Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Justice for Alejandro Nieto!"

* "Hundreds In SF Protest Murder of Alejandro Nieto on March 29, 2014", by Labor Video Project [link]
* "Protesters March to Remember Alejandro Nieto", 2014-03-30 from "Mission Local" [link]
* "SFPD-enforced gentrification killed Alex Nieto" [link], with PNN TV footage of SFPD public meeting
* "Latino gunned down by police, community outraged", 2014-03-27 by Laura Waxman from "El Tocolote" newspaper [link]
* "SFPD Kill Scholarship Student & Security Guard After ‘Gentrifiers' Get Suspicious", 2014-03-25 by Jason Wallach for the Center of Political Education []:
I am upset this evening because today I learned about Alejandro Nieto, who was killed by a barrage of San Francisco Police Department bullets last Friday evening near the service road leading up Bernal Hill.
I attended the vigil in Alex’s (as he was known to friends) honor that took place at the site where he died, on the service road leading up Bernal Hill. At the vigil, I learned that he was a scholarship student at City College of San Francisco, studying Criminal Justice. He wanted to be a parole officer to help guide young men’s lives into good directions. He was a devout Buddhist who believed in creating the peace in his community that he wanted to see spread across the Earth. He was a loving, caring individual. I found out through a poem that his birthday was March 4th.
I also learned that the SFPD shot him last Friday as he ate a burrito just before heading to work as a security guard. He was wearing his work-authorized tazer on his belt, but the police did not ask him about that. They did not consider the source of racist fear that motivated the (mostly) white dog-walking residents to frantically call police because of Alejandro’s presence. The cruel irony is that his job was to provide a sense of security for patrons at a restaurant/bar — so they could eat in peace. But Ale’s presence — his simple presence IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD THAT HE GREW UP IN — was enough to create a sense of IN-security for his recently arrived neighbors… and that not only could he not eat in peace, but because of it Alejandro is now Resting in Peace.
There is so much work to be done on so many levels to prevent this type of thing from ever happening again. It won’t be changed in a day. But if we show up for Alex in the coming days, maybe we can show that he did not die in vain. (Cuz for right now, it sure feels like his life was senselessly stolen from him.)
There will be a Town Hall meeting about this police murder of one of our community members tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 6:00 PM at Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School, 3125 Cesar Chavez. Alejandro’s family and friends are asking for community support and presence at this meeting. Please come if you can.

* "SFPD to answer questions on fatal shooting of Alejandro Nieto", 2014-03-25 by Rebecca Bowe from the "Bay Guardian" newspaper [link]: [begin excerpt] A report in the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that just before the shooting, Nieto was “acting erratically and threatening passersby,” quoting an unnamed witness who said a man had threatened his dog with a “pistol-type stun gun” and yelled profanities. It also referenced a past incident involving Nieto's alleged use of a stun gun.
A person who declined to be named told the Bay Guardian that about half an hour before the shooting occurred, two men who were walking down the pedestrian pathway on the north slope of Bernal Heights Park alerted a jogger that there was a man ahead wearing a gun on his hip. They told the jogger that they had called the police. The jogger, who was about 50 feet from the man and started moving away from him after receiving the warning, was too far away to see whether he had a weapon but noticed that he was “pacing back and forth” and “air boxing.” [end excerpt]

Comments posted 2014-03-28 at []: Yelling profanities and threatening people is not an excuse to kill somebody. Air boxing is not a crime. Threatening animals that are trying to attack you is not a crime. When he pointed the gun at them, how did the cops know it wasn't a toy or something? This is on the police, not Alejandro. Doesn't the department give training on dealing with mentally disturbed individuals? Did anyone besides SFPD witness the killing? Did anyone see Alejandro Nieto point his taser at police? Did anyone hear the police warn him? Was he wearing headphones or earbuds or otherwise handicapped from hearing at the time he was killed?

"Justice for Alex Nieto, March 29, 2014", video produced by Gloria La Riva from the ANSWER Coalition, posted 2014-03-30 by SanFranciscoANSWER [], at []: 28-year-old Alex Nieto was murdered by SF police on March 21, in his neighborhood of Bernal Heights, a victim of racist profiling by SFPD. The massive gentrification in the Mission district and Bernal Heights and all SF has also made targets of longtime Black and Latino residents and all working-class people in San Francisco. A community coalition has formed to demand indictment of SFPD and justice for Alex Nieto.

"Community March: Justice for Alejandro Nieto! Jail killer cops!", call to action from ANSWER Coalition []: March 29, 2014, 2:00 pm, at the Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission St. near 25th St. in San Francisco, California. Contact: ANSWER Coalition at [] or [415-821-6545].
On Friday night, San Francisco police officers shot and killed Alejandro Nieto in an act of blatant racist murder. Three cops surrounded Nieto in a triangulated formation and riddled him with bullets. They are now trying to excuse the killing saying Nieto had a gun and that he was acting erratically.
None of their lies add up. First of all, acting erratically is not a crime and cannot be the basis for killing someone. Nieto—a City College of San Francisco student and security guard—owned a taser gun as part of his work. The taser gun has a bright yellow stripe down the side specifically to differentiate it from a real gun. The cops were not in any danger, perceived or otherwise.
In fact, they murdered a Latino man for the crime of eating his dinner in a neighborhood that is becoming yet another center of gentrification in a city that is rapidly being reserved for the wealthy.
Bernal Heights, like many neighborhoods in San Francisco, used to be a place where working people could own homes and rent affordably. Now, it—like the Mission today and Noe Valley many years ago—is being converted into a place where wealthier people live in homes that sell for millions or rent for many thousands of dollars a month.
The police in this city are the protectors of the wealthy developers and tech company owners who are driving the rest of us out.
Alejandro Nieto should be alive today. The police officers who killed him must be arrested and tried for murder. The ANSWER Coalition joins with many other community organizations and thousands of individuals in calling for a truly independent investigation into this latest atrocity.
We urge everyone who believes in justice to join the community march on Saturday, March 29, 3 pm at the Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission St., near 25th St. to say: Justice for Alejandro Nieto! Jail killer cops!

