Category Archives: Courts and Judges

Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops

What happened to Standing Rock water protector Red Fawn Fallis is what has happened to many women political dissenters who go up against Big Government/Corporate power.  After she was viciously tackled by several police officers (caught on video), she was brought up on serious charges of harming those who harmed her.  Fallis, after months of intense corporate/military surveillance and handy informant reports, was targeted as a coordinator and a leader, a symbol and an inspiration.  For daring to make a stand for her people against the encroaching poison and destruction brought by the Dakota Access gas pipeline, she became a political prisoner.

Native-American women suffering dire consequences because of the ever-expanding needs of capitalist/white rule is nothing new.  Native-Americans have endured environmental racism for a very long time—from New England merchants to men seeking gold and to “tame” the West.  Late 20th century technology brought uranium mining and nuclear testing to the Southwest, bringing new and far-reaching disaster.  The Dakota oil pipeline, carrying explosive crude Canadian oil, goes through tribal lands, without tribal consent, potentially poisoning their water and desecrating their sacred sites.  Women have been on the frontlines of DAPL resistance, with their traditional ties to “Mother Earth” and to ancient matriarchal spiritual leadership.  But Standing Rock women resister/water protectors, faced all-out war from government/corporate forces.

In a militarized police state, colonized Native-Americans taking a stand to protect their land and water from rapacious banks and oil companies can expect what was unleashed against them.  In one battle late in 2016, troopers from North Dakota and neighboring states launched an attack against hundreds of united, unarmed Native-American protesters and their allies.  Rubber bullets, icy water cannons, concussion grenades, mace and tear gas did enormous damage.  As head of the Medic and Healer Council Linda Black Elk put it, she was attacked as part of the “continued legacy of oppression by the United States government.”  Native-American women have felt this legacy of oppression in particular ways directed at “squaws.”  Natïve women were raped, imprisoned, tortured, mutilated and killed by white colonial settlers, and that tradition and mentality still lives on in the experience of Red Fawn Fallis and her fellow women water protectors.

White police forcibly assaulted, stripped and searched demonstrators.  In a very familiar pattern, Prairie McLaughlin, daughter of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Lakota historian, was cited with “resisting arrest,” after objecting to being forcibly stripped.  An officer broke Apache-Navajo Laurie Howland’s wrist during her arrest.  Echoing Annie May Aquash, who was killed during the Wounded Knee uprising, Howland thought the white officers objected to her not being white and not praying to Jesus. Women dissidents against governmental authority, from Shaker Mother Ann Lee, to women militant suffragists, to black freedom riders, to revolutionary weatherwomen, have met male police violence, as “unnatural” noncompliant women.  For black and Native-American women, branded by a racist culture as even more beneath contempt, it is always worse.  So naturally, Red Fawn Fallis, singled out as a leader by the authorities, would be thrown down and arrested, and then brought up on serious charges which she would have no hope of beating.

It was October 2016, when 40-year-old Red Fawn Fallis was arrested after being tackled and pinned by several officers.  Fallis came from a family well used to resistance and its consequences.  Red Fawn is an Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge.  Fallis’ mother Troylynn Yellow Wood was active in AIM (American Indian Movement) and was at the Wounded Knee protest in 1973.  She died shortly before the Standing Rock demonstrations.  She had taught her daughter to fight for “social and environmental justice” and to “stand up for her people.”  Red Fawn was serving as a medic at Standing Rock.  She was known as a “mother” to young activists, known to be “dedicated to peaceful tactics.”  When she was accused of shooting at a police officer, her supporters found it hard to believe.  Terrell Ironshell of the Indigenous Youth Council said that Fallis told them:  “You don’t have to be afraid of the government.  This is our land.”  Apparently the government has not yet been convinced of that.

On October 27, 2016, there was a 400-person rally near a DAPL construction site.  The police used the occasion to raid an “1851 treaty camp” and to take and destroy ceremonial and sacred items from a sweat lodge.  They dispersed the crowd with rubber bullets, tear gas and a “long-range acoustic device.”  There were 147 arrested that day and all were released except Red Fawn.  Deputy Thad Schmit said he spotted Fallis “being an instigator and disorderly” so he “took her to the ground.”  She allegedly fired a gun while down, and according to the arresting officers told them they were lucky she didn’t “shoot all you fuckers.”  [What military conference do they go to for this stuff?]  A video taken at the time clearly shows her being violently tackled by a dozen police, who then pinned her down, with a gun (according to witnesses) in her back.  The scene is horrific and typical of fascist militarized authorities quelling unarmed protesters.  It was the same response shown when black women protesters confronted Ferguson police and when Occupy demonstrators met up with the NYPD.

The initial (state) charge against Red Fawn Fallis was “attempted murder” of a police officer.  This was dropped in November in favor of federal charges of “civil disorder” and “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” (a felon for allegedly driving the car while her male companion shot and wounded another man).  US authorities ordered her held without bail—standard for political prisoners, whether black Panther or Weatherwoman or water protector.  At a June 2017 hearing, she was denied bail, purportedly because the judge said Standing Rock protesters were “violent.”  In October she finally was released to a half-way house in Fargo, after being in North Dakota jails for months.

In January 2018, she had a trial, but, of course, the defense could not use the abrogation of treaty rights or the elaborate military-style surveillance and intelligence reports used to target her, reports which equated her with “jihadist fighters”; or the role of the swarmy FBI informant Heath Harmon, who insinuated himself into a relationship with Fallis, and said he provided her with the gun she allegedly fired.  With the defense hamstrung, as it always is when a woman political is a supposed terrorist, “eco-terrorist” in her case, she and her lawyer Bruce Ellison (Leonard Peltier’s attorney—hm), decided it’d be best to take a plea deal for civil disorder and possession of a firearm, with the dropping of the discharge of firearm (potentially a life sentence).  She also had to express remorse for causing any danger to the police [!].  After some delays, Red Fawn was finally sentenced on July 11, to 57 months in federal prison, with 18 months credit for prison time served.  She will serve about 39 months and three years probation.  She is appealing, but—vicious government prosecutors in North Dakota courts not known for Native-American sympathies–?  Not much chance.  Interestingly, Fallis said, before sentencing, she “wanted to move forward in a positive way away from Harmon and the things he tried to put on me while I was trying to push him away.”  Guess he got even.

When it comes to political dissent, the US government has a long history of violently suppressing it.  When it comes to women dissenters, US authorities have a long history of saving special kinds of punishments for them.  In 1973, black liberationist Assata Shakur was pulled over in a traffic stop, ended up being shot and then falsely accused of shooting her attacker.  Knowing she’d be killed in prison, her comrades helped her escape to Cuba.  In 1990, environmentalist Judi Bari was blown up with a car bomb in California, very likely by the FBI and the Pacific Lumber Company.  She was charged with “possession of an explosive device.”  She never recovered from her injuries.   Muslim- Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, a Boston doctor, was caught up in the horror of false terrorism charges in the early 2000s.  After years of imprisonment, rape and torture, she was set up for a staged shooting of US army officers in Afghanistan, was herself grievously wounded in the stomach, and, as an accused “terrorist,” got 86 years in prison.  Occcupy’s Cecily McMillan was sexually accosted by an NYPD officer, tackled by a number of other officers, and was charged with attacking the police.  She served time in Rikers and was released.  Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland was pulled over in Texas for not signaling for a lane change, was tackled with her head hitting the ground, charged with the felony of attacking an officer, and was found hanged in her cell a few days later under suspicious circumstances.  In a police state, you can be a New Jersey mother on a beach and get accosted by cops, a black woman at a waffle house and be tackled by officers, a young woman jaywalking and get attacked by the police.  This is the mark of an authoritarian, patriarchal power structure.

Red Fawn Fallis will serve hard time in federal prison because she stood up to government/corporate power.  The Free Red Fawn facebook page says—on July 12, 2018—that she is a “political prisoner.  She stood up for justice against environmental genocide, encroachment of our land and water.”  Like other Native-American and Puerto Rican women politicals, Fallis sees her status as a war captive of the US government.  She knows she faces a long prison sentence, but has heard her supporters sing outside her window.  She says, “So I stand strong. . .  I grow stronger every passing hour.”  She was treated brutally and with a punishment far in excess of any possible crime.  Such treatment of women political prisoners is the mark of a state which has little patience for defiant women resisters:  a fascist state, a police state –not one beginning with Trump—Standing Rock and Ferguson happened under Obama. The repression against those women who have fought for freedom and justice began with the first settlers.

The Constitution Is Not Neutral: Courts of Justice Should Not Act Like Courts of Order

The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of the people.

— Justice William O. Douglas, The Court Years, 1939-1975: The Autobiography of William O. Douglas‎ (1980), p. 8.

For those still deluded enough to believe they’re living the American dream—where the government represents the people, where the people are equal in the eyes of the law, where the courts are arbiters of justice, where the police are keepers of the peace, and where the law is applied equally as a means of protecting the rights of the people—it’s time to wake up.

We no longer have a representative government, a rule of law, or justice.

Liberty has fallen to legalism.

Freedom has fallen to fascism.

