Once upon a time, there was a tween named Billy in New Orleans, not yet a teenager, but no longer a small boy.
He’d been having a difficult life, but his mother taught him the best she could. Billy loved his mother and Billy loved his house. Billy loved his friends and Billy loved his faithful dog, Rex, more than anything.
One day, after school, where he studied good and hard, he realized he would need some money to buy tasty snacks for Rex, but he didn’t have any money. What was Billy going to do? Billy thought long and hard about this and walked all over New Orleans trying to find a job cleaning pots and pans so he could buy Rex the snacks that made Rex as happy as Billy.
But Billy was treated bad by the people he asked for a job. Billy tried really hard, but there were very few jobs and nobody hired Billy.
Billy really liked to see Rex happy and Billy didn’t know what else to do so finally, Billy did what he felt he had to do.
Billy sold crack, hot solids around his school and very soon, Rex had more snacks than he could eat and everything was fine. Rex was very happy. And this made Billy happy, but when Billy’s mom found out Billy’s mom was really angry.
“You can’t sell crack!” Billy’s mom yelled, “Your cousin and dad are in prison for misbehaving like that already!”
Billy was sad and soon Rex ran out of snacks.
So Billy didn’t stop. Billy’s friends didn’t want him to stop and Rex didn’t want Billy to stop either.
One day, when Billy was making money, he was stopped by Officer Friendly. Officer Friendly was really angry at Billy too, more angry than Billy’s mom. He slapped Billy. He punched Billy. He held a gun to Billy’s head and begged Billy to give him a reason, but Billy didn’t. He had watched what happened in his neighborhood very closely and he knew that Officer Friendly wasn’t really friendly.
Officer Friendly said, “We’re going to take you to a new school, where you can be rehabilitated.”
“What’s rehabilitation?” Billy asked.
“You’ll see,” said Officer Friendly.
So Billy went to his new school and he didn’t get to go home at night either. He had to sleep there and eat there and Rex was not allowed to visit. Soon, Billy found out that his new school didn’t even have classes and Billy knew he was falling behind those people at regular schools.
Billy was sad.
On the fourth night at his new school, two older boys beat the shit out of Billy while a teacher looked on and then walked away. Billy didn’t understand why the teacher didn’t protect him. Two nights later, another teacher gave two older kids crack, weed and brown powder and when they all saw Billy watching them. They beat up Billy again. This teacher walked away too.
Billy was angry.
Billy didn’t like getting beat up at his new school and he didn’t understand why he had to be rehabilitated when the teachers were doing what Billy had done to buy Rex his snacks. Billy decided he needed to make friends with one of the teachers so he could get a shiv, to protect himself, but that night before Billy could get his shiv another older boy attacked him while he was sleeping and pulled down Billy’s pants.
Billy was humiliated.
Billy had never beaten anyone up before, but now after being rehabilitated, Billy was afraid, sad, angry and humiliated. Billy decided he not only needed a shiv, he needed new friends. So he got new friends at the new school and Billy’s new friends taught Billy to fight. Then one of Billy’s new teachers gave Billy a shiv and later that day placed bets on Billy’s fights. He didn’t give Billy any of the money he won, but he did promise to buy Rex some snacks.
Billy thanked him, but Billy really didn’t give a fuck about Rex anymore.
What Billy cared about now was where to hide at the new school so he wouldn’t be on camera when he beat up the other students. Billy wanted to learn which teachers would look away when he used his shiv, but Billy soon found out that nobody cared when he used his shiv. Then Billy wanted to get in on the drug trade, on the guns and the graft at his new school and in time Billy got good and rehabilitated, so rehabilitated Billy didn’t give a fuck about nobody or nothing anymore.
One day, the Headmaster of the school deemed Billy a total success and just like that, Billy was free.
Free and much more skilled, much more angry and though Billy didn’t know it, much more traumatized than Billy had ever been before…and Billy didn’t go home. Billy found friends of his new friends at the school and moved in with them. They liked Billy and Billy liked hurting the people Billy’s new friends didn’t like. It made Billy feel like he belonged.
He liked it so much, Billy didn’t concern himself too much if other people got hurt in the process.
Soon enough, Billy did what most people considered to be a really fucked up thing to do and some people got hurt really bad, but Billy shrugged. Billy was just doing what he had to do, what he knew how to do, what he had learned to do.
Officer Friendly grabbed Billy two days later and told him he would have to go back to get more rehabilitation.
Billy was really angry and really scared, so much so that it all just made Billy feel vaguely numb. Billy didn’t want to show all his crazy feelings so he just shrugged and said to Officer Friendly, “New school, old school. All the same to me motherfucker.”
And just like that, Officer Friendly and Billy rode off into the sunset, breathing in lead from the surrounding environment.
The moral of the story?
Whereas I won’t say tragedies like the second line shooting and the high murder rate in New Orleans are a direct result of Gusman’s fucked up jail and its utter disregard for inmate safety, the idea that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other is a bunch of conservative law and order bullshit focused on easy answers to problems that don’t go away. Climates are created by lack of concern. Trauma often leads to more violence. There are a hundred and one reasons why people can turn, but when people get arrested out of an unforgiving environment and are remanded to ones even harsher, the creeping desperation can blow up and shut all systems down. If there’s no rehabilitation to be had, and very little supportive service or education…not to mention a lack of housing upon release, or jobs, or training, or any sort of real mental health assistance, what can we expect to happen when people leave OPP and elsewhere?
Ahem…for reasons of disclosure, let me start out by saying I am a social worker…I am a social worker but I am also not stupid. I’ve worked in some social programs in my day that were, shall we just say, not cost-effective. However, let me also say that those days were a long time ago. Things have changed in my field and now pretty much everything is cost-effective.
That’s what happens when there is no money.
Many Americans, over the past year or so, have been introduced to the term austerity, but in social services austerity has been the order of the day for close to two decades so this is why, when I read in the Lens about Mitch Landrieu’s budget for the city of New Orleans, it makes me want to steal a NOPD squad car and drive it straight through the front doors of City Hall to, you know, creatively air my grievances in a way the mayor might finally pay attention to, because apparently all them listening sessions he did? They didn’t amount to dick as he just wrote a budget doing the opposite of what the people, the citizens of New Orleans, suggested.
“We heard folks at the budget meetings say spend less on public safety, but at the moment, we think it (spending more) is the right thing to do,” Landrieu said Monday in an overview presentation of his $495 million proposed 2012 budget to reporters.
Well, listening ain’t hearing, is it Mitch?
So though it will probably fall on deaf ears, let me try to explain a little something anyway, a little something about crime:
If you have a crime problem, and your solution to this crime problem is to cut the funding from every part of the budget that addresses social inequity, be it social services, education or whatever else…you will still have a crime problem. In fact, it will be worse, and if you then take all that money you cut and give it to the most bloated budget of every city in this country, to the police…well, then you will not only still have a crime problem, then you get a lost generation and a prison problem.
Why then a crime, lost generation and a prison problem?
Simple, if your only solution is to lock people up, you’re going to lock a lot of people up which then in effect, is throwing a lot of people away. In addition, social work ain’t the only place to become far too familiar with austerity, these same measures have long since ensured that in prison, there is no such thing as rehabilitation anymore. Instead of a trade or even a college education, all you get now is a criminal education and then people get out of the prison. They come back to your city where, because your mayor keeps giving all the money to the cops, there continues to be little or no support.
And then you still have a crime problem.
But hey, new cops in new uniforms sure do look good on the evening news and it’s something tangible a mayor can point to, puff out his chest and say, “Look at me, I’m doing something about the problem!”
