It is Time We Discussed Abolishing the Police

From CounterPunch:

“If I was an anarchist or even a regular protester,” explained the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Ron Smith, “I would probably not want to be infiltrated by the police… Just like the dope dealer on Third and Pike doesn’t want to get busted. That’s the price of doing business. It’s the whole package.” This startling bit of honesty from the Seattle police regarding their imperative to infiltrate and spy on social justice protests came as Ansel Herz, a reporter for the local newspaper The Stranger, questioned Smith regarding undercover cops at a Black Lives Matter protest last December.

For those involved in Left protest movements this is hardly news. I remember my early days in the antiwar movement at Texas Tech University. During the first rallies protesting the invasion of Iraq in 2003 local police with their crew-cuts, wraparound shades, and shirts tucked into Wrangler jeans would “blend effortlessly” into the crowd of college students. Campus police even intruded into a graduate student’s office—much to his surprise—in order to peruse our flyers and posters that were stored there. A year later an investigation by Salon revealed that police had infiltrated antiwar groups in Boulder, Fresno, Grand Rapids, and Albuquerque. A federal prosecutor even demanded Drake University turn over all of its records regarding an antiwar conference held there by the National Lawyers Guild.

Ahead of the Republican National Convention in 2008 Minnesota police in conjunction with the FBI raided the homes of antiwar activists “seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets” according to reports. One of the many police officers who infiltrated antiwar groups prior to the convention would later brag of how protesters “were herded like sheep at the hands of the riot cops.” Ultimately he determined that the “strategy, tactic, and deployments were well planned and extremely effective in controlling [protesters].”

Detective Wojciech Braszczok was one of many undercover cops infiltrating the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, a fact that came to light after his unrelated arrest following the release of a video of him violently assaulting a motorist. Braszczok’s participation in the movement went beyond monitoring protests as he insinuated himself deep into the personal lives of Occupy members even attending birthday parties—all the while collecting “intelligence” for the NYPD. Other undercovers in the Occupy movement worked as agent provocateurs “being paid to go to these protests and put us in situations where we’d be arrested and not be able to leave” as Occupy member Marshall Garrett discovered after his 2011 arrest.

During the 2010 protests against budget cuts and tuition hikes on West Coast college campuses university police sent a spy into meetings of the University of Washington based UW Student Worker Coalition. At UC Davis the administration worked with faculty and police to form the Student Activism Team, a taskforce charged with infiltrating and surveilling Left groups on campus. Even more disturbing, a lawsuit filed last year by the Evergreen State College chapter of Students for a Democratic Society revealed further details of a surveillance ring dating back to 2009 and built around John Towery a member of the Army’s Force Protection Service who had infiltrated the Olympia, Washington student group. According to emails Towery was trying to “develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro” with campus police and police departments in Everett, Spokane, Portland, Eugene, and Los Angeles as well as with various branches of the military.

Last week documents obtained by The Intercept revealed that undercover officers for the NYPD regularly attended Black Lives Matter events. Pictures of activists are kept on file by the department and their movements are tracked. In a statement on these revelations the Metropolitan Transit Authority which has been using its counter-terrorism task force to also spy on Black Lives Matter justified the spying by equating protesters with terrorists. And this is not just the view of local police departments, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force have both been monitoring Black Lives Matter protests across the country showing the dangerous and unfounded link in the minds of police between social justice movements and terrorism.

It is notable that the problem of police infiltration is unique to Left-leaning political groups. Right wing organizations like the Tea Party, the Oath Keepers, and the Ku Klux Klan are more likely to have police as enthusiastic members than moles. Even the FBI’s oft celebrated infiltration of the Klan during the Civil Rights Movement led to more cheerleading for Klan activity than arrests of its members. While police frequently paint Left organizations as violent in order to justify the violation of people’s right to organize politically these right wing terrorist groups are regularly leftunmolested by the supposed keepers of the peace.

There are many people who think the police exist to fight crime. The reality is that the police exist to maintain the status-quo with the rich on top and everyone else fighting for scraps. During the uprising in Ferguson last year comedian Chris Rock commented, “If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The police represent the first line of defense between the rich and the rioters. Those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement—the latest challenge to the racist status-quo—learn quickly the true function of the police as they are shouted at and insulted by police in riot gear who hem in their marches, as they have their photos taken by police surveillance teams for further investigation, as they deal with the never ending stream of plain-clothes cops intimidating, monitoring, sowing seeds of distrust. Knowing the political role of the police perhaps it is time to stop hoping for reform and start imagining a world without the police.

