In The Crossfire

On February 14, we received word of another mass shooting.  This one at a high school in Florida.  The story dominated the news for a few days and looked like it was going to go away.

The affected students had other plans though.  Using the power of social media, they built a movement that has already made some concrete results.  Several businesses have dropped support for the National Rifle Association, and Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it will stop selling modern sporting rifles, commonly called assault rifles.  My hope is that these students keep it up going into the election, but realize that they are in for quite a slog, as groups like Mom’s Demand Action and CeaseFirePA can attest.

This shooting and it’s aftermath have me doing some thinking of my own.  Much of it from the responses I have seen on social media.  Many responses from my classmates have me wondering how I was able to avoid the authoritarian “WhiteLash” that may have helped to elect Trump.  I have some ideas on that, and I plan to explore those on this blog.  The posts from non-alumni that have adopted authoritarian thinking are to be expected, and dismissed.

What concerns me is that many of my fellow activists seem to be rejecting what seem to me to be common sense reforms.  I do not see myself as “anti-gun”, the absolutists that seem to make up the NRA base may disagree with me, but I see no issue with a person having a gun for sport, hunting or personal protection.

But I also don’t see why a domestic abuser, which to me would also include child abuse, a felon, or a person with a mental illness should be able to possess a gun.  I also see little utility in weapons like an AR-15.

I think some of this may have to do with the fact that since Trump’s election, I have gotten a bit more involved with some folks who may be farther to the left than I.  I am in contact with Democratic Socialists, anti-authoritarians and anarchists, Maoists and various other radicals.  These folks may see armed rebellion as not only necessary, but inevitable.

Many believe any reforms will affect communities of color the most.  This makes sense as a logical consequence of the criminalization of  poverty and of color.  I have to say that enough people of color purchasing and licensing firearms would likely prompt Trump, with the backing of the NRA–again, to pass some sort of modern “Mulford Act”.  Find some way to limit the ability of people of color to possess and use firearms.

There’s also the argument to disarm the police as well.  This makes a bit of sense, a sort of “mutual disarmament”.  But what of the vigilante like the Oath Keeper or “Proud Boy”?  This is where even I would that the ability to fight fire with fire may be a good idea.  Why couldn’t a few activists, likely from the “black bloc”, be trained in firearms.  I would decline as I don’t think I have the temperament for such a duty.

One final thing is that I may need to realize that I am looking at this issue, like many issues, through a lens of privilege.  Figuring out how to see past that lens is a task I may not be able to do on my own.

 

 

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Layered Defense?

Some of you may remember that I am in the process of studying for my Security+ technical certification.  One of the things I have taken from my pursuit is that security has many layers; a network may have an Intrusion Detection System to deal with external threats, anti-virus and anti-malware software to combat “Trojan Horses”, and group policies so users only have access to what they should.

As I was considering the best way for the Harrisburg activist community to respond to the city council’s decision to give the Police $65,000 in riot gear, a decision likely influenced by events in places like Charlottesville, etc.  Now from what I have seen at fascist or “Alt-Right” events in Harrisburg, the police seem more likely to deploy against the opponents of fascists than the actual fascists.  I have seen with my own eyes the police facing the protesters as opposed to the fascists, sending a clear message who they see as the greater threat.

But might the response demonstrate that “Community Defense” needs to be multi-faceted and multi-layered.

When I would speak of the concept to my allies, it was purely physical.  Being able to defend oneself or one’s allies against attack, be it from fascists or police[NSFW Language] .   Now I do think that is a component, but finding the techniques in one place may be difficult.  This may be something that has to be cobbled together, in a sense a true “Mixed Martial Art”.

A second component may be monitoring.  I could see either a form of Cop Watch just for the “geared up” officers or perhaps to monitor the actions of the police as a whole.   This could be a bit simpler, a matter of reaching out to the leadership of a group from Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore or New York City and asking them to come and present.  Interested parties from Harrisburg could also meet members of affiliates in their cities and bring what they learn back to train members of the Harrisburg Community.

A third component, and the one I may be the most familiar with, is technology.  Being able to communicate securely and in some degree of secrecy is likely almost another component of self-defense.  We’re back to the idea of providing activists with the resources they may find useful in their struggle against a state and system that seems more likely to protect a fascist than defend a person of color, a transgender person or one of their woke allies.

