That's how long Matthew Duran has been in federal prison—the SeaTac Federal Detention Facility—for refusing to cooperate with a federal grand jury which was, ostensibly, going to ask him about people who might have been involved with this year's May Day protests. (We don't know what the jury was actually going to ask because 1. grand juries are secret and 2. Duran showed up but refused to cooperate, so didn't get very far into the process.)
Duran has now broken a record—though he hasn't been accused of a crime, he's been sitting in custody longer than the only person who was actually arrested and sentenced for May Day-related vandalism. (Cody Ingram was arrested on May 3 and sentenced on June 13 to time served.) Katherine “KteeO” Olejnik is also in SeaTac FDC with Duran for the same reason, and is just a few days shy of his record.
In other grand jury-related news: Leah-Lynn Plante was released without explanation earlier this month and another subpoena was issued last week to Olympia resident Matthew "Maddy" Pfeiffer, who was ordered to appear before the grand jury on Nov 7, 2012.
And for those of you who despise political vandalism, and see no reason to think too much about this situation, comment 22 on this story is trying to tell you something:
The issue here is not whether this young woman has information that would lead to the indictment of a brave group of stick-wielding, attention-starved chumps. The issue is the bastardization of the Grand Jury system and the need to either fix it or jettison the entire mess. The Grand Jury was wisely introduced to U.S. courts with the intent of protecting citizens against unfair prosecution, but they have morphed into a modern-day version of the Spanish Inquisition - exactly the opposite of the founding fathers intent. The U.S. is the only nation remaining that maintains the Grand Jury system and its continued use is an embarrassment.
For more about this grand jury controversy, and grand juries in general, see here.
Last night, Portland resident Leah-Lynn Plante spent the first of what could be a year and half's worth of nights in prison for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury about people she might know who might have been involved with the political vandalism on May Day.
That's a lot of nights for a few mights.
Plante has not been charged with a crime—in fact, the court granted her immunity from prosecution, meaning she could not invoke her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent—but she could serve time until the expiration of this grand jury. During the open portion of yesterday's hearings, Judge Richard A. Jones told Plante that might last until March of 2014.
Plante is the third person to be sent to the SeaTac Federal Detention Facility for refusing to testify in this matter. At her sentencing yesterday, around 40 supporters and activists—mostly dressed in black—sat in the federal courtroom while extra security, from the US Marshals and the Department of Homeland Security, stood by. As she was sentenced, and federal marshals prepared to take her away, Judge Jones reminded her that "you hold the keys to your freedom" and that she could be released at any time if she chose to "exercise your right to provide testimony."
It was an odd turn of phrase—the same judge who, that morning, legally blocked her from exercising her Fifth Amendment right was sending her to federal detention for not exercising a "right." The 40 or so supporters in the courtroom stood solemnly as she was led away. "I love you," Plante said to the crowd, as marshals escorted her through a back door. "We love you!" some people in the crowd said. The security men looked tense for a moment, their eyes bright and their jaws clenched, ready for action. Then everyone walked out quietly, without incident.
The only federal defendant to be sentenced for an actual May Day-related crime so far—damaging a door of a federal courthouse during the smashup—was arrested in early May and sentenced, in mid-June, to time served.
Which brings up a pointed question: Why was the only federally identified May Day vandal sentenced to time served (about a month) while people granted immunity from prosecution—Plante says government attorneys don't dispute that she wasn't even in Seattle on May Day—are looking down the barrel of 18 months in federal custody? Why is a person who might know something about a crime, but steadfastly insists she has her right to remain silent, facing more severe punishment (about 18 times more severe) than the person who was sentenced for actually committing that crime?*
Minutes before Plante's hearing, her attorney Peter Mair sat, brow furrowed, in a courthouse lobby. Mair worked for years as a federal prosecutor—he's indicted the Speaker of the House of Representatives and prosecuted mobsters and corrupt government officials, and is familiar with the workings of federal grand juries.
