Saturday, June 28, 2014

Autopsies, Lawsuits, and More, Oh My

James Boyd's estate, represented by his brother Andrew Jones and the Kennedy law firm, has brought suit (76 pg pdf) against the City of Albuquerque alleging battery and wrongful death -- among other things -- in Boyd's execution in the Sandia foohills and calling for a range of specific relief, including the establishment of "the James Matthew Boyd Emergency Outreach Team to enable a team of three trained health care professionals to respond to crisis involving individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health emergencies in the City of Albuquerque."

The allegations of what was done to Boyd by the police that clear, cold day in March are horrifying. They are no less horrifying than the autopsy report that was released a couple of weeks ago, detailing the wounds Boyd suffered when he was shot by officers, and when a dog was unleashed on him and he was hit by several bean bag rounds at close range after he'd been mortally wounded by police gunfire and he was on the ground, paralyzed from those wounds.

The autopsy clinically describes entrance and exit wounds, abrasions, amputations and other surgeries and finally his death. The lawsuit, on the other hand, deals far more with the people involved, and the failed institutions of the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department that let this incident spiral out of control, with -- apparently -- no clear leadership or plan of action, despite 43 officers dispatched to the scene.

It was a classic clusterfuck -- this time, like many other times with regard to the APD -- leading to the unfortunate and completely unnecessary death of a man who,  according to the reports I've heard and read, and despite his mental illness, wanted nothing more or other than to be left alone in a place he loved.

These 43 officers couldn't do that. Oh, no. That would be allowing non-compliance, and in modern police culture, non-compliance can be a death sentence.

As it was for Mr. Boyd that day.

Interestingly, the Archbishop of the Santa Fe Diocese, Michael Sheehan, has recently announced that he came to the realization that the Albuquerque Police Department needed "drastic reforms" after the shooting death of Christopher Torres in 2011, but he hasn't spoken out until now. Discretion being the better part of valor? Who can say? The Archbishop has submitted his resignation to the Pope, effective when he reaches 75 years old next month, and that may be a reason why he is speaking out now, before the Pope replaces him...

Christopher Torres was also a diagnosed schizophrenic, as was James Boyd.

Archbishop Sheehan's voice is a powerful one in heavily Catholic New Mexico, and his words in this instance are unsparing.

APD needs "drastic reform."

Appended to the Boyd lawsuit is the scathing DoJ report (46 pg pdf) released in April which found and detailed numerous instances of APD's culture of violence and compliance, and a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.

The DoJ report notes numerous instances of APD's use of inappropriate force on the mentally ill, including lethal force. The report was prepared before the Boyd execution and released within weeks afterwards, in part, it seems, due to public pressure.

Recently, the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Albuquerque -- a former city attorney and former State Corrections Director -- remarked that he believed the majority of Albuquerque's residents "trust" the police. A poll was released that day or the day before that starkly indicated otherwise. Indeed, "trust" in the police in Albuquerque has taken a precipitous nosedive since 2011, falling to 33%. Hardly the majority Mr. Perry claims.

But then, in his mind, that 33% probably is a majority, and overwhelming majority, of the people who matter. 

Indeed, this is all about the people who matter -- and people who don't.

The people who don't -- like James Boyd, or even Christopher Torres -- are fair game. Much like the dogs that are routinely shot and killed by police all over the country when they are found to be inconvenient or threatening.

They are disposed of without another thought.

Mentally ill? Children in the way? Oh well!

They don't matter to police forces and the institutions of power in this country. That's the problem it seems to me.

Only certain people matter, and only they are privileged to be counted as the "majority."

The relief called for in the James Boyd lawsuit would provide a range of interventions in future cases of police confrontations with mentally ill and homeless individuals. The relief called for would even provide alternatives to police confrontations. It would provide extensive training in de-escalation techniques as well. Use of force would be strictly controlled. Police accountability would be required and enforced.

The point, of course, is that nothing like what happened to Mr. Boyd would happen again, but we know all too well that what happened to Mr. Boyd has already happened again and it will continue to happen until and unless the APD and the city administration is reformed top to bottom.

The Boyd lawsuit may be the necessary catalyst to change, but that remains to be seen. The rate of killing by APD increased after the release of the DoJ report, almost as if the institution of the APD was responding to the report with defiance and with further bloodshed. But there hasn't been a killing by APD in over a month, and it may be that word finally went out to the field that a cease fire was advisable. If not a complete halt to the killing, at least ratchet it back a bit. 'Mkay?

It's bad PR under the circumstances to keep killing at the same or an even higher rate.

Bad PR is bad for business. Can't have that. Nosirree.

I'd like to think that progress of some sort is being made in the face of implacable institutional inertia, but the evidence is not yet clear.

If the cease-fire holds, maybe...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Just to be clear...

Rob Perry, Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer, is the central character in the systemic problem of police violence, bloodshed, abuse and corruption in Albuquerque. He is the one who is ultimately in charge of police operations, not the mayor or the city council, nor even the police chief.

Perry is a bully, a dissimulator, a condescending prick -- aka what's known in the vernacular as "an asshole." In that, he's fairly typical of city manager/administrator types I've encountered over the years, except that in Perry's case, the rough edges haven't been filed off. He is what he is. I suppose that's a good thing in that there can be no doubt where he stands. He does not stand with the People, he stands with Authority which he sees as his right.

One thing he said in his condescending, assholic interview with KRQE (in the previous post) was interesting. He said that he didn't believe the people had lost trust in APD; he believed that by far, the residents of Albuquerque trusted the police.

As it happens, a poll was released just yesterday that starkly refutes his claim. The Garrity Perception Survey -- which is widely used and widely respected in New Mexico -- shows that far from the majority of Albuquerque residents trusting the police, two thirds of Albuquerque residents don't trust the police.

The question was as follows:
“on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being very favorable and one being very unfavorable, what is your level of trust of police officers?”
 The poll was taken between the last week of February and the first week of March, 2014, so it didn't cover the time since the James Boyd execution in the Sandia foothills on March 16, 2014.

The poll was taken statewide.

The number of responses to the poll question which fall in the 4-5 range (ie: favorable, trusting of police) has fallen precipitously since 2011, most notably in Albuquerque, where trust in police has fallen from 52% to 33%, and in what's deemed "North Central" New Mexico (not sure the boundaries), where trust  has fallen even more, from 57% to 30%. And this was before the Boyd killing.

In no area of New Mexico did a majority of New Mexicans express trust in police. None. Certainly not in Albuquerque.

For Perry to assert his belief that most Burqueños do trust the police is typical of him, but it also shows that he is completely, horribly out of touch with Albuquerque residents. Of course he doesn't serve the interests of most Burqueños, and he doesn't care what they think. He may or may not know what this poll shows, but whether he does or not is irrelevant to what he believes.

Because of the way city government is organized, removing Perry is very difficult. A better approach is to shame him. We've seen that he's immune to shaming by people like Nora Anaya, let alone David Correia, so something else is necessary. He doesn't care about people, he cares about power. And one way to shame people like him is to demonstrate they are factually wrong. Demonstrate his ignorance and arrogance, and point out the consequences his ignorance and arrogance have for ordinary people.

Not only does he not know what he's talking about, he doesn't seem capable of recognizing any fact which doesn't fit with his pre-conceived notions of his own power.  He's also apparently incapable of recognizing the harm his ignorance and arrogance can cause. Needless to say, this attitude has been with him for many years (42 pg pdf, class action lawsuit against Perry and NM Department of Corrections which he headed).

Terms like narcissist and sociopath are thrown around with great abandon on the internet, and for that reason, I tend not to use them, but there are cases where they are appropriate. They were certainly appropriate in the case of Oakland's city administrator Deanna Santana and her choice for police chief, Howard Jordan. Jordan was an inveterate liar and Santana had nothing but contempt for most of the people of Oakland. Both acted to compound the damage already done to Oakland and its residents by years of police corruption and civic outrages against the People. Their lies and contempt reached a point of unsustainability, despite the fact that most of the elected city officials, including the mayor, supported them. They both had to go, and eventually they did, but not before they had done their level best -- or worst -- to destroy what little trust remained in civic institutions. Theirs were shameful performances in every way.

It's hard to say whether Oakland is on the road to recovery after their disastrous reign.

Albuquerque's situation is somewhat similar, in that the police chief and the city administrator are operating contrary to the interests of the People, in a way that harms the civic body rather than helps it. Like Oakland, Albuquerque is a gritty, working-class city, beset with poverty and all the consequences of poverty, overlaid with some extraordinary enclaves of wealth and privilege. The economy of Albuquerque has sputtered and faltered badly during the Endless Recession, partly because of its dependence on government for so much of its economic activity and well-being. There have been so many cutbacks in government contracting and employment over the now nearly-decade long economic downturn, and there has been little private sector economic development to take its place.

