Thursday, January 26, 2006

The North Shore Rapist Is Caught - Guess Who?

The rapist is a cop.
That’s the punch line, the plate of steaming shit that we are being served as if it were just another dish at the local diner.
But i’ve tumbled ahead of myself… let’s go back to the beginning and recap:


Back in October, the police announced that there was a serial rapist attacking women on Montreal’s North Shore. Eight women had come forward since May 2004, and gawd-only-knows how many others had been raped and not gone to the police. And yet it took until spring 2005 for "the authorities" to realize there was a serial rapist – this despite two attacks occurring within ten days of each other in St-Jerome in summer 2004, and three different attacks occurring in Laval.

This late realization – call it incompetence or willful ignorance or simply a lie – was bad enough, but what made me particularly angry at the time was the cops admitted staying quiet about this throughout the summer “because making details available would have hurt the investigation”, which involved putting undercover cops on buses.

As i wrote at the time:

Putting decoys on buses sounds like a great idea, but think a moment: how would warning women in any way interfere with this? Well, he says it: warn women and “the offender is likely to alter his patterns” – don’t warn women, and the rapist will keep to his pattern!

Don’t warn women, and women won’t take any special precautions to protect themselves, so he’ll keep on raping them on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and hopefully eventually he’ll stumble upon a decoy and the police can say they saved the day!

Well, as it turns out our rape-happy mystery man never did stumble on any of these decoys. Apart from the fact that women weren’t warned even after the police figured they had a guy with a very specific m.o. (and at least one was raped during this period – in June 2005), their master-plan was without effect.

Just Beavis and Butthead pretending to be Dick Tracy.

I’ll not dwell on that now, i’ll move on, because as i noted earlier, we have something bigger than that to contemplate, more nasty and in your face than incompetence or callous manipulations.

Coz like i said at the beginning  this posting, it now looks like the man who raped at least eight women was himself a cop. Don’t believe me? Look, it's right there in that three inch news brief on page A8 of the Montreal Gazette:

Montreal cop accused of rapes
A man identified as a Montreal police officer and accused of committing rapes in Laval, St. Jerome and Terrebonne was arrested yesterday. A task force led by the Surete du Quebec and including police investigators from those three cities arrested the 34-year old. He is to be charged today with one count of sexual assault stemming from an incident in St. Jerome on June 30. The victims, aged 15 to 20, were attacked near bicycle paths, SQ constable Chantal Mackels said. The Montreal police force is to offer its reaction at a press conference today.

The Gazette – as always when police are abusing people (just look at their Mohamed Annas Bennis coverage) – is not even pretending to take this seriously. The “North Shore Rapist” who merited a front page story in October is now only worth a news brief. To find out that the raping policeman’s name is Benoit Guay, to read the details of his attacks and learn that he made a point of targeting teenagers, one has to check out the Journal de Montreal… but i digress.

Back in October, when i first wrote about this case, i suggested that the solution lay not in more police, but in women’s organized self-defense:

Regardless of whether you are anti-cop or not, an anarchist or a liberal, you have to admit that the police are just not able to deal with this problem, and unless you think rape and murder of women aren’t problems that need dealing with…

Avoiding completely the question of whether we even want police in our communities, there is an obvious need to develop our own capacities for collective self-defense. Call it “safety” or call it “armed struggle” or call it a “feminist guerilla”, there is a particular need for women to develop their capacities, because – sad to say – even a left-wing or anarchist group led by us guys will most likely be unable to effectively appraise and intervene in cases of male violence against women.

Today’s news amplifies the above.
It’s not that organized self-defense would be easy, obvious or even guaranteed success.
But how long can we live with the alternative?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Back Soon

My apologies for not writing recently – i had the pleasure of spending almost a week out of town, on one of my semi-annual pilgrimages to Toronto.

I will be back to business soon, i promise…

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Transphobic Abuse in Nepal [BBC]

From the BBC:

Nepal transsexual 'abuse' concern  

A leading human rights group has written to Nepal's government voicing concern over what it calls continuing police abuse of transsexuals.
Human Rights Watch says there has been a pattern of arbitrary arrests and violence against "Metis", who identify themselves as women.

The organisation has called for a full investigations of such abuse and appropriate punishments.

Police in Nepal say they are taking the allegations very seriously.

However, the head of a human rights cell in the police said many of the Metis were working as prostitutes and that as this was illegal in Nepal, raids on hotels were "permissible".

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says Metis are a common sight in the city's streets late at night.

Job skills

Human Rights Watch said that in the past few weeks, Metis had been detained without warrants, badly beaten, burned with cigarettes, forced to strip and even had guns pointed at them.

Similar allegations - sometimes with photographic evidence - are regularly made by the Blue Diamond Society, a charity working among Nepal's transsexuals.

The officer said the police were in dialogue with Blue Diamond on how to train the Metis in other job skills.

Blue Diamond is the subject of a lawsuit by a conservative lawyer who wants it closed down.

However, the government has said there are no legal grounds for doing so.

