Saturday, November 05, 2011


The horrifying story below from the San Francisco Bay View burns my gut.  

I know I will be attacked by some for being "divisive" again, but come on folks, what do you not get.  

The one white guy without a racist bone in his body
The vast majority of those at Occupy sites around the country have no INTENTION of being racist.  However, when you are white, unless you are John Brown, some bit of racism is ingrained in you (less in some, more in others).  It is just a fact.  The question is how hard do you fight it inside yourself and how hard do you fight white supremacy and racism out there in the real world?  Way too many of those at Occupation sites insist there is no "racism problem" at our camp.  There is a "racism problem" everywhere, my friends, and your camps are no different.  The insistence that it isn't an issue for your Occupy group itself stinks of racism. Pointing to some person of color at your campsite and declaring this proves it isn't a problem itself stinks of racism. The declaration that there is no need for the Occupy movement  to highlight racism in America and too deal with its impact on People of Color itself stinks of racism.   The insistance that anyone who dares broach the subject of racism within the "movement" is just being divisive itself stinks of racism. I have seen this dynamic at play, but you know what, I won't shut up.

Part of the struggle against white supremacy and racism, a major part, the major part, has to do with confronting it, especially amongst whites.  A broad based populist movement like Occupy is full of folks from all over the spectrum, and as such there must be people within it and without it who are willing to confront the racism that comes along with the 99%.  

Again, because I know how this will be taken, the vast majority of folks at Occupy sites are not overtly conscious racists.  No one says they are.  Again, many Occupy sites have individuals and groups within working on this problem.  No one says they don't.  Again, the criticism is offered by people not bent on destroying "your" movement. 

I can't think of a majority white movement of any kind at any time to which this does not or has not applied. 

Anyway, read the article below and weep...and then get mad...and then deal with it...and, please, understand where this all comes from and instead of attacking those who try to inform you about it, attack white supremacy and racism.

My mind is pre-occupied with racism in ‘Occupy’
“Please go online and get me money from Oprah. Tell her it’s so she (self-referential) don’t get killed on the streets of San Francisco.” – Mrs. Bowie
Posted By Mary On November 4, 2011 @ 11:34 am In SF Bay Area | 2 Comments

San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King wrote on Oct. 31 that “the Occupy SF village is enlivening the long dormant and depressing Harry Bridges Park – the 10-year-old strip of grass between the Hotel Vitale and Justin Herman Plaza that doesn't get used much by anyone except the homeless.” This photo was taken from 37 floors up. – Photo: Steve Rhodes
The majesty of the elder Black woman’s face was marred by bruises from minutes earlier and the tears of 75 years as a second class citizen in the United Capitalist Prison States of America. Mrs. Bowie (pronounced Boowy) is a homeless woman and one of the original residents of Occupy San Francisco, where tonight she had been attacked.
In my capacity as a local housing justice advocate and police accountability community worker, I have taken to visiting the encampment at Justin Herman Plaza to observe the conditions of life there and more specifically keep tabs on the interactions that the Occupiers have with various enforcement agencies. On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 27, I arrived to the south end of the camp with an activist videographer around 9 p.m. after leaving the Bayview Hunters Point Violence Prevention Summit.
Upon our arrival, the videographer and I observed two police cars parked in the south lot adjacent to the camp. Channel 7 News had a van in the same lot parked a little to the east of the cops and was setting up for a broadcast. By and large the scene was calm with various small groups of Occupiers scattered conversing, eating, smoking – in short, occupying.
No one out of the roughly 90 people present – 99 percent young and white – seemed to notice what to me was an obvious discrepancy from the rather placid scene, that of Mrs. Bowie sobbing amidst her completely broken down tent and disarrayed personal belongings. Alarmed, I approached her and inquired as to what happened. Her story was shocking.
“My head hit the cement right there,” Mrs. Bowie said, pointing out a spot just east of the wreckage that was moments earlier her home. “They’re all the same – the Klan, the police. The police gonna beat me anyway.” After a few moments of speaking with Mrs. Bowie, she was able to calm down just enough to give account of what had happened.
She said she had been attacked by a white supremacist faction of Occupiers and then subsequently attacked by the police. During the course of the original altercation, her tent had been torn down, feces had been thrown on it, racial epithets – nigger, nigger, nigger etc. – had been bandied about, and she had been thrown to the cement.
At some point the police entered the struggle and subsequently had a physical interaction with Mrs. Bowie as well. The particular officers involved were reported to be in squad car 43 and were driving away just as Mrs. Bowie was relaying this part of the story.

She said she had been attacked by a white supremacist faction of Occupiers and then subsequently attacked by the police. During the course of the original altercation, her tent had been torn down, feces had been thrown on it, racial epithets – nigger, nigger, nigger etc. – had been bandied about, and she had been thrown to the cement.

