eOpen Letter to UCR Chancellor White on J19 Police Violence

via UCRebelRadio

1.26.2012

To Chancellor White from Concerned Members of the UCR Community

 

(Via Facebook)

Dear Chancellor White,

In light of the events of January 19, we felt it appropriate to issue our own letter asking for your response to some urgent questions.  We are citizens of this community—students, faculty and staff—demanding answers for the troubling events of last Thursday.

Whose decision was it to militarize an unarmed, nonviolent protest on our campus on January 19, by calling in police in riot gear to threaten and assault a crowd of protesters who continually insisted loudly that their protest was intended to be peaceful?

Who decided that this peaceful protest was an “unlawful assembly,” as the police repeatedly announced over the PA system?   On what basis was this determined?

Why did you (or whoever else was responsible) not come out to address the crowd and explain this decision?   Did you hear them chanting, “Tell us why”?  What makes a large crowd of dissatisfied people demanding dialogue with their representatives on their own campus an “unlawful assembly”?  And don’t those whose actions are unilaterally deemed “unlawful” deserve an explanation as to why?

Your Friday letter states that the behavior of a “small number of individuals… briefly and peacefully shut down the Regents meeting… Their actions, while making a point to disrupt and while remaining nonviolent, nonetheless prevented others from listening to the discussion by denying public access to the remainder of the meeting.”

If, as you acknowledge, the actions of that small group of students were nonviolent, why and how would the actions of a handful of disruptive students cause the entire protest to be deemed “unlawful assembly” and justify the threat of force and arrest against all of the other students and faculty members gathered?

Why has nonviolent disruption, assertiveness and defiance been equated with aggression, violence and threat on our campus, when Gandhi himself called for nonviolent disobedience to be forceful and confrontational, and when, from a first amendment perspective, “disruptive” and “dangerous” are two very different things?

You say in your most recent Friday letter that you needed to “use our police to ensure the safety of meeting participants as well as the majority of protest participants.”  But is there any evidence that any of the protesters were threatening the Regents, rather than simply using disruptive—and potentially embarrassing—tactics to make their demands visible?

Even if it is still true that police presence was required, why did the police have to be armed with violent equipment, as though they were facing dangerous criminals? Could they not simply have been sent to observe and monitor the proceedings; why did they have to be armed to the hilt, and then escalate the situation with the threats and use of potentially lethal force?

Who, in this situation, was the real “threat” to our campus’ security: a group of dissatisfied but unarmed students and faculty chanting “peaceful protest!”, or a group of highly-armed police threatening to and willing to use force through batons, tear gas and rubber bullets (which have been known to kill people in other conflicts)?

Your Friday letter expresses concern about officers who “received minor injuries, as barricades were thrown at them and signs used as weapons.”  But what we see in the following videos are police in full riot gear shoving unarmed students and faculty with batons, and then firing paint-filled bullets at them. Please see, among MANY others, the videos and reports of injuries to students and faculty from police violence:

http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/01/20/uc-riverside-students-attacked-by-police-during-day-of-protest-for-education/

http://voiceforhumanrights.org/2012/01/21/students-at-uc-riverside-face-violence-during-protest-against-uc-regents-meeting/

http://antiimperialtheorizing.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/cops-and-cowards-reflections-on-the-recent-uc-regents-protest/

What we see on the following video clips are the protesters seizing the police barricades and trying to place them between themselves and the police. We do not see anyone using the barricades to attack the police. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT9VOYR7cMo&feature=related) Meanwhile, the following video shows a protester being hit with rubber/paint pellets. That student is clearly in a great deal of pain and saying that he is having trouble breathing. He is carried away by a handful of other students who call out for water and help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7tB2LmsbfI&feature=related, skip to 4:30)

You can also see from the videos that the response of the protesters was to chant, “peaceful protest, peaceful protest!”

How can rubber bullets and batons be considered a justifiable response to disruption and embarrassment that is not in any way physically dangerous? What evidence do we have that it was the protesters, and not the highly-armed and militarized police force, who escalated the violence?

What accounts for the tight, 1-minute so-called “comment period” provided at the Regents’ meeting?  Students and faculty were demanding an open forum that was NOT controlled by the Regents’ own inadequate vision of what constitutes democratic dialogue and transparent decision-making.  In light of this, why should their demand to be heard at such a forum be construed as a threat, justifying such escalated violence?

When fully-armed police are sent in to threaten, shove and physically assault unarmed people who are already frustrated, resentful and angry at being criminalized and having lost their voices, will this not inevitably escalate the level of violence?

So, in conclusion, Chancellor White, we are seeking answers for what happened on January 19, but are also deeply concerned with the implications of these events for the future of free speech on our campus. What makes a crowd of unarmed, peacefully dissenting people  “unlawful” and “dangerous”?  Who gets to decide, and on what basis? And, what forms of free, nonviolent speech and expression of dissent can be considered “lawful” on our campus, so that they are not met with met with exaggerated militarization, and the escalation of institutionally-authorized violence?

Sincerely,

Concerned Members of the UCR Community

 

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Fuck You Twits!

via Twitter Blog

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tweets still must flow

One year ago, we posted “The Tweets Must Flow,” in which we said,

“The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact … almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.”

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.

We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we’ve expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

There’s more information in our Help pages, both on our Policy and about Your Account Settings.

