Yellow Vests Shift to the Left
This YouTube video is a must see! The most inspirational thing I've seen in decades!
The yellow vests movement in France is now shifting decisively to the left, as shown by the huge anti-capitalist bloc in Paris on the December 8. Led by prominent campaigners against police violence, The Adama Committee for Justice and Truth, it included railworkers, striking postal workers, other rank and file workers, students, migrant workers groups, important collectives such as The Rosa Parks Collective, sex workers, LGBTQ groups and many more. The mood has changed completely since the horrific mass arrest at a school in a Paris banlieue; now workers are calling for a general strike, and the student movement is exploding with schools and universities blockaded throughout the country.





















We refuse to pay to protest!

Women's March on the Pentagon, October 2018

For Immediate Release
Contact: CindySheehan@MarchonPentagon.com

What: The day before Thanksgiving, Cindy Sheehan, co-coordinator of the recent Women's March on the Pentagon (WMOP) was presented with a $540.00 gill for "police escort" by the Arlington County Virginia Police Department (ACPD).

Background: Beginning in July, leadership of WMOP began taking steps to secure permits from the two jurisdictions that the WMOP would take on October 21st (51st anniversary of the March on the Pentagon during the Vietnam War): 

Arlington County (brief march) and the Pentagon. Although WMOP eventually obtained a permit from the Pentagon, WMOP was never able to obtain a permit from Arlington County and many phone messages left by DC area Co-ordinator Malachy Kilbride were never returned by the ACPD.

On the day of the March, about 1500 people gathered at the Pentagon City Metro station (for a 12pm March start) in front of the mall and at about 10:30am, to the surprise of March organizers, ACPD showed up and did stop traffic for the brief March through Arlington County.

The organizers of the WMOP are outraged and appalled by this obvious violation of our First Amendment rights to gather "peaceably" and demonstrate one of the sacrosanct rights to our Freedom of Speech. 

The DC area co-ordinator for the WMOP Malachy Kilbride had this to say upon receipt of the bill:  "As a former resident of Arlington County of over 20 years I am disturbed that the county is following in the footsteps of the Trump Administration which wants to charge people for First Amendment activity. Shame on Arlington County! The First Amendment is priceless and shouldn't be monetized."

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF)* the D.C. based non-profit legal organization that works to protect and advance the constitutional rights of protestors has issued the following letter to the ACPD on behalf of the Women's March on the Pentagon:

Chief Jay Farr

Lt. John Feden

Arlington County Police Department

1425 North Courthouse Rd
. Arlington, VA 22201
Dear Chief Farr and Lt. Feden:

We are writing on behalf of Cindy Sheehan in response to Lt. John Feden's e-mail correspondence dated November 21, 2018. 

The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) has issued an invoice to Ms. Sheehan seeking to charge her for engaging in constitutionally protected First Amendment activities. Specifically, the invoice is stated to be "for the police services we provided October 21st during the March On the Pentagon," and demands $540.00 for what is described as "police escort for The Women's March on the Pentagon." 

This attempt to tax free speech is without lawful basis and violates Ms. Sheehan's constitutional rights. We request that this invoice be immediately withdrawn.

Ms. Sheehan did not request police "services," nor was she given prior notice that the ACPD intended to send police to the demonstration and charge her for their time.  At no time did Ms. Sheehan agree to pay for any such charges. 

Indeed, the ACPD actually refused to respond to Ms. Sheehan's efforts to coordinate the First Amendment activities with them. An application for a permit was submitted for the March and thereafter, Arlington Country was nonresponsive to follow up efforts. After failing and refusing to return phone calls regarding the March, the ACDP appeared at the Pentagon City mall in front of the metro stop entrance at the starting point for the march, well before the march was scheduled to step off. At that time Ms. Sheehan expressed her surprise at their presence given their refusal to communicate with the March organizers. 

The ACPD may not charge demonstrators for First Amendment activities at its own discretion. We are requesting that the ACPD provide all policy documents, guidelines, and criteria that the department relies upon in assessing charges on demonstration activities as well as any notice it believes was given to Ms. Sheehan of such policies and procedures. 

We further request that the ACPD issue instructions to personnel consistent with constitutional obligations to ensure that organizers of demonstration activity are not improperly charged in the future.


Mara Verheyden-Hilliard (PCJF)  

The Women's March on the Pentagon adamantly refuses to pay for this appalling violation of our constitutional rights.

*The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund is a free speech and civil rights organization that has defended First Amendment rights for over 20 years in Washington, D.C. and around the country. It is currently challenging the Trump Administration's proposed anti-protest rules that would levy potentially bankrupting fees and costs on demonstrators who engage in constitutionally protected free speech on public parkland in the nation's capital. More information here.

*(Women's) March on the Pentagon is a women-led coalition of activists, professionals, military veterans, and everyday citizens of the world with one thing in common: we are anti-imperialist. More info can be found here.

  This press release can also be found on our website:

Join the Facebook group:



America has spent $5.9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia since 2001, a new study says

  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.
  • https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/14/us-has-spent-5point9-trillion-on-middle-east-asia-wars-since-2001-study.html








Open letter to active duty soldiers on the border
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.

Don't turn them away

The migrants in the Central American caravan are not our enemies

Open letter to active duty soldiers
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern U.S. border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the U.S. are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country's elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
"There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone."
These extremely poor and vulnerable people are desperate for peace. Who among us would walk a thousand miles with only the clothes on our back without great cause? The odds are good that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. lived similar experiences to these migrants. Your family members came to the U.S. to seek a better life—some fled violence. Consider this as you are asked to confront these unarmed men, women and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. To do so would be the ultimate hypocrisy.
The U.S. is the richest country in the world, in part because it has exploited countries in Latin America for decades. If you treat people from these countries like criminals, as Trump hopes you will, you only contribute to the legacy of pillage and plunder beneath our southern border. We need to confront this history together, we need to confront the reality of America's wealth and both share and give it back with these people. Above all else, we cannot turn them away at our door. They will die if we do.
By every moral or ethical standard it is your duty to refuse orders to "defend" the U.S. from these migrants. History will look kindly upon you if you do. There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone. It is much harder to punish the many than the few.
In solidarity,
Rory Fanning
Former U.S. Army Ranger, War-Resister
Spenser Rapone
Former U.S. Army Ranger and Infantry Officer, War-Resister
Leaflet distributed by:
  • About Face: Veterans Against the War
  • Courage to Resist
  • Veterans For Peace
Courage to Resist has been running a strategic outreach campaign to challenge troops to refuse illegal orders while on the border, such as their Commander-in-Chief's suggestion that they murder migrants who might be throwing rocks, or that they build and help run concentration camps. In addition to social media ads, About Face, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist, are also printing tens of thousands of these leaflets for distribution near the border. Please consider donating towards these expenses.
484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559
www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*---------*




New "Refuse War" Shirts

We've launched a new shirt store to raise funds to support war resisters.

In addition to the Courage to Resist logo shirts we've offered in the past, we now  have a few fun designs, including a grim reaper, a "Refuse War, Go AWOL" travel theme, and a sporty "AWOL: Support Military War Resisters" shirt.

Shirts are $25 each for small through XL, and bit more for larger sizes. Please allow 9-12 days for delivery within the United States.

50% of each shirt may qualify as a tax-deductible contribution.

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops who Refuse to Fight!
484 Lake Park Ave. #41, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-488-3559
couragetoresis.org -- facebook.com/couragetoresist







Judge to Soon Rule on Mumia's Appeal Bid
By Kyle Fraser, December 4, 2018
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker promised a decision on whether a former prosecutor unlawfully took part as a judge in rejecting Mumia Abu Jamal's appeal of his 1981 conviction in the killing of a police officer. "We're not going to stop fighting until we see Mumia walk out of these prison walls," said Johanna Fernandez, of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. Pam Africa, of the MOVE organization, said Abu Jamal's supporters have sustained his defense for decades "no matter what kind of devious tricks this government has used to try to break this movement."
Listen to a radio report at Black Agenda Report:

Free Mumia Now!
Mumia's freedom is at stake in a court hearing on August 30th. 
With your help, we just might free him!
Check out this video:

This video includes photo of 1996 news report refuting Judge Castille's present assertion that he had not been requested at that time to recuse himself from this case, on which he had previously worked as a Prosecutor:
A Philadelphia court now has before it the evidence which could lead to Mumia's freedom. The evidence shows that Ronald Castille, of the District Attorney's office in 1982, intervened in the prosecution of Mumia for a crime he did not commit. Years later, Castille was a judge on the PA Supreme Court, where he sat in judgement over Mumia's case, and ruled against Mumia in every appeal! 
According to the US Supreme Court in the Williams ruling, this corrupt behavior was illegal!
But will the court rule to overturn all of Mumia's negative appeals rulings by the PA Supreme Court? If it does, Mumia would be free to appeal once again against his unfair conviction. If it does not, Mumia could remain imprisoned for life, without the possibility for parole, for a crime he did not commit.
• Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent and framed!
• Mumia Abu-Jamal is a journalist censored off the airwaves!
• Mumia Abu-Jamal is victimized by cops, courts and politicians!
• Mumia Abu-Jamal stands for all prisoners treated unjustly!
• Courts have never treated Mumia fairly!
Will You Help Free Mumia?
Call DA Larry Krasner at (215) 686-8000
Tell him former DA Ron Castille violated Mumia's constitutional rights and 
Krasner should cease opposing Mumia's legal petition.
Tell the DA to release Mumia because he's factually innocent.
Write to Mumia at:
Smart Communications/PA DOC
SCI Mahanoy
Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733



A Call for a Mass Mobilization to Oppose NATO, War and Racism
Protest NATO, Washington, DC, Lafayette Park (across from the White House)

1 PM Saturday, March 30, 2019.
Additional actions will take place on Thursday April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting

April 4, 2019, will mark the 51st anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the internationally revered leader in struggles against racism, poverty and war.

And yet, in a grotesque desecration of Rev. King's lifelong dedication to peace, this is the date that the military leaders of the North American Treaty Organization have chosen to celebrate NATO's 70th anniversary by holding its annual summit meeting in Washington, D.C. This is a deliberate insult to Rev. King and a clear message that Black lives and the lives of non-European humanity really do not matter.   

It was exactly one year before he was murdered that Rev. King gave his famous speech opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam, calling the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" and declaring that he could not be silent.

We cannot be silent either. Since its founding, the U.S.-led NATO has been the world's deadliest military alliance, causing untold suffering and devastation throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Hundreds of thousands have died in U.S./NATO wars in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia. Millions of refugees are now risking their lives trying to escape the carnage that these wars have brought to their homelands, while workers in the 29 NATO member-countries are told they must abandon hard-won social programs in order to meet U.S. demands for even more military spending.

Every year when NATO holds its summits, there have been massive protests: in Chicago, Wales, Warsaw, Brussels. 2019 will be no exception.

The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is calling for a mass mobilization in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 30.  Additional actions will take place on April 4 at the opening of the NATO meeting. 

We invite you to join with us in this effort. As Rev. King taught us, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

No to NATO!
End All U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad!
Bring the Troops Home Now! 
No to Racism! 
The Administrative Committee of UNAC,

To add your endorsement to this call, please go here: http://www.no2nato2019.org/endorse-the-action.html

Please donate to keep UNAC strong: https://www.unacpeace.org/donate.html 

If your organization would like to join the UNAC coalition, please click here: https://www.unacpeace.org/join.html



In Defense of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson

Update on Rashid in Indiana
By Dustin McDaniel

November 9, 2018—Had a call with Rashid yesterday. He's been seen by medical, psych, and
dental. He's getting his meds and his blood pressure is being monitored,
though it is uncontrolled. The RN made recommendations for treatment
that included medication changes and further monitoring, but there's
been no follow up.

He's at the diagnostic center and he (along with everyone else I've
talked to about it) expect that he'll be sent to the solitary
confinement unit at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, though it could
be 30 days from now.

He's in a cell with no property. He has no extra underwear to change
into. The cell is, of course, dirty. He's in solitary confinement. He
didn't say they were denying him yard time. He didn't say there were any
problems with his meals.

They are refusing him his stationary and stamps, so he can't write out.
He gets a very limited number of phone calls per month (1 or 2), and
otherwise can only talk on the phone if a legal call is set up.

They are refusing to give him his property, or to allow him to look
through it to find records relevant to ongoing or planned litigation.
He's already past the statute of limitations on a law suit he planned to
file re abuses in Texas and other deadlines are about to pass over the
next month.

He has 35 banker boxes of property, or 2 pallets, that arrived in IDOC.
He needs to be allowed to look through these records in order to find
relevant legal documents. Moving forward, I think we need to find a
place/person for him to send these records to or they are going to be
destroyed. It would be good if we could find someone who would also take
on the task of organizing the records, getting rid of duplicates or
unnecessary paperwork, digitizing records, and making things easier to
search and access.

Although he does not appear in the inmate locator for IDOC, he does
appears in the JPay system as an Indiana prisoner (#264847). At his
request, I sent him some of his money so hopefully he can get stamps and

Hold off on sending him more money via JPay - I've been told that some
of the IDOC facilities are phasing out JPay and moving to GTL and
wouldn't want to have a bunch of money stuck and inaccessible due to
those changes. If you want to send him more money immediately, send it
to Abolitionist Law Center. You can send it via Paypal to
info@abolitionistlawcenter.org, or mail it to PO Box 8654, Pittsburgh,
PA 15221. We will hold on to it and distribute it according to Rashid's

Please write to him, if you haven't already. He's got nothing to do in
solitary with nothing to read and nothing to write with.

you can also hear a recent interview with Rashid on Final Straw podcast here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/post/tag/kevin-rashid-johnson/
Write to Rashid:
Kevin Rashid Johnson's writings and artwork have been widely circulated. He is the author of a book,Panther Vision: Essential Party Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party, (Kersplebedeb, 2010).

Kevin Johnson D.O.C. No. 264847
G-20-2C Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Rd.
Pendleton, IN 46064-9001



Prisoners at Lieber Correctional Institution in South Carolina are demanding recognition of their human rights by the South Carolina Department of Corrections and warden Randall Williams.  Prisoners are also demanding an end to the horrific conditions they are forced to exist under at Lieber, which are exascerbating already rising tensions to a tipping point and people are dying. 
Since the tragedy that occured at Lee Correctional earlier this year, prisoners at all level 3 security prisons in SC have been on complete lockdown, forced to stay in their two-man 9x11 cells 24 hours a day (supposed to be 23 hrs/day but guards rarely let prisoners go to their one hour of rec in a slightly larger cage because it requires too much work, especially when you keep an entire prison on lockdown) without any programming whatsoever and filthy air rushing in all day, no chairs, tables, no radios, no television, no access to legal work, no access to showers, and no light!  Administration decided to cover all the tiny windows in the cells with metal plates on the outside so that no light can come in.  Thousands of people are existing in this manner, enclosed in a tiny space with another person and no materials or communication or anything to pass the time.  
Because of these horific conditions tensions are rising and people are dying. Another violent death took place at Lieber Correctional; Derrick Furtick, 31, died at approximately 9pm Monday, according to state Department of Corrections officials:
Prisoners assert that this death is a result of the kind of conditions that are being imposed and inflicted upon the incarcerated population there and the undue trauma, anxiety, and tensions these conditions create.  
We demand:
- to be let off solitary confinement
- to have our windows uncovered
- access to books, magazines, phone calls, showers and recreation
- access to the law library and our legal cases
- single person cells for any person serving over 20 years
Lieber is known for its horrendous treatment of the people it cages including its failure to evacuate prisoners during Hurricane Florence earlier this year:
Please flood the phone lines of both the governor's and warden's offices to help amplify these demands from behind bars at Lieber Correctional.
Warden Randall Williams:  (843) 875-3332   or   (803) 896-3700
Governor Henry McMaster's office:  (803) 734-2100

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Get Malik Out of Ad-Seg

Keith "Malik" Washington is an incarcerated activist who has spoken out on conditions of confinement in Texas prison and beyond:  from issues of toxic water and extreme heat, to physical and sexual abuse of imprisoned people, to religious discrimination and more.  Malik has also been a tireless leader in the movement to #EndPrisonSlavery which gained visibility during nationwide prison strikes in 2016 and 2018.  View his work at comrademalik.com or write him at:

Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102
Friends, it's time to get Malik out of solitary confinement.

