Right to Protest

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Table of Contents

Why Protest
GOP Efforts to Criminalize the “Right to Protest”
Blue Lives Matter Laws
Protestors Under Attack
White Lives Matter: More than a Counter Protest
All Lives Matter Myth
Know Your Rights
Community Organizing vs Activism

Why Protest


New York Times: Fighting Racism Is Not Just a War of Words

“Protest aims to voice dissent and sway public opinion toward the ultimate end of shaping social change, or in our moment, halting social decline…

…In this mudslinging cultural melee, we need the right words: the stories, jokes, essays, poems, harangues and treatises that paint a compelling vision that we all want to stand for. And beyond judiciously choosing the words to put on the page, we would be wise to follow in the great social-movement tradition of matching our words with bodies in action.

Putting bodies on the line to advance a just vision was among the primary tactics of the transformational African-American movement for civil rights. The embodied form of protest employed by Rosa Parks is an iconic example. A flowing, gold-toned dress sewn by Mrs. Parks hangs with an aura of reverence at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, symbolizing her personal dignity and unyielding drive for justice. That single garment resounds so powerfully because it may have adorned the body of “Mother Parks,” the same body that she used and endangered when refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in the winter of 1955.

According to Jeanne Theoharis, a biographer of Mrs. Parks, she was a woman who applied the “judicious use of stories” and “chose her words with care” but was prepared to leverage her own body to enact her politics. Mrs. Parks’s colleague in the struggle, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also backed well-chosen words with daring action. His “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was a treatise with moral force heightened by the radical position of his incarcerated body as well as by the presence of an aggrieved people marching in the streets.

Then and now, the surprising appearance of bodies in common spaces grabs public attention, and holds the potential to open and change minds. Sixty years after Mrs. Parks sat and Dr. King marched, the image of burly football players kneeling during the national anthem, adopting a pose of humility and sorrow to signal dissent, snatched a news cycle and dragged the president off-message…

…Soon after the 2016 presidential election, the political scientist Frances Fox Piven wrote in The Nation that to be effective, protest movements must generate “mass refusals” that disrupt the complex systems on which everyday life depends. When protesters insert their bodies into forbidden places or adopt poses unsanctioned for their station, they are engaging in blatant acts of refusal. Rosa Parks did exactly this when, as Jeanne Theoharis recounts in her biography of Parks, “she decided to withdraw her participation in a system that was degrading” by refusing to change seats on the bus.

This tactic of corporeal protest, with its elements of immediacy and vulnerability, is riveting and consequential. It is also dangerous. In this dizzying time of multiple and very real threats, deciding which bodies go on the line, where and for what causes requires serious strategic discussion and clear commitment to protecting those who volunteer to risk their bodies…The change we seek to make won’t be accomplished by words alone.”

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New York Times:  Black Lives Matter Is Democracy in Action

“The suggestion that the organizations that have emerged from the Black Lives Matter protests are somehow lacking because they have rejected the old style of leadership misses what makes this movement most powerful: its cultivation of skilled local organizers who take up many issues beyond police violence.

This is radical democracy in action. The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition that includes the Black Lives Matter Global Network and other groups, coalesced in response to high-profile police shootings of black people from 2014 to 2016. It is reinvigorating the 21st-century racial-justice movement, and by extension the anti-racist left, by offering a better model for social movements.

The idea behind that model is that when people on the ground make decisions, articulate problems and come up with answers, the results are more likely to meet real needs. And that’s more sustainable in the long run: People are better prepared to carry out solutions they themselves created, instead of ones handed down by national leaders unfamiliar with realities in local communities. Such local work allows people to take ownership of the political struggles that affect their lives…

…Local organizers are not passive followers. They are leading creative campaigns in major cities. For example, the Black Youth Project 100, along with other local groups, is working to overturn the New York City Housing Authority’s “permanent exclusion” policy, under which people convicted of a crime can be barred from living in or visiting public housing.

Seshat Mack, a student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a leader of the Black Youth Project 100’s New York chapter, explained to me that the campaign, called Housing Over Monitoring and Eviction, has relied heavily on local leadership — in particular, black New Yorkers who live in public housing.

In Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the country, an “expanded sanctuary” campaign has brought together black people and Latino immigrants to demand an end to punitive practices like the city’s gang database. Activists have argued that the criteria for inclusion is vague and that people often don’t know they’re on the list. A lead organizer in that campaign, Maxx Boykin, underscores the importance of “building trust between people and organizations,” which can happen only on the local level.

The fight to end cash bail was bolstered by Mama’s Bail Out Day, a campaign that is the brainchild of the Atlanta organizer Mary Hooks, a director of Southerners on New Ground, a queer social-justice organization. The organizers raised over $1 million to bail out more than 100 low-income black women on Mother’s Day this year. The Movement for Black Lives umbrella group oversaw the effort by pulling in local bail-reform groups.

One of the most intense efforts within the Movement for Black Lives has been to develop an electoral strategy that can be applied locally. Recently, activists started a project to lay the groundwork for creating local black political power. According to Kayla Reed, a St. Louis organizer who helped develop the project, the goal is to transfer the clarity and radical vision brought to the protest lines to electoral campaigns. The organizers of the project are drawing lessons from the successful progressive mayoral campaigns of Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, Miss., and Randall Woodfin in Birmingham, Ala., as well as the narrow defeat of Tishaura O. Jones in St. Louis.

Despite progress on many fronts, there is still work to do. The movement does need an easier way for people to get involved and more transparent collective decision-making, as well as space for broader ideological and policy debates.

The Movement for Black Lives is distinctive because it defers to the local wisdom of its members and affiliates, rather than trying to dictate from above. In fact, the local organizers have insisted upon it. This democratic inflection will pay off if they persevere. Brick by brick, relationship by relationship, decision by decision, the edifices of resistance are being built. The national organizations are the mortar between the bricks. That fortified space will be a necessary training ground and refuge for the political battles that lay ahead, as white supremacists inside and outside of our government seek to undermine racial and economic justice.”

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Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement Documentary

4 Black Lives Matter Myths Debunked


New York Times: How Protest Works

“Do protests and social movements matter? Do they really bring about change?

Answering this question is tricky. It’s not obvious, for example, how much the recent shift to the right in American politics reflects the efforts of the Tea Party movement and how much it reflects deeper developments such as increasing racial hostility and negative reactions to globalization. Sometimes a movement matters far less than the social, economic and political forces that give rise to the movement itself.

When social scientists do uncover evidence of a movement’s influence, we have tended to focus on three main pathways by which movements gain power: cultural, disruptive and organizational. On its own, each pathway turns out to be limited in its effect. But movements that have managed to combine all three, such as the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, have had lasting impact.

Movements are said to exercise “cultural” power when they shape public opinion, language and everyday behavior. Part of what social movements do is create new ideas that challenge the status quo. Some of these ideas never go anywhere, but others take hold even among people who never participate in the movement. People didn’t talk about “the 99 percent” as a way of personalizing the issue of economic inequality before the Occupy movement popularized the phrase. Afterward, the conversation changed: As the sociologists Sarah Gaby and Neal Caren showed in a 2016 article, discussion of inequality in mainstream newspapers increased threefold in the period after Occupy.

But cultural power is not everything. It is difficult to change people’s attitudes about controversial issues. Movements risk “preaching to the choir.” Those opposed to a movement’s goals or hostile to its constituency may also respond by deepening their opposition or hostility. You see this in the polarized reactions of fans to the national anthem protests in the National Football League. In addition, cultural power may change public opinion or discussion of an issue but not translate into other kinds of lasting institutional changes, as was the case with Occupy.

Movements have “disruptive” power when they make it more costly for people to support the status quo. Students in the civil rights movement used sit-ins to increase the everyday costs of doing business until business owners capitulated to their demands. In a 2015 study, the sociologist Michael Biggs and I found that sit-ins could prompt business owners even in neighboring cities to desegregate, because they feared the costs of facing future protesters. Disruption can also signal the depth of participants’ commitment to a cause and the movement’s capacity to withstand repression.

The drawback of disruptive power is that it often inspires counterattacks. The first order of business for elites and authorities facing disruptive protest is to bring it to an end. Some may meet protesters’ demands; some will crack down on protest. Others do both. One week Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was kneeling in apparent solidarity with players seeking to bring attention to racial injustice; the next week he threatened to bench any player who knelt.

