Saturday, December 31, 2011

Barack Obama Signs "Detention" Bill

See you all in hell. By which I mean Guatanamo Bay.

In a move that has horrified civil liberties advocates (not to mention thousands upon thousands of Americans) President Barack Obama signed today a controversial defense authorization bill which contains amendments authorizing the White House to detain persons of interest in terrorism investigations indefinitely by using the US military:
The White House had said that the legislation could lead to an improper military role in overseeing detention and court proceedings and could infringe on the president’s authority in dealing with terrorism suspects. But it said that Mr. Obama could interpret the statute in a way that would preserve his authority. 
The president, for example, said that he would never authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, because “doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.” He also said he would reject a “rigid across-the-board requirement” that suspects be tried in military courts rather than civilian courts.
Basically, he has given himself the authority to detain Americans without due process but really really wants us to know that he is going to do the right thing and not use that authority. Right.

Keep in mind he also was going to ease federal restrictions on medical marijuana laws yet has instituted crackdowns on dispensaries in Washington State. He promised to have more lax deportation standards but instead has deported more immigrants than any previous president. So are we supposed to trust him?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Have A Very Nerdy New Year

I couldn't help myself. Happy New Year!

Thanks to Marcia R. and her loud roommate for making this beauty.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Also, I Like It When Men Serenade Each Other For Charity

My favorite winter song made adorbs by Mister Chase and Chris Salvatore. Plus if you download it you'll be donating money to charity!

Happy Holidays And All That Crap

I've been busy schlepping around the country enjoying my winter break, but I thought I'd stop by the blog to give a quick shout-out to all my readers.

It's been a fantastic year, marked with some amazing events. If it weren't for this blog, I'd probably have no focus and little determination; it's because of you guys that I have the drive and motivation to improve my life and the lives of others around me.

So thank you, dear readers. Whether we spend these days alone or with family, I want you to know that you're ALL family to me.

From OneAngryQueer and all our guest writers*, Happy Holidays.

*And guest writers? If you don't start posting I'm firing the lot of you. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yes, Discrimination Against HIV+ Employees Still Exists

The US has laws on the books that prevent on-the-job discrimination against employees working in the States who are living with HIV. It's fantastic legislation that I have been grateful for since my positive test result in January, 2009. I have felt secure since then because I felt that I would be be protected in the workplace.  Maybe I shouldn't have that false sense of security, as it is plain that discrimination is still taking place.
One former employee isn't smiling.

One HIV-positive man in a Michigan dental office called Great Expressions is now alleging that his employees and coworkers, once they found out he carried the virus, created a horribly uncomfortable environment at work. They sprayed him with Lysol, ordered him to not touch doorknobs, and eventually fired him over his serostatus.
Lawyers for James White have called his case the worst case of alleged HIV-related job discrimination they have ever handled. According to White, who was an office assistant at Great Expressions Dental Center, his superiors leaked news of his HIV-positive status to fellow coworkers, several of whom began spraying White with Lysol, prohibiting him from touching doorknobs, and wiping down office furniture and equipment after he used it. Finally, during a stint in the hospital to seek care for his HIV, Great Expressions allegedly called White and told him not to return to work.
White has already sought legal action against Great Expressions, with the Detroit chapter of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling that there was probable cause to believe that the office discriminated against him because of his serostatus. Great Expressions has ignored the ruling, however a petition has been created with 37,500 signatures at the time of this writing demanding an apology from the administrators of the office.

Just to be clear about the law in the US regarding HIV-positive employees, I got this clarification from the website for the National Association of Social Workers:
Individuals with disabilities are protected under the Americans with DisabilitiesAct (ADA). Persons with HIV, whether they have outwardly manifested symptoms or not, are considered to have physical impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. Therefore, the ADA covers them.The ADA gives federal civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities. It also guarantees equal opportunity in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. Recent court decisions and pending legislation may affect this protection of HIV-positive people against discrimination.

Equal Employment Opportunity Laws (EEOP) cover all private employers, state and local governments, and education institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. They also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees controlling apprenticeship and training.

[Employment practices covered by the ADA] include hiring, firing, job application procedures, job interviews, job assignment, training and promotions, and wage benefits, including health insurance, leave, and other employment related activities.Employers who know an employee is HIV-positive are required to make "reasonable accommodations" for that person.
Great Expressions is clearly violating the law as mandated by the federal government.

People are often taken aback with my willingness to disclose my status, and James White is a perfect example why. People can't hold prejudices or unfair stigma against people living with HIV when someone they like or respect is open about their serostatus. I look forward to the day when this sort of disgusting harassment ends.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Video: Port Shutdown by Ken Lapworth

One of our fabulous Occupy supporters and Livestream viewers, Ken Lapworth, was on-scene for our Port action on December 12th. You may remember him from his last video about the Portland eviction. His latest installment is found below.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Memos, Conference Calls, and Police PR

In recent weeks, Occupy encampments around the country have faced numerous obstacles imposed upon them by local and municipal authorities. Major evictions have happened in nearly every metropolitan area that can claim an Occupation as its own, with many Occupiers alleging that their forceful evictions included instances of police brutality ranging from pepper spray to Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) use.