Now i have two questions:

  • why did the BBC headline its article Nepal transsexual 'abuse' concern - why was abuse in quotation marks? Is it because the BBC is an ‘objective’ bourgeois news source?

  • There is a Maoist insurgency poised to take power in Nepal – how is this likely to impact Kathmandu’s transsexuals?

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Appeal From Action Directe Prisoners [FRANCE]

Action Directe was an armed organization which was active in France in the 1980s. AD grew out of the French autonomist scene and drew heavy inspiration from both the struggles of the Third World proletariat and the intellectual legacy of the new communist currents of the 1960s and 70s. It carried out a number of spectacular attacks, many of which were in cooperation with Germany's Red Army Faction. On February 21st, 1987, Nathalie Ménigon, Georges Cipriani, Jean-Marc Rouillan and Joëlle Aubron were apprehended by the French State, effectively putting an end to the organization.


Through their actions AD attempted to tie the struggles of the French proletariat to the international struggle against imperialism. They have paid an incredible price – nineteen years behind bars – and yet remain militant and outspoken critics of imperialism and capitalism.  

What follows is an Appeal from the prisoners, that has been distributed in French by the Ne Laissons Pas Faire collective [very roughly translated: “Don’t Let Them Do This To Us” Collective]. As this February will mark the beginning of their twentieth year behind bars, they have called on people to demonstrate in front of the prisons where they are being held:

Appeal from Action Directe Prisoners

As we enter our twentieth year of incarceration, we are asking people to gather in solidarity in front of our places of detention on this coming February 25th.

Over the past year the sentencing tribunals rejected our requests for conditional release in the name of that eternal blackmail: if one wants to be free one must repent.

What this means in concrete terms is that we remain imprisoned because we have declared ourselves to be on the side of Revolution; because despite everything we still believe that the anti-imperialist struggle is key; and, finally, because we refuse to condemn the insurrectionary violence of our class and its guerillas around the world, from Palestine to Colombia.

During this second round of mobilizations in February, we call for solidarity with Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, an Arab Communist who has been imprisoned since 1984. Our support should be expressed in front of the Lannemezan Central where he is being held, and also in front of the Bapaume and Ensisheim prisons. We fought the same enemy together and we have experienced the same daily violence within the prison system. Our bond cannot be broken. Through him, we are in solidarity with all of the comrades from the revolutionary anti-imperialist left who refuse to renounce their past commitments and actions. The vengeful State violence that confronts political prisoners is the expression of the reactionary wave that has flooded the entire entire country. On this terrain too we must spread and reinforce resistance.
Solidarity is a weapon! Seguiremos adelante!

Action Directe prisoners: Nathalie Ménigon, Georges Cipriani, Jean-Marc Rouillan, Joëlle Aubron (whose sentence has been suspended)
January 6th, 2006

Please note that i translated the above, and that (as always) my translation style is loose and fast – my priority is keeping the meaning accurate and conveying the feeling of what is being said, not maintaining some kind of word-by-word parity. Just because i translate something does not mean that i agree with it, so i should specify in this case that i wholeheartedly endorse this call for solidarity rallies, and think that it would be great if those of us who do not live in France took this opportunity to demonstrate in front of French consulates and embassies on the 25th.

If anyone makes such plans please let me know and i will post them here.

NLPF, which is devoted to supporting the AD prisoners, can be contacted at; they have a French-language bulletin you can subscribe to. One can also read more about Action Directe in French at the Action Directe International Campaign and Agence de Presse Associative websites.

Also: i have translated three texts ("Short Collective Biography of Action Directe Prisoners", "Political Prisoners and the Question of Revolutionary Violence" and "Resistance is a Duty!") by Action Directe prisoners which are available in the pamphlet Three Essays by Action Directe email me if you would like to order a copy. I also translated an interview with Joëlle Aubron from the anarcho-punk webzine Future Noir, which you can view online.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

2005: France Was A Riot

Riot coverage of the 2005 Rebellion which swept France has been uploaded to my Kersplebedeb site, on the new 2005: France Was A Riot page.

Everything i posted to my blog is up there in chronological order, for what it is worth. I figure that way the information will be more accessible and easy to find than it would in the blog archives.

Sorry for the short posting… but it is a busy week!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Police Insist: "We Are Professionals And We Have No Interest In Hiding Anything"

There is an article about the police killing of Mohammed Anass Bennis in today’s Montreal Gazette (page A8) by Katherine Wilton – all about how the police are doing such a nice job investigating each other, and how they’ll be sure to let us know when they’re done.

Just sit tight kids, nothing to worry about at all:

Quebec City police investigating the shooting death last month of a Muslim man by Montreal police promised yesterday all the facts in the bizarre case will be made public once their work is complete.

“We are professionals and we have no interest in hiding anything,” said Constable Hughes Lavoie of Quebec City police, who were called in to investigate the Dec. 1 shooting of Mohammed Annas Bennis in Cote des Neiges.



