Truthout Stories Fri, 28 Oct 2016 13:38:41 -0400 en-gb "A Shameful Moment for This Country": Report Back on Militarized Police Raid of DAPL Resistance Camp

We go to Standing Rock, North Dakota, for an update on how hundreds of police with military equipment raided a resistance camp Thursday that was established by Native American water protectors in the path of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. More than 100 officers in riot gear with automatic rifles lined up across a highway, flanked by multiple MRAPs, an LRAD sound cannon, Humvees driven by National Guardsmen, an armored police truck and a bulldozer. Water protectors say police deployed tear gas, mace, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades and bean bag rounds against the Native Americans and shot rubber bullets at their horses. "We learned a lot about the relationship of North Dakota to Native people," says Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. "I was standing next to a group of teenagers that were maced in the face. … I was shot in the face by a bean bag round."


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to North Dakota, where on Thursday hundreds of police with military equipment raided a resistance camp established by Native American water protectors in the path of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of hundreds of other tribes from across the Americas. On Thursday afternoon, over a hundred officers in riot gear with automatic rifles lined up across North Dakota's Highway 1806, flanked by multiple MRAPs -- that's mine-resistant ambush protected military vehicles -- sound cannon, Humvees driven by National Guardsmen, an armored police truck and a bulldozer. Water protectors say that police deployed tear gas, mace, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades and bean bag rounds against the Native Americans and shot rubber bullets at their horses. This is a video shot by Unicorn Riot, followed by a Facebook Live video from Sacheen Seitcham of the West Coast Women Warriors Media Cooperative.

SACHEEN SEITCHAM: They've been pepper-spraying. They've maced. They've tasered. They've thrown percussion bombs and smoke grenades at us. All for water. Over 300 pigs. We are protecting the water. They're protecting oil. That's what's happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Water protectors set up a blockade of the highway using cars, tires, fire in order to try to protect their camp, parts of which were demolished by police. Four people locked themselves to a truck parked in the middle of the highway in order to stop the police advance. Elders also led prayer ceremonies in front of the police line. Some were arrested in the middle of prayer. In total, more than 100 people were arrested. Ahead of the police raid, the Federal Aviation Administration also issued a temporary no-fly zone for the airspace above the resistance camps for all aircraft except for those used by law enforcement. Police appeared to be evicting the frontline camp in order to clear the way for the Dakota Access pipeline company to continue construction. Company cranes and bulldozers were active Thursday just behind the police line on the site of the sacred burial ground where Dakota Access security guards unleashed dogs on Native Americans on September 3rd. We're going to turn to Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, this clip from the front line.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: This is at the front line of the Dakota Access pipeline fight right here. And we are about one -- about two miles from the river to the west here -- or east, sorry. And to the west, right over this hill, Dakota Access is doing construction, trying to get to this road right here. So there is a police line on top of the hill here with Dakota Access workers and police protecting the workers.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Dallas Goldtooth. And before that, you hear the LRAD, the long-range acoustic device.

For more, we're joined by Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Tara. Explain what took place yesterday. I mean, the video and the photos that we have of the military hardware arrayed against the protesters.

TARA HOUSKA: Yesterday we saw that -- you know, we saw -- we learned a lot about the relationship of people to fossil fuels. We learned a lot about the relationship of North Dakota to Native people. And we learned a lot about America and where we stand.

Yesterday, we saw folks being maced. I was standing right next to a group of teenagers that were all maced in the face, maced right -- like all kinds of people. Myself, I actually was almost shot in the face by bean bag round. It ricocheted off a truck right next to my head. These police were actively trying to hurt people, pushing them back to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. They were defending monetary interests as human beings were being physically hurt. You know, I saw -- I saw, right in front of me, a group of police officers pull a protester forward and begin beating him over the head with sticks. There's video of it that you can see. I mean, this was an all-out war that was waged on indigenous protectors that were doing nothing more than peacefully assembling. There was no fires, there was nothing like that, until the police began their violent attack on us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Tara, where was this incident in -- for instance, in relationship to the September 3rd dog attacks at the tribal burial site?

TARA HOUSKA: When Dakota Access jumped ahead over 20 miles to destroy the site that had just been identified by the tribe the day before as a sacred place, that happened on September 3rd. That's also the anniversary of the Whitestone Hill massacre. That was the exact place the day that Dakota Access was basically constructing its pipeline, right in the background, as literally hundreds and hundreds of people came to stand and pray and bring all of their energy forward to stop this from happening. And it was right at that site where Native American men, women and children had been attacked by private security, by dogs and mace and all the same things that we saw yesterday -- this incredible escalated violence against people that were doing nothing more than trying to stop the destruction of sacred sites right in front of their eyes.

AMY GOODMAN: Tara, you saw rifles aimed directly at people, police aiming those rifles?

TARA HOUSKA: Yes, there were police walking around everywhere with assault rifles. Directly across from us, there was actually a policeman holding his rifle trained on us, directly on us. Bean bag rifle assault -- bean bag non-lethal weapons were also aimed at us. Every time we put our hands up, they'd put them down. As soon as our hands came down, they would aim back at us. Police officers were smiling at us as they were doing these things. There were police officers filming this, laughing, as they -- as human beings were being attacked, being maced. I mean, it was a nightmarish scene. And it should be a shame to the federal government, it should be a shame to the American people, that this is happening within U.S. borders to indigenous people and to our allies, to all people that are trying to protect water. Yesterday was a really shameful moment for this country and where we stand.

AMY GOODMAN: And the number of people you estimate were arrested, Tara?

TARA HOUSKA: I saw dozens of people being arrested. I mean, they were just pulling people out and arresting them. You know, I saw -- I actually had to get pulled back from a group that -- I mean, the police were pushing forward and just grabbing people at will. We had a number of lockdowns, like that were right in front of us in this truck in the middle of the road, that was used to attempt to blockade these police from advancing forward. There were five people, actually, that were locked to that. They attempted to construct a tipi in the middle, right behind people that were praying and singing. And they -- there were folks that locked down to that tipi, or attempted to. The police ripped that tipi down and ripped those people out. It was -- it was a really horrible scene yesterday.

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Drug Dependence Hasn't Been Stopped by 45 Years of the War on Drugs

Janine Jackson: "Police Arrest More People for Marijuana Use than for All Violent Crimes Combined" is the headline in the Washington Post. In the New York Times, it's "Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds."

It's a blockbuster datum, all right, but one hopes people will read past those headlines, because there's a lot more in the new report."Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States," a study from Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, is a multi-level, cradle-to-grave if you will, look at the myriad impacts of the criminalization -- selective criminalization -- of drug possession on the people caught up in the system.

We're joined now in studio by the report's lead author. Tess Borden is the Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. Welcome to CounterSpin, Tess Borden.

Tess Borden: Thank you. Great to be here, Janine.

It is, as I say, a rich report. Give us a sense of the overall focus and intent. What's being pulled together here and toward what end?

So this is the result of a yearlong investigation by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU into how failed, and very ultimately flawed, the law enforcement approach to personal drug use is. And we wanted to bring to the public's attention, and to policymakers' attention, the magnitude of criminalization, but also the human impact. And so I interviewed more than 360 people. A hundred and fifty of those were prosecuted for their own drug use, or possession of drugs for personal use; 64 of them were in custody when I met them. I also spoke to mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, uncles, children -- adult children -- of those incarcerated, as well as prosecutors and police and judges and service providers. And so I think, really, there are some 60 stories in the report, and I really urge people to get to know those folks who are described in the report, and whose stories and lives have been really shaped by the drug laws.

I wonder if you could give us just an example, because media seem to have pulled out what the star datum is. And there's always a tension of methodology. Journalists tell you you have to tell a story, but then if you only tell stories, you're being anecdotal and you need data. So the report does both. But I wonder if you could just give a sense of a human impact of the sort that you're collecting here.