Many of these evictions happened within days of each other, leading Occupiers to speculate that widespread coordination on a national level had taken place. Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, in a rambling radio interview with the BBC, was kind enough to confirm that some coordination had taken place, letting slip that an informal call between 18 city governments regarding Occupy had taken place on October 10th.

Thanks, Mayor Quan!

Curious about Seattle's possible involvement in that call, Alex-Jon (AJ) Earl, a dedicated Occupy supporter and sometime reader of OneAngryQueer, requested from Mayor McGinn's office all Occupy-related memos and e-mails that had been communicated between the dates of October 15th and November 16th. They released to him a huge batch of documents equaling hundreds of pages of PDF files. He scoured them, and came up with some interesting information. I was pleased to sit down with him last night and examine some of the documentation provided.

For instance, did you know that Mayor Sam Adams spent a considerable amount of time making phone calls personally to other cities in the country regarding the Occupy movement?

An e-mail from mayoral staffer Beth Hester to journalist Christ Grygiel.

Also, a survey that saw little-to-no publicizing was initiated by officials in Philadelphia in order to aggregate information regarding Occupy and the statistics related to each city's occupation:

Reviewing the survey, it asks questions regarding how many arrests were made, whether or not protesters had blocked bridges, and probes how homeless populations had moved in with Occupations. All in all, it was an interesting read. Why was the government of Philadelphia trying to get information about each Occupation? Were they forming a database?

This, as we dug deeper, is not in of itself a scandal. After all, they're just talking about past experiences with and observations of their Occupations, right?

Braden Pence, one of the members of Occupy Seattle's legal team, did further digging through the documents and turned up even more interesting information. After all, AJ requested the documents in order to further research telephone coordination between mayoral staffs addressing the Occupy movement. They asked, how exactly was Mayor McGinn's office involved?

That's when Braden and AJ struck gold: the Mayor's office, thus far, had told the press that they were not invited to participate in Mayor Quan's now-infamous "informal teleconference" coordinated by the United States Conference of Mayors (UCSM). Multiple press inquiries were met with repeated denials once the news broke on the 15th. Mayor McGinn's office, evidently, was swamped with media requests on that day regarding the teleconference:

Please note in this inquiry that Sean Whitcomb, who works in the Seattle Police Department's Office of Public relations, is referenced. He comes up later.

Again and again, the Mayor's office denied involvement with that conference call, and there is no evidence to indicate that they were, in fact, involved. The thing that astounded us, however, is that they made no mention that they were participating in another less-publicized conference call regarding unspecified topics related to the Occupy movements.

The story about Mayor Quan's story broke on the morning of the 15th of November. However, after dating the e-mails, it is now apparent that on the 14th (the day before) correspondence took place in the Mayor's office suggesting the Mayor sit in on a conference call on the 16th, a detail conveniently unmentioned when press inquiries were made.

Note that Shauna Larsen is the City of Seattle's federal liaison based in Washington DC. Tom Cochran is the CEO of the US Conference of Mayors. 

Larsen then recommended that someone from the Mayor's office attend the call:

Unfortunately, Mayor McGinn was unavailable. However, turns out one of his staffers was: 

Ethan Raup is the director of Policy and Operations. Allison Burson is the Mayor's Executive Assistant.

Yes. Ethan can take that call. No problem.

Keep in mind that the original invitation from the USCM to participate in an Occupy teleconference for November 16th was sent out on the 14th, two days prior. Mayor Quan's gaffe that revealed inter-city communications regarding Occupations nationwide was reported on the 15th, and the media requests above were received by the Mayor's office that day at the same time this conference for the 16th was being scheduled. 

Did they technically give the correct answer when asked about the November 10th call? Oh, sure. Did they blithely forget to mention that they were busily scheduling another call coordinated by the USCM to address the issue of the Occupy movement? Definitely.

So, at this point, we were intrigued by the documents buried in countless pages of what amounted to memo spam; letters about permits and sound ordinances that surrounded short communiques scheduling conference calls that had the potential to affect a large and attention-grabbing movement. Why didn't they mention it? 

Whatever their reasons, that wasn't the only thing Braden and AJ found.

Everyone knows who Dorli Rainey is. The 84-year-old former schoolteacher and mayoral candidate, on November 15th (the day everyone was busily calling the Mayor to get a clear story and only getting half an accurate picture), happened to be on-scene during one of Occupy Seattle's protests, and ended up getting pepper-sprayed while standing on a sidewalk. She had the misfortune to be observing the mounting tensions between OS and the Seattle Police Department that night and got a face full of pepper spray as a result. The iconic photo that resulted from that night's events can be found here

In response to the incident (which almost instantly garnered horrific press for the SPD), the mayor began circulating his official apology among staffers to get their input. What's remarkable is that one of the people involved in that chain of e-mails is Sean Whitcomb (remember him from earlier?), a Sergeant in the SPD who works in the Office of Public Relations.  The original, unaltered version of his apology can be found below: 

But Sergeant Whitcomb had some suggestions: 
The perfect person to amend the mayor's apology regarding police brutality: a member of the police department.