But given the way government attorneys are using grand juries now, he said, "you could indict a ham sandwich. Defense attorneys are not allowed in, other witnesses are not allowed in... They're going to send this poor girl off to prison for a year and a half. And the great irony is that the one guy who pleaded guilty to the crime served—what? Forty days?"
That's how long Olympia resident Matt Duran has been held at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury, ostensibly about the political vandalism on May Day. (Since grand juries are secret and Duran did not cooperate, we can't know for sure.)
Tomorrow morning, Portland resident Leah-Lynn Plante will face a federal grand jury for the third time. (We wrote about her first go-round back in August.)
Why has she shown up before, refused to testify, and not been sent to the federal detention center like Duran and Katherine Olejnik (who is also being held)? Plante says she's not entirely sure, but thinks that, in part, she had "run out the clock" during her initial hearing by frequently leaving the stand to consult with her attorney, who had to stay outside of the room during the proceedings. Plante says that attorneys for the state have already admitted they know she wasn't in Seattle on May Day and granted her immunity. Nevertheless, she expects she'll be detained tomorrow.
How long could she be held? "At the open hearing on Mr. Duran's contempt status," says Emily Langlie of the US Attorney's office, "the benchmark of 18 months was discussed in open court."
How is Plante preparing for her possible detention? "Oh, I'm just tying up my loose ends," she says. "The good thing and the bad thing is that my cat died before my house got raided. So at least I don't have to worry about that."
Plante will show up for hearings at the federal courthouse (7th and Stewart) at 9 am and 1 pm. Some local activists are planning to show up, too.
At least three people have appeared before the grand jury after a series of raids and subpoenas issued in July. The warrants for the raids listed black clothes, sticks, paint, notebooks, and "anti-government or anarchist literature or material" among the items to search for.
Two of the three—Matt Duran and Katherine “KteeO” Olejnik—are currently imprisoned at the SeaTac FDC for refusing to cooperate. The third, Leah-Lynn Plante, who prosecutors admit was not in Seattle on May Day, remains free.
Duran had a hearing last week. Some eyewitness details from nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com:
... Matt’s lawyer took the floor to explain Matt’s current conditions and intentions. Here is an abridged and bullet-point list of issues and information brought up by Matt’s lawyer in court —
Matt is in Solitary Confinement (the Secure Housing Unit) which means …
+ he has very little access to phone
+ he has been denied the ability to initiate contact with attorney
+ he has been denied visitor request forms
+ he has been denied vegan food (has access to vegetarian options and commissary items)
+ he has no way of socializing within the prison
+ he has no access to sunlight, fresh air or an untinted window to the outdoors
Even under these conditions, Matt has no intention of changing his mind or strategy. Matt’s lawyer explained that Matt will be at peace no matter where he is within the prison. She said that he would like to socialize and play chess with other inmates, but is content where he is. He has a clock radio and a couple of romance novels the prison gave him upon arrival.
The local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has urged the FBI and US Attorney Jenny Durkan to drop the subpoenas, arguing:
While grand juries are part of our federal criminal justice system, the grand jury was intended to serve as a protector of people’s rights and should not be used as a mechanism for intimidating those who speak out against social and economic injustice in our society. “Movements and individuals working for social change in the United States have historically been at the receiving end of grand juries being used to harass political activism,” said Neil Kelley, an officer of the Seattle NLG.
Throughout the process, Emily Langlie from the US Attorney's office has reiterated: "We do not prosecute people for their political beliefs."
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Manhattan's financial district early Monday to mark the 1-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement — choking traffic and crowding the area around the New York Stock Exchange but being met at most turns by walls of police who stopped them from occupying anything.
Many thanks to the cops who blasted peaceful protesters with pepper spray in those early days for making OWS blow up nationally (and condolences to the peaceful protesters who took eyesfull of the stuff). I don't think you can look back at those demonstrations without acknowledging that they've changed the type of conversations America has about wealth and taxation since. But, man, I don't think you can look at some of the megalomaniacal dipshits who, mistakenly, thought it was supposed to be about fighting with cops without seeing that they also drove those protests—and a lot of long-term public support with them—right into the ground.