I feel better aleady…

Simply put, what seems to have happened is this:

After effectively burying this case for a month (just three articles in the Gazette, for instance, none on the front page – similar coverage in the other press), last Saturday there was a demonstration organized by members of the Muslim community. The biggest demonstration about a cop killing in years – two thousand people – and this on the coldest day of the winter.

The Gazette tried to downplay this too – reporter Ann Carroll, who later admitted not even attending the march, simply wrote that “as many as 200 people rallied” – while other media reported that “hundreds” (CTV) or even “a thousand” (Journal de Montreal) people showed up.. None of them gave it the coverage that it deserved.

Nevertheless, a little is better than nothing at all – or in the eyes of the cops, worst than nothing at all – and so here they have to make their statements again, basically saying “Trust Us, We Know What We’re Doing.” (Which is what some of us are worried about…)

So now the cops want to reassure us that there is no need for a public inquiry and no need for transparency, because the police will eventually tell us what happened (once they’ve gathered, sifted, and sanitized the facts): “When the investigation is over, we will notify the media. But we never say anything about our findings until the investigation is complete.” (Constable Lavoie)

Again: this is a case where the police version of events was initially the only version presented in the media, and is still the main version. It is a case where protests by the community have been downplayed, and reassurances by the authorities have not been questioned. It is also a case where no reporters have done any real investigating of their own – we still don’t know the name of the cop who killed Bennis, we still don’t have any real understanding of why the surveillance tapes from the nearby Bell building have not been shown, there has been no pressure on the police to show the knife Bennis was allegedly wielding… the list of things that haven’t been looked into just goes on and on.

It makes me wonder… following the mass protests that surrounded the police killings of young Black men like Anthony Griffin and Marcellus Francois in the late 80s/early 90s, and after the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality and other groups managed to repeatedly call attention to police killings throughout the 90s… why are reporters so keen on not challenging the police and not actually reporting? Why are the papers burying these stories so much more than they did twenty years ago? Why are we no longer told the name of the cop who kills someone – shit, looking through the Gazette archives I note that in many cases we are not even told the name of their dead victims!

Is there some new media protocol for how to handle police killings?

Now that’s something that someone should report on…

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Upping the Anti, Identity Politics, etc.

I feel guilty.

It has been almost three weeks since i received my box of Upping the Anti – the Toronto journal of radical theory and action, put out by comrades from Autonomy and Solidarity – and still nothing on this blog about it…


…the problem is that the journal is actually really good. Lots of interesting interviews and “panel discussions,” and some good articles to boot - it feels like it deserves a thorough review, and as with any such daunting task the easiest way to approach it is procrastination.

Nevertheless, one can’t procrastinate for ever, and it really is a good journal… so why don’t we just begin at the beginning?

The editorial to UTA #1 explains that “Upping the Anti refers to our interest in engaging with three interwoven tendencies which have come to define much of the politics of today’s radical left in Canada: anti-capitalism, anti-oppression, and anti-imperialism.”

Developing this theme, the editorial to UTA #2 attempts to grapple specifically with what “anti-oppression” politics mean (we are told that the next issues will deal with anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism). Swimming against the current, UTA affirms the centrality of class but refuses to reject identity politics out of hand. Their analysis is pretty close to my own on this question – namely, that “anti-oppression politics” developed out of (but not against) the left, as a way of supporting and understanding people’s resistance to oppression beyond the edges of the obvious class struggle.

As their editorial puts it:

As activists, we are often initially radicalized through our inductions into “identities” of class, gender, race, sexuality, or culture. These identities emerged out of specific struggles against different forms and instances of oppression: from struggles against segregation, racism, and colonialism, to feminist struggles for reproductive rights and against male violence and to queer struggles against sexual repression and the gender binary. They also emerged out of a critique of the limitations and silences, both in terms of political strategy and organizational practice, of “malestream” socialist politics.

As these various struggles developed they came face to face with the failures of the “old left” to adequately conceptualize relations of oppression in capitalist society, and the failure of mass movements to address their own internal dynamics of domination and unequal power relations. In the first case, these new social movements came up against a class reductionist Marxism which often treated class itself as an undeclared identity for white, Western and male workers. Although there existed some marginalized Marxist groups and theorists who continued to analyze class as a relation and process of social formation, for the most part Marxism seemed unable to offer a liberatory alternative to either Western capitalism or Soviet Stalinism. While Marxist movements continued to be influential during the 1960s, identity politics and activism emerged both within and outside of Marxist circles as a way to address patterns of oppression that were too often ignored or dismissed.

I might quibble that this actually underplays the degree to which “anti-oppression politics” developed organically within the left, and exaggerates the hegemony of so-called “class reductionism” (at the risk of turning it into a strawman)... but recognizing that in our quite snippety activist culture even internal developments are often expressed as being antagonistic to what came before (ah, the romance of the S-M dialectic), i think the above account is more correct than incorrect.

Of course, “anti-oppression politics” eventually took the form of “identity politics,” which contained both radical and reactionary tendencies. Today most on the left would agree that the reactionary tendencies won out, but i believe that this was largely due to external factors.