Yeah, okay…but what the hell are you doing but perpetuating it? If I were to buy a shotgun and start driving around New Orleans and shooting homeless people, one might be able to argue that I am doing something about the homeless problem, but that don’t necessarily make it the right thing to do, and besides, then I might wind up in your cyclical non-solution to all things criminal in New Orleans.
Frankly, the simplest solution one can find to a complex problem ain’t necessarily the best way to go about it.
Call me crazy, but I’m thinking it’d be best to measure a city’s success in dealing with a crime issue, not by the number of arrests and convictions, nor by the length of prison sentences. I think a far better measure would be how many you were able to keep from committing the crime in the first place, by presenting them with opportunity to do something else, you know, give as many people as possible a realistic opportunity to display “personal responsibility.”
But yeah, I know…it’s a fuck of a lot harder to take a picture of that, to put crime prevention on the front page of the Times Picayune or to somehow fashion that into a bumper sticker to slap on the back of your car…
You know, before it gets stolen.
So congratulations Mitch, you’re now just like every other damned politician, offering a simple and ineffective solution to a difficult and complex problem…but hey…gotta fill Gusman’s bullshit jails somehow, eh buddy?
I had initially planned to begin and end this post with one simple sentence, “Damn, the NOPD sucks, we knew that, but thanks for spelling it all out for us, in detail, just how much they suck…” But before I hit “publish,” I decided I should perhaps, elaborate on this so I did just that:
My former apartment in New Orleans was located at the corner of Royal and St. Ann. Yeah, another newbie moves to the city and sets up shop in the French Quarter, well, please don’t begrudge me my stereotype, I liked living in the Quarter and upon my return, it’s probably where I’ll choose to live again. Why not? I like a lot of noise, I keep odd hours and there’s a feeling there unlike any I’ve ever experienced, living in a museum so to speak…I should also note, I’m a white male, and being of such human classification in this part of New Orleans, who beyond certain political opinions and philosophies, has a clean record and doesn’t make a habit of breaking any serious laws, one might think that walking down Royal Street or up Decatur in the middle of the night, when a passing squad would hit the lights while it crept the streets, it would be of no concern. Wrong. I always, and still do feel that fast adrenaline jolt, and I also immediately look for the escape route.
It might sound overly dramatic, but I can’t help it.
And this response of mine, it brings me to the Department of Justice’s report on the NOPD…you wouldn’t think such reactions would be necessary, that my instincts wouldn’t take over and make such dramatic demands…especially in light of the report which states white males in the city of New Orleans are the only race and gender in the city the NOPD isn’t biased against. You’d think, but nonetheless those darker feelings always came over me quick, each and every time the squads lit it up and dashed the shadows with blue light…
So, if I feel this way about the NOPD, I can only imagine what it must be like for everybody else, the dismissing of complaints made by women, the unwarranted brutality, the racial profiling. The NOPD has a reputation that precedes them, and the many examples in the report show those reputations are hard-earned by years and years of their criminal behavior, leading to a public perception that the officers in New Orleans are best avoided by all.
I can think of many a time my friends and I would be sitting around a certain favorite haunt on St. Phillips and somebody would be discussing the occasional crime perpetrated against him or her, a break-in, a mugging, a stolen bike, etc…and inevitably someone would say the magic words, “Did you report it to the police?”
Such a question was always met with outright laughter. It was kind of an understanding we had that at best the NOPD wouldn’t catch anybody and at worst, whomever called would wind up in trouble when they ran his or her name for unpaid parking tickets or some other such minor offense that comes with the age and the time.
I don’t mean to imply there aren’t decent cops on the NOPD. I’m sure there are good officers on the force who are deserving of respect, much like the police in other places I’ve lived, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco, but the problem is I never really seem to run into those particular officers. In Chicago, it was because I was in the punk rock and anarchist scene and we were targeted. In Seattle, I was part of the Battle in Seattle down with the “just say no to the WTO” crowd, so we were targeted. In San Francisco, I lived in a neighborhood that was all homelessness, drugs and prostitution 24/7, and with my skin color in the middle of the night, I’d get targeted. A friend of mine in the social work world who also lived in the Tenderloin would commonly refer to it as being stopped for “walking while white.” The SFPD would seem almost disappointed I wasn’t on the street to buy crack or pick up a prostitute, that I actually lived there, by choice even.
But nervous around the NOPD? A white guy? In the French Quarter?
Simply put, the other understanding my friends and I shared was the NOPD could and would pretty much arrest anyone they felt like and once the NOPD arrests you, anything can happen. Law and due process are more of a pesky “guideline,” and one that can be ignored if you catch a cop in the wrong mood. The NOPD always had the reputation of being Wild West types who really played without any sort of rule book, and when they are the same ones to enforce any rules that do in fact exist, ultimately there are no rules beyond what they feel like at any given hour.
From the report:
Although the report identifies several instances of improper gun discharges by police — often in cases where officers shot at moving cars against NOPD policy — the department during the past six years has not found that any officer violated policy. Each of the homicide investigations into officer-involved shootings from January 2009 to April 2010 was “deeply flawed,” the report found.
Among the flaws:
Investigations were too cursory to determine whether the shooting was justified under the law, which requires that an officer perceive he or somebody else is in imminent danger of death or bodily injury.
Officers under investigation were temporarily assigned to the homicide division, a practice that seems to be a conflict on its face.
Sometimes, homicide detectives would tell the officer under investigation that his statement was being “compelled,” meaning his statement could never be used against the officer in a criminal prosecution.
“It is difficult to view this practice as anything other than a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult to criminally prosecute any officer in these cases, regardless of the circumstances,” the report contends.
Exactly…if the police who are in charge of policing the police, don’t actually police the police, not really, then nobody is safe from the whim or overzealous behavior of any particular officer…especially, like I previously mentioned, not anyone who isn’t a white male:
“The patterns of policing in New Orleans are biased against several demographic groups, including black residents, people who don’t speak English fluently, gay and transgendered people and women, the report says.”
Back at Rising Tide last August, many of us listened to Ronal Serpas, the new chief of the NOPD speak, and despite most of his comments sounding like canned portions of a politician’s stump speech (understandable as he was speaking to a room full of bloggers, fingers on the keyboard trigger), you also got the sense that maybe this guy, finally was someone who could be taken seriously…
Course, the NOPD was under his stead when the Krewe of Eris paraded down the street, and then closed down the Iron Rail…
Nonetheless, I do remember much of what he said, and I hold out hope that he was sincere and will really try to fix things, not that it will be easy…far from it, especially in a city with the levels of poverty that are found in New Orleans.
Okay, I would probably be remiss before I went on if I didn’t at least point out here something most people already understand, most people it would seem except for Republicans, and not just a few Democrats:
Poverty and crime are linked.
I know, I know, not especially groundbreaking, but you might be surprised by this fact if you spent the majority of your time being force-fed information by most mainstream media news outlets, especially the 24 hour news networks. And this is why Ronal Serpas’s job is going to become increasingly difficult, for not only must he work to fix the climate of the NOPD, he has to do this in an economic climate that is breaking the backs of the middle class and the poor, especially when politicians like Governor Jindal are balancing a budget in such a way that it slaps everyone across the face, repeatedly, unless you happen to be someone of higher means…
Ever here the old saying, “Hungry people don’t stay hungry for long?”
Well, the middle class and poorer neighborhoods in New Orleans are getting hungrier by the year.
