Monday, January 29, 2007

Repression USA: 9 Former Panthers Charged

Last week nine Black men were charged with the alleged 1973 Black Liberation Army assassination of police sergeant John V. Young in San Francisco.

Charged were former Black Panther Party members and supporters Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Fla.; Francisco Torres, 58, of Queens, New York; Richard Brown, 65, of San Francisco; Ray Michael Boudreaux, 64, of Altadena; Henry Watson Jones, 71, of Altadena; as well as Black Liberation Army prisoners of war Herman Bell, 59, and Jalil Muntaqim (s/n Anthony Bottom), 55, both of whom are currently incarcerated in New York State.

As one can see by the above paragraph, these are not young men. Rather, they are movement veterans, many of whom have devoted the greater part of their lives to their communities. Which is not unconnected to why the State is hounding them now.

Some background to the “crime” in question, from an article by Dave Srano of Kansas Mutual Aid on the infoshop website (if it is down click here as i have mirrored it on Sketchy Thoughts):

By 1971, the resistance movements of the late 1960's had started to go underground. A large scale low intensity war was being fought by armed clandestine militants against the mechanisms of state and capitalist power. One of those groups was the Black Liberation Army.

The Black Liberation Army was formed by former members of the Black Panther Party that had left the Party due to a variety of reasons. The members of the BLA saw the Party being torn apart from infiltration, state sponsored chemical warfare (the purposeful influx of drugs by the government to black communities), infighting caused by CoIntelPro, and power struggles amongst the leadership of the Panthers.

The BLA came to represent some of the most committed of the Black Panther Party, with members including Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and Ashanti Alston. The BLA existed to continue the fight the Party had started.

A feeling pervaded amongst the membership of the BLA that they had to go underground even to survive. With pressure coming from sectarians active within the Black Panthers on one side, and the government on the other, the BLA went underground in 1970.

On August 29, 1971, according to police reports, several men crowded into the Ingleside Police Station in California and fired a shotgun through a hole in the counter glass. A civilian file clerk was wounded, while Sgt. John V. Young was killed.

Later in 1973, among thirteen black militants arrested for the crime, Black Panthers John Bowman, Ruben Scott, and Harold Taylor would all be targeted as being the men that had killed Sgt. Young. In New Orleans, the three would be arrested. San Francisco police officers that were working with the FBI to solve the killing, Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz, were flown to New Orleans to aid in the questioning of Bowman, Scott, and Taylor.

The three Panthers refused to cooperate with the investigation. They then faced days of torture at the hands of New Orleans police officers, including physical abuse and mental and emotional manipulation. In 1975, when the matter finally went to court, a federal judge threw out the charges citing that all the evidence against them had been extracted through the use of torture.

This last word – “torture” – is worth fleshing out, as liberal Amerika so often assumes that the testimony of racism’s victims is just hyperbole. Bowman, Scott and Taylor were stripped to their underwear, handcuffed to a chair, and beaten for hours on end. Shocked with a cattle prod on their genitals, suffocated with a plastic bag over their heads – this was the State in all its ugliness.

And then – thirty years later – the same cops get deputized, and show up at their victims’ homes. Telling them they’re not done with them yet.

It’s the same old shit on rerun. Yet another painful proof that the forces for liberation are scattered and on the defensive, that the State feels confident in revisiting even its most outrageous crimes.

As Wanda Sabir has written in the San Francisco Bay View (mirrored on this blog as that site seems down at the moment):

Fast forward to 2005: 34 years later each man is called before a state grand jury on the same charges. Of course, they all refused to cooperate and were thrown in jail. They were later released when the grand jury expired Oct. 31, 2005. The men were warned that “it wasn’t over.” In June of 2006 they were served with a DNA subpoena during the early morning hours. Richard Brown said they swabbed the inside of his mouth.

There they were: FBI and policemen standing on the Panther veterans’ doorsteps – some of these officers the same men who were present during their tortures in New Orleans. John Bowman, who died just last month, told attorney Soffiyah Elijah that he’d never had a good night’s sleep since. All the trauma came back.

When I asked Richard Brown if he was worried about the open-ended prosecution spread over 36 years now, he said: “I was named as a participant in 1971 in the murder case. All Panthers were targeted. If we were doing something constructive, we were singled out. They killed Bunchy Carter, arrested and imprisoned Geronimo. It was just our turn. We were next on the list.”

When asked where the case was now, Brown laughed. “As far as I’m concerned, they don’t have a case. They are going forward. They plan to indict us, convict us and sentence us. They’ve been telling us this for the past three years: ‘Don’t get comfortable, because we’re coming after you.’

“Thirty-six years  if they had any kind of case, they would have arrested us by now. I haven’t been officially charged.”

“Yes, this case bothers or worries me because they never let the fact that they didn’t have a case stand in their way. They can come up with something tomorrow – evidence they found, people that have a hundred years’ sentence that they will let go home if they testify correctly. They can come up with this.

“They can just manufacture a case. They do that. If they want us, they can come up with something to take to the DA. It’s a different time now. They don’t want to go to trial with nothing, hoping that racism will pull them through.”

So here we are. Yet again witnessing injustice, and wondering well-just-what-can-we-do-about-this.

There has been a Committee for the Defense of Human Rights set up, and they have a mailing list you can subscribe to for updates. They need money (make that check out to CDHR/Agape and mail to CDHR, P. O. Box 90221, Pasadena, CA 91109) and are asking that people write to the nine accused, letting them know that we support them. (Addresses, as well as biographies of the nine accused, all on the CDHR website.)

Finally, the Freedom Archives just released a short movie all about the torture some of these men suffered at the hands of the cops in 1973, as well as details about the ongoing harassment up until late 2006. This film – Legacy of Torture – contains powerful testimony by some of the same men who are now being prosecuted. This could be an important tool in mobilizing people around this case.

(That’s right, there was a film already made about the torture and harassment before last weeks’ arrests... like i said: the enemy has no shame in revisiting its crimes!)

Copies of the DVD of Legacy of Torture are available for $15.00 plus $5.00 postage from Kersplebedeb. Email me at or else click on the payment button below to place your order via paypal:

For more on the film Legacy of Torture see the Freedom Archives site.

i will be trying to keep you posted...

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Escaping israel

i wanted to write something about this, but as it stands i am really fucking tired and not sure i’m up to it...


You see, there’s this CBC article which came out last Friday about how since 2000 three thousand “Israelis” have sought refugee status in Canada. The way the article – itself based on a report in the Israeli media – put it is that they were seeking refuge due to “spousal abuse and Palestinian violence”.

Which is not a formulation you see everyday in the bourgeois malestream media.

This strikes me as meaning that these people want to get out of the ultrapatriarchal racist Israeli state because, well, they don’t like what zionism means. Because if to Palestinians zionism means dispossession, exile, even genocide – to Jews zionism means Israel. It means that the state of war and the warfare State are to replace whatever Jewish culture or just plain humanity preceded one’s “aliyah”.

Just as american settlerism took proletarians from europe and turned them into indian killers and slavemasters, or the loyal or terrified wives thereof. Just as the settlerism of new france and new england took poor and criminalized women and men of their “mother countries” and soldered them into the foundations of North American genocide.

And of course for Jewish women, just as for settler women in other colonial societies, even first class citizenship doesn’t protect you from the male violence of the warfare State. The privilege which may come from doing genocide against Palestinians won’t protect you from your father or husband or the perv down the street.

Nuthin new under the sun.

Little surprise that Alan Baker, the zionist state’s ambassador to canada, has denounced these refugee claimants as “harming Israel's image and representing it as a country whose citizens are persecuted.”

(i can just see him... “we don’t persecute citizens, just Palestinians!”... mind boggles at this point...)

More ominously, especially given the current Harper government’s outspoken support for aggressive zionism, is the israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that the department was aware of the number of Israelis seeking asylum in Canada, adding that “we have taken the matter up with the Canadians.”

Reminds me of when Jews were scrambling to get out of the dying Soviet Union, as anti-semitism crawled out from under its rock, and certain zionist canadians pressured the canadian State to refuse them entry, insisting that their “proper place” was in israel. Like it or not.

As thousands of Jews try to leave the israeli prison state, we can be sure that canadian zionists will join this chorus of denunciation. Because colonialism always depends on both the dispossession and violent genocide of the colonized – in this case the people of Palestine – and also on the settler population remaining united and complicit in their blood role.

...realizing of course that this is a slightly incoherent post. i’m tired. you get the idea, though...

The Next Battle of the Social War: Nine Black Panthers and state repression

Another article about last week’s bust that seems to be unavailable at the url where it originally appeared – so it’s getting mirrored too:

The Next Battle of the Social War: Nine Black Panthers and state repression

January 23, 2007 should be a day that lives in infamy within the movements for social justice in North America. On that date, the nearly four decades long war on the Black Panthers was shown to still exist. Nine individuals, most identified as being members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, were charged with murder or murder related crimes by officials in California. The incident in question involved the killing of a police officer inside the police station in which he worked in 1971. Over 35 years later, the struggle that the killing of the officer symbolizes is alive and strong.

By 1971, the resistance movements of the late 1960's had started to go underground. A large scale low intensity war was being fought by armed clandestine militants against the mechanisms of state and capitalist power. One of those groups was the Black Liberation Army.

