I’ve decided to post the blog entries on the site again. There’s nothing new up but at least you can read the older entries.
Thanks for the support,
Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category
I’ve decided to post the blog entries on the site again. There’s nothing new up but at least you can read the older entries.
Thanks for the support,
It is an unfortunate fact but during the course of my legal case, my codefendants and I received very little organizational support from the environmental and social justice movements. While prisoner support groups like ELPSN (UK) and ABCF and legal organizations like the National Lawyers Guild and Center for Constitutional Rights were quick to extend their solidarity, the environmental movements’ silence was palpable. Other than Forest Ethics and some Earth First! groups, there was nothing but private support offered; an inability to organize a response to the terrorist enhancement and at worst, condemnation offered from NGO heavyweights, Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society and Greenpeace. While this speaks volumes about our movement’s conception of solidarity and the discomfort expressed by non-profit organizations in dealing with cases of property destruction, this is beyond the scope of this blog entry. One group that did not act like the previously named groups and went well beyond the call of duty is the Civil Liberties Defense Center based out of Eugene, Oregon.
A tiny, young organization funded by environmental lawyer and activist (and I’m proud to say, a good friend of mine) Lauren Regan, the CLDC had the Operation Backfire defendants’ backs from day one. During the chaotic weeks following the first wave of arrests in December 2005, the CLDC made valiant attempts to find lawyers for all the defendants and quickly became a hub for families of defendants, lawyers and media contacts. Sitting in Lane County Jail, just 3 blocks from their office, I took solace knowing there were local lawyers advocating for us, keeping everyone well informed through conference calls and providing a local and long-term perspective (being that they lived in Eugene during the time of the conspiricy 1996-2001).
As the case progressed, I was freed on bail, returned to New York and relied on the CLDC’s extensive court reports and posting of legal documents. I devoured the court reports and was able to determine which codefendant started to cooperate at which time and better determine my chances of success at trial. When people ask me what it is that defendants in those cases need, I reply that it’s the unglamorous and tedious work that the CLDC does, sitting in court for hours concentrating hard and taking copious notes, getting those court reports and analysis posted on sites like Portland Indymedia, monitoring databases for relevant court documents, legal research, setting up a local media collective and press strategy and visiting people regularly at the jail. The support was invaluable with the preparation of my defense and helped my wife, family and NYC support group make sense of the case and develop solid and powerful defense strategies.
Now, don’t mistake the CLDC for some large, well-funded outfit based on their impressive resume. They are a few lawyers, an office and a dedicated crew of volunteers operating on a shoe-string budget. Since I have been imprisoned, I have relied on their work to keep up on Green Scare cases like Briana Waters and the campaign to repeal the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The CLDC is one model of how an organization can provide support for complex legal cases and free the defendants and their families to deal with the pressure of the case itself.
Please support the CLDC with their ongoing work if you are able. On their site, cldc.org, you can make a donation or send a check to them at Civil Liberties Defense Center/ 259 East 5th Avenue, Suite 300 A/ Eugene, Oregon 97401. Don’t forget— if you are arrested for an offense like mine or face a grand jury subpoena, do not hesitate to call the CLDC at 541.687.9180 or the NLG’s hotline at 888-NLG-ECOLAW.
Many contacts were made by my support group to RAN and Ruckus Society directly through email, to people on RAN’s board of directors and informally to staff of both organizations. RAN, at least, expressed support privately. Board member Jodie Evans, in particular, expressed support and committed to raising this issue with her executive director. A staff member of RAN commited to writing a letter from RAN regarding the terrorist enhancement issue and never did. Ruckus Society members/staff never once responded to emails, informal contacts, or info packets sent to them. Greenpeace’s director, John Pascantando, took it further condemning us publically— you can read a criticism of that statement in an article by Michael Donnelly on Counterpunch.org from 2006.
What is sad is that defendants in this case had professional relationships with RAN and Ruckus. I had worked on the Mitsubishi, Home Depot and U’wa campaigns RAN organized, getting arrested while committing civil disobedience and dedicating countless hours to these campaigns. I attended two of Ruckus Society’s action camps including the ‘Globalize This’ pre-Seattle/WTO camp with many of my codefendants. We also worked with the Direct Action Network to some extent in the months leading up to the WTO protests in 1999 (DAN was partially a creation of RAN, Ruckus Society, and other groups). Additionally, a fugitive in my case was a former trainer for Ruckus and local organizers in Seattle, employed by RAN, and dealt with harrassment and search of their former residence by the FBI related to this case. The links were many but the support from these groups was sorely lacking.
