Violent Protest is an American Tradition, Part 1

On July 8 1965, CORE led a march in Bogalusa, Louisiana. Like many marches, the Bogalusa march had members of the Deacons for Defense on hand to protect the participants. Deacons Milton Johnson and Henry Austin rode alongside the marchers, keeping an eye on the angry white crowd that followed the march.  At first, police escorts were able to separate the marchers from the racist white people who were heckling them; but as the march neared it’s halfway mark, the growing crowd began to throw rocks and bricks at the marchers. When one of the bricks hit 17 year old Hattie Mae Hill in the head, the crowd of white people got closer to her, ripping at her clothes and hitting her. Medics tried to remove her from the crowd, but they were outnumbered. When Johnson was able to pull her into the safety of the car, the crowd targeted him. A white man named Alton Crowe began beating Johnson through the window of the car.

So Henry Austin pulled out his .38 Smith & Wesson and told the crowd to back off.  When they ignored him, he fired warning shots into the air. And when the group of attackers ignored his warning shots, he fired two shots into the chest of Alton Crowe.

The crowd was ready to kill Austin and Johnson, but they were both immediately arrested. Crowe survived, so Austin and Johnson were both able to make bail. Austin found he returned to Bogalusa a hero — at least to the black population of Bogalusa. White politicians did not share the community’s enthusiasm over Austin’s heroism.

Here is how Lance Hill description of the political aftermath of the Crowe shooting in his book, The Deacons for Defense:

 In the wake of the Crowe shooting, [Governor] McKeithen pursued a “plague on both your houses” strategy toward the Deacons and the Klan. He condemned both the violent racists and the civil rights groups as equally responsible for the Bogalusa crisis. But McKeithen reserved his harshest criticism for the Deacons and failed to even mention the Klan by name. The governor castigated [Deacons leaders] Young and Sims as “cowards” and “trash” and declared that “no decent negroes” were participating in the civil rights marches. McKeithen’s appeasement of the Klan was the rule rather than the exception for white Louisiana politicians.

“I think there is blame on both sides….what about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?…You had people that were very fine people on both sides,” said Donald Trump on August 15, 2017, in a press conference discussing the murder of Heather Heyer by white supremacist James Alex Fields.

And the KKK’s response? Hill explains:

“Most whites do not admit it,” wrote the New York Times after the Crowe shooting, “but the Deacons send a chill down their spines.” The truth of this was borne out in subsequent marches. In the days following the shooting the huge mobs of whites disappeared. The Crowe shooting-and an increased police presence-discouraged ordinary whites from attending the Klan’s counter demonstrations. The Klan could no longer organize mass attacks on black demonstrations in Bogalusa. This inability to organize mass direct action protests reduced the Klan to isolated terror tactics and diminished its influence over nonaffiliated segregationists in the mill town.

Sound familiar?

As members of the press like Petula Dvorak write pearl clutching think pieces decrying Antifa’s egg throwing and vehement demands to not be filmed against their wishes, they’re missing a huge historical connection.

Violent protest is an American tradition, and the work of those willing to take on its burden has long been the backbone of the success of the “love and unity” peaceful demonstrators — who often end up being the only ones credited when progress happens.

Though the July 8th march was not the first time the Deacons protected a CORE protest, it was the first time violence had occurred against a white man. The shooting made the white liberals who were funding CORE nervous, and while members of CORE were well aware that some of their activists were alive because of the protection of the Deacons, journalists were instead focused on whether or not CORE had strayed from its ideal of nonviolent action. Ultimately, CORE took the stance that their members would continue to practice nonviolent protest, but they would be potentially protected by private citizens who were armed.

The lesson learned by CORE was that the police couldn’t be trusted to equally enforce the law. In 2018, it isn’t up for debate that people still feel this way, and it’s a hard argument to make that everyone is treated equally. While the FBI is monitoring the home and Twitter account of BLM activist DeRay McKesson, the MPD is guarding white supremacists in front of the White House. Perhaps Dvorak’s cutesy attempt at cluelessness in her suggestion that the police and antifa came to a head on Sunday in front of an Au Bon Pain because they want to “bring back the Triple Cinnamon Scone” would be less disgusting if America’s legacy of trivializing the rights of minorities didn’t exist.

