Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday Blog 12.14.15

There used to be a time when I’d think, “this is too much”, and, “they’ve finally gone too far.”  The first time I watched the Rodney King beating video I thought that, but then there was the trial and all of the officers involved were acquitted.  The L.A. riots that followed had flashes of sending a message, especially when they started to move towards the wealthier areas of the city, but in the end the folks who rioted only managed to burn and loot their own neighborhoods.  I should know better than to think that any one incident will turn the tide at this point because the list of demands from communities most affected by these types of incidents usually focus on reform, which is the same reform that previous generations have been calling for since the 1960s.  
Last week’s Monday blog was about the SFPD’s execution of Mario Woods by firing line, which was all captured on video, from multiple angles in the city’s Bayview District.  I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see when Facebook autoplayed the first video I watched of Mario Woods being gunned down by the SFPD.  That’s a shitty function by the way, and who knows why Facebook feels the need to shove video content down the throats of its users, but either way I watched that video, and later the other videos from different angles before writing last week’s blog.  It was shocking, and after two years of protests around the country, and the Black Lives Matter movement, to think that something like that can happen in a so called liberal city like San Francisco just underlines the fact that we are way past the point of fixing things with simple reforms.  Oh, and if you watched the Mario Woods video(s) and thought, “this is too much”, and, “they’ve finally gone too far”, then you probably missed the video of Los Angeles police officers shooting a man 33 times as he attempted to crawl away.  The LAPD says they found a gun on the man they shot from behind, then continued to shoot as he crawled away, and they also claim that they received 911 calls from citizens in the neighborhood reporting gun fire, and that the young African American male they shot to death matched the description of the suspect.  If only we had a system where we could trust that all of those claims would be followed up on and properly investigated.
There used to be a time when people believed that art and music could change the world, but that got commodified and turned into art and music becoming a soundtrack for social change, then finally a soundtrack for a generation that once called for change in this country.  They protested in the streets and occupied their college campuses, then graduated and got married, had kids, bought property, turned their homes into apartments, and their backyards into apartment buildings, then rented these units to students so they could circumvent rent control laws, and so on.  That’s a different subject for a future blog perhaps; the Baby Boomer generation and the pitfalls of granola based diets.  

A creative, conceptual, free form approach to addressing the inequality and injustices in our society can change the world, as we observe it.  It’s not literally the art or music, but a state of mind.  I know that’s a fairly abstract statement to make without expanding on it further, but the point of these blogs is not to delve deeply into every thought I have concerning whatever subject I’m addressing, but it’s more of an immediate response to what’s most on my mind on any Monday morning when I sit down to write.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

Darby Crash

Darby Crash (September 26, 1958 – December 7, 1980)

Monday Blog 12.7.15

Here are links to two videos showing how SFPD handled a similar incident that took place last Wednesday in the Bayview District. Video One and Video Two.  All three videos contain graphic violence, so please take that into consideration before clicking on any of these links.

I posted the above video as an example of how someone wielding a knife can be apprehended without the use of deadly force.  That much is obvious, but I also included links to videos of the SFPD basically playing judge, jury, and executioner when five of its officers opened fire on Mario Woods, who didn’t appear to be any more threatening than the man apprehended by the London police in the first video, and if anything he appeared (in the videos) to be less of a threat.  I could write more about the particulars of this incident, but why?  The videos speak for themselves, and that’s one of the reasons that I find it so ridiculous that SFPD Chief Greg Suhr would try to spin last Wednesday’s events by using photographic evidence instead of the multiple videos, that had already gone viral on social media, at Friday’s community meeting, which took place at San Francisco City College.  It’s even more ludicrous that police departments around the country are still allowed to deflect by using the same tired “We’re currently conducting an internal investigation” response.  