Justice has become jaded, jaundiced and just plain unjust.

And for too many, the American dream of freedom and opportunity has turned into a living nightmare.

Given the turbulence of our age, with its police overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic surveillance, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, wrongful convictions, profit-driven prisons, and corporate corruption, the need for a guardian of the people’s rights has never been greater.

Yet as the events of recent years have made clear, neither the president, nor the legislatures, nor the courts will save us from the police state that holds us in its clutches.

After all, the president, the legislatures, and the courts are all on the government’s payroll.

They are the police state.

Certainly, Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice.

The courts were established to serve as Courts of Justice. What we have been saddled with, instead, are Courts of Order.

This is true at all levels of the judiciary, but especially so in the highest court of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which is seemingly more concerned with establishing order and protecting government interests than with upholding the rights of the people enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching innocent motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

As a result, the police and other government agents have been generally empowered to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

Rarely do the concerns of the populace prevail.

When presented with an opportunity to loosen the government’s noose that keeps getting cinched tighter and tighter around the necks of the American people, what does our current Supreme Court usually do?

It ducks.

Prevaricates.

Remains silent.

Speaks to the narrowest possible concern.

More often than not, it gives the government and its corporate sponsors the benefit of the doubt, which leaves “we the people” hanging by a thread.

Rarely do the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court— preoccupied with their personal politics, cocooned in a priggish world of privilege, partial to those with power, money and influence, and narrowly focused on a shrinking docket (the court accepts on average 80 cases out of 8,000 each year)—venture beyond their rarefied comfort zones.

Every so often, the justices toss a bone to those who fear they have abdicated their allegiance to the Constitution. Too often, however, the Supreme Court tends to march in lockstep with the police state.

The Court’s 2017-18 term was a particularly mixed bag. Here are some of the key rulings and non-rulings handed down by the Court this term:

Speech, Religious Liberty and the First Amendment

In Janus v. American Federation, a 5-4 Supreme Court chose to err on the side of the First Amendment when it concluded that state laws forcing public-sector employees to provide financial support for unions that engage in political activities with which they disagree violates the First Amendment.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court ruled narrowly that government officials had violated the First Amendment rights of a baker by discriminating against his religious views regarding same-sex marriage.

In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Court ruled against compelled speech by a government agency when it found that a California state law violated the First Amendment by forcing pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to provide patients with information about how to obtain an abortion.

In Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Joe Mansky, the Court struck down as unconstitutionally vague a Minnesota law that bans political speech on any “badge, button, shirt, or hat” worn at election polling stations. Critics had argued that the law opened the door to abuse of voters’ free speech rights by giving appointed election officials unlimited discretion to determine what political speech should be censored.

Police Misconduct

In refusing to hear the case of Young v. Borders, the Supreme Court declined to hold police accountable for shooting and killing an innocent homeowner during the course of a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” police tactic gone awry. The Court’s refusal to review the case let stand a lower court ruling that exonerates police who, while executing a “knock and talk” investigation of a speeding incident, banged on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense.

In Kisela v. Hughes, the U.S. Supreme Court shielded a police officer who shot a woman four times in her driveway as she stood talking to a friend while holding a kitchen knife. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged in her dissent, “It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.” Sotomayor, one of the few justices who speaks out consistently against police misconduct, denounced the ruling as “part of a disturbing trend of unflinching willingness’ to protect police officers accused of using excessive force. The court’s decisions concerning qualified immunity, she wrote, ‘transforms the doctrine into an absolute shield for law enforcement officers.’”

Privacy and the Fourth Amendment

In Carpenter v. United States, a 5-4 Court sent a strong message about privacy rights in an age of government surveillance, ruling that police must generally obtain a warrant before obtaining cell phone data to track a person’s movements.

In Collins v. Virginia, the Court refused to grant law enforcement yet another loophole to encroach on the rights of citizens to privacy in their homes, ruling 8-1 that police may not intrude on private property in order to carry out a warrantless search of a vehicle parked near a residence.

In United States v. Microsoft, the Court sidestepped a debate over digital privacy in the face of government surveillance when it mooted a case over whether Microsoft had to comply with a request to provide emails hosted on overseas servers in response to government subpoenas.

In Byrd v. United States, a unanimous Court ruled that drivers of rental cars—whether or not they are explicitly named in the rental agreement—are generally entitled to the same reasonable expectations of privacy under the Fourth Amendment as the individual listed in the rental agreement.

In Dahda v. United States of America, the Court ruled 8-0 that evidence obtained under orders that violate the nation’s federal wiretapping law can be used against a defendant in a criminal trial.

Immigration and the Power of the Presidency

In Trump v. Hawaii, a polarized Supreme Court upheld the Trump Administration’s ban on foreign travelers from Muslim-centric nations, ostensibly giving the president the power to discriminate on the basis of religion, while simultaneously overturning the Court’s World War II-era ruling in Korematsu v. United States that saw nothing wrong with the government imprisoning Japanese-Americans in internment camps. In other words, the Court righted one wrong (Korematsu) while sanctioning another. As Justice Sotomayor concluded in her dissent, “By blindly accepting the government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one ‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.”

States’ Rights

In Murphy v. NCAA, the Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the 10th Amendment, which reserves to the States (and the people) the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it. The case was factually about the right of the states to legalize sports gambling despite a federal law prohibiting it, but the ramifications of the ruling could extend into the area of marijuana legalization.

Voters’ Rights and Gerrymandering

In Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Court gave the green light to Ohio to remove people from its voter registration rolls if they hadn’t been heard from in four years.

In Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone, the Court weighed in on two cases that challenged the practice of gerrymandering, in which the boundaries of an electoral constituency are drawn in such a way as to favor one side over another in an election. Instead of addressing the issue of partisan gerrymandering, the Court disposed of the cases on procedural/standing grounds.

Commerce

In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Court leveled the playing field, at least when it comes to collecting sales tax, between online e-commerce retailers and traditional businesses with a physical presence in a particular state.

So where does that leave us?

Still in the clutches of the American police state, I’m afraid.

In recent years, for example, the Court has ruled that police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits; police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips; Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of security; citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it; police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside; police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime; police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike; police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense”; police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home; and it’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name.

The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution. By remaining silent, the Court has affirmed that: legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police; the military can arrest and detain American citizens; students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school; and police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law.

What a difference nine people can make.

More often than not, the Roberts Supreme Court has been characterized by rulings that show an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests (rulings have run the gamut from suppressing free speech activities and justifying suspicionless strip searches and warrantless home invasions to conferring constitutional rights on corporations, while denying them to citizens).

Contrast the Roberts Court with the Warren Court (1953-1969), which handed down rulings that were instrumental in shoring up critical legal safeguards against government abuse and discrimination.

Without the Warren Court, there would be no Miranda warnings, no desegregation of the schools and no civil rights protections for indigents. Among those serving on the Warren Court were Chief Justice Earl Warren, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter and Thurgood Marshall.

Yet more than any single ruling, what Warren and his colleagues did best was embody what the Supreme Court should always be: an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds.

Indeed, Justice Douglas, who served on the Supreme Court for 36 years, was particularly vocal in his belief that Americans have a right to be left alone (“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom”). Considered the most “committed civil libertarian ever to sit on the court,” Douglas was frequently controversial and far from perfect (he was part of that 6-3 majority in Korematsu vs. United States that supported the government’s internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.)

Yet even so, as I make clear in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, Douglas’ warnings against a domineering, suspicious, totalitarian, police-driven surveillance state resonate still today. They stand as a potent reminder that while the technology and social concerns of Douglas’ day have undergone dramatic transformations in our time, the rights we are struggling to safeguard remain the same, as do the threats posed by the government.

Perhaps the greatest difference between Justice Douglas and his contemporaries and those who occupy the bench today can be found in his answer to a government that refuses to listen to its citizen or abide by the rule of law. “We must realize that today’s Establishment is the New George III,” noted Douglas. “Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.”

The Danger Is Real: We Need a New Declaration of Independence for Modern Times

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

— Thomas Paine, December 1776

Imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials.

Imagine that in this very same country, you’re watched all the time, and if you look even a little bit suspicious, the police stop and frisk you or pull you over to search you on the off chance you’re doing something illegal.

Keep in mind that if you have a firearm of any kind while in this country, it may get you arrested and, in some circumstances, shot by police.

If you’re thinking this sounds like America today, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

However, the scenario described above took place more than 200 years ago, when American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.

No document better states their grievances than the Declaration of Independence.

A document seething with outrage over a government which had betrayed its citizens, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by 56 men who laid everything on the line, pledged it all—“our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free.

Labeled traitors, these men were charged with treason, a crime punishable by death. For some, their acts of rebellion would cost them their homes and their fortunes. For others, it would be the ultimate price—their lives.

Yet even knowing the heavy price they might have to pay, these men dared to speak up when silence could not be tolerated. Even after they had won their independence from Great Britain, these new Americans worked to ensure that the rights they had risked their lives to secure would remain secure for future generations. The result: our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Imagine the shock and outrage these 56 men would feel were they to discover that 242 years later, the government they had risked their lives to create has been transformed into a militaristic police state in which exercising one’s freedoms is often viewed as a flagrant act of defiance.