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Stephen Miller is Your Smug, Gaslighting Tinder Date

Stephen Miller’s exchange with Jim Acosta on Wednesday was horrific, yet familiar.

Women know Stephen Miller. Stephen Miller is that asshole you meet on Tinder, who wants to send you a message so he can let you know your pictures from the Women’s March are really sexist against men. The kind of guy who says, “WELL ACTUALLY,” or, “let me play devil’s advocate here,” before blatantly insulting you and your intelligence. The one who says your name in a way you can almost see the your name in italics (and maybe all caps) coming out of his mouth — over and over. He’s the guy who walks up to you at a bar, hits on you in the most obnoxious manner possible, asks you questions, and proceeds to spin your basic beliefs into a web of bullshit. He’s the smug jerk who pretends to not understand phrases that are commonly used in the vernacular. Instead, he takes every comment you say completely literally, and suggests you are the dumb one for speaking like a human and not a robot. He’s the kind of racist asshole that he makes you out to be a racist monster — and all you said was, “Hey, I think that black lives matter.”

“Well, actually, Manda, it’s pretty racist that you even see race. Manda, why do you have to bring race into it? And that just shows me, Manda, that you are being racist against everyone who isn’t black, and you’re racist against black people, Manda, because you’re acting like they can’t take care of themselves and need a slogan. And, Manda, just to play devil’s advocate, but maybe cops kill black people more because more of them are criminals.” [insert self satisfied smirk]

Clearly, I’ve been tricked into a first date with a Stephen Miller or two. You live, you learn, you more obsessively Google first dates, swipe left more, and life goes on.

Except we can’t just swipe left or abandon our seat at the bar to get rid of him — because insufferable Stephen Miller is a top White House advisor. And life can’t go on for everyone — Miller might have pretended to not understand that Acosta was using hyperbole when he asked if the English requirement meant the US would only admit people from the UK or Australia, but don’t be fooled: that is Stephen Miller’s wet dream.

It’s truly remarkable how many interviews and statements given by or about members of this administration sound frighteningly similar to things sexual harassers or abusers say to women.  If only we had had some kind of clue, indicating how horrible a Trump presidency would be….

 

100 Days of Hell: Beauregard Sessions

It’s exhausting to stay outraged about everything that has happened in Trump’s first 100 days, but at least Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps going out of his way to remind us how horrible he is.

Sessions has made it clear that fear mongering should replace facts when it comes to creating policy. Forget the antics of the rest of the administration; keeping up with Sessions’s decisions alone is almost a full time job. Here are some of the shitty things that shitty Jeff Sessions has done (and I won’t even talk about how I watched him dig around his nose and stare at his boogers when I was at his confirmation hearing): 

Tribal Sovereignty 

When Sessions was sworn in, President Trump signed a handful of executive actions that were right in line with Sessions’s beliefs. One was the Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers. In this order, the President called for “multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts” to deal with violence against police officers.

Never mind that violence against police is down. Never mind that there is no epidemic of unsolved crimes against cops. Facts clearly aren’t important to the Trump administration.

If facts mattered, the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t have met so much resistance from Jeff Sessions back in 2013.  Until 2015, tribal officers could not prosecute non-Natives who committed crimes on tribal land — resulting in Native American women being sexually assaulted more than four times the national average, primarily by men who were not Native American. This was a problem the 2013 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act specifically addressed by allowing some tribal courts to sometimes prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence.

Sessions voted against VAWA, claiming that this tribal court provision was a “big concern” for him. But now, when he wants to convince the country that police are the ones we need to protect from violence, forcing multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts is fine. Cool. 

DACA

Created by Obama in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were born after 6/15/81 and who came to America before they were 16. Applicants have to be enrolled in school and pass a background check. The idea behind DACA was to help young people who were working to become valuable members of society by streamlining the citizenship process, especially since so many of the people eligible were primarily raised in the US.