Of course. And you're right to highlight that. You know, every 25 seconds, someone is arrested for possessing drugs for their personal use, and that's a human being every 25 seconds.

So one of those people was someone I call Nicole in the report. Nicole was a mother of three young children. She was in school, pursuing a business administration degree in the Houston area. When I met her she was in the Harris County Jail, an infamous jail, charged with crack cocaine residue inside a straw and heroin residue in an empty baggie.

She was there, ultimately, for several months. She was separated from her youngest daughter as well as the other two children. The youngest was still nursing when she went inside. Her breasts were full, she told me, and she actually had to pump herself in the shower.

And she was unable to be the mother she wanted to be. The daughter came to visit her. There's glass between them, and so the little baby couldn't hear her mother's voice. She learned to sit up on her own when her mother was inside.

Nicole eventually pled guilty. It was her first felony conviction. She pled guilty to 0.01 grams of heroin. Her first felony could have been charged as misdemeanor drug paraphernalia instead.

And it meant she would do seven months in prison, and then she would get to go home to her children. But she said it meant, literally, beyond even the punishment of prison, she said, "My life is over, I will be punished for the rest of my life." Because with that felony conviction, it meant Nicole was going to have to drop out of school, she could no longer qualify for the financial aid that she was getting. It meant she would no longer be able to have her name on the lease of a home she rented, because people don't want to rent to, quote unquote, "felons." It meant she would no longer qualify in the state of Texas for food stamps, that she had relied on to feed her children and during her pregnancies.

And so what we're seeing is just these never-ending consequences of arresting and prosecuting someone every 25 seconds. And it's not just about mass incarceration. Of course, time behind bars for any crime can have consequences that are devastating to families, but it's the disproportionality of that heavy-handed enforcement, and then it's sometimes the lifelong consequences for individuals and families of what prosecution means.

So often we talk just about the law, first of all, when enforcement is key. That's one distinction that you've just brought up. And then there's the irreducibility of racism, also, which comes up in the report. It isn't that everything dissolves into that, but it does come up again and again as an important factor, doesn't it?

Absolutely. So as a matter of human rights, the right to privacy protects what I do to my body. We find it highly problematic, and even human rights -- violative, to arrest and incarcerate someone for what they do to themselves. A private action, right? And so even if there weren't racial discrimination implications, this would still be problematic.

But as it plays out, it's even more alarming. And so, yes, the data shows that although black and white people use drugs at the same rates, a black person around the country is two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for simple drug possession than a white person. In many states, that number's significantly higher. In Manhattan, where we are now, it's 11 to 1, a black person is 11 times more likely to be arrested.

And so how do those numbers play out? What it tells us is police have a lot of discretion about how they use their resources and where they police, and they're policing in such a way that this is who's getting picked up, because it's not who's using drugs, disproportionately. And I think as a country, we're looking at racial injustice, we're looking at policing, we're talking about these issues. We have to talk about drug possession laws and enforcement. The No. 1 arrest offense, we've got to talk about that if we're talking about race and policing.

I want to bring you back to, actually, the first part of that. Because of course it's important when we can show that a policy doesn't achieve its stated goal -- reducing drug use, for example. But sometimes one gets the idea that if we could show, you know, an X percent reduction in Y factor, then somehow the damage that's done to people's lives would be cancelled out, would be overridden. And what I really appreciate about this report is the way, first of all, that it centers human beings, but that it also says that the harms done to these people, of itself, are wrong. And I wonder, is that part of what's meant by a human rights case for decriminalization?

Absolutely, Janine. Absolutely. So the right to privacy is a basic human right. The principle of autonomy undergirds many human rights. And if you want a quick lesson in human rights law: Human rights, such as the right to privacy, can only be restricted, the government can only intervene in those rights, when necessary, proportionate and nondiscriminatory.

Governments may have legitimate interests in protecting people's health, making sure young children don't use drugs, etc. It is not necessary to achieve that legitimate purpose to criminalize. We can invest in education, we can invest in prevention, we can invest in the provision of voluntary, affordable treatment in the community in a noncoercive way. So it's not necessary to criminalize personal drug use to achieve those legitimate government interests.

Second, we know that it's not proportionate. When you are saddling someone with a criminal record that can follow them for the rest of their lives, when you are locking people up, in some of the jurisdictions I visited, for decades, for personal drug use and possession, it is not proportionate. When you are harming families in this way, it is not proportionate.

And, thirdly, we know it's not nondiscriminatory. I just gave you those figures. So it simply fails the human rights analysis.

Furthermore, all the harms that we document, in these 196 pages of the report, implicate other fundamental human rights, such as the right to family, the right to liberty, the right to participate in economic and social life of the society you live in. And so even if we could do this in a nondiscriminatory way, even if we could stop rates of drug dependence this way, we're saying this still implicates fundamental human rights, and we need to tackle the system because of it.

Let me just ask you, finally: It's not, of course, an insult to say that this is not completely untrodden ground, that folks have talked about this before. But I just wonder, in terms of media and perhaps the public conversation, what do we need besides evidence? How do we move it from lamentable to unacceptable?

Absolutely. You're right that much of this is well-known, in certain ways. I think, No. 1, the scope of the documentation is very new, and we really hope to contribute there. I think the human rights framework for decriminalization is new. Not new in the sense that it hasn't been there the whole time, but new in the sense that we're laying out those arguments. And, thirdly, I think our call, it's really a call that should be heard and attended to with utmost urgency right now.

And so we join the voices of a number of UN agencies -- the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the WHO, UNAIDS -- we join the call of a number of other advocacy organizations. But I think coming together, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, to say it is time to decriminalize possession for personal use of all illicit drugs, is very new, in fact.

And we hope that people can hear it today when we have marijuana reforms in the country, and so there are models already to look to, when we realize that the current system is broken on so many fronts -- again, the incarceration front, the policing front, the racial justice front -- and when we see that the opioid epidemic has shown that drug dependence hasn't been stopped by 45 years of the war on drugs. I think it's new, but I think people's ears are pricked for it.

We've been speaking with Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. That report, Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States, can be found on both group's websites, and Tess Borden, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

 It's a pleasure, Janine.

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The TPP Fight: Lessons From El Salvador

The executives of a global mining corporation assumed it would be easy to get their way in Cabañas, a rural region of northern El Salvador. They were wrong.

What they wanted was to extract the rich veins of gold buried near the Lempa River, the water source for more than half of El Salvador's 6.2 million people. Instead, local farmers and others came together to fight the project over concerns that the toxic chemicals used in gold mining would poison their water. In time, they won over a strong majority of the public and rallied the Catholic Church, small businesses, and labor and environmental groups to successfully pressure the national government to oppose mining.

Then the company struck back. Pacific Rim (a Canadian firm later bought by Australia-based Oceana Gold) filed a lawsuit against the government of El Salvador in 2009, demanding $250 million in compensation for the loss of profits they'd expected to make from their mining project there. This is a staggering sum for a cash-strapped country, the equivalent of 40 percent of El Salvador's entire public health budget in 2015.

The mining company demanded $250 million, the equivalent of 40% of El Salvador's health budget.

After seven years of legal blackmail aimed at getting the Salvadoran government to back down and allow the mining to go ahead, an international tribunal that is part of the World Bank Group finally dismissed the lawsuit on October 14. They also ordered the company to pay $8 million of the government's legal expenses. For the Salvadoran anti-mining activists who have paid a painfully high price for their resistance, it was a measure of justice.

One of those activists is Miguel Angel Rivera. In June 2009, his brother Marcelo, a prominent cultural and environmental leader who opposed the mine, was tortured and assassinated. While questions remain, many activists believe that pro-mining forces -- including local politicians who stood to benefit if Pacific Rim started mining -- are ultimately responsible for his murder.

