I spent a large part of the last couple days at the United States Courthouse in Tacoma. I was there to observe a trial over allegations of the use of excessive force brought by two protesters (Wes Hamilton and Larry Mosqueda) against certain members of the Olympia Police Department, as well as the City of Olympia.
It was an interesting experience, I am going to share a few observations and opinions. Closing arguments were made today. And I was struck by a few aspects of the trial. (Disclaimer: I am a biased observer. I am strongly opposed to the imperialism of the United States, and I also strongly believe that the imperialism of our nation is one of the most grievous and heinous harmful features of life in the world today. I could go on and on waxing eloquently, and perhaps ineloquently, about the multitudinous nefarious and sundry aspects of our modern day socio-political-economic system. This issue means a lot to me. I care a lot. I have a lot of passion, and I bear a lot of resistance to the harmful nature of this dirty rotten system in which we live. So that's my bias. I just want to be clear and upfront with you, dear reader.)
I had a great time celebrating the election at the Citizens for a Responsive Local Government party tonight: more about that later. Right now I want to share an interesting bicycling related interaction that I had on my way home.
The following story is made all the more interesting because of a conversation about bicycling I had at the Election Party. The person I was listening to had just returned from a visit to Europe, and she told a wonderful story about the friendliness toward bicycles in the area she visited. She told of not riding in a car for the whole duration of her stay. She said that car drivers customarily expressed an attitude and behavior of respect toward bicyclists. It sounded to me like car-drivers made a general point to give bicyclists the right of way.
Now, what a contrast that is to here in Olympia, where every time I get on my bicycle I feel like I have to fend for my life. And I worry about those cyclists amongst us who are less defensively minded. And I really strongly wish we had a safe environment to ride bikes around here.
After having a delicious cup of Sleeping Universe at SIZIZIS ($1 off tea on Tuesdays...) I stopped by the new City Hall in order to graph some photons (pictured). After that, la-dee-dah, I got on my bike and started riding East on 4th Ave toward home. I was on the left side of the street, and since I turn left off of 4th Avenue, I stayed in the left hand lane the whole way from Cherry Street until my turn-off. One-half block from where I turn off 4th (on Quince) I heard a loud voice behind me saying "Get in the bike lane." So I yelled back, "what am I supposed to do if I am turning left?"
Turns out the loud-voice was that of an Olympia Police Officer.
I was pissed. I mean I could understand it if was a private citizen. Someone just trying to give a guy a hard time - after all people do need ego reinforcement, and our society doesn't provide a whole lot of healthy ways for people to boost their self-esteem. But this was a cop.
So I stopped.
Hearing this story on Democracy Now today reminded me of what has taken place here in Olympia when nonthreatening protesters have been pepper sprayed.
“I Made Major Mistakes”–Ex-Seattle Police Chief Admits Response to 1999 WTO Protests Was Too Heavy-HandedNorm Stamper "Major Mistakes"
We speak with Norm Stamper, the police chief of Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests, when police responded to protests by firing teargas and rubber bullets into the mostly peaceful crowd. The protests resulted in 600 arrests and in the eventual failure of the WTO talks. Stamper resigned soon afterward. “I made major mistakes,” Stamper says of his handling of the situation. [includes rush transcript]
4 Engines, including one from Lacey, and several medics and supervisors are on scene along Capitol Way, near the Frog Pond store, for a shed fire. The fire was just put out, but Capitol Way is still closed. Some of you probably heard the response to this fire in the past hour, which was absolutely crazy.
Some photos from the alley right-of-way just after the fire was extinguished several minutes ago:
Some local street medics have traveled to Texas to assist the hurricane relief effort. Here is an article that I received via email about a situation where the help of the medics was rejected by an authoritarian police force after being called in by a private contractor with vested interests:
Street Medics Harassed by Police & FEMA during Hurricane Ike Relief
Sept. 22, 2008
By Iris Hilburger & Guy Dobyns
Yesterday on Galveston Island in Texas three street medics were harassed and threatened by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and local police agencies while working on hurricane Ike relief efforts.