In the end, this is what the Mayor released:
I also called in Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and the command staff to review the actions of last night. They agreed that this was not their preferred outcome. Here are the steps we are taking in response, to achieve a better outcome next time: 
• Reviewing with our officers the deployment of pepper spray last night
• Developing a procedure to ensure appropriate commanders are on the ground at these kinds of events.
• Making sure that we have appropriate levels of police resources at protest events.
While the Mayor didn't exactly conform his statement to Whitcomb's advice, it is clear that Mike McGinn altered his apology for the indiscriminate pepper spraying of peaceful protesters by SPD at the urging of... a member of SPD. Who is working for who, exactly? Does the SPD work at the direction of City Hall, or does City Hall form its policy at the behest of the Seattle Police Department?

Unfortunately, we don't have documentation of further communications on these matters. We don't have any e-mails confirming that Ethan Raup actually attended the teleconference nor do we know his thoughts on the call. We don't know what further advice the Mayor's office received from the Seattle Police Department's office of Public Relations. AJ's request for information only covered communications up to November 16th.

Regardless of assumptions and speculations, it is clear that we don't know everything that passes between various departments and mayoral staffers regarding matters related to Occupy Seattle. What was spoken about in that conference call? Why is the Mayor apologizing for police brutality with talking points given to him by the police?

Sounds like it might be time to request more records.

Time Magazine's Person Of The Year: The Protester

Time Magazine gave a nod to the activists who, globally, have taken to the streets in protest of unfair banking and despotic governments by naming Time Magazine's Person of the Year "The Protester."

They credit this year's trend of civil unrest with one man with a produce cart in Tunisia:
It began in Tunisia, where the dictator's power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen — a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi — became the final straw. Bouazizi lived in the charmless Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, 125 miles south of Tunis. On a Friday morning almost exactly a year ago, he set out for work, selling produce from a cart. Police had hassled Bouazizi routinely for years, his family says, fining him, making him jump through bureaucratic hoops. On Dec. 17, 2010, a cop started giving him grief yet again. She confiscated his scale and allegedly slapped him. He walked straight to the provincial-capital building to complain and got no response. At the gate, he drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match.
Bouazizi died, but a wave of protests and outrage were born in the Middle East and have grown to encompass the world as people take to the streets. I wonder: will the powers-that-be begin to listen to the chanted slogans and angry shouts at their doorstep? And if not, what next?

Fallout: A Minister's Story Of Police Brutality

In the last video video I posted on OAQ, if you watch carefully you can see a minister being knocked to the ground by police. Now Rev. John Helmiere alleges that the incident was a clear case of police brutality:
Yesterday evening, I was brutally beaten by my brothers on the Seattle Police force as I stood before an entrance to Pier 18 of the Seattle Port in my clergy garb bellowing, “Keep the Peace! Keep the Peace!” An officer pulled me down from behind and threw me to the asphalt. Between my cries of pain and shouts of “I’m a man of peace!” he pressed a knee to my spine and immobilized my arms behind my back, crushing me against the ground. With the right side of my face pressed to the street, he repeatedly punched the left side of my face for long enough that I had time to pray that the crunching sounds I heard were not damaging my brain. I was cuffed and pulled off the ground by a different officer who seemed genuinely appalled when he saw my face and clerical collar. He asked who I was and why I was here, to which I replied, “I’m a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe another world is possible.” He led me shaking to a police van where began a 12-hour journey of incarcerated misery.
Click here to get his full account.

A Longshoreman Speaks: "I Fully Support Port Shutdown"

Please note that this is a post originally generated on December 10th, 2011. It was deleted in one of those stupid accidents that happens when you use blogger. Apologies.

As December 12th approaches, differing opinions on the effectiveness of a port shutdown are flying, with Occupy Wall Street organizers speaking on behalf of the action and ILWU officers releasing statements of non-support for interrupting the flow of commerce on that day.

However, this has not impeded OWS organizers from orchestrating a large-scale shutdown across the entire West Coast. Thus far, major occupations in Tacoma, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Oakland, Los Angeles and Vancouver BC have endorsed and organized actions on that day, while Occupations in other cities such as Denver and Dallas have pledged to hold solidarity actions to support the shutdown.

This action is not only supported, however, by the Occupy movement. As I reported on my last post on the shutdown, port workers have been in meetings discussing the action and have spoken privately about their support. Many are unwilling to make statements to the press because they don't want to jeopardize their contracts, however, I sat down with one port worker to get his opinion on the action on condition of anonymity.

The longshoreman, who I will refer to as "John", also supports the Occupy movement and he spoke with me at length about the many reasons he is glad to see civil disobedience in the ports.

I fully support it. The major shipping companies and other corporations that work with them don't just directly affect port workers, but the power they wield over the economy, politics and society as a whole effects all workers on an international scale. The labor and Occupy movements need to take the fight directly to their doorstep. I had concerns even before Oakland called the November 2nd General Strike and 12/12 shutdown was that there wouldn't be enough dialogue between organizers, port workers and the unions that represent them. As such, we've seen something of a backlash specifically from ILWU officers which I think could have been avoided if there had been more discussion from the start.Of course, the ILWU's objection to the action is that it would negatively effect port workers on the job to interrupt business at the ports. When I asked John about that concern, he told me:

I think it's a valid concern, but if you want to make an omelet you gotta break some eggs. When workers themselves go on strike we discuss these issues. However, this is only a one-day thing. I think that these objections come up because the action was proposed by a seemingly outside group. However, port workers are members of the 99% percent as well! "An injury to one is an injury to all." We are all in this together.Finally I asked him if other longshoremen supported the action and he grinned and said:

Yes, absolutely. Longshoremen have a long proud history of radical activism and honoring community picket lines, much like the anti-apartheid pickets at ports in the 1980s. It appears that that history of radical activism is still taking place today, and with longshoremen supporting the action organizers and Occupier are more dedicated than ever to sending a message to the large corporations that operate in ports cannot engage in union-busting tactics without the community taking them to task.

