are portrayed in television and movies, real life cops do not prevent or solve crimes. They show up after a “crime” has been committed, ask for the public’s help and/or tap into your business/personal surveillance video to figure out who did it, and then lie to get confessions/convictions. And, much of what they consider “crime” (except that involving bodily harm) was created by laws written to continue slavery based on the wording of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (and have precedence in imprisoning uppity peasantry).

We must start over from the ground up with organizations that are actually designed to protect the safety of all–including BIPOC, LBGTQ+, immigrants, people with disabilities and/or mental illness, those who do not speak English, etc.–rather than brutalize them. Anything less is just an adhesive bandage on a gaping, hemorrhaging, pus-filled wound.

Abolish The Police

For political reasons, I temporarily changed my social media avatar from “Abolish The Police” to “Black Lives Matter”. Since the reason no longer applies, I changed my avatar back. Almost immediately, someone on Facebook Abolish the Police asked the standard liberal question “And do what about crime?” (She deleted her comment after I a) documented the fallacy of her question and b) informed her how lazy and inconsiderate it was.)

Given that others still don’t understand why we will never end white supremacy and systemic racism without eliminating slave patrol/union busting cops, here’s some places to start. (And, these are only starting points. Many of my articles point to other articles/authors and there are long and detailed reading lists available at many libraries and online.)

1) Much of what you call “crime” (except that involving bodily harm) was created by laws written to continue slavery based on the wording of the 13th amendment (and have precedence in imprisoning uppity peasantry).

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-black-codes-4125744

2) #Police ≠ #PublicSafety
In fact, cops are hazardous to public health.

https://goldhaber.home.blog/2020/08/20/bioweaponizing-a-pandemic/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/black-man-wrongfully-detained-maskless-police-officer-tests/story?id=74967778

3) Police do not prevent or solve crimes. They show up after a “crime” has been committed, ask for the public’s help and/or tap into your business/personal surveillance video to figure out who did it, and then lie to get confessions/convictions.

https://goldhaber.home.blog/2020/06/06/defund-the-police-to-end-police-violence/

4) Police are criminals and liars.

https://thebigsmoke.com/2020/08/29/blue-crime-matters/

https://twitter.com/fodderyfodder/status/1297405642848837633

https://thebigsmoke.com/2020/09/09/peaceful-protests/

(Also, see thousands of hours of OTG video contradicting fabricated police reports “documenting” protest events in which police instigate and are the primary perpetrators of violence and murders of unarmed Black people.)

5) There are no good cops.

https://goldhaber.home.blog/2020/11/17/no-good-cops-still-on-force/

https://goldhaber.home.blog/2020/07/18/rotten-apples/

If you want to stop crime, use the money wasted on police to make sure everyone has enough to eat, a safe place to live, an education, and health (including mental health) care.

https://goldhaber.home.blog/2020/06/06/defund-the-police-to-end-police-violence/

Also, eliminate the oligarchy that rewards corporations and billionaires who constantly steal from the rest of us and never face any penalties.

If you want to know more, you should do your own research. If you do not know where to start, I regularly post on Facebook and on Twitter on this topic.

I also write about it here and on The Big Smoke America as well as in much of my poetry.

Protesters, Press, Police

First published on The Big Smoke.
December 16, 2020

In 1983 — when USA Today began changing the way, and what, newspapers covered as “news”, when Reagan’s deregulation started enabling the consolidation that would become mega media mergers, eventually leaving the U.S. with almost no locally-owned newspapers and television stations — I walked away from newspaper reporting as a career after only six years.

In that short time, I exposed discrepancies in federal loan subsidy application handling, local political manipulation of the federal bidding process, the impact of the Reagan administration’s first major union busting move, a medical clinic’s prescription misuse and inappropriate use of federal funds, a local coal baron’s questionable financial dealings and tax avoidance, and a local agency’s conflict of interest — all while reporting for very small newspapers. My stories resulted in state and federal investigations, tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes paid, contracts terminated, and Flight Service Station siting changes.

But, after a year of watching major metropolitan newspapers, including my own employer, remake themselves in McPaper‘s image, I walked away when my boss demanded I go out and cover a non-event (except on the police scanner), that required invading someone’s privacy. If didn’t, he said he would fire me. I quit.

