Friday, June 29, 2007

Killer Lesbians Mauled by Killer Court, Media Wolfpack

The following from my comrade Susie Day arrived in my inbox yesterday:


Four more Black girls just went bad. Young, 19 to 25; from Newark or surrounding neighborhoods; "troubled" families; having babies while in their teens – you've heard it all before. The reason you're reading about this bunch is that they're lesbians – "killer lesbians," "a wolf pack of lesbians," say the media. They're not martyrs or heroes; they did something stupid that got them sentenced to prison. They stood up for themselves.

"Man Is Stabbed in Attack After Admiring a Stranger," wrote the comparatively well-mannered New York Times last August 19th.

The Manhattan district attorney says Patreese Johnson, one of the four, was the stabber. He charged her with attempted murder, and Johnson, Renata Hill, Venice Brown, and Terrain Dandridge with felony assault and gang assault. The man assaulted was Dwayne Buckle, 29, who, seeing the "gang" on the corner of 6th Avenue and 4th Street in Manhattan's West Village, singled out Johnson because she was "slightly pretty." He claimed he said, "Hi, how are you doing?"

Johnson, Hill, Brown, Dandridge, and three other women – a "seething sapphic septet," according to the New York Post – had just gotten off the train from Newark, looking for a little fun. Being young, they knew the odds of fun were better in the Village; being lesbians, they knew fun was not to be had in the streets of Newark, where, four years earlier, 15-year-old Sakia Gunn was knifed to death by men who thought she was cute – until she told them she was gay.

Although what happened between these women and Dwayne Buckle was caught on surveillance cameras, there isn't one newspaper account that doesn't, somehow, conflict with the others. Dwayne Buckle, a "filmmaker" or "sound mixer" or "dvd bootlegger" – depending on your news source – evidently said more than "Hi." The women contend he pointed to Patreese Johnson's crotch and said, "Let me get some of that." When Johnson answered, "No thank you, I'm not interested," he told Johnson that he could fuck her and her friends straight.

Buckle says the women called his sneakers "cheap," then slapped and spit at him, while he put his hands over his face to ward off the blows. The women say he spit at them and threw a cigarette. Buckle later admitted he called Venice Brown, because of her size, an elephant, and told one of the lesbians in a "low haircut" she looked like a man. Depending on your life experience, you'll probably believe one side over the other. In any case, a melee ensued in which two or three male bystanders jumped in, either, says one side, as "good Samaritans" to defend the women, or, says the other side, because the women "recruited" them in the beating.

Naturally, there are details the press didn't cover. Susan Tipograph, an attorney representing Renata Hill, supplies the fact that, at some point, Buckle pulled off one woman's headpiece and tore out a patch of another's hair – which may be what he is seen swinging on the videotape, as he advances on the women.

According to Tipograph, Johnson, seeing that Buckle had Renata Hill in a chokehold, took a 99-cent steak knife from her purse and swung it at Buckle's arm, to get him to release Hill. After things quieted down, the women, with no apparent intent of fleeing the scene, went to the McDonalds across the street, visited the bathroom, got something to eat. Twenty-five minutes later, they were arrested a few blocks away, unaware the man they'd fought was injured. Buckle had, in fact, sustained stomach and liver lacerations, and was to spend the next five days in St. Vincent's Hospital, recuperating. Interestingly, news media barely noticed that Dwayne Buckle is, himself, Black – given his demonstrable heterosexuality, he has become, for purposes of the press, Everyman.

The trial did little to elucidate what happened. The videotape, played repeatedly, was, says Tipograph, highly inconclusive. At 95 pounds, 4 feet 11 inches, Patreese Johnson may not have had the strength or leverage to inflict much damage. Johnson still doesn't know if she actually stabbed Buckle. One of the men who jumped into the fight may have done it, but, since the NYPD never tested Johnson's knife for DNA evidence, we'll never know. Long story short: the jury didn't believe it was self-defense, and convicted the women.

Now it's June 14, 2007. Johnson, Hill, Brown, and Dandridge are in State Supreme Court, being sentenced. The Times reporter notes how Judge Edward J. McLaughlin shows "little sympathy" as he lectures the defendants, saying "they should have heeded the nursery rhyme about 'sticks and stones' and walked away." The judge "scoffs" at Johnson's explanation that she carried a knife because she worked nights at Wal-Mart and needed protection getting home; he's saying that Johnson's "'meek, weak' demeanor" on the stand has been "an act."

He sentences Johnson to 11 years in state prison; Renata Hill to 8 years; Terrain Dandridge to 3½; Venice Brown to 5 – and the courtroom erupts. The defendants scream, "I'm a good girl!" and "Mommy, Mommy, I didn't do this!" Brown and Hill, mothers themselves, will leave behind an infant and a 5-year-old.

"He lectured them as if he knew what their lives were about – he didn't have a clue," says Susan Tipograph. "Patreese Johnson is a 19-year-old kid. I'm sorry she's not as forceful and together as a white, middle-aged man who's been a judge for 20 years. He accused them of lying, of not being remorseful, of being predators. What happened that night was stupid, frankly. They should have walked away. But the sentences McLaughlin gave were off the charts."

"PACK HOWLS – JUDGE WON'T BEND," blares the New York Daily News. Some people say Justice was served. After all, you want to watch out for Black dykes with knives. But people who believe in this kind of justice talk like they know what prison is. Prison is about anything but justice, especially for the young, the queer, the African American.

Dwayne Buckle – or anyone that night – should not have been physically hurt. But, embedded within the charges and sentences these women received is an imploded violence that will damage lives deeply, years after the body's wounds are healed.

© Susie Day, 2007

[None of these women can afford a lawyer; they urgently need pro bono counsel for an appeal. If you can help, contact Susan Tipograph at 212.431.5360. If you want to provide non-legal support or write letters to the women, go to Fierce NYC.]

Media References:
Man Is Stabbed in Attack After Admiring a Stranger, New York Times August 19, 2006

Sakia Gunn's death:
Sentencing, New York Times

Four Women Are Sentenced In Attack on Man in Village, June 15, 2007, Friday

Sentencing, "wolf pack of lesbians":
Pack howls - judge won't bend, Lesbians rip sentences in '06 attack, NY Daily News June 15th 2007

"killer lesbians"; "sapphic septet":
Attack of the Killer Lesbians, New York Post April 12, 2007

Here is a related message from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, providing the women's prison addresses:

The 4 young African American lesbians from Newark, NJ, who were convicted of gang assault and received long senetences for defending themselves against street harassment have been sent to NY State prisons. Supporters and those concerned about what has happened to these women and their families are trying to obtain them pro bono counsel to handle their appeals, along with a campaign to support them and win their release. Any cards or letters of support for them would be greatly appreciated. Their addresses are:

Terrain Dandridge # 07-G-0637 Venice Brown # 07-G-0640
Patreese Johnson # -7-G-0635 Renata Hill # 07-G-0636

Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1000
Bedford Hills, NY 10507

King Hatshepsut, the Female Falcon

Hatshepsut, female king of Egypt

Bear with me - this may seem a bit off-topic:
Tooth brings lost Egyptian queen to light
CAIRO – A single tooth has clinched the identification of an ancient mummy as that of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s most famous queen, who ruled about 3,500 years ago, the country’s chief archaeologist said yesterday.

The right mummy turned out to be that of a fat woman in her 50s who had rotten teeth and died of bone cancer, Zahi Hawass said.

It was found in 1903 in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, where the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried, and Hawass himself thought until recently that it belonged to the owner of the tomb, Hatshepsut’s wetnurse by the name of Sitre In.

But the decisive evidence was a molar in a wood box inscribed with the queen’s name, found in 1881 in a cache of royal mummies collected and hidden away for safekeeping at a temple about 1,000 metres away.

During the embalming process, it was common to set aside spare body parts and preserve them in such a box.

Orthodontics professor Yehya Zakariya checked all the mummies that might be Hatshepsut’s and found the tooth was a perfect fit in a gap in the upper jaw of the fat woman.

The team examining the mummy are also doing DNA tests and preliminary results show similarities between its DNA and that of Ahmose Nefertari, the wife of the founder of the 18th dynasty and a probable ancestor of Hatsephsut.

So what's the deal with this "fat woman in her 50s", and why am i blogging about the ruling class of ancient Egypt?

Well, like i said, bear with me. While not of direct relevance to the battles of today, and while certainly not worth basing your line on, the way in which anything, even long dead-monarchs from thousands of years ago, gets discussed can be worth discussing... and besides, i find it interesting, perhaps even because it isn't all clear and isn't all directly related to stuff going on down the street today. Combine this basic predilection with the fact that i just finished Bob Brier's The History of Ancient Egypt (told you all i was looking for new shit to listen to while making buttons) and there you go...

There are a few things which are special about Hatshepsut, none of which get mentioned in this malestream news article. And no, it's not her weight or her dental hygiene - both of which were standard for the Egyptian ruling class, for being heavy was simply a sign that you were privileged enough to eat a lot, and bad teeth were an almost inevitable consequence of living long enough for the sand in your bread to grind them down. So unlike what Reuters would have us believe was significant about Hatshepsut, it wasn't a matter of her smile or her figure.