Burqueños are poor and getting poorer. That's not the worst of it, though. New Mexicans can cope with poverty; they've been doing it since long before the advent of Norte Americanos and tourist-trapping "The Land of Enchantment." Families, culture, deep roots in a harsh but beautiful land, all contribute to communal strength and an ability to cope with adversity.

When civic authorities set out to make things worse, however, as Mr. Perry and members of his police force have done routinely, through their blind allegiance to power, and their gross misuse of power to harm residents and bring disrepute to the city and its citizens, it's time for them to go. It took several years to dispose of Deanna Santana and Howard Jordan in Oakland, but they were eventually replaced with officials who seem to have the greater interest of Oakland's people in mind rather than service to unelected power.

What people in office such as Mr Perry tend to forget it that New Mexicans are quite as capable of dealing with people like him, just as they are more than capable of dealing with other adversity.

It's time for him to retire...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

So Someone Is Not Telling the Truth...

There's been a lot of news lately about the numerous deadly encounters between the Albuquerque police and residents, and there's been some news about police infiltrating protests to end police violence in Albuquerque.

One of the recent killings by APD was that of Alfred Redwine. He was shot the very day of one of the mass protests to end police violence in Albuquerque, and his autopsy results were released the other day. They showed Redwine had been drinking, his blood alcohol was .27 or more, according to toxicology reports. But other than that, he wasn't on psychoactive substances. He'd been reported to police by a neighbor as having a gun and waving it around in a public housing project apartment. The apartment was that of Redwine's mother. There is some dispute over whether Redwine ever fired the gun -- some witnesses say he did, others say no.

According to Redwine's sister -- who was negotiating with her brother via cell phone -- Redwine was terrified to come out of the apartment once the police got there because he was afraid they were going to kill him. Which they did.

He would not be allowed to surrender, any more than James Boyd was allowed to surrender nine days before. The very act of attempting to surrender seems to be considered a terrorist threat by APD, and at least until recently, it has been taken as a reason for summary execution.

Witnesses claim that Redwine was not armed when he was shot and killed by an APD sniper, he was holding a cell phone and was attempting to talk to his sister who was urging him to come out of the apartment and surrender. The police claimed he was holding a gun and had fired at them when he was shot, but witnesses say that's a lie. There is no police video of the moment of the shooting from the point of view of the shooter, though there is video of the shots being fired, of Redwine on the ground after he was shot, and of the confrontation between Redwine's sister and police, but witness video is inconclusive regarding whether Redwine was armed or fired a weapon before he was shot. Redwine's sister says that the police found a gun in the apartment after they shot him, and that is the weapon they claim he fired at them just before they shot him. She and many other witnesses say he was holding nothing but a cell phone at the time he was shot.

Who is telling the truth?

The demonstration on Saturday was surveilled by undercover police officers, one of whom, according to KRQE reports, a crime intelligence unit sergeant, shot and wounded a suspect in 2012. In this interview with Rob Perry, Albuquerque CAO and "the man who oversees APD" Perry asserts many things, insults and disparages the interviewers, and claims that the only thing he knows the undercover officers filmed was an incident in which a protester was removed from the march -- or rally -- by march security, not the police.

Is he telling the truth?

Rob Perry is not known for his honesty, though he can be... forthright. Bullying. Disingenuous. Obstreperous. Rude. Condescending.


You decide.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Infiltration and Surveillance of Peace-Groups

During the weekend march and rally to end police violence in Albuquerque, even from my distance out in the country, I could feel a palpable sense of paranoia that the march and the movement were being infiltrated by police and perhaps others who wished it ill, and there was little or nothing that could be done about it.

David Correia shot and posted several photos of "undercover" police (who were, as is so often the case, very obvious) and KRQE ran a curious story about infiltration and surveillance of the rally and march by a police intelligence "sergeant" who shot a drug-suspect in 2012. No one, so far, has been able to find this person in any of the hundreds and thousands of pictures and video taken of the march and rally, however, so the question is whether he was actually at the march and rally or was the announcement he was there meant as a provocation?

That question is much like the question of the untagged car that plowed into the march just as it was starting off from the park. No one was hurt, so there's that, and David Correia stood in front of it, preventing its passage, until most of the marchers left the park, but the presence of this car with no license plate at the very beginning of the march was curious given the police promise to "control traffic."

Who was the driver? Why was he there at that time? How did he get through the supposed cordon?

I imagine he was a resident from nearby, but there is no way to know for sure.

That lack of certainty of knowing who is who in movements has always been a difficulty, one that can sometimes be debilitating. We know from many years of experience and from the testimonies of our elders going back long before our own experience that movements "on the left" are always and persistently thought of as threats to the established order, and they are always surveilled and they often disrupted by the police and various nefarious other interests. Always. There has perhaps never been a peace-group or movement for social-political change on the left that hasn't had its activities closely scrutinized by the authorities, and that hasn't been subject to infiltration, disruption, and disturbance by agents of The Powers That Be.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you're always afraid.
Step out of line, the man come and take you away.

Truer words were never spoken, though those who have never felt the cold breath of surveillance  and infiltration at their backs may not be able to comprehend or empathize much with those whose actions and activism are always being scrutinized -- and they know it.

That anthem of the restive 1960s has never really stopped being relevant, even though its reference was never all that clear -- it's not about anti-Vietnam-War demonstrations, for example. Just the same, when you know you're being watched and followed and reported on -- or you suspect you are -- because of your activism, are you really paranoid?

And why, pray tell, are the authorities still so interested in infiltration and surveillance of peace-activists and leftist non-violent groups?

They like to claim it's "for the safety of the demonstrators and that of the public" but of course that's horseshit.

The only "safety," comfort and convenience they wish to ensure is that of themselves and their sponsors.

Not that of the People.

Far from it.

It's a tough situation when you can't be sure that everyone in a movement is on the same page, you can't always know who all the infiltrators and subversives are, and you can't -- ever -- be free of surveillance and infiltration and the potential for disruption.

It's little wonder that so many movements fail or are destroyed.

Todd Gitlin had a column in the Guardian the other day (h/t wd) in which he tried to explain "what happened to Occupy."

It was a somewhat baroque exercise in futility, it seemed to me. Gitlin is a Movement Elder -- though not always an honored one -- for his New Left activism and his leadership of the SDS, Students for Democratic Society, in the 1960s, and for his extensive anti-war and divestment activism and voluminous writing since then. So far as I know, he was not an active participant in Occupy Wall Street or any of its hundreds of offshoots, but he was an observer and commentator on Occupy events and was active in the controversy over "violence" in Occupy. To my mind, he saw his role as that of adviser and scold to these upstart revolutionaries camping out hither and thither and making much hoo-hah over the "99%!" ("We are!")

In his Guardian article about "what happened to Occupy" Gitlin makes much of the fact that thanks to the pervasiveness of social media, it's easier now than it has ever been to organize social and political movements, and it is also quite easy for them to dissipate or be dispersed.

He relates Occupy to the uprisings in the squares of Europe and the Middle East, rebellions and occupations that either achieved their objectives of overthrowing corrupt and violent regimes, or as in Europe, set in motion the social and political mechanisms that will in due time replace the corrupt and decadent "democracies" that have failed the People.

But I would argue that Occupy never had the objective of "overthrow." And its approach to political matters was wildly aggravating to those who saw the movement as a means to reform the system.  Occupy Wall Street and its many offshoots was something else again. And it was because it was something else again, far more subtle in its intentions and activities, that it was seen as such a threat by The Powers That Be.

Occupy is still, in some sense, a threat. The potential is always there for it to re-emerge into the public eye. Whether it will remains to be seen, but the point Gitlin seems to miss completely is that Occupy never went away. The encampments have largely been replaced with much deeper-rooted community organizing and activism. The encampments can return at any time but the encampments are not the keys or the necessities for activism.

Strange that Gitlin doesn't seem to understand that, but I think in fact he does. Strange that he doesn't seem to know what those using the Occupy brand are doing in his own fair city of New York as well as elsewhere around the country and the world.

He's never heard of "Occupy Sandy?" He doesn't know about "Occupy the SEC?" What about "Strike Debt?" Have these endeavors penetrated his shields? Of course they have, they're just not mentioned by name in his article. There are many more than the ones listed. The fact that there are extensive Occupy newsletters and strategic planning endeavors, that there is an annual Occupy National Gathering (this year in Sacramento, July 31-August 3), and that Occupy-inspired community activism is widespread throughout the country, including involvement in the movement to end police violence in Albuquerque, seems to have escaped his radar. His old pal-or-nemisis, Mark Rudd -- who lives in Albuquerque -- might have let him know, but Ol' Mark, former radical and revolutionary, seems much more content these days with his involvement in traditional politics rather than whatever Occupy might be up to.