Jindal’s new budget cuts back on health care for the poor. It cuts education programs for at-risk youth. It dramatically increases costs for higher education. When the city and state already had a dramatic need for social service programs and assistance for its residents, and the governor responds by cutting back, every year on what is already not enough, well, the end results ain’t gonna be good.
Not to mention a charter school system that funnels poor kids or kids with behavioral problems, precisely those who need the best supplies and the most attention from teachers, into the schools that don’t have the resources to give due attention to their needs…
Not to mention Obama cutting LIHEAP energy assistance funds, which keep the lights on for thousands of people across the city…
Not to mention a Congress that would seem to like nothing more than steal the lunch money from a kid on his way to school so they could give it to their friends, and their K Street friends’ friends.
Jindal says all these cuts are necessary, one reason being because Jindal won’t raise taxes on business, while on a national level, they become suppoisedly necessary because Obama bought in to extending tax breaks for the wealthy…
The working middle class and the poor?
Well, you’re just going to have to do what you can…
And like any city across the country, as in New Orleans, what do you think some of the “what you can” will entail?
So yes, the NOPD’s gonna have an even bigger job to do. Here’s hoping that Serpas can do what he said, change the police climate because the items in this report speak directly to a climate of in-house crime, especially when officers break the law by covering for other officers, or setting up the system of investigation to be a roadblock to the very same internal investigations meant to assess wrong-doing…Now, to be fair, the NOPD has made a start, essentially decriminalizing minor possession of marijuana to free up officers’ time to pursue more serious crime. A college degree is now required to advance up the NOPD ladder. And along with accepting this investigation by the DOJ, a federal judge will be overseeing the actions of the NOPD.
It’s a small start, but it must continue.
Maybe, along with giving the keys back to the people at the ARK building in the Marigny, the NOPD could start to earn back the citizens’ trust by arresting every person in business or government whose decisions set the stage for more economic suffering in the poorer neighborhoods across the city?
Yeah, probably not…
Changing the inner operations of the NOPD, all the way down to the cops walking the street would certainly be a positive and it is so very necessary for the safety of the city. It will take time, but imagine a day when the NOPD does the job the right way, and not just because a judge is watching. Imagine a time when the average citizen, no matter the skin color or gender has the honest expectation they will be respected by an officer in the NOPD, simply because that’s the norm.
It could happen…why not?
Personally, it’d be nice this time round to not have a flight instinct when I see police lights circling behind me on a dark French Quarter street, let alone anywhere else in the city of New Orleans. This place is just too amazing for that, it deserves much better than its gotten and it has deserved it for years. I don’t care what district you’re in, all people are deserving of protection and respect by the police.
And nobody should need protection from the police, ever.
So good luck Ronal…here’s hoping you mean what you said when you promised to take the DOJ report seriously. Maybe you can even be one of the first officials in the entire country to seriously try to do something about the problems of climate change, even if it’s only the climate inside your own department.
1. Repeat Super Bowl Championship for the New Orleans Saints.
2. Tie Ken Feinberg to the left upright of the goalpost and Bob Dudley to the right so even if Garret Hartley bounces one during said Super Bowl, I still get a sense of satisfaction.
3. Bobby Jindal marooned, stranded on one of his sand berms with David Vitter, the Skipper and Gilligan.
4. Save Charity Hospital
5. Full financial compensation for the entire Gulf Coast.
6. Levees that do what they are supposed to do, not just hold plaques and look nice.
7. Lil’ Wayne to hold a benefit for non-violence in the Superdome, with all proceeds going to jobs and after-school programs for the youth of New Orleans.
8. Ronal Serpas to really be successful with reforming the NOPD.
9. Ray Nagin in prison.
10. The beginning of a serious coastal restoration program, not just a token one or a photo-op for Jindal and Obama, and certainly not just another fucking study.
11. Sitting down by the Mississippi River and sipping a drink, or a good cup of coffee as many times as possible.
12. Another dinner at Adolfo’s on Frenchmen.
13. Real mental health assistance for people in the City of New Orleans. (also, see #4)
14. Improving the level of education, kindergarten through college for everybody, and especially for those with special needs or who need extra attention.
15. Peace on earth and good will tow…nah, did Verdi Marte reopen yet?
16. One more Rebirth Brass Band show at the Maple Leaf.
17. Lower rents.
18. Did I mention the Saints repeating? I did? Okay how about the San Jose Sharks winning their first NHL Championship. Hell, give me both…It’s my list. No, I know…the entire Atlanta Falcons team to be marooned with Jindal and Vitter and for the team to realize that Jindal and Vitter are the only food available.
Enjoy the holidays everybody, whatever they mean to you, and I’ll see ya in 20 days…
Normally, I don’t really go spreading this around as I find it can get in the way of my job, but after the events of this week, I just can’t help myself. Ten years now of having to be all secretive, of having to always respond to questions like, “Hey, what do you do for a living?” with answers like “Oh, a bit of this and that…and, you know, whatever it takes…or, I was a high school teacher before Katrina,” I soon may be able to finally be honest with my fellow New Orleanians, “Me? Oh, I’m an Assassin, and I’m proud!”
It’s been a great week.
Obama’s about to make me legal.
What? I know…I never would have believed it either. I thought when McCain chose Palin, I was truly fucked, but who knew? These Democrats? They appear to have an even stronger fetish for state secrets than the regime they replaced. It’s amazing, truly a surprise and yeah, I know I gotta thank the recession too. Since they can’t run on the economy at mid-terms and that health care thing has been such a clusterfuck…again, the last thing they need is to give rich white elephants any kind of war on terror ammunition so yeah, I get it. I understand. I just don’t care, cause me and my ilk, we’re coming out! Hell, we might even start our own Krewe! Mardi Gras parades! Our own Ball!
Despite the fact the constitution requires all Americans to receive “due process of law,” Obama is arguing that his assassination program is a state secret.
Why is he doing that?
Well, what happened is the father of this American citizen by the name of Anwar Awlaki, his dad filed a lawsuit against the administration for trying to assassinate his son. Yeah, you can sue for that! Crazy, I didn’t know either. Anyways, the Department of Justice under Obama is demanding dismissal of this lawsuit because they say that when I am out there trying to kill people at the behest of your government, I am a “state secret,” even when I am killing Americans. Why I want to kill you, also a “state secret.” The evidence the government has used as proof of your guilt before sending me out to kill you? You guessed it, “state secret.” And because of all these state secrets, what recourse would an American citizen have?
The Krewe of “Rue de Screw You!”
Got a bit of ring to it. I’ve always been a fan of some serious alliteration.
I’m thinking of taking out a billboard on Canal Street, course, then again that might not be prudent. It might give the impression to tourists I could conduct my business in the adjoining French Quarter, and whereas that may have been true before…soon, this is about to become very difficult. You see, even with the protection of our government that allows me to kill…you know, you, this doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be caught int the act. It creates quite a headache. Paperwork, time…yeah, all that shit and somebody’s got to let out my dog, “Ray-ray,” so there is still some sense of circumspection required. And in the French Quarter, well, I could deal with the NOPD and their 35 to 40 officers patrolling the Quarter 24-7, but what with this new French Quarter Security District thing, I just don’t know if it’s all going to be worth it. If this is approved on October 2nd, that means there are going to be three new security guards walking around the Quarter’s what, 85 blocks or so? I don’t think I want to deal with that kind of scrutiny. Yes, I understand that Moe, Larry and Curly will not be allowed to unholster their weapon for any reason, that they don’t have the power to arrest anyone for anything but seriously, there is a reason me and my ilk never kill anyone in malls. Too much trouble. I mean what if one of those security guards should have a camera? Do you know how many forms I would have to fill out if I was actually caught on film doing my job, even with the whole state secrets thing?
