Tag Archives: Food Not Bombs

San Antonio Cop Caught Trying to Feed Shit Sandwich to Homeless Man Fired (Again) for 2nd Feces Related Incident

In November, I posted about San Antonio Police Officer Mathew Luckhurst who had tried to feed a sandwich filled with dog poop to a homeless man:

Luckhurst had bragged to another cop that he had placed feces inside bread and put it in a styrofoam container next to a sleeping homeless man, hoping he would eat it. That unnamed officer fortunately had some decency and told Officer Luckhurst to go back and throw the shit sandwich away. He then reported the incident to the San Antonio Police Dept.’s Internal Affairs Bureau in July.

Subsequently, the suspension was recommended by both a civilian review board and a review board comprising sworn officers. in October. After a meeting with Officer Luckhurst, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus upheld the suspension. Earlier today, both he and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor released statements regarding Luckhurst’s behavior.

As I noted at the time, although it was reported that he had been fired, that was really a bit of a technicality because he actually has been “indefinitely suspended.” In reality, the intention is probably just to buy a little time until the publicity quiets down and then have the local police union play bad cop and file a dispute that ends up getting him his job back.

However, yesterday some new information emerged showing that this was not the only time that Officer Luckhurst’s feces fetish has gotten him into hot water with the SAPD. In fact, he seems to have been building on that as his go to prop for workplace pranks. And this time he even enlisted a sidekick.

Via MySanAntonio.com:

In June, just a month after the incident with the sandwich, police say Luckhurst defecated in the women’s bathroom stall at SAPD’s Bike Patrol Office and spread a brown substance with the consistency of tapioca on the toilet seat, giving the appearance that there was feces on the seat.

Officer Steve Albart was also involved in the prank, according to the records. He was originally given an indefinite suspension, but Chief William McManus reduced it to 30 days without pay. Albart finished serving that suspension Jan. 19.
Unlike Officer Albart, Luckhurst’s suspension was not reduced and he received a second indefinite suspension. So, now Officer Luckhurst has been “fired” twice (although he’s apparently still officially on the roster and in the process of appealing both suspensions). Expect him back out there protecting and serving (shit) at some point in the near future.
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Days Before Christmas, the LVMPD Conducted Raids on Homeless People Stealing Blankets and Winter Shelter

The following post was written by Jonas Rand, a UNLV student and member of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas. It was originally posted at “The World as seen by Jazoof,” a blog maintained by Jason Nellis under the title “‘Take What You Need and Leave Right Now’: Raids Target Local Homeless Encampment.

It details one of the sweeps that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department conducted against homeless people at a local park that members of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas hold one of their weekly picnics, in which they share food with hungry people, including those who do not currently have permanent housing.

During this sweep, the people within the park were given only given one minute to gather their belongings before police threw them away. In particular, officers from the LVMPD stole blankets, tents, and other cold weather necessities from those people. In addition, at least one person, an elderly disabled woman, had her pet dog and sole companion stolen from her.

This raid was carried out just before Christmas and during a time when Las Vegas is experiencing record low temperatures. Instead of allowing people a reasonable amount of time to remove their belongings or storing them for 30 days, as the law stipulates, those possessions were simply thrown in a dumpster, without regard for the hardship it would create for those who were then without shelter from the cold.

This sort of raid, as well as other types of harassment against and bullying of homeless and poor people by law enforcement in Las Vegas, is not an isolated or even unusual occurrence. Essentially, they seem to operate under the assumption that if they make life difficult for homeless people within the city they will just go away. However, they obviously have nowhere to go or they wouldn’t be homeless in the first place.

“Take What You Need and Leave Right Now”: Raids Target Local Homeless Encampment

According to several witnesses and former inhabitants, all of whom wished to remain anonymous, a raid by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) two weeks ago forcibly drove out a group of people camped in a local park consisting of over two dozen individuals, dispersing them and discarding their belongings.

For those who had been residing in East Las Vegas’ Molasky Family Park, located near the UNLV campus, December 8 seemed not unlike any other day. With little to shelter them from the windy winter weather, the park’s street-dwelling residents fell asleep as night descended, expecting nothing new the next day.

That all changed in the early hours of the following morning, when several witnesses say they were awakened to the sound of Metro officers raiding the park to forcibly disperse the park’s homeless population. Perhaps as many as 40 people had been present in the park the previous night.

Park residents report waking to a chaotic scene. They recalled having to move heavy loads of their belongings quickly, after being given only 60 seconds to remove their belongings, with those who failed to comply in time receiving citations.

Those present in the park at the time of the Dec 9 raid said on Tuesday that the unanticipated police action involved the officers arriving while they were asleep/ The police seized many of their personal belongings, including tents and blankets, which were seen being thrown in a dumpster, according to witnesses.

“We woke up and […] the police, the park maintenance people, they were driving around. They came in with the dumpsters, and they were taking everybody’s stuff, throwing it in the dumpster, telling them ‘take what you need and leave right now’”, one witness stated on Tuesday. “They were taking everything there and throwing it in the trash.”

Park Police and LVMPD officers were in the park on Tuesday from approximately 10am to 12pm, when one person was arrested on an outstanding warrant, and confirmed that an action to move on those who had taken up residence in the park was planned as early as December 1. According to Metro’s Sergeant Ryan Cook, the park was singled out for action at a meeting that day of the County Multi-Agency Response Team (CMART), a local police unit which includes multiple county agencies.

LVMPD Sgt. Ryan Cook

Sgt. Cook stated that the action was in response to “people who take up residence in the park and diminish the quality of the park for everyone else who […] would like to utilize this park”. The goal of the action, he said, was to “link the individuals […] who are utilizing the park as their home, to Help of Southern Nevada”, a local charitable organization which provides services for Las Vegas residents affected by homelessness or housing instability, to provide them with services, including housing in shelters or apartments, which he said had been prepared for at least some of the displaced individuals.

