2/1/2010 Newsletter


  • RNC 8 Hearing
  • Exercising Free Speech Leads to Threats Against CRA Board Member Dave Bicking
  • Bob Herbert: Howard Zinn--A Radical Treasure
  • Open Letter to the Community from the RNC 8


Tuesday, February 2
9:00 a.m.
Ramsey County Court House, Rm 131B
15 W Kellogg, St. Paul

The RNC 8--eight young activists facing outrageous charges for organizing dissent at the RNC--have an important court date tomorrow. Carpools are leaving from Walker Church (3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis) at 8:00 a.m. Court is expected to last all day, with supporters providing lunch at Central Presbyterian Church, 500 Cedar Street in St. Paul. At issue tomorrow are a number of motions challenging the pre-emptive raids and investigation of the RNC Welcoming Committee based solely on politics, a clear violation of these activists' First Amendment rights. The hearing promises to be interesting and enlightening. Come on out and support the RNC 8!

Answer back by attending the CRA board meeting

Wednesday, February 3
6:30 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall, Rm 333
350 S. Fifth Street (but enter on the 4th Street side)

This editor, along with three others, spoke at a forum last week on the appointment of Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan. Each member of the panel contributed important insights based on experience and knowledge.

One of the most articulate and informative speakers was Dave Bicking, two time city council candidate and current member of the Minneapolis Civilian Review Board. Although Dave made it clear that he was only representing himself and not the CRA board, he had helped to author the CRA board's recently-released critique of Chief Dolan and was in a perfect position to share important details with the audience in attendance. However, only hours prior to arriving to speak at the forum, Dave received a threatening email from CRA board chair Don Bellfield giving him an ultimatum--to speak at the forum, he would have to resign from the CRA. Despite a series of emails among board members, Bellfield was unrelenting. He accused Dave of being an "unsanctioned participant" in the forum--though there is no provision in the CRA ordinance indicating board members are required to have their outside activities "sanctioned" by the rest of the board.

Upon learning that Dave did, in fact, exercise his First Amendment right to express his opinion on a matter of importance to the community, Bellfield wrote a mean-spirited missive to the city council and mayor, probably designed to sabotage Dave's pending reappointment to the CRA board. Interestingly, this letter was written on CRA letterhead and gives the appearance of being from the entire CRA board, although the board never authorized it.

From day one, Bellfield has been a sycophant for the mayor's office and has put the CRA into the position of being excessively deferential to the current administration even as the administration chips away at the power of the CRA. His attack on Dave Bicking has no basis in fact as there are no provisions in the ordinance or operating rules restricting the free speech rights of board members. But just because he is all wet, that won't stop him and a handful of his supporters on the board from moving to get rid of Dave Bicking. We need to let these people know that the CRA is here to serve the community. Dave has been an exemplary member of the board. While more than a few of his detractors have been do-nothing bench warmers, Dave has worked long hours to uncover issues with the Minneapolis police department's Taser policy, use of force policy and other issues vital to the community. We need to have Dave's back on this.

Please move heaven and earth to be at the CRA's board meeting on Wednesday, where this is sure to be a hot topic. Come prepared to speak and let this board know we are watching them and will not allow them to oust Dave Bicking. A good turnout will also send a strong message to the city council and mayor's office that we expect Dave to be reappointed.


January 30, 2010

I had lunch with Howard Zinn just a few weeks ago, and I’ve seldom had more fun while talking about so many matters that were unreservedly unpleasant: the sorry state of government and politics in the U.S., the tragic futility of our escalation in Afghanistan, the plight of working people in an economy rigged to benefit the rich and powerful.

Mr. Zinn could talk about all of that and more without losing his sense of humor. He was a historian with a big, engaging smile that seemed ever-present. His death this week at the age of 87 was a loss that should have drawn much more attention from a press corps that spends an inordinate amount of its time obsessing idiotically over the likes of Tiger Woods and John Edwards.

Mr. Zinn was chagrined by the present state of affairs, but undaunted. “If there is going to be change, real change,” he said, “it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That’s how change happens.”

