Deputy Charged in GVSU Shooting

Deputy Charged in GVSU Shooting

A 12-year veteran of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department is being charged in the shooting of unarmed Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Derek Copp following an investigation by the Michigan State Police.

Deputy Ryan Huizenga is being charged with the careless discharge of a weapon causing injury or death. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of up to $2,000.

Huizenga could ultimately lose his license to perform police work in Michigan if he is convicted. He has also been placed on unpaid suspension according to media reports. Huizenga was previously on paid leave while the Michigan State Police finished their investigation. He will be arraigned next week in Hudsonville District Court.

Charges against Copp or other students living at the house have not been filed.

Source: Student Shot after Opening Blinds

Unfortunately, the results of the investigation have not been released to the public.

The Grand Rapids Press spoke with an unnamed source and gave a summary of what happened according to the investigation:

“Copp, 20, was hit once in the chest by a .40-caliber handgun bullet when he went to a glass sliding door and pulled open the blinds after police knocked, a source familiar with the investigation said.

A gun-mounted flashlight shined in his eyes, causing him to raise a hand to deflect the light.

That’s when Huizenga fired at Copp, who was not armed and not aggressive toward officers, the source said.”

The article further reports that a police officer or undercover informant purchased marijuana at the apartment.

Officers Still Looking out for their Friend

Since the shooting, there has been concern–much of it valid–that there would never be a fair investigation of the shooting and that the deputy who shot Copp would likely get away without being charged. That opinion stemmed in part from early reports indicating that the police union advised the deputy not to speak to investigators. Critics of police behavior and corruption have often pointed to the perception of a “Blue Code of Silence” where police are believed to protect each other no matter what. Various sociological studies have explored this phenomenon at length.

Even though Deputy Huizenga was charged in this case, there was an interesting bit in The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the announcement. The Press reports:

“A Press reporter seeking comment at the deputy’s home was turned away by two Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies who advised him about trespassing laws. The deputies were in uniform and in a sheriff’s cruiser.

Ottawa County Undersheriff Greg Steigenga said he was not aware of any deputies being assigned near Huizenga’s home and planned to investigate the incident.

‘It wasn’t something that was sanctioned through our department,’ he said.”

It looks like a pretty clear example of officers seeking to protect their own.

A Clear Goal for Future Protests

Now that the officer has been named and charged, hopefully additional protests will make the clear demand that the officer be removed from office and be put in jail. Additionally, the report should be made public.

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Headlines: Massive US Arms Sale to Israel Disclosed; Mass Shootings Spur Call for Gun Control Laws

Democracy Now Headlines: Massive US Arms Sale to Israel Disclosed; Mass Shootings Spur Call for Gun Control Laws

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

North Korea Tests Long-Range Rocket

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday, hours after North Korea defied international warnings and test-fired a long-range rocket. The rocket flew over Japanese airspace before crashing into the Pacific Ocean. North Korea claimed the test was a success, but international experts disputed their claim. President Obama condemned the launch as “provocative.”

Obama Calls for Nuclear-Free World

Hours after the rocket launch, President Obama spoke in Prague and outlined a vision for ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Obama said he wanted an immediate end to nuclear tests, confirmed and vowed to hold a global summit on nuclear security.

President Obama: “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

Last week, President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on fast-track negotiations to slash their nuclear stockpiles by about a third from the end of this year. The US and Russia have a total of 23,000 nuclear weapons. President Obama is not the first US president to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In the 1950s President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Controlled universal disarmament is the imperative of our time.” Even President Ronald Reagan once proposed the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Czechs Protest US Missile Shield Base

While President Obama spoke in Prague, over 1,000 protesters gathered nearby to condemn US plans to build a missile shield system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Protesters included Jan Majicek of the No Bases Initiative.

Jan Majicek: “We are here to tell Barack Obama, who is now in Prague, that 70 percent of Czechs are against this plan and that we don’t want a foreign military base here in the Czech Republic.”