On Monday, December 12th the day will kick off with a Hip-Hop Occupies rally in Westlake Park at noon, followed by a port shutdown at 3 PM. Transportation will be provided between Westlake and the Port.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Police Attack On Occupy Seattle Port Blockade

Ian's Account: The Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown, Part 2

This post is a continuation of my account of the December 12th Port shutdown and ensuing events. The original post can be found here.

After we left Terminal 18 in order to take and shut down Terminal 5, a large group of people, around 200 or so, marched over the bridge dividing the two Terminals. We streamed during the entirety of that march and were able to get footage of the scene below at Terminal 18, which can be found in the archives our our Livestream channel (click here to go to the main page). Night had fallen and the temperature dropped. My finger-less gloves were no longer keeping my hands warm.

We head over the bridge toward Terminal 5.

We saw no police presence as we headed up the bridge, something we would come to sorely regret. One motorist, angry at our presence, decided instead of waiting for us to pass that he would put on the gas and speed through our march. We watched in horror as a member of our bike swarm was hit. In order to avoid being dragged under the car, he jumped on the hood and was catapulted over the roof of the vehicle to fall to the side of the road. The car sped away.

In the night, one motorist didn't care to wait for us to pass.  Photo by Joseph H.

The car speeds away. Ian ran to try and get the license plate number, but others were successful.  Photo by Joseph H.

One Occupier, Joseph H., approached a police car that had arrived on scene with lights flashing. He attempted to give the license plate number to the authorities, but the officer rebuffed him until he threatened to take his picture and report him for his failure to act. Information has not yet been forthcoming regarding the hit and run, but the victim miraculously sustained only minor injuries.

At this time, six to seven police cars tore onto the bridge, lights flashing and sirens wailing. Many of us assumed the police cars were headed to apprehend the murderous motorist, however we seem to have been proven wrong. I believe they were headed to Terminal 18, as about 20 minutes later we received phone calls announcing that our friends still blockading the east side of the Port had been attacked. 

Many of us had completed the crossing over the bridge and at this dismaying news, turned around to hurry back to assist in defending our friends. However, organizers who were on the phone with personnel on-site at the blockade reported that Occupy Seattle's wall at Terminal 18 had been successfully removed by police. Somewhat disheartened, we turned back once again and continued on to Terminal 5.

We entered the parking lot to Terminal 5 and immediately set up a picket line there. The parking lot had two entrances, and some activists stayed at those entrances to provide a first line of defense should police move in. Many of us argued with each other as to the best tactics, having been shaken up by the reports of violence used at Terminal 18, but in the end Occupy Seattle set up a circling picket line with people linking arms to block the entrance. 

We blocked the entrance and we waited.

Terminal 5 is Occupied.  Photo by Rendao Liliang

As we milled about in the parking lot, our friends who had been attacked by police joined us. Many puffy faced from pepper spray and all outraged at the assault, they showed us their injuries and we shook our heads in anger.

Injuries sustained during the scuffle with the police.  Photo by Rendao Liliang

Finally police cars pulled into a parking lot across the street and got out of their vehicles. They monitored the situation from afar and we eyed them with suspicion. Our picket went on.

Finally we received a phone call from the union hall: the arbitrator had declared the Port unsafe due to our presence, work was canceled, and we had successfully shut down the Port. Applause erupted, and before police could act against us victory was declared and we marched away, pleased at a successful action.

We were dismayed, however, to learn that the Longshoremen sent home by the union arbitrator were being denied payment for time lost during our picket. Far from usual, this constituted a breach of contract on the part of the Terminal and we swore we would not let this unjust action go without Occupy Seattle's say.

We went to bed, got some rest, and some of us woke up the next morning, ready to return. A 6:30 AM picket was scheduled at Terminal 5, and around 20 of us showed up to express solidarity with longshore workers.

Early morning picket. Longshoremen are looking on, respecting our picket line.

Some workers crossed our picket line, though we thanked them for their work as they entered the Terminal. We later found out that they were machinists, non-ILWU workers who were not obligated to respect our picket. However, about 8 out of 10 of them expressed their support and thanks as they entered the port, with one woman relating to us that the Terminal authorities had denied her health benefits for an injury sustained on the job.

Longshoremen gathered in the parking lot and watched us. They are contractually forbidden for causing a work disruption, but as they huddled up to discuss us one casually sauntered by us. "You would need more people if you wanted to shut down the port," he said. I took a step toward him to ask him a question and he hurried away.

Eventually, the arbitrator arrived and asked us to move out of the parking lot so that the Longshoremen could go to work. We agreed, as we didn't have enough people to hold the line. 