Here’s how i see it: “anti-oppression politics” (if that’s what we’re calling it today) have been a constant aspect of revolutionary left-wing politics since gawd knows when, but what is called “identity politics” only crystallized in the 1980s – the very decade when a cycle of revolt culminated in defeat. The 1980s were the first decade after the wave of anti-colonial revolutions had been put in check. The 1980s were the decade that the Soviet Union was defeated – and while “the other superpower” had not been communist, its death nevertheless represented a right-wing victory. Throughout the world, the 1980s were a decade where the working class met with one setback after another. In the 1980s the last remnants of the revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s were pretty much mopped up.

Which of these factors were causes and which were effects can be debated, but it should be clear to all that for us the decade of Reagan and Thatcher was a decade of defeat.

This defeat was felt lastly and leastly in the privileged world of academia and related “activist circles.” It was here that what are now being called “anti-oppression struggles” crystallized into “identity politics.” In an age of defeat and located in these atypical milieux, it is easy to see why these “identity politics” often became moralistic, manipulative and demagogic. They were reflecting the perspective and culture of the university students and professional activists who developed them. But this fact should not be used to discount the liberatory perspective in which they were rooted…

(This process occurred alongside the triumph of “post-modernism,” and while i am no expert of the arcane debates that surround the latter, i smell a lot of parallels.)

As UTA quite excellently puts it:

in many cases, identity based “anti-oppression” politics have failed to develop a clear perspective on capitalism. The totality of class relations is often reduced to a “classist” attitude held by the rich or middle class and capitalism is generally thought of as an abstract, amorphous “thing” whose worst excesses are opposed on moral grounds. Within this rhetoric, “class” itself becomes simply one thread woven into a multi patched fabric of competing identities.

While social relations must not be reduced to political economy, class must be understood as a pervasive set of historically specific social relations of property, production, and social power that implicate everyone, and through which all of our oppressions are lived.

I am reminded of how political prisoner Bill Dunne underlines the need for “the incorporation into political consciousness of issues whose material significance is not yet understood.” Which i take as meaning that just because we do not yet see how they may factor into the class struggle, we can be sure that every fight against oppression includes a class dimension, and can and should be incorporated into the fight for a classless (and Stateless) society.

This is why i appreciate UTA’s willingness to engage with anti-oppression politics, because i consider the latter to be wholly part of the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. I know that even those comrades who most vehemently hate “identity politics,” will often agree that women’s issues, queer liberation and the like are all very important, but somehow “different from” other issues like fatphobia or ageism or ableism. I would argue that what may separate these categories is simply the success or failure of past struggles to reveal – as Dunne would put it – the “material significance” of these questions. And as we are all such pragmatic people, you gotta admit that sometimes this “revelation” has simply come in the form of seeing how many people can get so pissed off and so militant around such “secondary” questions.

More and his later, i promise…

For more information on Upping The Anti #1 and #2, you can check out the page i have up on my Kersplebedeb site.

Copies of Upping The Anti are available for $11.00 each postage included – you can email me at or just click on the icon below to order via PayPal.
Please get in touch for information about wholesale prices.

$10.00 + $1.00 postage!

$10.00 + $1.00 postage!

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Gazette Reporter "Did Not See The March"

I just received the following email from Ann Carroll, the Montreal Gazette reporter whose coverage of Saturday’s demonstration i criticized in yesterday’s post. Short and to the point, she writes:
I was at city hall at 12:30 and there were a couple of hundred people there at the time. I did not see the march - perhaps it started with many more people than remained at the demo at 12:30.
Ann Carroll

Now before going on i should state that i do not know Ms. Carroll and have nothing against her. I’m sure she’s a nice person and all that. Other than (the incredibly important bit) getting the number of people who attended the demo so very wrong, her article was one of the best (of only four in forty days!) to have appeared in the Gazette in regards to this police killing.

That said, showing up at 12:30, after speeches have been going on for more than a half an hour, and using the number of people you see there as an indication of how many actually attended a demonstration that started at 10:30am – well, it just doesn’t make any sense. I left frozen like a popsicle, after having marched (slowly!) from Place des Arts and then standing in front of city hall listening to several speeches… and I was in the metro on my way home by 12:30.

Even in the nicest of weather, how many people at a demo are going to stick around to listen to all of the speeches afterwards? It’s like judging how many people are going to see a movie not by the box office receipts, but by the numbers who stick around to watch the credits afterwards.

It just doesn’t make any sense...

Yes, it was a very cold morning; but if almost two thousand of us could show up on time, why couldn’t she?

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Lying With Numbers at the Montreal Gazette

Khadija Bennis, whose brother was gunned down by Montreal police on December 1st in what looks like a case of racial profiling gone wrong (when does it ever go right?), is quoted in today’s Montreal Gazette saying that she fears police will sweep her brother’s death under the carpet.

Given this fear of a young man’s needless death being covered up and forgotten, it is instructive to review how the Gazette has dealt with this case so far.


After initially running brief police accounts of what happened immediately after Mohamed Anass Bennis’ death in early December (on pages A7 and A10), they did run one story which actually acknowledged that the Bennis family was having trouble believing the cops’ crazy version of events (on page A11) - but then nothing at all until this morning.

