The American Bear


The Murder of Trayvon Martin and Racist America | Rob Urie

The racist murder of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin as he walked the streets of the Florida town in which his father lived (a/k/a ‘home’) is proving a Rorschach test for race ‘relations’ in the U.S. The acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman, who first stalked the young Trayvon and then disregarded police instructions to remain in his car as he proceeded to accost and murder him, is testament to the power of denial of the institutional racism that haunts America. Under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, the product of corporate-state lobbyist ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), it was Mr. Martin who by law had the right to use deadly force to protect himself from Mr. Zimmerman. That Mr. Martin lacked the necessary weapon to do so raises an unproductive conundrum for any black, male youth living in America. And it is deluded to believe Mr. Martin would have been acquitted had he killed George Zimmerman in similar fashion.

As the fate of blacks across American history who have taken up arms to protect themselves from white racists has taught, the ‘right’ of self-defense is the right by whites to murder blacks with impunity. When the original Black Panthers took up arms to protect themselves, their families and communities from racist murder at the hands of the police and white racists they were murdered in their beds, fire-bombed, spied on, infiltrated, and many spent decades in prison on charges the Federal government subsequently admitted were bogus. More broadly, the argument around self-defense in America is a racist canard put forward by privileged whites to maintain race and class hierarchy from which they materially benefit. Put another way, if ‘self defense’ is the right, white America is the greatest threat, and has always been, to the lives and livelihoods of black, brown and indigenous peoples.

Man Spends 2 Years In Solitary After DWI Arrest


A New Mexico man who said he was forced to pull his own tooth while in solitary confinement because he was denied access to a dentist has been awarded $22 million due to inhumane treatment by New Mexico’s Dona Ana County Jail.

While in solitary confinement, a prisoner is entitled to one hour per day out of the cell, but often times, Slevin wasn’t even granted that, Coyte said. He was deprived of showers and grew fungus underneath his skin. He lost his will to even want to get out and live in the outside world, Coyte told

God bless America.

Bahrain police kill teenager trying to attend Friday prayer | Al Akhbar

Bahraini security forces Friday killed a 16-year-old boy trying to enter a mosque blocked by police during weekly prayers, according to opposition sources.

Activists cited eyewitnesses who claimed Ali Abbas Radhi was chased and run over by military vehicles as he approached the besieged mosque in Diraz village. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry identified the slain Bahraini as a “pedestrian” who died when a car hit him in the capital’s city center. The Ministry initially said he was “Asian,” but went on to issue a correction that said he was Bahraini.

Security forces have set up checkpoints around the mosque and fired tear gas at worshippers trying to reach Friday prayers led by Sheikh Isa Qassim, who denounced Bahrain’s move to revoke the nationalities of 31 Bahrainis this week.

More than 55 people have died and hundreds have been killed since the start of an uprising against Bahrain’s monarchy in February 2011.

The Commission of Truth’s report identifies three patterns of human rights violations in the framework of the coup d’état: ‘1) repression of public protests, excessive use of force during repression by state security agents, and criminalization of public protest; 2) selective or directed repression to the detriment of persons considered by the de facto government to be destabilizing to the regime; and 3) institutional dysfunction according to the needs of the regime imposed by the coup d’état and to the detriment of the population.’ Honduras Truth Commission Releases Report about Coup-Related Violence and Repression

Terror and Teargas on the Streets of Bahrain | Jen Marlowe

"Perhaps the lack of coverage of the predominantly Shi’a uprising against an increasingly repressive Sunni monarchy can be explained, in part, by this: Washington considers that monarchy its close ally; Bahrain is the home of the Navy’s 5th Fleet, and the beneficiary of U.S. arms sales. Perhaps it has to do with the U.S.-Saudi friendship, and the increasing tension between the U.S. and Iran. Bahrain has been portrayed as a battleground for influence between neighboring Saudi Arabia (a supporter of the monarchy) and nearby majority Shi’a Iran."

Jihan had not started out as an activist. She had been an investment banker, shopping in Bahrain’s high-end malls and socializing with friends. Demonstrations erupted at the Pearl Roundabout — with its imposing 300-foot monument of six arches holding a pearl aloft — in the capital city, Manama, on February 14, 2011, and only grew larger by the day as casualties and fatalities mounted. Still, she did not participate.

She had been largely ignorant of the protesters’ complaints: the same prime minister had governed for 42 years; the majority Shi’a community faced discrimination from the ruling Sunnis, evidenced most clearly by the fact that they couldn’t join the country’s military or its police. Instead, the government was importing foreigners from Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria, among other countries, to fill the ranks of the security services, often offering them Bahraini citizenship (which also threatened to alter Sunni-Shi’a demographics). The royal family had taken large swathes of public land for private benefit.

Jihan instead believed the version of the uprising being offered on state-controlled television. In that narrative, the protesters were not peaceful, but armed and dangerous. They had, the government claimed, stolen blood-bags from the hospital and were pouring that blood on themselves to feign injuries for the media. Force was being applied by the regime rarely and only when it was absolutely necessary to disperse those demonstrating. Government spokespeople claimed Shi’a doctors at Salmaniya Hospital were taking patients and co-workers hostage.