Malik has experienced intense, targeted harassment ever since he dared to start speaking against brutal conditions faced by incarcerated people in Texas and nationwide--but over the past few months, prison officials have stepped up their retaliation even more.

In Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at McConnell Unit, Malik has experienced frequent humiliating strip searches, medical neglect, mail tampering and censorship, confinement 23 hours a day to a cell that often reached 100+ degrees in the summer, and other daily abuses too numerous to name.  It could not be more clear that they are trying to make an example of him because he is a committed freedom fighter.  So we have to step up.

Phone zap on Tuesday, November 13

**Mark your calendars for the 11/13 call in, be on the look out for a call script, and spread the word!!**

- Convene special review of Malik's placement in Ad-Seg and immediately release him back to general population
- Explain why the State Classification Committee's decision to release Malik from Ad-Seg back in June was overturned (specifically, demand to know the nature of the "information" supposedly collected by the Fusion Center, and demand to know how this information was investigated and verified).
- Immediately cease all harassment and retaliation against Malik, especially strip searches and mail censorship!

Who to contact:
TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier
Phone: (936)295-6371

Senior Warden Philip Sinfuentes (McConnell Unit)
Phone: (361) 362-2300


Background on Malik's Situation

Malik's continued assignment to Ad-Seg (solitary confinement) in is an overt example of political repression, plain and simple.  Prison officials placed Malik in Ad-Seg two years ago for writing about and endorsing the 2016 nationwide prison strike.  They were able to do this because Texas and U.S. law permits non-violent work refusal to be classified as incitement to riot.

It gets worse.  Malik was cleared for release from Ad-Seg by the State Classification Committee in June--and then, in an unprecedented reversal, immediately re-assigned him back to Ad-Seg.  The reason?  Prison Officials site "information" collected by a shadowy intelligence gathering operation called a Fusion Center, which are known for lack of transparency and accountability, and for being blatant tools of political repression.

Malik remains in horrible conditions, vulnerable to every possible abuse, on the basis of "information" that has NEVER been disclosed or verified.  No court or other independent entity has ever confirmed the existence, let alone authenticity, of this alleged information.  In fact, as recently as October 25, a representative of the State Classification Committee told Malik that he has no clue why Malik was re-assigned to Ad-Seg.  This "information" is pure fiction.   



Listen to 'The Daily': Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

By Michael Barbaro, May 30, 2018

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile deviceVia Apple Podcasts | Via RadioPublic | Via Stitcher

The sole survivor of an attack in which four people were murdered identified the perpetrators as three white men. The police ignored suspects who fit the description and arrested a young black man instead. He is now awaiting execution.

On today's episode:
• Kevin Cooper, who has been on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California for three decades.



Last week I met with fellow organizers and members of Mijente to take joint action at the Tornillo Port of Entry, where detention camps have been built and where children and adults are currently being imprisoned. 

I oppose the hyper-criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. Migration is a human right and every person is worthy of dignity and respect irrespective of whether they have "papers" or not. You shouldn't have to prove "extreme and unusual hardship" to avoid being separated from your family. We, as a country, have a moral responsibility to support and uplift those adversely affected by the US's decades-long role in the economic and military destabilization of the home countries these migrants and asylum seekers have been forced to leave.

While we expected to face resistance and potential trouble from the multiple law enforcement agencies represented at the border, we didn't expect to have a local farm hand pull a pistol on us to demand we deflate our giant balloon banner. Its message to those in detention:

NO ESTÁN SOLOS (You are not alone).

Despite the slight disruption to our plan we were able to support Mijente and United We Dream in blocking the main entrance to the detention camp and letting those locked inside know that there are people here who care for them and want to see them free and reunited with their families. 

We are continuing to stand in solidarity with Mijente as they fight back against unjust immigration practices.Yesterday they took action in San Diego, continuing to lead and escalate resistance to unjust detention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to ICE. 

While we were honored to offer on-the-ground support we see the potential to focus the energy of our Drop the MIC campaign into fighting against this injustice, to have an even greater impact. Here's how:
  1. Call out General Dynamics for profiteering of War, Militarization of the Border and Child and Family Detention (look for our social media toolkit this week);
  2. Create speaking forums and produce media that challenges the narrative of ICE and Jeff Sessions, encouraging troops who have served in the borderlands to speak out about that experience;
  3. Continue to show up and demand we demilitarize the border and abolish ICE.

Thank you for your vision and understanding of how militarism, racism, and capitalism are coming together in the most destructive ways. Help keep us in this fight by continuing to support our work.

In Solidarity,
Ramon Mejia
Field Organizer, About Face: Veterans Against the War

P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe
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Major George Tillery
April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.
These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

Sex for Lies and Manufactured Testimony
For thirty-five years Major Tillery has fought against his 1983 arrest, then conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole for an unsolved 1976 pool hall murder and assault. Major Tillery's defense has always been his innocence. The police and prosecution knew Tillery did not commit these crimes. Jailhouse informant Emanuel Claitt gave lying testimony that Tillery was one of the shooters.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.
In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.
Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.
The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.
This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.
Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.
Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years
The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.
During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.
Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.
Major Tillery Needs Your Help:
Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.
Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.
Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.

Major Tillery and family

    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.
    Go to JPay.com;
    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:
    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.
    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:
    Security Processing Center
    Major Tillery AM 9786
    268 Bricker Road
    Bellefonte, PA 16823
    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com
    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



    Free Leonard Peltier!

    Art by Leonard Peltier
    Write to:
    Leonard Peltier 89637-132
    USP Coleman 1,  P.O. Box 1033
    Coleman, FL 33521



    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 
    Charity for the Wealthy!





    1) Jerry Brown, Save the 740 People on Your Death Row
    Six former governors call on California's governor to follow in their footsteps and grant clemency to death row prisoners.
    "If the state were to execute a single person every day, people would still be waiting on death row after two years."
    By Richard CelesteJohn KitzhaberMartin O'MalleyBill RichardsonPat Quinn and Toney Anaya
    The authors granted clemency to death row prisoners in their states
    A condemned inmate in a cell in the yard outside the death row adjustment center at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2016.

    Among a governor's many powers, none is more significant than signing a death warrant. It's a terrible responsibility, hard even to imagine until you're asked to carry it out, as we were. But we became convinced that it wasn't something a civilized society should ask of its leaders. That's why we halted executions in our states, and we call on Gov. Jerry Brown of California to do the same. 
    Mr. Brown has done a remarkable job in his four terms. His overhaul of the state's criminal justice system has ensured his legacy as one of the most courageous and effective governors in California's history. Some of the changes include eliminating cash bail; prohibiting the incarceration of children under 12; no longer allowing children younger than 16 to be tried as adults; and prohibiting prosecutors from charging accomplices with first-degree murder.
    Given this good work, we know it must weigh on Mr. Brown that, unless he acts soon, he will leave behind 740 men and women on California's death row. It's a staggering number and our hearts go out to him. From a humanitarian perspective, it is horrifying to imagine executing that many humans. As a practical matter, it's beyond comprehension. 
    Even the most ardent proponents of capital punishment would shudder at composing a plan to execute 740 people. Would California's citizens allow mass executions? If the state were to execute a single person every day, people would still be waiting on death row after two years.
    Vicente Benavides might have been one of them. In April, the California Supreme Court released him from death row at San Quentin, where he spent 25 years after being convicted based on evidence that the court found was "false, extensive, pervasive and impactful." We know a leader must then ask: "Are there more people wrongly convicted among the 740 in my custody?" 
    Perhaps. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that 164 men and women have been found innocent and released from death rows around the country since 1973, five of them from California. Even more disturbing, the National Academy of Sciences found that at least 4 percent of people on death row were and are probably innocent. This is the horror every governor of a killing state has to live with.
    Since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, 11 governors have granted clemency to death row prisoners in their states. They did not free them; they either reduced their sentences to life, declared a moratorium on executions or repealed their death penalty. We have all done one of these; so have Gov. George Ryan of Illinois in 2003; Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey in 2007; Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut in 2012; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington in 2014; and Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania in 2015.
    The achievement of high office demands that one be courageous in leadership. Mr. Brown now has the chance to do what others in our ranks have done after they became aware of the price paid for taking a human life. We were compelled to act because we have come to believe the death penalty is an expensive, error-prone and racist system, and also because our morality and our sense of decency demanded it. 
    Mr. Brown has the power to commute the sentences of 740 men and women, to save 740 livesOr, he can declare a moratorium on the death penalty and give Governor-elect Gavin Newsom the time he will need to figure out how to end a system broken beyond repair. Such an act will take political will and moral clarity, both of which Mr. Brown has demonstrated in the past. In the interest of his legacy, the people of California need his leadership one more time before he leaves office.
    Richard Celeste was the governor of Ohio. John Kitzhaber was the governor of Oregon. Martin O'Malley was the governor of Maryland. Bill Richardson was the governor of New Mexico. Pat Quinn was the governor of Illinois. Toney Anaya was the governor of New Mexico.


    2) N.Y. Today: Backlash for Mayor After Police Grab Child
    By Azi Paybarah, December 13, 2018
    More policing headaches for the mayor.

    Sorry, said the mayor

    Rewind: Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014 promising to bring the police and communities closer together.
    Yesterday: He apologized because law enforcement personnel ripped a 1-year-old from his mother's arms at a government building in Brooklyn on Friday.
    The woman, Jazmine Headley, had been sitting on the floor of the Human Resources Administration building in Boerum Hill. She said she had waited four hours for service and that there were no seats.
    And whom did Mr. de Blasio blame? Not the police but the city officials who called them after Ms. Headley got into a dispute with a security guard.
    "I want to issue a formal apology to Ms. Headley, and I'd be very happy to talk to her as well," Mr. de Blasio told reporters on Wednesday.
    "By the time N.Y.P.D. arrived, this situation was already out of control."
    Look ahead: The entire incident, captured on bystander videos, is under review.

    The chairman of the City Council's public safety committee wants the officers fired.
    "If they didn't know to use common sense, you shouldn't be here," the councilman, Donovan Richards, told me.
    "By allowing these individuals to stay, it sends the message that this behavior is O.K."

    3) Is Environmentalism Just for Rich People?
    By Neil Gross, December 14, 2018
    Protestors wearing "yellow vests" stand behind a vehicle set on fire during a demonstration against rising costs of living in Paris.

    The Yellow Vest protests that have convulsed France for the past few weeks, leaving chic Parisian neighborhoods smoldering, are making environmentalists nervous.
    The protests began in reaction to President Emmanuel Macron's announcement that a planned increase in taxes on gasoline, part of an ongoing ambitious effort to combat global warming, would take effect in January. Though the tax was favored by Parisians, who have access to efficient public transportation, it was seen as a provocation by struggling residents of the country's rural and suburban areas. ("The taxes are rising on everything," a rural retiree told a reporter from this newspaper. "They put taxes on top of taxes.") Caught off guard by the intensity and popularity of the protests, Mr. Macron backed down on the tax hike, but not before the Yellow Vest movement morphed into a leaderless, anti-establishment revolt that now threatens his government.
    As with working-class support for the faltering coal industry in the United States, the question arises: Is environmentalism a boutique issue, a cause only the well-off can afford to worry about?
    Some social science suggests the answer is yes. In a landmark 1995 paper, the sociologist Ronald Inglehart observed an intriguing pattern in public support for the environmental movement. According to a public opinion survey he conducted in 43 nations, the countries where large percentages of the population supported strong environmental policies shared two characteristics: They were dealing with major environmental challenges (air and water pollution and species conservation were among the top priorities at the time) and they were affluent
    Mr. Inglehart argued that citizens were apt to prioritize environmental concerns only if they were rich enough not to have to fret about more basic things like food and shelter. Environmentalism was part of a larger "postmaterialist" mind-set, focused on human self-realization and quality of life, that was naturally to be found in the world's economically advanced societies — and especially among better-educated, wealthier citizens. Mr. Inglehart anticipated that growing prosperity, rising education levels and increasingly dire environmental circumstances would translate into the further spread of environmental consciousness in the years to come.
    In some ways the situation in France fits this theory. France is wealthy and well educated. And environmentalism is big there. A 2017 study, for instance, found that 79 percent of the French population believes climate change to be a very serious problem. It is plausible to think that some of the anger the Yellow Vests are unleashing on Paris revolves around the cultural gap separating those French citizens privileged enough to be able to devote time, attention and money to matters like the environment from those not as fortunate.
    Thought-provoking as Mr. Inglehart's thesis is, however, it's not hard to identify weaknesses. Here's an obvious one: The United States, like France, is a prosperous country with a well-educated population. Yet according to a survey conducted this year by the Pew Research Center, only 44 percent of Americans say they care a great deal about climate change.
    More recent research bolsters this skeptical view. Work by the sociologists Riley Dunlap and Richard York, based on a wider range of data, turns Mr. Inglehart's finding on its head: They have discovered that the publics of poorer countries facing imminent resource loss from environmental destruction often hold the strongest pro-environment attitudes. For example, the island nation of Fiji — which stands to be decimated by global warming, rising sea levels and storms — ratified the Paris climate agreement on a unanimous parliamentary vote before any other nation did.
    Another study, by the political scientist Matto Mildenberger and the geographer Anthony Leiserowitz, has found "no evidence" that people became less attuned to climate change when their economic prospects dwindled after the 2008 financial crisis.
    Mr. Dunlap and Mr. York emphasize the contingency and variability of public support for environmental causes and practices. How much backing there will be — and in what quarters — depends on the specific environmental, economic and political conditions countries face. Environmental protection efforts can advance if the environmental movement acts strategically.
    The notion that there are few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to public support for environmentalism has influenced the response of environmentalists to the Yellow Vest protests. While raising taxes to reduce fossil fuel consumption or fund green energy transitions is essential, they say, depending on how and when such policies are proposed, they may spur a backlash. So smart rollouts and messaging matter. Mr. Macron's environmental policies, for example, were announced from on high, without meaningful input from all the communities that would be affected.
    Environmentalists insist that there is no reason in principle why a more effective communications strategy could not be found to pull together urban dwellers and the rural working- and lower-middle-class in a broad environmental coalition. The fact that the French public is sympathetic to the cause of the Yellow Vests but also concerned about the climate shows that the protests were never really about the environment in the first place.
    Such a perspective is comforting. But it arguably understates the magnitude of the problem the environmental movement now confronts. Yes, contrary to the theory of postmaterialism, the well-off aren't the only ones who care about climate change and the environment. Yet in many of today's capitalist democracies, class and status resentments, fostered by rampant inequality and whipped up by opportunistic politicians, have developed to such an extent that issues like the environment that affect everyone are increasingly seen through the lens of group conflict and partisan struggle.
    Differences between urban and rural, new economy and old, college educated versus working class and cosmopolitan versus local loom larger than ever. Although the research of the sociologist Dana R. Fisher shows that in the United States, climate change activists have been working to diversify their ranks, the trust needed for truly large-scale environmental coalition building is wearing thin.
    Thus a different interpretation of the Yellow Vest protest may be warranted. Without a concerted effort to address inequality — which some in the environmental movement consider someone else's department — the bold policy changes needed to slow global warming risk never getting off the ground.
    Neil Gross is a professor of sociology at Colby College.
    My NYT Comment:
    There is no mention in this article of the fact that it's the working poor that must live in close vicinity to polluting factories; who must drink and bathe in lead-tainted water; who's schools and homes are infested with rats, roaches, and peeling lead paint. No one wants to live in these conditions. What is criminal is that the industry causing all this pollution—and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex is at the top of this list—isn't paying a dime to clean up after itself. What the Yellow Vests, and most working people are angry about is that the working class is being forced to pay to clean up this filth the commanders of industry leave behind. Meanwhile the wealthy get to live in homes—mansions—that have filtered air and water and are surrounded by luxury. All around the world U.S. corporations plunder natural resources, pollute the environment and outright bomb the homes of the working poor with abandon with no consequences for their actions. All they do is collect the money! Tax the rich, not working people! —Bonnie Weinstein

    4)  A longshoremen legend in SF honored for a lifetime of standing strong
    By Steve Rubenstein, December 10, 2018
    Longtime longshore union activist Howard Keylor, who turns 93 tomorrow and is going to be honored at the union hall this coming Sunday has a portrait taken at home on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Castro Valley, Calif.