The story I refused to report is one you have read dozens of times since. One that, instead of condemning the system that created the problems, merely makes you feel sympathy for the victim, or treats them as a hero, or vilifies them for crumbling under the weight of a society that deliberately breaks people.

Over the years, my decision was repeatedly validated as television and newspapers became worse about disrespecting everyone’s privacy, more and more mistakes appeared in print and on the air, and entertainment and celebrity coverage drowned out actual news. Bigger and bigger media conglomerates gobbled up local newspapers and television stations, and most media now is owned by a handful of mega corporations. [see two examples at the end of this article]

Now, we have so-called journalists who believe they’re empowered to invade other people’s lives and private property for their clickbait and sixty seconds of infotainment spotlight. They work for companies with right-wing, racist, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant agendas and do not care whose lives they destroy to get their “stories.”

When activists politely ask them not to take a photograph or collect video of an event, they scream about freedom of the press and their First Amendment rights. Except most of them have never, apparently, actually read the First Amendment. Because it doesn’t give them any rights at all to invade other people’s lives and steal their stories. It states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” [emphasis mine]

Nothing requiring anyone talk to the press; no mention of allowing the press to invade private property in order to report on an event. Case law, specifically libel and sunshine laws, allow the press to write about public figures and celebrities without worrying about being sued and require government officials, both elected and appointed, to produce information to the press as representatives of their constituents.

But, if a broadcast “journalist” sticks a microphone in your face or points a camera at you, they are invading your privacy without your consent and if you don’t want to enrich them by sharing your information and/or photograph for their broadcast, you have the right to insist they stop and/or walk away. I have done both. As an author and a business owner, I also have been interviewed more than once by a reporter who took the facts I gave them and inadvertently misinterpreted or deliberately twisted them to meet their own narrative, rather than reporting mine.

Too often, people who have watched television footage of victims sobbing, witnesses sharing details, and families wailing their grief, believe they’re obligated to answer questions in front of a camera. But, footage like that is lazy reporting and rarely includes factual information.

Moreover, police view that footage and use it to target activists who protest police brutality and demand their elected officials stop funding military police forces in urban areas; who fight gentrification and sweeping houseless camps during a pandemic; who stand up against armed Nazis marching in our streets.

White Supremacist terrorist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer use video and photographs posted by media to doxx and menace anti-fascist activists and their families with violence, including rape and death threats.

Right-wing “journalists” edit video to remove any mitigating circumstances, such as self defense. Edited video, claiming a “random lone protester fights with multiple proud boys” led to the arrest of a local Black man who defended himself with a knife in Washington D.C., when dozens of out-of-town white Proud Boys surrounded, trapped, and attacked him. It should be noted, that the Proud Boys, who were openly carrying hand and long guns in violation of D.C. laws, had already vandalized black churches, and roaming mobs of them attacked multiple counter-protesters, reporters, and random passersby with fists, chemical spray, weighted gloves, flag poles, and other weapons. But police arrested the Black man and they will use the edited video against him in court.

Those at home, scrutinizing photographs and video on television, websites, and social media, forget that U.S. law requires a presumption of innocence. With broadcast and print media frantically regurgitating inaccurate, deceptive, and outright deceitful police reports, viewers judge someone guilty before they’re tried, sometimes before they’re even charged with a crime, based on seeing often-doctored video.

Invasively filming and photographing people involved, sometimes only peripherally, in news events puts lives in danger. “Any journalist who has embedded with military forces knows there are times you DO NOT take photos,” investigative journalist Robert Evans tweeted recently. “A picture is not worth life.”

When I was a reporter, I was the first to report a national story from a small town newspaper because I worked to develop relationships with sources and to protect them. But, even back then, one of my sources lost his job because his superiors were able to determine, based on our locations and history, that he had to be the person I had spoken with. Today, with all the surveillance tech available to authorities, those who protest police brutality, evictions during winter and a global pandemic, stolen land, and other forms of capitalistic-enforced inequality are in even more danger from an authoritarian government.

