News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:09:13 -0500 en-gb Riot as the Language of the Unheard: Ferguson Protests Set to Continue In Fight For Racial Justice

"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard." Those were the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in March 1968, weeks before he was assassinated. Today parts of Ferguson are still burning after a night of protests following the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown. At least a dozen shops in the Ferguson area have been broken into and burned. A number of businesses burned for hours before firefighters arrived. We speak to Rev. Osagyefo Sekou of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Jelani Cobb, director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut and a contributor to the New Yorker. "For over 100 days [the protesters in Ferguson] have been primarily nonviolent in their approach to this," Sekou says. "They gave the system a chance, and the system broke their heart."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting from St. Louis, Missouri, from Clayton and Ferguson. And despite the subfreezing weather here, Ferguson is on fire. Our guests are Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, Pastor from the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts who was dispatched to Ferguson by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, went to high school here in St. Louis and has family in Ferguson. And Jelani Cobb is with us. Associate Professor of History and Director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, also a contributor to the New Yorker magazine. Reverend Sekou, let's begin with you. Describe the scene of the streets. In fact, when we're finished here, these protests are not finished. You're headed to yet another protest right behind us. We are standing in front of the Clayton Courthouse where the grand jury deliberated over the last months. The Clayton Courthouse is called the Justice Center.

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: Well, it seems the case that the name of the center is inappropriate given the high level of repression and undemocratic engagement by the prosecutor, the Governor. These young people have been betrayed every level of government. As West Florissant burned last night, democracy was on fire last night. The Constitution shredded. And young people who have been backed into a corner, abused by the police system for many years — as you mentioned earlier, I went to high school here. I remember being told by my mother and my sister not to go through Ferguson. I remember police sticking their hands in our underwear and accusing us of being drug dealers when we were just some preppy kids with argyle socks attempting to go on dates. The rage that we have seen today, last night, is a reflection of the kind of alienation and the few options that young people feel like they have to express their democratic rights at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about what burned and what didn't. We were on South Florissant. In fact, I saw Jelani at South Florissant. The riot police were lined up. There were armored vehicles, automatic weapons. They were really taking on the protesters. But when we went to West Florissant where the buildings are, the businesses, mainly black-run businesses, there was no National Guard in sight. When we were here months ago, when we were here months ago on West Florissant, you cannot even make a turn there. They had completely sealed off the area. But last night, to our shock, we drove unimpeded right down West Florissant. People were breaking windows. They were setting the buildings on fire. This is black Ferguson that was left by the National Guard, is that right?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: Yes. I was there for some two hours and witnessed first-hand the lack of response by the fire department, the casual nature, the way in which the way the police engaged. They eventually shot tear gas. But what we are seeing now is this was a primary example of the racial divide in Ferguson, in St. Louis, and the nation. Because this story has always been about Mike Brown and bigger than Mike Brown. Every other day in America, every other day, some black or brown child is subject to the arbitrary violence of the state with little to no recourse that every other day in America, a mother is writing a funeral program that would perhaps be the elegy of the democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Jelani, I saw you on South Florissant. That is where the Ferguson police — the newly built Ferguson Police Department is. Describe the scene and what you saw.

JELANI COBB: Initially, there was a crowd gathered out there. People were silently hoping against hope that there would be — that there would be an indictment. And there was none in the offing. People were there. They were hearing the long-winded and insulting statement the prosecutor Bob McCulloch gave before announcing that there would be no indictment. Then you begin to see tensions ratcheting up. But as that happened, there was kind of a noose structure that the police enacted. They were on the kind of north side of the street. And then in short order, you saw armored vehicles and a very significant number of police kind of marching in formation with weapons — some had weapons drawn. There were tear gas canisters that began to be fired. They had people hemmed in, in essence, on South Florissant.

And as you said, on West Florissant, it was shocking to see the lack of police presence there. And so, we heard earlier in the evening, we heard from Governor Jay Nixon as well as last week on Friday at a press conference that Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis gave, and they use the word "restraint." They said that the police would be restrained in their response. It seemed as if somehow they gotten the message, perhaps, that people wanted to be treated like human beings. And then we saw what restraint looked like last night. Restraint was a kind of nonchalant approach to what was happening on the black side of town with a hyper-vigilant approach to what was happening on the white side of town.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read a quote of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was what three weeks before he was assassinated. It was March 14, 1968. He said, "It's not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent and intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say, tonight, that a riot is the language of the unheard." That is Dr. Martin Luther King three weeks before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968. Reverend Sekou?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: It is quite relevant to this moment, the reality that these young people face. We hear it all the time for 100 days, them saying that I'm ready to die because I don't have anything to live for. School systems have betrayed them. The President has betrayed them. Eric Holder has betrayed them. Governor Nixon has betrayed them. Chief Jackson has betrayed them, the electoral system has betrayed them. They have extremely limited options, school systems decrepit, no economic opportunity. And so — then on top of that, to see their brother, their son laid in the street for 4.5 hours and to have wound upon wound that they are in a situation where that the destruction of property seems the only way that they can vent their rage because they have been given no recourses. And so, while the president calls for calm but is not dispatched enough resource to hold Darren Wilson and a draconian police force accountable, we of simply betrayed them. It is a shame that the nation has engaged as such behavior among the most vulnerable young people in our nation.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the issue, Jelani Cobb, of civil rights charges being brought against Darren Wilson? I mean, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, is retiring — leaving his position, but he did come to Ferguson. Yesterday, President Obama was in the White House and he honored 18 people. Among them were three posthumously; James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner. The state did not bring charges against the men who killed these three civil rights workers in 1964. But then the federal government did.

JELANI COBB: Right. There's been this conversation around this. One of the things that happens here, is that people will say the narrative that we have heard, we heard Mayor Giuliani say something along these lines, former Mayor Giuliani of New York, say something along these lines that people are rioting, that they have no respect for democracy, that they have no respect for other people's lives, other people's property. In fact, people have rioted and rebelled last night precisely because of the opposite. Because the traditional mechanisms of democracy have failed them. So, people did not riot immediately. There was some small scale skirmishes, but largely, people kind of withheld their anger in hopes that the actual system of legal recourse would grant them some relief in a situation of Michael Brown's death. That did not happen. And failing that, people began to enact the plan of last resort.

When Eric Holder came here in the summer, he counseled restraint, he counseled people to give the legal system an opportunity to work. And last night was a refutation of that. That given all their patience, that given all their hope, given all their idealism, despite what we've seen with Trayvon Martin, despite what we've seen with John Ford, John Crawford, rather, in Ohio, despite what we've seen with Oscar Grant — all these circumstances that we can outline — people still had faith that the legal system might give them a modicum of justice. It is difficult to say that there's a likelihood that there's going to be civil rights charges now. It would be very difficult to prove that this was done kind of racially motivated or that Mr. Brown was intentionally deprived of his civil rights. And so, I'm not much more optimistic than the people who were out on West Florissant rioting that the legal system will give any kind of recourse.

AMY GOODMAN: In 162,000 cases in 2010, grand juries, these federal cases, grand juries decline to return an indictment in 11. Of 162,000 federal cases. Reverend Sekou, this is the first night of protest, and I wanted to ask a question about the timing. There was a big discussion about whether the decision would be announced 48 hours later, 24 hours. In the end, they decided to announce it at night — late at night. Why? Did that contribute to what happened in the streets?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: I mean, it was clearly orchestrated in such a way that it created a context of provocation. That it was during the summer that it had become evident that the later it got, the hotter it got in terms of people's relationship to the police. And so is seems that way. But, as we think about this reference to the civil rights movements, these young people have been in the street for over 100 days. A third of the way of the Montgomery bus boycott. With limited resources, limited access to the civil rights tradition, limited support from various institutions and infrastructures. But for over 100 days, they been primarily nonviolent in their approach to this. They gave the system a chance, and the system broke their heart. And then many of them right now as we speak, 125 of my colleagues are in the streets right now prepared to engage in acts of civil resistance in a nonviolent tradition. There will be ongoing nonviolent protests. I mean think about that. This is the second longest protest, I believe, brother here's story, in 50 years of black people, calling America to account, making her say and be honorable to the things she has placed on paper. And so, rather than demonizing these young people, we should be celebrating. Because what they're doing is stretching that living document of the Constitution and creating a space for the possibility for America to be true to what she said on paper.

JELANI COBB: Can I add, can I add to this, Reverend Sekou? One of the things that we saw that was personally most inspiring here was that people began here in a community they said was not extensively organized. And they taught themselves rapidly how to organize. And they came out in that brutal, unforgiving, relentless heat of August and protested and marched and protested and a thunderstorm struck in that first week. You saw thunder and lightning in the sky, and people were marching and protesting saying, black lives matter, hands up, don't shoot.

We saw the weather change. We saw an early winter set in. And despite all of those obstacles, despite the aspersions from the official parts of this community as well as from other individuals that were in unsympathetic to this cause, people came out again night after night after night, and they refused to let Michael Brown's death be in vain. I think that is what we should take from this. This story is not over. The flames are a preface, they are not a coda. This story has not ended. I think that people will find some means of achieving justice in the long haul, and that people here are committed to doing whatever they need to do for as long as they need to do it to make sure that that happens.

AMY GOODMAN: And tonight, what are the plans? In terms of organized protests and what you understand of what else will be happening?

REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU: Well, there are actions happening right now as we speak throughout Clayton, bearing witness to the injustice that these young people have experienced and that this city and community has experienced. There will be a action and people will be gathering at Kiener Plaza at noon today and subsequent action and there will be ongoing actions every day on every hour in this place for over 100 days. People have been in the street willing to put their bodies on the line, risking arrest, tear gas, pepper spray, because they are trying to keep alive the best of the democratic tradition.

AMY GOODMAN: Jelani Cobb, we have ten seconds. Your final thoughts?

JELANI COBB: The only thing that I can say is this, Ferguson is America. That what happened here is not atypical. This is a national problem and something that we all need to be mindful of it, or we will see more Fergusons in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: There are helicopters flying overhead right now. We're standing in front of what is known as the Justice Center where the grand jury said no indictment. That's right, they refused to indict officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown, an 18-year-old African-American teenager August 9, 2014. That does it for our broadcast from Ferguson and Clayton. I want to thank our guests Osagyefo Sekou Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, as well as Jelani Cobb and Vince Warren and special thanks to our team.

News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:35:46 -0500
Black Lives Matter: Ferguson Erupts After Grand Jury Clears Officer in Michael Brown Killing

A grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri has chosen not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager. The decision follows three months of deliberation by the jury of nine whites and three blacks, including four hours of testimony from Wilson himself. The grand jury decision set off outrage in Ferguson and communities across the country who see Brown's killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police mistreatment of people of color. In a statement, the Brown family said: "We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions." We hear from St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch and go to the streets of Ferguson where Amy Goodman interviewed protesters last night.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We're broadcasting from just outside the Clayton County Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri where, on Monday, a grand jury voted not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. After three months of deliberation that included testimony from Wilson himself, the jury of nine whites and three blacks decided that Wilson should not be tried for any of the criminal charges he faced. Not first-degree murder, not second-degree murder, not voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Many are questing the timing of the release of the grand jury decision, which came late at night instead of in broad daylight. Soon after the grand jury decision was read, police fired tear gas at protesters in Ferguson. The grand jury decision set off outrage in communities not only throughout St. Louis, but across the country who see Brown's killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police mistreatment of people of color.