We first met Miguel in October 2009, when he and four others active in El Salvador's National Roundtable against Mining traveled to Washington to receive the Institute for Policy Studies' Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award, a prize that brought international recognition to this struggle. Then when we made our first trip to Cabañas in 2011 to learn more about the mining resistance, Miguel greeted us at the airport.

As he drove us through mountainous roads to the office of his employer, ADES (the Social and Economic Development Association), we asked him how he'd come to opposing mining. He pointed to our water bottle and said "Just like you, water is our priority."

In the years since, we've met hundreds of people in Cabañas who have risked their lives in the struggle against mining under the banner of "Water for Life." Miguel Rivera and his fellow roundtable members kept up resistance by constantly mobilizing the neighboring communities of Cabañas, frequently traveling to the capital to lobby policymakers and rally their allies, and keeping up the drumbeat through the press, including community radio. They also traveled internationally to spread the story of their struggle and build solidarity across borders.

Their perseverance was truly remarkable in a country where nearly a third of the population lives in poverty and activists face constant threats.

Their perseverance was truly remarkable in a country where nearly a third of the population is living under the national poverty line and where activists faced constant threats. The same year Marcelo Rivera was murdered, two other anti-mining activists, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Recenos, were also assassinated. And then in 2011, Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, a volunteer with the Cabañas Environmental Committee, was also murdered. And yet in the face of severe risk and economic hardship, people on the ground stood up and said "we would love jobs but not if they come at the cost of water."

On the day the tribunal ruled against the mining company, Miguel thanked all his international allies. "For the people who have suffered all kinds of indignities and had to overcome all kinds of difficulties and adverse situations to achieve this result, today reassures us that the ideals to which Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera, and Dora Alicia Recenos gave their lives are worthy. It fills us with joy and also gives us reason to believe that our struggle in defense of life is just."

Of course, the struggle is not completely over. The international allies that came together in solidarity with the anti-mining movement in El Salvador are committed to pressing the mining firm to pay what they owe and leave El Salvador for good so that efforts to build viable alternatives to mining can take root.

At the same time, we're drawing from this experiences to redouble our efforts on the trade front. We must stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade and investment agreements that give corporations the power to sue governments over actions that infringe on their profits. Although the ruling went the right way in the end, the people of El Salvador should've never had to go through this seven-year legal battle in the first place. Such "investor rights" are the most extreme example of excessive power granted to corporations through trade agreements.

And so while we continue to support our heroes in El Salvador, we must also work for a whole new approach to international trade and investment that respects democracy and puts people and planet first.

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
How the Federal Government Is Using the US's Concern With Bullying as an Excuse to Spy on Teens

School police officers in front of Venice High School, in Los Angeles, California, on March 16, 2015. (Photo: Monica Almeida / The New York Times)School police officers in front of Venice High School, in Los Angeles, California, on March 16, 2015. (Photo: Monica Almeida / The New York Times)

The Obama administration is instructing the multiple federal agencies behind the national Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program to "find opportunities" to integrate into bullying prevention networks at the local level, according to a strategic plan released by the White House last week. The move could open the door for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to apply a counter-terror mentality to youth wellness and safety, in a national environment where law enforcement already plays an outsized role in the education system.

The new guidelines are already raising concerns among civil rights advocates, who say that a federal counter-terror program has no place in school discipline -- and will only put children at greater risk of being funneled into the prison system or suffering mistreatment themselves.

The CVE program has been dogged by civil rights concerns since it was launched five years ago to "address ideologically inspired violent extremism in the Homeland." The three pilot programs rolled out under CVE in 2015 exclusively targeted Muslim-American communities, prompting charges of ethnic and religious profiling. Scholars, meanwhile, warn that the very premise underlying CVE -- that violent extremists can be profiled, identified and stopped before they commit an act of terror -- has been challenged by a strong academic consensus, which finds that there is no single pathway to "terrorism."

The latest version of the plan doubles down on the most widely-opposed aspects of the CVE program, including "local intervention teams" via which health practitioners, faith-based leaders and educators will collaborate with law enforcement.

But one line, in particular, caught civil rights campaigners by surprise. The document states that the CVE Task Force, comprised of the DHS, DOJ and FBI, "will cooperate with a variety of departments and agencies to find opportunities to integrate CVE activities into existing public safety initiatives and networks, such as those focused on bullying prevention and Internet safety."

AlterNet made several attempts to obtain details from DHS, DOJ and the FBI about what this anti-bullying collaboration will look like in practice, yet all agencies either declined to answer questions or failed to respond to requests. Because the White House directive is vaguely worded, it is difficult to tell which programs, if any, are being explored or implemented. However, the very mention of anti-bullying language raises some serious questions for civil rights campaigners.

"This is the first time we have seen bullying raised in this context," Abed Ayoub, legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told AlterNet. "This threw us off. They need to provide more details and information about what they intend to do with bullying and CVE. We are urging that bullying prevention not be conflated with CVE."

Brette Steele, the acting deputy director of the CVE task force, spoke with community partners over the phone last Wednesday. When asked about the anti-bullying language, she replied that "we're working with local partners to identify interest in expanding local capacity and tailoring support to those local interests. That is an ongoing conversation."

The lack of transparency from federal officials is raising suspicion. "Our longstanding concerns about the government's CVE programs have been based more on how these programs have affected communities than on the nice words the government uses to describe the programs," Hugh Handeyside, staff attorney for the National Security Project of the ACLU, told AlterNet. "In practice, the programs have been marked by a lack of transparency, an unfair and stigmatizing focus on American Muslims and a reliance on discredited theories of what drives people to engage in political violence."

Viewing Youth With Suspicion

Shannon Erwin, executive director of the Muslim Justice League, told AlterNet that the anti-bullying language reflects a "worrying trend" in which CVE programs are being presented as a vehicle for protecting public health and wellbeing.

In September 2016, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a forum entitled, "Exploring the Use of Health Approaches in Community-Level Strategies to Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization." Among the stated goals of the workshop is "Applying health (e.g., public health, healthcare, mental/behavioral health) centered approaches to countering violent extremism and radicalization."

Critics argue that involvement of law enforcement and intelligence agencies in health care systems will only weaken those networks and erode trust, while making the people who depend on them more vulnerable. Such fears are born out by the results of the United Kingdom's counterpart to CVE, known as Preventing Violent Extremism. A new report by the Open Society Institute (OSI) found that Prevent has played a corrosive role in eroding trust between teachers and students, as well as doctors and patients, and thereby weakening those social services.

Michael German, a former special agent with the FBI who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program, told AlterNet that he is concerned that "there is this constant reference to youth in their materials, particularly Kindergarten through 12th grade education."

In March of 2016, the FBI released "Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools" guidelines instructing educational institutions across the country to report students for warning signs they could commit a violent act in the future. The document argues that "youth possess inherent risk factors making them susceptible to violent extremist ideologies or possible recruitment." Among the risk factors, according to the FBI, are bullying and victimization. For example, the document states:

The Virginia Youth Violence Project, administered by the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, developed a threat assessment model for addressing the underlying catalysts to concerning behaviors. The model emphasizes early attention to problems such as bullying, teasing, or other student conflicts before they escalate in to violent behavior.  Educators adopt a problem-solving approach via a punitive zero-tolerance behavior modification approach. This new approach promotes student-staff interactions resulting in a more positive school climate in which students feel treated with fairness and respect.

The FBI instructed school officials to "Implement Annual Violent Extremism Awareness Training," based on the FBI's "Don't Be a Puppet" educational resources. These materials identify broad and vague risk factors, including: "Talking about traveling to places that sound suspicious"; "Using code words or unusual language"; and "Using several different cell phones and private messaging apps."

The materials state that "Those who feel isolated can sometimes be easily convinced by violent extremist beliefs," going on to warn that "it often happens when someone is trying to fill a deep personal need. For example, a person may feel alone or lack meaning and purpose in life. Those who are emotionally upset after a stressful event also may be vulnerable to recruitment."

