December 24, 2010

The South, Secession, Slaves & John Brown

Four days ago, there were fancy celebrations in South Carolina. It was the 150th anniversary of the Palmetto State becoming the first to secede from the US. Much was made by the partiers of the proposition that this had been an exercise in fighting Big Government and upholding states’ rights.

They are unlikely to be celebrating today, at least in public. That’s because 150 years ago the elected legislators of South Carolina issued a document explaining their move, Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.

I know you’ll be stunned to learn this, dear reader, but it turns out the reason the state tried to bail was: slavery. No, make that: slaves.

Of course it is customary in thinking about the period to refer to “slavery” as the cause of the Civil War, and my point here may be a bit nit-picky, but to me, “slavery” seems too abstract a term. It describes a social institution, but slaves were people! Sometimes folks lament the carnage of the Civil War by saying “Slavery would have died out anyway….” Make the subject of that sentence “Slaves” and the whole premise has to be reconsidered.

And the SC legislature was well aware that the stakes in their desperate political stroke was slaves, not just slavery. The Declaration of the Immediate Causes in its short paragraphs contains a twofold vision of slaves, as valuable pieces of property to be defended and as an omnipresent danger to be kept under tight guard.

The charges justifying separation from the Northern States, whose citizens had just elected the next President, Abraham Lincoln, read, in part:

[T]hey have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
Servile insurrection! This had always been the deepest dread of the slaveowners. Look at the ascending nature of the list of offenses the people of the Northern States are charged with--speaking against slavery, organizing to free the slaves, acting to free them and, the ultimate enormity, helping slaves to rebel and free themselves.

And in 1860, this prospect was glaringly real, thanks to the Harpers Ferry raid conducted by abolitionist John Brown and a small band of Black and white freedom fighters only a year before.

The Harpers Ferry raid is usually portrayed as helping trigger secession because it stirred Northern opposition to slavery and Southern fears that Northern tolerance of this great evil was coming to an end. But, as the Declaration of Immediate Causes shows, Southern fears were also directed at menaces more local and immediate.

To underline this, one need only look at events in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry in the weeks between John Brown’s trial and his execution on December 2, 1859. As word of the raid spread through the plantations, they began to burn. “The heavens are illuminated by the lurid glare of burning property,” fretted a Richmond daily.

On October 31, “a Negro boy” torched the barn and stable of George Fole. Eleven days later three straw ricks belonging to John LaRue and the carriage house and granary of a Dr. Stephenson combusted on the same night. Planters rushed to reap and harvest early, lest their crops go up in flames

A planter by the name of Ulare who raised cattle, soon wrote the governor, blaming abolitionists and begging help:
[T]hree stockyards have been burnt in this county alone since their capture and since their trial—last night one of mine was burned destroying not less than $2000 worth of property.
To no avail. On December 2, all the animals on two separate farms belonging to members of the Turner family died suddenly. The next day one of those farms caught fire. And that same week, properties owned by three of the jurors who convicted Brown and his men were destroyed by flames!

Small wonder the South trembled and sought to cut off ties with the contagion from states where many citizens memorialized and honored John Brown.

[The historical material is largely drawn from a splendid article entitled “Regional Black Involvement in John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry.” It was written by a scholar named Hannah Gellert, with the assistance of Jean Libby. It details extensive Black participation in the planning and preparation of the raid, the death of as many as 17 local free Blacks and slaves who joined Brown's squad during the battle and the response summarized above. The piece can be found in a volume entitled Prophets of Protest, edited by McCarthy and Stauffer.]

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December 19, 2010

Sex & Wikileaks: That Other Scandal

Even though the official Obama administration review of Afghanistan shows just how shaky the occupation there is, Wikileaks continues to be the big news story two weeks on (thanks in no small part to the US decision to try and take down Julian Assange via a sex scandal—the media loves them some sex scandals, especially ones involving slender, pale blonds).

There’s one document in the first thousand released that I want to highlight here, in part in observance this weekend and Friday of the monthly War Moratorium. The story takes place at the corner of Afghanistan and Wikileaks. Though it also features non-consensual sex, it has received little play in the US media. (No blonds, perhaps?) And behind the sex lies an even more shocking story.

The cable (as they are called) from Kabul to Washington reports a desperate plea by Afghan Minister of the Interior Hanif Atmar to US embassy officials. He needs help covering up a story he fears will break soon.

It seems that a Texas-based mercenary firm, DynCorp, which rakes in about $2 billion a year, 95% of it from your tax dollars, is being paid to run centers (RTCs) to train Afghan police and troops. At their Kunduz center, DynCore threw sort of a graduation party for their most recent charges. on April 2009

This was a bacha-bazi (translation: “boy-play”) party. The entertainment was procured from local pimps: young teen and pre-teen boys who had been dressed in women’s clothes, made up and forced to gyrate seductively to music for their stoned audience of Afghan troops and DynCorps employees.

At the end of the evening’s entertainment, the kids were raffled off, with the winners taking them back to their quarters to fuck.

It’s not surprising that Minister Atmar freaks out when some reporter is rumored to have gotten hold of the story. The embassy advises him not to make a big deal of it or approach the reporter; that will only make things worse.

And, indeed, when a Washington Post article touches on the story in July of last year, nothing much seems to have happened. It’s covered as an incident of "questionable management oversight" in which foreign DynCorp workers "hired a teenage boy to perform a tribal dance at a company farewell party.”

Move along, folks, nothing to see here...

Well, let me just point out a couple more things that we need to see, beyond the grim horror that was DynCorp’s idea of Prom Night and beyond the widespread and telling silence from the US media, even now that the leak of the State Department cable has given them a chance at a do-over.

First, the leaked document features one of the more bizarre parenthetical statements seen recently in any government report. Interior Minister Atmar begs the US vice ambassador to have the US military increase the level of its oversight of DynCorp. Embassy folks shine him on:

We are also aware of proposals for new procedures, such as stationing a military officer at RTCs, that have been introduced for consideration.
Then the sender of the “cable” reminds his State Department superiors, in the parentheses I mentioned:
(Note: Placing military officers to oversee contractor operations at RTCs is not legally possible under the currentDynCorp contract.)
Just try and wrap your brain around that—the US government has no right to oversee the operations of the mercenaries it has hired to do its dirty work. And, let me note, this contract language exists despite the fact DynCorp employees were exposed as kidnapping, raping and buying and selling young girls during US military operations in Bosnia in 1999.