The Black Liberation Army was formed by former members of the Black Panther Party that had left the Party due to a variety of reasons. The members of the BLA saw the Party being torn apart from infiltration, state sponsored chemical warfare (the purposeful influx of drugs by the government to black communities), infighting caused by CoIntelPro, and power struggles amongst the leadership of the Panthers.

The BLA came to represent some of the most committed of the Black Panther Party, with members including Sundiata Acoli, Assata Shakur, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and Ashanti Alston. The BLA existed to continue the fight the Party had started.

A feeling pervaded amongst the membership of the BLA that they had to go underground even to survive. With pressure coming from sectarians active within the Black Panthers on one side, and the government on the other, the BLA went underground in 1970.

On August 29, 1971, according to police reports, several men crowded into the Ingleside Police Station in California and fired a shotgun through a hole in the counter glass. A civilian file clerk was wounded, while Sgt. John V. Young was killed.

Later in 1973, among thirteen black militants arrested for the crime, Black Panthers John Bowman, Ruben Scott, and Harold Taylor would all be targeted as being the men that had killed Sgt. Young. In New Orleans, the three would be arrested. San Francisco police officers that were working with the FBI to solve the killing, Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz, were flown to New Orleans to aid in the questioning of Bowman, Scott, and Taylor.

The three Panthers refused to cooperate with the investigation. They then faced days of torture at the hands of New Orleans police officers, including physical abuse and mental and emotional manipulation. In 1975, when the matter finally went to court, a federal judge threw out the charges citing that all the evidence against them had been extracted through the use of torture.

In 2003, the case was reopened with the use of a grand jury. The two SFPD police officers that had been responsible for the torture of the three Black Panthers were put back in charge of the investigation. They were deputized by the federal government and started to work side by side with the FBI on the investigation.

When the original grand jury had ended with no indictments, the State of California opened another one in 2005, bringing five former Black Panthers to be questioned. Hank Jones, Ray Boudreaux, John Bowman, Harold Taylor, and Richard Brown all resisted the grand jury and were eventually jailed and released.

Now, in late January of 2007, all of those that appeared before the jury, save John Bowman who died of liver cancer on December 23, 2006, are among the nine militants now being charged with the killing of Sgt. Young. The others being charged in the case are Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (both currently imprisoned political prisoners on charges of killing a different police officer in New York), Francisco Torres, Richard O'Neal, and Ronald Bridgeforth. Bridgeforth is currently the only suspect not in custody and his whereabouts are unknown to the government.

Just as in December of 2005 when over a dozen environmental resistance movement members were arrested and indicted on charges related to "Operation Backfire", the movements of social justice are under attack. We must view these new arrests in the historical context in which they were conducted.

In the 1960's and 1970's the U.S. government waged an open war on the resistance movements that had grown against White Supremacy, the war in Vietnam, Patriarchy, and the entire capitalist system. Using many tactics, the government was able to destroy and subdue most of the organizations and factions involved within these movements.

Fast forward three decades later to 2007, where a rising tide of anti-capitalist momentum in the form of organizing and movement building is flooding the world. From Oaxaca to Olympia, organized social movements are again gaining strength and taking the state and global capitalism head on. As public opinion shifts strongly against the "War on Terrorism", and new forms of social resistance are starting to rise, we've seen an increased attack on members of resistance movements in the U.S.

The U.S. government would not have reopened this case if it did not intend on sending a message to all those who resist. As we've seen with Operation Backfire, the arrests in Auburn, California, FBI harassment of members of the Great Plains Anarchist Network in 2004, and in many operations in the last ten years, the government is trying to send a clear message. "Don't dare stand up."

As cases like that of Eric McDavid and Brendan Walsh illustrate, we have not handled ourselves well as a movement under this type of attack. The former has been languishing in a prison cell for over a year awaiting trial, and the latter is a young anti-war militant who has been imprisoned and nearly forgotten for the last three years.

Add to these incidents the sudden news that all of the remaining captured defendants of Operation Backfire have pleaded guilty, and we start to see that we need to come up with better ideas of how to support members of our movements when they are attacked by the state.

For years, prison struggle and prisoner issues have been on a back burner within the larger anarchist milieu. Small groups of anarchists have done what little they knew how to support political prisoners and those reeling from repression. We cannot afford to ignore these issues as a larger movement any longer. We are under attack. If we don't defend ourselves now, with innovate new methods, then we will falter and we'll just watch as nine more comrades are imprisoned.

Our movement has to go beyond signing petitions, raising legal funds, and calling prison administrators and government officials. We have to create a movement based on real revolutionary solidarity. When the government attacks, we need to be offering support to families of those they have attacked. We need to be organizing with community leaders in those communities that are targeted to link our mutual struggles. We need to be ready to "turn up the heat" and intensify what may already be intense local efforts.

For a movement short on answers, I don't have many either. This has been an issue I've been grappling with for years, trying to figure out what more I can do to help those that are imprisoned or are facing prison. One thing has been blindingly clear, however: our current models don't work. Pressure on economic and political interests that comes from a community social movement will always work better than trying to fight our battles through petitions and courtrooms. So what the hell does that mean exactly?

The answers seem so much easier when you are reading a book about social movements in the 1970's that hijacked helicopters or broke into prisons to free their captured comrades. Now in 2007, those options seem so far removed from the reality of our movement that is still healing after going into near extinction following September 11th.

One thing is certain in this era of unanswered questions: we must place the struggle to free these Panthers, Eric McDavid, Brendan Walsh, and all other political prisoners at the forefront of our work. We must learn how to connect the new and old generations of political prisoners with the work we're doing in the streets. We need to make sure that every damn person in our cities knows who these people are. We need to ensure that when we are organizing against the war, we are also organizing to free those that resisted war. We need to ensure that when we're working to save the earth, we are working to free those that have been imprisoned fighting for it.

We have to be able to view our movements in the context of a history of social movements in the U.S. that dates back to at least 1492. We need to ensure that we do not leave people like Eric McDavid to sit in a jail cell for a year without massive actions demanding his release. We need to ensure that we don't allow them to imprison these Panthers.

We need to ensure that we don't act like we always have, and forget. We as a movement have forgotten those that fill the prison cells and those that face them. Let's remember. And never forget. Let's never leave those facing imprisonment hanging ever again. When they face those cells, let them face them with a strong movement beside them.

Freedom for the Panther 9! Freedom for all political prisoners! For the abolition of all cages!

Dave Strano
Kansas Mutual Aid
Jan. 2007

Legacy of Torture: the War Against the Black Liberation Movement

This excellent article by Wanda Sabir gives the background to last week’s arrest of nine former Black Panther Party members and supporters is from the San Francisco Bay View, whose site seems to be down at the moment, so i am mirroring it here.

i should point out that i have several copies of the DVD Legacy of Torture, which gives background to this case, and now would be an excellent time for people to arrange public screenings. Email me at to work something out.

Legacy of torture: the war against the Black Liberation Movement
Eight Black Panther veterans charged in 34-39-year-old cases based on torture
by Wanda Sabir

Last week when I was speaking to Richard Brown, who was enjoying his well-earned retirement, we spoke about his friend and comrade John Bowman, who’d been tortured back in 1973. Brown was looking forward to both the screening Sunday, Jan. 28, at 12 noon of “Legacy of Torture: The War Against the Black Liberation Movement” at the Roxie Cinema, 16th and Valencia, and the celebration of Bowman’s life at 3 p.m. at the Center for African American Art and Culture, 762 Fulton St. at Webster in San Francisco.

At the preview screening of the work-in-progress last October, Ray Boudreaux and Hank Jones were on the panel, and Richard Brown was in the audience. This Sunday they were all going to be at the theatre and the memorial. Now they are all in jail. But the show, said filmmaker Claude Marks of the Freedom Archives, will go on. The gathering, just a day after the protest against the war, is yet another opportunity to develop a plan for action.

The war at home against liberated Africans is obviously still going strong.

When I saw the unedited cut of the film last year at East Side Cultural Center during the Black Panther Party’s 40th anniversary weekend, I was stunned at the audacity of this government to trample the rights of its citizens with impunity. Hadn’t they learned that even one’s enemy has rights?

Having assailed the Black Panther Party in 1968 as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States,” Federal Bureau of Investigation chief J. Edgar Hoover used any and all methods in the FBI’s arsenal to dismantle the operations of an organization developed to “serve the people.”

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a youth movement. The five men profiled in the film – Ray Boudreaux, John Bowman, Richard Brown, Hank Jones and Harold Taylor – were in their 20s in 1971 when they were accused of killing a police officer in San Francisco’s Ingleside Station.

In 1973, 13 Panthers were captured in New Orleans. Several of them were subjected to the brutality of torture, including beatings, electric shocks with cattle prods, hot water-soaked blankets and plastic bag asphyxiation, many of the same forms of torture used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

They captured Jalil Muntaqim and the now deceased Albert “Nuh” Washington in 1971 in San Francisco. Herman Bell was captured in New Orleans. Ruben Scott was tortured so badly in New Orleans that he made accusatory statements. He later recanted and helped to expose the brutalities committed in New Orleans, but he appears to still be a government witness.

Fast forward to 2005: 34 years later each man is called before a state grand jury on the same charges. Of course, they all refused to cooperate and were thrown in jail. They were later released when the grand jury expired Oct. 31, 2005. The men were warned that “it wasn’t over.” In June of 2006 they were served with a DNA subpoena during the early morning hours. Richard Brown said they swabbed the inside of his mouth.

