Updates about the recent confrontations at Tyendinaga and Six Nations - i apologize for not posting about this yesterday.
Readers in Toronto should note the emergency rally planned for tomorrow.
Update: Tense Standoff Continues in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
Shawn Brant Arrested on Trumped-Up Charges Once Again
**please note that circumstances on the ground continue to change constantly, so full updates are not possible at this time **
DETAILS FOR TORONTO SUPPORT DEMONSTRATION BELOW: COME OUT ON TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2008 AT NOON TO 720 BAY STREET
After a tense exchange this morning, in which the OPP informed Mohawk spokesperson Jason Maracle to get people out of the area or they would come in, the OPP instead disbanded a Mohawk roadblock erected on the perimetre of the reclaimed quarry site. This psychological warfare on the part of the police resulted in a tense face-off between the OPP and community members. At present, the OPP has removed one of the roadblocks on the Slash Road and pulled back, but remains present in the direct vicinity of the quarry in great numbers. At the centre of the dispute is the Culbertson Tract, land which rightfully belongs to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga. Community members have been occupying a gravel quarry site for over a year.
In addition, a blockade of Highway 6, taken in support of the Tyendinaga Mohawks, continues by people of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Six Nations community members have said they will remove the Highway 6 bypass blockade once they receive confirmation the OPP have withdrawn from the Mohawks of Tyendinaga. The road is now barricaded with a downed hydro tower, wires and a telephone pole.
Important to note is that, despite the reporting in mainstream press, Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant's arrest on Friday, April 25th stems from an incident which took place on Monday April 21st. Specifically, Shawn Brant has been charged for his role in allegedly preventing further attacks on a woman from Tyendinaga and a young child by racist rednecks from the town of Deseronto.
These new charges were laid less than two weeks after Shawn Brant was acquitted of charges alleging that he threated Canadian Forces soldiers during a demonstration to prevent development of the Culberston Tract in 2006.
Once again, for his role as a spokesperson in the community, Shawn Brant is facing trumped-up charges. Arrested during an interview he was conducting with APTN, Shawn's final words during his arrest on Friday were "This is it, justice for first nations communities: lock us up. Anybody who speaks out, lock-em up. KI6, Bob Lovelace: lock-em up...Don't fix the problems, lock-em up." (to watch, click on http://www.aptn.ca/streaming/index.php?wmv=friday/six)
Supporters rushed to the quarry after watching or hearing of Shawn's arrest. An altercation with the OPP is alleged to have ensued. Four Mohawks were then arrested and jailed. The OPP were reported to have drawn their guns on the Mohawk community members remaining the quarry.
According to Mohawk spokesperson Jay Maracle, "The OPP led us into this incident by jumping five of our men, arresting them and taking them to jail and then sticking guns in our faces, in women and children's faces," he said.
There has been open communication between the Mohawks and the OPP but Maracle said things will not improve unless OPP retracts a statement indicating there are armed Mohawks at the quarry. He said there are no guns at the site.
Matt Kunkel, Clint Brant, Dan Doreen, and Steve Chartrand remain in custody and will appear in bail court in Napanee today. The group includes Dan Dorene, spokesperson for the Mohawk blockade on Highway 2 one week ago, erected to prevent development on the Culberston Tract, land which rightfully belongs to the Mohawks.
A couple from the community who were also arrested by the OPP on Friday were later were released unconditionally.
Shawn Brant will also likely appear in court today.
This brings the total number of First Nations people in Ontario jails for defending their land to 12.
On April 27, members of the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group conducted a video interview with a spokesperson from Six Nations regarding the blockade of Highway 6 in Solidarity with the Mohawks of Tyendenaga. On the Upping the Anti site.
EMERGENCY RALLY: TORONTO
TOMORROW: Tuesday, April 29th
Ministry of the Attorney General
720 Bay Street
(Bay, just north of Gerrard, eastside)
OPP back off!
Free all First Nations Political Prisoners Now!
Hands off Stolen Land: Return the Culbertson Tract to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga!
Please continue to call the premier's office and urge the Provincial Government to:
Honour Mohawk land, call off the OPP: Do not risk people's lives for a gravel pit the government has already acknowledged is on Mohawk land!
Release all First Nations political prisoners!
Premier Dalton McGuinty: 416-325-1941 (phone)
Sunday Press Release from TMT:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
FROM TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY:
Ontario Jails Five More First Nations People Involved in Land Struggles
(Sunday, April 27, 2008 -Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory) Five men from Tyendinaga are in jail today bringing the total number of First Nations people in Ontario jails for defending their land to 12.
Ontario, it appears, has opted for the incarceration of First Nations people over the resolution of outstanding land issues as their status quo.
As for the Ontario Provincial Police, it appears the adoption of Justice Linden's Ipperwash Inquiry recommendations is experiencing some delay. While in custody at the Napanee Detachment several different officers repeatedly informed Shawn Brant that they were going to "slit his throat" and that he was a "dead man."
This followed a similarly disturbing incident that occurred on Monday, April 22nd during the road closures in Deseronto when an officer on the scene clearly and audibly commented to her colleagues "we should just shoot them (Mohawks) all."
Meanwhile, road closures continue in Tyendinaga and Six Nations until, as one man said, "We finish the job."
Contact: Jay Maracle: 613-243-4993
- 30 -
Monday, April 28, 2008
Updates about the recent confrontations at Tyendinaga and Six Nations - i apologize for not posting about this yesterday.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Pig yelling at observers as he and pals wrestle protester on the ground
Lots of news about the unfolding confrontation between Ontario Provincial Police and the Mohawks of Tyendinaga - this is a series of different pieces, several from the colonial media:
URGENT CALL: FRIDAY APRIL 25TH 2008- MOHAWKS OF TYENDINAGA UNDER ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE SIEGE - SHAWN BRANT ARRESTED ON FAKE WEAPONS CHARGES ON CULBERTSON TRACT - OPP CRUISERS AND VANS SURROUND – 20 DOWN BY TRAIN TRACTS ON DESERONTO ROAD AND BRIDGE ST.
MNN. At 2:45 pm. today, Friday, April 25th, 2008, Shawn Brant was arrested for an incident that happened on Monday on Slash Road. He was attacked by Deseronto citizens who were trying to run our blockades. He had no weapons whatsoever. The OPP are trying to make Shawn out to be the leader there. He is not.
DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF SHAWN BRANT, POLITICAL PRISONER.
The Ritiskenekete have slashed OPP cruisers windows and chased them off Deseronto Road.
APTN and support from Six Nations, Kahnawake are on their way. Anyone who can go there and help should call 613-391-5132 for information.
There will probably be a raid of the illegal Thurlow Quarry that the Mohawk took over a year ago.
Shawn Brant was taken to Napanee.
Needed urgently: deer meat, fish, non-perishable food, water, Camping equipment, communications equipment, fuel, gas, propane, mobile phones, phone cards, rain coats, gas masks, towels, soap, wet wipes, tooth bushes and tooth paste, bear spray, gloves, work shoes, boots, runners, socks, radios, two-way radios, hand held radio, flashlights, tents, lanterns, wood for the fire, cooking utensils, plates and silverware, first aid.
To go there on the TransCanada Highway 401, to #49 to Slash Road, to Deseronto boundary.
Or Marysville Road south to Bayshore Road, turn left all the way to the quarry.
Runners should be dispatched to go there to carry information from the site to supporters. Supporters should contact OPP, Ontario government, band council chief to stop this aggression and attempted blood bath.
All nations council meeting tonight. OPP heat is going on at the quarry. Need help now.
MNN Mohawk Nation News
Dan 613-919-1354; Rotiskenekete 613-849-1314 – 613-827-4991 email email@example.com
From the Kingston Whig-Standard:
OPP clash with Mohawk protesters; Police make several arrests near disputed quarry north of Deseronto
Posted By W. Brice McVicar; Luke Hendry
Several Mohawk protesters were arrested here yesterday following a wild skirmish that ended in a tense, armed standoff.
Dozens of heavily armed Ontario Provincial Police officers clashed with Mohawk protesters just north of the Thurlow Aggregates quarry, which Mohawks have been occupying for more than one year. The standoff began peacefully with officers and Mohawks talking quietly after the arrest earlier in the afternoon of Mohawk protest leader Shawn Brant on charges unrelated to yesterday's melee.
But the scene erupted in violence about one hour after the encounter began, with police wrestling with protesters who began swinging punches at the officers. Several arrests were made before police radios crackled a message that an armed individual inside the quarry was spotted taking aim at police and police jumped for cover behind cruisers, drawing automatic weapons and sidearms. No shots were fired, however, and protesters who had been arrested and handcuffed were taken away to waiting vehicles.
The wild turn of events began shortly after a protest spokesman agreed to answer questions for reporters.
Mohawk spokesperson Jerome Barnhart said the standoff unfolded after Brant was pulled over by OPP on Deseronto Road earlier in the afternoon. The routine traffic stop, Barnhart said, resulted in "a couple of charges. One was with a weapon - a spear - which is just blasphemous as this is our [fish] harvesting season here.
"We feed our families for the year at this time and to confiscate that as a weapon is outrageous," he said. "If Mr. [Julian] Fantino, [OPP commissioner], wants to go about it this way. ... Well, we have a lot of reinforcements coming. Bring it on."
Barnhart said the OPP were only trying to "put the screws" to the Mohawks to prevent those reinforcements from arriving.
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte band council convened an emergency meeting yesterday evening to discuss the turn of events, but Barnhart dismissed the authority of the band.
"This is Mohawk business. It has nothing to do with Mohawk band council. It's the Mohawk people and the nation," he said. "This is Mohawk nation business and we mean business."
As Barnhart was meeting with reporters, OPP Staff Sgt. Steve Flynn informed the Mohawks that if they remained on Deseronto Road, they would be arrested. He advised them to return to the quarry or be charged and taken into custody.
"If you stay here, you'll be arrested. If you go back to the quarry, you'll have sanctuary," Flynn said.