Second, another State Department statement that patronizingly calls the dancing boys a "widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape," especially in the Pashtun South of the country, displays a striking ignorance about recent Afghan history.

The Taliban, the main enemy of the US occupation in Afghanistan, is of very recent origin. With the Soviet occupation defeated by 1989, the country became a battleground of brutal warlords. In the spring of 1994, one of them abducted two young girls in Singesar, shaved their heads and raped them.

A one-eyed veteran of the anti-Soviet war, now teaching at a madrassah near Kandahar, Mullah Omar, mobilized 50 of his students. (The word Taliban is just the plural of the word talib, “student”.) They armed themselves, freed the girls and hung the commander from a tank barrel.

Word spread and ordinary folk in the area begged further help. In the fall, Omar and the students were told about two other local commanders who had killed civilians while battling to seize a young boy. Again, the Taliban moved, defeating the militias, killing the commanders and freeing the boy.

This time they kept rolling as other Afghans rallied to their standard. Within three months the Taliban controlled 12 provinces and were headed for Kabul. It certainly seems that a lot of ordinary Afghans somehow fail to understand that the widespread kidnapping and rape of their sons and daughters is “culturally sanctioned.”

What’s more, I rather doubt that the imprimatur of DynCore and the US occupation authorities is going to be enough to make this incident seem okay to the people of Kunduz Province.

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November 27, 2010

Newark supports ACLU NJ petition for Justice Department intervention

When Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, published the Op-Ed piece Newark Police Department needs an intervention; the ACLU-NJ turns to the federal government this past September, it was in many respects the result of ACLU NJ's close work in recent years with community-based organizations like the People's Organization for Progress and others. So when the ACLU NJ filed their 96 page petition enumerating 407 cases of police misconduct (see US Intervention Sought for Newark Police Abuse, and ACLU accuses Newark police of false arrests, excessive force, for more information), nearly 100 members of the People's Organization for Progress, the New Black Panther Party,  families of police abuse victims, and concerned community residents responded by marching on Newark Police Headquarters on Green Street to begin the campaign demanding that the Justice Department begin an investigation.
Among the concerned community residents, a contingent from Irvington reported on the rally against street violence they'd participated in this past Wednesday. This event was a candlelight prayer vigil to mourn the murder of Saleemah Baines, the pregnant mother of three who was killed along with her companion. This vigil, which many Irvington elected officials had endorsed and espoused their support of was set upon by Irvington cops in what can only be described as a police wilding incident!
Witnesses and victims of the police wilding in Irvington report
Lawrence Hamm, chairman of POP, thanked ACLU NJ for their work interviewing victims of police abuse and ACLU's efforts writing, submitting and popularizing the federal petition for Justice Department intervention. NBPP National Minister of Culture Zayid Muhammad also thanked ACLU NJ and called for a National United Front Against Police Abuse.

To see additional photos from today's rally click here.

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November 14, 2010

Grand Jury/FBI vs Activists: What's Up

Some hours ago I spoke with an old friend who is one of the peace and solidarity activists in the Midwest being targeted by the FBI and a Federal Grand Jury. Like many of us, I have been following the case with great concern from day one, but the conversation made it much clearer to me where things stand now in what is shaping up to be the worst legal assault on the US left in decades.

Some people who heard in the last month that the subpoenas had been withdrawn may be thinking that this happened as a result of the storm of protest that arose in the aftermath of the FBI raids on September 24.


What happened is that lawyers made it clear to the Feds that all of those subpoenaed intend to take the Fifth Amendment, and the subpoenas were suspended. Lawyers have been informed that the subpoenas will be reinstated for 3 of the activists very soon.

What this means is that those three will very likely be offered immunity for anything they testify about, which means that they can no longer claim their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination to refuse to testify. If they then refuse to answer questions placed by the government—and all have stated that they will so refuse---they are subject to civil contempt charges which can and likely will result in their imprisonment for the remainder of the Grand Jury’s term, currently scheduled to end in mid-February.

If a Grand Jury in the case is then re-empanelled, they can be jailed again. They may also be subject to punitive criminal contempt charges, which carry a sentence of up to ten years.


The immediate task before us is to raise a new and larger storm of protest when the renewed subpoenas are formally issued to the three activists, probably this Tuesday. Demonstrations should be held wherever possible in the days after, and the defense group which has been formed, the Committee to Stop the FBI will issue a call for other activities on its website.

If and when folks are called to appear before the Grand Jury and are held in contempt for non-cooperation, again immediate and forceful actions should be taken to defend those jailed and shine a spotlight on this brutal attempt to coerce testimony to be used against their fellow activists.

What then?

Those for whom the original subpoenas have not been reinstated are not off the hook at all. If serious protests now fail to halt the government’s legal steamroller, the next likely step is the indictment and trial of activists on charges related to supporting organizations on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

Note that I say activists and not “the activists.” It could be the thirteen originally subpoenaed, or two, or 23, or any number. At this stage very little is known about what the government’s intentions in the case are. All we have to go on is the incredibly broad list of materials in the subpoenas, which mention two organizations on the FTO list The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP).

Charges, if made, will doubtless reflect the recent Supreme Court decision in the Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project case, a ruling in which “material aid” to so-called terrorist organizations is so broadly defined that even advising them to pursue their goals peacefully makes a US citizen subject to prosecution.

It’s hardly surprising that the folks hit in the first round of subpoenas and raids have been under extreme stress, initially reflected in symptoms like insomnia, eating disorders or return to long-defeated smoking habits.

Overall, though, they are holding up extremely well, considering. Considering that their homes were broken into by armed FBI agents and their books, papers, computers, passports and other possessions seized. Considering that several have small children and one is a great grandmother. Considering that employers and neighbors have been subjected to harassing visits by FBI agents. Considering, most of all, that the government seems intent on jailing them as supporters of terrorism for years to come.

Hold fast!

They are hanging tough. The rest of us better had, too. I wrote here at FotM about the surprisingly broad and rapid response among socialist and anarchist organizations of every stripe in the US in the days after the FBI raids. Unions, community organizations, civil liberties groups and others have also spoken against this attack in ringing terms. Folks seemed pretty clear that this is not only an attack on the anti-war and solidarity movements but an incredibly dangerous precedent which, if the government succeeds, will be turned against others in short order.

The longer term task here is to make sure those who have rallied around stay rallied, Issues and causes in the Internet era tend to blink in and out of existence like the virtual particles posited by physicists. If we let that happen here, the consequences will be grave. A national Committee to Stop FBI Repression has been formed, with over 170 people attending an inaugural meeting last weekend. Get involved.