The CLDC’s involvement begins well before December 7, 2005— the day of the first arrest in Operation Backfire. Lauren Regan represented an early target of the investigation in 2000/01 and participated in community efforts to protect the individuals who had received grand jury subpoenas.
Recently, the US Sentencing Commission released changes to sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenders (November 10, 2007) and on December 11th, applied them retroactively – a major reform in the way crack offenders have been sentenced since 1986. The gist of this change is that crack offenders sentenced under 201.1 will now receive a 2-point reduction (or, more accurately will be eligible for) to their base offense level under the federal sentencing guidelines. Depending on one’s sentence, this could be a significant reduction – leading to years off many peoples’ sentences. This is a major reform and could result in 19,500 people going home earlier in the next 30 years (currently, the federal prison population is about 200,000). In March 2008, when the change becomes official, over 3,800 people will be eligible for release in 2008 alone. A similar number will be eligible for release in 2009.
This change is only one that needs to happen but it’s a great step toward a more sensible drug policy in the U.S. The new change doesn’t affect the 5 or 10 year mandatory minimum sentences related to crack and it doesn’t affect every crack offender. Each individual will need to petition their federal judge for a sentence reduction and make sure it applies to their specific case. The guideline change unfortunately does not change the 100:1 ratio between powder cocaine and crack cocaine (i.e. in sentencing, 100G of powder is treated the same as 1G of crack). The problem with this ratio is that it treats identical botanical and chemical substances disproportionately when it comes to sentencing. It has been criticized as racist – when you consider 85% of crack offenders are black and that ratio punishes them so much more than powder cocaine offenders. While it’s great to see more reasonable minds slowly prevailing on crack, I cannot help but see the same dynamic happening nationwide with methamphetamine – what I call “the meth/crack heads are going to eat your children” propaganda – just think of the early 90’s film, New Jack City!
I don’t want to downplay the harm done by drug abuse – both from the culture associated with their use and the legal ramifications of their use, plus the destructive role addiction plays in many peoples’ lives. Growing up in a neighborhood with its fair share of crack, I can say I’m no fan. I neither felt safe nor appreciated the dealers with their pitbull guarded yards, antisocial attitudes and ‘stick up kid’ activity. My experience does not lead me to advocate for more punitive sentences for crack offenders. Locking up people and sending them to prison is a much worse alternative than intensive drug treatment for users and addressing the economic realities that underlie so much of the choices people make. The federal prison system has a drug treatment program but I’m not sure if recidivism/drug use rates are studied or even collected (never mind peer review or other less biased sources of evaluation).
I read about an act that recently passed the House of Representatives called The Second Chance Act of 2007 (Senate bill 1060, House bill 1593). The bill has many reform-based provisions dealing with increased half-way house time, more money for re-entry, family drug treatment and provisions that allow elderly prisoners to be released earlier. Please take some time to write or call your senator urging them to vote for this. While I don’t believe in giving up your power to “representatives,” I also live in this world and know there are things we can do now as opposed to waiting for long-term systematic changes which can make changes in peoples’ lives. You can find more information about this bill here and contacts for your senators here.
It’s rare that good news comes out about the state of prisons. The new crack changes are a good first step as are the recent Supreme Court decisions that address the extent of judges’ discretion in sentencing. What we need now is the removal of mandatory minimum sentences and the reinstitution of federal parole.
Friends and supporters,
We didn’t want December 7th to completely pass everyone by without any acknowledgment. Two years ago (plus a week), Daniel was first taken away from his family, his friends, his home, his job, his school — his life.
Last weekend there were events held all over the country to commemorate the multiple arrests that took place on December 7, 2005.
These events aimed to educate others on the past, present and future. A number of us in NYC spent last Sunday in one of the busiest intersections of Manhattan spreading the word about a troubling new piece of legislation called “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act”
Please take a few minutes to read all of the extremely important information found here: http://www.supportdaniel.org/act/
We hope to keep adding relevant information to this page over the next few weeks. Please call your senator, spread the word, stop this Act.
Joyanna Zacher #36360-086
Nathan Block #36359-086
If I could, I would wear black today, not because it’s my preferred color (which it is), but because today is a day I mourn. Not in a traditional sense of mourning a person’s death but a day to mourn the end of one part of my life the day I said goodbye to a part of my life no one in my life knew about. Some people order their lives into ‘before September 11’ and ‘after September 11’ — for me, it’s before and after December 7, 2005, the day of my arrest.