FBI’s Classic Divide-and-Conquer Tactics Tried Again in NYC

stopfbiIn the past week, individuals in New York City have been visited by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. They say that they are investigating the 2008 bombing of the Times Square military recruitment center, and have been asking about many different individuals.

According to the FBI’s recent June 2013 report, the bomb used in the incident, described at the time as unsophisticated, was made out of an ammunition can commonly used in the fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. The bombing occurred at around 3:30 in the morning. No one was near to get injured and it caused only minor damage to the center. The height, weight, age, sex and race of the suspect are unknown. Let’s keep it this way.

It is possible that this FBI investigation is only peripherally related to the open grand jury investigation that has imprisoned anarchist Jerry Koch. While Jerry has been granted immunity from the bombing incident, he is currently imprisoned at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in order to coerce him to inform on others who are suspected.

The FBI’s current focus on specific people exploits ongoing rifts in activist circles, in an effort to glean information to persecute and imprison individuals. During the recent spate of FBI visits, agents have been suggesting that multiple people have been identified as responsible for the Times Square recruitment center bombing, using methods such as insinuating that those accused are themselves already informants for the state. All of this is an obvious effort to encourage others to inform on each other. Law enforcement agents are legally allowed to lie to accomplish their missions. This is a simple divide-and-conquer tactic exploiting the already fractured anarchist scene. It is understandable that the FBI would choose weak points in our community to try to sever the spirit and resolve of all who might come together to fight against oppression. We hope that each one of us can see the benefit of fighting activist repression in whatever form it takes.

Stay strong, understand your rights, and remember what we have in common. We can galvanize our communities and fight against the wedge tactics of the state. If they had enough evidence to charge anyone then someone would have already been arrested and charged. The FBI needs us to make their case. It’s up to us not to give them what they want.

If faced with questioning by any police or FBI, you do not need to talk to them. You do not need to let them in your home without a valid warrant. They are legally allowed to lie to you. Ask for a business card and call the National Lawyers Guild at 212-679-6018. Below is a link to information about the rights you have when the FBI comes to question you.

http://issuu.com/sparrow/docs/ccr_if_an_agent_knocks

CAPR: Seattle FBI now targeting climate activists

Short update from the Committee to Resist Political Repression:

In the past 48 hours at least six Seattle climate activists have been approached by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at their home or school. In light of recent revelations about the extent of state surveillance by federal agencies we feel it is important to share this information with the broader activist community in Seattle and nationwide.

Please show solidarity with the Seattle activists facing this investigation by sharing this statement. We will provide updates if the situation escalates.

Buffalo, NY: Leslie James Pickering facing increasing harassment by FBI

From the Buffalo News:

When Leslie James Pickering lived on the West Coast more than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical group that destroyed facilities believed to be involved in animal cruelty or environmental degradation.

That included using arson and firebombs to destroy a wild-horse slaughterhouse in Oregon, a ski resort that threatened a lynx habitat in Colorado and a University of Washington horticultural center project that the group believed – incorrectly – was involved in genetic engineering.

But life for Pickering – who says he never was a member of the secretive group, just its spokesman – became too stressful, so he returned to his home in Western New York and eventually opened Burning Books on Connecticut Street.

Now federal authorities are keeping a close watch on Pickering – checking his mail, asking past associates about whether he is capable of violent activity and requiring greater clearance when he travels by air – even though he insists he has done nothing to run afoul of the law.

Are Pickering’s views and past associations reason enough for law enforcement agencies to look into what he’s doing now?

The FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center all considered the Earth Liberation Front that Pickering represented to be involved in “eco-terrorism” that resulted in tens of millions of dollars in property damage.

But Pickering has not been the group’s spokesman for more than a decade, although he still justifies illegal actions against corporations and government agencies under certain circumstances for what he and others consider to be a greater good.