Finally, movements build power through organizing. Strong organizations make possible the sort of sustained participation that supports a protest’s agenda for the long haul. In recent years, the Tea Party has provided an example of how movements can use organizational power to help bring about social and political change. The political scientists Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson have analyzed how Tea Party activists, building on the disruptive power of the movement’s initial protests in 2009, established local organizations, supported candidates who shared the movement’s ideals and helped transform the Republican Party.

Organizational power faces its own challenges, though, including the difficulty of sustaining meaningful participation. Staging the occasional protest and raising money are one thing; developing leaders and building constituencies are another. Despite substantial resources and hundreds of organizations, the environmental movement, for example, has not generated the sort of participation sufficient to meet the environmental challenges we face. This failure reflects a larger trend of professional advocacy groups that connect to their supporters primarily through fund-raising appeals.

How does a movement manage to combine cultural, disruptive and organizational power? In some cases, this is accomplished through a division of labor. For example, in the civil rights movement, prominent leaders linked the language of rights, the symbols and rituals of the black church, and the Gandhian approach to civil disobedience; student activists fueled disruption through direct-action protests; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, with hundreds of local organizations and leaders across the country, challenged the powers supporting the status quo in their communities and through the courts.

Over the past year, people have taken to the streets and sought to establish or revitalize organizations to resist the Trump presidency and advance broader social change. To capitalize on the energy and urgency of the moment, leaders and activists should look to build a movement that generates new sources of cultural, disruptive and organizational power.”

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GOP Efforts to Criminalize the “Right to Protest”

VICE: The Republican fight to criminalize protest tactics

Common Dream: UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under Trump

“At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attack the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president, an “alarming and undemocratic” trend, U.N. human rights investigators said this week. (article written 4/2/17)

  • The Arizona State Senate in February voted to expand racketeering laws to allow police to arrest anyone involved in a protest and seize their assets, treating demonstrators like organized criminals.
  • Portland, Oregon activists organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” by Department of Homeland Security.
  • In January, North Dakota Republicans proposed legislation to legalize running over protesters if they are blocking roadways. (The legislation failed, for now.)
  • Missouri lawmakers want to make it illegal to wear a robe, mask or disguise (remarkably, a hoodie would count) to a protest.
  • In Minnesota, following the police shooting death of Philando Castile, protests caused part of a highway to shut down. Then, at the beginning of the state legislative session, Minnesota legislators drafted bills that would punish highway protestors with heavy fines and prison time and would make protesters liable for the policing costs of an entire protest if they individually were convicted of unlawful assembly or public nuisance.
  • Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.”
  • Lawmakers in North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers.
  • In Indiana, conservatives want to allow police to use “any means necessary” to remove activists from a roadway.
  • Colorado lawmakers are considering a big increase in penalties for environmental protesters. Activists who tamper with oil or gas equipment could be, under the measure, face felony charges and be punished with up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $100,000.
  • A bill before the Virginia state legislature would dramatically increase punishment for people who “unlawfully” assemble after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.” Those who do so could face a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The New Inquiry: Know Your Rights

We limit our resistance to fascism by relying on liberal conceptions of human rights

“After the DC police formed a kettle on January 20 to capture over 200 protesters at the intersection of L and 12th Street, I presumed they wouldn’t hold them in the streets for long. “Catch and release,” we’d been assured by local protest mainstays in advance of Inauguration Day. Catch and release—the police tactic of briefly detaining protesters in order to disperse crowds—was understood to be the DC Metropolitan Police Department modus operandi since an infirm mass arrest in 2002 had the city paying out its nose: $8.25 million in settlements. But the afternoon wore on, and the police line didn’t move.

Four hours later, when the arrestees were taken into booking, I presumed the charges would be minor, perhaps disorderly conduct or obstructing government administration. When the charge of felony riot was handed down—rare in and of itself, let alone for over 200 people—I presumed it couldn’t stick. Then, in April, a superseding indictment added several more felony charges to each defendant: inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property. Now over 200 protesters each face up to 75 years in prison.

No one expected a prosecutorial response quite so extreme, nor charges so unprecedented. “In my over thirty years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said veteran DC Attorney Mark Goldstone…

The J20 cases don’t stand alone. In April, two U.N. human rights investigators issued a statement in response to a wave of bills introduced in over 19 states since Trump’s election, which can generously be deemed “anti-protest.” The experts noted an “alarming and undemocratic” trend. In Indiana, for example, Republicans proposed legislation to allow police to use “any means necessary” to remove protesters from a roadway; in Virginia, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make “unlawful assembly” after the police have ordered a crowd to disperse punishable with a year’s jail time; in North Dakota, Republicans proposed legislation to legalize running over protesters if they are blocking roadways (it happily failed).

The investigators were particularly alarmed by an apparent failure in legal understanding running through the language of many of the proposed bills. Again and again, lawmakers referred to “violent protest” to which the police and the law must respond. The U.N. experts disagreed. “There can be no such thing in law as a violent protest,” the investigators stated. “There are violent protesters who should be dealt with individually and appropriately by law enforcement. One person’s decision to resort to violence does not strip other protesters of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This right is not a collective right; it is held by each of us individually.”…

…In their formulation, liberals uphold the “good protester/bad protester” dichotomy that says the state can do whatever it wants to a protester if that protester has violated some mythical social contract with “bad” or “violent” behavior. In the reality forged by these conspiracy-mongering lawmakers, however, we’re all bad protesters now. When we’re playing the state’s game, i.e. in court, there’s no avoiding state logic. A court doesn’t care that we don’t see property damage as violence. A strategy committed to convincing the state of the rights of “good protesters” might win some crucial battles in state houses and courts. An ideology committed to the existence and necessity of good protesters (to be contrasted with bad protesters) presumes a status quo in which we do not need to fight…

…Our rights to speak out and assemble are under attack, as the J20 arrests and numerous anti-protest bills make clear. But our defense of these rights always entails engaging on the state’s terms and on the presumption of its good faith. Under Trump, this is especially daunting. But under any administration, an appeal to human rights presumes the state’s conscience and fealty to the social contract. The use of a rights discourse to defend against repression must be strategic and will always be limited.”

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Blue Lives Matter Laws

Washington Post: ‘Blue lives’ do matter — that’s the problem

How police identity trumps public interest

“In May 2016, Louisiana became the first state to propose a “Blue Lives Matter” law, which amended hate crime provisions to include targeting an individual “because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer or firefighter.” Since then, dozens of bills in states across the nation have been proposed to follow Louisiana’s lead.

The reaction to the new legislative agenda was immediate. The common refrain — “Blue lives don’t exist because officers can take their uniforms off” — was an understandable reaction to the constant racism and brutality black Americans experience every day in interactions with law enforcement.

But “blue lives” do exist. That’s the problem.

The “Blue Lives Matter” movement and its corresponding legislation are just the latest chapter in the evolving notion of what it means to be a police officer, one that dates back over 150 years. The subsequent history shows that, at least for white officers, this strong sense of identity and camaraderie — of police-hood — often supersedes an ability to empathize with civilians of color…

…Yet even as black officers adopt blue lives, their experiences show the tenuousness of the notion that police can adopt a uniform identity, regardless of their race. Without a uniform on, black police are often less able to live unthinkingly in their identities as police, the armed defenders of order and the status quo. “I get anxious in those situations, even more so because I’m legally carrying a gun,” Perry Tarrant of the Seattle Police Department told NBC News. “The potential for things to go sideways makes you well aware of who you are. And I don’t think my situation is unique.”

He’s right. In June of this year, for instance, a white officer shot a black off-duty member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  And yet as Alex Vitale and other sociologists of policing have argued, the “warrior mentality” of us vs. them sinks in after police training, with black officers often siding with white colleagues…

…The Lexow Committee that investigated NYPD corruption warned of this trend in 1895. The committee found that “it appears that the police form a separate and highly privileged class, armed with the authority and machinery for oppression and punishment, but practically free themselves from the operation of criminal law.” The ironies of lawless law enforcement, of specially protected protectors, have been with us for a long time.

Whether through recruitment procedures, community relations or the abolition of law enforcement as we know it, policing in the 21st century is in need of a drastic reframing and reforming. Not toward blue lives, but toward a broader sense of identity, one that understands the police as being the same as civilians, rather than a separate class looking out for its own.”

The Nation: The Case Against ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Bills

Hate-crimes laws make sense for groups that have been historically discriminated against. Police officers don’t qualify.

“Two weeks ago, the New York State Senate passed a so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bill—a law that makes offenses against police and first responders a hate crime. Forms of such legislation have been introduced in at least 14 states since the beginning of 2016. There is little chance that New York’s bill will pass through the state assembly, where Democrats hold a majority, but the sentiment behind the proposed legislation—that police officers need another layer of protection beyond that which they are already afforded—has raised concern among civil-rights advocates and in heavily policed communities.