Nor indeed was it the fact that Hatshepsut was queen... because in fact she never was, there was no word for "Queen" in Egypt at the time, only for "King's wife". So Hatshepsut would go from being the king's wife to being the king herself. That's an important distinction, one which Egyptologists are unambiguous about, but also one which probably got edited out of your daily paper. At a certain point Hatshepsut made a play for power, and won, and in winning took on the false beard and crown of the Pharaoh, and from that point on had herself depicted as king on the temple walls.

Note that i am still referring to Hashepsut as "her" and "she" - i understand that some people will be tempted to retroactively claim the king as an FTM, or at least as being utterly genderqueer, but (1) it's authoritarian, dishonest and unhelpful to retrofit folks from the past with terms and concepts that did not even exist when they were alive and (2) while she was alive, at the same time as she had herself described as "king", she also had herself described with as the "female falcon", the "daughter of Amun" and with various female pronouns.

So rather than transitioning, Hatshepsut's becoming king seems to have been a way to establish herself as having all the same power that until then had been both ontologically and etymologically reserved for men. Which isn't to say she might not have been leaving a gender, that what she was doing may not have involved more than "just" putting on a fake beard... only that there is no evidence that Hatshepsut considered themself a man, or wanted to have male pronouns used. Embrace the complexity is what i say...

Like everyone else, there must be two back-stories to Hatshepsut, one looking at her personal life and one looking at the society in which she lived. Perhaps because of the focus of what i have read and listened to, or perhaps because of limitations in what egyptologists know (thanks to most archaeological evidence being monuments and papyri created by the ruling class) most of what i've come across focuses on the former. So was Hatshepsut innovating or was changing aspects of gender something other people were doing to? Were men living "like women", were women living "like men"? Is this a sole remaining hint of some ancient revolt against patriarchy on the shores of Northern Africa? Or not at all???

As i said, from what i have found i just don't know, the story being normally framed in terms of the female king's own personal life... But even here there is some stuff of interest...

Throughout all their dynasties the Pharaohs practiced polygyny - the men could have sexual relationships with several women at the same time, established in a hierarchy with one "great wife", multiple other wives, and a number of concubines. While the exact logic of succession is unclear, there is some evidence that is was quasi-matrilineal, with Pharaoship being claimed by marrying the daughter of the great wife; then when her father would die, you would be next in line. (This would, as we shall see, explain the prevalence of brother-sister incest amongst Pharaohs: for the son of a Pharoah marrying his sister would be the only way to assure his "legitimacy".)

In the eighteenth dynasty, about 1500 BC, the Pharaoh Tuthmosis ruled Egypt. His "great wife" Ahmose had three children, two boys and a girl, but the boys and Ahmose herself died before the regent. So while he had sons by his other wives, at the time of his death he had none by his great wife Ahmose, only a twelve year old girl, named Hatsheptsut. So what to do? Well, one of his sons by another wife - also named Tuthmosis (making this the second) - married his half-sister Hatshepsut, and thus made himself king of Egypt.

Tuthmosis II is thought to have been in his twenties when he married his twelve year old half-sister. They would be married for twenty years, and she would become pregnant and give birth to a daughter (Neferu-Ra). This was almost certainly not a good time for her - we can imagine what it would be like for a twelve year old girl to be married to her twenty some year old big brother, and we can note that after he died we have no record of her ever referring to him or honoring him, and that when she later had her tomb built in the Valley of the Kings she had her father's sarcophagus and not her brother/husband's placed beside her within it.

Like his father before him, when Tuthmosis II died he only had one child by his "great wife"/sister Hatshepsut, though he had at least one son by another wife - you guessed it, also named Tuthmosis (he'll be the third). But at the time of his father's death, Tuthmosis III was still a boy, and it is at this point that Hatshepsut made her bid for power, claiming that she herself was king. (Some people have claimed that she imprisoned her nephew/stepson to keep him out ow power, but most now agree it was more likely that she sent him off to train with the military.)

According to most egypologists Hatsheptsup ruled from 1479 to 1458 BC. She is famous for establishing the first zoo in Thebes, and for sending out the first trade expeditions to the land of Punt - modern-day Eritrea - which brought back wild animals and also frankincense trees which from that point on were cultivated on Egyptian soil. She built many monuments and buildings throughout Egypt, including a mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri on the walls of which she had written the story of her life. While some have tried to claim that her reign was peaceful - unlike most other Pharaohs - there is evidence that she led military expeditions to loot and murder the people of Nubia, the Levant and Syria. (Throughout most of ancient Egyptian history the country's ruing class carried out military expeditions against other African and Near Eastern peoples, sucking in tribute and slaves to supplement its already great agricultural wealth.)

Hatshepsut would never remarry though some egyptologists believe she had a long-term sexual relationship with her daughter's tutor and royal architect, the commoner and "life-long bachelor" Senemut. There is graffiti of the workers who worked on the west bank of Thebes (from 3000 years ago!), showing a woman wearing the crown of Egypt fucking with an overseer - which egyptologists presume were Hatshepsut and Senemut. (Mind you, if we're open to looking at what class and gender politics could have been represented by this female king, i'm not convinced that we need to shoehorn her into having a male lover; i'm equally open to the possibility that Senemut could have been a fag... there is evidence that homosexuality had some place in ancient Egypt...)

What is most interesting to me about Hatshepsut is not her rule, or even simply the fact that a woman maneuvered herself into the seat of power. Whether under a female monarch or a male monarch (like the question of whether ancient Egyptians were "Black" or not) makes little difference to the fact that Egypt represented a murderous and exploitative power, which (like the other States of the ancient world) was continuously waging war against its neighbours in an effort to extract wealth for its own ruling class.

But in terms of politics and what we know of the world that came before us, the story of Hatshepsut is pretty interesting and there is evidence that her reign was not simply the same as those who came before or after, but perhaps represented one set of class or gender politics in contradiction with the others. So while i am certainly no expert on ancient history, it does strike me that there may have been something more here than a woman simply filling male shoes.

We must remain clear that liberation is not even on the menu when we are talking about members of the ruling class, but this does not mean that different class forces don't get expressed through different rulers, and the ruling class can also reflect, albeit in distorted form, changes and movements in the real world. As one indication that this may have been what was going on, unlike other Pharaohs who all claimed to be the literal children of the sun-god Ra, Hatshepsut claimed that the air-god Amun had disguised himself as Tuthmosis and had impregnated her mother. i can't help but mention that at that point Amun was viewed as a patron of justice, being known as the "Vizier of the Poor" - without reading too much into it, isn't it possible that this represented an attempt to tap into or exploit real class contradictions, ones which were certainly laced with gender?

Although there is some evidence that Hatshepsut and Senenmut had been grooming Neferu-Ra to follow in her mother-king's footsteps - there are inscriptions that depict her daughter as a young prince, with a beard and side-lock - the daughter leaves the historical record at the age of eleven, which probably means that she had died. So we know that when Hatshepsut died it was Tuthmosis III - her dead husband's son by another wife - who became Pharaoh.

It is what happened at this point, when Tuthmosis III took over, that provides the most convincing evidence that the life of Hatshepsut reflected real social contradictions which could not be resolved or recuperated after her death.

As already mentioned, Hatshepsut had had her life's story written in her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri - but today nowhere on the temple walls can you find her name - everywhere where it was put it has been erased, chiselled away and replaced with one of the three Tuthmosises. You see, it is now known that at some point in his reign Tuthmosis III initiated a campaign to systematically erase all mention of the female king from Egyptian society. Her name was chiselled off of walls, her image destroyed, her friend (or lover) Senemut's sarcophagus was smashed to bits, and even the 90 foot tall obelisks she had had erected were walled in and affixed with the name of a male Pharaoh, so that no one would know what had originally been there.

As Tour Egypt magazine puts it:
Few years after Hatshepsut’s death, "Thotmose III" started his revenge. He started to erase her name, which was so crucial for an ancient Egyptian and constituted an integral part of existence during afterlife. "Thotmose III" started by chiseling the names off the inscriptions, and replaced them by his own, those of "Thotmose I or II" or were left vacant. He aimed to give an impression of the continuity of the three pharaohs’ reign uninterrupted by Hatshepsut. This was followed by defacing her reliefs. Her statues were smashed, burned and soaked in water, particularly those of the "Ka" [similar concept to "soul" - st]. The eyes and nose of the statues were smashed so the deceased queen could not see or breathe in her afterlife, and uraeus (royal cobra placed on the forehead) was smashed too, to deprive her any power.

What "Thotmose III" failed to destroy, he remolded and related to himself. At el-Karnak after destroying her statue sitting beside Amon, the design of the god’s figure did not make any sense. Amon was made to stand instead of sitting, and the base of the smashed queen’s statue was replaced by drawings. On top of one obelisk, the queen was kneeling on her knees, with Amon performing her coronation. Removal of the queen’s figure rendered the god’s hand stretched for no reason, and hence a wand was placed in it. When he could not deface the inscriptions on another obelisk, he simply surrounded it by a high fence. At the top which could not be hidden, he replaced her name and figure with his. In one temple when he failed to coat with gold to hide her name, "Thotmose III" dismantled it. He also usurped the golden gates of her temples and utilized the stones of a temple to tile his orchard. This was disclosed when the name of the queen was later found in its base.