    Longshoreman Howard Keylor knew when to unload a ship and he knew when to refuse. A longshoreman for decades on San Francisco Bay, Keylor could unload the contents of a ship's hold as fast as anyone on the waterfront.
    But he could also stand fast, lock arms, hold a megaphone and do nothing.
    That's what he and his fellow longshoremen did for 11 days in 1984, when the South African cargo ship Nedlloyd Kemba came to the port of San Francisco, its hold full of fruit, wool and sugar. At the time, the policy of racial segregation known as apartheid was the law in South Africa.
    Much of the world was outraged by apartheid, but much of the world has a way of sitting back and watching from the sidelines. That was not Howard Keylor's way.
    "There are just certain things you do because you have to do them," he said. "You do them without thinking. When something needs to be resisted, you resist."
    Keylor, one of the leaders of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, stood fast and helped persuade his fellow longshore workers to do the same. He and his fellow members refused to set foot on the vessel. They set up a picket line to discourage anyone else from trying. There was a lot of yelling. But for 11 days, the cargo stayed on the ship.
    Six years later, when freed South African leader Nelson Mandela spoke to a crowd of 58,000 cheering supporters at the Oakland Coliseum on the last stop of his U.S. goodwill tour, he credited the Bay Area longshore effort of 1984 with helping to bring down apartheid.
    "I was just one of a whole lot of people," Keylor said. "I don't want to make a big deal about what I did."
    But his fellow longshore union members do.
    "Howard stood there and exhorted the crowd to support us," said his friend of five decades, fellow longshore worker Jack Heyman. "We totally blocked that ship. It scared the hell out of the South African government."
    On Sunday, Keylor's 93rd birthday, Heyman and the rest of the union hosted a testimonial at the union hall in San Francisco celebrating their friend's long history of good works. Keylor, the union said, is its oldest member. He got a plaque paying tribute to deeds done "in the best tradition of the ILWU."
    Ninety-three isn't a round number, or even an even number, but it seemed a good time anyway to honor Keylor, who moved into a Castro Valley assisted living facility a few months ago following a stroke. These days, he reads a lot and watches TV a little. He speaks slowly and walks slowly. But he thinks quickly, even if it takes a while for his words to catch up.
    "When you get to be my age," he said the other afternoon, grabbing for each word as if it were a 50-pound sack, "nothing is OK. You adjust to the new reality. You try to survive. My advice? Don't get institutionalized."
    Keylor, a native of rural Ohio, is a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, a survivor of the Battle of Okinawa, a Bay Area longshore member since 1953 and a member of its executive board. He was part of the strike at an Oakland glass factory in 1974, as well as a boycott of shipments to the military governments of Chile in 1975 and El Salvador in 1980. He was part of the West Coast strike of 2008. And he was part of the Occupy Oakland movement in 2011.
    "A lot of other people stood beside me," Keylor said.
    Loading and unloading a vessel in the days before mechanized shipping containers was backbreaking, challenging and complex work. Success depended on teamwork, on knowing exactly what your fellow longshore worker was doing. Each vessel posed a different challenge, Keylor said. Unloading bars of steel was much different than unloading sacks of wool.
    "Your life depended on the man standing next to you," Keylor said. "Every day."
    For his 93rd birthday, what he really wanted — more than a testimonial at the union hall — was something Heyman, his frequent visitor, can't supply.
    "He wants me to bring him German beer and cigarettes," Heyman said. "The doctors won't let me."
    Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: srubenstein@


    5)  Is California About to Execute an Innocent Man?
    Robert Scheer Interview With Kevin Cooper, December 14, 2018
    Kevin Cooper has spent the past 33 years on death row in San Quentin State Prison. (Narda Zacchino / Truthdig)