To our shock and delight, he then led a round of applause from the port workers. As they filed into the Terminal, they shook our hands, thanked us, and hugged us. Footage of the applause can be found here, at the end of the video. We have since heard that they will be getting paid for their time on stand-by from the December 13th picket.

In the end, did we change anything? I don't know. Goldman Sachs and EGT, the companies that are the financial beneficiaries of the revenue generated on the backs of longshore workers, will most likely continue their corruption and union-busting tactics. We may very well have to return. But we have definitely sent a message to those who would exploit the working class:

We are the 99%. We are determined, we are focused, and we are angry. If you trample on our workers we will shut down your ports. If you use the police to brutalize us we will take to the streets. We are the ones who are too big to fail, and you would do well to remember that.

Oh, and you know what? I'll be there, filming every minute of it. Smile!

Ian's Account: The Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown, Part 1

Yesterday's controversial Port action swept the West Coast with Port closures, with varying degrees of police action taken against Occupy movements, to include at solidarity actions in cities outside of the region. Vancouver BC, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, and others joined the port shutdown with other Occupations obstructing other facilities in a move to send a message to Goldman Sachs and other shipping giants: "We are the 99%."

I attended one such shutdown as the Livestream reporter for the action at the Port of Seattle. It started with a rally put on by Hip Hop Occupies at approximately 12:30 PM, with a march directly after which took to the streets of Seattle for the long walk to the Port from Westlake Park. Laptop in hand, I followed the march, streaming the procession as it made its way down 4th Avenue to the Port fishing area on Spokane Street. Fellow team members Dan J. and Jenny D. accompanied me.

Some estimate 700-800 people in attendance, but I guessed closer to 1000. At one point the march stretched across two city blocks, yet we saw a very minimal police presence, excepting a helicopter hovering overhead with the Sheriff's department. When we turned down Spokane St. and marched into the Port, our chants were echoed back to us as we passed under overpasses.

During organizational meetings, the planned terminal to be shutdown had not yet been decided. If we had 1000 people or more, we would have the numbers to block every entrance of Terminal 18, but if we had less we would cross a bridge and close the smaller Terminal 5.

We chose to close Terminal 18.

A blockade was hastily erected at the main entrance of Terminal 18 at roughly 3:30 PM, constructed out of signs, scrap wood, and corrugated metal. Eli Sanders of the Slog has pictures here.

The blockade was constructed in minutes, with the exit lane left clear so that port workers attempting to go home would be able to leave the Terminal. However, two lanes were reduced to one, and traffic began to back up. The demonstrators quickly began to direct traffic, allow three cars at a time from each line to pass the blockade unhindered.  The entrance was blocked, however. We had shut down the Terminal 18.

Photo by Katia R.

Our action had not gone unnoticed. I lit a cigarette, content to observe the protesters building the blockade, until I turned around and saw a huge line of police officers on bicycles approaching the barricaded entrance.

Photo by Katia R.

Ian points out the approaching police to the Livestream audience while Dan holds the laptop.

The police acted quickly, setting up a bicycle barricade to prevent protesters from moving forward of the blockade and then, to our surprise, extending their barricade to block the exit lane. The crowd of protesters erupted into outraged shouts of "Let them leave!" This continued for approximately ten minutes as traffic piled up in the port, workers already late getting home now inexplicably detained.

While I am willing to admit that the Seattle Police Department may have shut down the exit lane in confusion, part of me is very much tempted to characterize this as an attempt on the part of the SPD to create a stressful situation that would make Occupy Seattle appear to be transgressors against Port workers. As the foremost trucker in the blocked traffic leaned out his window to see what was going on, he struck up a conversation with Occupiers sympathetic to his plight. 

"I know why you're doing this. I barely make enough to feed myself."

Photo by Katia R.

Finally the police changed their tactics and began to allow the truckers and other employers to leave the Port. What would they do next? They eyed the crowd uneasily.

At this point, organizers assessed the amount of people we had and declared that we could take Terminal 5 in addition to Terminal 18. A large contingent of people left to cross the bridge across the water and occupy that section of the port. In what some are calling a tactical error, around 100 protesters were left to hold Terminal 18, left to the mercies of the police. I joined the moving march in order to stream the erection of blockades at Terminal 5.

According to on-the-ground sources, the SPD escalated their tactics as the exit lane cleared. Seeing a possible entrance, they attempted to guide a truck laden with goods to be shipped through the exit. Occupiers then moved their bodies and the blockade to close that space as well.  The briefly empty exit lane then filled up again, and tensions mounted.

Seattle Police Department alleges that items were thrown at them during this time, while Occupiers I've spoken to deny this and state that the police were the first to use violence. The alleged weapons flung at police were lit flares, a pointed rebar, bags of paint, and bricks. Wendy Leigh, a writer for the Huffington Post, was on the scene and indicated that she saw no such thing. Whatever the case, it is confirmed that at this time Seattle Police Department used horses (one person was stepped on by a horse), flash bang grenades, and pepper spray in order to attack and disperse the crowd.  11 were arrested.

Seattle Police Department rode horses into the crowd to disperse the demonstration.

The remains of a flash bang grenade.  Photo by Joseph H.