Sometime around 4:15 on that day, my past caught up with me in the form of 3 federal agents standing in the entrance of my cubicle at my job. I was not quite sure why they were there but I had a feeling it was going to be bad. Although I sensed nothing that day, I had experienced anxiety in weeks prior about (then) hypothetical matters like “Who would do x if I was gone?” or “Do I really need all the Jeff Luers campaign materials, original master VHS tapes, et cetera ?” I chalked it up to anxiety – the holidays were coming up and I was woefully behind on getting gifts for my family; plus the first semester midterms in my graduate acupuncture program were approaching. The perfunctory “Are you Daniel McGowan?” along with the macho and unnecessary declaration, “You’re going back to Oregon!” snapped me out of my stupor. The office holiday cards were dropped, I was cuffed and led outside into the frigid air without a coat into an unmarked car. It hit me at that point that my life would not be the same. The feeling of my secret past colliding with my present and all I could do was slip into survival mode. My inner voice screamed, “be quiet! Don’t say a word to them! You know people care about you and they will have your back, hire a lawyer and you’ll fight this.” I am grateful to all the lawyers and legal workers who put on legal trainings as it really came in handy then.
Here I am, two years later sitting in federal prison; if all goes well, I’ll be out in about 5 years. When December was approaching, I wondered what this date means to me and how I would feel when it came. Last year, I was insulated from it all as my community held a rally for me at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, near the FBI headquarters I was brought to and the jail I was housed in for a week. So, Dec 7th is here and it has brought up a number of feelings: frustration, anger, fear, nostalgia, loneliness and hope. I fear that as time goes on, people will move on and focus their attention elsewhere; that by being out of sight in prison, that I’ll be out of mind. I’m scared that people will forget what it is we were (and are) fighting for — that this ‘Green Scare’ is not just about punishing us but about preventing them from advocating for a culture that doesn’t destroy every ecosystem and see our planet as something to profit from. We are here as trophies for the government and symbols to you that scream: “mess with us and our god of private property and we will crush you. Talk about stopping our plans and we will label you a terrorist and when we catch you, we’ll offer some of you reduced sentences for selling your friends out.”
In the absence of information, it’s hard at times to figure out whether or not this strategy the government uses is having an impact or whether it’s backfired (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!). Recently, I read an excellent book by social justice activist, former editor of Onward!, (and someone who I met last year), Dan Berger called Outlaws of America. It focuses on the Weather Underground and their actions against US imperialism in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Dan argues that the WU’s significance is not in the property bombings of US government buildings and corporations — albeit spectacular and daring actions. The significance and legacy to today’s social and ecological resistance movements is the politics and beliefs behind the actions, not the details of the bombings, how each site was chosen or the devices themselves. As I read this, it raised a familiar frustration in me — that no matter how hard I tried, the things people remembered about the ELF wasn’t the rationale behind the actions but were, the rumors mentioned in court, who slept with whom, how much damage the fires did and other trivial matters. There is a problem with the dominant idea of the ELF and our actions as ‘activists who burn things’ or as the government labels us, ‘arsonists’ or ‘terrorists.’
For me, the tactics were not the driving force in my actions but were the means to an end. In fact, the use of fire caused me great anxiety and I felt it was generally used with little strategy as we were trapped in a self-created race to be more “effective.” This led to strategy and ideas taking a back seat to the ‘why,’ which is infinitely more important to any discussion of what we were trying to do. I should say that I speak for myself on this issue and my opinions may not be similar to any of my codefendants – cooperating informants or otherwise. My point then is that similar to the Weather Underground, the significance of the ELF actions was not the arsons, but the beliefs behind them.
I suppose in reflecting on actions I have taken and how they were perceived, it made me think I need to write more about them. If all people took from the actions were the sensational aspects – then we have failed. It is our rationale for engaging in such extreme action that matters, not the tactics. People have asked me about the actions and I’ve been very cautious about saying things for a variety of reasons. One – I don’t want what I say to be taken out of context. I’ve been screwed by the government using an interview I gave to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! as justification for opposing motions for me to stay out on bail longer. Secondly, I have my own perspectives on what went down and I am neither ELF cheerleader nor detractor. I will not be used by others to criticize people who choose the same tactics I chose no matter what my personal opinions may be. Unlike the critics, I know where they are coming from and I can empathize. Nor do I want my words to be used by people whose main goal seems to be to encourage young people to do actions they will support but lack the courage to do themselves. I’ll do my best to avoid these dynamics and instead try to explain the complexities of one’s motivations and where we were coming from, to the extent I can.