Here in Ferguson, at least a dozen stores were broken into and burned. A number of businesses burned for hours before firefighters arrived. Sporadic gunfire was heard throughout the night in the Ferguson streets. Police arrested at least 61 people. A large crowd gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department as the grand jury's decision was announced. The crowd included Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, who broke into tears after hearing Wilson would walk free. In a statement, the Brown family said "We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions." The statement continues, "While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change." The family has asked for support of the Michael Brown Law, which would ensure police officers wear body cameras. St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision here at the Clayton County courthouse Monday night. McCulloch said jurors had found "that no probable cause exists to charge Officer Wilson with any crime."

BOB MCCULLOCH: The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction. After a full and impartial and critical examination of all the evidence in the law and decide that evidence supported the filing of any criminal charges against Darren Wilson. They accepted and completed as monumental responsibility and conscientious and expeditious manner. It is important to note here that and say again that they are the only people, the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence. They discussed and debated the evidence among themselves before arriving at their collective decision. After their exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their final decision. They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charges against officer Wilson and returned a no true bill on each of the five indictments.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor himself, faced public scrutiny throughout the grand jury investigation, with calls for him to resign over allegations of a pro-police bias and questions raised about an unusual grand jury process that resembled a trial. McCulloch bristled when a reporter asked what message the grand jury's decision had sent.

REPORTER: Mr. McCulloch, you're somebody questioned by many members of the community with cases that have happened in the past, so how do you feel making this — announcing this decision and what message do you think it sends to the community that says that they have had numerous members of their community, young, predominantly black males killed by police with impunity, what kind of message do you think this decision says to them?

BOB MCCULLOCH: Well, a much better message than what you are sending, that young men being killed with impunity. They are not being killed with impunity. We look at every case that comes through, and whether they are young black or white men.

REPORTER: I think people looking at this from around the country are going to be struck by the fact that there is not a single law in the state of Missouri that protects and values the life of this young man who unquestionably was shot and killed dead. There is no dispute about that by the police officer. What do you say to people who wonder, is there something wrong with the laws here that allows this to happen? That after this happen says, we just move on, essentially, and this is justice? Is this really justice or is there something wrong with the laws in the state that would say this is OK?

BOB MCCULLOCH: It is another question that, really, I don't have an answer to that question, that what's wrong with the law. There are no laws to protect us. Every law out there is to protect the safety of every individual regardless of their age and regardless of their race. And so, if those laws are not working, then we need to work to change them.

AMY GOODMAN: Shortly after the grand jury's decision was announced, President Obama spoke in a nationally televised address and urged protesters to stay peaceful and police to exercise restraint.

PRES. OBAMA: We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress, I think, is to deny America's capacity for change. But, what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up.

AMY GOODMAN: There you've got the voices of officialdom. Now for the voices from the streets. Democracy Now! is on the ground in Ferguson Monday night as protesters were met by walls of police officers, many in riot gear and heavily armed. The burning and property damage was worst on West Florissant, a strip of largely black-run businesses. The National Guard, heavily touted by the governor? We didn't see them there. We did see, though, a heavy police presence just blocks away on South Florissant, home to the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. That's where we began. We're here on South Florissant. Down the road are fires. Cars are on fire. We're following a group of protesters. Right now the police in riot gear. We have also seen state troopers are moving in. So, we are going to follow the protesters who are walking down the street.

POLICE OFFICER: Move back! Move back!

AMY GOODMAN: Here is clergy who are talking to the police. They are just shouting "move back!"

POLICE OFFICER: Move back! Move back! Move back!

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: A militarizing force [Indiscernible]


CROWD: Don't shoot!


CROWD: Don't shoot!


REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: They have a right to assemble. Do not [Indiscernible] people.

POLICE OFFICER: Get out of the street!

PROTESTER: We're out of the street but where do we go? Where do we go?


POLICE OFFICER: —onto the sidewalk.

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: We were trying to. We were there. They told them to move, and we were told that we could peacefully assemble here, and we did. And now they're here and Officer Wenning [sp] is still being aggressive. They're not bothering anyone. Can they stand here? They have a right — we were told that under the rules of engagement that they could peacefully assemble. They are here. They are here.

POLICE OFFICER: [Indiscernible] are breaking the rules ma'am. Where I need you to be is on the sidewalk

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: OK, we have a right to peacefully assemble.

POLICE OFFICER: But this is breaking the law.

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: The Street is blocked off, isn't it?

POLICE OFFICER: Yes, ma'am, it is.

KATRINA REDMON: My name is Katrina Redmon, and I'm very disturbed with the police presence out here. People were peacefully protesting. People got maced and teargassed. This is ridiculous. Look, all these officers for what reason?

PROTESTER: They thought [Indiscernible] black people was going to calm us down?

KATRINA REDMON: This is ridiculous to me.

PROTESTER: We don't give a [Expletive].

KATRINA REDMON: And this is, unfortunately, what my city has turned into.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson?

KATRINA REDMON: Obviously that is a problem. It's the reason that everyone has a problem the fact that officer Wilson wasn't indicted. I mean, he killed an unarmed black teenager. There is no excuse for that. I mean, it was a man that was killed and it's somebody that walked away from it. And this is the reason that we are all out here because nobody gets answers. Nobody has had an answer since this has all happened. And that is a problem for us. And we want answers, essentially. Because it seems like the only way you can get away with murder is if you got a badge.

PROTESTER: If you got a badge you can get away with murder baby!

KATRINA REDMON: Which is unfortunate.

AMY GOODMAN: What will you be doing beyond tonight?

KATRINA REDMON: I'm going to continue to follow up and protest and make sure our voices are heard. Just because he wasn't indicted doesn't mean that the people of Ferguson or Florissant or Hazelwood or the surrounding areas are going to rest. If we have to come out here every single night and protest and make it be know that is a problem for our city with the black community, we will. I have no problem coming out here every single night to protest.

AMY GOODMAN: How do think things could change where you'd feel some hope?

PROTESTER 1: I mean, really I feel like all they had to do was indict him and things could have been peaceful. Things have been peaceful up to the point where they said that they don't care and he didn't do anything wrong. So, all they had to do was admit that they were wrong and right that by arresting him and things would calm down, at least a little bit, until they try to tell us he innocent again.

PROTESTER 2: At the end of the day black live don't matter to them, at the end of the day. At the end of the day, black lives don't matter to these cops, at the end of the day. We be locked up more than everybody in this whole community. You know what I'm saying? Get charged real quick, everything. We get false things put on us and everything. These cops is grimy. Everybody on his police force needs to get fired including the captains all the way down to whoever. Everybody got to get fired. Rubber bullets onto women and children. Peaceful protest. You know they don't care about no black lives. They know that. Come on, now. Black lives don't matter. Let's be one hundred. Black lives don't matter.

PROTESTER 3: That's the truth.

PROTESTER 2: Black lives don't matter. I ain't sugar coating nothing man. Black lives don't matter, y'all.

PROTESTER 1: Black lives don't matter to nobody but black people. So, we going to show you all how we feel, and that's what it is.

PROTESTER 2: Come on. It is what it is. Drug down the street, left there for four hours. Trash get picked up quicker than that. Come on, now. Come on, now. That's disrespectful. That's disrespect.

PROTESTER 3: What he say, what he say. We going to shake the heavens.

PROTESTER 1: We going to shake the heavens. If we don't get it, shut it down.

PROTESTER 2: Disrespectful from the jump.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to be — were you out protesting from August 9th?

PROTESTER 2: Of course, of course. I straight seen people get shot with rubber bullets. I didn't get shot. You feel me? I'm blessed.

PROTESTER 1: We've been gassed, we've been teargassed—

PROTESTER 2: Been all that. Black lives don't matter to these people.

PROTESTER 1: Maced and everything, and chased. People have been beaten. That's what happened the first day. That's how the rioting started the first day. A little boy got bit by a dog and it just cracked off since then.

PROTESTER 2: On citizens, on citizens. They firing onto citizens. Matter of fact, they firing onto their "so-called" citizens. That's how they look at us, their "so-called" citizens.

PROTESTER 1: They raised $400,000, $400,000 for Darren Wilson. For what? What is he going to do with $400,000 now? he just got a paycheck for killing someone. That is a nice paycheck — for killing somebody.

PROTESTER 3: He got a medal for killing a kid.

PROTESTER 1: Yeah, for killing a kid.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it's possible the federal government will bring civil rights charges —







PROTESTER 2: It's like, it's like end of like a hundred something days ya'll.

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: I'm Reverend Waltrina Middleton with the United Church of Christ National Youth Office. And I am here to keep the peace, but also mostly to support and stand with these young people who have a right to peacefully assemble and to express themselves. And I feel like they have a right as a natural reaction to be angry and to be heard in response to such suffering and pain. For so long, they've been told to be quiet, to be silent, and just to conform, and now they have an opportunity to express themselves. For many of us, we're not used to hearing these young people articulate themselves in this way, but this is their street, this is their home they have a right to be here and they have a right to say, you know what? One of our brothers was murdered and killed and we are responding to that pain. And I think sometimes in this society we're not used to, especially, to hearing young people of color speak so firmly and strongly about their rights.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to the grand jury decision not to indict officer Wilson?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: I'm hurt by it. I wonder myself, I'm looking forward to seeing what evidence was presented to them, to see if they had an opportunity to make a fair and balanced decision. It's hard to really say because we don't know what was put before them. But I do think that it is important that we take a look at this system to see if it is actually working. Is justice having an opportunity to prevail? Is democracy actually taking place. Because when you have a young person who dies and with all the evidence that we have been presented to show that he was unarmed and not a danger or a threat, why is it that they chose not to take this case to trial or to have an indictment? It is troubling to know that, what message is being sent out here to these young people is that their live don't matter. They have the position of, I have nothing to lose because I could just die on the street walking home, so.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe the police to me who are out here tonight?

REV. WALTRINA MIDDLETON: I do feel as if the demeanor is quite aggressive. I think that we were told that young people have a right to peacefully assemble. We were told that they have a right to come here and express themselves, and every thing they were promised is being denied. Everything that they have asked them to do, they have complied. They said to move back, they moved back. They said move to the sidewalk, they moved to the sidewalk. And basically, they're trying to push them out and once again silence them. And when you come to young people who are armed, just dressed in their winter clothes with militarized weapons and tear gas and all of this gear and guns and whatnot, it is intimidating, it's aggressive. How do you expect people to respond, especially after an announcement like that?

AMY GOODMAN: As we walk back behind the police cars and the riot police, there are several buses that say Missouri Department of Corrections, waiting to be filled.

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: My name is Zechariah Williams, I'm 19. We are standing in front of the corner coffeehouse. And it's broken into. As you can see glass everywhere. They did this to everything. They broke into beauty supply, they broke into Earn's, they broke into T-Mobile, they burned down a Walgreens, the fish place on the corner, burned down a Little Caesars. They broke into that bank.

AMY GOODMAN: And who is they?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Police in that bank because they broke into that one too.

AMY GOODMAN: And who is they?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Just the people that's out here rioting.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about the grand jury decision not to indict officer Wilson?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: It's sad to see. That's sad to see, like, they're family going through that. They're not showing no type of mercy. They tried to charge them on five charges and they didn't indict him on neither one of them.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think that is?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: People protect their own. That's true. People will protect their own.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever been bothered by the police?


AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever been arrested?


AMY GOODMAN: And what happened then?

ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Well, one time when I got arrested, I got punched in my mouth and —


ZECHARIAH WILLIAMS: Officer Dewight. Sergeant dewight. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to bring charges against him?