NATO Allies Refuse to Send More Combat Troops to Afghanistan

During the NATO summit in Strasbourg, European allies rejected President Obama’s request to send more combat troops to Afghanistan as part of the US escalation of the war. Instead, NATO nations will send 3,000 soldiers to assist in securing the national elections scheduled for August and 2,000 military trainers to help the Afghan army. Outside the NATO meeting, some 30,000 people took part in protests along the French-German border condemning the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Police arrested 325 people. At least three buildings were set on fire, including a hotel and a border post.

Obama Ends Overseas Trip in Turkey

President Obama is in Turkey today making his first visit to a Muslim nation as president.

President Obama: “I have now spent a week traveling through Europe, and I’ve been asked, ‘Are you trying to make a statement by ending this week-long trip in Turkey?’ And the answer is yes, I am trying to make a statement. I’m trying to make a statement about the importance of Turkey, not just to the United States, but to the world.”

Mass Shootings Spur Call for New Gun Control Laws

Gun control advocates are urging lawmakers to rewrite the nation’s gun control laws after mass shootings in upstate New York, Pittsburgh and Washington state. In Binghamton, New York, a gunman attacked an immigration center on Friday, killing thirteen people before taking his own life. Most of the dead were immigrants who were taking classes at the immigration center. The gunman was a Vietnamese-born immigrant who recently lost his job.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski: “What we do know is Mr. Wong arrived at that residence wearing body armor, which would tell us that at one point in his thinking process he was going to take the police on or at least try to stop us from stopping him. He must have been a coward. We speculate when he heard the sirens that he decided to end his own life, so that’s what–he was heavily armed, had a lot of ammunition on him. And thank God, before more lives were lost, that he decided to do that.”

On Saturday in Pittsburgh, three police officers were shot dead as they responded to a domestic violence call. Meanwhile, in Washington state a thirty-four-year-old man shot dead his five children on Saturday before killing himself. The children were between the ages of seven and sixteen. There was also a series of high-profile mass shootings last month in North Carolina, California and Alabama that killed a total of twenty-three people. Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The laws on the books aren’t getting the job done. Now is the time to take effective steps to prevent gun violence.” According to the Brady Campaign, about 30,000 people die every year in the United States from gun violence. That’s about eighty people a day.

One in Six Americans Now Unemployed or Underemployed

In economic news, the nation’s unemployment rate has reached 8.5 percent, the highest it’s been in twenty-five years. 663,000 jobs were lost last month. A total of 5.1 million jobs have been lost in the past fourteen months. The current unemployment rate would jump to 15.6 percent if it included laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have had to settle for part-time work. This means one in every six workers in America is now either unemployed or underemployed.

Wall Street Firms Gave Lawrence Summers Millions in 2008

Newly released documents show Lawrence Summers, one of President Obama’s top economic aides, received nearly $2.7 million in speaking fees last year from several of the financial companies that have received government bailouts, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. Goldman Sachs paid Summers $135,000 last April for a single speech. In addition, Summers earned over $5 million working one day a week at the D.E. Shaw hedge fund.

Thousands Protest on Wall Street

In New York, thousands marched on Wall Street Saturday on the forty-first anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice helped organize the protest.

Leslie Cagan: “Decades of bloated military spending have undermined our economic security. Instead of pouring hundreds of billions of dollars year in and year out into war, into weapons of mass destruction, into militarism and military spending, that money should have been used and now must be used to reinvest in our communities. Our communities need schools, we need healthcare, we need a completely restructured infrastructure, we need money pouring into job creation, and we need to deal with the global crisis of the environment. So there’s much to do, above and beyond bailing out bankers and continuing to pour money into wars.”

Iowa Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

In a unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a ten-year-old ban on same-sex marriage, making Iowa the third state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage. The ruling takes effect April 24. Meanwhile, Swedish lawmakers voted last week to make Sweden become the fifth European country to allow same-sex marriages.

26 Killed in Iraqi Car Bombings

In Iraq, five car bombs exploded across Baghdad today, killing twenty-six people and wounding scores. The bombings come following a week of arrests in Baghdad by Iraq’s Shiite-led government of Sunni Arab fighters known as Awakening Councils.

Pakistan Taliban Unleashes Wave of Suicide Attacks

In Pakistan, a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban is threatening to launch two suicide attacks per week if the Obama administration does not stop missile strikes on Pakistani territory. Over the weekend, at least thirty-eight people died in three suicide attacks. In the deadliest bombing, twenty-two people died in a blast at a Shiite mosque in the capital of Islamabad.