That’s because yesterday, as i wrote in my previous post about the police killing, there was a large demonstration demanding a public inquiry and “sensitivity training” for the police. I think i have a good idea of how many people were there as i have (sadly) gone to a number of such demonstrations in my life, and at yesterday’s i started at the back and then walked up to the front, turning around several times to take photos. I was there at 10:30am when it started and left shortly after noon, while speeches were still being made. My estimate is that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people there.

Given that yesterday was the coldest day so far this winter – minus seventeen degrees – such a number constitutes a very impressive turnout. I can’t remember so large a demonstration against a police murder since Marcellus Francois was shot in the head for being Black back in 1991 (and seeing as he was killed in July those demos were in warmer weather). For a similarly large wintertime demo protesting a police murder, you’d have to go back to Anthony Griffin (who was also Black and was also shot in the head by a racist cop) back in 1987.

[There have of course been other large demos organized against the police, most notably the annual International Day Against Police Brutality protests that have so often ended in mass arrests – but these were organized and attended by left activists and were not in reaction to a specific police crime, and as such i think are different than the kind of protest we saw yesterday.]

So how did the Montreal Gazette cover yesterday’s demo? How did they describe the largest protest of its kind to have taken place in almost twenty years?

Page A2, with the smallest of photos; the article by Ann Carroll began: “As many as 200 people rallied outside Montreal city hall in the bitter cold yesterday to demand an independent inquiry into the fatal police shooting of Mohamed Annas Bennis on Dec. 1.”

“As many as 200 people.”


Like Ms. Bennis said, sweeping it under the carpet.

And look: the Montreal Gazette brought its own broom.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Protesting the Police Killing of a Young Moslem in Montreal

It was a cold minus seventeen degrees this morning, as i joined almost two thousand people for a 10:30am demonstration through downtown Montreal – we were protesting the death of Mohamed Anass Bennis, a young Moslem man killed by the police last December 1st.


On that morning the Quebec Provincial Police, RCMP and Montreal city police were carrying out an operation regarding an alleged ring of scam-artists. According to the Journal de Montreal, the alleged criminals were suspected of ties to “international terrorism” – though this has been denied by the QPP.

On that same morning Mohamed Anass Bennis went to morning prayers at 6:30am at the local mosque. On his way home, he came across the police and – according to these self same cops – took out a knife and attacked one of them, for absolutely no apparent reason and with no provocation whatsoever!

Got that? According to the cops, Mohamed Anass Bennis just went off to the mosque that morning with a knife and, on his way home, decided to stab a cop!

Anass Bennis was shot twice at close range and died soon after as a result of his injuries. Police later confirmed that he was in no way connected with the alleged criminals they arrested that morning, that he didn’t have any drugs or alcohol in his system, and that he had no previous record of problems with the police or legal system. He is being universally described as a “model citizen.” Not only can nobody explain why he would attack a cop, but they have not shown the knife he allegedly used, nor have they released any of the video footage apparently shot by a nearby surveillance camera!

Need it be mentioned that Anass Bennis, who was born in Morocco, had a beard and was wearing a djellaba and a turban?

As the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality has asked:

What happened between 6:35 and 7 :20 AM when a young Muslim traditionally dressed was in the middle of a police operation potentially linked to terrorism? Also, the fact that Mohamed had wounds on his face and that the police officer was wounded in the leg leaves us to believe that he might have been arrested and brought to the ground before being killed. Finally the fact that the police refuse to show the video cassettes, the wounded officer and the knife, reinforces the theory of a police killing, and leads us to believe that the police want to now hide what really happened (what is referred to as a cover up).

I certainly agree that it sounds like a fishy story. Shades of Jean Charles de Menenzes, if you know what i mean… one thing is for sure: if the tables were turned – if a cop ended up shot dead by someone claiming self defense, that the cop had a knife and wanted to stab them – you can bet the shooter would have already been tried and found guilty by the media, and certainly would not be walking the streets. But in this case not only was the shooter never identified in the media (so we are left guessing as to whether or not he has a known record of violent or racist behaviour) and the police version of events uncritically repeated, but the Montreal Gazette (to give one example) essentially tried to bury the story (pages A7 and A10).

It is now over a month since Anass Bennis was killed, and today was the first public protest to be held. It was organized by the Muslim Council of Montreal, and the chief demand was a “transparent public inquiry” and “sensitivity training” for the police.

I had mixed feelings as i took the metro home from the march. On the one hand, it had been good to see so many people out despite it being the coldest day so far this winter. It was also nice to see so many people not from the radical left – this was a demo organized by and within the Moslem community.

At the same time it was unfortunate that so few of the usual suspects did show up – there were maybe a dozen people from the NOII/COBP/etc. kinda scene, and that’s all i saw. I may be pessimistic about most leftists, but that doesn’t mean i’m not disappointed when they’re not there.

