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.

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.

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.

Oregon LEO Favor Racism Over Reform, Again

First published on The Big Smoke.
September 29, 2020

A few Proud Boys came to Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, threatening anyone who got in their way. Believing their blustering boasts that thousands would participate in their rally, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a state of emergency Executive Order on Friday.

She handed control over “law enforcement coordination” to the Oregon State Police (OSP) and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). This was done deliberately to bypass court orders and feeble attempts by elected officials’ to restrain Portland Police. Putting the city cops under OSP and MCSO command, removed the (often-ignored) prohibitions against attacking and arresting the reporters and legal observers who document their violent nightly assaults on protesters.

As part of this, the U.S. Marshals Service deputized 56 Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers and 22 Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputies as federal marshals early Saturday morning. This was in addition to approximately 50 Oregon State Police troopers who were deputized in July for one year as part of Brown’s deal with the Trump administration to return the responsibility for beating, gassing, and arresting Black Lives Matter protesters to OSP, MCSO, and PPB, relieving U.S. Marshals, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, etc.

Racism Over ReformAnointing local officers as federal officials allows federal prosecutors to charge protesters with federal crimes. Most importantly for local cops, federal marshal status allows the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bypass progressive Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. Elected by more than 75% of voters, Schmidt has a mandate to change the criminal justice system. The resounding defeat of the handpicked successor of previous law-and-order District Attorney Rod Underhill led him to resign five months early in a fit of pique. And Schmidt’s refusal to prosecute protesters for crimes that do not involve violence or property destruction has angered local police.

Also, anyone accused of assaulting a peace officer, a charge frequently made without justification, would now face severely harsher penalties for “assault on a federal officer”. Protesters filmed attempting to cover their faces or protect their heads with their hands are routinely charged with “assaulting” an officer. On Monday, PPB claimed that most of the officers working Saturday night/Sunday morning were on light duty due to “injuries”. As a public defender noted Sunday, “Nearly every time someone I represented was charged w/ assaulting a police officer, the wounds were self-inflicted. Bruised hands. Pulled shoulders. Twisted ankles. When you rush, push, punch, kick, & attack protestors w/ hundreds of other cops, you’re likely going to get hurt.

Since July, federal charges have already been filed against a number of protesters including four announced on Monday. Despite the executive order expiring early Monday morning, the deputization will remain in effect through the end of the year — until after the election and whatever turmoil follows.

On Saturday, fewer than 200 white supremacists turned out at Delta Park in north Portland. They were armed with AR-15s and other long guns, pistols, paintball guns, bear mace, and shields. They were captured on camera (photographs and video) breaking various laws and ordinances, often in full view of police, including:

  • Smoking in a city park (“No person shall smoke or use tobacco in any form in any place in any Park. For purposes of this policy, smoking and tobacco are defined to include, but are not limited to: bidis, cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, clove cigarettes, e-cigarettes, nicotine vaporizers, nicotine liquids, hookahs, kreteks, pipes, chew, snuff, smokeless tobacco, and marijuana.”)
  • Drinking alcohol in a city park (“Alcohol is not allowed on park property unless you have applied for and received a permit”. It should be noted that the Proud Boys applied for, and were denied, a permit partially because they significantly overestimated the anticipated number of participants.)
  • Violating the Weapons and Explosives section of Portland’s city code prohibiting the carrying of loaded firearms without a concealed handgun licensed. (“Oregon is one of the few states that does not recognize any other state‘s” concealed carry license. Many of the Proud Boys were from out of state and unlikely to have applied for or received an Oregon license. Police asked about this violation wouldn’t answer questions as to whether police had checked if any of the armed Proud Boys were licensed to carry.)
  • Operating an armed checkpoint preventing people from entering a public park
  • Assaulting at least three journalists including one who is Black and another who is Syrian, injuring at least one, and damaging their equipment; none of those involved in the assaults were arrested (Portland Police claim to be investigating the incident in which the Black journalist was kicked in the head, but took no action at the time. After the incident, Oregon State Police were seen talking and joking with the person who committed assault. The mugger has since been identified by anti-fascists as Samson Steele of Tangent, Oregon, an employee of Pacific Northwest Environmental, LLC in Damascus. No known attempt to arrest Samson has been made.)

No efforts were made to stop or arrest any of the Proud Boys, who were seen “chatting it up with cops”. However, police did prevent anti-fascists from unloading shields, and arrested someone who was helping them, at a Black Lives Matter counter protest.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 anti-fascists gathered at multiple locations throughout the city for several peaceful counter protests that included speeches, music, mutual aid, food distribution, information sharing, and the 100th protest appearance of the no drama llama.