We were in a restaurant at the Warwick Hotel in Manhattan. Also there was Anthony Arnove, who had worked closely with Mr. Zinn in recent years and had collaborated on his last major project, “The People Speak.” It’s a film in which well-known performers bring to life the inspirational words of everyday citizens whose struggles led to some of the most profound changes in the nation’s history. Think of those who joined in ­ and in many cases became leaders of ­ the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist revolution, the gay rights movement, and so on.

Think of what this country would have been like if those ordinary people had never bothered to fight and sometimes die for what they believed in. Mr. Zinn refers to them as “the people who have given this country whatever liberty and democracy we have.”

Our tendency is to give these true American heroes short shrift, just as we gave Howard Zinn short shrift. In the nitwit era that we’re living through now, it’s fashionable, for example, to bad-mouth labor unions and feminists even as workers throughout the land are treated like so much trash and the culture is so riddled with sexism that most people don’t even notice it. (There’s a restaurant chain called “Hooters,” for crying out loud.)

I always wondered why Howard Zinn was considered a radical. (He called himself a radical.) He was an unbelievably decent man who felt obliged to challenge injustice and unfairness wherever he found it. What was so radical about believing that workers should get a fair shake on the job, that corporations have too much power over our lives and much too much influence with the government, that wars are so murderously destructive that alternatives to warfare should be found, that blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities should have the same rights as whites, that the interests of powerful political leaders and corporate elites are not the same as those of ordinary people who are struggling from week to week to make ends meet?

Mr. Zinn was often taken to task for peeling back the rosy veneer of much of American history to reveal sordid realities that had remained hidden for too long. When writing about Andrew Jackson in his most famous book, “A People’s History of the United States,” published in 1980, Mr. Zinn said:

“If you look through high school textbooks and elementary school textbooks in American history, you will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people ­ not Jackson the slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.”

Radical? Hardly.

Mr. Zinn would protest peacefully for important issues he believed in ­ against racial segregation, for example, or against the war in Vietnam ­ and at times he was beaten and arrested for doing so. He was a man of exceptionally strong character who worked hard as a boy growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression. He was a bomber pilot in World War II, and his experience of the unmitigated horror of warfare served as the foundation for his lifelong quest for peaceful solutions to conflict.

He had a wonderful family, and he cherished it. He and his wife, Roslyn, known to all as Roz, were married in 1944 and were inseparable for more than six decades until her death in 2008. She was an activist, too, and Howard’s editor. “I never showed my work to anyone except her,” he said.

They had two children and five grandchildren.

Mr. Zinn was in Santa Monica this week, resting up after a grueling year of work and travel, when he suffered a heart attack and died on Wednesday. He was a treasure and an inspiration. That he was considered radical says way more about this society than it does about him.


January 2010

Dear friends, families and supporters,

The last time that we wrote, we were only weeks beyond the 2008 RNC, and still figuring out how to navigate our case with a sense of collectivity and integrity. Now, more than a year after the fact, we find ourselves in a sort of limbo. Day to day, we don't feel the intensity of repression that we did in the weeks surrounding the RNC, yet the trial looms somewhere in the distance and we're not really free to move on. We return to court on February 2nd, and may come out of the hearing with a trial date certain. While it's hard to remain upbeat about the prospect, we hope to make the final push towards trial energizing for ourselves and our supporters alike, and we feel certain that a strong show of court solidarity will make a huge difference in the outcome of our case.

The past year has been difficult, both in dealing with our own situation and in watching as State attempts to subvert and disrupt anarchist movement gain steam, following well-established patterns of repression against dissident political movements throughout history.

In late 2008 and 2009, Ramsey County prosecuted more than a dozen felony cases resulting from the RNC. Abusing their unchecked power to slap on charge after unfounded charge as a way of coercing people out of exercising their right to trial, and with the constant threat of terrorism enhancements, prosecutors extracted numerous plea agreements from individuals who came to the RNC protests outraged at this oppressive system and willing to take a conscientious stand against it.

During the fall of 2008, well-known and controversial radical activist Brandon Darby was outed as a paid FBI informant. This happened as a result of his entrapment of Brad Crowder and David McKay, two young men who traveled from Texas to MN for the RNC protests. Though Brad and David both eventually plead guilty to federal charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, facts surrounding the case and testimony given during McKay's initial mistrial make it clear that Darby went out of his way to create the unlikely scenario in which the crimes were committed. Darby, whose crimes of conscience will go unpunished, has already robbed two people of their freedom, but the extent of his cooperation and the damage it has done to our community remains to be seen.