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November 6, 2010

"We need a United Front challenging state sponsored terror against our communities!"

At Fire on the Mountain we've covered campaigns of the People's Organization for Progress against police violence directed at Black people and immigrants since the very inception of our blog. The recent shooting-attack by Rahway, NJ police against Fritz Louissaint is just the latest in these terrorist attacks on people of African Descent (see Justice for Fritz Louissaint, and …Police violence in Rahway, for more information).

This past weekend the Haitian Student Association, the NJ Haitian Chamber of Commerce, the NJ American Civil Liberties Union, immigrant rights groups and concerned community members joined the People's Organization for Progress and the New Black Panther Party to rally in front of the Rahway municipal center and march to King's Motel on Route 1 where Mr. Louissaint was shot by Rahway Police Department officers, Sgt. Anthony DeCarlo and Edward O'Donnell.
After reaching King's Motel, James Carey of POP's Union County branch called-out the motel manager for his deceptive fabrication on the Rahway police 911 emergency-line when he reported that Mr. Louissaint was harassing residents with a gun. Zayid Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party called for a united front against police terror. Speakers from the Haitian community, the immigrant defense organizations and the student movement vowed to bring larger numbers to Rahway in December…
To see additional photos of the Saturday, November 6, 2010 march, rally and demonstration, click here.

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November 4, 2010

Justice for Fritz Louissaint — Police violence in Rahway, NJ

This week our brother James Carey, Chairman of the Elizabeth branch of the People's Organization for Progress, contacted Fire on the Mountain to inform us that the People's Organization for Progress, will host a rally/march for Fritz Louissaint the mentally disturbed Haitian man who was shot 5 times at close range by Rahway Police Officers Sgt. Anthony DeCarlo and Edward O'Donnell.

Miraculously, Fritz survived the attempt on his life however, he's languishing in the Union County Jail for a crime he didn't commit. Police assert they were justified in using excessive force because Fritz Louissaint attacked them with a harpoon knife, an account that eyewitnesses strongly refute because he was holding a fishing pole handle.
Rahway's Mayor James Kennedy fabricated the story when he said quote: "I saw the videotape of the whole incident that was captured on the police cruisers video cam showing Mr. Louissaint with his hand over his head like in the movie Psycho, then he attacked the police." According to eyewitnesses, the police encountered Fritz in the courtyard of the motel, demanded that he put the fishing handle down and he complied.
Once Fritz began raising his arms in the air, they began shooting... it would be scientifically impossible for the incident to be captured on video cam because the police vehicles were facing North and Fritz was shot in the rear of the vehicles which would be (South.)

James note that if there's a videotape available it would totally exonerate Fritz Louissaint. Mayor Kennedy prejudiced himself and influenced the potential grand jury that would've been sequestered when he made that statement, therefore in the mines of everyone Fritz Louissaint is presumed guilty. Despite request from the ACLU of NJ, the Rahway Police have yet to relinquish the tape.

We encourage everyone to join us as we rally/march to demand justice for Fritz Louissaint. 
  Date: Saturday, November 6, 2010
Time: 12:00pm (Noon)
Place: Rahway Police Department, 1 City Hall Plaza, Rahway, NJ
For additional information, 
call NJ State POP Chairman Larry Hamm 
(973) 801-0001

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October 31, 2010

Andrew Cuomo, Sworn Enemy of the Working Class

Election day is but two days away, but I feel compelled to write this. Earlier in the week, I posted a statement by Freedom Road calling for a vote for Charles Barron, Black activist and New York City Council member, as governor of NY State, and specifically warning against any vote for Democrat Andrew Cuomo, even on the Working Families Party line.

The day that flier came out, the New York Times confirmed its correctness by publishing an article entitled “Cuomo Vows Offensive Against Labor Unions.” Based on an extensive hour and a half interview with the politician, it is a grim harbinger of things to come.

The lede, the first paragraph, tells the story:

Andrew M. Cuomo will mount a presidential-style permanent political campaign to counter the well-financed labor unions he believes have bullied previous governors and lawmakers into making bad decisions. He will seek to transform the state’s weak business lobby into a more formidable ally, believing that corporate leaders in New York have virtually surrendered the field to big labor.

Go ahead, read that again and let it sink in.

The next governor of New York has vowed an ongoing frontal attack on one of the few union bulwarks left in the United States. Union membership in the US, after decades of brutal attacks by corporate power and of government hostility or indifference, has declined to 12.3% of the workforce. New York is the only state where over a quarter of all workers (barely, 25.3%) are still union members. Six states have unionization rates below 5%.

This has consequences. One of the ugliest effects of the union busting that shifted into high gear with President Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union in 1981 is that real wages for blue collar workers have remained stagnant or declined since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the incomes and wealth of the top 1% of the population have soared.

Contemplate for a moment the second half of that paragraph, too. He wants to make the state’s business community “a stronger ally” of his, does he? On account of Wall Street, the too-big-to-fail banks, corporate executives, developers and landlords don’t have enough political clout, I guess. Even the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision to allow unlimited secret spending on political campaigns isn’t a big enough thumb on the scales for Cuomo.

A couple of additional thoughts:

First, the main strength unions in New York State have is not, whatever Cuomo claims, their ability to put millions into a bank account and buy television ads, with the result that:

The governor’s popularity drops; the governor’s knees weaken; the governor falls to one knee, collapses, makes a deal.

New York State unions do buy ads, but their political clout is based much more on their attention to state elections and on their ability to flood Albany with informed and fired-up members when important bills are before the Legislature. Anyone who has watched buses of construction workers, teachers, or purple-clad SEIU members descend on the State Capital to reason with, shall we say, their elected officials will have to wonder--and worry about--what Cuomo’s plans to counter that might be.

Second, this has shown up the weakness of the Working Families Party as an electoral third party formed expressly to representative working class interests in New York State. NY is one of eight “fusion states” where parties can cross-endorse the candidates of other parties (usually one of the two major parties). The WFP has mainly endorsed Democrats (and run its own candidates in Democratic primaries), but has also backed Republicans and sometimes run candidates solely on the WFP line--and won.

The catch is that to maintain ballot status, WFP must garner 50,000 votes for its gubernatorial candidate every election cycle. Without this, a party must go through the arduous work of collecting tens of thousands of valid signatures on petitions—which, for instance, the Green Party has done since 2002.

This year, Cuomo--whose Republican challenger Carl Paladino is racist, sexist, reactionary, seriously dim and a sure loser--played cat and mouse with the Working Families Party for months, withholding acceptance of a promised WFP nomination he didn’t really need.