December 7th reminds me that this fight is not over. On the legal front, many of us are in prison with long sentences to do plus years of probation and multi-million dollar restitutions. One person is going to trial in early February 2008 in a related ‘Operation Backfire’ case (see supportbriana.org). The government has convened a grand jury in Minneapolis regarding ELF actions and Eric McDavid is facing 5-20 years in prison after losing his September trial. US environmentalist Tre Arrow is fighting extradition from Canada for very similar charges I faced although he has proclaimed his innocence. Jeff ‘Free’ Luers gets re-sentenced soon as well. Please take some time to educate yourself about the cases and extend your solidarity to these people and others. Perhaps more importantly, this government and its corporate friends continue to destroy ecosystems here and abroad in pursuit of unfettered profits. People may be opening their eyes to the perils of global climate change but much effort is needed to fight for real alternatives – not fake ones like bio-fuels, nuclear power, or straight-up “green capitalism.”
On November 30th, there will be an event in New York City celebrating the legacy of the Black Panther Party and in support of the San Francisco 8. We will be co-sponsoring the event along with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, NYC Anarchist Black Cross, SEIU Local 1199, The Jericho Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Free Mumia coalition, and more local political prisoner organizations. If you are in the NYC area, it’s important you attend this event and show your solidarity with the 8 former Black Panthers. Let me back up and give some perspective on who these men are.
The San Francisco 8 are former, original Black Panthers, and sympathetic community activists ranging from 56 to 72. Three men were arrested on January 23, 2006 on charges related to the killing of a cop in San Francisco in 1971. The original three were indicted on these charges in the early 70′s and the charges were dropped, because torture was used to extract confessions. I’ll repeat that — and mind you, I’m not using rhetoric: they were tortured in ways analogous to the torture committed by the U.S. abroad, in the so-called “War on Terror.” Six of the defendants, due to intense legal advocacy and community support, are now out on bail awaiting trial– set to start, I believe in the Spring. Two of the defendants are ineligible for bail, as they have been serving a NY state sentence for over 30 years on similar charges. (Some speculate that these men, Jalil Muntaquim and Herman Bell of the NY3 were included in this indictment to destroy their chances of their getting parole in NY state. Parole was a hope given a new governor and perhaps, a parole board would grant parole).
As I said, the charges were thrown out due to torture by investigators– a detailed account of which is presented in the informative documentary Legacy of Torture (available from the Freedom Archives) including cattle prods used on genitals, beatings, sleep deprivation, being taped to chairs and simulated drownings, aka waterboarding. This is the process Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasy will not condemn in which plastic is pulled over someone’s face and water is poured producing the terror associated with drowning. Sometime in 2002, interest was reignited in the case (perhaps after former Attorney General Ashcroft’s statement about cleaning up old political cases) and some of the men received grand jury subpoenas which they resisted and were subsequently jailed for months.
At that point, supporters of the grand-juried men and animal liberation activists facing their own federal grand jury joined forces and held large rallies against the grand jury. The website fbiwitchhunt.com was started and reported on resistance to the grand juries nationwide. This collaboration was exciting and gave me great hope. It was a multi-generational, cross-movement display of solidarity and opened each group to each other’s perspectives.
That dynamic, of older and younger generations from the Black Panther/anti-Vietnam war and people’s movements of the 60s/70s and the younger, anarchistic and eco/animal liberationists mixing and providing mutual aid to each other captivated me. It also reflected work I had been engaged on in NYC with the Jeff Luers freedom campaign working with the Jericho Movement and former political prisoners. (In fact, I wrote about these ideas in the 2008 Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar, which I highly recommend you get a copy of). My goal then was two-fold:
1)To help secure the release of political prisoners of previous generations by infusing their freedom campaigns with what we have to offer: youthful energy, online tactics and organizing, fundraising, and exposing their cases to a new generation of punks, anarchists, and anti-globalization activists.
2)To learn from older activists– about their experience, access to their lessons and to increase the legitimacy of our prisoners in the broader PP/POW support community.
Many have been working on these efforts and I hope they bear fruit. In NYC, there are good signs including a new NYC Anarchist Black Cross focusing on supporting Green Scare political prisoners and political prisoners from the Black liberation movement. There has been a greater coordination on the part of PP groups in the NYC area, leading to this SF8 event on November 30th.
So, if you are against torture, vindictive prosecutions trying to destroy the legacy of the Black Panthers and think that the Green Scare is COINTELPRO-lite, this is an event you should come to. Some of the defendants will be there as will their lawyer Soffiyah Elijah, and performers. It’s 7pm, on November 30th at the Martin Luther king, Jr. Labor Center, 310 West 43rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues).
I’ve used the name “SF8″, but these are real people we are talking about. They are:
*John Bowman died of terminal cancer on December 23, 2006 after being imprisoned for refusing to talk to a grand jury.
