UQ Wire: The Creeping Police State
The Creeping Police State
by Charles Shaw, Editor-in-Chief
February 1, 2005
Featuring: "In the Shadow of the Yellow Star"
by Poet-in-Residence Ronnie Pontiac
See original for images...
When viewed as a whole, the post 9/11 'security state' seems less about protecting us from terrorism, and more about population control and quelling dissent.
In May of 2004 in Chicago, the home of May Molina, a long time anti-police brutality and misconduct activist was raided by the Chicago Police. Although Molina had no history of involvement with drugs or drug dealing, the officers present claimed to have found 80 bags of heroin in her room and that of her son, Michael Ortiz. Both were taken into custody, and sometime within the next 28 hours Molina died. The coroners report claimed to have found bags of heroin lodged in her esophagus, and the presence of heroin in her system.
Three strange things stand out in this case. The first, as previously mentioned, was that Molina was an activist. People's Weekly reported, "[Molina] worked with Families of the Wrongfully Convicted and Comite Exijimos Justicia (the "We Demand Justice Committee"), which have for several years accused the Chicago police, particularly the homicide squad detectives at the Grand and Central police station on Chicago's northwest side, of framing Latino and other young people. Molina was dedicated to this cause partly because her own son, Salvador Ortiz, is serving a 47-year sentence for a murder she and the committee said he did not commit."
This is the same Illinois system that was so corrupt that former Governor George Ryan put a moratorium on the death penalty and commuted all the death sentences of those who were currently imprisoned on death row. A Federal investigation of this corruption under former Commissioner John Burge (while Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was Attorney General) is currently underway.
The second strange thing was that the alleged heroin turned out to be candle wax. Chicago IndyMedia reports, "On the day of May Molina's death, police leaked to the press that 80 bags of heroin were found in their apartment. On June 16, Michael Ortiz [Molina's son] was released by a judge who said none of the samples tested positive for any narcotics. Police now claim they mistook candle-making supplies for drugs." The 22 days in which Ortiz was held in custody over the possession of this wax caused him to miss his mother's funeral.
The third about her death was that, according to the Medical Examiner, the bags of heroin were found in her esophagus, not in her stomach, some 28 hours after she was purportedly to have ingested them. The esophagus is an involuntary reflux muscle, and things either go up or they go down. The only circumstances under which objects would get lodged inside the esophagus is if they are inserted there post-mortem.
Molina had serious health problems. Andy Thayer of Chicago Indymedia, reporting just after her death, wrote, "Molina had multiple medical problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure, and was largely confined to a wheelchair. Her attorney, Jerry Bishop, visited her at the Belmont and Western police station and said she appeared to be in poor physical condition. 'I told them, you really need to get this woman to Cermak [Hospital],' said Bishop." Molina's relatives also tried unsuccessfully to deliver her medications to her while she was in custody.
Family and fellow activists claim that Molina died from not receiving her medication, and the police, in an effort to cover it up and support their heroin charge, forced the bags of heroin down her throat after she had been found dead. Although there have been demands for a Federal investigation into Molina's death, to date no investigation has been launched.
The Chicago Police have a long history of this type of behavior. In 1970 Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was shot by police in his bed while he slept in his apartment on the West Side. In the wake of Nixon's policy of infiltrating and disrupting political and anti-war organizations, named COINTELPRO, which hit Chicago harder than most cities, the same police force made such a regular practice of beating up, harassing, and incarcerating hippies, radicals, and activists that the well is still poisoned some thirty-five years later and little trust exists between the two sides.
In the late 90's the Chicago Police had a strange habit of shooting unarmed Black motorists. In a September 1999 report titled, United States of America: Race, Rights, and Brutality, Amnesty International reports, "In June 1999, LaTanya Haggerty, a 19-year-old passenger in a car pulled over by Chicago police after a short chase, was shot dead when officers mistook the cell-phone in her hand for a gun…a day after the Haggerty shooting, Chicago police officers shot dead Robert Russ, a former college football player, after he refused to get out of his car after a pursuit. He was shot when an officer smashed the car window and pointed his gun directly into the car…Both Haggerty and Russ were black."
