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.

Better This World: New documentary about the Texas 2 premiering at SXSW

Secret government informant “Karen Sullivan” infiltrated Minnesota activist groups

Karen SullivanFrom Citypages:

The Twin Cities activists who had their homes raided by the FBI last September are starting to learn more about why they’re being investigated by a Chicago grand jury in relation to material support of terrorism.

Lawyers for the activists have learned from prosecutors that the feds sent an undercover law enforcement agent to infiltrate the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee in April 2008, just as the group was planning its licensed protests at the Republican National Convention.

Going by the name “Karen Sullivan,” the agent blended in with the many new faces the Committee was seeing at meetings in the lead-up to the RNC. But she stayed active afterward, attending virtually every meeting.

“She presented herself as a lesbian with a teenage daughter, and said she had a difficult relationship with her daughter’s father, which is one of the reasons she gave us for not being more transparent about her story,” says Jess Sundin, a member of the Anti-War Committee and one of the activists who has received a subpoena from the Chicago grand jury. “It was a sympathetic story for a lot of us.”

Sullivan told the group she was originally from Boston but that she had had a rough childhood and was estranged from her family. She said she had spent some time in Northern Ireland working with Republican solidarity groups.
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Setting the record straight: FBI surveillance and Iowa City

From The Daily Iowan

We speak as some former members of an anarchist group from Iowa City no longer in existence, Wild Rose Rebellion. Recently, the Des Moines Register came out with a story detailing the FBI’s extensive surveillance while we planned attendance at the protest at the 2008 Republican National Convention. It has become obvious to us that there are a lot of misconceptions floating around, so we thought you might like to hear our take on the issue.

From the Palmer Raids and the Red Scare of the 20th century to the prosecution of animal-rights activists and protest organizers of today, our history is full of stories about civil-rights leaders, union organizers, and activists of all stripes being under surveillance — and often prosecuted — by the federal government. We were not surprised this happened to us. From our very first meeting, we shared stories about what had happened to those who protested at the conventions of 2004 and what we could expect to encounter.

Eight organizers of the 2008 Republican National Convention protests from Minneapolis-St. Paul were initially charged with “conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism.” Four still face trial, including for “conspiracy to riot” — historically, a charge brought when nothing else exists to prosecute organizers.

The extensive surveillance and infiltration of their above-ground work by federal authorities was one part of the same effort used against us here in Iowa City. The documents released also show that authorities attempted to connect our organizing work to animal- and environmental-liberation activities, something authorities have been criminalizing to a greater degree in recent years — the “Green Scare,” as some have labeled it. We condemn this repression and declare our solidarity with those under such persecution.

Like many involved in work for social transformation, we are working-class people with rather limited resources. Not everyone involved in the planning could actually go to the convention, but they helped as they could with such items as gas money and helping get the word out. The idea of facing serious federal charges for protest activity is certainly a scary one.

However, the problem for us is not that the authorities went through our trash and watched us walk from our meetings at the library to a restaurant, bar, or grocery store. The real problem is that this seems intended to intimidate people from getting involved in such work.

Whether you think it was a good idea for the FBI to kept an eye on us just in case we were “dangerous extremists” or you are outraged at the waste of taxpayer money and intrusion on our rights, the bottom line is that you should know this goes on. You should know what the FBI is doing and the effect that it has on dissent. You should know what we are doing and why. That message seems lost in the controversy.

Besides the protest activity in question, members of our group worked on a number of issues, from supporting a union picket of Wells Fargo Bank to putting on a benefit for those affected by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids here in Iowa. We also confronted neo-Nazis in Des Moines and helped organize a community garden in Iowa City.

Simply put, we are for directly democratic and self-organized social movements, and we continue to be involved in such projects.

FBI Spied Extensively on Anti-War Activists in Iowa

Iowa activists drew extensive FBI scrutiny

September 20, 2010

The FBI’s surveillance of a protest group in Iowa City prior to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., two years ago was far more extensive than initially reported, newly obtained FBI documents show.

Agents staked out the homes of political activists, secretly photographed and shot video of them, pored through their garbage, and studied their cell phone and motor vehicle records, according to records detailing the FBI’s counterterrorism investigation.

Federal agents and other law enforcement officers also watched and documented the protesters’ comings and goings at such places as the Iowa City Public Library; the New Pioneer Co-op natural foods store; the Red Avocado restaurant and the Deadwood Tavern; and the Wesley Center campus ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The FBI’s nine-month investigation in 2008 is detailed in more than 300 pages of documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act by David Goodner, a former member of the University of Iowa’s Antiwar Committee, and provided to The Des Moines Register.

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RNC 8: Charges dropped for 3 of the 7 remaining defendants!

The RNC 8 received some surprising news Thursday afternoon – charges against Luce Guillen-Givins, Monica Bicking and Eryn Trimmer have been dropped!

The fact that charges have been dismissed against these three members of what Ramsey County has for two years labeled a “criminal enterprise” exposes the political motivations behind this case. Although today’s news is an amazing development, charges against four of the eight defendants still remain and must continue to be fought with renewed strength.

Thanks to everyone who has struggled alongside the 8 and the RNC 8 Defense Committee to help get these charges dropped – and please join us as we continue to seek justice for Max, Rob, Garrett and Nathanael. We’ll post more information and analysis on this development soon -stay tuned.