A month ago, I met Leah-Lynn Plante, a Portland woman who had been summoned before a federal grand jury in Seattle—without an attorney present, which is how grand juries work—ostensibly to testify about the May Day smashup during which a federal courthouse was vandalized.
But we don't know what, exactly, the grand jury wanted to know—she came to Seattle, but refused to testify. She was told to come back today and has returned, along with several dozen demonstrators.
Plante was not in Seattle on May Day, and she says the prosecutors know that—but she is a self-described anarchist. Her house was raided by the FBI, part of a series of raids in Seattle and Portland by local and federal law-enforcement officials, who, according to the warrants, were looking for items such as black clothing, sticks, paint, computers, cell phones, and "anti-government or anarchist literature or material."
"The assumption that this is about broken windows on a courthouse is a false one," she said in an interview on the courthouse steps this afternoon. "This is a witch hunt."
Emily Langlie, from the US Attorney's office, disagrees—this afternoon, she reiterated that "we do not prosecute people for their political beliefs."
Jacob Appelbaum lives in Seattle and has been heavily involved in the Tor project and and is the only known American member of the Wikileaks project. A few months ago, he gave a revealing interview about domestic spying, electronic (in)security, and more with n+1.
Resnick: What should we know about cell phones? It’s hard to imagine going to a protest without one. But like all networked technologies, surely they are double-edged?
Appelbaum: Cell phones are tracking devices that make phone calls. It’s sad, but it’s true. Which means software solutions don’t always matter. You can have a secure set of tools on your phone, but it doesn’t change the fact that your phone tracks everywhere you go. And the police can potentially push updates onto your phone that backdoor it and allow it to be turned into a microphone remotely, and do other stuff like that. The police can identify everybody at a protest by bringing in a device called an IMSI catcher. It’s a fake cell phone tower that can be built for 1500 bucks. And once nearby, everybody’s cell phones will automatically jump onto the tower, and if the phone’s unique identifier is exposed, all the police have to do is go to the phone company and ask for their information...
Resnick: Okay, so one thing I’ve heard more than once at meetings when security culture comes up is that . . . well, there’s a sense that too much precaution grows into (or comes out of) paranoia, and paranoia breeds mistrust—and all of it can be paralyzing and lead to a kind of inertia. How would you respond to something like that?
Appelbaum: The people who that say that—if they’re not cops, they’re feeling unempowered. The first response people have is, whatever, I’m not important. And the second is, they’re not watching me, and even if they were, there’s nothing they could find because I’m not doing anything illegal. But the thing is, taking precautions with your communications is like safe sex in that you have a responsibility to other people to be safe—your transgressions can fuck other people over. The reality is that when you find out it will be too late. It’s not about doing a perfect job, it’s about recognizing you have a responsibility to do that job at all, and doing the best job you can manage, without it breaking down your ability to communicate, without it ruining your day, and understanding that sometimes it’s not safe to undertake an action, even if other times you would. That’s the education component.
So security culture stuff sounds crazy, but the technological capabilities of the police, especially with these toolkits for sale, is vast. And to thwart that by taking all the phones at a party and putting them in a bag and putting them in the freezer and turning on music in the other room—true, someone in the meeting might be a snitch, but at least there’s no audio recording of you.
Last week, while I was down at the federal courthouse working on this story, a man (youngish) and a woman (not-so-youngish) approached me about the first-ever Everything for Everyone festival—a free, two-day event with music, lectures, workshops, etc. this weekend.
The young man, Blake Pendergrass, said the EFE festival was the first of its kind in the country and they'd have people coming in from Occupy communities in Chicago, Oakland, New York, and many other cities.
Saturday's events will happen in Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill—which the EFE festival is temporarily renaming "Sally Hemmings" Park—and its centerpiece event will be a panel called "Beyond the Gaystream: Why Equality Does Not Equal Liberation." Sunday's events will happen at Seattle First Baptist Church on First Hill and its main event, at 4 pm, sounds like the most incendiary one: "From Down with Mubarak to Down with the 1%, a Discussion of Strategy and Revolution."