Report: 1 Million Pakistanis Displaced by US Drone Attacks

On Saturday, a suspected US drone attack killed thirteen people in North Waziristan. The Sunday Times of London reports as many as one million Pakistanis have fled their homes to escape the attacks by the unmanned US drones.

Protests Condemn Public Flogging of Pakistani Girl

Meanwhile, protests were held across Pakistan this weekend over a video that showed the public flogging of a seventeen-year-old girl in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The video showed the girl being pinned down by three men and lashed thirty-four times. Under a deal with the Pakistani government, the Swat Valley is now ruled by Islamic law. The girl had been accused of being seen with a man who was not her husband.

Israeli Newspapers Remove Female Cabinet Ministers from Photo

In Israel, two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have digitally manipulated a photograph of Israel’s new cabinet, removing two female ministers. One newspaper changed the photo by replacing the two female cabinet members with men. Another newspaper blacked the women out. The ultra-Orthodox newspapers consider it immodest to print images of women. Limor Livnat is Israel’s new Minister of Culture & Sport. Sofa Landver is the country’s Minister of Immigrant Absorption.

Massive US Arms Sale to Israel Disclosed

Amnesty International has revealed that the United States has sent a massive new shipment of arms to Israel despite evidence that US weapons were misused against civilians in the Gaza attacks. Amnesty said a German cargo ship carrying about 14,000 tons of arms docked in late March at the Israeli port of Ashdod, about twenty-five miles north of Gaza. The ship left for Israel on December 20, a week before the start of Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

New York Times Threatens to Close Boston Globe

In media news, the New York Times Company is threatening to close the Boston Globe within thirty days unless the Globe’s unions agree to $20 million in cuts. The concessions would likely involve pay cuts and ending contributions by the company to employee pension plans. Last month, the New York Times Company laid off 100 employees and cut salaries for non-union workers by five percent.

Media Covers US War Dead’s Return After 18-Year Ban

The media was permitted on Sunday to cover the arrival of a US soldier’s coffin at the Pentagon’s main mortuary in Delaware for the first time in eighteen years. President Barack Obama has relaxed a Pentagon ban on media coverage of returning US war dead, giving grieving families the choice of whether to allow cameras at the solemn arrival ceremony. On Sunday, a flag-draped coffin bearing the remains of Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers arrived at Dover Air Force Base. The thirty-year-old soldier was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday.

Report: Obama to Lift Restrictions on Family Travel to Cuba

The Wall Street Journal reports the Obama administration is planning to abolish limits on family travel and cash remittances between the United States and Cuba. This would allow Cubans living in the United States to travel freely to the island, instead of once a year as at present. Obama, however, has rejected calls to lift the embargo. Meanwhile, a group of US lawmakers arrived in Havana Friday. This is Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): “We’re here to engage in discussions with regard to US-Cuba relations. Personally, I believe, many believe, that it’s time to talk to Cuba, and we want to find out what the dialog should entail, and we’ll communicate this very clearly to our government officials upon our return.”

Egyptian Police Arrest 25 Ahead of Nationwide Protests

And in Egypt, police arrested twenty-five people Sunday ahead of today’s nationwide protest against the policies of President Hosni Mubarak. Egyptian dissident Ayman Nour is the leader of the Ghad, or Tomorrow Party, a key organizer of today’s protests, which are being held on the first anniversary of an uprising in an industrial town north of Cairo that was brutally repressed by Egyptian security forces. Ayman Nour, who ran against Mubarak in presidential elections in 2005, was arrested soon after the elections and released this February after spending over three years in prison. He spoke to Democracy Now! producer Anjali Kamat last month about the demands his party would raise at the protests on this April 6th.

Ayman Nour: “We are giving the government one year to reform the constitution and to lift the barriers preventing widespread participation in politics and elections. If our demands are not met–and these are reformist, democratic demands–we will call for a general strike on April 6th of 2010. The future of the current Egyptian regime depends on its ability to understand that its role must come to an end, that it must provide a real opportunity for power to circulate among the Egyptians. It has to give the Egyptian people their right to choose their rulers and representatives without texts that restrict and frustrate these rights and freedoms to the extent that they don’t exist at all or become some kind of a mirage.”