Indeed, had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers terrorists, resulting in them being placed on a government watch list, targeted for surveillance of their activities and correspondence, and potentially arrested, held indefinitely, stripped of their rights and labeled enemy combatants.

The danger is real.

We could certainly use some of that revolutionary outrage today.

Certainly, we would do well to reclaim the revolutionary spirit of our ancestors and remember what drove them to such drastic measures in the first place.

Then again, perhaps what we need is a new Declaration of Independence.

Re-read the Declaration of Independence for yourself and ask yourself if the abuses suffered by early Americans at the hands of the British police state don’t bear a startling resemblance to the abuses “we the people” are suffering at the hands of the American police state.

If you find the purple prose used by the Founders hard to decipher, here’s my translation of what the Declaration of Independence would look and sound like if it were written in the modern vernacular:

There comes a time when a populace must stand united and say “enough is enough” to the government’s abuses, even if it means getting rid of the political parties in power.

Believing that “we the people” have a natural and divine right to direct our own lives, here are truths about the power of the people and how we arrived at the decision to sever our ties to the government:

All men and women are created equal.

All people possess certain innate rights that no government or agency or individual can take away from them. Among these are the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The government’s job is to protect the people’s innate rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The government’s power comes from the will of the people.

Whenever any government abuses its power, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government and replace it with a new government that will respect and protect the rights of the people.

It is not wise to get rid of a government for minor transgressions. In fact, as history has shown, people resist change and are inclined to suffer all manner of abuses to which they have become accustomed.

However, when the people have been subjected to repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the purpose of establishing a tyrannical government, people have a right and duty to do away with that tyrannical Government and to replace it with a new government that will protect and preserve their innate rights for their future well being.

This is exactly the state of affairs we are suffering under right now, which is why it is necessary that we change this imperial system of government.

The history of the present Imperial Government is a history of repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the intention of establishing absolute Tyranny over the country.

To prove this, consider the following:

The government has, through its own negligence and arrogance, refused to adopt urgent and necessary laws for the good of the people.

The government has threatened to hold up critical laws unless the people agree to relinquish their right to be fully represented in the Legislature.

In order to expand its power and bring about compliance with its dictates, the government has made it nearly impossible for the people to make their views and needs heard by their representatives.

The government has repeatedly suppressed protests arising in response to its actions.

The government has obstructed justice by refusing to appoint new judges and has demanded that the Court comply with the government’s dictates.

The government has allowed its agents to harass the people and steal from them.

The government has directed militarized government agents—a.k.a., a standing army—to police domestic affairs in peacetime.

The government has turned the country into a militarized police state.

The government has conspired to undermine the rule of law and the constitution in order to expand its own powers.

The government has allowed its militarized police to invade our homes.

The government has failed to hold its agents accountable for wrongdoing and murder.

The government has jeopardized our international trade agreements.

The government has taxed us without our permission.

The government has denied us due process and the right to a fair trial.

The government has engaged in extraordinary rendition.

The government has continued to expand its military empire and occupy foreign nations.

The government has eroded fundamental legal protections and destabilized the structure of government.

The government has declared its federal powers superior to those of the states.

The government has ceased to protect the people and instead waged war against the people.

The government has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of the people.

The government has employed private contractors and mercenaries to carry out acts of death, desolation and tyranny, totally unworthy of a civilized nation.

The government has pitted its citizens against each other.

The government has stirred up civil unrest and laid the groundwork for martial law.

Repeatedly, we have asked the government to cease its abuses. Each time, the government has responded with more abuse.

An Imperial Ruler who acts like a tyrant is not fit to govern a free people.

We have repeatedly sounded the alarm to our fellow citizens about the government’s abuses. We have warned them about the government’s power grabs. We have appealed to their sense of justice. We have reminded them of our common bonds.

They have rejected our plea for justice and brotherhood. They are equally at fault for the injustices being carried out by the government.

Thus, for the reasons mentioned above, we the people of the united States of America declare ourselves free from the chains of an abusive government. Relying on God’s protection, we pledge to stand by this Declaration of Independence with our lives, our fortunes and our honor.

That was 242 years ago.

In the years since early Americans first declared and eventually won their independence from Great Britain, we—the descendants of those revolutionary patriots—have somehow managed to work ourselves right back under the tyrant’s thumb.

Only this time, the tyrant is one of our own making: the U.S. government.

The abuses meted out by an imperial government and endured by the American people have not ended. They have merely evolved.

“We the people” are still being robbed blind by a government of thieves.

We are still being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards.

We are still being locked up by a government of greedy jailers.

We are still being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms.

We are still being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers.

We are still being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates.

And we are still being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army.

Given the fact that we are a relatively young nation, it hasn’t taken very long for an authoritarian regime to creep into power.

Unfortunately, the bipartisan coup that laid siege to our nation did not happen overnight.

It snuck in under our radar, hiding behind the guise of national security, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on immigration, political correctness, hate crimes and a host of other official-sounding programs aimed at expanding the government’s power at the expense of individual freedoms.

The building blocks for the bleak future we’re just now getting a foretaste of—police shootings of unarmed citizens, profit-driven prisons, weapons of compliance, a wall-to-wall surveillance state, pre-crime programs, a suspect society, school-to-prison pipelines, militarized police, over-criminalization, SWAT team raids, endless wars, etc.—were put in place by government officials we trusted to look out for our best interests and by American citizens who failed to heed James Madison’s warning to “take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”

In so doing, we compromised our principles, negotiated away our rights, and allowed the rule of law to be rendered irrelevant.

There is no knowing how long it will take to undo the damage wrought by government corruption, corporate greed, militarization, and a nation of apathetic, gullible sheep.

The problems we are facing will not be fixed overnight: that is the grim reality with which we must contend.

Frankly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we may see no relief from the police state in my lifetime or for several generations to come. That does not mean we should give up or give in or tune out.

Remember, there is always a price to be paid for remaining silent in the face of injustice.

That price is tyranny.

Dial T for Tyranny: While America Feuds, the Police State Shifts Into High Gear

Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.

— Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

Played out on the national stage and eagerly broadcast to a captive audience by media sponsors, this farcical exercise in political theater can, at times, seem riveting, life-changing and suspenseful, even for those who know better.

Week after week, the script changes—Donald Trump’s Tweets, Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Michael Cohen’s legal troubles, porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit over an alleged past affair with Trump, Michelle Wolf’s tasteless stand-up routine at the White House correspondents’ dinner, North and South Korea’s détente, the ongoing staff shakeups within the Trump administration—with each new script following on the heels of the last, never any let-up, never any relief from the constant melodrama.

The players come and go, the protagonists and antagonists trade places, and the audience members are forgiving to a fault, quick to forget past mistakes and move on to the next spectacle.

All the while, a different kind of drama is unfolding in the dark backstage, hidden from view by the heavy curtain, the elaborate stage sets, colored lights and parading actors.

Such that it is, the realm of political theater with all of its drama, vitriol and scripted theatrics is what passes for “transparent” government today, with elected officials, entrusted to act in the best interests of their constituents, routinely performing for their audiences and playing up to the cameras, while doing very little to move the country forward.

Yet behind the footlights, those who really run the show are putting into place policies which erode our freedoms and undermine our attempts at contributing to the workings of our government, leaving us none the wiser and bereft of any opportunity to voice our discontent or engage in any kind of discourse until it’s too late.

It’s the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

Indeed, while mainstream America has been fixated on the drama-filled reality show being televised from the White House, the American Police State has moved steadily forward.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, over-criminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

All the while, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

None of these dangers have dissipated.

They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

The new boss has proven to be the same as the old boss, and the American people, the permanent underclass in America, has allowed itself to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.

Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what you call the old/new boss—the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter who occupies the White House, it is a profit-driven, an unelected bureaucracy that is actually calling the shots.

In the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer to spell out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one is talking about anymore.

A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. A police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the cop culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. This governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property.

D is for DRONES. It is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will be airborne in American airspace by 2020, part of an $80 billion industry. Although some drones will be used for benevolent purposes, many will also be equipped with lasers, tasers and scanning devices, among other weapons—all aimed at “we the people.”

E is for ELECTRONIC CONCENTRATION CAMP. In the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed the surveillance state, all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents and all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.

F is for FUSION CENTERS. Fusion centers, data collecting agencies spread throughout the country and aided by the National Security Agency, serve as a clearinghouse for information shared between state, local and federal agencies. These fusion centers constantly monitor our communications, everything from our internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected: the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police.

G is for GRENADE LAUNCHERS and GLOBAL POLICE. The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country. As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force.

H is for HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS. The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which violate international law. Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

I is for the INTERNET OF THINGS, in which internet-connected “things” will monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free. The key word here, however, is control. This “connected” industry propels us closer to a future where police agencies apprehend virtually anyone if the government “thinks” they may commit a crime, driverless cars populate the highways, and a person’s biometrics are constantly scanned and used to track their movements, target them for advertising, and keep them under perpetual surveillance.

