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Free Speech, Capitalist Dynasties

7:27 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Did you hear? Some rich filth on TV said he believes God hates fags.

V for Vendetta-style caped Guy Fawkes & a police photographer

The beginning of a new movement or the last gasp of unmediated free speech?

Now, TV personalities can spend even more days analyzing other TV personalities. Do they hate gays, black people, you? What color is Santa? All the usual, powerful swine are out for the right of other swine to say whatever they want on a profitable television program.

Conservatives like to believe that “freedom of speech” means “freedom from consequences” for intolerance. Meanwhile, actual violations of freedom of speech — like climate change activists being charged with a “terrorism hoax” – go unanswered by either the right or the left.

While this spectacle involves the right-wing puppets, both parties — the whole political spectrum, as far as Mainstream America is concerned — are intimately invested in this redefinition of free speech.

Free speech isn’t what happens in the streets, it’s corporate money at elections and pretty pictures on commercial television.

When Occupy drew thousands nationwide, it was Democratic mayors — and Obama’s Feds — that came down hardest on the movement. When thousands gathered at the Texas Capitol this past summer but before Wendy Davis’ much-lauded filibuster, Democratic party officials put the loudest, most influential grassroots organizers on a list of dangerous agitators that they passed around to rally organizers from multiple groups. One of them told me I shouldn’t lead crowds in chanting or disruptive behavior because it would “look crazy.” Not to worry, she told me, we’d vote them out in 2014.

Street posters of Snowden (labelled Patriot) & Rick Perry (labelled Dog Shit)

Speech without permits is terrorism.

On the night of the final vote while a hundred Texas State Troopers beat and dragged us for sitting in front of the Senate doors, the Texas Democrats led a march away from the Capitol so they could have a fund raiser in a park before their permit ran out. Whatever happens next November, the legislature won’t even meet till 2015 and at least 20,000 women won’t have access to safe abortion next year.

Free speech isn’t what happens on the Internet. We jail our whistle blowers and hacktivist heroes while the NSA stalks and catalogs us.

Free speech is freedom to create commercially profitable spectacle. The media disappearing yet again up its own asshole.

Homeless people — perhaps as many as half of whom are queer — are freezing to death in the richest part of the country. LGBTQ folk are being jailed and tortured in Greece and Russia but we applaud a few gay athletes.

Free speech is voting for a turkey while prisoners languish in solitary, poor people starve and our atmosphere burns.

But don’t look away for a minute. You might miss a heartfelt apology, before we all comb our folksy beards and shoot a few more ducks through the magic of mirror neurons.

The Mexicans and the Million Mask March had the right of it by surrounding the mainstream media bullshit factories and demanding to be heard by so-called journalists. They just didn’t go far enough.

Give it time. The disenfranchisement is there, we’re just waiting on enough anger.

People of America, put on your masks. Lift up your voices. And pick up your paintbrush, your smart phone, your chalk and your wheat paste and use them to smash the state.

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Decentralized Dance Party Wins the Nobel Prize for Partying (#SXSW)

7:10 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

What does it accomplish to dance in the streets?

On March 16, 2013, Tom and Gary brought their Decentralized Dance Party back to Austin, Texas for a third time. The “DDP” is a roving dance party created by boomboxes carried in the crowd. The boomboxes are all tuned to the same micro-radio station powered by a backpack mounted FM transmitter. Playing popular hits that are easy to dance and sing with, mixed with bass-heavy newer tunes, the party begins at a designated meeting place leaked through social media and then roves all through an urban area.

Partying is misunderestimated by 99% of the populace.

Accordingly, it is rarely done properly and has never received the respect it deserves.

Partying is: “forgetting who you are while remembering what you are.”

It is the complete loss of the social conditioning that makes adult life monotonous and depressing and has the power to be a transformational spiritual experience. — from the Decentralized Dance Party manifesto

The Bill & Ted’s-esque mythology of the DDP is that two best friends travel back from the future to teach humanity how to party. The real story begins in Vancouver in 2009, which Gary Lachance calls “no fun city” for its lack of acceptable night life. To liven up the experience, Gary and his friends would rove with a pair of bicycle-mounted sound systems connected to iPods. One night around midnight, an iPod ran out of batteries so they tuned both sound systems to the same radio station while they rode and the idea was born. In 2010 the DDP began traveling North America, and within six months they say 20,000 people had experienced this street party. It’s only grown from there.

