Notes From America: November

Louis Further rounds up news from the USA for the months of October and November.

 

Racism

Kalief Browder was a 16-year-old high school student from the Bronx when he was accused of stealing a Rucksack by a mistaken witness driving around in the back of a New York Police Department police patrol car. Although Browder did not take the Rucksack, indeed proved to the police at the time that he had none of the belongings of his accuser (who then changed his accusation to suggest the alleged theft was ‘attempted’), he spent nearly three years in solitary confinement at the notorious Rikers jail complex in New York City. Yes, Three years in solitary confinement! He was never convicted and maintained his innocence requesting a trial rather than accept a plea bargain for release, which would have given him a criminal record. Only at the end of September were matters successfully brought to the attention of a judge, who dismissed the case against Browder. Continue reading

Police Violence Mars Free Education Demonstration

Jon Bigger, resident contributor at Freedom News, brings us his account of yesterday student demonstration in central London. Marred by vicious police violence and abandoned by the ever principled National Union of Students, the march went ahead and voiced its important and just message: free education is a right for all.

 

Photo: Jon Bigger

Sometimes things aren’t peaceful. The day had started loudly with a samba band marching from the London School of Oriental and African Studies. Stragglers marched with it to join the back of the demonstration for free education that was assembling a block away on Malet Street. It ended with police violence as the authorities snatched people off the street for having the nerve to march spontaneously through the streets of the capital. Here’s an account of the demonstration for free education that took place on Wednesday 19th November.

The demonstration itself was a wonderful, vibrant and good natured march through London on a dry and mild November day. The decision by the National Union of Students (NUS) committee to withdraw support for the march had not dwindled numbers and in fact may have made students even more determined. That decision could render the NUS an irrelevance in the years to come as students up and down the country look to alternative forms of organising which might bypass the careerists in the movement. Already there is talk of new organisations and further action, specifically occupations and local activities on 3rd and 6th December. Continue reading

Democracy: Why It Should Be As Direct As Possible

In ‘Democracy: Why It Should Be As Direct As Possible’ Jon Bigger offers up a response to a recent opinion piece on Freedom News, entitled ‘The Second Greatest Lie: An Anarchist Critique of Democracy.’ 

Freedom recently published an article calling for a debate on whether direct democracy was desirable [it can be found here]. Titled “The Second Greatest Lie: An Anarchist Critique of Democracy”, it was actually more a stream of consciousness on direct democracy. To go into the faults of that article would be a task few would take up. It was frankly very confused but the writer should be thanked for opening up a debate on the issue. I want to put the case for democracy and explain why it needs to be as direct and participatory as possible.

First an understanding needs to be gained of what democracy is. It is a very over-used word. It comes from the ancient Greek words demos and kratos meaning people and power. On a very basic level then it should denote a political order in which power rests with the people. In ancient Greece this actually involved mass general assemblies and citizen participation in decision making, although that didn’t include slaves or women. On that basis it would be contra to anarchist beliefs to want to copy the ancient Greek system of democracy per se but it’s an interesting juxtaposition in comparison to the dominant form of democracy which is akin to the Roman Republic with its senators. Continue reading

They Don’t Care About Us: #FreeCeebo

This summer, while a lot of attention was focused on the aftermath of the police killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, another young black man was shot to death by the LAPD. Following the police killing of Ezell Ford, his cousin Ceebo, among others, demanded answers about what had happened to him. He recorded a song and video which caused the police to send out a special alert; and he started organising community protests demanding justice for victims of police violence. And now, having been convicted of burglary on the basis of some very questionable evidence, this young man is facing 4-24 years in prison.

To make it clear exactly how shaky this conviction was: the key piece of evidence for the prosecution was that, after making the arrest, the police showed him to two witnesses who agreed that he was the man they’d seen running away through a window from a distance of 40 feet, and neither witness remembers hearing the police read the official disclaimer that’s meant to be used in these cases. Both witnesses described the man they’d seen as wearing white clothing, but Ceebo was wearing a black shirt on the day. When questioned about it later, they mentioned the colour of his skin and the fact that he was wearing handcuffs as reasons why they thought he was the man they’d seen.

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Tawayel: a timeline of torment

Nikki Ray writes about firing zones, demolitions and Israeli settlement expansion in Area C of the West Bank…

Tawayel (Tell al Khashaba) is a small community of herding families living in a beautiful area of the West Bank. Their very existence has been continuously threatened by the Israeli authorities throughout the year of 2014. During my time as a human rights monitor with EAPPI , based in the even smaller village of Yanoun a few kilometres away, we became very accustomed to being in the village of Tawayel. Although the Palestinians living in Tawayel are some of the most hospitable I have ever come across our presence in the village was rarely for a happy reason.