Astonishingly, there was not one arrest. “It’s the Chinatown effect,” Mrs. Bowie lamented. “They let you fight, and then they take the last man standing.” Our conversation was interrupted multiple times as people would curiously walk by us and Mrs. Bowie would panic, raising her cane, saying, “That’s one! Get the fuck away from me!”
It became obvious to me early in the conversation that Mrs. Bowie was suffering severe PTSD from the attacks, and that this was giving her difficulty in correctly identifying her assailants. Despite her terror and disgust, though, Mrs. Bowie was cogent and coherent and after speaking to a couple of occupiers that she indicated were involved, I was able to corroborate most of her story and piece together a timeline.
“She’s crazy. She started yelling about the Klan and swinging her cane around,” said one white occupier. Another occupier, this one Black, chimed in with a less pejorative tone, “Yeah, man, I think she has mental health issues.”
I was not dissuaded by these caveats and I proceeded to ask if there was anyone at camp with experience addressing mental health needs. They shrugged. Their nonchalance was maddening. I asked if there had been white power issues at the camp and was met by a reluctance to broach the topic that was echoed by the next half dozen people I would speak to. Every occupier I spoke to got quiet on this point but a few made silent or cryptic affirmations that this phenomenon was occurring, and the apprehensive look in the eyes of every single one I spoke to betrayed the truth of the allegations.

Occupy SF in late October – Photo: Thomas Webb, SF Chronicle
At this point in my investigation, the first person who accused Mrs. Bowie of being crazy inquired as to whether I was a journalist. I told him that a journalist was one of my hats but that I had originally come down to check the scene with the police. He became more cautious with me, but not before giving me an amazing show.
“Well, I did have this mask,” he said as he donned a self-styled hood. This roughly 6-foot man with ruddy white skin and dirty blond Viking locks pulled a triangular black cloth mask down over his face that looked virtually identical to a Klan mask outside of being the wrong color.
Further interviews conducted by myself and the videographer who I introduced to Mrs. Bowie established that the following scenario occurred. The man with the black Klan mask had approached Mrs. Bowie, scaring her half to death. She responded in self-defense by swinging her cane around.

“Well, I did have this mask,” he said, a triangular black cloth mask that looked virtually identical to a Klan mask outside of being the wrong color. The man with the black Klan mask had approached Mrs. Bowie, scaring her half to death.

Others, who had been tormenting Mrs. Bowie for over a month, walking over her artwork and allowing their dogs to piss and shit on her camp while hurling slurs, jumped in to defend their “brother.” “The lead one – I took my cane and hit him in the ass and balls,” Mrs. Bowie defiantly proclaimed.
In the course of the commotion, the police had been called over, and they took the stereotypical approach of automatically assuming the premise of “crazy Black woman.” They physically restrained her but seemed to be smugly satisfied that when the crowd dispersed they had done their job and that there was nothing wrong with having the only Black elder woman I saw – one of only about five Black people among about 10 people of color in the entire camp – injured, her home destroyed, left shaking and sobbing, a victim of multiple hate crimes in what has been publicly touted as one of the most progressive movements in decades. “They did this to us in 1959,” Mrs. Bowie said with a look of heartbreaking disappointment.

They seemed to be smugly satisfied that there was nothing wrong with having the only Black elder woman I saw in the entire camp injured, her home destroyed, left shaking and sobbing, a victim of multiple hate crimes in what has been publicly touted as one of the most progressive movements in decades.

The particular individuals engaged in the hate crimes have not been positively identified. The kkkorporate media “didn’t see anything.” Mrs. Bowie claimed that there were nine men and three women. Further investigation, which takes into consideration other people’s accounts and the fact that the traumatic nature of Mrs. Bowie’s treatment may have engendered inaccurate associations based on fear, place the number at around four or five hard core abusive white supremacists.
These particular people are alleged to have left the camp at this point in time. Mrs. Bowie has six friends that look out for her at camp: Fly, Stephanie, Aaron, Wolf, Huey and Trent. Of the six, at least one had never even given Mrs. Bowie a thought until the videographer introduced the two and reported the attack.
There are those who advised me not to report on this. I was told that I would be attacking a still nascent movement. I would be sowing the seeds of dissent.
I feel that I have an obligation to do so. Mythology has got to be combated on these grounds. Just as it is a myth that Oprah will be able to solve the problems of all Black folk, it is a myth that Black women who have been abused are “crazy.”
It is a myth that police are here to ensure “safety.” It is a myth that you are not racist if you are not one of the minority that acts out its position with overt violence.
It is a myth that there is a 99 percent homogeneous group of people if there is a failure to acknowledge that racism is at the bedrock of U.S. capitalism and has created violent schisms and utterly different living conditions for various groups of people during the course of over half a millennium. More optimistically, it is a myth that nothing can be done to combat this.

It is a myth that there is a 99 percent homogeneous group of people if there is a failure to acknowledge that racism is at the bedrock of U.S. capitalism and has created violent schisms and utterly different living conditions for various groups of people during the course of over half a millennium.