AMY GOODMAN: So, we're standing in front of taco bell. The window has been smashed. We are right in front of AutoZone. It looks like it is about to blow with flames coming out on top of it. Across the street is the tire shop, Auto Tire. There a bunch of young people going in there. They've smashed the windows. A lot of cars going by. A lot of smoke here. This very much feels like ground zero. And people — young people are saying they don't care about us. This is West Florissant, ground zero for the protests. This is Ferguson, Missouri.

PROTESTER: I've been all— I'm from St. Louis. I've been al over there. I just came from where they just announced the verdict at and they shot tear gas. Everything on fire. And this is not what our youngsters were supposed to represent, because this is a new era civil rights movement. I didn't expect it out of them, but I can't blame them for it. Civil disobedience, 'cause ain't nobody — it's just reckless property. And then all of them been knowing and they been over here so — to keep a tab because I'm 43 years of age. All of these over here, they already got their insurance and they already had three months to prepare for this. So, they're not losing out on anything. They probably relocate. But as far as the money value or the monetary value, everything is still going to be the same.

AMY GOODMAN: We're back on Canfield Drive. There are some helicopters at the sky — there's smoke in the air because West Florissant is on fire. But here is the stuffed animal Memorial for Mike Brown who was gunned down right here in the road between the apartment complexes. There are dozens of animals, stuffed animals, a baseball cap — it might be Mike Brown's original baseball cap. This is the place where on August 9 officer Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown. Today, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Wilson for that killing.

PROTESTER: After they played us like that with Darren Wilson, I expect expect for [Expletive] to go hard. It is was it is. Ain't no stopping us. No justice, no peace.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I am Amy Goodman with special thanks to our crew here on the ground, to Sam Alcoff and to Renée Feltz and to Aaron Maté. That report after midnight last night. Today, we're standing in front of the Clayton Courthouse where the grand jury has deliberated over the last months. They call it the Justice Center. When we come back, we will be joined by guests who've been here on the streets as well as a legal expert to talk about exactly what the grand jury did or did not decide. This is Democracy Now! We will be back in a minute.

News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:46:39 -0500
No Justice in Ferguson

The grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., has reached the decision many of us dreaded, but fully expected. Now, we must forge our profound disappointment into determination to achieve lasting justice, in Ferguson and beyond.

The Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. In the coming days, Wilson will sit down for major media interviews, and Thanksgiving dinner with his new wife. Michael Brown’s parents will sit with his empty chair, and the knowledge that the man who killed him is not only free, but all over the media — perhaps even celebrated in right-wing media, which may or may not stop short of celebrating their son’s death.

We knew this decision was coming. It’s heartbreaking, but it is not a surprise. This decision was coming when prosecutor Tim McCulloch refused to recuse himself, and governor Jay Nixon refused to appoint a special prosecutor. It was coming when McCulloch referred the case to the grand jury, instead of filing charges himself. It was coming when McCulloch failed to recommend charges to the grand jury. It was coming when the governor declared a state of emergency, and law enforcement agencies purchased even more paramilitary equipment to use on protestors. It’s been coming since August 9, and now here we are.

The wheels of justice have ground to a halt in the Michael Brown case, leaving us in sadly familiar territory. As I said on KFPA-FM’s “Saturday Morning Talkies” this weekend, African-American parents have always lived with the sorrow of sons who never return home, while the men who killed them remain free. Michael Brown’s parents are now members of a centuries-old, exclusive club that no one ever wants to join. It’s most recent members include the families of Trayvon Martin, Darrien Hunt, and John Crawford, among others.

On August 9, the same day that Michael Brown was killed, John Crawford was shot and killed by police officers in Beaverton, Ohio. A customer in a Beaverton Walmart called 911 after seeing Crawford walking around with a pellet gun he’d picked up in the store. Police said Crawford ignored commands to drop the weapon.

Ohio’s attorney general Mike DeWine refused to release the store’s surveillance video, asking the public to “Trust the system” and “let the judicial process work.” In September, a grand jury decided not to indict the officers who killed Crawford. Surveillance video released after the grand jury decision showed that Crawford was talking on his phone when officers entered the store, with the gun pointed at the floor. Officers shot Crawford on sight, within seconds of entering the store.

In Ohio, we were asked to “trust the system,” and that trust was betrayed. Now we are told we must “accept” the grand jury’s decision, and trust that “the system worked.” There is no doubt that “the system worked.” It ran its course, and it yielded the expected result.

“The system worked” quite well for those for whom it is designed to work. We should refuse, however, to call that “justice,” even if the process had resulted in an indictment. It would not amount to the kind of justice necessary to prevent the next city that’s “one dead black teenager away” from exploding into the next Ferguson.

  • We must change the way our communities are policed. Law enforcement officers in every department in the country should be required to undergo racial bias training. These departments must prioritize diversity in the hiring and retention of officers, and be accountable to the public. We must demand an end to programs that give military weapons to police departments.
  • We must demand an end to racial profiling. Law enforcement departments must be prohibited from relying on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in its investigative practices, and required to cease or eliminate existing practices that rely on racial profiling.
  • We must demand economic justice. Ferguson and other cities like it didn’t become hyper-segregated dens of economic despair overnight. Changing them requires undoing damage done by decades of federal, state, and local government policies that created segregated metropolises. We must demand investment in education, jobs, and training for young people, instead of surplus military weapons for police departments.

We do not have the luxury of time. With the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice — shot by police officers while playing with a BB gun — Cleveland, Ohio, may have already become “the next Ferguson,” for now.

Until no city is at risk of becoming “the next Ferguson” or “the next Sanford,” and no one’s child is at risk of becoming “the next Michael Brown” or “the next Trayvon Martin,” there can be no justice in Ferguson, or anywhere else.

News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 11:34:28 -0500
New Sanctuary Movement Seeks to Protect Undocumented Immigrants

Oscar Alfaro hugs his aunt, Carmen Paz, during a watch party as President Barack Obama outlines his executive actions on immigration in a televised address at Casa de Maryland in Hyattsville, Md., Nov. 20, 2014. Millions of undocumented immigrants, like Alfaro, are beginning to make big new plans for their lives, free of the threat of deportation, after Obama announced he would offer reprieves and work permits. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)Oscar Alfaro hugs his aunt, Carmen Paz, during a watch party as President Barack Obama outlines his executive actions on immigration in a televised address at Casa de Maryland in Hyattsville, Md., Nov. 20, 2014. Millions of undocumented immigrants, like Alfaro, are beginning to make big new plans for their lives, free of the threat of deportation, after Obama announced he would offer reprieves and work permits. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)

The New Sanctuary Movement is defying the law by sheltering seven undocumented immigrants who are at risk of deportation in churches across the country.

Oscar Alfaro hugs his aunt, Carmen Paz, during a watch party as President Barack Obama outlines his executive actions on immigration in a televised address at Casa de Maryland in Hyattsville, Md., Nov. 20, 2014. Millions of undocumented immigrants, like Alfaro, are beginning to make big new plans for their lives, free of the threat of deportation, after Obama announced he would offer reprieves and work permits. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)Oscar Alfaro hugs his aunt, Carmen Paz, during a watch party as President Barack Obama outlines his executive actions on immigration in a televised address at Casa de Maryland in Hyattsville, Md., Nov. 20, 2014. Millions of undocumented immigrants, like Alfaro, are beginning to make big new plans for their lives, free of the threat of deportation, after Obama announced he would offer reprieves and work permits. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)

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When President Obama went before the American people to say that he was issuing an executive order to empower Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, he made no mention of those who are already in the throes of deportation. What's more, he also failed to acknowledge the seven Latino/a immigrants who have taken refuge in churches - in Tempe and Tucson, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon - in public defiance of policies that threaten to separate parents from children, and husbands from wives.

The seven are part of the New Sanctuary Movement (NSM), a growing faith-based initiative that presently involves 120 congregations across the country, 25 of them ready, willing and able to provide residential protection to those at risk of deportation. Church World Service (CWS), a 68-year-old service group that has assisted immigrants and refugees since the end of World War II, is coordinating their efforts.

According to Rev. Noel Andersen, national grassroots coordinator for immigrant rights at CWS, the New Sanctuary Movement is a "direct descendant of abolition, part of the Sanctuary tradition, the idea that people of faith can be a shelter, a buffer between unjust laws and the government. In the case of undocumented people, we can literally stand between the laws being enforced by ICE and the people directly affected by those laws."

The impetus for the NSM, he says, harkens back to 2006, when 1,300 undocumented workers employed by meat processing plants in Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Utah were raided in the largest coordinated immigration enforcement action in US history. Subsequent raids on plants in six additional states further energized - and enraged - people who found these practices repugnant. "Sanctuary has been a way for us to serve a moral imperative," Andersen said, "a way for us to lift up the story of those most impacted by our broken immigration policy."

Such activism is not without precedent. Back in 1982, Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, became the first US congregation to allow an undocumented immigrant to take sanctuary behind church walls. By the middle of the decade, more than 500 synagogues, churches and temples had followed suit, angering - and in many cases embarrassing - the government.

A year later, in 1986, 16 Mexican and US-based religious leaders were indicted. According to law professor Ellen Yaroshefsky, one of the attorneys who represented those arrested, the 16 were charged with "conspiracy, encouraging and aiding illegal aliens to enter the United States by shielding, harboring and transporting them." Eleven people went to trial, Yaroshefsky says; eight were found guilty, with penalties ranging from probation to suspended sentences, to brief periods of house arrest.

This crackdown has not deterred today's activists. Instead, they say they are following a "prophetic tradition" that is grounded in Scripture.

The canonical Gospel of Matthew is frequently cited: "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

Similarly, an Old Testament passage in which God ordered Moses to establish places of respite for people being persecuted, grounds the NSM and provides the rationale for an Interfaith Covenant of Sanctuary that was completed in October as a model for congregations to consider.

"There are mothers sending their children into the river," the covenant declares, "not the Nile like Moses, but the Rio Grande, in hope that they might escape violence. Children have come seeking safety and to be reunited with their parents and family. If we found Moses in the water, what would we do? If Mary and Joseph fled to the United States to escape violence at home, what would we do? They seek protection from violence, economic desperation, and our policies are seeking to return them to harm."

Dramatic? Absolutely. But as has been well-publicized, the Obama administration has for the past four years deported between 1,000 and 1,100 undocumented people per day, 368,644 in fiscal year 2013 alone.

"We can't allow this to continue," Sarah Lanius, co-founder of Keep Tucson Together, told Truthout. "If the only relief that is possible is for people to go into sanctuary, then so be it."

Lanius is working with Rosa Robles Loreto, a 43-year-old Mexican-born woman who has been in sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church since August 7. Loreto was picked up by the Tucson police in September 2010 when she accidently drove her car into a construction zone. After being questioned by the sheriff, she spent two months in Border Control custody but was released after her husband paid her bond. "Her family had hired a lawyer who did the bare minimum," Lanius said. "He failed to ask for the one form of relief available, prosecutorial discretion."

Lanius is referring to a policy, outlined in a 2011 memo written by former ICE director John Morton, that allows the agency to use common sense when determining which cases to pursue. The memo asks apprehending officers to consider a person's criminal history and family ties before initiating deportation proceedings.

"Rosa has two sons, ages 11 and 8," Lanius said. "She came over on a visa, which she overstayed, but her family is rooted here in the US. She has 16 US permanent resident or citizen relatives here. Her kids are fanatic baseball players. Her husband coaches her older son's team and she is a community volunteer. Before she went into sanctuary, she used to organize carpools and supported the team and cheered her sons on, but now her boys only see her on weekends and holidays."

Lanius' frustration is audible as she lambastes the Obama administration's lip service - but inaction - on "prosecutorial discretion." For the last few years, she sighs, "the administration has been saying that they don't want to deport people, like Rosa, who have extensive community connections and no criminal record, but so far they have been unwilling to exercise the authority they themselves have authorized."