GVSU Shooting Representative of Failed Drug War

A Drug Raid Using a Militarized SWAT Team

The shooting of Derek Copp, an unarmed twenty-year-old student at Grand Valley, by an Ottawa County deputy as part of a drug investigation is absurdly tragic. Sadly, so is the War on Drugs this country has been engaged in since the 1970s.

According to an article in the Grand Rapids Press, police were raiding Copp’s apartment in search of drugs when they shot him in the chest. Police have confirmed he was unarmed. Additionally, no arrest was made. The incident begs the questions: how did it become acceptable to shoot an unarmed person in the chest while carrying out what was presumably an investigation of simple drug possession? How have we arrived at a place where someone’s personal drug use (no press reports have mentioned any allegations of dealing) in the privacy of their own home has resulted in a student’s near-death?

The answer lies in an examination of the War on Drugs, that abysmal failure to legislate morality that has resulted in countless lives scarred, ruined, and lost. Over the past seven decades, twenty million people have been arrested for marijuana-related offenses in this country; since the 1990s, the annual number of arrests (90% of which are for minor possession, not trafficking) has tripled . Though these crimes are almost entirely victimless, drug users pay an incredibly heavy toll, most notably in mass incarceration–which, in turn, has increased the use on private prisons, now a multi-billion dollar industry with significant influence on corrections legislation.

The force seen in Copp’s arrest is typical of how the drug war has been carried out. Examples abound: a 92-year-old Atlanta woman was shot dead in her home when police, looking for drugs, executed a no-knock raid. The officers had mistakenly broken down the door of the wrong house. A Denver man sleeping after completing a night shift was shot and killed by police, leaving family in the US and Mexico without support. Again, no knock. Again, wrong house. Baltimore police have been using the SWAT team to carry out drug raids–many of which have, again, turned out to be the wrong house. That the raid in Copp’s apartment was a mistake should not be ruled out–as Media Mouse has reported, he was not arrested.

In addition to its brutality, the drug war has been overtly racist. From its start under the Reagan administration, the War on Drugs has criminalized people of color, despite the fact that drug use is relatively even, proportionally, across racial lines. Marijuana is an excellent example: despite the fact that African Americans are no more likely to use drugs than whites, they are two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for possession. The result of this racist and unwarranted criminalization is debilitating to communities of color: mothers and fathers are taken away from their children, ex-convicts are unable to find jobs to support themselves and their families, large swaths of time that could be spent on job training or education are instead wasted behind bars.

The case of Derek Copp is a part of this long, tragic tradition. It should remind us all how senseless the War on Drugs has been from its inception–and why, in addition to continuing to demand justice for Copp, we must demand the drug war’s end now.

Snitch: Informants, Cooperators & the Corruption of Justice

Snitch is a critical examination of the government’s use of informants and the rise of “tough on crime” policies over the past twenty years. Snitch argues that the use of informants has led to a situation where informants are rewarded for the quantity of information they provide and not the quality.

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice is an essential look into an unsavory aspect of the United States’ criminal justice system–the use of informants and cooperators. Author Ethan Brown traces the use of informants to the rise of “tough on crime” laws in the 1970s and 1980s that emphasized tough sentences to fight crime, particularly drugs. With the advent of tough laws and penalties, the government began to offer incentives under section 5K1.1 of the United States Sentencing Commission to entice individuals to cooperate. In exchange for their cooperation, criminals had their only real chance at the possibility of lessening their sentence.

Snitch looks at the use of informants in a number of criminal cases–drug cases, murder cases, racketeering, fraud, and more–to show that while the specifics of the crimes always very, the use of informants is often strikingly similar. It is all too common to see prosecutors rely on testimony from informants who have negotiated for sentencing reductions. While this automatically should raise questions about self-interest in the informants, prosecutors are often hesitant to admit such concerns and are even more reluctant to admit previous crimes of informants.