Notably, the FBI is advising organizations to "consider incorporating the [Don't Be a Puppet] site into safety briefings and anti-bullying programs."

A separate DHS fact sheet states that "Broad community outreach and engagement efforts, made in the effort to address civil rights protections, or advance common community goals (such as bullying prevention or anti-gang efforts) that are conducted for the purpose  of building stronger communities, and not explicitly CVE, can nonetheless have important CVE benefits by reducing alienation of vulnerable minority populations and assisting in developing integrated  and resilient  communities." The implication of this material is that people who are alienated by bullying, civil rights violations or high gang activity are somehow at risk of perpetrating violent extremism.

Yet, such claims are not backed up by evidence -- and are even contradicted by White House's own admission that in the latest CVE strategic plan: "There is no single cause of or pathway to violent extremism." But, in practice, the government appears to be setting policies based on the assumption that future violent extremists can, in fact, be profiled, and it is setting the parameters for risk factors so broadly that youth, alienation and mistreatment are cause for suspicion.

Erwin said that, given the fact that CVE has historically targeted Muslim populations, she is "concerned that students who are victims of bullying could be treated as potential perpetrators of extremism. Muslim students are already facing high levels of bullying, and a lot of that bullying comes from school staff. We are troubled by any suggestion that having different ideas or acting differently, as suggested by the Don't Be a Puppet program, might cause kids to be the target of further institutional bullying as the result of being treated as a potential extremist."

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of examples backing up Erwin's concerns, including the viral story of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who was arrested in Irving, Texas last year for bringing a clock to high school. In August, a Long Island middle school was accused of coercing a 12-year-old Muslim student with severe learning disabilities to write a false confession stating that he is a member of ISIS and a terrorist who intends to detonate a bomb.

"I've Been Told by the District I Can't Talk About My Work"

Despite rising criticism from academics and educators, CVE appears to already play a role in the Boston Public School system. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz released a paper on CVE in February 2015 that she says was developed "by a collaborative of non-governmental and governmental stakeholders from the Greater Boston region." The document identifies the goal of utilizing "schools, community and faith-based programs and private providers to offer opportunities to students who are interested in understanding and developing mediation, conflict resolution, bullying prevention and intervention skills and becoming peer leaders and advocates."

Jodie Elgee is the director of the Counseling and Intervention Center for the Boston Public Schools, and she is listed as a stakeholder on CVE materials from teh DOJ. "Both street gangs and violent extremists lure the most vulnerable in with promises of a better life with a purpose and a place to belong," she told the Boston Globe that same month in praise of the city's pilot program.

Yet, a coalition of human rights organizations released a joint letter, also in February 2015, expressing general alarm about the role of CVE programs in the Boston area. "All youth deserve to pursue their imperfect transitions to adulthood without having such behaviors policed or becoming the targets of interventions," reads the statement, whose signatories include the Muslim Justice Leage and Jewish Voice for Peace-Boston.

AlterNet asked Elgee by phone how the CVE program has played out in the aggressive anti-bullying initiatives of the Boston Public School system, which has a program where students can text tips to a "Safe Space and Bullying Prevention Hotline." Elgee replied: "I can't speak to you. I've been told by the district I can't talk about my work."

Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU-Massachusetts, told AlterNet, "The U.S. attorney here in Massachusetts claims that CVE doesn't target Muslim students, but that's blatantly not true. I have serious concerns about the Boston public schools being involved in CVE programs at all. It is a way to further stigmatize a group of Muslim-American students already living in a country beset by violent Islamophobia. The secrecy is troubling. This is a public school system"

"The FBI and DHS Are Not Educational Institutions"

Dan Berger, the author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, explained to AlterNet how increased collaboration between CVE and local bullying prevention initiatives function as "another way of extending a policing framework into schools."

The CVE strategic plan was released amid mounting concern about heavy law enforcement presence in schools across the country, where students of color are disproportionately funneled into the criminal justice system via what is derisively called the "school-to-prison pipeline."

According to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, black students are expelled at three times the rate of their white counterparts. This disproportionate punishment dovetails with higher rates of arrests. While black students comprise 16 percent of student enrollment, they represent "27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest," the agency states. "Students with disabilities (served by IDEA) represent a quarter of students arrested and referred to law enforcement, even though they are only 12% of the overall student population."

The criminalization of bullying within educational environments plays a key role in driving this trend. A new report from the ACLU chapters of northern and southern California examined the role of police in 119 California school districts. It found that "most school districts give staff complete discretion to call police to address student misbehaviors that should be handled by school staff such as administrators or counselors." This includes "bullying and harassment," with 60.7 percent of districts giving staff full discretion. The report notes that "police intervention to stop bullying can lead to cascading negative consequences for all students involved, and it is less effective than school-based intervention by trained teachers, counselors, or other mental health professionals."

A nationwide surge in zero-tolerance policies towards bullying in schools, championed in 2010 by then-education secretary Arne Duncan, has been accompanied by state-level drives to criminalize bullying. According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center, 48 states have laws on the books targeting "cyberbullying or online harassment," and 20 states classify bullying as a crime subject to criminal sanctions.

Such approaches to bullying run counter to other alternatives championed by educators and students across the country, including restorative justice practices which encourage educators to examine and transform the root causes of violence, such as bias and inequality. Organizations including the National Education Association have spoken out against zero-tolerance policies, noting that research shows "they don't work."

Ameer Loggins is a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has conducted research on restorative justice practices in middle and high schools. He told AlterNet that he takes issue with the terminology of bullying, which he described as unclear and subjective. "Bullying depends on the believability of the child," said Loggins. "The vagueness of the term leaves space to further ostracize or criminalize students in accordance with suspension or referral processes, and it carries a heavy weight on the punitive end. [CVE] lobs another vague terminology that can follow them around for the rest of their lives, academically and socially stigmatizing them."

Ayoub, on the other hand, told AlterNet that he believes bullying is a "major issue." But he thinks it needs to be in its own separate category, and that its affiliation with CVE programs will "make it toxic."

According to Berger, "It is understandable that opposing bullying is a popular cause, but the question is, what are the real mechanisms to address what's going on? The response shouldn't come from the criminal justice system or policing. The FBI and DHS are not educational institutions, and they don't belong in schools."

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Economic Update: Challenging Markets and Their Results

This episode discusses cutting vaccine costs, shameful Harvard economics, Icelandic women on strike and corporate merger mania. The show also covers the ongoing shortcomings of medical coverage in the US and how UPS drivers may convert their company into a workers' co-op.

To see more stories like this, visit Economic Update: Your Weekly Dose of Revolutionary Economics

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News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Empire Files: Meet the Socialist Woman Running for President

With just weeks until the US presidential election -- and with both mainstream candidates embroiled in unprecedented scandal -- Abby Martin interviews one of the progressive alternatives, socialist candidate Gloria La Riva. 

La Riva is a long-time organizer in the anti-war and social justice movements, a union leader and much more. 

In this election special, Abby Martin and Gloria La Riva discuss her plan to "seize" all US banks, Hillary's "feminism," and why supporting the "lesser evil" out of fear of Trump is a losing strategy. 

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Oilfield Wastewater Used to Grow Food in California May Contain Toxins

An oilfield in Kern County, California, in a photo taken on Fenruary 10, 2008. (Photo: Ben Klocek; Edited: LW / TO)An oilfield in Kern County, California, in a photo taken on Fenruary 10, 2008. (Photo: Ben Klocek; Edited: LW / TO)

Did you know that some of the fruits and veggies out on supermarket shelves are grown using wastewater from oil and gas operations? For the past several years, many drought-stricken farms in California's Central Valley, which produces 40 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables, have been increasingly irrigating their crops with wastewater -- a practice the US Department of Agriculture does not restrict.