So far, two Blue Lives Matter bills have been signed into law: The first was passed last May in Louisiana, and the second just two months ago in Kentucky. Hate crimes laws often increase the sentence imposed on the offender, but, more than that, they are symbolic. “Most hate crime statutes protect against groups that have historically been targets of bigotry; hate crime statutes across all states most commonly prohibit crimes based on race, religion, and ethnicity,” writes Jessica Henry, a justice-studies professor at Montclair State University. Is that the case for police officers?

…The 1968 Civil Rights act made it a crime to “willfully…injure, intimidate or interfere with—any person because of his race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Robinson says hate-crime legislation should and has historically been used for victims and communities who have not been properly protected by the law. For black Americans, he said, hate-crime laws have made sense, though conviction rates for hate crimes remain incredibly low. Between 2010 and 2015 a total of 270 hate crimes were referred to federal prosecutors across the country and 230 of them weren’t ever even prosecuted. During that five-year period, only 29 people were convicted of a hate crime. Meanwhile, every state in America has an increased penalty for those who attack law enforcement.

Killing a police officer can result in life imprisonment—just last month a New York man was sentenced to life for killing an NYPD officer. And killing a federal law-enforcement official can be punishable by death. “It’s counterproductive to add a hate crime statute,” said Michael Lieberman of the Washington Council for the Anti-Defamation League. With a hate crime, Lieberman explained, the intent of the offender must be proven in a court of law, a standard of proof that actually makes it more difficult to get a conviction. He suggested strengthening existing protections for police instead of adopting legislation that makes offenses against police a hate crime. Moore, who worked on the landmark case that ruled New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional, says that police “get so much the benefit of the doubt from juries and legal immunity,” he said. Officers, he said, can avoid liability even when the court finds that their conduct violated the constitution if they say they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. “[Law enforcement] get two bites of the apple, we don’t generally even get one.”

Another troubling aspect of the Blue Lives Matter bills is that they’re incredibly vague. “There’s nothing in the language of New York’s bill that limits the type of offenses which may be perpetrated against the police officer that could be elevated to a hate crime,” said Moore. “It could include any felony or misdemeanor under the state of New York.” That means a person could be charged with a hate crime for something like resisting arrest.

In Louisiana, “resisting arrest” did come up as a potential offense covered under the hate-crime law. “Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Governor Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now,” said Police Chief Calder Hebert of St. Martinville, Louisiana, to a local TV station

…If there are already far-reaching protections for police officers in all 50 states, why are states pursuing this legislation? The answer, of course, is politics. “If New York State wants to send a message that black lives don’t matter unless they’re cops, this is the best way to do it,” said Vince Warren, Executive Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal advocacy organization. “At their core, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bills like this one seek to turn Black Lives Matter protesters into enemies of the state.” Warren said that the proposed bill “gives the police added incentive to claim an assault when being lawfully confronted by protesters, which will deter legitimate protest even when those assaults don’t actually happen.” So, beyond these bills being redundant, they also have the potential to detract peaceful protesters from gathering. “You’re supposed to pass bills to address problems,” said Moore. In this case, he adds, “There’s no need for it.””

Daily News:  Louisiana police chief charging people with a felony hate crime, punishable by 10 years in prison, if they resist arrest

“Now that Louisiana’s Blue Lives Matter law is in full effect, the troubling consequences are already being felt across the state. According to St. Martinville Police Chief Calder Hebert, if a man is arrested for the misdemeanor of stealing a candy bar from a convenience store, but then resists arrest, he can and will be charged with a felony hate crime and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for it. In fact, if someone is wrongly arrested, but then resists that wrongful arrest, instead of simply being charged with the misdemeanor of resisting arrest, they, too, can be charged with a felony hate crime against police. It doesn’t matter if they actually hate police or not, which would seem to be a necessary requirement of a hate crime, but resisting arrest is being made into a serious felony nonetheless.

In fact, Hebert told KATC News that he is already enforcing the law and charging people with felony hate crimes against police when they resist arrest. “Resisting an officer or battery of a police officer was just that charge, simply. But now, Gov. Edwards, in the legislation, made it a hate crime now,” said the chief.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have more people in prison than any other nation in the world. Making resisting an arrest into a felony hate crime is preposterous. First off, the charge of “resisting arrest” is already outrageously nebulous and regularly abused by police who can deem even the slightest movement or failure to immediately reply to a command as “resisting arrest.”

I knew a man who had a police dog biting him all over his body, including his genitals, who was then charged with “resisting arrest” because he did not remain calm and still. I knew a woman who was charged with resisting arrest because of her sluggish behaviors during a diabetic attack.

These laws, like most laws in America, will be used to criminalize blackness itself. White police officers will disproportionately enforce this new felony hate crime statute against people of color. Conservatives will then say more people of color are being charged with this ridiculous felony because people of color resist arrest more. It’s all so damn predictable. What I know is that when a young white kid who had too much to drink gets a little rowdy with the police, this law simply won’t be applied to him. That’d simply be too much. Instead, Louisiana’s already crowded jails and prisons will continue to be overstuffed with black and brown bodies who did not endure arrest in robotic silence — no matter how tight the cuffs or bogus the charge.”

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Protestors Under Attack

Black Lives Matter Highway Protests

Washington Post: The Republicans who want to legalize running over protesters

“Last weekend in Charlottesville, a driver mowed down peaceful protesters and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The act was reminiscent of recent terrorist attacks across Europe committed in the name of the Islamic State, which has urged followers to use vehicles to kill enemies.

As far as we know, the alleged killer in Charlottesville didn’t get instructions from the Islamic State. As far as we know, he didn’t even receive marching orders from any of the neo-Nazi groups with which he sympathized. But he also didn’t need to turn to either of these factions for inspiration. He could just have easily have gotten the idea from a Republican state legislature.

This year, Republican lawmakers in at least six states have proposed bills designed to protect drivers who strike protesters. The first bill was introduced in North Dakota in January, and similar bills have since come under consideration in North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and Rhode Island.

They were joined by other states trying to discourage protests — typically relating to Black Lives Matter, the Dakota Access Pipeline or other left-leaning causes — that sometimes obstruct traffic.

The North Dakota bill would shield drivers from civil and criminal liability. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Keith Kempenich, perversely suggested that shielding drivers who kill protesters was a necessary anti-terrorism measure.

Protesters who blocked cars were committing “an intentional act of intimidation — the definition of terrorism,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Right-wing websites and at least one well-known conservative commentator more gleefully advocated running over protesters”

FBI Labeling Black Activist as Extremists

Ferguson BLM vs Militarized Police

NY Times: What Happened in Ferguson?

Slate: The Militarization of the Police

“The most striking photographs from Ferguson, Missouri, aren’t of Saturday’s demonstrations or Sunday night’s riots; they’re of the police. Image after image shows officers clad in Kevlar vests, helmets, and camouflage, armed with pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, and tear gas. In one photo, protesters stand toe-to-toe with baton-wielding riot police, in another, an unarmed man faces several cops, each with rifles at the ready.

What’s more, Ferguson police have used armored vehicles to show force and control crowds. In one photo, riot gear-clad officers are standing in front of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, barking commands and launching tear gas into groups of demonstrators and journalists.

This would be one thing if Ferguson were in a war zone, or if protesters were violent—although, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which American police would need a mine-resistant vehicle. But an episode of looting aside, Ferguson police aren’t dealing with any particular danger. Nonetheless, they’re treating demonstrators—and Ferguson residents writ large—as a population to occupy, not citizens to protect.

This is part of a broader problem. In his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop, journalist Radley Balko notes that since the 1960s, “law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M–16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield.”

This process ramped up with the “war on drugs” in the 1980s and 1990s, as the federal government supplied local and state police forces with military-grade weaponry to clamp down on drug trafficking and other crime. And it accelerated again after the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the federal government had—and sent—billions in surplus military equipment to state and local governments. Since 2006, according to an analysis by the New York Times, police departments have acquired 435 armored vehicles, 533 planes, 93,763 machine guns, and 432 mine-resistant armored trucks. Overall, since Congress established its program to transfer military hardware, local and state police departments have received $4.3 billion worth of equipment. Accordingly, the value of military equipment used by these police agencies has increased from $1 million in 1990 to $324 million in 1995 (shortly after the program was established), to nearly $450 million in 2013.