Flynn's comments saw many Mohawks making their way slowly toward the quarry, though some remained behind and hollered at the approximately 20 officers gathered at the intersection of Deseronto Road and Bridge Street.
"I can't guarantee your officers safety if they come on Mohawk land," bellowed Dan Doreen, who led the blockade earlier this week on the outskirts of Deseronto.
As one woman walked past the officers, north to where her vehicle had been left parked, she looked toward police and said, "Get your guns ready."
Moments later, officers wrestled a number of protesters to the ground amid shouts of "stop resisting." In a cacophony of shouts, jeers and orders, protesters told their family members to leave the scene, OPP officers shouted directions and protesters argued as they were handcuffed.
Just as quickly as the violence erupted, Mohawks who had remained at the quarry responded. An all-terrain vehicle carrying two individuals raced toward the scene and, seconds later, word spread among the officers that someone had a gun.
After the radio message warning of a gun, officers with sub-machine guns took aim at protesters both to the south and to the north where a motorhome was parked at the intersection of Deseronto Road and Lower Slash Road. Officers said they believed there was an individual with a gun inside the battered RV.
By nightfall, a tense calm had descended on the scene as police widened a secure perimeter back some 500 metres from the quarry.
From the right-wing Toronto Sun:
Mohawk standoff 'Could make Caledonia look like nothing', says protester
By JOE WARMINGTON, SUN MEDIA
Tensions were mounting last night as native protesters and members of the OPP tactical squad were in a standoff at a protest site in Deseronto.
This came just hours after about 10 people were arrested and two police officers were taken to hospital.
As of late last night the conflict had not been resolved at a scene which included lit fires in fields and vitriolic threats.
Among those arrested was Shawn Brant, who organized the blockade of the Montreal-Toronto CN rail corridor last April and June. Brant, who was arrested during a traffic stop yesterday afternoon, faces assault, weapons and drug charges, police said.
The OPP asked protesters to leave the site or face arrest.
"We're not moving anywhere," protester Jason Maracle said. "They're going to have to kill every God damn one of us to get us off our land. We're not moving. I guess if they want another 1990 scene, then OK, I guess we'll have one."
OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino last night said the dispute is not a land-claims issue. "This violent criminal activity occurred outside of any legitimate protest and will not be tolerated," he said. "Police officers being assaulted and injured for doing their utmost to keep the peace and protect the law-abiding community is unacceptable.
"We're trying to keep this from escalating."
While Brant was being arrested, supporters arrived at the scene and clashed with police, resulting in two officers being taken to hospital with minor injuries, police said.
Hours later, police clashed again with protesters and 10 people were arrested "for various offences including assault police." Six remain in custody and four young people were released.
Protesters inside a quarry protest site told the Sun last night they were "worried" a confrontation was imminent. "We are surrounded here," said protester Mike Brant. "They are sending the media away so we are worried they are going to take us all out."
He said they were concerned police were going to "come in the dark with guns" which would be unfair because "we are not doing anything. All we are doing is sitting here holding out land. There is nothing wrong with that."
The OPP said they were concerned when officers spotted a "long gun" pointed at them from within the quarry. Native protesters deny this.
Protesters have controlled the quarry since March 2007
"If we don't get this settled down soon, this is going to make Caledonia look like nothing," said one native protester who asked that his name not be used. "Six Nations protesters are on their way and so are the people who have been at Caledonia. This has nasty potential."
Several witnesses confirmed the OPP had up to 150 officers and 50 vehicles already on site in this town, 50 kms west of Kingston, near the Mohawk Territory.
Sun Media's Pete Fisher said he was told by police that "they couldn't guarantee my safety" and he reported that he had never seen a bigger native protest scene. A whole field was set ablaze.
From the Hamilton Spectator:
Six Nations group forces closure of Highway 6
TheSpec.com - Local - Six Nations group forces closure of Highway 6
John Burman and Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator
CALEDONIA (Apr 26, 2008)
More than 100 Six Nations residents forced the closure of the Highway 6 bypass at Caledonia late yesterday to protest OPP action against Mohawks occupying a quarry near Deseronto, Ont., earlier in the day.
The OPP closed the bypass "in the interests of public safety" after a large gathering of natives on two overpasses above it.
Native spokesperson Brian Skye told reporters the Caledonia action was taken because of the situation between the natives and the OPP near a quarry in Deseronto, in eastern Ontario.
There was a tense standoff there, where natives oppose plans for development on lands they claim. It escalated when police spotted what appeared to be a gun among the demonstrators.
There were at least 10 arrests there.
Skye said he has seen e-mailed photos from Deseronto with armed police "pointing guns at women and children."
"There's been an escalation of OPP personnel advancing on the people of Tyendinaga," Skye said. "They are being pressured by an armed force and the people of Six Nations are showing their support for their struggle to reclaim their territory."
Skye said the Six Nations want the OPP to stand down in Deseronto.
Around 8:30, natives in Caledonia began discussing the possibility of extending the blockade to Argyle Street, one of two main roads in Caledonia, depending on what happened in Deseronto.
Last night's closure of the bypass is the first time in almost two years that a road has been blocked in the Caledonia land claims dispute. Argyle Street was blocked for more than a month following an April 2006 attempt to remove protesters from the disputed Douglas Creek Estates subdivision.
Skye wouldn't say if the blockades had been sanctioned by the traditional Confederacy or the elected band council.
Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer said last night the move brings back bad memories.
Trainer was on her way to a community prayer meeting in support of peace in the town, attended by about 70 people including MP Diane Finley and MPP Toby Barrett, when the blockade happened.
Caledonia resident, Marg Walker, 49, was watching the blockade from a vantage point on Highway 54.
"This is not right ... The people of Caledonia have already been through too much. What right do they have to block traffic? If I did that, they'd arrest me."
Constable Paula Wright, spokesperson for the Haldimand OPP, said cruisers were used to block either end of the bypass as "there is potential for public safety to be compromised."
The bypass was closed at the Argyle Street intersection on the west side of town and Green's Road on the east.
Wright said the OPP is urging everyone "not to jeopardize peace" and to "be patient."
Negotiations to settle the dispute have been grinding on since the summer of 2006, but tensions in Caledonia have eased considerably in that time as well.
The OPP in Deseronto said they saw a "long gun" being pointed at them from a location inside an occupied quarry, which protesters have controlled since March 2007. Those occupying the quarry said they had no weapons there.
An order was issued to all police on the scene to take cover and guns were drawn by officers crouching behind their vehicles. No shots were fired. At least 10 people were arrested, including Shawn Brant, who has been under a court order to stay away from any protests after being involved in last June's aboriginal national day of action which saw the closure of Highway 401 in the area.
And again, from Mohawk Nation News:
MOHAWK URGENT CALL FOR ASSISTANCE from Kahentinetha Horn
MNN Mohawk Nation News
2008-04-26 | Stop attack on Mohawks !
Tyendinaga Mohawk Aserakowa [War Chief] speaks from the front line – “We’re not leaving”. OPP: “We’re coming in at dark to take you out!”
MNN: MNN Mohawk Nation News Aserakowa 613-243-4993 still at the quarry.
(Ed. Note. Just received. UPDATES to follow.)
Shawn Brant was doing a media interview with APTN News in Tyendinaga on Deseronto Boundary Road. Ontario Provincial Police came along with an outstanding assault charge. They arrested Shawn. They hauled him off to jail. Then the OPP closed both ends of Deseronto Road. The Aserakowa came down to see what was going on.
Steve Flynn of Aboriginal Response Team ART of the OPP showed up. We talked. Flynn told the Aserakowa about Shawn. By then we had men at both ends of the road. He talked about opening the road. Flynn said, “You walk away and we’ll walk away. Okay?” Both Flynn and the Aserkowa agreed.
“We will get in our cars and you’ll get in yours”, said Flynn. It turned out to be a set up. The Rotiskeneketeh started moving off the road. Suddenly about 10 OPP jumped about 5 of our guys, threw them in the ditch, beat them up and arrested them. They hauled them off to jail. No reasons were given for the arrests or assaults. The OPP is certain not operating on an honorable nation to nation model. It is not even offering the kind of fiduciary protection for indigenous rights as it is supposed to, according to the supreme Court of Canada.
Since when have the colonial institutions ever acted to protect Indigenous people?
After behaving like thugs and beating up our guys, the OPP pulled out their weapons and pointed them at us. For our safety, we retreated back to the quarry. We didn’t want to get shot.
Once we got there cops swarmed us from every direction. They were everywhere as far as we could see, armed to the teeth with their guns pointed directly at us all the time.
Then they came over with loud speakers, told us to come away from the quarry, down the hill, with our hands up in the air “where we can see them”.
We told them, “F**k you. This is Mohawk land. We’re not leaving”. They raised their weapons and aimed at us again.
“You’re going to have to shoot us”, we told them.
Then there was more build up. They told us they are coming in at dark to take us out. They are moving Mohawk people off Mohawk lands at the end of a gun barrel.
The Mohawks are unarmed.
The OPP have SWAT Teams, ambulances, dogs and we can’t see if they ships in the water.
Arrested are Clint Brant, Steve Hill, Dan Doreen, Shawn Brant and Mac Kunkel. We don’t know where they’ve been taken.
Six Nations people have closed down three roads. Akwesasne guys are on the International Bridge. In Kahnawake there will be closures.
They will be coming after us at about 8:30 pm EDT, as soon as it gets dark.
We’re not moving. We know that.
We don’t know what’s going to happen. This is Ipperwash, 1990, Gustafsen Lake, Six Nations, the list goes on. If they harm any of those guys at Tyendinaga, there’s no saying what will happen.
The message from the men is that we will defend the land. That’s our duty according to the Kaianerekowa, Great Law of Peace, the law of Turtle Island.