For more information:
Regarding the N30 event: NYC Jericho Post Office Box 1272 New York, New York 10013 email@example.com
I just wanted to send a little note to say hi to everyone who has written and let you know I truly appreciate the support. It is functionally impossible for me to respond to all the notes, cards and packages, but they are getting to me and they really make me happy. Oddly enough, I seem to have sprained my thumb! I know, I can imagine the bad jokes now as I type this! It seems to be rather swollen and it’s certainly from writing too much. So, I appreciate your kind words and letters but between my job, studies, and my poor fat thumb, know that I may not be able to respond.
I wanted to share some news about some court cases I have read about recently and perhaps update people on the latest happenings related to the Green Scare. If that term is unfamiliar to you, I’m sorry. I think myself and many of us have just chosen to use that term because its easy to name it per se than to describe the full set of circumstances. What I mean is the US government’s obsession with investigating, harassing, prioritizing and prosecuting activists involved with environmental and animal rights activities. I’d like to think that this behavior on the part of government officials is just about illegal activity but sadly, it’s not. As Will Potter has pointed out on his informative blog, greenisthenewred.com, these campaigns of harassment, indictments, overzealous legislation, targeting by industry front groups, all create a chill around activism. “Will they come after me next? I don’t burn things down, but that Animal Enterprise Terrorism Bill seems so broad..”
Well, as you may know, a lot of people were arrested and indicted in my case– what the agents dubbed “Operation Backfire.” (Get it? It’s a joke– on us! Like, you know, our tactics/actions backfired! Nice one, secret agent boys!) Although it seems that our case is wrapping up, a Midwest grand jury was to convene (and was then postponed) regarding ELF actions in that region. You can read more about this on a new site:?
A few weeks ago, there was good news and bad news with two Green Scare trials. The good news is that former ALF prisoner, Rod Coronado, got a hung jury in his free speech case in San Diego. Rod was charged with an old law that alleged that he was instructing people on how to use incendiary devices. From the accounts I read, this so-called instruction was Rod speaking at a public event and a question was asked about an action he was involved with years prior (and which he had already done time for). The jury was deadlocked in favor of acquittal but ended up being unable to come to any decision. At this point, I am unsure whether or not the government will continue this vindictive behavior and file charges again. In either case, check out his support site at www.supportrod.org to donate or find out more.
Sadly, Eric McDavid was found guilty by a jury in the Sacramento ELF case. Eric was charged with conspiracy and was sold down the river by his two co-defendents who testified against him and will now receive a maximum of 5 years. Eric faces 5-20 years. It should also be noted that a woman only known as “Anna,” was not only the key witness but also a blatant provocateur in the case– constantly pushing the three young activists into planning actions. The judge denied the entrapment motion even though evidence kept showing up that “Anna” seemed to really want an action to happen so that she could please her FBI handlers. You may ask, “Why is the FBI recruiting 17-year old college students to push people into doing ELF type actions, even going so far as to pay her $70,000, rent and outfit a cabin for planning the actions, etc.?” That’s a good question. Eric is filing an appeal and last I heard needs help with legal costs and continued access to vegan food.
See www.supporteric.org for more information.
There are also a few ongoing cases associated with the Green Scare:
Tre Arrow: This American environmental activist is fighting extradition from Canada and has been held for three years now trying to clear his name and is being tried on very serious charges in Oregon state. The authorities claim he was involved in an ELF arson of the Ross Isnald Sand and Gravel company in Portland, OR and an arson of three logging trucks. Three people who have received reduced sentences claim Tre Arrow was involved although there doesn’t appear to be any evidence other than this. He was a well-known forest defense activist in Oregon and even ran for Congress. He sits in a jail in British Columbia and is appealing an extradition order. He needs your support. Contact his crew at www.trearrow.org If sent to the US, he will be facing life in prison like I was.
Briana Waters: This case goes to trial on February 4th, 2008. She is facing 35 years in prison and is accused of participation in the UW arson claimed by the ELF in 2001. More information: www.supportbriana.org
Finally, my friend Jeff Luers has been sent to Eugene for resentencing in his case. An Oregon appellate court ruled in favor of part of his appeal last year and Jeff faces a significant reduction in the length of his sentence. By now, he may have already been sentenced, but either way, check out www.freefreenow.org
There are websites that have much more information than I can convey. Check them out:
One thing I noticed sitting down at my computer, about a month before I self-reported to prison, was the decreasing number of magazines and newspapers on my prison wish list. What started out as rather large list that I hoped to get some of, dwindled into a much smaller list seemingly week by week. While each successive e-mail or statement seemed to downplay the trend, it certainly seemed that 2006/7 was not a good year for independent media.