There they were: FBI and policemen standing on the Panther veterans’ doorsteps – some of these officers the same men who were present during their tortures in New Orleans. John Bowman, who died just last month, told attorney Soffiyah Elijah that he’d never had a good night’s sleep since. All the trauma came back.

When I asked Richard Brown if he was worried about the open-ended prosecution spread over 36 years now, he said: “I was named as a participant in 1971 in the murder case. All Panthers were targeted. If we were doing something constructive, we were singled out. They killed Bunchy Carter, arrested and imprisoned Geronimo. It was just our turn. We were next on the list.”

When asked where the case was now, Brown laughed. “As far as I’m concerned, they don’t have a case. They are going forward. They plan to indict us, convict us and sentence us. They’ve been telling us this for the past three years: ‘Don’t get comfortable, because we’re coming after you.’

“Thirty-six years ­ if they had any kind of case, they would have arrested us by now. I haven’t been officially charged.”

“Yes, this case bothers or worries me because they never let the fact that they didn’t have a case stand in their way. They can come up with something tomorrow – evidence they found, people that have a hundred years’ sentence that they will let go home if they testify correctly. They can come up with this.

“They can just manufacture a case. They do that. If they want us, they can come up with something to take to the DA. It’s a different time now. They don’t want to go to trial with nothing, hoping that racism will pull them through.”

Tuesday, as the president was about to give his State of the Union address, these men, now know as the Grand Jury Resistors – Ray Michael Boudreaux, 64, of Altadena; Richard Brown, 65, of San Francisco; Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Fla.; Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Fla.; and Henry Watson Jones, 71, of Altadena; plus other former Panthers connected to the case by “new evidence,” were arrested all across the country and charged with conspiracy and the murder of the Ingleside policeman and a series of other unsolved cases from 1968 to 1973.

Also indicted are Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom), 55, and Herman Bell, 59, former Black Panther Party members who are eligible for parole in New York, as well as Francisco Torres, 58, of New York City and Richard O’Neal, 57, of San Francisco. Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, 62, was still being sought.

In 1971 people who remain unknown to this day raided the FBI offices in Media, Penn., and stole files exposing the Bureau’s illegal operations against Black revolutionary organizations like the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam and other progressive organizations and movements. Detailed accounts of the systematic attack on Black leaders and Black organizations came out in public hearings hosted by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho. This was the first public disclosure of the U.S. government’s Cointelpro (Counter Intelligence Program), and it forced the FBI to “agree” to dismantle this illegal activity.

“All these guys (arrested) are in their 50s and 60s and 70s. The (government) is sending a message to the young people: ‘Don’t even think about joining any liberation movement,’” said journalist Kiilu Nyasha, also a Black Panther veteran.

The Black Panther Party was formed to make Black communities safe from police brutality, yet the government aggression never ceased. Cointelpro intensified, government agents infiltrated the organization and created or encouraged internal differences to the point of using the dissent to destroy individuals and the effectiveness of the movement that the Party was building.

Richard Brown said that when he joined the Party, “he and his comrades didn’t expect to live,” so they didn’t fear death. At 22, he’d always been an advocate for Black people and knew then and now that through “unity we could do anything.”

“The village looked out for us,” he said. In “Legacy of Torture,” Brown said that he wasn’t going to help the government prosecute him because they disrupted his life ­ hurt his family, cost his friends their reputations and even employment opportunities. “They are the guilty ones and they should be investigated, not the other way around. I’ve been contending with this for over 30 years.

“In light of what’s going on presently with the chief justice sanctioning our president’s use of evidence gotten through the use of torture, that’s technically saying they can go back and take the evidence they obtained through torture, arrest us and convict us behind tainted information.” In the film the men spoke of how the New Orleans police told them to sign the statements that the agents wrote if they wanted the pain to stop.

Interview with Richard Brown

Wanda Sabir: When did you start traveling around the country on speaking tours about what happened?

Richard Brown: “We started talking about this when people didn’t believe the government was capable of doing something like this and, because it was primarily happening to Black people at that time, it was overlooked and not believed. We feel if the American public is educated, they will demand it stop.

“I would like those guilty of torture brought up on charges. They said it was illegal way back in 1973 at the Church Commission when they found they’d violated the Panthers’ civil rights over 300 times: They were guilty of unconstitutional acts, guilty of torture, guilty of coercion, guilty of lying and passing false information to get people to lie on different folks, and manufacturing evidence, even to the point of assassination and murder. It happened to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Bunchy Carter.

“It was all a part of that Cointelpro program they had to annihilate the Black Panther Party. We feel education is the best way to bring this to an end.”

WS: “Legacy of Torture” director Claude Marks said you hadn’t really talked about what happened to you prior to making this film. Given what you said, it was understandable, since no one believed your stories anyway.

RB: “Actually, when they broke us up, they literally broke the Party up. Many of us went to different parts of the country. I stayed in touch with most of them over the phone. Someone like John Bowman, who was a part of the family, he and I saw each other over the years, but we rarely spoke of the torture.

“We went on with our lives and continued to serve the people the best that we could. I went off into community-based organizations to do as much as I could for my community and for my people. I just continued with the teachings and the principles that brought us to the Party. We honestly didn’t actually talk to each other before they came back for us in 2005 ­ this crap all over again. We thought they’d finished back in the ‘80s.

“They just swooped on us all over the country one day and arrested us and tried to make us go before a grand jury and testify, and we decided independently of one another that we were not going to do that. We were all held in contempt of court and arrested, actually locked up. They took us away from family and spirited us around the country, and no one was able to communicate with us.

“I was locked up for quite some time: six weeks. My attorney didn’t know where I was. They kept moving me around.”

WS: The right to a telephone call is not true?

RB: “They didn’t give me a phone call. People have to be approved beforehand to receive calls. My attorney wasn’t able to get through. What you have to do is contact them beforehand, pay a fee to get them on a so-called system. What you’d have to do is write them to contact the phone company and pay a fee so they could receive calls from the jailhouse. Not being able to get a letter out, I wasn’t able to tell them.

“It was part of a technique to put more pressure on me.”

Brown has been a community activist his entire life. He worked for the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center in the Fillmore, the same area of San Francisco he grew up in. He worked at Ella Hill Hutch for almost 20 years in housing and employment, in criminal justice and as an advocate for the people in the community. He was able to continue “for Black people in the Fillmore what I was doing in the BPP ­ serving the people.”

He said of his friend Bowman: “John grew up in this area, also on McAllister Street. He touched a lot of people’s lives – an organizer, a warmhearted person everyone could relate to. He could educate and motivate. He was a great man.”

WS: Seems like all of you are great men – to be able to live through that. The reenactment in the film of the torture scenes, while not literal, is enough to make one imagine the horror and pain. It’s one thing to imagine it; it’s another thing to go through it. Sometimes it’s not physical but psychological. People have been going through psychological and physical torture ever since slavery.

When that was happening to you, did you think you’d live though it?

RB: “I didn’t actually get tortured there in New Orleans at that time. Three of us were tortured: John Bowman, Ruben Scott and Harold Taylor. They arrested me and I was about to be taken to New Orleans, but (the case) was thrown out of court when the evidence acquired through torture was found inadmissible.

“I was fortunate that time. The greatest torture is psychological torture. But I’ve been beaten while handcuffed. That’s so common for Black folks I don’t even call that torture. It’s the MO for police to deal with Black people in that manner. When they focus on you and try to break you, that’s a torture tactic. Police jumping on you while you are handcuffed and outnumbered was ordinary, even typical behavior.”

WS: Obviously it didn’t stop you from doing the work. How does one, given the legacy of torture and the potential for it to reoccur, continue to serve the people? It seems like you’d be terrified of the harassment, knowing that if you continued they could come after you. Anytime you could get assaulted or killed.

RB: “During the time the Black Panther Party was started and we saw the oppression of our people coming down on us, nearly everyone decided we were in it for the long run. None of us expected to live. That’s an unfortunate thing to say, yet, given the time, none of us saw an actual future. Once you make up your mind that you are going to go forward regardless – you do. No matter what they did to us, we were determined not to stop.

“I wasn’t actually doing anything except serving the people.”

WS: How old were you when you joined the BPP?

RB: “I was a little older, at 22. The average age was 17 or 18. They were very young people, some as young as 15 to 16. I found out about it on the news coverage of Oakland.

“I was doing things in San Francisco – not to the extent of the BPP, but I love Black people, I love my community and I continue to care about people. My level of consciousness was pretty high, so when the Panther Party came along with the kind of spirit I had, the kind of nature I had, it was a perfect vehicle. So we started the Black Panther Party in San Francisco.”

WS: You started it?

RB: “Actually, I was there. Dexter and some other people started it.”

WS: I grew up in San Francisco a member of the Nation of Islam. The mosque was on Fillmore and Geary.

RB: “We had several offices on Fillmore Street, on Ellis and Eddy. We’d see a bigger space and move. We were all over Fillmore.”

WS: Did the Panther Party and Nation do any organizing around any issues?

RB: “Not politically. There was an overlap. We supported each other.”

