The 'war on crime' in Oakland

I In his Campaign literature, Jerry Brown states that his ‘guiding principle’ as mayor will be ‘zero tolerance for Mme.’ Against a backdrop of ten years of state and federal anti-crime hysteria, and coupled with the ‘Bay Area’s ascendant housing and population crunch, Oakland’s poor, working class, and nonwhite are about to be squeezed out of existence.

I Ifs already happening. People are moving to California and the Bay Area in record numbers. People with money, up and coming young professionals, etc. are arriving and immediately getting priority in a tight housing market. With Berkeley and especially San Francisco gentrifying at an alarming rate, Silicon Valley and the South Bay going manic with the computer explosion, one must ask what’s next, or rather, what’s left. The answer is Oakland.

Wewstward HO

Did California’s coast just fall into the ocean? In terms of the housing crunch, property values, and migration westward and into the Bay Area, Oakland is being pushed from all sides. A major factor driving up housing costs is the booming economy in Silicon Valley which has created a sizable new class of people competing for housing who can afford to pay any large sum of money, and are willing to live as far away as–in fact may prefer to live–in San Francisco. Middle and upper-class yuppies are coming in and buying up the quainter and hip-or parts of The City and Berkeley and long term residents–people of color, unemployed, the lower section of working class–of San Francisco and other places are being forced out.

A survey to San Francisco Tenants Union cases shows that of tenants who changed their address in the past year, nearly half left San Francisco entirely. And where are those people going For people who like living in the Bay Area you can be sure they are heading to I the East Bay. And they are probably not except for the ones who can afford it–moving to Berkeley which, as Shirley Dean’s recent handy victory at the polls demonstrates, is also quickly filling up with yuppies and other middle-class spillovers from elsewhere. So that leaves Oakland.

the poorest are being literally made homeless; they are finding themselves being priced out of existence. What are people who can’t make it supposed to do? Is it just a coincidence that California is building 20 new prisons to warehouse the poor? We are witnessing a market-driven mass relocation program for the inner-city and Oakland’s new mayor elect looks poised to just make things worse.

The Uhuru Movement, a socialist Black power group that operates in Oakland, published a paper this Fall attacking mayor elect Brown’s anti-crime rhetoric and his goal, as they see it, of malting ‘Oakland ‘safe’ and pleasant for white people and investors by intensifying the policy of police containment and impoverishment of the African, Mexican, and other oppressed communities.’ They document Brown’s history, lifted from his campaign literature, in which he boasts of creating the ‘Crime Resistance Task Force to promote neighborhood watch [read snitch] programs and signed legislation establishing the state’s first career criminal prosecution programs’, which Uhuru claims laid the basis for the Three Strikes You’re Out laws.

Oakland’s growing number of would-be residents is creating a high demand for limited housing and driving rents and home prices way up. This is causing poor long-term residents to be pushed to the economic brink and to be forced out of their homes. But even before this current crisis, throughout this century, Oakland’s private housing has not been able to supply enough housing for the non-affluent classes. Severe housing shortages have been, since before Reaganomics, a permanent feature of the city s economy.

And even of people who manage to keep a roof over their head, most low-income renters in Oakland pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, according to Jeff Levine of the Oakland Community and Economic Development Agancy. We’ve got twenty or thirty thousand people with serious housing problems.

What do you do when you are no longer able or allowed to live in the place you once called home? Well, if you can t make it legitimately in the system, it only makes sense that you are going to try and make it illegitimately outside of the system, if you are to survive. Crime is a survival strategy for the disenfranchised.

Crime Pays

Theft and drug dealing are two alternative sources of income people may turn to when the legal economy just isn t providing. The police, in fact the entire criminal justice apparatus, exists to criminalize, capture, regulate, and warehouse this whole section of people who has fallen through the cracks, this reserve or unneeded or problematic army of the proletariat. To take them out of the picture, to remove them from the rest of the population, to strew and involve their entire lives with the criminal-industrial complex, is the punishment they get for being poor.

The use of the police, courts, and prisons as the street sweepers of larger market-driven gentrification movements for economic cleansing are nothing new. In fact, in a larger sense you could say that is what the police, prisons, etc. are for. They are the ruling classes army to break the back of the poor class, and to keep it broken. To prevent it, even, from seeking medical attention. We need harm-reduction.

An economic harm-reduction perspective would view crime (the vast majority of which being economic crimes–theft, drug dealing, etc.) as symptoms of larger social illness. Poverty, an inequitable social order, and institutions of hate, degradation, and fear–notably, the capiatalist economic structure and the state itself–are to blame.

The modern urban police system was created in reaction to the riots of the 1830s, 40s, and 50s. Oakland’s police forces have consistently been used to protect the power position of both the business community and the city government itself. One function of police has been to weaken or eliminate organized labor s power of strike, and in Oakland, police have followed this national pattern. Police hostility has met any group moving militantly towards increased power for the powerless. Oakland’s police have served constantly to protect the interests of local property owners and have acted to limit the power of black people and labor.

The Uhuru Movement, a socialist Black-power group that operates in Oakland, published a paper this Fall attacking mayor-elect Brown s anti-crime rhetoric and his goal, as they see it, of making Oakland safe and pleasant for white people and investors by intensifying the policy of police containment and impoverishment of the African, Mexican, and other oppressed communities. They document Brown s history lifted from his campaign literature in which he boasts of creating the Crime Resistance Task Force to promote neighborhood watch [read snitch] programs and signed legislation establishing the state s first career criminal prosecution programs, which Uhuru claims laid the basis for the Three Strikes You re Out laws.