As an obsessive reader and current prisoner, this trend scares me. Over ten years ago, I remember early computer zealots trumpeting the call of the ‘paperless office’ and online magazines and newspapers replacing print. Despite my ecological leanings, this sounded like a really bad idea. There is just something about a physical zine or newspaper– maybe it is the ease in which they are shared with others. Maybe it just seems more real. Any attempts to read more than a 200 word article online did (and does) make my head spin. So I opted for getting subscriptions, checking out a new zine at my local bookstore and eschewing the internet for this purpose at least.
Flash forward to 2007. I peruse my list, striking Clamor, Lip– two magazines whose failure seemed to mark the beginning of this issue making it on my radar. Weeks pass, and I find out the veritable hardcore zine Heartattack is wrapping up, as well as Punk Planet. Each successive issue of the punk zine, Slug & Lettuce, writes about the increased cost of postage and printing, the decrease in ads bought and questions whether people even value the print zine anymore (The time will come when I will no longer be able to read the zine with its 8pt font, but until then, I enjoy the reviews and columns!) A few months later, comes the retirement of the militant, grassroots focused No Compromise (spanning 10 years and 30 issues) and the animal rights/environmental and social justice focused Satya (spanning 13 years and over 150 issues). These two publications, which are so connected in my mind with my entry into activism, were stellar and there are no replacements. So, even though I am assured it wasn’t finances but the natural death of their projects, its no consolation.
The death of Alternative Press Review and the Ashville Global Reporter as well as the closing of the Independent Press Association all seem to further this trend. What does this mean for radicals? Do we want a movement that in its quest to blog as its main outlet, leads to a lack of support for all things print? Has the seemingly “free”nature of news on the internet created the subscription phobic behavior that seems to be the norm? It has gotten to the point where some magazines, notably the defunct Satya as well as Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed offer online subscriptions in PDF format. Whether people will go for it has more to do with the honor system– since there is nothing stopping anyone from sharing the files thus negating the magazines’ attempts to be able to continue printing.
I read a lot of different publications, from single-issue magazines like Bite Back and Cultural Survival Quarterly to lefty liberal ones like Mother Jones, to independent newspapers like the NYC Indypendent. While I may agree with only some of what is published (or not!), its their contribution to heterogeneity and diversity in our movement(s) that I appreciate. More voices, more perspectives, more solutions. One no, many yeses (thank you Zapatistas for that one). To the extent we can mimic the diversity of “nature” and strive toward a multiplicity of voices, we can enable a healthier and more vibrant movement- not one in which we have a small number of homogeneous voices. (Just think of communist newspaper sellers standing outside events.)
I don’t mean to be doom and gloom—there are a lot of bright spots on the horizon including new publications like Upping the Anti (a Canadian zine/book that comes out twice a year) to international ones like Abolishing the Borders From Below (a pro-immigration zine for lack of a better term) and controversial/pioneers like $pread (which I still struggle with and which has led to many interesting conversations). Here are some reviews of 3 zines I really like– writing a review of a magazine seems very self-indulgent but I’ll try anyway!
1) Rolling thunder: Put out by the CrimthInc. Ex-Workers Collective (or some other permutation of their network), and this is by far the most attractive magazine I have ever seen. I almost don’t want to crease the cover when I get it and I’m certain advertisers would salivate to have their designers on their team! The articles are in-depth focusing on campaigns (like the defense of the South Central Farm in LA), stories of working in the wage economy as an anarchist, the problem of sexual assault in our communities and the pitfalls of using the state to solve these and other problems, as well as a healthy self criticism and humor. Recent issues have had great sections on cop watch, international trade summits, and the really really free markets held around the country. Full color glossy, thick, and cheap ($5) but well thought out also. If absurd stereotypes of young punks or trust funding anarchists come to mind when you hear CrimthInc.—this zine is for you. It will dispel that nonsense!