Disappointment, conflicting narratives remain

Meanwhile, individuals who were awakened to the raid and who were also approached by police Tuesday reported that volunteers with Help of Southern Nevada were not present at the park at the time they were announced to be coming.

“A couple more police came[…]. They said Help of Southern Nevada would be on their way, that they were going to be there, within 10 minutes, right where we were at. Then I went to the other side of the park, I came back and then they told us “oh, they’re going to be on the opposite side of the park, in 20 minutes”, a previously quoted witness to the raid who was in the park at the time, said later on Tuesday. “We went back to the other side [to meet with them], and they never showed up, we waited [about] an hour. They never came”, he said.

That witness, alongside another witness to the raid who was also present for the police visit on Tuesday, also said that the police were there to inform them of a sweep planned for the next day by the Park Police, to clear out remaining residents. The former camp resident reported that one policewoman’s comments on Tuesday to those who had returned to the park brought up families visiting for the holidays as the reason that he and others had to leave, describing returning individuals as “a deterrent”.

It was not immediately clear whether such a sweep happened; however, sources present the following morning saw no presence of police nor evidence of action to clear the park.

While multiple former residents of the encampment had reported that there were several previous visits by police, none seemed to indicate that there was warning the previous day of what was to come. There were perhaps 5 prior visits, the witness previously quoted said, and that each time, people were told to leave. One head police officer was reported to have repeatedly said “Not on my watch”.

One day before the raid, police came by and awakened everyone, according to another witness, who had lived in the park for approximately 2 years. She said that she had also been given misinformation, namely that the raid would occur on the 16th, a week after the raid, and that Park Police had raided two weeks ago.

But at no time did they announce that they were intending to clear the encampment that Friday, and there was no indication that property would be seized. Sources also reported citations given to individuals who did not leave with their property fast enough, including a deaf resident whose belongings were seized and discarded.

“There’s lots of people in that park that really need help, and they’re not getting it. A lot of us, we’re having hard times right now. Trying to get back on our feet”, said one of the witnesses interviewed Tuesday.

The same witness also reported that he knew of no one who was housed by Help of Southern Nevada as of yet, and that many would refuse to go to shelters. According to the former park resident, the group had only sent one representative once, to inform residents about their housing services. Among the reasons people have not been willing to accept housing options offered by Help of Southern Nevada are the presence of bedbugs in shelters as well as restrictions on pet ownership in available housing options.

Police remain positive

Sgt. Cook expressed an unapologetically positive attitude about the police action.

Cook, who works in the community-oriented policing section of Metro, commented that “when we have individuals that utilize the playground equipment for sleeping places, and kids can’t enjoy the slides, and things like that, is when park police and us get called, to try to help resolve the situation and get people to where they need to be”. He brought up the services that Help of Southern Nevada provides, including a new triage center.

Asked how he felt about the action, he said, “I think it’s positive. I think it’s positive that the park is being used for what it was actually initially designed for, which is recreation and entertainment for all the residents. Not private living facilities.”

Still, however, not everyone is pleased. An additional onlooker who witnessed the raid, noting that displaced camp residents would simply re-locate, said Monday, “They’re not fixing the problem, they’re just avoiding the problem.”

Sgt. Ryan Cook gets a little creepy while talking about a traffic stop

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San Antonio Police Officer Matthew Luckhurst Fired for Trying to Feed Shit Sandwich to Homeless Man

Officer Matthew Luckhurst of the San Antonio Police Department has been placed on indefinite suspension as the result of an incident in May. Luckhurst had bragged to another cop that he had placed feces inside bread and put it in a styrofoam container next to a sleeping homeless man, hoping he would eat it. That unnamed officer fortunately had some decency and told Officer Luckhurst to go back and throw the shit sandwich away. He then reported the incident to the San Antonio Police Dept.’s Internal Affairs Bureau in July.

Subsequently, the suspension was recommended by both a civilian review board and a review board comprising sworn officers. in October. After a meeting with Officer Luckhurst, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus upheld the suspension. Earlier today, both he and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor released statements regarding Luckhurst’s behavior.

Via KVUE.com, the local ABC affiliate:

“This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of “treating all with integrity, compassion, fairness and respect’,” said Chief McManus. “The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor also released a statement Friday regarding the incident. “Firing this officer was the right thing to do,” Mayor Taylor said. “His actions were a betrayal of every value we have in our community, and he is not representative of our great police force.”

It’s not entirely clear from the news reports of the “indefinite suspension” equates to an actual firing or if that is still in the process of happening. According to MySanAntonio.com, Officer Luckhurst is planning to appeal the suspension/firing. Although Luckhurst declined to comment to the media, his lawyer, Ben Sifuentes, it was all just a joke that “spiraled out of control.”

Homeless people are frequently the targets of bullying and police are often some of the biggest bullies around. The stigma attached to being homeless and the criminalization of  homelessness are huge issues within most, if not all, cities throughout the country. Having worked with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas and personally witnessed the abusive manner that a good majority of police officers behave toward homeless people, I have very little doubt that it happened, even though he likely did consider it a joke. (And it certainly did spiral out of control for him.)

I also don’t have a lot of doubt that he will win his appeal and be reinstated. When you have free rein to murder people, trying to serve someone a shit sandwich is small potatoes. And if all else fails, he can always just move to the next police department over and continue as if nothing ever happened.

