[an important article but unfortunately skips over the significance
of Cointelpro and the targeting of the Black Liberation Movement,
Indigenous Struggles, Puerto Rican Independence and Chicano
Liberation movements and their supporters. Revolutionary activists
were assassinated, from Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago in
1969 to the 2005 FBI murder of Filiberto Ojeda Rios in Puerto Rico -
groups were destroyed by the FBI and other government and police
agencies - and importantly scores of political prisoners continue to
be caged for more than 3 and 4 decades for their consciousness and
their leadership and their participation in liberation struggles. The
San Francisco 8 prosecution of former Panthers is a current
prosecution, as is the 2000 imprisonment of Jamil Al Amin and the
threat to execute Mumia Abu Jamal.Let's make all the connections!]
August 23, 2010
What's Missing is Solidarity
The Decline of Resistance from the Red Scare to the War on Terror
By PETER GELDERLOOS Counterpunch.org
August 23, 1927. Sacco and Vanzetti, two anarchists accused and
convicted of a double murder in the course of an armed robbery, are
sent to the electric chair. Ten thousand mourners come to pay their
last respects, twenty thousand take to the Boston Common in protest,
and many thousands more march in the streets or attack US embassies
and banks around the world to honor their passing.
Historian Paul Avrich convincingly argued that the two were innocent
of the robbery and murders, and were the victims of a judicial
lynching. The evidence was spotty, the media convicted them in
advance, and the judge didn't even hide his political vendetta
against the two.
On the other hand, Sacco and Vanzetti were probably engaged in other
highly illegal activities, as participants in a tense and bloody
workers' struggle. And it's beyond dispute that the two of them, from
prison, continued to call for revolution against capitalism, and for
vengeance against their executioners.
The most remarkable aspect of the whole affair is how much public
support they received, not only on the streets, but from
internationally renowned political figures and intellectuals. People
like John Dos Passos, George Bernard Shaw, Dorothy Parker, H.G.
Wells, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Albert Einstein wrote letters and
protested in their defense. In today's political climate, no one who
cared about their social status would be caught dead speaking out in
favor of a political criminal who espoused fiery and radical ideas.
The War on Terror is even more replete with frame-ups and judicial
lynchings than the Red Scare, although life imprisonment and solitary
confinement, arguably far more cruel than capital punishment, have
come to replace the electric chair.
The main targets of this War are Muslims and Middle Eastern or South
Asian immigrants, radical environmentalists, and anarchists. In one
sense, not so much has changed, as immigrants also bore the brunt of
the Red Scare. The resounding difference is the general silence
outside the most directly affected communities.
How many people today even know the names of Tarek Mehanna, Marie
Mason, and Eric McDavid?
In a massive campaign of racial profiling after September 11th, 2001,
the FBI visited and questioned people in every single Muslim and
Middle Eastern or South Asian immigrant community in the country.
Afraid of groups they saw as not culturally integrated, they
pressured thousands of people into becoming informants for them,
repeating the COINTELPRO tactic that helped destroy resistance in
black communities in the '60s and '70s. An unknown number of Muslims
have been disappeared to secret prisons in other countries, separated
from their children, and tortured over the course of years. Some are
unaccounted for and may have been killed.
Tarek Mehanna is a 27 year old Muslim Egyptian born in the US, with a
doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. He is respected
both in the local Muslim and interfaith communities, which may
explain why the FBI was so interested in turning him into a snitch.
They began visiting him several years before his first arrest, trying
to recruit him as a paid informant, which would involve giving
fill-in-the-blank testimony for the feds against other people in his
community. As he consistently refused, the FBI became more and more
In 2008 they seized the opportunity to arrest him on a technicality,
indicting him for making false statements during an earlier
interrogation in 2006, concerning the whereabouts of a friend of his.
Mehanna was released, but then rearrested in October, 2009, amid a
wave of Terror arrests carried out in the first year of the Obama
administration, at a time when the new president needed to
demonstrate his toughness. No new evidence was presented for the
second arrest, except for the testimony of another member of the
Muslim community, who had rolled over and agreed to work for the FBI
after being bribed with a reduced prison sentence, doing exactly the
kind of dirty work Mehanna refused.
With the second arrest, the media hyped any story the FBI fed them,
perfectly comfortable with the Bureau's long track record of
manufacturing evidence and using the press to spread disinformation.
In no time, Tarek Mehanna was turned from a tolerant Muslim into a
"fanatic" who was plotting to go on a shooting rampage in a shopping
mall (that most sacred of American temples), to kill US officials,
and to join terrorist training camps along with a friend (or rather,
"co-conspirator"). For lack of evidence, the FBI story had to concede
that the pair did not actually succeed in making contact with any
training camps, but this did not at all diminish their concocted
image as dangerous terrorists. An article in Time even made a big
deal out of repeating the rumour that at his first court appearance,
Mehanna wore all black and acted rudely. Oddly enough, none of these
accusations of concrete terror plots actually appear in any of the
indictments filed against Mehanna, according to his supporters.
Nonetheless, Tarek is currently being held in solitary confinement
and charged with aiding and abetting terrorism, which could come with
a prison sentence of life plus 75 years.