At last, with no time at all left before the ballots were to be printed, the Working Families Party was permitted to ”crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,” as Shakespeare hath it, and kiss Cuomo’s ass, accepting his whole platform, full of anti-union and pro-business planks. They, like the progressive unions which bankroll the WFP, are now working to elect a candidate who is a sworn enemy of the union movement and of the working class as a whole.

In closing, I echo the FRSO/OSCL statement. Fellow NYers, this Tuesday, please vote for Charles Barron and the Unity Party! Or, if you are so inclined, vote for Howie Hawkins and the Greens. Or skip the governor's race on the ballot. But don't stab yourself in the back with a vote for Cuomo.

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October 26, 2010

In NY, Vote Barron For Governor!

[In an interesting development, the NY/NY District of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad has issued a leaflet on the statewide election on Tuesday, November 2.]

On Tuesday

For governor, the NY/NJ District of Freedom Road is endorsing NY City Council member Charles Barron. His lifelong dedication to serving the people is enough to win this Black leader our support. We also note that Barron runs as candidate of the Freedom Party, whose platform is the most pro-working class of any this time out, and whose name evokes Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer and the struggle against racist disenfranchisement. And we applaud Barron's astute choice of Ramón Jimenez, a capable and effective activist insufficiently known outside of the Puerto Rican community, as candidate for Attorney General.

We know that some of our friends will be voting for Howie Hawkins and the Green Party slate. We aren't going to argue too hard with that. Hawkins is a worthy candidate and the Greens are admirably consistent in their efforts to build a viable people's party in New York State.

There is one election option we do want to argue against--strongly.

In recent elections, thousands of progressives statewide have voted for Democratic Party candidates who were also running on the Working Families Party ballot line. This has kept the WFP on the ballot without difficulty, and some argue that it has given the party some say on matters before the state government.

This time, however, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo jacked up Working Families by ignoring the offer of the WFP ballot line until the last possible moment, and the Party's leaders rolled over for him. They formally accepted as their own his entire platform, which includes a cap on taxes increases for the rich and brutal budget cuts that will cost the unionized city work force dearly in jobs, pay and benefits.

Why grovel to someone who has publicly promised to shaft you? WFP insiders say it's to keep the ballot line, which requires 50,000 votes be cast for governor in each election. Skeptics say that union leaders close to the WFP are worried lest their locals take a disproportionate hit in the coming cuts.

We say neither excuse cuts any ice. The ballot line, if lost, can be regained the way it was won in the first place, by going among the people and collecting signatures on a petition. Building union cooperation to resist cuts together, starting now, will produce better results than a bunch of scattered locals all whimpering, "Don't pick on us, cut somebody else..."

The Working Families Party played an important role in winning the 2005 state minimum wage hike, and in protecting rent regulation, and other struggles. That's why they're hated, investigated and attacked by landlords and corporate types.

A union-backed, community-based Working Families Party promises to be one tool for exercising a significant degree of working class pressure on what happens in the government of this city and state, and one stepping stone toward actual working class rule in this country. But, right now, in November 2010, voting for a candidate and a platform designed to make working people pay for the crisis that the bankers have caused is a big step away from that vision.

New York/New Jersey District
Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad

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October 10, 2010

Justice for Fritz Louissaint — Oppose state-sponsored terror in Rahway, NJ

Update!!! October 11 Update!!!
James Carey, Chairman of the Elizabeth, NJ Branch of the People's Organization for Progress announced last night a "Massive Rally/Protest in front of the Rahway Police Department for Fritz Louissaint, the unarmed elderly man who was shot by two rogue police officers April 16th 2010 at the Kings Inn Motel after they fabricated a story indicating Fritz attacked them with several knives, a story that eyewitnesses strongly refute…"

The time and date of this rally will be Saturday, October 16th 2010 at 12 noon, and the location is 1 City Hall Plaza (see map), Rahway, NJ. Please join POP, our Elizabeth Branch and justice-minded people  and come to Rahway on Saturday…

At the Thursday, September 30 General Assembly Meeting of the People's Organization for Progress, the Chairman of the Elizabeth Branch of POP informed the meeting about this heinous case of police brutality in Rahway. He hopes to follow up with mass action. Check Fire on the Mountain for updates on these plans in the next few days…

On April 16, 2010 an unarmed Haitian-American man was shot at point-blank range by officers of the Rahway Police Department. Three of the five bullets hit Mr. Fritz Louissaint in the chest.

While that number of shots to the chest would normally make this a post-mortem campaign for justice, in this case Mr. Louissaint and his family are fortunate, though he presently languishes in jail, charged with a crime he could not have committed.

The Rahway cops maintain that they were justified in using deadly force because Fritz Louissaint supposedly attacked them with a machete-like knife. This account was strongly refuted by eyewitnesses accounts of the incident.

Rahway's Mayor James Kennedy went public claiming, "I saw the videotape of the whole incident that was captured on the police cruiser's camera showing Mr. Louissaint yielding a knife." Five months later, however, the police department and the prosecutor's office haven't produced this so-called smoking-gun evidence.

Mayor Kennedy prejudiced himself and irrevocably impaired the impartiality of any potential grand jury with his comments.

The Justice for Fritz Louissaint Campaign encouraged everyone who stands for liberty & justice to write letters or telephone New Jersey's U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and request that the Justice Department intervene and conduct its own investigation into Louis Louissaint's case…

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman
Newark U.S. Attorney's Office
970 Broad Street, 7th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone (973) 645-2700
Fax (973) 645-2702

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October 6, 2010

10.2.10: Some Cranky Points

Herewith a few points about the 10.2.10 rally, held under the bland signboard, One Nation, Working Together. I emphasize the word “points”--this is not an actual summation. It is not undertaken collectively, based on an initial analysis and a plan on how to take part in what was obviously going to be one of the more significant political events of 2010. I hope different forces produce such summations for us to study, compare and learn from.

1. Solidarity Day comparison

My sense of things is doubtless jaundiced by decades spent slogging to DC for big protests, but I am not alone in making a comparison to Solidarity Day in 1981, the first year of the Reagan era. A deep recession was devastating the country and the newly elected president was going all out to break the striking air traffic controllers’ union, PATCO. The shaken AFL-CIO bureaucracy issued an unprecedented call for a national, union-led March on Washington, and a fired-up rank and file responded. Hundreds of thousands poured into DC for a determined and angry protest.