This is not a hit piece on Occupy SF. This is absolutely not a call for state intervention. It is a call to people of color and Black folk in particular to enter the fray.

This is not a hit piece on Occupy SF. This is absolutely not a call for state intervention.

In the grand tradition of giants like Ella Baker or Ida B. Wells, Mrs. Bowie is a beacon showing us directions for a better future. It is incumbent upon us to engage in numbers and coordinate with the current Occupiers, perhaps through a POC caucus or working group, Occupy the Hood, or some such vehicle to insure that she does not have to struggle alone, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our people, and to insure that a newly pre-figured world does not re-create the slave chains of the old one.

Jeremy Miller is interviewed on World Homeless Day 2011 during the Homes Not Jails occupations.
Let us hold these truths to be self-evident:
1. White people cannot do this without us!
2. If racism is not confronted and addressed with a courage that forces us into a place of intergenerational existential pain with an eye towards mental and spiritual growth and a shoulder to the physical liberation of our people, there is no consensus!
Occupy together! Occupy everything! End hate crimes! Free the land! All power to the people!
Jeremy Miller, co-director of Education Not Incarceration, Idriss Stelley Foundation, can be reached

Friday, November 04, 2011


I can't say I knew anything about this before this morning when I received an email from a Zapatista support group.  I have, thus, little to add beyond what you will find below.

The first article is from Sipaz Blog.  The second is a support letter you can sing which came from the Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group.

Chiapas: Two more prisoners join the hunger strike; concentration of family-members at sit-in

Press-conference @ SIPAZ
In a press-conference on 28 October, it was reported that the commission would soon leave to visit Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez, who was taken to the Federal Center for Social Readaptation (CEFERESO) No. 8 in Guasave, Sinaloa, with the hopes of learning about his present situation, given that his family-members have not been allowed to communicate with him to date.

Cecilia Santiago Vera, representative of the Movement of Solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike, reported that they are awaiting the authorization of the directors of the Guasave prison for the visit of five persons to Patishtán Gómez in the coming days.  The commission is comprised by her, a relative of the prisoner, two lawyers from the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (CDHFBC), and Sacario Hernández Hernández, who after being imprisoned from 2003 to 2008 was
released as a result of undertaking a hunger strike.

The CDHFBC reported that it requested that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) solicit from the Mexican government the establishment of precautionary measures so that Alberto Patishtán be returned to prison in Chiapas.  Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez, director of the CDHFBC, said that the IACHR petition also includes a request for precautionary measures in favor of the ten prisoners who continue fasting and on hunger strike since 29 September in the prisons of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Cintalapa, and Motozintla.  López Rodríguez indicated that the CDHFBC has requested before the International Committee of the Red Cross that it carry out a visit to the Guasave prison so as to document the conditions in which Patishtán is being held, in addition to visits to the other imprisoned individuals fasting and on hunger strike.
Sit-in of relatives @ SIPAZ
On last Saturday the 29th, the organizations of the Other Campaign in Chiapas called for a public meeting in the Cathedral Plaza of San Cristóbal de Las Casas.  The Group of the Network against Repression “We are not all here” indicated that “dispersion is also a form of psychological torture and a strategy of social and political disarticulation,” referring to the transfer of Patishtán 2000 km from his home.  In a public denunciation they declared, “On 29 and 30 October, access to the prison was arbitrarily denied to a brigade for medical attention that includes health personnel from Mexico City who traveled there solely to learn about the health-status of those comrades and to afford support.  On Sunday 30 regardless, a day that is for general visits, their entrance was also impeded; moreover, on this same day authorities of the prison prevented by various means the visit to the prison by relatives and friends.”  During that afternoon, there was made a call for a new mobilization on 7 November in front of the palace of governance in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

Of the eleven who are protesting, two who were previously fasting have taken on a hunger strike: Juan Collazo Jiménez, in the Motozintla prison, and Andrés Núñez Hernández, from Cereso 5 in San Cristóbal. These account now then for 8 prisoners on hunger strike for 34 days.
In a public letter that was read at the press-conference, the hunger-strikers express that “Today our comrade Alberto finds himself in the maximum-security federal prison Cefereso No. 8 in Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico.  He was taken in the moment that we found ourselves on hunger strike, he fasting, which we began on 29 September so as to demand justice and our release.  Today we cry for help because the government would like to see us die in prison for crimes we have not committed.  Today we complete 29 days on hunger strike and we are unsure when we will be granted our liberty.”  They added: “Similarly we say that our health-situation is in decline; some of our comrades already suffer from memory loss and dizziness, among other symptoms, as in the case of our comrade Rosario Díaz Méndez, who finds her situation very complicated, given that her glucose levels are excessively high.  For our state of health

we hold the State responsible.”


: Function split() is deprecated in /var/customers/webs/edinchiapas/sites/all/themes/zen/template.php on line 129.