That session, Pendergrass told me, would be a conversation/debate between the moderate-liberals who support Occupy and the radicals: a heated subject in Seattle since the Occupy movement first erupted.
It says something about our city—though I'm not exactly sure what—that these camps exchange so much vitriol. The Occupy movement in Oakland, for example, seems more unabashedly radical. OWS in New York seemed to get those two centers of gravity to peacefully coexist in a cosmopolitan, New York way. But in Seattle, the moderates and the radicals have been at each other's throats.
I'll be out of town, but if I could attend one event at the Everything for Everyone festival, it would be Sunday at 4 pm. The whole schedule is here.
Last Friday evening, I was on my to Intiman to see their opening-night production of Romeo and Juliet (which Charles will review in this week's paper) when I saw barricades all around the Seattle Police Department's east precinct at 12th and Pine. A small phalanx of officers on foot and on horseback hung out behind them. One officer said an "anarchist" march was on its way up and they wanted to be prepared.
When the 150 or so marchers arrived and saw the barricades, they turned and made their way to the Central District, followed by a large contingent of bike officers and several police cars. The march seemed mostly focused on protesting last week's raid on known activists and baiting police officers. There were the usual chants: "Cops and SWAT teams, we don't need 'em, all we want is total freedom!" And: "A!C!A!B!/all cops are bastards!"* Some guys dressed as clowns capered around, mooning officers and screeching: "Shoo! Shoo!"
At some point in the Central District, protesters said they'd just noticed two or three guys, dressed all in black, join the march. The newcomers spooked the some of the demonstrators, who accused them of being police infiltrators. That's not unheard of: Since the May Day smashup, some folks have been approached by the FBI and asked to provide information about the protest community. Last month, for example, a 27 year-old named Kellenn Linell said he was approached at his construction job by two FBI agents who, he said, told him: "We’re hoping we can show you some pictures of people in the Black Bloc. We think you’re friends with them." Linell declined.**
On Friday, protesters said the few young men appeared out of nowhere, were unfamiliar to everyone at the small march, and that their clothes looked suspiciously new—like central casting's version of an anarchist protester. Not that that proves anything, but it set some folks on edge.
I caught up with one, who said his name was Rico.
The debate that people in Seattle (police officers, journalists, activists, Sloggers) have been having since the May Day smashup is kicking up again in the comments on this post about an SPD raid this morning that recovered some articles of clothing and some political pamphlets.
Some say a SWAT-serviced search warrant to find smashistas is completely legitimate. Some say it is an overreaction. Some don't understand why it's a big deal one way or the other.
My two-part, double-edged question:
Were I to walk down a random street tonight and throw a stone through a window, how many police resources would be devoted to catching me? (My guess is not much.) Were I to walk down a random street tonight and throw a stone through a business window, then spray-paint an anarchy symbol on the adjacent window, how many police resources would be devoted to catching me? (My guess is more—and that investigation might rope in the FBI, Washington State Patrol, perhaps even the military.)
Why is politically motivated vandalism so much scarier than—and demanding so much more response than—random vandalism?
Because it's more embarrassingly high-profile? Because it's actually more dangerous? If the latter, more dangerous to whom? Or to what?
(Dom posted about this earlier today, but here are a few more details.)
At approximately 5:45 am this morning, L was sleeping in bed with his girlfriend, in his Central District apartment. (L spoke with me before speaking to an attorney, so I've agreed to leave his name out of it until he consults one.) The apartment is on the third story of an old house that's been partitioned off into apartment units.
Around that time, he heard a bang near the main, first-floor entrance. "My first instinct," he said, "was that it was Fourth of July and we were hearing fireworks." Then he says he heard from below: "This is the Seattle Police Department." He hadn't heard fireworks. He'd heard police kicking down his door and throwing flash-bang grenades into the house.
So L crawled out of bed, put on some pants, and knelt on the floor with his hands behind his head—before the police even entered his apartment. L wasn't surprised. He's been a participant in the Occupy events, anarchist circles, and the May Day protests (which thousands of people attended, including myself, in a professional capacity). And in the past few weeks, such people have been visited by FBI agents—who asked them to become informants—and had their houses raided and their telephones confiscated, presumably for social-mapping purposes.