Assassins don’t like paperwork, it’s one of the most oft-cited reasons we get into this line of work in the first place.
I think I’ll put my billboard out by the airport.
So yeah, you gotta take the good with the bad and if the French Quarter is the only place I can’t kill in this country anymore? Yeah, I can live with that…I suppose, for now.
Oh, and more good news!
Mixed development is on the way to the Iberville.
New digs, right next to the Quarter! If I can’t kill there, at least I can hang out. Assassins like the Quarter…Flanagans, Mojo’s, Fahey’s, Molly’s…all within walking distance. Woo-hoo!
And no, you don’t have to ask. I do feel bad about the whole lack of affordable housing thing in New Orleans, really, I do…but I do work for the company so you gotta support the company and since Obama (again, a Democrat…who knew?) appointed David Gilmore head of HANO, we’re getting all that talk of “mixed development” again and just like when they tore down the Big 4, there have been no promises of 1 to 1, the idea that for every low-income apartment they eliminate, they create a new one somewhere else. With 1 to 1, the thousands of residents that have been priced out of the New Orleans housing market when HANO destroyed their homes, or those at the Iberville who soon might be, they are given a new place to live, guaranteed. 1 to 1. They don’t have to leave New Orleans, or they can finally come back home.
I know, yes, I feel bad about there maybe being more homeless people and all, but I also take responsibility. To assuage any guilt I feel when I move to the Iberville Luxury Towers (don’t worry, you’ll hear about it after the elections) I’m going to do my part to kill as many people as I can all over the New Orleans area, except the French Quarter of course, to try to reduce housing demand, to lower the rents city-wide.
You are welcome!
Okay, gotta go.
Busy, busy, busy…like I said…it’s been a pretty good week overall, got me a lot of work out there to do and I am about to be even more swamped. Seriously. After November 2nd, it’s my understanding that the current administration will soon declare that all those people getting a bit too loud about the Gulf will soon be designated “eco-terrorists.”
And you know what that means.
Yep, Christmas is coming and the family’s going to get the expensive gifts this year!
Oh, and by the way…anyone know a certain Garret Hartley’s address?
On August 18th, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago to challenge the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. The Act, created in 1994, was put on the books to criminalize both private and public recordings made without the consent of all parties involved. Once on the books, the law was largely ignored by the police until the advent of cellphones turned the majority of Americans into amateur filmmakers and more specifically, made it rather simple for citizens to begin filming and recording the police while they were performing arrests and other official duties.
Once this occurred, the Act began to make a lot more sense to law enforcement officials.
The ACLU’s lawsuit mentions several Illinois residents who have faced felony eavesdropping charges because of the statute. They include an artist who felt it necessary to record his arrest as a form of protest, and a Northern Illinois University Student who filmed an encounter between the CPD and his brother at a drive thru. He felt it necessary to record the arrest because past experience taught him to be suspicious of the officers’ motives.
Unfortunately, many residents in the city of Chicago share this suspicion.
In 96, while an activist engaged in protests at the Democratic National Convention, I can recall an incident where a large gathering at Grant Park in downtown Chicago took place. A band was onstage performing an admittedly incendiary song directed at the Chicago Police Department while I, and many others watched with growing concern as several white vans pulled up on Michigan Avenue. The vans soon discharged several dozen police officers in riot gear. While they were assembling into formation, a CNN news truck also pulled up to the scene and as their cameras began to roll, the police officers climbed back into their vans and drove away. This was only my experience, but the newspapers of Chicago run rampant with stories of police abuse and scandal, similar to many other large cities.
Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, said he believes the state’s eavesdropping law is a good one. Allowing people to make audio recordings of arrests “could potentially inhibit an officer from proactively doing his job,” Donahue said.
I would simply ask how this might be so, assuming the officers are doing their jobs correctly without any abuse of authority. In fact, it could be argued that if the police are doing their job as it is meant to be done, following the same laws they are sworn to protect, video and audiotape of an arrest could only be used to exonerate false accusations made against officers.
Mr. Donahue, at least in the article, did not expand on how officers might be inhibited, “proactively.”
The lawsuit, directed at Cook County State Attorney, Anita Alvarez said it received a copy, but had not had a chance to review it.
Whatever side of the debate one falls on, I do suspect CNN saved my ass fourteen years ago.
And in my opinion, police officers should have very little expectation of privacy these days, especially if the audio recordings aren’t enhanced to pick up voices below normal speaking levels, and especially as they are public servants performing public services.
If you’re just doing your job, what’s the problem?
Before I begin, if you are one of the few people left in this country who believe the police never commit a crime, never abuse their authority or inflict brutality on the citizens they are sworn to protect, you should probably stop reading now. Go on, click on outta here. I respect your opinion, I just think you’re absolutely wrong.
Okay, still with me?
Yes, prosecutors across the country are trying to charge citizens for the crime of publicly videotaping police officers while doing their job. It would appear that a few too many officers have been embarrassed by the fact that most people now walk around with digital video equipment on their phones.
From an article on Time Magazine’s blog:
Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant, faces up to 16 years in prison. His crime? He videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Then Graber put the video — which could put the officer in a bad light — up on YouTube…(In the video), the trooper can be seen cutting Graber off in an unmarked vehicle, then he approached Graber in plain clothes and yelled while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper.
The legal argument the prosecutors are using in court is dependent upon the audio aspect of the videos. They claim this violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. Course there is a question when it comes to the word, “private,” as it seems difficult to believe that police making traffic stops, walking city streets, arresting people on the sidewalk or in the front yards of homes can consider what they are doing is being done in private, but this would be precisely what they appear to claim.
Last I checked, public streets were not private. If they indeed are, then there should be no reason to arrest me for standing on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building naked, drinking a beer. My guess is however, the police in my town might take issue of I engaged in such activities so it would seem this is another example of the police trying to have it both ways, of being above the law, their law.
Now, let it be said that I don’t necessarily have anything against law enforcement. In my job as a social worker, I have regular interactions with the police. I’ve seen officers in my town be the stereotypical power happy prick who got beat up a lot in high school, and I’ve seen officers engage people with a compassion and sensitivity that was impressive, especially considering the circumstances. That being said, it would seem the best way to keep videotaping of officers as a non-issue would be for the police officers to do their job both ethically and legally. If they aren’t doing anything wrong, the only thing a video could do is exonerate them, so pardon my skepticism when it comes to prosecutors trying to criminalize the only way these days to hold officers accountable. Citizen review boards don’t cut it, are often laughable in fact, and civil trials typically go in the officer’s favor when it is a citizen’s word against an officers so yes, videotape, record away everybody.
I’m of the opinion every officer, especially uniformed officers should be videotaped every minute they’re on duty.
Think of the problems we might have avoided had this been the case:
The Jon Burge trials in Chicago. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles. The Danziger Bridge Shootings in New Orleans and these are only the headliners. Thousands of other examples exist both small and large, and more importantly reported and not reported. I personally have seen the arrival of television cameras prevent what looked to be a certain beating by the Chicago Police Department. I have also seen a beating end when cellphones came from several pockets in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.
Between the months of April to September, 2009, 1 out of every 116.4 officers allegedly engaged in misconduct. 207 police chiefs and sheriffs were cited for misconduct. 215 fatalities were reported in connection with alleged misconduct. 2,854 total officers allegedly engaged in misconduct
In the case of Graber — a young husband and father who had never been arrested — the police searched his residence and seized computers. Graber spent 26 hours in jail even before facing the wiretapping charges that could conceivably put him away for 16 years. Even if this case and others like it do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. “We see a fair amount of intimidation — police saying, ‘You can’t do that. It’s illegal,'” says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.