These individual, egregious abuses of authority are localized examples of a pervading culture of lawlessness and fascism sweeping our enforcement culture throughout the nation. Using terrorism and drugs as a pretext, our government has steadily abrogated our civil liberties to the point that both the Bill of Rights and the Posse Comitatus Act forbidding the domestic deployment of combat troops on the population, have been rendered obsolete.
Consider more evidence.
In November 2002 the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, a sub-committee of the G8, met in Chicago. 5000 riot police and an arsenal of surveillance equipment are mobilized to contain 500 peaceful demonstrators.
On March 19th, 2003 the US invaded Iraq. Thousands of demonstrators converge on downtown Chicago at the site of the historic Water Tower for a march through the city. The Chicago Police trap demonstrators on a side street adjacent to Lake Shore Drive in preparation for mass arrests, even though the march was peaceful and without incident. To escape arrest, demonstrators are forced onto Lake Shore Drive during rush hour. In the ensuing melee, over 900 people are arrested and processed through the system.
In November of 2003 at the Miami summit for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the Miami Police, under orders from Chief John Timony, viciously attacked 10,000 non-violent and non-destructive activists, union workers, community groups, and migrant workers for three days using mace, pepper spray, tear gas, Tazer guns, batons and shields, concussion grenades, beanbag guns, and rubber bullets. There were mass arrests, and many were injured, some severely. Timony's assault on citizen demonstrators was funded by $8.5 million from the $87 billion Iraq spending bill. (see film)
In September of 2003, at a meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington D.C. more than 600 activists and innocent bystanders were pre-emptively arrested at D.C.'s Freedom Park and herded onto city buses where some sat for as long as 10 hours before they were taken into the Blue Plains detention center gymnasium, handcuffed wrist-to-ankle and left for the night. Police learned from leaflets and websites that anti-globalization groups planned acts of non-violent civil disobedience. In echoes of Minority Report, people who had committed no crime were detained for crimes they were allegedly going to commit in the future. Following the filing of a class action suit, D.C. police have since admitted fault and the city must now pay out damages to each detainee.
In May of 2004 the G8 summit was held on Sea Island Georgia, 10 miles off the Georgia coast. Despite the remote location, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and the Governor of Georgia, designated this summit a "State of Emergency/National Security Event" allowing for increased police and national guard presence, increased federal funding for security, and a temporary declaration of what amounted to martial law. San Francisco Indymedia reported, "This so called 'state of emergency' would allow the police in the entire state to break up, any and all 'gatherings of people' to protest any event… In correlation with this 'state of emergency' the commander of the police forces has ordered a: 'shoot to kill' order, that will pertain to all individuals that the police themselves feel are 'threatening' the lives of 'world leaders' that will be gathering for the event. This order will only go into effect if the governor is capable of issuing a 'state of emergency'".
In July of 2004, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, another "National Security Event", thousands of riot police, secret service, FBI, and armed National Guard roamed the city all week in squad cars, helicopters, motorcycles and bikes, and on horseback, while others stood watch over a fortified concentration camp lined with razor wire for protestors they called the "Free Speech" zone. U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock called the conditions "an affront to free expression" and a "festering boil". On the last day of the convention, after receiving complaints from restaurant owners near the Fleet Center that demonstrators were affecting their lunch business, the Boston Police instigated an incident which allowed hundreds of riot police to move in and clear the area..
At the Republican National Convention in New York City, more than 40,000 police joined armed troops, FBI, Coast Guard, and Secret Service in the largest coordinated urban police deployment in our nation's history. Demonstrators were denied the use of Central Park. Thousands, many innocent bystanders, were swept up into mass-arrests in just a few days span. The Republican National Committee leased an empty bus depot along the West Side Highway, which they converted into a concentration camp-style detention center dubbed "Guantanamo on the Hudson". Detainees were eventually processed through the New York City criminal justice system and held for as long as 50 and 60 hours in deplorable and unsafe conditions without seeing a judge or lawyer until the New York Supreme Court ordered their release. As with Miami and Washington D.C., in the aftermath, dozens of class action suits have been filed against the city.
