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Mass Incarceration

Coming Home to Roost: American Militarism, War Culture, and Police Brutality

by Colin Jenkins

The endemic violence of a society born of genocide, slavery, misogyny and ruthless capitalism is institutionalized in modern American structures. “The equipment and machinery regularly utilized by local police forces across the US now mimics that of a war zone,” while the “violence that is perpetrated abroad mimics the violent culture at home” – an awesomely deadly cross-pollination.

Freedom Rider: State of the Union: Awful

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Do not expect honesty, accuracy, or even a semblance of reality from U.S. presidents’ reports on the State of the Union. Better to call it the State of Delusion address. So, skip the charade, here are the facts: “The state of the union is not very good for anyone except the ruling 1%.”

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 1/29/14

A Black-Green Alliance in Libya?

Reports of intense fighting in southern Libya against the NATO-installed regime indicate that “Green” supporters of the former Gaddafi government could form an alliance with Black Libyans, who have been subjected to murderous ethnic cleansing, said political analyst Eric Draitser, of StopImperialism.com. “As these two forces begin to fight back against these racist and imperialist puppets that run the country, we’re beginning to see a form of mass resistance. What form that ends up taking still remains to be seen,” said Draitser.

NSA is Like J. Edgar Hoover on Steroids

The recent report of the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which described the omnibus NSA spy program as unconstitutional, will make Congress “more responsive to the public outcry” against the Surveillance State, said Carl Messineo, legal director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “Public opinion polls are clear that a majority of Americans recognize that there has been an unacceptable loss of civil liberties in the so-called pursuit of anti-terrorism,” said Messineo. “This is J. Edgar Hoover’s intelligence program on steroids.”

Sexual Abuse Rampant in U.S. Prisons

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows continued high rates of sexual misconduct against inmates in the nations federal, state and local prisons and jails. However, only a very small proportion of cases lead to prosecutions of prison staff, said Chris Daley, deputy executive director of Just Detention International, a watchdog group. Most sexual abuse victims get no medical care, despite the fact that “the vast majority of facilities have medical folks on staff who, within about a 12-hour period, could easily provide both emergency care and collect evidence needed for prosecution” – but that rarely happens in U.S. prisons, said Daley.

NYC Police Commissioner Bratton is “War Criminal of Our Communities”

A father recently took his two daughters to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to hear Angela Davis and watch a film on political prisoners. Instead, the place was packed with “establishment Democratic Party speakers backslapping each other about [Mayor Bill] de Blasio’s election,” including Bill Bratton, de Blasio’s new police commissioner and an architect of stop-and-frisk. “I was aghast that this type of forum” during MLK week “would give a voice to this war criminal of our communities,” said Greg Butterfield, of New Yorkers Against Bratton.

Bring Mumia Home Campaign

The Fraternal Order of Police is spearheading a drive against former NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Debo Adegbile’s nomination as head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The LDF helped overturn the death sentence against Mumia Abu Jamal, in the killing of a Philadelphia policeman in 1981. Dr. Johanna Fernandez, professor of history at Baruch College and a member of Mumia’s defense team, said the FOP “distorts race to delegitimize the claims of Mumia Abu Jamal and all people who have been wrongly incarcerated by the state.”

Anthony Monteiro spoke in support of the Bring Mumia Home Campaign. “At some point, white America has to confront itself and its own contradictions,” he said. “It is not Mumia that they fear; it is the truth that Mumia represents.” Temple University has refused to renew Dr. Monteiro’s contract as a professor of African American Studies – in retaliation, many believe, for his political activism.

Amiri Baraka Eulogized by His Son

“My father was – IS – a revolutionary,” said Ras Baraka, in his eulogy for famed poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who died at age 79 in Newark, New Jersey. City councilman Ras Baraka is running for mayor of Newark.

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When Prisons Retaliate: California Inmates Still Paying Price for Demanding Rights

by Sarah Lazare

California prison inmates have held three hunger strikes and mass work stoppages in the last two years, protesting appalling conditions and the torture of solitary confinement. The state is striking back. "We've received letters around individual guards or groups of guards targeting people who participated in the strike.” As many as 30,000 inmates may face some form of retaliation.