The crime is not citizens videotaping police officers, the crime could very well be whatever it is the police officer might have done to get the cameras rolling. The perspective of film can be everything, it can even be an equalizer.
So Hillary goes to Poland and worries that “the walls are closing in” on organizations like unions, advocacy groups and activist groups that are an essential part of forming democracies and she expresses surprise that the countries where suppression occurs still claim to be “democracies.” She goes on to say “We must be wary of the steel vise in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.” Activists, according to Clinton are being harassed, censored, cut off from funding, arrested, prosecuted or killed.
Then Obama released a statement on Wednesday that expressed his concerns regarding “the spread of restrictions on civil society, the growing use of law to curb rather than enhance freedom and widespread corruption that is undermining the faith of citizens in their country.”
The problem countries so named are:
Zimbabwe, the Congo, Ethiopia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, China and Russia.
These things don’t occur in America you see. They didn’t happen with Bush and they certainly do not happen with Obama and Secretary of State – Clinton.
During the Democratic Convention located in Denver, activists were arrested and denied access to attorneys, forced to march in shackles and denied phone calls. Other people arrested were done so brutally, reporters were taken to jail and the police were wearing t-shirts about beating the crowds. And then during the Republican National Convention in Minnesota it was more of the same: the police raided activist groups before the convention even began, arresting demonstrators and reporters. Youth were beaten, peaceful marches were tear-gassed and hundreds of people were denied their rights time and time again. These tactics were about suppression and fear, about chilling the first amendment rights of the people, for when you make the masses afraid of repercussions when under law there should be none, then people don’t turn out. And when the media is in on the game and the only time they seem to report brutality is when it happens to one of their own…it continues, but I’m sure Hillary and Obama have a complete understanding of all this, or perhaps not. What I do know is while they were enjoying themselves in the Pepsi Center in Denver, people on the streets outside were getting hurt, people who shouldn’t have been hurt at all – brutalized by cops with little restraint.
So yes, Hillary…you’re correct that this type of atmosphere leads to the undermining of faith by the citizens in their country.
Oh, but there is so much more…and I’m not even going to bring up torture, the patriot act (Not Yet Repealed!), the inability of your administration to pass a shield law for whistle-blowers or the press, or to really protect anyone who isn’t “too big to fail…”
What’s that? Not Enough Proof?
Haven’t convinced you yet?
Let’s go by state by state…why not?
Military Intelligence Spied on Alaskans for Peace. According to an Electronic Frontier
Foundation FOIA, military intelligence spied on the anti-war group Alaskans for Peace and
Justice in 2005.
FBI Infiltration of Islamic Center. An FBI agent testified in court in 2009 that an informant had
been planted at an Islamic Center in Irvine, California. Surveillance has prompted some Muslims
to avoid mosques and cut charitable contributions out of fear of being questioned or branded as
LAPD Special Order #11, dated March 5, 2008 includes a list of 65 behaviors LAPD officers shall report. The list includes such innocuous, clearly subjective, and First Amendment]protected activities as, taking measurements, using binoculars, taking pictures or video footage with no apparent aesthetic value,drawing diagrams, taking notes, and espousing extremist views.
When the city of Santa Cruz decided to cancel their annual First Night New Year’s Parade, community activists decided to create their own parade, the Do It Yourself (DIY) New Yearfs Parade. Police found out about parade plans in
late October 2005 and decided to spy on the group by infiltrating their parade planning meetings. Police Chief Howard Skerry promised a complete investigation but tapped Deputy Chief Vogel, the very person who authorized the infiltration, to determine whether the authorization was appropriate. Not surprisingly, Vogel’s report cleared the Santa Cruz Police Department of any wrongdoing.
Undercover Campus and County Sheriffs Attend Cal State Fresno Lecture on Veganism. On November 10, 2004, the California State Fresno student group Campus Peace and Civil Liberties Coalition (CPCLC) hosted an on-campus lecture by a speaker formerly employed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The lecturer addressed approximately 60 people about the benefits of a vegan diet. Six of those 60 attendees were undercover police officers, three from the county sherifffs department and three from the campus police department.
The Sacramento Chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP) 2004 Veteran’s Day protest at the Sacramento Military Entrance Processing Station landed them as the first entry on a published Department of Defense (DOD)
Threat and Local Observation Notices (TALON)
Costa County Sheriff’s Homeland Security Unit Officers Infiltrate Union Demonstration. When Southern California Safeway store workers went on strike in 2003.2004, a delegation of religious leaders planned a pilgrimage to the Safeway CEO’s home to deliver postcards supporting the striking workers. Sheriff’s deputies from Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Homeland Security Unit went to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), and staff directed them to a contact number on a flyer. Despite the fact that the sheriff’s department had been in contact with the pilgrimage organizers, union leaders saw the same sheriff’s deputies in plainclothes attending a demonstration at a Safeway store in San Francisco.
Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Infiltrates Peace Fresno. An undercover Fresno County Sheriff’s
deputy infiltrated a non-violent activist group, Peace Fresno, attending meetings and rallies,
taking minutes for the group on one occasion and traveling to a demonstration in Sacramento.
A Peace Fresno member learned of the infiltration when an obituary in the Fresno Bee revealed
the deputy’s true identity and identified him as a member of the Fresno County Sheriff’s
Department’s anti-terrorist team.
On April 7, 2003, the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) issued a bulletin warning of violence by demonstrators at an anti-war demonstration at the Port of Oakland. Police responded in an excessive manner, firing wooden dowels at protesters and injuring over 50 people. The public disclosure of that bulletin, a significant follow-up investigation by the Oakland Tribune, and advocacy by the ACLU led Attorney General Bill Lockyer to commission a review of the agency.
On May 12, 2003, activists returned to the Port of Oakland for a demonstration against the
police response to the April 7 protest. Documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California
during litigation over the original April 7 incident revealed that two undercover Oakland police
officers infiltrated the protest planning group and selected the route of the march.
Sacramento Police Department Videotapes Peaceful Protesters. On February 15, 2003, peace
and justice organizations held a demonstration in Sacramento to protest the then impending
war in Iraq. Approximately 10,000 people attended the peaceful demonstration. The
Sacramento Police Department provided security for the event. They also sent a police
department employee to videotape the demonstration. Sacramento Police confirmed that
taping of the protest was at least partially intended to modify protesters’ behavior.
During the huge protests against the war in Iraq between October 2002 and February 2003, several San Francisco police officers posed as protesters to monitor crowd activities. This infiltration of the protests by undercover officers
was never authorized by the chief of police, representing a failure to follow San Francisco’s
Guidelines for First Amendment Activities.
A group of military reservists and law enforcement officers led by the co-founder of the Los Angeles County
Terrorism Early Warning Center (LACTEW) engaged in a years long conspiracy to steal highly classified intelligence files from the Strategic Technical Operations Center (STOC) located at the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton, California and secret surveillance reports from the U.S. Northern Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Some of the stolen files pertained to surveillance of Muslim communities in Southern California, including mosques in L.A. and San Diego, and revealed federal surveillance program targeting Muslim groups in the United States.