At a recent active eviction defense in Portland, The Oregonian complained about being denied access making “it difficult to provide the public with a full account of the ongoing occupation“. This was after the newspaper printed false information, including calling the event an “occupation”. The only other “journalist” quotes routinely endangers protesters by deliberately filming their faces.

In addition to endorsing Portland’s much-hated Mayor Edward Tevis “Ted” Wheeler, The Oregonian, owned by Advance1, is run by John Maher who also chairs the Portland Business Alliance which heavily funded Wheeler’s election campaign. Urban Housing Development, which purchased the Red House at a foreclosure sale, belongs to the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland (HBA) which is affiliated with the Portland Business Alliance (PBA). HBA and PBA, along with Realtors and developers, also were among the entities behind United for Portland, created in the final months of the mayoral campaign to spend money targeting male voters to discredit Wheeler’s female opponent.

The Oregonian continuously uses language such as “become known as the ‘red house'”. Well, it’s a house. And, it’s red. So people call it the red house — hardly worthy of repeatedly wasting words. The Oregonian also deliberately contrasted the $260,000 the current owner paid at auction in 2018 with the more than $308,000 raised to buy it back via GoFundMe without acknowledging the $20,000 in property taxes also required as part of the proposed agreement, possible legal fees, and the costs of major repairs to the house required after law enforcement deliberately trashed it, including destroying the plumbing fixtures. It faulted the family for failing to pay the mortgage for nearly a year and half without mentioning that they paid the mortgage until it was sold and two different companies demanded payments. Although the family has made it clear how they want to be contacted, The Oregonian called one of the individuals on the phone and then made a big deal about reporting that he hung up, despite the fact that they had specifically asked not to receive phone calls.

Meanwhile, a reporter with KATU, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group,2 refused to leave the property when asked and kept filming people despite their repeated requests that she not do so. Her camera was knocked from her hand and stomped on to prevent her from further filming. She was injured slightly (although she tried to make it appear worse than it was, including erroneously claiming her hand was broken) when she tried to pull it out from under someone’s foot.

“By treating this like a regular news story you are, inadvertently or not, antagonizing the participants”, an activist who uses the handle @imlaceyimfine, posted in response. “You, and especially your camera, are a threat, whether you believe that to be true or not. The fear your camera inspires in people who have been brutalized and arrested all summer, is very real and in my opinion incredibly valid. Not only are the protesters rightly afraid of retribution, they are also traumatized. Many of them may be triggered by your presence. If you want the story, right or wrong, you need to make allowances for that fact.”

The “reporter” cried (literally) “crocodile tears” on Twitter and demanded the right to invade people’s privacy on private property with signage clearly stating filming was not allowed.

“If you have been following KATU’s limited coverage at the protests or the press conferences, you know they are not capable of telling the entire story,” TeamRaccoonPDX, volunteers who cleans up trash at protest events, noted.

Many of KATU’s reports about the Red House Eviction Defense were inaccurate and/or just a series of quotes from Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office, and Wheeler. The station played down Wheeler’s and Police Chief Charles Lovell‘s threats against and lies about the family and activists that resulted in racist death threats and attacks by fascists. KATU was among the media breathlessly reporting that the four generations of family fighting to retain ownership of the “infamous ‘Red House'” also own another home.

When an agreement was reached with the city and the barricades protecting the house from police raids were removed Monday, December 14, KATU claimed “those who live in North Portland” — an area that encompasses more than fort-five square miles, 25,883 households, and the University of Portland — were “still concerned” about the few blocks surrounding the house. Sources for this included an “anonymous person” who allegedly lives in “the area” (already defined as North Portland, so, not necessarily anywhere near the Red House) and the Coalition to Save Portland (another entity formed to push Wheeler’s reelection) were still upset about the “occupation”.

During its “coverage”, the station also interviewed another person who doesn’t even live in “the area”, who was upset because some activists legally carried firearms. (This person also complained in that article he was unable to get “the city’s help to get his concealed handgun license”.  Licenses to carry concealed handguns are issued by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office not the city of Portland.)

These few “complaints” ignored numerous neighbors, including businesses, who supported efforts to fight the gentrification that has driven almost all Black homeowners out of a traditionally (redlined) Black neighborhood as well as efforts by activists protecting the eviction defense area to provide food, clothing, and medical supplies to those in need and to help remove graffiti from local businesses.