    Three hours and 42 minutes. That's how close Kevin Cooper came in 2004 to being murdered by the state, strapped down to a gurney and poisoned via lethal injection. He had been placed in what he calls a "death chamber waiting room" and stripped of all his clothes before he was granted a stay of execution. Five years later, in an unprecedented dissent, five federal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that began: "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man."
    A rash of evidence would appear to substantiate their claim. In the opinion, Judge William A. Fletcher details multiple Brady disclosures—key information that had been ignored or actively suppressed that would compromise the case against Cooper. Yet thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown's inaction, he is no closer to getting state-of-the-art DNA testing, despite the calls of California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Due to the passage of Prop. 66, which dramatically shortens the death penalty appeals process, Cooper's execution could be expedited without his ever receiving a fair hearing—this is in one of the bluest states in the country.
    "I've had years of post-traumatic stress disorder from having survived that near-death experience at the hands of these volunteer executioners, who are paid by the taxpayers of California," he tells Robert Scheer from death row at San Quentin State Prison. "And what I wanted to say earlier … was this is America. And the death penalty is a part of America; it's a tradition in America. This crime against humanity is nothing new."
    In part one of a two-part episode of "Scheer Intelligence," Cooper reveals how he has maintained his sanity after 33 years in a cell that's four and a half feet wide and 11 feet long, waiting for a justice that never seems to arrive. "It's not just that easy," he admits. "I mean, in order to understand what I'm going through, you'd have to go through it yourself, on a personal experience basis. People have bathrooms in their homes that are larger than this cage that I'm in right now. … Everything I do, from doing a painting or writing a letter or anything else, I do from within this cage. So I had to turn this cage into something other than a cage. I had to turn it into a classroom, I had to turn it into a church—when I want to go to church, I turn this cage into a church."
    Cooper also explains, with remarkable eloquence, how his individual struggle is part of a continuum that stretches from the genocide of indigenous peoples through chattel slavery to the mass incarceration and capital punishment of the present day. "The same type of people who were enslaved back then are the same type of people who are enslaved now," he contends. "The same type of people who were doing the enslaving back then are the same type of people who are doing the mass incarcerations today. I mean, there is no difference. Things have changed, technology has changed, but the evilness that brought us … our slavery back then is the same evilness that's in the hearts and the minds of the people who are doing this death penalty thing today."
    Listen to part one of Cooper's interview with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below:
    Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, Kevin Cooper, who has been on Death Row in California for–
    [Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number…monitored and recorded.
    RS: This– [Laughs] threw me a little bit, that announcement. But Kevin Cooper's been on Death Row at San Quentin in California; he's been there for 33 years for a very gruesome crime, everybody agrees, in which two adults and two children were killed back in 1983. And he was convicted two years later. Let me just say by preface, my wife, Narda Zacchino, who was the associate editor of the LA Times, an experienced journalist, has spent the last two years investigating this case, and is convinced that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the crime that he was convicted for, and that this is a really grievous miscarriage of justice. And having read all the documents that are around, I am in agreement with that judgment. But more important, a judge in the Ninth [Circuit] Court, Judge Fletcher, filed an opinion that was endorsed in the demand for a new trial by 11 judges on the California Ninth Circuit, the federal Ninth Circuit in California. I want to just quote what he said at the time: he opened his dissenting opinion saying, "The state of California may be about to execute an innocent man." And four years later in a speech at Yale University, Judge William C. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said, "The murders were horrible, and Kevin Cooper is on Death Row because the San Bernardino sheriff's department framed him." And the first reports out after that murder were that three white men were what they were looking for, and they ended up with one black man who had been on a minimum-security prison farm, had walked off; and had dreadlocks, was unmistakably a black man. And yet he was the one that was singled out. And as Judge Fletcher points out, there's a great deal of evidence pointing to the people who actually did it, and it wasn't Kevin Cooper. Welcome, Kevin. And where are you now? Are you in, at–
    Kevin Cooper: I'm currently, right now, in a cage that I'm forced to live in against my will. That, a cage like this, I've been in for over 33 years, here at San Quentin prison.
    RS: I think at the time you told me it was 11 foot by four and a half feet, something like that?
    KC: Yes. Yeah, four and a half feet wide, 11 feet long.
    RS: Yeah, I just want to get that across, because we're talking about–I mean, I can't even imagine being in there a day or a night or something. And the idea that you've been 33 years in a case where, clearly–whatever, you know, you think about the death penalty, whatever you think about the justice system in the United States and in California–the amount of what are called Brady violations, non-disclosure of evidence that would support Kevin Cooper's case, tampering with evidence. Judge Fletcher in his dissenting opinion goes through a great deal of that evidence; there are some terrific lawyers who've been working pro bono on this case. And I would say the evidence is overwhelming that you've been framed–let's cut to the chase of it, as Judge Fletcher does. And he makes it very clear. And can you tell me, though, what happened now–you've been fighting this case, and then the voters of California did something in the name of efficiency that is actually terrifying in its implication. Instead of ending the death penalty, as just about every civilized country in the world has done, they hastened it. And now you are slated to be one of the first individuals executed under this new law passed by the voters of California, are you not?
    KC: Yes. Yes, I am. Prop 66 did pass. Mainly because in 2004, when this state and its death-penalty-supporting people attempted to murder me by lethal injection, I got a stay of execution. And that was because of another dissent by another Ninth Circuit judge named James R. Browning. But I came within three hours and 42 minutes of being strapped down to that gurney and injected with lethal poison and tortured and murdered by these people. But they didn't do it then, so I got away, so now they want to do it again. And this time, they plan on finishing the job.
    RS: By the way, full disclosure, I'm also your editor at Truthdig. And you've written about some of this in a very compelling way. But take us back to that moment when the state of California was going to end your life.
    KC: I was in a death chamber waiting room, they stripped me down buck-naked like a slave on an auction block, and they examined my body the same way they examined slaves on auction blocks, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, and every part in between. And my life was on the clock. Every minute that ticked by, I knew I was going to be murdered by these people. You know, it was just an unreal, surreal type experience, but it is real. You know that these people are not playing with you. They are going to murder you. And it's hard to put into words. I mean, for anybody to really understand it, it's one of those real-life events that you'd have to experience personally to really understand. But this is wrong. Because I was psychologically tortured beforehand, and afterwards I've had years of post-traumatic stress disorder from having survived that near-death experience at the hands of these volunteer executioners, who are paid by the taxpayers of California. And what I wanted to say earlier, before I jumped on this, was this is America. And the death penalty is a part of America; it's a tradition in America. This crime against humanity is nothing new. So when the people of the state of California voted to speed up this thing, they were doing what comes natural to them, to these death penalty states, and these people who believe and support this thing. So this is all part of the same system that started with the genocide of the indigenous peoples of this land, went on to the slaves that were imported into this land, and then it just went on into the prison system. But it's the same thing, it's the same system. And I'm about to face this stuff again, if–
    [Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
    KC: –if I don't get some type of relief from the court. Or from the governor, or from somebody.
    RS: What I want to really get across is, people can read and see, that–if there's someone who really requires an innocence hearing, requires a retrial, requires looking at the evidence, at the Brady violations, the tampering, the things–that's clear. But I also want them to understand there's a human being who's in the midst of this. What are we talking about here? We're talking about killing an innocent person who deserves, certainly, a hearing at least. And I've found our governor, Jerry Brown, to be kind of oblivious to this. Why? Because he said, "I'd have to believe a number of law enforcement agents framed a man"–well, that's what Judge Fletcher said. He said, you are "on Death Row because the San Bernardino sheriff's department framed him."
    KC: Let me say this, if you don't mind. You said something earlier about I deserve to have this stuff looked at. But see, that's the problem. Nobody wants to look at it. Jerry Brown, when he was the attorney general, made a statement that there are no innocent people on Death Row. And other people have supported him; republican district attorneys like that lame duck in San Bernardino County, Ramos, and other people have supported him. They have used his words against him. Not too long ago, a Death Row inmate got off of Death Row because the California Supreme Court said that he was convicted with false evidence, and he was on Death Row for 24 years. Now here comes my case, which Governor Brown had in his office for two and a half years, and refused to look at. So my point is this: they don't want to look at it, they don't want to see the truth. Because if they see the truth, then they'll see that their system is doing here in California what they've been doing all over the country. Having innocent people on Death Row, and probably executing them. They don't want to know. So if you don't want to know something, you don't look at it. You turn a blind eye to the truth. And this has been the plight of black people in this country. They have long turned a blind eye to the truth concerning us and our plight in this rotten-ass [09:14] criminal justice system. [Inaudible] That's what they go by. They don't give a damn about us. And Jerry Brown, in my opinion, is a moral coward.
    RS: But OK, people are going to say Kevin Cooper is saying that in his defense. But I want to remind them, Judge Fletcher–and I am going to post this entire dissent by Judge Fletcher–he said, "the state failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing," that "the state obstructed and impeded Cooper and his lawyers in almost every way imaginable in denying his plea for a new hearing."
    KC: And Judge Fletcher was just one of, we believe, 14 judges on the Ninth Circuit, even though it was 11 that actually dissented on paper. But of those 11, they all wrote dissents. And one of the judges who wrote a dissent, named Kim Wardlaw, stated that 24 years of flawed proceedings in my case was like not having no proceedings at all. In other words, I had no due process. None. I was rubber-stamped through the system. So I mean, every one of those 11 judges that dissented, each spoke their piece. And all I'm asking for is what they said they would give me when they put it on paper all those centuries ago. Due process. A trial free of governmental interference. That's what they said on paper all those centuries ago that we could have, in the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence, or one of them pieces of paper that they wrote it on, in the Constitution. Where is mine? All these politicians talking about the Constitution, and they stand for the Constitution; well, damn it, stand for it! And stop pushing me and trying to murder me without giving me what I got a right to have, that's written in the Constitution. But then again, like you said, I'm just fighting for my life; I'm just a poor black man speaking out, out of frustration.
    RS: I beg, urge and beg people to read the documentation. We're not just, you know, it's not just Kevin Cooper saying this. He's got great lawyers, and now on a pro bono basis he's got a guy who was deputy head of the FBI in Los Angeles, has worked on this case for eight years. Tell me about your lawyer, though. He's been–right?–with you for a long time.
    KC: Norman [Hile] has been with me for a long time.
    RS: Norm–
    KC: Pro bono. And he is a good man. And he could have been retired from work a long time ago, but he said no, he wasn't going to retire until he got me out. He's committed to getting me out. And I am very thankful for that. And I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of appreciation for what this man is doing.
    RS: I should point out, no one less than the Pope has spoken out for a new hearing for you and on your [behalf]. Twelve appellate judges, half the jurors who convicted you, and you know, international human rights organizations, law school deans, innocence projects and everyone. So you got a lot of support. But at the end of the day, most people, it's out of sight, out of mind. And what we're trying to do, what I'm trying to do with this interview, is put you in sight. I have a connection with you as an editor, and I know you're a great writer, and how clear you are; you should talk about the books that have influenced you. You're also a–
    [Recorded voice on telephone] You have 60 seconds remaining.
    RS: –a very strong, a very compelling painter. So you've found avenues for expressing yourself. We only, the announcement said we only have 60 seconds, and that was about 20 seconds ago; I don't know if that means I'm going to lose you now, Kevin, but I'll try to get back to you….
    KC: Let me hang up and call back, I've got about six minutes.
    RS: Hello?
    KC: Yeah, I'm here.
    RS: Well, let's just pick up. I quoted all these people attesting to your innocence, others demanding that you have a hearing, and so forth. But it hasn't happened. Kamala Harris, who's now the senator from California, she was the attorney general, and now she said that, you know, she's all for your having an innocence hearing and a DNA testing. The other senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, says the same thing. And yet it's not happened. How does it register on you that these people, you know, are actually seeming to come out for some measure of justice here, and then yet you sit there, trapped in your cell in this extreme dehumanizing situation.
    KC: First, I'd like to correct you about something, because this is not my cell. This is more your cell than it is mine, because you're a taxpayer. And the people of the state of California own this cell, not me. I am forced to live here against my will. Concerning Senator Harris and Feinstein and everybody else who is now supposedly on my side, or endorsing what we want, or are seeking as far as DNA testing and an innocence hearing, I find it hypocritical that when she was the attorney general of the state, she wouldn't give me no DNA testing or no hearing. She wouldn't give me the time of day. But now all of a sudden, she wants this governor to do something that she wouldn't do. Dianne Feinstein, I believe that she just flipped her script and became a progressive democrat because of Bernie Sanders and all those other progressive democrats that are now in Washington, D.C. Because before, she was for the death penalty. Now she comes out against it. And I like, I like to believe that in time, people evolve and can change their positions like that, but her position changed because of other people, not because she had some type of enlightenment about the death penalty. So, you know, I find these democrats hypocrites, myself. I mean, it may come back to haunt me to say these things, but I must speak truth. If they were in action what they claim to be in words, I would have already had an innocence hearing; I would have already had an innocence investigation; I would have already had the DNA testing that we seek.
    RS: You know, how do you get through the day? That's what I'm trying to figure out here. You know, I've been in there, in that, one of those cages with you for five hours talking about this case. And you're remarkably clear about what's going on, and what the evidence is, and the injustice it is. How do you get through it?
    KC: I choose to fight on because my human spirit will not allow me to quit. I mean, it's just something about me as an individual. And I don't mean nothing special or nothin'. I mean, I have the same will within me to survive that slaves had on the plantation to survive, or Jewish people had during the Holocaust who survived, or Native Americans had during the Trail of Tears to survive. I mean, there's just something in some of us who won't let us stop. We must continue on, we must fight back. And so that's what I do. I mean, I live in this four-and-a-half-foot wide by eleven-foot cage. I do a lot of reading and a lot of writing. I keep my mind occupied. I do my artwork, do my exercise and my body. And I just keep going, I keep pushing forward. I have no choice but [not] to stop, because if I do stop, that means they're going to kill me. And I'm not going to let that happen if I can help it.
    RS: Well, tell us about your routine, though. I mean, we're going to be broadcasting this pretty close to Christmas. The pope has called for your having an innocence hearing, and he's certainly against the death penalty. Just tell us what this reality–I can't, most of us can't even imagine 33 days in a place like San Quentin's Death Row. Tell us what 33 years have been about.
    [Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
    RS: OK, so monitor. I'm asking this prisoner on the birth of Christ, I'm asking about his life, so don't cut off the phone call. People have a right to know. What does it mean to be unjustly held on Death Row for 33 years? Just take us through, day after day, what is it?
    KC: It's not just that easy. I mean, in order to understand what I'm going through, you'd have to go through it yourself, on a personal experience basis. People have bathrooms in their homes that are larger than this cage that I'm in right now. And everything I do, I do within this cage. I'm talking to you right now on a telephone that is brought to me, and they open the tray slot, you know, where they pass the food in on a tray, and I have to reach out and push the buttons on the phone to talk to you. But I'm in this cage right now–everything I do, from doing a painting or writing a letter or anything else, I do from within this cage. So I had to turn this cage into something other than a cage. I had to turn it into a classroom, I had to turn it into a church–when I want to go to church, I turn this cage into a church. I turn this cage into what I want it to be–
    [Recorded voice on telephone] You have 60 seconds remaining.
    KC: –or whatever I need it to be to survive. Now, this is abnormal. There is nothing about living in this place and doing what I'm doing that is normal. This is what makes it so hard for me to describe to you what it's like to live in here. Because it is the complete opposite of your world and your life. It's the complete opposite. I can't go nowhere.
    [Recorded voice on telephone] You have 30 seconds remaining.
    KC: Let me hang up and call back…But this is how I have to live. You know, I'm lucky enough to have a TV, and I can watch a lot of different channels. And because I can watch a lot of different channels, I'm able to hear people speak in their own native tongues about their own experiences in the countries that they're from, because I can get TV stations from around the world. Not because I have cable, because I don't–you know, it's digital TV, it's free, over-the-air TV. So I watch a lot of different stations like that, and it helps educate me on the plight of poor people. And a lot of poor people, no matter where they are, they're still fighting for the same things that I'm fighting for from within this prison. Their lives, their freedom, their form of justice. And we all, no matter what language we speak, what tongue we speak, what religion we are, or are not, we're all speaking the same language. We're telling the oppressor to get his foot out of our asses [20:13], to get his handcuffs off our wrists, to get his needles or his bullets out of our backs and our arms, to get his hands out of our pockets, to leave us alone. To let us be who we are.
    RS: Well, I want to go–let me go into that. I mean, people listening to this, you know, people can be cynical, they can be whatever they want. But I want to remind them, we're talking about somebody who came a few hours from his death on Death Row. We're not talking about an abstraction; we're talking about somebody who's going to be the first or second person killed in California, now that they voters went for speeding up the killing. And I just want to remind people, this is a case in which one of the top judges in the state, judge William Fletcher–and he was supported by eleven appellate judges, and half the jurors who were in this case, and others–Fletcher said the evidence for keeping Kevin Cooper in jail all this time, and to kill him, was, quote, "manipulated and planted by the sheriff's department." The sheriff's department down in, basically, white, rural, San Bernardino County. And, quote, "It was manipulated and planted in order to convict Cooper, while it"–and, again, quoting the words of Judge Fletcher. "It"–that's the sheriff's office–quote, "discounted, disregarded, and discarded evidence pointing to other killers." Including throwing away bloody coveralls belonging to the main suspect, whose girlfriend turned them over to the sheriff and implicated her boyfriend in the murders. That last part I'm reading from the description of it. But that's the evidence that, according to Judge Fletcher, was, quote, discounted and disregarded evidence pointing to other killers, et cetera, et cetera. We're talking about a guy, Kevin Cooper–this guy is asking for a DNA test. Now we have more sensitive DNA testing, and his attorney, who has been doing this pro bono for a decade now, pushing this case. And you got the two senators from California, one of whom was the attorney general of the state of California–could have done this herself. But now she's a senator, Kamala Harris, and Dianne Feinstein–they're both saying, give this guy the test. Jerry Brown has got a matter of weeks left in his tenure; he's had eight years, recently, as governor to deal with this. And what is he going to do, walk away from it? Not make a decision?
    KC: To put this in a little bit different perspective, a clemency petition was first put into office when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor. Twice. The first time, in 2004, he straight-out denied me. But shortly before he left office, he said that the clemency petition that we put in had so much new information, and evidently concerns, that he didn't have enough time to deal with it with the little bit of time he had left in office. So he left it, my clemency petition, to Governor-Elect Brown to deal with. And Governor Brown, for eight years, he had done nothing. When we finally decided to put a clemency petition in to Brown with his name on it, because we asked him did he read what we left for Schwarzenegger and he said he could not find it, he did not know nothing about it.  So we sent one into him then he left it in his office, or in the trunk of his car, or in the attic or in the drawer or wherever, for two and a half years and never did nothin'! Nothin'! For two and a half years! And the only reason why he did anything now as far as asking us questions,  is because of that very powerful and truthful piece from the New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, which came out last spring. So then he was forced to respond, because if Mr. Kristof had not written that piece, we still would not be hearing anything from Governor Brown. He may not say nothing, and yet I'm still on Death Row, still fighting for my life in a system that is not made to fix itself. A system that is made to uphold convictions regardless. Those men and women who have been exonerated just don't know how lucky they are. Because the majority of people in prison who have evidence of innocence do not get out. Because this system is broken, and it's working the way it was designed to work. And it was not designed to exonerate people. It was designed to incarcerate people, and to torture and murder people, via executions.
    [Recorded voice on telephone] You have 30 seconds remaining.
    RS: Kevin–you'll call me back, OK.
    KC: I'm here.
    RS: So the very idea that a presumably enlightened governor, Jerry Brown–let's really press this matter–
    [Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
    RS: Yeah, so monitor this and tell the governor, you know, we're monitoring this, but he's got only a matter of weeks left in this job. And you know, we're doing this interview here in part to wake him up. You know, I don't know what he's doing, maybe he doesn't–but I talked to him about this. I know my wife has had time interviewing him, as we respected the guy. I just don't get it. I don't get why he can't do what Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris tell him he should do. You know, retest, use your refined DNA testing, and look at the evidence, and give this guy his innocence hearing. And I just want people listening to understand what we're talking about here.
    KC: You can't make people do what they don't want to do. And if he wanted to do it, he would have done it.  He was, a long, long time ago, studying to be a Jesuit priest. Ain't no telling what happened to him between then and now. Anything could have changed him. He used to always say, there are no innocent people on Death Row in California. He actually believed that. And other people quoted him, mostly republicans who were supporting the death penalty, quoted him. Using his voice to put forward their agenda on speeding up the death penalty, and executing as many people as possible. So how would he now want to turn around and say, oh, I was wrong. There are innocent people on Death Row. He's not going to do it! He's not that type of man, at least in my opinion. His actions have not shown me he's that type of man.
    RS: You know, I've been talking to people about your case, and out there and everything. And we just, you're right; the rest of us live in a world that we–we can accommodate that. Some young students, they say well, you know, prison–I ask them, I say, you ever even been in for an hour? Let alone a year, let alone 33 years? And so what do you see? Because you're a great artist, and you're a terrific writer. Tell me how you see this system that has been most of your life, you've been inside the bowels of this system.
    KC: I see this system as a continuation of the systems that preceded it. This is why I call this place that I'm in a modern-day plantation. Because through reading the different books that I have read, I see the same type of situations. Everything about it is just like the plantations from yesteryear. The same type of people who were enslaved back then are the same type of people who are enslaved now. The same type of people who were doing the enslaving back then are the same type of people who are doing the mass incarcerations today. I mean, there is no difference. Things have changed, technology has changed, but the evilness that brought us our chattel slavery, back then, is the same evilness that's in the hearts and the minds of the people who are doing this death penalty thing today. You could not have had chattel slavery way back then without the death penalty, without all the torture and everything that went along with it. In order to scare a people into being submissive to you. Being uneducated and miseducated, as well as living under the threat of death, is what kept people enslaved. Here, today, we've got a lot of uneducated and miseducated people. And in both cases, all are people who are poor. So my point is, when I look and see how people back then–some of them, not all of them–struggled and made it, and I look today and see how some of us are struggling and are making it, I understand that I cannot give up. Because if I give up, then other people will give up. I must fight. I must fight just as hard today as some of my ancestors did back then.
    [Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
    KC: It's something that I can't put into words. It's just something that's what's in me to do. But I didn't know that I had it within me until I started reading books. And I started understanding the connection between yesteryear and this year, between old-school plantations and modern day plantations. Between old-school oppression and new oppression. Between the haves and the have-nots back then and the haves and the have-nots now. It's the same. And again, you know, I say this because I don't understand it: I don't know why it's me. I mean, I didn't choose to do this stuff, to speak out against the death penalty, or to write or to paint. I didn't even know how to do none of this stuff when I first got here. I mean, I knew I could do some artwork, drawings and stuff, but I never knew that I could become what I became in this cage, as a self-taught man. If I had had somebody teaching me out there, I'd have become that out there, but I didn't. But it wasn't until I got these books, all different types of books, that this stuff started coming out of me.
    RS: You know, I just want to remind people listening to this that what your lawyers are asking for is modern DNA testing of evidence. That judges and others have already said the old tests were distorted; blood samples had preservatives in them, meaning they were not real, from, in real time; tampering of evidence And all that's being asked for, legally, is a hearing to look at the new evidence, look at the Brady violations–
    KC: Six Brady violations.
    RS: Six cases. Can you do it right off the top of your head? The six? Where they just distorted or withheld evidence that would have exonerated you or helped in your exoneration?
    KC: One is the bloody coveralls that were turned over by a woman who suspected her boyfriend was part of the murders. Two was a blue shirt that came up missing, that had blood on it, that was found and is connected to this murder case. Three is the police report, or the police log, about the coveralls. Four is the police log about the blue shirt, because without the log, we wouldn't have known about the shirt, and without the coveralls we wouldn't have known about the log where those coveralls were ordered destroyed. Because the cop who testified on the witness stand about those coveralls said he destroyed them on his own. But we found out later on, we found a police report, a police log where he in fact said those coveralls were ordered destroyed by his boss. Then when we were in court, we found a police log that talked to us about the blue shirt, but the blue shirt is missing. Five is the warden from that prison, Chino prison; he said that he called the San Bernardino County district attorney's office and sheriff's department and told them that those tennis shoes, which they kept saying were prison-issued tennis shoes, were not prison-issued tennis shoes. He told them that you could get those shoes damn near anywhere. And that was the truth. We got a catalog that shows where those tennis shoes could be bought in different parts of the country as well as ordered through a catalog. So that's five Brady violations. And then the sixth Brady violation–
    [Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.
    KC: –there was a cop who knew that there were three white men with blood on them in that Canyon Corral Bar, and that they were suspects in this homicide, but he never told that information to the defense attorney, to my trial attorney. Because if he had told them about those three white men in that bar that night, then my attorney would have subsequently been able to speak to witnesses who have come forth who were there that night, and describe those men in the bar, in the coveralls, in the tennis shoes, with blood on them. Those people came forward in 2004, and they helped get me the stay of execution with the information that they knew, because that was a Brady violation. Those six things, if the jury had heard about them, I would have never got convicted.
    [Recorded voice on telephone] You have 60 seconds remaining.
    RS: So you got Brady violations, which means you're keeping evidence away from the defense that would exonerate the accused. They deliberately did it, and now these are the people that want to put you to death as quickly as they can so the case gets closed, and hopefully you'll be able to get back on the phone and we can continue this discussion in even greater detail.