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 9/23/13

Lynne Stewart Imprisonment Meant to “Chill” Defense Lawyers

New Justice Department guidelines on compassionate release from prison should, by all rights, apply to people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, serving a 10-year sentence for zealously defending her client, said David Gespass, former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Stewart suffers from Stage 4 breast cancer. “The only possible reason not to release her would be just pure vindictiveness,” said Gespass, an attorney practicing in Birmingham, Alabama. “I think her prosecution was a warning to defense lawyers that they should not do their jobs as vigorously as they are required constitutionally to do, particularly in cases involving allegations of so-called terrorism.”

October 22 Day of Protest Against Police Atrocities

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network will hold the 18th annual National Day of Protest to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation, said Carl Dix, a co-founder of the event. “If anything, it is even more relevant, today.” The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing “takes us back 150 years and more, to the Dred Scott Decision, when Black people were ruled to have no rights that white people are bound to respect,” said Dix.

October 24 is “Workers Demand a Raise Day”

The Baltimore Workers Assembly will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the federal minimum wage with demands that today’s minimum be raised to $15 an hour. “If wages had kept up with the cost of living since the first minimum wage was enacted, it would now be $15.23,” said organizer Karen Black. President Obama and other politicians have not been helpful in increasing workers’ paychecks. “That’s in part why we formed a workers assembly that can get a movement going to force these issues,” said Black.

Obamacare Would Still Leave U.S. Last in Developed World

Forty-eight million Americans are still without health insurance, and 48,000 of them die every year due to inadequate care, said Dr. David Himmelstein, of Physicians for a National Health Plan. “Billions and billions are drained out of the health care system by greedy insurance companies whose interest is in denying people care,” said Himmelstein, whose organization favors a Medicaid-for-All system. “Even if Obamacare works as planned, we’re still going to have 31 million people who won’t have coverage,” which means the U.S. health care system will remain “the worst in the developed world.”

The Incredibly Shrinking Welfare State

The remnants of the federal welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, “needs to be made more accessible,” said Timothy Casey, senior attorney for Legal Momentum. “Right now, two out of three families and children who are eligible don’t get any benefits.” Moreover, “benefits in every state are far below the official poverty level – typically less than half,” said Casey. Legal Momentum was formerly known as the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

U.S. Protects Purveyors of Genocide in Congo

Washington refuses to bring real pressures on Rwanda to halt its 17-year war and occupation of the eastern Congo, the “deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two, in which millions of Congolese have lost their lives,” said Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of Congo. “When you compare it to the way the U.S. has acted against Zimbabwe, or the way it’s been beating the war drums against Syria, the U.S. hasn’t brought substantial weight, whatsoever,” against its ally, Rwanda, said Carney.

Kenyans Say No to International Criminal Court

Both houses of Kenya’s parliament voted to sever ties with the International Criminal Court, which had previously indicted Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, the current president and deputy president of the country. “They had and election, and one of the major aspects of the campaign was, We can handle our problems ourselves and we don’t need the ICC,” said John Philpot, a Canadian attorney and expert on international criminal law who has defended clients before the ICC. Parliament’s action “was a good step,” said Philpot, “because the ICC is the right hand of military/political intervention” and only prosecutes Africans.

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Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 9/09/13

Syria is Opportunity to Build a Real Peace Movement

“They’ve handed this to us on a silver platter: an announced war,” said David Swanson, veteran peace activist and publisher of the influential web site WarIsACrime.org. “This is an opportunity to build an anti-war movement.” However, so-called “progressives” on Capitol Hill have proven to be of little use. “For the most part, the Progressive Caucus has reached a new low,” said Swanson. “Now they’re split, half pro-war and half anti-war. You’re not seeing leadership from the usual congresspeople. You see incredible deference to the president.”

Obama is Going Down

“England and Germany and other forces that have usually been reliable partners in crime have tried to distance themselves from this criminal war” that Obama plans against Syria, said Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the Black Is Back Coalition. The president’s domestic situation is also perilous. “It is difficult for many of the Negroes who have been in bed with Obama to continue this elicit affair. Obama stands the chance of going down in history as a war criminal.”

Deceitful War, American-Style

The U.S. routinely tells bald-faced lies to justify its military aggressions, said John Quigley, professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University. Quigley, author of Ruses for War: American Intervention Since World War Two, cites phony U.S. pretexts for war in the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1983), Sudan (1998), and Iraq (1993), not to mention the patently false basis for the Iraq invasion of 2003. Is the U.S. a rogue state? “In the sense of taking action that has no basis in international law, then I suppose” it is, said Prof. Quigley.