“I’ve had a very public position for almost my whole activist career, and that hasn’t allowed me to do any of this illegal activity I’ve defended,” Pickering said. “Even in my wildest dreams, I might have loved to have been a Robin Hood hero, but that’s not what landed in my lap.”

But Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, thinks law enforcement agencies have good reason to keep tabs on Pickering.

“He’s still advocating a pretty radical ideology, and in some sort of way violence against property, and this is criminal activity that will get the attention of law enforcement,” Segal said.

Pickering – who notes that ELF actions never resulted in physical harm to a person or an animal – has gained a small but vocal group of followers in Buffalo, who feel he is being singled out for having leftist views. Roughly 150 of them attended a fundraiser on his behalf last month.

“I do not advocate any kind of property destruction or illegal activity because of what someone says or thinks. [But] when it’s a company or a government agency that is doing massive physical harm, acting with impunity and not listening to public opinion, then you have to do something about it,” said Pickering, who notes that every social justice movement has had an element of radical activism.

But he insists his views are besides the point. “I’m a bookstore owner,” he said.

Tracking activities

Here’s how security agencies have tracked him in recent months:

• Last September, the FBI called a friend of Pickering’s he had been largely out of touch with for years and asked who Pickering associated with in Buffalo, and if he was capable of violent and illegal activity.

• That same month, a card appeared to have been mistakenly delivered to Pickering’s home mailbox, indicating the post office at 465 Grant St. was providing surveillance of his mail from mid-August to mid-September at the request of an unspecified law enforcement agency.

“Show all mail to supervisor for copying prior to going out on the street,” the card read, with Pickering’s name, the date of the surveillance and “Confidential” written in green highlighter.

• In mid-February, an entity that his bookstore interacts with was presented with a federal grand jury subpoena to provide records.

• On March 3, Pickering was briefly detained in Buffalo by officers from the Transit Security Administration – a branch of the Department of Homeland Security – and reissued a United Airlines ticket with additional screening measures.

Michael Kuzma, Pickering’s attorney, tried to pry loose information from federal authorities through Freedom of Information requests, but met roadblocks.

Representatives of the FBI’s Buffalo office, the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Transit Security Administration all declined to say whether Pickering was under surveillance or investigation.

“It’s been stressful, and I think that’s kind of the point. We’re not doing anything wrong, but this whole process is designed to make us feel like we are, and make other people think we are,” said Theresa Baker-Pickering, with whom Leslie has a 3-year-old daughter.

Social purpose

Pickering, who grew up in East Aurora and West Seneca, said he knew by his early teens that he wanted his life to be guided by a social purpose. He found it initially in the animal-rights movement after moving to San Francisco with his mother, a nurse, after 10th grade at West Seneca East High School.

Pickering became involved a few years later with the Liberation Collective in Portland, Ore., and estimates he was arrested two dozen times for acts of civil disobedience, including seven convictions for violations or misdemeanors, the last in 1999.

The Liberation Collective also began receiving unsigned “communiques” from the Earth Liberation Front, which between 1997 and 2001 committed more than 30 acts of destruction – at sites ranging from automobile dealerships and housing developments to logging companies and universities – that averaged $2.5 million in damages.

Those actions were championed by supporters, and condemned by others – especially those victimized by the actions.

“ELF firebombings are hate crimes against those of us whose missions in life are to increase human knowledge and bring a sense of wonder to the classes we teach,” University at Washington professor Toby Bradshaw wrote after his office was firebombed in the mistaken belief that he was planning to conduct experiments on genetically engineered trees.

Pickering and another activist, Craig Rosebraugh, opened the ELF’s official press office in 2000 and ran it for two years. They issued press releases, held news conferences and defended ELF’s practices, with Pickering’s media appearances ranging from Rolling Stone to Fox News.

Law enforcement took notice. The house they shared was raided twice by the FBI, which carted away computers and other equipment but never leveled charges.

It was after that incident that Pickering – who said he never knew the identities of ELF members until they were arrested – returned home to work on the family’s small blueberry farm outside East Aurora.

 

A different path

Pickering returned to school and graduated from Goddard College in Vermont with master’s degrees in history and journalism. He wrote books on the ELF and on Sam Melville, who in 1969 was involved in bombing the Federal Office Building and other government and commercial buildings in New York City before being killed in the 1971 Attica Prison uprising.