Since September 29th a group of indigenous prisoners, held in different prisons in Chiapas, and  belonging to the organisations Voice of Amate, Solidarity with the Voice of Amate and Innocent Voices, have been on hunger strike and fast.
Their names are: Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez, Andrés Núñez Hernández, Alfredo Lopez-Jimenez, Alejandro Diaz Sántiz, Jose Diaz Lopez, Pedro Lopez Jimenez, Juan Diaz Lopez, Rosario Diaz Mendez, Enrique Gómez Hernández, Juan Collazo and compañera Rosa Jiménez Díaz López .
They are all unjustly deprived of their liberty, since the crimes for which they are condemned to extremely long sentences were all fabricated, each and all were tortured physically and psychologically in anonymous houses that have nothing distinctive about them and are clandestine centres of detention and torture.
Their dignified struggle is to denounce the horrors and abuses which exist in the prisons of Mexico and to demand their immediate release.
Many voices are rising around them in solidarity in Mexico and throughout the world. Voices from below which claim and practice a different form of justice away from the state courts and near to the people. Voices which reject this system of domination that is based on exploitation, plunder, repression and contempt. Voices of people who day by day are building thousands of alternatives to a world rotten with capital and its prison bars, whether tangible or intangible. Voices and people who speak different languages, ​​but with the same rhythm, that of the heart, below and to the left.
In their cry of freedom are reflected, as in a mirror, the rage of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel, of the thousands of migrants who refuse food and rebel in the Identification and Expulsion Centres of Europe where they are unjustly detained ; of the Mapuche who through their very long strikes reject the Anti-terrorist Law;  in this dignified rage can be seen the Kurds in the  Turkish prisons, the Basques tortured in the FIES, the Nigerians and Africans rebelling against the oil multinationals who are imprisoned and executed … all the dissidents imprisoned within wet and dirty walls in every corner of the planet, where they try to crush ideas.
Therefore we appeal to independent organizations, affinity groups, social centres, independent unions, the popular media, and all who act autonomously, and who are complicit and guilty, like us, of wanting a world without fences, without borders and without prisons and invite them to join in solidarity with this dignified struggle of the political prisoners on hunger strike in Chiapas.
Down with prison walls!
Freedom for everyone!
If they touch one of us, they touch all of us!
Please send your signatures to this email address, before the night of Sunday November 6th, Mexican
Red contra la Represión y por la Solidaridad Chiapas (RvsR Chiapas)
Grupo de Trabajo No Estamos Todxs (Chiapas)
Colectivo Nodo Solidale (Mexico e and Italy)

Get Involved

We invite you to join our email list (sign up here) and to attend our regular organising meetings.
Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group,
c/o 17 West Montgomery Place
Or click here for our Facebook page

The EdinChiapas group is part of the 'UK Zapatista Network':



David Gilbert has been in prison since the early 1980s and somehow has managed to keep right on doing all he can from the inside to help many on both the inside and the outside.  

David's sojourn starts out in a familiar way (involvement in civil rights, anti-war, anti-imperialist movements, helps found a major SDS chapter), takes a less common turn into the Weather Underground , and then moves in a direction only a handful of white activists have ever gone.  David, and a few others, made common cause with a group of Black revolutionaries, the Black Liberation Army.

As described by the Denver Anarchist Black Cross:

"In the late 1970s or early 1980s Gilbert and other white activists took the name RATF (Revolutionary Armed Task Force), declaring their solidarity with the Black Liberation Army (BLA). In 1981, this group participated along with several members of the BLA in an attempt to rob a Brinks armored car at the Nanuet Mall, near Nyack, New York. While Gilbert and Boudin waited in a U-Haul truck in a nearby parking lot, armed BLA members took another vehicle to the mall, where a Brinks truck was making a delivery. They confronted the guards and immediately began firing, almost severing the arm of guard Joe Trombino and killing his co-worker, Peter Paige. The four then took $1.6 million in cash and sped off to transfer into the waiting U-Haul. The truck was soon stopped by police, who were looking for black, not white, perpetrators, and therefore did not suspect Gilbert and Boudin. Officers questioning the couple were then attacked by BLA members who emerged from the back of the vehicle. Two police officers, Waverly L. Brown and Edward J. O’Grady, died in the shootout. Gilbert fled the scene with other RATF and BLA members but was later caught by police, tried, and sentenced in 1983 to 75 years for three counts of felony manslaughter. His extremely long sentence for participating in this action (especially when compared to Kathy Boudin’s 20-years-to-life, from which she has been paroled) may be due to his decision not to participate in his trial, not recognizing the authority of the state to try him."
He has not sat idle while in prison.  He has helped with HIV and  AIDS education, published numerous articles, book reviews, essays.  He works for prisoner rights and is also a longtime advisor and collaborator in the annual Certain Days Free Political Prisoners Calendar project.