J is for JAILING FOR PROFIT. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by private corporations, this profit-driven form of mass punishment has given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep their privately run prisons full by jailing large numbers of Americans for inane crimes.

K is for KENTUCKY V. KING. In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can break into homes, without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home as long as they think they have a reason to do so. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by law enforcement officials.

L is for LICENSE PLATE READERS, which enable law enforcement and private agencies to track the whereabouts of vehicles, and their occupants, all across the country. This data collected on tens of thousands of innocent people is also being shared between police agencies, as well as with fusion centers and private companies. This puts Big Brother in the driver’s seat.

M is for MAIN CORE. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has acquired and maintained, without warrant or court order, a database of names and information on Americans considered to be threats to the nation. As Salon reports, this database, reportedly dubbed “Main Core,” is to be used by the Army and FEMA in times of national emergency or under martial law to locate and round up Americans seen as threats to national security. As of 2008, there were some 8 million Americans in the Main Core database.

N is for NO-KNOCK RAIDS. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for routine police matters. In fact, more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually possession of some small amount of drugs.

O is for OVERCRIMINALIZATION and OVERREGULATION.  Thanks to an overabundance of 4,500-plus federal crimes and 400,000 plus rules and regulations, it is estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. As a result of this overcriminalization, we’re seeing an uptick in Americans being arrested and jailed for such absurd “violations” as letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, growing vegetables in their yard, and holding Bible studies in their living room.

P is for PATHOCRACY and PRECRIME. When our own government treats us as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, mistreated, and then jailed in profit-driven private prisons if we dare step out of line, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.” Couple that with the government’s burgeoning pre-crime programs, which will use fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics in order to identify and deter so-called potential “extremists,” dissidents or rabble-rousers. Bear in mind that anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is now viewed as an extremist.

Q is for QUALIFIED IMMUNITY. Qualified immunity allows officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all cronies with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

R is for ROADSIDE STRIP SEARCHES and BLOOD DRAWS. The courts have increasingly erred on the side of giving government officials—especially the police—vast discretion in carrying out strip searches, blood draws and even anal probes for a broad range of violations, no matter how minor the offense. In the past, strip searches were resorted to only in exceptional circumstances where police were confident that a serious crime was in progress. In recent years, however, strip searches have become routine operating procedures in which everyone is rendered a suspect and, as such, is subjected to treatment once reserved for only the most serious of criminals.

S is for the SURVEILLANCE STATE. On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

T is for TASERS. Nonlethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, rubber pellets and the like have been used by police as weapons of compliance more often and with less restraint—even against women and children—and in some instances, even causing death. These “nonlethal” weapons also enable police to aggress with the push of a button, making the potential for overblown confrontations over minor incidents that much more likely. A Taser Shockwave, for instance, can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button.

U is for UNARMED CITIZENS SHOT BY POLICE. No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, often attributed to a fear for their safety. Yet the fatality rate of on-duty patrol officers is reportedly far lower than many other professions, including construction, logging, fishing, truck driving, and even trash collection.

V is for VIPR SQUADS. So-called “soft target” security inspections, carried out by roving VIPR task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams, are taking place whenever and wherever the government deems appropriate, at random times and places, and without needing the justification of a particular threat.

W is for WHOLE-BODY SCANNERS. Using either x-ray radiation or radio waves, scanning devices and government mobile units are being used not only to “see” through your clothes but to spy on you within the privacy of your home. While these mobile scanners are being sold to the American public as necessary security and safety measures, we can ill afford to forget that such systems are rife with the potential for abuse, not only by government bureaucrats but by the technicians employed to operate them.

X is for X-KEYSCORE, one of the many spying programs carried out by the National Security Agency that targets every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. This top-secret program “allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

Y is for YOU-NESS. Using your face, mannerisms, social media and “you-ness” against you, you can now be tracked based on what you buy, where you go, what you do in public, and how you do what you do. Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country.

Z is for ZERO TOLERANCE. We have moved into a new paradigm in which young people are increasingly viewed as suspects and treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, often for engaging in little more than childish behavior. In some jurisdictions, students have also been penalized under school zero tolerance policies for such inane “crimes” as carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick, bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. The lesson being taught to our youngest—and most impressionable—citizens is this: in the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (politician, police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.).

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the post-9/11 America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age.

You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.

Whatever label you want to put on it, the end result is the same: tyranny.

Earth Day: Conflict Over The Future Of The Planet

Photograph from climate march in Washington, DC, Union of Concerned Scientists.

On this Earth Day, it is difficult to look at the state of the planet and the current political leadership and see much hope. In “Junk Planet” Robert Burrowes writes a comprehensive description of the degradation of the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, groundwater, and soil as well as the modern pollution of antibiotic waste, genetic engineering, nanowaste, space junk, military waste and nuclear, a description of a planet degraded by pollution impacting our bodies and health as well as the planet’s future.

Burrowes includes another form of waste, junk information, that denies reality; e.g., climate change, the dangers of extreme energy extraction and food polluted by genetic engineering, pesticides, and depleted soils. This false reporting results in policies that create a risk of ecosystem collapse.

Political and economic elites want people to believe these problems do not exist. Those in power seek to protect profits from dirty energy rather than transition to 100 percent clean energy. They seek to protect agribusiness food, pesticides, and genetically modified foods rather than transform food to organic, locally grown foods using regenerative agriculture. They deny the reality of environmental racism rather than correct decades of racism and provide reparations. They seek to put profits ahead of the health and necessities of people as well as ahead of protecting and restoring the planet.

Despite this, a growing portion of the public understands these realities and is taking action to challenge the system. People know, for example, as activist Steven Norris writes, that they should be concerned about the impact of carbon infrastructure on their communities and the planet.

Last week, David Buckel, a nationally known advocate for gay rights and the environment, died in a self-immolation suicide as a wake-up call to save the planet. He wrote in a note:

Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result – my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.

The undertow being created by organized resistance is growing, and so is the push back against it. In order for this conflict to be resolved, the conflict must be heightened as is occurring now.

Tree-Sit Protest Of Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia Metro News.

People Power Escalates

As we write this, tree-sits are growing in West Virginia where people are putting their bodies on the line to prevent the destruction of trees and habitat to build the Mountain Valley pipeline for fracked gas. In Virginia, Red Terry started a tree-sit on Easter weekend to protect her land from destruction. She remains, despite the company with law enforcement support, denying her food and water — something illegal against prisoners or during war. As trees are felled she remains, as do protesters in Pennsylvania, who are also doing tree-sits. Their stubborn courageous should encourage each of us.

In Louisiana, a water protector locked herself into a cement-filled barrel placed in the trench of a horizontal directional drill to block construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Eleanor Goldfield reports this is part of the Battle of the Bayou, a coalition of groups and individuals standing against the destruction of a fragile environment, facing arrest and creating a future together.

In Maryland, people blocked construction then escalated to a tractor blockade to prevent the construction of a compressor station that will bring fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic to the Dominion export terminal in southern Maryland. People who fought the export terminal for years are now joining with neighboring counties fighting gas infrastructure and mounting a campaign against the Maryland Department of the Environment as Governor Hogan pushes $100 million in gas infrastructure.

People are taking protests to corporate offices as a busload of Lancaster, PA people did when they brought a 12 foot stretch of pipeline to a meeting room, singing songs and chanting, asking “How does it feel to be invaded?” In Bellevue Washington, protesters constructed a small longhouse blocking the main entrance to the corporate headquarters of an energy company.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown was protested when he came to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people  protested Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania over his pro-fracking policies. More politicians will be held accountable in this election year by angry constituents.

The industry recognizes that pipeline protestors are having an impact. Canada is having a hard time moving tar sands and fracked gas because protests are stopping pipeline investment. Oil companies are successfully being pressured to examine the risks to the environment and human rights from their actions. Washington activists defeated the largest oil-train terminal in the nation.

Protests are successfully resulting in cities divesting from banks who fund fossil fuel projects. Europe’s largest bank, HSBC just announced it will no longer fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic, tar sands projects, or most coal projects. Corporations realize they are investing in stranded assets that may not pay off and they may be held legally accountable for causing climate change.

Exxon Knew protest. Photo by Johnny Silvercloud.

Litigation Raises Risks

Corporations and the federal government are facing lawsuits from individuals, organizations and state and local governments over climate change and environmental degradation. Protesters are using the courts to underscore the urgent necessity for action by using a climate necessity defense.  Courts are beginning to accept it, but protesters willingly understand they risk incarceration.

Exxon Mobil is facing a raft of litigation arguing the company was aware of climate risks but continued to mislead the public and to pollute. State and local governments are seeking damages and calling for a federal criminal investigation. Litigation highlights the science of climate change and demonstrates how oil giants made immense profits while billions of dollars of cost from climate change; e.g., immense storms and sea level rise, are borne by individuals and governments. Most suits were brought by coastal communities but recently Colorado communities are suing oil corporations over climate change-caused droughts and fires.

ExxonMobil tried to stop state investigations in Massachusetts, New York, and Texas over misleading investors for years about climate change risks. The judge issued a sharp rebuke with prejudice preventing an appeal and allowing the investigations to continue. Oil companies are no doubt behind new legislation in states to give severe penalties to people protesting “critical infrastructure”.