At the same time as crime has fallen to its lowest levels in decades, police departments are acquiring more hardware and finding more reasons to use SWAT teams and other heavy-handed tactics, regardless of the situation. According to an American Civil Liberties Union report released this summer, 79 percent of SWAT deployments from 2011 to 2012 were for search warrants, a massive overreaction that can have disastrous consequences, including injury and death. That was the case for Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was killed during a SWAT raid by the Detroit police department. Serving a search warrant for an occupant of the house, Detroit police rushed in with flash bangs and ballistic shields. When one resident tried to grab an officer’s gun, it fired, striking Aiyana. She was 7.

If you know anything about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, then it also shouldn’t shock you to learn that SWAT deployments are used disproportionately in black and Latino neighborhoods. The ACLU finds that 50 percent of those impacted by SWAT deployments were black and Latino. Of these deployments, 68 percent were for drug searches. And a substantial number of drug searches—60 percent—involved violent tactics to force entry, which lead predictably and avoidably to senseless injury and death.

That is how we get images like the ones in Ferguson, where police officers brandish heavy weapons and act as an occupying force. We should expect as much when we give police departments military weapons. Already—when it comes to predominantly black and brown communities—there’s a long-standing culture of aggressive, punitive policing. Add assault weapons and armored vehicles, and you have a recipe for the repressive, violent reactions that we see in Ferguson, and that are likely inevitable in countless other poor American neighborhoods.”

CNN: Trump to lift military gear ban for local police

“(August 28, 2017) The Trump administration will unveil a new plan Monday to roll back limits on a controversial program that provides local law enforcement agencies with surplus military gear, marking the end of a policy implemented during the Obama administration. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 prohibiting the transfer of a host of equipment, including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and camouflage uniforms following controversy over the “militarization” of the police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said at the time. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”  Civil rights groups swiftly blasted the equipment policy shift Monday, saying the Obama-era guidelines were critical to rebuilding trust with communities of color.
“These guidelines were created after Ferguson to ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under Obama and who now leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone.” But the National Fraternal Order of Police applauded the news and the group’s president, Chuck Canterbury, explained that the FOP has been working to roll back Obama’s restrictions since the day they were announced.”

Standing Rock Sioux Pipeline Protestors

Since August of 2016, thousands of Native Americans and allies from across the country have converged to camp in and around the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota to oppose the construction of the multibillion-dollar Dakota Access oil pipeline. The pipeline, which would transfer crude oil to existing pipelines in Illinois, would come within a half-mile of the reservation and cross culturally significant ancestral sites. It would also run under the Missouri River, an important water source for the Standing Rock Sioux, which could be damaged if the pipeline were to erupt.  Since the protests have started, pipeline security personnel have attacked peaceful protesters with clubs, dogs, tasers, pepper spray, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and a water truck spraying protestors in below freezing temperatures giving 167 people hypothermia.

After a federal judge in September 2016 rejected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against the U.S. government over the Dakota Access pipeline, the Army, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior responded with a joint announcement on December 4, denying an easement for construction until an environmental impact assessment was conducted by the Army Corps.

This has not stopped Dakota Access from continuing construction of the pipeline.  The Standing Rock Sioux Coalition plans to continue to protest until the pipeline is officially and permanently stopped.

In January 2017 President Trump issued an Executive Order instructing the Department of Homeland Security to commence immediate construction of a 1,900-mile long wall along the southern border with Mexico using existing federal funds to get it started.

On Feb 22nd the North Dakota State Police, with the help of the National Guard and Wisconsin state police, began evicting protesters from the main protest camps.  Below is a video of the final Days of the Oceti Sakowin camp, near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, ground zero of the movement to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The Intercept: Oklahoma Governor Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines on “Conspirator” Organizations

“A statute aimed at suppressing protests against oil and gas pipelines has been signed into law in Oklahoma, as a related bill advances through the state legislature. The two bills are part of a nationwide trend in anti-protest laws meant to significantly increase legal penalties for civil disobedience. The Oklahoma law signed this week is unique, however, in its broad targeting of groups “conspiring” with protesters accused of trespassing. It takes aim at environmental organizations Republicans have blamed for anti-pipeline protests that have become costly for local governments…

…Under the newly signed trespassing law individuals will face a felony and a minimum $10,000 fine if a court determines they entered property intending to damage, vandalize, deface, “impede or inhibit operations of the facility.” Should the trespasser actually succeed in “tampering” with the infrastructure, they face a $100,000 fine or 10 years of imprisonment.

Significantly, the statute also implicates any organization “found to be a conspirator” with the trespasser, threatening collaborator groups with a fine “ten times” that imposed on the intruder — as much as $1 million in cases involving damage. A section of the law defining “critical infrastructure” includes various types of fossil fuel facilities…

…A second bill, passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday, would permit “vicarious liability” for groups that “compensate” protesters accused of trespassing. The bill’s author reportedly called it a response to the Dakota Access pipeline protests, aimed directly at organizers fighting to stop the Diamond pipeline, a project of Valero and All American Pipeline that would transport oil from Oklahoma to Tennessee.”

The Real News: Congress and Oil Industry Collude to Charge Anti-Pipeline Activists With Terrorism

“Across North America, a growing number of people are disrupting oil and natural gas pipelines, which they say pose a threat to their communities. Many of these activists are already facing harsh prosecution and jail time. Last month, 84 congress people wrote a public letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggesting that these activists should face terrorism charges under the Patriot Act. The effort was lauded by the industry American Petroleum Institute, but it was never disclosed that the API helped to write the request in the first place…

…which was a big thing with Dakota Access, where out-of-state law enforcement was brought in under the Emergency Assistant Management Compact, or EMAC, which is one of the first times ever where this particular compact was used to fend off protestors. It’s normally used for natural disasters of the like, which we saw in the past several months, the various hurricanes. This compact was used a lot to bring in out-of-state officers…

…EMAC is a compact which was signed in the 1990s, signed into law, by President Clinton, and it had nothing to do with protests. It had to do with better response to natural disasters. It’s mostly been used for that, if you look at its history since then. Only on two occasions really, big occasions, has this been used for protests. One was in reaction to Black Lives Matter a couple years ago for the Freddie Gray murder and bringing in some compacts to, what they said was, stop the riots that were happening, but then it was really used for even more states. That was two states that came in to stop that, but for Standing Rock, it was something like half a dozen states in which cops from mostly the Midwest came into North Dakota to help with policing. With them, they brought the military-type gear. There was no limits on that sort of stuff. The only thing was it was deemed worthy of using this particular compact. So it was legal in that way…

…I think that the most compelling example of this was Dakota Access that I’ve ever documented because it involved not only politicians in the industry, which is the normal way that we think about these things when we talk about money and politics and how it effects policymakers, but at the level of Dakota Access, there weren’t that many policymakers directly involved. It really was more of a convergence of actually law enforcement and the industry, and the PR industry, which was funded, their PR is funded by the industry. So we saw in the … I think the most interesting thing that I found through open records request was that there was a firm hired by the National Sheriff’s Association by the name of Delve, and another one by the name of Off The Record Strategies.

They’re both very tied to the GOP establishment in Washington. Those firms were hired by the Sheriff’s Association, which was never the official voice of law enforcement for Dakota Access, but basically was because of the county sheriff in Cass County in North Dakota is the high-ranking type of guy within the National Sheriff’s Association. So the Sheriff’s Association and these PR firms, alongside the actual county-level police departments in North Dakota, were basically doing messaging that was saying a lot of the things that are in this particular letter like, “Oh, what should we say? Should we say these might be terrorists? Should we say they are sympathetic with the Palestinian?” Because they’re thinking of any potential talking point they could use. Literally, you can see in some of the records they got back whether they’re memos or emails, that they were just fishing up ideas to discredit, but not just discredit the activists. It eventually came to more punitive and using the actual penal system and criminal law system”


Think Progress: Native Americans who protested Dakota Access get handed the longest prison sentences

“Among the hundreds of people arrested in North Dakota for protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native Americans faced the most serious charges. More than two years after the protests began, federal judges are now handing down lengthy prison sentences to the protesters.

One of the Standing Rock activists, Red Fawn Fallis, was sentenced Wednesday for her role in a shooting incident during the protests. As part of a plea deal, the 39-year-old will serve the longest prison term of any Dakota Access protester: four years and nine months in federal prison for one count of civil disorder and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon.

The legal owner of the gun Red Fawn is alleged to have fired was a paid FBI informant named Heath Harmon, a 46-year-old member of the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota, The Intercept reported last December.