RNC 8: Erik Oseland to plead guilty

Denver folks should remember that the RNC 8 will be one of the main subjects of the Conspiracy Tour presentation happening tomorrow (Thursday August 12th) at the 27 Social Centre here in Denver at 6pm.

Statement from the RNC 8 (RNC 7?):

It is with great disappointment that we share the news that our co-defendant, Erik Oseland, has decided to take a plea agreement as early as Monday, August 23rd. He has informed us that he will plead guilty to one count of gross misdemeanor conspiracy to commit riot, which is riot “without a dangerous weapon,” a charge which bears a maximum 1-year sentence. We will send out the exact date and time of the hearing as soon as we know it, for those who wish to attend.

Erik has told us that this is a non-cooperating plea agreement, and we want to make absolutely clear that *we ARE NOT treating Erik as a cooperator*, and *we ARE NOT asking people to withdraw their support from him.* We do fear that any plea agreement offered by the State has the potential to hurt the rest of us, but we are reserving further comment on the matter until the hearing has taken place and we’ve been able to review the final resolution of Erik’s case.

Erik’s decision to take a plea, while a break from the rest of us and our beliefs about the case, is not a break with the approach he has long held towards our defense strategy. We know that plea agreements are often used as a “divide and conquer” tactic by the State, and it is important to us that everyone take care to prevent this turn of events from becoming divisive and furthering the State’s strategy of undermining resistance movements.

The court system is a government tool that uses coercion and manipulation in its attempts to control all of us. It has nothing to do with truth or justice. The 7 of us remaining believe there are times when it is prudent to stand your ground and fight even if the terms of struggle are not ideal. We are fully committed to fighting this all the way through trial, as we always have been. We are grateful for the support of all of you.

In Solidarity,
Luce Guillen-Givins, Max Specktor, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, Robert Czernik and Garrett Fitzgerald.

CRASS (Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure) releases new zine about RNC arrestee support efforts

CRASSThe CRASS Zine Project Working Group is pleased to announce the release of its much-anticipated zine about arrestee support efforts before, during, and after the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN.

The idea for this zine came about way back in the initial days of forming CRASS, and it was borne out of a sincere need to reflect on our efforts and share our successes and failures with the movement at large to help strengthen it. This zine is intended both as a critical examination for ourselves and other interested parties (no, not you, officer), and as a how-to guide for communities gearing up for a large mobilization in their neck of the woods. There are things we did really well, about which most of us remain proud and that we tend to think you could benefit from replicating. There are things we did poorly, and we hope you don’t fuck up in the same ways. There are things we wish we’d done, or thought of, or did better, and maybe they can be implemented down the road by someone more prepared…someone like you.
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RNC 8: Report from 5th day of hearings

On Friday, we heard the testimony of Chris Dugger, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Dugger started attending Welcoming Committee meetings in November of ’07. He was told to “listen and figure out what they were up to.” He didn’t start getting paid until spring of ’08, and was deputized at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department after the RNC.

He was not informed much about the WC or anarchist philosophy before being sent in, but was told to read up on the Welcoming Committee website. He said that he developed a better understanding of anarchism in his time with the group, but not a full one. His understanding of anarchism is that it’s “kinda broad” and he “can’t cover everything,” but that it is “anti-government, anti-capitalist, and anti-law enforcement.” Later, when asked whether he considered anarchism to be a political philosophy, he said that he thinks it is more than that to the people he met, that it is a way of living by their beliefs. He said that anarchists can’t be recognized by how they look, and don’t have a uniform. He agreed that they had shared food and lodging and support for each other and for him.

Dugger discussed trips that he took with Welcoming Committee members to Madison, WI, for a conference, and to Waldo, WI, for the 2008 CrimethInc. Convergence. In Madison, he attended a workshop on direct action tactics led by Lisa Fithian. He does not recall if any of those tactics included violence or destruction of property. He described the CrimethInc. Convergence as a kind of a gathering where different workshops were taught, not just about protesting. He did not recall there being any workshops about harming people or property.
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RNC 8: Report from 4th day of hearings

Today was the fourth day of the RNC 8 hearings. Most of the day was spent questioning Sergeant Jay Maher of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department Defend the RNC 8Special Investigations Unit, who conducted extensive surveillance leading up to and following the RNC, worked with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department informants and supervised some of the raids. Chris Dugger, another Welcoming Committee informant, was unavailable to testify today, and will take the stand tomorrow morning.

Maher talked about the initiation of the investigation into the RNC WC. He said that as soon as the RNC was announced, they knew there would be protests and they were assigned to look into “open source” information to find out if there were indications that there would be illegal activity. They began the investigation by simply Googling RNC and related terms “to see what would come up.” They decided to investigate the Welcoming Committee based on posts on their website and the “We’re Getting Ready” video, which he said he found “disturbing.” He testified that he did not recognize it as satire. He saw it as an open invitation for protesters to use the tactics depicted in the video at the convention (one of the defense lawyers asked sardonically whether he was referring to the use of Molotov cocktails to light barbecue grills). Prosecutor Derek Fitch pointed to the fact that Molotov cocktails and shields were seized in advance of the convention from people from elsewhere who were not Welcoming Committee members as evidence that this was true.
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