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Las Vegas Punk Band Apathetix Plays “ACAB” Live at the Womb Room

The video and content within this post were shared with the CopBlock Network by “Apathetix,” a Las Vegas based punk band, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

Contrary to their name, the Apathetix are actually very involved in several community based projects within the Las Vegas area, including Food Not Bombs, Las Vegas and Nevada Cop Block and also regular attendees at the Las Vegas Anarchist Cafe, from which both the latter projects derived. The members of Apathetix are also personal friends of mine and they happen to be a very kick ass band. Other songs by Apethetix can be found here, here, or here on SoundCloud or here on their lead singer’s Youtube channel. There’s also this video that I personally took during one of their shows at a local bar back in April.

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

IN A BAND?

Also, for any readers out there who are musicians or involved in the music industry on some level, we have a page here on CopBlock.org dedicated to like-minded people that make music.

As Pete Eyre has stated previously on that page:

apathetix-las-vegas-nevada-cop-blockIf your band is on the same wavelength as us here at CopBlock.org – you recognize and seek to inform others of the fact that badges don’t grant extra rights – perhaps we can collaborate.

In keeping with the decentralization so key to the free exchange of ideas – inform others about your band, your motivations and a track that you think especially relevant via the form at CopBlock.org/Submit

Related posts will be added to this page – CopBlock.org/Music – which seeks to be a go-to for musicians and bands of all stripes that share one commonality – the recognition that badges don’t grant extra rights.

A secondary goal for this page is that it may act as motivation for other musicians to become active in this conversation.

So send us your music and if it’s not shitty we’ll post it.

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Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Alternative Policing Within an Anarchist Justice System

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. Some tips to make it more likely that your submission will get posted to the CopBlock Network can be found here.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Logan’s own writings.)

In the post below, Logan discusses some alternative options for policing and specifically options which might arise within an Anarchist society. Initially, he also addresses the many issues with the current police, court, and prison systems and ways to counteract or avoid them. One of the most obvious and frequent questions asked of those who advocate replacing the current “justice” systems, is what would replace them and how regular people would defend themselves against criminals.

Don’t Call the Pigs: An Informal Guide to Creating an Anarchist Justice System

Anti-police sentiment is on the rise in America and around the world. In the wake of the death’s of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless others (Rest In Power), even the DoJ admits that at least some police departments are highly racist in practice and the Black Lives Matter movement has sprung up in response. Those from all sides of the political aisle have come out against police militarization. Pigs have been routinely denied service at various business establishments across the nation. On the inside, prisoners around the country have been on strike since September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising, with guards having recently gone on a solidarity work strike in support of the prisoners at Holman in Atmore, Alabama. So how do we, as anarchists, help provide tactics in the here and now for dealing with the state’s armed injustice system? But more importantly in the long run, how do we build alternative defense and justice systems?

How to Deal With the Pigs

It’s almost inevitable, especially if you’re working class, queer, a person of color, or an activist, that you will have to interact with the pigs at some point in your lifetime. This is why it’s important to hold community “Know Your Rights” workshops such as those offered by the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild. Hold these workshops at your local infoshop, library, church, community center, or anywhere else where people, activists and non-activists alike, can learn how to hopefully more safely interact with the police. The ACLU also has an app which allows you to film police interactions and upload them automatically to the ACLU’s database for protection in case you phone is confiscated or broken. Groups like Copwatch and Cop Block also encourage people to film the police and hold them accountable for injustice and police brutality.

Movements like Black Lives Matter are currently fighting to curb police brutality by calling for police demilitarization, body cameras, community review boards, community election of police officers, disarming the police, actual punishment for pigs who break the rules, and the end of policies such as Stop and Frisk and Stand Your Ground. These demands hope to curb the worst violence on the way towards abolition.

Unarresting” people can be very risky, especially when you don’t have much support, but has been used as a tactic to free people who are being kidnapped by the pigs both at protests and elsewhere. If you’re up for the challenge then go for it! We need more people like you.

And don’t believe any of that sovereign citizen crap. Some of it sounds good in theory, but none of it has ever really held up in court.

How to Deal With Statist Courts

If you are arrested and/or have to go to court, finding a lawyer is usually key. Sometimes you can luck out and find a more radical public defender who took the job to truly help poor people but chances are you’re better off crowdfunding or throwing other fundraisers or looking for a lawyer who will work pro bono. Some groups, such as the Industrial Workers of the World’s General Defense Committee, are also set up to help pay for bail and legal fees for activists victimized by the state. If you’re looking for a good radical lawyer, depending on your case you could look towards the National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Justice, or the American Civil Liberties Union. You could also ask you other radical friends for their local recommendations.

The now defunct nonviolent agorist defense agency Shield Mutual offered anarchists and libertarians protections against the state. Instead of armed protection, they promised services attuned to the needs of the individual. They could help with obtaining lawyers, crowdfunding for legal fees, setting up a public freedom campaign website, public relations, media promotion, and networking. They’ve even paid for a woman’s new plane ticket after she was detained by the TSA and missed her flight. The group operated as a friendly society where members paid monthly or yearly dues which went to the cost of helping its membership. They also had a peer-to-peer mutual aid network where members could request funds from other members for emergencies, business ideas, or other projects. Sadly this group has since disbanded (although their website is still up) but it still serves as a model for other agorist defense services.

If you ever happen to be summoned for jury duty, don’t try and skip out. Instead try and use the practice of jury nullification to keep people from being thrown in the state’s cages. The Fully Informed Jury Association has plenty of materials to read and learn from and regularly canvases outside courthouses where they’re active. Join or form a chapter, spread the knowledge. We can decide their laws are not worth enforcing.