CrimethInc./Rolling Thunder; P.O. Box 494; Chapel Hill, NC 27514
2) Left Turn: Billed as not just a publication but a “national network of activists engaging and fighting the consequences of global capitalism.” This magazine, now 26 issues strong, offers consistently well done articles with in-depth coverage of Palestine, Africa and anti-racist campaigns, as well as critical pieces on the anti-war movement, the non-profit industrial complex, and US imperialism and war. It balances the global with the local– although I would like to see them solicit articles from outside their networks, especially in NYC. The books reviewed and the reviews themselves are always strong. I hope to see more coverage of environmental issues in future issues, including many of the strong environmental justice campaigns doing great work in urban and rural areas all over the country. ($5)
Left Turn; P.O. Box 445; New York, NY 10159-0445
3) Earth First! Journal: if your idea of Earth First! is an anti-immigrant, parochial, redneck for wilderness thing, its time to update your definition of Earth First!. The Journal, in its 27th year of publishing, is run by a small group of poorly paid and overworked editors in Tucson, AZ, and covers ecological issues in a passionate and unapologetically radical way. Reports from local EF! groups, reviews, longer analytical pieces, and a great letters section (called Dear Shit fer Brains) makes for a great read every issue. You will read about stuff you won’t read anywhere else but in the Journal– including struggles against mountaintop removal and coal mining, news from the front lines, and occasionally a great section called “Dear Nedd Ludd” (about direct action). I’ve read this magazine for the last 10 years and lately have been a frequent contributor (must be all the time on my hands!) A new format, which really is a return to their old format, has made for a larger publication more suited to being distributed as an activist tool in big stacks rather than at the local Borders. Get your hands on this one even if you don’t identify as a radical environmentalist. ($4.50)
Earth first! Journal; P.O. Box 3023; Tucson, AZ 85702;
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of newspapers and magazines since I’ve been here. Invariably, there are articles on things of interest to me, but I find myself surprised at the slant or perspective offered by newspapers like the NY Times or the factoid-driven USA Today. (Why this is, probably has much to do with a long-term withdrawal from corporate news – the fact that most newspapers and sources of news mimic the perspectives and opinions of those in power shouldn’t surprise me!) One of the issues covered in such a shallow and non-questioning manner is immigration – often it’s the “problem of immigration” or theorizing on “how to seal the border.”
While I don’t expect mainstream news sources to question the existence of borders (or as I like to call them, “lines on a map”), I hope for more than the ICE-loving, immigrant demonizing that passes for coverage on a really complex issue. The articles focus on people who die crossing the desert from Mexico (a not-so-subtle “you’re next”), raids on businesses/factories that employ a majority of immigrants without any criticism of how armed raids and the destruction of families is a horrendous affair and, of course, more propaganda about how out “leaders” are going to “build a better fence!”
What is lost in this barely under the surface reporting is the fact that we are speaking about people. I’m ashamed to say that it took events happening to a friend of mine to break through my lack of concentration on this topic. My friend Maria (not her real name), was traveling in the Southwest with her family on Greyhound when it was boarded by a migra. Her papers were checked, allegations were made that she and her parents are illegal, and they are now in the federal legal system (trust me – it’s a Kafkaesque place to be) fighting to stay in the United States. To top it off, they want to deport my friend to Mexico – where she has not resided since age 5 and her parents to another country. Her court dates are set for where the charges where filed, not her resident state – which is leading to immense travel expenses in addition to the legal bills. The US knows that defendants worn down with threats, financial debt and numerous delays are easier to deal with – it’s systemic, successful, and by all accounts, very successful.
As many of us have noted before, the United States has collective amnesia. Here we are – a nation of immigrants built on the (ongoing) genocide and ecological exploitation of this continent’s indigenous peoples, made rich by generations of chattel slavery that argue for sealing the border to brown people and Central and South America. (That’s really what makes the debate is about. Surely, the US is unconcerned with “white” or English speaking immigrants. Just go to Ridgewood, Queens or Greenpoint, Brooklyn and you’ll see what I mean!)
Growing up in NYC, almost everyone I knew had parents and grandparents who were immigrants – Irish, Puerto Rican, Italian, Dominican, German, and Caribbean families – and were 1-3 generations removed from their respective nations. My Irish grandfather, coming to the US in 1916 at the time of low Irish immigration did not have to deal with “Irish need not apply” signs. However, being a newcomer with only his sister as family here, he took the job he could get – as a laborer at a natural gas power plant in Brooklyn, NY. He worked that job for 50 years. His blood, sweat, and tears put food on the table during the Depression and supported a family of four.
When I think of my Poppa, his hard work and his reasons for coming here (impending civil unrest in Ireland, no opportunities), I can’t help but think of today’s immigrants. It is shameful enough that the US has destabilized and harmed much of South and Central America in the 1980′s (Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru) fueled by Reagan’s domino theory and the neo-liberal and Democrat-supported NAFTA of the Clinton years (affecting Mexico, perhaps, most of all).