Other reporters — who respect their sources and do not film them without consent and/or who edit their video to remove information that can be used to identify, arrest, and doxx someone — had no difficulty providing accurate coverage of the events.

“This Oregonian article is nonsense. I’ve been at Red House nearly everyday since Tuesday. I’ve taken pictures & interviewed people without issue,” tweeted Garrison Davis a young, dedicated, and effective journalist who has covered protests in Portland since they started in May. “You don’t need to film 24/7 to “accurately” report. Write, take notes, it’s in the name, ‘Journal(ism)’.” Unlike reporters who pretend to be objective while working for right-wing media owned by oligarchs, Davis makes no effort to hide which side he sympathizes with.

“It’s not a matter of being objective, it’s really about being transparent,” Andrew DeVigal, chair in journalism innovation and civic engagement at the University of Oregon, told Portland Monthly.

“Not choosing a side, when one side is oppressed, means choosing, through inaction, the side of the oppressor”, freelance journalist Lady Rosie G. Riddle points out. “if you’re not an anti-fascist FIRST and press SECOND, then chances are, you’re helping fascists.” As she and numerous other BIPOC journalists and pundits state repeatedly, “objective journalism upholds white supremacy.”

If you do not believe that statement, compare any mainstream coverage of Portland BIPOC protesters in trying to prevent a local family from losing its home in winter, in the middle of a pandemic, while providing food, clothing, and PPE supplies to any in need, to the coverage a few years ago when heavily armed, out-of-state, anti-government white men took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, threatened local residents and law enforcement, and did major damage, including removing fences and plowing roads in defense of two men who had pleaded guilty to arson further.

 

 

1The Oregonian/OregonLive is owned by S.I. Newhouse-founded Advance which also owns Condé Nast (Architectural Digest, Allure,  Ars Technica,  Bon Appétit,  Epicurious, Glamour,  GQ, House & Garden, Teen Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, and more), American City Business Journals (BizEquity, The Business Journals, Bizwomen, etc.), among others and is also among the largest shareholders in Charter Communications, Discovery (HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet, Cooking Channel, American Heroes Channel, Now This, Thrillist, to name a few) and Reddit.

2KATU is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group which owns 190 television stations in 88 markets that are affiliated with all major broadcast networks plus 23 regional sports network brands. In May, 2020, it paid the largest civil penalty by a broadcaster, $48 million, to the Federal Communications Commission for violating the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules as part of its attempt to acquire Tribune Media. In addition to slanting its reporting to the right, Sinclair requires talent at its subsidiary stations to spout pro-Trump propaganda and right-wing opinions such as “comparing removal of Confederate statues to destruction of archaeological treasures“.  The Guardian calls it ” the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of”.

Meet the New Boss … Same As the Old Boss

First published on The Big Smoke.
November 10, 2020

Despite

  • more than a quarter million mostly preventable deaths from COVID-19
  • thousands of children imprisoned in concentration camps
  • at least 660 children who may never again see their parents
  • hundreds of asylum seekers who were sexually assaulted, physically abused, and then deported to hide the evidence
  • hundreds of women whose uteruses were involuntarily/unnecessarily removed and who are now being deported to hide the evidence
  • a $2 trillion increase in U.S. debt
  • 12.6 million unemployed
  • 40 million on the brink of eviction
  • and 12 million who lost access to health care

while

  • a handful of billionaires increased their wealth by $1 trillion
  • the president, his family, and cronies stole millions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury
  • the president violated the U.S. Constitution daily since January 20, 2016
  • he and his staff lied constantly (thousands of times)
  • and the president, his children, son-in-law, and staff committed treason

more than 71 million U.S. citizens voted to keep the current administration in office. And many of them lied about it. Because the only reason 99 percent of them had to vote for him is to support white supremacy.

And yet, despite four years of numerous analysts explaining in myriad articles, Twitter threads, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, etc. that racism is their primary reason for supporting him, there are still people insisting we need to “understand” why people vote for white supremacy and that we must not blame them for doing so.