"Not knowing" -- or not mentioning or acknowledging by name -- what's going on is itself a factor in the surveillance and infiltration of leftist groups. I don't know whether that's Gitlin's role these days (I don't think it is) but by not clarifying that "Occupy" as such is not gone, not by a long shot, Gitlin serves the interests of the State. By implying that the State was successful in dispersing and destroying Occupy, and even by being oblivious to Cecily McMillan's much deeper involvement with prisoner-rights while she's in jail for "assaulting" a police officer in Zuccotti Park on St. Patrick's Day, 2012, he reinforces, even if inadvertantly (though I don't think it's that), the standard narrative of the "failure" and "end" of Occupy.

There are, of course, hundreds if not thousands of community organizations and activist endeavors that have come about as a direct result of Occupy and its dispersal into communities, something that was well under way even before the encampments were violently destroyed by the authorities. Much of the energy of Occupy came out of extant community organizations, and many of the Occupy participants and volunteers have remained activists since the encampment phase of the movement was suppressed. The belief that "another world is possible" is, in my view, stronger now than it was at the outset of Occupy Wall Street.

Yet the movement and all its many offshoots has never been free of surveillance and infiltration, and there will probably never be a time when it or any subsequent "leftist" endeavor is entirely free of the scrutiny and disruptive tactics of the State toward those it sees as threats.

Occupy is integrated into communities all over the country, and in a sense, that means communities are themselves regarded as "threats" by authority. The People in general, in other words, have come to represent a threat to Power. Dignity, Justice, Community and Peace are now seen as dangers to the order imposed from on high. 

Infiltration and surveillance are facts of life. Paranoia is a consequence, but it is not the only consequence. History shows that in time, deeply integrated movements can co-opt and overcome the machinations of the infiltrators and surveillance apparat. Those who would destroy the movement join it.

Well... almost...

Monday, June 23, 2014

On The Topic of Dystopics

We live in a dystopia, don't we? A world spinning wildly out of control, governments veering crazily this way and that, secret interests and cabals undermining and subverting them -- and us -- for their own gain, arbitrary impositions of authority rampant, summary executions routinized, powerlessness inculcated in the Rabble from birth until untimely death.

The world as it is.

Not the world as it is becoming. The world as it is.

Those of us with an eye toward history and a modicum of critical thinking skills have witnessed this slow-motion dystopia forming in our midst for a generation or perhaps somewhat more. We can if we choose trace its origins to conscious rejections of parental values by the young. It happened globally as my generation came of age in the 1960s, though the consequences we see all around us, becoming more and more severe for the multitudes daily, were never intended. At least not consciously.

Now there is such a generational split between the young of today and their not-so-much older elders, let alone between today's young and the abuelos that there is no way to turn back, and there may be no way forward, either. The ultimate impasse?

I don't know. I was reminded of the kind of split between generations, and between peoples, is developing rapidly, when I watched this video out of Ukraine, Kiev I believe, posted yesterday at The Saker (or was it Graham Phillips? There are so many, and it's so easy to lose track when you're not researching for scholarly journals. No, it wasn't Graham as he is taking his ease in Brazil at the moment, writing about the World Cup and Mariupol, May 9, 2014. Back to that anon...)

The video in question:

What we see here, I think, encapsulates what's going on in many regions overseas, the dynamics involved, and who the participants are. What are they fighting? What are they fighting for?

And yes, what's going on overseas is very much a part of what's going on here in the USofA. Some of it is being generated and led by American interests and is supported by American power. The upshot is that it's easier to see what's going on when viewed from a distance. It's more difficult to get a full picture when you're in the midst of it.

There's a mob, a rightist mob, a Ukrainian "Pravy Sektor" mob,  in the video; note their youth. Note it well. They are as young as my grandchildren or even great-grandchildren if I had any, but in many ways I'm thankful I don't. I would hate to think the young I spawned had turned out like this...

I wrote about the "Pravy Sektor" -- the Right Sector -- in Ukraine months ago when it became clear to me that the uprising/coup in Kiev was being implemented with considerable violence and under the leadership and direction of...someone... whose interests were not those of the People. Just the opposite. This was a rightist uprising, close kin to the Nazi rebellion in Germany back in the day.

Yes, the Nazis were rebels. And they were mostly, at the time, young.

What's happening in Ukraine is emblematic of the consequences of decades of intense social and political conditioning and propaganda, led from the United States, with the intention of overthrowing and eliminating the last remnants of the Socialist/Communist economy and ideology in the West and throughout the world.

Rightist mobs, such as we see in the video, are just one of the tactics employed to ensure and enable the desired and approved outcome.

In the case of Ukraine, the target is Russia and all things Russian, not because the contemporary Russia has done anything in particular but because it exists at all. Of course there is history between Ukraine and Russia -- and particularly between Ukraine and the Soviet Union, the successor to Imperial Russia, and the state which birthed "Ukraine" as a political entity. "Ukraine SSR" even had a separate seat in the UN General Assembly during the Cold War, in addition to that of the Soviet Union, a seat provided by the Soviets in Moscow in recognition of Ukraine's cultural and social independence.

Ukraine as it exists today, in other words, is a creation of the Soviet Union -- the "grandparent" political entity which no longer exists. The "grandparent," in this case, is dead. The Russia which has taken its place is something of a cousin, perhaps, of Ukraine, but one that is psychically more akin to the great-grandparent, the parent of the Soviet Union, the Imperial Russia of the Tsars, under which "Ukraine" wasn't even a concept. And that may be part of the psychological underpinning of the current mob reaction to "Russia" -- which is both an image of the past and a loathed and feared image of a dystopian future.

Something the young do not want and cannot abide. In order for them to live, in other words, they must destroy the Old Order. They must be seen -- in their own eyes and the eyes of the world -- to destroy it. Thus the destructive mobs in Kiev and the so-called "anti-terrorist" operations in the South and East. The image is that of the young overthrowing and destroying the old.

So. We see a mob of mostly young people attack the Russian embassy in Kiev. We see the mob attack a Russian Orthodox church in Kiev. We see the mob attack a Russian bank in Kiev. We even see the replacement of the old spelling and pronunciation of (Russian) Киев "Kiev" with the modern (Ukrainian) Київ "Kyiv" -- though many news outlets in Ukraine continue to use the Russian spelling.

But... why must they do this?

What are they really destroying, and what do they think they will gain?

It might help to understand that they're living in a dystopian nightmare, one that is only partially of their own imagination.

Ukraine is poor, deliberately and cynically impoverished by outright pillage and policies of foreign interests, both Russian and Euro-American, though primarily oligarchic -- which has become the globalist interest.

Being poor but proud and independent is psychologically rewarding. Being poor but exploited and dependent is not. That's the basic psychology of what's going on. Younger Ukrainians see themselves as poor, exploited and dependent -- on Russia (or their grandparents). Freedom and liberation is seen in turning away from -- even destroying -- Russia and Russian influence, and turning toward Europe and America, even if they are further impoverished, exploited and made dependent. It doesn't matter, so long as they get to make the choice, or seem to. In other words, so long as they believe they are "independent" of ties to the past, independent of their parents and grandparents.

Their current dystopia may be spurring their rebellion, but their solution is another dystopia, quite likely a worse one for themselves, and most definitely a worse future for the "grandparents" whom they despise and whom they would destroy.

What's happening in Ukraine is a starker version of rightist uprisings against the "grandparents" that we're seeing in many places. It echoes in some ways the uprisings that convulsed the 1960s, but like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, many of the rightist rebellions of today are consciously instigated and manipulated by the very interests the young think they are rebelling against.

We saw this phenomenon over and over again during the Arab Spring -- rebellions that inspired rebellions in the United States, first in Wisconsin (ostensibly against the rightists installed in the Statehouse) and then throughout the country in the Occupy movement (ostensibly against the power of Wall Street).

I followed the Arab Spring rebellions with hope and joy, and when so many people came to occupy the Wisconsin State Capitol in rebellion against the rightist dystopians who had were in power, I cheered them on, and at times became so emotional at what I was witnessing -- or thought I was seeing -- that I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. Later, when Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots arose, more or less spontaneously, I enthusiastically joined in and participated in the rebellion, as did many of my peers and contemporaries... We may have been Old Farts, but somehow we felt kinship with the young rebels in the streets and squares who would have to carry on... This was The Revolution, or so it seemed.

Later, I would realize that all these movements, global movements, were not The Revolution itself, especially not Occupy, they were the precursors of Revolutions yet to come. The ground was being prepared. The alternatives to the present dystopia were being explored. But no real Revolution had yet come.

When the military coup in Egypt commenced last year the elected government was overthrown and thousands and thousands of Egyptians were shot down in the streets and thousands and thousands more were rounded up and disappeared -- and the United States and "the world" looked on bemused or disinterested when not actually supportive -- the pattern and practice of suppression of the Rabble in the future was pre-figured and ordained. This would be our future if we persisted in rebellion. Make no mistake.

"Rebellion" was to be the sole provenance of... whom?

Not those who sought a better future for the downtrodden many, at least not if the Egyptian model was any indication. For the many, an increasingly harsh dystopia would be the only alternative.