Marie Mason is a 46 year old mother of two, a member of Earth First!
and the IWW, a gardener, musician, and community organizer who worked
as an extended care assistant at a Cincinnati school at the time of
her arrest in March, 2008. After it came to light that her former
husband was working as an FBI informant, Marie pled guilty to two
politically motivated acts of property destruction, against a genetic
research laboratory at Michigan State University in December, 1999,
and against logging equipment in Mesick, Michigan, in January 2000.
Both actions were claimed by the Earth Liberation Front, which the
FBI identified as the number one domestic terrorism threat after
September 11th, even though no one had ever been harmed in any ELF action.
Marie Mason's arrest came as part of the Green Scare, the targeting
of environmental activists that has put over a dozen people in prison
for political acts of property destruction. During the Green Scare,
the FBI has made frequent use of grand juries to force activists and
independent media workers to snitch on their friends or give
information on political protests. Those who have refused have been
jailed for up to a year.
In 2009, Marie Mason was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Recently,
she was transferred to FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. Carswell is
believed to be the location of a third Communication Management Unit
(CMU). The CMU is an even more extreme form of isolation, another of
the gruesome artefacts developed for the War on Terror. Prisoners
held in the CMU are closely monitored and their contact with the
outside world is strictly limited. They are only allowed one fifteen
minute phone call per week, only four hours of visitation, behind
glass, per month, and all correspondence and conversations have to be
in English, which is especially cruel for the majority of CMU inmates
who are Muslim immigrants. In fact, one of the few CMU inmates who is
not a Muslim is Daniel McGowan, another prisoner of the Green Scare.
Eric McDavid was presented as a dangerous terrorist upon his arrest,
but as the details of his case emerged it became increasingly
apparent that the bombing plot for which he was convicted was the
fabrication of a paid FBI informant who was hired to infiltrate the
US anarchist movement. The informant, known as "Anna," went to
various anarchist gatherings around the country and found three other
young people whom she pressured into forming a group with her. Over
the course of a year and a half, Anna was paid $65,000 to manipulate
and bully Eric and the two others into discussing potentially illegal
political acts with her. She concocted a plan, fed to her by the FBI,
to build a bomb, and used various forms of pressure, including sexual
and romantic, to keep the group together. When finally the three had
reached a point where they wanted out, the FBI sprang its trap before
its entire conspiracy fell apart. They arrested Eric, along with
Zachary Jenson and Lauren Weiner, in January 2006. Despite having no
criminal record, Eric was denied bail and kept in solitary
confinement for nearly two years until trial. In the meantime,
Zachary and Lauren, who had very limited experience with political
activism and were being threatened with decades in prison, snapped
and agreed to testify against Eric in exchange for lighter sentences.
Only Eric refused to lie or snitch, and in 2007 he was convicted in a
trial rife with misinformation provided by the FBI. Before jury
deliberations the judge gave improper instructions that seriously
hampered Eric's entrapment defense. Subsequent to the trial, after
they had gotten all the facts two of the jurors even denounced FBI
misconduct and stated Eric should get a new trial. The
judge sentenced Eric to 20 years in prison.
In all of these cases, despite the extremely abusive nature of the
prosecution and the way the defendants were treated, and despite the
threat these political maneuvers by the FBI represent to all of us,
awareness about these cases and support for the defendants has
generally remained within their own communities. Few other people
know about them, and many of those who do remain silent. The
executive board of the IWW, the famed wobblies of American labor
history, even denounced Marie Mason after she admitted to
participation in the acts of eco-sabotage.
Clearly, radical movements today are much weaker than they were in
the days of Sacco and Vanzetti. But at least a part of that is our
own choosing. Nowadays politically active people show a much greater
sensitivity to the timeless smear campaigns of the media than they
did in the past. Once upon a time everyone knew the newspapers
belonged to the bosses, and their headlines were just the police
truncheon in a new form. These days people are often afraid to be
associated with anyone branded as "radical." Some folks even give
credence to the term "terrorist," or to the accusations of FBI
agents, even though the Bureau is composed of the same mix of liars,
torturers, racists, homophobes, murderers and snitches as in the days
of J. Edgar Hoover.
People continue to donate to NGOs that are already rolling in dough,
and that have long since been shown to form a nonprofit industrial
complex that opts for careers over real change, but they won't have
anything to do with the support committees for prisoners like these.
What all this represents, far deeper than a general climate of fear,
is an alienation of resistance itself, from a broad and multiform but
nonetheless connected movement or struggle into a menagerie of
isolated single-issues, each with their resident specialists and
careerists. And the sites of struggle themselves have been split to
such an extent that someone can "care about the issues" or "be
informed" while being entirely apathetic towards, ignorant of, or
even hostile to those who have put themselves on the line and
suffered the consequences for following their conscience and not
selling out to the various forces that have pacified resistance, from
the FBI strong-arming people into becoming snitches to the NGOs
persuading people to be pragmatic while paying their pricey rent
through the perpetual management of these social problems.
We can break out of this isolation by choosing now to build a spirit
of solidarity and a practice of common resistance against the War on
Terror. An attack on one of us really is an attack on all of us, and
all these judicial frame-ups are nothing but political repression.
Supporting our prisoners means defeating their attempts to terrify
us, insisting on the dignity of our causes, and building communities
in which we really do take care of one another, no matter what
powerful interests we may be contradicting. Under capitalism, all
true community is subversive.
Peter Gelderloos is the author of
Nonviolence Protects the State.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
[an important article but unfortunately skips over the significance