𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝑪𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒓 𝒊𝒔 Your 𝑷𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒍𝒆𝒈𝒆? Now Available!

A collection of 72 political statements in poetic form, What Color is Your Privilege? examines the wide spectrum of ways our society marginalizes people. Although many people on society’s fringes still have some privilege, society maligns, excludes, and abuses them because of their skin color, religion, disabilities, neurodivergence, sex, sexual orientation, gender, immigration status, age, financial position, housing arrangements, etc.

What Color is Your Privilege? opens a window on the suffering many are privileged to ignore.

“Serving a truth serum for hate and hypocrisy, F.I. Goldhaber is writing with a hammer and speaking with a tongue of fire. In What Color is Your Privilege?, they sing a book-length blues song decrying racial, gender, religious, and sexual intolerance in America. With courage and a rejection of conventionality rarely found in contemporary verse, this book shines a bright, beaming light on the ‘hostile world’ we live in and the revolution being fought for the soul of America.” — John Warner Smith, Louisiana State Poet Laureate 2019-2021.

Now available from Left Fork books and your local bookstore as well as from Bookshop.org. You can also order from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Left Fork is a small “unashamedly progressive press” based in Southwest Oregon, overlooking the West (left) Fork of Oregon’s Illinois River.

Police ≠ Public Safety

First published on The Big Smoke.
November 16, 2021

For more than 100 days over the summer of 2020, thousands of Portlanders took to the streets to protest racial injustice, especially police brutality against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Those protests were met by the Portland Police with horrific violence which included:

  • filling the streets with chemical weapons (poisoning from which many have yet to fully recover);
  • beating people (including random residents who were not protest participants) with batons, fists, and weighted gloves;
  • firing impact munitions at close range into people’s chests, backs, heads, faces; and
  •  arresting them on spurious charges.

The results were minuscule, mostly superficial, changes to the outrageously out-of-proportion percentage of the city budget flowing into Portland Police Bureau (PPB) coffers. The city even refused to increase funding for the Portland Street Response, the one public safety initiative that actually was helping people, because the Portland Police Association (PPA), which represents Portland Police officers and protects their jobs even when they murder unarmed civilians, objected.

Photo of the back of a person with Portland Police emblazoned on their jacket, a helmet on their head, standing between partial views of Portland Police vehicles by Tito Texidor IIIYet, last month when the City Budget Office announced a $62 million general fund surplus ahead of the Fall Budget Monitoring Process, Mayor Edward Tevis “Ted” Wheeler quickly maneuvered to give a significant amount of that money to the police.

Wheeler, who is also the Portland Police Commissioner, immediately came up with erroneously named “public safety programs” to add almost $8 million, more than a quarter of the $31 million of the surplus allocated for city programs, to the PPB’s already bloated budget. His proposal includes:

  • hiring additional white supremacist bullies police officers, with no evidence more cops reduce crime;
  • allowing recently retired officers, who timed their departure to maximize their retirement benefits, to double dip return to work;
  • paying a $25,000 (more than many Portland residents earn in a year) signing bonus to “qualified” applicants;
  • wasting almost $3 million on body-worn cameras1 (BWCs)–which have no proven impact on police misconduct–despite the fact that only data showing BWCs increase police accountability were gathered in flawed studies created by manufacturers to sell cameras; and
  • dropping $225,000 on the Gang Enforcement Team (GET) Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) Focused Intervention Team (FIT) Office of Violence Prevention to “assist gun violence reduction work”.

Wheeler, also wants to further persecute insecure, already-suffering, often-despondent, and scared unhoused residents by carving a significant amount of money from funds allocated to help them and instead use that money “increase homeless camp cleanups, or sweeps, ‘fivefold.'”

Last Wednesday, almost 300 Portlanders spent seven hours (mostly) telling the City Commissioners not to spend any of the surplus on more cops. Those who testified in favor of expanding the police department, including business owners who erroneously believe that police prevent burglaries and robberies, spoke without evidence that more cops would solve the problems they presented. They repeated copaganda and used talking points promulgated by the dark-money lobbying group People for Portland that pushes a pro-cop narrative and falsely accuses unhoused Portlanders of perpetuating crime.

Those who spoke against expanding the police department more often cited actual facts. “‘The mayor peddles law enforcement as a deterrent to crime,’ said Seemab Hussaini, an organizer with Unite Oregon. ‘These solutions aren’t based on sound data.'”