It’s Only Going to Get Harder

Last Sunday,  July 24, I had quite a busy day.  In the Morning, I went canvassing with MoveOn.org.  This was not the traditional “Are you for or against” canvassing that I was used from my work with campaigns, this was “Deep Canvassing”.  We were looking for stories on health care and the apparent impending “Repeal and Replace” of the Affordable Care Act.  It was challenging, time-consuming and a bit complex.  But there were some good stories that my partner and I gathered.

Later that day, I patched my phone into a phone call with MoveOn.org.  It was in regards to mobilizing in resistance to “Repeal and Replace”.  There was one tidbit from that which stood out.  The reason the Affordable Care Act was so high on Trump’s agenda was that he thought it would be easy.  This has not proved to be the case; as on Friday the latest effort was defeated in the Senate.

Now there are apparently plans to try another repeal.  But I can’t help but thing if the “easy part” has taken this long, what about the harder issues.  The budget, the border wall, etc.  These are issues that finally may put Trump face-to-face with the “firewall”; a group of progressive Senators who will make getting to 60 votes difficult, if not impossible.

Also the success of repelling repeal may embolden “The Resistance”, who showed tremendous ability to mobilize on the phones, on-line and even on the ground.  The image of wheelchair-bound protesters being arrested could be the “Selma Moment” of the opposition to Trump.  They may also see momentum on their side, momentum that may lead to efforts to advance a “Medicare For All” alternative to the Affordable Care act.

When Trump got elected, I saw a scenario where Trump realized that Government is not a boardroom, and that it would bring him to fits.


It’s Up To Me?

As Trump realized that repeal of the Affordable Care Act was failing, he did what his response to any affront to him is.  He threw a temper tantrum!

The worst of these may have been the speech he gave to the Suffolk County Police Department, where he basically urged officers to engage in police brutality.  Now he could realize that much of the resistance to repeal of the Affordable Care Act may come from communities of color, so he’s taking it out on them.  It may have to do with more “dog whistling” of his “trailer park caucus”.

To me it’s more evidence that communities of color are under attack from every corner.  The only solution may a modern-day variation of the “Community Defense” tactics that the Black Panther’s utilized.  I have mentioned this several times to my fellow activists, but the response has been less the impressive.

So perhaps I need to be the one to get the process going, but where to start?  Why not start with what I know well, technology.

Perhaps a variation on a Crypto Party,  is in order.  Introduce people in affected communities to tools like; Mobile Justice PA, Signal, Cell 411, and Orbot.  Make them aware of their rights to film officers, etc.

If they see this catch on, perhaps other activists will follow and add their skills to the mix.

At least I’ll have it out of my system.

 

#KeepPounding

I take ideas from everything and anything.  What the late member of the Carolina Panther’s Sam Mills used to rally his teammates is but one example.  Whether it be me working out or working on a skill, more than a few of my social media posts have included the hashtag “Keep Pounding”.

This past week, activists at both the national and local level seemed to show how these words can be applied to the resistance.  At the national level, one can only wonder if the latest delay with the planned replacement to the Affordable Care Act, in reality a package of corporate and %1 tax cuts paid for by cuts in health care, has anything to do with what many US Senators heard over the recess or what calls have come into their office.

At the local level, an attempt by the Harrisburg Police Department to purchase new riot gear, most likely in response to the increase in fascist, etc, rallies since Trump’s election was met by resistance from the community.

Collage1

The vote was delayed until after the August recess.  Part of the reason behind this delay may have been, ironically, a demonstration at what was billed as a “Town Hall” by U.S. Senator Pat Toomey caused the entire police contingent to head there.  At least one council member questioned why the whole command had to head to the disruption.

I already saw that civil disobedience is planned in DC on Monday, and be assured that at the next council meeting, activists will be there.

We plan to “Keep Pounding”, it would seem.

 

From Non Violence to Non Aggression

Yesterday, Harrisburg PA joined cities all across the country in the “March For Truth”, the event was a nationwide call for an investigation of the possible ties between Russia and the Trump Campaign and possible foreign entanglements Trump may have.  The event itself went well, especially since it was the first event the organizer staged.

As we were tearing down from the event, a wedding party was on its way into the State Capitol.  The Capitol is a popular place for weddings and other such events, but perhaps drunk with enthusiasm, alcohol, or a little of both, some of the party thought it would be fun to heckle us with chants of “Build the wall”.  A fellow activist and I responded.

