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UK Police Stop & Search Striking Citizens to Prevent Possible ‘Hooliganism’

7:03 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: David King)

Public workers, up to seven hundred and fifty thousand teachers and civil servants, are alleged to have participated in a June 30 general strike called for in the United Kingdom after UK Parliament passed changes to pensions and retirement, specifically, increasing the amount an employee has to contribute.

At 1:31 pm London Time, Hélène Mulholland reported from the end of “the Strand, by Trafalgar Square,” that a march had been “good-natured” so far. “ She said it is clear that the turn out has been good, that quite a few in the UK believe the government did not properly negotiate the new pension and retirement changes. And she also reported, “There doesn’t seem to have been much trouble,” except for the stopping and searching of minority students.

Around 12 pm London Time, she “walked past five police officers stopping and searching two non-white 17-year-old sixth formers, Aamir Kadir and Jean-Claude Goddard, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the dismay of onlookers.” Mulholland said they were searched because they were wearing keffiyeh scarves, a traditional headdress for Arab men. While there were white women with scarves standing around the two young men who were stopped, the police said they stopped the two because the scarves might be used to commit violence. They said they were stopped out of “empirical judgment” because “people use keffiyehs to mask their identity.”

Throughout the strikes today, the UK police have claimed stop and search powers under section 60 of the Criminal Public Order Act. Here is how this provision allowing police the legal right to stop citizens and search them in public is described on the Metropolitan Police website:

Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, gives police the right to search people in a defined area at a specific time when they believe, with good reason, that: there is the possibility of serious violence; or that a person is carrying a dangerous object or offensive weapon; or that an incident involving serious violence has taken place and a dangerous instrument or offensive weapon used in the incident is being carried in the locality. This law has to be authorized by a senior officer and is used mainly to tackle football hooliganism and gang fights.

In this case, the police are using Section 60 to thwart the “hooliganism” of public and civil servants who feel they just got a bad deal from their government, who are upset they might have more trouble making ends meet for their family.
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Lt. Dan Choi: Proud to Stand Shoulder to Shoulder with Bradley Manning

9:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While at Netroots Nation 2011, I had the privilege of speaking to Lieutenant Dan Choi, who served in the US Army infantry, went to war in Iraq and graduated from West Point with a degree in Arabic.

Choi was kicked out of the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) about one year ago. At Netroots Nation, Choi celebrated his one year “anniversary or birthday” as a civilian. He also noted that despite DADT being repealed there are still soldiers getting kicked out of the military for being gay.

The US government is putting Lt. Dan Choi on trial August 29 for “demonstrating in front of the White House in November of last year.” Choi refuses to plead guilty or accept any kind of deal.

“I believe this Administration is making a grave mistake in limiting the areas, times and manners that free speech should be allowed,” declares Choi. And adds nobody should be intimidated into not protesting.

I spoke to Choi the day after he had gone with Hamsher to support Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder David House, as he went before a federal grand jury investigating individuals supportive of alleged military whistleblower Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. Choi says House is an “American hero” and “our situations are exactly the same.”

Whenever a government tries to stifle the truth by censoring the people, we sometimes take a look at the people. And that’s what’s going on with Bradley Manning. People have been trying to scapegoat him as someone who is crazy or someone who should not have gone to war but I think that Bradley Manning is a great soldier who did something as far as morality.

This was supposedly one of the first times Choi had expressed solidarity with Pfc. Manning so openly on camera.

He continues:

What the true mandate of the American servant of society is he embodied through his act. It’s no different from what Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon Papers. And, I wonder what this president is about to do to this new hero of American patriotism. He is not antiwar. I want to make sure that everybody knows that. From the things that I’ve heard this soldier signed up because he believed in this country and when he saw things that were unbelievable and were being perpetrated by this country, he wasn’t attacking this country. He was trying to teach this country what this mandate of service really was. So, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody who speaks up against injustice, against war crimes, against torture and against the reprobate actions of any kind of reprobate government that tries to tell them that power belongs to the powerful.

Choi recently visited Moscow to participate in the Moscow Pride parade and stand in solidarity with gays in Russia. I ask him the United States has some effect on how countries around the world treat their own people, particularly gay people.

The US is a “horrible role model not only on gay rights but progress,” replies Choi.

He doesn’t fault the government entirely for failing to be a good role model and concludes, “I blame our courage inadequacy. The only ingredient that is missing nowadays [among activists] is the willingness to stick to your guns ’til the very day that you achieve what you set out to accomplish in the first place.”