In 2008, Pickering, his wife and Nate Buckley bought the Connecticut Street building where Burning Books is located, and after extensive remodeling, opened their store two years ago.

The store is filled with books and videos about radical history, many about the 1960s and ’70s, on subjects from the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X to historians Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, as well as animal rights, environmental activism, labor struggles and international movements for social justice. The bookstore also hosts speakers and community gatherings.

Posters commemorate the Attica uprising, Che Guevara and Leonard Peltier, and there are flyers in support of Bradley Manning, a soldier charged with leaking national secrets, and a petition against hydraulic fracturing.

The bookstore also carries the 2011 Academy Award-nominated documentary, “If a Tree Fell: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” in which Pickering appears.

“We all know Buffalo is small enough, and there is no terrorist threat,” said Kuzma, Pickering’s attorney. [Fear of terrorism] has been used by the people who really own and run this country to curtail our civil liberties, and Leslie is a victim of this.”

But Segal of the Anti-Defamation League thinks Pickering is a legitimate person of interest to federal authorities.

“[The ELF] did advocate a pretty radical ideology in terms of pushing for a form of violence in the street,” Segal said. “Even if it’s in your past, you’re going to be looked at by law enforcement.”

Oakland: First Person account of the recent FBI/OPD/CH Raid of the Music Box

From Indybay, Via Anarchist News:

On February 13th, a punk house known as the Music Box, was raided by the FBI, OPD, and at least one Citrus Heights officer in West Oakland, Ca. This is a first person account of what took place. It was submitted anonymously to Indybay.org on February 16th, 2013.

3 days ago on Feb 13th 2013, my home , The Music Box, located on 3404 Market St in Oakland was raided by the FBI, OPD and various officers leading the investigation from Citrus Heights, CA.

The police officers at first vocalized that the intended purpose of the raid was to look for a murder suspect. Latter, they vocalized that they were there only to search for his personal belongings that could be connected with the case. The warrant stated that they were there to search for a myriad of different objects, mostly pertaining to electronic devices, digital media storing devices, clothing, and objects connected with illegal cannabis production. The warrant also stated that they could come back within 10 days of the raid to confiscate other electronic devises, specifically cell phones.

The person whose homicide case they were conducting the raid in conjunction to was in prison for other charges during the time of the raid and had been behind bars for at least a month.

The raid started at approx. 7 am, with one of the residents spotting armed police officers and federal agents approaching the house across the street, the officers then approached the front door, coming through the gate and busted in, flashing a search warrant at the resident who answered the door. They busted all of the residents o of the Music Box out of their bedrooms and forced us all to wait outside in the front of our house, forced to pee in front of them, all of us in our underwear and pajamas for approximately 2 hours while they searched through our home, taking and breaking things leaving with what we saw to be 3 or 4 bags of things. No known electronic devices were taken. They originally told us we were detained but then that too was verbally retractted. They let us all take a look at a copy of the warrant that they left for us. They attempted to interrogate some of the residents about the suspects character, his whereabouts and asking if he had ever attempted to get them to do illegal things with them. One of the residents was put into handcuffs after they went to get a pack of cigarettes.
Continue reading

Is the FBI attempting to snitch-jacket Richard Aoki?

A refutation of a previous article we posted about Richard Aoki being an FBI informant
By Fred Ho

FRED HO REFUTES THE CLAIM THAT RICHARD AOKI WAS AN FBI INFORMANT August 21, 2012

I knew Richard Aoki from the period of the late 1990s to the end of his life in 2009. Prior to the publication of Diane Fujino’s book, SAMURAI AMONG PANTHERS (University of Minnesota Press), I probably was the main person who had published the most about Aoki (c.f., Legacy to Liberation: Politics and Culture of Revolutionary Asian Pacific America, AK Press).

In fact, Richard Aoki and I spoke on the telephone a day or two
before he killed himself. During the Spring of 2009 we were in regular contact via telephone (as he was in the Bay Area and I in New York City) as I had undergone another surgery in the cancer war I have been fighting since 2006, and he was facing major illness and deterioration, hospitalized during this time. Richard regularly contacted me as he was very concerned about my dying, and I was concerned for him as well.