Back in January, Donald Trump said that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” By February, Juan Manuel Montes became the first DACA recipient to be deported. Now it’s April, and I’m still not convinced Donald Trump knows what DACA is — but I’m damn sure Sessions knows and hates DACA.

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Fellow racist Steve King never disappoints. Also, learn how to use your camera, Steve.

“I believe everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported…we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element,” Sessions announced on ABC’s This Week (emphasis mine).

Their first focus might be the criminal element, but Sessions has a pretty messed up perception of constitutes criminal activity.  Over 1.5 million undocumented people have told the federal government that they are here and applied for DACA. Now these same people have to place their trust in Sessions, who seems to have a burning desire to end the program.

Black Lives Matter

After high profile police killings, the DOJ will come into a city and investigate the police force. They will spend a year or two interviewing citizens and cops, doing ride alongs, holding meetings, and combing through documents to understand if there are problems within the structure of the department. After they create a report on their findings, they work with the city to make a consent decree — a legally binding contract that details how the city will address the issues the DOJ has found. Baltimore is, of course, one of the cities to be a recipient of such an investigation — and it has the unique position of having the process of creating and signing the consent decree spread between the Obama and Trump administrations.

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Right before Baltimore held a public hearing on their consent decree, the DOJ asked for a delay in the implementation of the consent decree, and a review of all active decrees. The judge denied the Baltimore motion, and the public hearing went on as scheduled. Despite having the motion denied, the DOJ decided to again bring up the possibility of delaying the process.

“Reasonable minds may disagree if this decree is the perfect way forward,” stated John Gore, the DOJ’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, describing the very  document his department created and signed. Gore added that the current administration has “grave concerns” over the decree, and reiterated the need for the already-denied motion for a delay.

The city responded that, not only was a delay was not necessary, but community input was the most important part of reform, and that both parties went to great lengths to involve the community in the creation of the consent decree. To delay it would shake the confidence the community has in the reform — of course, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes consent decrees “undermine respect for our police officers,” I assume that protecting the community is no longer a function of the DOJ.

Under any other circumstances, watching the DOJ argue against justice would have been unusual. In a way, Sessions’s DOJ helped bring residents and the police together: of the 49 residents who spoke at this hearing, the vast majority sided with the stance of the Baltimore Police Department.

In July 2015, I attended a very crowded town hall meeting at Sojourner-Douglass College. The first half of the meeting was a panel discussion, and the second half was community members sharing their stories with representatives from the Department of Justice. Many tears were shed as citizens repeated how grateful they were that the DOJ was finally there, that someone was finally listening to their stories. At the time, had you told me that these representatives would become the sabotaging enemies of reform, I would have laughed at you.

The day after the Baltimore Uprising, people gathered around the riot police set up at Penn and North. There were prayers, debates, and crying — but there was also a feeling of cautious optimism.. People expressed hope that maybe now the government would do for Baltimore what it had done for Ferguson — a full investigation into the workings of the police department. Maybe now people would listen.

I would find it hard to believe that this sentiment is not expressed nationwide, every time a police shooting sparks large protests. So what happens when we take away the only government organization that listens?

When the next Freddie Gray or Philando Castile is killed, when the next city has had enough — will Sessions directly say, “sorry, but we no longer wish to help those who have been victimized by the police”? Did John Gore’s years working for Jones Day prepare him to be the one to tell people the official stance of the federal government is that their lives and struggles don’t matter?

Do you want a riot, Jeff Sessions? Because this is how you get a riot.

Donald Trump’s Impeachable Offenses: Twitter Fingers Edition

Because we are living in the bizarre hell that is 2017, discussing whether or not the tweets from the President of the United States are impeachable is a real topic of conversation. So, for my liberal snowflake comrades, I have done the dirty work of combing through Trump’s Twitter and pulling out some of his impeachable tweets. I thought this was going to be a lot easier to do, but it turns out it’s exhaustingly time consuming. I certainly thought I’d get through more than two Twitter rants — but I just don’t have enough Xanax. So here is part one of a series of impeachable actions Trump has done, starting with just a handful of his tweets. You’re welcome, and I accept boxes of wine should you wish to express your gratitude.

What is an impeachable offense?