WS: I found that out at the 40th anniversary. A lot of people I knew in the Nation were former Panthers. You said you loved Black people. I presume you were raised in a home that was African centered?

RB: “Yeah, to a certain extent. I was raised by a single mother, as my father was killed when I was 4 years old. I had a lot of help from the community. I had uncles who took the place of my father. Back then, there was a community. The village looked out for all of us and helped raise all of us.

“Because of that, because I grew up in an environment where people cared about one another, I grew up to care about people also. Growing up in a Black community, it was natural I’d grow up caring about Black people. That’s the way I see it: unity and love for Black people.

“I grew up in a different time. I know who we truly are, what we are capable of and what we have accomplished. To see what’s going on nowadays kind of hurts me. The violence that’s going on, particularly with the youth, that’s really disturbing. I do all I can to try to put an end to that, to let them know that that is not who we are or where we should be headed.”

WS: Do you think the violence is a symptom of something larger?

RB: “Of course. It’s a symptom of racism and slavery. We’ve been conditioned to not unite, to not love one another. They took our culture, our language, our religions, everything. Employment, the lack of employment, the educational system the young people have to put up with, the bombardment with media ­ violence: the movies that they watch, the music that they listen to ­ it’s all a part of the problems that youth grow up with.

“It will turn around and go forward again.”

WS: What are the lessons that have come out of the prolonged harassment with the government? What are the lessons you’d like to share with someone doing political organizing work for African or Black liberation?

RB: “We all get tired. You get exhausted, yet you can’t give up. You will be successful. If I die tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned I have been very successful serving my people with my comrades over the years.”

WS: When you look at the legacy of Cointelpro, which now is called Homeland Security, and the laws have been codified under the USA Patriot Act I and II, how, with Cointelpro, the letters, the tapped phone calls, the infiltration creating an environment where people couldn’t trust each other ­ and black folks were already having trouble trusting each other –

RB: “Conditioned not to trust each other.”

WS: Yes, exactly right – coming over on those slave ships. My question is how do you establish trust, maintain trust, in light of a situation where we know this government does not want African people to come together. What can you do to establish trust, or do you just do your good work and don’t worry about it?

RB: “Do your good work and don’t worry about it. The Black Panther Party started out with just a few people. San Francisco was a small operation. Sometimes you have to just start with yourself and people see what you are doing, and once they trust you, you build from there.

“It’s very hard to get Black people to do anything together and to stay together for a long time, but it can be done. The Panther Party proved that it can be done. Other organizations have proven that. You don’t have to be my blood brother; you can be my extended family.

“We have the foundation to be able to overcome the barrier of not being able to trust each other. Somehow over the years Black people have somehow overcome, worked together and made progress. In our time, we have to pull it together and go forward in order to not die here.”

Interview with Claude Marks

Director Claude Marks says his film, “Legacy of Torture,” examines the increasing legislative legitimacy over the past 30 years that gives the United States the right to torture people.

“We saw last year in the contested public space between Bush and other forces when they chose essentially to carve out a space for themselves to redefine what torture was, so that water boarding is considered harsh treatment but (is now) a legitimate form of interrogation, and that’s only one example,” he said.

“Of course, the U.S. government, some of that – you can tell what kind of pressure they are under with Abu Ghraib, with Guantanamo. I think what the film tries to do is to say that this type of physical abuse and violation of people’s human rights has been happening in the United States all along, particularly in prisons, with the retaking of Attica very substantially documented – the level of torture and treatment of people, including targeted assassinations of some of the leaders of that prison rebellion that took place in 1971 in New York.

“It’s also true that these people in this film, former members of the Black Panther Party, when they were arrested, were tortured. This set of government violence against the Black Movement takes place in the context of Cointelpro and attempted to wipe out the leadership of the part of the Black Movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s that most challenged the legitimacy of the US government’s racism, repression and segregation as well as its role conducting wars in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

“This is one of the reasons why Cointelpro functioned in such a targeted or focused way, because they defined the Panthers, in particular, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as the single largest threat to the U.S. government.

“The Black Panther Party was revolutionary and it in fact challenged a lot of people’s notions about what the U.S. could be, should be. And (the BPP) revealed and unmasked that level of internal oppression and apartheid that takes place within these borders and has (taken place) historically.

“The film tries to say this has never ended. As a reporter in the mid-’70s, I was part of breaking the story of what happened in New Orleans in 1973 (when the Panthers were arrested and tortured).

“I interviewed the men brought to San Francisco in 1974. What we did was to air on KPFA that some of the Panthers arrested were subjected to incredibly violent, tortuous treatment.

“And in 1975 some of the cases that were put together by the San Francisco police and federal government against former Panthers were thrown out because at that time, testimony and statements arrived at through torture could never stand up in our legal system. Now that’s changed, and this is what we try to point out in the film, that the government is trying to make torture more acceptable.

“I’m convinced that’s why the state attorney general’s office and the federal government felt that they could come to the doors of these former Panthers, the same officers in some cases who were present for the torture in New Orleans, come to their doors some 30-odd years later and say, ‘Remember me? We’re going to do this again.’

“That’s pretty hard to wrap my mind around: to go to your door and see the man who tortured you in your youth telling you you are going to go through this again because the terrain is somewhat different under the Patriot Act and the laws have changed. The courts are more reluctant to sanction the government’s abuse of human rights and civil rights, and so to me that’s what the film tries to talk about.

“The point it tries to unmask is the consistent nature of this kind of extra-legal behavior on the part of the U.S. government and its agents, despite the Church hearings in 1972 and the supposed dismantling of Cointelpro,” Marks concludes.

“The Legacy of Torture” moves between interviews with the men and interpretive reenactments of the torture scenes, which were just as jarring and upsetting as if we could see the face of the actor or hear the cries. The film is a meditation on what can happen in a democracy when its caretakers are left to their own devices. Freedom once again a commodity up for grabs as soon as one stops guarding it.

“We have this unique insight from people who have experienced these events, who are willing to step forward and try to get people to understand that it’s up to us and the kind of movement we build to force the United States to be accountable for this illegal, inhumane behavior, because the courts and government infrastructure and the elected officials are either unwilling or unable,” Marks said.

“Legacy of Torture” is a visceral experience and a wake up call. For information on the screening or the memorial, sponsored by Freedom Archives and the New College Media Studies Master’s Program, call (415) 863-9977.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at <> or <> The addresses for sending words of encouragement to the two Panther veterans at the San Francisco County Jail are Richard O’Neal, 2300818, 850 Bryant, 6th Floor, San Francisco CA 94103, and Richard Brown, 2300819, 850 Bryant, 7th Floor, San Francisco CA 94103.

San Francisco Bay View
4917 Third St.
San Francisco CA 94124
(415) 671-0789

<> (badly hacked but coming back - soon)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Support Indigenous Women's Struggle Against Violence


Rally Against Racist Police Inaction and Impunity

February 14, 2007, 12 noon, Outside Police Headquarters at Bay and College

Speakers and drumming, followed by a social at the Native women’s resource centre.

Hundreds of Indigenous women have been murdered or have gone missing over the last 30 years. Today we join women in Vancouver and Edmonton and come together in defense of our lives and to demonstrate the complicity of the colonizer state and its institutions - police, RCMP, coroner's offices and the courts, in the ongoing genocide against First Nations.  Indigenous communities are over policed and Indigenous girls make up the fastest growing prison population yet their deaths go uninvestigated and their killers unpunished.

We call on all people in this country to take a stand - NO MORE SILENCE!!

Bring your drums!

No More Silence aims to develop a national network of local, Indigenous led coalitions, in solidarity with allies to support the initiatives of independent Indigenous women working to stop the disappearances and end impunity.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

[Hour] Bennis Family Demands Justice

Anas Bennis -
murdered by Montreal police
December 1st 2005

Things are heating up regarding the 2005 police murder of Mohamed Anas Bennis, and subsequent cover-up. More to come, i’m sure...

Bennis Family Demand Justice

Khadija Bennis has quietly grieved the loss of her beloved twin brother for over a year, as she patiently waited to access information surrounding the bizarre circumstances of his killing. But now, with no information forthcoming, she is speaking out.

Twenty-five-year-old Mohamed-Anas Bennis was shot dead by a Montreal police officer shortly after leaving dawn prayer at his neighbourhood mosque at the corner of Côte-des-Neiges and Kent on December 1, 2005. Bennis was shot twice: two bullets fired from above ripped through his body, one striking his heart. The Montreal Police allege Bennis was carrying a kitchen knife at the time and the shooting was an act of self-defence.

But Khadija Bennis, her family and their community have grown frustrated by authorities who refuse to make evidence available, including videotape that captured the incident.

"This is a case of racial profiling," says Khadija Bennis. "The investigation is over, but we still have no details. Something is being hidden or else the information would come out."

Indeed, the Bennis case has been supremely secret. Although Quebec City police did undertake a closed investigation, there were no criminal charges laid against the police officers involved in the incident. To this day, the Crown and police reports remain secret, suppressed by Quebec Minister of Public Security Jacques Dupuis.
"It's very hard to believe what the police/coroner are saying, because Anas was the most gentle person," says the victim's sister. "He would tell me, 'Khadija, make sure you don't walk on ants' - he was [that] conscious of the environment, and plants. He was spiritual, very generous and loving."