The Home Front

We live in a class society. The working class is a class which must work for a wage in order to buy back survival. When, for whatever reason, the bottom line doesn’t work out–when the difficulties encountered in earning money exceed the prospects for survival–that individual faces limited options, the most palatable of which often involves joining the ranks of the criminal element. Poverty and unemployment are necessary parts of the capitalist economic system. By the very logic of that system, a certain segment of the working class is positioned to become a criminal class.

The war on crime and the war on drugs are therefore domestic government wars on a certain class, a subset of the working class. In terms of that major component of the war on crime, the war on drugs, relatively little has been done to deal with the social aspects of drug use and addiction which disproportionatley affects the lower
classes seeking a chemical escape from their economic nightmare. It’s been nearly four years since the crack epidemic hit and there is still not a single drug treatment program in Oakland that is specifically funded or designed to deal with cocaine addiction.

In coming mayor Jerry Brown and anyone else who supports a military solution to a social problem, the social problem of economic inequality, are supporters and perpetuators of the corporate state’s created human misery that is the status quo. Crime fighters are not neutral. They provide no real solutions and are de facto defenders of the system that generates crime–capitalism.

As middle-class people move into Oakland, they establish new standards for what constitutes attractive’ and safe and, in order to feel comfortable in their new neighborhood, they expand the police’s presence to push people out and transform the streets. Jerry Brown’s zero tolerance for crime mentality unites yuppie psychology and war tactics. It is a program for upper class colonization of working class neighborhoods.

Clean streets and safe streets are slogans for movements ideologically centered around the bourgeois home. When yuppies and other higher-income residents move in , they are frightened and demand police protection. They want to feel safe when they leave their home and must remove from the streets people not socially wedded to the illusions of the dictatorship of exchange under which they were able to succeed.

To develop a view of crime that differs from what 10 years of government sponsored war on drugs and war on crime hysteria and propaganda has inculcated into the population is a necessary task if we are to wind our way out of the matrix of incarceration that has enveloped this society. To develop a view of crime that differs from what 10 years of government sponsored war on drugs and war on crime hysteria and propaganda has inculcated into the population is a necessary task if we are to wind our way out of the matrix of incarceration that has enveloped this society. An anthropological study of a north of downtown Oakland neighborhood conducted in 1973 helps point us in the fight direction by providing evidence that constructs a theory of crime as not only a potential means to survival, but as a form of resistance. The study by UC Berkeley student, Darren Corn, focuses on a local gang nexus called the OTC (Oaktown Crips) and its relationship to the neighborhood it inhabits.

OTC Territory

The study found that the gang of young Laotian males who hung out and had an almost permanent presence on one part of a street maintained a relatively peaceful coexistence with the other people of the neighborhood. The only major complaints le@ed by the local residents concerned noise from hanging out. This situation was rare and would result in gang members being asked to keep it down as often as the police bang called.

The gang hangs out on the street, the analysis has it because the street is a place were something might happen. It is somewhere gang members can identify with, and it is a place were they can exert their power. The author of the study observes that the street is a familiar setting to the gang, to the ‘extent #at it is even like a home.” Given what we’ve already said about housing being a scarce commodity and that people pushed out onto the street are people who don’t command a high wage or a high degree of power with the system, a desire to exert power and a place to call home on the street is a logical outcome. The street is the domain of the OTC, of the gang, but it is at the same time the domain of people who haven’t anywhere else to go.

The study observes: Located in a neighborhood where there is little ownership of property by the residents, this form of possession takes on significant meaning. The OTC’s use of the street has effectively challenged the convention of who owns property and how it’s acquired. They have established squatter’s rights to this street and have made it their own, which is something that the people who live here have not been able to do.

The study goes on detail how that particular neighborhood is the site of a frontline gentrification battle, or in this case a redevelopment battle, to extend the northern edge of the Central Business District (CBD). Local speculative landowners allow houses to decline while renting them out and then eventually destroy them and level the lot to be sold off to developers.

The presence of the OTC on the street is an impediment to this scheme and police are regularly called in at the behest of the areas biggest landowner to chase people away. Gang members graffiti the area with their tag, engage in selective vandalism, and scatter when the police come a lookin’ for them. The most common criminal activity in the area being car stereo burglaries. Uniformity of clothing the gang members wear and the tags they leave in the neighborhood can be seen, in context, as a form of resistance to efforts to transform the area, it represents a unity of the dispossessed by signifying group identity and cohesion– in this case in direct contrast to the possessed. A quick look at these people identify them as a gang, especially in contrast to the majority of the people in the downtown who wear business attire. This creates strength through soldarity and is intimidating to others. In the context of the other things the OTC members do in the neighborhood, their intimidation powers are heightened.

Furthermore, their vandalism can be seen as a direct form of rebellion and power. Tags reclaim the neighborhood from the businesses by hanging the name of the OTC right on the buildings themselves, thereby symbolizing their territorial right to the area. The combined images of rebellion on the part of the OTC, along with their tolerance within the surrounding community, in conclusion, seriously questions the common idea that a gang is inherently bad.

Aspects of their existence that outsiders may view as being negative, can be seen as being beneficial to local residents. The gang can even be described, to some extent, as being protectors of the community. Actions that local property owners take to discourage people hanging out and engaging in vandalism, actions such as fortifying houses and fencing lots that would conventionally be viewed as solutions to petty crimes, can from another perspective can be seen as part of the larger problem of CBD intrusion into the neighborhood. Residents don’t worry too much about the OTC. They worry more about the encroachment of the CBD and the emminent end of their neighborhood.