Maria has been here for over 15 years – her parents employed as teachers and herself, a vibrant part of the NYC activist community. Is it fair to send her to a country she does not remember? Shouldn’t common sense prevail here? It’s the dehumanization of immigrants that allows things like this to happen. Fueled by propaganda and fear, municipalities promote ordinances that levy fines against people who hire “illegals,” people become snitches and call ICE on individuals or businesses, rednecks harass day labor sites. Meanwhile, the silence on the part of so many white people is astounding – even as, in my city, people sleep in hotels cleaned by, ride in taxis driven by, and eat vegetables picked by and animals slaughtered by immigrants. The May 1 protests of two years ago should have been a wake-up call – an invitation off the fence and a reminder that, aside from native peoples, we are all immigrants here in the US. Like a funny shirt I saw last year, “Who are you calling immigrant, Pilgrim?”
To be clear, it’s not the “immigrants are useful to me” debate that drives me (in the same vain as I value trees for their own inherent value. This is called ‘deep ecology’ in the environmental realm. What then would we call it regarding respect and consideration for people independent of such silly criteria as “national origin?”) It’s my friend Maria and her mother and father – people with names, lives, goals, and dreams. To give credence to borders over people is a freedom-destroying choice. The rhetoric of immigrants “draining the resources of the US” is laughable coming from a country that spends millions of dollars a day to fund an illegal and immoral war in Iraq and devoted 1/2 of its overall budget to the military!
Don’t use my previous excuses for not taking a stand on what this gov’t is doing to people fighting just to leave. Get off the fence and wade into what seems, at first, to be a complex issue. Meet and work with immigrant groups for justice. Learn Spanish! Don’t forget that, chances are, your family was immigrants too.
Addendum: The solution being proposed currently is that young people whose parents came here when they were young can gain citizenship by joining the military. This is appalling and needs to be resisted fully. They see this as a win-win – helping horribly low military recruitment numbers and reducing the numbers of illegal. But no one should have to die to be allowed to live in the US.
My indictment and subsequent arrest in December 2005 disrupted many things in my life: my schooling, employment, relationships with my family & friends, and my activism. At the time I was working on a budding counter-recruitment campaign in New York City– one that ultimately ceased to exist as everyone working on it threw themselves into legal and other support activity for me. After a lot of trial and error with anti-war activity– trying to push for more militant and less rigid anarchist contingents at mainstream marches to insane amounts of pre-Iraq war stickering and outreach to a totally unsuccessful effort to block streets the day after the bombing commenced, I was frustrated.
Coming home every day to my collective house, I would see a military recruiter always hanging around the huge high school on my block. Like any predator, he was there right before school got out and undoubtedly made conversation and appointments with high school kids later on. I wondered why this school– a fairly progressive one at that, would let recruiters in and expose their children to their marketing tactics. I knew enough about the issue, or so I thought. Further research informed me of the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by Bush, which forced parents to “opt out” of military recruitment contact lists. Essentially, high school students’ information was in the hands of recruiters– people who are legally allowed to lie to get recruits to sign a contract that is not binding on the military but is on the recruit.
This research along with the fact that I now saw recruiters everywhere–street fairs, subway stations, their posters and brochures at bodegas–led a friend and me to try to kickstart a campaign of counter-recruitment that we hoped would grow city-wide.
I wish I could write about more than one actual protest. Sadly, that is all we pulled off, but it was successful. The use of the word anarchist in our press statement brought the gates down, an NYPD squad car on the sidewalk, and a gaggle of recruiters and cops waiting for potential mayhem. The “mayhem” was about 40 people holding banners, distributing pamphlets with some street theater and an unannounced trip to the Army National Guard office a half mile away. That day I thought to myself, “It’s a good start.” Of course, a few days later I got arrested and well, you may know that story. It ends with me here at MDC Brooklyn contemplating resistance, my own actions, and the usefulness of counter-recruitment as a tactic in the anti-war movement.
More than anything, I see post-9/11 counter-recruitment as representing an opportunity to break out of the bonds of boring, predictable and ritualistic anti-war activity into less chartered waters. In that way, it feels like what many called the “anti-globalization” movement to me because of the sense of dynamism, a refusal to wait for leaders to tell us what to do, and because, generally speaking, counter-recruitment makes sense and people get it.
We have a military that accepts people over 40, people convicted of crimes, those with neck and arm tattoos, and those who get “Ds” on the aptitude test to enlist. Of course, I’m not passing judgment on those people (how could I being a felon with a tattoo!), but it shows how desperate the military has become. This doesn’t even cover “stop loss” where folks are being sent back second and third times over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Counter-recruitment is a strong “no” not only to the wars the United States is currently engaged in, but also future wars and the 100+ U.S. military bases all over the world.
War Resisters League (WRL)
Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO)
The New Yorkers’ Guide to Military Recruitment