How to Deal With the State’s Prisons

If you get locked up, it can seem like the end of the battle but that is far from true. Groups like Books for Prisoners supply reading materials, both radical and non-radical alike, to inmates for entertainment and education. Black and Pink and other letter writing groups provide companionship through becoming pen pals with those held hostage by the state.

In order to help change prison conditions and aid their eventual abolition, groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Free Alabama Movement, the Free Virginia Movement, the Prison Ecology Project, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are essential. While some of these groups are inherently reformist, groups like FAMM and NCADP help fight against specific issues which will roll back the power of the state. Groups like the Prison Ecology Project focus on the high environmental costs of prisons. While on the inside, groups like the Black Guerrilla Family, IWOC, and other prison gangs, organizations, and unions offer a way for inmates to collectively organize against the pigs holding them hostage. IWOC, as a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, helps prisoners set up IWW branches inside prisons to organize against prison slavery and unfair living conditions.

The Anarchist Black Cross is dedicated to fighting for political prisoners and prisoners of war within the radical movement. They collect dues from its membership which are used to help prisoners with little to no resources obtain them, usually in the form of a monthly donation to an inmate’s commissary fund. They also help fundraise and advocate for POWs as well as doing letter writing and in person visitation. The Black Cross is organized by both allies and inmates who control the organization through directly democratic means.

For those trying to obtain freedom, having an outside network fighting for your freedom with online promotion, political pressure, phone blasts, demonstrations, etc. is a huge help. Nobody is going to pay attention to your case unless there’s enough pressure, such pressure works better in numbers, and such support comes through public awareness and media campaigns.

Failing that, there’s always escape.

Don’t Call the Pigs

One of the biggest things we can do in the here and now is stop relying on the police for protection. Don’t call them, don’t report crimes, don’t allow them in your businesses, don’t snitch. There are better ways of dealing with crime then turning to state violence.

Instead of calling the police, set up your own emergency networks. Have a network of friends, family, or neighbors who are willing and able to respond to emergencies and call them instead. Apps such as Peacekeeper and Cell411 make this process simpler allowing multiple people to be contacted at once with GPS directions and everything. Choosing the right network could lead to a faster response time and more adaptive tactics ranging from arbitration and conflict resolution to armed defense.

Essential to living in a society without pigs is learning self-defense. Martial arts, kickboxing, women’s self-defense courses, and firearms training allow individuals to help protect themselves and others from violence. Groups like the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self Defense, Pink Pistols, and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club offer community firearms training to those in their community. The Huey P. Newton Gun Club actually promotes the idea of arming every black and brown citizen that can legally be armed in order to effectively protect themselves from police and white supremacist violence.

The Huey P. Newton Gun Club also advocates Black Panther style community patrols where they both protect the community from internal crime and violence in their communities and track police activity, filming them and yelling legal advice to those being harassed by the pigs while making it known that they are fully armed just in case the pig has any violent inclinations. Other anti-statist directly democratic community watch groups have also sprung up throughout history to protect communities without the need for the pigs.

In some places, especially in those where war or violence is more prevalent such as Rojava, these community watch groups take the form of voluntary militias. From the Zapatista Army to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, community regulated militias have proven an effective response to statist military and police forces. Currently the militia movement in america is of a decidedly more right-wing viewpoint, with groups like the 3%ers, and tend to carry with them underlying statist messages of patriotism and nationalism, but one can hope that a leftist militia movement will grow into a reality.

Grassroots rape crisis centers offer support geared towards the needs of the survivor and most will not go to the pigs unless asked. Some already offer restorative and transformative programs to help deal with the perpetrator as well while others should be so encouraged by their communities. And as communities look towards other institutional alternatives, the creation of private detective, forensics, and arbitration services can offer attempts at filling those needs.

Dispute resolution organizations (DROs) have been proposed as an alternative to police, insurance, and alternative dispute services. According to wikipedia, “The firms would be voluntarily contracted to provide, or coordinate with other firms to provide, services such as mediation, reimbursement for damages, personal protection, and credit reporting.”

Don’t Use Their Courts

Instead of relying on the state’s court system to solve disputes, turning to arbitration services, trained mediators, direct negotiation between either the two parties, or non-statist alternative dispute resolution between the parties’ lawyers or DRO(s) can offer solutions that are more adapted to the specific needs of the victims and the perpetrators. Community tribunals or courts could also be established in smaller communities to deal with situations directly as a community. Retribution for damaged property can be negotiated in such ways as could the establishment of a restorative and/or transformative justice process which normally takes the form of an accountability process negotiated by the victim and voluntarily fulfilled by the perpetrator. Indemnity services can also help pay for property damages in certain situations especially if no victim is caught.

Don’t Fill Their Cages

Establishing accountability processes for perpetrators of violent crimes helps address the needs of both the victim and perpetrator, helps to repair the damages made, and transform the perpetrator’s behavior in hopes that they do not continue to harm others. Un-cooperative perps are subject to social ostracization and denial of community services or support until they are cooperative. Repeatedly violent criminals are likely to eventually see the wrong end of a barrel of a gun in an armed anarchist community as self-defense is encouraged but in the here and now it’s best to familiarize yourself and your community with the local gun laws so as to know your rights when being attacked. Hold workshops to spread the knowledge you discover in your research or find a radical lawyer who will help you put together a workshop. Sometimes there are laws that make shooting to kill is legal while warning shots are illegal and that is just one example of such strange and backwards laws. Very rarely is shooting someone worth going to prison yourself so know the laws and weigh the options.

Freely available mental health resources such as medication and counseling or even support groups such as the Icarus Project would help alleviate the crime rate as those who suffer from mental health issues won’t be left untreated. This will not only allow for a way to deal with criminals who are mentally unstable in becoming stable but will help prevent crimes before they happen. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other addiction and rehabilitation programs offer a way to deal with drug and alcohol addiction without turning to punishment as the answer.