Neo-liberal Raiders

Apparently, the latest push to gentrify Oakland is not unique to this area. If s part of what a Rutgers University professor and gentrification expert, Neil Smith, is calling the ‘class remake of the central urban landscape.’ ‘Evicted from the public and private spaces of what is fast ,becoming a downtown bourgeois playground, minorities, the unemployment and the poorest of the working class are destined “for large-scale displacement’ Smith says in -his recent book The New Urban Frontier.

Brown’s victory follows a trend in predominantly African cities across the country in which white mayors are once again replacing the black elected officials of the past several years. In Oakland, and elsewhere, white flight is being reversed.

As mayor, Brown plans to “fill every vacancy’ on the Oakland police force, to get ‘every penny of state, federal and foundation anti-crime money available to Oakland to make Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils truly part of the fabric of each neighborhood.”

One of the first things he announced about his mayorship is that he plans to retain the current city manager, Robert Bobb. Bobb, who is known for his anti-homeless policies as city manager of Richmond, Virginia, came into Ns job in Oakland last November declaring that criminals had better get out of town, and was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as strolling into Oakland “like a new sheriff in t

Bobb wants to return to the days when police officers routinely stopped young people hanging out on street comers during school hours, and wants to prosecute parents of habitually truant students and merchants who allow young people to “loiter” around their stores when they are supposed to be in their shitty, oppressive schools.

Oakland is due to be transformed. Good, many may say. But the transformation will not be the one we need. More police to contain the social problems created by a social system that doesn’t have social progress as a goal does nothing to solve this society’s vast problems, it actually compounds those problems, and frustrates the generation of alternative solutions that could lift the populace out of this market matrix.

Exposing and rejecting the neo-liberal politics of Jerry Brown speaks to all the people of Oakland slated to be displaced by this new wave of gentrification, and as well to all people who struggle even on a good day against the state and capital from a position of weakness within the general economy. Justice was not made for all by the architects of this settler state and its descendent settler economic system.

Sadly, safe streets and gentrification are synonimous at this point and time in Oakland under the current market system. Crime and survival are likewise synonimous under the same system. Ideally, a radical political movement would spring to life to offer a third way out, but until then, anyone who believes in true social justice must choose the criminal over the yuppie and the criminal over the cop. Jerry Brown, Gray Davis, Dan Lungren, and the entire chorus of political establishmentarians who support the war on crime, the expansion of the state’s criminal prosecution apparatus, or any part of this empire’s prison-industrial complex, support the system in its entirety and must be held accountable for any of its injustices.

Social power to the criminals, the gangs, the prisoners–the bottom class.

1. San Francisco Bay Guardian, October 7, 1998. The Cleansing of San Francisco, p. 17
2. Hayes, Edward. Power Structure and Urban Policy: Who Rules in Oakland. McGraw Hill, 1972, p. 55
3. Guardian. The East Bay Effect, by A. Clay Thompson, p. 39
4. Hayes, p. 37,39
5. Freedom First! …Then Peace will Last, Vol. 1, No.1, Fall 1998. p. 1
6. East Bay Express, October 9, 1998. The Other Epidemic: Fatal Encounters with Crack, by Dashka Slater, p. 14
7. Mob Rule, #2, San Jose, CA. The Pigs and Downtown, p. 8
8. Mob Rule, p. 3,7,9
9. Living on the Edge: A Study of Conflicts and Resistance in an Oakland Neighborhood. Peace and Conflict Studies Department honor s theses
10. S.F. Chronicle, October 6, 1998. p. A17-18

Slingshot Box

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Inspiration for a drug war hostage

Dearest Beautiful People:

Personally I would like to thank everyone involved and contributing to Slingshot. Six weeks ago I was released from the New Hampshire State Prison after 40 months of being held hostage in support of the War on Drugs.

Although the facility I was held at was very skeptical of all incoming mail, somehow the Earth Mother let 4 of your issues cross into my hands. They have given some inspiration, gratitude and much positive energy flow.

Finally I can feel some true rebellion and strength to stand up for views and philosophies – h is magical.

Currently there is a strong need for a micropower independent radio station in the extremely cultured and progressive Portsmouth, NH (seacoast) – hippest town in NH . I want to be the supplier, I need info!

-Thanks Scoff Byrnes

Railroad to disaster

Dear Slingshot:

I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the line American Society boarded a runaway train headed for disaster. In an attempt to ‘get tough on crime’ the general public has been sold the myth that locking people up is the solution to the crime problem. In the short run R appears to have some impact. But over time the tracks will end, most certainly ending up in disaster.

Let’s focus on the offender for a moment. As an inmate in the Arizona Department of Corrections, having been convicted of a non- violent, non-dangerous offense, I have had the opportunity to observe a penal system designed to encourage failure. Instead of providing an opportunity and an environment that encourages rehabilitation, we are essentially being warehoused until our release date comes around. There is essentially no ‘corrections’ only punishment.

Look at R like this. If you put an offender in prison, warehouse him for as long as you can, then release him back to the streets, what do you have? The same offender, who is a little older, a little wiser, and perhaps a little angrier at the system that failed him. Wouldn’t R be wiser and safer for society if during his incarceration, this same offender was able to take advantage of. real rehabilitation programs, maintain strong family ties and work on the issues that brought him to prison in the first Mace?