Note that the above section refers to this in personal terms, as Tuthmosis' "revenge" - which is because the main theory used to be that he hated his step-mother for having kept him off the throne for so many years. However, in recent years this theory has been challenged: not only have artifacts been found in which Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III are shown side by side, but it also seems that the new Pharaoh waited decades into his reign before cleansing the historical record. According to egyptologist Bob Brier this historical vandalism was simply because after Tuthmosis III consolidated his rule it was deemed impolitic to record that a woman had ruled Egypt as king. And so in subsequent years all the "king's lists" which later rulers would make to list their predecessors would never mention Hatshepsut having even existed. Again, the motivations for this seem to have been gender-political - according to the Hapi-Ur resource page on ancient Egypt:
It was not at all uncommon for Egyptian kings to rewrite history to their favor. It should also be noted that the inscriptions depicting the story of Hatshepsut's conception were partially hacked away. It is possible that Thutmosis III or subsequent pharaohs saw her reign as an upset to the balance of ma'at. The role of pharaoh was a role strictly reserved for men, even in a society that offered considerable freedoms to women. By claiming her father was Amun and then coronating herself, Hatshepsut essentially commits blasphemy.
Nothing earth-shattering, and like i said, perhaps no direct relevance to our day-to-day struggles in the here and now... but still, a lot more interesting than simply "a fat woman with rotten teeth", no?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Innu Youth Attack Quebec Provincial Police

Youths Attack Patrol Car
by Jean-Guy Gougeon

Protest against the chief's decision to call on the Quebec Provincial Police to temporarily replace the Innu police, fifteen youths destroyed a QPP patrol car in the Ekuanitshit (Mingan) community Sunday morning. Six of them appeared in court on Tuesday.

Around 5:30am two officers responded to a call about a break-in at a corner store. They arrived and examined the scene; as they were walking around the building they came face to face with a gang of youths who attacked them with bats. The two officers had to run to a second patrol car which had arrived.

At the same time the youths destroyed the patrol car, smashing its windshiels and lights. A call for help sent to the QPP station at Havre Saint-Pierre brought other police into the Innu community. Two hours later, three youths were arrested, followed by three others who the police claim were brought in by their parents.

The six youths were arresyed, and brought to Sept-Iles where they appeared on Tuesday. The QPP had been patrolling the community since last Thursday at the request of the chief, due to problems with the Innu police officers who normally patrol there.

Not sure on any details other than what you see above, in this article i translated from Le Nord Est. So just fyi...

June 29th: National Aboriginal Day of Action

Tomorrow is the National Aboriginal Day of Action, and it's something you will not have read about on this blog so far. Which is just because there's to much to say, and i'm likely not the person to say it, mainly because i'm not on top of it all!

For a good analysis of the initial call for a day of action, and critique of the reformist and neo-colonial agendas behind this call, see the Discussion Paper on: National Day of (In)Action Proposed by AFN.

While the Day of Action may have started as a neo-colonial containment strategy, giving people a harmless way to vent their anger in order to defuse growing Indigenous militancy, all such "diversions" also run the risk of turning against their creators. And this is clearly worrying some politicians, Indigenous and Settler alike, as much ink has been spilled over the past weeks regarding the fear that things might "get out of hand" tomorrow, that some people may "take things too far". The AFN's Phil Fontaine has pledged to work with the RCMP to clamp down on "illegal" resistance, and even ex-PM Paul Martin had joined the party pledging to devote the "rest of his life" to backing aboriginal rights, but all according to the "proper" channels.

The Mohawk national liberation struggle in Tyendinaga is being framed in the media as a likely flashpoint for resistance tomorrow. Quoting here from a June 27th article in the Bellevelle Intelligencer:

Tyendinaga Mohawks plan to target Highway 401, the town of Deseronto or the CN Rail Line - again - on Friday's national aboriginal day of action, says a local Mohawk protester.

Shawn Brant, the spokesman for a group that has occupied the Thurlow Aggregates quarry on Deseronto Road since March, said there will be activity, likely involving "one of the targets we identified back on April 22," he said. Those targets are Highway 401, the railway and the town of Deseronto.

"The Assembly of First Nations has called for a campaign of economic disruption, and we've committed ourselves to that campaign," he said.

Brant's group already blocked the major CN Rail corridor from Toronto to Montreal in April, stopping train traffic for 30 hours.

The Assembly of First Nations, for its part, is presenting a softer face on the day of action. It initiated the movement with a 2006 resolution, but its website stresses it is not a call for blockades. "We are reaching out to all Canadians and asking them to join us in peaceful rallies and events and call on the federal government to work with us to build stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada," the website reads. "We want to build bridges - not blockades - with Canadians."

But Brant said that should not be done at the expense of making a statement.

"We do see it as an opportunity for that, and as well I think the message has to be clear," he said. "June 29th is about saying to people that we will not live with these indignities, so in 10 years time we're not talking about the same crisis as we are now.

"We're a little bit weary of always making concessions. On that day, we're going to ask for the understanding of the non-native community."

Also perhaps relevant in this regard is this article from the June 28th London Free Press:

Native warriors across the country plan to keep a close eye on tomorrow's events near Deseronto in case police attempt forceful tactics to stop Mohawk blockade plans.

The political manoeuvring of Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine and other band chiefs to distance themselves from blockades has left the Tyendinaga Mohawks seemingly alone in the runup to the proclaimed native day of action.

"They are not alone," said one well-connected source outside Tyendinaga. "Warriors from across the country are keeping an eye on it."

Fontaine issued a news release yesterday calling blockade statements by Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant "isolated comments" that "do not reflect the position" of the AFN "or the First Nations across the country."

Highway 401, the CN rail line and the town of Deseronto are possible targets for the Mohawks. Deseronto is near Belleville between Toronto and Ottawa.

Despite the AFN's public disavowal, authorities should think twice before using force against Tyendinaga or any other native community, says Teyowisonte, secretary for the Kahnawake Mohawk Warriors society.

"If violence is used against the people at Tyendinaga or anywhere there is going to be fallout," he said. "We would not think too highly of (police use of force)," said Rarahkwisere of the Akwesasne Warrior Society, adding it is up to the clan mothers to decide on a reaction. "In the event someone gets hurt, the politics of the AFN go out the window and the grassroots people come together," said David Dennis, vice-president of the United Native Nations in B.C. and former member of the disbanded West Coast Warrior Society.

"The same thing happened at Oka, Burnt Church and Caledonia." Roseau River First Nations Chief Terry Nelson, whose community called off a rail blockade, said they will be watching events near the rail line. "We will react if there is violence against anybody across the country," said Nelson.

Just bits and pieces, sketchy thoughts (!), which i felt i should post just as some background, for those of you checking in...

Tomorrow: National Day of Action

Forwarding the following, regarding a Montreal march as part of the National Day of Action:

Montreal, June 29th. 2007, 12h00 Noon

This NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION is an opportunity for First Nations and Canadians to stand together in a spirit of unity to support a better life for all First Nations peoples. Let us march to put an end to First Nations poverty as a social injustice that concerns all in Canada. Together, we can demonstrate that the relationship between First Nations and Canadians is based on principles of respect, dignity, and fairness.

Action is required now to secure a better and just future for First Nations children and youth, and honor the wisdom of our Elders. The First Nations Plan is reasonable, achievable, and necessary for Canada.

We will be marching up Parc ave to the Park Jeanne-Mance, close to the statue of George-Étienne Cartier, where we will have a Gathering for all who attend.

For general public:
The March will start at
12:00 Noon
on Friday, June 29th
from the corner of Sherbrooke and Parc ave.

Invite your friends and your family!

For Aboriginals:
Preparations begin at 11:00am
near the Bleury Exit of Place Des Arts Metro station.
This peaceful march will depart at 11:50 sharp.

We encourage you all to bring your Friends and Family, your Drums and your Regalia.

Spokesperson in Montreal, Irkar Beljaars (514) 572-2684

"We must use the tools of the white man so that we may speak in the halls of law and government" ~Cheif Dan George

Twenty Two Months Ago, Just About

The second year of the whitening of New Orleans is coming to its close, and it's a process i have unfortunately not been able to keep on top of, or write much about.

Thought i would give a heads up about the article in the latest Black Commentator, How To Destroy an Adfrican- American City in Thirty Three Steps - Lessons from Katrina, by Bill Quigley. While not deep on the analysis - the backstory of why the u.s. ruling class wants to destroy Black cities is left to your own figuring out - it's a good basic tally of what has and hasn't been done...

Check out point #25 in particular:
Keep the city environment unfriendly to women. Women were already widely discriminated against before the storm. Make sure that you do not reopen day care centers. This, combined with the lack of healthcare, lack of affordable housing, and lack of transportation, will keep moms with kids away. If you can keep women with kids away, the city will destroy itself. [emphasis added]
More on this later...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Black Family Pepper Sprayed By Montreal Police

Julie Cox, holding her 4-year-old daughter Kheisha at a news conference
yesterday, was arrested with her son Lynwald (right) after being
violently abused by Montreal police last week

Police officer's from Montreal's Station 25 harassed, beat and pepper sprayed a Black motorist and his mother last week, on June 13th.