We had a very special relationship that allows me to easily, comfortably and assertively rebut the claims made by the two proponents of the accusation that Richard Aoki was an FBI informant.

What was our special relationship? Richard was exasperated at how creative, revolutionary ideology had seriously waned, both from Panther veterans and from the younger generation stuck in the Non-Profit Industrial Complex mode of organization and their “activistism” (or what I humorously proffer as “activistitis”, the political tendency to be tremendously busy with activism but failing to have a revolutionary vision guide and dominate that activism). As Fujino remarks, Aoki viewed me as someone with creative revolutionary ideology and he sought me out and we shared many discussions and a special closeness. (Note: Aoki did not know the brilliant political prisoner, Russell Maroon Shoatz, someone who now at age 68, could go toe-to-toe ideologically with Richard Aoki!)

Why would an FBI agent do this, almost 50 years past the hoorah days of the Sixties? It is implied by the calumnious assertions by journalist Seth Rosenfeld (whose book is opportunistically coming out today: Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicalism, and Reagan’s Rise to Power, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) that Aoki was probably still an agent even to the time of his death, though, like the rest of the “evidence” or assertions by Rosenfeld, never substantiated or clearly documented.

That is because Aoki NEVER was an agent, and unlike many of the prominent Panthers (notably Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton), remained a revolutionary for life and never degenerated into self-obsession and egomania. To the end of his life, Aoki could go toe-to-toe with any revolutionary intellectual, theorist or organizer on the complexities and challenges of revolutionary theory, including the U.S. “national question,” socialism, etc.
Continue reading

Interview and Documents from FBI Raid Show Feds are Targeting Anarchists

From Portland Mercury blog, via Anarchist News:

The first interview with any of the Portlanders who were served grand jury subpoenas as FBI agents searched their homes on Wednesday, July 25, shines some light on what authorities may be hoping to achieve with the raids.

Dennison Williams was in bed at his house on NE 8th Avenue on Wednesday morning when he heard a bang and someone shout, “FBI!” Then came a loud crash, which turned out to be agents breaking down his front door, and Williams heard a bang and a saw a flash of light—the agents throwing flash grenades. Williams started yelling from his bed that he was upstairs and unarmed.

“I was scared,” he said. “The police in this town have a history of shooting people, I was worried they would accidentally shoot me.”

According to Williams, FBI officers entered his room with assault rifles and kept them aimed at him while they handcuffed him. They put him in a chair for about 30 minutes while they searched his house. Williams says there were about 15 FBI officers in the house, plus one Portland police officer on the street outside. According to the property receipt Williams received from the officers, the feds seized several items, including his computer, phone, hard-drive, two thumb drives, and various clothes (including black jeans, black t-shirt, and a black bandana). They then served him a subpoena to appear at a grand jury in Seattle next Thursday, August 2nd.

Williams is not sure exactly what the grand jury is meeting about, but that likely they want to ask him about other people. The FBI has said only that the raids are part of an ongoing “violent crime” investigation.

“It’s related to political opposition, it’s related to political dissent,” says Williams. “They’re trying to create a wedge within people who are resistors… They’re specifically pursuing anarchists.”

The FBI search warrant states that they are looking to seize items which may be evidence regarding the crimes of conspiracy to destroy government property, interstate travel with intent to riot, and conspiracy to travel interstate with intent to riot. Those items include: Clothing and related items work during commission of offenses; paint; sticks and flags similar to those used or carried during the commission of the offenses, and material for making flags; anti-government or anarchist literature, documentation or communications related to the offenses, flares, computers or electronic storage media of any kind.

On July 10th, Seattle police officers staged a similar raid on the house of some Occupy Mayday protesters in Seattle. On the day Williams’ house and two other houses in Portland were searched, the FBI served grand jury subpoenas to people in Olympia and Seattle, as well. Williams was not sure how many people were served subpoenas, but thinks it is somewhere around seven people, and says he “will not cooperate” with the grand jury. Anyone who refuses to testify when subpoenaed can potentially face jail time.

Political supporters calling themselves the “Committee Against Political Repression” have already set up a website to post information about the case and take donations to the legal fund: NoPoliticalRepression.wordpress.com. There, they’ve posted a “solidarity statement” from numerous activist groups condemning the “series of coordinated raids.”