I hope one day we can begin true rehabilitation in our criminal justice system. As things exist today the system is destined for failure. I only hope that those on the outside will act with society’s best interest in mind. Because if we continue on the track that we are on, there will most certainly be a crash. I’d hate to be around to view the wreckage because it will most certainly be a mess!

I welcome any comments. I can be reached at:
Patrick Williams #84677
Arizona State Prison- Perryville
PO Box 3300
Goodyear, AZ 85338

or e-mailed at,
information about me can be found on the Internet

Letter: response to Y2K

Dear Slingshot:

I was troubled by Daniel Dylan Young’s short essay, “The Year 2000 Problem, the Social Revolution & You,” Slingshot, Fall 1998. I felt it was dangerously simplistic and poorly thought through.

While I am not at all convinced the notorious “Y2K bug” will turn out to be anywhere near as devastating to the technology which virtually runs our society today as Daniel and others predict, I acknowledge with him the likelihood of significant political and economic disruption beginning around the end of 1999. And I also agree with the most basic tenet of his argument, that radical organizers should take advantage of the impending “crisis” and look upon it as an opportunity. But I do not share his utopian vision of the potential for the bug and its aftermath to spark “social revolution”; and by this Daniel actually seems to mean insurrection, the point at which the last vestiges of the state/capitalist system are torn down and replaced by liberatory alternatives.

My concern is that we have yet to develop those liberatory alternatives. Daniel asks “what better time for an anarchist revolution…?” and comments, “it’s always a good day for a revolution.” My response is that I can think of far better historical periods, in the future, for insurrectionary change. Daniel has fallen into that classical anarchist pitfall that pins our hopes and visions on a disastrously inadequate notion of spontaneous revolt. If we have learned nothing else from revolutionary history, it should be that we are not prepared for revolutionary changes unless we have already established alternative forms of social institutions and infrastructure, and unless we have developed the skills necessary to practice participatory, direct democracy and operate cooperative workplaces — indeed, a decentralized, democratically planned economy. In short, we simply are not ready for an insurrection. We have nothing with which to replace capitalism. Not to mention the spheres of kinship and cultural life which go entirely unmentioned in Daniel’s piece but are nevertheless an integral — as opposed to secondary — factor in social revolution!

There are two possible results of premature insurrection. The first is chaos. When old, oppressive social structures collapse “overnight,” the tendency is not toward immediate reorganization of society along anarchist principles. Instead, power vacuums are typically filled with violence, with economic speculation, with starvation, and so forth. And whatever can be said of the so-called “anarchist movement,” preparation to lead the reconstruction of society is not on our current list of attributes. The skills and institutions required to rebuild a new, nonauthoritarian society amidst the rubble of the old take decades, perhaps generations to develop. Some cultures, such as the Maya Zapatistas in Southern Mexico, live simpler yet more severe existences with far better developed notions and practices of democracy. In the North, we can boast nothing of the sort, so we can expect only to fail in an emergency, as peoples of many undemocratic societies have in times of social collapse.

Which brings us to the second possible consequence of revolting Unprepared “masses” of people (and I am not arrogant enough to exclude myself or anyone likely reading this from that group) tend to resort to dependence upon strong, charismatic leaders who present rhetorical plans for a new society and demonstrate a capability to implement such plans. This is the role of a vanguard, an elite group or personality cult which requires of the people not skills but committed support. The vanguard seizes power when the opportunity arises and then takes up the task of managing the revolution and educating the masses from on high.

My point is that we had better hope, ironically enough, that some aspects of the Establishment stay in tact past Daniel’s “numerologically significant” “Year 00.” I for one am frightened of the potential for competition rather than mutual aid. Should welfare and social security and WIC checks stop arriving, even for a few months, it is obvious who will be at a dangerous disadvantage. The military and FEMA already maintain stockpiles of emergency supplies and food, which they will dole out as per their wishes. In the absence of a cooperative infrastructure to carry us through any hard(er) times which might be brought on by partial technological collapse, there is legitimate reason even for anarchists to fear. Just because we don’t believe humans need hierarchical forms of government doesn’t so much as imply that we are not largely dependent upon them, in the here and now, for protection from still nastier predators in the private, market-driven economy.

I remain optimistic. If the Y2K bug does lead to widescale catastrophe, radical organizers should definitely be prepared to get involved in mutual aid efforts in their communities. But to do what Daniel is suggesting, which amounts to a ridiculous and unethical attempt to pray on people’s fears (“The emotions we can most readily capitalize on are the ambiguous anticipation lying in the back of the minds of the masses” [!]). Fear-mongering is never constructive. If we need to “capitalize” on anything, it should be people’s hopes, aspirations and strengths. These tend to come out during times of calamity, and surprisingly enough it doesn’t take any prodding from anarchist types to prompt one neighbor to help another. What we can offer, to the extent we have practiced it ourselves (and this is limited, let’s agree!), is the development of collective structures and processes for bringing about mutual aid more equitably and efficiently.

The main problem with Daniel’s view of the Y2K moment is that it is every bit as apocalyptic as the perspective of those peddling survivalist dogma and tales of Armageddon. It still looks at a historical moment as the creator of history, instead of acknowledging our role in it as people who bring about change slowly, cautiously, patiently and completely.

Brian A. Dominick Syracuse, NY

In Giuliani's NYC "Quality of Life" = Police State

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s “quality of life” campaign means a police state for ordinary New Yorkers outside the new yuppie class. More and more constituencies in Gotham City are standing up and fighting back.