Anti-Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Activists March on Blair Mountain

7:24 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

From Marmet, West Virginia, to Blair, West Virginia, hundreds are marching across the Appalachian region throughout this week to honor the historic labor event known as the Battle of Blair Mountain. This event designed to remember one of the largest battles in US labor history, however, is not just about history. A coalition known as Appalachia Rising is using the five-day march to call attention and protest mountaintop removal coal mining.

Parson Brown, co-founder of the Topless America Project, a small group from Chicago that has been producing a documentary on mountaintop removal coal mining for more than five years, reports at the end of the first day of the march the “exhausted marcher”s set up camp. They were met with “steady slew of harassment.” A local came on the scene and tried to “sabotage” the media RV. Cars, coal trucks and “emergency” vehicles, according to Brown, made laps around the marchers blasting horns and sirens.

Eventually the “county commission” forced the marchers to pack up and vacate the grounds or face “mass arrests.” The marchers returned to Marmet, where they had begun their march. But, they expect to continue marching to Blair Mountain.

In the end, participants expect to march fifty miles. Each day participants will go about ten miles. The march will culminate in a rally in Blair, West Virginia, where Emmylou Harris, Ashley Judd and other artists will perform. Also, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is expected to speak at the rally.

While many of the people participating are marching, some are being tasked with the job of preparing meals, setting up camps, driving shuttles and delivering water to those who are walking each day.
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FBI Documents Show US Citizens Targeted for Interest in US Foreign Policy

9:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Antiwar and international solidarity activists, subjects of a federal grand jury investigation that alleges they may have provided “material support for terrorism,” uncovered documents on FBI guidelines and investigation practices left behind in an activist’s home that was raided in September of last year. The documents illuminate how the FBI has conducted surveillance of the activists being targeted in the investigation and further prove the grand jury is being used as a tool to go after political groups.

On September 24 of last year, the home of Lindon Gawboy and Mick Kelly, an activist who helped to organize a mass demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, was raided and subpoenaed. Gawboy was awoken by FBI pounding on her door. She came to the door and asked for a search warrant. The FBI ignored her request for a warrant and proceeded to use a battering ram, which took the door off its hinges and shattered a nearby fish tank.

The agents raiding Gawboy and Kelly’s home emptied file cabinets and desks and stacked files around the apartments. They set up and went through individual documents taking files away that were of interest to them. At some point during this process, an agent’s papers on the investigation became mixed in with Kelly’s files. And, presumably by chance, Gawboy found the revealed documents just weeks ago.

The documents show the investigation was “predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.” Bruce Nestor, an attorney advising individuals that have been issued subpoenas in this investigation, explains “predicate” is a word that typically connotes “what’s necessary to begin an investigation into protected First Amendment activity.”

Current FBI guidelines, according to Nestor, actually do not require a predicate to begin a preliminary question. This means the FBI can send agents and law enforcement officers into public meetings undercover to gather publicly available information and store that information about activists in perpetuity.

Sundin, a founding member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, says she traveled to Colombia to witness peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government. She flew into Colombia on an airplane owned by the Colombia military. Sundin was interested in what it would take to end a decades-long conflict in a country that is the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America.

“What I find disturbing about the line of questions is its attempt to stir up a kind of 1950s Red Scare within the antiwar movement,” declares Sundin. In particular, the questions indicate the FBI was interested in information on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

“It’s true some of us are socialists, but that’s not against the law. A lot of us have grievances with capitalism,” explains Sundin. “The government has no right to dictate to the antiwar movement who can and cannot be in our movement.”
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Cornel West’s Disgust with Obama Should Not Make Him a Pariah

7:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Chris Hedges is a prolific columnist, a bold opinion editorial writer with a flare for writing and allegory that few writers on the Internet today can match. Hedges conducted an interview with philosopher and author Cornel West. (It can be read in Hedges’ latest column, “The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic.”)

Melissa Harris-Perry, a contributor to The Nation, chose to critique the words of Cornel West. Her critique was one of the top articles published yesterday.

Notably, Harris-Perry does not criticize Hedges for choosing to do an interview with West. She doesn’t explicitly address Hedges’ choice to anoint Cornel West a “moral philosopher” in a “morality play” depicting “Barack Obama’s ascent to power.” She, instead, excises an interview from Hedges’ article and addresses West’s criticisms in the context of her knowledge of the patronage model of politics that hampers black communities today.

Harris-Perry claims West has offered “thin criticism.” Rather than pick apart his many critiques of Obama, she opts to attack his right to be outraged. She chooses to assess his association with his friend Tavis Smiley, host of “The Tavis Smiley Show” on PBS. And, she decides to cast his political transformation as a result of his delicate ego being damaged.

There is little reason to take issue with Harris-Perry’s publishing of a critique of what West said. However, she doesn’t really bother to address how West’s criticism is the result of his ego and not because he is concerned for the “health of American democracy.”