In fact, only two days before this meeting, a data analyst, a community organizer, and a public health researcher released a report which uses the Portland Police Bureau’s own statistics to prove that there is absolutely “no correlation between crime levels in Portland and officer staffing levels.” Analyzing almost six years of data points, they found that increasing PPB staffing results in no decrease in crime. This directly contradicts the PPA contention that “The connection between the diminished police presence in Portland, the lack of and availability of resources, and the rise in crime is glaringly obvious.”

Families of homicide victims were among those speaking out in favor of more police. But again, there is no data showing increasing police presence reduces homicides. “Police do not create safety,” Dr. Amara Enyia, policy and research coordinator for the Movement for Black Lives, stated. “Policing is largely reactionary. They come onto the scene after the fact.”

“While police and allies have attempted to use data to tie ‘bail reform’ and racial justice protests to this past year’s rise in murders,” Scott Hechinger, a civil rights attorney, wrote in The Nation, “those claims are contradicted by the geography of the rise in homicides, which occurred across the country: in red and blue states, in jurisdictions that have seen some measured wins for criminal and civil justice and those that haven’t, in jurisdictions that saw protests against police violence, and those that haven’t–and all despite massive police budgets.”

The report repeatedly cited by media sensationalizing the increase in murders–which might be a result of COVID confinement, mass unemployment, or a statistical fluke in historically low and decreasing violent-crime rates–also showed a decline in all other major crimes. If that information gets mentioned by the media, it’s buried.

In reality, additional police presence, which routinely results in oppressive surveillance of and violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, “makes communities less safe and less healthy,” Takenya Nixon Brail, a public defender in Cook County, Illinois, wrote in teenVogue. “Not only does policing fail to prevent violent crime, it creates conditions that allow for even more violence.”

We’ve known for decades what works and what doesn’t to reduce violence and crime. And nothing involving police makes any positive difference including increased police presence, drug resistance education, copaganda police newsletters, scared straight schemes, and home detention or any other carceral programs.

If Portland, or any other city, really wanted to reduce crime and violence, they would redirect the funds sucked up by the police department and put it toward housing support (both for those already unhoused and those in danger of losing their housing), medical (including mental health) care, education (including early childhood education, and childcare programs for working parents, and job training), and food security. Reducing the number of cops would also remove some of the most violent, murderous, repeat offenders who consistently act as if the law does not apply to them from the streets of Portland.

Restorative justice approaches to addressing the root causes of violence and crime have been proven to result in actual improvements in public safety. But, these aren’t as easy to condense to one-sentence hyperbole plastered on billboards across the city and don’t generate generous political donations from businesses and pro-police lobbyists. So Wednesday the Portland City Council is expected to ignore data, the testimony of hundreds,  the demands of organizations representing Black Portlanders such as the NAACP, and the protest of thousands. At least three of the five will vote to throw more millions of dollars at violent criminals with an erroneous expectation that will result in any public safety improvements.

1 BWCs have been suggested by U.S. Department of Justice monitors of the city’s non-compliance with the DOJ Amended Settlement Agreement in its lawsuit against the city for abuse of people with mental health issues as one option for bringing the city into compliance. However, the policies required by the monitors are in direct opposition to those demanded by PPA.

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.

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.

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)
  • Sgt. Javier Esqueda shared footage with a reporter showing how his colleagues slapped a handcuffed Black man in medical distress, restricted his airway, shoved a baton in his mouth, and drove him to the police station instead of hospital hours before his death and then tried to cover it up. Prosecutors cleared the cops caught on camera torturing the dying man “of any criminal wrongdoing.” Esqueda on the other hand, now faces up to 20 years prison for releasing the footage and was expelled from the Joliet Illinois Police Union. (Added 11/17/21)

*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.)

Standing Still While Moving Left

First published on The Big Smoke.
October 29, 2020

I grew up in the U.S. “south” and experienced explicit racism firsthand, both as an observer of how Black and other people of color were treated, and as a victim for not being white enough and not practicing christianity. I have spent most of my adult life in the U.S. “north” where the racism was always implicit, but no less systemic.

I always speak out against bigotry and intolerance in all its many forms: racism, misogyny, homomisia, transmisia, xenomisia, etc.; step up when and where I can to defend victims; use my words in an effort to explain harm and persuade change.