For the few, on the other hand, there would be endless bounty.

Many have come to recognize the pattern of increasingly harsh impositions of authority on the many, increasing benefits and bounty to the few, as a reaction to the reality of climate change, a reality which will, it is widely believed, lead to the near-extinction -- if not the complete extermination -- of the human race. Our Betters are simply greasing the skids, if you will.

That may be. I have no idea. Climate change is obvious and real, and I know we're supposed to become activists to do something about it, but I've felt for some time that we are well beyond the Tipping Point, and what will be, will be. Extinction or nearly so? Perhaps, but I tend to doubt it. Belief that extinction is inevitable unless we do something NOW! NOW! NOW! in the loving embrace of... who? Doing what? Unless we agree to be stampeded into... what... we're all going to die? What kind of bullshit is this? It's not a denial of climate change, it is more a refusal to be stampeded into some sort of Other "No Alternative Dystopia".  Our Betters, after all, are looking out for themselves, not for you and me. Whatever they want us to do is to protect them and theirs, not to comfort the masses.

They'd much rather dispose of the masses. In bulk.

Which, if predictions are borne out, climate change may take care of sooner rather than later.

As conditions deteriorate for the Great Unwashed, they may become more and more inclined to rebellion and revolution, but as we saw many years ago now, such rebellious instincts is generally turned against one's own rather than against those who are responsible for exploitation and suppression. Put another way, rebellion and revolution, when it comes, tends to come from the Right not the Left -- such of the Left as remains at any rate.

Rightist mobs rampage at will in Kiev, rightist death squads roam at will in the Donbass and along the Black Sea coast. Ukrainian oligarchs literally rule and determine who will die and how soon.

Indian rightists are triumphant in recent elections and immediately set about a neo-liberal program to the benefit of the oligarchic class.

Rightist mobs (and their oligarchic sponsors) attempt to overthrow elected and more-or-less popular governments wherever they show the least interest in social and economic justice.

Within days, within weeks, and certainly within months, such governments are overthrown by "popular" will, and anyone who says otherwise is liable to not wake up the next morning.

In the United States, people who don't fit certain relatively flexible definitions of social norms are routinely subjected to summary executions by police. This has become the primary issue in cities like Albuquerque where police misconduct has been allowed -- required? -- to reach the point where the people must rise up and demand change. Change that is slow to come, or may not come at all.

There are times when I think the DoJ's job in these instances is to protect the police and The Powers That Be from  the wrath of the people, not to rein in an out of control and unaccountable police force.

In the end, of course, the people are conditioned to accept what otherwise would be a completely unacceptable set of circumstances -- on the basis of Ol' Maggie Thatcher's dictum that "there is no alternative."

Our Rulers set us on this path decades ago, and there is no going back, nor is the a forward that accommodates the public interest, social good, community, and so on.

This is our dystopia.

This is now.

Building a better future requires envisioning alternatives to what is, imagining what can and will be. "A better world is possible," to be sure. Those who can are finding ways to achieve that Better World one baby step at a time.

This envisioning process was part of what was happening in Albuquerque over the weekend, and it is going on in cities and rural communities all over the country and the world. It's a necessary transformative process that can take a generation or more to mature. Our Rulers sought to nip it in the bud with the suppression of Occupy, but they failed. The seeds that were planted then have germinated, some have flowered, a few have spread seed of their own.

People of good will have managed to free themselves from worse situations than our own. Those who rule us are not so very bright nor so very willing to sacrifice themselves that it can't happen again.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Secret Agent Man

[Note: Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man" was the opening music for the American broadcast of "Secret Agent", a popular British television program in the mid-1960s; this post is a parody of an episode of "Dragnet", a very popular American police drama which aired on both radio and television from the late 1940s into the mid '50s, and on television alone from about 1957 until 1959. It was revived for television several times after that, most recently in 2003. All photos used in this post, unless otherwise noted, are from David Correia's Twitter stream.]

It was hot in the City, Albuquerque, New Mexico, a place the travel brochures ought to say is "so close to Texas yet so far from God." A company of useless eaters was gathered in Roosevelt Park south of Central Avenue -- aka, the World Famous Route 66 -- to vent their spleens about an "end police brutality." I was working the day shift out of police intelligence. The name is Peck, Jason Peck. I carry a badge.

Useless eaters have meant trouble in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, for as long as my partners and I have been cops. We look at ourselves as Human Waste Disposers. When a man needs killing, we take care of it. And when the undeserving go against the established order, it is up to us to learn their plans and to thwart their schemes.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Battle for Burque Live

Charlie Arasim is covering the march and rally live -- as much as he can -- on UStream. Check it out.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Let There Be Light


Descanso for James Boyd ("Abba") at the site of his execution, Sandia Foothills, Albuquerque, NM
A pile of rocks, a cross, some artificial flowers, something shiny, a candle or two or some solar yard lights... thus begins the New Mexico descanso. You see them everywhere in New Mexico. They mark the passing of one or more souls whose demise has come about through misadventure. Most are along the highways and byways, marking the sites where terrible wrecks have led to the deaths of travelers, or where pedestrians or bicyclists have been run over. A few mark the sites where people were shot by police or rivals.

So it is with the descanso for James Boyd, who was known as "Abba", up in the foothills of the Sandias just to the east of the fancy residential quarter that climbs up the hillside.

The descanso is not visible from the street, nor is it visible from the main trail that goes up into the mountains. It can only be seen from the spur trail that leads to the site of Boyd's makeshift camp, behind some huge boulders, the site where he was executed on March 16, 2014, by officers of the Albuquerque Police Department acting under color of authority to remove him from the site following complaints by a nearby resident. As they say in officialese.
Many households in New Mexico have altars and shrines with their santos and bultos and retablos and remembrances and home honors to the gods and saints and the deceased. Ours does. We have santos in the yard, santos in the house, a shrine in the bedroom,  altars in the living room, and in the Jesus Room, we've set up a veritable chapel. St. Francis, St. Anthony, and various Our Ladies and Our Lords populate the shrines and altars, as well as what we call the "Angel Kitty", holy water and holy dirt from Chimayó together with some relics of Father Roca... When the Jehovah's Witnesses come to call, they are somewhat, shall we say, taken aback, even offended by all the visible aspects of a faith that's not quite Catholic, but close enough to give them the willies. Close. Enough.
The household shrine or altar is not actually what the descanso is, though. Descanso means a place to rest.

From Benjamin Radford in the Alibi in 2009:
Descansos are the roadside memorials that pepper our state. The word “descanso” comes from the Spanish word meaning “to rest” (as in a resting place, either a final one for a body or a temporary one for pallbearers making their way to a grave). Roadside memorials are both traditional and popular in the Southwest. Albuquerque Journal columnist Leslie Linthicum noted Dec. 21, 2008, that “the decorated crosses that dot our highways, marking the place where a soul left this earth in a car crash, are high on my list of what makes New Mexico the best place to live.”[Or at least to remember the dead...]
Some descansos are very simple, a cross or even just a pile of stones marking the place where a loved one passed or is remembered.  Some are very elaborate, highly decorated and maintained, meant to gain your attention to someone beloved who now is gone.
Descansos are considered characteristically New Mexican, if not uniquely so, but they are all over the Southwest, including Texas, as seen in the video by Mark Aaron Sharon below.

descanso means a place to rest from Mark Aaron Sharon on Vimeo.
Remembrance is the key. "We remember you."
We Remember Them by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer

At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them [you].
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them [you.]
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them [you].
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them [you].
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them [you].
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them [you].
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them [you].

When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them [you].
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them [you].
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them [you].
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them [you].
When we have achievements that are based on theirs [yours]; We remember them [you].
For as long as we live, they [you] too will live, for they [you] are now a part of us as, We remember them [you].
This prayer was offered as a token of remembrance at the memorial for James Boyd which I attended last week near the site of his execution. For many of us, it was a powerful moment of  reflection, of joy, and of deep sorrow at the loss of someone dear to the place... to a few others... to the Divine.

Another version:
IN THE RISING of the sun, and in its going down, we remember them.
From the moment I wake till I fall asleep, all that I do is remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
On the frigid days of winter and the moments I breathe the cold air, I warm myself with their embrace, and remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
As the days grow longer and the outside becomes warmer, I am more awake and I remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
When I look above and see the images of the clouds and when I am comforted by the sun that shines down on me, I remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
From the time in which I feel the cool, crisp breeze and see the colors of the leaves, I remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
On the day I make resolutions for myself and on the day I reflect upon how I’ve grown, I remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
As I am faced with challenges that enter my life, I remember all that they taught me, and remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When I have gone astray and feel uncomfortable, I ask for help and remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.
From those times of celebration, love, and happiness, I remember them.
So long as they live, we, too, shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
On every day, and in every way, I know that they are with me and I remember them.
 And yet another.

