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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