The Constitution says that the President can be impeached for “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” But what does that really mean in the context of tweeting? Put very simply, “high crimes and misdemeanors” refers to any action taken by a public official that abuses their power in some capacity. This could include something like, I don’t know, using your name to make money while you’re in office (don’t worry, this is just part one. We’ll cover it all!). This also means that, while “normal” crimes could be impeachable offenses, actions that an average person would be able to do without a problem could be grounds for impeachment. When it was ordinary businessman Donald Trump tweeting crazy thoughts, that’s fine. No one cares. When it is POTUS Donald Trump tweeting crazy thoughts, it’s a problem because as President his tweets have more value. And yes, our founding fathers are spinning in their graves over this.

With that explained, let’s dive straight into hell.

Obamagate

The tweets (there are so many):

WTF was going on:

Thanks to an article published on the ever credible website Breitbart, Trump decided that Obama had his “wires tapped.”

The problem:

Obamagate is easily the most egregious and most talked about example of Trump’s impeachable Twitter crimes. I believe this is the most cut and dry of the Twitter offenses. First, Trump is accusing Obama of illegally wiretapping him while Obama was still in office — something that, if true, would have been impeachable behavior. Second, this isn’t your crazy uncle rampaging on Twitter (because, come on, if Trump is your uncle, there is no way you’re reading this). As Noah Feldman pointed out on Slate’s Trumpcast: Trump has the power to punish people, and threatening to prosecute people without evidence “is certainly an abuse of power.” Keeping this in mind, you can understand how it’s easy to view the Obamagate tweets as threats to the former president (remember that, because it’s going to be a pretty critical point — both for the rest of the article, and presumably for the remainder of Trump’s presidency).

There’s something very unsettling about the current President publicly accusing a prior president of an action that is both illegal and impeachable. Do you know what kind of rulers jail their political opponents? The kind of rulers that don’t really care for democracy.

When was the last time you heard Donald Trump say “lock her up”? A direct call to imprison his opponent while he’s the sitting President would be horrifying. I think that someone in the White House must understand this, and that’s why the issue has been dropped. But just because Trump isn’t directly saying “lock him up,” the fact that he is the POTUS means he could indeed lock him up. I do not expect anyone currently working around Trump to understand nuance, nor do I expect Trump to get it if it’s explained to him.

But wait! Haven’t we learned that there was indeed a FISA warrant in Trump Tower? Isn’t Trump right? Yes and no, in that order. Trump’s tweet accuses Obama himself of wire tapping him — and that would be highly illegal. While the FBI did indeed issue a FISA warrant for Trump adviser Carter Page, only a petulant child who hasn’t even passed eight grade civics would angrily equate this to “Obama wire tapped Trump.” It’s incredibly difficult to obtain a FISA, and it is not taken lightly — meaning that a FISA wouldn’t be signed off on just so Obama could spy on Donald Trump. On the plus side for the rest of us, Trump’s tweet declassified the FISA warrant, and allowed reporters to send FOIA requests on the investigation into the Trump campaign. Good move!

So-Called Judges

The tweets:

WTF was going on:

These tweets were in response to a judge putting a hold on Trump’s Muslim ban EO.

The problem:

Just like Obamagate, this is an example of Trump using his position to threaten another public official. This is a direct threat to a member of the judiciary system in America — and to judicial process. Personally, I find this to be worse than Obamagate. This is POTUS bullying and trying to intimidate a federal judge for disagreeing with him; this is a direct threat to democracy.

Trump wasn’t the only one threatening the “so-called judge” — security had to be beefed up for some of the judges who were involved in the EO disasters. Remember when Trump incited violence at his campaign rallies? Just this month, a judge determined that the protesters who were attacked can proceed with a lawsuit against Trump and his campaign. To impeach someone for actions taken before they became POTUS would be unheard of — but this parallels the not so veiled threats toward judges who don’t allow Trump to do whatever he wants. We should all be closely following what happens in this lawsuit, because it seems like Trump will continue to insult whoever he wants, with no regard for the impact of his power as POTUS to both legally and socially harm someone else.

Next week: More tweets? Russia? Who knows what I’ll choose!