Future generations from Our Children’s Trust have brought eight suits against the federal government over the destruction of the environment claiming a public trust over the atmosphere. A suit filed by 21 youth in Washington has overcome government efforts to dismiss the case and will be going to trial after both the trial court and Ninth Circuit rejected the government.

Environmental racism is also being challenged. Recently a court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Civil Rights Act for decades of inaction over complaints filed by residents of Flint, MI. Hundreds of complaints about environmental racism have been made to the EPA. An ultimate case of racism is coming up in the Supreme Court when it considers whether the United States must abide by treaties made with Indigenous Peoples. The long history of racism from the founding of the US by colonizing land inhabited by millions, followed by ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous who lived there, is on trial. If treaties are law, as they should be, this will empower Indigenous People more.

Climate Our Future from People’s Climate March by Reuters.

Change Is Being Created, Transformation Is Coming

The undertow of protest is having an impact. Corporations fear they will be held accountable for the damage they have done. Governments and elected officials are aware the people are angry and their careers can end with the new political culture created by people power.

The beginning of change always begins with education and changing ourselves. While we know systemic change is necessary, people are also educating themselves about their own own lifestyles. Thirty-six-year-old Daniel Webb was conscious of the dangers of plastic and decided to keep all of his plastic for a year gathering 4,490 items, 93% were single-use plastic, and just 8 were biodegradable. He made a mural of his plastic to educate others.

The US uses 500 million plastic straws every day. Whenever we order a drink, we request no straws and share this fact. This consciousness has permeated the culture, now many restaurants only bring straws when asked, and people are organizing “Don’t Suck”  and “Be Straw Free” campaigns to eliminate plastic straws.

More people spend their money consciously using it to buy organic and local, eating less meat and boycotting factory farm foods. We have more power with our dollar than with our vote in a manipulated “democracy” disguised as an oligarchy.

People are also making changes at the community level. Edmonston, a working-class town with a median income of $19,000 in Maryland, took small steps to going green. In the early 2000s to ameliorate stormwater flooding, they gradually remade their town into a green town, empty lots turned into community gardens and rain barrels were added. Now they have permeable pavement, solar panels, fruit trees for food and native plant landscapes with leaves collected by the city and composted.

In Brooklyn, people began reclaiming land with a vacant lot turned into a nearly 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm. They then got data on vacant lots in the city and put bi-lingual signs on them that said: “This land is your land” and told people how to get control of the area, linking them to a website to help. Since 2011, communities have transformed over 200 sites. Municipalization, or fearless cities, may be a key for creating change toward socializing energy into a public service resulting in transformative cities. These changes are not only about the environment and climate justice but are also about economic, racial and social justice.

Despite the government continuing to invest in dirty energy, clean energy is growing.  Wind farming is creating jobs in red states like Texas. The Solar Foundation mapped solar jobs by congressional district as solar is the fastest growing source of new energy. Research has been developed on a state-by-state basis to make the United States 100% renewable by 2050. With a national mobilization it could happen more quickly.

There are many challenges at the national level with corrupt federal agencies tied to polluting industries, but people pressure is still having an impact. The Federal Energy Regulatory System (FERC) which has been in bed with the oil, gas, and nuclear industries since its founding, indeed it is funded by those industries, has been the focus of a more than four-year pressure campaign by Beyond Extreme Energy. This June 23-25 they will be holding a Crack the FERC protest campaign to escalate pressure. The protest coincides with the Poor People’s Campaign as addressing the  environmental crisis is linked to economic inequality, racism, and other issues.

The environmental crisis and the mishandling of climate change are issues that are going to make the 2020s a decade of transformational change. In order for people to create transformative changes, we need a well-educated activist community.

The Popular Resistance School will begin on May 1 and will be an eight-week course on how movements grow, build power and succeed as well as examine the role you can play in the movement. Sign up to be part of this school so you can participate in small group discussions about how to build a powerful, transformational movement.

Defendants Acquitted Based On Climate Necessity Defense

Roxbury climate necessity defendants. (By Peter Bowden)

Massachusetts – On March 27, 13 defendants went into the West Roxbury District courthouse to answer charges related to their arrests protesting the West Roxbury Massachusetts Lateral Pipeline. They expected to have charges against them reduced to civil infractions — the equivalent of a parking ticket. While finding no grounds to deny that motion from the prosecution, the judge chose to let each defendant testify briefly on the necessity of their actions.

The defendants collectively presented a powerful and comprehensive argument for why it was necessary to engage in civil disobedience to stop the imminent local and global harms of this fracked gas pipeline. Following their testimony, the judge acquitted ALL the defendants by reason of necessity.

While defendants in this case were still denied a jury trial and the possibility of presenting a full necessity defense, this was the first time that we know of that defendants were acquitted based on climate necessity. The defendants told the story of the campaign against the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline and how their actions were justified by the threat of climate change.

Lawyers for the 13 activists suggested there may even have been a “cause and effect” – that charges were reduced in order to avoid the trial for which the defendants, their legal team, eight expert witnesses, and many supporters had prepared.

Activists said they were disappointed that they would not get the chance to present their case to a jury of their peers, but not disheartened. “The attempt to take these cases to trial was a long shot,” said Marla Marcum, co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center and a spokesperson for the group. “As climate activists in 2018, we know that long shots and moral imagination are some of the most promising tools for culture-shifting transformation.”

With the judge dismissing the charges, the campaign was a success even without the trial. As Nathan Phillips, a professor in the Earth and Environment Department at Boston University and one of the defendants, said “We forced Spectra to admit to the judge that they did not have and do not have a safety plan for the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline and likely any projects going forward.”

The result in this case is an important part of building power to fight the fossil fuel industry. Climate justice advocates told their story not just in court but from the way they created their protest, which included “Digging Mass Graves” to highlight the dangers of climate change.

Wampanoag Territory: West Roxbury Protectors ExoneratedJudge completely dismisses all civil charges in favor of Necessity Defense. Start Video At 4 Minutes In…Statements From:-Attourney Josh Raisler-Tim DeChristopher-Marla Marcum-Karenna Gore-Nathan Phillips -Brown Pulliam-Warren Senders -Nora Collins -Mary Boyle -Diane Martin -Calista Womick-Catherine Hoffman Climate Action RI • 350 RIClimate Disobedience CenterShare, educate and inspire…Mitakuye Oyasin,Standing Bear ~ John Gonzalez#MniWičoni#WaterIsLife#ProtectTheSacred#StopSpectra#OčetiOyate#AllNations

Posted by John Gonzalez on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

 

Roxbury protesters arrive to show the moral imperative of stopping climate infrastructure due to climate change.

Roxbury pipeline protest dramatized the mass deaths that climate change will occur and the necessity of stopping climate infrastructure.

Digging Mass Graves in West Roxbury from Kori Feener on Vimeo.

“What we stood for is true, and that truth is in the process of coming to light, regardless of the fact that the system is unable to fully hear it right now,” said Karenna Gore, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore and Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Activists continued to tell their story after the protest. See this blog from Tim DeChristopher, and by Rev. Lara Hoke. The participants consistently made the point that they restated before the court — there is an urgent necessity to stop building carbon infrastructure as climate change will kill millions of people and cause immense environmental damage.

This protest and refusal to accept a plea bargain built the movement’s power and demonstrated the violence of carbon energy infrastructure projects.

The defendants were among roughly 200 protesters who had been arrested as part of a massive campaign against this pipeline, beginning in mid 2015. Initially concerned with local  safety – the risk of locating a high pressure facility in a densely-populated neighborhood and across the street from an active blasting quarry—protesters gained support from Boston Mayor Walsh and the entire Boston City Council, Congressman Lynch, Senators Markey and Warren, State Representative Coppinger and State Senator Rush, as well as residents and officials from the Town of Dedham through which the pipeline also runs.

This is not just one protest but part of a national resistance movement for climate justice with activists taking action across the country to stop carbon energy infrastructure and extraction of oil and gas. We urge you to share this report so tens of thousands of people will see principled climate disobedience actions as one kind of necessary leadership in a time when our regulatory systems and our government are owned by the fossil fuel industry. We hope this action will inspire more people to take direct action, risk arrest, and pursue novel legal strategies.

The Climate Disobedience Center provides a guide for activists on how to use the tool of the necessity defense in climate cases. It defines climate necessity as: “The climate necessity defense is an argument made by a criminal defendant to justify action taken on behalf of the planet. It’s offered by activists who have been arrested for protesting fossil fuel extraction and government inaction on climate policy.” [Emphasis in original] The necessity defense is a long-time defense used in civil disobedience cases where activists argue that their violation of the law should not result in conviction because they were acting out of necessity to prevent a greater harm. In climate cases, the argument is the impacts of climate change are so serious that breaking the law is necessary to avert them.

The trial was supported by Climate Disobedience Center, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Climate Defense Project, and 198 Methods.

For more information visit the Climate Disobedience Center and Stop the West Roxbury Lateral. The above report is based in part on the press release from the defendants.