As Red Fawn was being tackled by police officers, who were attempting to put her in handcuffs, three gunshots allegedly went off alongside her. Deputies allegedly reached for her left hand and grabbed a gun away from her, according to The Intercept. No one was injured in the shooting incident.

The judge in Red Fawn’s case had forbidden her defense team from mentioning treaty rights or other issues related to her arrest at anti-pipeline protests near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation border. She ended up accepting the plea deal under the assumption that she would not receive a fair trial due to prosecutors allegedly withholding evidence.

The protesters facing federal charges were among thousands of Native Americans who traveled to North Dakota in 2016 to fight the construction of the oil pipeline. The protest at Standing Rock is believed to be the largest Native American protest in U.S. history.

The vast majority of the protesters who were arrested faced criminal charges in North Dakota state court, not at the federal level. A total of 835 state criminal cases were brought against protesters. The state has concluded 670 cases against the protesters; 333 had their cases dismissed and only 17 were convicted at state trial.

Activists viewed the federal charges brought against Red Fawn and other Native Americans as an attempt by the government to exert a chilling effect on indigenous-led resistance to resource extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure.

The $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is now fully built, following President Trump’s January 2017 order to expedite its completion, which reversed President Obama’s block on the project.


So far, the only other protester to receive a lengthy prison sentence is Michael “Little Feather” Giron. In late May, the 45-year-old was sentenced to three years in prison. He had already spent 15 months in jail, time for which he was credited. His lawyers believe he could be released to a halfway house by next spring.

Little Feather was charged with “civil disorder” and “use of fire to commit a federal felony” offenses, arising from events on October 27, 2016.

On that day, hundreds of federal, state, local, and private police advanced on a camp along Highway 1806 to evict the Lakota and their allies. Pipeline opponents had constructed barricades from logs, tires, pallets, and disabled vehicles. As police advanced, the barricades were set on fire. Little Feather was identified by police as one of the protesters who set fires.

Under his plea agreement, the use of fire charge — which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and the possibility of up to 15 years in prison — was dropped entirely. As part of the deal, Little Feather took responsibility for aiding a civil disorder.

Native American protester, Michael “Rattler” Markus is scheduled for sentencing on August 6. Similar to Little Feather, Rattler also accepted a plea deal. He will likely receive a sentence of three years in prison, although the judge has the authority to sentence him to as much as five years at his sentencing next month.

Two other Native American defendants, Dion Ortiz and James “Angry Bird” White, are preparing for trial.”

J20 Inauguration Protestors

Democracy Now: #J20 Inauguration Day Protesters Facing Up to 75 Years in Prison

“In Washington, D.C., prosecutors have filed a slew of additional felony and misdemeanor charges against more than 200 people who were arrested at protests during President Trump’s inauguration on January 20. While most of the protesters were already charged with felony rioting, the new charges also include inciting or urging to riot, conspiracy to riot and multiple counts of destruction of property. The legal support group Defend J20 Resistance says the new charges mean protesters are now facing up to 75 years in prison.”

Vice News: Judge throws out felony riot charges against 6 of Trump’s Inauguration Day protesters

“A judge has dismissed felony charges of inciting a riot against six people facing trial for their association with or participation in violent protests on Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day.

Approximately 230 people were arrested in Washington during and after the inauguration ceremony and later charged with felony rioting. But D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz dismissed those charges Wednesday morning for the first group of six people, including a photojournalist. While some people have pleaded guilty or been let off the hook since their arrests, 188 still face the full plate of charges.

The six also still face five other charges of property damage as well as two misdemeanors and Leibovitz denied the defense’s motion to acquit on Wednesday. She described the protest as an “organized, concerted riot,” which each defendant was aware of, according to reports from the courtroom. If the jury convicts the defendants of all charges, they face up to 50 years in prison.”

DC Media Group: DC Police Resume Unlawful Mass Arrest Tactic at Inauguration Protests

“The Washington, DC, police assault on protesters on Donald Trump’s inauguration day was reminiscent of how police forces handle dissidents under dictatorships and tyrannical regimes around the world. For several hours, the police used pepper spray, tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets on people gathered in the streets of the capital city.

The police also rounded up people indiscriminately, including more than a handful of journalists, and arrested them. The people spent the night in jail, with the bulk of them facing felony rioting charges that carry a possible penalty of 10 years in prison.

District of Columbia police had used tear gas and pepper spray against antiwar and anti-globalization protesters in the past. But the scale of weaponry and the relentlessness of the police attack on civilians were unusual. However, the police tactic of corralling large groups of people indiscriminately was not unusual and in fact previously had gotten the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the U.S. Park Police into hot water.

On Sept. 27, 2002, the District of Columbia police department, together with the U.S. Park Police, arrested nearly 400 anti-globalization protesters, tourists, bystanders, legal observers and passers-by. The two police agencies encircled Pershing Park, refused to let anyone leave and then mass arrested everyone who happened to be present and trapped by law enforcement in the park. Many were held bound wrist to ankle in stress-and-duress positions on a police gym floor for about 24 hours.

After lawsuits were filed, the MPD reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in which all of the arrests were considered null and void, and arrestees were eligible for monetary compensation. A separate agreement was reached with the U.S. Park Police where eligible arrestees also were granted monetary compensation. The MPD used similar unlawful police tactics in an April 2000 mass arrest that led to litigation and a major settlement for the people arrested.

The new policies implemented as part of the settlements generally prohibited the use of police lines to encircle protesters and demonstrations, also known as kettling; required probable cause for any protester to be arrested; provided fair notice and at least three warnings to disperse assembled groups prior to any lawful arrests rather than engaging in group sweeps; identified avenues of exit for protesters to comply with dispersal orders and ensuring that such warnings are clocked at least two minutes apart, and are audible throughout the crowd.

MPD Reverts to Its Bad Old Ways

On inauguration day, the MPD pretended these policies did not exist and were back conducting indiscriminate mass arrests. Leading the effort was interim MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham, who was one of the police commanders involved in the unlawful arrest of the 400 people in Pershing Park in 2002.

No warnings were given on Jan. 20. People were not allowed to disperse. Everyone encircled by the police was arrested. The Metropolitan Police Department had gone rogue.

Around 10 a.m. on Jan. 20, hundreds of people had gathered at Logan Circle in Northwest D.C., a few blocks from the city’s central business district. Shortly thereafter, the group began its march south on 13th Street in the direction of the inaugural parade route. The march was composed of a diverse group, including anti-fascists, anti-capitalists, anarchists, socialists, leftists, liberals, legal aid representatives from the National Lawyers Guild and a large contingent of journalists.

The march proceeded for several blocks south to Franklin Square. From there, the marchers reversed course and headed back north where they ended up walking east on L Street. A few minutes later, the police encircled a large group of people, including protesters, journalists and legal aid representatives, and boxed them in. The MPD would end up arresting each of these individuals and charging them with felony rioting.

Starting at the time of the corralling of people at the corner of 12th and L Streets, the D.C. police spent the next several hours randomly using pepper spray, tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets against people in this area of the downtown area. As a side note, the corralling and arrest of this large group of people occurred a few hours before a limousine and trash cans were set on fire adjacent to Franklin Square, a large grassy area located a short distance from 12th and L Streets. Photos of the flaming limousine were widely published in mainstream media sources and on social media. Therefore, none of the people arrested as part of this indiscriminate police roundup could have been involved in those fires.”

Police Brutality Caught on Tape Against Protestors

UC Davis Protestors Peppered Sprayed

Police Pepper Spray Disabled Woman and Child during Trump Inauguration Protests

Dog Attacks Against Standing Rock Protestors

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White Lives Matter: More than a Counter Protest

WP: Why SPLC says White Lives Matter is a hate group but Black Lives Matter is not

“In the 1980s, the Southern Poverty Law Center — an organization born of the civil rights movement — began tracking extremist organizations they deemed “hate groups” in the United States. At the time, most were white supremacist organizations finding renewed footing after a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.They called it Klanwatch, then eventually the Intelligence Project.

In the nearly 40 years since, hundreds of groups that ascribe to varying brands of inflammatory ideology — Neo-Nazi, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, Holocaust-denying or black separatist groups — have been lumped into the list. There is even a “general hate” category. The center’s definition of hate groups — “those that vilify entire groups of people based on immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity” — mirrors the one used by the federal government when prosecuting hate crimes.