SEND URGENT OBJECTIONS TO PREMIER MCGUINTY OF ONTARIO; PRIME MINISTER STEVEN HARPER; JULIAN FANTINO COMMISSIONER OF THE OPP: tell them to call off their thugs and stop breaking the peace. They have a obligations under international law to resolve any disagreements peacefully. They have an obligation to keep the peace, not to break it.
LIVES ARE AT STAKE.
MNN Mohawk Nation News
Subject: RED ALERT IN CALEDONIA!!!!!!!!! FORWARD OUT ASAP!
Just got a phone call from Jacqueline House at Six Nations. In protest to what the Canadian govt. and OPP armed officers are doing at Tyenindega, the Six Nations have now BLOCKED the By-Pass road at Caledonia!!!!! 3 Men have been arrested and have been jailed at Tyenindega.
Jacqueline House stated that all relatives with connections to people at these Reserves, PLEASE CALL and try to mobilize help to the area ASAP.
Thanks everyone, please, PLEASE keep our relatives in your prayers, Bluejay
I've contacted the OPP to let them know that badge or no badge, they are not absolved in the eyes of our Creator for that which they do.
This activity will be monitored by the world.
Dieter of Germany
FOR INFORMATION CALL:
Warchief: (1) 613-243-4993
Jan Hill (1) 613-961-8515 613-827-1547
Dan (1) 613-919-1354
Rotiskenekete (1) 613-849-1314; (1) 613-827-4991
OPP Easter Headquarters (1) 613-284-4500 L.G. Beechey Chief Supt. Commander Eastern Region
R. Don Maracle (1) 613-396-3089 Cell (1) 613-391-9249
Friday, April 25, 2008
It had been a good fifteen years since i had gone to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the previous time having been when my grandmother visited from overseas. This was not without some regret on my part, looking at pretty pictures and learning about different folks who drew or painted them being something i think i'd enjoy, but still i don't go - partly it's a lack of time, partly it's just not something i ever think of when i do have a spare day.
When i walked by the museum last week i saw this big poster for the Cuba! Art and History from 1869 to Today exhibit and thought "that looks interesting," but by for the aforementioned reasons had stopped thinking about it by the time i got to Peel. But then by happy coincidence one of our houseguests mentioned he had heard of this very exhibit - apparently the largest collection of Cuban works ever displayed outside the country - and wanted to go while he was in town, so a plan was struck and when half-price Wednesday evening rolled around, off we set.
Simply in the hopes of not forgetting it all by this time next year, here's what i thought.
First off, note to self: when visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, bring a pen and notepad. They don't provide anything beyond a glitzy-but-empty magazine you can take with you afterwards to remind you of what you saw. Not a list of artists, never mind a list of paintings. i had assumed i'd be able to find the information online, but (as you'll see) no such luck. & the book they sell at the end, with tiny reproductions of everything in the exhibit, costs $70, so that's kind of out of the question.
Cuba! Art and History from 1869 to Today contains about 400 works - paintings, drawings, photos, posters, a couple of old films and a few installations - divided into five chronological sections.
When you first enter, you're in confronted with this enormous, stunning landscape showing lots of green, cliffs in the background, breathtaking stuff. No, i don't remember the name of the painting or the artist - see my problem? - but it makes an impression. Really a stunning piece.
It and the first two rooms constitute the "Depicting Cuba, finding ways to express a nation" section, spanning 1868 to 1927. The art here is all paintings, with several other landscapes, some pastoral scenes, and an interesting juxtaposition of two paintings of teenage girls - one white, one Afro-Cuban entitled "Girl of the Sugar Cane" or some such.
But the real eye catcher in this room is a depiction of the execution of Hatuey, a Taino cacique who had resisted the Spanish in Hispanola (the island that today is Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and had then fled to Cuba to warn the Indigenous people there of what colonialism had in store. According to Bartolome de las Casas, he showed those who he came to warn a basket of gold and jewels, explaining:
Here is the God the Spaniards worship. For these they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea... They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters. Incapable of matching us in valor, these cowards cover themselves with iron that our weapons cannot break...The blurb accompanying the painting explains that, having been captured, about to be killed, Hatuey was approached by a missionary who asked if he wanted to go to heaven. Probably about to offer baptism or last rites, expanding the colonialists' military win into an ideological one. The guerilla leader turned this around on his captors, though, responding with a question of his own: "Are these white men going to heaven also?" The missionary responded in the affirmative, to which Hatuey answered that, in that case, "I don't want to go to heaven."
The story, which i have no trouble believing, is more moving than the painting, which while pretty, really doesn't evoke either the horror of the situation or the stakes of what was being fought over. Rather you have this typically handsome muscly guy with a loincloth - oh that must be Hatuey - looking into the sky while an old dude with an incredible beard seems to be pleading with him. i mean it could have been like that, but i doubt it.
Gotta be careful dismissing stuff as clichéd when its from two centuries back, though. i mean, maybe it wasn't cliché at the time, maybe it was an accurate portrayal, one which because it worked to move folks way back when, laid the basis for a a set of conventions and visual shortcuts and stereotypes which today strike us as cliché? i dunno...
Next room was photos. Gotta say, i'm not a great fan of photography, so i skipped through quickly enough. A few did catch my eye though - guys working sorting tobacco, other guys working i believe unloading coal on the docks, women working in a textile factory... one thing all of these folks have in common is they look tired, very tired, unlike the paintings in the previous room where everyone - slaves, soon-to-be-executed guerillas, young folks, everyone - looks wide awake like they're posing on a movie set.
i'm not sure if it was in the photo room or next that we enter our next section, "Arte Nuevo, the avant-garde and the recreation of identity" spanning 1927-1938. But suddenly things get interesting. The blurb on the wall explains that Cuban artists were now trying to portray reality as they saw it around them, not some kind of idealized "Cuba" as it was imagined. The style is what they call modernist i think, and painters were obviously not trying to give a photo-realistic view of things, but by making people less detailed, they manage to convey much more emotion.
One artist, and one painting, stand out from this period for me.
The painting, which i believe was called Workers or Trabajadores, i don't remember the painter (see my problem!), shows two guys piggy-backing a third. It's left unclear whether because he's hurt, or dead, or just dead tired. In the background there's all these buildings, factories, and there's a nice juxtaposition between the three guys in the foreground and the background of architecture. It works.
The artist who stands out for me - in fact, the artist who for me constitutes the highpoint of the entire exhibit - is Marcello Pogolotti. (The curator must have liked him too, because he gets his own room.)
Like many of the artists featured, as a member of the privileged classes, Pogolotti was born in Cuba but spent his childhood and early adulthood abroad, mainly in Europe but also for a few years in the united states. During this period he fell in with the surrealists, and then the futurists in Italy.
Now, i never knew a lot about the futurists, and most of what i ever did know i have forgotten. But my impression was that they were an artistic movement in line with Fascism, especially in its revolutionary, forward-looking aspects, exulting the machine and technology and embodying the spirit of the age to come, a spirit they were very enthusiastic about. So while interesting, i wouldn't have expected to find anything politically inspiring to come from that quarter.
Pogolotti, however, appears to have been an anti-fascist futurist, albeit one who may have taken his time coming to anti-fascism. But then again, from memory, these artsy types often take their time getting places, and the futurists as a whole i imagine took their time lining up for Mussolini. According to an article from Art Nexus, it was Pogolotti's Nuestro Tiempo series of charcoal drawings which got him kicked out of Fascist Italy in 1932, though it would seem that for some time he allowed his "apolitical" or pro-fascist futurist friends to continue including his work in their exhibits, until he finally broke with them in 1934. According to the Art Nexus article:
In Paris, Pogolotti became close to the Revolutionary Writers and Artists Association, led by Louis Aragon. He showed his works alongside theirs on a couple of occasions, without abandoning the formal achievements of Futurism. He kept painting factories and machinery, now incorporating the “human pulse” of work and of the class struggle, expressed in relationships of dominance, subordination, and symbiosis between those machines and human subjects, and in the tension of diagonal lines.
When i saw the actual drawing, at first i thought it was a big fight or a melee between the people shown all intertwined. The cops or soldiers firing guns into the crowd seemed just part of the dark background, but then suddenly i could see it - folks weren't fighting each other, they were being mowed down.
Unfortunately, some of Pogolotti's anti-fascist pieces seem to suffer from the weaknesses of the broader anti-fascist movement of his day. One shows Nazis whipping workers, with a fat-cat capitalist holding them on leashes - while i remember what i said about clichés above - perhaps at the time this represented a cutting edge insight - today this is a hackneyed view, obscuring more than it reveals.
Another charcoal piece shows Hitler with four or five penises, and (again, only discernible to me after i'd been staring at it for a minute) someone leaning over revealing their naked bum in the background. The idea, i guess, being "Hitler's gonna fuck you in the ass" - again, in step with its times perhaps, but both homophobic and missing the point all the same.
For me, the funniest piece by Pogolotti is the one that obviously impressed the curator the most, so that it ended up on the cover the the $70 commemorative book the museum put out about the exhibit:
Titled "The Young Intellectual", according to the accompanying blurb the artist's intention was to portray the intellectual as a combatant, threatened by an ominous figure outside (the bird with the scythe). His weapons an open book and the typewriter by his side, our hero is apparently presented with a stiff back "to show that intellectuals are not weaklings." Really, that's what it said. i like it, but i hope you can see why it makes me laugh.
(Pogolotti died in 1988, but there is no visual art from him after the thirties: he went blind in 1939. Living until just before his death in Mexico, he devoted the rest of his life to literary and art criticism.)
The least interesting sections of the exhibit for me were the two that came next, "Cubanness, affirming a Cuban style" spanning 1938-1959, and "Within the Revolution, Everything - against the revolution, nothing" spanning the 1959-1979 period.