Objectively, the trade union movement is very different from what it was in 1981, and substantially weaker. That one had big, big contingents from the United Auto Workers, the Steelworkers and other traditionally majority male bailiwicks. Those unions, like the Meatpackers and too many others, are a shadow of what they were then, devastated by outsourcing, union busting, technological change

While I saw Machinists and Teamsters in good numbers, from far afield--Ohio, Pittsburgh, etc., it was the service unions which dominated last Saturday. The SEIU was clearly the biggest the biggest single force this time. The United Federation of Teachers was another with big member turnout.

While 10.2.10 reflected changes in the economy and the trade union movement, it didn’t really reflect probably the most significant change. There were certainly contingents from the immigrant workers movement, but where were the numbers and the spirit of the great levantamiento of 2006, where millions waged one-day general strikes that slowed or stopped city after city?

Participation in general was spotty. Some unions didn’t take part at all, or participated only in a token way. I didn’t see big contingents from the two largest postal unions, the APWU and the NALC, even though they are facing the combination of management attack, non-union competition and technological obsolescence (courtesy of the Internet) that devastated many of the old “basic” industries in the run-up to 1981. It’s possible that I missed them in a large crowd, but I know for a fact that my own former local, NY Metro, the largest APWU local in the country, didn’t send a single solitary bus to DC.

Finally, the spirit was different. Though conditions are worse than they were in the Reagan Recession, we have a smaller, feebler union movement, with less of a sense of itself as a sleeping giant roused to anger. 10.2.10 was not only less angry but more tentative.

I have had to go through my initial draft of this and insert the word “rally” in a dozen places where I originally wrote “march” or “demonstration” (and even, once, “protest”). Although it was sometimes billed as A March for Jobs, Peace and Justice, there was no march, no central show of strength. Folks streamed into the rally site, stood or milled, listening to the speakers--or not--and trickled out in a growing flow even as latecoming contingents continued to stream in.

2. The Obama problem

And there was no clear target.

10.2.10 had an impressive list of Good Things it was calling for (I can’t say fighting for)--jobs, education, real health care reform, curbing the NAFTA version of free trade, stopping giveaways to the big banks, immigration law reform, rebuilding the infrastructure, and even, in passing, “peace abroad.”

Yet the main people denounced in 10.2.10 literature and by those speakers from the podium I heard were Republicans in Congress, corporate lobbyists, and the whole Glenn Beck, Fox News and Tea Party “Take Back America” crew. For all the mess left by the Bush administration and the obstructions posed by Senate Republicans, the fact remains that if goals like these are to be won, they won’t come from that lot. They must be demanded from the Democratic President, the Democratic House and the Democratic Senate and fought for. Hard.

Meanwhile, it was clear that a great many of the workers present were not about to listen to a bad word about President Obama. On my half-filled bus from the NYC Central Labor Council, I saw three people wearing their pins from Obama’s 2008 campaign and a woman with a tee-shirt that had his picture and the words “Commander-in-Chief” writ large in gold sequins above it. The heart of this sentiment was captured in one of those loomed-acrylic throws that usually depict woodland scenes or poker-playing dogs. This one was being carried as a small banner by two Black women who came on the other CLC bus--It had a picture of Obama superimposed on his current residence and the inscription “From Slavery To The White House.”

You could see the contradiction vividly in the plaintive pre-printed signs some unions distributed: We Want The Change We Voted For. And you could see it in what can be characterized as the main demand of the rally, directed not at the powers that be, but at rally participants: we should go home and plunge deep into Get Out The Vote operations for the Democratic Party in the mid-term elections. The alternative, it was suggested, will be certain doom if the Republicans do too well.

3. The crisis of legitimacy

A much more recent benchmark for 10.2.10 than Solidarity Day was the well-publicized turnout for the Restoring Honor rally in DC called a month earlier by Glen Beck, teevee lunatic and semi-official Tea Party mouthpiece, I confess that it was heartening that the trade unions and their allies also drew in the low six figures.

Lorry nose, there’s been a lot written about the Tea Party phenomenon in recent months. We’ve seen articles--some concerned, some comic--that say that the movement is in essence is a white supremacist backlash, against Blacks, against immigrants, against Muslims. Or it is a sophisticated and well-financed Republican Party astroturfing operation. Or it’s elderly white nostalgics panicked by change, or broke-ass folks in a barely coherent tax rebellion or just a sorry reflection of a deep inability to think at all among too many people of this country. I am not about to argue with any of these worthy assertions here.

But one thing which has not been sufficiently noted is that the teabaggers have seized ownership of the deepening crisis of legitimacy in this country. Tens of millions of Americans feel that the system is broken and have a deep distrust of politicians as unprincipled, blowhard, money-grubbing liars. They have worked hard only to watch their mortgages go underwater, their jobs vanish, their puny investments and pensions savaged by the economic meltdown. And all the while, a bunch of rich bankers and businessmen are getting fabulously rich hollowing out companies and running Ponzi schemes and avoiding taxes.

That’s unarguable.

In such a situation the left should be ascendant. Key to our basic critique is the idea that this system is run by the rich for the rich, that the government and the electoral system and the courts and the laws do not serve the great majority, that the mainstream media is owned by and kowtows to billionaires, that uncountable trillions in tax money are spent on unjust and unjustifiable wars and on bailing out financial criminals while, for most of us, poverty is one layoff notice or hospital bill away, that the US has a higher percentage of its population in prison than the most repressive regimes and state spying on citizens is at unprecedented levels.

Yet it is the half-baked, anti-government, rightwing libertarian version of these ideas that is the leading ideological edge of the teahadists. By making “big government” rather than capitalist rule the issue, they have put many progressives and radicals on the defensive. Much of the left is thus today found explaining why regulation of corporations is a good thing, why utilities and roads and schools should not be privatized, why social security and Medicare are necessary, why your right to live trumps your neighbor’s inalienable right to test small thermonuclear devices on his Private Property, and so forth. Is our best answer to a crisis of legitimacy to defend the existing order as superior to some brutal government-free dystopia?

That 10.2.10 was unable to mobilize, or even unite with, that anger and that sense that the system doesn’t work for everyday people means that it will likely wind up only as a quickly fading memory for participants.

4. Socialism, war and the contingents

Part of the plan was that folks focused on particular issues could organize themselves into contingents of groups and individuals. A bunch of these mobilized at a remove from the main rally to be able to move into it in an organized fashion and make their point. This useful approach seemed to be undermined by weak outreach, an early departure from the announced gathering points and rapid absorption into the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial. I want to make note of two of them.