Although the news media routinely cites SPLC hate group designations as if they were definitive, some categorizations have in fact been controversial. The law center is left-leaning, a nugget conservatives and even moderates have used to deem some SPLC distinctions illegitimate — especially when it labeled the Family Research Council, a conservative organization, a hate group for its stance on people’s being gay.

But the center’s most recent critique came this summer from some conservatives after ambush shootings killed eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, days after Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country to denounce the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement. Thousands signed Change.org petitions, the center received direct requests and conservative commentators joined the chorus of critics demanding a hate group designation for Black Lives Matter, claiming its rhetoric was inflammatory.

The SPLC refused. This month, the organization announced the latest additions to its Hate Map tracker. Black Lives Matter is not on the list. White Lives Matter is.

Separated in name by just one word, the organizations are rooted in far different ideologies and end goals, according to the SPLC, which is why the center claims one is founded in hateful principles and the other is not. Neither group has a singular, concentrated leadership structure. Most commonly, the phrases that define them are used in a symbolic way, to represent a school of thought, not all that different from the catchphrases of the antiwar protests decades ago.

“Make love, not war,” meant something to those who said it, but it didn’t necessarily have an attached organization, unlike, for example, the political slogans of presidential nominees. “Make America Great Again” is linked to a political ideology but also to a specific politician. These movements are more diffuse and at times amorphous.

In mid-July, SPLC President Richard Cohen wrote a blog post titled “Black Lives Matter is Not a Hate Group” with a nuanced explanation for that declaration.

“We have heard nothing remotely comparable to the NBPP’s bigotry from the founders and most prominent leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement and nothing at all to suggest that the bulk of the demonstrators hold supremacist or black separatist views,” Cohen wrote, referencing the New Black Panther Party. “Thousands of white people across America — indeed, people of all races — have marched in solidarity with African Americans during BLM marches, as is clear from the group’s website. The movement’s leaders also have condemned violence.

“There’s no doubt,” he added, “that some protesters who claim the mantle of Black Lives Matter have said offensive things, like the chant ‘pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon’ that was heard at one rally. But before we condemn the entire movement for the words of a few, we should ask ourselves whether we would also condemn the entire Republican Party for the racist words of its presumptive nominee — or for the racist rhetoric of many other politicians in the party over the course of years.”

Black Lives Matter was born in 2014 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. It first surfaced as a trending social media hashtag, then grew to a nationwide political movement. Its leaders have called for increased scrutiny of police brutality against racial and ethnic minorities, an end to mass incarceration in the United States and a heightened awareness of institutional racism.

Black Lives Matter, the organization, has more than 20 chapters across the United States and Canada, but the broader movement is not limited by those structured groups. The phrase itself has been used by protesters and online activists across the country who feel solidarity with the movement but may not be specifically tied to the organization in a traditional, membership-based sense.

While variations of the “Lives Matter” concept has been used by a variety of individuals and activists, SPLC sees White Lives Matter as a definitively dangerous iteration, calling it “a radical counter-movement” with “racist activists working hard to spread its claims.” “Its main activists, to put it plainly, are unvarnished white supremacists,” Sarah Viets wrote in a blog post.

It’s a hate group, SPLC argues, because the message has been co-opted by a handful of proven white supremacists. Two such groups, the Aryan Strikeforce, a skinhead group, and the National Socialist Movement, America’s largest neo-Nazi group, largely inspired the designation, Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project, told the Boston Globe. The law center identified Tennessean Rebecca Barnette, a leader in both groups, as one of White Lives Matter’s “key leaders, if not the leader.” “Barnette, who describes herself as a ‘revolutionist’ who is working to ‘create a new world’ for white people, appears to run both the WLM website and the movement’s Facebook page,”

Viets wrote on the law center’s blog.

The group’s website promotes the idea that a “white genocide” is sweeping the United States, caused by “mass third world immigration, integration by force and 24/7 race mixing propaganda.” “It supports breeding practices that improve fitness, opposes dysgenic immigration,” the website continues, “and takes a libertarian stance on other right wing gripes that don’t directly turn the population non-White.”

White Lives Matter is not a white supremacist or anti-Semitic group, the website claims, but it believes “ethnic Europeans are worth preserving” and that, though “Jews are generally likeable,” it opposes “Jewish aggression.” The Texas-based Aryan Renaissance Society, another group of which SPLC alleges Barnette is a member, claims to be “the leading force behind the WLM Movement,” according to the law center. And researchers linked the ARS to a protest that was held outside the Houston headquarters of the NAACP last week.

Men and women waved Confederate flags, criticized the Black Lives Matter movement and called the NAACP “one of the most racist groups in America.” One sign read “14 words,” a reference to the white supremacist motto: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

In reaction to the SPLC hate group declaration, a YouTube channel labeled White Lives Matter posted a video this week of a white man outside a BP gas station inserting so-called “Black on White crime” fliers into the free coupon box.  “While groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center say we are terrorists and we are a hate group, at the grass-roots, small-town America, just normal, casual USA, everybody knows the truth,” the man says. “White Lives Matters. Black Lives Matters is the largest terrorist organization in America, right now, today. They riot, they loot, they pillage.”

On Wednesday, NBC News published a statement it said came from White Lives Matter, albeit without saying specifically which group or person issued it:

White Lives Matter is really about recognizing the contributions that people of European descent have made to civilization, and that we as a people and culture are worth preserving. We reject the notion that it is morally wrong for people of European descent to love and support their own race. We value Western civilization and believe that at the very least, immigrants should not make us dumber or poorer.

White Lives Matter is not the only “lives matter” counter-movement. As law enforcement began receiving increased scrutiny from the public over officer-involved shootings and a lack of accountability for them, police supporters used the phrase Blue Lives Matter. Another iteration, All Lives Matter, was created by those who think focusing on only the black and brown victims of police brutality is divisive and distracts from the larger issue.”

SPLC: ‘White Lives Matter’

“A radical counter-movement erupts in response to Black Lives Matter, with racist activists working hard to spread its claims.

Black Lives Matter was born in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, picked up steam after the 2014 police killings of black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City, and is today a major social movement seeking racial justice and equality. But the movement set off a reaction among many whites and others who insisted that “every life” matters. Many conservatives chimed in, even suggesting that the movement was really a hate group, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at the time a Republican presidential candidate, claimed it advocated “the murder of police officers.”

Now comes White Lives Matter (WLM), a small but virulent movement that goes far beyond anything Christie or anyone in the conservative mainstream has said. Its main activists, to put it plainly, are unvarnished white supremacists.

Emanating from the fever swamps of the radical right, it’s somewhat difficult to trace WLM’s precise evolution and leadership structure. But it’s clear that one of its key leaders, if not the leader, is 40-year-old Rebecca Barnette (or Rebekha, as she sometimes spells it online), a Tennessean who is also vice president of the women’s division of the racist skinhead group Aryan Strikeforce. In June, Barnette announced that she also had been appointed director of the women’s division of the National Socialist Movement, America’s largest neo-Nazi group. Barnette, who describes herself as a “revolutionist” who is working to “create a new world” for white people, appears to run both the WLM website and the movement’s Facebook page.

The WLM website describes the movement as “dedicated to promotion of the white race and taking positive action as a united voice against issues facing our race.” “The fiber and integrity our nation was founded on is being unraveled … [by] homosexuality and mix[ed] relationships,” it says. “Illegal immigration, healthcare, housing, welfare, employment, education, social security, our children, our veterans and active military and their rights … are the issues we face as white Americans. The laws and immoral orders the current administration are passing are drastically … targeting everything the white way of life holds dear.”

But Barnette can sound considerably more bloodthirsty.

In posts on her page on vk.com, a Russian social networking site favored by white supremacists and neo-Nazis for its lack of censorship, Barnette says that Jews and Muslims have formed an alliance “to commit genocide of epic proportions” of the white race. Now is the time, she adds in the same post, for “the blood of our enemies [to] soak our soil to form new mortar to rebuild our landmasses.”

The WLM website urges activists to grow the movement, much as white supremacists in the last several years have worked to seed the idea in the political mainstream that white people are being subjected to genocide. The site asks supporters to find “like-minded people” and organize groups to attend school board and local town council meetings, arrange neighborhood block parties “to discuss the problems affecting our community,” and to “find out who your local state rep is” in order to confront them about issues of illegal immigration and healthcare.

There are signs that some of this is happening.

Since last year, WLM fliers, reading “It’s Not Racist to Love Your People” and carrying the hashtag #whitelivesmatter, have been posted on bathroom walls, light posts and bus stops from Utah to Connecticut. Some incorporate language about black-on-white crime, a reminder of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens website that dwells on the same topic and inspired the racist massacre last year of nine black churchgoers by Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C.