In April of 2009, Indiana residents Tiga Wertz and Hugh Farrell were arrested and charged with racketeering as a result of their work organizing against I-69, the US segment of the NAFTA Superhighway. I-69 will displace small farmers, wreak environmental destruction, and facilitate the movement of goods and capital at the expense of the continents' poor and working people. Tiga and Hugh are still awaiting trial, which will likely not start before 2011.

Late this fall, two friends and comrades of ours in Minneapolis, Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth, were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Davenport, IA, which is investigating a 2004 Animal Liberation Front action at the University of Iowa. Scott and Carrie were teenagers in Minnesota at the time of the ALF raid, and though they have no information to give about it, they refused to cooperate with the grand jury on principle. They were both jailed on civil contempt on November 17, 2009, and two days later, Scott was indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). He is currently out awaiting trial and Carrie remains jailed in Iowa, where she may sit for another nine months. Carrie and Scott's involvement in RNC organizing, their affiliation with known antiRNC organizers, and materials seized in RNC raids, have all been used so far in prosecutorial attempts to vilify them and their politics.

Scott is only the seventh person ever charged under the AETA. In February of 2009, four people in Santa Cruz, CA, became the first AETA indictees, accused of first-amendment protected activities including leafleting and chalking sidewalks. Last spring, BJ Viehl and Alex Hall in Utah were also charged under the AETA in relation to mink liberations. BJ recently plead guilty, citing the improbability of a fair trial in such a heavily conservative state, and will probably be sentenced in March. Alex is still awaiting trial.

The same day that we go to court here for our next hearing, Jordan Halliday will start trial for felony contempt of court, a charge he is facing after months of incarceration on civil contempt for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in Utah.

This fall, comrades from the Tin Can Comms Collective sustained a raid and two arrests at the G20 mobilization in Pittsburgh. After returning to their home in Brooklyn, NY, the two arrested were subjected to yet another raid, this time on their house. State charges related to the G20 were subsequently dropped under circumstances that suggest the existence of an active federal investigation of Tin Can's activities.

Needless to say, anarchists have taken quite a few hits this year. Yet these cases are only one manifestation of the systematic repression of movements for social change. Even as anarchists have yet again become a primary target of State repression, the U.S. continues its war on Black and Puerto Rican revolutionaries, and their allies.

In January of 2007, charges were brought against eight former Black Panthers (the San Francisco 8) for the 1971 murder of a police officer. The case, re-opened with post-9/11 anti-terrorism funds, is based on information extracted through torture. Several of the the SF8 are former or current political prisoners. By summer of 2009, most charges had been dropped or drastically reduced in plea agreements. As of this writing, the last remaining conspiracy charge was dropped, leaving a single charge against Cisco Torres.

In recent months, the State of Pennsylvania has engaged in a new push for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, falsely convicted of the murder of a police officer in1982 and held on death row ever since. His supporters across the globe are mobilizing, yet again, to prevent this- our movements have kept him alive thus far, and it falls on us yet again to prevent his State-sanctioned assassination.

Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican independence movement- which has won the release of most of its political prisoners over the past decades- is preparing a final push for the release of two of the remaining three, Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar Lopez Rivera.

At this moment, dozens of political prisoners sit in U.S. prisons and jails, many of them having been there for decades and some who may never get out. The State would have us believe that political prisoners do not exist in this country, which holds a full quarter of the world's incarcerated people in its prison plantations. It is our common commitment to a radically transformed world that they intend to subvert with every new arrest, detention and prosecution, and our only defense is an acknowledgement of the fact that this is happening day in and day out, and a commitment to fight it at every step of the way.

As we look towards what could be the final stage of our own case, we're left to ponder the impact of our work. It is our hope that our supporters also support every person named in this letter, and every target of State repression left unnamed. Whether we're acquitted or convicted come trial, the greater measure of our success will be the extent to which our case builds the movements to which we belong.

See you at trial,
the RNC 8

Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living.--Mother Jones

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