    6) I Witnessed the Horror of Border Militarization, and Vow to Fight It
    By Brant Rosen, Truthout, December 14, 2018
    Interfaith clergy lead demonstrators through Border Field State Park en route to the San Diego-Tijuana border.

    I've just returned from the San Diego-Tijuana border where I had the honor of participating in "Love Knows No Borders"—an interfaith action sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and co-sponsored by a myriad of faith organizations from across the country. As a staffer for AFSC and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (one of the many co-sponsoring organizations,) I took a special pride in this interfaith mobilization, in which more than 400 people from across the country gathered to take a moral stand against our nation's sacrilegious immigration system. I'm particularly gratified that the extensive media from our action could shine a light on the brutal reality at our increasingly militarized southern border.
    The date of the action (December 10, 2018) was symbolically chosen to take place on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as the kick off to a nationwide week of action that will conclude on December 18, International Migrant's Day. The action set three basic demands before the U.S. government: to respect people's human right to migrate, to end the militarization of border communities, and to end the detention and deportation of immigrants.
    Over the course of this past weekend, hundreds of participants streamed into San Diego for orientation and training. To conclude our preparation and as a precursor to the upcoming action, an interfaith service was held in the packed sanctuary of University Christian Church. As one of the Jewish leaders of the service, I noted that it was the eighth and final night of Hanukkah and invited the Jewish members of our delegation up to sing the blessings.
    Before the lighting, I explained that the final night of Hanukkah is the night in which our light shines the brightest, and I pointed out the wonderful confluence of this Jewish festival with our interfaith action the following day. Reverand Tracie Blackmon, a United Church of Christ leader and prominent social justice activist, delivered one of the most powerful messages of the evening, properly placing the issue of immigrant justice within the context of U.S. white supremacy.

    Arrests at the border

    The next morning, we gathered at AFSC's San Diego office and left in buses to Border Field State Park, located just north of the border with Tijuana. After a press conference, we marched west down the trail to the beach, then turned south and approached the border fence, which snaked across the beach and jutted several hundred feet into the water. As we got closer, we could see a tangle of barbed concertina wire laid out in front of the fence. Behind the wire stood a phalanx of heavily-armed border patrol. 
    When we reached the edge of the wire, some of the clergy formed a semi-circle and offered blessings for the migrants. As the prayers were spoken aloud, border patrol officers used a megaphone to inform us that we were trespassing on federal property and that we needed to move to the back of the wire. I recited the Priestly Benediction in Hebrew and English ("May God bless you and keep you…") doing my best to articulate the prayer between the voices of border patrol barking out orders (a ceremonial first for me.)
    When our blessings were over, we went back to the other side of the barbed wire and those of us in front formed a line directly facing the guards. A border patrol officer repeatedly told us to leave, adding that he did not want any violence—an ironic statement considering that he and the rest of the riot-gear clad border patrol officers wielded automatic weapons in front of our faces. We began to chant freedom chants and held the line, even as the border patrol officers inched forward and started to push us back.
    While we were careful not to touch any officers, we continued to hold the line as the border patrol pushed us forward. Eventually, protesters who did not yield were grabbed, pulled to the border patrol's side of the line and arrested. Most men were thrown to the ground and held down with their faces in the sand while their hands were bound together with plastic ties; women were generally allowed to kneel before they were led away from the beach to waiting border patrol vans.
    As I continued to hold the line on the far west end of the front line, I noticed a commotion at the other end: Officers had broken through the line and were chasing protesters down the beach. I saw one of our protest organizers, AFSC staffer Matt Leber, roughly thrown to the ground by at least five or six border patrol officers, handcuffed and led away. While Leber did not intend to take an arrest, this kind of intentional targeting of organizers is a common law enforcement tactic.
    In a video taken of the incident you can see Leber (wearing the red T-shirt and backpack) guiding the protest when he is suddenly attacked, unprovoked, by the border patrol, who lunge at him and yank off his backpack. You can also see AFSC staffer Jacob Flowers (wearing the yellow vest) being thrown to the ground.
    Shortly after Leber's arrest, I dropped to my knees and was grabbed and pinned down by two border patrol officers. When it became clear that I wasn't resisting, they allowed me to stand of my own accord and led me to the line of arrested protesters who were arrayed along a fence, waiting to be placed into vans.
    According to the border patrol, 32 of us were arrested. We don't currently have an exact arrest count, but it seems that most of us were charged with the misdemeanor of "nonconformity to the orders of a Federal Law Enforcement officer." When a day went by with no further word about Leber, AFSC released a statement calling for his immediate release. To our collective relief, he was eventually let out of the Metropolitan Correction Center on Tuesday afternoon. 

    The true meaning of border militarization

    During our debrief, many noted the ferocity of the border guard's response to our prayerful, nonviolent demonstration. Many of us—in particular the white, privileged members of our delegation—agreed that we had gained a deeper sense of empathy and solidarity with our migrant neighbors, a stronger understanding of the toxic effects of militarization on our border communities, and a more profound conviction than ever that we must all fight for a nation that receives immigrants with open hearts and open doors.
    This experience also served to demonstrate what "militarization of the border" truly means. My friend and fellow Jewish Voice for Peace member Elaine Waxman put it well when she wrote about our experience on her Facebook page:
    "What has stuck with me most in the last 24 hours is a deeply uncomfortable sense of what that border surely looks like when the witnesses are gone, the journalists are not taking pictures, and the encounters are with migrants instead of documented (and often white) community leaders. Because what we saw yesterday looks like a police state."
    Indeed, when we stood up to the line of armed border patrol officers, I couldn't help but flash back to my very similar experience in a direct action with Youth Against Settlements during the summer of 2006 in Hebron. In both cases we faced heavily armed soldiers, the loud screaming of orders, and the use of the threat of violence to intimidate and deter those who do not yield to state control.
    I also noticed another, more specific similarity between these two experiences. When I stood in front of the border guards on the beach, I noticed familiar tear gas canisters belted across their chests. I'd seen the same on soldiers throughout the West Bank and Gaza: silver cylinders with blue writing manufactured by Combined Tactical Systems in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
    Seeing those same canisters at the U.S.-Mexico border reminded me of the multiple intersections between systems of state violence and corporate profit—and of the need for a movement that will expose and dismantle them once and for all.
    Brant Rosen is the rabbi of Tzedek Chicago and the Midwest regional director of the American Friends Service Committee.


    7) Paris Is Fortified as 5th Week of 'Yellow Vests' Protests Brings Scuffles and Tear Gas
    By Aurellen Breeden, December 15, 2018
    Protesters took to the streets of Paris again on Saturday to express anger against President Emmanuel Macron and his policies.CreditCreditLucas Barioulet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    PARIS — Boarded-up shops. Empty cafes. Closed museums. And, for the most part, two main colors: the bright yellow vests of protesters and the black gear of riot police.
    For the fifth straight weekend, France was confronted by determined "Yellow Vests" protesters who gathered on Saturday in Paris and other cities in a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron and his policies.
    This time, they were defying both bitter cold and security warnings from the government, which had said protests would complicate the task of preventing terrorism in the days after an attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg killed four people and injured 11 others.

    The turnout was smaller compared with that of previous Saturdays, possibly because of the weather, weariness and concessions made by Mr. Macron, who promised tax cuts and wage increases to mollify the protesters after weeks of protest that left seven dead on the fringes of the demonstrations — six people in France and one in neighboring Belgium.

    But by midafternoon, the protests were calmer than in past weeks — though some scuffles broke out between protesters and officers, and the riot police used tear gas several times to disperse crowds or clear out intersections, as well as water cannons.
    In the afternoon, the police said that there were fewer than 3,000 protesters in Paris, and that about 90 people had been arrested — a far cry from the more than 500 taken into custody at the same time last week. The government said about 33,000 had turned out across the country; in comparison, roughly 77,000 protesters had been counted at that time nationwide last Saturday, including 10,000 in Paris.
    Despite the concessions by the government, the protesters said Mr. Macron had not done enough to assuage their concerns.
    "We are exhausted by the colossal pressure of taxation that takes away the energy of our country, of our entrepreneurs, of our artisans, of our small businesses, of our creators and of our workers, while a small elite constantly dodges taxes," Priscillia Ludosky, best known for a petitioncalling for a drop in gas prices, said in front of the Paris Opera house, where hundreds of protesters had gathered.
    The movement has no defined structure, and unofficial leaders of the Yellow Vests used a megaphone to address the crowd. The protesters are also seeking the creation of a mechanism for popular referendums in the Constitution, as a way to have a bigger say in making France's laws.

    After the address, protesters trying to leave the area clashed briefly with the police, who blocked their way, spraying tear gas and using batons.
    The protests initially erupted on Nov. 17, and have been smaller but unrelenting since. More than 1,400 people have been wounded, 46 of them seriously, in addition to 700 police officers, gendarmes and firefighters hurt.
    Violence during the protests has increased since the early weeks, especially on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, when protesters, some of them vandals, clashed with the police, burned cars and looted stores. Other cities, like Bordeaux and Toulouse, were also hit by violent protests. In Paris, monuments like the Arc de Triomphe and museums like the Petit Palais stayed closed on Saturday.
    The demonstrations by the Yellow Vests — who take their name from the fluorescent hazard vests that all drivers in France must carry in their vehicles — were initially driven by anger over an increase in fuel taxes, since canceled. But they have morphed into a much broader expression of frustration over declining purchasing power and a rejection of Mr. Macron's style of government.
    "He is someone who looks down his nose at you," said Pierre-Étienne Billot, 40, one of the relatively few Parisian demonstrators on Saturday. Most demonstrators have come to the capital from France's provinces.

    "Yellow Vests" protested with a sign saying, "Macron, Go" in Paris on Saturday.CreditIan Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock

    "Macron backed off a bit," said Mr. Billot, who works in marketing. He added that the repetitiveness and weariness that comes with protesting every Saturday had probably discouraged some from returning.
    "Demonstrating every Saturday doesn't help the movement, we need more symbolic actions," he said, like blocking airports or other key locations.

    The overall mood in Paris remained calm, despite sporadic tensions. Crowds on the Champs-Élysées ebbed and flowed as the day progressed and rain started to fall. Police fired tear gas several times to disperse the crowds. As darkness fell and some protesters left a cold and rainy capital, the police turned their attention to the vandals and more radical protesters who often act more violently later in the day.
    Mr. Macron, speaking on Friday at a news conference in Brussels after a European summit meeting, said that he had heard the Yellow Vests' demands and had addressed them, referring to a widely watched televised address this week. In it, Mr. Macron made a rare admission of shortcomings, outlining a roughly 10 billion-euro plan to increase the wages of low-income earners and to cut taxes for poorer pensioners and those on overtime pay. He also promised to work more closely on policymaking with residents and local authorities.
    Jody Demengel, a 19-year-old job seeker, and her friend Dylan, 20, both wearing yellow vests, had driven about four hours from the Vosges region to Paris to protest for a second time.

    "We are fed up," said Ms. Demengel, noting that while Mr. Macron had announced some relief, "the students have nothing, the unemployed are still left by the wayside."
    "He didn't talk about small businesses," said Dylan, who declined to give his surname. He said that he was on a fixed-term contract as a pastry worker in a company that couldn't afford to hire him on a permanent contract because of taxes.
    "I'm not for his resignation," he added, referring to Mr. Macron, "but for a broad change in his policies."
    Mr. Macron's call for calm was echoed by many other government officials in the wake of the attack on Tuesday in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where four people were shot dead in what the authorities described as a terrorist attack. The suspect, Chérif Chekatt, was killed by the police on Thursday night.

    The government even released a video on Friday urging protesters to reconsider violence. "Protesting is a right," it said, but "protesting is not smashing."
    Demonstrators and journalists have complained about the police's heavy-handed tactics during recent protests. In a review published on Friday, Human Rights Watch said that France's "crowd-control methods maim people," pointing to cases where protesters were wounded by rubber projectiles and tear gas grenades.
    Kartik Raj, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, "Tactics which may be legitimate for deterring violent demonstrations are not an appropriate response to people gathered peacefully, and can cause horrific injuries."

    Daphné Anglès contributed reporting from Paris and Palko Karasz from London.

    8) Seven Civilians Killed as Indian Police Fire on Kashmir Protesters
    By Reuters, December 15, 2018
    Villagers watched the funerals of a rebel fighter and a civilian killed by Indian security forces on Saturday in Pulwama, Kashmir.

    ndian security forces shot dead seven civilians and wounded dozens of others on Saturday during a protest over the killing of three militants in a gun battle in restive Kashmir, the authorities said.
    A defense spokesman, Col. Rajesh Kalia, said the police operation had been spurred in response to intelligence reports about the presence of militants in a village in Pulwama district, south of the state's summer capital, Srinagar.
    "During the operation, militants fired upon troops, leading to a gun battle in which three militants were killed," he said.
    A senior police officer told Reuters that large numbers of civilians then gathered at the site, leading to clashes between with security forces, in which seven people were killed and about 50 others injured.
    A witness, Mohammad Ayuob, said Indian troops had fired at the civilians when they tried to retrieve the body of a militant.
    Jammu and Kashmir is mainly Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state. India and Pakistan both rule the region in part but claim it in full. India has accused Pakistan of fomenting trouble in its part of Kashmir, a charge that the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, denies.
    The Himalayan state has been particularly tense over the past few months as the Hindu nationalist party of India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, has pulled out of local government, leaving a power void.
    Widespread protests have broken out in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir over the killings. Security has been tightened and troops have rushed to potential hot spots. A curfew was imposed in Pulwama town and surrounding areas, according to news media reports.
    The separatist group Hurriyat Conference called for a three-day strike and protests across Kashmir.
    "Bullets and pellets rain," its chairman, Mirwaiz Omar, posted on Twitter, adding that supporters would march toward an army cantonment on Monday so that the Indian government could "kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily."
    The authorities have suspended train services in the Kashmir Valley and shut down mobile internet services to try to prevent the unrest from spreading.
    Indian security forces say they have killed 242 militants this year. In addition, 101 civilians and 82 security officials have also died, according to officials. The death toll is the highest in more than a decade.