Not that they were entirely lacking: works by Wilfredo Lam certainly stand out, muppet-like in their zaniness, really bursting with life like some friendly yet fierce drug-induced vision. Take a look at this, for instance, Lam's The Jungle, which i got off the internet but which i believe was at the exhibit, along with many other of his works:
Lam, like Pogolotti, was born in 1902. His father was Chinese-Cuban and his mother Afro-Cuban, while her mother was one of the many African slaves who supported the country's economy; like so many in this show, Lam went to Europe in his youth, finding himself in Spain at the time when revolution was in the air. According to wikipedia:
Throughout Lam’s travels through the Spanish countryside, he developed empathy for the Spanish peasants, whose strife, in some ways, mirrored that of the former slaves he grew up around in Cuba. Therefore, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Lam sided with the Republicans where he used his talent to fashion Republican posters and propaganda. Drafted to defend Madrid, Lam was incapacitated during the fighting in late 1937 and was sent to Barcelona.With the Republican defeat Lam took up residence in France, until the Nazis invaded, at which point he returned to his native Cuba.
Really, what struck me seeing Lam's fantastic and slightly deranged works was how much surrealism obviously drew from innovations and art forms from outside of the metropole: Lam in particular seems to have learned about and brought "African" artistic styles to his friends in the "European" cutting edge art scene.
As for all those OSPAAAL posters, put out after the revolution in solidarity with struggles and groups the Castro regime supported around the world - they're great, of course, but in a sense they deserve their own exhibit with lots of commentary. Put on one half of one wall, they seem a catalog of struggles which to most people may be meaningless, or else not understood. Although i think done properly the OSPAAAL posters could have impressed me more than anything else, presented as they were they seemed trite, reduced to a wall full of propaganda, nothing beyond that.
In any case, here you can see them all online if you're interested: just go to the OSPAAAL website.
Not knowing much about Cuba - part of my aversion to the Pathfinder types i guess - i was slightly surprised at how some artists began to voice criticisms of the world around them by the 1980s, as shown in the final section, "The Revolution and Me, the individual within history", bringing us up to present. NOT that there is anything denouncing state repression or the marketization of class relations or any such - the "critique" in this period remains subdued or implicit, nothing like the works of a Pogolotti explicitly showing the blood and guts of oppression, of state repression or the broader capitalist system which is clearly a factor in the continuing misery of people around the world, including people inside Cuba.
The only way in which global capitalism is attacked is in the form of the Blockade, the u.s. embargo on Cuba. On the one hand, this is understandable, given the incredible hardship the decades-long attempt to starve people into submission has inflicted on the island. Nevertheless, what with the expansion of a capitalist tourism industry within Cuba, and expanding class divisions, it is striking that these topics were nowhere mentioned. In a similar vein, while a blurb gives a one-sentence nod to "sexism and homophobia" in art in the revolutionary period, we see neither examples of this sexism or homophobia in what is included, nor do we ever see any artwork criticizing this. Indeed, women artists are utterly missing from the exhibit (there are only eight included, and i only noticed one of them), and there is not a single visible queer expression.
For whatever reason, the only pieces i found moving in this last section were installations, not drawings, prints or paintings.
One artist - again, forget the name, and can't find it on the net - wrote out the word "UTOPIA" in Russian letters made of measuring tape, a smart way i thought to communicate a bunch of ideas at one time.
Another wrote out the word "Blockade" in concrete letters in front of a maquette of the island. This was surprisingly effective.
By far my favourite two pieces here were both by Alexis Leyva Machado, who prefers to go by the name "Kcho". The first of these, titled "In Order to Forget", consists of a canoe atop an "island" of beer bottles, shaped in the same form as Cuba itself. It can be read various ways, but according to various blurbs it would seem Kcho's work deals with migration, and this was certainly the theme throughout that room, so that's how i took it. Neat and smart:
The second installation i actually thought was much smarter, and worked very well, though i have not been able to find it online. It was also by Kcho, and it ends the entire exhibit. It consisted of a darkened room with large flat surface, on which stood dozens of candles in different states of melting. Some seemed just like blobs, while others were recognizable as buildings of various kinds - according to the guard i asked, many are historic buildings: the eiffel tower, the vatican, etc. and once i was told i think i made out the twin towers. Many burning, many having gone out. (Each morning they are re-lit, and as they melt away completely they are replaced.)
This alone would be interesting, but what to me made it great was three close circuit video cameras filming the entire thing and displaying alternating shots of it on a screen above. Every ten seconds or so the perspective would change, but no matter which camera angle was being used, what appeared on the screen was just a narrow slice of what you could see on the table. Much of the table could simply not be seen, no matter which perspective was being displayed, or at least could not be seen on the screen.
For me, this summed up my misgivings about art and representation in general, how the perspective used always leaves out much of what is actually going on. A shortcoming that seems unavoidable, and was certainly not avoided in this show, like it tho i did. For a piece of art to sum up why art makes me uneasy was a very nice surprise. A great finale.
This was a good show, but it was by no means complete, and should not be presented as such. Women, who make up well over 50% of the people depicted, were practically absent from the list of artists. This is inexcusable, and that the exhibit was organized by Nathalie Bondil, herself the first woman director the Museum of Fine Arts, is just another example of how useless it is to count on change coming down from above.
But again: this is inexcusable. There is a long and established herstory of women making important, and widely recognized, contributions to Cuban art - at Havana's 1927 "New Art Exhibit" six of the eighteen artists featured were female, and women had been accepted in the country's art academies since 1879. Amelia Pelaez participated alongside Wilfredo Lam in Cuba's "First Exhibit of Modern Art" in 1935, and would earn her place as "one of the most important painters of the continent." Other renowned female Cuban artists include Mirta Cerra, Antonia Eirez, Lesbia Vent, Flora Fong, Nancy Franko, and Julia Valdes. While Pelaez and Eirez both have work in the Montreal exhibit, they don't have much, certainly not enough to mitigate the overwhelmingly male vision.
Similarly missing is anything explicitly critical of the regime in power, or of the continuing intrusion of capitalism into peoples' lives. Not that i expect this is present in other exhibits put on at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, but still, it's an absence worth noting.
Despite these holes, i enjoyed this trip to the museum. Definitely, taking a few hours to look through other people's eyes is an exercise well worth doing. Hopefully, i'll visit again before another fifteen years go by (shit, that would be 2023!). Gotta remember to bring a notepad and pen next time, though...
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Do you like hockey?
i don't. Never have.
Memories of "playing" it as a child stall at about age ten. All i have is images of rainy days when the school didn't want us kids getting too dirty we all got shoved into a gym with these ridiculous plastic hockey sticks (like they would bend, and stay bent) and "play". i feel nauseous just thinking of it today.
And as for following team sports, never happened for me. Certainly never hockey. Whole thing was alienating as hell, had nothing to do with me when i was a nerdy kid who couldn't fit in, and then when my brain slipped over that ledge and i wouldn't fit in, so far as i could see none of my friends gave a shit either. The Dead Kennedys summed it up for me:
Jock-o-rama save my soulTeam sports, and the enthusiasm they engendered, always seemed to distill everything i just wasn't interested in. Reeked of the kind of guys i'd be wary of.
We`re under the thumb of the beef patrol
The future of america is in their hands
Watch it roll over niagara falls
Pep rally in the holy temple
And you`re forced to go
Masturbate en masse
With the favored religious cult
Cheerleaders yell "ra ra team"
From the locker room parades the prime beef
When archaeologists dig this up
They`ll either laugh or cry
Looking back, much of this seems silly, mistaking (as kids do) the subjective for the objective, my own personal dislike with something deeper than just that. Obviously, there's lots of macho pricks who get excited about "their" team, but there were at least as many macho punks who would get excited about their favourite band, or who would just be pricks coz that was the punk rock thing to be.
Today i view these team sports as something like sado-masochism or scat: it's not for me, but as long as everyone's consenting and i don't have to watch it, i don't object.
So skip to the present.
A few days ago the Montreal hockey team wins some important game and afterwards the "party in the streets" escalates to broken windows, some minor looting, and attacks on cop cars. Sixteen were damaged, several torched, causing $500,000 in damages.
Good stuff i say, in the same way that seeing the trees budding after that long winter is good stuff.
The culture industry promotes these sporting events as ways to let off steam, to celebrate a weird kind of masculinity, a fierce-because-it's-shallow, add-water-and-stir collective identity... we know how these ingredients can combine, and so who should be surprised when they do?
Indeed, not anyone. This ain't the first time this has happened. The 1986 Stanley Cup riot caused a million dollars in damages, five thousand people are reported to have taken part with only twenty six arrested. i remember friends from high school who had gone out that night just to join in the fun. Likewise, the 1993 Stanley Cup riot saw ten million dollars in damages, one hundred arrested and one hundred and sixty reported injured, including 49 cops. Bonfires were set in the streets, cars were overturned and many stores looted, amongst them Future Shop (now that's what i call free internet). In Vancouver, the 1994 hockey riot saw thousands of people smashing up the downtown area and battling cops who used tear gas and rubber bullets: one teenager, Ryan Berntt, received a rubber bullet in the head and suffered permanent brain damage as a result. There too, much was made of the rioters not being "real fans" but rather "hooligans" who had showed up after the game just to make trouble.
What to say beyond that? For rads, any smile at the burning cop cars has to be followed by disclaimers that of course we don't think this is revolutionary action. Of course this isn't a sign that the masses are on "our side" - i've chatted with a number of comrades about this, and everyone is in a rush, even anxious, to make the point. Nobody wants to be embarrassed making that claim, or even being thought to make it.
And yet this time folks torched cop cars, leaving other cars alone. The police were targeted. Everyone, including the cops, seems to agree this was the case.
Nobody should - and so far as i can tell, nobody is - claiming this as a political action. (Though the Gazette in an editorial did point a finger at "anarchists" as being possible culprits!)
But by the same token, why should we be dismissive? Given the various ways that a bunch of excited guys can act when they get rowdy, i can think of a bazillion things they can - and have - done worse than attacking the police. & from what reports there have been, they didn't do those things Monday night.
Spring being in the air, the hockey riot against the cops reminds me of a seed in the wild: as you may know, most seeds don't survive, most don't take and won't ever be a plant. Maybe one in ten, or one in a hundred, or one in a million might. i don't expect anything lasting to come out of this. But by the same token, i think i see in it an example of life trying to break through, of the consciousness some people have that the police are the ones to go after, not the ones to go with.