Tom at the DDP, wearing a power glove & a fuzzy future outfit.

Tom is here from the future to teach us to party.

“Tom” is a role that several have played, but Gary says the current Tom is a keeper. A military veteran who served two tours in Iraq, he began traveling cross-country and sleeping in his van in order to follow the Decentralized Dance Party from location to location. After he constructed a powerful sound system out of a baby carriage (they call it “The Baby Boomer”), the DDP team knew they’d found their perfect Tom. He sees it as a healthy transition from being part of the machinery of war to bringing humanity together through the joy of dancing. “This is my passion,” Tom told me as thousands danced under Congress bridge in the heart of downtown Austin. ”I will do this for the rest of my life.” Now Tom leads the Decentralized Dance Parties by the light of his glowing “Disco Trident.”

Dance parties in public spaces were — and still are — a frequent part of the Occupy movement and modern global activism. The Portland eviction made headlines for including a dance party, and Occupy Austin has a huge and very loud “Party Wagon” that frequently appears on marches — including this most recent DDP — when it’s not simulating earthquakes. Yet it’s instructive to contrast police response to Occupy with their response to the Dance Party.

Anonymous

Anonymous guides the Occupy Austin Party Wagon at the SXSW 2013 Decentralized Dance Party.

During this recent Austin event, the march had traveled from south of Austin’s Town Lake onto Congress on its way up to the State Capitol when it encountered Austin police investigating an accident or vehicular crime scene. After a brief pause, we found we had police escort for the rest of the journey and every cop was smiling. At the Texas State Capitol, the notoriously humorless State Troopers (who even arrested Santa Claus) briefly detained Tom, but can be seen posing with dancers in later photos.
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#OpValentine: Show A Prisoner Revolutionary Love

4:28 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Valentine’s Day: some people love the romance, others decry it as an obligatory expression of love or lament the misery of being single on a day devoted to coupledom. If being single on February 14 seems unbearable, imagine if you were not just alone but locked away from everything — your family, your friends, the outside world.

Vintage Valentine Card: Do you cat-ch on? I want you for my Valentine.

This Valentine's Day, tell a prisoner: "I choo-choo-choose you!"

Such is the plight of our nation’s political prisoners. Some, like Leonard Peltier, have spent decades behind bars. Others, like the NATO 5 are victims of a new wave of political repression. To bring comfort to these victims of the system, Anonymous, occupiers, Anarchist Black Cross groups and other activists have come together to create Operation Valentine (#OpValentine):

Where will we be on Valentine’s day? With whom? One thing is certain, most of us will have the freedom to tell whom we care ‘I love you’ and shower them with hugs. Separated from their friends, their family, all of their love ones, many of our brothers and sisters will be deprived of this most basic human right. They have sacrificed their freedom to expose corruption and human rights violations. And as would say Che: ‘At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.’

It’s easy to participate in #OpValentine. Just pick a prisoner (or more than one), write or make a note or postcard, and send it in the mail. Valentine’s Day is less than a week away as of this writing and our postal service is being gutted, but I guarantee you’ll brighten someone’s dreary day no matter when you send your mail.

When you’re writing to a political prisoner, it’s best to share your love and daily life. These are regular people who need our support, not heroes to worship. It’s also important not to discuss a case with pre-trial prisoners or to write anything you wouldn’t want read by police, the government, or the media. The New York Anarchist Black Cross has a great guide to writing political prisoners:

For the first letter, it’s best to offer an introduction, how you heard about the prisoner, a little about yourself. Tell stories, write about anything you are passionate about–movement work and community work are great topics until you have a sense of the prisoner’s interests outside of political organizing.

And what we hear from prisoners time and time again is to include detail. Prison is so total that the details of life on the outside become distant memories. Smells, textures, sounds of the street all get grayed out behind bars. That’s not to say that you should pen a stream-of-consciousness novel.

Remember, even the simplest of notes is a potentially life- or sanity-saving connection to the outside world.

I’m going to include the complete #OpValentine document below, but an updated list can be found in this pastebin.

[Editor's Note: See the comments for more political prisoners who need our love. -MyFDL Editor]

#OpValentine

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#Occupy Votes (Updated 2:25pm PST)

1:13 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Tuned Out Hippies?

Since the Occupy movement began, many have attempted to position the group in opposition to electoral politics. Occupy in its purest form is nonpartisan, and since the beginning of the movement this has been a source of criticism.