An LAPD officer, claiming to be at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue to ticket cyclists who failed to stop at red lights, kicked at a passing bicyclist during a protest ride against BP’s role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In August 2005, the ACLU obtained the documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) request containing information on the Colorado American Indian Movement and the
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. The files show that JTTF agents opened “domestic
terrorism” investigations after they read notices on web sites announcing an antiwar protest in
Colorado Springs in 2003 and a protest against Columbus Day in Denver in 2002.
Law Enforcement Infiltrates Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. In 2003, Rocky Mountain
Peace and Justice Center was engaged in several civil disobedience actions, along with other
peace and social justice groups. On two occasions, they learned that they had been infiltrated
by undercover law enforcement officers who had attended their nonviolence trainings and
participated in the actions with them.
Colorado Springs Police Records and Shares Names and License Plate Numbers of Environmental
Activists. Environmentalist and conservationist groups organized a peaceful demonstration at
the North American Wholesale Lumber Association’s (NAWLA) annual convention in Colorado
Springs in June 2002. The Colorado Springs police provided the Denver Intelligence Unit with a
two-page list of names and license plate numbers of participants in the nonviolent protest. The
cover sheet indicates that the list of names and plates would be forwarded to the JTTF, who was
apparently expecting the information. An FBI spokesperson admitted that the agency requested
the list of plate numbers.
In April 1999, FBI JTTF agent, joined by two members of the Denver Intelligence Unit, monitored two peaceful
demonstrations protesting the NATO bombing of Serbia. Detectives followed one participant to
her car three blocks away to get her license number so she could be identified.
Activist Arrested for Photographing Governor at Public Event. Hartford Police arrested activist
Ken Krayeske after he photographed Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell at a public event. Connecticut State Police monitored Krayeske’s blog, which was critical of the Governor, and sent local police his photograph as a potential threat to the Governor. Activist Ken Krayeske alleges in court documents that State Police used phony e-mail identities to subscribe to bulletin boards and e-mail lists of political parties, such as the Green Party and the Democratic Party, and advocacy groups such as the Central Connecticut State University Progressive Student Alliance
During the 2004 and 2005 Air-Sea Shows, the Friends Meeting of Ft. Lauderdale distributed
information about conscientious objection to recruiters and interested civilians and handed out
peace literature. Peter Ackerman learned that this action had landed him on a government
watch list when, shortly after news broke about domestic surveillance by the Department of
Defense, a local reporter called him and asked if he was a “credible threat”.
The Broward Anti-War Coalitionfs protest at the Florida air and sea show was included as a Department of Defense
(DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database threat entry. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command and the JTTF in Miami had been briefed on the planned protest, which was intended to “counter military recruitment and the pro-war message with guerrilla theatre.'”
FBI Surveillance of SOA Protest. FBI surveillance of School of the Americas (SOA) Watchfs
peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience outside Fort Benning, once classified as
“Routine,” after 2001 became “Priority” and subject to “Counterterrorism” monitoring.
Military Lists Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition as a Threat to DOD. A Department of Defense
(DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) report listing Atlanta area protests
organized by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC) contends that the Students for
Peace and Justice Network poses a threat to DOD personnel. Citing a DHS source, the TALON
supports its claim by listing prior acts of civil disobedience in California and Texas, including a
protest at the University of California Santa Cruz campus, a sit-in, and street theatre.
Vegetarian Activist Arrested for Writing Down License Plate Number of DHS Agent Who
Monitored Her Protest. Caitlin Childs was arrested after a peaceful protest on public property
outside the Honey Baked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County for taking down the
license plate number of the car belonging to the DHS agent who had been photographing the
protestors all day.
Veteran Surveilled for Participation in Recruiting Station Protest. Debbie Clark, who was
honorably discharged from the US army after eight years of active duty and who is married to a
man who remains on active duty in the military, found herself under Pentagon surveillance
when she participated in a protest near an Army Recruiting Station in Atlanta, GA on Ponce de
In March 2008, DHS produced a terrorism watch listh report about a Muslim conference in Georgia at which several Americans were scheduled to speak, even though it did not have any evidence the conference or the
speakers promoted radical extremism or terrorist activity, and such speech is constitutionally
FBI Field Intelligence Group Lists Green Party as Potential Target for Eco]terrorism Investigation.
An FBI intelligence analyst wrote a 2005 memo identifying future targets of the animal rights
and environment [sic] rights movements and/or those committing crimes on behalf of the
movement in the Georgia area, which listed the Green Party as a terrorist group.
FBI Questions Idaho Progressive Student Alliance Leaders. In May 2005, the ACLU and ACLU of
Idaho filed FOIA to request information on behalf of the Idaho Progressive Student Alliance
(IPSA), a non-partisan student group that focuses on social, economic, gender, and
environmental justice. IPSA President Arielle Anderson and Secretary Audra Green were
questioned by FBI agents in March 2004 regarding the IPSA’s boycott of Taco Bell to protest the
conditions of Immokalee workers in Florida.
Military Reports on American Friends Service Committee Action. The American Friends Service
Committee (AFSC) appears in a Department of Defense (DOD) Threat and Local Observation
Notice (TALON) report regarding the group’s planned protests at a recruiting center in
Springfield, Illinois. A “special agent of the federal protective service, U.S. Department of
Homeland Security,” provided information he received in an email alert from the AFSC: “[A]
series of protest actions were planned in the Springfield, IL area . . . to focus on actions at
military recruitment offices with the goals to include: raising awareness, education, visibility in
community, visibility to recruiters as part of a national day of action focused on military
A Middle Eastern man in traditional clothing sparked a three]day police manhunt in Chicago when a passenger on
the bus he was riding notified the police that he was clicking a hand counter during the trip. A
JTTF investigation into the episode revealed he was using the counter to keep track of his daily
prayers, a common Muslim practice.
In preparation for the NGA meeting, the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) Intelligence Unit created a gprotest zoneh outside of the hotel where the governors stayed and where many of the meetings took place. The local police soon learned that a group of demonstrators wished to walk the eight or nine blocks from St. Mary’s Catholic Church to the protest zone. The demonstrators were silent and non]disruptive, yet. They were met by twenty to thirty IPD police officers riding on bikes and in cars. The IPD decided, on the spot, to develop the route that the demonstrators were required to take. Following the completion of protest activity in the protest zone, a number of the demonstrators wished to return to St. Mary’s in a group as a continuation of their protest but were again escorted back by the police. Several of the protestors sued O’Connor for violating their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest by altering their route. On February 9, 2005, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found in favor of the protestors.
In February 2004, it came to light that four peace activists and Drake University had received federal grand jury
subpoenas, which were delivered by a local JTTF officer. The U.S. Attorney’s statement on the subpoenas shows that they were all related to a mid-November seminar at Drake University, led by the National Lawyers Guild, on non]violent civil disobedience.
An FBI informant and a Ramsey County Minnesota Sherifffs Deputy went undercover to infiltrate Iowa City peace groups in advance of the Republican National Convention, and attended an Iowa City campus anti-war demonstration. FBI files include detailed descriptions of a dozen Iowa political activists.
Kansas Police Department Trains Rental and Maintenance Staff to Spy for Them. One Kansas police department trains maintenance and rental staffs of apartment complexes, motels, and storage facilities to look for things like printed terrorist materials and propaganda.
Minister Placed on FBI List for Ordering Books on Islam. Rev. Raymond Payne, a Greenup County minister, was detained for more than an hour by Canadian border officials while trying to enter the country in fall 2004 on a sightseeing trip. Rev. Payne has never been arrested, has never been charged with a crime, and has never even participated in a protest. Border officials indicated that he was being detained because he is the subject of an FBI file. Rev. Payne believes he may have come under federal scrutiny immediately after September 11 when he ordered books over the Internet about the Islamic religion, including several copies of the Koran. He did so at the request of his congregation to help the church members gain a better understanding of the faith.