After only ninety minutes, the Proud Boys left Portland. As night fell, Black Lives Matter activists gathered downtown to continue the ongoing protests against #PoliceBrutality and police murders of numerous Black men and women. While they listened to speeches, Portland Police, still under command of OSP and MCSO, attacked them with a vicious fury that demonstrated raging hatred, suppressed by court orders and city attempts to rein them in.

[Content Warning: many of the following links are to videos that show graphic violence by police.]

After sitting around all day ignoring Proud Boys’ illegal activity, police had lots of energy to chase protesters. Police, who removed even the inscrutable numbers previously providing an almost-useless way to identify them, wore black uniforms with only the words “police” printed on their backs making it impossible to determine which agency they worked for. They:

More than 30 people were arrested, most for nebulous “crimes” which could all be interpreted as attempts to suppress freedom of speech such as disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer, resisting arrest, and harassment. Mug shots show many of those arrested with facial injuries, including multiple contusions, swollen lips and eyes, abrasions, and cuts. A number of people required medical attention.

John Rudoff, the 73-year-old photographer police threw to the ground, posted: “…the cops need to understand that an action like this — shoving a guy down on the cement with no warning — can fracture a hip or an arm or a skull, and can be a life-ending or career/mobility-ending move.I responded on Twitter, “They do understand. They don’t care. They see injury/death as a way to get people off the streets.”

Before Saturday’s events, the governor stated: “Let me be very clear. Those who commit serious, violent acts will be charged, prosecuted and held accountable.” But her only response to the documented, horrific violence committed by Portland Police, Multnomah County Sherriff’s Deputies, and the Oregon State Police on Saturday night was to ask “Superintendent Hampton, Sheriff Reese, and Chief Lovell to review any alleged incidents involving officers from each of their agencies during joint operations last night.” In response, hundreds of Oregonians demanded an independent investigation via Twitter and telephone.

Multiple media outlets, which had filed voluminous reports about the clash that didn’t happen Saturday afternoon, mostly ignored the outrageous violence Saturday night as they have the previous four months of police brutality. At least one outlet regurgitated the standard police lies that projectiles were thrown at officers even though the only “weapons” confiscated from all the protesters arrested were the aforementioned “can of bear spray and a baton”.

Despite numerous reports of police attacking multiple members of the press, to say nothing about the abuse heaped on multitudinous protesters, the Independent Police Review of the Portland City Auditor’s Office which is responsible for “independent, civilian oversight of the Portland Police Bureau”, posted only that “the IPR is aware of video footage circulating on social media that shows an officer grabbing a press photographer and throwing him to the ground during a protest on the night of September 26, 2020. IPR has opened an investigation into this incident“. As one reporter asked, “If a person is grabbed by an officer and thrown to the ground and it’s not caught on camera/doesn’t involve a well-known person, does it get an investigation?

The “Unified Command” responded to use of force concerns by stating: “Individuals who felt an officer’s action was unjust or excessive, should file a complaint with the officer’s department or review board. Each officer is responsible for following their agency’s use of force policy.” As previously noted, police made sure it was impossible to determine which agency they worked for.

On Monday evening, police continued to drive home the message that there are two sets of laws in Portland: one for white supremacists who support police and the racist in chief, and completely different standards for Black Lives Matter activists and anti-fascists. Despite ignoring much more egregious crimes listed above that Proud Boys committed Saturday, on Monday night/Tuesday morning, police:

  • Violated protesters’ Fourth Amendment rights by searching them and their belongings and seizing  their property
  • Viciously shoved a woman, who may or may not have been involved in the protests (she wasn’t dressed for it) to the ground, and when she regained her feet pushed her, dazed, to the sidewalk
  • Violently arrested multiple people for:

Police were also captured on video collecting rocks to use to support their daily fabricated tales about protesters throwing “projectiles” at them. Today, Portland Police even claimed that “at least 5 officers were sprayed by a chemical irritant“, attempting to imply that protesters had done so, even though multiple reporters had captured them carelessly spraying each other in attempts to injure more protesters.

When asked how to end the protests, one police officer specifically told a homeowner, that the only way they would stop abusing protesters would be “if people liked our trump government a lot more“.