If we want to really make a difference, we were told time and again, we should organize similarly to the Tea Party and begin to field candidates for office. When occupiers protested Mitt Romney or other hyper-conservative politicians, they’d be accused of being in bed with Barack Obama. If the movement protested neo-liberals like Obama, we were accused of being traitors to all that was good in the world because we obviously wanted Romney to win (Carnacing is not limited to blogs). Most of all, occupiers got accused of being disconnected from what their critics perceive to be real politics — we were lazy hippies who didn’t understand how the world works and worst of all we don’t vote.

Spelled out in lights: DO MORE THAN VOTE

Austin Overpass Light Brigade on November 5, 2012

Occupy and many allied activist groups stand in opposition to the idea that electoral politics should be the focus of American political engagement. It is especially opposed to the idea that just voting out one plutocrat and replacing him with a new one will fix our problems — even if that new plutocrat is a woman, from a racial minority, or practices an alternative religion or sexuality. Its ranks are full of activists who supported Obama with hours of hard work in the run-up to the 2008 election, only to “wake the eff up” over the succeeding years and realize real change doesn’t come from far-away leaders.

It’s my experience that occupiers are far more engaged with mainstream politics than mainstream America, which for the most part unthinkingly abstains from participating at all. While the average American simply does not vote, the question of whether to vote and how was an important concern to OWS. Members of Occupy Chicago spent hours in a heated debate over whether it was ethical to burn voter registration cards as a form of protest. Occupiers created street theater around the election: Occupy Chicago members took coffins to the Obama headquarters and launched Revs4Romney. On election day, Occupy the Stage in New Orleans protested the fact that Louisiana is one of eight states which disallow write-in candidates for President by performing a puppet show about the 2-party system at a polling place then accepting symbolic write-in votes (I voted via Twitter for Vermin Supreme). Occupiers held public debate-watching parties, helped Anonymous trend the hashtag #StopNDAA and livetweeted the elections.

Occupy groups also became closely involved in local issues at multiple elections since last September. Here in Austin, one Occupier made an unsuccessful bid for city council, while others became involved in the successful bid to make the city council itself more accountable. Austin will change from one of the country’s only completely at-large city councils to one where each council member represents part of the city.  The Occupy AISD working group fought new in-district charter schools by, in part, helping to unseat charter-supporter Sam Guzman. His replacement, Dr. Rev. Jayme Mathias, will be the first openly gay member of Austin’s school board. One of the Gulf Port 7, Ronnie Garza, is featured in the video at the top of this post. Another, Remington Alessi, ran for sheriff as a Green Party candidate. San Antonio’s Meghan Owen took 1.5% of the vote for the Greens in a bid to unseat NDAA-supporting Democrat Representative Lloyd Doggett.

Of course, many see Elizabeth Warren as a massive win for the goals of Occupy Wall Street.

An Ethical Dilemma At the Voting Booth

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#D12 Gulf Port 7: Judge Joan Campbell Is Not Amused With Detective Shannon Dowell

12:34 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For more on the Gulf Port 7 and Austin Police Department infiltration of Occupy Austin, see Undercover Austin Narcotics Detective Enabled Houston Felonies.

Judge Joan Campbell has threatened to dismiss the case unless these documents are presented along with the names of two other undercover officers at the next hearing, scheduled for September 5 2012.

A black and white sketch of a bearded, white haired man.

An artist's rendition of Austin Police Department Detective Shannon G Dowell when he infiltrated Occupy Austin as "Butch." Butch built and delivered lockbox devices to Austin activists, resulting in 7 felony charges at the Port of Houston on December 12, 2011 (Image: Anonymous).

Yesterday I wrote about the sworn testimony of Austin Police Department Detective Shannon G Dowell, who revealed that he operated undercover at Occupy Austin with at least 2 other officers. Dowell, or “Butch” as occupiers knew him, didn’t just spy on the group; he built and delivered devices known as lockboxes to Austin activists. These devices, also called sleeping dragons, physically link protesters together and resulted in seven activists receiving felony charges for blocking the entrance to the Port of Houston. One activist, Iraq veteran Eric Marquez, has been in jail since December as a result of these charges.

On Monday, August 27 2012, Dowell appeared before Judge Joan Campbell of the 248th District Court in Houston. Yesterday, I quoted the part of the transcript from that discovery hearing where Dowell admits the investigation has ties all the way to Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo. Today I want to go deeper into those transcripts, and show just how incompetent (or at least behind the times) Austin Police Department appears.

