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Three Things: A for “Antifa”, B for Brutality, C for Commit (Murder)

Messy title, sorry — couldn’t think of something snappy and I’m even struggling with a lead in. Let’s just get to it.

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A/B switch: “Antifa”

A little article about a tiny town caught my eye this weekend. Some racist gits in a rural area of Washington state played cat-and-mouse with a multi-racial family trying to camp in the area while driving a bus-turned-camper.

Local racists harassed them, accusing them of being members of “Antifa” — the made-up bugbear conjured from anti-fascist philosophy by Trump’s brain trust, hereinafter referred to with appropriate scare quotes. Even the local paper reports “Antifa” exists as an organization when there isn’t one.

What struck me as odd is how intensely a local gun shop owner and at least a dozen local residents believe there is an effort by “Antifa” to bus in their anarchist members to make trouble.

Right…busloads into a town with an estimated population of 6,600.

How did this notion about bogeyman “Antifa” become so quickly and deeply embedded in a remote area of the U.S.? Especially where the possibility of any anarchists making a big splash let alone filling a bus is utterly ridiculous.

It’s not just this one small town, either. It’s much of the Pacific Northwest and beyond — so many people looking like doofuses, claiming victory over non-existent anarchist hordes.

This mythology has even eaten the already-compromised brains of candidates like this one:

She’s threatening people with an automatic weapon in a campaign ad and then complains because Facebook took down her advertisement. Greene is simply unfit to hold office if she can’t understand threats of violence are simple violations of Terms of Service.

Now it’s true that figureheads in the GOP have been willing to push the vaporous entity “Antifa” using their bully pulpit — like Sen. Ted Cruz droning on last summer about a non-binding Senate resolution, S.Res. 279, submitted by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) declaring “Antifa” a terrorist organization while pointing to a Pacific Northwest group which may or may not have truly existed and whose domain address has been defunct for three years.

But most right-wing voters don’t run around saying, “But Ted Cruz said…” about any topic. If they did he might have had a chance at winning the primary in 2016, but he’s just a placeholder.

Same for Bill Cassidy — he’s just another empty suit in a GOP seat.

Some organized effort has been put into building and consolidating pro-fascist sentiment among people willing to arm themselves, take to the streets, and cut down trees in the woods, and openly harass persons of color.

Here’s my theory: “Antifa” isn’t just a bogeyman. It’s a test, like an A/B switch. The folks who adopt this concept so deeply they are willing to take action outside the norm can also be persuaded to take other action.

QAnon likely serves a similar purpose, providing a centralized mythology for persons identified as too weak to reason out of a wet paper bag but willing to invest some degree of effort for their new “faith” system.

What can’t be seen apart from idiots like this gun shop owner and his compadres is how this uptake is being tested online. This small town gun shop owner didn’t pull the idea of bus-packing “Antifa” terrorists out of thin air; he must have gotten through broadcast media and social media, of which only social media would allow a two-way push-pull of content.

Who or what is at the other end of whatever pushed this “Antifa”-on-buses meme to this tiny town in northwestern Washington? Is it just Facebook content and Fox, or is something more in play?

Is it like the Russian influence operations which were able to convince people to organize Trump rallies via Facebook in 2016?

Or is it something more simple — a convenient distraction from the continuing mass death event we know as COVID-19?

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B for Brutality

Greg Doucette has been collecting and curating cases of police brutality and abuse from across the country since protests began after George Floyd’s murder-by-racist-cop.

As of this afternoon Doucette has collected at least 384 independent cases, nearly all captured on camera.

This many cases over the last week’s time suggests there are not merely a few bad apples, but that the entire barrel has now gone rotten.

Brutality is normalized from top to bottom of law enforcement, deeply embedded into policing.

These persons employed by our tax dollars are not protecting anyone. It’s not clear who they are serving apart from property owners; they are not serving the greater public interest.

Most telling: in cities where curfews were not enforced or were lifted, there was no violence.

The police have been the source of violence — many of nearly 400 cases itemized so far provide ample evidence of this fact.

It’s time to look for better models to serve the public’s needs. We are paying too much for services which do not work. We need to do more than reform policing. It should be torn down, plowed into the ground, and something better built from scratch.

Look at the City of Los Angeles’ projected budget allocation:

New York City’s budget is similarly distributed with a massive skew toward policing.

What this currently pays for is abusive police who assault the public, escalate tensions, after failing to make a good faith effort to de-escalate and mediate community conflict.

The money is there; priorities need to change. Tax dollars need to be spent more effectively on the root causes which have driven the need for policing — more money for mental health resources, community housing for the homeless, therapy for drug addiction, child care, after-school programs, and crisis intervention instead of militarized policing which moves to violence far too eagerly, too often.

It’s time to abolish police as we’ve known them and build something better, healthier for our society.

If you’re balking at this idea, ask yourself why.

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C for Committing Murder — mass murder by COVID-19

Given the large number of rallies across all 50 states protesting police brutality and racism, it’s reasonable to expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The police bear a substantive portion of responsibility for anticipated cases arising from the protests due to poor policing practices including imposition and enforcement of curfews. Like the nearly 400 documented cases of brutality and abuse, police kettling of protesters into tight clusters breaking social distancing appeared organized and systematic.