Mike Stanfill, who creates Raging Pencils, went so far as to claim voter fraud in favor of the president because “in no rational universe could that walking bolus of bile and malice garner 71 million votes, 8 million more than in 2016, without significant covert aid.”

The only reason for anyone to not understand why and to not blame the people who subjected BIPOC, LGBA, transgender and two-spirit folx, immigrants, non-christians, people with disabilities, and others to four years of abject terror is to assuage their own, covert racism and/or white supremacy.

Black voters, Indigenous Americans, and many other people of color fought attempts to disenfranchise them; risked their lives; lost wages they couldn’t spare; traveled for hundreds of miles; stood for hours in the rain, the heat, the snow; registered thousands of new people to vote, and drove those who had no other way of getting there to the polls. All so they could hold their noses, after eschewing more progressive and representative choices in the primary, and vote for the slightly less evil, racist white man who has only marginally better impulse control. Because, they knew they couldn’t count on white voters to make the right decision last week.

“White pundits and talking heads still cannot say White folks voted for racism,” Marley K. said on Sunday. “When you can’t get White people to acknowledge there was no reason on earth to vote for Trump except racism, there’s no way in hell you can address the problem.”

Anyone who is still shaking their head, “reaching out” to racists, trying to understand why people vote for a narcissistic con man, is complicit in white supremacy, whether or not they’re an active participant.

More than 71 million U.S. citizens voted for a treasonous criminal because he allows them to brazenly display their hatred for people who are not straight, cis, white, xtianist, third generation; to be proud of their homomisia, transmisia, Islammisia, xenomisia, misogyny, and racism; to deny anyone they see as other civil rights, access to medical care, housing, food, bodily autonomy if they’re not cis males; and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

That complicity includes the entire Democratic party that

  • actively worked to prevent any progressive candidate from topping the ticket
  • sabotaged progressive candidates for vulnerable Congressional seats only to have the moderates they supported for those seats lose to the Republican incumbents
  • within moments of network news declaring a winner began haranguing against any attempts to move the party toward the left.

If “we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) proclaimed despite

  • at least half a dozen Democratic centrists losing their seats in the House
  • every single swing seat member who co-sponsored Medicare for All winning re-election
  • only one of the 93 House co-sponsors of the Green New Deal who ran for re-election losing

Because white people in the U.S. will forfeit healthcare, retirement, affordable education, childcare, breathable air, drinkable water, etc. rather than allow BIPOC the same benefits. The people who were comfortable with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal because Black people were deliberately excluded, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren consistently vote to impoverish themselves rather than improve the living standards of a single BIPOC.

“White Americans are the rich world’s most hostile, ignorant, violent, cruel, and selfish social group — by a very long way,” Umair Hague explains.  “White Americans want America to be a failed state — and that is its fundamental, deep, and long standing problem.”

So, while liberals wring their hands and shake their heads, while they try to understand, while they believe the “long nightmare” (four years isn’t long when your people have been oppressed for four centuries or four millennia) is over because the oligarch was elected instead of the autocrat, the reality is that for anyone who isn’t white, straight, cis, neurotypical, and abled; for all the people who stood in line for hours and hours; for those already at work in Georgia on the runoff elections, the nightmare continues, as it has for centuries.

If* the president-elect takes office, he plans to “work with all my heart with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you,” making it clear that he learned nothing from the previous administration in which he served as vice president about what happens when you put bi-partisanship over getting things done.

He refuses to back programs that eliminate insurance companies as arbitrators over who gets access to health care; has given only lukewarm support to the Green New Deal, which although it might have been meaningful a few years ago, now is in itself inadequate; will do nothing to stop police from murdering BIPOC; and has made it clear he has no intention of mitigating a Supreme Court poised to reverse Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges. The latter is despite

  • the fact that the vast majority of the people who live in this country approve of both women’s bodily autonomy and marriage equality
  • there’s no restriction in the U.S. Constitution on the number of SCOTUS judges
  • five of the nine justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote and confirmed by a senate representing fewer than half the people in the U.S.

The protests will continue despite whoever is in the White House, because the occupant doesn’t really matter to those who are poor, houseless, hungry, BIPOC, LGBTQ2S, immigrant, non-christian, different abled, neurodivergent, etc. (and it’s no coincidence that many of those categories overlap).