Here is the story from today's Montreal Gazette:

A case of 'driving while black'?
Versions differ. Mother, son arrested by city police claim harassment
IRWIN BLOCK, The Gazette
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

If you're black and drive a fancy car, get ready for racial profiling by Montreal police, says the father of a family that complains of being harassed last week.

Lynwald Cox, 26, and his mother, Julie Cox, say they were harassed June 13 when police stopped him for making an illegal left turn while he was driving his Nissan Maxima near the Van Horne Shopping Centre.

The Chateauguay residents went public yesterday with their complaint to the police ethics commission, but Ryan Cox, father of Lynwald and husband of Julie, says it's part of a pattern.

He's been stopped often and he feels it's because he's black.

"I drive a Lincoln Town Car, my other son drives an Infiniti, my daughter a late-model Ford - none of us has ever had so much as a parking ticket," he said.

"If a black person is driving a certain car, you have to be a pimp, drug dealer or pusher," the senior Cox, a vocational teacher at the English Montreal School Board, said bitterly.

Montreal police will not tolerate racial profiling or discriminatory behaviour, Inspector Paul Chablo stressed yesterday.

"I can tell you with the greatest confidence that we have a zero tolerance policy for any type of discrimination or racial profiling," he said.

Chablo also cautioned it would be unfair to judge the officers prematurely, as they have an entirely different version of events.

Police in their report said Lynwald Cox punched an officer in the back of the head. They also said Cox followed a police car because "he wasn't happy about getting a ticket."

The Cox family outlined their complaint at the Black Coalition of Quebec offices yesterday.

On June 13, a police officer told Lynwald Cox, an apprentice automobile technician, he had taken a wrong turn. Cox said he replied he did not see the sign.

The officer then gave him a citation ordering an inspection for allegedly having windows that were too dark. (A check later showed they were not.)

This is where the alleged harassment began, Cox said, and where the police version differs.

Cox says he told police: "Nobody has ever harassed me about my windows being too tinted."

After receiving a ticket - which police say he was reluctant to accept - for an illegal turn, Cox left. Police "clapped their hands and said, 'Have a nice day,' " he said.

Cox says he drove up Van Horne Ave. to Decarie Blvd., where a police car cut him off. According to police, it was Cox who followed police "very closely from behind."

"Why would I follow them to get another ticket?" Cox asked.

Cox said he made a left on Decarie and police followed him. A police cruiser pulled ahead, zig-zagging and not letting him pass.

Near Edouard Montpetit Blvd. "they slammed on their brakes and cut me off again and then I honked (at) them," Cox said.

Police ordered Cox out of the car and "jumped me, pepper-sprayed me. I have bruises, I had to go to emergency and my hands are still numb from the handcuffs."

His eyeglasses were broken.

Cox claimed one officer, pointing a gun, said as he was handcuffed, "You're not so big now. Who's the man now? You're going to be sucking my d--k now."

Police contend they asked Cox, "What's the deal, why are you following us?" He became aggressive and assaulted the officer.

Cox's mother, who has worked at St. Mary's Hospital for 28 years, is charged with obstructing a peace officer.

Julie Cox, who laughed at the suggestion her son was tailing the police car, said she screamed when an officer pointed a gun at her son, then at her. "When the same officer lifted his baton ... I went between my son and the police to prevent him from hitting my son.

"We were both pepper-sprayed," she added. "I was kicked, I was pushed. I had to go to St. Mary's Hospital."

Julie Cox said she asked why the cops were doing this, and one replied: "Shut up, you're under arrest. Don't ask any questions."
Note that although Julie and Lynwald Cox were pepper sprayed, and Lynwald was beaten, what happened is described as "harassment" not "brutality". Regardless of who one may choose to believe, it should be pointed out that what is at issue is violence, which is one whole degree heavier than harassment.

For those of you from out of town, Cote-des-Neiges area is one of Montreal's mainly immigrant neighbourhoods, with many people from the Caribbean and the Philippines as well as previous generations of Jewish immigrants giving the area a unique political and national composition. It is also a mixed class area, with the overwhelming majority of Black and Philippino residents belonging to the most oppressed sections of the working class, giving these communities a different class character than most white communities, including most white working class communities, in Montreal.

Police repression is an ongoing problem in the area, with most of the heat focussed on people of colour. Racial profiling by cops from Station 25 - who were most likely those involved in the beating of the Cox family - can be witnessed on a regular basis in the neighbourhood.

Indeed, police harassment of Philippino youth has been documented by the local group Kabattang Montreal. Roderick Carreon, a founding member of KM and current chairperson of SIKLAB Canada (A Philippino migrant workers' organization), gave a talk a couple of months ago describing the situation in the neighbourhood. As the media and the police work so hard to keep such voices silenced, it is worth quoting Carreon's talk on racial profiling at some length here:

One of these cases involves twenty Phillipino youth back in 1999, who were stopped harassed and put under arrest by Station 25 and Station 26 for gathering outside Plamondon metro. When we inquired about the case, it turned out that a resident called the local Station 25 police detachment to tell them that a lot of youths were outside the metro late at night – which is 10:30 at night – and they had to respond to that call. So their answer was sending seven police cars from Station 25 and six police cars from Station 26, so from 11 o'clock until 1 o'clock at night twenty Philippino youths were on the ground in Plamondon metro being interrogated and patted down and charged with illegal public assembly. At the same time they were constantly checking the streets for gang members, and they assumed that these Philippino youths were members of criminal organizations.

Another instance involved three KM members, who were leafleting in the Plamondon metro back in 2000. They were stopped by the transit police inside the Plamondon metro, and were told that only religious organizations were allowed to distribute pamphlets or any other papers in the metro or outside the metro.

So, as KM was taught, they actually answered back, and said this is a right, this is our right to distribute fliers - and this was for an activity commemorating police brutality, which is odd. The metro police’s response was again to call Station 25, and Station 25 sent two police cruisers, and started putting three of our youths in handcuffs. The reasoning for handcuffing our youths was that two of our youths, who didn't speak English or French, because they just came to Montreal, were trying to explain their situation with their hands. So Station 25 assumed that two of the youths were actually using martial arts against them!

So they put them in handcuffs and ticketed them for distributing fliers. Eventually we won the case, and Station 25 dropped those tickets.


Racial profiling has become rampant particularly in Cote-des-Neiges. And now it's gotten worst to the point that after the September 11th incidents and of course Bush and the US war on terror, the line of questioning by Station 25 and Station 26 reached the point that they do not ask about gang affiliation any more, they are now being asked if they are immigrants, when they arrived in Canada, if their parents are citizens, or if they actually belong in Canada. And most of these kids are complaining of police harassment and racial profiling every day. I myself am being victimized every week... actually just coming here tonight while picking up my kids from school and from daycare I was followed by Station 26 for three blocks. And of course i had to stop and ask them why are following me. Its just routine check up. This is the reasoning behind every police harassment that’s happening in Cote-des-Neiges.

And these are just the documented cases - we're not even sure if most of these cases are being reported. Now in Cote-des-Neiges as a community it’s hard to ignore racial profiling when you see it, because you see it every day. Now throughout the years during KM's organizing work in Cote-des-Neiges we've documented close to three dozen cases of racial profiling - some of them are worst than the others. We have complaints by some of the Philipino youth that they were actually taken to the police station, interrogated, some of them were physically abused but never charged. The reasoning behind it: because they look different. They look different because of the way they dress, and of course the colour of their skin.

As another - and particularly tragic - example of racial profiling in Cote-des-Neiges area, one which is certainly familiar to readers of this blog, remember that this is the neighbourhood where Mohamed Anas Bennis was murdered by a police officer from Station 25 on December 1st 2005. Bennis, a young Muslim man, was killed outside the prayer room he frequented on the corner of Kent and Cote-des-Neiges. The police claimed that he was mentally deranged and jumped out of some bushes stabbing one of their officers with a kitchen knife. Investigators claimed that the entire event had been filmed by a security camera. Yet eighteen months later they remain unable to produce either the knife or the security video, which they now claim shows nothing of interest.

The fact that the police were in the area raiding a fraud ring that had been told had "possible terrorist connections", and that Bennis was dressed in traditional Muslim clothing, has lead most objective observers to conclude that he was killed as a result of racial profiling.

A Matter of Perspective

As i have noted before, in isolation each case of racial profiling remains almost unprovable. We can't read minds, and so if police insist they are "just doing their job", we are left to rely on our own preconceptions and experiences to judge precisely what's what. Not surprisingly, people who have had positive interactions with the police tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, while people who are regularly harassed by police tend to believe their victims. Thus, how one responds to claims of police racism or brutality is directly related to one's own class position or relationship to privilege and oppression.

Often police accounts of what has happened are highly improbable, but a whole series of preconceptions about who "gets in trouble", and about working class people and people of colour, lead many white middle class people to swallow any tall tale.