Lanius also cites another inherent problem with ICE: the classification of people into categories of "good" immigrants who should not be deported, and their "bad" counterparts who should. "People with criminal records which render them deportable have very often been arrested for something so minor most of us would scoff at it, like shoplifting," she said. "They usually also have families that will suffer when one member is deported." In these cases, she asks why they can't just pay a fine or do community service, the same penalty that would be given to a US citizen who commits a similar offense.

It's a great question, so far unaddressed by the Obama administration.

Like Lanius, Chicago NSM staffer Lissette Castillo is working directly with people facing deportation proceedings. As a project of the 30-year-old Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, the Windy City's NSM chapter also addresses the root causes of migration: trade policies, like NAFTA, that exacerbate wage gaps and increase the cost of basic goods; environmental degradation; violence; and war.

In her capacity as a community organizer, Castillo assisted 32-year-old Beatriz Santiago Ramirez, an indigenous Mexican woman and mother of two US-born children after she took sanctuary in Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in early September. Although the case had a relatively happy ending - Ramirez was given a work permit after eight weeks in sanctuary - Castillo says that Ramirez's situation highlights much of what is wrong with immigration policy.

Like Loreto, Castillo first tangled with immigration officials following a traffic violation. Neither case was anomalous: In fiscal 2013, nearly 58,000 people entered deportation due to vehicular infractions such as a broken tail light or making an unauthorized turn. But Castillo notes that Ramirez should never have entered deportation proceedings since she was eligible for a U visa. "A U visa protects immigrants who are victims of a crime but who cooperate with the authorities to nab the perpetrator," Castillo said. "Beatriz fell into this category after she was assaulted. Unfortunately, the process of getting a U visa is confusing and complicated. A lot of immigrants don't even know that these visas exist and in some places there isn't even a point person to sign the application for one."

Not surprisingly, by the time Ramirez learned of her eligibility, she had missed the filing deadline and was in the process of being deported.

Nonetheless, Castillo credits the support that Ramirez received from diverse religious communities for the positive outcome of her case. "ICE did not expect all these non-Latino parishes to come into a space that is typically isolated, to say, 'We're keeping tabs on this. We care about Beatriz.' The different congregations made clear to ICE that this is not just an issue for Latinos. It's an issue of morality and of faith."

Castillo also notes that the NSM has been working to open up dialogue on a broad array of immigration issues throughout Chicago. "Stories are incredibly important," she added. This summer, for example, she worked with many unaccompanied minors entering the United States. "When we spoke in different communities, folks had a lot of questions: What kind of a parent would send a kid on such a dangerous journey? We turned the question around, asking people to imagine the circumstances in which they might send a child off. Clearly, the only way a parent would do that was if the journey was a better option, that what awaited them at home was far worse than the possible perils of travel."

Most of her work, she says, involves "nonsense that impacts people with no criminal record who are simply trying to get by and live their lives." This is why sharing the experiences of people like Loreto and Ramirez matter, she says, since telling their stories helps to "debunk the narrative that classifies undocumented immigrants as criminals."

Toward that end, in April, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed an executive order ending collaboration between federal immigration officials and the city police department. "We worked for six years to end Philadelphia's local deportation policy," said Nicole Kligerman, a community organizer with the Philadelphia NSM. "Getting the police department not to automatically cooperate with ICE is one of the most important policy changes in the country." Under the executive order, those serving less than two years in Philadelphia jails will not be questioned about their immigration status or referred to ICE.

In addition, as of mid-November, a Honduran mother and her two US-born children have taken sanctuary in the city's West Kensington Ministry.

"Some local congregations have questioned the legality of this," Kligerman said. "We make clear that it is civil disobedience. We are seeking to break an unjust law."

Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Philadelphia's Tikkun Olam Chavura is actively supporting the NSM. "If you look at the prophets - Jeremiah, Jesus, Isaiah - they saw the truth and said to people, 'Wake up and act on these truths.' The New Sanctuary Movement comes out of that tradition. The US can't make it impossible for people to live safely in their own countries and then make it impossible for them to live safely in the US."

News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 10:41:27 -0500
Economic Update: Economics of Private Property

This weeks episode provides updates on unpaid internships, extreme wealth and economic perceptions as well as responses to listener questions on real economics of public pensions and of home refinancing. We also discuss college an in depth analyses of private property and income and of economic regulation vs system change.

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News Wed, 26 Nov 2014 00:00:00 -0500
On the News With Thom Hartmann: Walmart Is One of the World's Biggest Consumers of Coal, and More

In today's On the News segment: According to a new report from The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Walmart is one of the world's biggest consumers of coal; learning a second language is like bodybuilding for your brain; the Food and Drug Administration is tasked with ensuring the safety of what we put into our bodies, but it has no authority over most of the stuff we put on our skin; and more.


Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest & green news.....

You need to know this. Most of us know that taxpayers subsidize Walmart's low wages with billions of dollars in Medicaid, food stamps, and other financial assistance for workers. But, did you know that we're also subsidizing the retail giant by paying the cost of their environmental destruction? According to a new report from The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Walmart is one of the world's biggest consumers of coal, which makes them one of the leading carbon polluters. The authors of that study calculated how much electricity the chain uses, how much coal they consume, and the greenhouse gas emitted by every Walmart store and distribution center in our country. The results were "staggering" - showing that Walmart uses 19.5 million megawatt hours of energy – the same amount used by "every industrial facility in New Jersey and West Virginia put together." That is six times more electricity than the entire U.S. Auto industry uses, and 75 percent of all that energy comes from coal. Walmart isn't only dodging their responsibility to pay a living wage or contribute to our nation by paying their fair share of taxes. They're also skipping out on the bill when it comes to society's cost of cleaning up our environment. Bill McKibben of said, "It's unconscionable that the country's largest employer and the world's largest company is choosing to hurt our planet and hurt working families with its dirty operations and poverty pay." He added, "Walmart and the Waltons can help our communities truly live better by switching to clean energy and paying workers a fair wage." And, McKibben is exactly right. One of the best ways to make that happen is to stop covering the costs of their bad practices. Let's end the subsidies by making Walmart pay a living wage, and by putting a tax on the tons of carbon that they're pumping into our atmosphere.

Learning a second language is like bodybuilding for your brain. A new study in the journal "Brain and Language" says that the higher-level brain functions of bilingual people are more efficient than the brain functions of people who speak only one language. In their research, scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging – aka fMRI – to study the brains of 35 people, including 18 who only spoke English, and 17 who spoke English and Spanish. The test subjects were shown a combination of pictures and words, and were given the name of one picture verbally. The volunteers had to pick out the picture that corresponded to the word they were given, and the bilinguals subjects were better at filtering out all of the unrelated content. The scientists explained that bilingual people constantly activate two languages in their brain, and they have to choose which words to use and which to ignore. Because they're constantly filtering language in their minds, they're better able to filter out irrelevant information, and focus more on the task at hand. Maybe we all could focus more and increase our brain power by taking up a second language.

The Food and Drug Administration is tasked with ensuring the safety of what we put into our bodies, but they have no authority over most of the stuff we put on our skin. Unlike the medication and meals we consume, the FDA can't regulate the chemicals in our beauty products. Our soap, toothpaste, lotion, and sunscreen is packed with harmful synthetic chemicals, and most consumers don't even realize it. According to Harvard's School of Public Health, "the average person is exposed to more than a hundred chemicals from cosmetics, soaps, and other personal care products before leaving the house in the morning." Sage McHugh over at Alternet listed a few of the most toxic examples, like the filters in sunscreen which have been linked to reproductive issues, parabens in our deodorant which interfere with hormones, and toluene in nail polish which has been linked to blood cancer. Although organic personal care products are typically safer, they can be more expensive. It's time for our regulators to step in and protect all consumers from the dangerous chemicals lurking in cosmetic products.

When you think about energy in Texas, you're probably thinking about oil and gas. So, you may be surprised to learn that wind power provides electricity to more than three million homes in the Lonestar State. According to a new article over at, Pew Charitable Trust says that Texas is actually leading our nation in total wind energy capacity, and that they're quickly expanding their solar energy capacity as well. Tom Swanson, manager of Pew's clean energy initiative, said, "These technologies can help manufacturers reduce energy consumption, costs, and water use – all of which are critical in Texas given the state's high electricity prices and chronic droughts." As much as Texas lawmakers suck up to the Oil and Gas Lobby, private investors in that state recognize that good science is good business. Investors and businesses recognize that they can't keep buying and burning fossil fuels forever, regardless of whether or not they believe in climate change. Private investment is making Texas a renewable energy leader, now it's up to legislators to stop dragging their state back to the energy of the last century.

And finally... Kissing a partner is a way to give love and affection, but swapping spit with your loved one shares a whole lot of germs as well. According to a new study out of Amsterdam, every time you kiss someone, you transfer 80 million bacteria to their mouth. The researchers found that couples actually have a lot of similar bacteria, which could be because they kiss often, or because they share similar lifestyles and diets. However, even though couples have similar bacteria, they still exchange any new bacteria that either partner ingests. To verify that theory, the scientists had one partner drink probiotic yogurt, which introduced bacteria that isn't commonly found in the mouth. Then, the partners were asked to kiss again, and scientists measured how much of that probiotic bacteria was exchanged. Although swapping 80 million bacteria may sound a little icky, scientists explained that our mouths are home to about one billion bacteria. Besides, who ever let a few germs stand in the way of a great kiss?

And that's the way it is for the week of November 24, 2014 - I'm Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.

News Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:34:44 -0500
After Vowing to End Combat Mission in Afghanistan, Obama Secretly Extends the United States' Longest War

President Obama has secretly extended the U.S. role in Afghanistan despite earlier promises to wind down America’s longest war. According to The New York Times, Obama has signed a classified order that ensures U.S. troops will have a direct role in fighting. In addition, the order reportedly enables American jets, bombers and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions. And, under certain circumstances, it would apparently authorize U.S. air-strikes to support Afghan military operations throughout the country. The decision contradicts Obama’s earlier announcement that the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani has also backed an expanded U.S. military role. Ghani, who took office in September, has also reportedly lifted limits on U.S. airstrikes and joint raids that his predecessor Hamid Karzai had put in place. We go to Kabul to speak with Dr. Hakim, a peace activist and physician who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. We are also joined by Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who has just returned from Afghanistan.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has secretly extended the U.S. role in Afghanistan despite earlier promises to wind down America’s longest war, this year. According to the New York Times, Obama signed a classified order that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting. In addition, the order reportedly enables American jets, bombers and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions. And under certain circumstances, it would apparently authorize U.S. air-strikes to support Afghan military operations throughout the country. The decision contradicts Obama’s earlier announcement that the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. This is Obama speaking at the White House Rose Garden in May.

PRES. OBAMA: America’s combat mission will be over by the end of this year. Starting next year, Afghans will be fully responsible for securing their country. American personnel will be in an advisory role. We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys. That is a task for the Afghan people. Second, I’ve made it clear that we are open to cooperating with Afghans on two narrow missions after 2014. Training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.