On January 7, approximately 4,500 people participated in a demonstration to demand a public inquiry into Bennis' death, though nothing has come of it to date. Another protest is being planned for February.

"[Racial profiling] is a social problem," Khadija Bennis implores. "Anyone's brother or father could be in the same situation. We don't want that to happen to anyone else. We live in a free society and we don't want those protecting us to be killing us."

Monday, January 22, 2007

World's Biggest Terrorist

From BBC Asia-Pacific:

The T-shirt featuring President Bush could offend, Qantas says

A passenger barred from a Qantas airlines flight for wearing a T-shirt depicting US President George Bush as a terrorist has threatened legal action.

Allen Jasson said he was sticking up for the principle of free speech by challenging the decision by the Australian flag carrier.

Mr Jasson was stopped as he was about to board the flight from Melbourne to London last Friday.

Qantas said the T-shirt had potential to offend other passengers.

The T-shift features an image of President George W Bush, along with the slogan "World's Number One Terrorist".


The 55-year-old computer specialist, who lives in London, had encountered difficulties with the same T-shirt on an earlier Qantas flight in December.

After clearing the international security checks at Melbourne Airport, he reportedly approached the gate manager to congratulate him on the company's new-found open-mindedness.

At that point, Mr Jasson was ordered to remove the T-shirt after being told it was a security threat and an item which might cause offence to other passengers.

He was offered the chance to board the flight wearing different clothing, but refused.

"I am not prepared to go without the t-shirt. I might forfeit the fare, but I have made up my mind that I would rather stand up for the principle of free speech," he told Australian media.

A Qantas spokesman defended the airline's decision, saying: "Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated".

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Radicals and the State

Upping The Anti #3 features interviews with Aijaz Ahmad and William Robinson, each of whom discusses different questions, looking at different parts of the world, but nevertheless both touch on some common concerns. I’m not sure if this was the intention of the UTA crew or just happy happenstance, but the interviews work well side by side. (in this post i will be ignoring much of what each interview touches upon – not because the subject matter is not important, but simply in order to tease out one subject, that of State power, for closer examination.)

In discussion with Tom Keefer, Ahmad, a leading Marxist academic from the Indian subcontinent, defends the need for a revolutionary party, argues that communists should immerse themselves in practical work responding to the needs of the oppressed, and touches on the different factions within right-wing anti-imperialist Islam.

There’s a lot here, and i think this interview could have easily been twice as long. The questions Ahmad discusses are ones which are of great importance to us here in Canada. His claim that the masses make revolutions, but that it requires a separate body of revolutionaries to defend and consolidate these revolutions, is one that i am sympathetic to, at the same time as i remain pessimistic as to where such necessities will lead. Plus – though it may just be a question of semantics – i don’t see why revolutionaries have to be organized as a party per se in order to carry out this historic task.

While Ahmad does not reject the quest for State power, his vision is more nuanced and detailed than the cartoon commie vanguardism common in some marxist circles. He recognizes the importance of practical projects, which in white male North America most marxist parties keep well away from. For instance, tune into his discussion of early communist organizing in Pakistan:

When Pakistan came into being and this migrant proletariat came from the north, there were no trade unions in Karachi. One great fear the workers had was that they would die and be buried away from home. The first communist organization that arose in Karachi was a “coffins and burial committee.” This was the first communist organization. So it is out of these kinds of activities that you build your legitimacy. In any country that is what you have to do. Now, you have to have forms that are rooted in the realities of your lives. So a Canadian is not much concerned about where he will die and be buried. The issues will be different, but we have to do similar work. (53)

In a negative sense, i am reminded of the Ice Storm in Montreal back in 1998. Unseasonably warm temperatures (i.e. around zero) and heavy rain knocked out electricity to over a million households in the middle of winter. Water became unsafe to drink and people had no heating for days on end as temperatures dipped below zero again; in all over twenty people died, most due to hypothermia. After four days the army was called in, 15,000 military personnel impressing themselves on the minds of the people as “rescuers.”

And the radical left through all of this? Organizing to go door to door in working class neighbourhoods, checking on the sick and elderly who had nowhere to go? Collectively taking over spaces with electricity to provide warm food and shelter? Expropriating heating supplies, candles, blankets, stand-alone generators? Punishing merchants who had jacked up the prices of such items?

None of the above. It was the State that approximated each of these activities. The only left protest i remember during that time was an occupation of the Mexican consulate, in solidarity with the Zapatistas...

On the other hand, a positive example might be the Common Ground clinic, set up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by a collection of radicals, working in solidarity with and under the leadership of Black activists from New Orleans. Or the various projects which were spearheaded by the AIDS activist movement in the 1980s – underground needle exchanges, condom distribution, support services. Or those established by the women’s movement – from health clinics to shelters to bad trick sheets.

To quote Ahmad again:

That is the kind of thing that most social movements are doing. I entirely support them because it’s very familiar kind of work. Where I part company with most of them is in their very narrow ideology of micro-politics, where one assumes that you will progress from these activities to yearly congresses and social forums where some coordination might happen and somehow society will change. That exclusive emphasis on micro-politics is populism of the highest order, and I don’t find it very convincing. (53)

Such projects have their half-life, and will probably always face an uphill battle under conditions of capitalism. Yet they remain essential to our path. Of course they also face a real tendency towards institutionalization, as the State establishes “support” for these efforts. This sets off a process whereby a culture of “professionalism” and “accountability” (to the State, not the oppressed!) sets in. It can be a very slow and subtle process, often turning on a few dramatic moments when the State intervenes, or the threat of a funding cut looms, and grassroots organizers are forced to either “shape up” or ship out.

Which is one reason why i agree with Ahmad, that it would be nice if these initiatives were tied to some kind of broader counter-force that would help them to operate effectively while staying outside of the State – though i suspect we would disagree as to what form such a broader counter-force should take...


The second interview in UTA3 is with William Robinson, a professor with the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who writes books about Latin America and global capitalism.

Robinson spoke to Honor Brabazon and Peter Brogan, discussing the Latin American turn to the left, a turn which many in North America know of only through the growing list of regimes described as “left-wing” and “anti-American” in the daily paper. (i should also mention that Robinson has some very interesting things to say about transnational capitalism and the decline of the nation-state – a very important discussion, but again, one which i will not be discussing here...)

Robinson explained that, even when socialists may come to power, under the best of conditions the degree to which a government will be able to resist the demands of international capital and “its own” bourgeoisie is directly dependent of the strength and militancy of the extra-parliamentary left wing:

What is the lesson from elsewhere, from Venezuela and Bolivia? It is this: the mass organizations, the indigenous organizations and other popular movements, should continue their mobilization – not pull back and not rest for one moment, but continue to pressure the Morales government or the Chavez government inside and outside the state.

A position more intelligent than simple cheerleading, one that neither applauds nor condemns the likes of Chavez and Morales, but which asserts that in and of themselves they are insufficient. “[Y]ou have to have permanent, independent pressure from mass movements from below against the state, but, at the same time, you can’t talk about any project of transformation without also taking state power.” (Robinson, 62)

Both Robinson and Ahmad see a need to fight for State power as a part of the revolutionary process, even under conditions of capitalism. Ahmad talks about the virtues of Indian “parliamentary communism,” and both he and Robinson are respectfully critical of the Zapatistas for not throwing their weight and credibility behind Obrador and the PRD. Both acknowledge that the PRD may have serious problems, but the moment it became clear that the far-right National Action Party had rigged the vote, they feel the place of all progressive forces in Mexico was on the side of Obrador.

Both men counterpose their positions to those of John Holloway (Changing the World Without Taking Power), and yet each is equally explicit in acknowledging the inadequacy of concentrating on gaining State power to the exclusion of all else. In fact, for both scholars it is the extra-parliamentary struggle which redeems participation in the State; “parliamentary work is seen as only one kind of work, and you’re constantly organizing for completely extra-parliamentary confrontations with the state” (Ahmad, 56).

While there is a lot more that both Robinson and Ahmad discuss, it is worth pausing a moment to think about this question of the State, because it is a question which sooner or later confronts us all.

Ahmad tells us that participation in bourgeois elections can itself become a way to challenge the bourgeois consciousness that is constantly being produced by the State. Counter-intuitively, participation in the State is a way to challenge the State’s hegemony: “Because bourgeois consciousness is constantly being created on a mass scale through the parliamentary form and the state comes back to it for its legitimation, you can and must represent yourself in this arena.” (Ahmad, 55)

Left unmentioned is the risk (a very great risk!) that by participating in government revolutionaries bestow a sense of legitimacy on the State itself, thus (regardless of their own subjective clearheadedness) fostering illusions and sowing confusion among their own supporters.

More serious still, at what point of working within the capitalist State, making deals and respecting bottom lines and such, does one’s own consciousness cease to be that of a communist revolutionary, regardless of one’s own subjective self-understanding?

Ahmad’s discussion of the State as a source of bourgeois hegemony seems oddly skewed in this regard, for while he is attentive to the consciousness of the masses (who may be exposed to radical ideas as a result of communist participation in elections) he seems completely uninterested in the consciousness of those communists who will end up finding their very lives enmeshed in the machinery of the State, as “radical” politicians or bureaucrats.

Returning to the conceptual tools provided in UTA3’s editorial, does not the very fact of being situated within the State make it very difficult – if not impossible – to do anything but oppose the “pedagogy of confrontation” whenever it breaks out? Unless of course it breaks out according to the timetable of the party, in the form predicted by the party, waving the banners and chanting the slogans of the party?