It’s important to note that Judge Campbell initially dismissed all charges against arrested activists before being forced by a grand jury to try the seven felony cases. Her sense of frustration with Austin Police Department behavior is palpable in the written transcripts, and eyewitnesses tell me the courtroom scene was very tense.

Though the illustration at right shows Butch as he appeared at Occupy Austin, he was clean-shaven and short-haired at his most recent court appearance.

Here’s what the court asked Dowell to provide:

That subpoena asked him to bring with him any police reports, I assume texts, phone calls, among him — between him and any other person, to bring with him all receipts and evidence of money spent and/or received by him during his participation in the investigation of the occupy the port movement or the investigation that resulted in the prosecution that we’re here on.

But Shannon Dowell only brought a few pages of printed notes and a USB drive — which he lost on the way to court!

Detective Dowell: I brought a thumb drive that had photos that I lost en route.

Judge Campbell: You lost it in and or out? What does that mean?

DD:  En route to here.

JC: En route?

DD: Yes, while I was coming here.

JC:  So it fell out of your car?

DD: Probably my pocket. I would imagine it’s in the gutter in front of the hotel I was in.

After asking Dowell what hotel he stayed at, Campbell presses him on the contents of the thumb drive:

Detective Dowell: There’s photos — what they call the lockboxes and the person that I delivered them to that was involved in Occupy Austin, I delivered those lockboxes to this person and it was a photo of her.

Judge Campbell: Was that a police officer, that person?

DD: No.

JC:  Or a police officer of any type?

DD:  No.

JC: And is there anything else that was on that drive that you lost?

DD: An electronic copy of that right there [Dowell's printed notes] that I gave you. I believe that’s all.

But what about the emails? Where did they go?

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The Crackdown on Chalk (#Chalkupy Austin)

12:53 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

“No reasonable person could think that writing with chalk could damage a sidewalk.” Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Mackinney v. Nielsen 69 F.3d 1002, 1995)

What’s happening in this country?

Two activists in handcuffs with State Troopers on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

Audrey Steiner and Corey Williams are processed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol after being arrested for chalking a public sidewalk nearby (Photo: Kit O'Connell, all rights reserved).

I know this is a question we ask frequently on these pages. Every day, some new offense against basic freedoms comes to light, further shaking faith in the basic principles of our constitution. I thought I was jaded, but what happened in Austin last Thursday shook me — not just because chalk merits police response, but because of the intensity and overwhelming force being used to strike at one of the simplest, most transient forms of expression possible.

By now most of us have heard of the crack down on chalk which occurred in Los Angeles in July, when Occupy Los Angeles passed out chalk to a monthly Artwalk event and the gathering found itself under attack by violent riot police retaliation. Activists decided to pass out chalk at the Artwalk in the first place because of almost two dozen arrests for chalk in public places just in Los Angeles. Not a single one of these arrests has resulted in charges.

From an Occupy Los Angeles press release:

Participants of Occupy LA’s Chalk Walk wonder why the Los Angeles Police Department continues to arrest them for chalking when the City Attorney has declined to prosecute any of the chalking arrests.

One Occupier wonders, “If the so-called crime is not worth prosecuting, then is it worth making the chalk arrests in the first place?” and then adds, “LAPD harasses us with these arrests to intimidate us.”

Occupy activists say that LAPD had made nearly twenty arrests for chalking related to Occupy but has failed to make chalking arrests at non-occupy events including an event the Mayor handed out boxes of yellow chalk to be used on the “sidewalks,driveways, and any blank canvasses” including the streets of Sunset Blvd in traffic at night for a fundraiser for Lance Armstrong’s art campaign, “Hope Rides Again”, sponsored by Nike.

The crack down is not limited to Los Angeles, but appears to be occurring nationwide. Activists in Orlando recently won a lucrative lawsuit against the city for wrongful arrest in a chalk-related arrest of an Occupy Orlando member. Occupy New Orleans members fled from police during their chalkupy event. While the crackdown may be political in nature, not just activists are getting caught up in it — a mother in Richmond, Virginia faces 50 hours community service because her daughter chalked some rocks, and two teens in a Philadelphia suburb were ticketed for drawing a sea turtle and a whale in chalk. Which brings us to Austin, where two people were arrested Thursday and face uncertain charges for expressing their right to free speech.
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TransPacific Partnership: Darrell Issa Releases Text, Full Document Still Secret

1:08 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

TPP Protest in Addison, Texas. Photo by Kit O'Connell.