The socialist contingent was the only one I actually ran into, with around 500 participants at that point. Called by a variety of groups on the socialist left, with the International Socialist Organization having the largest presence on the ground, its main message was that the Democrats suck as bad as the Republicans. Whatever the merits of this view, there was no way it was going to have much impact on the crowd.

The contingent was holding a mini-rally on the outskirts of the crowd when I arrived and the highlight was an excellent speech by Dan La Botz, the Socialist Party candidate for US Senator from Ohio. Paradoxically, the fact that Dan is the most prominent socialist candidate in this whole election cycle highlighted how little play any flavor of actual socialist politics has in the country in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The anti-war contingent had left 14th and Constitution, entered the crowd and dissipated before I got out of the RFK Stadium parking lot and onto the Metro, and from what I’ve heard was larger but not qualitatively so. Some excellent work was done around 10.2.10. Just days before. Veterans For Peace did a huge banner drop at the Newseum, right down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. US Labor Against the War distributed literature to and got the very useful “Why Are We In Afghanistan” video shown on scores of buses.

Still, recent polls show 58% of the people in this country already oppose the war in Afghanistan (a country never even mentioned in 10.2.10 literature). The figure at the rally must have been more like 90%. Yet the desperate urgency of ending the occupations and the catastrophic effect they are having in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan simply did not come across.

5. Think I’m too cranky? Holler back!

Let me stipulate that it was a good thing that the One Nation Working Together rally was held, that the mobilization was fairly impressive, that the crowd was magnificently diverse and that many of the people attending were jazzed by it and even felt determined to take action, electoral or otherwise, in the coming period. I may well have missed other positive features of the rally or other possibilities arising from it.

Blog posts I have read and comments I have heard from other participants tend to be more upbeat, if short on specifics. And my views are certainly colored by a pessimistic sense of the historical moment we are in, but I also know I’m not alone. In an hour-long discussion I fell into with a couple grad students and an IT consultant from DC and a science teacher and a postal worker from Boston, the consensus seemed to be drifting toward “we are well and truly fucked.” Nothing any of us saw on 10.2.10 was enough to transcend that sense of where we are at now.

What did you see?

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October 1, 2010

FBI Raids: Socialists & Anarchists Respond [Updated]

[UPDATE (11/14): I have, faced by a barrage of righteous indignation, pared down the who's-been-naughty list of groups who had not responded, as far as I could ascertain, at the time this was posted. Please read the comments (click on the link at the end of this article) for further details. Rather than do a full update here, let me refer folks to the even more impressive list, with links, at the website of the Committee To Stop FBI Repression. Included as well are a variety of other types of groups including labor organizations, among them, I am pleased to say, my old local, the New York Metro Area Postal Union. ]

A few days ago, I posted a piece here at FotM reflecting on the impact that the online social networking site Facebook had on the spread of news and analysis of the recent FBI raids. In it, I called the broad, swift and relatively unified response of the left to this outrage heartening.

We have seen more practical evidence of this as events unfold. More than forty protests around the country, almost all of them at Federal Buildings, have denounced these attacks—and that’s within a week of their occurrence! This video is simply the most recent I’ve seen, from Memphis, TN, yesterday (23 plus one infant at noon.)

More, a national Committee to Stop FBI Repression, including members of a number of left, socialist, anti-war, solidarity and civil liberties groups and concerned individuals, has convened its first conference call and will be working to provide direction to the movement to protest the raids and shut down the Grand Jury.

To look closer at this relatively unified response, I’ve collected a bunch of statements from national-level socialist and anarchist organizations in the US. (Students for a Democratic Society is also included, as SDS members are among those attacked.) All the statements denounced the raids as an extremely dangerous attack and a threat to all activists which requires the broadest possible unity to resist. Another common thread was the need to inform ourselves about our legal rights and be prepared for similar FBI harassment.

Who said—and didn’t say--what

While assembling them, I noticed some areas in which differences occur which may well be significant. Some statements mentioned the FRSO which was attacked—the one which publishes Fight Back!, not the one I’m in—others did not. Similarly some mentioned Colombia and Palestine and/or the FARC and the PFLP specifically—others did not.

Finally some targeted the Obama administration by name, while others made no mention of the president. The following table includes the results, with passing mentions indicated by a lower case x and anything slightly more detailed with an upper case X.

The obvious caveats apply. The evaluation is my own, as is the selection of excerpts. Some groups may not customarily issue organizational statements, but make their analysis and calls in their press (some of these are at the bottom of the list, marked with *.) Some statements were issued very quickly, others after a couple days of reflection.

Nota Bene: The text of other statements, or links to them, are welcome and could conceivably be included in an update.

(click to see enlarged version)

Groups with some 'splainin' to do

As far as I can tell, nothing has been heard from the following national groups save the sound, as they say on the Internet, of *crickets chirping*.

Progressive Labor Party
Democratic Socialists of America

Corrections or updates on this matter would be most welcome!

Excerpts from and links to organizational statements

FRSO/OSCL: Read the whole statement, it’s that good.

Solidarity: This record demonstrates important lessons. First, the U.S. government and its "intelligence" agencies are quick to strip individuals and organizations of their constitutional rights and ignore the basic rules of democracy in order to discredit and demoralize opposition from the left. Second, the most potent defense against this disruption has been the refusal to be intimidated, and the support to targeted individuals and groups provided by communities and movements.

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism
: We demand that the FBI cease and desist in these attempts to intimidate and divide, that the Grand Jury proceedings and subpoenas be vacated and stopped, and that the FBI return the belongings seized. We urge all Americans to repudiate this misadventure if they hold to the democratic values in our Constitution. Even if actions like these seem bizarre and aimed at relatively small groups, they must be nipped in the bud. An injury to one is an injury to all.

International Socialist Organization
: So it should come as no surprise that members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization are the most prominent target of the latest raids. If history is any guide, the FBI and federal prosecutors believe they can drive a wedge between socialists and the wider left, including liberals, and establish a precedent for further violations of civil liberties and political repression.

Socialist Party USA: Although the governmental repression following the attacks of September 11, 2001 did not target the left, it did serve to massively expand the security state. Today, more than 800,000 people are employed by the government to spy on, track and investigate. It is widely believed that the recent raids are the result of a "fishing expedition” by one or multiple parts of this expanded repressive apparatus. Taken together with the continued undercover governmental disruptions of large-scale protests such as the G20 demonstration in Pittsburgh, these raids represent the increasing disruption of civil liberties.