Politically, even though i didn’t expect much in the way of radical politics from the organizers, it was still somewhat shocking how speaker after speaker – including Mohamed Anass Bennis’ brother – thanked the Montreal police for escorting the demo (!) and were at pains to stress that most police are good people doing a good job. My take on this is that in the current climate of Islamophobia and racism, people may feel the need to reassure the powers that be that they are loyal Canadians (there were quite a few maple leaf flags) and good citizens – as one speaker repeated over and over “I have faith in Canada, I have faith in the system.”

Now doubtless the vast majority of Moslems and immigrants are actually loyal Canadians and "good citizens" – i may bemoan this fact, but i have no illusions about it – what i find sad is that despite this example of the bloody and nasty nature of what Canada and “the system” are all about, this kind of rhetoric still gets such loud play. Don’t get me wrong – given the current repressive climate such professions of loyalty may be understandable – it’s just that they are also sad.

The fact of the matter is that police shoot people quite regularly, and every year i’d say at least one unlucky person gets killed by them. Anthony Griffin, Martin Suazo, Richard Barnabe, Marcellus Francois – the names of the victims in the most egregious cases may ring a bell. Sometimes the shootee was “doing something” – like the guy who was killed over the summer “advancing on police” with a metal pipe in his hands – and sometimes they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, as seems to have been the case with the young Mohamed Anass Bennis. But none of them deserved to die.

The solution to this problem – a world without cops – seems quite utopian as every year brings us more cops, armed with nastier weapons. But as a tactical response, one can only note that the stronger and more rapid a mobilization can be built around a police killing, the more seriously it is taken by both the media and the political establishment. But as i write this i realize i’m missing the point…

Many of the signs at today’s demo called for “Justice,” as did several of the slogans. In a situation where someone is dead and cannot be brought back, i’m not sure what form “justice” – meaning fairness – can actually take, because at bottom getting killed by trigger-happy cops just isn’t fair no matter what the consequences. So to rephrase – and correct – my observation: it is through sustained and large, strong and rapid, mobilization that we pay our respect to the victims of State violence, and that we force ourselves to take these questions more seriously.

With the hope that by tracing the outlines of protest today, we may bring about change tomorrow…

There is an online petition with the same demands as this morning’s demo – if you wish you can “sign” it

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Masters of Male Horror

I found my previous posting on movies segueing into television shows i have been watching. Really a different subject, worthy of a separate post... certainly as a result of its “crossover” statues, the Masters of Horror series of “movies” (great marketing idea there) seems a good place to start.

This series had very high production values, you can tell someone’s paying a lot of money here. Makes sense seeing as each “movie” (old fashioned folks would call them episodes) is directed by a different “renowned horror movie director.” That said, the actual plots have often been far inferior to what one finds on The Outer Limits or the old Twilight Zone, and most episodes have left be cold.


For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the eight i have seen:

  • Jennifer, by Dario Argento. Misogynist and uninteresting. Argento’s message: when you see a guy trying to kill a woman, don’t try and stop him he probably knows what he’s doing.

  • Chocolate, by Mick Garris. Some interesting ideas (almost Philip K. Dickesque) but it failed to do it for me. Yet another boy-meets-girl-boy-kills-girl tale, with the boy as the sympathetic character. Funny how it always turns out that way.

  • Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, by Don Coscarelli. Now this i liked. Scary serial killer vs. not so helpless woman. Not sure if it’s the right word, but i’ll use it anyway: Coscarelli’s giving us a glimpse of the dialectic of abuse and power, oppression and liberation – though you’re never the same as how you started. Both subtle and not so subtle – the best of the series.

  • Dreams in the Witch House, by Stuart Gordon. Yet another take on men’s anxiety about being found killing women and children. This time the guy’s completely innocent of course – “the witch did it!” – but i mean… really! Not only boring, but transparent.

  • Dance of the Dead, by Tobe Hooper. Now, not only do i enjoy watching Robert Englund (better knows as Freddie who used to live on Elm Street), but i like post-apocalypse settings and punk rock aesthetics. So i really liked this episode. An indictment of “the good folk” who so often turn out to just be “the good volk.” Of course the mother just had to be the bad guy, and this may well be sexist – or am i begging for didactic pablum when i say that? This is the most obviously science fiction episode as such.

  • Deer Woman, by John Landis. More male fantasies and anxieties, using the mechanism of scary Indian culture to serve up a “monster” more human and likeable than any of the other characters. Unreconstructed racism and misogyny – actually it boggled my mind that there was no ironic twist, because stuff like this works better as satire. Not very interesting to boot.

  • Homecoming, by Joe Dante. Contemporary and relevant – even if (painfully) self-consciously so. Anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-right wing, pro-zombie… while it does risk being compromised by didactic corniness, Dante’s willingness to go the distance with this liberal scream keeps it working. This is the kind of television i would get excited about in high school – and it’s still not bad, i mean i prefer my liberals as zombies anyway…

  • Cigarette Burns, by John Carpenter. Same theme as The Ring, but not nearly as scary. Plot is much more straightforward too, but what do you want Carpenter only had an hour to work with. It’s an interesting idea, and one of the better episodes...