On the morning of March 13th, Jihan received a few text messages on her way to her office, appealing for people’s presence at the Pearl Roundabout because government forces were attacking. She decided to go and see for herself what was taking place.

What she saw shook her to the core: unarmed protesters — women and children among them — chanting for democracy, freedom, and equality as riot police fired bullets, birdshot, and tear gas canisters directly into the crowd. Jihan stood to the side, crying, as women around her wailed and read aloud from Qur’an.

Then, in the distance, she noticed bodies being loaded into cars. She couldn’t tell if they were dead or wounded, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away either as the cars were filled and each drove towards nearby Salmaniya Hospital.

It was there that Jihan drove next, and found more wounded patients than available beds. Protesters who were injured by birdshot or overcome by tear gas were lying on white sheets spread across the parking lot, awaiting treatment from overburdened doctors and nurses.

The following day, 1,000 Saudi troops entered Bahrain at the request of the regime, backed by 500 police from the United Arab Emirates. The troops drove the protesters out of the Pearl Roundabout, destroyed the iconic Pearl Monument, and Bahrain’s King Hamad declared a state of emergency.

Soon after, house raids leading to mass arrests began. Most of the opposition leaders were jailed, along with thousands of protesters. Journalists were targeted, as were teachers, health-care professionals, and star Bahraini athletes. Hundreds of cases of torture (some to the death) were reported, and thousands were fired from government jobs for demonstrating, or, in many cases, merely because they were Shi’a.

Jihan realized that continuing with her former life was inconceivable. She visited Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to ask how she could help. Hard as it had been to come to him, Jihan told Nabeel, she could no longer stay silent and on the sidelines.

A colleague of Nabeel’s trained Jihan in how to document human rights violations. Soon, she began doing so in cases involving medical professionals who had been imprisoned and tortured by the regime for treating injured protesters — and for speaking out about the injuries they were seeing.

By the time I met Jihan, she was an experienced activist with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the founding vice president of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), which seeks to aid in the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims.

Seasoned as she was, Jihan was thoroughly shaken by the time we left an underground clinic late one night. There, nurses had secretly stitched up the gaping head wound of 13-year-old “Hussein,” shot with a tear gas canister after a march that had, ironically, been called to protest the excessive use of tear gas.

[read on]

An appeal court in Bahrain has acquitted the activist Nabeel Rajab of insulting Bahrainis after he criticised the prime minister in a tweet, his lawyer said. But Rajab remains in jail over other convictions. Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was sentenced in July to three months in prison for suggesting via Twitter that residents of al-Muharraq district were paid to show support for Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the prime minister. ‘The judge ruled his innocence. Nabeel and representatives of many foreign embassies were present. I was able to meet him for a few minutes,’ his lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, told Reuters. The state news agency, BNA, said the appeal judge acquitted Rajab because he was not satisfied with the evidence. Bahrain court acquits Nabeel Rajab over ‘insulting’ tweet

Shock and Humiliation: How People Are Being Strip-Searched for Trivial Offenses | Alternet


This past April, the five conservative Supreme Court Justices gave jail officials the right to strip and search every person arrested and jailed, even if the alleged offense is trivial and there is no reason to suspect danger of any kind.

The ruling, in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, compounds the assault on human dignity committed by the Court in another 5-4 decision eleven years ago, in Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, when it authorized a full custodial arrest for even trivial “fine-only” offenses like a temporarily unbuckled seat belt. Our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures has once again been undermined by a narrow conservative majority concerned more with protecting public officials than with the rights of ordinary Americans.

Florence grew out of a mistake. On March 3, 2005, Albert Florence, an African-American businessman, his pregnant wife and their 4-year-old son, were in the family BMW, when a New Jersey state trooper pulled them over. Florence’s wife was driving; no reason for the stop appears in the record and no citation was ever issued. The trooper ordered Florence, the owner, out of the car. A computer check disclosed that an arrest warrant for civil contempt had once been issued against him for nonpayment of a fine but failed to note that the fine had been paid and the warrant withdrawn.

Florence had been stopped several times before, which he attributed to his being an African-American driving an expensive car. He therefore carried a certificate attesting to the cancellation of the warrant, which he showed to the trooper. Nevertheless, he was handcuffed, arrested and taken to the Burlington County jail. The jail authorities conceded that they had no suspicion of any wrongdoing by Florence apart from the fine. Yet he was still forced to strip, shower with a delousing agent, open his mouth for inspection, hold out his arms and lift his genitals, and turn around so the officer could examine his buttocks.

After six days without appearing before a magistrate as required by law, Florence was transferred to the Essex County jail. There he was again strip-searched, again without any indication that he had done anything wrong, only this time he was required to squat and cough, and to undergo close examination of his ears, nose, mouth, scalp, armpits, inner thighs and other parts of his body. The next day Florence was brought before a judge who, “appalled” at his treatment, ordered his immediate release. Florence sued the two counties and was joined in a class-action by others subjected to the same treatment.