Giuliani, barred from seeking a third term by term limits, is using New York City as a showcase for his national ambitions. He is no longer playing to his own constituents, but to the white racist subruban voters across the country who he hopes will sweep him to national office on his record of getting a dangerous city full of whining minorities under control. He’s trying to make New York like the rest of America–suburbanified, sterile and orderly. As Times Sqaure and other tracts of primo real estate are sold off to Disney, Giuliani, who grew up in suburban Long Island, is squeezing out everything that makes New York unique. He is the suburbs’ revenge on the urban center.

Giuliani ran on a symbolic platform of cracking down on the “squeegee men”–a policy which took a horrible turn this summer as a squeegee man was shot by an off-duty cop whose windshield he tried to clean, ending up critically injured.

Since being elected to a second term, he has selected targets a little higher up the social ladder, persecuting the city’s mostly-immigrant working-class sectors–bicycle messengers, umbrella hawkers (mostly Senegalese), street peddlers and cabbies.

The taxi drivers were the first to fight back. After Giuliani pushed restrictive new regulations through the Taxi & Limosine Commission, making operating a cab prohibitively expensive, they organized a series of protests. The biggest, planned for May 21, planned to block traffic in Manhattan. But Giuliani placed police checkpoints on all the bridges to the island, turning back all cabs with no fare.

Rudy Giuliani boasted in the next day’s papers: “They know that we broke their strike–destroyed it, really. Nobody showed up today. And that didn’t happen just because we allowed business to go on as usual. That happened because we had a plan to stop them from doing it.”

He then went on to quote from flyers calling for bringing Manhattan traffic to a standstill and says that if such a document had been found in the hands of a “terrorist” group, “then everybody would understand that you cannot allow that to happen.” This was a typical Giuliani racist allusion, a veiled reference to the fact that many cabbies are immigrants from the Middle East.

Bicyclists have also been the target of a new police crackdown, especially messengers and delivery workers, who are often recent immigrants, speak little English and function in a semi-legal “gray economy.” In addittion to supporting new legislation which would allow police to confiscate bicycles being rode on the sidewalk, Giuliani has unleashed the police in a harrassment campaign. A study in the New York Times noted that in the 19th precinct over a three week period, 1,168 summonses were issued to bicyclists but only 50 to motorists.

Pedestrians haven’t been spared the assault. Shortly after his re-election last year, Giuliani erected pedestrian barricades at every intersection along 49th and 50th Streets between Fifth and Lexington Avenues, making peds walk out of their way to free the avenues for vehicle traffic. These were protested in December by Transportation Alternatives activists, who dressed up as cows to drive home the point that pedestrians were being treated like cattle.

The city’s street food vendors also came under onerous regulations and are restricted from certain areas of the city, and held a half-day strike in protest in May. Curbside book and merchandise vendors are also being relegated to out-of-the-way blocks, forcing many out of business–despite the fact that courts have ruled that book vednors are protected by the First Amendment.

Street artists have also protested that they are being arrested under the new regulations. On May 27, they protested in front of Cooper Union, where the Mayor was giving a speech about his support of the arts. In Giuliani’s usual pre-emptive tactic against street protests, police had the place totally sealed off–the closest the protestors could get was the Cube, a small traffic island across a wide intersection from Cooper Union.

Street and subway musicians are suffering under the same wave of harrassment. Subway musicians have even been harrassed for playing in spots where they are legally allowed to with the Music Under New York (MUNY) program.

Curbside newsstand operators have protested Giuliani’s plans to have all the old stands replaced with new mass-produced ones, to be covered with big-bucks adverstising that the operators are responsible for any vandalism against but wouldn’t get a cut of.

Community gardeners on the Lower East Side saw two gardens–one named for the Brazilian rainforest crusader Chico Mendez–bulldozed to make way for a yuppie condo development last Fall. Four more neighborhood gardens, mostly built and maintained by Puerto Rican and Dominican residents who reclaimed vacant and rubble-strewn lots, were sold of to developers in July. Also included in the auction was the Puerto Rican community center Charas, which reclaimed an abandoned schoolbuilding 20 years ago, and was given a lease by the city. Charas is challenging the sale in court, on the grounds that the City illegally refused to consider the group’s own bid for the property. The City, meanwhile, refuses to even say who the new owner is. Charas leader Armando Perez vows to resist eviction to the end.

While harrassment of the homeless has of course escalated, low-income tenants are also meeting with totalitarian tactics. In January, a tenement on the Lower East Side’s Stanton Street was demolished by the city after the summary eviction of the immigrant tenants. They were not even allowed back in to rescue pets or collect personal belongings before a City-contracted wrecking crane destroyed their home before their unbelieving eyes. The tenants deny City claims that their building was in danger of imminent collapse. The previous February, a squatter building on East Third Street was similarly destoryed with no notice to the evicted inhabitants.

Police brutality survivors, and their next-of-kin, charge Giuliani with running a city where cops can maim and kill with impunity. Abner Louima, the Haitian immigrant who was tortured and ritually sodomized while in police custody last summer, is only the most prominent of a series of vicious police attacks on blacks across the city. The Louima case is being treated as outrageous only because of the twisted psycho-sexual angle. If the cops had merely beat Abner to death, or gunned him down when they first apprehended him, he wouldn’t be a household name in New York–he would have been a brief blurb on the news, if that. Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union has stepped down from the special commission Giuliani was forced to form following the Louima incident, charging it with being a toothless propaganda charade.

Giuliani, meanwhile, dismisses as empty propaganda the recent reports by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch charging the NYPD with systematic human rights abuses. The paramilitary NYPD “anti-drug” operations terrorize whole communities, especially in Brooklyn’s African American neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York.