    9) What Is Talc, Where Is It Used and Why Is Asbestos a Concern?
    By Ron Caryn Rabin, December 14, 2018
    Some products currently containing talc among their listed ingredients.

    Nearly 12,000 women have sued Johnson & Johnson, with most claiming the talc in its well-known product Johnson's Baby Powder caused their ovarian cancer. They now have a new potential legal front. 
    In a recent case, a group of plaintiffs argued that the talc was contaminated with asbestos, a carcinogen considered unsafe at any level of exposure. A jury agreed with them, and awarded them $4.69 billion in damages in July.

    Talc is a mineral in clay mined from underground deposits. It's the softest mineral known to man and that makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.
    Asbestos is also found underground, and veins of it can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination, geologists say. 

    Talc is used in many cosmetics: lipstick, mascara, face powder, blush, eye shadow, foundation and even children's makeup. In the list of ingredients, it can be listed as talc, talcum or talcum powder, cosmetic talc or magnesium silicate. Talc is added to cosmetics to create a silky feel and absorb moisture. Some brands make talc-free cosmetics.
    Talc is also used in food processing, and to make some supplements, pharmaceutical pills, chewing gum and polished rice. Consumer groups have also found it in crayons and children's toys, like crime-scene fingerprint kits.
    Talc was routinely applied to surgical gloves and condoms until the 1990s, when the Food and Drug Administration told manufacturers to stop using it because of health concerns
    And it's typically the primary ingredient in baby powder. Johnson's Baby Powder is made of talc, unless the bottle says "pure cornstarch" on the front. If you're using another brand, check the ingredients.
    Yes. Pediatricians have been warning parents for decades not to use powder on babies because of the risk a child will inhale or aspirate talc, which can cause choking and coughing and lead to respiratory illness or chronic disease and lung damage. This has nothing to do with asbestos.
    Cases of babies dying from choking on powder were reported as early as the 1960s, and since 1981, the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a strong position against the use of talc on babies and children, saying it is hazardous and has no medicinal value.
    Pediatricians suggest changing infants' diapers frequently to prevent rashes, and recommend using an oil-based ointment when necessary, rather than using talc.
    For teenagers or adults, cornstarch is a good alternative to using talc on the skin or genital area to stay dry and prevent chafing and irritation.
    Broadly speaking, the women claim that the powder caused their ovarian cancer because they used it for feminine hygiene for decades, and may have also inhaled airborne powder. 
    Some have argued that the talc mineral itself caused their cancer, while more recently, the claim emerged that it was asbestos contaminating the talc.
    ohnson & Johnson has the largest share of the talcum powder market, and has been selling Baby Powder and other similar products for more than 100 years. The company says that its talc does not contain asbestos, that claims that talc causes cancer are based on bad science and that it is appealing any jury verdicts against it.
    The F.D.A. last tested talc products in 2010 and found no asbestos, but it was provided raw talc from only four suppliers and tested only 24 commercial products. Experts who have analyzed talc on behalf of plaintiffs suing Johnson & Johnson say they have detected asbestos in talc products.
    The F.D.A. does not test cosmetics for safety. With the exception of color additives, neither makeup nor any of its ingredients require the agency's approval. The agency says it takes the possible presence of asbestos in cosmetics very seriously, but that manufacturers and marketers are responsible for their safety. 
    It points to voluntary standards set by the manufacturers' trade association, the Personal Care Products Council, which declared in 1976 that all talc products should be free of asbestos. The council has no way of enforcing the standard.


    10) New York City Agrees to Pay $2 Million to Family of Mentally Ill Woman Killed by Police
    By Matt Stevens and Joseph Goldstein, December 13, 2018
    Deborah Danner in an undated photo.

    New York City has agreed to a $2 million settlement with the family of a mentally ill woman who was fatally shot by a New York City police sergeant two years ago as she wielded a bat in the bedroom of her Bronx apartment, city officials said Thursday.
    The agreement, which was reached this week, is the latest development in a highly contentious and at times racially charged debate surrounding the death of the woman, Deborah Danner. The case became a flash point in national discussions over whether police officers are too quick to shoot people and whether they are adequately trained to work with people suffering from severe mental illness.
    Ms. Danner, a 66-year-old black woman, was shot by a white police sergeant, Hugh Barry, 32, on Oct. 18, 2016. The shooting drew swift condemnations from Mayor Bill de Blasio and James P. O'Neill, the police commissioner, who said Sergeant Barry had failed to follow protocols, though neither said he had committed a crime. Sergeant Barry was charged with several counts including second-degree murder in May 2017 and was acquitted on all of them by a State Supreme Court judge in February.

    Ricardo Antonio Aguirre, a lawyer for Ms. Danner's sister, said the settlement was reached Monday during mediation with the city. A court filing dated Wednesday said that an "agreement was reached on all issues."

    In a statement provided to The New York Times late Thursday, the New York City Law Department confirmed that the city had agreed to a settlement with Ms. Danner's family.
    "We carefully considered the facts impacting the civil claims against the city, including the criminal indictment of a responding officer and the disciplinary charges pending against him," the statement said. "This agreement is a fair resolution of a tragic case and hopefully it brings some measure of relief to the family. The city is committed to preventing these tragedies from happening."
    Mr. Aguirre, who represents the woman's sister, Jennifer Danner, called the settlement "fair." Jennifer Danner, who sued the city for damages in January, "feels good about closure," Mr. Aguirre added, though he said his client wanted Mayor de Blasio, Mr. O'Neill and other city officials to enhance training for patrol officers in dealing with emotionally disturbed people.
    The New York Police Department has, in the meantime, filed internal disciplinary charges against Sergeant Barry, although a trial date has not been set. The charges accuse Sergeant Barry of failing to follow police procedure governing the use of force when dealing with emotionally disturbed individuals, according to legal documents. He is also accused of failing in his supervisory capacity.
    Jennifer Danner, right, Deborah Danner's sister, held back tears outside the Bronx Supreme Court in February after Sgt. Hugh Barry was found not guilty on all charges stemming from the October 2016 shooting death of Deborah Danner.

    On Thursday night, Andrew C. Quinn, a lawyer for Sergeant Barry, said that his client was on modified duty, meaning he has been stripped of his gun and badge and has no enforcement duties, and that he was currently assigned to administrative work in Manhattan.

    Mr. Quinn declined to comment specifically about the city's settlement with Ms. Danner's family. He reiterated his contention that Sergeant Barry "did in fact follow his training" and had acted within departmental guidelines during the episode.
    The episode in question began on a Tuesday night in the Bronx. The police had been called by a building security guard because Ms. Danner had been ranting in a hallway and tearing posters off the wall.
    Sergeant Barry, who testified in his own defense earlier this year, said that when he arrived at Ms. Danner's seventh-floor apartment at 630 Pugsley Avenue he learned that Ms. Danner was in her bedroom with scissors and refused to come out.

    After a few minutes, he said, she slammed the scissors down on a nightstand and came just outside her bedroom door.
    Sergeant Barry said he figured Ms. Danner would not come any farther. He decided to grab her before she could return to the bedroom and pick up the scissors again. He nodded to the other officers and rushed her.
    But Ms. Danner retreated to the bedroom, jumped on the bed, and pulled a baseball bat from the bedclothes. Sergeant Barry ordered her to drop it. She stood up in a batter's stance and moved her foot toward him to start a swing. He fired twice into her torso.
    "I just see the bat swinging and that's when I fired," he testified.
    He said he could not back up because his colleagues were crowded close behind him. From the start, he maintained he had acted in self-defense.

    Still, at a three-week trial earlier this year, prosecutors argued that Sergeant Barry had rushed to subdue Ms. Danner, forcing the fatal confrontation. They faulted him for not learning details of two recent encounters Ms. Danner had with the police. And once he entered the apartment, prosecutors said, he could have called for help from a police unit specializing in dealing with the mentally ill.
    In a telephone interview on Thursday night, Mr. Aguirre reiterated a point many have made since the shooting took place. Deborah Danner, he said, "was a paranoid schizophrenic, not a criminal."

    ames C. McKinley Jr. and Andrew R. Chow contributed reporting.


    11) In Paris, 'Yellow Vest' Protests Cut Sharply Into City's Luxury Trade
    By Elizabeth Paton, December 17, 2018
    Riot police outside the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Élysées. Violent demonstrations have forced retailers to close in the midst of their busiest season.

    From the Champs Élysées to Avenue Montaigne and along the Rue St.-Honoré, the glossiest and most glamorous shopping streets of central Paris are usually bustling on Saturdays in December. 
    Tourists and local residents alike, many of them wearing fur or cashmere and laden with bags, hurry into glittering temples of French heritage like Chanel and Dior, Longchamp and Ladurée to stock up on holiday gifts. 
    This year, that has changed.
    Five straight weekends of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron and his economic policies by members of the so-called Yellow Vest movement have caused some of the worst civil unrest France has experienced in more than a decade. Storefronts have been smashed, cars have been set ablaze and some of Paris's best-known landmarks have been damaged. 
    The number of protesters dwindled significantly this past Saturdaycompared with previous weekends, but many shops were closed nonetheless in anticipation of further violence, including those owned by the French group Kering, including Gucci, Balenciaga.

    The luxury-goods industry, one of France's top export categories and a major driver of tourism in Paris, has been hit hard during its most important month of the year. A police lockdown and fears of widespread vandalism prompted executives at several high-profile companies to close their Paris stores, and their mouths, after some protesters seized on French fashion logos as symbols of inequality and elitism. 
    Some chief executives, however, did stick their heads above the parapet.

    Jean-Philippe Hecquet, chief executive of Lanvin, said the company had closed its flagship store near the Champs-Élysées for three weekends for its employees' safety. 
    "This time of year is the most important selling period for Lanvin, with December counting for at least two regular months of full-price sales," Mr. Hecquet said. "One could say that our online business could cover our losses, but when it comes to shopping for luxury ready-to-wear, physical stores remain very important." 
    Dior, Burberry and Kering all declined to comment on how the protests were affecting sales. Chanel confirmed only that its stores had been closed as a safety precaution, although Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director, noted in an interview with New York magazine last week: "I like the moment we are living through, but not the 'yellow raincoats' in the street."

    Some people in the industry expressed concerns that luxury brands could become targets in a workers' revolt against the increasingly unpopular Mr. Macron.

    The protests have already taken a heavy toll. Retailers across all sectors have lost approximately 1 billion euros, about $1.1 billion, since the protests began, according to the French Retail Federation.
    Bruno Le Maire, the finance minister, has declared the riots "a catastrophe" for the French economy. Small retailers — many of which have also been forced to close — revenue that was 20 to 40 percent below expectations this month, he said. Hotel reservations were down 25 percent, and restaurants in Paris had seen revenue collapse 20 percent to 50 percent depending on their location, he added. 
    Fears are growing that Paris could enter a sharp downturn similar to the one that followed the terrorist attacks of 2015.
    "You don't want to shop at Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Élysées when cars are burning on the street," said Mario Ortelli, managing partner of the luxury advisers Ortelli & Company. "You don't want to walk around with an Hermès bag when there's a violent protest happening."
    Marc-Andre Kamel, the head of Bain's retail practice for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said that while sales elsewhere might help luxury brands with global footprints offset the losses in Paris, wholesale department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps were more likely to experience a blunt impact from the protests, since regional stores outside Paris are affected by disruption in other cities.

    "It is a grim situation for those retailers," Mr. Kamel said. "Just how bad will be seen when sales figures are released early next year."
    Until the protests began, Mr. Kamel said, "it had been a relatively decent year" for luxury spending.

    "For France as a brand, for luxury players, who are a major reason many people travel here, these are nerve-racking times," he added.
    Yet, there a quiet sense of defiance was in evidence on some street corners. 
    Around the Place Vendôme, a hub of luxury jewelry shops and designer stores, rioters had smashed windows and built barricades on recent weekends. Many of the shops had boarded their windows up entirely, blocking everything inside from view. 
    Other stores, like Louis Vuitton, created giant, clear barriers instead, allowing a showcase for sparkling Christmas trees framed by expensive shoes, handbags and accessories, a reminder that those dream purchases were still available, if out of reach for many.
    Jean Cassegrain, the chief executive of Longchamp, said some of his Paris stores were closed and security had been added at others. But he emphasized that luxury brands were not the primary object of the protesters' ire.
    "The protests did not target luxury stores specifically: bus stops, cafes, construction sites, cars were also damaged," he said. "This is a moment in the life of the city. Paris remains a great and enjoyable city for residents and for tourists."
    Nevertheless, for an industry that builds itself on trading in branded aspiration and fantasy, the recent upheaval in luxury's capital city has undeniably tarnished that image. Just how badly will only become clear in the coming weeks.


    12) What Can Make a 911 Call a Felony? Fentanyl at the Scene
    By Peter Andrey Smith, December 17, 2018
    Eric Weil sits in the bedroom of his home that was once occupied by a friend's son who was struggling with addiction. Mr. Weil was prosecuted after calling 911 to report finding drugs belonging to the youth.

    ALTON, N.H. — Eric Weil, a gregarious 50-year-old painter who lives in a wooded neighborhood hugging the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, never suspected he would face felony charges when he called 911 last August.
    He had agreed to take in a friend's son who was struggling with addiction, on the condition that no drugs be brought into his house. When Mr. Weil discovered a packet of white powder in the guest bedroom, he called 911. "Somebody's messed up in my house," he recalled saying. "He's on drugs. I don't know what he's on. Can we get somebody here?"
    When officers arrived, Mr. Weil tried to hand over the packet, but was told to drop it onto his gravel driveway. He did, but picked it up again out of concern, he later said, that his Yorkshire terrier, Schnoogabutch, or his free-range chickens would be exposed.
    As he picked up the packet, some powder got on his index finger and he blew it off. The police later said that he blew "a large cloud" of the powder toward them, exposing one officer to fentanyl, an opioid whose use has driven up the number of overdose deaths nationwide to a record high.

    Mr. Weil was charged with reckless conduct, something akin to waving a loaded gun in the air. Prosecutors argued that fentanyl was a deadly weapon.
    As stories circulate of the lethality of powdered fentanyl and its cousin, carfentanil, similar cases have been brought in Maine, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Kentucky, with charges ranging from wanton endangerment to assault.
    At least two people are serving sentences of up to three years. In the widely reported case of an Ohio officer who was said to have nearly died after brushing some fentanyl off his shirt, a man pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 18 months. More than 10 other cases are pending.
    Medical professionals say that the risks from accidental exposure to opioids, even potent ones, are actually very low. The prosecutions have been driven by fear, they say — not science. None of the incidents has caused a death, or even symptoms of opioid overdose, a review of the available evidence shows.
    Even so, fear is rampant: there has been no shortage of warnings that unidentified powders can kill. A 2016 video by the Drug Enforcement Administration warned law enforcement that touching fentanyl or breathing in just a few airborne particles could be fatal.