AMY GOODMAN: Under the new order, U.S. troops will be authorized to attack not just Al Qaeda, but the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants. President Obama reportedly backtracked from his decision to end the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan after a lengthy and heated debate within the White House. Top generals at the Pentagon and Afghanistan reportedly backed the expanded mission. Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, has also backed an expanded U.S. militant role. Ghani took office in September. He is also reportedly lifted limits on U.S. airstrikes in joint rates that his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had put in place. Meanwhile, at least 40 people are dead in eastern Afghanistan after a suicide bomber attacked a volleyball match. According to the government of the province, at least 50 more were wounded at the tournament final. Most of the casualties were civilians. In a moment, we will be joined by two guests, we will be joined from Afghanistan by Dr. Hakim, a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. And we will be joined by Kathy Kelly, a well-known peace activist, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. We’re going to go to break and then we will be joined by both of them in Chicago and Kabul, Afghanistan. Stay with us.

[Music Break]

AMY GOODMAN: Military Madness by Woods here on Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. To talk about President Obama’s secret order to extend the war in Afghanistan, we’re joined by two guests. Dr. Hakim, is a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. He works with Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. Dr. Hakim is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize. And in Chicago, is Kathy Kelly. She’s just back from Kabul, Afghanistan. She is Co-Coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. Her recent article is headlined, "Obama Extends War in Afghanistan: The implications for U.S. democracy are not reassuring." We begin with Dr. Hakim who asked us not to show his face. Dr. Hakim, why don’t you want people to see your face?

DR. HAKIM: Well, security in Afghanistan has been deteriorating over the past few years in the face of the ongoing U.S.-NATO military strategy and for safety reasons I’d rather remain unrecognized.

AMY GOODMAN: So your concerns about the secret order that was just revealed in The New York Times that President Obama has signed onto, what has been the effect of the U.S. war in Afghanistan and what do you think about this latest development?

DR. HAKIM: Well, I think it is good to look at some of the databases that are available in the states itself, a global terrorism database done by the U.S. government and the University of Maryland has shown that since the beginning of the war against terror in 2001, the number of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and in the rest of the world, in Iraq, etc., has increased. And so, if we looked at the graph of that increase and thought of terrorism, or the war against terrorism, as a cancer that needs to be treated —- as a medical doctor I would say the graph shows that the war against terror in Afghanistan -—

AMY GOODMAN: We have just lost Dr. Hakim’s voice. We’re going to go back to him when we can. He is speaking to us from Kabul. Again he is not showing his face out of concern for his safety. Kathy Kelly, you’re just back from Kabul. Talk about your response to this latest news. We just played the clip of President Obama in May saying that the troops would be pulling out, and now the secret order.

KATHY KELLY: Thank you, Amy. I think probably Hakim wanted to continue by saying the war on terror has been a failure. And I think the U.S. public knows that. We learned about heated debate between the advisors to President Obama, but at what point does the court of public opinion consulted in any way? The news released on a Friday night, and was a leak that was disclosed to The New York Times, but apparently the decision was made weeks before the most recent elections. Is it possible that because the Obama administration knows how popular this war is? A CNN poll that had been released in 2013 said 82% of the U.S. public disapproved of continued war in Afghanistan. So in spite of the pledge that the war was going to end, we now find out that, in fact, the war is going to continue. In the Saturday issue of The New York Times, we then learn that, quietly, the new administration in Kabul, under President Ashraf Ghani, has decided to resume the night raids. They want to call them night operations instead of night raids. This is a tactic that doesn’t require big sprawling military bases, it requires joint special operations forces, drone support, the capacity to use helicopters. And this is, of course, what the United States is now promising. The night raids are despised tactic. I think it is import for people in the United States, just to try and imagine if people break into your home while helicopters are hovering overhead and suddenly the women in the household are locked up and the men are subjected to brutality, and maybe a crossfire does break out, maybe there are Taliban people that are going to attack while the forces are there and civilians are killed, and you can’t get them to the hospital, and this utter nightmare is taking place. Your home is being torn apart. Some people are going to be taken away and disappeared for months and months under interrogation and possible torture. Of course, nobody would want this to resume in their country, and it is sure to prolong and exacerbate the war.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Hakim, I think we have your audio back. I expect it is going to go in and out as we speak to you in Kabul. But, your new president, Ghani, has called for this extension, apparently. What is your response to him?

DR. HAKIM: Well, the news reports in Kabul in the past 54, 56 days since President Ashraf Ghani’s inauguration has shown that there have been about 41 street-side bombing attacks across the country and 24 of those in Kabul. So, I think President Ashraf Ghani is caught in the same military madness that the entire U.S.-NATO coalition, and the world, is caught up in. I tried to say earlier and my voice was lost in transmission that a global terrorism database by the U.S. government and the University of Maryland showed that the number of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and across the world has increased since the war against terror began in 2001. So, as a medical humanitarian person, I would say that the world’s strategy in treating terrorism has failed and we ought to re-examine and so does President Ashraf Ghani.

AMY GOODMAN: And the effects on the ground, Dr. Hakim, of this war. Can you tell us what’s happening? When we were trying to communicate with you by e-mail, you said, sorry, today is a no electricity day in my house. Explain the conditions on the ground.

DR. HAKIM: I think it would be good to give listeners a sense of what is happening in this country, devastated by four decades of war and a continued military strategy. By looking at what the World Health Organization announced in September as the suicide rate among Afghans. Afghans on the ground in the daily living are not coping. In this year, up to September, there have been more than 4000 Afghans, both men and women, who have set themselves on fire — self immolation. And another 4000 that have tried to poison themselves and kill themselves through drugs and poison. So we are in a situation where the people have problems with their basic human needs of food and water, chronic malnutrition has always been a problem, certainly not helped by war. And then the other basic services that ought to be available for Afghans —- health care, work. Unemployment is officially at 36%, probably more. Some figures by local afghan labor organizations put it as high as 80%. So you have hungry, angry people who are unemployed and who are killing themselves. So, on the ground, we know that this war against terror in Afghanistan has been failing from year to year. The number of civilian casualties reported -—

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve just lost Dr. Hakim again in Kabul. But I think it is worth continually going back when we get him. Kathy Kelly, if you could continue his thought.

KATHY KELLY: Well, along with the concern for civilian casualties and the mothers who weep and say, I can’t feed my children, and the thousands of children that are on the streets as child laborers — 6000 children in Kabul alone — I mean, Amnesty International had reported that the war was displacing 400 people every day. And there are squalid, retched refugee camps as people are facing a very, very cold winter. The Pentagon has requested $58.3 billion for fiscal year 2015 alone for war in Afghanistan. These resources go to the hands of war profiteers and weapons makers and enormous expenditures by the Pentagon.

I just read about November 23 request and the Pentagon for $7,800,000 to beef up the Kandahar and Kabul airports which will, of course, allow them to engage in the night raids and the drone attacks and the air attacks. The suffering that this causes for the people in Afghanistan is lost on the U.S. public. There was an August Amnesty International report that details ten case studies that are just gruesome and chilling, horrific, telling about the situations of civilians who have been killed by United States forces. Of course, this should be entered into the U.S. media. It should be something U.S. people are talking about, and not a war that gets continued because of furtive movements on a Friday night.

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy, I wanted to ask you about a new analysis of corporate TV news that’s found there’s almost no debate about whether the United States — in this case it was go to war in Iraq and Syria, but I think you could certainly extend that to Afghanistan. The group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, or FAIR, found of that the more than 200 guests that appeared on network shows to discuss the topics, just six voiced opposition to military action. On the high-profile Sunday talk shows, out of 89 guests, there was just one antiwar voice. It was Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation. I just want to go to a snippet of the clips of voices that appear in corporate media outlets.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here’s what I’m tired of hearing from this administration and my friends on the other side and within my party, that this is somehow easy and really not our fight.

ED RENDELL: They have to act swiftly because the President made a good point. He believes he has the authority to do this on his own, and so do I.

BOB SHIEFFER: So you’re talking about a massive response? Not hitting one target but hitting as many as possible.

HENRY KISSINGER: I think when an American is murdered on television for the purpose of terrorizing Americans, there should be a response that you can, you would not analyze in terms of a normal response to provocation.

BILL KRISTOL: You can’t imagine the fight against Isis going in such a way that we would say, you know what? This thing is on the cusp and we need to send in 3000 U.S. — or 5000 U.S. combat ground troops to win this thing?

JAY CARNEY: Well, but again, that would be saying specifically only 5000, not 5005 —

BILL CRYSTAL: No, it wouldn’t, it would be saying — it would be leaving the option open which is what a serious commander in chief does.

JAY CARNEY: I think the short hand that a lot of people use about no boots on the ground is semantically problematic, because obviously, there would be American military personnel with their boots on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Jay Carney, the former spokesperson for Obama and before that the Bill Kristol and Henry Kissinger, Bob Schieffer the CBS news anchor, the former governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell and Lindsey Graham, the U.S. Senator. Just some of the voices. But, again, the overwhelming majority of voices on television, the range of the debate is boots on the ground or just bomb. Rarely, almost never do you hear someone say do not attack. And yet, clearly even within the White House, the debate that went on according to The New York Times, because this was revealed by The New York Times in this late revelation of a secret order signed by President Obama to continue the war in Afghanistan, there was a debate within the White House that sounds like much more than we hear on television. Kathy, you’ve been going back and forth to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m sure it is well over 100 times. Your thoughts on what this public debate would mean and what that sounds like in Afghanistan? We’ll ask Dr. Hakim that question.

KATHY KELLY: Well, isn’t it amazing that in spite of what is such a vice like grip on education of the U.S. public that’s maintained by the military and by the very cooperative media, that you do get these huge percentages of the U.S. public who nevertheless believe that these wars have been failures, who don’t want to see the wars continue. You know, 94% of the U.S. public reportedly knew about the beheadings of men whose names I know by heart, and I was living in Afghanistan with barely any electricity or news coverage but I knew that Steven Sotloff and David Haines and James Foley had been killed. But people in the United States don’t know the names or the circumstances of children whose bodies were torn apart by drone attacks. They will never, ever know the names of the half-million children in Iraq who were starved to death because of economic sanctions. We need to be literate in those realities as well and the conditions endured by people who can’t escape our wars. And not to be made aware of that, is dangerous for the security of people in the United States. Because other people in other parts of the world are furious, they’re enraged, and they don’t want to continue subjecting themselves to the United States menace of our military.

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy, how many times have you been in Iraq and Afghanistan?

KATHY KELLY: Well, I traveled to Iraq 27 times during the period of economic sanctions. And you know, NPR, at one point, told us, we will never give you or you organization a platform. Well we weren’t looking to call attention to ourselves. We just wanted them to go inside the hospitals and be with mothers and children who would never emerge with a healthy baby leaving the hospital. I guess I’ve been to Afghanistan about 16 times. Sometimes that was because you could only get a one-month visa, so I might go out and go back in. But I’ve been so fortunate to live with Afghan peace volunteers and with Hakim who’s steady guidance and translation is always available to us. And with some very fine people from other parts of the world who’ve also gone over there. And by being with them, you get an entirely different perspective on the effects of the war, on the realities of poverty and displacement, and also your living with young people who themselves have lost immediate members of their family, who themselves spent time in refugee camps, and yet there they are like young social workers fanning out trying to find who are the neediest people for distribution of 3,000 duvets that they’ve enlisted widows and impoverished women to make. And they’re trying really, really hard to overcome.

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy, you have been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize several times. You have into Iraq and Afghanistan scores of times. How many times have you been invited on the high-profile Sunday talk shows on television?


AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Dr. Hakim for a moment, as you described working with him in Afghanistan. Dr. Hakim, what is the alternative to war in your country?