In her critique, she glosses over the appointment of his “neoliberal economic team,” which included Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner. She doesn’t address the appointment of neo-imperial elites like Dennis Ross. She ignores one of his most damning charges, which is that President Obama, like former President Bill Clinton, has helped to renew Americans’ faith in the American project–presumably the same project the Bush Administration was expanding–through the use and exploitative manipulation of progressive populist language.

The urgency to West’s words is disregarded entirely. That West appears to be genuinely distressed by the fact the greed of “Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats” persists and a “serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment” hasn’t happened seems to be of little concern to Harris-Perry.
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Veterans Lead Civil Resistance Action Against U.S. Wars, Hundreds Risk Arrest

7:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo: A previous civil resistance action with veterans in front of the White House on March 20, 2010 by

(updated below)

This morning, on December 16th, military veterans will lead a nonviolent act of civil resistance against the ongoing U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Led by Veterans for Peace, the organizers expect this to be the largest veteran-led resistance since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

A rally will be held in Lafayette Park. Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst; Mike Ferner, Veterans for Peace National President; Chris Hedges, author and former New York Times war correspondent; Mike Prysner, Iraq vet and co-founder, March Forward!; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent and whistleblower who was TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2002; and Dr. Margaret Flowers, Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program will all speak at the rally. They will then join the veterans and risk arrest in an action in front of the White House that is expected to involve nearly one hundred people chaining themselves to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The action takes place as the International Red Cross warns, “We are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help.” The Red Cross reports civilian casualties are at high levels. It raises questions about whether Afghanis are able to get proper medical services or whether civilians being held in detention are receiving humane treatment. But, more importantly, it indicates that a war in Afghanistan continues to spiral out of control and bring brutality and horror to an impoverished nation.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Julian Assange’s Real Crime: Making It Difficult for America to Wage Superpower

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

WikiLeaks pledges to continue to fight government secrecy despite persecution by the U.S. and other countries. by R_SH

Political leaders like the tyrannical Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and complicit authoritarian Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have come out in full support of prosecuting the now-captured and arrested Julian Assange under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Whether they can do so or not is of no concern to them, and don’t expect that to matter as the press repeats this idea that Assange could be prosecuted.

Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) have introduced a bill that would “stop” WikiLeaks and make it “illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.” The bill known as the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD) would amend the Espionage Act. The main problem with the act is, as Dave Weigel of Slate wrote, “the information being leaked, while embarrassing, hasn’t been highly classified. It’s been secret, or marked “NOFORN,” but it’s not classified.” Thus, it appears the act might currently be ineffective in “stopping” WikiLeaks or future releases of information by any individual, group or organization.

What these senators aim to do is guaranteed to further reduce the protections for journalists and members of the media in this country. It’s guaranteed to further create a political climate where journalists are faced with the possibility of coercive measures if they actually exercise the rights and privileges granted to them by the First Amendment. And, it’s that climate that ensures more and more individuals will leak materials to WikiLeaks instead of media outlets in America, who cannot give their sources guarantees they will be protected under the law.

Sen. Lieberman appeared on the Fox News Channel on December 7th to express his support for not only prosecuting Assange but also examining the culpability of media organizations like the New York Times, which have referenced in the leaked secrets in their news articles.

HOST: Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world. And he’s saying that he is a journalist and he’s saying that he’s just providing information out there for the world’s citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like the New York Times have published his information, which you’re classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks put out there also culpable on this and could be charged with something?

LIEBERMAN: I have said that I believe the question you are raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered. In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into America’s First Amendment, but if you go from the initial crime–Private Manning charged with a crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act. But then what about the news organizations, including the NYT, that accepted it and distributed it? I’m not here to make a final judgment on that. But to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. [emphasis added]

In his appearance, Sen. Lieberman called the release of documents by Assange and WikiLeaks “the most serious violation of the Espionage Act” in America’s history.

Sen. Feinstein, in her editorial published by the Wall Street Journal , wrote, “When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove–more than 250,000 secret State Department cables–he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”

She claimed the authority to decide whether Assange is or is not a journalist, a power she and nobody in government holds. She promoted the idea that the release has hurt people, when there is absolutely no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result of these leaks. And, she concluded, “As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.”

This is where we get into the real crime that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are guilty of committing. They are guilty of posing a threat to American superpower.

They have made it more difficult to wage a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture false cases for any future wars. They have made it harder to mislead Americans and other citizens of the world to believe a country poses an imminent threat to the United States. They have made it more problematic for America to use illegal detention, torture, and rendition on the world’s citizens when prosecuting the “war on terror.” They have made it more complicated for America to use spying and blackmailing when engaging countries in diplomacy. And, they have made leaders of countries in the world less willing to upset the sensibilities of people whom they govern and lie to them to prevent them from demonstrating their disapproval and outrage for going along with a ruthless superpower.