Which brings me to my second point.
While the hockey riot may not be a proletarian assault, perhaps not even as a "class in itself", from the other side of the of the billy club it's all grist for the mill.
Within a day of the riot, "outraged fans" were sending cellphone photos they had taken, in the hopes of helping the cops catch the "bad apples". The powers that be are gloating that they have received fifty such photos or videos, many of which were reprinted in newspapers like the Montreal Gazette, which appealed to people to inform on the guilty, and this morning the news is that seven more people have been arrested this way.
Here we see the uphill battle all "organic" and "spontaneous" outbreaks of anti-state violence face when they grow out of a society which is as corrupt and thoroughly pro-state as ours.
If the burned out cop cars are a barometer of popular consciousness, so too are the stool pigeons.
One journalist referred to it as the stage of "small brother", as opposed to "big brother": a population so wedded to the state that they will police each other. If "resistance" can be spontaneous and "democratic", so can repression: Capital's kind of self-management.
At the same time, the hockey riot provides an opportunity to beef up various mechanisms of control, mechanisms which you can bet will not be only, or even mainly, directed against "fans". In the wake of Monday's violence the recommendations of riots-gone-past are being dusted off, with talk of plainclothes cops being planted in crowds to help "disperse" gatherings at trouble spots, and more rapid intervention of the riot squad.Mario Dumont, head of the right-wing ADQ, is using the occasion to champion greater police repression, and has called upon the political establishment to essentially write the cops a blank cheque, letting them know they will stand behind them no matter how they deal with future outbreaks. Perhaps like they did in Vancouver in 94?
In a similar vein, suggestions have been floated of sealing off St-Catherine street - the commercial strip where the rioting occurred - after future games. The police have posted photos people have sent them of the riot onto their site, asking for informants. Various hockey players have made public appeals to act nice next time.
The culture industry sends them out, the culture industry reels them in.
Hockey, as i said, is something i find uninteresting. Same with hockey games, team spirit, all that crap. i have no doubt most of the guys (and according to all evidence, they were all guys) getting wild on Monday were no different from any excitable young man. But if only because it poses the choice - to burn a cop car, or to inform on those who do - the riot is interesting.
As to the repression: though justified by hockey fans, all of these things set precedents aimed at whoever will come up against them in future. Given that that is our aim, for better or for worse, it concerns us.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The following two reports from Mohawk Nation News:
ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE INVADE PEACEFUL MOHAWKS AT TYENDINAGA. ANOTHER CALEDONIA STYLE DEVELOPER "CASHOUT" SCAM
April 22, 2008 - 9:37pm — Gary
Two reports from MNN below...
MNN. Mon. April 21, 2008. Attacks on Indigenous people continue. Canada isn't satisfied to waste billions of dollars a year on war missions overseas. It's using the same armored fist at home. Today the town of Deseronto on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory was surrounded by the armed forces of the Ontario Provincial Police. Deseronto is an illegal nonnative enclave.
With eyes wide open, Emile and his father Theodore Nibourg of Napanee Ontario, who own the "Smiling Wilderness Restaurant" on the TransCanada Highway, decided they wanted to build a $35 million condominium on Mohawk land in Deseronto overlooking the Bay of Quinte. Never mind that they don’t own the land, Canada refuses to acknowledge Indigenous property rights. The Nibourgs are real estate developers of commercial and residential properties out of Kingston Ontario. They are fully aware of the Culbertson Land dispute which has been the focus of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawks since 1995. [Nibourgs at cell 6135610984 fax 6135447868 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year the Thurlow Aggregates Quarry Site run by Tim Letch of Intergrorup Finance of Kingston was shut down by the Rotiskenekete. There was evidence of extensive illegal dumping including large amounts of asphalt. Not only was the dumping illegal it also violated environmental protection laws by contaminating ground water with toxic waste. Tim Letch was involved in some way in the condo development. The Nibourgs appeared to have pushed Tim Letch out of the picture.
In a press release from the Sadie’s Lane Longhouse at Tyendinaga supporting the occupation, according to the Two Row Wampum agreement, they said that, “It’s our land and we are prepared to help defend it”. [Contact Jan Hill 6133966742 email@example.com].
A Rotiskenekete said, “We are prepared to stay as long as necessary to defend our land. Mr. Nibourg or anyone else trying to develop our land in Deseronto better think again”. The peaceful encampment is on a large grassy knoll, overlooking the Bay, surrounding a large tipi. The full moon was glistening off the water. There was drumming, singing and good humor. Flashing Rotiskenekete patrol cars ringed the encampment. According to the OPP budget plan, they need to find some Mohawk fall guys to arrest to illegally enforce their foreign laws. Everybody except us cashes in - police doing overtime, justice system, Indian Affairs, bureaucrats, media, the town, and maybe the developer. All because they know we will do what we are supposed to do, defend our land!
This morning at 5:00 am an overwhelming force of armed OPP are “just monitoring” the situation. The Mohawks of Tyendinaga camped on the property last night. This morning they set up blockades on highway 2 just east of Deseronto. “They’ve got East and West bound roads blocked”, said Constable Jackie Perry of Napanee provincial police. He said vehicles can go north on Deseronto Road at the T-intersection. On April 11th the Nibourgs had started cutting trees on the property. The Rotiskenekete appeared on the scene, stopped them and told them to leave. Nibourgs seem to think that the OPP is their private army. Ignoring the legal rights of the Mohawks at Tyendinaga, they declared, “If you Mohawks don’t leave, we are going to call the OPP and have you kicked out”. He appeared to be setting up a confrontation.
A few days later Nibourg decided to apologize and asked for a meeting with the Rotiskenekete. Obviously, he had his eye on the lucrative pay out received by Henco Inc. for their illegal development at Six Nations Caledonia. He was quite blunt about it. He offered to use them as pawns to extort money from the Ontario Government. He asked the Rotiskenekete to occupy the said land and block the roads in order to escalate the situation. Then he would ask the government to pay him for the land, his expenses and his forecasted profits. Then he would agree to stop the construction. We understand he doesn’t even need the money to build this because he’s planning to be bought off.
Regarding Deseronto, the government violated our lands rights by fraudulently giving out permits for nonnative people to build on our land also referred to as the Culbertson Tract of 1873. The Rotiskenekete told Nibourg, “No. There will never be a development on our land”. We want our land that Deseronto sits on returned to us. We demand that the government deal with the nonnative residents of Deseronto by compensating them and paying for their relocation. They told Nibourg, “You will be the last to be dealt with”. The Rotiskenekete added, “We don’t want to be used as a tool for extorting money from any foreign governments, including the governments of Canada and Ontario”.
Then Nibourg said that he would be back with a construction crew on Monday, April 21st, to start building. The Mohawks have stopped construction, are occupying our land and have blocked the roads to keep him and any of his coconspirators away from creating another "Caledonia" so they can cash in big! Supporters of the Mohawks are welcome. Residents may pass through the occupation without hindrance. We are anxious that everybody understand this issue from the Mohawk perspective.
The Rotiskenekete will carry out the peace and the tenets of the Kaianereh?ko:wa [Great Law of Peace].
Contact: Rotiskenekete: 6138491314; 6138274991;
MNN Mohawk Nation News
UPDATE: OPP BRINGS IN RIOT SQUAD AND SWAT TEAM.
MOHAWKS OF TYENDINAGA RETREAT TO QUARRY
OPP CLOSE PERIMETER AT 9:00 A.M. TUESDAY APRIL 22, 2008
OPP USING CHILDISH VIDEO GAME TACTICS
300 RIOT SQUAD IN FULL GEAR, SHIELDS, ARMS AND
ALL. ANOTHER 80 TO 100 OFFICERS IN "GHOST CARS"
AND "MARKED AND UNMARKED" CARS.
REAL ESTATE AGENT EMILE NEIBOURG STAYS AWAY.
Choppers flying overhead. Low flights over our heads at Culbertson Track and the quarry. On the water there a dozen OPP surveillance boats. Six Nations Rotiskenekete have just shut down the court house in Brantford, Ontario Kenny Hill 5192093849.
MNN. Apr. 22, 2008. Last night the nonnative Deseronto squatters, whose town is on Tyendinaga Mohawk land along the Bay of Quinte, made human chains along the road leading up to the demonstration. They held up signs for the Mohawks to see, with messages, like "power to people [themselves]" "Remove your masks" and "You are a disgrace to your race". Pictures available. Are they copying us or what? They get the tactics but not the principle.
Band council chief R. Don Maracle distanced himself from the blockaders saying ""Blockades are not the way to settle land claims. People need to understand that it takes time to resolve these issues. They need to remain calm to allow [me] to negotiate peacefully in a climate that is not hampered by protests and blockades", he told the local radio station.
R.Don Maracle would be right except for two things. One, a negotiator needs to be picked by the people for the purpose. You can't assume the right to negotiate because you've been elected to a colonial band council office who function on colonial capitalist brains.
Two, negotiations have to be in public to meet the requirements of both Haudenosaunee Law and international law. Agreements cannot be the result of the informed consent of the people if the people have not been informed. In camera closed door negotiations are not legitimate.
The land in question is the Culbertson Track of 1832 which was never given up. The Ontario government knows full well that there's a problem with squatters on the Tract since 1832. How long do they expect us to wait for them to uphold the law.
The roads trespass on our land. It's our land. It's our business where we stand on it. The OPP, the squatters, the trucks carrying toxic waste to the quarry and the construction crews are all trespassers. The illegal colonial governments and agents defame us by accusing us of saying we're the law breakers instead of doing their duty to protect us from their unruly law breaking people. Why are the cops breaking the law?