But, during my lifetime I have watched the animus and bitterness of the reaction to small gains in civil rights for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; freedoms for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and other Queers; acceptance for people who are transgender; and independence for women grow rapidly in the United States, far out of proportion to the relatively minor advances that were made. The acrimony comes couched in pious but authoritarian terms: “law and order,” “America first,” “religious freedom,” “pro-life,” “border protection,” “individual liberty,” etc.

Hands of a white-passing person in focus in the foreground holding a Black Lives Matter sign with a Black person, out of focus, on a bullhorn speaking to a crowdWhen the Civil Rights movement made open racism more unpopular and awareness curtailed racist speech, the evangelical crusade — started before the U.S. Civil War to fight the growing movement to abolish slavery — shifted gears. Inspired by women’s access to hormonal birth control and the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision, which combined gave women in the U.S. unprecedented control over their own bodies, evangelicals transferred their focus from keeping “coloreds” out of their schools, jobs, unions, and neighborhoods to “saving” the lives of “unborn children”. This campaign flourished despite biblical declarations that life begins at first breath, specification that a fetus has a lower value than a person, inclusion of an abortifacient formula (for unfaithful wives), and the fact that no statement against pregnancy termination was even once attributed to Jesus in the text.

Meanwhile, U.S. legislation and practices that prevented non-whites from owning homes, obtaining a quality education, earning equivalent income and benefits, and securing access to political influence, continued. The 1994 crime bill (sponsored by then U.S. Senator Joe Biden and signed by then U.S. President Bill Clinton), combined with the zero tolerance policies enabled in the Gun-Free Schools Act signed the same year, exacerbated the impact of the school-to-prison pipeline sending people of color, especially young Black men, into the for-profit carceral system built and codified after the Civil War to replace slave labor.

Still, white, especially male, resentment simmered, albeit below the surface in “polite” circles. It emerged as the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, anti-LGBQ, anti-Trans, anti-reproductive health care biases spread by right-wing organizations across the globe. Attempts to address harm done to BIPOC, LGBTQ, women, and non-christian populations through affirmative action met with fierce backlash and ludicrous accusations of reverse discrimination.

Straight, white, cis, male entitlements — the pillars of systemic racism and patriarchy — allow mediocre heteronormative people with lighter skin tones to continue reaping the rewards of advantages bestowed those who fit within privileged classes. And that, more than anything else, is what the melanin challenged refuse to give up, whether they are willing to admit it or not.

While they may claim to abhor racism; express regret and anger about the deaths of BIPOC routinely slaughtered by police, especially but not exclusively in the U.S.; berate and ridicule those who call the cops to report folks who are just trying to work, deliver packages, drive, park, picnic, swim, play, bird watch, or even just exist while Black; there is a limit to how much they are willing to personally sacrifice for the necessary changes to end systemic racism and patriarchy.

Once upon a time, I labeled myself a Democrat. But, as the Democrats moved to the center-right to fill up the void left by Republicans’ radical shift to the authoritarian right, I renamed myself a liberal, even though my views did not seem to have changed all that much. But then, more and more, I encountered only neo-liberals and hypocrites branding themselves with the “liberal” label. So, I switched my identification to progressive.

But now, five months into world-wide protests against police brutality that have been met with even more egregious police savagery, while media constantly equate protester vandalism with police violence, so-called officers of the law continue to kill Black and other people of color, district attorneys continue refusing to charge police with any of the crimes they commit, and elected officials across the United States and in other countries continue ignoring the public outcries demanding they strip funding from police departments.

And yet, I still hear “liberals” and even “progressives” enthusiastically embrace a tough-on-crime ticket for U.S. president and vice president, rallying behind the man who helped create the school-to-prison pipeline that has swallowed so many Black lives and communities, voicing their ardent support for the pro-cop/pro-prison woman who locked up and terrorized BIPOC and trans Californians because she has dark skin. That back-the-blue endorsement spits in the face of the millions in the U.S. who took to the streets, at the risk of arrest, injury, and even death, to demand abolition of the carceral system.

As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his August 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, where he was imprisoned after he defied a state court’s injunction and led a march of Black protesters without a permit, in response to a statement, published in The Birmingham News, written by eight moderate white clergymen criticizing the march and other demonstrations:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.'”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “white moderate” is today’s liberal and progressive. And, personally, I just cannot identify with those who find it acceptable to support two people who have done so much harm to communities of color and LBGTQ people. Bigotry and white supremacy behind a polite, civil, congenial facade is still bigotry and white supremacy.