Political leaders and media pundits are disinforming the public when they talk about prosecuting Assange. Leaders like Sen. Feinstein are cherry-picking portions of a Congressional Research Service report to suit their worldview on what can and cannot be done to “protect” America. Indeed, an October report did claim there exists “ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated.” But, as Evan Harper commented on one of Glenn Greenwald’s posts:

“In Feinstein’s WSJ op-ed, she claims “That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful,” citing a Congressional Research Service report which wrote that “there is ample statutory authority” for such a prosecution. But she very badly cherry-picked the report, which goes on to say:

‘…we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction.’

Essentially, CRS found that a plausible reading of the Espionage Act, by itself, might find some grounds to charge Assange — but that precedent, the Constitution, and jurisdictional issues all weigh against a successful prosecution. Feinstein was grossly dishonest in eliding this.”

It’s quite telling that they would fall back on the Espionage Act as the tool that could prevent Assange and WikiLeaks from causing more damage to America’s image in the world. The Espionage Act was signed into law by Glenn Beck’s least favorite president, Woodrow Wilson, shortly after America entered World War I. The act was intended to only apply during wartime, but, like many expansions of executive power in recent American history, the act continued to be applied to dissidents who were getting in the way of military recruiting or efforts to prosecute wars.

As Neal Rockwell points out on NYC Indymedia, “Its first major test case was with a Socialist named Charles Schenck, who received a six month sentence for passing out leaflets denouncing the draft, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. There have been a number of high profile Individuals prosecuted or threatened with this law over the years. In 1918, the famed Socialist organizer Eugene Debs was given a ten year sentence for delivering an anti-war speech on the grounds that it obstructed recruitment and the war effort. His sentence was later commuted by Warren Harding in 1921, and he was released after spending thirty two months in prison. The poet E E Cummings spent a few months in jail under the Act, for speaking openly about his lack of hatred for the Germans. The Post Office was also instrumental in using this law, in that it refused to deliver materials which were deemed to violated it, thus suppressing many radical newspapers.”

Julian Assange has brought out the true spirit of America. Visa and MasterCard refuse to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal refuses to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon censors the Wikileaks website. Tableau opts to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warns students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and not post links to the documents if they hope to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). And, the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense orders hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables.

The U.S.-led “war on WikiLeaks” has tacitly endorsed censorship of the Internet and taken steps that will move it further away from being an arena where all citizens of the world can act openly without fear of being met by unchecked political power. The crew of WikiLeaks has demonstrated that America is more interested in being a closed, conspiratorial, inefficient and totalitarian country instead of using the document dumps WikiLeaks have brought to the world to become more open and honest in government operations. And, those who have supported, aided or abetted WikiLeaks should be aware of how this all could steamroll into a situation where Americans are increasingly asked to take “loyalty oaths” in order to take jobs or use services on the Internet and face surveillance that will lead to persecution if found to be engaging in suspect political activity (indeed, a new round of witch hunts aimed at “disloyal” Americans is already being mounted by the FBI in this country).

Ask yourself: Will there be an agent at your door asking you, “Are you or are you not working in cooperation with Julian Assange and others associated with WikiLeaks?” And, if so, do we intend to stand up and mobilize and raise our voices high and defend our right to disseminate now-public information and utilize our First Amendment rights without threat of intimidation or criminalization?

Whether Julian Assange is guilty of rape or sexual molestation allegations is for the Swedish courts to decide. If he did in fact commit a crime, he will suffer the consequences. But, the charges increasingly appear to be part of a campaign of political persecution that is being endorsed and sponsored by a nation that wishes revenge on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for daring to challenge American superpower.

Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Raises Hell in D.C.

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Hundred activists sit in front of the White House demanding the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining be abolished. by Kevin Gosztola

*See end of article for video montage of events.

Over a thousand Appalachian residents and activists participated in a rally and march in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 27th. The action was the culmination of a multi-day convergence that had been put together by a coalition known as Appalachia Rising, which organized the activity to advance the movement to abolish mountaintop removal coal mining in the United States.

Those organizing understood in order to wage comprehensive action to end mountaintop removal all the players involved had to be sent a message. Plans were made to visit regulators, corporations making the practice possible, and President Obama, who has the power to end this practice once and for all.

