Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dogs of War--Two Famous Greek Strays

Kanellos Preparing for a Foray
Loukanikos in Action
Greeks have been taking to the streets in massive numbers to protest meltdown of the Greek economy as well as austerity measures that include massive layoffs of public sector workers, wage reductions of 20 percent and elimination of promised pensions.

Tear Gas Doesn't Phase Loukanikos
Now two loyal protesters on on the Greek streets are finally getting their 15 minutes of fame.  They are two stray dogs of Athens: Loukanikos and Kanellos. Both are fiercely committed and militant political animals. Photographs show that while Loukanikos has been active for many years and can be seen in photos dating back to 2008, Kanellos is more of a Johnny-come-lately to the struggle.

Both canines are skilled at intimidating the police by barking. Loukanikos will bravely enter the fray to attack tear gas canisters, which he bites vigorously. Kanellos seem to put more of his focus on strategy. These puppies are taking the internet by storm and fast becoming role models of revolution.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Repression and Responsibility in Oakland

Prayer Flags, Protesters and Police
I attended a workshop about legal issues that activists in the Occupy movement, specifically Occupy Oakland, are facing. It was eye-opening to say the least. I found out the DNA samples were taken from some of the 400 protesters arrested on January 28th, "Oakland Move-In Day."

The FBI and Homeland Security are directing a large part of the repression at this point. The specter of Grand Juries being impaneled looms as well.

The violations committed against those arrested are many and range from people being kept in handcuffs for many hours, imprisonment of 25 people in a cell designed for 2 where there was not room enough to sit. Denial of medications and refusal to allow use of bathrooms, denial of attorney visits were the norm. Many folks were detained all weekend on bogus charges that will never come to court except, hopefully, as a class-action suit. It is essential to remember that all these "police procedures" were used against people who had committed no crimes and were simply exercising their first amendment right to free speech.

One 27 year old man who threw light, wind-born seedpods in the direction of the police is being held on eight felony charges. His bail has been set at $400,000. The seedpods never reached the cops due to their lack of weight. His mother describes the action as equivalent of to trying to "throw popcorn."

At this workshop the importance of responsible Internet posting was also stressed. Some photos and videos have already been used to identify people for "questioning" even though they were not engaged in illegal activities, and to arrest those that were. The posting of photos and videos should be confined to exposing illegal police activity. Everything else can be kept as a historical record to be shared at a later date.

It is also imperative that all blogging and writing that is posted on the web not incriminate anyone or expose inside information that could jeopardize the safety of others.

I have been through many political battles but, in the one we are waging now, it is literally true that the whole world is watching. Those of us both chronicling and participating have an ethical responsibility to "do no harm" with the new tools that the technological revolution has afforded us.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Difference Between Nonviolence and Pacifism

Nonviolent Teachers March
A tremendous amount of controversy is being stirred up in Occupy Oakland by the tactics of a small minority of demonstrators, some calling their group the "Black Bloc." I agree with the assessment some have put forth that throwing things and provoking the police to respond violently is counterproductive and endangers everyone participating in an action, particularly the least mobile demonstrators who are often children and the elderly.

Having said that, I would like to clarify my feelings on the philosophy of nonviolence, which is the one I subscribe to, versus the philosophy of pacifism which I do not.

Nonviolence to me implies a commitment to never, at this juncture of our movement, initiate violence in any situation. I believe in this ideal. However, in a situation where violence is instigated against me, I will respond appropriately to the best of my ability. For example, if someone grabs me on the street to rob or injure me, I will try to defend myself by any and all means available. In contrast, a pacifist might attempt to transcend the ordeal entirely, even if it means sacrificing his or her own life.

There is undoubtedly a place for escalating struggle in the political arena. To overthrow fascism and dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, it is totally reasonable to utilize all physical force necessary. Here, in the USA we are not there yet and I sincerely hope that we never arrive.

But our situation has been volatile and ripe for fascism since the onset of the massive economic crisis. This explains the rise of the insidious Tea Party Movement. But in an environment of stress and struggle, many outcomes are possible. The first option is happening right now and it involves a situation where the masses rise up in peaceful unity to prevent a villainous and hateful regime from taking control. Our very lives depend on its success.

If we fail, the second option arises. This occurs when groups of people are systematically scapegoated for existing problems. It relies on deep-seated prejudices and fears to divide and conquer, thereby obliterating the genuine forces of thievery and greed that caused the suffering to begin with. If a large group of people fall for this level of hatred and misinformation, I can only hope the response will be immediate in timing and appropriate in scale.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Free Speech, Civil Rights and Transparency

It Seems Obvious to Me...
The day following the arrest of filmmaker Josh Fox for attempting to videotape a "public hearing" on the environmentally toxic practice of  hydraulic fracturing (fracking), combined with the arrest and detention of at least six credentialed journalists at the Occupy Oakland protest on January 28th, It is evident that our first amendment right to free speech is a relic of days gone by.

Another nail in its coffin was provided yesterday, February 2nd, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a previous ruling to release the tapes of the Proposition 8 hearings of 2010, presided over by Justice Vaughn Walker.

It was unprecedented that the videos were held back from public view in the first place and the obscenity is only compounded by this decision. The whole affair begs the obvious question as to why the constitutional right to equal protection is being withheld from LGBTs in the first place. The long stalemate since the hearing a year and a half ago illustrates the reticence of the powers that be to grant full rights of citizenship to all of its citizens.

Although Proposition 8 a just a statewide, California issue, providing full and equal rights for all is a federal issue that must be addressed nationally. Instead we must wait for the lens of history to look back upon this era of open discrimination with shame. Perhaps hindsight is always 20/20, but our present vision is myopic as hell!