For those of us reading Snitch from a left perspective, it is surprising that Brown does not include any discussion of the role of informants in eco-terrorism cases. In recent years, eco-terrorism prosecutions have relied heavily on government informants and FBI infiltrators, leading to substantial prison sentences. Informants have been instrumental in cases known as “The Green Scare” and are facilitating a new wave of repression directed at political activists. Many of the questions raised throughout Snitch are relevant to eco-terrorism informants, particularly questions of accuracy and motivation.

To combat the problems with a justice system that is overly reliant on informants, Brown advocates revising section 5K1.1 of the USSC to make prosecutors more accountable and to have increased oversight of informants. He calls for penalties aimed at deterring lying informants and lessening the great degree of discretion that prosecutors have in developing cooperation deals. Along with it, Brown suggests that the US consider revamping sentencing guidelines to address the fact that large numbers of federal prisoners are serving decades or life behind bars. Many of these recommendations are advocated by Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions who has been attempting to work on the issue in the Senate.

Snitch offers an important overview of a topic that is often portrayed in a one-sided fashion in the corporate media. Locally, we have seen an effort aimed at combating the “stop snitching” movement, but there has been little discussion of the substantive reasons behind the “stop snitching” campaign. Once people understand the problems of heavy reliance on informants for convictions, the “stop snitching” sentiment starts to make a lot of sense–no matter how reactionary it might be. While nobody wants to see violent criminals get away with their crimes, nobody wants to see innocent people locked up by a system that relies on a faulty system of informants and cooperators. Brown does an excellent job of describing the problems with the current system and offering some solutions. Hopefully with the issue out in the open, there will be some movement on the sentencing reforms that he speaks of at the conclusion of the book.

Ethan Brown, Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice, (PublicAffairs, 2007).

Granhlom Signs Bill Limiting Police Oversight and Accountability

In the last day of the Michigan legislative session, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed Senate Bill 647 into law. The bill is designed to “restrict the use and disclosure” of statements made by law enforcement officials. According to the bill, statements made by police officers in internal investigations–such as those deal with cases of police brutality–would be kept confidential and would not be disclosed to the public or the media. The bill contains multiple provisions that would keep statements restricted even if they were used in legal proceedings and in some cases would give police officers the authority to determine if their statements should be made public or not. Supporters of the bill, which passed overwhelmingly in both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives, argued that the bill was needed because police officers can be compelled to answer questions in internal investigations at the risk of losing their jobs and that consequently police officers should be allowed the same Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination as private citizens. However, such statements cannot be used in criminal proceedings, making it difficult to hold officers accountable for their actions. The bill’s practical effect will likely be that police departments around Michigan will operate with even less oversight and accountability to the public, by both restricting access to statements and also providing another vehicle–like the unofficial “Code of Silence” many police officers use to protect each other in cases of misconduct–through which police officers can place themselves “above the law” and justify brutality.

New Law Classifies Non-violent Civil Disobedience Carried out by Animal-Rights Groups as Terrorism

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), passed unanimously by the US Senate and passed today without debate in the House of Representatives, targets animal rights activists by reclassifying common tactics as terrorism.

by Megan Tardy / New Standard News

Media Mouse has reprinted this article because of the potentially stifling impacts that it may have on the animal rights movement as well as its potential for creating a climate where dissent is equated with terrorism. Following the publication of this article, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was passed with no debate in the House of Representatives.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), already passed unanimously by the US Senate, expands on a previous law aimed at activists who protest the treatment of animals. It reclassifies common activist tactics as terrorism based solely on the cause pursued.

Proponents of the legislation, including co-sponsors Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–California) and Senator James Inhofe (R–Oklahoma), say it will offer protection to scientists, medical researchers, ranchers, farmers and other industries using animals against “violent tactics” used by animal-rights “extremists.”

While the bill makes specific provisions to safeguard First Amendment-protected activity, such as peaceful protests and lawful boycotts, animal-rights activists and civil-rights groups say the bill’s vague language could brand activists as terrorists for activities that are unlawful yet non-violent, such as blockades, property destruction, trespassing, and the freeing of captive animals.

The Senate passed the bill in September, less than a month after it was introduced. An even stricter version is under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.