According to the New York DOC, David has been transferred to Auburn CF. His address as of June 24, 2011 is:

David Gilbert
Auburn Correctional Facility
PO box 618
Auburn NY 13021

The following is from a 2005 Monthly Review review of David's book, No Surrender: Writings from an Anti-Imperialist Political Prisoner 

Inspiration from Behind the Walls

Michael D. Yates is associate editor of Monthly Review. For many years he taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He is the author of Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global System (2004), Why Unions Matter (1998), and Longer Hours and Fewer Jobs: Employment and Unemployment in the United States (1994), all published by Monthly Review Press.

David Gilbert, No Surrender: Writings from an Anti-Imperialist Political Prisoner (Montreal: Abraham Guillen Press, 2004), 283 pages, paper $15.00.
David Gilbert
David Gilbert
David Gilbert is serving a seventy-five year to life prison sentence for his participation in the 1981 holdup of a Brinks armored truck in which three persons were killed, two police officers and a security guard. The attempted robbery was an effort to raise money for the Black Liberation Army (BLA), an underground offshoot of the Black Panther Party. By the time of the Brinks events, David had been a committed revolutionary for nearly twenty years. In 1965 he founded the Committee Against the War in Vietnam while a student at Columbia University; he was a founding member of the Columbia chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1967; he was a leader of the famous student strike at Columbia in 1968; and he was an early member of the Weathermen faction of SDS in 1969, whose members soon went underground to wage war against U.S. imperialism and racism, renaming themselves the Weather Underground. They hoped to support all those around the world actually fighting against U.S. imperialism and even to ignite a popular uprising in the United States through a series of spectacular bombings of government facilities (including the Pentagon) and corporate offices and banks, as well as by written propaganda and analysis. Great efforts were made to ensure that no one was killed in these bombings and, remarkably, no one was. It became clear in the changed conditions of the mid-1970s (following the final defeat of the United States in Vietnam) that the organization’s underground existence had lost its political relevance. By the early 1980s, most members had surfaced. Looking back, it is clear that the post-Watergate period was a short and unique period in which police misconduct and illegality were disallowed by U.S. courts. Since the Weather Underground had been the target of massive illegal government actions, in most cases the government was unable to prosecute those who surfaced. By the time of the Brinks robbery in October 1981 the Weather Underground Organization had been defunct for years. David was one of a few who had refused to surface, believing that solidarity with the still existing black underground, the BLA, took precedence. David was the driver of the getaway vehicle and did not himself hurt anyone in the Brinks robbery. At his trial he took the position that he was a prisoner of war, and he received a sentence improbable (or even impossible) in any other country. He remains in prison, and under the letter of New York State law will not be eligible for parole until he is 111-years-old. Given the draconian term he received and the goals of the attempted robbery, David Gilbert must be considered a political prisoner.
This book is mainly a collection of informative book reviews written by David while in prison. The mere writing of these reviews and the other essays in this volume, much less their overall excellence and usefulness for our struggle to create a better world, is a remarkable thing. As political prisoner Marilyn Buck says in her foreword to the book,
As a prisoner myself for nearly 20 years, I know how difficult it is to create and to engage with the world. It is a never-ending effort to get hold of reading materials and to keep them, or to do research, much less to read, study, and think. Thought is constantly disrupted; arbitrary rules and interruptions create a chaos in which sorrow, discontent, and rage are the generalized response to and currency of the harsh cruelty, brutality, and absences of imprisoned women’s and men’s lives. Noise, stress, fear, even mental breaks fill the time and space of the prison world. But in reading his [David’s] words, that in and of themselves are a triumph of the human spirit, we experience resistance, commitment, and courage.
The reviews are given coherence by being arranged into chapters by topic: white supremacy, race and class, women of color, women and male supremacy, the criminal justice system, AIDS in prison and in the world, imperialism, human rights, and the environment. In addition to the reviews there are also a number of autobiographical statements, including two from his trials, a few humorous pieces and two children’s stories (one of the stories was presented serially to his son over successive weekly phone calls), interviews given by David, and commentaries on events and organizations in which he played a central role. Through his reviews and essays, David Gilbert tells us something important about subjects of great significance for an understanding of our world, and about the possibilities and prospects for human liberation.