As you can see from the above, misogyny runs like a thread through many of these episodes. I don’t think this is only because each and every episode was directed by a man (the MASTERS of horror), but also because horror – being about anxieties and fears – often dwells on situations supercharged with gender and representations of abuse. What i found interesting is that in several episodes an aspect of the misfortune that befalls our protagonist is that he is accused of killing a woman or child – while we the audience know that if he did so, it’s only because she was really asking for it...

Like i said, men’s anxieties…

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Movies I Have Seen

Well, it has been a very-snowy-but-not-too-cold couple of weeks in Montreal, and despite the fact that i have had no good excuse my brain has slipped (as it so often does) into a kind of “holiday mode,” hence the lack of blog postings.

I feel tempted to write a résumé of sorts, a tally posts-that-could-have-been and a sprinkling of pointers to some of the more interesting blogs and websites i’ve spotted…

Whether i will do so or not i am not sure – i haven’t been pulled out of the ditch yet – but for starters…

We have been spending a lot of time in movie theaters! While less obviously political than a lot of what i write about, i think its worthwhile discussing pop culture, even if only its aesthetic dimensions (as in: “i liked it” or “it sucked”) – as these discussions can sometimes evolve into something of use…


Here what we saw:

Brokeback Mountain was not as sad as i had been told, but i liked it. I particularly liked how Ennis was so fucked up, and not simply because he was queer and closeted. I don’t want my queer characters to be happy, well balanced or straightforward any more than i want my straight characters to be that way. Like a good superhero movie, a good romance should be first and foremost about the protagonist’s pain – to a certain degree the rest is just window dressing.

Capote was ok, but not nearly as stellar as i had been told it would be. With the exception of Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird, played by Catherine Keener) everyone else comes off as one or another variety of fucked up scumbag.

Fun With Dick and Jane was silly and mediocre. How to put it? Imagine having an almost tasteless, mushy substance in your mouth. You chew it, swallow it, maybe it even fills your stomach. You look in your plate and what you’re eating reminds you of something, you’re just not sure what… finally, examining it closer, you realize that what you have been eating is actually derived from some actual form of food, but has been completely robbed of its original qualities – think rehydrated powdered mashed potatoes sprinkled with aspartame, or some such thing… Fun With Dick and Jane is an example of how Hollywood “does” the questions of class and direct action by making them no longer about class or direct action at all - to the point that one feels silly and pretentious even pointing out the connection. While not utterly boring, and occasionally teetering on the edge of being offensive (which on a certain level would be preferable to being pablum), i think if someone (not me!) had the time and imagination there might be a lesson here as to how real issues (in this case Enron-style capitalism and banditry) can be reflected back by the big screen. I am reminded of why my mother told me we shouldn’t feed birds white bread in winter – it fills their stomachs so they stop eating, and then they freeze to death because there was no nutrition in what was in their bellies…

Crash - I know it came out in 2004, but that’s what VCRs are for. I liked this movie, probably in part because i like multiple storylines, and i like ambiguity. With its decentered plot and the way it jumps from one character to another, Crash really  reflects the confusion and anxiety of a layer of white America (i know i know, it was written by a white Canadian, but must we quibble?) when dealing with race. I liked the way in which you could glimpse white supremacy playing out regardless of an individual’s conscious racism or lack thereof, but the whole “people of colour can be racist too” message – while undeniably true – was overdone. And while structural racism forms the constant backdrop, it is kept out of focus and never dealt with head on – which means not only can this film (like all others) be interpreted in different ways, but you’re kept very aware of these possibly different interpretations – the most common post-film reaction being “I liked it, but I don’t know what to make of it.” Yes, Paul, there are two or more sides to most stories – doesn’t make the different sides equally valid. That said, i must repeat: a good movie.

Walk the Line – while pleasant to watch, i have nothing much to say about this movie. I do regret that they didn’t use my favourite Cash songs – Man in Black– and wondered if it was for aesthetic reasons or because it’s too relevant to this shithole world we are all stuck in…

Oh yeah, and lest i forget: King Kong. Slate’s David Edelstein had this to say about one reading of this tale:

Kong stands for the black man brought in chains from a dark island (full of murderous primitive pagans) and with a penchant for skinny white blondes. But the director has supplied a fatherly black man (Evan Parke) on the crew to look after a teenage misfit (Jamie Bell): See, blacks aren't all out of place in civilization! Some even take care of whites! (Parke and Bell—whose character is reading Heart of Darkness—have the movie's biggest groaner: "This is not an adventure story, is it?" "No, Jimmy. It's not.")

While i appreciate this observation – and recognize that a lot of fun can be had developing it much further – it also strikes me as an example of being so smart you miss the obvious. Making a movie that plays on and symbolizes racist oppression does not make the movie itself racist, after all one has to jack one’s fiction into the powerbox of real life in order to give it juice. A far more striking and horrible example of racism in King Kong, which almost ruined the movie for me, was the horrendous portrayal of the Black natives of Skull Island – untermenschen barely sums them up, these people are less evolved than George Romero’s zombies … i mean this is a scary look at how pre-colonial humanity is envisioned in some recesses of the sick white mind. I know that Peter Jackson was trying not to stray from the original, but to what end? So that a new generation of movie-goers can have the pleasure of participating in this kind of master-race fantasy?