Protesters indicate to police, among the wreckage of the blockade, that we are a peaceful demonstration.

This is the first of a two-part series. The second is posted here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newt Gingrich Is SUPER Dumb When It Comes To Palestine

Newt Gingrich is basically an unspeakable horror of a person who should just go home and think about what he's done.

The presidential hopeful remarked today, in a statement which has sparked outrage among Palestinian leaders, that the Palestinian people were "invented," citing their former inclusion in the Ottoman Empire as proof that the region has never been a country and didn't really need to be
"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places," Gingrich said, according to a video excerpt posted online. 
The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, demanded Gingrich "review history." 
"From the beginning, our people have been determined to stay on their land," Fayyad said in comments carried by the Palestinian news agency Wafa. "This, certainly, is denying historical truths."
You go, Salam! Because Newt Gingrich does need to review history. While the boundaries of the region known has Palestine have shifted over the centuries, the region was defined as "Palestine" in 1920 by the British Mandate for Palestine and has since declared independence officially from Israel in 1988. Two-thirds of the world's nations recognize the Palestinian people's right to govern themselves. You know how I bothered to learn this? By looking on the fucking Wikipedia page. It's that easy.

Maybe Newt should recall a certain other invented people: Americans. Before 1776, we didn't exist either. We became independent because we chose the path of self-determination. So have the Palestinians.

Also, Newt Gingrich can suck it.

Tragedy: Man Dies Waiting For Marriage Equality

The one thing Ed Watson wanted to do was marry his partner, Derence Kernek, before he died. Unfortunately, due to the machinations of anti-gay groups that mired California in the legal nightmare that is Proposition 8, he was unable to fulfill his dream and passed away Wednesday. In a sad ironic twist, he died the day before hearings on the controversial "Prop H8" began.
Gay rights activists lamented Watson's death as a reminder of the harm inflicted on same-sex couples throughout the state because they are denied the right to marry. 
"It's ironic that he died on the eve of appeals about peripheral issues around a case that should have been settled more than a year ago," said Richard Jacobs, chairman and founder of the gay rights advocacy group Courage Campaign, as he was en route to San Francisco for a hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "None of this will matter to Ed or Derence." 
U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled on Aug. 4, 2010, that Proposition 8 violated the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to due process and equal protection under the law. Sponsors of the initiative passed by 52% of Californians who voted in November 2008 have appealed Walker's ruling and won a suspension of it pending the 9th Circuit's ruling.
This is sad. How many more LGBTs have to die disappointed before people just admit, like Hillary Clinton did before the UN, that gay rights are human rights?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Governor Goodhair Attacks Gays, Is Still Stupid

The gay blogosphere is all abuzz with Rick Perry's latest attempt to find relevancy after multiple gaffes which have derailed his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President, as yesterday he released a video attacking the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and "the war on religion."  Watch:

Oh, Rick... if only you had a better wardrobe consultant. AMERICAblog and others have pointed out in glee that the jacket he's wearing has a gay significance of its own:

Poor Rick. He just can't get ahead! Word to the wise: don't dress like a gay cowboy when you're attacking... uh, gay people.

Not everyone in Camp Perry are pleased with the ad, with top pollster (and, as reported by JoeMyGod, big-time homo) Tony Fabrizio calling it "nuts":
But not everyone was comfortable with the script. When the ad was being crafted several weeks ago, Perry's top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, called it "nuts," according to an email sent from Fabrizio to the ad's main creator, longtime GOP operative Nelson Warfield. In a separate email to The Huffington Post, Warfield confirmed that the ad was made over Fabrizio's objections. 
"Tony was against it from the get-go," Warfield wrote. "It was the source of some extended conversation in the campaign. To be very clear: That spot was mine from writing the poll question to test[ing] it to drafting the script to overseeing production."
Hint to gay strategists: if you don't want to work for a CRAZY PERSON don't sign on with a governor from Texas.  They're ALL nutty.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mars Hill Attacks

According to a recent post (by recent I mean, nearly a week old) on the Seattle Weekly blog, local megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has gone on record as saying that practicing yoga and reading Harry Potter are Satanic:

"Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter," he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest. "

My response - well, only if you're doing it right.

Honestly, I just wanted a reason to post the above picture. That is all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Port Shutdown: Why It Matters

Occupy Seattle has voted to stand with Occupy Oakland's call for action at West Coast ports in a controversial and visible action to send a message to multiple corporations who have acted against port workers:
"We're shutting down these ports because of the union busting and attacks on the working class by the 1%: the firing of Port truckers organizing at SSA terminals in LA; the attempt to rupture ILWU union jurisdiction in Longview, WA by EGT. EGT includes Bunge LTD, a company which reported 2.5 billion dollars in profit last year and has economically devastated poor people in Argentina and Brazil. SSA is responsible for inhumane working conditions and gross exploitation of port truckers and is owned by Goldman Sachs. EGT and Goldman Sachs is Wallstreet on the Waterfront" stated Barucha Peller of the West Coast Port Blockade Assembly of Occupy Oakland.   
Meetings have been occurring weekly since Occupy Seattle's General Assembly vote to support the port shutdown.  Held in West Seattle, the meetings were open to the public and organizers heard community concerns about the action in order to conduct the action in an efficient and community-friendly manner.  Continuing outreach has been staged at the Port of Seattle in order to talk to workers as they end their shifts about the impending shutdown.

