Community protest the murder of Ronell Foster by
The family of Ronell Foster protest his murder by Vallejo police officer Ryan McMahn. | Photo: Terri Kay

Whom do police serve, and what do they protect?

The  killers of Willie McCoy a.k.a. rapper Willie Boar are not a mystery.  Their names are Ryan McMahon, Collin Eaton, Bryan Glick, Jordon Patzer, Anthony Romero-Cano and Mark Thompson who were officers of the Vallejo Police Department. In February of this year while he was sleeping in his car, these killer cops fired 55 rounds over 3.5 seconds into the body of the 20 year old in a fast food establishment’s parking lot. According to Oakland attorney Melissa Nold, he was shot in the “center of his face and throat and blowing off part of his ear.” He was also shot in the chest, shoulder, and arm. The police claimed they tried to wake him. They claim he was reaching for a gun in his lap. His family disputed this. When body cam footage was released, the police claims were put to the lie. No gun was revealed in the footage, and more to the point, they made no effort to wake him. Instead, they stood around the car, talking calmly about five minutes. They pointed their firearms at his head for over a minute, firing when the victim scratched his shoulder. His family described his killing as an execution by firing squad. The video reveals this description to be apt.

 

A sign demanding PG&E to turn the power back on.
Photo: Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

PG&E’s shutoff: at the intersection of electric and ruling class power

It is unconscionable that people are at the mercy of private utilities’ billionaire CEOs and board members. While responsible for the ravages of climate catastrophe and resulting wildfires, these same parasites refuse to spend the money needed to avert the disasters they continuously leave in their wake in order to get even more money for themselves and their cronies. This is a state of affairs that can and will be destroyed as we join as one  to control production under our own ownership for our common good. This is a revolutionary project, and will require solidarity between the people who do the work of the world. We can and will win this fight, and the time to start is today.

 

Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña
 Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña (1782 – 1831) Mexican revolutionary leader and President. Anacleto Escutia (1850)

Invader or invaded?

The stochastic terrorist doesn’t need to pick up a gun or build a bomb. Their weapon is their ability to influence and inspire. They throw incendiary rhetoric into a volatile environment inhabited by extremists, fully understanding that it will inspire an act of terror. Trump, and his gang at Fox fit this description. During the 2016 campaign, Trump talked about “second amendment people” being the only ones who could “do something about” a problem, he understood what he was saying, who would hear it, and what it might inspire. And indeed, “second amendment people” have been extremely active in the years since. When Trump, or Ingraham, or Carlson, or any number of far right voices invoke “invasion” they’re doing something very specific. Likening the presence of Latinx people to an invasion is an invocation of the language of military aggression. There are few appropriate responses to military aggression; all are militant, most are violently so. This notion frames those with privilege as being in a position of self-defense, and self defense justifies violence.

 

Trump as god?
Photo: Irish Times

The Church of Trump

In the summer of 2016 during the height of that year’s presidential campaign, Pat Robertson claimed to have a vision. The chairman of the Christian Broadcast Network, who infamously blamed the attacks of 9/11 on the ACLU, pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, and  lesbians, said:

“God came to me in a dream last night and showed me the future. He took me to heaven and I saw Donald Trump seated at the right hand of our Lord.” It’s important to understand the significance of Trump’s positioning at the right hand of God carries to the Evangelical right. This is a reference to Christian doctrine, as expressed in the Book of Mark 16:19 which reads: “So then the Lord Jesus…. was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” Within the Bible and Christian theology, the right hand of God is reserved for Jesus. Many denominations follow and recite the Nicene Creed weekly during worship services, a congregation as one expressing their belief that Jesus ascended into heaven ans is seated at the right hand. This was a statement that Trump has the same significance and holy station as Jesus. It expressed the belief that he effectively IS Jesus.

 

Still from the film Birth of a Nation, quoting Woodrow Wilson. | Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Trumpism: The Nature of the Beast

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The capitalist class and fascism go hand in glove. In 1933 Major General Smedley Butler claimed that wealthy businessmen were plotting to create a fascist veterans’ organization and use it in a coup d’état to overthrow President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt. This came to be known as the Business Plot.  In 1934, Butler testified to the Special Committee on Un-American Activities (the “McCormackDickstein Committee”) about this claim. Newspapers pilloried Butler for the allegations; nevertheless, in the opinion of the committee, these allegations were deemed to be credible.