Now a new report by the Environmental Working Group says that this wastewater is possibly tainted with toxic chemicals, including chemicals that can cause cancer and reproductive harm. Farmers in Kern County have irrigated some 95,000 acres of food crops with billions of gallons of oil field wastewater, according to the report, which is based on an analysis of state data.

Actually, oil companies have been quietly selling wastewater for irrigation in California for decades, but it's only in recent years that the matter has become public knowledge. In the past, the state required regular testing for only a handful of pollutants to satisfy permit requirements for use of wastewater on agriculture. This is the first time we are getting a detailed look at the makeup of the toxic cocktail that could be lurking in the water.

According to state data, oil companies operating in California have reported that recycled wastewater sold to Kern County irrigation districts since 2014 contained more than 20 million pounds and 2 million gallons of dozens of toxic chemicals. These chemicals included 16 that the state classifies as carcinogens or reproductive toxicants. Levels of the chemicals were not measured and a full assessment of what exactly is in this water is pretty much impossible because the companies have withheld the identity of almost 40 percent of the chemicals as so-called trade secrets.

Currently, the lightly treated wastewater is blended with fresh water and then applied to almonds, pistachios, and citrus trees, as well as to grapes, carrots, beans, tomatoes, and potatoes grown in the Cawelo, North Kern, Jasmin, and Kern-Tulare Water Districts in Kern and Tulare Counties. According to an earlier EWG report, in some of these places the water can even be used as drinking water for livestock and for farmed fish.

Although crops grown with this recycled water represent a small percentage of the food grown in the Central Valley, once the produce is at the grocery store, there's no way of telling it apart from other fruits and vegetables.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has appointed an expert food safety panel to study the possible impact of using wastewater to grow food. Its findings are expected next year.

Despite the new information about the mix of toxic chemicals present in oilfield wastewater, the California water board has refused to halt the practice, and, according to EWG, it is even allowing the expansion of the irrigation method.

But EGW researchers say that while there's cause for concern, it doesn't mean that we should stop eating produce from California.

"Although it is well-established that pollutants in water and soil can build up in crops -- especially root crops such as carrots and potatoes, which are grown in Kern County with oil field wastewater -- scientists don't know if that poses a health risk for people who eat the food," says the report, written by EWG senior scientist Tasha Stoiber. "A healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables outweighs uncertainties about chemicals in produce."

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"We're Homeless and We Vote": Homeless People Want a Voice in This Election

JJames Cartmill, a veteran and resident of a homeless encampment in Berkeley, California, sits in a tent on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)James Cartmill, a veteran and resident of a homeless encampment in Berkeley, California, sits in a tent on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)

In the rapidly gentrifying Bay Area, homelessness, too, has been growing equally rapidly. Now homeless people in Berkeley have organized themselves into an intentional community with a political purpose -- to force homelessness into the public debate and defend the rights of unhoused people.

James Cartmill, a veteran and resident of a homeless encampment in Berkeley, California, sits in a tent on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)James Cartmill, a veteran and resident of a homeless encampment in Berkeley, California, sits in a tent on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)

Berkeley, California -- By the time you read this, Berkeley's intentional mobile homeless community will probably have been forced to migrate again, in yet one more forcible relocation.

A week ago, at five in morning, six city trucks and a U-Haul van pulled up at the tent encampment on a peaceful, leaf-covered median in the middle of south Berkeley's Adeline Street. Each truck had two municipal workers on board. Half a dozen police patrol cars accompanied them, red and blue lights flashing in the dark.

MuZiK, a resident of the occupation, in her tent in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)MuZiK, a resident of the occupation, in her tent in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)

Brad, one of the camp residents, sounded the warning. Sleepy tent-dwellers quickly began to text supporters, warning that the city was threatening once again to throw tents and belongings into trucks and force people to leave.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

"We went into delaying tactics while we got community support mobilized," recalls Mike Zint, one of the leaders of this homeless community. "That doesn't stop them, but every time this happens we get more support. So they sat there in their trucks for the next six hours -- a dozen city workers and a code compliance officer, all on overtime. They took seven cops off patrol. And in the end, after all the arguments, we only moved about 200 feet, across the street. And how much did that cost?"

The occupation on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: Davif Bacon)The occupation on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: Davif Bacon)

This homeless community is not just a group of people trying to find a place to live. They call themselves an "intentional community" with a political purpose -- forcing homelessness into public debate and defending the rights of homeless people. Homeless activists are fighting for the same things in many cities. Together, they are beginning to have an impact on local policies toward "unhoused people" (people who have no formal housing). Political participation by homeless communities is giving them a voice in the national debate over homelessness as well.

Several weeks ago a group of people in this community "popped tents," as they say, in front of the Impact HUB, an office where the city has decided to centralize most services for homeless people. They protested an intake process they say screens out applicants for housing. Writing in the local Street Spirit newspaper, Dan McMullan, who runs the Disabled People Outside Project, recalls, "I spent a week trying to get help for a disabled woman in a wheelchair and had to watch as she slept in front of the women's shelter one night, and the Harrison House the next. But she could not get in. I couldn't believe it." He goes on to say that a HUB employee said the woman didn't fit the intake criteria, and that she was denied reconsideration of her case.

Ronald Vargas sticks his hands out of the tent in the morning, looking for his shoes. (Photo: David Bacon)Ronald Vargas sticks his hands out of the tent in the morning, looking for his shoes. (Photo: David Bacon)

But the community's objections go beyond the immediate denial of services. They condemn the way the city treats homeless people as victims -- as passive recipients of services -- rather than people capable of governing themselves.

For weeks their camp has moved from place to place, in a peregrination Zint calls the Poor Tour. "It's a mobile occupation that can pop up anywhere," he explains. "We're exposing the fact that there is no solution -- nothing but exposure for the homeless. And exposure [the physical cost of sleeping outside] is killing a lot of people."

Banners at the Adeline Street occupation, including the banner for "First They Came for the Homeless." (Photo: David Bacon)Banners at the Adeline Street occupation, including the banner for "First They Came for the Homeless." (Photo: David Bacon)
A recent death was one of the reasons for launching the Poor Tour. On September 19, Roberto Benitas, a day laborer, died sleeping in a doorway. Benitas worked minimum wage jobs, standing in the bitter cold each morning in front of nearby lumberyards, trying to flag down contractors in their pickup trucks. Getting an occasional day's work was never enough to pay Berkeley's skyrocketing rents.

McMullan angrily charged, "Not a cent went into Social Security for the aging worker. When he died in a doorway of the defunct U-Haul rental shop at Allston Way and San Pablo Avenue, it took a day or so for anyone to even notice." McMullen and a progressive city council candidate organized a memorial for Benitas, and the Poor Tour started days later.

The occupation on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)The occupation on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street. (Photo: David Bacon)

Another reason for the tour is the November election, and an effort by this group of activists to use it to assert themselves politically. For over two years, homeless activists have been increasingly involved in Berkeley city politics.

The roots of this mobile occupation actually go back to Occupy San Francisco, and the decision by some of its residents to cross San Francisco Bay to Berkeley in the wake of Occupy's dispersal. At first, they lived for months in tents in front of a local Staples store. Then, two years ago, Zint and others set up an encampment in front of Berkeley's main post office.

Ronald Vargas begins to cry as he talks about the hard times in his life. (Photo: David Bacon)Ronald Vargas begins to cry as he talks about the hard times in his life. (Photo: David Bacon)

The Post Office occupation became a political weapon, the most visible part of a broader coalition that successfully fought the sale of the New Deal-era building to private developers. That coalition eventually included even the mayor and the city administration, which filed suit to block the sell-off.

The community of tents, tarps and literature tables on the steps lasted for over a year and a half, before the Post Office Police finally drove the tent dwellers away. Postal authorities then built an imposing fence of iron bars around the empty space where the tents had been, to keep anyone from ever setting foot again on that section of sidewalk.