One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can’t. The Tweets must continue to flow.

twitter at 11:25 AM

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An Open Letter to LGBTIQ Communities and Allies on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

via @queersolidaritywithpalestine

We are a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and trans activists, academics, artists, and cultural workers from the United States who participated in a solidarity tour in the West Bank of Palestine and Israel from January 7-13, 2012.

What we witnessed was devastating and created a sense of urgency around doing our part to end this occupation and share our experience across a broad cross-section of the LGBTIQ community. We saw with our own eyes the walls—literally and metaphorically—separating villages, families and land. From this, we gained a profound appreciation for how deeply embedded and far reaching this occupation is through every aspect of Palestinian daily life.

So too, we gained new insights into how Israeli civil society is profoundly affected by the dehumanizing effects of Israeli state policy toward Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank. We were moved by the immense struggle being waged by some Israelis in resistance to state policies that dehumanize and deny the human rights of Palestinians.

We ended our trip in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli people struggling to end the occupation of Palestine, and working for Palestinian independence and self-sovereignty.

Among the things we saw were:

  • the 760 km (470 mi) separation wall (jidar) partitioning and imprisoning the Palestinian people;
  • how the wall’s placement works to confiscate large swaths of Palestinian land, splits villages and families in two, impedes Palestinians from working their agricultural land, and in many cases does not advance the ostensible security interests of Israel;
  • a segregated road system (one set of roads for cars with Israeli plates, and another much inferior one for cars with Palestinian plates) throughout the West Bank, constructed by the Israeli state and enforced by the Israeli army; these roads ease Israeli travel to and from illegal settlements in the West Bank and severely impede Palestinian travel between villages, to agricultural land, and throughout a territory which is and has been their homeland;
  • a system of permits (identification cards) that limits the travel of Palestinian people and functionally imprisons them, separating them from family, health care, jobs and other necessities;
  • militarized checkpoints with barbed wire and soldiers armed with automatic rifles and the humiliation and harassment the Palestinian people experience daily in order to travel from one place to another;
  • the reconfiguration of maps to render invisible Palestinian villages/homelands;
  • harmful living conditions created and enforced by Israeli law and policy such as limited access to water and electricity in many Palestinian homes;
  • violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and the ongoing growth of illegal settlements facilitated by the Israeli military;
  • homelessness as a result of the razing of Palestinian homes by the Israeli state;
  • home invasions, tear gas attacks, “skunk water” attacks, and the arrest of Palestinian children by the Israeli military as part of ongoing harassment designed to force Palestinian villagers to give up their land;

While travel restrictions prevented us from directly witnessing the state of things in the Gaza Strip, we believe the blockade of the Gaza Strip has produced a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportion.

Our time together in Palestine has led us to understand that we have a responsibility to share with our US based LGBTIQ communities what we saw and heard so that we can do more together to end this occupation. In that spirit, we offer the following summary points in solidarity with the Palestinian people:

  1. The liberation of the Palestinian people from the project of Israeli occupation is the foremost goal of the Palestinian people and we fully support this aim. We also understand that liberation from this form of colonization and apartheid goes hand in hand with the liberation of queer Palestinians from the project of global heterosexism.
  2. We call out and reject the state of Israel’s practice of pinkwashing, that is, a well-funded, cynical publicity campaign marketing a purportedly gay-friendly Israel to an international audience so as to distract attention from the devastating human rights abuses it commits on a daily basis against the Palestinian people. Key to Israel’s pinkwashing campaign is the manipulative and false labeling of Israeli culture as gay-friendly and Palestinian culture as homophobic. It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate – homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society – and that this is beside the point: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian queer organizations like Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (PQBDS) whose work continues to impact queer Palestinians and all Palestinians. (http://www.alqaws.org, http://www.pqbds.com/)
  3. We urge LGBTIQ individuals and communities to resist replicating the practice of pinkwashing that insists on elevating the sexual freedom of Palestinian people over their economic, environmental, social, and psychological freedom. Like the Palestinian activists we met, we view heterosexism and sexism as colonial projects and, therefore, see both as interrelated and interconnected regimes that must end.
  4. We stand in solidarity with queer Palestinian activists who are working to end the occupation, and also with Israeli activists, both queer and others, who are resisting the occupation that is being maintained and extended in their name.
  5. We name the complicity of the United States in this human rights catastrophe and call on our government to end its participation in an unjust regime that places it and us on the wrong side of peace and justice.
  6. We support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination, such as building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the fulfillment of three fundamental demands: (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call)
    • The end of the Occupation and the dismantling of the Wall (jidar).
    • The right of return for displaced Palestinians.
    • The recognition and restoration of the equal rights of citizenship for Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent.

Signed, January 25, 2012:

Katherine Franke Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia University; Board Member Center for Constitutional Rights
Barbara Hammer Filmmaker, Faculty at European Graduate School
Tom Léger Editor, PrettyQueer.com
Darnell L. Moore writer and activist
Vani Natarajan Humanities and Area Studies Librarian, Barnard College
Pauline Park Chair, New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)
Jasbir K. Puar Rutgers University, Board Member Audre Lorde Project
Roya Rastegar Independent artist and scholar
Dean Spade Assistant Professor, Seattle University School of Law and Collective Member, Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Kendall Thomas Nash Professor of Law, Columbia University
Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz intersections/intersecciones consulting
Juliet Widoff, MD Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

All organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and in no way indicate a position taken by such organizations on the issues raised in this statement.

  • Thank you for signing the petition. An e-mail has been sent to you so that you may confirm your signature.

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