Nora Anaya said she would ask permission of Abba's brother to erect a descanso in his honor at the site of his murder, for his memory's sake. She was crying as she said so, moved to tears by an event that touched so many souls in Albuquerque and around the world, and which is touching them still.

Ah, but there was already a descanso there. It would be added to, built upon, extended and cared for. James Boyd's life had meaning.

His death was unjust. So many deaths at the hands of APD and police forces around the country and around the world are unjust. We must remember. We must act.
 Today's the day of the March for Justice -- for Dignity, Justice, Community, and Peace -- in Albuquerque. It will be a time for reflection, for remembrance and for community action.
There have been twenty-seven APD-related officer shooting deaths since 2010 - that's about the same number as in NYC in the same time period (with 15 times the population). El Paso, a border town a little more populous than Albuquerque, had five officer-related shootings in the same time period.
Many Burqueños have experienced non-lethal police brutality as well. An US Department of Justice report says APD has "a culture of aggression" and has a pattern of escalating non-violent crimes scenes to conflicts ending in the use of lethal force.
The City administration and APD leadership have continually denied there is a problem and have called all the shooting deaths at the hands of APD officers legally "justified" and have done nothing substantive to address the issue. The Police Oversight Committee has no investigative or corrective authority. The DA rubber stamps the shootings as "justified."
For these reasons, we are asking that you join us in this peaceful, family-friendly march to let the powers-that-be know the level and urgency of our concern.

The march will start at Roosevelt Park, then Sycamore north to Central, Central east to Girard, Girard south to Silver, Silver west to Sycamore, Sycamore south the Roosevelt Park. That's about 2 1/2 miles.
We'd love for people to join us along the march route!
I'm sorry. I can't. I'm physically unable to do it. But my spirit is with the marchers today, and my hope is with the thousands who will say, No más¡Justicia ahora! And I will remember.
I have the intention to visit James Boyd's decanso and leave a minor tribute to his memory. Maybe today, maybe not. It's not all that important that I climb that hillside to the spot where he was killed, though I am moved to do so more and more strongly. I know my frail and failing limbs struggled just to get to the site of his memorial well below the site of his murder, and it would be a further and perhaps impossible struggle for me to climb to the spot where he was shot.

But the urge is there, oh my.
The Sandias are called the Sandias because the mountain range looks like a slice of watermelon, and the mountains turn pink in the sunset. One day, years ago, I went out for the far end of one of the streets that ends in the Sandia foothills -- I don't remember which one -- and I waited for the moment when the mountains turned pink and I took a picture, a photograph on film no less (it was that long ago), with bold rocks gray and stalwart in the foreground, and the brilliant pink mountain range rising in the distance against a turquoise sky, and for years I displayed it with other pictures of New Mexico we'd taken or collected over the years. Then, when we packed up to move from our home in California to our home in New Mexico, one of our helpers expressed admiration for the photo display, and I asked him, "Would you like to have it?" He smiled and nodded. "Well, then it's yours."
I don't need to possess the picture to remember. If someone else gains joy from it, that is my joy, too.
We remember you:

1. Aron Renfro was shot to death by Officer Andrew Cooke on January 9, 2010.
2. Kenneth Ellis III by Detective Brett Lampiris-Tremba on January 13, 2010.
3. Mickey Owings was shot to death Officer Kevin Sanchez on March 29, 2010.
4. Chris Hinz was shot to death by Officers Anthony Brown & Eric Sedler on June 10, 2010.
5. Julian Calbert was shot to death by Officer by Ron Zwicky on June 14, 2010.
6. Len Fuentes was shot to death by Officer Jeremy Hollier on July 27, 2010.
7. Enrique Carrasco was shot to death by Officer Josh Brown on August 17, 2010.
8. Daniel Gonzales was shot to death by Officers Drew Bader & Ramon Ornelas on Oct. 19, 2010.
9. Alexei Sinkevitch was shot to death by Officer David Sprague on October 31, 2010.
10. Jacob Mitschelen was shot to death by Detective Byron “Trey” Economidy on February 9, 2011.
11. Christopher Torres was shot to death by Officer Christopher J. Brown on April 12, 2011.
12. Alan Gomez was shot to death by Officer Sean Wallace on May 10, 2011.
13. Raymond Garcia was shot to death by Officer Matthew Oates on June 4, 2011.
14. Michael Marquez was shot to death by Officer Jim Perdue on August 30, 2011.
15. Mark Macoldowna was shot to death by Officer Mario Perez on January 4, 2012.
16. Daniel Tillison was shot to death by Officer Martin Smith on March 19, 2012.
17. Gary Atencio was shot to death by Officer Russ Carter on March 21, 20112.
18. Parrish Dennison was shot to death by Officers Perdue, Sedler & Aragon on March 5, 2013.
19. Kendall Carroll was shot at by APD, but was killed by State Police SWAT sniper Shane Todd on March 19, 2013.
20. Vincent Wood was shot to death by Officers Jeff Bludworth & Katherine Wright on July 5, 2013.
21. Christopher Chase was shot to death by Officer Luke McPeek and others on October 26, 2013.
22. Andy Snider was shot to death by Officer Hector Marquez on December 8, 2013.
23. James Boyd was shot to death by Detective Keith Sandy & Officer Dominique Perez on March 16, 2014.
24. Alfred Redwine was shot to death by Officer James Eichel on March 25, 2014.
25. Mary Hawkes was shot to death by Officer Jeremy Dear on April 21, 2014.
26. Armand Martin was shot to death by SWAT officer Daniel Hughes on May 3, 2014.
27. Ralph Chavez was shot to death by Officers Ryan Graves and Brian Fuchs on May 22, 2014.

We remember you. May you rest in peace.

Friday, June 20, 2014

V. B. Price Discusses Current Events of Interest to Burqueños and Others with David Correia

David has been very clear that he is not the "leader" of the coalition of community groups pressing for fundamental changes in APD and systemic reforms in the governance of Albuquerque. But he is a dynamic speaker and has been relentless in his pursuit of justice, dignity, community and peace.

What he has to say about his efforts and legal issues is of more than passing interest. On the other hand, he is not the only one with something to say about what's necessary.

David Correia writes about the Albuquerque Spring in the Alibi

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Iraq Thing vs The Ukraine Thing vs All The Other Things

There are stories going around that "Iraq is falling apart..." No doubt. It was never all that cohesive to begin with, and the severity of the British and then the Ba'athists to make it cohere was clearly the work of the demented. The American invasion and destruction of what had been cobbled together was insane. Even more so was the occupation of the ruins.

To see some uprisings taking place against the puppet regime in Baghdad is no surprise. To see them somewhat successful is even less of a surprise. The Maliki puppet regime has never been much more than a Baghdad figment in any case, hiding behind blast walls and pretending to rule a fractious and proud people who pay them no respect and and in many areas, little mind. Like so many other installed regimes, the Baghdad goon-show is a kleptocracy which is unable -- and obviously unwilling -- to provide basic public services, something that even at their lowest ebb, the Ba'athist/Saddamists were able to.

No, Iraq isn't falling apart, it was torn apart and left in tatters by an Anglo-American invasion and occupation and forced "restructuring" that destroyed an entire functioning civil society and prevented its replacement with anything Iraqis would recognize. So, there was nothing in place of the Ba'athists, just murder, warlordism and a vile non-functioning and misrepresented "democracy" that no one on earth can understand or operate according to its alleged rules.

Some of the people have decided to take their country back, and in the process they are reverting to an earlier form of Iraq, before there was an Iraq, when there were only provinces within the Ottoman Empire, the three that would come to constitute Iraq being headed in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.

Apparently, the Kurds have taken Kirkuk (a subdivision of the Mosul province), the rebel Arabs (variously called ISIS and ISIL) have taken Mosul itself and all of the territory west into Syria, there is allegedly a march on Baghdad by said rebels, a march being repelled by Valiant Iraqi  Forces (or someone) while the vast American Embassy -- so they say -- is being evacuated toute suite.

Death squads are rumored to be re-deployed to the region with calls for more, more, more from congressional delegates like Graham and McCain, while airstrikes from US forces are being prepared.

Destroy Iraq all over again. Sounds like a plan. Except for the doubts...

Doubts that what is said to be happening is actually happening at all, and doubts that the intentions of those involved are anything like the news reports would have it. It has been suggested that the House of Saud is manipulating events behind the scenes with the intent to diminish the power of the Iraqi Shi'a and enhance the power of the region's Sunnis (Kurds are Sunnis, too, they tell me) so as to recreate Iraq -- and Syria -- as a bulwark against the Persian Hordes who have been in control in Baghdad since the first re-establishment of civil governance there after the American invasion.