Let's return to the case of the Cox family, whose troubles started when they left Van Horne shopping centre, taking an illegal left turn. The news report says that to go home they would eventually take Decarie south. As anyone who knows the Van Horne shopping centre will tell you, there is only one "illegal" turn out of the centre to the left if you're heading to Decarie, the one on Lemieux. As everyone in the neighbourhood knows, people turn left here constantly throughout the day. So many people, in fact, take this "illegal turn" that a couple of years ago when the police wanted to stop people from taking it they did a little publicity campaign telling people that they knew everyone turned left, but that soon they would start ticketing people for doing so. Which they did for a little while, but which they then stopped doing.

In other words, hundreds of people make the same "illegal turn" Lynwald Cox made, and the police never stop them.

What comes next in the police version of events is simply not believable, but a certain white-vision and middle class perspective will lead many people to give them the benefit of the doubt. The cops claim that Lyndwald Cox started tail-gating them, looking for a confrontation. He would have to be crazy to do that... i mean who the fuck tailgates the cops?!? But to make it more incredible: we are told that he was doing this with his mother in the car!

As in the case of Mohamed Anas Bennis - who we are told saw a group of police officers and attacked them with a kitchen knife for no reason - this story just does not make sense.

Next Lyndald Cox and his mother Julie were pulled over, pepper sprayed and beaten. A cop drew his gun. Here it is worth noting that a study by University of Toronto academic Philip Stenning has found that in responding to ‘minor offenses’ police are four times as likely to draw a gun when dealing with Black person, significantly more liklely to use force during and after an arrest when dealing with people of colour, and significantly more likely to insult people of colour than white people. (see page 69 of Crisis Conflict and Accountability).

In other words, Ryan Cox is right: it all fits a pattern...

Police Abuse and the "New" Montreal Economy

As long as there are police, there will be police abuse.

That said, such abuse and brutality is not random. It follows a certain logic, and its character changes depending on historical circumstance.

At the moment Montreal has an expanding immigrant working class, the vast majority of whom are people of colour from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. It is still unclear exactly what the long-term class trajectories of different communities within this immigrant working class will be, but at the moment at least all these people are experiencing heightened levels of economic exploitation and police repression. The former comes in the form of irregular and temporary work, discrimination and mass unemployment. The latter comes in the form of "anti-terrorist" surveillance and repression, racial profiling, and class profiling.

For those sections of this new immigrant working class which are the most oppressed, and which are being pushed into permanent economic insecurity, struggles against police harassment and violence will take on greater and greater importance.

The ability to see racist policing for what it is, and to disbelieve the lies of the police public relations departments, will determine what sections of the left have a chance of acting as allies to the immigrant working class, and what sections become the "progressive" face of white racism.

We'll be watching to see who falls where.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Metro Security Guards Relax As Woman Is Beaten: Do You Feel Safer Now???

A woman was beaten at Berri-Uqam metro station on Monday - the first day that police were "making the metro safe" - right in front of two metro security guards, neither of whom lifted a finger to help her. Nor did anybody from her community - you know, the people referred to as "bystanders" or "witnesses" in the media - do anything to help, other than ask the security guards to intervene... (their rationale for not intervening was that it's no longer in their job description seeing as the "real" police are now in charge of assuring public safety in the metro.)

This is a sad and sorry example of what i was discussing with Justin on this blog yesterday. Interpersonal violence is a real problem, one which disproportionately effects certain groups. But by relying on police and the State to "solve" this problem we lose twice. First, because the police are themselves the violent enforcers of this horrible system. Second, because we lose our ability, and our sense of responsibility, to deal with these problems ourselves.

Furthermore, the way in which the police and their media lapdogs frame this whole questions is dishonest and skewed. Interpersonal violence generally follows the pre-existing contours of oppression. So in a sexist society much violence is directed against women, or takes a sexual form. But the police take on violence is that it's all a problem of "gangs", by which they generally mean young people from oppressed communities.

So on Monday, the police started patrolling the metro system in order to deal with the "gang problem" that the media has been hyping. "Their goal being repression of working class youth, violence against women is not even on their radar.

As i said above, we lose twice, and for me the real scandal is not that the security guards did not intervene, not that the police took so long to show up, but that nobody else did anything. Another example of how we are disarmed not only politically but also morally (both in terms of "morale" and in terms of "morality"). A society that begs for the biggest and most violent gang, the boys in blue, to deal with shit for us. A culture that raises us to be unable to intervene, more scared of taking a stand than of the mass agoraphobia that we are cultivating. Increasingly, the only people we can relate to are the ones on the reality tv shows...

So yeah, this women was beaten up. And no, i don't know her name or how badly, because by the time the police arrived neither her nor her aggressor - described in the media as her spouse - were there. And no, honestly, i have no confidence that things would have been "better" had the police gotten there sooner... in fact, things could have just as easily been worst.

According to some comrades, the State is an institution that claims a monopoly on violence. Maria Mies, i believe, has criticized this definition, pointing out that many States throughout history have allowed men to be violent to "their" women, parents (and other adults) violent to "their" children. One could add that many States have at times given a green light to mass violence against people from oppressed nations, be it Jews in Europe or people of colour in the u.s.a. or Palestinians in israel.

At the same time, though, the State does regulate all this autonomous violence. Setting the parameters for how and when and by whom it should be allowed. So while certain kinds of violence get a wink/nod, the use of violence by the oppressed is severely repressed. Community self-defense is outlawed. Because if working class people can control their own streets, if women can impose their own standards of safety and respect, the ruling class knows full well that this will spell the end of its power.

So it suits them all, the rapists and the cops and the patriarchs, that people cannot defend themselves, that dialing 911 has come to replace traditions of communal resistance.

This seems like an appropriate place to mention an excellent book, really all about this precise question. It's called Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology and was co-published by South End Press and Incite! Women of Color Against Violence just last year. Bravely and provocatively, the authors describe and denounce the ongoing war against women and the timid, at times racist and authoritarian errors that middle class and white sections of the women's movement have made in trying to respond to this crisis. It is a powerful book, all about stopping violence against women without co-operating with the State, and i learned a hell of a lot from it - and will be reviewing it more in depth some time soon, i promise!

But in the meantime, don't wait for me: you can order a copy online from AK Press. i encourage you to do so...

And yes, i will be writing more on this later...

Monday, June 18, 2007


BECAUSE the Societe de Transport de Montreal already reflects the realities of an unjust society. Whereas a disproportionate number of STM users are people of colour, and an absolute majority are women, over 80% of those employed by the STM are male and over 90% are white. (Source: STM 2005 Annual Report).

BECAUSE young people - and especially young people of colour and working class youth - already experience violence at the hands of metro security guards. These young people are treated like criminals, fined if they do not have their student ID, harassed when they are going about their own business, beaten and arrested for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The case of Winston Roberts in 2002, who was beaten by six metro security guards simply for being a Black teenager who wanted to use the pay phone, is exceptional only in that some journalists chose to speak of it. For young people throughout Montreal such traumatic events are neither unknown nor unexpected - just ask around Villa Maria, Atwater or Parc metro stations around the time that school gets out and this will become clear.

BECAUSE the Montreal police already have a history of violence, most especially against people of colour and the poorest and most marginalized sections of the working class. From Anthony Griffin, who was "accidentally" shot through the head by police officer Gosset in 1987, to Martin Suazo who was "accidentally" shot through the head by police officer Garneau in 1995, to Mohamed Anas Bennis who was shot twice downwards through his body (as if he had been kneeling or sitting) by officer Bernier in 2005, who made a ludicrous claim of "self-defense"... over the past twenty years at least forty people have been killed, and countless more brutalized by Montreal police. Coroners, courts and politicians have all worked hand in hand to deny and semblance of justice for these victims of police murder.

"non-lethal weapons" are like "low tar cigarettes", in that they can kill you despite the fact that they are marketed as being somehow "safe". Non-lethal weapons are rarely used instead of guns - rather they are used to supplement the police officer's fists and truncheon, as a weapon to enforce compliance or to torture someone who has already been subdued. We saw this last year when Stephane Datey, a university student in Quebec City, was pinned to the ground, covered in a blanket, and THEN pepper sprayed. Datey died as a result.

BECAUSE tasers represent a further militarization of the police, and their use will increase the amount of police violence. As in the case of Stephane Datey, as in the case of the thirteen year old Entessar Mounem who was hospitalized after Montreal police pepper sprayed her last week, tasers will be used against people a police officer may be angry at, but has no reason to actually hurt.

We see this across the United States, where Amnesty International has called attention to the fact that "many US police agencies are deploying tasers as a routine force option to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not pose a serious danger to themselves or others. In some departments, tasers have become the most prevalent force tool. They have been used against unruly schoolchildren; unarmed mentally disturbed or intoxicated individuals; suspects fleeing minor crime scenes and people who argue with police or fail to comply immediately with a command. Cases described in this report include the stunning of a 15-year-old schoolgirl in Florida, following a dispute on a bus, and a 13- year-old girl in Arizona, who threw a book in a public library."

Just last week an Edmonton police officer received a conditional discharge for tasering a man who was polite and obeying police orders. The man had been stopped for jaywalking. This is not surprising and it will happen here too.