Lynne Stewart Critiques the “So-Called Left”

People’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, who is suffering from Stage Four breast cancer, will probably not benefit from Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent revisions of Bureau of Prisons regulations on compassionate release, since she is charged with terrorism, said Ralph Poynter, Stewart’s husband and comrade in struggle. Stewart “is very angry with what is happening in the so-called Left, who have neglected the struggle in the rest of the world,” said Poynter. “If we can’t get our minds around freeing our political prisoners, maybe all of our time has come.”

Misleadership Class in Deep Conflict with Black Masses

“I don’t believe there has ever been this wide and extensive a split between the Black elite and bourgeoisie, who are aligned through Obama to finance capital and American empire, and the broad masses” of African Americans, said Dr. Anthony Monteiro, professor of African American Studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University. Monteiro estimates the March on Washington commemoration, organized by traditional Black organizations in deep collaboration with the White House, drew only about 25,000 people. “The elite, the so-called leadership, is in trouble with the great masses of Black people.”

California Prisoners Suspend Hunger Strike

After nine weeks, inmates called a halt to the third hunger strike since 2011, without having forced California officials to accede to any of their major demands, most notably an end to the “torture” of long term solitary confinement. However, the struggle continues, according to Keith James, of the Stop Mass Incarceration Movement. “They are waging a protracted battle,” said James. “We really have to have these prisoners’ backs, because this torture is continuing." At its height, 30,000 inmates were involved in the protest.

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The Black Mis-Leaders' Love-Fest with Power on the Mall

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The commemoration of the March on Washington has been ruined. President Obama, the global assassin, protector of Wall Street, and reigning Great Mass Incarcerator, will star in the production on the National Mall. “Dr. Martin Luther King serves as a mere prop in the ceremony.” In their embrace of Power, the organizers have desecrated the Black American legacy of struggle.

America’s Disappeared

by Chris Hedges

When three guys go missing in the ghetto, it’s an ordinary event. The criminal justice system is a body-snatcher. “In America, when you are poor, you can instantly disappear into the subterranean rabbit holes of our vast jail and prison complex.”

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 7/29/13

Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 7/29/13

 

Trayvon Protests Should Lead to Movement Against Racial Surveillance

If there is to be a mass movement against racial profiling, “we’ve got to talk about the War on Drugs and decriminalization and legalization; we’ve got to talk about the surveillance state, where the government at the local and the national level profiles you every day of your life,” said South Carolina activist and author Kevin Alexander Gray. “We’ve got to talk about the idea that the only people that are being required to show something to prove that they are not guilty of something are people of color in this country – and we’ve got to figure out a way to fight back.” Gray is author of The Fundamentals of Black Politics.

Obama Approval Rating Drops Among Blacks

A recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows Black approval of President Obama dipped to 78 percent following George Zimmerman’s murder acquittal. “It’s a perceptual shift, a big-time shift in how Black people are perceiving Obama when it comes to being responsive to the needs of our community,” said Dr. Johnny Williams, professor of sociology at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut. The president’s high praise for New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, who runs the nation’s biggest stop-and-frisk operation, as a potential new chief of Homeland Security “speaks to where Obama is, morally,” said Williams. “How are you going to put somebody who, basically, does the same thing that George Zimmerman did to Trayvon Martin, in charge of Homeland Security?”

White Reaction to Zimmerman Verdict Disturbing

An ABC News-Washington Post poll showing two-thirds of whites think Trayvon Martin’s killing was justifiable, is a measure of the “separateness in perspective that reflects very real, savage, and profound, literal segregation” of the races in America, said historian and activist Paul Street. “That’s a lot more than just the segment of the white population that’s Republican or Tea Party,” said Street, author of The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama and the Real World of Power. “There’s a lot of Democrats in there, and that probably includes a whole bunch of ‘liberals.’ This isn’t just about cracker whites in the South.”

NSA Vote Shows Hope in Face of Fascist Trends

The narrow defeat of a U.S. House bill to halt wholesale NSA spying on Americans’ telephone calls was “a tactical loss but a strategic victory” for the rule of law, said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He warned of the rise of “fascist principles” in the U.S., including “collusion between the corporate private sector and the government sector to abuse fundamental rights,” and “xenophobia and militarism…vilifying the Other, within our country, justifying international belligerence towards other countries.”