L had heard these stories and was expecting a visit sooner or later. "We knew that SWAT teams tend to come in with automatic guns," he said, "and nobody wanted to test the trigger-happiness of Seattle cops." So they got down on their knees.
UPDATE: Slog tipper Sean writes, "The 500 block of 3rd Ave. is currently blocked by protesters lying down. SPD are standing by, pretty relaxed. The sign says 'destroy all prisons.' Unclear if anyone here will be visiting one soon, although that looks like what they're pushing for."
Original post at 11:48 PM:
A group loosely associated with Occupy Seattle will bang pots and pans outside a decrepit juvenile justice center in the Central District before embarking on an unpermitted march downtown early this afternoon to try shutting down traffic outside the King County Courthouse.
Spokesman Duff Badgley says they want voters to reject Prop 1 on the August 7 ballot that seeks funding for a new youth corrections facility. "It is a failure to build a new quarter-billion-dollar jail to rip off the taxpayers," he says. "It goes from bad to worse, because it perpetuates the system that funnels youth into jail." Juvenile offenders are disproportionately nonwhite, he continues. The protesters will hold a "noise demonstration" with pots, pans, and drums to show solidarity with the inmates.
If approved, the ballot measure would raise $208 million in property taxes over nine years, finally replacing a toxic, dilapidated youth courthouse and outdated jail with a new courthouse and detention center that actually has fewer beds than the existing one. (The old center has 210 beds, but thanks to a slew of contemporary diversion programs, treatment programs, and innovative pilots to keep kids out of jail, the new facility only needs to have about 154 beds.)
Still, that downsizing is not enough, Badgly says.
Dollar bills came swirling down just after 5 p.m. at Seventh Avenue and Pike Street, to the delight of tourists. The money was stamped "money as speech silences us all," a statement of protest against court rulings that consider political donations from businesses a form of free speech.
Stuart Smithers—a professor of religion at the University of Puget Sound and occasional Stranger contributor—has a provocative article in Adbusters about Buddhism, Marxism, and why some people react so anxiously/defensively when they hear arguments that capitalism is not, in fact, inevitable—and may, in fact, come to an end.
Also discussed: cubicles, a post-work world, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, "well-dressed hungry ghosts," John Maynard Keynes, Occupy Wall Street, and JPMorgan Chase's $4.6 million contribution to the NYPD (to "strengthen security") during the months when OWS organizers were readying for the occupation of 1 Chase Plaza:
When the Dalai Lama announced his Marxist leanings last summer in Minneapolis, the only surprise was how surprising it was. The blogosphere was once again stirred up by this non-revelation...
There have been few silver linings to the Great Recession and America’s own “jobless” recovery, but Marx’s return is certainly one of them. Marxists are stepping out of the academic closet in greater numbers, and new life is being breathed into his ideas. Capital is a dish best served cold.
It was either Fredric Jameson or Slavoj Zizek (nobody seems totally clear on the point) who first suggested that it’s easier for people to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. It was definitely Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of Britain who insisted that the world needed to realize that THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE (TINA) to capitalism.
The current version of Marxist amnesia stems partly from the sudden demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the remarkable transformation of the economic culture in China. As the Soviet Union was collapsing, Margaret Thatcher repeatedly declared that liberal democracy and capitalism had triumphed over communism and the historical struggle between the two political systems was over—capitalism, as the last man standing, was the only viable ideology.
But the declared death of Marxism and communism—and the eternal triumph of capital—was perhaps just a wee bit premature...
Good lord. From CNN.com:
"Rallies and marches just aren't working anymore," said Tom Dodge, 58, a postal truck driver from the Baltimore area who has participated in several marches and rallies to save post offices. "It's time to take a stand on this. The post office is a part of our Constitution."
The hunger strikers want the Postal Service to shelve its July plans to start closing or consolidating 48 mail processing plants. By the end of 2014, when the plan to shrink the postal network is completed, 229 plants will be consolidated or closed and 28,000 jobs will be gone.