What happened to him could happen to anyone. Had the mother of three at the center of Atwater—who was handcuffed and jailed after she and her children were found to have unbuckled their seatbelts temporarily—been arrested today, she could have also been subjected to a strip search. This is because state penal and traffic codes are stuffed with a vast array of such minor and often trivial offenses for which an arrest can be made wholly at the discretion of police. Among those who joined the class-action lawsuit filed by Florence were people who had been charged with having a noisy muffler, an inoperable headlight, a bald tire, high beams on and a faulty windshield wiper. Others were charged with ignoring a stop sign, improperly backing up, crossing a double line, and parking in a no-parking zone, and two were charged with improperly riding a bicycle and riding without an audible bell. All were stripped and searched.

In DC, the lawsuit notes, a 12-year-old girl was arrested for eating a French fry in Metro station and a driver was arrested for “false pretenses” after backing out of a parking garage. In Kentucky, a woman was charged for failing to appear in traffic court when the judge provided her with the wrong appearance date.

People of color, like Florence, are especially vulnerable to such police tactics, for in many cases, the arrests and subsequent searches are really for the “offenses” of Driving While Black, being in the wrong neighborhood, or talking back to the police. Political protesters like the civil rights workers who marched in the South and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, especially protesters and demonstrators in hostile settings, are also vulnerable to the abuses made possible by the Florence and Atwater decisions.

The Supreme Court justified both the Atwater and Florence decisions with the argument that police and jail officials need a “bright-line” rule so as not to be subject to personal liability for making an unnecessary arrest or search and not to be discouraged from taking such action when they should. But a bright-line rule for both such situations is readily available: Police should not be authorized to arrest or search someone for a minor fine-only violation except in extraordinary circumstances. The police are in no danger of personal liability if they make a good-faith mistake, because they are entitled to immunity for such mistakes.

No one can dispute a federal appellate court’s characterization of a strip search as “demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant, embarrassing, [and] repulsive, signifying degradation and submission.” Even the Supreme Court has said that a search that intrusive “demand[s] its own specific suspicions.” The shock and humiliation suffered by persons subjected to such arrests and searches is aggravated by the fact that they are almost always ordinary citizens who have never been in jail before. In one case a Chicago woman doctor who had been strip-searched afterward suffered paranoia, suicidal feelings and depression and would not undress anywhere but in a closet

The conservative majority in Florence stressed that jails are dangerous places, and therefore the actions of jail officials are entitled to judicial deference. Jails are dangerous—and drug smuggling is indeed a problem. But people like Florence don’t pose a threat, which is why the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs all forbid strip searches of minor offenders except upon reasonable suspicion. Similarly, standards defined by the American Correctional Association—the accrediting body for adult correctional facilities—require a reasonable belief or suspicion of contraband for a strip search.

The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.

(via queerencia-deactivated20130103)

Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, on the Struggle to Win–and Now Protect–Voting Rights in U.S. via Democracy Now!

When I was growing up, my mother and father, my grandparents and great-grandparents were always telling me, “Don’t get in trouble. Don’t get in the way.” But I was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and others to get in the way, to get in trouble—good trouble, necessary trouble. And we all must find a way to have the courage to get in trouble, to do our part.

Take a time-out to watch this amazing interview.

Bahraini rights leader convicted over tweets (Again) | Al Akhbar

A leading Bahraini human rights activist was sentenced to three months in jail on Monday for tweets deemed offensive to the country’s autocratic rulers.

Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center of Human Rights (BCHR), was rearrested on Monday afternoon.

He wrote on Twitter that Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa should step down, as well as saying the people of the pro-regime town Muharraq residents had only welcomed him during a visit because he had offered them subsidies.

He was later charged with questioning the patriotism of the residents of the town. [++]

Closed due to deportations.

The words on a sign placed in front of President Barack Obama’s campaign office in downtown Oakland by undocumented students who refuse to leave until President Obama’s administration halts their deportations. (h/t: Michelle)

The sit-in is part of a national campaign to disrupt Democratic campaign offices. Protesters want an executive order from Obama halting deportations of young people brought to the country illegally when they were minors.

Students took over Obama’s Denver campaign headquarters in a similar protest last week, sparking a round of sit-ins now erupting in Los Angeles, Michigan and Ohio.

O’Brien, Matt. “Undocumented students occupy Obama’s Oakland headquarters”. Inside Bay Area. 14 June 2012. Web. [source]

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

BREAKING: Prop 8 likely headed to Supreme Court


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has announced they will not rehear the case of California’s Proposition 8.

Prop 8 has already lost twice in federal court, but its supporters are likely to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it could very well be upheld. The Supreme Court would set a national precedent if it took the case. Some clarification from NPR:

It does not mean that same-sex marriages are suddenly legal again in California. KQED writes that the court said its decision “is stayed for 90 days pending the filing of a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court.”

Holy cow. This is about to get real. 

(via anarcho-queer)