Several things stand out in David’s reviews. The first is his simple humanity. This shines through in his complete identification with the oppressed. Unlike most of us, he has fully shed his own class background and made the perspective of the world’s workers and peasants his own. This is clear whether he is writing about Ota Benga, the Pygmy brought to the United States in the early 1900s and exhibited in zoos, or about the persecution of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Second, David shows us that an identity with the oppressed has to be matched with active struggle. Of course, he did engage in struggle before he went to prison. However, he has managed to continue to be a committed revolutionary even from his prison cell. He shows us the reality of the criminal justice system: its role in destroying working-class, and most especially the black working-class, collective organization; its overall class and race bias; and its role in promoting racism as a scapegoating mechanism for a system which finds much of the black population expendable. David’s writings are themselves acts of resistance, obviously for him, but for us too since their power forces us to think and act. But David has also engaged in social and political actions inside prison, most notably in his AIDS activism. He has helped to organize his fellow prisoners to demand that prison authorities do something to stop the AIDS epidemic in our nation’s prisons. He helped formulate detailed plans to achieve this, emphasizing prisoners educating one another and preparing materials suggesting alternatives to the methods for cleaning needles advocated by the authorities, which were useless. There is a long and informative article in this book in which David takes apart the AIDS conspiracy theory (that the AIDS virus was intentionally introduced into black communities). The conspiracy theory resonated with black people’s experience of medical neglect and abuse in the United States, and tragically resulted in many prisoners dismissing the relevance of AIDS prevention. Gilbert both debunks the theory and traces the origins of the version circulating in prison to hardcore white supremacists.
Third, David’s writings show that it is essential for all of us to continually test our theory against practice and to be willing to grow and develop intellectually. The reviews in this book cover a very wide and varied terrain. There are reviews of novels and stories, reports by advocacy groups, collections of essays, and books of historical and political analysis. Such wide reading is necessary if one wants to develop a coherent and humane theoretical framework. In addition, as the chapter headings noted above indicate, the reviews cover a large number of subjects, allowing David to make connections among race, gender, class, and imperialism. He shows how he has undergone an intellectual transformation over the years, rejecting some ideas (such as the hopelessly racist character of the white working class and the effectiveness of violent underground deeds without an aboveground mass movement) and embracing others, foremost here is feminism. There are fine reviews of works by Barbara Smith, bell hooks, and Margaret Randall. Thus the anti-imperialism and antiracism which must be centers of the struggle against capitalism and for socialism are deepened by a critical examination of the past, including his own. I recommend in this connection also the reviews of books by Ted Allen, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. J. Sakai, Walter Rodney, and Butch Lee and Red Rover.
I have taught classes in a maximum security prison. I was always amazed at the seriousness of the students. But what was truly remarkable was their kindness and consideration not just for me but for their fellow classmates, mixed in with an unexpected (to me at least) sense of humor. It is these characteristics that shine through David Gilbert’s book. They also come through even in the few seconds of conversation David was permitted with film makers Sam Green and Bill Siegel in their documentary The Weather Underground. Despite all these years in prison and all the degradations that come with them, David remains committed and caring. As he says in the book’s final paragraph,
We don’t have a chance for a decent future for all children unless we can change public terms and perceptions to get across that every human life is precious. Staying in close touch with our love for people and for life on the planet can both impel and sustain us. As Che Guevara urged decades ago, “We must stand firm but without losing our tenderness, ever.”
We must constantly remind those we know of the crucial fact that the United States imprisons far more of its population than any other nation in the world. It takes great courage and more to make one’s life an act of solidarity in the face of such fierce repression. No decent person could read this book without feelings of respect, support, and love for David Gilbert. Tested by events and by time, he stands without doubt among the very best of his generation. He writes with humor and brilliance. Read his book. And then, let us all devote at least a part of our lives to ending the multiple repressions he has devoted his life to ending.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Really, I wasn't going to write about Occupy Oakland today, but a friend sent me an email and here I am.  