The problems in this country that feed white supremacy — racism, patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, misogyny, homomisia, transmisia, Islammisia, xenomisia — are systemic. They are literally built into the foundation (and founding documents) of the U.S. and all attempts to remove them, from the very beginning, have failed.

I am not alone in the belief that 400 years of white supremacy, genocide, colonialism, never-ending wars, planetary destruction, unfettered exploitative capitalism, patriarchy, and enslavement/murder of BIPOC is enough.

The coup* started June 1 when the president ordered the U.S. military to attack civilians exercising their First Amendment rights. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had no problem with that, although he apparently drew a line in the shifting sands wide enough to get himself fired Monday, paving the way for someone with even fewer scruples. Also on Monday, Richard Pilger, the director of the Department of Justice’s elections crime branch, stepped aside after Attorney General William Barr — who has actively been trying to suppress dissent for the past six months by arresting protesters on trumped up (pun intended) federal charges — released a memo making it clear he intends to have the DOJ interfere in the election results. The second U.S. Civil War is already in progress.

Older Black voters who consistently pull the U.S. back from the brink of self-destruction are tired and dying. And the younger ones, who are in the streets now, see no reason to continue the colonialist wars of aggression, extraordinary resource theft, and oppressive racist systems that the rest of the world learns from (e.g. German Nazis).

The reality is that this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a United States. It’s a bunch of very different states with very different values, and with many value differences within individual states. The GOP, unsatisfied just controlling a bunch of states where not many people live, has been working for decades to force the rest of us to fall into line with its colonialist, patriarchal vision of America circa 1784.

None of this started with the current White House occupant and it won’t end if/when he’s removed from power. The slaughter/incarceration of BIPOC didn’t pause under the previous administration. Children were still separated from their parents at the border. The concentration camps that this administration stuffed full were built before this president took office. The Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the Voting Rights Act is named after the previous administration’s attorney general for a reason … it was handed down in 2013.

The Affordable Care Act didn’t get health care to BIPOC because it was written to appease insurance companies and then eviscerated by various states. So BIPOC are dying in far greater numbers from COVID because they don’t have access to medical care and because even if they have insurance they’re turned away from hospitals and their symptoms ignored. (Did no one else notice the not-so-subtle shift in the administration’s attitude toward the virus when the numbers came out that more BIPOC were dying than white folks?)

People in the U.S. are houseless. They are starving. The police are beating and murdering them. They are dying for lack of medical care. In much of the world people are drowning because of climate change the U.S. and its fossil fuels companies caused. And the president-elect will not do one damn thing to change any of that.

The biggest difference if he is able to boot the current occupant from the White House? Liberals will blithely brush off their hands as if they had accomplished something when all they did was put some crazy glue on the massive crack opening in the dam.

No Good Cops Still On Force

After a conversation on Twitter last month, I volunteered to collect examples of “good cops”, both to make them available for reference and to provide a forum where folks could add to the list.

I was reluctant to do so on Twitter, because that would allow any chud, cop apologist, white supremacist (sorry, getting redundant), to hijack the conversation. So, I decided to start the list here where anyone can comment, but I control whether or not those comments get seen (which also allows for anonymously adding to the list).

Unfortunately, all the examples I found of “good cops” — police who reported or tried to stop malfeasance by other cops — are no longer working in law enforcement. They had been killed, fired, suspended, or driven off the force.

Below I’ve listed (in order of the media reports I link to, not necessarily in order of occurrence) 19 “good cops” all of whom suffered repercussions for trying to do the right thing. They represent less than .003 percent of the approximately 697,000 full-time law enforcement officers employed in the United States.