Peaceful Protests

First published on The Big Smoke.
September 9, 2020

The white mayor, various other mostly white regional elected officials, the white editorial board of the “local” (actually owned by national media chain) newspaper, and numerous mostly white-owned businesses have called (repeatedly) for an end to the violence on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

They use passive language–“the violence needs to end”, “All of us must take a stance against violence”, “violence has no place in civic engagement and protest”, etc.–while barely giving lip service to Black Lives Matter (ignoring centuries of abuse and police violence and claiming to know what behavior is appropriate for Black people trying to stop the police from killing them) or the First Amendment right “to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But, nowhere, in any of their documents, editorials, statements, or letters, do any of them acknowledge that, night after night, the primary perpetrators of violence–the people breaking bones, and cracking open peoples’ heads that results in concussions and traumatic brain injuries, and causing other injuries that have put people in the hospital–wear the uniforms and badges of the Portland Police Bureau.

White supremacist groups have come to Portland on several occasions, shooting paint ball guns and mace, threatening people with loaded pistols, and beating people with baseball bats. The police don’t arrest the Fascist group members for felonious assaults committed and recorded on video. Yet night after night, police arrest Black Lives Matter protesters for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and the ever-popular interfering with a police officer (a nebulous, undefined law that has been interpreted by police as anything from insulting a police officer, which is not actually a crime, to not running away fast enough).

Night after night, any violence that isn’t committed by right-wing “patriots” is inflicted by the Portland Police.

After 59 people were arrested Saturday night/Sunday morning, and after being prevented by the police from reaching their protest goal the evening before, on Tuesday, September 8th, protesters implemented a new tactic. Whenever the police tried to block them, they went somewhere else. They flowed through the streets of downtown Portland, shifting direction and destination.

Police told protesters to stay off the train tracks, while they themselves stood on the train tracks. They told protesters not to block the street, while they themselves blocked the street. Police threatened protesters, via Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), with “arrest, citation, or crowd control agents, including, but not limited to, tear gas and/or impact weapons.”

But there is no evidence any protesters threw water bottles, plastic pigs, or fruit at police. No one affiliated with the protest set dumpster fires, which have become a protest mascot and have been used as barriers to stop drivers from attempting to run down pedestrians with their vehicles. Presumably aware of the high fire danger, no one even started a small trash fire. No new graffiti was added to government buildings.

Protesters listened to speeches and rap songs excoriating the police and the mayor, chanted, and danced in front of City Hall. Even Mayor Edward Tevis “Tear Gas Ted” Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, couldn’t have called it anything but a peaceful protest. The police couldn’t justify an “unlawful assembly” or “riot” declaration for which, in the past, they’ve only needed a minuscule excuse, such as a balloon being tossed in their direction.

So, instead, police declared the streets the protesters occupied, and an additional dozen blocks of downtown Portland, closed to pedestrians. And then, as protesters cleared the area, expanded the closure to more than forty blocks.

Police chased and attacked protesters, throwing them violently to the ground; pushed them off the sidewalk they had ordered them to stay on; arrested whoever they could catch including one woman who was legally crossing the street in a crosswalk, with the light, outside the “closed” zone; including one of the Moms for Black Lives who, standing on the sidewalk as instructed, yelled at them for attacking peaceful protesters but refusing to arrest violent white supremacists; and including at least one member of the press despite a restraining order forbidding them from doing so.

For each arrest, four or five police officers tackled and restrained individuals, some weighing less than 100 pounds, who were not resisting in any way and several additional police officers attempted to prevent the press from photographing the violence while repeatedly announcing via LRAD that the arrests were “lawful”. (One normally need not repeatedly state something is “lawful” if it actually is.) Restraining and arresting a person did not stop police from inflicting further damage, including holding one man down and pulling his head up by his hair to spray mace in his face.

The nightly police-written summary, released at 2:51 a.m. Pacific time, that details arrests and invents reasons for them, as usual, contained misleading statements and outright lies.

“A mass gathering blocked streets and Trimet Max tracks in downtown Portland for several hours Tuesday evening.” That statement is only accurate if you identify the “mass gathering” as the Portland Police, because even when protesters moved away from areas as instructed, the police continued to block the streets and the train tracks. It should be noted that on numerous occasions when protesters take to the streets in Portland, they make an effort to allow Max trains, buses, and delivery trucks to pass through unimpeded.

“Targeted arrests were made” is only accurate if you consider “targeted” as anyone they could catch.