They also want Congress to eliminate a mandate that has been a major financial drag on the service — annual $5.5 billion payments to prefund health care benefits for future retirees. The strikers say say eliminating the mandate would solve the Postal Service's financial problems.
It's a three-day strike, staring today and ending Thursday. It's not a Gandhi/Bobby Sands-level hunger strike, but when US federal employees are hunger-striking at all, you know the system is troubled. The postal service was short $5.1 billion last year and would technically be in the black if not for the mandated payments.
Locally, three postal workers will also hunger-strike in solidarity. The schedule for their rallies (in Seattle, Olympia, Vancouver, Pasco, and Wenatchee) is below the jump.
One of the best things about Occupy Wall Street was that they quickly and efficiently set up their own library. One of the worst things about New York City's response to OWS was the way they handled that library:
The Occupy Wall Street movement and OWS librarians have sued New York City in federal court over the destruction of the Occupy Wall Street Library during a late-night raid on Zuccotti Park.
The suit names mayor Michael Bloomberg, police commissioner Ray Kelly and sanitation commissioner John Doherty.
[The suit reads in part:] “We believe that the raid and its aftermath violated our First-Amendment rights to free expression, Fourth-Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure, and Fourteenth-Amendment rights to due process, as well as the laws of the City of New York regarding the vouchsafing of seized property."
This will for sure be an interesting case to watch.
Recall this post, Marxist and Anarchist Discuss the Right to the City, which is a video of a conversation between David Harvey and David Graeber:
3) [Graeber, an anthropologist and one of the founders of the OWS makes this comment] at the very end of the conversation [with David Harvey, a geographer]: The police officers who faced and repressed Occupy protestors in New York were actually worried about being identified because they feared their credit cards and bank accounts would be hacked by activists. Maybe American cops can learn a thing or two from drug enforcers in Mexico.
With this in mind, let's turn to Chicago, a city that's hosting a NATO Summit:
In a cruel hoax, someone called a Chicago police supervisor’s wife on Monday and said her husband had been shot to death — although he hadn’t, a police source said.What this exposes is the class status of American police officers. They are homeowners, money savers, the builders and maintainers of good credit. They are middle class, and so their fears are middle-class fears: corruption of loan and banking information, destruction credit rating, disruption of credit access and flows. In the eyes of a cop, a bank robber becomes a piece of cake when placed next to this viper, the cyber-activists.
The person then “called back to say they were coming to kill her,” the source said.
The supervisor had been involved in media interviews discussing the police department’s NATO Summit protection, and authorities suspect the threat was related to his presence in the media.
Investigators are trying to find out who made the call. The police source initially linked the threat to a cyber attack on the city’s website, saying information about officers was feared stolen in the attack.
David Harvey is the Marxist; David Graeber is the anarchist. Harvey's is a georgrapher; Graeber is an anthropologist. Harvey's masterpiece is The Limits of Capital; Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years.
1) In this moment of radical intervention, what links the students to the working class is the nature of their debt. Students, like working-class homeowners, have a debt they can't remove or reduce. The unrelated groups, therefore, are bonded by the stubbornness of their debt.
2) Democracy has its roots in the aristocratic classes. In this way, you must see democracy as a kind of shark fin soup—something that was once for the rich and is now available to larger and larger sections of the public. The implication of this? Democracy as it's currently practiced might be bad as a whole because it's bad to begin with. (Graeber makes a similar argument for the state, whose root is violence.) The solution? A democracy that is like a lottery or jury duty.
3) This comment is made at the very end of the conversation: The police officers who faced and repressed Occupy protestors in New York were actually worried about being identified because they feared their credit cards and bank accounts would be hacked by activists. Maybe American cops can learn a thing or two from drug enforcers in Mexico.
Say what you will about choreographer Donald Byrd—and he's been lauded and heavily criticized by myself and Jen Graves and others at The Stranger over the years. But tonight he achieved something I've never, ever seen before with his free and outdoor performance of Miraculous Mandarin, a Bela Bartok ballet that Byrd has updated to be about modern-day drug dealers and a woman caught in the middle of their cash and dope and violence.