(In this regard, and without further comment, may i note the recent events which have seen peasants violently clashing with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) government in West Bangal? One can read the CPI(M)’s excuses here...)

Indeed, the way i see things, one of the nice things about a “pedagogy of confrontation” is precisely this, that it helps maintain a hostile relationship between oneself and the State, even in situations where some State actors may prefer a strategy of co-optation.

This is not only a question of concern to communists, nor is it one that is limited to India or Venezuela. Here in Quebec, for instance, in the 1970s and 1980s many progressive activists joined the State, both via the Parti Québecois and also through non-party channels, in unofficial capacities as professional paid organizers with various “popular organizations” which were financially and politically tied to the PQ. (From what i understand, a similar phenomenon occurs at times in places in English Canada, though with the NDP.) Of course, at its “best” the PQ (like the NDP) was only ever social democratic, not communist or anti-imperialist, but my point is that some of these activists who fell under its sway were not soc-dems, were in fact socialists or self-styled “revolutionaries” who felt that there were making a mature strategic decision.

And then... when the PQ came to power in 1994... many of these activists – despite, or perhaps even because of their subjective good intentions – ended up sabotaging and hindering any resistance to the PQ’s cutbacks. People who had been outspoken in denouncing the previous Liberal government clammed up as they got jobs as anti-poverty “government consultants.” One of the first battles radical working class activists had to fight was actually against these false “allies,” who were doing more to sabotage the movement than the State could have ever managed had it relied on naked repression alone. Which is why anarchists, Maoists and some who would become left communists played a disproportional role in what resistance did occur… not because they had any kind of real base amongst the oppressed, but because they were the only ones who were not hindered by their own ties to the State. (in a movement with both eyes closed even a one-eyed comrade may end up a sharp-shooter, or something like that...)

We see here that in our context at least, the “mature decision” to engage with the State was in fact a class decision, though it was perhaps not understood as such at the time. That certain comrades were saying goodbye, mortgaging their own accomplishments, moving on.

Robinson argues that it is mass pressure “from below” which enables progressive factions within the State to resist the demands of global capitalism. A more critical interpretation might be that pressure “from below” is what pushes sections of the State to negotiate a better deal from the rest of global capitalism. Even in this limited and conservative sense, though, it seems to me that one must remain outside of the State in order to be able to maintain this pressure.

But in this case too – and conceding that such pressure can be used to force concessions from the State, even to gain what Ahmad calls a “technical advantage” (54) – there is a risk which can only increase by remaining unspoken, namely that an alliance with one faction or another of the State becomes a massive liability the moment that faction’s interests diverge from those of the masses.

All of which calls into question Robinson (and Ahmad’s) criticism of the Zapatistas, who both interviewees fault for not throwing their support behind Obrador and the PRD. Both men acknowledge that the PRD may have serious problems, but when the far-right National Action Party rigged the vote in July 2006, they feel that all progressive forces in Mexico should have united behind Obrador.

Not being in Mexico, and not knowing enough about Mexican politics, i am in no position to take a firm stand on this. But i can say that neither Ahmad not Robinson have convinced me that the Zapatistas’ “neutrality” on this question is an error. Sitting this out need not mean disengaging from the ongoing conflict between the oppressed and the Mexican State. Just as there were reasons to protest Bush stealing the 2000 elections, or to vote for Chirac instead of Le Pen in 2002, i am sure a persuasive argument can be made for supporting Obrador against Calderon. But what both Robinson and Ahmad fail to mention is the political risk in an organization like the Zapatistas, which enjoys a high level of credibility amongst oppressed people and radicals around the world, throwing their support behind a particular “progressive” candidate.

To deepen this Mexican example, remember that the Zapatistas did not abstain from supporting Obrador out of some purely abstract or dogmatic hostility to the State. They had very good practical reasons, as explained in John Gilber’s July 25th article The Orphans of July Third:

There is little that is leftist about Lopez Obrador or the PRD. They plan to follow the same macro-economic model as the previous right wing governments, promising only to “put the poor first” by flooding state money into infrastructure programs, many of which—such as the planned shipping corridor across the Isthmus of Tehuántepec, Oaxaca, a spin off project from the Fox administration's Plan Puebla Panama—face serious national and local opposition by indigenous groups, small farmers, and environmentalists.

During the past six-years the PRD has become something of a half-way house for disenchanted politicians defecting from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the dinosaur that ruled Mexico for over 70 years until its defeat by the PAN in 2000. Many of the politicians that aided PRI president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) as he eviscerated the indigenous rights and land reform protections in the Mexican Constitution in order to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, have fled to the PRD, and found a home in Lopez Obrador's campaign team. Mexican historian Adolfo Gilly writes in a recent issue of Latin American Perspectives that former Salinas administration officials such as Manuel Camacho, Marcelo Ebrard, Ricardo Monreal, Federico Arreola, Socorro Diaz, and Leonel Cota, are now “the pillars of the presidential campaign of the PRD and its candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.”

Reading the above, it strikes me that had the Zapatistas thrown themselves behind Obrador, the result might have been similar to what Robinson describes happening in Ecuador in 2002: the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador “had to depend on an alliance with Lucio Gutierrez, an army colonel. When Gutierrez betrayed the popular movement, when he turned to neoliberalism and delivered the country to global capitalism, CONAIE got burned very badly for having backed him and having brought him into the presidency. That did a lot of damage to CONAIE’s credibility with their base and to the strategy of putting somebody in the state who would represent their interests.” (Robinson, 64-65)

Once again: When activists throw our weight behind a “progressive” faction of the State or capitalism we in fact gamble with our long-term effectiveness, and it is often the oppressed who have to pay the tab for the fools gold we get from such cross-class alliances. As the glue that binds such unions together invariably proves itself unable to actually resolve the fundamental differences between factions of capital and their victims, such alliances are only ever temporary. Rarely understood by outside supporters in the same way as by cadre, the “failure” or termination of such alliances are often confusing and disillusioning for the masses who have been told that they shared the same interests with their rulers. Indeed, such “pragmatic” alliances, while frequently indulging in the rhetoric of anti-fascism, often both foreshadow and feed a rise of the revolutionary right, as people rebelling against capitalist misery cease to see the revolutionary left as offering any true alternative.

All of which is quick and easy, if not a bit dirty, in its scope. To take a step back: i’m no expert on India or Latin America, so i’m not saying that there may not be situations where there is more to gain than to lose by participation in the State. But here in the metropoles, where at present no mass base has been won over to revolutionary left-wing politics, it is difficult to see any value in such a strategy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Making Connections, Protesting Rice

The following from the Independent Middle East Media Centre from last week:

Some 100 Palestinian residents, peace activists held a peaceful protest at Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus in the northern part of the West Bank, dressing like Native Americans to send a message to the visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The campaign is planned to last for thirty days, and is called "30 days against roadblocks".

Some of the protesters chose to deliver a message to Rice by dressing up like Native Americans, and were wearing traditional headdresses and regalia.

The Israeli Ynetnews reported that at about 11 a.m. the protesters gathered at the Hawwara checkpoint south of Nablus, and held up signs in English denouncing the military roadblocks across the territories.

The Ynetnews added that the protest was originally organized by a peace group calling itself "Palestinians for Peace, Dialogue and Equality".

The peaceful protesters slammed the Israeli policies of closures and difficulties the checkpoints impose on the Palestinians on daily basis. The checkpoints restrict the freedom of movement of the residents, barring them from reaching their workplaces and their educational and medical facilities, in addition to enclosing them in enclaves, and even restricting their entry to their own farmlands and orchards isolated by the checkpoints and the Annexation Wall.

One of the signs at the protest reads, "The roadblocks are ruining the Palestinians' lives," while another poster aimed to juxtapose between the native-Americans, whose lands were stolen by the newcomers from Europe, and the Palestinians, the Ynetnews reported.

Another sign addressing Rice reads, "The Indian wars are not over, Ms. Rice, We are still here too".

On Sunday, Rice held a meeting with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Abbas told Rice that he rejects a Palestinian State with temporal borders and called for a comprehensive solution to the conflict.

Rice told Abbas that the United States is committed to the Road Map peace plan, and that the US administration is interested in speeding up the peace talks in the coming months.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Thinking About Growing Pains

Here are some further thoughts on Upping the Anti, the radical journal out of Toronto, Canada...

The most ambitious part of Upping the Anti #3 is clearly its editorial, titled Growing Pains: The Anti-Globalization Movement, Anti-Imperialism and the Politics of the United Front. This is really a look at the radical left today, bringing some fresh air to the subject and making several interesting claims. While it contains some misplaced analogies and at times remains unclear, it provides some useful tools and insights. Worth discusssing.

Growing Pains starts from the fairly uncontroversial observation that the September 11th 2001 attacks in the united states effectively put an end to the North American anti-globalization movement, a movement which had been marked by a high level of participatory democracy and a willingness to experiment in the politics of direct action and non-violent illegality (traits which were especially conducive to anarchist militants).