If you know of a cop who, while on the force of a police or sheriff’s department in the United States during this century, spoke out against police brutality; reported another cop for malfeasance; interfered with/reported when a cop violated department policies, broke the law, and/or harmed someone; testified against a cop who was guilty of police brutality or other misconduct and who as a result was fired, killed, or driven off the force, and you have documentation, such as a link to a news stories in a “reputable” publication (which eliminates Faux News, social media, etc.), please share that information in the comments.*

  • Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria suffered “years of ostracism and intimidation at the hands of commanders and fellow officers” of the Chicago Police Department after they “were part of a 2012 investigation which led to charges against” two officers who were accused of stealing proceeds from drug dealers. Spalding and Echeverria filed a federal lawsuit because “‘My life, my safety my freedom was threatened,’ Spalding told NBC 5 Investigates. ‘I was subjected to daily harassment.'”
  • Curt Stansbury was fired by the Wilmington (North Carolina) Police Department after sending a hostile workplace environment complaint to a city official. “I told him that rookies were being hazed and pressured to quit. I informed him that divisions were not communicating with each other and that the communication was at an all time low and that is cause of some of the violent crime issues.”
  • Adrian Schoolcraft was forcibly hospitalized in the psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital by the New York City Police Department after recording conversations at the 81st Precinct which documented corruption and abuse within that precinct. He started recording those conversations after “he came to believe that the NYPD’s obsession with statistics was driving a wedge between police officers and the community”. He was suspended and harassed until, unable to get anyone in the NYPD to investigate his misconduct reports, he went public. The information on the tapes resulted in a series of articles in the Village Voice.
  • Andrea Heath was demoted to trainee status, put on disability retirement, and driven to suicide by Desert Hot Springs police officers who retaliated against her for cooperating with an FBI investigation into use of excessive force. She “saw many Desert Hot Springs (California) officers ‘falsely arrest, beat, tase, pepper-spray and otherwise torture’ detainees and arrestees, according to court documents.”
  • Max Seifert was forced into early retirement by the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department after investigating a road-rage incident and finding that a Kansas City man, Barron Bowling, was the victim of excessive force from a Drug Enforcement Agent and testifying for the defense when Bowling was falsely charged with felony criminal damage to property. “Seifert was shunned, subjected to gossip and defamation by his police colleagues and treated as a pariah”. It should be noted that the DEA agent, Tim McCue, was promoted to a recruiter for the agency, despite an $833,250 jury award against him for the injuries he inflicted on Bowling and a Federal judge’s opinion that “much of McCue’s testimony in the case lacked credibility”. Meanwhile, the retaliation against Seifert followed him to a civilian job with the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Christopher Dorner was stripped of his badge by the Los Angeles Police Department after reporting his training officer for kicking a houseless man in a misuse of force, went berserk as a result, and was hunted down by law enforcement.
  • Laura Schook was fired by the New Albany (Indiana) Police Department Merit Commission after she informed the Merit Commission of “serious criminal conduct by members of this department, an alleged corrupt police administration and facilitation of a discriminatory and hostile work environment”. Of course, the “report issued in the case found no wrongdoing because the “alleged offenders were allowed to investigate themselves”.
  • Shanna Lopez was terminated by the Dallas Police Department the after she mentioned illegal activity by her training officer, David Kuttner, to another trainer. Kuttner, who “came under scrutiny several times”, committed suicide after he was finally arrested, nine years later, for sexual assault.
  • Joe Crystal resigned from the Baltimore City Police Department after he was harassed and threatened and his career destroyed, because he blew the whistle after witnessing an off-duty cop brutally beat a handcuffed suspect, a detective covering it up “with a police report full of lies”, and his sergeant approving the whole thing. “Police in Baltimore have rallied around cops who have killed or beaten suspects, cops facing criminal charges, and cops who turn a blind eye to misconduct. But one thing some Baltimore police couldn’t tolerate was a ‘snitch.'”
  • Sean Gannon was fired by the Boston Police Department after taking evidence to the FBI about a colleague who framed innocent black teens and fabricated evidence in a “gruesome murder case” and was guilty of at least one case of sexual assault that the department helped cover up. The colleague, Trent Holland, retired after an on-camera appearance led to his identification by the victim as her rapist when she was a minor, 14 years previously. “Holland has a long history of prevailing against complaints of official wrongdoing.”