Byrd—and his Spectrum Dance Theater—performed it in a vacant space in a building in the International District, with viewers standing outside in the rain in Hing Hay park, watching it through the windows. We can discuss the choreography at another time, but right now I want to talk about audience reaction. Hing Hay is a hub of drug-dealing and sex work (neither of which I'm opposed to on principle—it's just a fact). I hung back by the corner, away from the folding chairs, to see how the dealers and the sex workers would deal with this intrusion on their marketplace.
The dealers (four or five African-American men, one Latino) were initially mesmerized by the African-American woman dancer doing sexy moves with the male dancers behind the second-floor windows, but they soon got down to business—there were too many people, too many disruptions, and after a brief meeting, they agreed to go sling their product on a corner across the street for the next few hours.
The lady sex workers were a different story. They were still soliciting, but some were torn between the performance (about a battle between dealers and how a lady is caught in the middle) and their business. I overheard one conversation between an older black woman and a middle-aged white woman that went like this:
As if you needed to know...
Why Wall Street fears a Socialist leader
...and then I'll shut up about it. For now. (Also! Very important disclaimer! I do not advocate window-smashing as a form of political expression, and especially not when that window-smashing involves a private home with children inside. But if we're going to write about and think about this stuff, I think we should do it right.)
First. Recognizing a linguistic and moral distinction between smashing a window and smashing a person is hugely important to me*. Judging from the comments on my post and Eli's post, it seems like some of you regard the distinction as blurry—which is surprising, but there you go. Because I prefer a strong distinction, I like the World Health Organization's definition of violence:
The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.
And I prefer precision and non-sensationalism in our language, saying "violence" when we mean violence and "vandalism" when we mean vandalism.
Some of you have said that vandalism always implies violence, but I disagree. If the demonstrators wanted to hit defenseless people with sticks, they would've. (They certainly had the opportunity.) Eli writes: "Was the intent of yesterday's window-smashing simply vandalism? Was the smashing of Mayor Mike McGinn's windows last night just property destruction? I don't think so."
Um... why not? What evidence indicates that people wanted to hurt other people? There was recklessness and the chance of accidental injury, but we have zero indication that any demonstrators wanted to hurt people.** Based on what I saw on May 1 and my conversations with demonstrators, they did exactly what they intended to do, no more and no less.
Second. This comment on Eli's post speaks volumes about "violence" vs. "vandalism":
If I am not secure in my property, then I cannot feel secure in my person. Violence directed at property is an implicit threat of violence directed at a person.
So... are banks that foreclose on homes and farms and repossess property committing acts of violence on American families? I wouldn't say so. But this line of thinking points in that direction.
I don't want to distract too much from the point of what Brendan wrote earlier today. The point, as I understood it, was to explain what might have been going through the heads of some of the property-destroyers at the Seattle May Day rallies, and I'm as curious as anyone to know what was on their minds. It's a worthwhile question to ask. We shouldn't be afraid to ask it, even if it takes us to uncomfortable places.
That said, and having read what Brendan wrote a couple times, I still don't think we know for sure what actually was on their minds. We don't hear from any of yesterday's property-destroyers in Brendan's post, as far as I can tell, and they haven't issued any explanatory communiques, as far as I know, so for now it's all conjecture—and possibly, as Brendan says, retroactive "justification."
I hope we hear the rationale for yesterday's "Black Bloc" actions, from the actors themselves. Meantime, there are a few points that Brendan makes that I really don't agree with.
For starters, it seems to me that anarchists and journalists should be among the last people telling anyone what words they can and cannot use. I used the word "violence" to describe what was going on in downtown Seattle yesterday, so did a lot of other people, and I don't see it as inaccurate.
Maybe Brendan's suggestions—"vandalism" or "targeted property destruction"—constitute more precise descriptions, but they have their problems, too. If we can only call the destruction of property "vandalism" or "property destruction," then we don't allow ourselves to enter the realm of how that vandalism or destruction is perceived (or is intended to be perceived).