The last year has seen a wave of no-knock wrong-address raids on black and Latino homes across the city, in which the apartments of unoffending citizens have been ransacked and children menaced at gunpoint. The mayor has refused to apologize for these violations. Giuliani defended the NYPDÕs record of 10 bogus busts out of 45,000 drug warrants last year. “I think 10 out of 45,000 is a very understandable percentage,” he told the press in early March. But records were not kept for warrantless raids–such as that which occurred just two weeks later at another Bronx apartment. Police battered down a door and charged in with guns drawn–to confront a g
randmother, her daughter and six-year-old grandson watching TV. “I was scared they were going to shoot us,” said the youngster, Jaquan Fulton. Police said they misunderstood an informant’s directions to the apartment.

Police video cameras have been installed in Washington Squaure Park for anti-drug surveillance. Smoking a joint outdoors has become nearly impossible in Giuliani’s New York. Those busted for toking on the street are no longer given desk-appearance tickets, but are put “through the system,” waiting up to 72 hours in “The Tombs” of 100 Center Street to see a judge. The legal limit that arrestees can be held in The Tombs was recently expanded from 48 hours due to the system being overloaded with petty Òquality-of-lifeÓ arrests.

Cultural space in Giuliani’s New York is shrinking like a sphincter. Sex retailers and performers are protesting Giuliani’s restrictive zoning regulations, which purges them from most of the city. In addittion to holding public protests, sex workers and business owners are challenging the regulations before the US Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds.

Salsa musicians on Amsterdam Avenue are up in arms over Giuliani’s enforcement of the outdated “cabaret laws,” which ban bands with horn sections from business with no “cabaret license.”

The East Village rock’n’roll clubs CBGBs, Continental Divide and Coney Island High were recently the target of NYPD raids. The raids were officially to crack down on drug use by patrons, but CBGBs, the historic birthplace of punk rock and an establshed neighborhood institution, was actually closed by police in the raid when management couldnÕt find a copy of their liquor license.

The Chinatown community was angered in January over Giuliani’s refusal to accomodate in any form the traditional Chinese New Year celebration on the grounds that fireworks disturb the peace. Community leaders offered to keep the firecrackers confined to certain blocks, but Giuliani wouldn’t give an inch. For the first time in Chinatown’s history, the traditional celebration was not held.

City employees are facing lay-offs as no-wage “workfare” workers are brought in for many jobs. Hospital workers have repeatedly held protests in Harlem over plans to privatize or close the only hospital in a community where the life expectancy is lower than that of Bangladesh. Giuliani wants to spend $600 million to move Yankee Stadium from The Bronx to Upper Manhattan (a move protested by Bronx leaders as racist) at the same time that he threatens to shut down Harlem Hospital in the name of austerity!. Workfare workers, in turn, protest that the city has refused to recognize their union, on the grounds that they are not really workers.

On June 30, thousands of construction workers, angered over the Metropolitan Transportation AuthorityÕs awarding a construction contract to a non-union company, held a militant march in Midtown, battling the police who tried to restrain them from taking the streets.

In April 1995, thousands of students from the City University of New York (CUNY) protested at City Hall against budget cuts. They were joined by many kids from the city’s public high schools, which are overcrowded and in disrepair, with classes even being held in bathrooms. Giuliani, as he slashed the education budget, complained that some of the protestorÕs signs misspelled his name.

The student struggle continues. This June, after surveillance cameras were discovered hidden in smoke detectors in student meeting rooms at City College of New York (CCNY, a part of the CUNY system), officials said they had been installed to combat burglary. But an affidavit by the college security director in a suit filed by students admitted that they were actually aimed at gathering intelligence on planned student protests against budget cuts.

Anger against Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is fast growing in New York City. Whether the various constituencies he is making life hell for will be able to unite in an effective multi-issue coalition remains to be seen.

Attorney General Viololates law, Refuses to Revoke Unocal Charter

A coalition of more than 30 public interest organizations recently served California’s Attorney General Dan Lungren with an unusual request: that he do his job. They asked that he use all the legal tools available to protect citizens from harm. Lungren enjoys using tools like 3-Strikes and the death penalty to punish individual criminal offenders, but what about those offenders that rampantly damage our health, safety, environment, and quality of life-the corporate offender?

More than twice as many people die each year in the US from preventable workplace diseases and injuries than from murder. Ten times greater property losses are inflicted by white-collar crime than by theft and robbery. We can’t even measure the consequences to our health and environment of industrial pollution. Worst of all, the fact that corporations have bought our political processes means we no longer feel empowered to do anything about these problems.

All states have laws that grant corporate charters, essentially business licenses, and provisions to revoke them. The California Code of Civil Procedure, § 803 and 1801 authorize the Attorney General to take action to revoke the charter of “any domestic corporation… upon the Attorney General’s own information or upon complaint of a private party, to procure a judgment dissolving the corporation and … forfeiting its corporate existence upon any of the following grounds: (1) The corporation has seriously offended against any provision of the statutes regulating corporations. (2) The corporation has fraudulently abused or usurped corporate privileges or powers… ” Just as the State revokes the operating licenses of hundreds of professionals each year for malpractice, corporations can be dissolved and their assets sold to others who will obey the law and protect the public interest.