Just before the rally, a number of activists staged an action at the Army Corps of Engineers building (the Army Corps of Engineers has the power to give permits for mountaintop removal projects). Nine young people went into the Department of Interior Office building and issued a series of demands for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. They refused to leave and staged a sit-in. And, at PNC’s flagship location in D.C., Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Choir, Earth Quakers, and RAN Chicago all had activists inside who engaged in a sit-in inside the branch.

As the march made it’s way to the White House, it stopped at the EPA building and at the PNC branch, where activists were still sitting in. Those marching chanted, "EPA do your job," and outside the bank, which is now the top funder of mountaintop removal projects, "PNC, you’re killing our communities." One man, who presumably works for the EPA, laughed at those who had paid the agency he works for a visit. And, at the PNC location, bank managers and security detail expressed frustration that police could only arrest 4 people inside the building because they had to take care of the major action that was about to take place in front of the White House.

Led by key leaders of the movement like Teri Blanton and Larry Gibson, the march entered Lafayette Park and congregated and then took off across Pennsylvania Avenue to line up on the sidewalk outside the fence surrounding the White House. One group of Appalachians went to the White House gate and attempted to deliver a letter. Another group went in the opposite direction. And then, the two joined each other in front of the White House.

In rainy weather, one hundred people sat down on the wet sidewalk and were cheered. They began to chant and sing as they waited for police to give their three warnings and then begin the arrests.

A bus that read, "This Bus is Running on Clean Natural Gas," menacingly sat ready for taking away those who were about to engage in civil disobedience and indicated just how important it is to, as the director of Gasland, Josh Fox, told filmmakers and activists at the convergence, merge the movements against mountaintop removal and natural gas drilling. Police vans were also brought to take the activists away.

The police were slow, arresting people one by one. This was likely because they wanted the hundreds of people who were standing behind police caution tape to leave and thought by prolonging the arrests support for those who were making them do extra work would dwindle. However, many remained and, in fact, walked under the caution tape multiple times giving food and water to anyone who was making a small sacrifice for the people of Appalachia.

Monday’s actions started on Freedom Plaza with a rally that featured outspoken Appalachian residents from the movement and others.

Maria Gunnoe, an organizer from West Virginia who has earned awards for opposing the practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, declares that Appalachians will not back down. She delivered a message that the destructive practice is stealing our country’s homeland security.

Gunnoe explained, "The youth is so knowledgeable of mountaintop removal and its impacts on their water and their land. Now, we have a government that thinks that they can regulate blowing up mountains. You cannot regulate destruction." And, she talked about being interviewed by people from other countries who don’t get how the government in West Virginia expects Appalachians to blow up their mountains so they can have jobs.

Hansen said, "We’re gathered here today to draw attention to the failure of our government to protect the rights of the people and the failure to provide equal protections of the laws. People have suffered a long train of abuses invariably with the same objective: to enrich the few at the expense of the many." And, he added, "Our government allows and contributes to a great hoax perpetrated on the public by monied interests aimed at confusing the public about the reality of climate change. We are in danger of becoming the land for the rich and the home of the bribe."

Ken Hechler, the ninety-seven year old principal architect of the Coal Mine and Health Safety Act of 1969 and a man who ran against Governor Joe Manchin in the special election to fill the late Senator Robert Byrd’s seat because he wanted to draw attention to the devastating impact of mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, sent a letter to be read at the rally. Mari-Lynn Evans, executive producer of the documentary film Coal Country, read the letter.

 Hechler’s letter explained, "I have been a fighter my entire life. I fought a world war. I disposed the very Nazis who I faced in that theater of war. I’ve advised presidents. I’ve served in the U.S. Congress and I marched with Martin Luther King for the rights of oppressed citizens. In my ninety-seven years, I’ve seen people sacrifice and be sacrificed. We together take up the fight for our history, one that would be and has been endangered by historical revisionists armed now with heavy equipment called the coal industry. 

He called upon the second battle of Blair Mountain to be a "focal point of the movement" and drew attention to the history of Blair Mountain as a key example of how the coal industry wishes to obliterate any symbols from labor history that might energize people against mountaintop removal. He called himself a hellraiser and then he asked the audience to "get political" and endorsed a candidate running in the special election to fill Byrd’s seat:

"Ask yourself to step up and don the mantle that I wear hell raiser. If you believe in this struggle, then it is time to double your efforts. If you don’t like to get political, then it’s time to understand that the very circumstances of your life is political. So, do it now. Get political. You must realize the power to change is not only within your grasp but it is to your responsibility to your generation and the one to follow

To exert this power and citizenship, I have chosen to ignore my own political party and I’ve endorsed a fighter, Jesse Johnson, whose running for Senate in West Virginia. Jesse is a fighter, he too is a hellraiser, and he is the one to carry this baton. I have deemed him the ultimate solution in this fight."