“Six miles deep… forever”

Six Nations, southwest of Hamilton, Ontario, is the largest reserve in Canada, with 27,000 members, though only 12,000 live on the reserve. It is a mini-multicultural nation, the only reserve in North America that has all six Haudenosaunee nations living together.

The Haldimand Proclamation, negotiated by Joseph Brant on behalf of the Six Nations in 1784 in gratitude for native support of Britain against the American revolutionaries, was, until 1924, governed by the traditional native government, now called the The Haldimand Proclamation. It promised the lands “six miles deep from each side of the river beginning at Lake Erie and extending in that proportion to the head of the said river which them and their posterity are to enjoy forever.”

This agreement was a decree, never formalized as a treaty, promising what translated into 950,000 acres of what is arguably Canada’s most fertile, scenic, and resource-rich land. As this became apparent in the 19th century, the decree was downgraded by the government, using a new survey in 1821, to 674,910 acres. Canada prides itself in ‘winning’ the war of 1812, but despite fighting for the British then, the result for the natives was to have their earlier promises betrayed, in the first place via the theft of 90% of the land promised to the Six Nations. Canada was becoming ‘independent’, but for the settlers only.

Ignoring the proclamation, settlers moved into Six Nations territory, the land was cleared and became unsuitable for hunting. Only a small section, now the Six Nations reserve, was left, though it too was mostly denuded and is now primarily used to grow tobacco. The Six Nations were forced to surrender lands to the Crown purportedly to raise funds for the perpetual care and maintenance of Six Nations. Soon, the Crown had expropriated approximately 600,000 acres in questionable transfers. The Crown appointed “Indian Agents” which gave Six Nations’ land to friends and families, or sold land in order to pay their own salaries. Forty years after the Haldimand Treaty was confirmed, Six Nations were dispossessed of 90% of their original grant.

In 1924, the Canadian government dissolved the native governing structures completely, and installed the elected council system according to the 1876 Indian Act, in the case of the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations Elected Band Council (SNEBC). This divided the natives, who were forced to accept the changes, resulting in a schism in the community with those who held on to traditional governing structures, embodied in the Great Law of Peace, that exists to this day.
From approximately 1840 to 1865, the Six Nations Confederacy council met in a log building near Middleport (since, confiscated). In 1856, against protests from the Onondaga chiefs, Indian Department superintendent Jasper Gilkison established a council building in what is present day Ohsweken, about 6 km south-west of Middleport.

The traditionals have no government recognition or funding, weakening their ability to function effectively. But at moments of crisis, the two power structures have worked together, however hesitantly. The elected council for the Six Nations, the SNEBC, is run like a western-style local government, and is headed by Chief Ava Hill. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is governed more diffusely, incorporating traditional roles of each of the member tribes. There are 50 chief positions, though not all are filled.

But for the Great Law to function, at least half of all the members must actively support the traditional ways (really it should be unanimous). That is the bottom line, according to native rights activist Nicole Lebrasseur, who is working through the Canadian People’s Union to popularize the Great Law as a prototype for all Canadians, as a way to fight neoliberalism and corporate globalization, where corporations continue to erode citizen democracy. “The Six Nations can be the germ of a renewal of genuine democracy for all nations,” says Nicole Lebrasseur.

Current stand-off

The current Grand River land dispute hit the mainstream media in 2006 when the Six Nations formally reactivated their 1995 suit against Canada and Ontario, protesting to raise awareness about their land claims, in particular, 40 hectares in the Haldimand Tract in Caledonia, Haldimand County which Henco Industries Ltd had purchased in 1992, and planned to develop as the upscale Douglas Creek Estates.

When the contested land was officially registered for real estate development in 2005, this led the traditionals, the HCCC, to stage protests, closing roads, and at times escalating to damage of electricity generation and even the burning of a bridge. While not condoning the actions, the elected band council benefited from them, the national publicity they generated, creating the conditions which pushed the federal and provincial governments into action to solve the dispute. Call it: the elected council natives playing the good cop to the traditionalist bad cop.

In May 2006, natives occupied Douglas Creek Estates and twenty-one were arrested, prompting several hundred natives, some of whom were masked and were armed with baseball bats, axes and hockey sticks, to return to the site. The police retreated and the natives reclaimed the site and set up roadblocks along the access street. During the evening, the protesters put hundreds of tires across the highway, doused them with gasoline and lit them.

“As the world has seen, our protest has been firm but peaceful. Our people are responding without weapons, using only their bodies to assert that we are a sovereign people with a long history and that we cannot be intimidated,” said Six Nations Confederacy Chief Allen McNaughton. When the community’s chiefs ask people to abandon the barricades, it was the clan mothers who overrule them, leading a cultural reawakening in their traditionally matriarchal community.

Local nonnatives were furious and in June more than 400 area residents and businesses filed a class-action suit against the Ontario provincial government for its failure to protect them adequately. This was settled in July 2011, with the government paying the nonnatives $20 million and prosecuting several demonstrators.

In 2007, another development site within six miles of the Grand River in nearby Brantford was blocked off by protesters. On September 13, Sam Gualtieri, a builder, was attacked in a confrontation with occupiers at the 90-home Stirling Woods development and seriously injured. Mohawk native Richard Smoke was convicted of assault for resisting Gualtieri when he tried to force Smoke and several others to leave his daughter’s house, which he was helping build as a wedding present. Smoke later apologized to Gualtieri in court.

The 2006 government promise read, “It is the intention that the land title be returned to its original state, its status under the Haldimand Proclamation.” The historic road-block stand-off over Caledonia and the Burtch Lands ended in 2010 with the province promising to hand it back to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, but instead putting it in a federal corporation, with an Six Nations Elected Council member on the board.

Elected Council vs Confederacy

The stand-off in Caledonia continues, pitting the SNEBC against the traditional Confederacy. In 2010, the SNEBC rescinded a motion that recognized the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council as the leader for the Douglas Creek Estates site in Caledonia. “The Confederacy negotiating team has been there for four years with limited success,” said SNEBC rep Chief William Montour. At the same time, Mohawk farmer Kristine Hill, who had been farming a section of the nearby Burtch Lands (formerly seized by the Ontario government and used as a prison) under authorization of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, was evicted after an injunction was filed against her by the government on behalf of the SNEBC, the elected council. A decision on this case, along with a contempt of court charge, was delivered in an Ontario court in September 2017.

“We the Onkwehonwe of Kanonhstaton are still standing strong,” said Ronda Martin, in front of the blockade decorated with Haudenosaunee and Mohawk Warrior flags, built of what appeared to be part of a decommissioned electrical tower. “We ask again for the public’s patience as we work on some very complicated issues.” In a YouTube video uploaded by Turtle Island News on August 17, Doreen Silversmith listed off three demands of Six Nations people at the barricade. They include that the province and the Canadian government return to the negotiation table with the Confederacy, that Ontario honour its promise to really return the land, and that Six Nations elected band council withdraw its injunction against Hill. This latest blockade ended peacefully in early September, but after the court ruling upholding the eviction, the matter remains unsettled.

The current stand-off is over who has authority over these lands reverting to native control – the traditionals or the Elected Council. The traditionals are more interested in agricultural and woodlands use, the Elected Council want to use it for housing. The elected council is cooperating with the Ontario and federal governments by accepting the corporation fig leaf for the development of the lands, but claims to be resisting the government and striving for the same goals as the traditionals.

The confederacy is refusing to acknowledge the Ontario government corporation, which would still leave Canadian officials in control through the elected council. Ontario Premier Wynne threw the gauntlet, playing games with the band, in an attempt to undermine the authority of the HCCC, by utilizing the factions the government has created to get what they want: the complete and total assimilation of the Six Nations.

There are 28 land claims by Six Nations, which have been on the books since the 1990s when litigation against the federal government was filed. This, as well as other court challenges made through the Elected Council since then, have all stalled without ever being heard and without the SNEBC being able to achieve any headway.

This stand-off reached a crisis point in the 1959 occupation of the elected council meeting in the Old Council House, which lasted 8 days, with the demand to disband the band council and reinstate the confederacy. The elected council chief resigned, but the ‘revolution’ was still born.

• Read Part One here;

Armed and Dangerous: If Police Don’t Have to Protect the Public, What Good Are They?

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.

—Author William S. Burroughs

In the American police state, police have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

In fact, police don’t usually need much incentive to shoot and kill members of the public.

Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages—many of them unarmed—for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

In recent years, Americans have been killed by police merely for standing in a “shooting stance” holding a cell phone, behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat, opening the front door, running in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch, crawling around naked, hunching over in a defensive posture, wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey, driving while deaf, being homeless, brandishing a shoehorn, holding a garden hose, and peeing outdoors.

So when police in Florida had to deal with a 19-year-old embarking on a shooting rampage inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., what did they do?

Nothing.

There were four armed police officers, including one cop who was assigned to the school as a resource officer, on campus during that shooting. All four cops stayed outside the school with their weapons drawn (three of them hid behind their police cars).

Not a single one of those cops, armed with deadly weapons and trained for exactly such a dangerous scenario, entered the school to confront the shooter.