BECAUSE this is an ongoing trend. Already in 2001 Montreal SWAT teams were supplied with these electroshock weapons, then in 2004 the police operational centres were supplied ("we use them on prisoners when they get too violent," one cop bragged the media) and as of last summer the four "intervention groups" - the ones who are in charge of attacking demonstrations - were given the weapon.

But this is an important moment, as today for the first time police armed with tasers will be in charge of controlling and repressing "ordinary" working class people on a day-by-day basis.

BECAUSE we do not trust the police, and with every new weapon and power they receive we trust them even less.

For these reasons and many others, we are outraged, disgusted but not a all surprised by the fact that the STM and the Mayor of Montreal have chosen to allow police armed with tasers to patrol the Montreal metro.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Militarization of Montreal's Metro System: Now We Get Cops With Tasers...

Over the years i have seen quite a bit of violence against youth, and most specifically against Black youth, dished out by the security guards who patrol the Montreal metro system.

It generally starts with someone being boisterous - once, for instance, a young Black guy happily shouted "Jah live!" to passersby on christmas eve - when a duo of guards will approach, aggressively demanding that the "suspect" give their name, empty their pockets, etc. If the "suspect" doesn't do exactly what they're told quickly enough, the guards will start getting physical, any resistance or even flinching on the part of their victim being an excuse for them to escalate matters.

In the case of the young Black guy on christmas eve, he didn't resist physically so the guards waited for the police to arrive... the kid was then taken out of villa maria station and made to lie down in the snow; when he protested he was pushed down and a cop sat on him for fifteen minutes as several other Black people tried to get their badge numbers.

Lying face down in the snow for fifteen minutes in subzero temperatures... and this was a kid who was not resisting.

Another time, on St Patrick's Day, me and my partner saw a (white) guy beaten on the ground for ten minutes by two guards - all because he was too drunk to know to stay down. Not that he was fighting, he was just crying and begging them to leave him alone as he kept on trying to get away. A crowd formed and everybody was yelling at the guards to stop, so much so that one of them completely lost it and took out his club and started whacking the guy on the head before charging into the onlookers.

When the cops arrived they arrested the drunk guy and also at least one of the people in the crowd just because they had been amongst those shouting at the guards to calm down, that they didn't need to be so violent.

Not that it normally gets to that point. More usual would be the times that someone is "merely" pinned to a wall, frisked as roughly as possible, and then taken away to wait for the cops to come and arrest them on some bogus charge.

Of course there is also that "other kind" of violence the guards excel at. Like the dynamic duo that several of us noticed, who would always hit on young women who were taking the metro. Chat them up, smiling and smooth as rotten tofu, ask them for their number, etc. Did they get many dates this way? What happened to women who said no? What do you think would happen if she told one of these pricks to fuck off? She's going to see these guys again - she has to take the metro to school or work, and they will be there...

The case of Alain Jean-Pierre, the metro guard who recruited young women into the sex trade - and then stole all of their earnings - was the tip of a sexist iceberg that the city of Montreal has no intention of dealing with. Can't deal with really, as sexual harassment of women is one of its wink-nod pitches to that male tourist market it caters to - so why the fuck should it deprive its male pigs the same benefit?

Race, class and age are the main factors motivating harassment and then violence from the security guards. This is even more clear that in many other situations as the public transport system is already disproportionately used by people with less money and less social power. (For a sideways snapshot of class, just ride the metro for a day and see who is riding with you - compare this to who you see driving the cars above... for some of these numbers see the survey results on page 7 of the STM's 2005 annual report...)

Indeed, the transit system is a microcosm of the economy it serves. Whereas women represent an absolute majority of those who use public transit, and the system is disproportionately used by people of colour, the STM's workforce in 80% male and over 90% white. (see that 2005 annual report page 29) Which of course all fits in, given the fact that the STM workforce is heavily unionized and that exclusion from unionized jobs has been identified as one of the factors driving the new cycle of "racial segmentation" (i.e. racism) in the canadian economy...

As security guards patrolling these areas come under less scrutiny than "real cops", and these areas are subject to a more arbitrary and less regulated level of control, practices like racial and class profiling are highly prevalent, and nobody even pretends different. The high level of surveillance in these areas - almost all of which are saturated with close circuit video cameras - encourages the trend already noted by academic John Fiske, who has explained that such surveillance "draws lines that Blacks cannot cross and Whites cannot see." Or that poor people cannot cross, and middle class people cannot see...

These tendencies are reinforced by the fact that the metro guards do not only chance upon their victims, but are also called by STM employees to deal with suspicious or "troublesome" people... and as we have already seen, these STM employees are far more likely to be white and male than the people who use the system. As certain groups are disproportionately targeted (i.e. check out Atwater or Villa Maria metro stations about the time school gets out and see the connection between Black teenagers and the guards' intimidation tactics) they will be disproportionately found to be doing "something" wrong, and it all becomes one big "beat up the Black kids" positive-feedback-loop...

It's a bad situation, and of course people have no choice, no way of extricating themselves from it. As three different factors combine, it will most likely get worse.

First off, there is an ongoing trend to make "public" space into "controlled" space. The zoning of different places where people hang out and socialize as "parks" means that suddenly there is a curfew there, that special rules apply as to what people can or cannot do. One of the major campaigns around police harassment of punks in the 90s specifically hinged on such zoning issues, as does the recent ban on dogs from two downtown parks, a transparent move against the street people who hang out there with their companions.

Another example is the relocation of various businesses within malls and shopping centres like montreal's touristy "underground city". This means that to go to a movie, to get a meal or to go to certain government offices means moving through areas where security guards can enforce make-believe rules and there is not even a pretense of anyone having any "rights", because when you are there you are on someone's private property.

So the problem is not limited to the metro system, and is in fact becoming more prevalent as police oppression is supplemented by layers of grey-area security guards and situations where people have no real idea what is expected of them or how the dumbfuck holding the nightstick is going to react.

Secondly, as the city has grown and the public transportation system has developed over the past hundred and forty years people's jobs, relationships and ability to participate in their own culture has become dependent on being able to take the bus (or once upon a time, the tram) or the metro to get where they are going. As many experienced a few weeks ago during the strike action by transit mechanics, many people's lives are structured around having to access the transit system. In a city where 40% of transit users do not own a car, many people - especially young people - have no choice but to take the metro, and subject themselves to the control of the metro guards.

Thirdly - and this is in fact what has prompted this posting - once an area becomes "controlled space" like the metro system, unless people resist the security apparatus will become more and more highly militarized. We see an example of this tomorrow as Montreal police will now be patrolling the metro system armed with tasers.

As i already mentioned above, incidents of security violence in the metro system normally end with the police arriving and arresting the victim. But hype around "crime" and also "terrorism" in the metro system led to the decision to have police patrol, at least initially alongside metro security guards.

When it was initially announced that Montreal police would be patrolling the metros there were some muted objections from "community spokespeople", but no mobilization or real resistance. Which is not to fault them but us - after all, that kind of thing is not the job of such "community leaders", it's the job of the radical left... or it should be!

These new police in the metro, it should be noted, were largely recruited from amongst the guards who already patrol the system. In a racist nod to the P.R. problem stemming from the pimping case of Alain Jean-Pierre (who is Black), it would seem that white guards were given preferential access to the new "higher status" police jobs. Not that a Black cop is anything but a cop, but this racial bias in hiring in certainly not likely to mitigate the problems we have already identified.

The provision of tasers to this new police section is equally worrisome. This is part of a long-term plan of supplying the weapons to all police in Montreal.

Already in 2001 SWAT teams were supplied with the electroshock weapons, then in 2004 the police operational centres were supplied ("we use them on prisoners when they get too violent," as one cop bragged the media) and as of last summer the four "intervention groups" - the ones who are in charge of attacking demonstrations and putting down acts of collective resistance - were given the weapon.

In other words, this is an ongoing trend - and this is an important moment in this trend, as tomorrow for the first time police armed with tasers will be in charge of controlling and repressing "ordinary" working class people, not demonstrators or prisoners or people involved in armed stand-offs.

Billed as "non-lethal weapons" (makes me think of "low tar cigarettes"), tasers deliver a powerful 50,000 volt electrical shock to their victim, but are not "supposed to" do any permanent injury. Despite the fact that they have been linked to two hundred deaths in North America - including several in Canada - and that "pregnant women and those with cardiovascular disease, people who are drug affected, young people, older people and those with mental illness" are all said to be at greater risk when being shocked, these weapons are fraudulently promoted as being "less lethal than guns". i say fraudulently, because they are normally not used instead of guns, but instead of other less dangerous forms of violence (i.e. fists or batons, which of course can also kill), and often even in situations where violence may otherwise have not been used at all.

Like pepper spray, tasers are used to punish people for not doing what police tell them to do quickly enough. For instance, i have seen a completely non-violent and polite handcuffed homeless man pepper sprayed merely for complaining that the police had taken his cigarette from his mouth.

This is the real reason police want so-called non-lethal weapons: they can be used to torture people. People like Stephane Datey, to give another example: last year this Quebec City university student was pepper sprayed after he had already been subdued, covered with a blanket and pinned down with a police shield. (Datey died as a result of this "non-lethal" police violence.)