On September 10, activists presented a 127-page petition in favor of revoking the corporate charter of Unocal (Union Oil of California). “After extensive reflection, discussion and research, those of us acting here as part of We the People ask the Attorney General and the Governor to use this tool that lies ignored in their desk drawers, a tool to keep giant corporations wholly subordinate to the sovereign people by whose permission and toleration they exist… If the information against Unocal… is not enough to galvanize them into action, then what in the world would be enough?” Their petition alleges 10 counts of crimes against humanity and the environment. They include:

Environmental Devastation, “contaminating land, air and water from San Francisco to Los Angeles, helping destroy rainforests in southeast Asia, and contributing to climate change while funding a researcher to throw doubt on climate-change science.”

Unfair and Unethical Treatment of Workers. After hundreds of OSHA violations that left workers sick, disabled, and dead, Unocal has now declared that “it no longer considers itself as a US company,” abandoning long-time employees for cheaper labor overseas.

Aiding Oppression of Women and Homosexuals; Enslavement and Forced Labor; Forced Relocation of Burmese Villages and Villagers; Killings, Torture, and Rape; Complicity in Cultural Genocide of Tribal and Indigenous Peoples… In the name of profit, Unocal has colluded with some of the most oppressive regimes in the modern world, for example Burma and Afghanistan.

Usurpation of Political Power. Unocal has legitimized brutal human rights abusers in Afghanistan and Burma, negotiating business deals that promise them major military support. This has undermined government sanctions policies, pushing instead for policies of “constructive engagement” that allow its business deals to thrive. “California authorized Unocal to be a business corporation, not to be an international policy entity working to thwart US foreign policy and to subvert the democratic process.”

Deception of the Courts, Shareholders and the Public. That’s right, lies, lies, lies.

Naturally, Lungren dismissed the petition, but it marks a major action by a growing movement to return corporations to the democratic control of the people by revoking the charters of corporations that violate our human and civil rights. Regulatory agencies and the occasional fine do nothing to stop widespread corporate abuses of power. Since corporations operate by OUR authority, it’s time to tell them to stop!

For more information about this project, contact the National Lawyers Guild International Law Project for Human, Economic, and Environmental Defense (HEED) 213-736-1094.

Action alert Last chance for Mumia Abu Jamal

In the wake of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s denial of Mumia Abu Jamal’s last state appeal on October 26, the government is closer to executing a political prisoner than it has been since the Rosenbergs were electrocuted in the 1950s. Although attorneys have filed a petition for rehearing, Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge could sign a death warrant to kill the award-winning journalist, former Black Panther and radical at any time.

Mumia was wrongly convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman in 1982 after a trial tainted by extensive governmental misconduct. Physical evidence and credible witnesses demonstrate that Mumia could not have killed the officer. Mumia has now been on death row for 17 years, during which time he has continued his work as a journalist despite the state’s attempts to silence him.

It now appears that Mumia’s last chance to survive is a final federal appeal, and more importantly, the Court of public opinion. Despite some publicity, including the film “Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt?” which aired on national television, Mumia is hardly a household word and it is possible that an innocent radical will be executed without most Americans even knowing about it. Mumia’s case has received much more attention outside the US than here at home, and worldwide Mumia’s case is considered an example of America’s racist injustice system running wild.

Protests are planned worldwide soon after governor Ridge signs Mumia’s death warrant. In the Bay Area, meet the Tuesday after the death warrant is signed at 5:30 p.m., Montgomery and Market St., San Francisco (Montgomer BART.) To get involved in efforts to raise awareness of Mumia’s case and save his life, call 415-431-3594. You can also call governor Ridge and demand that he order a new trial for Mumia: Tom Ridge, Main Capitol Building, Rm 2225, Harrisburg, PA 17120, governor@ stata.PA.US, 717-787-2500. Or, let the State of Pennsylvania’s

Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex

Art & Revolution and the Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC) co-sponsored a March to protest the expansion of the prison-industrial-complex into downtown Berkeley. One of two marches held during the Critical Resistance conference at UC Berkeley the weekend of September 25-27, a crowd of 300-500 gathered Sunday in Sproul Plaza with large puppets, such as this one of Mumia Abu Jamal. The march made its way through the streets of Berkeley to the site of the new jail/police station being built at MLK & Addison Streets. People attacked the construction fence with paint and hurled their bodies against it. They had just managed to smash through part of the fence when Police arrived. No one was arrested.

Saturdays March to End the Drug War, was kicked off with a speak-but..T-he crowd then marched with a giant banner from Telegraph and Haste up to the conference site.

Blurbs Of Revolt

Off With Their Heads!

Movement Against Monarchy March

London – In October over 700 protestors (including a hooded executioner complete with noose, 20ft portable guillotine, and multiple Prince Charles’s ripe for beheading) marched around Central London and through the West End calling for the immediate end of the ludricrous Monarchy system. Backed by a dozen carnivalesque drummers the crowd chanted “The Ritz, The Ritz, We’re Gonna Get Rid of the Ritz” as confused tourists looked on.

Fuck the Cars, Let’s Play Volleyball! National French Car-Free Day

France – 35 cities banned cars from their central districts for one day in October, a move well appreciated by pedestrians. French Activists extended the official plan though a number of well-timed actions. In Paris the Champs Elysee was blocked by a tripod during the morning rush hour. Some in Lyon “borrowed” barriacades and “street closed” signs from the city council, blocked off a street and covered it with sand for boules and volleyball. Everyone brought apple tarts and cakes to enjoy while the police slowly circled round the festivities in patrol cars. There also was a Critical Mass in Dijon and a “Lorry-Free Day” in Chambery – the tunnel was blocked to trucks.