Seventeen people, most of them teenagers, died while the cops opted not to intervene.

Let that sink in a moment.

Now before your outrage bubbles over, consider that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed (most recently in 2005) that police have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm.

Yes, you read that correctly.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, police have no duty, moral or otherwise, to help those in trouble, protect individuals from danger, or risk their own lives to save “we the people.”

In other words, you can be outraged that cops in Florida did nothing to stop the school shooter, but technically, it wasn’t part of their job description.

This begs the question: if the police don’t have a duty to protect the public, what are we paying them for? And who exactly do they serve if not you and me?

Why do we have more than a million cops on the taxpayer-funded payroll in this country whose jobs do not entail protecting our safety, maintaining the peace in our communities, and upholding our liberties?

Why do we have more than a million cops who have been fitted out in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s the same reason why the Trump Administration has made a concerted effort to expand the police state’s power to search, strip, seize, raid, steal from, arrest and jail Americans for any infraction, no matter how insignificant.

This is no longer a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

It is fast becoming a government “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations,” and its rise to power is predicated on shackling the American taxpayer to a life of indentured servitude.

Cops in America may get paid by the citizenry, but they don’t work for us.

They don’t answer to us. They’re not loyal to us.

And they certainly aren’t operating within the limits of the U.S. Constitution.

That “thin, blue line” of loyalty to one’s fellow cops has become a self-serving apparatus that sees nothing wrong with advancing the notion that the lives—and rights—of police should be valued more than citizens.

As one commentator remarked:

‘Protect and Serve’ are the words we see on the side of many police cars and is the motto of most police forces. The words define the mission of the police, which is to ‘protect’ citizens and ‘serve’ the public. However, it has become increasingly clear that in far too many police forces those words have been twisted beyond recognition.  Too often they appear to mean ‘to protect officers and serve the police force.’ ‘Force Protection’ has become the primary motivating force for many in the Police. That term is actually a military concept which means that you do everything you can to protect the troops when planning and executing a combat mission.

The myth of the hero cop really is a myth.

Cops are no more noble, no more self-sacrificing, no braver and certainly no more deserving of special attention or treatment than any other American citizen.

Yet, as journalist David Feige explains:

For the last three decades, police unions have managed to portray their members as indispensable heroes in a deadly and dangerous war. [I]n the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the story of the hero cop has become so powerful and pervasive that even questioning police behavior is decried as disloyal, un-American, and dangerous.

This misplaced patriotism about police and, by extension, the military—a dangerous re-shifting of the nation’s priorities that has been reinforced by President Trump with his unnerving knack for echoing past authoritarian tactics—paves the way for even more instability in the nation.

Feige continues:

There are real-world harms that follow from the myths perpetuated by police unions. Arguments about the dangerous nature of police work drive the increasing militarization of police departments. The life-and-death nature of the job is used to push for extremely generous medical leave, overtime, and pay packages. Most insidious of all, the exaggerated danger and trumped-up heroism drives an us-versus-them mentality that suffuses contemporary big-city policing and bleeds into the criminal justice system, causing systemic imbalances that chronically favor the police over citizens. Together this creates a sense of invincibility and righteousness among the police that is used to justify even outrageous behavior, while simultaneously creating the perception among the public that the police are untouchable.

For years now, we’ve been told that cops need military weapons to wage the government’s wars on drugs, crime and terror.

We’ve been told that cops need to be able to crash through doors, search vehicles, carry out roadside strip searches, shoot anyone they perceive to be a threat, and generally disregard the law whenever it suits them because they’re doing it to protect their fellow Americans from danger.

We’ve been told that cops need extra legal protections because of the risks they take.

None of that is true.

For the record, any police officer who tells you that he needs tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray to do his job shouldn’t be a police officer in a constitutional republic.

Unfortunately, “we the people” don’t get to call the shots anymore. And we no longer live in a constitutional republic.

Welcome to the American police state, funded by Corporate America, policed by the military industrial complex, and empowered by politicians whose primary purpose is to remain in office.

It’s a short hop, skip and a jump from the police state we’re operating under right now to a full-blown totalitarian regime ruled with the iron fist of martial law.

The groundwork has already been laid.

The events of recent years have only served to desensitize the nation to violence, acclimate them to a militarized police presence in their communities, and persuade them that there is nothing they can do to alter the seemingly hopeless trajectory of the nation: the invasive surveillance, the extremism reports, the civil unrest, the protests, the shootings, the bombings, the military exercises and active shooter drills, the color-coded alerts and threat assessments, the fusion centers, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, the distribution of military equipment and weapons to local police forces, the government databases containing the names of dissidents and potential troublemakers.

The sight of police clad in body armor and gas masks, wielding semiautomatic rifles and escorting an armored vehicle through a crowded street, a scene likened to “a military patrol through a hostile city,” no longer causes alarm among the general populace.

Few seem to care about the government’s endless wars abroad that leave communities shattered, families devastated and our national security at greater risk of blowback. Indeed, there were no protests in the streets after U.S. military forces carried out air strikes on a Syrian settlement, killing 25 people, more than half of which were women and children.

And then there’s President Trump’s plans for a military parade on Veterans Day (costing between $10 million and $30 million) to showcase the nation’s military might. Other countries that feel the need to flex their military muscles to its citizens and the rest of the world include France, China, Russia and North Korea.

Connect the dots, people.

This stealthy, creeping, silent coup that is the same danger that writer Rod Serling warned against in the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May, which put the military in charge of a coup that would institute martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

On the big screen, the military coup is foiled and the republic is saved in a matter of hours. In the real world, however, the plot thickens and spreads out over the past half century.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

The question is no longer whether the U.S. government will be preyed upon and taken over by the military industrial complex. That’s a done deal.

We’ve allowed ourselves to be acclimated to the occasional lockdown of government buildings, Jade Helm military drills in small towns so that special operations forces can get “realistic military training” in “hostile” territory, and Live Active Shooter Drill training exercises, carried out at schools, in shopping malls, and on public transit, which can and do fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers and bystanders into thinking it’s a real crisis.

Still, you can’t say we weren’t warned.

Back in 2008, an Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report went on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

In 2009, reports by the Department of Homeland Security surfaced that labelled right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) and called on the government to subject such targeted individuals to full-fledged pre-crime surveillance. Almost a decade later, after spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, the government has been amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.

Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that has been colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.

All of this has taken place right under our noses, funded with our taxpayer dollars and carried out in broad daylight without so much as a general outcry from the citizenry.

It’s astounding how convenient we’ve made it for the government to lock down the nation.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

I’m referring to the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

Assange, Judge Arbuthnot and the Arrest Warrant

Justice is an elastic concept.  Like other terms in law, it has room to expand and contract.  But one weakness burdens legal strictures that supposedly have an objective reality to them: power.  Power brutish, power as a spectral force, and power arbitrarily exercised.

Any reading of Julian Assange’s case must be, to that end, understood as a dynamic less of law than power.  Having challenged its operations in the international system, he was bound to be its recipient.  In assessing his conditions of detention on the Ecuadorean embassy in London, black letter lawyers prefer an interpretation without the influence of power, clean and clear.  Focus is had on individual volition and purpose: up stakes, Assange, and face the legal music!  That music remains the score sheet of a warrant for his arrest.

Such reasoning is woefully inadequate given the feathers the man has rustled.  A number of states, the United States most preeminent amongst them, has demanded his pound of flesh.  Mike Pompeo of the Central Intelligence Agency has admitted with refreshing candour how US authorities are considering avenues on prosecuting Assange and those associated with WikiLeaks.

Having soiled many a stable with the work of WikiLeaks and disclosures of classified information, treating Assange as a minor offender, one merely deserving of a parking ticket, is entirely erroneous.  But it is a view that persists, even after the collapse of the Swedish case against him.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, taking a view shared by many members of her profession, proved inelastic in assessing Assange’s appeal against the arrest warrant.  She did not, for instance, feel that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had much truck in its 2016 decision favourable to him.

Assange, she was more or less surmising, was an unconscionable brat, a person who believed laws insufficient to bind him.  “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.”  The arch manipulator had to come clean and descend from his Olympus.

“The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice.  He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.”

Some observers were not immune to the sense that the judge had gotten personal.  Rather than focusing on the finer points of the ruling, a moral assessment was in order. “At times,” went ABC correspondent Lisa Millar, “it felt like a character assessment that went beyond what was needed for this ruling.”

The only way Judge Arbuthnot could understand Assange’s case was like any other defendant, an understanding both flawed and naïve.  “Defendants on bail up and down the country and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices.  He should have the courage to do so.”

The problem with this reasoning is that the “choices” in question have been shown to be thinly manipulated grounds, notably those centred on a prosecutor’s brief from Sweden that was pursued till it expired with time.  At no point was Assange ever charged for sexual offences, a niggling point that the righteous followers of positive law forget.

When concessions were finally made to interview him in the Ecuadorean embassy on his Swedish sojourn, nothing of substance emerged. What did, however, lurk with sinister force was the role played by British authorities to prolong the matter.