DR. HAKIM: Well, I think that young people everywhere, not just young Afghans, have got to wake up every day and build those viable alternatives to war, which means ban wars and weapons within their homes, communities, religious workplaces, farms, restaurants, shop houses. And there are places in Afghanistan in the midst of this war that have banned wars, like emergency hospital and the Border-free Nonviolence Center of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. That is one thing that they can do practically. There are many other related issues that young people can take action on. They can refrain from using fossil fuel energy. Because a lot of the wars in the Middle East and in this part of the world is really a war over resources like fossil fuels, gas and oil. If we do our daily part, that would help. And then in the area of learning, people have got to realize that the lack of debate we have just talked about shows that we are learning the wrong things. We only hear the war and military narrative. We need to be more curious, imaginative. We need to learn ways in which we can serve humanity, not get the profit. There many other practical things that people can do a daily basis, both in Kabul, Afghanistan, and in the rest of the world. And I would like to encourage everybody to do it. I’ve seen the Afghan Peace Volunteers try, despite the difficulties, so can American youth.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a piece from Common Dreams that is responding to the piece in The Times that made it clear what President Obama did, quoting him in the Rose Garden, saying "American personnel will be in an advisory role after this year, we will no longer patrol Afghan cities, towns, mountains, or valleys. That’s the task for the Afghan people." That he said in May. And then, Common Dreams staff writes, "never mind, the president has now quietly authorized and expanded role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported last night that Obama’s decision is a result of a lengthy and heated debate between the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan versus the demands of the Pentagon. The Pentagon won. An official told The Times that the military pretty much got what it wanted. Obama has also given the war in Afghanistan a new name, operation Resolute Support." Dr. Hakim, your response to operation Resolute Support?

DR. HAKIM: Well, before this was called operation Enduring Freedom, and the change of name doesn’t change the basic predominant strategy, which is kill, kill, kill. That hasn’t been a change in the strategy. There hasn’t been any other options. This decision to expand the mission here is not even a new decision. In 2009, there was another decision that Obama had to make and that was whether to increase the number of troops by 30,000 American soldiers. And in the account by Bob Woodworth in the book "Obama’s Wars," Bob Woodworth described how that process happen for Obama in the White House. Obama had to tell his war cabinet, had to ask them, why is there no other option? There was only one option, and that is the military option. So Resolute Support is just a rehash of the same military option, the same war against terrorism which has failed. And so it is going to fail.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us. Dr. Hakim, I want to thank you. Dr. Hakim is a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. He works with Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. In 2012, he won the international Pfeffer Peace Prize. And in Chicago, Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She just back from Kabul. And Dr. Hakim, I look forward to seeing her face one day without fear. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. Albert Woodfox — that name may not be familiar to you, but yet another court in Louisiana has said he should be freed. How is it that he has remained in solitary confinement for 42 years? Stay with us.

News Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:20:00 -0500
How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats

Government has become a clearinghouse for corporations and plutocrats with deep pockets to buy the politicians who grease the wheels for lucrative contracts and easy regulation. It’s all pay for play, and look the other way.

According to the watchdog Sunlight Foundation, from 2007 to 2012, 200 corporations spent almost $6 billion in Washington on lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in government contracts and other forms of assistance. Now that the midterm elections are over, it’s payback time, with the newly elected Congress ready to deliver to those who invested well in their chosen candidates.

This week, Lawrence Lessig and Zephyr Teachout return to talk about the corrupting influence of money in politics — a subject both have studied as scholars and are fighting against as reformers. (Watch part one of Bill’s conversation with Lessig and Teachout)

For the 2014 midterm elections, Lessig started the Mayday SuperPac, raising millions for congressional candidates who vowed to fight for campaign finance reform. All but two of them lost – but the fight continues. He tells Bill, “When we look at the systematic way in which our representatives are responsive not to the people alone, but increasingly to the funders exclusively, then that is an obvious corruption… This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue.”

Zephyr Teachout ran for governor of New York this year, trying to rouse the public against corruption in state government and received more than a third of the vote in the Democratic primary. She has written the book Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United. “I think we should forget the perfect resume and instead engage people who come from all different backgrounds, including the arts, and get them to run for office. Because this is what the kids in Hong Kong are fighting for. And we have to take the opportunity we have before it totally shuts down.”


BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Like many of you, I’ve been watching Congress since the midterm elections, and what I’ve seen has me thinking of King Louis XVI of France. His Majesty was a good friend of the American Revolution but when he gave Benjamin Franklin a gold snuff box with the monarch’s portrait surrounded with diamonds, some of our founding fathers objected. They worried that the gift would corrupt his judgment and unduly bias Franklin in France’s favor.

Ever since, we Americans have been debating the meaning of corruption. Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. And the Supreme Court has ruled that powerful corporations and rich individuals can give just about anything they want to politicians who do their bidding, and it’s not considered corruption.

The watchdog Sunlight Foundation reports that from 2007 to 2012, two hundred corporations spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions, and received more than $4 trillion -- that's $4 trillion -- in government contracts and other forms of assistance. Now, that’s why K Street in Washington is the road to paradise for lobbyists. But it’s a road that runs in both directions. NPR’s Peter Overby talked with political scientist David Primo:

DAVID PRIMO on NPR Morning Edition: The conventional wisdom out there is that businesses are going to Washington, writing checks and expecting big returns. But the other side of the story is that members of Congress may implicitly threaten businesses that if they don't change their policy, or if they’re not heavily involved in the political process, that bad things might happen to them.

BILL MOYERS: Now, partisans of the system say this is just business as usual, which, of course, it is, and that’s the problem, as we’re about to see with the newly elected Congress. Once upon a time the GOP stood for Grand Old Party; now it stands for Guardians of Privilege, and this is payback time for everything from fracking to getting the big banks off the hook; from doing away with the minimum wage and coddling off-shore corporate tax avoiders to privatizing Medicare and Social Security; to gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency. And that’s just for starters.

Democrats, meanwhile, are so compromised by their own addiction to big money they have forgotten their history as champions of the working stiff, the little folks down there at the bottom. And that’s why the great problems facing everyday people in America are not being seriously addressed by a political class afraid to offend the people who write the checks – the corporations and the rich.

That’s why we asked Larry Lessig and Zephyr Teachout to return to talk further about corruption – a subject both have studied as scholars and are fighting against as reformers. Zephyr Teachout teaches at Fordham Law School, and ran for Governor of New York, trying to rouse the public against corruption in our state government. She got more than a third of the vote in the Democratic primary. She’s also the author of this acclaimed book, “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.”

Larry Lessig teaches at Harvard Law School and made his reputation as an expert on Internet law. He started the Mayday super PAC, raising millions for congressional candidates who vowed to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics. All but two of them lost – but the fight continues. Welcome back.


ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Thanks for having us.

BILL MOYERS: Chief Justice John Roberts takes a different view of corruption from the two of you. He says, quote, "Any regulation must instead target what we have called ‘quid pro quo’ corruption or its appearance. […] the notion of a direct exchange of an official act for money.”

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Well, at the constitutional convention, the primary topic was corruption. The framers are sitting there in Philadelphia, trying to figure out how to build the structures to allow this new country. And their real obsession was how do we, you know, we've seen what's happened in England, we've seen what's happened in world history.

How do we protect against basically big money taking over representative democracy? And when they talked about corruption, they weren't talking about criminal bribery, bags of cash. They were talking about when public servants serve their own ends, the selfish ends, or ends of, you know, wealthy sponsor.

BILL MOYERS: Using the public power to benefit private interests.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Private ends. And you know what? That's what people on the street think now too. When you talk about the corruption in Congress, people are talking about the same thing that Madison was talking about, this the sense that our public servants are just serving themselves. They're running away with the resources of our country. Or serving their donors.

And John Roberts gets it so deeply wrong in his understanding of history. And he gets it so deeply wrong in a way that has really hurt us, because he keeps striking down campaign finance laws. So it's bad history, it's bad law, it's bad policy. And I believe that one of the things we need to remember as reformers is that this fight against big money is a long fight. It never ends. It's always going to be a struggle. But that's what we were founded on and we should honor that.

BILL MOYERS: You write and talk about systemic and systematic corruption. Give me a working definition of that.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, you know, Madison created, when he helped craft the Congress, a system which he said would be "dependent on the people alone." And he was quite explicit about who the people were. He said the people are, quote, "Not the rich, more than the poor." We have corrupted that dynamic. There's no doubt about that. In the way we speak, in the way our framers speak.

And I actually think this debate in the Supreme Court is not over. Because one of the arguments that's not yet been pressed against them firmly enough is for those conservatives who go around talking about the importance of original understanding, and talking about what the framers meant when they used their words.

We now have the document, the work, Zephyr's book is incredibly powerful about this, to establish that those framers would have understood this concept in a way that could see the corruption in the system as plainly as they would see it anywhere. And so when we look at the systematic way in which our representatives are responsive not to the people alone, but increasingly to the funders exclusively, then that is an obvious corruption that they ought to be able to respond to. Now look, the Supreme Court gave us Citizens United. I think it's the greatest gift this movement has had. You know--


LAWRENCE LESSIG: Because just like Roe v. Wade motivated the pro-life movement, so too this has excited an incredible cross-partisan movement of people who finally recognize the corruption of this system. So we will rally that movement. And I think the court's eventually going to get it right and allow Congress to at least end that systemic corruption.

BILL MOYERS: How do you get the court, the Supreme Court, which has ruled consistently on this issue now, to reconsider its principle?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Look, the court has said again and again, it's not Congress's job to silence people. Now, I don't think that's a fair characterization of what Congress is trying to do. But anyway, that's what they are targeting.

BILL MOYERS: That's why they say it's free speech?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah. But what we're talking about when we talk about small-dollar public funding, it's not silencing anybody. It's about giving a wider opportunity of people to speak. It's about recognizing not the need for equality in speech, but equality in citizenship. We all ought to be equal citizens in this process of selecting our representatives.

So, you know, what were they protesting about in Hong Kong? They were protesting a system, a two-stage democracy wherein the first stage, a tiny, tiny group will select the candidates who the rest of Hong Kong get to vote for. A tiny group, .024 percent of that population. Well, that is our democracy too. Because we've got a system where a tiny, tiny fraction of America picks the candidates who get to run by funding their campaigns. The relevant funders of campaigns are no more than the number of people proportionately that were picking the candidates in Hong Kong.

BILL MOYERS: And you call that the wealth primary, where the donors can really actually decide who's going to run.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: You can call it the wealth primary, or you can call it the green primary. The point is, it's a system that excludes a vast majority of people from participating equally in this critical stage in the election. That is a violation of the framers' conception of our democracy.

BILL MOYERS: But even if you had raised public money, even if you had that statute in place, the big donors would still have been given the big megaphone.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: If we had in New York state the public financing system that I'd like to see in every state, I, first of all, I would've raised at least $4 million.

BILL MOYERS: Instead of?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Instead of around $800,000, most of which came in the last two weeks. I could've gotten on TV. I got a third of the vote with no television. No mail. And most importantly, there's an odd dynamic where the press will only take you seriously as a candidate once you've raised a certain amount of money. And by far, the most important intermediary is still the press. The press still makes a bigger difference than the fundraising itself.

BILL MOYERS: Well, separate the press. The journalists from the tsunami of ads out there. There were so many ads that some stations could no longer carry them. And the parties had to go out to little small stations just to spend the money to run the ads. And I saw ad after ad for your opponent here, none from you. So it's not just the journalists.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: It's not just the journalists, but I actually think it's really important because one of the things that public financing does is it allows and gives permission in some ways for media to actually cover a contest of ideas, instead of doing what they do nowadays. I talked to journalists who say, I can't cover you because you have so little money. But if you have a public financing system, they can at least cover the fight. And I think that's so important. I mean, I think—I’d certainly agree with you on Hong Kong and the wealth primary and how people feel the wealth primary. They feel like they're not getting a choice between people who represent them. They're getting a choice between people who represent donors.