Most importantly for my purposes, the authors also note that the anti-globalization movement embraced what they call the “pedagogy of confrontation” – explained as the idea that “people will be moved to action once it is demonstrated that action is both possible and effective.” (35)

After attempting to briefly sum up the successes and failures of this “anti-globalization moment” (1997-2001), Growing Pains notes that following September 11th the pedagogy of confrontation lost much of its momentum:

the anti-war movement – taking its direction from the socialist organizations that correctly read the timing of the twilight of the heart – came to take on the attributes of the united front.

According to this formulation, left currents need to build the movement around minimum demands while at the same time arguing against the limitations of the minimal platform. Consequently, socialist groups built broad coalitions around the slogans “stop the war” and “troops out now.” On this basis, they gathered together broad sections of the organized and unorganized “left” – including the trade union bureaucracy, a wide range of Arab and Islamic organizations, as well as the New Democratic Party (NDP) and occasionally even dissenting Liberal Members of Parliament. (34)

As Growing Pains notes, “the opposition between the pedagogy of confrontation and the united front has been one of the most consistent fault lines in the socialist tradition.” (35)

What the editors are alluding to is a divide many of us have experienced personally, and you can hear comrades complain about it time and time again, though not always with such clarity. Indeed, the reason so many of us, especially in big cities, came to the radical left through anarchism is precisely because of this “pedagogy of confrontation,” which many of us took for granted was almost a litmus test for what was revolutionary and what wasn’t.

As a teenaged radical in the 1980s – and almost all comrades I knew back then felt the same way – nothing discredited outfits like the International Socialists or the various “peace” groups so much as the fact that they had fucking “peace marshals” (we called them “peace cops”) telling us not to act too rowdy or rambunctious at “their” protests. Many of us ended up in one left tradition or another largely as a result of where we fell on this question, and issues of Bakunin vs. Marx were then decided upon retroactively. Once we’d been around for a few years, the idea many of us in the anarchist camp acted on - whether formulated as such or not - was that the best thing we could do was to intervene in movements and try to raise the level of militancy as much as possible. Questions of accountability to those directly affected were tackled with varying degrees of responsibility, or lack thereof. As was the question of why we preferred tactical militancy, or even why we found some movements more attractive than others. (Struck us as obvious, y’know...)

Having grown up in that atmosphere, i always assumed the “diversity of tactics” that existed in the late nineties came about not from some democratic principle but as a diplomatic face-saving compromise as the conservative “radical” leadership of yesteryear tried to make inroads in movements that had emerged from outside of their control.

This conservative and disempowering strategy which was hegemonic in the mid-eighties is (if I am reading it properly) what Growing Pains refers to as the “politics of the united front.”

Having established its terms, Growing Pains goes on a bit of a tangent tracing how these two approaches played out in Europe in the 1920s-30s and the 1960s-70s. While there may have been something to this section, and the authors seem to feel it important to refer to Walter Benjamin’s idea of a “dialectical image,” it struck me as far too undeveloped to be anything but slightly confusing. If this background was really important, i for one would need a few extra pages to understand the relevance (beyond pointing out that there have been other shifts from the pedagogy of confrontation to the united front, which could have been said in a single sentence)…

Back to the present – the post-September 11th conservative shift within the left was the result not only of disarray within the (already declining) anti-globalization movement; more conservative unitedfronters took advantage of the sea change, working “to ensure that the [anti-war] movement would not be overrun by the confrontational logic” of the radicals. “From the standpoint of orthodox socialist strategy, it is far easier to work with liberals than it is to work with radicals who share similar end goals but are committed to the pedagogy of confrontation.” (39)

If the unitedfronters today lead the movement, Growing Pains suggests that more radical comrades are making a mistake by simply continuing as before, albeit with smaller numbers and more modest goals. Comrades are criticized for engaging in isolated militant actions or breakaway marches instead of engaging with the broader anti-war movement, challenging the unitedfronters for hegemony. “Currently the anti-war movement is the only movement with a potentially mass base. If the modest acquisitions of the anti-globalization movement are going to survive, they are going to have to be replanted in its soil.” (35)

First things first...

Growing Pains doesn’t explain the reasoning behind its claim that the anti-war movement is the only place where a potential mass base exists, making it difficult to actually grapple with. There may be a lot of opposition to America’s Iraqi adventure, but there is very little in the way of an actual anti-war movement, especially here in Canada. As for opposition to Canadian military action in Afghanistan, my impression is that there is no mass movement there either. Nor do i think that this is simply due to the fact that what anti-war activities there are remain controlled by unitedfronters...

(i’m not so much disagreeing with this proposition as noting that i remain unconvinced...)

But this point – important though it may be – is not the only thing that i am left wondering about. After all, even if one does agree with the authors’ position that anti-war organizing is the key area where radicals should challenge the conservative logic of the united front, one might be left puzzled by their statement that “The resolution to this problem [of the hegemony of the united front] cannot be found in efforts to reestablish the hegemony of the pedagogy of confrontation,” but instead in “recognizing, synthesizing and transcending these seemingly antithetical terms on a mass scale.” (40)

I am unclear – and Growing Pains doesn’t help me here – as to how these different modes can be transcended at this point in the struggle. Or what is meant by synthesis, beyond simple coexistence. Once again: it’s not that I’m disagreeing with the UTA editors, just that I don’t understand what they mean.

It is worth remembering that the pedagogy of confrontation does not need to take the specific forms it did during the anti-globalization moment in order to remain true to the idea that people will be moved to action once it is demonstrated that action is both possible and effective. While direct action may have flowered between 1997 and 2001, it was a pretty monocultural crop, tame indeed (at least here in the metropoles) by the standards of the 20s/30s or the 60s/70s. For the most part “violence” was aimed strictly at property, and where cops were occasionally targeted (i.e. in Quebec City) this was marginal and still overwhelmingly in self-defense. Throughout most of white North America the frontiers of illegal confrontation were being pushed by anti-fascist youth and radical environmentalists more than by summit hoppers or most community organizers. This is neither compliment nor complaint, just my clearest recollection. (and I should mention that here in Quebec things were a bit different, with some radical community organizations which predated the anti-globalization movement engaging in confrontational actions...)

I could go on, giving many more examples. My point is that the pedagogy of confrontation still strikes me as appropriate, and i can say that even though i would not point to the anti-globalization movement as a model for what we need.

The authors’ objection seems to be more philosophical than strictly tactical, though – which is both good (forcing us to think) but also frustrating, as the concepts touched upon are left undeveloped, leaving a degree of guesswork as to how they might play out in real life... so here we go:

Using as their examples those who argue against confrontation “because-it-will-endanger-vulnerable-communities” and those who argue for heavier confrontation “because-we-owe-it-to-vulnerable-communities,” Growing Pains suggests that both the pedagogy of confrontation and the united front are necessarily grounded in a putative responsibility towards the Other. So recognizing/transcending/synthesizing this dichotomy might simply mean moving past a politics based on the Other, instead grounding oneself in one’s own reality.

If this is what Growing Pains is driving at, it is difficult to disagree. Grounding ones activity in ones own experience is a good habit for us all to have, and developing ones own position in hostility to the State (and not just in solidarity with its victims) is a virtual sine qua non of revolutionary consciousness. As one German political prisoner from the Red Army Faction once put it: “Look into your mirror. Either you see a revolutionary subject there or you don’t.”

But even if this is what Growing Pains is proposing, the confrontation/unitedfront dichotomy is neither transcended nor synthesized, it is merely placed on a different, perhaps even more antagonistic level. Because within communities, amongst people who experience the same oppression, even people who broadly share the same values, we still tend to divide in these terms. Except in situations where one approach or another is clearly useless or suicidal (literally, not figuratively), these two positions tend to reemerge time and time again.

What i would be interested in is thinking of why we should come down on one side or the other of this divide? What effect do our politics have on our tactics? What effect do our tactics have on our chances for success? On our class orientation? On our consciousness?

i suspect that the answers are complex, but vitally important.

Nor are they the only questions that this editorial brings to mind... for instance, what is the connection between the content of our politics and the form in which we act? Are the degree of militancy, illegality, and violence not important aspects of this form, perhaps more complex than whether or not an organization sees itself as the vanguard or practices consensus or democratic centralism, but nevertheless an aspect which should be taken into consideration?

Or is the question of autonomy from the State and opposing class collaboration what is really at issue – with “militancy” relating to this mainly as an imagined innoculation against co-optation?

I understand this examination of the “pedagogy of confrontation” as related to UTA’s goal of exploring forms of radical organization outside of the party-building or reformist community group models. I think Growing Pains is a useful contribution, though at times unclear. The fact that it could have benefited from being longer is as much a compliment as anything else. I certainly look forward to seeing these ideas discussed, and deepened, in future issues. Being willing to take a chance and grapple with these questions, even though such efforts are bound to be imperfect, is what makes Upping The Anti a valuable project.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Repression in Tyendinaga and The Struggle for the Culberston Tract

The following forwarded from OCAP:

Tyendinaga Update: The Fight for Return of Culberston Tract Lands
Tuesday January 15, 2007

The Culberston Land Tract

The Culberston is a tract of land, 923 acres in size that runs along the eastern boundary of Tyendinaga today. In 1837 the Federal Government changed the status of the land from Indian land to white land.

All agreements with the Mohawk Nation predate the existence of Canada. While the Mohawk Chiefs immediately registered their people’s dissent in 1837 when the land was stolen, no formal legal process existed to pursue its return. Despite a fundamental obligation to uphold previous agreements between the Mohawks and the crown, the Federal Government only created such a process in 1991.