Was the intent of yesterday's window-smashing simply vandalism? Was the smashing of Mayor Mike McGinn's windows last night just property destruction? I don't think so. In any case, both are violently disruptive (not necessarily a problem in the abstract) and come with the distinct connotation that further violence is possible and even desired (this is where the real violence lies, from my point of view).
Also, as a number of commenters have pointed out, not calling these types of actions violent in other contexts—window smashing by the KKK is perhaps the easiest to imagine for these purposes—would be, well, immoral.
So if Brendan is concerned about degrading the power of the word violence, then I'm listening. But when he constructs the following moral argument to tell me when I can and cannot use the word violence, I recoil:
"Smashing a window is not violence, it's vandalism," he writes. "There is a difference—unless you think of people as the moral equivalent of property."
Filmed yesterday at 1:23 p.m. at Seattle's Westlake Center during the 2012 May Day protests
TREELICKER: "I dunno what the fuck they're doing." [points at protesters]
BOY WITH CAMERA: "So you're NOT part of the protest at all?"
TREELICKER: "I don't fuckin' do that..." [back at tree, caressing it] "It's the way I do it man, both hands..." [boy walks away]
TREELICKER: "It's my honey locust."
Still reveling in the victory of a well-executed police response, this afternoon the Seattle Police Department released the identities of the eight people arrested during yesterday's tense, anarchy-riddled May Day protests.
Twenty-year-old Jack Tierney was arrested at 4th and Pike for carrying a four-inch hunting knife; 23-year-old Cody R. Ingram was arrested at the federal courthouse on 6th and University for malicious mischief; 23-year-old Robert Dietrani was arrested at 1st and Pike for spitting on an officer; 30-year-old Maria J Morales was arrested at 1st and Pike for punching an officer; Joshua A Garland, arrested at 1st and Pike for grabbing an officer; 29-year-old Charles C Conatzer, arrested for pedestrian interference; 28-year-old Arthur Esparza arrested at 4th and Pine for property damage; and a 23-year-old unidentified male (who has not yet been booked) was arrested at 1st and Pike for throwing a bottle at an officer and investigation of riot.
SPD Chief John Diaz said that six of the suspects resided in the Seattle area while another two hailed from California and Vermont.
"We anticipate some more arrests in the days and weeks to come," Diaz continued, explaining that a team of officers would be reviewing media and business surveillance footage to help round up more suspects.
Of course, assholes don't need crude, crappy homemade tools to break a window, as McGinn and his family discovered last night. The mayor was remarkably calm about the attack on his home and family, which occurred last night around 12:30 a.m. "At first I thought it was Midge, our overactive Labrador," McGinn said, "Then I discovered a rock had come through our dining room window. We saw that rocks had also been thrown at our living room windows." McGinn then picked up a rock from the police evidence table in front of his podium. "It looked a lot like this rock," he told the assembled media, chuckling. "And I'm looking at this rock, thinking, 'apparently they didn’t confiscate all these rocks.'”
McGinn's dismissive, cavalier reaction to the vandalism was the perfect response to the unidentified assholes who attacked his home.
Aaron Pickus, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, confirms what PubliCola is reporting: Rocks were thrown through the windows of the mayor's Greenwood home late last night.
The details: At around midnight, rocks crashed into McGinn's dining room and living room windows. His wife called 911, and officers and McGinn's security detail responded. The mayor was there at the time. Nobody was hurt.
We'll hear more about this at a press conference the mayor will be holding later today.
UPDATE: Here, via the mayor's office, is the police report of the incident.
It notes that when McGinn's wife looked outside after the windows were smashed, she saw two suspects, one of them a white male in his 40s. He "was looking at her and waved," according to the report. "The other individual was standing near [the white male in his 40s] but she was unable to describe that suspect."
We interrupt Slog silence to let you know that Brendan Kiley will be on Weekday on KUOW shortly to discuss the implications of vandalism—or, as some call it, violence—as a political tactic yesterday and in general.
Here's where you can listen live to KUOW.
Originally posted yesterday, but moved up, because one can dream...