In several of the examples of metro guard abuse i listed at the beginning of this posting, tasers would have most likely been used had they been available. In none of these situations were guns used (because nobody had any), yet in all of them guards were intent on inflicting maximum abuse.

Similarly, think of the situation i described a couple of weeks ago, where a thirteen year old Arab girl fell unconscious after being pepper sprayed by the cops. Had tasers been on hand she might well have been electroshocked first...

Furthermore, like pepper spray and fists, but unlike guns, use of tasers passes completely under the radar. According to police tasers were used 28 times in 2006, but nobody ever notices until someone who had been electroshocked dies - at which point suddenly the media will take notice of the "controversy" surrounding these weapons, though a coroner's inquest is normally sufficient to cover matters up.

So what to do?

i don't see any immediate prospects for stopping this. The radical left is of course isolated from the working class, and community leaders have had their five seconds of crocodile tears. The vast majority of people harassed by the metro cops will know what's what, but it's very difficult to resist physically or politically in an environment which is itself so tightly controlled in ways both physical and political.

Nevertheless, i think that there is potential to do something. People do go in and out of the metros, and those are locations where one can flier or organize. The system does have vulnerabilities - both in terms if the fares it depends on for almost half its annual budget, and in other material ways. This is an area where, especially around certain stations, there is a real and obvious combination of class, race and gender dynamics which can perhaps be teased out and turned into a tool for change.

There is room for creativity, imagination and life, even in the underground.

Let's see what happens.



Too many days with too little time to write too many things...

And now another week has come and gone.

While am not sad that i have stuff to do in life - the alternative would be depressing - there is shit i wanted to be able to discuss, and i know at this point it won't all happen.

Occasionally i think of a post just listing all the posts i don't have time to do. Buti don't have time to do it.

So i set the alarm clock on a sunday to blog... let's see if that gets me anywhere...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

[Montreal] June 18th: Solidarity Picket: Justice For Anas!

This Monday, if you're in montreal and available please come to this picket demanding justice for Mohamed Anas Bennis:

June 18th: Solidarity Picket: Justice For Anas!



Monday June 18th, from 10:30am to 1pm
Quebec Minister of Public Security,
1 Notre Dame East, Montreal
(metro: Champ-de-Mars)

* Come support the Bennis family in their struggle for justice!
* Speak out against the secrecy and contempt that has surrounded this case and protest police impunity!
* Protest against the fact that Montreal police will now be patrolling the metro system armed with taser guns!

On December 1st, 2005 -- more than one year ago -- police officer Bernier from Station 25 shot and killed Anas Bennis, a 25-year old Canadian of Moroccan heritage. Anas was killed outside a neighborhood mosque at the corner of Côte-des-Neiges and Kent, just minutes from his home.

The police claim that Anas had attacked them with a kitchen knife, but over a year later they have failed to produce either the knife, the security video which filmed the events leading to Anas' death, or proof of the injuries that officer Bernier supposedly sustained. Despite their efforts, the Bennis family has not been able to see this evidence or to receive copies of the prosecutor's report or the police report regarding Anas' death.

As Minister of Public Security and newly appointed Minister of Justice, Jacques Dupuis has the power to release the police and prosecutor's reports to the Bennis family and to the public.

Join us in demanding an end to this cover-up, and in reiterating our demand for JUSTICE!

Also on this day, June 18th 2007, Montreal police officers will begin patrolling the metro armed with tasers, guns which produce an electrical shock. Tasers have already caused at least 200 deaths in Canada and the United States. How many people must die before the government stops protecting violent cops?



1. the immediate release of all reports, evidence and information concerning the death of Anas Bennis to the Bennis family and to the public;
2. a full, public and independent inquiry into the death of Anas Bennis;
3. an end to police brutality and impunity.

La Coalition Justice pour Anas
tel: 514-342-2111

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nablus, An Historic City That Refuses To Die: Dispatch Number Six

This came in on July 8th from my friend in Palestine:
a demonstration was called for 5 june in nablus. well, at one of the checkpoints for nablus. the idea was to plant trees at huwarra, the infamous checkpoint where the iof has a reputation for being particularly cruel...not that they are particularly nice at za'atara, qalandiya or surda - three checkpoints i have gone through several times. there are, according to a recent ocha (un office for coordination of humanitarian affairs) paper there were, as of april 2007, 537 checkpoints and roadblocks in the west bank (see here and click on "closure update april 2007" for more information). this makes travelling from one village to another a game of chance and creates a life of insecurity.

the three of us caught a servees almost immediately. it was going directly to nablus. the van wound through the back, or, palestinian roads. huwarra loomed in the distance within 20 minutes. we got out and walked through, noticing the long line of cars on the other side, waiting to get out. it was once very difficult to get in and out of nablus for palestinians. now it is somewhat easier to get in. the problem is getting out. huwarra is on the southern border of nablus, where as the beit eba is on the north side. nablus has been surrounded by six checkpoints since 2002. for men between the ages of 16-35, in order to leave nablus to travel anywhere in the west bank, they must obtain a permit. of course, in order to get this required piece of paper, they have to leave nablus. and so it goes, a ridiculous system of restriction after restriction that for me is reminiscent of the thirties.

the thirties in germany.

on the other side of the checkpoint we found a car to take us to the baladiya (municipal building) where people were going to meet for 10 a.m. eventually there were two busloads of us that headed back towards huwarra. we disembarked and massed into a thick line that inched towards the checkpoint. not long after we were met by a crew of the boys in green with their automatic accouterments. chanting broke out and hands pumped into the air. the plan was to plant trees and take over the checkpoint. a glorious idea of empowerment that was obviously not to be realized. eventually, a local organizer for the ism (international solidarity movement) began to speak to the issue of the checkpoint itself. he told the army to go home. we all took up the slogan and repeated and repeated as m. then jumped the low concrete barriers that divided the checkpoint. he approached the people crammed inside the fencing, waiting to pass through the first turnstile to see if they could, perchance, go where they wished. m. talked about the restrictiveness of the this system of control and dispossession. a word was put in about how they would be back. then came the planting of 6-8 trees.

the buses let us off back at the baladiya and we went with m. and several others from ism to the al-yasmeen hotel. walking up the stairs and into the restaurant, there was a beautiful stained glass window pocked with gunshot. this is a theme in nablus. after a leasurely small lunch we set off on a tour of the old city. gunshots graffiti many of the walls. each step took us to another place where s explained who had died there, how and though he seemed monotone, a certain stress was visible. how many blown up bodies your friends and neighbours would it take to strip you of your faith in humanity? in several spots, s told of how he found the head here, and the torso there. bombs in pay phones. cars that ignite when you turn the ignition key. the walls are lined with shaheed posters - the martyrs. these are people primarily assassinated by the israeli occupation forces. there are names. names named so the people will not forget what happened here.

each place we go and stop, local folks stop as well, watching us watch m and s. i wonder what they are thinking...whether we are just another set of more internationals on a tour of doom and devastation, weakly smiling because we know we can't promise much.

we stopped in on a spice factory, and sampled nabulsi za'atar - the fragrant spice mix of palestinian thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. zaki - delicious. in the back were artifacts of an earlier life. the room was a dusty capsule of history longing to be animated, like the rest of palestine that strains through the israeli restraints that tighten and loosen at the whim of the occupiers. we went to a bathhouse that was over 1000 years old. it had been damaged in recent israeli invasions. m and s told us that the iof nightly invades the city, claiming to be looking for militants. what they are doing is creating militants.

and what exactly is wrong with militancy? if you are under siege, is that not what is called for? it is a word misused. i've met many a militant non-violent activist... and they get quite militant with you if you say you are not a non-violent activist. but do people not have a right to defend themselves when a foreign army invades, steals your land, murders people at will under the rubric of "security"... do people not have a right to stand up for themselves?

the hightlight of nablus was, of course, kanafi. kanafi is a nablus creation. you can get it elsewhere, but in nablus, it is supreme. a delectible combination of white cheese, sugar, semolina and rose water, we had it fresh and warm. ah, nablus. ah, kanafi.

our day in nablus ended with a meeting at a palestinian cultural centre where we sat and talked about the situation. there has been news coverage of nablus. iof troop tromping through an occupied city like it was theirs. stories often playing with "balance." there is nothing about balance here or anywhere else in palestine. we were encouraged to write to our government officials, to catch their ears and tell them to stop funding this occupation and dispossession. they spoke about the factionalism. nablus has always been unified but with recent intra-palestinian fighting in gaza, there has been an effect here.

the centre's organizer commented "what's going on in gaza is very israeli." he's speaking about the fact that no one is getting pain in gaza. supplies aren't making it in to gaza. palestinian fisherman off the coast are constantly under attack by the iof. and the u.s. and israel have been funding and arming fatah and sending them into gaza from egypt. many palestinians in gaza cannot crossand re-enter. but these newly armed fatah members can.

when mahmood abbas and fatah were the "government" in palestine, the israelis said there was no "partner for peace." once hamas was voted in, the israelis would only deal with abbas. coincidence?

there is much more to reflect on and to write about. there are demonstrations that began on the fifth - the day of al naksa, or the setback, israel's invasion and occupation of the remainder of historic palestine - the west bank, gaza, the golan and sinai. there will be demonstrations all over the world as well as all over palestine and in 48.

there will be another dispatch.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When It Comes To Brutalizing Children, Montreal Cops Are Tops

According to an article in last Saturday's Journal de Montreal, a thirteen year old girl was brought to the hospital after being thrown to the ground by police and then pepper sprayed.