Tyendinaga filed a formal claim for the land with the Feds in 1995. The claim seeks the restoration of lands to the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

In November 2003, Tyendinaga received a letter from the Federal Government acknowledging what the people of Tyendinaga have always known: That the Culberston Tract was never surrendered and is Mohawk Land.

Since then the Federal Government has been trying to get Tyendinaga to take a buy-out for the land. Mohawk people know the value of land cannot have a dollar sign attached and that the future generations of our growing population will depend on this land. Tyendinaga will accept nothing less than the full and unfettered return of these lands to Mohawk control and use.


The Mayor of Deseronto has said that the town’s economic viability and survival depends on the development of Culbertson tract lands. Tyendinaga’s Rotiskenhrakehte have twice ensured that deadlines to begin development of these lands have not been realized. “If they cannot find a way to survive without our land then they simply cannot continue to exist,” said Tyendinaga Mohawk, Shawn Brant.

The Rotiskenhrakehte have also been mandated to close a Deseronto quarry, situated on Culberston Tract lands, that literally digs up, sells off and ships out Mohawk land by the truckload. This obscene state of affairs can no longer be tolerated.

Land Claim Arrests

The Government struck back last Friday in a failed attempt to slow the momentum in the reclamation of 923 acres of Mohawk Nation Lands in Tyendinaga.

Friday’s attempt to target and remove Tyendinaga leadership with a clear embellishment of events surrounding the charges of Shawn Brant and Mario Baptiste has done nothing more than inflame the situation and anger the community.

Shawn and Mario would likely still be in jail if Tyendinaga community members had not responded immediately with imminent plans to shut down Deseronto completely.

The motive for the charges was made clear when the Crown pushed (unsuccessfully) for conditions barring the accused from Deseronto and the Culberston Land Claim Tract entirely.

“We have been denied our land for 170 years. That’s not going to fly anymore. There is no level of Government or police force that will keep a Mohawk off their own land,” said Tyendinaga, Mohawk Nation citizen, Jay Maracle.


Mohawk protesters charged

Jeremy Ashley
Local News - Friday, January 12, 2007

Two native protesters who were at the centre of the most recent dispute near Deseronto Wednesday have been arrested on criminal charges in connection to a Nov. 15 demonstration.

On that date, they had been protesting a disputed land claim in Deseronto, 15 km east of Belleville, which continues to be at the centre of a dispute and led to a demonstration at a gravel quarry this week.

Warrants were issued for the pair following an investigation into a confrontation between members of the Canadian army who were stopped en route to a training exercise on Nov. 15 at the site of a native protest on Highway 2.

Friday, an officer with the Napanee detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police pulled over a vehicle on Deseronto Road, just north of County Road 2, for a traffic violation, explained OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae.

During the course of the traffic stop, the individual in the vehicle made a cell phone call, Rae said, and the two accused showed up at the scene moments later.

The officer was aware of the two warrants for the individuals and (after he identified the men) their arrests were made without incident, Rae said,

Officers want to ensure that everyone is aware that the OPP respects lawful protests, but will not tolerate criminal activity.

Charged with three counts of uttering death threats are Shawn Michael Brant, 42, of Tyendinaga.

Charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief is Mario Michael Baptiste Jr., 21, also of Tyendinaga.

Both are scheduled to appear for a bail hearing Friday in Napanee.

For more background about the November 15th incident, being used as an excuse for this repression, see Heated Confrontation with Mohawks at Development on the OCAP site.

Not really much to add about this, just that it’s another reminder that capitalism and the State in Canada have both been built and structured on the dispossession of indigenous people. No news there, the real question being how these structures of exploitation and domination will adapt to the growing challenge of indigenous people to this state of affairs.

Mea Maximus Culpa

Ten days since the last posting.

Not very good.

This is not a personal blog, so i don’t feel any obligation to give my personal reasons for not having written anything. Which is good, because in actual fact, i have none. Just not been able to get around to it, and when i have had an extra twenty minutes have had something more tempting to do.

Which is, as i stated, not very good.

Lots has been happening, lots worth commenting on. Not to mention news from various sources worth passing on.

Mea culpa mea culpa mea maximus culpa!

We’ll see if we can’t rectify matters a bit...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Killer Cops East and West

A worthwhile article in last Friday’s Globe & Mail, by Sheema Khan, about the cop killings of Mohammed Anas Bennis in Montreal and Ian Bush in Vancouver:

A tale of two young men

Globe and Mail Update

About a year ago, I visited my father's grave at a Muslim cemetery in Laval, Quebec. On leaving, I noticed a freshly dug grave.

It haunted me for a brief moment. I then realized why. It was the final resting place of Mohammed-Anas Bennis, 25, who was shot and killed by Montreal police a few days earlier on Dec. 1, 2005.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Bennis's death were shrouded in mystery. The young man had performed his dawn prayers at a local mosque, and was walking home in the Côte des Neiges district of Montreal. Unbeknown (and unrelated) to him, provincial and municipal police had a warrant to conduct a fraud investigation in the vicinity. According to police accounts, Mr. Bennis approached two officers, and attacked one for “no apparent reason” with a knife. The officer fired back twice, killing him instantly. The police also confirmed the existence of a video recording of the event. Its quality, however, was “too poor” to be of any use.

Mr. Bennis had no criminal record, nor, according to his family, did he have a history of mental illness. He was a “regular Quebecker” who played hockey, joined the marine cadets and did well in school. He was known to be polite, generous, and always smiling. Furthermore, the family found it totally out of character for Mr. Bennis to have carried a knife, let alone attack an officer.

The incident touched a nerve among Quebec's visible minorities.

Mr. Bennis was bearded and wore a Muslim headdress and traditional robe when he was shot — raising the spectre of racial profiling. A month later, a public protest was held in the bitter cold outside Montreal City Hall.

Former immigration minister Denis Coderre joined local activists and community groups demanding an independent inquiry into the death of Mr. Bennis.

In keeping with provincial law, the shooting death was investigated by an outside police force. On April 13, the Quebec City police force concluded its investigation, and submitted its report to the Crown prosecutor. In a terse press release on Nov. 4 — almost seven months later, and almost 11 months after the incident — the Crown announced no charges would be laid. The police had acted in self-defence and the officers were exonerated of any wrong-doing.

Further, the Quebec Minister of Public Security refused to release the police report to the family.

Needless to say, the Bennis family has gone through much heartache in trying to find the truth of what happened. All they have to go on is the original coroner's report that cites Montreal police alleging that Mr. Bennis attacked the police “for no apparent reason.” The family wonders how it is that Mr. Bennis was shot twice at close range, with each bullet entering from above the shoulder and lodging in his vital organs. They wonder about the role of the second officer. The ensuing secrecy has made the ordeal even more painful, fuelling suspicion of a cover-up. Khadija Bennis, Mohammed's twin sister, recently told a Montreal radio station: “We have the feeling that we're being lied to and something is being hidden from us ... It's hard to believe that the system will give us the truth.”

The case bears striking resemblance to that of Ian Bush, who was killed on Oct. 29, 2005, in British Columbia while in RCMP custody. Mr. Bush, 22, was arrested for having an open beer outside a local hockey game and giving police officers a false name. Twenty minutes after his arrest, the RCMP allege the young man “became very violent and attacked [an] officer.” The coroner's report shows that Mr. Bush received a bullet in the back of the head. Audio and video recording equipment in the police station had been turned off. Like Mr. Bennis, Mr. Bush has been described as a nice kid with no history of violence.

The RCMP investigated itself, and asked a local police force to review its results. On Sept. 5 (10 months after the shooting), the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch announced that no charges would be laid. The RCMP officer was exonerated for acting in self-defence. In spite of requests, the investigative report has not been released to the family.

Needless to say, the Bush family is less than satisfied with the results. Like the Bennis family, they, too, want to know what happened to their son. They don't believe the official story, and have been stymied at every step by police secrecy. According to Jason Gratl, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, “this case is receiving an extraordinary high level of secrecy. We ... are at a loss to explain why. But what we can say is the underlying fact pattern — the bullet in the back of the head — reeks to high heaven.”

The Bush family has decided to pursue the truth by launching a lawsuit against the RCMP, the B.C. Attorney-General and Solicitor-General. In addition, the RCMP Commission for Public Complaints is investigating the case.

In Montreal, the Bennis family is weighing its options. While there is a civilian-run police-review apparatus, it does not investigate police shootings. And while Mr. Bush's death has been raised in the B.C. Legislative Assembly, no Quebec MNA has yet raised the Bennis case in the National Assembly. On Dec. 19, Montreal City Councillor Richard Bergeron, questioning police conduct, demanded release of the police report.

If there is a common thread between the two cases, it is the lack of police accountability in the death of two young men. Two families are grieving, frustrated by police secrecy. In both cases, no independent investigation has been conducted. While Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor has recommended robust oversight of the RCMP, police unions in Quebec have repeatedly rejected calls for the establishment of powerful independent review bodies.

During the Bush investigation, RCMP Staff Sergeant John Ward told The Globe and Mail that “the public doesn't have a right to know anything.” In a democracy, we sure do. It's the system of checks and balances that ensures that all of us — including the police — are acting within the law.