It is beside the point that Assange may leave his confines at any time.  But removing a police presence before a minefield doesn’t remove the mines.  He may well walk out and face the heralds of law.  But the issue of skipping bail is not a stand-alone matter of legal delinquency. The grounds for extraditing him to Sweden have evaporated, making the issue academic. What remains is the prospect of surrender to the United States, a point that is far from negligible.

None of this matters to the judge, who decided she knew geopolitical malice, or issues of trust, better than most. “I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States.”

A good dose of speculation followed.  “If that had happened there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the UK, Sweden and the US, which would have affected international relationships and extradition proceedings between states.”

Not in the least.  What all three states have demonstrated are strong ties in terms of extradition, common grounds when it comes to dealing with international trouble makers.  The Lauri Love decision does, admittedly, offer some room for hackers and those of Assange’s ilk to avoid the fate of ending up in the US prison system.

Far from precipitating a crisis, rendering Assange or extraditing him would have been seen as the ridding of a problem, removing a chaos maker, as it were, from the already troubled soup of international relations.  Charmingly for such judicial officials as Judge Arbuthnot, the rule of law remains immune from political influence, despite scant evidence of its practice.

Silvia Glas: “In Ecuador there is no justice for Jorge Glas”

Jorge Glas

With a positive balance after 10 years as president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa helped Alianza País emerge victorious in the second round of the presidential elections in early 2017. But a complete turnaround was soon on the cards: newly elected president Lenín Moreno started to attack the legacy of the Citizens Revolution that had gotten him elected. An important part of Alianza País, faithful to the social policies of “Buen Vivir” (“Good Living”), disapproved of this. Then, vice-president Jorge Glas, who could be counted among these critical voices, was removed from his post and again put in the media spotlight, accused of corruption amidst the Odebrecht affair. A mere coincidence or fate? After four months of pre-trial detention, in January 2018 Jorge Glas was sentenced to six years in prison. Silvia Glas, economist and sister of Jorge Glas, granted an exclusive interview to Investig’Action, in which she exposes the “lack of evidence” for the verdict and calls for breaking the media blockade surrounding this case.

*****

Alex Anfrons: On May 24, 2017, a new government took office in Ecuador with Lenín Moreno as president and Jorge Glas as vice-president. When does this winning partnership sour?

Silvia Glas: We can point to two important moments: on August 2nd, 2017, in a public letter, Jorge Glas denounces alleged irregularities in the governance of Lenín Moreno. Moreno then relieved Glas of all his legally mandated duties on August 4th, as a consequence of this “disrespectful letter”.

From this point onward the plot thickens. At the end of September, after Jorge Glas held a press briefing in which he denounced the harassment against him and pleaded his innocence, the following day, a Friday afternoon, there was an announcement that his legal status was being reviewed. In other words, he could go to jail immediately the following Monday.

These things always occur in circumstances where the ability to react and defend oneself are impossible. Then there was the arrest on October 2 based on new and “damning” evidence. In the trial it was revealed that this consisted of criminal assistance from the United States and Brazil, in which the name and post of Jorge Glas are never mentioned. Not only that, the source of both documents is the company itself which is guilty but was acquitted in Ecuador. Since then, there has been a growing number of human rights abuses against the former vice-president.

AA: A vice-president forbidden to exercise his mandate… How do you explain it?

SG: With his illegal removal, the will of the Ecuadorian people, which had elected a vice-president at the polls, has been betrayed. The proven irregularities during the breaches of due process and in the very short process of finding a new vice-president show a clear intention of getting rid of someone who had been elected by the people. We hope that international instances will scrutinise these irregularities soon.

Just to mention some of these irregularities: 1. The decision to impose pre-trial detention was arbitrary, it met none of the requirements stipulated by international agreements on people’s rights. 2. An alleged absence of the letter in which the vice-president gave notice of using his legally allowed holidays to have the necessary time for his defence, and using this he was declared as being absent. 3. The remarkable rush to get to trial in less than 3 months with some 470 documents of 200 pages each. 4. The questions surrounding his post and his replacement in the Vice-Presidency, who has been put in charge of key issues in a referendum that could change the governance of the country.

All these are issues that the Ecuadorians would like to see subjected to international oversight. There is an innocent man who has no assurances surrounding his safety and that of his family because of a process in which absolutely nothing was proven.

It is important to recall that it was Jorge Glas himself who took the initiative before the National Assembly to be relieved of the immunity that his post would allow, in order to face the accusations and the harassment that he was being subjected to, trusting the judicial system of a country which he had served for so many years.

AA: Is there a political motivation behind the case of Jorge Glas?

SG: You will have heard the term “Lawfare”, which unfortunately has become a trend in Latin America. It corresponds to using and abusing the law to achieve a political goal of removing influential people who might be opposed to certain projects. In other words, the politicisation of justice. It does not take an expert to see that in this case the script fits perfectly.

The persecution dates back to when Jorge Glas was considered as a presidential candidate and later when he ran alongside Lenín Moreno. The media promoted on several occasions a number of allegations later proven to be baseless; media fanfare especially surrounding important electoral dates, activities that, through campaigns with a massive reach and frequency, were meant to smear a man who was key in the transformation and reconstruction of several sectors in the country during the last decade. Not only that, it also challenged the interests of traditional economic and political groups in Ecuador.

The goal is clear, to make the “target” vulnerable in the public opinion for future accusations, even if they have no evidence. In this context the judicial abuses and aberrations become irrelevant in the perception of the people. In spite of said campaigns, the contribution of Jorge Glas as part of the electoral ticket was very important for the electoral triumph.

AA: What was the result of the recent trial against your brother?

SG: On December 13, with all the media present to make as much of a show out of it as possible, an oral ruling was produced sentencing him to six years in prison. However, this sentence is longer than the five years stipulated as the maximum under the current legal code. The judge made use of a penal code which is no longer in use. This, according to legal experts, is a blatant violation of “due process”.

My brother found himself defenceless once more, like in many other occasions since his illegal arrest in October. Without a written ruling, there was no possible appeal for 40 days. Finally, the ruling was published in writing on January 23, more than 40 days since the end of the trial. On January 26 then an appeal was filed.

AA: What does this ruling reveal in your opinion?

SG: That the outcome was predetermined. The statement from José Santos de Odebrecht was transcribed to corroborate the previous allegation against Jorge Glas. In other words, the sentence was already there before the trial. Is the statement from a self-confessed criminal who is providing, in exchange for his freedom, a key piece to ruin the life of an innocent person, without any proof, any sort of evidence? The former Odebrecht attorney, Tacla Durán, denounced from Madrid that there were deals with Latin American governments in order for the Odebrecht people who had confessed to crimes to produce denunciations “à la carte” to serve certain political goals, all in exchange for rewards in terms of their own sentences.

Up to now there has been no reaction from judicial systems. In the meantime, a political prisoner in Ecuador is being persecuted with new charges, his life and that his family are in danger. The ruling document, which is public and available to the media, shows a countless number of inconsistencies that anyone can spot, even without being a legal expert. For example, the ruling mentions a crime which is not the one that is being tried as the justification for a longer sentence than what the law stipulates.

AA: On what offences is the ruling based on?

SG: In the written ruling Jorge Glas is considered guilty of interfering in the concession of contracts, while in the trial the witnesses and defendants made it very clear that he was never part of any commission in charge of any contest or bidding. He never took part in the adjudication of contracts, and moreover other people at different levels are the ones who had those responsibilities…

In truth the only source and support to declare him guilty is the self-confessed criminal Odebrecht, who ended up being rewarded. The criminal assistances are based on archives coming from this company, in the case of the criminal assistance from the United States, and in the criminal assistance from Brazil it is based on José Santos’ denunciations. All of it is based on the allegations of the guilty company. In no case was any evidence presented.

Take one of the supposed key pieces of evidence, a flash-drive that would demonstrate the involvement of the vice-president’s uncle. First of all, the device had no information related to Odebrecht, and in the end a court-appointed expert testified in the trial that, with no connection to the original source, this USB drive does not constitute any evidence. The expert was immediately sanctioned by the court for publicly voicing these positions. Any argument that favours the defence is treated as illegal…

AA: What is the key point of Jorge Glas’ defence?

SG: The absolute absence of evidence. An irregular trial is looking, at all costs, to mask the fact that an innocent man is to be made guilty. I will try to be more graphic: during the trial the prosecution presented around seventy supposed witness, the majority of them being technical experts, in charge of translating, transcribing, requisitioning and confirming the existence of places. In other words, the majority are not even experts. None mentioned Jorge Glas or referred his name as appearing somewhere.

The other defendants, including three who confessed, denied having had contact with Jorge Glas or any participation from his part in their activities. If the main guilty party, José Santos, sees his charges dismissed and the other accused parties do not know the vice-president and even state that they are being used to implicate him, then what kind of criminal association are we talking about?

Each piece of supposed evidence was picked apart during the trial. However, there is a media dimension which makes it irrelevant in the justice system. There is a blockade surrounding information in Jorge Glas’ case in the main media outlets in Ecuador. That is why it is urgent to make this known internationally.

• First published in Investig’Action