In other words, what's going on in Iraq -- whatever is actually going on -- is all part of the Great Game being played by Israel, the US/EU/NATO aka or the Anglo-American Neo-Imperial Project, and the House of Saud, against... who, exactly? The Persian Hordes are -- or were, prior to the Ukraine Thing -- claimed to be the Greatest (Hitler) Threat in All of Human History. Did you see The 300? Well Did You???!!!! Now that Putin-Hitler-Stalin has emerged as an even greater threat thanks to his invasion and take over of Ukraine and his March on Paris or Brussels or Berlin, or whatever the propaganda mills are churning out now, the Persian Hordes are less of an Existential Threat than they once were. The moves now are intended to contain the Russian Hordes and move the boundaries of the West eastwards over the steppe.

It's summertime too, time for stories of sharks and missing white women, or great gobs of NSA exposure by missing white boys, the sharks in the water in that case being the inescapable panopticon, the Apparat That's Watching You!!!!™

As I try to make sense of all of this, my focus is somewhat closer to home. The issue of police abuse in Albuquerque has come to a head, and more and more signs point to a resolution of some sort, but just what form it will take remains to be seen.

There are all these stakeholders, after all, and many signs point to the fact that the APD as it is cannot be reformed. The only way to make the necessary changes are to abolish it and start over from scratch. That's what the signs say, and they say so because the system is too corrupt and corrupting, and any reform would be immediately co-opted or defied. The game being played is one of protecting the force -- and the system -- as is and convincing a skeptical public it's a good thing.

The activists in Albuquerque seem to me to be a very capable group intent on focusing public attention and forcing change in what many of them see as a fragile and nearly collapsed system of policing. Some are intent on systemic change, essentially overturning the whole apparatus and beginning anew, but the system itself is fighting back, and there is little overall support for such a move, even if it is necessary.

How to accomplish the kind of change that's necessary? It means having a vision of the future as it ought to be, and I'm not sure that vision has quite jelled among the activists and the general public.

More that I thought want the kind of justice that is founded in revenge rather than restoration or repair, and I'm not convinced that approach will lead to anything better than what's in place now. Lord knows, I understand the impulse for revenge, but given the overall situation, "closure" can't come that way.

There is apparently evidence, though I haven't seen it, that APD's problem of violence is tied directly to deep-seated, pervasive corruption that runs throughout the department and courses like a river through civic politics and administration. If this is true -- and for now I can't say -- it means that any reform effort that doesn't include criminal prosecutions on a major scale will be little more than cosmetic.

From appearances at any rate, the DoJ and the city administration are seeking means to protect the status quo. The activists are pushing for real change and fundamental reform.

While this is a localized movement, it has ramifications for reform efforts throughout the country, and it is -- it seems to me -- related to the upheavals elsewhere in the world and movements of radical, fundamental changes in the way governments operate.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reparative Justice

Assembling on the Mountainside where James Boyd was Executed

James Boyd was executed on March 16, 2014 behind the large rocks in the left of the picture. He'd made a makeshift campsite out of the view of people living down the hill or of most hikers who would mostly follow a trail on the left and go around the rock formation on their way up higher in the Sandias.

His campsite was his home. A home in the midst of extraordinary desert beauty, the sort of thing that captivates those of us who live in New Mexico, filled as it is with a wonderful, harsh majesty. Here in the Sandias, on the west face of the mountains from James Boyds' home-place/campsite, the view stretches gloriously for miles, over the dusty and gritty city of Albuquerque "all the way to California." Well, not quite that far, but plenty far, to Mt. Taylor, sacred to the Diné People, some eighty miles away.

I wanted to visit the site to pay my respects, but the hike was a bit too much for me. I have to content myself with the view up the hill, and the moving memorial service presented last night in a small clearing down below, just to the left, out of view in the picture.

About 50 people, not counting media, but including James Boyd's brother, attended last night's 3 Month Memorial to honor the memory of the man whose friends called "Abba." Those who knew him declared him to be a gentle, creative soul whose difficulties in life were due to a condition over which he had no control, and for which he received scant treatment. As one of the speakers, a legislator on the State Behavioral Health subcommittee, pointed out, in New Mexico -- as in many other places -- the most extensive "mental health care facilities" are the jails.

James Boyd's death didn't have to happen and it might not have happened had there been some means or someone available to intervene that tragic day in March when he was shot to death for being... different and difficult. There will be other rationales, there always are, for his summary execution on the hillside, but the main reasons, as is so often the case, were his difference and the difficulty of dealing with him through persuasion and threat.

One woman, whose name I didn't get, said she knew "Abba" casually, that she had met him one evening when she took her daughter up near his campsite "to see the stars" and he had greeted them with dignity and interest, and he had urged their caution up in the hills. She said she came to know something of his situation, and she could empathize because there was someone in her family who suffered schizophrenia, someone who, like "Abba" wished to harm no one, but only wanted the peace of solitude and the sky overhead and open country all around. She said she wished someone had known to call her when the confrontation that led to his death took place, for she would have gladly intervened and might have been able to prevent his death. She broke down in tears telling her story, as did many others. This affront to the conscience and the dignity of all of us did not have to happen.

But it did, and the consequences have reverberated around the world.

The consequences for Albuquerque and New Mexico have been severe. There are sporadic boycotts of the state's tourist industry, people refusing to vacation in New Mexico or to visit Albuquerque, people who express fear of what might happen to them if by some unfortunate chance or fate they are confronted by the local constabulary. There have been so many stories, and so many outrages, in many parts of New Mexico. The seemingly out of control police are part of New Mexico's lore and legend these days, and the sense that their potential for the arbitrary imposition of authority and use of deadly force to compel compliance, whether warranted or not, seems to be pervasive.

It's been said that police are not nearly as violent and deadly now as they once were, even with all the shootings of suspects that occur with such gut-wrenching regularity. No, it was worse in the past they say, and there was much more crime as well, but we forget. We see and hear of the nearly constant abuse and gunfire by police and we assume it's worse now than ever. Local news, especially, is focused, laser-like, on every report of crime, so it sometimes seems like we're swamped in a sea of criminality, and many fear they will become the victims of random criminals they just know are lying in wait for them. Crime statistics don't bear it out; violent crime is at the lowest point in generations, and the likelihood of any random individual being the victim of a violent criminal is slight. It's not as slight, though, as the chance of a police officer being killed or wounded by one of these criminals. Police officers are rarely killed or injured on the job, making police work one of the safest professions.

The police did not have to kill James Boyd, they didn't have to confront him with high-powered rifles pointed at his face, they didn't have to marshal a dozen or more officers in bullet-proof vests (oddly, few of the officers who confronted Boyd were uniformed; it's puzzled me from the get go.) They didn't have to have their dogs, their flash-bangs, their bean-bag rounds and their shotguns to fire them.)  None of it was necessary. James Boyd wasn't harming anyone and was not about to harm anyone. If it was necessary to get him off the mountain because he was camping illegally, practically anyone with a lick of sense and even modest skills at dealing with the homeless mentally ill in a non-threatening and non-confrontational manner might have been able to do it.

The police could not. They had neither the skills nor the desire. Instead, they precipitated and escalated a confrontation, making the situation much more threatening and frightening for Boyd than it should have been, and when Mr. Boyd finally agreed to go with them down the mountain, even though he feared for his life, someone had already given the order to execute him. As he gathered a few of his things and began to comply, he was subjected to a flash-bang grenade and a barking, snapping police dog, and as he turned away in fear, he was shot repeatedly by two officers with high powered rifles, shot in the back, shot in the arms, paralyzed. He fell, unable to move, and the dog bit him in the legs. He was shot three more times in the buttocks with bean bag rounds, and he was ordered to "drop the knives" even though he could no longer move his arms, and even though he was mortally wounded in the torso. The wounds of a suspect do not matter to police attempting to secure a scene. The wounded suspect must comply with commands even when unable to do so. The suspect is considered armed and dangerous, no matter his or her wounds, until and unless control over the suspect is complete. If the suspect bleeds out and dies, oh well. Too bad, so sad.

Police almost never express official repentance under these circumstances, though some are privately mortified and devastated. What happened to James "Abba" Boyd at that gorgeous site in the Sandia foothills that afternoon in March was a terrible thing, unconscionable any way you look at it, and many of those who spoke at his memorial last night wanted to ensure that his death was not in vain. They called out for justice, true, but for justice that made life better for others, not for revenge.

They didn't use the term but they were calling for Reparative or Restorative Justice. It couldn't bring back James Boyd, but if it could be done at all, it would honor his memory through the good works that could be done for others in his name.

The police did a terrible thing, an unconscionable thing, when they shot and killed James Boyd on March 16, 2014, and surely some of them understand -- in the abstract -- that what they did was "wrong." They're trained not to take responsibility for their actions, so it's quite possible that those who shot Boyd or fired grenades or loosed their dog on him have no sense of remorse and take no responsibility for their actions. They are inculcated with the belief that the victim is always to blame, that the police were only there to enforce the law, protect the peace.