The squatters roamed around all night shooting verbal threats left, right and center, "You better take down your blockade or else!", with the OPP standing behind them probably setting them up and urging them along. The OPP are following the same "Whiskey Trench" tactics used by the SQ during the Mohawk Oka Crisis of 1990 at Kanehsatake and Kahnawake. They're just standing there watching as their citizens break the law. By doing this they are encouraging them to act like rabble.
What needs to happen in a proper democracy is that the legal rights and principles have to be set out and recognized by all responsible parties. In keeping with the requirements of both international law and the Great Law of Peace/Kaianereh'ko:wa, we have set out our rights. The British Crown agreed to recognize and protect our right to our land on the Culbertson Tract. Ontario has not set out its rights. It has provided no legal authority for its claims. Instead it's using armed force to support those who would violate the law. This is totally dishonorable behavior. This isn't the 19th century anymore. When are Canadians going to leave colonialism behind? It''s been formally recognized as illegal for almost a century now.
They should know by now that their strong arm strategy to wear us down and scare us into submission by defaming us and our ancestors just won't work. We have been unwavering since the time of first contact. We never agreed to be British subjects. We never became Canadian citizens. We never agreed to accept the injustices that have been visited upon us. We will continue to ask questions about their illegal actions. We will overcome this nonsense.
The Rotiskenekete did take down some of the blockades last night in good faith as we feel we had made our point about the fraud that is taking place. The condominium construction on the Bay of Quinte is illegal. Ontario should stop feeding into the scam artists who are trying to use us to extort cash pay outs out of them. They should simply uphold the law and evict the squatters. Succumbing to these tactics is unfair to Ontario tax payers.
When the Deseronto squatters started attacking us, it was left to the Mohawks to defend ourselves and our land by putting the blockades back up. The OPP should have been cooperating with these efforts to ensure the safety of everyone.
The OPP came in yesterday morning and set up a perimeter further out. This morning at 8:00 am they moved closer.
The OPP came to every area where there was a Mohawk blockade pushing threats from OPP Headquarters that they are ""coming in"" and ""taking us out"". Constables Ron Van Straalen and C. Flynn of the OPP at Napanee Detachment are in charge [6133543369, Fax 6133549183]. We had 4 sections blocked. The roads are open, #2 highway going through Deseronto to Napanee.
Emile Neibourg, the real estate agent created this situation. He is trying to extort a pay out from Ontario by threatening to build condos on our land. Caught on video was the police saying, "We know that he created this to deal with this land issue". Then he can help Canada say, "We don't have any money to pay the Mohawks for the disruption of their land, or to relocate the Deseronto squatters. We gave it all to Mr. Neibourg. The OPP has become a tool of corporate corruption. They''ve been turned into a private army of the opportunistic scumbags who will stop at nothing to line their pockets.
To our brothers and sisters, ""We need help. Pressure the OPP and the governments of Ontario and Canada to stop the violence and stop the corruption on sovereign independent people. Nobody has spoken to us. They just came in and attacked. Is this the new OPP protocol? These OPP look like they are itching to converge on us at the quarry and take us out. They want to try out their new Faschist Fantino tactics. Their ultimatum is, "get out of here!!" They know we are right. They refuse to talk to us. Ontario citizens should be asking why their government is letting itself be used for this organized thuggery.
Rotiskenekete 6138491314 –– 6138274991 email firstname.lastname@example.org
OPP Eastern Regional Headquarters 6132844500 fax
6132844597 lg.beechey chief supt. Commander, Eastern Region, Smiths Falls.
MBQ R. Don Maracle, 6133963089, CELL 6133919249
RDONM@MBQTMT.ORG 6133963424 ext. 106 email@example.com
Jan Hill 6133966742
Emile Neibourg 6135610984 fax 6135447868 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The following is the legal update posted at Philly IMC:
Mumia Abu-Jamal legal update
by Lead Attorney Robert R. Bryan | 04.12.2008
This Legal Update is made on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who remains on Pennsylvania’s death row. Many people have inquired as to our reaction and position concerning recent legal developments, and what will happen now.
This Legal Update is made on behalf of my client, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who remains on Pennsylvania’s death row. Many people have inquired as to our reaction and position concerning recent legal developments, and what will happen now. This should answer many of those questions and alleviate some of the confusion.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia
As widely reported in the media, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited decision on March 27, 2008. (Abu-Jamal v. Horn, Nos. 01-9014, 02-9001, 2008 WL 793877 (3rd Cir. 2008).) Mumia and I had legal conferences that day, and we have been in frequent contact since including a death-row meeting earlier this week and a discussion this evening. We view the opinion of the three-judge panel as a mixed bag with some good, some very wrong, and a remarkable dissenting opinion by a judge on racism that gives us great hope for eventual victory.
A new jury trial has been ordered by the federal court on the question of whether Mumia should be sentenced to life or death, due to the trial judge’s unconstitutional and misleading instructions to the jury. It is a positive step in any capital case when a court finds that the death penalty was wrongfully imposed. Mumia is pleased with this part of the ruling because it could help others on death rows across the U.S. The prosecution now has various options including seeking reconsideration by the federal court and petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to have the death sentence remain intact.
It was a great disappointment that the federal court rejected our quest for a reversal of the conviction and a new trial on the question of guilt and innocence. To say that Mumia and I are unhappy with this would be an understatement, for the decision flies in the face of the United States Constitution and case precedent. The facts are that the prosecutor did engage in racism during jury selection, and made a false and misleading argument to the jury which turned the concept of reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence on its head. The trial judge was biased and bigoted, even stating in reference to my client that he was “going to help'em fry the nigger.” Unfortunately the court used against Mumia the failings of the lawyers who represented him in state post-conviction and federal habeas corpus proceedings. Their mistakes should not serve as an excuse to rationalize away the fundamental constitutional violations that occurred in this case.
The silver lining of this ruling is that Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote a 41-page dissent on the racism-in-jury-selection issue. This brilliant opinion began:
Excluding even a single person from a jury because of race violates the Equal Protection Clause of our Constitution. See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 84-86, 99 n. 22, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). This simple justice principle was reaffirmed by our Supreme Court this past week. Snyder v. Louisiana, No. 06-10119, 2008 WL 723750, at *4 (Mar. 19, 2008).
Justice Ambro concluded that everyone
is entitled to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his or her peers. As Batson reminds us, “[t]he core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate on account of race, would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of . . . race.” Id. at 97-98. I fear today that we weaken the effect of Batson by imposing a contemporaneous objection requirement where none was previously present in our Court's jurisprudence and by raising the low bar for a prima facie case of discrimination in jury selection to a height unattainable if enough time has passed such that original jury records are not available. In so holding, we do a disservice to Batson. I respectfully dissent.
Shortly before the decision, we brought the Snyder decision to the attention of the federal court in a Notice of Supplemental Authority. I wrote on March 23, 2008:
In Snyder v. Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 2008 WL 723750 (Mar. 19, 2008), the judgment of the Louisiana Supreme Court was reversed with the United States Supreme Court holding that the trial court should have disallowed a peremptory challenge based upon race because it violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Justice Alito, in writing for the majority, reaffirmed that evidence of discriminatory intent should be taken from a broad array of factors. Citing Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 239 (2005), he pointed out that “in considering a Batson objection, or in reviewing a ruling claimed to be Batson error, all of the circumstances that bear upon the issue of racial animosity must be consulted . . .” Snyder underscores the point made by Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mr. Abu-Jamal, urged in oral argument on May 17, 2007, and in briefing, that the existence of a prima facie Batson claim depends upon, inter alia, the connection between race and the pattern of strikes, the nature of the case, comments made during jury selection, and the time and place of the trial. Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, July 26, 2006, at 17-46; Fourth-Step Reply Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oct. 23, 2006, at 11-58.
The high court also reiterated that “the Constitution forbids striking even a single prospective juror for a discriminatory purpose.” Snyder v. Louisiana, 2008 WL 723750 at *4 (quoting United States v. Vasquez-Lopez, 22 F.3d 900, 902 (C.A.9 1994)). This too was pointed out in oral argument and briefing. Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, supra, at 41-42. Finally, the case recognized that an "inference of discriminatory intent" is supported when the prosecution's proffered reasons for striking African Americans do not apply even-handedly to non-African Americans. Snyder v. Louisiana, 2008 WL 723750 at *8. Again, this point was presented in oral argument and our briefing. See, e.g., Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal, supra, at 32-36.
The "Mumia Exception"
The latest denial of a new trial to Mumia has been referred to as part of the “Mumia Exception.” David Lindorff, a noted investigative journalist and author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 2, 2008, that the “courts have altered the rules just to keep Abu-Jamal on course for death.” What Professor Linn Washington earlier dubbed the “Mumia Exception”, could not have been more on target.
Reaction of the District Attorney of Philadelphia The District Attorney appeared livid that the federal court had ordered a new penalty-phase jury trial. At a press conference on March 27, 2008, the day of the decision, she vowed that her office will continue pursuing the execution of my client. Sadly, the prosecution could not resist distorting the truth as it has from the outset over a quarter of a century ago. The DA falsely said that the court “finally decided in its wisdom . . . that Mr. Jamal was guilty.” That is not what the U.S. Court of Appeals found and is nonsense; there was no retrial or verdict. That is not what appellate courts do. Rather, the federal decision dealt with issues of law and procedure. The prosecution’s suggestion that my client was found “guilty” of anything on appeal is absurd and patently false.
Where we go from here
The dissent of Justice Ambro is a light in the darkness, a roadmap as to where we go from here. On April 9, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals granted my 45-day Motion for Extension of Time To File Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc. The rehearing petition, now due on May 27, 2008, will be seeking review of the case by all the judges in the Third Circuit. The basis will be that “the panel decision conflicts with a decision of the United States Supreme Court or of the court to which the petition is addressed and consideration of the full court is therefore necessary to secure uniformity of the court’s decisions,” and, “the proceeding involves one or more questions of exceptional importance”. (Fed. R. App. P. 35(b)(1).) If unsuccessful, we will proceed to the Supreme Court.