Current law allows the government to prosecute activists for intentionally damaging property used by “animal enterprises” – businesses that use or sell animals. The AETA expands the bill to criminalize activists who also “interfere” with animal enterprises and businesses that work with them, taking into account resulting profit losses. It increases lengths of jail sentences and fines for activists convicted for breaking the law during their protests.

“What we’re concerned about is an instance… where protesters conduct a sit-in that causes lost profits…. We don’t want them prosecuted for ‘terrorism’ where the only damage is lost profits.”

Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the ACLU, said activists could find themselves slapped with terrorism charges for committing non-violent crimes.

“The way the new bill is drafted is not particularly artful,” Johnson told The NewStandard. “What we’re concerned about is an instance… where protesters conduct a sit-in that causes lost profits. While they may be engaging in civil disobedience and have committed trespass, we don’t want them prosecuted for ‘terrorism’ where the only damage is lost profits.”

Additionally, the House version of the bill sweeps in “non-violent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise” as an offense if it causes a loss of profits.

Will Potter, a journalist who tracks how the so-called “war on terror” affects civil liberties, questions the motives behind the legislation.

“If this legislation is only going after so-called violent extremists, how can it spell out sentences for crimes that are, in the words of the legislation, ‘non-violent’?”

Animal-rights and “animal liberation” activists typically protest the inhumane treatment of animals, including their use in food production, laboratory testing, clothing and entertainment. Some animal-rights activists feel so strongly about animal abuse, they choose to break the law to protest or prevent the practices. Civil disobedience tactics used by animal activists have included sit-ins and blockades, undercover abuse investigations, destruction of abusers’ property or equipment, and the freeing of captive animals.

Under current law, activists can be penalized for causing an individual serious bodily harm or death. However, nearly all animal-liberation activists have foresworn violence and taken great care to avoid causing harm to people during their actions. The new bill criminalizes any act that creates a “reasonable fear” of bodily harm or death.

Potter said including such a provision is dangerous for activists because it is unclear what would constitute a “reasonable fear.”

“One possible scenario is if you have a very raucous protest outside an executive’s home. And then you add on the fact that all of these industry groups have been using this ‘eco-terrorist’ rhetoric,” Potter said. “And if those individuals are protesting outside of the home and are wearing masks, then that can be seen as menacing. So… what is a reasonable fear in this climate of the war on terrorism and the ‘eco-terrorism’ rhetoric going on?”

If activists were successfully charged with intimidation for carrying out such protests, under the AETA they could be liable for any lost profits the company suffered as a result of the demonstration.

“We think that the AETA is really a test case that would not bode well in the future for other activists….”

Nick Cooney, an animal-rights activist and director of the Philadelphia-based group Hugs for Puppies, said the word “terrorism” is “an extremely charged word” that would “influence how the public sees [the animal-rights debate], how politicians see the issue, how juries would see the issue.”

Critics of the bill worry that such labeling, coupled with the bill’s vague language, could inhibit both lawful and unlawful activities.

Johnson also said, “Any time you start talking about targeting a particular group, there’s a potential for chilling [of] speech.”

Heidi Boghosian, director of the National Lawyer’s Guild, said her organization opposes the bill, in part, because laws already exist to criminalize acts such as trespassing and property damage. Specifically targeting animal-rights activists with separate legislation and penalties, she said, “sets a dangerous precedent for going after people based on the content of their speech.”

“We think that the AETA is really a test case that would not bode well in the future for other activists,” Boghosian said, “because we think that they’re going to target activists based on their specific views of animals and environment.”

Potter called the AETA a “dream come true” for industries that abuse and kill animals.

As previously reported by TNS, corporations have long been pushing for stricter penalties for animal-liberation activists. In 2003, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative public-policy organization funded by more than 300 corporations, collaborated with the US Sportsmen’s Alliance to write model legislation, called the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” to “fight domestic terror by animal and eco-extremist groups.”

The model legislation created offenses for “depriving” or “obstructing” an animal enterprise from using animals, similar to the House version of the AETA.

Cooney said the AETA is nothing more than a bill to “shield [company] profits from attack.”

Senators Feinstein and Inhofe acknowledged the financial motives behind the AETA in a press release. “Prohibiting the animal-rights extremists’ violent tactics,” they wrote, “will ensure that important animal enterprises, like biomedical industries, stay in California, for example, rather than go to India or China.”