Reparative justice usually isn't applied in cases of such violence. Its practitioners see it as a way to deal with minor and social crimes and affronts rather than with major incidents like this. It's much like the way I was trained in conflict resolution: CR is not an appropriate means of dealing with violent conflicts or acts of war. I thought at the time that this was an artificial and unnecessary restriction on the use of a valuable tactic for resolving conflict, and I wondered why practitioners were so reluctant. But that's a separate issue.

In the current situation of seemingly out of control police violence, such as the death of James Boyd, I kept thinking back to the efforts in Sacramento I was involved in almost 20 years ago to curb police brutality and change police culture from one a predatory and violent gang-like mentality and approach to their job to one of cooperation and commitment to dignity, justice, community and peace.

It was a big challenge, and the community came together in unexpected ways to ensure the challenge was met. It was met in part by a commitment to repairing damaged or forgotten relationships, to restoring trust, and to building community rather than destroying it.

Restorative justice, in other words, though the term wasn't used. The police weren't forced to admit wrong-doing, but they changed their ways. The public wasn't forced to submit unduly to police command, but they came to respect the police more and to cooperate with them to make a better community.

Complaints against police and the incidents of brutality and misconduct were reduced dramatically. Complaints were cut in half or more than that, and the incidents of police officers killing suspects or innocent bystanders were reduced to -- in some years -- zero.

It was a remarkable achievement. It took years, but it was done. It still needs work. Throughout the process of reforming the Sacramento Police Department, a parallel process was attempted with the county sheriff's department without much success. The sheriff was in charge of the jail and his deputies were charged with law enforcement outside the city limits, and they had developed an unrepentant and independent culture that included a good deal of "physical persuasion" that caused more than a few injuries and periodic deaths.

However, in recent years, a new sheriff, a man of considerable achievement, and I believe a man of honesty and good will, has set the department on a new path that is more in line with the practices of the city police department. Whether he will succeed, I don't know, but I know he's trying.

Albuquerque's situation is much more bloody to start with. Complaints in Sacramento focused on police brutality -- beatings, home invasions, false arrests and so on -- meant to intimidate and terrify residents, but rarely involving police killing suspects. It happened, but it was relatively rare. As I recall, a more frequent problem was police running down pedestrians and bystanders in their high-speed efforts to chase suspects or get to crime scenes. That, too, changed.

But in Albuquerque, the police are notorious not just for brutality but for numerous public, summary executions. They kill. They kill with appalling frequency and with more or less complete impunity. They are not charged, they are not even held to account, and some officers on the beat have more than one killing to their credit. Some are valued for their skills at killing. Their killing devastates families, disrupts and destroys communities, and it has brought scrutiny and disrepute to the city. The execution of James Boyd wasn't the last straw by any means, but it became the catalyst for upheaval and change.

What would reparative or restorative look like in this situation? I've only thought about it superficially, so what follows is sketchy at best, but it may be a starting point for further exploration.

There's a necessary pre-condition: an acknowledgement that the killing of James Boyd was wrong. There have been many previous financial settlements and court awards for previous killings by APD, and there is a suit for damages in process on behalf of James' family. Typically, the police and city do not admit wrongdoing, but they agree to pay substantial settlements to survivors nonetheless. These settlements and judgements, however, are not "reparative." They are acknowledgements of loss.

In a reparative system, once there is an acknowledgement of wrong, steps can be taken to repair the consequences, to set right what was wrong. I would look at the situation and suggest that part of setting right the wrong that was done would involve disarming every one of the officers who were part of the confrontation with James Boyd, and permanently disarming the ones who shot him as well as those who fired grenades and bean-bags. They may have been following protocol, but it was a wrong protocol under the circumstances, and they didn't think through what they were doing. They are not robots. They could have refrained and they could have restrained their colleagues. They didn't.

Thus they should not have access to weapons in the future, as they've shown they cannot use them responsibly in appropriate circumstances, circumstances which should be vanishingly rare in any case.

Not only should every officer involved in the confrontation be disarmed, and those who fired on Boyd in any way or shot and killed Boyd should be disarmed permanently, but their commanders and supervisors should be removed for cause: they didn't act responsibly, and they didn't provide the officers under their command with appropriate guidance and tools to do their jobs. We're not sure exactly who was in command, but those who were hold the ultimate responsibility for what happened to James Boyd, and if they were honorable, they would have resigned in shame. Since, so far as we know, they have not done so, they will have to be publicly identified and removed by other means.

Once those important steps are taken, the repairs can begin. We can think of what needs to be done. One thing that was mentioned at "Abba's" memorial was that he wasn't forced to live in the hills, he was there because he wanted to be there, because he loved being outdoors and he loved the Sandia foothills. He didn't want to bother anyone, he just wanted to feel independent and free. And yet someone who lives just down the hill from where Boyd was camping complained to the police, apparently calling several times after the police initially did nothing or didn't follow up.

This person needs to understand that his actions led directly to the death of someone who wasn't harming him or anyone else. Boyd may have been in violation of the camping regulations, but he was not a threat, nor was he intentionally causing any harm.

But the man who called police to complain of someone camping illegally in the foothills probably believed he had no alternative, that calling the police was the proper thing to do. And he probably had no intention at all that James Boyd would be killed as a consequence. So many people are killed by police because someone thought that the proper thing to do was to call the police to intervene or to help a loved one in distress. I've often said, "Don't call 911 in those cases unless it is clearly and obviously a medical emergency. Your loved one is likely to be killed, not helped otherwise."

The American 911 system does not provide "help" in too many situations. For whatever reason, many Americans believe it does -- or it should -- without the use of deadly force. And many Americans believe there is no alternative to calling 911; in many cases, they're right.

So part of reparative justice in this case must be the provision of alternatives. Camping illegally should not be subject to the death penalty, no matter how annoying the camper might be. Nor should a death squad be sent to deal with an illegal camper. Where were the alternatives? The resident who called felt he had none, the 911 dispatcher felt there was no alternative, the police felt they had none. Why? Why was the only option to send a literal death squad to root out this (terrorist?) camper?

What would have happened if someone skilled at dealing with mentally ill and homeless populations had been dispatched instead? James "Abba" Boyd was well known in the homeless community, he was well liked, even admired. Many, many people knew him and any of them might have been able to talk to him that day and help him to understand why his camping there was a problem and if there had been an acceptable alternative available for Boyd, they might well have been able to convince him to give up that campsite. But they didn't know till after he was dead that there was a problem they might have been able to alleviate.

On the other hand, what harm, really, was Boyd doing, apart from violating the regulations on camping? His camp was out of sight, it was well-cared for, it was his little bit of nature, and according to some who met him, he was acting as an informal host to those who came up the mountain. Who or what was he harming? No one and nothing, as far as I can see.

What would have happened if he had not only been allowed to stay, but he was given an informal position as a kind of host to those traveling that trail? What harm would be done? What joy might he have had, and how much might he have been able to share with hikers?

These are the kinds of alternatives that need to be built in to potential or real crisis situations. And these are the kinds of alternatives that can repair communities, can build and strengthen bonds and trust. These are very simple alternatives, sane and direct. They don't require massive bureaucracies and formal procedures. They're common sense.

Common sense? The preferred alternative, no?

Reparative justice of course involves a great deal more than these few suggestions. Repairing the harm done to Albuquerque's citizens by the police will take many efforts by many people of good will. There is a great deal of anguish to overcome. Many of the wounds are still fresh, and for some, they can never heal. But the efforts must be made, and what I saw and heard last night convinced me that the community is ready and willing. The question is whether the police and city administration are.
Some news reports to add to the mix:



Albuquerque Journal

Andrew Jones, "Abba's" brother, honor's James Boyd's memory"

Sunday, June 15, 2014


There's something of a minor to-do over the Ukrainian Embassy in the US quoting from a statement by Yatsenyuk using the term "untermensch" or subhumans to describe... what or who exactly? It's not entirely clear, but that's the way it goes with translations. The sentence in which the term appears is gibberish that makes no sense.

So I translated it back into Ukrainian, and it looks like this:
  Вони загинули, бо стали на захист чоловіків і жінок, дітей і літніх людей, які опинилися перед загрозою винищення інтервентами і оплаченими ними нелюдами.
It is somewhat complicated to parse what happened here. Yats speaks fluent English, but I doubt he gave this statement in English. More likely, he did so in Ukrainian, as the statement is in regards to the apparent shoot down of a Ukrainian troop transport plane near Lugansk, in which forty or fifty troops and crew were killed. It's a statement of revenge on the Russians and the rebels for their temerity -- assuming the plane was shot down and it didn't crash for other reasons the way these things sometimes happen.

When translated at the site from Ukrainian into English (there's a little button in the upper right corner that lets the reader switch between Ukrainian and English) the term  нелюдами (nelyudamy) is rendered as "subhumans", but my balky offsite online translator renders it in Ukrainian as "fiends" and/or "monsters."

In Russian, however, the term is rendered as "non-humans." On the other hand, the sentence as a whole is complete gibberish in Russian, and the isolated word comes out "unsociable" in the context of the gibberish of the rest of the sentence.