Reportedly, Port workers who must remain anonymous due to their contracts, have attended the meetings in West Seattle and voiced their support for the move.

The Stranger's online blog, the Slog, posted today that the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has now stated that they do not support this action:
“Local 19 and the ILWU as a whole has taken a position against shutting down the ports on Dec. 12," Williams told me. "Obviously we support the Occupy movement as a whole and the causes they’re fighting for. But as far as shutting down the Port of Seattle, we’re not in favor of that. There’s a lot of jobs—union jobs and other jobs as well—associated with shutting down commerce, and we can’t support that.”
Far from concerned about the statement, organizers I spoke with were confident that this action was appropriate.  Longshoremen have been secretly meeting with Occupy Seattle on a regular basis and do support shutdown, and it's not hard to see why.  One only needs to look to the recent conflict between local unions and multinational conglomerate EGT in Longview to understand why a strong statement needs to be made to companies that represent the 1%'s interests to the detriment of union workers.

Why use a shutdown to get our point across?  At its most basic concept, we're sending a message by fucking with the 1%'s money.  Frankly, the impact to workers (who already support the action) is minimal.  They're still going to get paid.

On a broader scope, however, we only need to look as far as the iconic Letter from Birmingham Jail, written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to see why shutting down the Port of Seattle for a day will benefit union workers:
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
In the end, ILWU's statement that they do not support port shutdown is an effort on the part of the union to cover their proverbial asses.  It would be a breach of contract to support our action, so they cannot speak positively for it.  They have no option.

Luckily, we do have options, and we're going to use them.  One of those is shutdown, and on the 12th of December we will be doing just that.

See you at the Port!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Occupy Seattle: SCCC Faculty Member Speaks Out

Occupy Seattle is bracing itself for its eviction from the grounds of Seattle Central Community College today, as the administration of SCCC, after lengthy deliberation, has discovered legal pretext to remove the protester's encampment from the south plaza. Despite Occupy Seattle's attempted injunction against the school to prevent an eviction notice from being delivered today, it appears that the camp may finally be forced to move elsewhere.

As tents come down and tactical moves are considered, a member of the faculty of SCCC has released a scathing refutation of the charges leveled against the movement, congratulating the school administration on its coup de grace:
Now, let’s be honest, our “College of the Year” drops the ball now and then. Not this time, though. Home run! Rats, trash, and needles stuck in the public imagination like pedophilia to Penn State. Big schools like UC Davis are drowning in bad press (hapless pepper-spraying cop), but Seattle Central showed commanding form. With breath-taking efficiency and a cost-effective approach, the Occupy tribe were branded half-human drug addicts and drop outs. And they brought rats, the college said. You might call it propaganda with panache. Touche. 

For sure, rats are a cherished institution at our institution. They’ve been crapping on my desk for years. Rats and the college go back a long ways, a Tom and Jerry kind of thing. Some old-timers might even remember a City Collegian article about rats in the culinary dept. kitchen, nibbling through flour sacks. (Funny, admin stamped out the 42-year-old student paper shortly after. Wonder why!)
Jeb Wyman, an English professor at Seattle Central, insists that it's not just rats that were already present on campus:
Of course, if you spend much time at Seattle Central, you’ll get cozy with needles, too. Since 1994, I’ve parked in the lower level of the garage. On most mornings I detour around a puddle of sour pee (that bracing odor wakes you up!) in the stairwell. I’ve stepped over many a hypodermic needle on those stairs. And over broken gin bottles, stolen purses, beer cans in paper bags, empty plastic baggies. My car has been broken into three times. The garage was once equipped with security cameras, but they were—you can’t make this up!—stolen years ago. 
A few years ago, the campus president locked up all first-floor bathrooms after too many homeless took sink baths and too many overdosed dope addicts were found sprawled in the stalls. 
And in mid-October—that’s, uh, a few weeks before Occupy moved in—our facilities director put out an email blast (with great accompanying pix!) bemoaning that graffiti, vandalism, trash, needles, and “cleaning up the feces, and urine, and vomit left almost daily at our doorsteps” cost the school about $200,000 a year. 
Sorry to gross you out, but I’m just quoting directly. 
The point is, facts and first-class propaganda have nothing to do with each other. Only a fool would deny that. Quite the contrary, our administration knows what they’re doing. We’re not talking amateurs. This is poetry in motion. Salute!
Click on over to the New City Collegian, Seattle Central's guerilla student-run newspaper, for more.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

OneAngryCultist: Love Thy Neighbor

In a recent article on the Catholic Lane, retired schoolteacher and fellow, Seattle OCCUPY activist and writer Robert “Bob” Struble, Jr. writes about the ongoing problem of institutional child abuse. In his recent articles, Paterno, Pedophiles, Homosexuals, and Cowards; and Homosexuality/Pedophilia Correlation? Struble explores the recent Penn State sex abuse scandal in which assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had been found guilty of sexually assaulting or having inappropriate contact with at least eight underage boys as indicative of the moral decline of society due to the growing acceptance of homosexuality.