Barnette, whose Aryan Strikeforce recently joined a new neo-Nazi coalition called the Aryan Nationalist Alliance, has been especially active. In August 2015, she ran a social media campaign against a planned Black Lives Matter rally near Johnson City, Tenn., telling the Johnson City Press she was a local representative of White Lives Matter and the Aryan Renaissance Society. (She has since left the Renaissance Society to join the Aryan Strikeforce, she wrote on vk.com.) The newspaper quoted a post of hers saying that there was “a small army ready to blow their little party out of the water … in the proper way… the white.” She also said, after conceding she had received government assistance in the past, that she was a homemaker from nearby Surgoinsville, and defined herself as a “racialist.”

Barnette has moved around the white supremacist scene a fair amount. On April 23 of this year, she attended an annual event in Rome, Ga., that was hosted by the National Socialist Movement, the country’s largest neo-Nazi group. She has tried to bring unity to the fractured racist world, encouraging “a unified voice against a tyrannical reign of government” and deriding “a bunch of idiots in my own race that care more about fighting amongst each other … than to stand as a people.”

There are others as well.

Melissa Dennis, a California woman who is a contact for the racist Noble Breed Kindred group, designs and sells WLM T-shirts and stickers to raise funds for racist groups. She joined a “flier drop” where activists distributed WLM propaganda on Jan. 9 as part of what was billed as a national anti-Muslim event. On the same day, Billy Roper, a well-known racist leader, pasted up fliers in Harrison, Ark. Dennis also offered WLM T-shirts for an Aryan Nationalist Alliance meeting on June 25, held in Salem, Ohio, according to comments on her vk.com page.

Connecticut resident Kevin Harris, 35, regularly posts videos of himself passing out WLM fliers in grocery store parking lots on a WLM YouTube channel. Harris, who says his work is “to raise awareness of the Caucasian genocide,” also distributed fliers in his local community on Jan. 27 of this year. Another WLM activist on the YouTube channel asks supporters to collect box tops to support public schools even though they are “Communist reprogramming centers.” The activist goes to say that whites can then “retake this nation one school at a time.”


A neo-Nazi group, the Texas-based Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS) of which Barnette was once a part, has described itself as “the leading force behind the WLM Movement.” The ARS has distributed WLM fliers in southeast Texas and once held up WLM signs as a procession passed for a memorial service for Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth, who was murdered in August 2015. ARS member Doug Chism of Texas City has a large WLM sign erected outside his home.

The ARS describes itself as a “network of dedicated White Separatists diligently striving to impart a New Racial Consciousness to Aryankind.” It hopes to create “an Aryan oligarchy based on genetic aristocracy” to “enhance the Race.” The overall idea, ARS says, is to protect threatened white people from genocide and the “bastardization of the white race” through interbreeding.

One of the more noticeable appearances of the WLM movement came on Feb. 27, when a car containing six Klansmen and bearing “White Lives Matter” signs arrived at a park in Anaheim, Calif., to protest “illegal immigration and Muslims.” Counter-protesters set upon the Klansmen, who stabbed three people, one critically, in response. Although police initially arrested five Klan members, they later released them after saying the stabbings were self-defense and arrested several protesters.

It’s unclear how much the WLM movement matters in the real world, beyond annoying most of those who see its fliers and other propaganda. But WLM activists are hard at work, doing their best to seed yet another racist concept into the consciousness of American whites as they seek to build a whites-only nation. Given the atmosphere in the United States today, that should worry all Americans.

For SPLC’s statement on why Black Lives Matter is not a hate group, please visit this link.”

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All Lives Matter Myth

“Black people, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being “colorblind.” They live in a culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness, which tells them in a million large and small ways that they are not as important as white people, that their lives actually do not matter as much as white lives. Which is why saying “Black Lives Matter” is so important.

“All Lives Matter” is a problem because it refocuses the issue away from systemic racism and Black lives. It distracts and diminishes the message that Black lives matter or that they should matter more than they do. “All Lives Matter” is really code for “White Lives Matter,” because when white people think about “all lives,” we automatically think about “all white lives.”

We need to say “Black Lives Matter,” because we’re not living it. No one is questioning whether white lives matter or whether police lives matter. But the question of whether Black lives really matter is an open question in this country.” John Halstead

Huffington Post: The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’

Why “Black” Makes Us Uncomfortable

“Dear fellow white people, let’s have an honest talk about why we say “All Lives Matter.” First of all, notice that no one was saying “All Lives Matter” before people started saying “Black Lives Matter.” So “All Lives Matter” is a response to “Black Lives Matter.” Apparently, something about the statement “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why is that?

Now some white people might say that singling out Black people’s lives as mattering somehow means that white lives don’t matter. Of course, that’s silly. If you went to a Breast Cancer Awareness event, you wouldn’t think that they were saying that other types of cancer don’t matter. And you’d be shocked if someone showed up with a sign saying “Colon Cancer Matters” or chanting “All Cancer Patients Matter.” So clearly, something else is prompting people to say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter.”

Many of the people saying “All Lives Matter” also are fond of saying “Blue Lives Matter.” If you find that the statement “Black Lives Matter” bothers you, but not “Blue Lives Matter,” then the operative word is “Black”. That should tell us something. There’s something deeply discomfiting about the word “Black.” I think it’s because it reminds us of our whiteness and challenges our notion that race doesn’t matter.

The Problem With “Colorblindness”

If you’re like me, growing up, the word “Black” was always spoken of in whispers in your family. It was like we were saying something taboo. Why was that? Because it was taboo. We might feel more comfortable saying “African-American,” but not “Black.” The reason is that we were raised to believe that “colorblindness” was the ideal for whites. We were taught that we shouldn’t “see color.” And saying the word “Black” was an acknowledgment of the fact that we did “see color.”

The problem with being “colorblind” — aside from the fact that we’re not really — is that it is really a white privilege to be able to ignore race. White people like me have the luxury of not paying attention to race — white or black. The reason is because whiteness is treated as the default in our society. Whiteness is not a problem for white people, because it blends into the cultural background.

Black people, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being “colorblind.” They live in a culture which constantly reminds them of their Black-ness, which tells them in a million large and small ways that they are not as important as white people, that their lives actually do not matter as much as white lives. Which is why saying “Black Lives Matter” is so important.

“Black Lives [Do Not] Matter”

“All Lives Matter” is a problem because it refocuses the issue away from systemic racism and Black lives. It distracts and diminishes the message that Black lives matter or that they should matter more than they do. “All Lives Matter” is really code for “White Lives Matter,” because when white people think about “all lives,” we automatically think about “all white lives.”

We need to say “Black Lives Matter,” because we’re not living it. No one is questioning whether white lives matter or whether police lives matter. But the question of whether Black lives really matter is an open question in this country. Our institutions act like Black lives do not matter. The police act like Black lives do not matter when they shoot unarmed Black people with their arms in the air and when Blacks are shot at two and a half times the rate of whites, even when whites are armed. The judicial system acts like Black lives don’t matter when Blacks are given more severe sentences than whites who commit the same crimes and are turned into chattel in a for-profit prison-industrial complex.

And white people act like Black lives do not matter when we fail to raise the appropriate level of outrage at unjustified killings of Blacks or when we respond with platitudes like “All Lives Matter.”

But we still say it. We say it because “All Lives Matter” lets us get back to feeling comfortable. “Black Lives Matter” makes us uncomfortable. Why? Because it reminds us that race exists. It reminds us that our experience as white people is very different from the experience of Black people in this country. It reminds us that racism is alive and well in the United States of America.

The New Face of Racism

Now, I just said the “R” word, so you’re probably feeling defensive at this point. You’re instinctively thinking to yourself that you are not a racist. You may be thinking that you have Black friends or that you don’t use the N-word or that you would never consciously discriminate against a Black person. But most racism today is more subtle than that. Sure, there is a lot of overt racism that still goes on. The KKK is still active and some white people do still say the N-word. But overt racism is really culturally unacceptable any more among whites today. The racism that we need to face today is much more insidious than white hoods and racial slurs. It is the racism of well-meaning people who are not consciously or intentionally racist.

The racism that we need to face is the racism of average white middle-class Americans who would never think of saying the N-word and would vociferously condemn the KKK, but nevertheless unwittingly participate in institutionalized racism. We most often participate in racism by omission, rather than commission. We participate in racism when we fail to see it where it exists. We participate in racism when we continue to act like race is a problem that only Black people have. We participate in racism when we seek comfortable responses like “All Lives Matter.”