Ghassan, our translator and driver from Aqraba, sits above the looping white road which indicates the majority of the area of Tawayel. Photo credit N. Ray/EAPPI

During the 3 months I was in the West Bank the houses of 2 families were demolished in Tawayel in August 2014 as well as the village’s entire electricity network in September 2014, both conducted by the Israeli authorities. When Palestinians from the neighbouring town of Aqraba came to repair and reconnect the electricity supply a few days later the workers were chased away by the Israeli army and one member of the Aqraba Municipality was detained for a day. Electricity in any community is vital for its continuation, but particularly in Tawayel. Electricity allows women in Tawayel to store cheese and dairy products from their livestock for consumption and sale in Aqraba. Continue reading

Constructing The Self

Sociologists known as Social Constructionists (1) believe that we construct our sense of self, of self identity from the cultural resources available to us. That is, in order to construct a version of ourselves that is understandable and intelligible to ourselves and others we draw on the representations, roles and social signifiers around us, configuring and modifying them to construct a sense of who we are both for ourselves and those around us. Many of these cultural resources-conventional gender roles, nationalities, etc- are top down products of a nation state capitalist system and these cultural resources will perpetuate roles, identities and social structures that serve the status quo and reactionary relationships. Natasha Walter writes in ‘Living Dolls’ that the mainstream cultural resources available to young girls to construct a self from have narrowed over the last decades (2). Hegemonic femininity and masculinity elevate a version of femininity and masculinity in a particular society (3) as an ideal to be aspired to, some would argue the current hegemonic models in the UK are for many the overtly sexualised woman and the soldier. Continue reading

POLICE AGGRESSION AT POOR DOORS

Last night’s POOR DOORS demo was a great laugh- there was an effigy of Boris, sparklers, drums and dancing. Our weekly message was being sent to Redrow Homes and the City of London: we won’t tolerate social segregation and we won’t tolerate the blatant attempts by the rich to luxuriate as they take over our areas! The cops then, however, decided to target one of our number and arrest them, and then to viciously arrest another comrade! This was an unwarranted and nasty attack by the police. They were aggressive, arbitrary and violent. They ignored the burning Boris effigy, until calling the fire brigade who sarcastically put it out with a small bucket of water (it was only embers) and laughed when they found out it was of Boris Johnson. Chants of ‘FBU!’ rang out amongst the crowds. As the protest began to near its end the police decided it was time to pounce and the crowd reacted to their behaviour with solidarity for our victimised comrades.

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The Second Greatest Lie: An Anarchist Critique Of Democracy

In the United States it is coming up to the midterm elections. Tis the season we register to vote! Miserable canvassers surround my daily trips to run errands, asking me to register with a fake enthusiastic tone. Everyday I register to vote. Today, I am a member of the “Libertarian party” whatever that means. Yesterday I was a Democrat, tomorrow I think I will be a Republican!

 

Representative democracy in America is a joke. Many anarchist critiques exist of this specific node of apparatus control, and I am happy they do! We all know representative democracy is a lie, but what about democracy itself?

Many anarchist preach the politic of “direct democracy” to take the place of representative democracy. There is no specific definition of what this means, besides that it is “direct” and allegedly comes from the individual’s choice, rather than the coercive nature of hierarchy. This translates to many different theories, from workers deciding on delegates to represent them (direct representative democracy?), to individuals in a community deciding what happens to the social infrastructure of their everyday lives. It gets decidedly more complicated when we reach the field of how we tally votes and individual decisions, and their influence on the overall decision. Do we only accept a pure consensus? Or can we fall back on a majority decision if pushed? Continue reading

The Militarisation of Israeli Society

In the second blog from Nikki Ray in our series about life under Israeli occupation, Nikki dicusses the many ways in which Israeli society has become militarised, and how this affects both the occupied and the occupiers.

Only 2 countries in the world have compulsory military service for both men and women[1]. Israel is one of them. Few countries in the world have military service so intertwined with a feeling of national identity as in Israel. As a student mentioned, whilst we were recently being hosted by a Reform Synagogue in Haifa, ‘without the army Israel would not exist’. Her statement is true. The Haganah, an underground Zionist military unit fought to maintain Jewish settlements by suppressing Arab revolts with force between 1920 and 1948[2]. This was during the British Mandate period of Palestine before an Israeli state existed. When Israel was granted statehood in 1948 the Haganah became the Israeli army (or the ‘Israeli Defence Force’). This militarisation filters through to many elements of daily life. For example when a young person is serving as a teacher for their national service they have to wear their green army uniform[3], normalising the military within schools from an early age. Teenagers in their military uniforms can be seen frequently in cities such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, as wearing their uniforms entitles them to have free public transport, or entry into a museum or art gallery. As one of the Rabbis at the Reform Synagogue said, ‘I want peace, but I also want my children to do their military service’. To me, peace and the military are contradictory forces; peace cannot be gained through violence. The military is inherently violent.

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The Free Market Fraud

Despite the world-wide recession the success of the free market fraud continues. Its latest manifestation is the attack on the NHS. This is claimed to be opening up the NHS to competition, which is supposed to increase efficiency but in reality is just siphoning public money to the private sector. We have already seen this with the privatisation of gas, electric and water. Rather than cutting bills, handing natural monopolies over to the private sector has resulted in bills increasing at more than the rate of inflation. This is the exact opposite of what was supposed to have happened but don’t worry, the privatised companies are making huge profits (at our expense). The railways are the most glaring example. We now have the most expensive fares in Europe, the tax payers’ subsidy to the railways has doubled and the railway companies are making huge profits. John Major (the prime minister who privatised the railways) should not be able to appear in public without being continually asked about this. Privatisation of

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