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Obama Supports the Racial Surveillance That Killed Trayvon

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

In his effort to “put the angry Black genie back in the bottle” following George Zimmerman’s acquittal, President Obama once again claimed to oppose racial profiling. He’s lying. Obama has endorsed the most prolific racial profiler in the country as a potential head of Homeland Security. The president is a bulwark of the system that targets millions of Trayvon Martins.

The Obama Project and the Politics of Race

by Paul Street

The president expended 2,600 words to create the illusion of deep personal identification with the contemporary African American condition. But, in fact, Obama “has been actively hostile to the notion that the government ought to do anything to correct or even acknowledge racial oppression and inequality in the U.S.”

Obama's Trayvon Speech: Massa Trying to Keep the Slaves on the Plantation by Acknowledging Their Pain

by Carl Dix

President Obama’s attempt to diffuse Black rage in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal is rooted in deception. “The fact is, Barack Obama has played a major role in the further demonization of Black youth.”

Hunger Strike in the Empire of Dungeons

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Thousands of inmates are pitting their bodies against the State of California, which is determined to reduce them to “non-persons, groveling masses of flesh.” But the Incarceration State “is not in the habit of acting in good faith, even with the judicial branch of government, on prison matters, much less negotiating with inmates.”

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Listen to Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 7/17/13

Obama Turns Federal Workers Into Snitches

President Obama’s “Insider Threat Program,” which profiles potential whistleblowers in the federal workforce, “is straight out of fascist models of government and behavior,” said Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, of the No FEAR Coalition. Obama’s executive order requires federal managers and employees to view as “suspect” workers that are under stress, going through divorce, or experiencing money problems. “I think the Obama administration views whistleblowers as terrorists,” said Coleman-Adebayo. “Therefore, he’s put the Gestapo on us.”

WalMart Vs. DC City Council

Lots of folks would be happy if WalMart makes good on its threat to cancel plans for three stores in Washington, DC, and halt construction of three others. The low-wage retailer is balking at compliance with a DC City Council bill compelling WalMart to pay $12.50 an hour, as opposed to the local $8.25 minimum wage. “The effects on small businesses and homeowners within a ten-block radius of their stores is devastating,” said anti-WalMart activist Assantawaa Nkrumah Toure. “Even at $12.50 an hour, if you have a 40-hour work week, that’s still not enough to live on in a city like Washington, DC, where the average one-bedroom apartment can be $1,200 a month.”

Newark Activists: “Hands Off Social Security”

Newark, New Jersey-based Peoples Organization for Progress holds its seventh demonstration against President Obama’s planned cuts in Social Security benefits, with a 25-hour vigil on Tuesday at the agency’s Newark offices. “We say to the Obama administration and the Republicans in Congress, ‘Hands Off Social Security,’” said POP chairman Larry Hamm. “For folks on fixed incomes,” the projected yearly loss of “$500 or $600 is a lot of money, and could be the difference between eating and not eating, or not being able to get a prescription filled.”

California Hunger Strike Gains Traction

“You’ve got 30,000 people putting their lives on the line, refusing to eat because of the tortuous conditions that are forced on them by the state of California,” said Carl Dix, of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.” The hunger strike was called by inmates in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay. A Center for Constitution Rights lawsuit claims lengthy solitary confinement constitutes torture. “However,” said Dix, “the State of California has shown that it is willing to ignore even court orders to do anything about conditions in prison.”

Socialists Offer “Alternatives”

“The people of Seattle are well to the left of the city establishment,” said Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative candidate for the Seattle city council. Sawant won 27 percent of the vote in a run for the Washington state legislature, last year. Socialist Alternative candidates are also running for city council in Boston and Minneapolis. “What we’re trying to show is that the political space that is currently fully dominated by corporate interests and the wealthy can be taken over by grassroots representatives, by movements.”

What Happened to Malcolm’s Grandson in Mexico?

Hundreds of Mexico City police attacked hunger strikers protesting the killing of Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, allegedly in a robbery, in May. The protesters, Black expatriates that have settled in Mexico, believe Shabazz was murdered by police. Their U.S. liaison, Dr. Randy Short, said “Mexico is known for being a notoriously bigoted and racist society.” The Shabazz family has only recently asked for help in finding out what happened to 28 year-old Malcolm, said Dr. Short.

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Rise Up or Die

by Chris Hedges

As more and more of the nation is transformed into “sacrifice zones” like Detroit and Camden, New Jersey, with civil liberties stripped bare, the biosphere pushed to the point of no return, and the corporate security estate triumphant, “it is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare.”

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