The three street medics, who are part of the Colorado Street Medics, traveled from Denver to Houston this past weekend to volunteer medical aid and assistance to those still affected by Hurricane Ike. Street medics traditionally provide medical support and emergency care in protests and demonstrations where access by EMS is restricted by police, but also provide medical care during natural disasters and other calamities.
Yesterday the three medics expanded their efforts to Galveston Island, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Ike. Galveston Island is currently under high security. Police check points limit people's ability to both enter and exit the island and a 6pm curfew further regulates people's mobility on the island. Despite the restricted access the street medics were allowed to pass through the check point and onto Galveston after persistent negotiations and sharing of personal information and medical credentials. The street medics are all trained first responders and one individual is a certified nurse aid.
I was riding up 4th Ave last night at about 10 pm when I got a bad vibe as I heard a vehicle approaching. I could hear that it was coming up fast. I felt unsafe enough to stay as far to the right as possible, in the parked car lane. I was worried that the driver was aiming at me. Right when the car was beside me, the driver stepped on the gas and accelerated away up the hill. This was right near the intersection of 4th Ave and Eastside Street. It was an Olympia Police Department squad car.
Why do police speed? Why do police drive aggressively?
It's especially disturbing that police evince aggressive driving tendencies when they are not in pursuit.
The actions of this police officer as a driver(assuming the car was being driven by a police officer) were threatening to me as a bicyclist. This driver seemed aggressive and hostile.
Who writes the tickets for cops when they speed?
I received this email today. It's from the School of Americas Watch organization:
Dear Robert ,
We are writing with grave concern about an emerging conflict in South America´s poorest nation, Bolivia and we need you to take immediate action. Bolivia is facing a critical moment in which the survival of a new era of hope is gravely threatened. After suffering decades of military dictatorships followed by years of economic dictatorship, Bolivia heralded in a new moment of dignity with the election of its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. However, just one month after a recall referendum gave Morales 67% of the vote, Bolivia's secessionist movement has unleashed unprecedented violence throughout the country. After three days of riots, 8 people have died, several government institutions have been destroyed and Bolivia´s gas pipeline has suffered millions of dollars in damage. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has called for the violent actions of opposition groups to end.
Citing involvement with the opposition movement, Bolivia´s president Morales declared US Ambassador to Bolivia, Phillip Goldberg, persona non grata and asked him to leave the country. Among Ambassador Goldberg´s closest friends are Croatian businessmen in the city of Santa Cruz who lead the city´s powerful separatist movement. Washington responded by asking Bolivia´s ambassador to return to his country.
description: A protest led by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign leads to police tear gas and concussion grenades at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, MN. Marta Costello is caught in the melee as she brings you the gnooze (the g is silent).
I heard some great segments (as usual) on today's Democracy Now! program. I wanted to draw particular attention to this one, because there is some choice testimony.
“We Are Not Terrorists”: Activists with the RNC Welcoming Committee Speak Out Against Police Crackdown & Terrorism Charges
Ramsey County prosecutors formally charged eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. On Thursday, other members of the anarchist group held their first press conference. One local activist accused the police of beating and torturing him in jail. [includes rush transcript]WILLIAM GILLIS:... I want to see a world of anarchy without domination, without thugs, without warlords, without tyrants and without politicians. And as an American, I believe in actively resisting those who would rule us all.
The brutality and the lies of the state this week are not a surprise, but they are still deplorable. Police kicked down doors with guns drawn on families with their children at dinnertime. Reporters and the media at large have been repeatedly target for repression. Activists have been abducted off the street in unmarked vans and political prisoners held without access to medical attention.
The state has never really bothered with ethical justifications for its violence. But now we see that the agents of the law don’t even bother with internal consistency, ignoring the few rights they have pledged not to violate. Sheriff Bob Fletcher has unleashed a degree of repression that should embarrass and anger us all.