And it's hard to engage and excite people on that. But I tend to think that this court, sort of deep down, is motivated by a vision, a non-democratic, or distrust of democracy. There's an old corporatist idea that was part of the early 20th century, where there were pretty who were actively advocating, saying, I think our corporate leaders should be our leaders and work hand in hand with elected officials. Because they're good managers. They're-- they've been selected through the fight of the market. I happen to think that idea is crazy and not sustainable. But it was a true ideology. And I see some of that in our current Supreme Court as well.

BILL MOYERS: Well, excuse me for being tedious. But I read in your works what you say, that if dysfunction sets in and you can't get government to work on behalf of the public interest, then you can't pass the legislation that you say, I mean, it's a squirrel's game.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Look. Look. Look. You read my book from four years ago. And in the meantime, I've seen Zephyr Teachout run for governor. And I've seen the incredible response. When I've been out there watching people and watching real leaders push on this issue, the passion is there. And this is still a system where we can win more votes than they do and win more seats in Congress than they have and pass legislation to take this critical first step. And I think--

BILL MOYERS: You mean--


BILL MOYERS: By "they," you mean the oligarchs, the plutocrats. Are we close to plutocracy, where government runs, is run by the rich?


BILL MOYERS: For the advantage of rich?


LAWRENCE LESSIG: But, you know, here's the way I want to push back on that. It makes it sound like it works for them, too. You know, it works for them on some issues. But the point is when they look at a system which, you know, they pretty much agree is broken in 1,000 different ways, they, too, can begin to recognize why this is a terrible system.

When we would get super-large, rich people giving us money to make it so they had less political power in the system, it wasn’t because they were trying to show off. It's because they genuinely believe that this system is broken. And they believe one way to fix it is to make it so that they don't have so much power. So, you know, you could say in the Civil Rights Movement, why would whites ever work with blacks to bring about equality? Because they realized that even though they benefited, in some sense, from this unequal system, they didn't believe that was the American system that they had grown up loving. And that's the same thing that's happening.

BILL MOYERS: Do you agree with him on this? The fact that you can tame it, you can regulate it with laws, when you have a legislature like we have in Albany and a governor who has no interest in diminishing his power, as Larry says?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yes, we can. Again, that doesn't mean that it's easy or that it's simple or we know the exact route. I mean, I look at William Jennings Bryan. He never became president.

BILL MOYERS: Great orator. Great populist.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: And Bryan ran for president again and again. He came out of a populist movement that had been demanding a change in the way that we do campaigns, down with monopolies, in the 1880s and the 1890s. Maybe in 1894 or '95 they should've just given up.

Because if you looked at the structures of power at that moment, you would say, I don't see a path. Well, that's when I say we're at a moment like that, I think we have to call on the best parts of our American history, when we have actually overcome seemingly impossible things and say things that aren't possible if we just follow a straight power map are going to be possible.

Because we can tap into the great American tradition of organizing, of actually speaking out, of dissent. This is a different form of dissent. Because it's dissent against this plutocracy. And I think there are a lot of people-- unlike you, I think there are some people who just do benefit. But I think there are a lot of people who might sort of falsely align themselves with the current system, but are not benefiting because it's shutting down our marketplace.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Yeah, but my point is when you talk about it as if it's a fight between the rich and the rest of America, in fact, there's a whole bunch of the rich who don't benefit or don't feel like they benefit, or don't identify with it. And I actually think it would be more effective to frame this not as the fight between the one percent and the 99 percent.

But the fight between, you know, American citizens and those who would corrupt the American democracy. Because, you know, I was meeting with the most powerful Republican in New Hampshire. And he said to me, you know, this is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue. This corruption is an American issue. And we can find a way to not separate us from, you know, people that we recognize, but instead, to unite us against a fight that nobody on their merits can defend.

Nobody can stand up and say, yeah, it's important that I, as the Koch brothers, have enormous political influence versus you. Nobody would say that. And the point is we should be fighting in a place where there's no credible argument on the other side. Because we can win that argument.

BILL MOYERS: I know you think that this present campaign system works against competition, not only in politics but in the economy.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yes. And I actually think this is really important. Because I found on the campaign trail that when I would talk about the growing, basically-- too much power being held in the hands of too few in the economy and in politics, people really respond to that. They're experiencing it in not having a lot of options for places to go for a job.

And I found once you got into a room, people may not know the language of antitrust. They may not know the language of antimonopoly, because it's actually vanished from our political vocabulary since the early '80s. But it's a deep part of the American tradition.

But they know the experience. They know the experience of a sense that the small nursery can't compete against Home Depot, and not because the small nursery isn't doing more innovative things. It's because they're both buying the same clay pot for a dollar, but Home Depot is getting tax subsidies that the small nursery is not.

But the experience of, say, you know, big cable having political power and market power. Time Warner in New York State, people know that Time Warner isn't in a competitive industry and has too much power. That was really resonant. And I found that when I talked about those together with campaign finance, that actually could move people to a sense of, oh, we can have a different system. I think we need to fix both. I think we need to fix the way that we fund campaigns. And I think we need to remember and revive antitrust and break up these companies that are playing sort of governmental roles.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: But this is a perfect example of the way this issue is not partisan, right. Because you take Luigi Zingales, who is a libertarian conservative economist on the University of Chicago Business School faculty. He writes this fantastic book coauthored this book, "Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists.”

And his whole point is that we need a theory of antitrust that recognizes that the problem is not just whether a company is too big, it's also whether the company would therefore be too politically powerful. Because what capitalists do is they win in a competitive market, and then they turn to government so that they can get the rules changed so that government protects them from the next generation of capitalists.

And a principled person on the right is as animated by the things that Zephyr is talking about, about the way in which the current system is favoring the incumbents and blocking competition, as people on the left. And if we begin to talk about it in this principled way, we can cut through the insider game, which is all about sucking up to those who are in power right now and make it possible to change those rules.

BILL MOYERS: But how do you get the country talking about that when the mass media, the corporate media, is owned by the very giants that you are talking about?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: It's actually very funny. Because, you know, if I go on MSNBC to talk about Comcast, I'm basically talking about the boss of MSNBC, you know. This is, so, it's a very, very real issue. But I know how to start.

I mean, Gandhi's autobiography says, first, tell the truth. You know, start-- what happens if you tell the truth is really the question. And I feel like first trying in electoral life, you know, in running for office to tell the truth about what I see in the world and to ask that other people tell the truth, and what I see is this incredible concentration, I think extraordinary things can happen there.

I see with-- and just in this last summer, the response to Amazon, the response to Comcast-Time Warner, there's a real chance the Comcast-Time Warner merger will be stopped. And then, if you combine that with the number of Americans who want to break up the big banks, you suddenly see this isn't about the individual sectors of Amazon abusing its power, Comcast abusing its power, and JPMorgan abusing its power. It's-- we are in a new anti-monopoly moment. And I will tell you that politicians who take that up and speak that to people are going to find unusual success like I did.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: But the other thing about this is that, you know, we get fixed on the model of media from, you know, the middle of the 20th century. And the reality is that the model of media is increasingly becoming media at the beginning of the century, right? Before broadcasting.

We are increasingly moving, not from a place where 60 percent of America watches one of three shows every night to get the news, but instead to a world where everybody is getting news from 1,000 different sources. So when Zephyr refers back to the progressive era, the lessons are not just the lessons of substance that we have to get government to be responsive to the people again.

It's also the lessons of process. We have to figure out how to build a movement that can't count on a single broadcaster reaching all of America, and instead can leverage the fact that there are 50,000 relevant sources that people are watching these days, and the generation that we really need to mobilize, the generation under the age of 35, is not paying attention to the media that, you know, you're talking about. They're paying attention to the rest of it.

BILL MOYERS: So, what do each of you plan to do next?

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Well, I know that I would love to run for office again. One of the real secrets that-- sort of the dirty secret of politics is that it's more fun than you know. It's every bit as hard as I thought and every bit as painful to do the fundraising.

But it is actually one of the most inspiring and exciting things to actually talk to people, to learn from people, to be able to go-- to have any door open and somebody will say, I want to tell you about my life and I want to tell you what's wrong with it and I want to tell you how I understand the world. So, I'd love to run for office again. In the meantime, I want to, hopefully, I'm particularly focused on getting more people to run for office along with me.

BILL MOYERS: Well, it's pretty lonely out there.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: So, I'd like to see a lot more women run with this antitrust message, a lot more young people run. And we know that people don't run because they're not asked. And we also know that they have a sense of, like, that's a politician. A politician looks like this. A politician has never had trouble with student debt or credit card debt.

And I want to say that we are in a moment where if we keep having the cookie-cutter, you know, Manchurian candidate type politician, you're going to see even more and more young people drop out. And so, I think we should forget the perfect resume and instead engage people who come from all different backgrounds, including the arts, and get them to run for office. Because this is what the kids in Hong Kong are fighting for. And we got to take the opportunity we have before it totally shuts down.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: So, we want to take, you know, the incredible number of people that were supporting Mayday and turn them into brigades that go out and start recruiting more and more congress people to the idea of fundamental reform, that use the technology of the Internet to reach out to other voters and get those voters to talk to their congress people and say to their congress people, we need you to stand up for a change.

Now, this is a way to kind of leverage the power that we aggregated with money into power with people. And ultimately, I think that that's going to be the much more effective way to begin to convert members of Congress, to get it close to a place where we could actually have the majority to pass the statutes we think we can pass.

BILL MOYERS: Larry Lessig, Zephyr Teachout, thank you for being with me.



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News Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:15:44 -0500
"It Is Officially Open Season on Black Folks": Legal Expert Decries Handling of Wilson Grand Jury

On Monday St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced the grand jury had found "that no probable cause exists" to charge Officer Darren Wilson with any crime in the death of Michael Brown. The jury deliberated for three months and heard dozens of hours of testimony, including from Wilson himself. But did they hear the full story? McCulloch himself had faced public scrutiny throughout the grand jury investigation, with calls for him to resign over allegations of a pro-police bias and questions raised about an unusual grand jury process that resembled a trial. We speak to Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is just back from Ferguson. "I don’t think we can take away anything from this decision not to indict other than that it is now officially open season on black folks when it comes to police violence," Warren says.


AMY GOODMAN: We are in Clayton, Missouri, right next to Ferguson, Missouri, where we spent all last night. Today we’re standing in front of — well, the Clayton Courthouse where the grand jury has deliberated close to two dozen times over the last few months, before they came out with their decision yesterday, announced by the prosecutor Bob McCulloch. Our guest right now, in New York, we’re joined by Vince Warren, the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights who will help us decide — will help us understand the decision that the grand jury made. And with me here in subfreezing weather, here in Clayton is Osagyefo Sekou, he is the Pastor from the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain Massachusetts, dispatched to Ferguson by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He went to high school in St. Louis and has family in Ferguson. We’re going to go first to Vince Warren. Can you explain the grand jury decision?

VINCE WARREN: Yes, thanks Amy, and good to see you Sekou. It is almost inexplicable. The first thing we have to remember is that this is not a verdict. This hasn’t gotten to verdict. This was an indictment. So the grand jury was asked to consider evidence in order to prefer charges so that the police officer could go to trial, but they did not do that. What was so strange about it is I’ve never seen, in my years, I’ve never seen a prosecutor take such a hands-off approach. And to listen to that press conference, Amy, you would think that he had just sort of spread out the pieces of paper on the table and said, grand jury, do your thing. Let me tell you, prosecutors never do that. There’s a reason why they say prosecutors can indict a ham sandwich. It’s because they can entirely control that process.