An April 2005 Department of Defense (DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) points to an altercation between a soldier and an individual at a university anti]war rally in New Orleans. Despite acknowledging that “[i]t
is unknown if the individuals involved in the incident are students at the local university or associated with the Veterans for Peace organization,” the report alleges that the incident demonstrates that VFP should be viewed as a possible “threat” to DOD personnel.
The FBI intercepted and stored email communications pertaining to protests at the Brunswick Naval Air Show and against the christening of an Arleigh Burke Class destroyer organized by Veterans for Peace and cosponsored by Pax Christi Maine, PeaceWorks, WILPF, Peace Action Maine, Smilin’ Trees Disarmament Farm, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Maine Coalition for Peace & Justice, Island Peace & Justice, Winthrop Area People for Peace, and Waldo County Peace & Justice.
The Maryland State Police spied on more than 30 activist groups, mostly peace groups and anti-death penalty advocates, and wrongly identified 53 individual activists and about two dozen organizations as terrorists. The Maryland State Police shared information about these cases with the Baltimore City Police Department, the
Baltimore County Police Department, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the Washington Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, a local police representative of the FBIfs JTTF, a National Security Agency security official, an unnamed military intelligence officer, and DHS. DHS further disseminated e-mails from one of the peace groups.
I know this list is rather long, extensive..etc…but that’s the whole goddamned point…Land of the free and home of the brave?
In December 2002, a police officer at the University of Massachusetts campus at Amherst was recruited by the FBI to spend several days a week working exclusively for its Anti]Terrorism Task Force. The arrangement came to light after FBI agents, acting on the basis of information provided by the campus officer, questioned a faculty member and an organizer for a campus union. The faculty member is of Iraqi descent and the union organizer is from Sri Lanka.
A plain-clothes Harvard University detective was caught photographing people at a peaceful protest for intelligence gathering purposes. Protesters who then photographed the officer were arrested. HUPD officers are sworn special State Police officers often work gin conjunction with other agencies, including the Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police, Cambridge Police, Somerville Police, and many federal agencies. A university spokesman refused to say what the HUPD does with the photographs it takes for intelligence gathering purposes, so it is unknown whether this
information was shared.
The ACLU of Massachusetts recently obtained a copy of the Commonwealth Fusion Center’s Standard Operating Procedures. The procedures allow undercover police officers to attend public meetings to gather intelligence even when there is no reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.
In April 2009, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan sent a letter to Attorney General Holder after mosques and other groups reported that their members have been asked by the FBI to monitor people coming to mosques and donations they make.
Prior to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force attempted to recruit a University of Minnesota student arrested for vandalism to go undercover at vegan pot-lucks in order to spy on groups organizing protests.
The weekend before the start of the Republican National Convention, Ramsey County Sheriffs and St. Paul
police conducted pre-emptive raids against a video journalist group, I-Witness, whose documentation of police misconduct during the 2004 Republican National Convention were instrumental in overturning criminal charges against protesters there. Police also conducted several other raids, apparently in coordination with the FBI, and made pre-emptive arrests of people planning to protest at the RNC.
State and local police conducted pre-emptive mass arrests of more than 200 protesters and innocent pedestrians in Riverfront Park on the opening day of the Republican National Convention.
On the final day of the RNC police conducted mass arrests, including 323 people gathered on the Marion Street and Cedar Street bridges. All 323 were later released without charge.
In 2004, the ACLU of New Jersey sent open public records requests to the 50 largest New Jersey municipalities to obtain documents disclosing the identification of, or criteria for designating individuals as, “potential threat elements.” Eight municipalities responded with refusals to disclose their records, claiming they were exempt from disclosure under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
An April 2005 Department of Defense (DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) from an “active duty U.S. Army officer” reports on protests organized by the group Veterans for Peace (VFP), which the TALON describes as “a
peaceful antiwar/ anti]military organization.” Without any evident factual basis, the TALON states that although VFP is “a peaceful organization . . . there is potential [that] future protest[s] could become violent.”
An undercover Albuquerque Police Department detective attended organizing meetings for a protest against
the Iraq war that was held on March 23, 2003. The detective used a false name, joined email contact lists, and gathered intelligence about the organizers. Undercover APD officers also attended the demonstration posing as protestors.
On April 20, 2005, John Amidon, a member of Veterans For Peace, spoke to about 75 students and community members at SUNY Albany. Seven months later, when NBC News aired a story about groups being spied on by the
government, Amidon learned that the SUNY Albany event was one of the events that had been monitored.
A February 2005 Department of Defense (DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) focuses on protests planned by the War Resisters League (WRL) near New York City recruiting stations. The document describes
WRL as advocating “Gandhian nonviolence.” CODEPINK and United for Peace and Justice are mentioned as joining WRL in protest events.
For at least a year prior to the 2004 protests at the Republican National Convention in New York City, undercover NYPD officers fanned out across the country from Albuquerque to Miami and, posing as activists and sympathizers, infiltrated hundreds of groups planning to attend the protests.
A student who created an internet-connected bicycle that printed messages in water-soluble sidewalk chalk as he rode
was arrested by the NYPD while he was demonstrating the device to a news reporter. The arrest was not spontaneous, but was arranged by the NYPD’s RNC Intelligence Unit, which had collected a file on him. The arrest disrupted his plan to ride around during the Republican National Convention, printing sidewalk messages sent in via his website. He was released the following day without charge but the bike was not returned.
Mariam Jukaku, a 24-year old Muslim]American journalism student at Syracuse University, was stopped by Veterans Affairs police in New York for taking photographs of flags in front of a VA building as part of a class assignment. After taking her into an office for interrogation and taking her driver’s license, the police deleted the photographs from her digital camera before releasing her.
Debbie Clark, who was honorably discharged from the US army after eight years of active duty and who is married to an active duty military man, found herself under Pentagon surveillance when she participated in a protest at Fort Bragg in March 2005 led by veterans and military families.
A protest entitled “Stop the War NOW!” was reported as a potential terrorist threat in a March 2005 Department of Defense (DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON). The TALON describes the protest, aimed at a military recruiting station and federal building in Akron as including a rally, march, and “Reading of Names of War
Portland, Oregon became the first city in the nation to withdraw local law enforcement participation from the JTTFs rather than allow them to participate without proper oversight.
On May 30, 2008 a Federal Protective Service officer engaged in undercover surveillance of a peaceful antipesticide
rally in Eugene, Oregon, located several blocks from any federal building. The FPS officer called Eugene Police Department officers to the scene and pointed to an individual who EPD immediately arrested.
Two documents released in March 2006 reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice (TMC) because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. The FBI memo points out that the Merton Center is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism. Several members of TMC have found themselves under surveillance.
A 21-year-old Penn State senior was arrested in his own backyard in Philadelphia for snapping a picture of police activity in his neighborhood with a cell phone camera. He was taken to the police station where police threatened to charge him with conspiracy, impeding police, and obstruction of justice, but he was later released without charge.
After making public comments criticizing the FBIfs treatment of Muslims in Pittsburgh, Dr. Moniem El-Ganayni, a nuclear physicist and naturalized American citizen, had his security clearance improperly revoked by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) despite 18 years of dedicated service. Though they never told him the reason his clearance was revoked, during seven hours of interviews, representatives from the DOE and the FBI never alleged a breach of security but instead questioned El-Ganayni about his religious beliefs, his work as an imam in the Pennsylvania prison system, his political views about the U.S. war in Iraq, and the speeches he’d made in local mosques criticizing the FBI.