In the first article, Struble writes:
“Cultural commissars in the West urge citizens to worship at the altar of a much-touted triune ethic – tolerance, diversity and choice. This secular trinity militates against the influence of righteous indignation. It demands that people who express disgust at sexual sins be reprogrammed. Teach them to reconsider their negative attitudes. Show them that a tendency to look down on homosexual sex is wrong in itself. Brow beat them with the notion that such a critical attitude is condescending and judgmental.”
Putting aside any snarky reference I could make by invoking Matthew 7:1-5, there is a tendency in our culture to censor language that is perceived to be intolerant or that doesn’t respect the current values of diversity and choice and with good reason –this kind of language kills people!

 In a free society we do have the right to speak our minds, however the point at which this language and dialogue infringes upon the lives and liberty of others, I take serious concern.

In specific regards to Catholic social teaching, of which Mr. Struble should be well aware, sexual minorities, “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” Quoting the controversial archbishop of the airwaves, Fulton Sheen, Mr. Struble writes in agreement:
“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil…, a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment…. Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles.”
Immediately following, in his own words, Bob additionally calls for an end to, “the prevailing idolatry about inclusiveness. We need, rather, to exhibit the militancy and intolerance that Jesus modeled when he cleansed the temple.”

So, Bob, tell us what you really think about the teachings of Jesus who enjoins all Christians to, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31). Thousands of Catholics struggle on a daily basis with deep-seated problems related to being faced with having to choose between being true to themselves or their faith – I for one think they are owed at least a modicum of tolerance.

In his second article, Bob attempts to make the case that the child abuse case at Penn state is not only a moral problem, with which I fully agree, but correlates homosexuality to pedophilia – clearly something I cannot endorse. Pedophilia cannot in any way be related to homosexuality.

Pedophilia, as defined by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems is “a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of prepubertal or early pubertal age” and has nothing to do whatsoever with homosexuality even in cases where the abused are of the same gender of the abused.

In essence, pedophilia is a profound psychological and emotional disorder that cannot be correlated in any way to homosexuality in which relationships formed between same-sex partners are most often consensual in nature, as with heterosexual relationships, and based on positive regard for partners and are not typified by power-dynamic disparity as in the case of pedophilia.

Continuing, Bob predicts:
“That if social mores continue their downward trajectory, and society reaches such a level that NAMBLA’s agenda gets mainlined into the culture (as was its equivalent in ancient Greece and Rome); then the social climate will be about as libertine as we read about in pagan antiquity, when there was not much about pedophilia that scandalized people… 
At that point, homosexuals and homosexualists (their heterosexual backers) will not be compelled to conjure up so much anger or indignation whenever someone associates them with pedophilia. To the extent that all sex is considered good sex, no stigmatizing of deviant sexuality will exert enough social suasion to make people feel guilty about sexual relations with children.”
With all due respect, Bob, NAMBLA represents a socially deviant organization that I can guarantee the majority of the LGBTQI community along with the rest of society views with equal disdain as you yourself hold. Also, as something of a lay-historian myself, I’m profoundly disappointed in Bob’s anachronistic reading into the fall of ancient Rome which most historians now assess as being due to extreme economic pressures brought about by territorial expansionism and not about sexual excess and moral denigration. 

Historically speaking, same-sex attraction as understood in the ancient world was understood differently than it is today. While the cultural practice of pederastry as practiced to a small extant in Ancient Greece and Rome may be to some extant equitable with hebephilia – a related but different disorder from pedophilia and something against which Paul rails in Romans – there are cultural contexts which separate making such a drastic comparison to NAMBLA.

These two articles fail to pass biblical and intellectual standards of editorial excellence and are indicative of a small-mindedness that should not be confused with the great academic and loving religious values present in Catholicism, instead they appear to regurgitate the same old “gays are bad because the pope says so” arguments that contribute to a strong social stigmatization of the Church.

I humbly, yet frankly, ask the author to look deeper into the issues at stake as well as inform himself better on the Spirit of the Gospel as opposed to the letter of the law and enjoin him to make a sincere and loving inventory based on love of his sisters and brothers and cease depriving what he likely would not appreciate having deprived himself – the right to love their partners as themselves.

In Dedication to Ss. Sergius and Bacchus
(Aren't they cute?!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

HIV Positive Student Denied Admission To Private School

Today is World AIDS Day, and I spent a good couple hours of my time today holding signs, raising awareness, and gathering signatures for a pledge to help end HIV.  It was a positive (hehe) experience and a great way to commemorate this global day of education.

One of the reasons we have World AIDS Day is to raise awareness, which is the easiest way to dispel the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.  Unfortunately, we still come across ample examples of why education is needed, like this troubling story coming from a Pennsylvania boarding school.
The Milton Hershey School was founded by the chocolate tycoon as a school that "nurtures and educates children in social and financial need to lead fulfilling and productive lives."

But it seems that fulfillment won’t be coming for a 13-year-old honor student from Delaware County who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS. 
"I feel no other teenager should go through this, being denied just because they have HIV," the boy said in an exclusive interview with NBC Philadelphia’s Denise Nakano.


It's sad that clear cases of discrimination against innocents who live with this disease still happen.  If the school's administration was educated about the actual methods of spreading HIV, they likely would not have denied this boy a chance for an education.