Johnson, of the Mountain Party in West Virginia, came up on the stage and, after leading people in a song, declared, "They want to erase the history of labor in this nation. And, they want to remove it for a little bit of coal and then another mountain and then another mountain and then another mountain." He added, "They take the miners out of the mines. They are killing the jobs. They are poisoning our waters at their very source."

During the march, Lorelei Scarbro, an activist born and raised in the Coal River Valley, declared while standing on the steps of the EPA building, "We have asked over and over and over for Lisa Jackson [head of the EPA] to get out of her comfy little office up here in this building and fly to Appalachia and see what’s going on. [We have asked her to] knock on the doors of the people in our communities, listen to their stories, look in their eyes when you can tell that they’re drinking poison water and they are dying and then after you do all that then you have to believe us and when you believe us you’re gonna have to change it."

Many marching wanted to believe that the Obama Administration would listen to them. They chanted, "Yes you can! Yes you can!" and talked about wanting change they could believe in today, which means friends and family who are suffering and dying would stop suffering illness and death because of what the coal industry and political leaders failure to treat Appalachians like the human beings they are.

Hansen, who was arrested during the action, indicated how this action and future actions might help finally end mountaintop removal. He suggested those arrested not beg the courts to forgive them for violating the law and instead ask the courts "to order the government to present plans to phase down fossil-fuel emissions at a pace dictated by the science, a pace stabilizing climate, preserving nature and a future for young people, providing young people equal protections of the laws."

Appalachians face some of the worst symptoms of capitalism in America. In states like West Virginia, the economy is a mono-economy, which means everything is defined by one industry–coal.

Residents are treated like sub-humans. The coal industry fights them as they try to tell their stories. The political leaders refuse to listen or take seriously the destruction Appalachians face. They, instead, are whores for the industry, taking donations from coal and so-called "friends of coal" to help them get elected and re-elected. And, regulators have not the fortitude or courage to act in defense of the humans suffering from weapons of mass destruction in Appalachia. They choose to instead send patsies to share coal industry-produced pseudo-science with students in high schools and tell students that sludge ponds from mining are not really toxic and that certain elements polluting the air, water and environment are not to be worried about because they are on the Periodic Table of Elements.

The system refuses to respond to Appalachians so, therefore, it is up to Applachians and others to stand up and fight. Just like people stood up to fight for women’s suffrage and civil rights for African-Americans, the people of America must fight.

The following is a video montage of Monday’s action:

Why FBI Raids Against Antiwar Activists Should Matter to Activists Fighting King Coal

5:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson defends the mountains from King Coal.

The FBI raided six locations in Minneapolis and two locations in Chicago on Friday. The raids appeared to target antiwar activists, particularly ones who had been outspoken on the U.S. policies toward Colombia and/or the Palestinians. FBI Special Agent contended the FBI was "seeking evidence related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.

The FBI found there was "no imminent threat to the community" after conducting the raids, which might lead one to wonder if the raids are as questionable as previous FBI activity that has been the subject of discussion in the past weeks (see Coleen Rowley’s "Inspector General Criticism Doesn’t Phase FBI Raids on Midwestern Anti-war Activists.").

How interesting is it that just prior to a massive convergence of anti-mountaintop removal activists other progressive activists were targeted for their activism. Those fighting for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining may not take positions on Palestinian or Colombian issues (although a letter from Colombians expressing solidarity with those gathered for Appalachia Rising was read Saturday evening), but they do favor the protection of civil liberties because those liberties protect their right to assemble and organize.

Unfortunately, Appalachian citizens are taking huge risks every time they speak out against coal and fight to keep the land they live on from being destroyed by the coal industry’s weapons of mass destruction. The explosion of mountains and the criminal degradation and exploitation of land where people live may seem like an injustice one should have the right to stand up and oppose, however, those who are friends of coal beg to differ. Though it may seem like they fit the mold, it is not those who aid and abet the coal industry that are targeted for conspiring to commit terrorism. It is, instead, the working class families in Appalachian states, whose histories are deeply entwined with the history of coal, that face targeting.

The coal industry, especially corporations like Massey Energy, have an interest in using the agencies of counterterrorism to target activists for conspiring to commit acts of "domestic terrorism." Corporations like Massey Energy have lobbied for support from federal law enforcement so that they can be protected from the threat posed to them by a movement to end mountaintop removal. And, government has yielded to the power of King Coal and infringed upon the rights of outspoken citizens.

On, Will Potter has a post detailing how Eric McDavid (and two other activists) were arrested in California and charged with knowingly conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage property. McDavid went to trial and was found guilty of eco-terrorism. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and he was believed to be part of an operation "to target banks, commercial trucks, mountaintop removal projects in West Virginia, Communist party office, and the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics in California, according to the affidavit."