  • Stephen Mader was fired by the Weirton (West Virginia) Police Department for refusing to shoot an emotionally disturbed, suicidal man during a domestic disturbance. Another officer fatally shot the man “minutes later and within seconds of arriving at the scene”. In addition, the city punished Mader through a campaign of press conferences, misinformation, and falsehoods about his performance. “To tell a police officer, when in doubt either shoot to kill, or get fired, is a choice that no police officer should ever have to make and is a message that is wrong and should never be sent.”
  • Matt Swanson took concerns about a detective’s “gross misconduct”, including ignoring child sex abuse allegations and making racist comments about crime victims, to his supervisors. Instead of investigating the detective, the Clackamas County (Oregon) Sheriff’s Office “supervisors created a hostile work environment” for Swanson.
  • Isaac Lambert was removed from the Chicago Police Department’s detective division and reassigned to a patrol shift as retaliation after he refused to approve a false investigatory report covering up the 2017 officer-involved shooting of an unarmed teen. “Officers who try to do the right thing are not only not protected, but retaliated against.”
  • Sean Suiter was murdered by the Baltimore Police Department the day before he was scheduled to testify in a federal case against eight officers of the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force. “The Baltimore Police Commissioner was quick to rule out any foul play” and months later police “concluded that Suiter’s cause of death was not murder after all — it was suicide.” The Baltimore City Police sergeant who led the investigation, James Lloyd, was charged with kidnapping and extortion involving a home improvement project several years later.
  • Cariol Horne was fired (one year short of qualifying for her pension) by the Buffalo Police Department for intervening when a colleague had a suspect in a chokehold. “The message was sent that you don’t cross that blue line and so some officers — many officers don’t.” Edited 4/19/21 to add: Thirteen years later, the New York State Supreme Court vacated a previous ruling upholding Horne’s firing and she now will receive her pension as well as back pay and benefits through August 4, 2010. According to the judge, “the current societal view toward the use of chokeholds and physical force in effecting arrests along with the City of Buffalo’s expression of specific disapproval of such force by legislative enactment, has altered the landscape”.
  • Florissa Fuentes was fired by the Springfield (Massachusetts) Police Department after she expressed support on her private Instagram account for her niece who attended a Black Lives Matter rally. “There’s a lot of officers who are afraid to speak up about this issue and don’t want to be targeted as well.”
  • Ja’Quay Williams was fired by the Greensboro (North Carolina) Police Department after he made a TikTok video in which he said “I am disgusted with the things that happened in Minneapolis. Pure and point-blank, things could have went way different. At the end of the day, let’s talk facts: Guy’s on the ground. He’s laying on his stomach. He had handcuffs on. It’s four of y’all, one of him. Four of y’all, one of him. Who has control of the situation? It’s not much one person could do against four people.” In the video, “Williams is wearing his uniform and is seated in his patrol car, but doesn’t identify himself as a Greensboro police officer and the agency isn’t identifiable on his badge.”
  • Austreberto Gonzalez is on leave from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department “and in fear for his life” after testifying about deputies who “have matching tattoos and belong to a violent clique called the Executioners”.
  • Tom Gissler quit his position as an Atlanta police officer rather than charge Black renters with violations so they could be kicked out of their Section 8 housing by an apartment building owner who wanted to empty his building, tear it down, and replace it with expensive apartments. As a result, Gissler was forced to leave the city because, in retribution, false reports alleging child abuse were filed against his family with DFCS as well as a false allegation of animal abuse. He stated that “APD is filing random charges and administrative punishments around the department to discourage the hemorrhages in staffing. It has worked and people are quieting and hiding. It effectively stops officers from transferring or retiring if they are under investigation.”
  • Liani Reyna, the first gay Latina woman assigned to the Portland Police Department’s Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) suffered “vicious retribution”, blacklisting, and was denied work opportunities when she raised concerns on numerous occasions about inappropriate conduct, including excessive use of force, lying, sexist and appalling hazing, and other criminal conduct. She was “marked as a troublemaker who could not be relied on” The officer misconduct “was swept under the carpet and the offenders escaped discipline.” Those few SERT officers who were disciplined received weak punishment such as letters of reprimand. (Added 12/16/20)

*Comments aren’t visible until I approve them so please also note whether or not you want to be credited and with what name/handle. As long as I can verify the link, information can be added to the list anonymously. (For now, I’m not including corrections officers, former officers who file report after they leave the force, or members of police oversight boards.)