Freedom Socialist Party/Radical Women: There are various conjectures being put forth as to why the Obama administration is staging these raids now: to appear tough on terrorism before the Congressional elections; to chill activists before the antiwar demonstrations on October 9-16; or to take attention away from last week’s Justice Department admission that the FBI used false claims to mount “counterterror” investigations as a cover for spying and infiltration of activist groups across the country.

Socialist Alternative: The timing of the FBI raids and grand jury investigation was almost certainly designed to coincide with Obama’s meeting with new Colombian president Juan Manual Santos on Friday, which was publicly billed to include discussion on continued U.S. assistance in the war against FARC. The day before, the Colombian military gained U.S. headlines for their assassination of a prominent FARC leader. The assassination and FBI raids appear intentionally coordinated to provide a useful media back-drop for the Obama-Santos meeting, underlining the cynical and politically motivated character of this state repression. Hopefully these events will dispel any lingering illusions that Obama is a friend of the antiwar movement!

First Of May Anarchist Alliance: The dedicated organizing in defense of the RNC 8 in Minnesota is a good example that can be built upon. We should begin discussing what it would take to unite all those (excluding the fascists and white supremacists) that have faced state repression into some common action. From the Muslim community, to the targets of the “Green Scare”, to the spied upon anti war activists in Iowa, to those activists hit by these most recent raids – we need to push back together.

Bring The Ruckus: The state is an enemy of peoples' struggles for justice and freedom. These latest attacks on US activists demonstrate that we cannot depend on, or cooperate with, the state in our organizing. We encourage all activists and organizers to take their safety and security seriously and to in no way cooperate with law enforcement or grand juries as they go about their business of trying to destroy our movements.

Students for a Democratic Society: The FBI are apparently looking for evidence linking activists to "material support of terrorism" specifically liberation struggles in Colombia and Palestine. In addition to SDSers being harassed in Minneapolis, two SDSers in Milwaukee were also contacted by the FBI about their anti-war activism.

Organization for a Free Society: While resistance, revolutionary, and national liberation movements represent the "threat of the good example" abroad, likewise the U.S. government will not stand for the "threat of the good example" within its borders. They try to divide us because they know what each of us must remind ourselves: that we be many and they be few! Together our love is more powerful than any bomb, more powerful than any F.B.I. raid. They cannot stop us. But to be unstoppable, together we must reinvent the art of politics in the United States.

Fight Back! (published by FRSO [Fight Back!]
] This suppression of democratic rights is aimed towards those who dedicate much of their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The activists are involved with well-known anti-war groups including many of the leaders of the huge protest against the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN in September 2008. The FBI agents emphasized that the grand jury was going to investigate the activists for possible terrorism charges. This is a U.S. government attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression in the Middle East and Latin America.

ANSWER statement (published at, website of Party of Socialism & Liberation): The aim of the FBI raids is clearly the suppression of free speech and dissent. The government wants all activists to be afraid to speak out. And the Obama administration’s Justice Department is now leading the charge. But we cannot allow the government to stamp out the right of people to advocate for political beliefs that do not align with the aims of the Pentagon war machine. We cannot allow tem to continue to erode our civil rights and civil liberties.

Workers World (published by Workers World Party): On taking office President Obama made few changes in the Bush Justice Department, replacing only a few of the top personnel and keeping much of the racist, right-wing apparatus intact… Under the cover provided by Attorney General Eric Holder, this repressive agency has had an ever-freer hand, for example, to go after Black elected officials with all manner of spurious charges of corruption. Preventive detention and outrageous entrapment and frame-ups of Muslims have accelerated along with the continued campaign to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Revolution (published by the Revolutionary Communist Party USA): This is a very sinister move by the government, one that should alarm and concern anyone who thinks the government should not be allowed to trample on people's rights, and who thinks it is important that there be opposition, and the freedom to oppose, what the government is doing here and around the world. This is a major escalation against the anti-war movements in particular.

People’s World (published by Communist Party USA): FBI raids spark free speech protests

Again, please leave any comments, additions and corrections in the comments section here.

And much respect to the website of the Kasama Project, where I found some of these. They've been posting and especially reposting a lot about the raids and their aftermath.

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September 29, 2010

Facebook and the FBI Raids

The outrageous FBI raids on international solidarity and anti-war activists in the Mid-West has triggered a heartening outpouring of solidarity on the left. It also demonstrated that we are in a new stage in the development of the ever-changing Internet. This was the first major attack by the FBI in the Facebook Era, when social networking reportedly comprises almost a quarter of every hour spent on the Internet, more than games or email or any other single use.

I’ll start with my own involvement. By a fluke I was not only online but on Facebook last Friday morning, September 24. I saw a status update posted five minutes before by Stef Yorek, a friend and a former comrade in FRSO/OSCL. It read:

The FBI is executing a search warrant on our house right now. The claim to be looking for evidence of material support for so-called Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The FARC and PFLP are mentioned by name. This is taking place in multiple cities across the country. I have been served with a warrant to appear before a Grand Jury. It's an outrageous fishing expedition.

I immediately posted it as my status (out of consideration to those who are not familiar with Facebook's structure, terms of art there are here italicized) and then, at the suggestion of Kay Kersplebdeb, posted it here on Fire on the Mountain and linked to it on my Facebook profile so that others there could share it more readily. In the first ninety minutes, at least six other people I know of shared the link and there were well over 200 visitors to this site.

Others were, I am certain, spreading the word as well. Thus, thousands of people around the country were alerted to the attack even as FBI agents were still in the activists’ houses, stealing their files and computers!

The story continued to dominate Facebook for the next few days, or at least the admittedly politicized corner of it where my friend list is based. In the course of tracking it, I noticed a few things I want to summarize here.

First, I saw the process of posts, reposts of the first articles from the mainstream media, and comments around the attack very quickly jell into a political consensus, a line which could be used to understand and organize around the raids. The attack was seen and summarized as aimed at solidarity activists rather than members of a particular organization. It was seen as a deliberate and unjustified move by the government (and in most people’s view the Obama administration) against the left and the anti-war movement.

The raids were seen as using the excuse of “fighting terrorism” to demonize activists and undercut basic Constitutional rights, and as posing a threat to anyone fighting this government’s foreign policy now or in the future.

As it shifted into the blogosphere--the previous center of gravity in the development of the Internet--this was reflected in almost all the pieces I read. (One site did initially choose to spotlight the presence of open members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization [Fight Back] among those targeted, a mistake on two counts, I would argue. Factually, by no means all of those active in the solidarity groups named in the warrants are members of any group or even socialists. Politically, unless those attacked themselves decide to emphasize organizational matters, doing so tends to make it easier for the state and the media to slander and isolate them.)