Despite a petition with over 44,000 signatures, as well as recommendations by NGOs, legal experts, and congressmen, the Office of the United States Trade Representative still refuses to release the text of the TransPacific Partnership:

The first question, from Citizens Trade Campaign, was a request that text be made available to the public so that stakeholders could have more informed positions when speaking with negotiators. Weisel said that while the U.S. position is that constantly evolving TPP chapter texts cannot be released to the public.

While activists continue to work to obtain a list of those who have seen the complete text, Congressman Darrell Issa made the dramatic move to release the copyright and intellectual property portion of the agreement. Pieces of this chapter had been previously leaked, angering activists with  Electronic Frontiers Foundation, Anonymous, and supporters of an accessible, open Internet. They see the agreement as reproducing or worsening many of the more destructive portions of defeated laws like the Senate Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

In his press release, Issa said:

At a time when the American people and Internet users all around the world are rightfully wary of any closed-door negotiations that could adversely impact their ability to freely and openly access the Internet, the Obama Administration continues to pursue a secretive, closed-door negotiating process for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

My contacts suggest that this release, apparently the entire chapter on intellectual property, is more than most outside the shadowy negotiations have seen before today. The chapter is hosted on Keep The Web #Open, where the public is invited to read it and give the feedback, a process many believe should have been possible from the beginning.

Thanks to Anonymous for drawing my attention to these stories.

#TPP Wrap-up: Secret Deals Under Fire

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For a #TPP Photo Gallery, visit Kit O’Connell’s Approximately 8,000 Words

After a weekend of protest and controversy, it’s clear that the TransPacific Partnership, the secretive and far-reaching international trade deal negotiated in Addison, Texas is under fire. The more sunshine we let in, the less attractive this deal looks to world leaders.

From a direct action perspective, the highlight of the week was the major disruption caused by Yes Lab pranksters with support from Occupy Dallas. Their efforts, which included replacing the toilet paper in the hotel with special ‘TPP’ message paper, culminated in a major infiltration and the presentation of a fake “Corporate Power Tool” award to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk:

The first action began when a smartly-dressed man approached the podium immediately after the gala’s keynote speech by Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative and former mayor of Dallas. The man (local puppeteer David Goodwin) introduced himself as “Git Haversall,” president of the “Texas Corporate Power Partnership,” and announced he was giving Kirk and other U.S. trade negotiators the “2012 Corporate Power Tool Award,” which “Haversall’s” partner held aloft.

Citizens on Twitter from around the world bombarded political accounts in the US with demands to halt the deal:

@BarackObama We Japanese appreciate your kindness such as Tomodachi operation. But we are not happy with TPP! #TPP — tweet by ファーファ@座り込み (@saQra629)

On Saturday, I livetweeted and liveblogged from the TPP: Out of the Shadows rally. A collection of activists from around the country (and even a handful of international visitors) gathered in Addison Circle Park. The coalition, organized by the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, ranged from unions like the Teamsters to multiple Occupy groups like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. I was dropped at the park around noon on a bus with about 40 occupiers and activists; I’d greatly enjoyed the quiet company of the National Nurses United contingent who were proud of their victory in the upcoming Chicago rally and Tom Morello concert. A lunch had been provided for some, but with no vegetarian options a few of us went in search of other food.

By the time I got back, the rally had grown to over 300 people. Red TPP balloons dotted the crowd, along with signs and banners. Occupy Austin had brought our banner from May Day, “Workers of the World: Occupy!” Anonymous supporters were even present among the crowd, a sign of the major push that movement has been making against the trade deal on social media. The only mainstream media I spotted were from Japan, but I didn’t catch which network they represented.

At about 2pm central time, we marched on the Intercontinental Hotel. This march had a permit; we were to remain on the sidewalk until we reached the roads immediately around the hotel. Teamsters assigned as parade marshals tried to enforce this, but occupiers led a surge into the streets some blocks ahead of schedule. We’d been told not to enter hotel property, even the parking lot, or risk arrest. Simple wooden barricades were placed at the entrance. A couple dozen cops were present, but none of the riot gear reported earlier in the week was visible, although dark suited federal police lurked around.

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