One way in particular the bill is protecting industry is through its treatment of “tertiary targeting” – an activist tactic aimed not at the animal-abusing company itself, but other businesses that the animal enterprise depends on to stay in business.

The AETA expands the reach of current laws aimed at animal-rights groups to give prosecutors the ability to charge activists as terrorists if they target “a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.”

Cooney says tertiary targeting is an important tactic used by animal-rights groups, and its success is what partly prompted the legislation. For instance, in an effort to cripple the animal-testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) – which activists charge with killing hundreds of animals a day – groups like Hugs for Puppies protested other companies that did business with HLS.

Cooney said activists held demonstrations outside of company employees’ homes and offices, and also called companies’ boards of directors to appeal to them. After being targeted by Hugs for Puppies, the aerosol-spray manufacturer Penn Century broke ties with HLS and issued a statement condemning animal cruelty.

Cooney said tertiary targeting has “allowed small, grassroots organizations to wield a lot of power, even though they don’t have millions of dollars and thousands of members.”

BAMN takes Action against Proposal 2 Decision

Yesterday the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop Proposal 2 from taking effect, with BAMN arguing that the measure is invalid under federal law. The group has also announced tentative plans for a mass mobilization against Proposal 2.

On November 8, the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), who has been active nationwide in the fight to defend affirmative action, filed a lawsuit against Michigan’s Proposal 2 in federal court charging that the Proposal 2 is invalid. BAMN was joined by UEAALDF, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, several Detroit city workers union locals, and many other organizations and individuals. BAMN asserts that Proposal 2 is invalid under federal law because (1) it is preempted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (2) it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and (3) it violates the First Amendment as affirmed by the Supreme Court decision, Grutter v. Bollinger. BAMN will circulate the date for hearing in this case when it is announced and will plan a mass demonstration at the federal court on that day. BAMN is also inviting other organizations that would like to sign on as a plaintiff in this suit. To add your organization’s name contact BAMN. A previous lawsuit by BAMN failed to remove the proposal from the ballot despite a United States District Court judge’s contention that the Proposal 2 achieved ballot access due to fraud.

As of Thursday at noon there was only mention of the lawsuit filed by BAMN in the local media. WOOD TV 8 ran a story on it, but in the story the only sources cited are Jennifer Gratz and Ward Connerly with the MCRI. The Grand Rapids Press ran a story in the November 9 edition about local “fallout” from the Proposal 2 decision and even cited One United Michigan spokesperson David Waymire about the possibility that they might challenge the decision legally, but the BAMN lawsuit is not mentioned at all.

Our Enemies in Blue

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Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America is essentially a synthesis of existing work on police, although most previous works on the police have not looked at the origins of the police and whom they serve, rather choosing to describe specific elements of their job without looking at their underlying role in maintaining the existing power relations in society. It is this thesis-that the police, as an institution, are both an enemy of popular movements in this country as well as ordinary people and that the police are representatives of the state and the elites that support them-that sets Williams book apart from others on the subject. While this analysis is not particularly surprising, even a cursory look at how your local police department functions could lead one towards this thesis it is rare that such an assertion, it is rare for such an analysis to be presented as clearly and with as much supporting evidence as used by Williams in his book.

In order to prove his analysis, Williams looks at the origin of modern police systems over the past two-hundred years. Williams shows that the modern police system is a relatively new institution, albeit with roots extending back several hundred years, born out of a period of intense social conflict in the 1800s. The origin of the police system is traced to the development of political machines and industrial capitalism as Williams demonstrates how the police were developed to serve the interests of both the state and the elite segments of society that continue to benefit from the continued existence of the police force. This origin as an institution designed to defend the class interests of the elites leads Williams to the conclusion that the police are not working-class, an assertion that is at odds with the claims of many progressives who have argued that the police are working-class. Williams also shatters the myth that the police were developed in response to widespread crime, instead showing that the creation of the police has led to higher crime and the criminalization of large segments of our population as law enforcement shifted from reaction to prevention.