Creating a Less Violent Society

Moving forward we must continue the fight to demilitarize and disarm the police, to train in self-defense, and to set up our alternative justice systems but we must also get at the root of most crime in this country. Excessive laws and regulation, racism, sexism (including heterosexism and cissexism), and poverty are at the heart of most crime in this country. Repealing prohibitions on guns, drugs, prostitution, squatting, conducting business without a license, and the myriad of other prohibitions the state enacts will empty their prisons of a majority inmates who are locked up for victimless crimes. Taking care of their economic needs by making sure folks have food, shelter, medical care, and their other needs met either through better job opportunities in a freed market (or the agora as it stands today) or through mutual aid such as through groups like Food Not Bombs, free clinics, community lending programs, and grassroots labor unions will help combat economic crimes. As it stands most of those caught for theft, embezzlement, identity theft, robbery, and other economic crimes more often than not did so out of desperation to escape poverty. Taking care of the basic needs of your local community helps relieve such desperation and offers them the resources of survival so that they do not have to steal to obtain resources.

Nonviolent parenting, education, nonviolent communication techniques, and conflict resolution training can help to lead us to a better future where we can solve our own problems instead of relying on the state’s goons to kidnap and throw our enemies – and friends – in cages. The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System campaign teaches people how to set up safe spaces where police are not needed or welcomed. All of these ideas and more are things we could establish and do in the here and now to create our own justice systems in the traditions of agorism, dual power, and “building a new world in the shell of the old.” And with people begging for solutions with both the current ongoing national prison strikes and the movements for black lives and against police militarization, now is as good a time as ever to begin building and put these ideas into practice.

Spread the Word, Break the Chains!

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Las Vegas Protesters “De-Arrest” Innocent Bicyclist After LVMPD Harassment on May Day

During the 2016 annual May Day march in Las Vegas, officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department began bullying and acting aggressively toward people participating in the march. Prior to these hostile actions by the police the march had been extremely peaceful and quite lighthearted.

The May Day march in Las Vegas is one of the most well attended and festive events held in the city. While people advocate for the rights of under-represented groups and in support of varying different issues, the march itself is more of a celebration than a protest.

Among other things, several motorcycle police began running into (at a very slow speed) and pushing anyone that stepped off the sidewalk as they were walking. They also began harassing several participants who were riding bikes on the street next to the march demanding that that they ride on the sidewalk. (Not only is riding a bike in the street the safest way to ride and completely legal, but riding on the sidewalks is in fact illegal).

FTP – Film The Police

Shortly after this began, the police attempted to arrest one of those bicyclists for (legally) riding her bike in the street. The thing you don’t see in the video, because it happened right before the camera was turned on, is that she had actually gotten off her bike and thrown it into the back of a truck that was accompanying the march with the intention of walking from that point on. So not only was the attempted arrest based on something that was legal to do, but it was also completely unnecessary since she had already decided to avoid any further harassment by not riding the bike anymore.

Even this kid knows that it was bullshit.

Even this kid knows that it was bullshit.

Once the police had illegally detained her, they then tried to pull her off to the side into the yard of a local business (a wedding chapel), apparently hoping that everyone would just keep going and allow them to perform their kidnapping without interference. Instead, several of us followed them to document what they were doing and ask her what they were attempting to charge her with.

In response, those officers began acting aggressive toward us as well and a female police officer, who appeared to be the original instigator, purposely threw her shoulder into me and then began to issue me a citation for some unspecified charge (presumably trespassing) in an attempt to intimidate me into leaving. As a result, the entire march also followed them and subsequently surrounded them so they could not leave, demanding and chanting that they “let her go” until they were forced to do so.

The police tried to use the fact that they had dragged her off to private property to force everyone to leave. In reality, since an illegal arrest is tantamount to a kidnapping, that amounts to a kidnapper grabbing someone and pulling them onto private property then saying, “you can’t try to stop me from kidnapping them anymore because I’m on private property.”

Prior to the police creating a negative situation the march was very peaceful.

Prior to the police creating a negative situation, the march was a very peaceful and friendly community event.

They also refused to state what exactly they wanted to charge her with and claiming that we could not speak to her and ask her that, using the excuse of “confidentiality” as a reason. Arrests are actually public record, so there is no confidentiality requirement and police are required to tell an arrestee the reason for which they are being arrested. In addition, a recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling banned police from charging people with obstruction for talking to a person being detained by the police, which had been a common tactic for them previously.

Reportedly, the police told one of the organizers of the march that she had said, “fuck you” when they told her not to ride her bike in the street and that was the real reason for their desire to arrest her. While I have little doubt that that is true, saying fuck you to police is not in any way illegal and has been ruled legal by the US Supreme Court.

Don’t just sit back and let innocent people be kidnapped for “contempt of cop” or other bullshit reasons. When people work together and look out for each other they can stop unlawful actions by the police. They quickly realized they weren’t going to be able to isolate one person and then drag her off to jail and instead would have to deal with hundreds of determined people.

In addition, their attempt to use private property and potential trespassing charges as a way to force people to leave her to their mercy backfired when the actual owners of that property complained about the disturbance it was causing to their business. They knew that the only way to quickly resolve the situation would to release her instead.

This was a rather typical situation in which the police unnecessarily escalated (and in fact created) a situation that they then wanted to use as a justification to make arrests in an otherwise peaceful community event. It happens all too often and for no good reason. Fortunately, this time the people stood together and did not allow it to happen.