Here is the deal.

Following a day of pretty much non violent direct action which, I must say, from afar seemed pretty successful on all fronts (much more so than i expected) and in which the cops were essentially out of sight, came a night with some other stuff entirely.  

A group, some will say provacateurs, some will say black bloc,violent anacrhists, some will say this and some will say that, I'm just saying some group of folks took over a abandoned building, procalimed it occupied space, built barricades out front.  They proceeded to party over the occupation and went on about their buisness.  

The authorities were none too happy with this turn of events, showed up in force, said "get the hell out of there, those barricades were set ablaze, and you know what ensued.

What to make of this?

I am going to print now a statement purportedly from some of the buiilding occupiers.  Who knows who exactly but it does provide some background and some rational for what this was about.  I got the statement off of East Bay Indymedia.

Statement on the Occupation of the former Traveler's Aid Society at 520 16th Street
by some friends of OO
Thursday Nov 3rd, 2011 11:01 AM
Last night, after one of the most remarkable days of resistance in recent history, some of us within Occupy Oakland took an important next step: we extended the occupation to an unused building near Oscar Grant Plaza. We did this, first off, in order to secure the shelter and space from which to continue organizing during the coming winter months. But we also hoped to use the national spotlight on Oakland to encourage other occupations in colder, more northern climates to consider claiming spaces and moving indoors in order to resist the repressive force of the weather, after so bravely resisting the police and the political establishment. We want this movement to be here next Spring, and claiming unused space is, in our view, the most plausible way forward for us at this point. We had plans to start using this space today as a library, a place for classes and workshops, as well as a dormitory for those with health conditions. We had already begun to move in books from the library.
The building we chose was perfect: not only was it a mere block from Oscar Grant Plaza, but it formerly housed the Traveler's Aid Society, a not-for-profit organization that provided services to the homeless but, due to cuts in government funding, lost its lease Given that Occupy Oakland feeds hundreds of people every day, provides them with places to sleep and equipment for doing so, involves them in the maintenance of the camp (if they so choose), we believe this makes us the ideal tenants of this space, despite our unwillingness to pay for it. None of this should be that surprising, in any case, as talk of such an action has percolated through the movement for months now, and the Oakland GA recently voted to support such occupations materially and otherwise.Business Insider discussed this decision in an article entitled “The Inevitable Has Happened.”
We are well aware that such an action is illegal, just as it is illegal to camp, cook, and live in Oscar Grant Plaza as we have done. We are aware that property law means that what we did last night counts as trespassing, if not burglary. Still, the ferocity of the police response surprised us. Once again, they mobilized hundreds of police officers, armed to the hilt with bean bag guns, tear gas and flashbang grenades, despite the fact that these so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons nearly killed someone last week. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect one landlord's right to earn a few thousand every month. Why is this? Whereas the blockade of the port – an action which caused millions of dollars of losses – met with no resistance, the attempt to take one single building, a building that was unused, met with the most brutal and swift response.
The answer: they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses. They say: you can stay in your rat-infested park. You can camp out here as long as we want. But the moment that you threaten property rights, we will come at you with everything we have.
It is no longer clear who calls the shots in Oakland anymore. At the same time as OPD and the Alameda County Sheriffs were suiting up and getting ready to smash heads and gas people on 16th St, Mayor Quan was issuing a statement that she wished to speak to us about returning the building to the Traverler's Aid Society. It is clear that the enmity between the Mayor and the Police has grown so intense that the police force is now an autonomous force, making its own decisions, irrespective of City Hall. This gives us even less reason to listen to them or respect the authority now.
We understand that much of the conversation about last night will revolve around the question of violence (though mostly they mean violence to “property,” which is somehow strangely equated with harming human beings). We know that there are many perspectives on these questions, and we should make the space for talking about them. But let us say this to the cops and to the mayor: things got “violent” after the police came. The riot cops marched down Telegraph and then the barricades were lit on fire. The riots cops marched down Telegraph and then bottles got thrown and windows smashed. The riot cops marched down Telegraph and graffiti appeared everywhere.
The point here is obvious: if the police don't want violence, they should stay the hell away.
Okay, that is one point of view.

Another, emphasized to me by my email friend, says hold on a minute.  He raised some good questions which I think have merit.  He thinks those who seized that building essentially stole the day from all those who were in the streets all day making a very strong statement which no one could overlook.

Remember I am not one who goes calling out anarchists, black bloc folks, etc as provacateurs or insande idiots at the drop of a hat.  Others do that.  I don't.  I am not a pacifist.  

That said.

Following this very succesful day of action which which was seen by many in a very postive light, was it really necessary to seize a building that night knowing,  if you had any smarts, that it was unlikely the police were going to take such a seizure lightly?  Did anyone really think barricades, burning barricades were going to not set off the cop?. 

Personally, I actually think occupying vacant buildings, squats, and the like are not an unreasonable idea for many reasons.  I think that sort of occupation does make a much stronger statement then camping out in the park. The part of the statement above that to me speaks so loudly is this:
they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses. They say: you can stay in your rat-infested park. You can camp out here as long as we want. But the moment that you threaten property rights, we will come at you with everything we have.
However, last night was not the time this move had to happen.  It was the wrong moment.

The building occupiers had to know what would happen, had to know the "violence" would become the news story overshadowing everything else that occured.  Again, was this building occupation at this time a tactical blunder.  The building wasn't going anywhere.  Hell, it could have been occupied today, or tomorrow and still "this logical nextstep" would have occured.  There is a history of such building occupations, a long history and again it does make sense.  Just not last night.

As to the reaction of the cops.  Again, way overblown.  Afterall those occupying the building were not threatening anyone or anything.  The authorities had all sorts of options.  The building was abandoned. They chose, the police chose,  to do what they do (and I can't believe anyone was really surprised), and attacked with tear gas.  The Guardian reports:

Again, police deployed teargas, but this time it seemed in greater concentration or quantity. As officers threw flashbang grenades to force protesters back – around 10 were used – this reporter witnessed two demonstrators hurl items in retaliation.

Lauren Freitas was among those caught up in the chaos, and said she had been struck on both legs by projectiles.

"I was tending to this guy's eyes [after the first teargas was deployed] and then they fired more teargas, so I pulled him to the side to move away and then they hit me in my legs."

Freitas said of the pain: "It fucking hurts. It stings."

The first two operations seemed to subdue the crowd, and by around 1.30am police controlled the north side of Broadway and had extinguished the blaze on 16th Street. Further bangs could be heard, however, to the east, from the direction of Frank H Ogawa plaza.

Teargas was again deployed there, and flashbang grenades and another type of non-lethal projectile appeared to have been used.

One man, who onlookers said was homeless and a regular in the area, appeared to have been hit on the knee by a projectile, and was carried away screaming. He received treatment from medics from Occupy Oakland.