Here is my roughshoud translation:
Unconscious, wounded and covered in pepper spray, a thirteen year old was brought to the emergency room yesterday after coming between her sixteen year old big brother and the police officers who had come to arrest him.

"I was hit by a blast of pepper, then they hit me and I just felt pain in all my body. Before, I hadn't known the police to be like that," said Entessar Mounem in an interview with the Journal yesterday after leaving the hospital.

The incident occurred around noon on the corner of Casgrain and Jarry, in Villeray. Bicycle police had wanted to arrest the girl's sixteen year old brother for violating the terms of his conditional release, when his family intervened.

According to Stéphane Bélanger, chief of community station 31, the situation soon degenerated into a brawl. Entessar apparently grabbed a police officer's vest and someone touched the officer's gun.

Contradictory Versions

"The police officer then freed himself from the girl's grip, and in the melee she fell to the ground," according to the chief who arrived at the scene soon after. "According to witnesses, she hit her head on the ground."

Apparently the girl got up again to go at the police officers, before being doused with pepper spray and falling unconscious. Her mother and brother were also pepper sprayed, but police insist that they did not hit anyone with their batons.

The family and friends say otherwise: "When I saw my sister being hit, I couldn't see anything else... she is just thirteen years old," protests one of Entessar's brothers, Nasser Mounem.

A Hostile Crowd

Police commander Bélanger claims that the police batons were only used to control the angry crowd of almost one hundred people who surrounded the police.

He points out that an ambulance was called immediately and that the officers brought the teenager's mother to the hospital in a police car so that she could get there as soon as possible to be with her daughter.

Back at home last night, the young girl said she was worn out and exhausted but did not have a visible injuries.

While the story pretty much speaks for itself, there's two or three things that i'll add...

First, while the topic is never explicitly broached, Villeray is a working class neighbourhood and to judge by the names of the girls' family members, this was yet another case of police violence aimed at Montreal's Arab working class. (According to the study Quand le travail n'empêche pas d'être pauvre! (p.49), in Montreal it is Arab, Muslim and Black people who have the most "difficulty in entering the job market" - which is a confused way of saying that these are the communities experiencing the highest levels of forced proletarianization.) All of which is just another reminder that anti-racism, anti-cop work, and working class community resistance are inseparable.

Also worth noting, simply coz it's timely and all: pepper spray and other "non-lethal weapons" are promoted by the police as being less dangerous than guns. While this is theoretically true, in practice police use "non-lethal weapons" like pepper spray far more often than they would use their guns. As such pepper spray and other non-lethal weapons effectively increase the level of police violence.

These weapons are not harmless, and can in fact kill - for instance, almost a year ago Stephane Datey, a university student, was killed by Quebec City police: he had taken drugs, was freaking out, and so the cops covered him with a woolen blanket, pinned him down under a police shield, and then pepper sprayed him. Datey lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

In this regard it is worth mentioning that Montreal police are phasing in another "non-lethal" weapon - as of June 18th the cops will be patrolling in the metros armed with taser guns. Already widely used in the united states, tasers have killed dozens of people in that country - many once they are already in custody. (See this Amnesty International report for more on this.)

And finally, to return to Entessar Mounem, who was pepper sprayed and knocked unconscious by the cops as she fought to protect her brother. Appreciate the irony that normally the racist Journal de Montreal would have only mentioned a girl like her in order to paint a picture of a hyper-submissive female from a strange foreign culture, which is the newspaper's current line on Arab women. And yet here she was, strong and empowered enough to take on the pigs - showing more guts than i might have.

Now that's my idea of a role model for girls everywhere...

PFLP on the 40th Anniversary of the Naksah (Six Day War)


On the 40th anniversary of the ‘Naksah’ defeat, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine calls for the renewal of the effort of national resistance.

On the 40th anniversary of the 1967 defeat known as the “naksah,” the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for the renewal of the Palestinian national resistance effort, an effort that was born and grew up as a reaction to the defeat of the Arab regimes, and as a militant choice of the Palestinian people and the peoples of the Arab Nation in confrontation with settler colonialism and conquest, occupation, aggression, hegemony, and dependence.

The PFLP stated that the path of resistance is the only path guaranteed and tested and able to recover rights and honor and to safeguard identity – a fact that has been proven by the historic resistance of the Arab masses, and is being proven today by the resistance of the Iraqi masses in the Land of the Two Rivers, in addition to the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance that have established, in spite of all the difficult regional and international conditions, the ability of the Arab fighter and soldier to defeat the occupation army and “undefeatable” Zionist terror. Resistance has shattered the Zionists’ traditional strength and deterrent power and undermined their faith in the Zionist leadership, its army, and security agencies. At the same time it has exposed the reality of the war efforts of the Arab regimes, which, despite the triumphs of the Arab soldier, left 99 percent of the cards in the hands of America after having freed the Arab homeland of foreign control and external factors of manipulation and pressure.

The PFLP believes that the degeneration and decline from the slogans proclaimed at the Khartoum Summit after the 1967 defeat – “No peace accord, no recognition, no negotiations!” – to the total reversal of that position as expressed by the Riyadh Summit in March 2007 is proof of how far the official Arab level has declined, and of how far it is willing to go to deny the resistance and to try to circumvent it and undermine it, pursuing instead the policy of compliance, servility, and dependency on the colonial powers and American globalism.

The PFLP regards it as supremely ironic that 40 years of Zionist American arrogance and Arab degradation are still not enough to convince the official Arab regimes of the efficacy of the course of resistance, when in fact resistance is the only real strategic peace option.

Today we see the Zionist state of occupation and terror after 40 years of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza territories and 14 years after the Oslo Declarations is still establishing settlements and deploying settlers all over the lands of Jerusalem and the West Bank. There are now nearly half a million settlers there who have gobbled up nearly half of the land of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and who squander more than 80 percent of its water resources.

At the same time the Zionist state perpetrates the most atrocious violations, acts of piracy, abductions, war crimes, and blockades against the land and people with impunity and with absolute support from its strategic ally in Washington that controls the resources and markets of the Arabs, plants military bases on their soil, fills their waters with its naval fleets, carrying out open aggression while imposing its humiliating and repressive rule upon them.

The PFLP noted that in the 40 years that have passed, the Palestinian people have made legendary sacrifices, waged an armed revolution and successive intifadas, and carried on a continuous resistance, thereby reasserting their political identity and raising their national cause from an issue of refugees to the cause of a people struggling, under the banners of its militant vanguard and sole legal representative the Palestine Liberation Organization, for freedom, independence, the return, and self-determination, the same as the rest of the peoples of the Earth.

Today, after 40 years in the maws of a battle for national liberation and democracy, we see the struggle flaring up again between the course of steadfastness and resistance on the one hand and the course of Palestinian and Arab alienation and a vain chase after the mirage of empty American promises and peace plans on the other. Our people are threatened with the danger that their national cause will be eliminated by the replacement of the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state with the aim of a self-rule regime for the inhabitants, set up within temporary limits under the guard and at the mercy of the security of Israel and its economy, abandoning the right of return and relegating our people abroad to the fate of exclusion or dissolution and denationalization in other countries as we spin in an orbit around a phantom solution, engaged in impotent bilateral negotiations under American-Israel supervision. The home front is under attack in various ways and through numerous means of interference from abroad, when it should be uniting and strengthening its national ranks, embarking on the course of democracy and pluralistic participatory national politics which would in word and deed lay down the clear political basis on which national, popular, official, regional, and international forces could rally around the goals of the Palestinian people and their just, legitimate struggle.

On this occasion the PFLP warns that any call for a critical review of our situation loses its real value if it is not linked with national self criticism and critique of the course traversed by the revolution and all the organizations and social forces of the PLO, and a critique of the outcome of the negotiations that have been held and of the Oslo Agreements – the Palestinian people’s verdict on which has already been pronounced by the daily reality of intifada and at the election polls as well.

At this critical time, in which a national disaster and great calamity are threatening, the Popular Front appealed to the Fateh and Hamas movements to finally put an absolute end to solving differences within the national ranks by anything other than dialogue and democratic means, using reason and supreme national interests as their methodology, carrying on a comprehensive national dialogue among all the political and social forces on the basis of the Prisoners’ Document – the “National Accord” – that laid the firm programmatic foundation for reasserting the spirit of resistance, security, and stability, comprehensive democratic reform, national unity, and the activation and reconstruction of the PLO and its popular bases – from the bottom to the top – on democratic foundations through elections in accordance with the principle of total proportional representation in the framework of a clear time table, inasmuch as the PLO is the leader, authority, and sole legal representative of the Palestinian people wherever they are to be found.

Posted at 10:05 a.m. Palestine time, on 4 June 2007.