Like repeated use of bridge closures to limit protesters’ movement even when being herded away from protest sites toward home at the end of the day.

New York City was particularly bad; it not only shut down bridges, forcing protesters into narrow streams, but it shut down subway stations for several days, sometimes at NYPD’s orders. Protesters bunched up at the subway finding themselves without transportation, hemmed in by police. Lack of alternate public transportation did not help matters.

The situation was further aggravated by police seizure of bikes for stupid (read: no) reasons.

Kettling wasn’t confined to New York City. There are many tweets documenting cases in larger cities like Seattle and Chicago.

An additional risk factor for protesters is their exposure to chemical irritants like pepper spray and tear gas. This Twitter thread explains the risks irritants pose.

Stress caused by police abuses may make protesters more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

Which may have been the point: abusive police encouraged to use bad police practices may have been engaged in passive-aggressive large scale murder by exposure to biological agents.

We can only hope that the increased use of masks by protesters discouraged coronavirus transmission and reduced injuries caused by chemical irritants.

Yes, chemical irritants, Bill Barr, you lying sluggard with zero background in science. Let an expert in chemistry tell you.

Barr poses a threat to the health and welfare of the American public and needs to be impeached. Even if the GOP Senate will slack off and fail to remove him, the Dem-led House should impeach Barr for his abuse of office and his lying to the public so that Congressional records tell the future Barr’s bullshit was and is unacceptable from an attorney general.

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And then the white nationalists embedded throughout police forces across the country, for which I haven’t enough energy remaining though it’s urgently in need of attention.

Like Salem, Oregon:

And Las Vegas:

There’s more of them. Trump’s Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr have failed to do anything effective to root them out, though a GOP-led Congress throughout Obama’s administration and beyond has also played a role in suppressing oversight of white nationalist threats infiltrating law enforcement.

It looks less like neglect and more like deliberate abuse.

 

This is an open thread.

Assaults on Free Speech and the Cities We Didn’t See

Last night I thread a series of tweets documenting law enforcement abuses including attacks on journalists in different cities across the country during protests against police brutality.

I collected more than a half dozen reports from Minneapolis alone of attacks on journalists from different news organizations. This number doesn’t represent the entire number of journalists attacked in that one city.

Those attacked included:

Michael Anthony Adams, journalist, VICE
Tom Aviles, photojournalist, CBS affiliate WCCO
Jennifer Brooks, columnist, Star Tribune
Julio-Cesar Chavez, cameraman, Reuters and
Rodney Seward, security advisor, Reuters
Carolyn Cole, photographer, Los Angeles Times
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, journalist Los Angeles Times
John Marschitz, sound engineer, CBS (national)
Unidentified team member with Omar Jimenez, CNN
Unidentified camera person (reported by CNN but doesn’t appear to be on their team)
Nina Svanberg, journalist, Express-Sweden
Linda Tirado, freelance photographer
Ali Velshi, correspondent, MSNBC (and his team including Morgan Chesky and Richard Lui)

It’s not clear from Jennifer Brooks’ tweets from May 28 that her identity was clear to the police vehicle indiscriminately spraying tear gas out of a window toward the crowd.

Linda Tirado lost the sight in her left eye after being hit with a rubber bullet in the face.

I don’t have any tweets from Louisville KY but I’ve read that there was at least one more incident yesterday involving a member of the press. If you have anything about this and other police attacks on media not listed here, please share in comments.

Los Angeles was at least as bad as Minneapolis in terms of attacks on journalists.

These aren’t random accidents. This is a clear pattern of behavior.

Law enforcement across the country is attacking the exercise of the First Amendment.

They aren’t doing this relying on qualified immunity; their attacks on members of the press are violations of the Constitution where the identity of the media is clear, where law enforcement has made zero effort to validate the identity of the media persons they attacked.

Law enforcement are doing this with qualified impunity — assumed but not granted by voters.

Ignoring the rule of law which is the foundation of law enforcement’s existence means law enforcement has de-legitimized itself.

They are criminal gangs when they break the law and fail to protect and serve the public’s interest by attacking media which informs the public.

It’s absolutely essential that elected officials and the public demand accountability from law enforcement for their attacks on media during protests this week, before law enforcement becomes even more unaccountable for a broader range of failures to protect and serve the public

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While Twitter has been awash with reports of police abusing protesters and the press — which interestingly failed to stop many white instigators engaging in property damage across the country — there were three cities I noted which did not devolve into riots while observing protests of police brutality.

They were Santa Cruz, California and Flint, Michigan.

I’ll let these tweets speak for themselves.

There weren’t reports in my timeline of property damage and rioting in either of these cities last night.

There also weren’t reports in these two cities of white agents provocateur escalating tensions by damaging property as there were in every city where police abused protesters.

It’d be nice to know if there is a more direct link between police brutality during protests and the appearance of white agitators.

This is an open thread.