So don't go telling me, the cops are blameless either.  We are talking vacant building here.  There was no immediate threat.  There did not have to be a violent confrontation last night.

The occupiers did not opt for non violence resistrance.  The cops should have been no more surpised by this then the occupiers should have been surprised by the cops.  

I would add that these are the same cops who brutally attacked Occupy Oakland earlier without any "excuse."  These are the same police who make a habit of brutality against black people in the streets.  This is the same city where you can get shot by BART police for being black.  So lets not pretend the cops are just a swell bunch of people out to protect and serve.  

It is a dangerous game. 

People associated with Occupy Oakland say they are pissed off at those who took the building and they say provoked the violence.  According to Peopleunlikeus links,

Leaders of the self-described leaderless Occupy Wall Street Movement in Oakland, California, have told NBC Bay Area that “anarchists” not associated with the group are responsible for last night’s violence. Black-clad troublemakers attacked banks and also trashed a Whole Foods Store.
Maddie Rudd captured what many of those who are upset with the building occupers at Occupy Oakland think with her tweet,
 "More tear gas in Oakland last night. Some agitators lit a barricade on fire. A few destructive people are giving #occupyoakland a bad name,"

At the Unrepentent Marxist blog we find a reader commenting,
 I was at the general strike yesterday and while you may call them black-bloc, they were not agent provocateurs in my opinion. While I would not be surprised to find out that some are employed by the State apparatus, I talked to many and found them to be merely what might be called vulgar Marxists. I’m not sure the black bloc is much more than self-styled anarchists influenced more by Crass, than Marx or Bakunin. That said, the police were more than happy to let things accelerate in order to justify more heavy-handed tactics and got what they wanted by 1am when the contingent took the Traveler’s Aid building. Considering the the march to the ports had well over 15,000 participants in my estimation, the small number of protesters seeking violent exchanges were actually much less than I expected after last Tuesday. In the end, they are more muddled-headed thrill seekers more than anything.
Most every Occupy Site in the country has people arguing about this today.  Many opinions are being expressed. Keep in mind that the whole Occupy Movement is one big populist shindig.  It may vary from place to place,but the "Occupations" are full of people from all over the polticial spectrum.  Some see this "broadness" as a really good thing.  Some, like me, question it.  Combine a so called leaderless movement with no common political oreintation and what do you get?  Who is to say, who represents what, who is to do what, what tactic is correct, which slogan to shout, what sign to hold up? At some point the Occupy movement has to decide what it wants to be and whose interest it wants to represent...or it will implode.  For how long can you have anarchists, Marxists, Ron Paul supporters, right wing libertarians, dogmatic pacifists, liberals, feel good people, angry people, people who intend to defend themselves and more, capitalists, petty bourgois, workers, unemployed. business owners, professionals, anti racists, racists, and all that and more in an "ain't we got fun" atmosphere?  

How can you expect to enforce discipline while pretending not to enforce discipline?  How can you honestly complain about some group or another "using" and "abusing" your "movement, when you invite every one in and make decisions in General Assemblies that change from day to day?

 You want a really broad based movement?  You got one.  You want to say it isn't about this set of politics, it isn't right or left?  You got it.  You want the 99 %, well you got em.  

And you got all that comes with it.

It is time for a real anti-capitalist movement to come forward with an actual class analysis

Note: I ought to tell you where I am coming from.  In addition to a grounding in Marxism, I have a  continued belief in the theory that capitalism is upheld as a result of an ideology of white skin privilege. Further I am now influenced by the writings of Antonio Negri, and am also a fierce supporter of and influenced by a militant struggle to SAVE THE EARTH from environmental destruction, maybe best exemplified by a Marxian interpretation of the deep green resistance movement.  

Finally, I have to qualify all of this all of this with two big facts:

  1. I am not in Oakland and have never even been to Oakland, so all of my comments  are based on mly personal experience over the last 45 years in the movement, what I have read on the internet (from the mainstream press, the anarchist media, the Occupy Oakland facebook site, the alternative media, and from friends.  
  2. I put all this out quickly.  More facts may come to light that change some of the specics related to last night in Oakland.  
In the end, let me reiterate one point.  That building did not have to be seized last night.  That and the violence that followed  did steal the thunder from an impressive day.  That is too bad.


NOVEMBER 5, NOTE:  A friend sent me the following email.  
i was thinking abt this while reading an SFC piece on the occupy aftermath; it seems to me that the vast vast majority of vandals (for lack of a better word) are white. many, who come from other places, are coming into a nearly majority black city. that they do their violence & retreat into their whiteness, leaving black folks behind to pay the price. that paradigm feeds into yr oft-repeated comments abt whites running the movement, & the need for black leadership, etc. it doesnt seem that the mayhem-doers are paying any attention at all to occupy leaders, many of whom are black.  
your thoughts.
My thoughts, if the facts as he states them are correct, then he is absolutely correct in conclusions (although I am not sure I was use the term "vandals" as he does).  It also proves the point of number one and two just above.