“As the group marched in the streets, group members were seen wearing helmets, gas masks, and carrying shields.” So now, apparently, the police interpret efforts made by protesters to protect themselves against further police brutality as intention to commit a criminal act.

As Mac Smiff, Portland activist and Editor-in-Chief of We Out Here, has stated: “We came out here dressed in T-shirts and twirling Hula-Hoops and stuff, and they started gassing us, so we came back with respirators, and they started shooting us, so we came back with vests, and they started aiming for the head, so we started wearing helmets, and now they call us terrorists.”

Eleven arrests were made on charges of interfering with a peace officer, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest (under Oregon law people have the right to defend themselves against unreasonable use of force). One person had an additional charge of attempt escape tacked on.

None of those arrested were charged with vandalism (despite claims in the summary that vandalizing property had occurred), assault, or even littering (despite claims in the summary that projectiles had been thrown). The county District Attorney, Mike Schmidt, has specifically said his office will not press charges for interference with a police officer or disorderly conduct and Oregon courts have ruled that resisting arrest is not a valid charge in and of itself.

The Portland Police have made it very clear that they will not tolerate any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise, that calls out their racism, their violence, and their brutality, nor any calls for eliminating their funding. So, exactly what do officials and media mean when they declare “we ask those who may want to demonstrate to do so peacefully and safely” or “This is not the culture of peaceful protest that Portland knows”?

Victims’ Blood on Beaverton’s Hands

People who live in smaller communities might think police violence and brutality are limited to the “Big City”. They read about Black people being murdered during traffic stops and erroneously believe it could never happen in their community because the cops in their cities and towns are neighbors, friends, families, etc.

But, in reality when cops leave or are removed from any police force (usually only for the most egregious transgression such as murder), they don’t stop being cops. Many went into the police academy straight out of the military and know no other way of life. Often they are racist bullies who don’t believe the laws they enforce apply to them. They aren’t suited for employment elsewhere.

So, they take a job as a cop in those smaller towns and cities. Because in most states they’re allowed to hide their personnel records – including any reports of or discipline resulting from beating, stalking, harassing, raping, and murdering people – the community they move into may have no knowledge of their criminal records.

In March 2004, Jason Sery, then a Portland Police Officer, shot and killed an unarmed 28-year-old Black man after pulling him over for allegedly failing to correctly signal a turn. Less than four years later, Sery was hired by the Beaverton Police Department where he is now a training officer.

When he hired Sery, then Beaverton Police Chief David Bishop said: “We completed an extensive background investigation before Officer Sery was hired. Based on the background investigation, we determined Officer Sery had been cleared.”

Police are always cleared “of any wrongdoing”. Sery was “cleared” despite multiple inconsistencies in his story about the traffic stop that led up to the shooting, despite the fact that the victim was tortured after he was shot, and despite the fact that Sery and his partner put handcuffs on a man who no longer had a pulse and did not render medical aid.

One of the reasons the grand jury found “insufficient evidence to hold anyone criminally liable”, was the fact that Sery successfully sued the city of Portland to prevent a public inquest before the grand jury met so the grand jury didn’t have access to all of the incriminating evidence against him.

That’s how the system works. Police are never held accountable for any crimes, “from the smallest infraction to flagrant disregard for human life and safety“.

Jason Sery lives in Beaverton and is active in a Beaverton Church. He’s been named “Officer of the Year.” Beaverton City Councilors Cate Arnold, Laura Mitchell, and Mark Fagin have all expressed their support for Jason Sery and are defending his position on the Beaverton Police Department, despite community demands for his removal and the fact that the state of Oregon finds his position as a training officer problematic.

HB 4207, which directs the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to establish a public, statewide, online database of suspensions and revocations of certifications of police officers, was signed by the governor after 26 (of 30) members of the House of Representatives and 54 (of 60) Senators voted in favor of it.

HB 4207 specifically names Jason Sery as one of the reasons the bill is needed.

“Whereas Officer Jason Sery of the Portland Police Bureau shot and killed James Jahar Perez during a routine traffic stop over a missed turn signal; and

“Whereas Officer Sery resigned from the Portland Police Bureau and now works to train officers with the Beaverton Police Department; and

“Whereas abuses like this cause irreparable loss of public trust and confidence in the ability of law enforcement to be fair and unbiased …”

Even if you thought cops on smaller police force were “good guys”, that they’re your neighbors, friends, etc., remember it only takes one bad apple to spoil an entire barrel. And the fact that the BPD hired a murderer and put him in a position where he’s training other cops is one of the stated reason HB 4207 was passed by the Oregon Legislature.