Potter’s post detailed how an FBI informant or provocateur "provided the group with bomb-making recipes; at times financed their transportation, food and housing; strung along McDavid, who had hopes of a romantic relationship; and poked and prodded the group into action."

McDavid’s attorney said, "There has never been a case in America that has involved this much entrapment, this much pushing by an informant, by the U.S. government and by the FBI behind it." The judge, however, had no problem with applying a "terrorism enhancement" and said, "It’s a new world since September 11th, 2001."

On this "new world," Potter wrote, "One where fears of "terrorism" are used to justify sweeping police powers, government spying and entrapment. Perhaps most damaging of all is that the press has largely swallowed the "War on Terrorism’ rhetoric, labeling activists as "eco-terrorists" at every turn, often long before they even have a foot in the courtroom."

In one session at the Appalachia Rising Conference, two Lynch, Virginia citizens explained those in their community regard them as "domestic terrorists". Jesse Johnson, a West Virginia Mountain Party candidate for the Senate (who has received the endorsement of Democrat Ken Hechler who lost in the West Virginia primaries) has in the past received death threats and been harassed on the road by other vehicles for taking on Gov. Joe Manchin and the corporate powers that be which own West Virginia politics–coal.

Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson delivered a speech last night. During the speech, he told of how he has been the victim of drive-by shootings at his home. Gibson has drawn interest among those who work for Homeland Security. Gibson has been followed, harassed, had his phone tapped and had staff in the capitol tell him they were going to have to call Homeland Security. That’s all because he has been protesting the coal industry in West Virginia and standing up for the people of Appalachia.

Today, on Monday, September 27th, about a thousand will rally at Freedom Plaza, march to banks that fund mountaintop removal projects and to the EPA, which hasn’t properly enforced environmental regulations in Appalachia. They will continue on to the White House. At the White House, a protest will take place and then hundreds will cross the line to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience to end mountaintop removal mining in America.

Remembering the past history of union activism in Appalachia, recalling at least thirty years of activism against the coal companies’ practice of mountaintop removal surface mining, hundreds will make a sacrifice and move forward in solidarity displaying courage. But, that courage is nothing compared to the courage they have to display when they return to their homes in Appalachia.

Especially in states like West Virginia that are entirely owned by coal–that is essentially a coal-o-cracy, individuals will return home and, depending on how much people who work for companies like Massey Energy think they are succeeding in their mission to abolish mountaintop removal, they will be targeted. They will face intimidation, harassment, and will be tracked by the FBI or possibly Homeland Security. (In fact, there will be protesters nearby protesting the FBI raids that took place on Friday.)

This day is as much about ending mountaintop removal as it is about standing up for the rights or liberties that all Americans celebrate. And, it’s also about reclaiming a tradition of rebellion in this country that the Tea Party, with the help of the GOP and Big Business investors, have co-opted and trivialized with their teabagging tomfoolery.

You may not see this event on your local news tonight or even on your cable news. And, if that is in fact the case, just remember that coal is likely the fuel that keeps the lights on for these news companies and likely part of the advertising they need to survive. Also, understand that just because you don’t see it break into the news cycle, just because you don’t get to hear an Appalachian’s soundbite featured, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The coal industry is destroying the land and the very lives of people who live upon that land. They are being treated as sub-humans and they have been treated as sub-humans for decades. So, today they fight to not only restore honor and reclaim sanity but to also claim dignity for themselves, their families, their friends, and for all who work for the coal industry and people this is the only option they have to make a living. All they can do to get by is participate in environmental destruction.

Find stories from today by searching for "Appalachia Rising" on the Internet. Circumvent the corporate news media. That’s what I am doing. And, when one considers the scale of injustice going on in Appalachia, when one notes how much one industry has taken control of business and politics and holds democracy and freedom hostage unless one is willing to march lockstep for coal, making sure the story of these people gets out to Americans is the least anyone can do.

Responding to the Toxic Anti-Islamic Fervor Growing in This Nation

6:03 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The above is a video message I put together for YouTube. With the growing anti-Islam fervor that has been ratcheting up as a result of people trying to stop a "Ground Zero Mosque" from being built, I wanted to address the people who are trying to confront those who are making this country more dangerous and who are endangering this country’s national security by writing a recruiting script for right wing Muslims or Islamists.

The video is around five minutes long and below is an addendum and something to read if you do not have time for a video.


Protest of Cordoba House in NYC. Protesters carry signs reading things like "No Clubhouse for Jihadists."