BTW, one of the officers that was present that day has made quite a name for himself for attempting to arrest people, especially people filming him, on bogus jaywalking charges. Officer Brown was already featured in a submission on Cop Block back in 2013 for doing just that.

"Downtown" Brown

“Downtown” Brown

Additionally, almost exactly one year later in 2014, I began filming him and his partner after I saw them accelerate their police car toward and nearly run into a homeless man on Fremont Street that had taken one single step off the sidewalk when the signal was red. After the light changed, I crossed the street to get a closer view of them. Since they were blocking the crosswalk, I walked a couple feet to the side of it.

Officer Brown then detained me under the pretense that I was jaywalking because I was outside the designated crosswalk, even though I had done so to avoid walking through the area where they were holding the homeless man. Shortly after that he stated, “stop extending your arms and get your camera out of my face” in an apparent attempt to justify assaulting me.

However, several friends of mine showed up right at that time and they were also filming. You can pretty clearly see in the videos taken from a distance that I am simply holding my cell phone with my arms in a normal position (not extended) and that my camera is no where near his face.

Incidentally, Officer Brown was also one of the cops involved in Metro’s big two month chalk investigation that led to five of us being arrested on bogus graffiti charges in an attempt to intimidate us into not protesting against them and for which we are currently suing the LVMPD. Seems like everytime there is a negative incident involving Metro in Downtown Las Vegas Officer Brown is involved.

http://copblock.org/filmthepolice

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BTW (part deux), I was wearing a bloody pig face mask the entire time.

Bloody Pig Face

#TrueStory

Additional Video

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Las Vegas Marshals Block Handicap Space; Make It Very Clear They Don’t Care About Disabled

LV Deputy Marshal Marcus DiazThis video and the description included in this post were submitted by members of Nevada Cop Block, who regularly attend Food Not Bombs Las Vegas Picnics to counteract and document the harassment that people participating in the twice weekly events often face from the employees of the Deputy City Marshals of Las Vegas and other Law Enforcement Departments, such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Las Vegas Police have a long history of targeting homeless people, as well as those who attempt to aid them through non-government methods, such as Mutual Aid. In fact, in 2006 Las Vegas was one of the first cities in the country to make it illegal to share food with hungry people and several members of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas were either cited or arrested, as a result.

Las Vegas Deputy Marshal Marcus DiazThe ban on sharing food with hungry people was overturned fairly quickly, in large part because the law stated that people could not share food in public with “someone who appeared to qualify for government assistance” (I.E. people that look like they might actually need food). However, harassment toward homeless and impoverished people within the Las Vegas area continued in different ways and is still a very common occurrence today, both inside and outside of the local public parks.

As you can see in the video above, the Las Vegas Deputy City Marshals don’t even bother to hide their arrogance, hypocrisy, and disdain for the citizens of Las Vegas. Make sure you don’t forget to contact those within the Las Vegas City Government to let them know what you think of these marshals parking illegally blocking the handicapped parking space in a public park and then saying that that’s just “how it goes” if a disabled person comes along and needs to park.

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During a weekly Food Not Bombs picnic, Marshals working for the City of Las Vegas were observed being too lazy to spend an extra five seconds parking in an actual parking space at Huntridge Circle Park in Downtown Las Vegas. So, instead they double parked the wrong direction blocking access to the handicapped parking space in the process, even though there were six other spaces open at the time. (Something they would give anyone else a very expensive ticket for and that is a very legitimate issue in terms of the handicapped access area.)

When it was pointed out that they were not only parked illegally but were blocking the handicapped parking space, Deputy Marshal Marcus Diaz (driving vehicle number 3908) said, “I know, thanks.”

Later, Deputy Marshal Diaz stated, “that’s how it goes,” when asked what handicapped people were supposed to do if they came to the park and the space designated for them to park was blocked.

Vegas Deputy Marshal Marcus DiazThe other Las Vegas Marshal claimed he was there responding to a call about us being in danger and needed to park blocking the handicapped space in case he had to come rushing to our rescue. The fact that he never contacted us or said anything to us prior to us confronting him about their illegal and immoral parking proves that was a (bad) lie.

He also tried to claim that they weren’t obstructing the handicapped parking area, which as you can see in the video is an even worse lie.

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Date of Incident:July 27, 2015 – Approximately 12:42 PM
Location of Incident: “Huntridge Circle Park in Downtown Las Vegas
Department Involved: City of Las Vegas Deputy Marshals’ Office
Officers Involved: Deputy Marshal Marcus Diaz and one unidentified Deputy Marshal, who was driving vehicle #3885 at the time.

Contact Info:

Las-Vegas-Marshals-Illegally-Park-and-Block-Handicapped-Space-at-Circle-ParkDeputy City Marshals

Website: http://old.lasvegasnevada.gov//information/4170.htm
Address: 3300 Stewart Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: (702) 229-6444, option 1
Fax: (702) 386-7070

City of Las Vegas Government

Website: http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov
City Hall Address: 495 S. Main St., Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: (702) 229-6011
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/CityOfLasVegas
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cityoflasvegas
Instagram: http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/images/instagram.png
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/KCLVChannel2

City Manager Betsy Fretwell

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/betsy.fretwell
Twitter: https://twitter.com/betsyfretwell

Councilman Bob Coffin (Ward 3 Councilman, where Circle Park is located)

Email: Contact Councilman Bob Coffin
Phone: (702) 229-6405
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/bob.coffin.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Coffin4Council

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Deputy Marshal Marcus Diaz: “That’s how it goes.”

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Full, unedited raw video by four different members of Nevada Cop Block.