What We Can Do: Embrace the Discomfort

We white people need to embrace our discomfort. Here are some things we can do:

1. Recognize that we are not “colorblind.”

We can start by recognizing that we all have an “implicit bias” toward Blacks. Think you don’t have it? Consider how we mentally congratulate ourselves when we treat the random Black person the same way we treat white people. Here’s a tip, if you give yourself brownie points for treating Black people like you do white people, you’re not really treating Black people like white people.

Still don’t think you have unconscious bias, go to the Harvard implicit bias testing website and take the tests on race and skin-tone. Even white anti-racism activists like me have these biases. And they come out in all kinds of subtle ways, as well as not so subtle ways.

2. Work against unconscious bias by spending time with Black people in Black spaces.

Next, go out of your way to spend time with Black people in Black community settings. Many of us live segregated lives in which we have little to no interaction with Black people. Let’s face it, Black people make us white people uncomfortable. It’s because we’ve been socialized by a racist system to fear Black people.

Even if you feel comfortable around individual Black people, you most likely do not feel comfortable in a room full of Black people. You might have Black friends, but you probably socialize with them in white spaces. Have you ever been to a Black space and felt uncomfortable? Maybe you felt like no one wanted you there. Welcome to the everyday experience of Black people in white culture.

And when you go to a Black space, go to listen rather than lead. Learn to follow. Leading is a white privilege. Let go of it for a while and learn from those whose experience you will never have. Listen to Black people, and if what they are saying or how they are saying it makes you uncomfortable, so much the better.

3. Talk to white people about institutional racism and say “Black Lives Matter.”

It’s no good sitting around feeling guilty about white privilege. We need to do something about it. One thing we can do is to use our white privilege to dismantle it.

One white privilege we have is that other white people listen to us. We can go into white spaces and talk to white people about implicit bias and institutional racism. We can unapologetically proclaim that “Black Lives Matter.”

After the Orlando shooting, I went to an interfaith vigil in my small conservative town. Almost no one among the speakers said the words “queer,” “gay,” or “lesbian.” This was probably unconscious, but it revealed a lingering, but deepseated discomfort among heterosexuals with gayness and queerness, a discomfort that the popular use of the acronym “LGBT” obscures. Similarly, we whites are uncomfortable with Black-ness. We don’t even like like to say the word. It feels wrong in our mouths. We hide it by using code words like “inner city” or “urban,” terms which allow us to hide from our unconscious racism. We need to say “Black Lives Matter” because we need to overcome our discomfort with Blacks and face up to our unconscious bias.

Join the Second Civil Rights Movement

Dear fellow white people, we are in the middle of a second Civil Rights Movement. Most of us white people idealize Martin Luther King, Jr. and we like to think that we would have been on his side of things during the Civil Rights era. But the fact is that the majority of the American public did not support the Civil Rights movement while it was happening and only came to see King as a hero after he was killed.

The Civil Rights movement was unpopular among most whites when it was happening. It was unpopular because it made white people deeply uncomfortable. Today, the Black Lives Matter movement makes us uncomfortable, too. In forty years we will look back on this second Civil Rights movement and have to ask ourselves whether we were on the right side of history. If we want to be on the right side of history this time, we have to make ourselves uncomfortable. There is no comfortable way to change. And the change can start with saying this simple but powerful phrase: Black Lives Matter.”

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Know Your Rights

Right to Protest: Protect your Right to Protest

Right to Protest: Debate your Right to Protest

ACLU: Know Your Rights: Demonstrations and Protests


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Organizing Protests

Guides to Organizing Protests

Ways to Organize Non Violent Resistance

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Community Organizing vs Activism

Empower DC Community Organizing 101: Part 1

Types of Community Organizing

  • Advocate civic associations
  • Advocate local government budgets


Below our Principles and Tips from Great Community Organizers

Empower DC Community Organizing Techniques

The mission of Empower DC is to enhance, improve and promote the self-advocacy of low and moderate income DC residents in order to bring about sustained improvements in their quality of life. We accomplish our mission through grassroots organizing and trainings, leadership development, and community education.

Empower DC believes that community organizing is the most effective way to uplift low-income communities in the District of Columbia. Community organizing builds the power of people directly impacted by an issue – such as the demolition of public housing or the closure of a school – to create positive, long-lasting change for their communities, their families, and themselves.


Empower DC’s community organizing is guided by these principles:

  • Work with groups of people who share a common problem
  • Develop leadership through training and providing leadership opportunities
  • Develop the self-confidence of leaders and potential leaders
  • Support groups to develop action plans and implement them
  • Use the media to inform the larger community about issues and to gain support
  • Use confrontation when necessary to force a recalcitrant target to negotiate or resolve an issue
  • Leaders, rather than staff, set the agenda for the organization and carry it out

Empower DC Community Organizing 101: Part 2

Ella Baker’s Principles for Organizing

Authored by Je’Kendria Trahan and Monae White, on behalf of BYP100 DC

  • Emphasizing the ability and knowledge of local people to solve their own issues
  • Self Determination – People need to have a sense of their own value and their own strengths.
  • An inclusive environment – identifying who is in the room, who is not in the room and why
  • Organic intellectuals – non-traditionally educated, working class, or otherwise intellectually marginalized folks having the power and ability to form complex understandings of oppression and act on injustices.
  • Group-centered leadership – leaders form in groups and are committed to building shared power and struggling for collective goals.  This is different than leader-centered groups, in which the group id dedicated to the goals and power of that leader.
  • The minimization of hierarchy and the associated emphasis on expertise and professionalism as a basis for leadership.
  • Direct action as an answer to fear, alienation, and intellectual detachment
    • Individuals confront the oppression in their own heads and begin the process of self-transformation and self-actualization
  • Willingness to learn from mistakes and successes and become stronger people in the process: people who believe in themselves and feel as sense of their own powerto affect the world around them.
  • Being a leader – as facilitator, creating processes and methods for others to express themselves and make decisions; as coordinator, creating events, situations and dynamics that build and strengthen collective efforts; and as teacher/education, working with others to develop their own sense of power, capacity to organize and analyze, vision of liberation and ability to act in the world for justice
  • Center people’s humanity while doing the work together

Seeds of Change Organizing Resources

Seeds of Change: Organising Successful Meetings

Seeds of Change: Facilitating Meetings

Seeds of Change: Consensus Decision Making

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Learn More

New York Times: Fighting Racism Is Not Just a War of Words

New York Times:  Black Lives Matter Is Democracy in Action

New York Times: How Protest Works

Washington Post: The Republicans who want to legalize running over protesters

Common Dream: UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under Trump

The New Inquiry: Know Your Rights

Washington Post: ‘Blue lives’ do matter — that’s the problem

The Nation: The Case Against ‘Blue Lives Matter’ Bills

Alternet: Here Comes the Police State: New Laws Aim for Brutal Crackdown on Protest

Common Dream: New Law Would Let Arizona Treat Organized Dissent as Organized Crime

NPQ: UN Investigators Warn of Threats to Right to Protest in the United States

The Intercept – https://theintercept.com/2017/01/23/lawmakers-in-eight-states-have-proposed-laws-criminalizing-peaceful-protest/

Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/how-far-can-protesters-go-before-the-government-steps-in/2017/02/04/bd96357e-e8b8-11e6-bf6f-301b6b443624_story.html

Intercept: Republican Lawmakers in Five States Propose Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest

Lancaster Online: Protesters could pay for emergency response costs under new bill from Sen. Scott Martin

New York Times: Man Drives Car Through Activists Protesting Transgender Woman’s Death

Phoenix New Times: ‘Plan A Protest, Lose Your House’ Bill, SB 1142, Killed by Arizona House

NY Times: What Happened in Ferguson?

DC Media Group: DC Police Resume Unlawful Mass Arrest Tactic at Inauguration Protests

Slate: The Militarization of the Police

The Intercept: Oklahoma Governor Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines on “Conspirator” Organizations

The Real News: Congress and Oil Industry Collude to Charge Anti-Pipeline Activists With Terrorism

Democracy Now: #J20 Inauguration Day Protesters Facing Up to 75 Years in Prison

WP: Why SPLC says White Lives Matter is a hate group but Black Lives Matter is not

SPLC: ‘White Lives Matter’

Huffington Post: The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’

Follow Campaign

Partnership for Civil Justice Fund


Right to Protest

Filming Cops

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