I tried a German translation, and the term was rendered as monster or fiend, not "subhuman" or untermenschen.

So, where did it come from? Who knows? More than likely, the translation of the term нелюдами as "subhumans" was done as a deliberate provocation. It seems to have worked.

De-Legitimizing Authority and Reparative Justice

Albuquerque -- indeed, much of New Mexico -- has been going through a social and political crisis over the issue of the police use of firearms in so many confrontations with residents. There have been dozens of deaths in Albuquerque due to police gunfire. and about twice the number of those who have died have been wounded by police. No police officers have been killed by gunfire in Albuquerque since 2005, and only a handful have been wounded in such confrontations.

Statistics are similar in the rest of New Mexico.  Despite the fact that police declare themselves to be at such risk from the public at all times and in every way imaginable, and how their lives depend on their split-second decisions -- which often result in the deaths of residents -- police work is actually quite safe compared to most other professions, and residents are not shooting cops, nor are they trying to in any significant numbers.

It's quite the other way around. Police have taken to stalking residents, like Mary Hawkes, and gunning them down based on the suspect's non-compliance or attitude, and their perception that the suspect might be carrying or holding a weapon (let's say a gun, but it could be anything) and is a potential threat at some point in the future, either to the officer or to someone else... The officer who killed Mary Hawkes, for example, claimed that she "pointed a gun" at him -- and that's why he shot her to death, but many of those who knew Mary Hawkes say the story told by the officer is unlikely to be true, there is no video back up of the officer's story (somehow the video camera he wore and was supposed to turn on during his encounter with Mary Hawkes recorded nothing), and the gun he said she pointed at him was suspicious in and of itself, as it was not noted in first-responder videos of the scene, and it seemed to "appear" in the scene and move around quite a bit before being retrieved by investigators. Also, when the police chief held a news conference to justify the killing to the public, instead of the gun they said she had and which was recovered at the scene, he held up another gun, which he said was like the gun recovered at the scene. Close enough, eh? It was bizarre.

Many people suspect the gun Mary Hawkes supposedly had when she was shot and killed was a "throw-down," a weapon of convenience supplied by police to justify the killing, and the showing of a gun like the gun recovered at the scene was highly evocative of that practice. As there is no corroborating evidence, only the word of the officer involved, there's is no way to be sure, and the police like it that way. It allows for impunity, and impunity is something police seem to think is their right.

But impunity for anyone, but especially for those in positions of authority, is corrosive to society and leads to breakdown in social trust and cohesion. Ultimately, the breakdown of trust leads to the de-legitimization of authority.

Albuquerque is at that point now. The entire system of civic authority is under intense scrutiny and strain, and important parts of it have been de-legitimized in the eyes of a growing number of residents. The police are seen by many as an alien and militarized occupying force, out of control and running wild, threatening, brutalizing and killing with complete impunity. The city's governing and legal authorities -- the mayor and city council, the city administrator, the district attorney, the city attorney, and the police chief -- have faced numerous complaints about their disinterest (shall we say) in justice, and their unwavering support (well...) of police no matter what they do -- at least until recently -- and so, in turn, their authority has been de-legitimized in the eyes of many residents.

A growing community of activists have taken it upon themselves to help ensure that this process of de-legitimization of authority continues and is highlighted in the press and media, utilizing many well-known non-violent resistance and civil disobedience tactics. There have been many large and small demonstrations against police misconduct, many disruptions of the routines of power, many calls for justice and reform, many memorials for the dead, many pleas for redress of grievance.

Until very recently, the city and police administration were simply immune to any of this, indeed behaved as if it weren't happening at all, and city officials ostentatiously ignored the pleas of hurt and outraged residents. Even as tens of millions of dollars were paid out to victims and survivors of an out of control police force, the city maintained its disinterest in justice and denial of justice for those who had long been suffering at the hands of a militarized and deadly police force. 

As has been pointed out many times, complaints about police misconduct and routine shootings and killings have been piling up for many years, and apart from paying out tens of millions of dollars in settlements and court awards, the city made few and mostly futile efforts to reform and restrain policing. Many recommendations were made, some were adopted, few made any difference in the rate of killing and abuse by police.

Something more, and something else was needed.

A higher authority has stepped in. The Department of Justice civil rights division investigated and issued a scathing report in April of this year which found in essence that the Albuquerque Police Department has long engaged in a pattern and practice of "unconstitutional policing," and which cited the almost arbitrary use of weapons -- including gunfire -- against residents with no justification. It was a devastating report highlighting some of the worst abuses police engage in.

Its findings and recommendations became the basis for further demonstrations and de-legitimization of authority.

At least temporarily, the rate of killing seemed to increase, as if the police were in defiance of an authority greater than themselves. There has been no video evidence of any police killing in Albuquerque -- at least none released -- since the killing of James Boyd on March 16 which caused an international uproar.

That video showed a mentally ill homeless man, suspected of nothing more than illegal camping, confronted by a dozen or more heavily armed and threatening police who point high powered rifles at him throughout the confrontation, threatening him if he does not surrender, ordering him to obey, though he is terrified for his life under the circumstances, and believes he's done nothing to warrant this kind of over-reaction by the police. Eventually he agrees to surrender, and as he is doing so, a flash-bang grenade is fired at him, a police dog is loosed on him, and as he turns away to try to protect himself, two officers fire their rifles at him. Three bullets strike him; he falls, paralyzed, the dog bites him repeatedly, and three bean-bag round are fired at him from close range. He can't move, and yet he is repeatedly ordered to "drop the knives!!!" -- but both arms are essentially paralyzed from police gunfire, and he has a mortal wound in his torso. He physically can't comply. It matters not at all to the police who are only concerned with gaining his compliance -- whether or not he is capable of doing as commanded.

The video of this appalling incident was released by the police chief who sincerely believed it exonerated the police and provided justification for the killing. The public thought otherwise. International condemnation and revulsion soon followed. The police believed that because Boyd had two small knives in his possession at the time he was killed ("executed" has become a commonly used term) shooting him as he was turning away from their dog and a flash-bang grenade  was justified. He had... knives... and thus he was seen as an immanent and mortal threat to police, even though he had been trying to surrender up to the moment that the police fired the grenade and loosed the dog.

This was insane.

The police said that during the hours long confrontation, he had repeatedly threatened them, though he had no way to carry out his threats, and it was obvious to anyone with a lick of sense that he was pretty well out of his mind. He was never a serious threat to the officers or to anyone else, not even to himself.

Yet they killed him because they were afraid he might be a threat at some point.

Apparently, they figured that he was the greatest threat to them as he was surrendering, so they made a "split-second decision" -- police decisions are always "split-second" ones even in an hours-long confrontation like this one -- to execute Boyd so that he wouldn't become an actual threat to their safety.

In essence, they tricked him into surrendering so that they could kill him.

And initially, the police chief saw nothing wrong with it. No. Instead, the killing of James Boyd was justified in his mind because... ?

Because it never made sense to most of those who saw the video, the condemnation from around the world was swift and severe. Boyd had literally done nothing to warrant his execution, not by any sane standard, and the fact that the police chief claimed his killing was justified merely showed how very far off the rails our nation's policing culture -- and Albuquerque's police -- have gone.

This was not the first instance that people have seen for themselves what tragic consequences have come from a police culture focused on something other than their core mission -- supposedly to protect and serve. But an obvious question arises: protect and serve whom?

Not people like James Boyd, obviously. Not people like Mary Hawkes. We could go on and on and on and on naming the names of people who are not protected and not served by the police, and maybe we should do that, because when it comes down to it, the police protect and serve a very small fraction of the population. They prey on and sometimes kill everyone else.

This is nothing less than the Third World standard of policing. And for reasons of history and culture, this standard is most apparent in New Mexico and particularly in Albuquerque.

De-legitimizing this form of authority is necessary in order to change it. Authority will fight, as APD and the city administration are doing, even while making the pretense of compliance with an authority greater than themselves.

They are making cosmetic rather than substantive changes in order to appear to comply, much as the city administration and the police department of Oakland has been doing for more than a decade. They refuse to change their fundamental practices, practices which include the deliberate use of police violence against targeted populations and the protection of wealth and power at the expense of dignity and justice for everyone else.

The fight becomes more intense as authority is more and more de-legitimized. Typically, if nothing is prepared to take the place of a de-legitimized authority, the situation reverts to whatever the status quo ante was (this happened in Oakland), and progress is reversed, halted, or hamstrung, while lines and processes of authority are re-established. A cycle may then be established in which there is a constant circling of a point, but never a resolution.

The resolution, in my view, comes with the commitment to reparative or restorative justice.

I'll do another post on the process we went through in Sacramento for dealing with a police force that had become a danger to the public and how some important but modest reforms changed the way the police interacted with the public and the public responded to the police. The situation in Sacramento was not as bloody as it has been in Albuquerque, but the dynamics were very similar.