Ronald Vargas, a Nicaraguan refugee, is the occupation's artist and makes many of the protest banners.  He calls himself Ronald Reagan as a sarcastic comment. Reagan was responsible for the "contra war" against Nicaragua's Sandinista government. (Photo: David Bacon)Ronald Vargas, a Nicaraguan refugee, is the occupation's artist and makes many of the protest banners. He calls himself Ronald Reagan as a sarcastic comment (because Reagan was responsible for the "contra war" against Nicaragua's Sandinista government). (Photo: David Bacon)
That certainly felt like revenge to activists. While allied against the Post Office, the encampment's residents have increasingly criticized the current city administration. They charge that Berkeley has given developers a green light to build a wave of market-rate housing that is gentrifying the city, and at the same time creating more homelessness.

They point to a recent study by the San Francisco Planning Commission, which found that every set of 100 market-rate condominiums required the labor of about 43 working-class families to maintain them and support their residents. Not only don't the condos create housing for poorer residents, but they increase housing demand at the bottom of the market, without coming up with any places for people to live. The net result is the increasing displacement of low-income people.

After being forced by police to disband one camp on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street, homeless community activists set up another across the street. (Photo: David Bacon)After being forced by police to disband one camp on the grass median in the middle of Adeline Street, homeless community activists set up another across the street. (Photo: David Bacon)
The Post Office coalition broke down entirely when conservative members of the city council, backed by the Downtown Business Association, pushed through an ordinance that restricts the space for the belongings of homeless people on public sidewalks. During the debate, the Post Office camp activists set up a new occupation, called Liberty City, in front of the old City Hall to make their opposition visible.

In an interview for Truthout, MuZiK, one of those displaced in the uprooting of the camp on Adeline Street, envisioned a growing use of occupations. MuZiK noted that, while it might make people uncomfortable, "if our protest is anything other than a short 'here today, gone tomorrow' sort of deal ... we got a lot of time on our hands, so don't hate it if we choose to spend it fighting for what's right!"

Mike Zint a leader of the homeless occupation, at an informal meeting outside his tent. (Photo: David Bacon)Mike Zint a leader of the homeless occupation, at an informal meeting outside his tent. (Photo: David Bacon)
In the wake of the sit-lie battle, another resident of the occupation, Mike Lee, declared himself a candidate for mayor. His campaign dramatizes the idea that homeless people should be given space to set up tents and create a self-governing community. At the Post Office and Liberty City, "What's being created is an intentional community," Lee explains, "where people come together and intentionally create an entity for mutual aid and voluntary cooperation, so that they can survive together and solve their own problems. Homeless people have always formed communities, whether we were considered 'hobos' or homeless people or just 'bums.' Homo sapiens are very social animals. We come together naturally."

At the Post Office encampment, voter registration forms appeared on the tables in front of the tents. "We're homeless and we vote!" Lee says. "There is a political purpose here, to change the way public policy is crafted and implemented. As homeless people we are the true experts. Organizing is the solution to homelessness, and the people responsible for solving homelessness are the homeless themselves." Lee has put forward detailed plans and budgets, showing how the city could use a vacant community center to house working homeless people, and establish areas where others could set up tents or build "tiny houses."

A homeless man sleeps across the street from the Post Office, where the homeless camp used to be.  It is now an empty space surrounded by iron bars - the people who used to live there sleep on the grass or elsewhere. (Photo: David Bacon)A homeless man sleeps across the street from the Post Office, where the homeless camp used to be. It is now an empty space surrounded by iron bars -- the people who used to live there sleep on the grass or elsewhere. (Photo: David Bacon)Meanwhile, city politics have become very sharply divided, which is reflected in the current mayoral election. The city's progressive bloc, a minority on the city council, has two candidates for mayor. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin is more heavily favored and is the city's first Latino elected official, endorsed by local unions and Bernie Sanders. Fellow Councilmember Kriss Worthington earned the loyalty of progressives by showing up on picket lines and at demonstrations for years.

Leading the conservative opposition is Laurie Capitelli, a real estate agent whose campaign is well funded by property owners and developers. By mid-October the "independent" National Association of Realtors PAC, having found a way around the city's $250 limit on direct campaign contributions, had channeled $60,382 into Capitelli campaign mailers.

Berkeley is one of many cities that has adopted ranked-choice voting in recent years. This helps the homeless political effort to reach out for allies. Arreguin and Worthington both ask supporters to vote for the other as their second choice in the ranked voting system. Now Lee has asked his constituency to vote for Arreguin as second choice, and Worthington as third choice. In this way, ranked choice voting allows people to support the political demands voiced by a candidate of homeless people, and then to support those progressive candidates who actually have the greatest chance of winning office.

After being expelled from the Post Office camp and Liberty City, many homeless people began living in Provo Park, across the street from City Hall.  The police later dispersed the people here also. (Photo: David Bacon)After being expelled from the Post Office camp and Liberty City, many homeless people began living in Provo Park, across the street from City Hall. The police later dispersed the people here also. (Photo: David Bacon)
At the height of a recent rainstorm, Arreguin came out to check on the welfare of the people in the tents, which earned him Lee's support. Worthington has come by the occupations several times in the past. Ultimately, Arreguin says, the city needs to hear from homeless people themselves and treat them as normal members of the body politic. "We do have a crisis, and all options should be on the table," he said in an interview last year. "Berkeley should consider a temporary encampment until we have more permanent housing. People need a place to go."

There is no question but that homelessness is an issue in Berkeley's city election. And while the presidential debates avoided it, homelessness has become a national issue as well. The explosion in the number of homeless people nationwide has led both to the passage of anti-homeless legislation in some cities and to the recognition of homeless encampments in others. That explosion has not led yet to a broad movement for building public housing on a massive scale to eliminate homelessness. But organized homeless people with a strong voice could help to create one. Such a movement would depend as well on alliances with the broader communities in which homeless people live.

Mike Lee and Mike Zint (in the tent) in the camp outside the Berkeley Post Office, originally established to protest the sale of the Main Post Office building.  The Post Office Police demolished the camp and evicted the residents a few weeks after the photo was taken. (Photo: David Bacon)Mike Lee and Mike Zint (in the tent) in the camp outside the Berkeley Post Office, originally established to protest the sale of the Main Post Office building. The Post Office Police demolished the camp and evicted the residents a few weeks after the photo was taken. (Photo: David Bacon)
Media depictions often portray neighbors incensed over the presence of homeless people. The experience of the Poor Tour, however, is different. Residents of the mobile occupation have been careful to reach out to the neighborhoods that surround the camps. "We're very fortunate that we have the support of the community -- we wouldn't be able to pull off this tour without them," Zint says. "The city is so corrupt -- sniffing around the developers' money. It's time that the community figures out what's going on, stands up and fights back with us."

To keep their support, the camp has set basic rules. "This is a community, not a drug camp," Zint emphasizes. "We don't have a Porta Potty, but we still manage to be sanitary. No drugs or alcohol. Treat each other with fairness and respect. Be mindful of the neighbors because they're the ones we draw our support from."

The activists and their umbrella organization, First They Came for the Homeless, have a website and a Facebook page. James Cartmill, who lives in the tents, and Sarah Menefee, a long-time homeless rights activist who is a near-constant presence at the camp, have taken and posted hundreds of photographs showing camp life from the inside, and the confrontations with the police and city.

The occupations are decorated with posters and banners created by Nicaraguan refugee Ronald Vargas Gonzalez, whose sarcastic camp nickname is Ronald Reagan (who was responsible for the "contra war" against Nicaragua's Sandinista government). "I use what I have inside me," he explains. "I analyze the society. I analyze being homeless. In each drawing I work to make society recognize that the homeless are human. Society says homeless means garbage, but homeless is human. Society has to give us respect."

Vargas credits the community he's found with fellow tent dwellers with keeping him alive. "The people here are like my roots, a connection to life. You can tell them everything - the good and the bad. What you've lost in this life, and what you've found."