    Dozens of police officers and medics have been given naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, to treat suspected on-the-job exposures. Those affected have often complained of dizziness, nausea, and lightheadedness. Some pass out.
    In Ohio, after a prisoner overdosed, 23 correction officers and four nurses were treated for possible opioid exposure, 31 inmates were relocated, and a nearby school was placed on modified lockdown.
    "I never want to be in a position where I have to go see a family member, a wife, kids, and explain to them why their father or husband is not coming home that evening, or ever, for that matter," Ryan Heath, the police chief in Alton, N.H., where Mr. Weil was charged, said in an interview.
    "Everybody knows it's a dangerous substance," Chief Heath added. "I've seen it on the news."
    More recently, the Justice Department released another video, urging emergency medical workers to use precautions like gloves, eye protection and a face mask. In several cases, officers and emergency workers have conducted drug busts while wearing biohazard containment suits.
    But such messages worry doctors, who contend that these precautions are unnecessary and could even do harm, stigmatizing patients — as happened in the early years of the AIDS crisis — and causing deadly delays while responders don protective gear.
    "I want to tell first responders: 'Look, you're safe,'" said Dr. Jeremy S. Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital in Boston. "You can touch these people. You can interact with them. You can go on and do the heroic lifesaving work that you do for anyone else."
    True, a dose of powdered fentanyl the size of a few grains of sand can prove lethal, and carfentanil is even more potent. But the drugs must generally be deliberately ingested, not accidentally touched or inhaled, to cause a reaction.

    "I would say it's extraordinarily improbable that a first responder would be poisoned by an ultra-potent opioid," Dr. David Juurlink, a clinical researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said. "I don't say it can't happen. But for it to happen would require extraordinary circumstances, and those extraordinary circumstances would be very hard to achieve."
    For exposure by inhalation, powdered drugs would have to be aerosolized; for absorption through the skin, they would have to be dissolved in liquid or formulated with a "permeation enhancer," according to a scholarly article.
    To counter the false alarm, toxicologists released a formal position paper last year, saying the risks involved in touching or inhaling powdered forms of fentanyl are "extremely low."
    If that were not the case, said Dr. Kenneth A. Williams, a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University in Providence, one would expect to see more reports of exposure involving people who use drugs, or ordinary civilian bystanders. But virtually all of the cases involve the police and other emergency personnel.
    Experts say the symptoms that are reported, like nausea and dizziness, may be real, but could stem from an expectation of harm, commonly known as the "nocebo" effect — the placebo effect's evil twin.
    In one Kentucky case, an emergency medical technician named Scottie Wightman radioed for help after he used a towel to dry off a patient who overdosed. He lost consciousness and was treated with naloxone, but his drug test was negative for opiates.
    "What was going through my mind was, 'Here I am trying to help someone and keep them alive, and I almost died doing that,'" Mr. Wightman said in an interview. "I'm supposed to be helping someone, yet in my mind, it's like they just tried to kill me."

    Three people have each been charged with 10 counts of wanton endangerment as a result of the episode. One of them, the patient who overdosed, recently pleaded guilty. The case against his stepson, Scotty Hatton, who had called 911, is still pending.
    Mr. Hatton said he had lost custody of his son and that local officials had thrown all his possessions over fears of contamination. "I would understand if they found a bunch of dope or had a test that said, 'Yeah, that's carfentanil,'" Mr. Hatton said. "But they had no test or anything."
    Had he not called 911, he said, his stepfather could have died, laying Mr. Hatton open to "some kind of manslaughter charge, or murder, or something like that." If he had it to do over, he would call 911 again, he said: "I didn't want him to die."
    In Mr. Weil's case, the officer who was reportedly exposed, Jamie Fellows, wrote, "The cloud of fentanyl came down around me and I had breathed in a portion of the powder." Officer Fellows said he felt something drip down the back of his throat, and later complained of a headache. He declined a request for comment.
    An emergency medical technician employed by Alton Fire and Rescue who treated Officer Fellows that night observed that he had an ordinary respiratory rate and blood oxygen saturation. After consulting a doctor, the technician determined that the officer required no treatment and had "no apparent illness or injury."
    The prosecutor, Adam Woods, offered no evidence that Mr. Weil had caused injury, but said that was not the point. "What he's charged with doing is knowing that that substance was dangerous, disregarding that danger, that risk, and recklessly blowing it in the air," Mr. Woods said in an interview. "He's not charged with calling the police. He's not charged with possessing the drug."
    Mr. Weil was convicted by a jury in September.
    His lawyer, Harry N. Starbranch Jr., asked that the verdict be overturned, arguing that there was no evidence that fentanyl was a deadly weapon or that Officer Fellows ingested any. On Nov. 1, the judge granted the motion, setting aside the verdict. The prosecutor has vowed to retry the case.

    Mr. Weil, who said he spent more than $10,000 on legal fees and another $300 on security cameras trained on his driveway, said the experience had changed him.
    "If ever I go into a situation where somebody's O.D.-ing, I'm going to stand over them and watch them die," he said. "If they say, why didn't I call? Are you out of your mind? The last time I called somebody, I got a Class B felony."

    Jose A. Del Real contributed reporting from Los Angeles.


    13) They Grabbed Her Baby and Arrested Her. Now Jazmine Headley Is Speaking Out.
    By Ashley Southall and Nikita Stewart, December 16, 2018
    Jazmine Headley

    Jazmine Headley took her baby boy to a public benefits office in Brooklyn on a recent Friday to find out why the city had abruptly stopped paying for him to go to day care while she worked cleaning offices.
    Nearly four hours later Ms. Headley, 23, left the Boerum Hill facility in handcuffs, after police officers and security guards pried her son from her arms in a chaotic arrest that began when she got into a dispute over whether she was allowed to sit on the floor.
    The incident, caught on cellphone videos and shared widely online, has propelled her into the center of a public reckoning over how the city treats people seeking public assistance.

    n the last week, Ms. Headley has become a cause célèbre for New Yorkers who depend on food stamps and cash public assistance and who say they are often met with hostility and are sometimes threatened with arrest at city benefits offices.

    "It's the story of many other people, it's not just my story," Ms. Headley said in an interview. "My story is the only one that made it to the surface."
    Her arrest highlighted the tension that plays out in public benefit offices throughout the city every day. People seeking benefits are usually under tremendous financial strain and are dealing with an unyielding bureaucracy, and city workers at these offices are under pressure to follow rules, ferret out abuse and keep order.
    Those strains occasionally boil over into physical confrontations and arrests, officials said, an outcome that can have lifelong consequences for people already struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder. Since January 2017, law enforcement agencies have been called to food-stamp offices across the city 2,212 times and have arrested 97 people, mainly for assault and offenses against public administration, the police said.
    Ms. Headley had had a difficult two years — a disappointing move to North Carolina, a failed relationship with her son's father and an arrest on charges of credit-card fraud in New Jersey.
    On Thursday, she notified the city that she plans to file a potentially lucrative lawsuit to prevent what happened to her from happening to others.

    The political fallout from her detention was another blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio's image as a champion of the poor. Mr. de Blasio has apologized to Ms. Headley, but he drew harsh criticism from other Democrats for waiting several days before condemning the arrest.
    For the city's police commissioner, James P. O'Neill, who has committed to training officers to recognize unconscious biases and to de-escalate tensions, the incident raised questions about whether that coaching is taking hold among officers.
    "They never asked me my name," Ms. Headley said. "They never said, 'Hello, who are you?' They never asked me."
    In the interview, Ms. Headley said she tried to leave the office with her son shortly after the police showed up. The officers had been called because Ms. Headley had a heated argument with a female security guard, who told her she could not sit on the floor.
    She picked up her baby and started to leave, but the police said the guard grabbed her arm, and they all tumbled to the floor. Ms. Headley said she tried again to go, but a male police officer told her it was too late. She went into "defense mode," she said.
    "In my head, I told myself they're not going to let me leave," she said. "I was so afraid. I was combative with my thoughts."
    Ms. Headley grew up in Brooklyn, where she is raising her son, Damone Buckman III, in her mother's apartment in the Brevoort Houses, where she has lived since she was 3 years old. She went to public schools and worked briefly at a nonprofit that helps developmentally disabled adults.
    Suzanne Jones, the program's case manager, said that Ms. Headley was driven and knew how to stand her ground. "You don't roll over Jazmine," she said. "She's always going to push her way through."
    Ms. Headley said it was too upsetting to watch video of the incident.
    Ms. Headley stayed on with the nonprofit, Jewel Human Services, for nine months until she said she fell in love and moved to Charlotte, N.C., to join her boyfriend.
    That summer, she was arrested outside Trenton, N.J., and charged with taking part in an identity theft and credit-card fraud scheme, prosecutors said. The police seized five phony cards with her name on them.
    Her relationship broke up around the time she gave birth to Damone in June 2017, her mother said. Her savings from her job at a Belk department store ran out a couple of months later, and she returned to New York, where she went on public assistance — a monthly allowance of $280 in food stamps and $140 in cash.
    In September, she went back to work cleaning offices part time for $13 an hour. Her benefits were cut after she started working, but the city still paid $1,200 each month for Damone's day care. Then that payment stopped, too.
    Ms. Headley had taken that Friday off work after the owner of her son's day care told her Damone could not return if the payment issue was not fixed.
    She packed a bag with snacks for him, as well as his favorite toy, a figurine of Chase, a police dog who stars on the children's television show, PAW Patrol.

    "My main objective was to get there, handle business and get home," Ms. Headley said.
    With Damone in a stroller, she arrived a few minutes before 10 a.m. at the Human Resources Administration office on Bergen Street and took a number for her turn to talk to a case worker who handles child-care assistance.
    At 12:20 p.m., she said, her turn came and a case worker told her that she would have to reapply for child care benefits, a process that could take up to a week.
    Determined to accomplish something, she decided to check the status of her cash allowance, for which she had reapplied in November. That meant taking another number, and more waiting.
    By then, Damone was getting restless. She said she took him to a play area, but workers turned her away because he is not toilet trained.
    All the seats in the main waiting area were taken, she said, so she sat on the floor with her back against the blue wall and talked to Damone, who was in a stroller to her right.
    A security guard came over and told Ms. Headley that she was blocking a fire zone and needed to move.
    Ms. Headley said she refused, noting that there were trash and recycling bins against the wall on the other side of Damone's stroller.

    "I just remember being talked to very viciously," she said. "It was more or less: 'You're going to do what I say, and that's it.'"
    The exchange grew heated, Ms. Headley said, and another security guard — the city calls them peace officers — came to demand that she move.
    Incensed, Ms. Headley said she asked to talk to a supervisor. The guards walked away, Ms. Headley said, and 10 minutes passed. Then they returned with two police officers.
    She picked Damone up and rose to her feet. One of the police officers told her they did not want to arrest her and she began to leave, holding Damone and pushing the stroller.
    Her memory of what happened next is blurry, she said. The police said the first guard grabbed Ms. Headley's arm and they fell to the ground.

    "I should've left, and I didn't because if I would've left, my son would not have the things that he needs," Ms. Headley said.
    Body-cameras worn by the officers recorded the guard telling Ms. Headley that if she did not leave she would be taken to central booking and the city's child-welfare agency would take her son away, according to a person briefed on the matter.

    "You're a joke," Ms. Headley replied, then turned to go, according to the person who was briefed. The peace officer replied: "Really?" then lunged at Ms. Headley and grabbed her arm, the person said, and "everyone tumbles down."
    If the guard "had just swallowed it, this would have been over," a law enforcement official briefed on the body-camera evidence said.
    A video posted on Facebook shows Ms. Headley trying to reason once more with the officers. "Let me get up," Ms. Headley tells the police officers, who appear to be speaking to her. "I have my rights. I have my rights." She sits upright on the floor, then says, "Don't touch me when I get up."
    But the two officers then restrained her while the two guards stripped Damone out of her arms. The baby shrieked while onlookers yelled at the police to leave her alone. Ms. Headley fought hard to hold onto him, gripping his shirt in her teeth.
    Gregory Floyd, the guards' union president, said the guards, Bettina Barnett-Weekes and Toyin Ramos-Williams, tried to reason with Ms. Headley for 40 minutes before the police arrived, and that there were rows of seats available in the waiting area. He said Ms. Barnett-Weekes was bitten during the fracas.
    As Ms. Headley's arrest began drawing attention worldwide — the Facebook videos have been seen more than 1.3 million times — the city social services commissioner suspended the two security guards and started the process of firing them.
    "I could only see my children in that situation, and it's just heartbreaking," the commissioner, Steven Banks, said.

    Mr. Banks said his agency was reviewing tactics for dealing with people accompanying children and would retrain the peace officers. The guards also will now be ordered to talk to a supervisor before calling the police, unless there is an immediate threat to someone's safety, he said.
    The bureaucratic headache that kept Ms. Headley at the Brooklyn office for hours is not unusual. The practice of prematurely closing public benefits cases and forcing recipients to reapply is so common that advocates for the poor have a word for it: churning.
    "They call the cops for everything, even if you're smoking outside," said Mae Green, an administrator at Bethel Baptist Church, a few doors down from the Boerum Hill office.
    Synthia Jean, 38, said she left the Boerum Hill office last month after waiting six hours for officials to reissue a check that was dated for April, but had arrived in November, and to give her an identification card to cash it. She said public benefits offices are "just a bunch of aggravation in one place."
    The Police Department has defended the actions of the two officers, saying the security guards were to blame for the incident getting out of hand. The Civilian Complaint Review Board is investigating the arrest.
    Police officials did not respond to questions about whether the officers followed the department's protocols.
    For Ms. Headley, the outpouring of sympathy that followed publicity of the arrest has brought her some relief.

    She is being represented by the Midtown law firm, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. Her public assistance benefits have been restored. The Brooklyn district attorney dropped charges of resisting arrest and child endangerment, and New Jersey authorities agreed to dismiss the unrelated charges against her if she completes a pretrial diversion program.
    "What happened was completely unacceptable and should never happen again in New York City," Mr. Banks said.
    Nate Schweber, Sean Piccoli and William Neuman contributed reporting.


    14)  Sons of Revolution: Vietnam's New Protest Movement
    Hanoi's conservative leaders are increasingly haunted by Ho Chi Minh's legacy.
    By Tom Fawthrop, December 17, 2018

    Vietnamese shout anti-China slogans during a protest in Hanoi, Vietnam (March, 14, 2016).

    The extraordinary eruption of nationwide protest in June 2018 highlighted widespread fears in the Vietnamese populace that growing Chinese investment in Vietnam could undermine the nation's independence, and erode the legacy of founding father of the nation Ho Chi Minh.

    An environmental campaigner and NGO consultant, Ms. Huong, in an interview with The Diplomatcommented, the "Vietnamese people have long been very proud of their independence. They are ready to fight for it at any price. We can't stand being colonized or oppressed by outsiders.

    "The movement now against the SEZ [special economic zones] is in continuity with the past." (Ms. Huong — not her real name — requested anonymity to protect her work for civil society).

    During the summer protests, tens of thousands occupied the streets in Ho Chi Minh city. Thousands more demonstrated in six provinces nationwide in June 2018 in an attempt to block a controversial draft law that offered new special economic zones (SEZs) in three strategic locations, with 99-year leases on offer. Chinese companies were the front-runners to be the prime beneficiaries of these locations.

    Vietnam's Minister for Plan and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung hopes that the SEZs, located in special positions and run with special preferences, will become magnets for investments, thus helping economic development.