Now, they did release some of the transcripts yesterday. And I took a look at some of them, and what I saw, which people need to know, is that this wasn’t just the grand jurors listening to the testimony I idly. The prosecutors are framing the evidence. And as you heard in that press conference yesterday, there was more talk about what Mike Brown did than there was about what Darren Wilson did. It was almost as if in that grand jury process looking to charge Darren Wilson, that they were really charging Mike Brown. And I also noticed in some of the transcripts that they were setting up — the prosecutors were setting up the sense of fear, even asking the Police Sergeant when he got to Mike Brown’s body, when he first got there, leading them into the testimony to say, yeah, there were people that were agitated, there were people that were upset, there were people that were moving around. And of course there were people that were agitated because Mike Brown’s body was on the ground. But they’re setting this up so that essentially to play into the defense of Darren Wilson, that he acted reasonably out of fear for his life, A, B, that he acted reasonably and pursuant to the law because he thought that Mike Brown was breaking the law.

So what we have is a grand jury system that for most people in the world seems to play out like it was, gosh, what can we do, the evidence was really overwhelming. But I don’t think the evidence was. You only have one set of that story. Unfortunately, in this process, Mike Brown’s side of the story never gets told. What we do know is the prosecutors were setting this up so that it was in the best light, in my view, it was, from what I’ve seen, in the best light for the police officer and his "reasonable belief" that his life was in danger, so that is why he shot.

I don’t think we can take away anything from this decision not to indict other than that it is now officially open season on black folks when it comes to police violence. That feeling that most of us had yesterday when we were listening to the decision, that feeling in your stomach, that unsettling feeling like there’s nothing we can do — that is what injustice feels like. We have to remember that the folks on the ground feel that same way but they felt this for a long time. This is not a media event, this is life for people in the black community in urban areas. This is life for people in Ferguson. And so, yes, people are upset. People are acting out. People are disrupting the status quo. People want to shut it down, and frankly, I think that they should.

We should be thinking about the folks in Ferguson as pro-democracy protesters, as anti-structural racism protesters. Because when you think about what they’re challenging on that big a scale, we know that a grand jury decision in one way or another is not when a solve the structural racism problem. What solves the structural racism problem is getting to people like Bob McCulloch so that he can’t do the thing that he did in a press conference. If you notice, he on the one hand said this was a justified shooting by the police officer but then on the other hand said, oh, but we have to change the system. Those are completely inconsistent. It makes no sense. It makes no sense legally and certainly doesn’t make any sense politically.

What we have with the protesters, and I’m happy that the Center for Constitutional Rights and Arch City Defenders locally on the ground, The National Lawyers Guild and Advancement Project have organized 300 lawyers to come down to be able to help represent the protesters because this is what our democracy looks like. Let’s not think about this as these people are burning folks here or these people are throwing rocks here, that entire picture that you’re looking at, Amy, that you are involved in, that is the state, the representation of the state of our democracy for black folks in America. It is messy, can be ugly, it’s full of passion but people should not turn away from it. People should not try to tamper down and control it. People should begin to understand that if that is what we are dealing with, if that is where we are as a society, we need to think about structural changes in order to change the status quo.

AMY GOODMAN: Vincent Warren, the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office has released Darren Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury showing the officer described the 18-year-old Michael Brown as looking like a "demon" on the day of the shooting. Wilson said, "And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan." Wilson went on to claim that Brown punched him twice and was concerned the third punch could be fatal or knock him unconscious. He defended his decision to shoot Brown multiple times. Wilson said, "At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him." In addition to the testimony, the prosecutors released images of Darren Wilson in the hospital after the altercation. One of his cheeks was red, but wasn’t heavily bruised. So, here we have Darren Wilson, four hours of testimony, Mike Brown was not there to give his side of the story.

VINCE WARREN: That’s right, Amy. It is important to recognize that at this moment, we have to become clear as a society that police officers can commit crimes even while on duty. And police officers can and do lie particularly, particularly in these types of legal proceedings. I would note that — I was looking through some of the Sergeant testimony and when he first talked to Darren Wilson, when the Sergeant got to the scene, he talked to him about what happened but he didn’t write it down. And the reason why he said he did not write it down was because he was multitasking. Now, that kind of evidence collection becomes critically important because it gives — if you don’t have it, it gives the police officer the opportunity to change his story, to present the facts in the light that is more favorable to them. And you can certainly do that in a criminal trial when you’re the defendant. But remember, police officers have two duties. One is that they have to preserve the evidence in order for people to find out what happened but it sounds to me like Darren Wilson was afforded the opportunity to create an evidentiary narrative that supported his version of the events. This is a huge problem and is not unique to Ferguson. This happens all over the country in every criminal context that we can think of. Ask any defense attorney about this and they will tell you that the way this went down with the prosecutor’s office, with the police department was so shady, it was so shady that you can’t have any confidence, any confidence whatsoever that the story that Darren Wilson told is in fact what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Vince Warren, we want to thank you for being with us. Stay with us. We’re going to go to break and then we’re going to be joined by Reverend Sekou here in Ferguson, though, usually in Massachusetts. He’s been here for months organizing on the ground. We also be joined by Jelani Cobb, Professor at University of Connecticut, Head of Africana Studies, writes for the New Yorker, has been writing extensively about Ferguson. Yet, we were with him last night on the streets of Ferguson. Ferguson has erupted. This is Democracy Now! We will be back in a minute.

News Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:11:41 -0500
Being Black: The Real Indictment in Ferguson and the USA

2014.11.25.Anderson.2Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

Now that the grand jury has returned with their decision on the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown, we should be reminded that even though Darren Wilson was not indicted, Blackness was certainly indicted by the grand jury. Black Americans have been reminded again that their lives are regarded as of little worth. However, the burden of what needs to be done to change this issue is not a Black problem.

2014.11.25.Anderson.2Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

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Now that the grand jury has returned with their decision on the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown, we should be reminded that even though Darren Wilson was not indicted, Blackness was certainly indicted by the grand jury.

Darren Wilson is free and the police continue to be empowered to kill with impunity. Blackness was found guilty yet again, as witnessed by the many Black slain and their stories. The color some of us carry around can exact a death sentence at a moment's notice. Ever since the formation of the world's greatest empire, Black people have been the eternal scapegoat for all that's been wrong. Our blood waters the roots of war.

2014.11.25.Anderson.3Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

There is nothing that can be expressed but grief, anger and frustration at the depraved patterns of this consistently immoral farce that calls itself the "criminal justice system." Kill the Black body and then blame the corpse. This happens repeatedly. Anything is a good excuse to kill a Black person. In Michael Brown's case, stolen cigarillos were worth his death. In 12-year-old Tamir Rice's death this week, it was his unmarked toy gun. And recently, Tanesha Anderson's mental illness made her death worth a violent killing in front of her own family. No matter what, the dead Black body is at fault.

The United States was born out of an incident where a Black man was victim blamed for his murder. It was the Black blood and "mad behavior" of Crispus Attucks that led founding father John Adams to defend the beguiled crown when Attucks was the first American shot down leading up to our nation's birthing revolution. What was his defense of the British patrols overzealous policing? Adams uttered words that would cement our ever-present pattern, stating it was the fault of Attucks "whose very looks was enough to terrify any person." Two hundred and forty-four years after the moment that sparked the fight for independence, we are still dealing with this type of thinking.

It was enslaved Africans that led to the declarations of immediate causes for Southern secession and a civil war. It's the loss of Black labor that requires we remember the Alamo. Yet and still, it is Black blood that stirs the movements of the internal war we are facing at this very moment. Black people do not cause the conflict; we are the conflict. We ignite the grips of fear with our very presence and strike first at oppression, even with our backs turned. Our freedom, in life and death, pulls at the reins steering us into predestined Black guilt, assumed criminality. The determination to be seen as human is a never-ending struggle.

2014.11.25.Anderson.MainChicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

There is something hauntingly ironic in all of this. A grand jury whose term was set to expire on September 10, 2014, made the decision about Darren Wilson. A grand jury that is 75 percent White and made up of 12 people "selected at random from a fair cross-section of the citizens." It seems insulting when about two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are Black. Alas, this is our system. An imposed state of emergency was declared based on the fear of protesters' reactions to the grand jury decision. This means the National Guard was activated and police forces were operating under high alert as a precaution in preparation. The Department of Justice has expressed frustrations that this move by the governor escalated the situation unnecessarily. If anything, the only emergency is Blackness itself. The directive issued by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is also set to eventually expire. It should be clear, though, that White supremacy does not expire. That being said, we should be having conversations about how we address the new manifestations that will inevitably arise.

The police are not going to be "fixed" - and hiring Black police officers is a naive solution. We live in a time where we have a Black president, a Black attorney general and a Black head of homeland security. Their Blackness doesn't win them respect for their dedication to the standards of the status quo, nor does it serve Black people as a means of liberation. We are still caught in the confines of permanent exile in the only place we have known as home. Discussions of historical Black struggles are presented as if the war is over. We discuss segregation and discrimination as if they are things of the past, while the present mocks us.

The police state in its current form is a protectorate of White supremacy. Black people are increasingly feeling that calling the police is never a good idea. However, this is not a new sentiment; it's a very old one. What does it mean to us as a nation that Black people do not feel comfortable using an emergency service? At our most vulnerable and scary times, we are silenced by the fact that those who are supposed to shield us see us as targets. How is Jim Crow a thing of the past, when, still, we can never be truly safe?

2014.11.25.Anderson.4Police at the Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)

Mariame Kaba recently reminded us that though the indictment of Darren Wilson was symbolically important, it would not dismantle the system. She goes on to offer her personal examples to fight oppressive policing, writing:

I vocally and actively oppose any calls for increased police presence as a response to harm in my community and in my city. At budget time, I pay attention to how much money is allocated to law enforcement. I press my local elected officials to oppose any increases in that amount and to instead advocate for a DECREASE in the police department's budget. I support campaigns for reparations to police torture [and] violence victims. I support elected civilian police accountability councils and boards (knowing full well that they are [Band-Aids]). I believe that we need grassroots organizations in every town [and] city that document and publicize the cases of people who have suffered from police violence. These organizations should use all levers of power to seek redress for those victims and their families.

This is a bare minimum when the police are still active in hate groups as we saw in Florida earlier this year. (If Anonymous' operation to expose the KKK reveals anything, I doubt Black America will gasp.) White supremacists are attracted to the police force and military. Those who have felt the brunt of their terror have always been aware of this. And in the Black community, police terror has always conveyed the structural oppression of White supremacy, a force that outweighs the narrative of one "bad cop." We live the realization that "you cannot indict White supremacy" - and embody the stress that comes with that.

Black people around the country have watched as Ferguson is flooded with our emotions and frustrations, with our family and friends protesting. We have heard the lies of figureheads and politicians, lies that echo the message of the nonexistent use-of-force report on Michael Brown's death.

Even as we awaited this indictment decision, Darren Wilson was rumored to be negotiating about resigning from the force.

Ferguson is the reminder that we will never be satisfied and many are still prepared to fight. The heart of Blackness is in this debacle, and in this spirit of resistance.

Ferguson is not about how Black people feel about Darren Wilson; it's about how this country feels about Black people. And until this country understands what Black people are protesting regarding our dead, things will only grow worse. If the demand for our humanity continues to be unresolved, I don't see why things should ever "quiet down."

The burden of restoring silence and peace over the sounds of injustice this country screams in our ears is not on us. Over time, whether Black people have protested with their hands up or with their fists, the message is clear: We know you're scared of us but we're not going to live scared of you.

News Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:49:58 -0500