So, you’ve found yourself wondering lately why people are so upset about what is the equivalent of a YMCA center being built near Ground Zero. You wonder how shuffleboard, tennis, swimming, weightlifting, and workouts in a fitness center in some interfaith community center administered by some guy named Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf could lead to stealth jihad and the imposition of Sharia Law on all Americans.


If you’re a person who–I don’t know–thinks, in the past week you may have chosen to jump start conversation, perhaps through a blog post or weigh into a conversation in the comments thread of an article that already had a vibrant or polarizing conversation going on. You’ve genuinely tried to get to find some truth about this "controversy" and perhaps reconcile with people’s views on the impending "Islamization of America."


By now, you’ve likely found it’s hard to talk to those who are opposed to the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term it (and they probably have become fed up with you as well). The problem with reasoning with the opposition is that they are not thinking about this in terms of reality. You can explain to them that the Constitution gives Americans who have Islamic beliefs the right to build all you want, but as a Newsweek slideshow recently posted affirms, they will not think of your argument as something that applies to Muslims in America.


The slideshow, "Dumb Things Americans Believe," explains,
"one in three Americans," according to a 2008 First Amendment Center poll believe "the constitutional right to freedom of religion was never meant to apply to groups most folks think are extreme or fringe–a 10 percent increase from 2000."


Since those leading the charge against the construction of the "mosque" consider Islam to be a political system and not a true religion, since they treat it more like a cult than a religion, the legal argument–the free market property rights argument that they should be receptive to (because let’s be honest these people opposed are the same people who clamor into city plazas for Tea Party rallies to protest the socialist takeover of America)–rolls right off them like confetti at a Sarah Palin/Mama Grizzlies celebration.


Newsweek’s slideshow comes on the heels of a poll where around one fifth polled suggested it was possible President Obama was a Muslim. Or, as Glenn Beck hints at, he hasn’t professed his Christian faith in a manner that would lead one to channel Sinclair Lewis and say, "It can happen here," so he likely is a Muslim a Muslim who has brought change Americans will be forced to submit to and who will make it possible for Islamists to hijack local and state governments with their agenda for Sharia Law and work their way up until they eventually have Cabinet seats and have turned America into a nation for Caliphate advancement.


Other things people believe, which Newsweek details includes: sixty-one percent doubt the theory of evolution, twenty-one percent in witches, forty percent believe in death panels, forty-one percent believed Saddam was linked to 9/11, forty-one percent not sure Judaism older than Christianity, and twenty percent not sure Earth revolves around the Sun.


Recently, those who populate the wiki, Conservapedia, were found to be arguing that the theory of relativity could be proven wrong. The site provided counterexamples, one of the best being: "In Genesis 1:6-8, we are told that one of God’s first creations was a firmament in the heavens. This likely refers to the creation of the luminiferous aether." (Rachel Maddow covered this in a segment called the "War on Brains.")


These phantasmagoric beliefs are being spouted by people who believe in God. Does that mean religion needs to be abolished? I don’t know, but we have people like this guy who are railing on about a "climate change scam," who likely believe that climate change isn’t true because it isn’t detailed in the Bible.


Americans, we have an incredible dilemma. Part of our heritage has always involved confronting delusions, and now we have a pressing obligation to find a way to confront this.


A drunk man walked into a mosque in Queens on Wednesday evening and urinated on the prayer rugs. With a beer bottle in his hand, he proceeded to shout anti-Muslim epithets and called worshippers "terrorists."


That’s not some creative variation of some "A Guy Walks Into a Bar" joke. Even worse, a Muslim cab driver was stabbed Tuesday and a California mosque was recently desecrated.




And, Terry Jones, a pastor for the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, plans to send "a warning" to Muslims by holding a Koran-Burning Day. Just what kind of warning does Jones expect to send? Won’t this just incite violence? Why not just take moveable letters on a church sign and make it read, "Homegrown Terrorists Welcome Here"?


If you’re Muslim, it isn’t news that there are a number of people in this country that fear Muslims like Nazis fear Jew bankers; they’ve been confronting this behavior and violence since 9/11 (And you thought you’d get through this without a Nazi reference?). They are the most vocal and their fundamentalist leaders’ goals are driving them to campaign to rid this country of any Muslims looking to practice their freedom of religion.


Americans who contend this is a distraction from the pressing economic problems–and a result of the upcoming 2010 midterm elections—minimize the way that leaders behind the creation of this anti-Islamic fury will twist and manipulate the frenzied atmosphere to continue to advance their theocratic agenda.


I don’t fully know what we should do now, but I do have a beginning suggestion: Our side needs its own cheesy 80s rock anthem to cheer on reason, tolerance and acceptance of all people just like the nuts who are spreading hate and fear of Muslims now have their own anthem to cheer on religious persecution of Americans.