So, now, I apparently am a radical abolitionist. I already had come to accept the utter impossibility of reforming a police force of racist white supremacist bullies who do not believe the law applies to them, whose organizations began as slave patrols and whose progenitors were protectors of property that belonged to well-to-do white men and union busting thugs. But even though I have always been well left of center, “radical” seemed too far, especially as a senior citizen.

Is believing that all people — whatever their skin color, sexuality, gender, faith, ethnicity, nationality, financial status, age, mental acuity, ability, etc. — are entitled to the same protections under the law, the same civil rights, the same access to basic needs such housing, food, and medical care, really that radical?

In an epiphany-inspiring article she wrote about how whiteness dilutes voices of color at public radio stations for The American Prospect, Laura Garbes, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, wrote:”Public radio and the broader academic world are liberal or progressive in their thinking, but are not radical. They are not about to jeopardize their own comfortable situations by fostering fundamental change” (boldface emphasis is mine).

And therein lies the crux of the difference between liberals/progressives and radicals. It is fine to talk about equality and police reform, but liberals and progressives are not willing to do the necessary heavy lifting of completely rebuilding a system that was designed to create “equality” only for straight, white, cis, property-owning men, a Republic that built slave patrols into its Bill of “Rights” (what that “well-regulated Militia” in the Second Amendment refers to).

Many liberals and progressives are not even willing to confront their fanatically white supremacist, homomisiat, transmisiat, and/or xenomisiat friends and relatives because that might mean giving up the pleasures of a weekend brunch or the comfort of a holiday dinner. They are certainly not inclined to support zoning changes that would provide more houseless people places to live if that would also allow apartment complexes in the neighborhoods of their single-family homes; services for the mentally ill in the same building as their fancy, high-rise apartments; or tent camping in their church parking lot. They won’t support defunding the police because then who would they call if someone stole a lawn ornament or took shelter in their doorway or painted anti-fascist graffiti across the street?

Fundamental change requires extensive sacrifices. And most people who identify as progressives and liberals are only willing to make small efforts toward the illusion they are working to offset the injustices that fuel their privilege: making commensurately small donations to crowd-funding campaigns, food banks and/or social justice organizations; recycling paper and cans; giving up plastic straws; signing meaningless petitions; adding a Black Lives Matter border to their social media profile picture; and maybe even writing a letter to the editor or showing up for a night of protest or two. However, they are not ready to sacrifice any of their own comforts, even to save someone’s life (unless it is someone they know personally, but sometimes not even then). They are not willing to recognize that the planet cannot sustain a capitalist lifestyle, that the privilege that allows them to own a home or condominium and one or more personal vehicles (even electric ones) is killing BIPOC around the world.

The liberals and progressives reveal themselves when they fervently urge you to vote blue, as if that would result in any substantial changes, and explain how they firmly believe that peaceful protests are perfectly acceptable and should be permitted, but they draw the line at looting, graffiti, setting fires, pulling down statues of colonizers, and other acts of vandalism. That translates to the colonialist concept that “white people’s property has more value than Black lives”. The excruciatingly brutal police response: bloody beatings with night sticks and arrests for “disorderly conduct” and “interfering with a peace officer” echo across centuries of violent oppression.

Although liberals and the progressives, especially in the U.S., know, and quickly recite or post, every MLK quote about non-violence, they conveniently forget that he was assassinated because agencies of the United States government considered him a dangerous radical. And they never quote from his April 14, 1967 speech, “The Other America”, given at Stanford University one of the many times he referred to rioting:

“I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities, as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. So in a real sense, our nation’s summer’s riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

Protests, Politics, Possibilities

First published on The Big Smoke.
October 6, 2020

Two-thirds of Portland voters agree Edward Tevis Wheeler is bad for Portland. Businesses blame him for disruptions caused by ongoing protests piled on top of coronavirus closures. Protesters, criticizing him for refusing to control the cops who beat and gas them every night, call for his resignation.  His mayoral campaign appears to be in shambles with his second campaign manager leaving, disclosure and financial rule violations, and a probably illegal $150,000 loan to himself.

Many are convinced there is no way for him to get elected to a second term.