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Update: Sister Megan Rice, “Transform Now Plowshares” Members Released

Sister Meghan RiceLast week, I posted about the 6th U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling (see below) that overturned the sabotage convictions of the “Y-12 Three” and ordered resentencing for their convictions on the charge of “injuring government property.” This created hope that “Transform Now Plowshares” members Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed would be released as a result, since their sentences were largely based on that higher charge of sabotage. On Saturday May 16th, those hopes were realized after the government stated that they would not fight their release:

“All three peace activists who vandalized Y-12 are out of prison. Attorney Marc Shapiro said Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were released from prison Saturday afternoon. Sister Megan Rice, 85, was released a several hours later…

On Friday, the government responded that it did not object to their release pending the July hearing, if the court ‘determines that the potential risk of the defendants over-serving their likely guideline sentences on their remaining convictions constitutes ‘exceptional reasons” under federal law.”

At this point, from everything I’ve heard it appears that they will be sentenced to time served on July 8th. Therefore, they will remain free, having already served more time than what is typical for the lesser crime for which their convictions were upheld:

The trio will still be re-sentenced on the lesser charges, but it could mean they are out of prison for good for the time already served. Quigley (their lawyer) says they are thrilled with the decision and still stand by their actions.

Excerpt from the previous post:

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Convictions Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that…Read the full post by clicking here.

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Convictions of Sister Megan Rice, and the “Y-12 Three” Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Could Be Released Soon

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that, she spent 40 years as a schoolteacher and relief worker in some of the poorest areas of Africa, until bouts with malaria and typhoid fever forced her to return to the United States.

From the first time I ever met her at a local coffee shop where we held the Las Vegas A-Cafe at that time, Sister Megan was never anything, but pleasant, friendly, and helpful. However, even as apparent as her good nature was, you could see and hear the strength of her character just as easily. She was the kind of genuine person that you respected as soon as you met her. Through involvement with Food Not Bombs and other peace groups, as well as my own personal advocacy, I have often worked with Catholic Worker and other faith-based groups in the Las Vegas area, such as Nevada Desert Experience and Pace e Bene, that are associated with them.

As a result, I had a fair amount of interaction with Sister Megan during her last couple of years in Las Vegas. During that time, my respect and admiration for her never ceased to grow. Her peaceful, yet determined, demeanor was always both inspirational and educational. Talking to her at regular “everyday” events was always a pleasant experience. On the other side of the coin, witnessing how she never let fear of punishment deter her from standing up for the right thing and was always willing to accept the consequences that might come, regardless of how overblown or draconian they might have been, was something that always strengthened my own resolve.

Toward the end of her time in Las Vegas, I attended the trial of the “Creech 14,” who had been arrested for stepping too close to the gate of Creech Air Force Base (where most of the U.S. drones are operated remotely) in order to protest the murders of people in other countries (including women and children) by people just north of Las Vegas. Sister Meghan (as well as the rest of the defendants) never backed down from her principles or recanted their beliefs as unjust, but simply made the argument that their actions were based on a duty to defend innocent people.

It seemed fairly obvious, that even the judge was sympathetic to their arguments, which included testimony from Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on their behalf. Of course, when you are accused of challenging the government’s war machine, no judge will side against their employer and its biggest source of income, regardless of their potential sympathies for the accused. Especially in what was really a very minor case that was being used as a sort of show trial to discourage future activism against Creech’s drone murders. When I spoke to her after the trial on the phone, instead of being upset (like I was) or even disappointed that they were convicted, she was actually cheerful and talking about moving onto the next fight.

Transform Now Plowshares and the Oakridge Nuclear Facility – Pacifistic Terrorism

From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Not long after that, she left Nevada and shortly thereafter became involved in the biggest and most principled fight that anyone I know personally has ever undertaken. At a time when most people are relaxing in retirement, Sister Megan actually shut down a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Along with Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, the (at the time) 82 year old nun entered the Oak Ridge (TN) National Laboratory, hung protest banners, poured blood on the walls, and spray-painted antiwar statements on buildings. The ease with which they entered what was supposed to be a highly secure nuclear weapons facility and the very public nature of it, this particular action not only challenged, but very much embarrassed the U.S. Government.

That public shaming of the United States’ war apparatus and it’s very lax security was their real “crime.” Outside of that, all the three pacifists had committed was trespassing and what would be a stretch to call vandalism, since no actual property was damaged. In spite of that, they were branded as “violent terrorists” by the Federal Government and charged with felony crimes. This was much more a case of saving face over the exposure of just how easy it would be for someone with real harmful intent to walk right onto a base filled with nuclear materials (they actually had to approach a security guard working there and alert him to their presence) than any real danger that they had ever created with their non-violent actions.

Square-bannerAs was the case in previous acts of civil disobedience, rather than back down from her convictions and beg her captors for leniency, Sr. Megan and the others reaffirmed their commitment to direct action and even informed the judge after their conviction that they would resume such activity upon release, stating that the only way to stop them from advocating for peace would be to give them a life sentence. At the time, they were in fact facing what amounted to an actual life sentence (a 30 year maximum), due to their ages.

Although it is still a travesty that she should have spent even a day in jail, the judge fortunately didn’t heed their advice in that respect and sentenced her to 35 months, along with sentencing Boertje-Obed and Walli to 62 months each. As the Daily News detailed earlier this year, Sister Megan has since been confined to a “Brooklyn hellhole,” crammed with 111 other women into an unsanitary, inhumane single room prison unit at the Metropolitan Federal Detention Center in New York City.

In spite of those deplorable conditions, Sister Megan responds with her typical strength and good cheer. Rather than complain, she makes her initial appearance for that interview serene and smiling and speaks of how the patience and endurance the beautiful women she lives with in the prison have become a “constant source of admiration and hope that change is possible.”