As the activists targeted in the warrants, raids and subpoenas regained their footing, they produced a statement and a couple of YouTube videos like this that underscored the line arrived at on Facebook and in the blogosphere.

And in the final stage, this consensus was reflected in the commendable spate of statements produced by socialist, anti-war and progressive organizations, much faster than they might have been even a few years ago.

Second, I saw a very disparate group of individuals--liberals, progressives and revolutionaries, even some libertarians--move to inoculate themselves and their milieu against further attacks. Within the first hour, people were widely posting and linking the Center for Constitutional Rights pamphlet and then the ACLU's slightly shorter equivalent. Folks got the message:
If the FBI knocks: 1) Clam Up. 2) Lawyer Up.
Over the ensuing hours and days this was continued but also deepened and given nuance by further posts and comments. On the nitty-gritty end of the spectrum, at least one friend pointed out that anyone expecting to hear a Miranda warning these days has been watching too many cops shows. Far above street level, others pointed out the menacing effects of the Supreme Court decision only a few months ago in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, which rules that speech alone can constitute “material aid” to groups on the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.

Third, this spontaneously collective process, while it produced an admirable consensus response and trained thousands in the appropriate stance for dealing with possible contact with the Feds, did not produce a program of struggle around the raids. At least it didn’t do so before those hit by the raids put out a call (or perhaps endorsed some existing ones—I’m not sure of the timeline) for folks to bombard Attorney General Holder’s office with phone calls and emails and to hold local demonstrations at FBI offices, Federal Buildings or similar targets. So far more than 30 protests have been held or called and I’ve spoken to at least three friends who went to one based directly on an announcement they read on Facebook.

Now, a couple quick words on the downside of the Facebook-centric rapid response that I’m general citing as a good thing here. For one thing it’s like trying to drink from a firehose if you have many friends or ones who post frequently. It’s decentered so there’s no way of ensuring that there is a common body of knowledge or practice--for instance, I learned in the last day of three demonstrations which were not on the best maintained list, that of the International Action Center--in Memphis, San Diego and Portland, OR. It has a wicked short shelf life--in the last half hour I have seen only six raid-related posts, while on Sunday that would have been dozens. The space for political discussion and education is limited--almost nothing on Facebook or in the blogosphere has dealt at all with the corrupt and brutal government of Colombia and the reasons the FTO-listed Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionaria de Colombia (FARC) have waged a decades long guerrilla war to smash the rule of the oligarchy.

Finally, a caution, which should be obvious. I am, of necessity, like Mao Zedong’s frog in the well here:
A frog in a well says, "The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well." That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well.

For one thing I don’t use Twitter, and I’m sure a lot of this spread there as well. I hope that folks who have made it this far will chip in observations and thoughts based on what the sky looked like from the bottom of your particular well…

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September 28, 2010

Breaking News: ILA Checkers shut-down Port Newark! (Update)

UPDATE: Since Monday morning, many ILA members have added additional photos, including the one from Bayonne tacked on at the end of the blog entry. Also updated is an additional news link to an article from the Journal of Commerce:

Early in the morning on September 28, union members represented by the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1291 began informational leafleting at Port Newark—Elizabeth Port, and with the support of ILA Checkers Local 1, who declined to check ordered longshoremen on their various piers, the informational work slowdown spread to every terminal in Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey.

On Thursday, July 22, 2010, Del Monte Fresh Produce, NA demanded $5 million in labor cost reductions from the International Longshoremen's Association and approximately $25 million in infrastructure improvements from the State of New Jersey (Del Monte operation is on the Camden, NJ side of the Port of Philadelphia). While ILA Local 1291 agreed to meet these onerous demands in hoping to save 200 family sustaining jobs. The State of New Jersey also acted quickly and offered but a modification package and an extended lease to Del Monte on Pier 5 in Camden, but Del Monte imposed an unrealistic four-day deadline on their demands. Now they've served notice of their intent to move to a non-union facility in Gloucester City, NJ. To quote the leaflet distributed at terminals in Newark and Elizabeth, NJ, "the workers lose, the employers lose, and the states on both sides of the Delaware River lose."

Camden Local 1291 members report the Holt Logistics (owned, along with Packers Avenue Marine Terminal, by Leo Hot) is the source the dispute. See the Philadelphia Inquirer and Transport Workers Solidarity Committee for more information. Holt claims that his Gloucester Terminals is "fully unionized" holding contracts with an organization called "Dockworkers Union Local #1," but these so-called labor agreements pay workers $12 an hour with no benefits. Holt Logistics will also save money by ignoring the Port of Philadelphia's safety-based rule requiring that all vessels arrive accompanied by two tug boats.

At Fire on the Mountain, we have seen this kind of attempt at union-busting before, in the Port of Charlestown, North Carolina (see Charleston 5). Most of today's entry revolves around Port Newark/Elizabethport. The pictures  are all from APM Terminals, but the photo below is from Bayonne, near Global Terminals, taken by a Newark ILA member ordered to a car ship in that port.

See todays article about Del Monte dispute in the Journal of Commerce.

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September 24, 2010

Alert: FBI Raids On Activists [Updated 2X]

I just saw a Facebook post from Steff Yorek, whom I have known for many years, in Minneapolis. It reads, in full,

The FBI is executing a search warrant on our house right now. The claim to be looking for evidence of material support for so-called Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The FARC and PFLP are mentioned by name. This is taking place in multiple cities across the country. I have been served with a warrant to appear before a Grand Jury. It's an outrageous fishing expedition.

Steff further reports that they have lawyered up--and clammed up.

I have no way of knowing how broad this attack is and whether it is limited to supporters of the Colombian and Palestinian struggles, or if other groups on the FTO list are included. Please post any further information you have as a comment, and if they knock on your door, warrant or no, remember that YOU ARE NOT LEGALLY REQUIRED TO SAY ANYTHING TO THEM.

So don't.


Early news stories say that six houses in Minneapolis and two in Chicago have been raided. No arrests at this point, but Grand Jury warrants served. A Facebook post reports workplace visits to harass activists as well.

This short description of your rights in such a situation, by the Center for Constitutional Rights, is a must read for everyone, even if you think you've never done anything that might attract the attention of the Feds.


The group I belong to, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad (which is not the group whose members are among those under attack now) has issued a statement on these attacks which has been posted along with a timely warning about redbaiting.

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