One of the things I’m seeing a lot online is that citizens are calling for SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr to step down, or be fired.  Another thing I saw immediately after the first video of the SFPD killing Mario Woods surfaced was a call for massive reform in the San Francisco Police Department, which is a reasonable response after witnessing (on video) what was clearly an excessive use of deadly force by the SFPD.  My response would be, yes, Greg Suhr has to go.  Why?  It’s simple, that’s the job he signed up for.  He could’ve told all of those officers personally behind closed doors to never do what they did on numerous occasions, but they did it anyway, and the buck stops with him.  That said, he could’ve come out and admitted that what happened was wrong, and that the five officers involved would be held responsible for their actions by the department (i.e. lose their jobs), then even go so far as to suggest that said officers be tried in a court of law.  Last but not least, he should’ve taken responsibility for what happened, played the two videos, apologized again, then again after that, and listened patiently while citizens from Bayview yelled at him for the duration of the community meeting.  There’s a time to spin and a time not to spin, and that was not the time.   

People have been conditioned to immediately call for reforms when government institutions are exposed as being incompetent or corrupt, but that’s an age old trap that was set years ago by the same power structure that controls this country.  With roughly only 50% of the eligible voters in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley being registered to vote, and only around half of those registered actually voting, the people calling for these reforms lack the leverage needed to make their demands heard in the proper context.  Even if there was greater voter turnout, there is still the issue of how city governments conduct business, i.e. the system that is already in place, which is often a local version of everything most Americans detest about big government bureaucracy at the state and federal levels.  I think the SFPD and police departments around the country need to be reformed,  but more than that I think they need be restructured and reimagined as something completely different than what they are today.  Every police department, which I’ll continue referring to them as because I haven’t yet thought of a new name, would answer directly to their local communities in a way that would ensure that if five police officers executed a man carrying a kitchen knife on a public street, then those officers would be fired immediately, as would the chief (assuming that position still existed in some capacity), and a trial would take place to determine whether what they did was voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, as would be the case for any of us now, even if our defense was “self defense”. 

Friday, December 4, 2015


Godstomper in Berkeley, 2008

Fred Hampton

On Dec. 4, 1969 Fred Hampton was assassinated while sleeping in his bed by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney's Office, in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Fellow Black Panther Mark Clark was also assassinated that night. The murder of Hampton and Clark was part of the FBI's plan to disrupt and neutralize the Black liberation movement and the Black Panther Party specifically.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Urban Guerrilla Zine b-day show in Berkeley, 2002

Photo by Sam Bortnick

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Monday Blog 11.30.15

After watching several videos of people losing their minds at Walmarts and Best Buys around this country last Friday (Black Friday), my initial response was to shake my head and immediately put on an Om album to bring me back to center.  Later I thought about how the level of mind control these corporations have over so many people in the country is equally impressive and disheartening, depending on your stock portfolio.  Also depending on whether you have a stock portfolio.  It’s to the point that human beings will trample other human beings just to get a deal on a flatscreen television, which is more disturbing when you consider that many of these same deals can be had by simply staying home and shopping online.  The fact that all of this takes place the day after Thanksgiving seems to some an even sadder commentary on the state of things in this country, while others might argue it’s actually an appropriate response based on the history of the holiday in question.  

Thanksgiving to me, back when I actually ate turkey and all that stuff, was always more about food than anything else.  This was especially the case when I was a kid because there were times when we were so poor that we were barely eating enough to sustain us from day to day.  My mom’s uncles, aunts, and cousins still live on a reservation in New Mexico, so we definitely were not celebrating Christopher Columbus or any of that nonsense.  It was, like any holiday where there’s food, an opportunity to eat as much as I could without drawing too much attention to myself.  Play it cool, and make it look like you’re casually going back for seconds when it’s actually your fourth serving of mash potatoes and gravy.  Being one of the youngest of the cousins, I looked forward to sitting around afterwards in a relatives backyard, listening to my older cousins tell us stories about all the crazy stuff they got into.  Their stories were funny, violent, exhilarating!  It was a lot to live up to, but I tried my best for years before I had to accept that I was growing up in a different time than they had, even though they were only a decade older.  

I’ve spent many Thanksgivings since by myself, walking the streets of the East Bay with a coffee in my hand, lost in thought.  I like to go back in my mind and play choose your own adventure with history, then try to imagine an alternate reality where there is less dumb shit obscuring the good stuff.

Postscript: I wrote this using a notes app while walking the streets of the East Bay with a coffee in my hand, lost in thought.