A Pawtucket resident was arrested by the Rhode Island JTTF for failing to appear in court on a minor larceny charge. The involvement of the JTTF in this case is puzzling, and the Middle Eastern name of the person arrested suggests the use of racial profiling in the JTTF’s activities. The ACLU of Rhode Island filed a FOIA request in May 2005 seeking information about this particular arrest as well as information about how the practices and funding structure of the JTTFs.
The Department of Defense (DOD) Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database includes a report of a
December 2004 protest outside of a National Guard recruitment station organized by Rhode Island-based Community Coalition for Peace (RICCP). The TALON document begins by stating that it is being provided only to alert commanders and staff to potential terrorist activity or appraise them of other force protection issues.
In February 2009, a DHS-supported North Central Texas Fusion System intelligence bulletin described a purported conspiracy between Muslim civil rights organizations, lobbying groups, the anti-war movement, a former U.S. Congresswoman, the U.S. Treasury Department, and hip hop bands to spread tolerance in the U.S. The bulletin was reportedly distributed to over 100 different agencies.
An inadvertently released power point presentation by the North Central Texas Fusion Center describes searching blogs and websites for threatening words like protest and hate. A category for processing is expressed opinion on HLS [Homeland Security] issues.
In the wake of the influx of evacuees after Hurricane Katrina, the Texas Department of Homeland Security contracted with Northrop Grumman Corporation for a $1.4 million database project that would bring together a wide variety of law enforcement and government data, as well as consumer dossiers gathered by the private data company ChoicePoint. The project was intended to create a global search capability, which would then be made available to the
Texas Fusion Center. The project failed due to concerns over the security of the data: it was not clear who at Northrop had access to the data, or what had become of it
Sherifffs deputies in Texas stopped an Al-Jazeera television crew that was filming on a public road more than a mile away from a nuclear power plant and conducted extensive background checks on them. The police said they found no criminal history or other problems.
The FBI utilized a prominent and influential activist as an informant against Texas activists for 18 months
prior to the RNC. FBI reports produce by the informant include gdozens of people, most of whom have never been charged with a crime.
U.S. Joint Forces Command Disseminates Information on Planned Parenthood and National Alliance. The U.S. Joint Forces Command liaison, working with the FBI’s Olympic Intelligence Center, collected and disseminated information on members of Planned Parenthood and National Alliance, a white supremacist group, regarding their involvement in protests and distributing literature as part of the governmentfs security preparations for the 2002 Olympics.
Fusion Center Describes Universities and Diversity as Threats. The Virginia Fusion Center’s March 2008 terrorism threat assessment described the state’s universities and colleges as nodes for radicalization and characterized the diversity surrounding a Virginia military base and the state’s historically black colleges as possible security threats.
Asked by the Washington Post for an example of a successful use of a fusion center, the best one official could apparently come up with was the arrest and detention of a Muslim man spotted videotaping the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. But the Post goes on to note that the person in question, a U.S. citizen, was quickly released and never charged with any crime.
John J. Towery, a civilian employee of Fort Lewis assigned to Fort Lewis Force Protection, posed undercover as an anarchist using the name John Jacob and took part in Olympia Port Militarization Resistancefs (OlyPMR) activities
from 2007 until June 2009. Towery was one of several OlyPMR listserv administrators and therefore had direct access to OlyPMR membership lists.
Shirley Scheier, a 54-year-old artist and Associate Professor of Fine Art at the University of Washington, was stopped by police for taking pictures of power lines as part of an art project. Police frisked and handcuffed Scheier, and placed her in the back of a police car for almost half an hour. She was eventually released, after officers photographed maps that Scheier used to find the power station. The officers also told her she would be contacted by the FBI about the incident.
Philip Chinn, a 22-year old anti-war activist from The Evergreen State College, was arrested while traveling to an anti-war protest at the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen. Aberdeen Police acknowledged that detectives had been
watching Chinn and others as they prepared for the protest and, on the day of, broadcasted an “attempt to locate” his car, which was described as containing “three known anarchists.” Criminal charges were dismissed after tests showed Chinn had no alcohol or drugs in his system.
In March 2004 a Committee of the DC City Council reported the Metropolitan Police Department used undercover officers to infiltrate protest groups without evidence of criminal wrongdoing, repeatedly took pre-emptive actions to prevent demonstrations, including arrests, and failed to protect the free speech and assembly rights of protesters.
On October 15, 2003, the FBI issued Intelligence Bulletin no.89, entitled “Tactics Used During Protests and Demonstrations.” Bulletin 89 advised that “mass marches and rallies against the occupation in Iraq” were scheduled to occur on October 25, 2003, in Washington, D.C, and San Francisco, and although the FBI had no information indicating
that “violent or terrorist activities [were] being planned as part of these protests, the possibility exists that elements of the activist community may attempt to engage in violent, destructive, or disruptive acts.” The protest tactics identified in Bulletin 89 included, Internet activity to recruit, raise funds, and coordinate activities; false documentation to gain access to secure facilities; marches, banners, and sit-ins; vandalism, physical harassment, and trespassing; drawing large numbers of police officers to a specific location in order to weaken security at other locations; use of homemade bombs; and intimidation of law enforcement through videotaping, without distinguishing between First Amendment]protected activity and criminal acts.
A Department of Homeland Security intelligence official assigned to the Wisconsin Statewide Information Center produced a threat assessmenth about a February 2009 rally involving local pro and anti-choice groups even though
the groups posed no threat to homeland security. A lawyer representing the groups has filed a request for the report through Wisconsin open records laws, but local officials have refused to release it, citing gsensitive law enforcement information.
Would you believe I left out half of the examples in the ACLU report?
So this is our America.
And after this weekend is over and I’m back at work on Tuesday, people at the agency will ask me what I did to celebrate the Fourth of July. What am I supposed to tell them, that I went and watched fireworks? That I wore an American Flag t-shirt, bandanna and pants? That I went out in my community and celebrated this country down by the shores of Lake Michigan? Can’t do that. It would be participating in these myths about what this country is instead of what it has become, and being complicit in that doesn’t feel good to me, being complicit in myths like first amendment rights, including the freedom to peaceably assemble. Yes, I can assemble with all my neighbors to watch fireworks. That is allowed, but what if I were to assemble with all my neighbors, peacefully…around the offices of a bank too big to fail that had set up a number of my neighbors to lose their homes? Would this be permitted? It would depend on the size of the crowd and their effectiveness. Too big and too effective and they will shut you down or put you in a protest cage like they do at the conventions…or much, much worse…arrest, intimidation, repercussions…as shown in that lengthy list above the picture of old glory. Maybe next time Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might take a look at their own backyard and clean it up before criticizing others. Rather than continue with the status quo, perhaps they might decide to really make change, that kind of change that those of us, who actually believe in the freedoms they claim we have, might have faith in.
So for now, you can keep your fireworks…
I think I’ll stay in tonight and think about things, and you know…be patriotic and shit.
…place where reporters and photographers keep getting ordered out of public areas. In this happy instance, a reporter was stopped by Homeland Security who took his name, social security number and demanded to see the photos he had taken under threat of being detained if he didn’t comply.
The information was then promptly turned over to an official from British Petroleum…
Many of you know I’m a fan of hockey…and if you are as well, you might recognize:
Sorry, a little carried away and I forgot, White House Press Secretary Gibbs already told us how reporters and photographers aren’t being controlled in the Gulf States…