Butler, who is still studied by military tacticians, was no stranger to the violent depravity of American capitalists. In his book War Is A Racket, he compared his military career to being a “gangster for capitalism,” and shamefully admitted:

“I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”

A direct line can be drawn between the use of military force described here by Butler and today’s asylum seekers who are being caged by ICE.

 

Chelsea Manning
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Chelsea Manning: State torture and the red stripe

Why has Chelsea Manning been kept in solitary confinement? The use of torture as an attempt to compel Manning to cooperate with the grand jury seems an obvious reason, but this sort of devious artifice tends not to be the one acknowledged by the powers who utilize it, so what justification does the “justice” system offer? Quite tellingly for Manning, Sheriff Lawhorne invokes “safety and security reasons.”

Trans and gender nonconforming people are often subjected to this form of torture under the justification of “safety.” We are to believe that their coexistence in gendered prisons place them and their fellow inmates in jeopardy. This stated concern for safety is naturally not extended to critique the use of men as guards in women’s prisons, a problem that actually exists in the real world. This is because truth and reality are beside the point. This is the familiar cocktail of hate and fear that has ever been used to poison transgender peoples in the policies of the oppressor class. This is the foul venom that drives transphobic bathroom bills. The belief is that a transgender woman, by virtue of being a trans woman, is by nature a predator. Should she have a penis, the reasoning goes, she intends to use it to rape. Should she no longer have one, then she is a twisted soul who has “mutilated herself” and therefore is a threat to “decent people.”

 

Climate-change-protest-by Garry Knight
Photo : Garry Knight

Socialism or extinction?

Some have hoped that capitalism would be the force to stave off the very disaster it has brought upon us. For decades, neoliberal ideologues such as former Democratic presidential candidate and vice president Al Gore have championed “green capitalism” as a solution to climate catastrophe. Products like energy efficient light bulbs and solar panels would reduce energy consumption, they argued, while profiting corporations. Building wind farms and solar farms could create whole new avenues of revenue for entrepreneurs to pursue they reasoned. Of course, the influence that the fossil fuel industry can buy has stood in the way of any meaningful transition to renewable and efficient power sources. Indeed, the nature of laissez-faire capitalism forbids any such “green capitalist” transition. The inefficiency of fossil fuels is not a disincentive to profit. To the contrary, it means theirs is a product that needs constant replenishment which allows them to sell it on a constant basis.

 

Lt Christopher Hasson of the US Coast Guard with weapons.
Lt. Christopher Hasson of the United States Coast Guard was arrested on February 15 for intending to commit mass murder. Fifteen guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition were seized from his home. | Photo: Facebook / U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland

The Coast Guard Nazi: A symptom of the system

In a 1996 paper titled “Rise of Domestic Terrorism and Its Relation to United States Armed Forces,” Lieutenant Commander Steven Mack Presley of the U.S. Navy’s Medical Corps presented to his superiors a history of extremist violence linked to the military from the Civil War to the time of his writing. A paragraph beginning with discussions of 1970s Klan activity in the armed forces leads to this description of the notorious Frazier Glenn Miller: “In 1979 the Army discharged a sergeant named Glenn Miller for distributing racist literature, after which he founded the White Patriots Party which espoused the violent takeover of the United States government, including the mass slayings of high officials and minorities…. Presley continued with,

“Miller was arrested and stood trial on other charges in 1986, during which Robert Norman Jones, a prosecution witness and former Marine, testified that the White Patriots Party had obtained more than $50,000 of anti-personnel mines, grenades and other ordinance stolen from sources at Fort Bragg and that active-duty soldiers had helped him train party members in tactics and the use of those weapons. Klanwatch Project in Montgomery, Alabama implicated ten active-duty Marines as being members of the White Patriots Party in a related case in 1986. Three of the Marines were eventually discharged as a result.”

 

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez died in custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in May 2018. New information in an independent autopsy shows that she was severely beaten while in ICE custody. | Photo: Transgender Law Center

Death of transgender migrant bears legacy of imperialist horrors

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, a 33-year-old Honduran transgender woman, died on May 25, 2018, in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Officials proclaimed her death as being a result of complications due to HIV. A recently released independent autopsy paid for by the Transgender Law Center has added a new wrinkle that government officials left out: she had been severely beaten while in the custody of the state.

This autopsy was conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Kris Sperry. Dr. Sperry did not find bruising on her skin, but did discover profound hemorrhaging of deep tissues and muscles that indicate that she had suffered violence. The timeline under which this violence was inflicted upon her is unknown.

ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said that “allegations that she was abused in ICE custody are false” but offered no explanation of the findings. Fellow detainees interviewed in the course of determining her true cause of death have stated that she had displayed symptoms that indicated severe dehydration over the course of the many days she suffered without medical care. She was only treated, they claim, once she became gravely ill. Marbeli Bustillo, 23, a fellow detainee, recalls that once she was taken for treatment, prisoners received no further word about her. What happened since, only agents of the state seem to know.

 

Oakland residents gather to protest the killing of Alan Blueford by an Oakland police officer.
Oakland residents gather to protest the killing of Alan Blueford by an Oakland police officer. (March 5, 2013) | Photo: Daniel Arauz

Despite rampant abuse, Oakland rushes through pay raise for police

On November 30, 2018 the City Council of Oakland, California, voted to approve a raise of 12.5 percent for the officers of the Oakland Police Department. They did this quickly and without soliciting feedback from the public, in advance of a turnover in city government that will soon swear in more progressive candidates elected in November. Tellingly, this also happened seven months before the expiration of a current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that set the wages of this heavily militarized force. The councilmembers attempted to accomplish this in secret, but the vigilance of community members and organizations such as the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) got the word out. The community mobilized at the eleventh hour, rallying community members to protest.

The Oakland Police Department has until now been awarded a staggering 41 percent of the city budget, the highest percentage tracked in a report created in collaboration between The Center for Popular Democracy, Law for Black Lives and the Black Youth Project 100. This study examined 10 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., including New York City, Los Angeles and Detroit. It concluded that investment in mental health, housing, youth programs and living wages are more effective in establishing thriving communities than police funding. Notably, this raise was approved the same week the Oakland PD broke up the Housing And Dignity Village camp for homeless women. A United Nations report condemned Oakland and San Francisco for committing human rights violations against their homeless populations. While police continue to leech these cities’ financial resources, there have been no meaningful attempts to correct the U.N.’s damning findings.

 

Detroit protest for trans rights, October 26.
Detroit protest for trans rights, October 26. 2018 Photo: Daymon J. Hartley

‘Justice’ Department wants transphobia enshrined

Three days after the leak of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services memo outlining its plan to narrowly define people’s sex (and gender) based on genitals at birth, another front in Trump’s war on transgender people opened.

The Department of Justice sent a brief to the Supreme Court on October 24 telling them that civil rights laws forbidding discrimination based on sex did not apply to transgender persons. Moreover, the brief asked them to hear three cases in which lower courts have upheld the interpretation that has protected trans and intersex people. The administration’s goal is to allow employers to fire and refuse to hire trans and intersex people, who are already a brutally marginalized population.

The execution of these reactionary policies, while yet restrained by constitutional constraints, is intended to rob transgender people of the ability to procure the material needs of survival. In late 2017, it was found that the trans population faced a 16 percent unemployment rate, as compared to 9 percent for the general population. It is not likely that this discrimination has eased over the past year. Coupled with the government’s removal of all references to trans people or the trans experience from the websites for the U.S. Health Department and the Office of Civil Rights, we can clearly see these actions as a form of ultimatum. Trans people are to either become invisible by conforming to the narrow constraints of these reactionary views of gender and sexuality, or we die.

The administration’s insistence that its actions are done with the intent of “protecting Americans” is not only dehumanizing, but underscores that they see us as a threat which needs to stop existing. Given the astronomic suicide rate in these affected communities, it is certain that many will die because of this bigotry.

 

Trans protest, Washington, D.C., October 22.
Washington, D.C., October 22. PHOTO: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Shutterstock

New offensive in Trump’s war on transgender people

The hostility toward transgender people by this craven administration is nothing new. Indeed, rescinding civil rights protections for the trans community has been a priority from the beginning. A month after the 2017 inauguration, it turned back protections that allowed students to use bathroom facilities according to their self-identified gender. This has been a vital protection for a community that regularly suffers violence in public restrooms.

Then, Trump attempted to ban transgender people from military service. While U.S. military might serves to impose imperialist rule over the global south, the “poverty draft” has been a means of survival and subsistence for oppressed peoples. Transgender people, especially those of color, suffer profound economic disenfranchisement and this path out of poverty must be acknowledged.

The cruelty of this act was appreciated by those enacting it. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior official who spoke of their political opponents by saying, “It will be fun to watch some of them have to defend [transgender service members].” Ultimately, the courts overturned this ban. The proximity of this latest assault on trans rights to the swearing in of far-right Supreme Court justice and sexual offender Brett Kavanaugh, after nearly two years of stacking the courts with reactionary judges, is noteworthy.