    In spite of ongoing conflict with China over disputed islands in the South China Sea, and recent protests over special economic zones, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently wooed Chinese investors at November's International Import Expo conference, held in Shanghai. China is Vietnam's top trading partner.

    Independent analyst and writer Nguyen Quang Dy, a former foreign ministry official, argues that China's soft power (including investment) is a complementary threat to their militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea. "Chinese crony firms would take over the SEZs as a 'soft invasion without fighting'" in accordance with Sun Tzu's Art of War, he said. "For those critical positions on land that China could not take by force, they would try to take over by investment"

    The Paradoxes of Special Economic Zones

    Corrupt local officials stand accused both by social media bloggers and the protest movement of "selling Vietnamese land in SEZ zones to Chinese investors." Critics say that the lack of good governances in SAEZs (special administrative economic zones) has endangered Vietnam's hard-won struggle for independence.

    The Vietnamese leaders, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) chief Nguyen Phu Trong, issued statements after the protests  acknowledging the concerns of the Vietnamese people. Phuc told the media that the government welcomed the "enthusiastic feedback" on the law and promised some revisions to the law would be made.

    The government leadership was caught off balance by the passion of the protests and the hostile pubic reaction and has now delayed the National Assembly vote on the draft law until May 2019.

    The new, amorphous opposition to the government's reliance on SEZs and Chinese investment for economic growth has resonated far beyond small groups of dissidents. Newly minted protesters include war veterans, intellectuals, civil society, and disgruntled cadres inside the Communist Party, who feel that Vietnam's "market-orientated socialism" has failed to uphold the principles of social justice.

    The late Bui Tin, the former deputy editor of the Nhan Dan, the Communist Party daily, was granted political asylum in France 1990 as an outspoken left-wing critic. Back in 1997, he explained to this correspondent in an interview from Paris that "the Communist Party is full of opportunists and privileged elites. The morality is lost. All is the search for dollars."

    Bui Tin was not alone in this sentiment. Many today inside Vietnam still cherish the revolutionary ideals of the nation's founding father, Ho Chi Minh, inspired more by a deep-seated nationalism rather than any allegiance to communism.

    Former advisor to the minister of planning and investment (2001 – 2006) Le Dang Doanh, a VCP member, was among the many intellectuals who signed a petition to the National Assembly, urging a postponement of the special economic zones law.

    In the past, dissident groups calling for human rights and multiparty democracy, backed by Vietnamese exile communities in the United States and France, had only marginal impact on the general public.

    This new genre of mass protest, which is capturing the imagination of a wider public, can be traced back to a 2007 campaign launched against a controversial Chinese investment in a bauxite mine in the Central Highlands.

    This was the first broadly based protest comprising prominent intellectuals, scientists, and CPV cadres, as well as Catholic activists and Buddhist monks.

    The movement gained a huge boost from the support of legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap. 55 years after he masterminded the epic defeat of the French colonial army at the battle of Bien Dien Phu, he emerged from retirement at the grand old age of 98 as the world's oldest green campaigner.

    In an open letter to the then-prime minister, Giap urged that the mining contract be scrapped on environmental grounds, and warned of the dangerous toxic sludge and damage it would inflict on that Montagnards, the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands.

    Bowing to public pressure, the prime minister invited scientific experts to advise the government and collaborate on minimizing the environmental damage from the bauxite exploitation.

    Professor Vo Quy, one of Vietnam's internationally awarded experts on environment and conservation, was one of the scientists who strongly opposed the bauxite project.

    In another challenge to the authorities, in 2015, hundreds of people staged weekly protests in Hanoi over a government plan to chop down 6,700 trees in the capital city's much-revered tree-lined boulevards. The protests pressured city officials to abandon their plan and Hanoi citizens' right to preserve their unique heritage won the day.

    The importance of Ho Chi Minh legacy's today, according to Southeast Asia specialist Anton Tsvetov, is that "The nation-building narrative in Vietnam that evolves not so much around 'Ho Chi Minh's  thought', but rather around the fight of the Vietnamese against foreign rule."

    According to Tsvetov, writing for Southeast Asia Globe, "It was the force that drove away the French and the United States, and then repelled Chinese aggression in 1979. The [CPV] sees itself  as a successor in a long line of heroes and rulers revered for protecting the realm from foreign invaders, especially China."

    The current protestors are convinced Vietnam's independence is again endangered by China. The movement is a convergence of disparate groups — bringing together pro-Western dissidents, partisans of Ho Chi Minh's independence struggles, war veterans, and a new generation of civil society activists.

    The current wave of anger directed at China, which also targets the government's lack of transparency and poor economic governance, is far more awkward and embarrassing for the government to handle.

    Civil society academic Nguyen Trinh (not his real name) observed that in the many different strands that have come together in today's protest movement, there are two different agendas: reformist and more radical.

    "There are at least two movements here," he explained. "One is arranged, controllable, aimed at bargaining to retain the current regime. People following this path can go home peacefully go home after the protest" or just sign petitions

    Many critics back a reformist agenda seeking to bring the party back to its original ideals of striving for a more egalitarian society based on social justice.

    But the other strand of the movement, Trinh explained, "is aimed at more radical changes and filled up with democratic ideas, which attracts a more brutal response from the police." The democratic ideas include the setting up of a multiparty democracy and the dismantling of one-party rule.

    Nine members of the "Brotherhood of Democracy" received harsh sentences for their role in the June demonstrations.

    Ms. Huong elaborated on the drive for change: "While most people trained abroad would like have a Western-style multiparty system, many Vietnamese would probably be okay with a single party. What most people really care about is having a system that works for the people, [one that is] less corrupt and more accountable."

    It is also clear that, in spite of the asymmetry of power between the giant neighbor to the north and Vietnam, the opposition demands a government that will more firmly stand up to China with greater vigilance in safeguarding the nation's independence.

    As Ho Chi Minh affirmed, "Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty."

    Tom Fawthrop is a freelance journalist and film-maker based in Southeast Asia.


    15)  The Gilets Jaunes and the Unions: A convergence over what?
    By Rachel Knaebel, Joe Hayes, December 18, 2018

    Originally published by Basta!, and translated by Joe Hayns.

    Translator's introduction

    Whilst the gilets jaunes' uprising began outside of the traditional organisations of the working class, and indeed continues without formal political institutions per se, it's development has, quite naturally, prompted every party and every union in France to respond. 

    Who though have they responded to? The largest-yet quantitative study of the jaunes found that of 160 interviewees, the huge majority are either inactifs (unemployed or retired; 25.5%), employés (service sector workers; 33.3%), ouvriers (industrial workers; 14.4%), or in professions intermédiaires (nurses, primary-school teachers; 5.2%) - in other words, they are very largely of the population that tends to live not from profits or rent, but from wages and social security.1 Just over 40% identify as left-wing to some extent, and three times as many identify as far-left (14.9%) as far-right (4.7%),though by far the largest single group consider themselves "neither right nor left" (33.1%).2 A full 40% of the respondents have been on strike at least once; 64% think that "the unions have no place in the movement". 

    And so, if "this signifier with a low symbolic charge, the gilet jaune, places the protest outside the world of work", as sociologists Etienne Penissat and Thomas Amossé wrote, it's wearers nevertheless appear to be overwhelmingly working class; if the yellow hi-vis is a "floating signifier" - and it has certainly not yet found an institutional referent in the labour movement - it is one that many trade unionists are attempting to harbour.3

    Rachel Knaebel's essay, published by Basta! On 7 December, delineates the various union confederations' changing orientation towards the jaunes, and gives some sense of the difficulties this still-unmoored movement has presented to trade union militants. 

    On Thursday 6 December, nearly three weeks after the first blockade, two days before gilets jaunes' "Act IV" protest, leaders of the union confederations came together to take account of the situation. From it came a collective declaration, signed by the CFDT, the CGT, the FO, the CFE-CGC, Unsa, and the FSU, in which the unions "called for the government to finally commit to genuine negotiations"; questions of "spending power, salaries, transport, housing, the presence and accessibility of public services, and the tax system must finally find concrete resolution", said the group comminuqué. The organisations also "denounce[d] all forms of violence in the expression of demands".

    The Solidaires union, present at the meeting, refused to sign the text, which it described as "hors sol" ('overground'; top-down): "a posture of union unity which does not mention the violence suffered by protestors over many years, and even worse over the last weeks, is inconceivable for Solidaires". The union would not "decide it is urgent to do nothing". 

    The links between the unions and the gilets jaunes are in the process of being made - cautiously. The CGT paraded in Paris against unemployment and precarity at the 1 December [Act III] demonstration, but at a distance from the jaunes, though there were rail worker (cheminot/es) trade unionists at their side. Similarly, in Toulouse, CGT and Solidaires militants marched together, though without a real "convergence" taking place. But for a week now, strike notices (préavis de grève) have multiplied across different sectors over the question of spending power and salaries, echoing many of the demands that have emerged from the gilets jaunes' movement. 

    In haulage, the CGT and FO called for an unlimited strike from the evening of Sunday 9th December, against the reduction of overtime pay. In the public sector, Solidaire has placed a strike notice until the New Year, from 10 to 31 December. The union denounced the "abandonment of public services and the closing of sites, leaving by the wayside a part of the population, and further increasing inequalities", raising questions that resonate directly with the movement. And, the CGT called for a national Day of Action on the 14 December, "for an immediate increase of salaries, pensions, and social protection." 

    "The unions' recent actions and the retirees' demonstrations nourished the movement"

    It remains to be seen if the other confederations will associate themselves with the Day of Action. "This cross-union meeting, it wasn't to suffocate the gilets jaunes movement, but to see if we could find a common position between the unions, like demanding together an increase in the SMIC [minimum wage] by €300, for example", explained Fabrice Angéï, confederal secretary of the CGT. "We haven't waited for this meeting to act. There are strikes everyday across companies. The gilets jaunes, it's a movement which questions and interrogates, even positively, through its power. There are daily actions in France. In Bandol, in the Var, everywhere I go, there's always a blockade. But the movement doesn't come from nowhere. The unions' recent actions and the retirees' demonstrations nourished the movement." 

    The revolt of the gilets jaunes comes after a series of large-scale social movements over the last years: against Hollande's changes to the labour law in 2016, then Nuit debout, then Macron's own changes to the labour law (confirmed at the end of 2017), and then the long, brilliant strike of the rail workers (cheminot/es) against the reforms and the privatization of the SNCF – without forgetting a multitude of local mobilisations, from postal workers to nurses. The reforms were passed each time with only the narrowest room given to negotiations, and without with government listening to questions about work conditions and safety, as it weakened employment rights, opened up rail provision to competition, and closed lines and stations. 

    "The unions haven't successfully built the necessary mobilisations"

    These movements were quelled in the street, in the courts, and through threats of redundancies at the SNCF. "We might remember that classic union movements have not been able, over the last few years, to make any social advances. One consequence that is that anger that was muted, it's being heard today", say Fabrice Angéï. "Amongst the gilets jaunes, there are so many retirees, so many precarious people, unemployed people. Our terrain is, before anywhere else, the world of work. It's a question which we're posed with, the unions, how to reach out to these categories too".

    Éric Beynel, spokesperson for Solidaires, suggests something similar: "the unions haven't successfully built the necessary mobilisations to struggle against social injustices. On the labour law, we would have had to blockade the economy through strikes, but we didn't manage to do it", he said. "For us, this movement of the gilets jaunes is part of what happened with Nuit debout, which also started through petitions, on social media, and blockades were are an important element of it, too."

    "A rejection of union structures"

    But, they happened on a different scale: Nuit debout was initiated in Paris, at the place de la République, whilst the jaunes appeared across the four corners of France, in areas the car is the condition of travelling. "We have here, with the gilets jaunes, a movement strong from the start, and very popular", says Annick Coupé, former spokesperson of Solidaires, and secretary general of Attac. "I think that the gilets jaunes have an awareness that the struggles of these last years were smashed by the intransigence of the government and that, in order to be heard, we have to find other ways, other forms. It is a very political movement: there are immediate demands around taxes, and basic social questions have been posed, about public services, and the abandonment of areas. The question of real equality in these areas is fundamental. Demands over wages, the social safety net, and of maximum salaries have also emerged."

    The confederations seem now less distrustful of the movement, and less reserved than at first. On the part of the gilets jaunes though, on the contrary, mistrust of all structures remains strong. In these conditions, can one envisage a convergence? "The links between the union movement, over issues like the SNCF, for example, cannot be built other than at the local level. There is, in this movement, a rejection of union structures. At the same time, when people go to them as militants, they're not chased off." Attac, who have for two decades militated for a more just financial system, and the regulation of the financial markets, and shared their pamphlets on the 1 December protest. "I didn't hear of them being thrown aside", said Annick Coupé

    "There's no question of going with people who bring xenophobic discourses, and a rejection of the other".

    Could a meeting between union militants and gilets jaunes really happen? On the 1 December, the different groups protesting crossed paths, without truly converging. Will it be otherwise on the 8 December? And after? 

    Wage increases, a reinstating of the impôt sur la fortune (the "wealth tax"), and cancelling the increase to retirees' contribution sociale généralisée (CSG) are points of agreement. But, there's a problem: "it's not an organisation, there are no leaders. Given this, it's more complicated to meet", said Fabrice Angéï. "There are however exchanges and contacts, locally. Some gilets jaunes have called up local union branches. We don't have a pamphlet with the logo of the CGT and the gilets jaunes, of course, as we do with other union organisations. The convergence will be made from shared proposals." 

    Were the racist, anti-migrant, and homophobic statements that appeared from some blockades and from certain groups of protestors part of the reason for the unions' initial caution? "There's no question of going with people who bring a xenophobic discourses, and a rejection of the other. We can no longer bring bosses' proposals of abolishing benefits, which is a wage during periods of illness or unemployment. We won't converge over simply anything", said Fabrice Angéï. 

    Coming together?

    "With Solidaire, we have made an assessment of the situation, at the level of local sections. In a certain number of departments, there are common actions, some meetings, with the gilets jaunes. In Montpelier, Béziers, in Toulouse, things are coming together. In other places, like Pas-de-Calais and Vendée, it's impossible, since the movement has been infiltrated by the groups of the extreme right", says Eric Beynel. "The strongest brake on a convergence, so far as the unions are concerned, is the important presence of the extreme right in the this movement. On the part of the gilets jaunes, it's the distrust towards all forms of organisation, especially the unions. If these two are overcome, we could have a general (global) social movement".

    The presence of the extreme right within the gilets jaunes, even it is not the majority - is it the principle block to a true convergence of the social movements? "There are indeed attempts at co-optation by the extreme right, but we have to go beyond them", says Annick Coupé. "Amongst the unions' protests, we've also encountered sexist or homophobic slogans. We can never ignore them, never leave them be. But a revolt, an anger, is not chemically pure".

    1. Being the definitions used by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques  

    2. A caveat - respondents were asked to identify their politics from 1-7, with 1 being "left", and 7 "right". I have assumed that "1" was intended as something approximating far-left. 

    3. Anglophone leftists owe a debt to the editors of Verso's blog and especially to David Fernbach, for their tireless translating of the France-based left's writing over the last month. 



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