Jason Sery is a murderer. His uniform/badge and his white skin protected him from prison. Now, he is training other Beaverton cops on how to get away with murder. Maybe not explicitly, but implicitly.

If Jason Sery is not removed from the BPD, the blood of his future victims (and there will be victims in the future, every cop you read about who has murdered a civilian and gotten away with it has other victims) will be on the hands of the Beaverton City Government. But it’s those victims, their families, and the other citizens of Beaverton who will pay the price.

Federal Troops “Removed” from Portland

I sent my monthly newsletter out this morning (you get kitty pics if you subscribe) and several recipients responded with questions along the lines of: were the Federal troops removed from Portland? Das Fuhrer (okay, that’s my moniker for him) is threatening to send them to my city and make things here much worse.

The answer is yes, no, and it doesn’t really matter.

Yes: the governor and the mayor made a big show of “negotiating” (Why would you “negotiate” with a dictator illegally using an armed force created under a piece of probably, but never-tested, unconstitutional legislation as his own, personal police?) to get the Feds “out” of Portland.

No: Although they haven’t come out and attacked protesters recently, we know at least 120 Feds are still stationed in the Portland area (although we don’t know precisely where) and they’re still kidnaping people off the streets in unmarked rental vehicle (boycott Enterprise).

It doesn’t really matter: Why? Because for five weeks before the Feds got here and ever since they “left”, the Portland Police have beaten, gassed, shot “less-than-lethal” bullets at protesters, and violently “arrested” them.

The only real differences is a) the Portland Police are required to “declare a riot” before they start shooting (something they never did before the temporary restraining order, something they do without any justification every since). Sometimes they remember to do so beforehand. Sometimes, like last night, they do it mid volley.

And b) the Feds seemed to have more tear gas to use, so they filled city streets, the parks, and nearby buildings with what was an horrific amount compared to what the cops use.

It should be noted, we do not know the long-term impact of being attacked with tear gas every night, although we do know that female-bodied persons have had their menstrual cycles screwed up.

Also, both the Feds and the cops are using expired munitions — protesters and reporters have found canisters with expiration dates that passed as long ago as 20 years ago — and we don’t know what the impact of those are, although we do know that expired CS gas produces cyanide gas, among other things.

We also do not know what the long-term environmental impact of prolonged tear gas exposure for trees, other plants, and the river will be.

But, every single thing the national media reported, and local elected officials berated, the Feds for doing, the local cops had been doing for weeks before the Feds got here and are still doing nightly, now. Haven’t heard a peep out of the elected officials (including the mayor, to whom the cops report, who made a big deal about showing up when the Feds were here and hasn’t been seen since). National media (and many of the white protesters) went home.

But the protests against police violence are still met with police brutality. (Again, it should be noted that on those few nights the police stay inside there is no violence. There is no riot, because the only rioting that’s been done in Portland has been police and Feds violently attacking protesters who are practicing their First Amendment right “to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But the reason the protesters took to the streets (some BIPOC protesters as early as 72 days ago), the reasons there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of them in the streets every night, haven’t changed. Police routinely lie, violate the law, and ignore court-ordered restrictions, their own policies, and the demands of elected officials to whom they allegedly report. I saw at least three restraining orders, specific orders from an elected official, and several state laws broken by police just last night. (And, that was only one night’s observation, this happens every time the police venture out into the street.)

Cops break the law and any attempts to restrict or reform them with impunity because they have “qualified immunity” and will never face any consequences and because their “union” aka, in this case, the Portland Police Association (a private organization the headquarters of which the police attacked protesters to “protect” last night), will get them their jobs and pay back. They can’t even be bothered to obey orders to wear masks and we know there are infected employees of the Portland Police and Multnomah County carceral system (we just don’t know how many). If you watch the protests you’ll see most of the protesters wearing face coverings. Almost none of the cops do (their riot face shields do not protect against virus transmission).

And, if you think this isn’t already happening in your city, you’re either consuming the wrong media or aren’t blessed with the brave, independent journalists who risk injury, death, and arrest every night to report the truth about what’s happening in the streets of Portland. Because every report you read from Portland that was not written by one of those local journalists, was at best inaccurate and at worst outright copaganda.

The media in this country are owned (yes, even your “local” newspaper and television stations, look it up) by megacorps who benefit from GOP tax cuts and who are part of the cabal behind the Astroturf movement to “reopen” the U.S. They slant stories to meet their own agendas. And they won’t pay for journalists to do actual reporting so they regurgitate the lies that fill self-serving police press releases.