In preparation for the January 20th , 2005 Presidential Inauguration, in what is supposed to be a "celebration" of Bush's "mandate" from the 2004 "election", Salon.com reports there will be 6,000 police (up from 4,000) and 2,500 combat troops in security roles (down from 4,000) in Washington DC the week of the Inauguration. In their daily briefing on January 13, 2005, FEMA (Federal Emergency & Management Agency) reports, "Inauguration Protests Planned and Expected", and goes on to state, "The demonstrators are likely to employ a mix of tactics in order to draw attention to themselves and their cause and to disrupt the events…Protest organizers, some of whom expressed outrage at the multimillion-dollar price tag for the inauguration, said they worried that heightened security will stifle dissent"
Are their concerns baseless? The evidence points clearly towards "no".
Freedom of expression and dissent are under assault across the nation. In his ongoing series, "The New McCarthyism", Progressive Editor Matthew Rothschild chronicles the abrogation of Civil Liberties experienced by everyday citizens across the nation. In the case of high school senior John Sachs who attended a Bush campaign rally wearing a pin that read "Bush-Cheney '04: Leave No Billionaire Behind", a Bush staffer pulled Sachs aside and told him, "know if you protest that it won't be me taking you out. It will be a sniper." Artists have their homes raided by the FBI for painting Bush in an unflattering light, and non-violent peace activists, including Quakers and nuns, are put on domestic "no-fly" lists for protesting the School of the Americas, a government funded institute which trains foreign soldiers, many of whom become "death squads", such as the Contra army in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
"The term 'terrorism' is taking on the same kind of characteristics as the term 'communism' did in the 1950s" said ACLU president Nadine Strossen. "It stops people in their tracks, and they're willing to give up their freedoms. People are too quickly panicked. They are too willing to give up their rights and to scapegoat people, especially immigrants and people who criticize the war."
Famed civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, quoting Clarence Darrow in his closing arguments for the Chicago Seven trial in 1970 said:
"When a truth comes upon the earth, or a great idea necessary for mankind is born, where does it come from? Not from the police force, or the prosecuting attorneys, or the judges, or the lawyers, or the doctors. Not there. It comes from the despised and the outcasts, and it comes perhaps from the jails and prisons. It comes from the men who have dared to be rebels and think their thoughts, and their faith has been the faith of rebels.
What do you suppose would have happened to the working men except for these rebels all the way down through history? Think of the complacent cowardly people who never raise their voices against the powers that be. If there had been only these, you gentlemen of the jury would be hewers of wood and drawers of water. You gentlemen would have been slaves. You gentlemen owe whatever you have and whatever you hope to these brave rebels who dared to think, and dared to speak, and dared to act."
Berkeley, January 2005
In the Shadow of the Yellow Star
by Ronnie Pontiac, Poet-in-Residence, Newtopia
So what if
I laughed when I followed orders?
Law and justice mean different things.
Rules are a concept anyone can understand.
Follow the rules or get punished, understand?
Law is the shadow of justice.
Order is the shadow of truth.
Empires in love with law and order, they say
are always brought down by justice and truth.
As long as I have the freedom to safely order fries
the law is a TV show to lull me to sleep after work
until the news and pharmaceutical commercials
invading my dreams wake me to change the channel.
For-profit private prisons half filled with third strike
provide cheap labor for corporations
and a steady stock for shareholders
despite numerous escapes and murders.
In the name of peace we scatter depleted
the way Rome sewed salt in the soil of Carthage.
In the name of law we kill local contractors
who won’t give the godfather his percentage.
The Order of the
Fraternity of a Dignified Eternity
siphons sweet crude and currencies, circulates guns and drugs,
meticulously performs ritual holiday charities;
officially grateful, ruthlessly brutal, in regard to disparities.
In the name
of the law they say a certain man would stand
at the entrance gate deciding which lost soul plucked
from some innocuous but treasured life would burn,
begging the question can heaven resemble Auschwitz?
Ronnie Pontiac is a Senior Editor for Newtopia co-managing the West Coast Bureau. He is the guitarist of Lucid Nation. In 1998 Peace Punks and Black Panthers copied and distributed thousands of copies of his homemade zine Eracism to gang truce centers and prisons in the western U.S. Editor of a collection of essays on Homer, and other scholarly works, Ronnie brings a unique combination of street and ivory tower to his Newtopia editorship.
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