Unless the two remaining candidates split the vote.

Left to right: Teressa Raiford, Sarah Iannarone, Edward Tevis Wheeler
Left to right: Teressa Raiford, Sarah Iannarone, Edward Tevis Wheeler

Although Sarah Iannarone, the only other name appearing on the ballot, won almost three times as many votes as Teressa Raiford in the May primary — enough votes to prevent Wheeler who received one and half times their combined total from winning outright — the world has changed drastically and irrevocably since then

Many activists and voters do not believe any white person is equipped to lead Portland under the current paradigm of police violently attacking protesters against police brutality, and targeting primarily BIPOC for arrest, while the mayor and city commissioners ignore activistsdemands (even though implementing them could have stopped the nightly demonstrations months ago).

Worse, Iannarone and Raiford could split opposition to Wheeler and give him four more years, which would be a complete and utter disaster for the city.

White people in Portland, including Iannarone, do not understand just how tenuous life in Portland is for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and how much risk they continue to face as long as the police department is allowed to exist in its current form.

Iannarone loves to tell people she’s antifa and she regularly attends protests. But, she proves she does not understand how deadly life is for people with dark skin and/or who are neurodivergent, not gender conforming, mentally distressed, Queer in public, houseless, etc. by still calling for police reform, reform that

  • has repeatedly been tried and failed
  • cannot work if the city continues to support the outrageous police budgets while cutting funds from every other department
  • allows violent, abusive cops to continue responding to protests (when cops and other racists don’t appear there’s no violence, no one gets hurt)
  • allows reinstatement of cops (if they’re removed at all) after they murder someone
  • still has the city shelling out millions of dollars in civil penalties and for the many lawsuits resulting from police rioting and abuse of citizens over more than four months, while nothing comes out of cops’ pockets
  • allows racist bullies who live elsewhere and have no connection to the community to remain on the force
  • means nothing when there’s always an “unless” that gives police an out for killing people.

Iannarone’s “Comprehensive Plan” for “Rethinking Public Safety” includes such tired tropes as “Portland Police will be required to undergo more de-escalation, implicit bias, and equity training than combat training. … Chokeholds and shooting at moving cars should be immediately banned.”

De-escalation training has been proven not to work. It has been required for police departments across the country to absolutely no effect. The activist who trained San Jose police on diversity and de-escalation, for example, unsuccessfully tried to de-escalate a situation after watching the police shoot rubber bullets directly at the chest of a young girl and at an older woman in close range. They shot him in the testicles in retribution.

Chokeholds have been banned in New York City since 1993, but Eric Garner (among others) is still dead. Chicago banned chokeholds in 2012, but Mia Wright endured one on June 3. New York state lawmakers criminalized the use of chokeholds in June and days later another Black man was choked into unconsciousness.

Minneapolis police were banned from attending “killology” training, where they’re taught pseudoscience about killing people without negative psychological impact. But, the police “union” keeps offering it.

“Portland must cease employing the practices and tools designed for foreign warfare.”

Many of the tactics used by the Portland Police would be considered war crimes if they were used in  a conflict against citizens of another countr. I’m not sure why Iannarone believes that statement addresses outrageous police brutality.

“When police rely on riot control agents, it can affect everyone in a crowd…”

A judge has issued a restraining order against Portland police use of tear gas. They still use it. The mayor ordered them to stop using one kind of tear gas (CS). Portland Police used other chemical agents and worked with federal, state, and county law enforcement so CS gas could be deployed during protests by those agencies.

“Demilitarize the police by ending the bureau’s investment and proliferation of military-style weapons and tactics.”

Defunding police militarization is not enough. The problem is not the riot gear, the gas and pepper spray, or the “less-than-lethal” weapons as much as it is the people wearing/wielding them, people who beat protesters with billy clubs — a traditional weapon dating back to the Pinkerton Detectives hired to break up strikes by busting skulls — because they can and do get away with it. Portland Police vindictively drag people to jail in the middle of a pandemic, on charges the District Attorney has said he will not prosecute, just to punish protesters. Removing their riot gear, or talking away their weapons, would not change that.