The issues in this case concern the right to a fair trial, the ongoing struggle against the death penalty, and the political repression of a courageous author and journalist. Based upon three decades of successfully litigating murder cases involving the death penalty, I am convinced that we can win an acquittal upon a new jury trial. My goal is his acquittal upon retrial. I intend to see Mumia go home to his family. I will not ret until that occurs.
Mumia is still on death row and in great danger. His life is hanging in the balance. We must remember that racism, fraud, politics, and unfairness are threads that have run through this case since the beginning. As reflected by the comments at its recent press conference, the prosecution has learned little from its shameful behavior in this case. The misconduct continues, and the prosecutorial wrongs of the past are thus visited on the present.
Finally, we are grateful for all those who do so much to bring the injustice in this case to public attention, whether it be through demonstrations, writing to newspapers, meetings, or circulating information on the Internet. This is all important. We are of one voice in this campaign for justice: Free Mumia!
Yours very truly,
Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
The following from the tadamon blog:
Confronting Israeli Apartheid in Montreal: Activists disrupt Israeli Ambassador to Canada
Montreal, Wednesday, April 9th, 2008: Israel's Ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, was humiliated by demonstrators at the posh Queen Elizabeth Hotel in downtown Montreal.
Protestors successfully disrupted a lunch-in sponsored by the Quebec-Israel Committee, marking "60 years of relationship" between Canada and Israel. After effectively evading hotel security and the Montreal police, social justice activists burst into the appointed conference room, abruptly bringing to a halt the pro-apartheid discourse of Israel's ambassador to Canada.
Visibly stunned by the protests, Israel's Ambassador stood silent as protests chanted "fight the power, turn the tide; End Israeli Apartheid!" Throughout the disruption, over twelve thousand pieces of brightly colored protest-confetti were showered across the conference room and throughout the hallways of the Queen Elizabeth hotel, carrying a simple message: "60 years of Israeli Apartheid, 60 years of Palestinian dispossession; Boycott Israel!"
Thursday's action marked the 60th anniversary of the massacre at Deir Yassin. In 1948, the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin came under military siege; over two hundred Palestinian men, women and children were butchered by pro-Israeli forces. This crime took place just one month prior to Israel's unilateral declaration of independence at the expense of the Palestinian people.
In cynical disregard for Palestinian history, Israel's Ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, planned to celebrate Israel on the very anniversary of a horrific massacre.
This is the same Alan Baker who, at the height of Israel's attack on Lebanon in 2006, described "civilian establishments and civilian areas" in Lebanon as "legitimate targets." The military campaign eventually took the lives of over one thousand Lebanese civilians, and massively destroyed the country's infrastructure.
Social justice activists in Montreal from Block the Empire and Tadamon! successfully disrupted Baker's speech in support of a growing international campaign to impose boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel.
Israel is maintaining a military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Syria's Golan Heights. Within Israel's unilaterally declared borders of 1948, the 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship live as second-class citizens, under an apartheid-like system that accords them lesser economic, social and political rights.
Israel is in the process of constructing a massive separation wall, an eight meter high concrete barrier stretching over seven hundred kilometers of Palestinian territory, annexing significant parts of the West Bank and encircling Palestinian villages, towns and cities. Apartheid is an Israeli-enforced reality for the Palestinian people, a reality that has inspired a global movement for Palestinian liberation, with Nelson Mandela declaring; "our freedom [in South Africa] is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Saturday April 12, NYC
NYC ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR:
The Second Annual NYC Anarchist Bookfair (2008) will host a one-day exposition of books, zines, pamphlets, art, film/video, and other cultural and very political productions of the anarchist scene worldwide, on Saturday, April 12, 2008 at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan.
If you're in town for the NYC Anarchist Bookfair, you will most definitely want to head over to Bluestockings Bookstore to check out some excellent events being put on by our good friends over at PM Press
Friday, April 11th @ 7PM - Free
READING: Rick Dakan "Geek Mafia" Rick Dakan reads from "Geek Mafia" and "Geek Mafia: Mile Zero," his new series of techno crime novels.
Saturday, April 12th @ 7PM - Free
PM PRESS' AUTHOR'S SALON
Come out for the release of a stack of books and celebrate with their authors. Friends, groupies, nay-sayers and strangers are all invited. Food, drinks and mingling are nice, yes? In the crowd will be crime fiction writer Rick Dakan ("Geek Mafia: Mile Zero"), artist Josh MacPhee ("32 Postcards", unstoppable Melody Berger ("F-Word Zine"), squatter artist Fly ("32 Postcards"), punk author Sascha Dubrul ("The Secret Life Of White People"), hothead creator Diane DiMassa ("32 Postcards"), and visionary Jennifer Silverman ("My Kid Rides The Short Bus").
Sunday, April 13th @ 7PM - $5 Suggested
SCREENING: Big Noise Films "The War Of 33" (2008, 30 minutes)
The documentary "The War Of 33: Letters from Beirut" is an intimate recounting of the 2006 war in Lebanon. The film's arc is provided by the letters of Hanady Salman as she writes of people's struggles to maintain their humanity. The universal story that emerges is one of love, resistance, and survival in the face of uncertainty and violence. PM Press will also preview Clifton Ross's documentary "Venezuela: Revolution From The Inside Out" and "3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation".
that's what i'm up to
"Spring in Montreal is triumphant," someone emailed me. Couldn't agree more, and by happy happenstance it comes at the same time as i finish up work on the first volume of these books i've been over-obsessed on.
i now get to read other stuff, go for walks, all that jazz. And the weather is cooperating.
Couldn't ask for better than that!
at 9:54 AM
Sunday, April 06, 2008
i found the following by anarchist musician David Rovics to be of interest:
9/11 Truth Movement vs. 9/11 Truth
Or, who are these people and why do they keep yelling at me?
I found myself once again singing at an antiwar rally two weeks ago, and once again being confronted by a red-faced white man with an ominous hand-written sign reading, "9/11 was a lie." Most of the crowd was filing off for the post-rally march, aside from a few of my loyal fans who were sticking around for the rest of my set. Among them was the red-faced man, apparently not a fan, who walked towards the small stage with the wild-eyed certainty of a zealot.
"Wake up, David Rovics! David Rovics, wake up to the truth of 9/11!" He was screaming at the top of his lungs, standing about two feet from me. (I continued with the song.) In case I didn't get the message the first time, the red-faced man repeated his mantra. "Wake up! Wake up to the truth of 9/11!"
People like him, whoever he was, have become a fixture of antiwar and other protests since sometime soon after September 11th, 2001. They regularly call in to radio talk shows, they maintain many websites, produce innumerable documentaries, publish plenty of books, hold regular conferences, and show up with alarming predictability to heckle and denounce prominent progressive authors and activists at their speaking engagements.
Art Bell and company
For over a decade I've made a living as a touring musician. As a hardcore news junkie, when satellite radio came into existence I was one of its very first customers, and since I got one I've been able to saturate myself with BBC World Service and the English-language broadcasts of public radio from around the world to my heart's content. But for the many years before satellite radio, during my many late-night drives across the plains, deserts and corn fields of the US, choices were much slimmer.
In the early morning or late afternoon there was usually an NPR (Nationalist Petroleum Radio) station to be found, or, very occasionally, a Pacifica affiliate where I might listen to my favorite radio news programs, Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News. (At the very beginning, these programs could be heard on satellite radio via the Hispanic Radio Network, but that channel soon vanished from the satellite airwaves -- over one hundred choices offered, but no news channel to the left of Al Franken...)
But late at night, there were four choices. On the FM airwaves, commercial pop anti-music of various prefabricated genres brought to you by ClearChannel. On AM, you could choose from rightwing Christian evangelists, Rush Limbaugh and Art Bell. The evangelists don't really do anything for me, but when I was getting sleepy, I'd listen to Rush, because he's always good for waking me up -- the powerful desire to strangle someone tends to keep you alert. But most of the time, if I wasn't tired, I'd tune in to Art Bell.
For those unfamiliar with Art Bell's show, it was a corporate-sponsored, nightly, several-hour-long show that has since been passed on to other hosts last I heard, and can generally be found on at least two different AM signals anywhere in the country every weeknight, starting sometime after midnight, as I recall. He apparently broadcast from somewhere in Nevada near the infamous Area 51, where he and many of his guests seemed to believe the US military was experimenting with space aliens who had landed there some time ago.
His guests tended to be authors who had written books or made documentaries about aliens from outer space, telepathy, what all the ghosts are up to these days, Hitler being alive and living in the Antarctic, crop circles, and so on. Being a science fiction fan and one who has had personal experiences that have led me to at least consider the possibility that there is validity in some of these claims, about what Art called the paranormal, I listened with interest to Art and his guests, although usually it was fairly evident they were full of shit.
Listening to Art's guests and to the men (and very occasionally women) who called in, I remembered the excitement I felt as a child, before I developed a more three-dimensional understanding of the world around me, before I developed a fairly solid capability for critical thinking, before I began to understand how to read between the lines of the biases of the various authorities, experts and pundits out there in the textbooks, newspapers and airwaves. I remembered the excitement of having secrets with certain friends that only we "knew." My own pet theories as a child included the notion that cows were not as stupid as they looked, standing around chewing cud, that they were actually engaged in astral travel, using their apparent stupidity as a grand cover of some kind. I fairly well convinced myself in the existence of dragons and elves and other mythical creatures, long after I had realized there was no Santa Claus.
But the fantasy life of children can become very odd when practiced by grown men. Many, if not most, of Art's guests and callers seemed to believe that the things they "knew," such as their prevalent idea that the US military was hiding space aliens in Area 51, were phenomenae that only people like them and Art were being honest about. The rest of the media, society, and the powers-that-be were either ignorant about these realities, or, at least as often, were engaging in a huge, X-Files kind of coverup.
Especially in the context of a fundamentally alienated society, especially for a certain class of white men who seem to be somewhat on the margins of the US system of power and privilege, but are white and male enough to believe that they deserve better, the sort of feeling of brotherhood that comes with "knowing" something that the rest of society doesn't know is a powerful one. It's an obvious source of excitement, and gives people a sense of belonging. Without having had access to more rational ways of understanding their place in the world and the complexities of society, current events, history and power structures, they have found some kind of lens through which they can try to understand the world.