Williams adeptly attacks a variety of policing practices including the formation of so-called Police Paramilitary Units (PPUs) such as SWAT teams, community policing, and racial profiling, all of which have gained widespread usage throughout the 1980s and 1990s. By elucidating the origins of modern police departments in the South with the slave patrols of the 1800s and interweaving the history of racism, resistance to the civil rights movement by the police, and statistics relating to racial profiling, Williams provides convincing proof that police, as an institution, are inherently racist arguing that police and prisons have replaced the slave patrols and plantations as the country’s way of controlling minority populations. Similarly, Williams explains the origins of the SWAT team in the drug war of the 1980s and explains how police departments have used federal dollars to create a militarized police force, both in terms of weaponry and organization. So-called community policing efforts are also revealed by Williams to be an updated means of achieving social control, arguing that the goal of the community policing is to infiltrate communities and use their institutions to assist the police, creating a climate where the police use these institutions to expand their control while remaining unresponsive to the concerns of the community. Williams demonstrates that community policing leads to more advance forms of social control where homelessness is outlawed, political speech is limited, and technologies such as video surveillance networks are adopted.

Like many historical works, Our Enemies of Blue provides a plethora of detailed information about the origins of the police as an institution and their practice, but falls short when the question “what do we do about it?” is raised. Williams certainly comes from a perspective almost unheard of in works pertaining to the police, namely that the police are not necessary for the proper functioning of human society, but as Williams admits, the models he suggests are limited and that a full exploration of how society could function without police would merit its own book. However, Our Enemies in Blue succeeds in doing what Williams set out to do and he has successfully created a book that makes it clear that the police are an enemy of ordinary people in this country and that it is not enough to reform the institution, but based on its origins as a racist, sexist, and classist institution, it must be abolished.

Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, (SoftSkull Press, 2004).

Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights

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Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights is a product of a January 2004 article by David Rose for Vanity Fair. Following the completion of his initial article and realizing the ramifications of what was happening at the United States detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Rose decided to continue his investigation and expand it into a book length treatment of the subject. The book is based primarily on interviews with British detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and handed over to American soldiers by Afghani warlords as well as interviews with both United States government officials presiding over Camp X-Ray and non-governmental organizations that have sought to improve the treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo.

Throughout his book, Rose argues that the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has irreparably harmed the United States so-called “war on terror” by abandoning many of the principles of human rights that the United States purports to honor and that Camp X-Ray is an absolute failure. On February 7, 2002 President Bush declared that prisoners held at Camp X-Ray had no legal status under the Geneva Conventions and that they were not prisoners of war but rather were “enemy combatants.” While many may be tempted to see this as the origin of the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Rose’s book makes it clear that this was merely the date at which official violations of the Geneva Convention became policy — the decision to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay was made because of the base’s ambiguous legal status. For Rose, this is a logical consequence of a policy of detention that was seriously flawed to begin with as few of the detainees were involved with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead, Rose describes detainees that were rounded up in mass arrests and those who were sold to the United States in exchange for $5,000 bounties paid by the United States for “terrorists” in Afghanistan.

With a flawed detention process, Rose reveals that the intelligence coming out of Guantanamo has been of little use to the United States government in its “war on terror.” What little detention that has come out of the base has been of the most general nature, describing possible attacks such as those on shopping malls, although as Rose points out, anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of consumerism in the United States would know that malls would be good targets. Rather than acknowledge that most of the 600 detainees held at Guantanamo were not guilty of any crimes, the United States has responded by stepping up interrogations and conducting them using beatings, sleep deprivation, denial of food, and other harsh techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions in order to force detainees into confessing. Rose’s interviews with detainees reveal many abuses during the interrogation process while interviews with US officials reveal the limited value of the “intelligence” gained at Guantanamo Bay.

While making few new revelations, Rose’s book is a useful work that consolidates much of the information available on Guantanamo and directs attention towards the topic, as detentions in Guantanamo have been largely forgotten amidst the almost weekly reports of new abuses relating to the detentions of individuals held by the United States in Iraq. Since the publication of the Guantanamo in late 2004, there have been several new documents released showing that the government authorized treatment techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as the government’s attempts to create a legal framework for said treatment.

David Rose, Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights, (The New Press, 2004).