A Twitter thread compiled by T. Greg Doucette, a conservative, criminal defense lawyer licensed in North Carolina and Texas, documents more than 950 events of police brutality in the United States over the past four-plus months. It started as a Top Ten list from the first 36 hours of protests after George Floyd’s death. But as police continued to brutally attack protesters against police violence, as people shared what they witnessed and video they recorded with Doucette, the list grew. (The numbers refer to events — he only assigns one number to multiple videos including updates from the same event, that have taken place only in the U.S. and only since May 27. And, he doesn’t post nearly as many as he’s sent. A spreadsheet with all the data collected has more than 2,000 entries as of this writing.)

The thread gives an extensive overview of the wanton, vicious, almost always unprovoked, violence perpetuated across the nation by so-called “officers of the law” on people exercising their First Amendment rights. It makes it clear that cops are bullies. That they enjoy hurting people. That they have absolutely no regard for the law, for their “training”,  or for orders given them by the elected officials, to whom they supposedly report, and the judiciary.

The thread regularly features Portland Police

  • attacking peaceful protesters
  • shooting at people with military-grade weapons, aiming for their heads to cause life-threatening injuries
  • targeting journalists and legal observers despite court orders against doing so
  • harassing, gassing, and shooting at people in their own homes and neighborhoods or people who just happen to be driving/walking/biking in the vicinity of a protest.

You cannot train people like this out of behavior that includes routinely getting away with murdering BIPOC and people suffering from mental illness. You can’t reform organizations (including police “unions“) that condone this behavior and fight any attempts at reform.

Portland is at a crossroads and only an experienced and dedicated BIPOC leader can see the city to the other side.

Black activists do not need or want someone with a white savior complex. They have produced detailed plans to defund the Portland Police Bureau and create actual public safety programs that address long-term, neglected BIPOC needs.

Raiford, who began challenging Wheeler during his first year in office, has actively worked against police brutality and overreach for more than a decade. As a fourth-generation Black Portlander, she is only too familiar with police abuse and has fought for police accountability for much of her life. She founded Don’t Shoot PDX, a non-profit which researched the threats that riot control agents pose to health and the environment and filed the class-action lawsuit which resulted in the court ordering police not to use tear gas. Don’t Shoot PDX, whose website was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress collection of materials related to anti-racism work in the U.S., also addresses housing issues, provides mutual aid, and implements art, education, and civic participation to create social change, and more.

But back in May, before Floyd’s murder triggered nightly protests throughout the city of Portland, Raiford finished third in a field of 19 candidates. And now, she is so busy doing the work on the streets that should be a mayor’s job, she spends no time stumping. The write-in campaign is managed by her staff who speak and advocate for her. The activists who risk injury, arrest, and death from Portland Police, Multnomah County Sheriff Deputies, Oregon State Police, and agents of various federal agencies every night support her, especially those who are BIPOC, abolitionists, and/or anti-capitalists. Iannarone is a white liberal. Like Raiford, the activists are radicals and unlikely to respond to polls, especially ones conducted by Wheeler’s owners supporters, the Portland Business Alliance who hired Amy Rathfelder, his former campaign manager, as Government Affairs Director and consistently endorses him.

Iannarone’s refusal to set her own ego aside and transfer her support to Raiford’s candidacy by encouraging voters to write-in Teressa Raiford for mayor, could tip the balance away from removal of a corrupt administration more concerned with property than people. Instead of electing someone with the courage to eliminate the police and re-allocate those funds into social services, by continuing her campaign Iannarone provides Wheeler his one opportunity to stay in office.

If Wheeler is re-elected, or even if by some miracle Iannarone beats him, Portland will be destroyed. Between killer cops; the Proud Boys macing the streets, shooting paintballs, pointing loaded pistols at BIPOC, and firing pistols out of vehicles; boogaloo boys determined to start a race war; and other white supremacists itching for an excuse to murder people of color; (and let’s not forget a global pandemic and massive wildfires caused by climate change that came very close to the city and made it impossible to breathe for a week) Portland will be ripped apart and destroyed. The casualty rate will be horrific.

But if Iannarone helps elect Raiford, she will be seen as a true ally, one who Black voters could support for future office. It won’t stymie her political career, but instead will give her an opportunity to help end systemic racism in this city and maybe even the state and beyond.

DISCLOSURE: I have absolutely no connection to Teressa Raiford or her campaign. I have not been asked to write this piece nor has anyone contributed to the language above. I write as a concerned citizen who has been terrified and terrorized by the path taken by Portland and the U.S. I’m not sure the country is savable. But with the right mayor, Portland might be.