It's a faith-based sort of thing. These people are not looking for different points of view, they are looking for further confirmation of what they already believe -- and of course they share this with many, many others who we could call "people of faith," whether they are Christians who believe Jesus was the son of God, Muslims who believe there is one God, Allah is his name and Mohammed was his prophet, neoliberals who believe the unregulated market will make everybody rich, or Maoists who believe the Chinese cultural revolution was the greatest achievement of humankind. No evidence to the contrary will deter these people in their unswerving certainties.
What I always found most interesting as well as most disconcerting about listening to Art Bell, though, was how he would occasionally -- but regularly -- have on guests who were talking about very real and verifiable conspiracies. Things like the CIA's active role in the world drug trade, the State Department's role in overthrowing governments around the world, or the US, Saudi and Pakistani collaboration in creating, arming and funding the Taleban and Al-Qaeda.
Topics which the corporate media would almost never touch could find an occasional voice in Art Bell -- although Art was just as corporate-funded as ABC or CNN. It seemed that if most of the programming was clearly fantasy-based conspiracy theories, the corporate masters felt that it was politically acceptable to allow Art to have the occasional reality check. It would generally go unnoticed by most people, or be discounted as just another wacky conspiracy theory, so it was OK.
Fantasy undermining reality
And if giving a wide audience to the real conspiracies become harmless when they're presented within a sea of fictional conspiracies, the flip side of that is that the very legitimate investigative journalists such as Seymour Hersch and Robert Fisk who are uncovering and reporting on things like the US role in funding groups like Al-Qaeda can more easily get lost among the static, lost among the hundreds of documentaries purporting to prove that the World Trade Center was brought down by controlled explosives, that the planes that crashed into them were on autopilot and there really were no terrorists on board, that the cell phone conversations passengers had with their loved ones before they died were faked, that there was no plane that hit the Pentagon, and so on.
If you bother slogging through the volumes of books and stacks of documentaries that "9/11 Truth" people will foist on you if you let them, you will find that most of them are propaganda pieces and most of the "experts" are not experts in relevant fields. When you do look beyond this mass of misinformation for real experts, you will easily find pilots who can discount the claims of the Truthers that maneuvering the planes into the towers was a particularly challenging thing for people with only a little flight training to pull off. You will easily find mechanical engineers familiar with the structural flaws in the design of the WTC that allowed it to collapse in the first place, and physicists who can explain why such large buildings would appear to be imploding as if in a controlled demolition, or why people on the scene would have thought they were hearing explosions, etc. My purpose here is not to disprove all the hypothoses presented by the Truthers and their propaganda pieces -- if you want to look into "debunking the debunkers" yourself, there is plenty of information out there, and Popular Mechanics' issue on the subject is a good place to start.
The fact is, the scientific community, while certainly not immune to political pressure, is generally able to function with a grounding in actual science, and is not capable of participating, as a community, in some kind of mass conspiracy of silence or coverup. There is no way to bribe that many scientists. Too many of them believe in the importance of science for science's sake, in honesty. This can be amply demonstrated by the fact that with all the political pressure and money of the US government and ExxonMobil combined, there is still essentially unanimity among climate scientists worldwide that climate change is real, is caused by humans, and is dangerous for our species and others. Even after all the billions upon billions of dollars spent by the tobacco industry to obfuscate reality and bribe policymakers and the scientific community, the scientific community was able to study the issue and determine incontrovertibly the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.
Sowing seeds of doubt
The "9/11 Truth Movement" undoubtedly is made up largely of earnest, decent people, the sorts of decent folks who make up most of Art Bell's guests and listeners. Since thousands of their fellow countrymen and women died on 9/11 and since this event -- whether it was a terrorist attack carried out by US-trained Mujahideen that could have been prevented, or an entirely "inside job" carried out by Dick Cheney with the aide of computers and plastic explosives, as many Truthers claim -- many people in many communities have become justifiably agitated and outraged by world-scale injustices, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and so on.
The old Art Bell listeners who used to be entertained by the fact that most people don't believe there are space aliens in Area 51 are now really extra worked up because the vast conspiracy they have come to believe in are resulting in the deaths of huge numbers of people around the world. And if the rest of us would just understand what they understand, everything would be different. If the media would report on reality as they see it, people would wake up and do something about this situation.
The particularly warped thing about this, though, is that the very media outlets, authors and activists who are doing their best to expose the very real conspiracies that are going on -- people like Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, David Barsamian's Alternative Radio, Z Magazine, the Progressive Magazine, Norman Solomon and the Institute for Public Accuracy, Noam Chomsky, etc., seem to have become the primary targets of harassment by the Truthers.
Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky, Norman Solomon and others are now regularly heckled at speaking events, and denounced on websites as "gatekeepers." They are seen, it seems, as being even worse than the corporate media, because while reasonable people know not to trust Fox or CNN, they have faith in the integrity of people like Amy Goodman.
You don't have to know Norman Solomon, Amy Goodman or her producers personally to see what nonsense this "gatekeeper" stuff is. You needn't ever have met Amy to know that she has risked her life, and very nearly lost her life, in her decades-long efforts to report the truth. You needn't know her producers personally to recognize that these are all earnest young progressives working long hours to create a daily news program they deeply believe in. The notion that all of her producers are somehow maintaining a code of silence in exchange for the privilege of having their names mentioned at the end of the broadcast, or in exchange for their nominally middle-class salaries, is preposterous.
However, judging from numerous emails I get and conversations I have with fans and acquaintances from around the US and elsewhere, the efforts of the Truthers to sow seeds of doubt among readers and listeners of progressive media is having some palpable impact. Increasingly, I hear from people who have vaguely heard something about this "gatekeeper" phenomenon, something about Ford Foundation money undermining the entire progressive media.
As is so often the case, there are little grains of truth in here that can fester in the minds of people who are not looking at the information critically. For the cops among the Truthers (of course it's a matter of the public record that the FBI and other such agencies regularly write "newspaper articles" -- propaganda or disinformation of whatever sort they deem useful which they disseminate through newspapers, websites, etc.), undermining the legitimacy of the progressive media is exactly their goal, because they don't want the population to know the truth or to trust those who are reporting it. For the more earnest elements among the Truthers, undermining the progressive media is also their goal, because they don't see it as being distinct from the corporate media anyway -- so whether earnest or insidious, the effect is the same.
The grain of truth, of course, is that government, corporate and foundation money have undoubtedly succeeded in making PBS and NPR a shell of it's former self. Foundation money has also had a debilitating impact on the nonprofit world, since support for essential but illegal activities such as civil disobedience on the part of nonprofits will tend to cause them to lose foundation support. Also, nonprofits are prevented by law from participating openly in the electoral process, or they lose their nonprofit status. If progressive media is being influenced by the relatively small amount of foundation money it receives, I don't see it.
It seems evident to me that shows like Democracy Now! are quite willing -- and indeed, are doing their best -- to make waves as much as possible. If they don't report a story it's because they don't think it's a story, or it's not an important enough one to bother with. In the case of "theories" like the notion that controlled demolition brought down the World Trade Center or there were no members of Al-Qaeda on board the airplanes, this narrative has received little coverage in the progressive media because, upon investigation, most decide it's patently ridiculous.
The real gatekeepers
Sometime in 2002 I wrote a song called "Reichstag Fire," in which I asked many of the questions the Truthers were asking. The point of the song was primarily to say that 9/11 has been used as an excuse for the US to carry out a genocidal crusade on much of the Muslim world, and to further the US government's bipartisan agenda of world domination and control of valuable resources in other countries, such as oil. (This is something Truthers and most other people in the world can generally agree on.) In the song I also posed questions which I now feel have been adequately explained.
Were there really Arab terrorists on board the planes? Yes. Did the CIA know an attack was imminent? Yes. I don't regret writing the song, or becoming a very minor celebrity within the 9/11 Truth Movement, because I think these questions needed to be asked, and answered. But while some questions can only remain unanswered until certain people within the US government become whistleblowers, other questions have been answered, and my answers (and those of most people who have looked into these things) and those of what now constitutes the Truth Movement differ wildly. Particularly because I have been seen by some as part of this movement (although I seem to be increasingly getting lumped into the "gatekeeper" camp), I felt compelled to write this essay.
The truth is, in fact, out there. Much of it is certainly still there to be discovered, but many fundamental, essential truths are already known. The truth -- that, for example, the CIA funded and armed Al-Qaeda and the Taleban, that a tiny minority of very wealthy people control much of the US government and the "mainstream" (corporate/"public") media, that the US military systematically goes around the world overthrowing democracies, propping up dictatorships, and killing millions of people with bombs -- is what the progressive media is reporting on hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. These are the truths that people in the US most need to "wake up" to. These are the truths that are systematically unreported or severely under-reported by the corporate press, which, even in the age of the internet, is still where the vast majority of people in the US get their news, and thus, their understanding of the world.
These corporate media entities and the genocidal, ecocidal plutocracy they serve are the "gatekeepers" that need to be exposed. The truths they are trying to hide from us are the truths that need to be understood, and acted upon. The progressive media that is trying to do just that needs to be supported, not undermined with essentially baseless accusations (legitimate criticisms and suggestions notwithstanding).
The people who are trying, with some degree of success, to undermine these basic endeavors of the progressive movement and the progressive media need to be exposed for what they are -- whether they fall into the category of well-meaning but misguided fanatics or undercover government agents quite purposefully and systematically working to spread disinformation and sow confusion and distrust. And, beyond any reasonable doubt, the "Truth Movement" contains both of these elements. To both of these groups I beseech you -- wake up! Wake up to the real, easily-verifiable conspiracies -- which are extremely big ones! -- and quit trying to distract us with all the nonsense about gatekeepers and controlled demolitions!