© Copyright David Bacon

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective

The Dakota Access pipeline route was shifted onto Indigenous treaty lands after the town of Bismarck objected to having it around their drinking water. In making #NoDAPL purely a climate justice issue, many people fail to acknowledge that Indigenous people have a right to defend ourselves and our land.

Stacey Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who has been at the campsite set up to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline for five weeks, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 8, 2016. (Photo: Kristina Barker / The New York Times) Stacey Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who has been at the campsite set up to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline for five weeks, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 8, 2016. (Photo: Kristina Barker / The New York Times)

An earlier version of this piece appeared on Transformative Spaces.

The public witnessed a new level of escalation on Thursday in the Native struggle at Standing Rock, as police swept through an encampment in the direct path of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). The resulting standoff with the National Guard, and police officers from various states, led to 117 arrests. Advancing authorities attacked Water Protectors with flash grenades, bean bag launchers, pepper spray and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs). There were also numerous reports of police beating Water Protectors, and reports of live ammunition being used. 

Such developments were incredibly disturbing, both to those present and to Natives who were actively watching from a distance, but the raid itself was not unexpected. In fact, there was a great deal of suspicion that the police would close in the day before, which led me to reach out to a number of my friends on the frontlines Wednesday. Amid our conversations about their feelings and recent experiences at the camps, I asked my friends if there was anything they wanted shared in writing. What follows is grounded in the substance of those conversations. These ideas are obviously not representative of all Native perspectives on the subject, because our convictions are as diverse as that of any peoples. But it’s a perspective we thought was worthy of expression.

A Shared Reflection

It is crucial that people recognize that Standing Rock is part of an ongoing struggle against colonial violence. The Dakota Access pipeline (#NoDAPL) is a front of struggle in a long-erased war against Native peoples -- a war that has been active since first contact, and waged without interruption. Our efforts to survive the conditions of this anti-Native society have gone largely unnoticed because white supremacy is the law of the land, and because we, as Native people, have been pushed beyond the limits of public consciousness.

The fact that we are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than any other group speaks to the fact that Native erasure is ubiquitous, both culturally and literally, but pushed from public view. Our struggles intersect with numerous others, but are perpetrated with different motives and intentions. Anti-Blackness, for example, is a demonstration of power, whereas the violence against us is a matter of pragmatism. The struggle at Standing Rock is an effort to prevent the construction of a deadly, destructive mechanism, created by greed-driven people with no regard for our lives.

It has always been this way. We die, and have died, for the sake of expansion and white wealth, and for the maintenance of both.

The harms committed against us have long been relegated to the history books. This erasure has occurred for the sake of both white supremacy and US mythology, such as American exceptionalism. It has also been perpetuated to sustain the comfort of those who benefit from harms committed against us. Our struggles have been kept both out of sight and out of mind -- easily forgotten by those who aren't directly impacted.

It should be clear to everyone that we are not simply here in those rare moments when others bear witness.

To reiterate what should be obvious: We are not simply here when you see us.

We have always been here, fighting for our lives, surviving colonization, and that reality has rarely been acknowledged. Even people who believe in freedom frequently overlook our issues, as well as the intersections of their issues with our own.

It matters that more of the world is bearing witness in this historic moment. However, we feel the need to point out that the dialogue around #NoDAPL has become increasingly centered on climate change. Yes, there is an undeniable connectivity between this front of struggle and the larger fight to combat planetary warming. We fully recognize that all of humanity is at risk of extinction, whether they realize it or not. But intersectionality does not mean focusing exclusively on the intersections of our respective work. It sometimes means taking a journey well outside the bounds of those intersections.

In discussing #NoDAPL, too few people have started from a place of naming that we, as Indigenous people, have a right to defend our water and our lives, simply because we have a natural right to defend ourselves and our communities. When "climate justice," in a very broad sense, becomes the center of conversation, our fronts of struggle are often reduced to a staging ground for the messaging of NGOs.

Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right -- not simply because "this affects us all."

So when you talk about Standing Rock, please begin by acknowledging that this pipeline was redirected from an area where it was most likely to impact the residents of Bismarck, North Dakota. When Bismarck's population -- which is over 90 percent white -- objected to the risks the pipeline posed to their drinking water, their concerns were accommodated, and the pipeline route was shifted into treaty lands. Please inform people of these facts, and remind them that our people are still struggling to survive the violence of colonization on many fronts. People should not simply engage with stories related to our struggles when they see a concrete connection to their own issues -- or a jumping off point to discuss their own issues. Our friends, allies and accomplices should be fighting alongside us because they value our humanity and right to live, in addition to whatever else they believe in.

Every Native at Standing Rock -- every Native on this continent -- has survived the genocide of 100 million of our people. That means that every Indigenous child born is a victory against colonialism, but we are all also born into a fight for our very existence. We need that to be named and centered.

This message is not a condemnation. It's a fundamentally reasonable ask.

We are asking that you help ensure that dialogue around this issue begins with and centers a discussion of anti-Native violence and policies, no matter what other connections you might ultimately make, because those discussions simply don't happen in this country. There obviously aren't enough people talking about climate change, but there are even fewer people -- and let's be real, far fewer people -- discussing the various forms of violence that Indigenous people are up against, and even fewer acting in solidarity with us. And while such discussions have always been deserved, we are living in a moment when Native Water Protectors and Water Warriors have more than earned both acknowledgement and solidarity.

If you have been with us in this fight, we appreciate you. But we are reaching out, right now, in these brave days for our people, to ask that you keep the aforementioned truths front and center as you discuss #NoDAPL. This moment is, first and foremost, about Native liberation, Native self-determination and Native survival.

Opinion Fri, 28 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Marked for Death by Trump When He Was 15

Yusef Salaam is one of the Central Park 5 -- five young men of color wrongfully convicted in 1989 of sexually assaulting Trisha Meili, a white woman jogging in Central Park. The "Central Park Jogger" case became national news, and the accused -- all between the ages of 14 and 16 -- were held up as examples of alleged "wilding" by "wolf packs" of Black and Latino youth.

Fanning the flames of the witch hunt was Donald Trump, who bought full-page ads in four New York City newspapers using the Central Park Jogger case to call for New York state to bring back the death penalty. The ad used the same bloodthirsty themes that became a staple of his "law and order" campaign speeches: "How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!"

In 2002, after four of the five defendants had completed their sentences, the Central Park 5 were exonerated when Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, and DNA evidence confirmed he was the lone attacker. Yet Trump insisted earlier this month that the five teenagers were guilty -- an outrageous statement, though it was quickly overshadowed in the media by the release of tapes of Trump bragging about committing sexual assault.

Yusef Salaam became an activist around issues of racism and the criminal justice system. He talked with Danny Katch about his own story and the larger fight for justice for victims of a racist legal system.

Danny Katch: Why do you think that Donald Trump, in 2016, went out of his way to say that the Central Park 5 were guilty when you've clearly been exonerated?

Yusef Salaam: It really is a sad situation when you have a person in that position -- who has the capacity and definitely the wherewithal to do his fact-checking, especially now that he's running to be president -- who still stays on the side of lies and falsehoods.

Part of the reason why I think he said it is because he took out the full-page ad that ran in New York City newspapers basically calling for our death -- I think he mentioned recently that that was received so positively.

If you think about the history of Black people in this country and the history of other folks, it's two different types of history. We have Black people who were supposed to be freed from slavery, and then immediately, the slave codes were instituted, and so forth and so on.

And so here it is -- four Blacks and one Latino, and we were immediately looked at as being guilty and had to prove ourselves innocent. Under the law, it says you're innocent until proven guilty. So for Donald Trump to take out those ads in such a big way, it was the worst thing in the world.

And the worst part about it is that there's an infallibility to a person like Donald Trump -- you know what I'm saying? He had to apologize about these comments that he made about those young ladies, but he was 60 years old at the time!