(As Tryworks have pointed out this is somewhat of a recurring theme in Peter Jackson’s latest movies…)

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Family Member Lunges at Mining Official on Hearing Bad News

Ain’t miscommunication grand?

The following from here.

[Associated Press] TALLMANSVILLE, WV - People in the mining community of Tallmansville, West Virginia, have gone from the height of joy to the depths of despair, finding out that 12 loved ones trapped in a coal mine are dead.

A 13th miner had been found last night, but through what a mine company executive says was a "miscommunication," relatives were told early today that all the others had been found alive.  Hours later they found out that only one man survived.  Randal McCloy is in critical condition at a hospital in Morgantown after the nearly two-day ordeal.

Witnesses say after people were given the bad news about the others, one relative became enraged and lunged at an official.  The incident happened at a Baptist church where relatives had gathered.  Family members had to wrestle the aggrieved man to the ground.

Federal officials are expressing sorrow over the deaths and are promising a full investigation.

Sago mine has history of roof falls

As it becomes clear that officials willfully allowed the lie to spread that 12 miners had survived and only one died – when the truth was that 12 had died and only one had survived! – there is also more and more evidence that this was a tragedy waiting to happen in an economy where coalminers are less valuable than coal:

Sago mine has history of roof falls
by Ken Ward Jr., Staff writer
Charleston, West Virginia Gazette, January 03, 2006

An Upshur County coal mine where 13 workers were trapped Monday has a recent history of roof falls and serious safety violations, according to a review of government records.

In 2004, the Sago Mine reported an injury rate that was three times that of similar-size underground mines across the country.

And last year, the Anker West Virginia Mining Co. operation was fined more than $24,000 for about 200 alleged violations, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data.

During the last six months of 2005, the Sago Mine reported a dozen accidental roof falls, according to MSHA records.

Only one of those roof falls caused an injury, the MSHA records show.

Three of the roof falls occurred after International Coal Group finalized its purchase of the Anker operation in mid-November.

During their last three complete examinations of the Sago Mine, MSHA inspectors cited the company for more than 180 violations.

After the most recent such inspection — from early October to late December — MSHA issued 46 citations and three orders for a variety of safety violations. Inspectors listed 18 of those as “serious and substantial.” These “S&S” violations are those that MSHA believes are likely to cause an accident that would seriously injure a miner.

“The numbers don’t sound good,” said Davitt McAteer, a Marion County native who was MSHA chief during the Clinton administration.

In that October to December inspection, MSHA cited the Sago Mine for violating its approved roof control and mine ventilation plans. The company was also cited for violations concerning emergency escapeways and required pre-shift safety examinations.

During an inspection from early July to late September, MSHA found 70 violations. Agency inspectors listed 42 of those as “S&S.”

MSHA found 52 violations during an inspection from April to June. Inspectors classified 31 of those as “S&S.”

“The number of violations is sufficiently high that it should tip off management that there is something amiss here,” McAteer said. “For a small operation, that is a significant number of violations.”

Also, McAteer said the roof fall frequency “suggests that the roof is bad and that the support system is not meeting the needs of the roof.”

ICG purchased the former Anker operation, south of Buckhannon, in March. The deal was finalized on Nov. 18.

In 2003 and 2004, the Sago Mine reported no coal production, according to MSHA records.

The mine ramped back up in 2004 but was still considered relatively small, producing nearly 400,000 tons of coal with 65 employees.

Through the first three quarters of last year, the mine produced 366,000 tons of coal with 145 workers, according to MSHA records.

In 2004, the mine reported eight injuries that kept workers off the job for at least a day. That year, the company paid all of the $9,515 in fines that MSHA assessed.

Through the first three quarters of 2005, the mine reported 14 such injuries.

So far, the company has paid nearly $14,500 of the $24,155 in fines that MSHA has assessed for 2005. Fines for 18 of the 180 citations issued in 2005 have not yet been assessed, MSHA records show.

Terry Farley, an administrator with the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, said he has not yet pulled records to review the Sago Mine’s violation history with state regulators.

In a news conference at Monday evening, a company official said conditions have improved since November, when International Coal Group bought the mine.

MSHA’s concerns have been addressed, said Gene Kitts, ICG vice president of mining services. Safety has improved 80 percent between the second and fourth quarters of 2005, he said.

“We can talk about the violations, we can talk about the 80 percent improvement since earlier this year. But right now we’re focused on recovering the miners. We think we’re operating a safe mine.”

During a live interview on CNN Monday, Gov. Joe Manchin promised a complete investigation of the cause of the explosion.

Manchin said he was not yet aware of anything that would have warned of problems at the Sago Mine.

“I have not heard any of that,” Manchin said. “No one has said we knew we had a problem there.”