SecondSaturdayMay 047That sort of humility, determination, optimism, and caring spirit is what I noticed and admired almost immediately when I met Sister Megan. And it’s what has caused me to take inspiration from her and become determined myself to continue fighting for that change. Throughout my life and especially since I became involved in activist causes, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring people that have left permanent impressions on me and helped to shape my character in a positive way. Sister Megan is someone I place among the top of that list. She and her fellow peaceful “terrorists” should be released right now, not so much because she personally needs or would likely ask for that on her own behalf, but rather because those of us out here need people like her standing with us.

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Release Sister Megan Rice, and the “Y-12 Three” Peaceful Political Prisoners

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Convictions Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that, she spent 40 years as a schoolteacher and relief worker in some of the poorest areas of Africa, until bouts with malaria and typhoid fever forced her to return to the United States.

From the first time I ever met her at a local coffee shop where we held the Las Vegas A-Cafe at that time, Sister Megan was never anything, but pleasant, friendly, and helpful. However, even as apparent as her good nature was, you could see and hear the strength of her character just as easily. She was the kind of genuine person that you respected as soon as you met her. Through involvement with Food Not Bombs and other peace groups, as well as my own personal advocacy, I have often worked with Catholic Worker and other faith-based groups in the Las Vegas area, such as Nevada Desert Experience and Pace e Bene, that are associated with them.

As a result, I had a fair amount of interaction with Sister Megan during her last couple of years in Las Vegas. During that time, my respect and admiration for her never ceased to grow. Her peaceful, yet determined, demeanor was always both inspirational and educational. Talking to her at regular “everyday” events was always a pleasant experience. On the other side of the coin, witnessing how she never let fear of punishment deter her from standing up for the right thing and was always willing to accept the consequences that might come, regardless of how overblown or draconian they might have been, was something that always strengthened my own resolve.

Toward the end of her time in Las Vegas, I attended the trial of the “Creech 14,” who had been arrested for stepping too close to the gate of Creech Air Force Base (where most of the U.S. drones are operated remotely) in order to protest the murders of people in other countries (including women and children) by people just north of Las Vegas. Sister Meghan (as well as the rest of the defendants) never backed down from her principles or recanted their beliefs as unjust, but simply made the argument that their actions were based on a duty to defend innocent people.

It seemed fairly obvious, that even the judge was sympathetic to their arguments, which included testimony from Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on their behalf. Of course, when you are accused of challenging the government’s war machine, no judge will side against their employer and its biggest source of income, regardless of their potential sympathies for the accused. Especially in what was really a very minor case that was being used as a sort of show trial to discourage future activism against Creech’s drone murders. When I spoke to her after the trial on the phone, instead of being upset (like I was) or even disappointed that they were convicted, she was actually cheerful and talking about moving onto the next fight.

Transform Now Plowshares and the Oakridge Nuclear Facility – Pacifistic Terrorism

From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Not long after that, she left Nevada and shortly thereafter became involved in the biggest and most principled fight that anyone I know personally has ever undertaken. At a time when most people are relaxing in retirement, Sister Megan actually shut down a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Along with Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, the (at the time) 82 year old nun entered the Oak Ridge (TN) National Laboratory, hung protest banners, poured blood on the walls, and spray-painted antiwar statements on buildings. The ease with which they entered what was supposed to be a highly secure nuclear weapons facility and the very public nature of it, this particular action not only challenged, but very much embarrassed the U.S. Government.

That public shaming of the United States’ war apparatus and it’s very lax security was their real “crime.” Outside of that, all the three pacifists had committed was trespassing and what would be a stretch to call vandalism, since no actual property was damaged. In spite of that, they were branded as “violent terrorists” by the Federal Government and charged with felony crimes. This was much more a case of saving face over the exposure of just how easy it would be for someone with real harmful intent to walk right onto a base filled with nuclear materials (they actually had to approach a security guard working there and alert him to their presence) than any real danger that they had ever created with their non-violent actions.

Square-bannerAs was the case in previous acts of civil disobedience, rather than back down from her convictions and beg her captors for leniency, Sr. Megan and the others reaffirmed their commitment to direct action and even informed the judge after their conviction that they would resume such activity upon release, stating that the only way to stop them from advocating for peace would be to give them a life sentence. At the time, they were in fact facing what amounted to an actual life sentence (a 30 year maximum), due to their ages.

Although it is still a travesty that she should have spent even a day in jail, the judge fortunately didn’t heed their advice in that respect and sentenced her to 35 months, along with sentencing Boertje-Obed and Walli to 62 months each. As the Daily News detailed earlier this year, Sister Megan has since been confined to a “Brooklyn hellhole,” crammed with 111 other women into an unsanitary, inhumane single room prison unit at the Metropolitan Federal Detention Center in New York City.

In spite of those deplorable conditions, Sister Megan responds with her typical strength and good cheer. Rather than complain, she makes her initial appearance for that interview serene and smiling and speaks of how the patience and endurance the beautiful women she lives with in the prison have become a “constant source of admiration and hope that change is possible.”

SecondSaturdayMay 047That sort of humility, determination, optimism, and caring spirit is what I noticed and admired almost immediately when I met Sister Megan. And it’s what has caused me to take inspiration from her and become determined myself to continue fighting for that change. Throughout my life and especially since I became involved in activist causes, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring people that have left permanent impressions on me and helped to shape my character in a positive way. Sister Megan is someone I place among the top of that list. She and her fellow peaceful “terrorists” should be released right now, not so much because she personally needs or would likely ask for that on her own behalf, but rather because those of us out here need people like her standing with us.

Pledge $1/month to help spread the message that, "Badges Don't Grant Extra Rights."

Pledge $1/month to help spread the message that, “Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights.”

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