It's not like he was feeling his way through life and trying to understand things. He's a grown man, and this is the fiber in the fabric of who he is. And then he tries to chalk it up as "just locker room banter." But most people who hang out in the locker rooms don't talk like that. They don't talk about sexually assaulting women and thinking that it's okay, you know? That's a very, very sick way to be.

That takes me right into the next question: This person who we now know has a long history of being a sexual predator also has a long history of accusing people of color of rape. There's your case in 1989, and more recently, Trump has talked about Mexican immigrants being rapists. I just wondered if you have any thoughts about that.

That's the craziest thing about all this. We can't even talk about the pot calling the kettle black. We always say that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" -- well, here's an individual who's saying, "Hey, you know, I can do whatever I want to these women because they let me." They let you even more so because you're a celebrity.

That's the part that's sickening. Our children who were growing up in the Obama era knew that the great thing about this president was that he was a person of color. At least people stopped thinking that the highest aspiration they could have was to be a basketball player or to be a music artist. They now have the opportunity to even become the president of the United States, and if they fell short of that, that was a start at least, so they can go beyond the glass ceiling.

But now the conversation, even after Donald Trump doesn't become the president -- and I'm making a prediction here...

THE CONVERSATION now is going to be what this man represents for our young people -- this man who says that if you do it, I want you put to death, but if I do it, it's completely fine. Of course, there are a lot of people who don't accept Trump, but it's a really sad place to be.

I want to go back to 1989, which I'm sure is not pleasant for you. I think a lot of people who are younger or aren't from New York City don't necessarily understand that what happened to the Central Park 5 wasn't just a case of people being convicted for a crime they didn't commit. You guys became poster children for a national hysteria about this thing called "wilding" -- the latest craze about what dangerous young Black people were doing in the 1980s. What was it like to be 15 years old and suddenly be the face of this panic?

It's hard to say. If I used a word to describe it, it would be that we were the pariahs. But it's hard to explain that feeling and to give someone else realistic idea of what it meant, because reading about it is one thing, but going through it is something else.

In prison, we would write letters back to the people who live in the world, so to speak, and in almost every letter that was sent out, we started off saying something to the effect of "may this letter reach you spiritually, mentally and physically okay."

It wasn't until I got into the adult facilities that I bumped into some of the people who were members of Black liberation movement, who used to say to me, "You've got to add a fourth component to that." That fourth component is psychosocial, and what it means is the idea that the society validates you.

If you're seen as being okay in society, then you have the opportunity to be okay. But if you're seen as being not okay in society, then a lot of times, you tend to become your own worst enemy because of how the society views you, you know?

So in my case, we were trying to prove to the public -- and prove to maybe even some of our peers and family -- that we were innocent of this crime. But it's hard to prove that when you're a child, because they always say children lie all the time.

We didn't get that opportunity to prove ourselves innocent. We didn't get that opportunity to have the justice system work in terms of justice for us. It became a system of injustice. It became a system where the spiked wheels of justice ran down the hill and mowed us all down. That part was one of the most difficult things in the world.

Hillary Clinton doesn't have nearly the same record of personal racism or sexism that Donald Trump has, but as I'm sure you're aware, during Bill Clinton's presidency in the 1990s, that the era of mass incarceration really expanded, and Hillary Clinton herself did talk in a racist, Trump-like way about a dangerous underclass of "super-predators." Do you feel like that history from the 1990s still matters today?

It absolutely does. We've always said that even though racism doesn't seem as prevalent as it used to be, we know very well that racism is alive and well, that it's institutionalized, that we find it practiced no matter where we look.

Hillary Clinton has apologized about it since then, but to describe a whole race of people, of young people, as predisposed to this kind of behavior was really a sad thing coming from a person who was in power and can affect change. Every time we looked up, it was always somebody white directing things. Nobody ever included us in the process. But everybody always described us.

The same kind of thing happened to the Central Park 5 back in 1989. During the first few weeks, there was a picture of us that came out in the tsunami of hundreds of articles. We found our names and our addresses and our phone numbers in New York City newspapers. People were sending us hate mail and all kinds of death threats, and our families tried to shield us from that.

My mother used to always say that she was from the Jim Crow South, but here I was was experiencing Jim Crowism in the North. They were trying to make us modern Emmett Till, based on Donald Trump's ad.

Somebody would have probably taken it upon themselves to lynch us. Even more so now, if you look at the crowds that Donald Trump gets front of. Here you have a person who said, I can go on Fifth Avenue right now and shoot someone, and I won't lose any voters.

All that says to me is that history is something we need to learn from. Like I said, my mother said she was from the Jim Crow South, and here I was experiencing the same kind of thing they would tell us about that we thought was just a myth. She would talk about things to us, and we would be like, "Okay, Ma." But later, I was experiencing something that I'll tell my children about.

You and the other members of the Central Park 5 were victimized, but you aren't just victims. You've been a part of increasing awareness and understanding of the criminal justice system. You were on the national board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) and got involved in cases like Troy Davis in Georgia. How did becoming involved in protesting other injustices affect you and your own understanding of what you had been through?

It definitely was an eye-opener because I never truly came to grips with the fact that what happened to me could very well have been a death sentence.

When we were given that five-to-10-year bid, it wasn't just a prison sentence. It was also something that was going to lead, if we survived the prison itself, to a social death. We were being branded as rapists, and you know that's the worst crime you can go to prison for.

So when I came home from prison and started involving myself in the CEDP, I plunged head on into the struggle of trying to liberate other people from the clutches of the criminal system of injustice. It gave me a sense of purpose, because on the one hand, I realized that I was a part of that history.

Part of the healing for me was to assist others who were going through something very similar -- to make sure that they got their just and fair due, opposed to what they were receiving.

It was hard, because a lot of people still lost their lives in that struggle. I think that one of the biggest letdowns that I experienced was the execution of Troy Davis in 2011.

But at the same time, this activity also gave me a voice. It began to allow me to share the story of the Central Park 5, and it allowed me to heal from the experience -- to heal from wanting to just disappear into anonymity and have a kind of hermit life. That's whole PTSD that happens as a result of being in prison, and not having any kind of connection with folks, because their lives have moved on, and you're still stuck back in the days.

It was tremendous. It still is tremendous. Whenever I look at the injustices going on around the country, I am happy that sometimes people re-tweet what I say -- that's definitely a powerful thing.

You and your mom were recently part of the Justice 4 the Wrongly Incarcerated march from New York City to Albany, right?

Absolutely. That was a tremendous thing to be a part of. In a way, we've gotten our lives back, and we're marching and seeking justice for individuals who are still waiting to get their lives back. They're languishing behind prison walls.

It's very telling the numbers of people who are being let go from prison, and not after doing a year or two. Some of these individuals have been doing decades in prison. And they've been found innocent of these crimes that they were in prison for, with the decades going past.

You're someone who has been in the struggle for a long time, and now, there has been the dramatic rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Are there any thoughts you'd like to impart to people who are just getting active?

I think that it's very important to get involved in the struggle to liberate our people. Because unfortunately, what I've learned in the process of being in the struggle is that there are countless people who really believe that the system is designed to assist and protect and serve and all of the good ideals they talk about.

If you look at the police cars in New York City -- and I've said this on numerous occasions -- they have these three words on them: Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect. But if you're a person of color, and you come into the clutches of the police departments of the world, a lot of times, especially in New York City, we don't even receive the CPR.

What I want to get out there is the idea that the system was built this way. If we look at architectural designs, sometimes, they look like they defy the laws of nature. Somebody built it that way. A lot of these structures are still standing today.

That's the same way we have to look at the criminal justice system. I call it the criminal system of injustice because they didn't give us the opportunity to be presumed innocent and found guilty. We were guilty, and we had to fight to prove ourselves innocent. In many ways, we still have to fight to prove ourselves innocent.

News Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:22:45 -0400