Many of our local journalists are working for tips (portlandpresscorps.com points you to where they can be tipped, but also to their Twitter handles so you can see some of the reports/video they’re producing). Reports that originated from other so-called “local” media (the local television stations and the Oregonian, specifically) are suspect.

Although Portland features prominently, you can probably find at least one example of police brutality where you live on this Twitter thread.

The first weekend of nationwide protests against the police who murdered George Floyd, T. Greg Doucette, a #NeverTrump 2A conservative who is also an attorney, posted 10 links to police violence videos of the most brutal incidents captured during the first 36 hours. But people kept sending them to him. So he kept posting them. And numbering them. Currently, there are more than 800 separate (he groups video from the same incident under the same number) reports of police brutality posted from just the United States, just the people who know to send the videos to him, just the most violent and egregious occurrences.

And, if you’re foolish enough to come on my blog and make noises about protester violence, you and your comments will be blocked for disseminating false information. Vandalism, including graffiti and pulling down monuments to white supremacy, is not violence. Throwing a water bottle in the general direction of police, is not violence (although the video of the Fed pretending to be injured by one that didn’t hit him is hilarious).

“We came out here dressed in T-shirts and twirling Hula-Hoops and stuff, and they started gassing us, so we came back with respirators, and they started shooting us, so we came back with vests, and they started aiming for the
head, so we started wearing helmets, and now they call us terrorists. Who’s escalating this? It’s not us.” — Mac Smiff, Portland, Oregon

Shooting people in the head, beating them with batons, hitting them with tear gas canisters fired at close range, is violence. Throwing them to the ground and kneeling on their neck is violence (and yes, at the protests against police brutality inspired by a man strangled to death by a cop kneeling on his neck, cops are horrifically brutal and have knelt on peoples’ necks). Pulling people’s masks and goggles off to spray mace in their face is violence. Throwing people in jail overnight in the middle of a pandemic when correction officers refuse to obey the governor’s orders regarding sanitation, knowing the bogus charges are going to be tossed, is violence. Lasers do not “blind” people. “Less-than-lethal” bullets fired directly at peoples’ heads blind people and have cost more than one reporter an eye.

Cops lie. They’re trained to lie. They are legally allowed to lie under some circumstances. And they do so by default. On Monday night, the cops claimed someone threw a “glass bottle” and used it as an excuse to violently attack protesters. But half a dozen independent journalists were streaming. At least three of those journalists, knowing that the “bottle” would be used as an excuse, made a point of asking everyone if anyone had seen anything thrown at the cops before the cops attacked. The only thing that had been thrown at the cops was an inflated pink pig and the only thing that hit was their egos.

Again, this is just one specific example of the constant lies being told by police. Every night, I watch the video. And in the morning, I see the police chief and his minions (and the mayor) lie about what happened. Every .Single. Night

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell 1984

Last night the end started

I really, really, really would rather not be right. But people are shocked, shocked to find that the Republicans plan to cut Social Security and Medicare.

This has been the GOP/Koch game plan for decades. They have repeatedly raided the trust fund (Social Security and Medicare would be perfectly solvent if they didn’t). They never worry about the deficit when it comes to giving tax breaks for billionaires, but OMG the “entitlements” must be cut because the “deficit” is out of control.

The time to stop this was before #45 was elected; before the Congress was handed over to the Republicans (and even with a Democratic House, they still put DINO Pelosi in charge so nothing’s changed there either); before federal courts were filled with unqualified, right-wing, appointed-for-life judges; before the GOP took over state legislatures and disenfranchised BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ people though gerrymandering, voter ID laws, etc.

People keep reacting to what’s going on now like it’s new, or unprecedented, or unanticipated. This all happened deliberately while those very same people weren’t paying attention because they were comfortable, because their children weren’t getting slaughtered on the streets by police, because they didn’t tremble in terror for their lives when they heard a siren behind their vehicle.

I’ve been screaming since Reagan was elected. But no one was listening then and those same people aren’t listening now. (The people who are doing something about this weren’t alive when Reagan left office. They’re out in the streets every night risking their lives to fight against police brutality, white supremacy, and the Gestapo occupation.)

Nine years ago, I warned that we were at a tipping point. But no one listened to that, either.

“Last night the end started.
The only question: end of what?”

Excerpted from “March 10, 2011”.