Eugene to NIKE – “Just Don’t Do It!” Impending NIKEtown Sparks Protest

Eugene, Oregon – On October 17 scores of anti-corporate activists and black-clad young anarchists took to the streets of the birthplace of NIKE to protest its highly problematic business practices. After speeches, leafleting and the destruction of a 12 foot long “Swoosh” symbol carried in by children (symbolizing NIKE’s child labor practices), the protesters became more demonstrative by tearing down a fence surrounding the yet-to-be-opened store. The police countered with riot-geared, pepperspray wielding cops, yet several people still entered the store, trashing displays and “product”, igniting fireworks, and dumping over-priced clothes off a balcony. A few days later, police raided the home of a teenage male that left fingerprints on a protest sign near the scene, holding his family at gunpoint on the floor in handcuffs, seizing computers and documents and searching the place for 7 hours. He wasn’t home at the time, and no arrests have been made yet, although ample police video tape exists of the protest.

Giuliani Must Really Hate Jaywalkers New York’s Finest Trample Memorial March

New York City – Over 4000 people marched down Fifth Avenue of October19th to protest and mourn the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student brutally murdered in Wyoming. As usual, the Major Giuliani police state quickly pounced into action, harrasing and assaulting those who strayed off the sidewalks. This turned the vigil and protest into a combative event – after people were randomly grabbed by police and thrown against cars or to the ground (as one pregnant woman was), or trampled underfoot by horses, some fought back by throwing their memorial candles. After 96 senseless arrests and innumerable police assults the march finally made it to Madison Square Park where shrines for Shepard were set up. The police justified their actions by stating that the marchers in the streets were endangering motorists and had to be dealt with.

Amnesty International Targets US Abuses

London – In October Amnesty International took the unprecedented yet entirely justified step of launching a year long campaign against the US for systematic and blatant human rights abuses. This is the first time in its 37-year history that AI has started a major campain against a Western country. Some of charges against the US outlined in its150-page report are “widespread and persistent” police brutality, “endemic” physical and sexual violence against prisoners, “racist” application of the death penalty, and the use of “high-tech repression tools” such as electroshock devices and incapacitating chemical sprays. In short, Amnesty International charges the US with a “double standard” of criticizing the rest of the world for abuse while not doing enough to stop the abuse it is overlooking, and causing, at home.

No Justice, No Oil Nigerians Take Arms Against Shell

Nigeria – Nigerians repeatedly attacked Shell Oil in October, seizing at gunpoint more than 10 stations, two helicopters and a drilling rig. Youth groups, fed up with their exclusion from the Nigerian political process and the general economic inequality of their nation, have recently taken matters in their own hands by hitting where it hurts – oil, the lifeblood of the region. Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest producers of oil, and Shell has a stranglehold on this production. Activists vow to keep attacking Shell and Agip Oil sites until they get a new local government, and at least 500,000 barrels of oil a day is now being lost due to their actions. Protestors also demand that a more equal share of the oil wealth that accounts for more than 90% of Nigeria’s export income should go to the people – many who live in makeshift homes where there is often no electricity or public water supply.

Bringing Old Growth Forest Destruction ta a Sprawlmart Near You!

We all know that the world’s forests are on the brink of ecological collapse. Only 22% of the planet’s original primary forest cover remains ecological intact and even these areas are under relentless attack from transnational timber, mining and fossil fuel corporations.

For years forest defenders have been putting their bodies in the path of the destruction as well as targeting the big timber companies wherever they do business. This is important work and it needs to continue but if we are going to save the world’s old growth forests we need to open up new fronts as well. Since excessive U.$. wood consumption is the engine driving global deforestation, the time has come to target the companies who make millions retailing old growth forest products.

Top of the list of forest looting profiteers is The Home Depot, the largest do-it-yourself retail chain in the world. Home Depot boasts annual sales of over $24 billion and through its control of 20% of the home improvement market it is the largest retailer of old growth forest products in the world. Home Depot has over 700 stores in North America, has recently expanded into Chile and Brazil and plans to grow to over 1,300 stores by the year 2001. Currently they are building between 3 and 8 of their sprawl-mart mega stores every week! Each of these stores is filled with plundered old growth forest products. These include cedar, douglas fir and redwood from the temperate rainforests of North America; mahogany stolen from indigenous lands in the Amazon (a recent study by the Brazilian government found that 85% of all mahogany exported was logged illegally); lauana and ramin from the rainforests of Southeast Asia.

Home Depot likes to promote itself as an environmentally conscious company and has been saying since 1992 that it wants to go old growth free. Finally, in 1997 due to pressure from Headwaters activists they committed to stop selling old growth redwood. However, not only are they continuing to sell ancient redwoods but in negotiations earlier this year they admitted that they had made these promises merely to stop environmental protest.

Activists across North America responded to Home Depot’s role in liquidating the world’s last old growth forests with a day of action on October 14, 1998. Demonstrations were held at over 85 stores through out the U.$. and Canada including lockdowns to reclaim stolen rainforest products in New York, Northern California and Iowa. Many activists conducted guerrilla “Dead Rainforest Tours” in order to show customers the macabre truth behind Home Depot’s inventory.

While Home Depot scrambles to launch a PR counter-offensive, the actions continue. Escalating this pressure is essential if we are going to drive Home Depot out of the old growth business and stand in solidarity with the indigenous forest communities fighting to protect their homelands around the planet. So grab some friends and head out to your local Home Depot! Let them know that your not fooled by their greenwashing and that you want them to stop selling old growth NOW! For more information about the campaign check out or contact the Rainforest Action Network at 415-398-4404 or via email at