Even last year, the wedding party would have likely passed us by without incident.  But Trump’s victory may have made the reactionaries feel a bit more empowered, a bit more bold.  We have seen this in Montana, and most recently in Portland.  My social media streams are full of videos of people of color and other minorities being harassed and worse.

I can’t help but think that perhaps the non-violence model of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi may not work so well against the current crop of “Deplorables”.  The better model may be the “community defense” model of the original Black Panthers.

I am not saying non-violence is not effective in some circumstances, nor that it need be abandoned.  But what harm would come from activists being trained to defend themselves or another from a threat, be that threat from a fascist, a police officer on an ICE agent.

While what the victims of the Portland stabbing were heroic, I can’t but wonder what, if anything they knew about how to disarm and/or subdue the attacker.  That bit of knowledge may have saved their lives.

 

 

Ready To Resist?

On Thursday, January 19th, I got an unexpected text from a fellow activist.  She needed a ride to the “DisruptJ20” event.  I had already planned to be a driver, but did not expect to actually have to drive folks to the meet site.   It was no big deal and I took a detour to pick them up before heading to the site.  Once we got there we met the another group of activists and headed to DC.

After about two hours on the road, we arrived at our quarters for the evening, a church that had given their space to the activists for the evening.  After a few hours of fitful sleep, my alarm went off at 4:30AM on January 20th.

After a quick breakfast, we reconvened with our group and a group of activists from North Carolina with a group called “Redneck Revolt”.  I’m not too familiar with this group, but it sounds like an effort to get rural voters to start voting and acting in their economic self-interest again.  It sounds like a good idea, but I see flaws that I will explore in a later post.

A few of us went to another activists car to grab water, and then we began what be a common theme of the day–walking. Our first destination was Logan Circle, where the anarchist “Black Bloc” were staging.

Now, you  may be asking how I got stuck with the “Black Bloc”, and I think it was confusion on my part and the part of our main local organizer.  I was supposed to be elsewhere, and could have made a good rally point at McPherson Square, the designated “safe space” for activists.

I was both energized and frightened by what I saw.  Energized by hearing chants of “No fascist U.S.A” and “Black Lives Matter”, but also frighted by the seemingly random destruction I saw; store windows being smashed, newspaper machines being thrown into the streets, etc.

When I saw the riot police, I had enough.  I told the activist I was paired off with that I was not proceeding any further.  We let the police herd the other protesters while we stood on the sidewalk.

So now we had another issue, we had also lost the rest of our group.  I suggested that we head back to where the event had started.  She agreed, and we headed back to Logan Circle.  A few minutes after sitting down, we were directed to McPherson Square.  We were essentially retracing steps; we even saw folks cleaning up from the march we had been on!

There we found a few of our ranks, and I had time to grab lunch.  Our lead organizer was OK, but we were still missing several members.  One of our missing members happened to be one of my passengers, so locating him was of critical importance! He was found, after much walking, at a co-working space.

That gave us an opportunity to rest and hydrate a bit.  And after a few hours we began the walk to the church, and then to my car.  Around 8:15PM, my two companions were dropped off at their house, and around 8:30 on the 20th, I arrived back at my apartment.

What I think we, and other activists did, especially the “Black Bloc” is announce to Trump that we are ready!  On Friday, store windows were smashed, soon it could be a Muslim processing center.  On Friday, seven of the twelve checkpoints for the Inauguration were blocked; soon it could be an immigrant neighborhood that Immigration and Customs is trying to conduct a sweep in.  On Friday, a limousine was set on fire; soon it could be a truck carrying the materials for Trump’s wall.  I’d be following these from afar, then closing in to photograph both the actions and the interactions with law enforcement.

But, this kind of direct action may not be necessary, if legislative actions are taken to resist the most extreme elements of Trump’s agenda.  Perhaps a warning has also been sent to the Democrats then, resist Trump’s extremism–or other people will!

A Gift From ISIS?

The week ending the 18th had an early present for PennLive.com when a 19 year old from Harrisburg was arrested on the 17th for aiding ISIS.  That initial piece generated 165 comments.

A slide show of some of the young man’s tweets, etc generated a mere 11 comments.

By the 18th, though, the story seems to have died out.

The shooting in California, and the ongoing violence in Harrisburg sparked a series of letters, many of them NRA allies echoing that groups, and the manufacturers they represent, stance;  Pieces with titles like “Gun Control Not Needed, but Profiling Is” filled the editorial section of the Patriot News.