According to videos, the crowd is huge at nearly a thousand, but thinned down once people started marching up the hill, might have been hard on Elders and disabled under the rain. According to a participant close to the family of Alex Nieto, "It was a big crowd. We estimated 600. Justice for Alex Nieto! Jail All Killer Cops!"
* Photos by Ki Won Yoon, posted in "Justice 4 Alex Nieto, killed by SFPD on March 21, 2014" []

 Don Refugio Nieto es un hombre valiente e integro

Una Poema para Alejandro Nieto, by JA, 2014:
En el corazón del barrio
La misión en San Francisco, California
Un jóven se come un burrito
Y muere asesinado de 14 balazos
Parece gracioso
Pero no lo es
La policia de San Francisco
Le disparó a Alex Nieto
Catorce disparos
Que muerte tan muerte
Que cobardes, que tristeza
Llenaron de dolor la familia
De un jóven de 28 años
La montaña de Bernal Heights
Fue la tumba de Alex Nieto
Ahora ahí quedan flores y rezos
La voz de la comunidad
Que habla con nuestros hermanos Ohlones
Ellos escuchan
Se levantan, son aguilas y gavilanes
vuelan, danzan, cantan y rezan - se unen a la lucha.
In the heart of San Francisco's
Mission District
A young man eats a burrito
And is shot to death with fourteen bullets
It sounds funny
but it is not
The San Francisco Police Department
Shot Alex Nieto fourteen times
What death more like death
What cowards, what sadness
They filled with sorrow
The family of a 28 year old young man
Bernal Heights is now his tomb
Now there are flowers and prayers
The voice of the community
Speaking with our Ohlone brothers and sisters
They listen, they rise, they are eagles and hawks
They fly, dance, sing and pray - they join the struggle.

Justice for Josiah (Antonio Lopez Guzman)!

[] [justice4josiah (@)]
The Justice For Josiah!" campaign held a Press Conference, Thursday, April 3, 11:30am at the Martin Luther King Libary @ SJSU in San Jose []. The campaign is being coordinated by Antonio's widow Laurie Valdez, mother of orphaned Josiah jr. and Angelique.
‪Follow on Twitter: #‎JusticeForJosiah‬ ‪#‎JusticeParaJosiah‬ ‪#‎Justice4Josiah‬
* "The Anatomy of Police Murder and Cover Up", 2014-03-30 from the "Justice For Josiah!" campaign [link]
* "Partner of man shot by SJSU police speaks out", 2014-03-01 from "ABC7 News" [link]
* "Police find no gun following a report of a man with a gun", 2014-03-19 by Philip Beadle and Yasmine Mahmoud from "Spartan Daily" newspaper [link]

Special thanks to Melanie Cervantes and Dignidad Rebelde, for this beautiful work of art, depicting the last photo of Josiah and his father together.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pressure Mounts on AG Harris to Act in Lopez Case: NAACP & Local Attorneys Weigh In to Demand Action - “Bring Back Justice Cruz Reynoso as Special Prosecutor”

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (d. 2013-10-22; Santa Rosa) [link]

2014-03-29 from "Justice for Andy Lopez Coalition":
Frustrated with the slow pace of the investigation into the criminal liability of Deputy Erick Gelhaus and the taint of partiality and bias associated with the Sonoma County DA’s Office – the NAACP, Project Censored, the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline (PACH) and a robust contingent of Sonoma County attorneys have weighed in to demand that AG Harris intercede in the Andy Lopez case to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor to adjudicate the issue of Erick Gelhaus’ criminal liability in the Oct. 22nd shooting death of 13-year old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, CA.
Spearheaded by the Santa Rosa law firm of Adam Fietz, the letter reads, “We the undersigned attorneys practice in Sonoma County. We are intimately involved on a day-to-day basis in the legal proceedings in our community.” Further, “During this divisive time [the controversy over Andy Lopez’ death] in our community, it is essential that the legal process remain above the fray and disentangled from politics. The public must be confident that whatever the result of this investigation, the outcome is the product of careful and unbiased deliberation with an aim towards justice.”
For the first time in the back-and-forth controversy over the role of the Sonoma County DA’s Office, the lawyers behind the letter have proposed a concrete path forward for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor under the National Prosecution Standards. “We suggest for the sake of future discussion an excellent candidate for “special prosecutor” whose appointment we are confident would satisfy every concerned party – the Honorable Cruz Reynoso.”
The letter proceeds to site the qualifications that make Justice Reynoso a prime candidate for the appointment. “Justice Reynoso was the first Latino on the California State Supreme Court. … In February 1998, Justice Reynoso visited Sonoma County as the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after seven fatal officer-involved shootings had occurred in the County. … Justice Reynoso is already imminently familiar with the history of Sonoma County’s police practices …”
Another extensive letter from Jonathan Melrod was sent to AG Harris last week supporting the case for recusal based on selective prosecution in involving an assault by one of Ms. Ravitch’s investigators. Melrod’s letter accuses DA Ravitch of exhibiting extreme bias in her choice to not prosecute her personal security detail for assaults and animus toward Lopez demonstrators. The Melrod letter is accompanied by a video depicting the incident of the Dec. 3d vicious assault on a demonstrator.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"SFPD-enforced gentrification killed Alex Nieto"

Justice for Alejandro Nieto! (d. 2014-03-21; San Francisco) [link]

2014-03-27 by Tiny, daughter of Dee []:
Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor with Tony Robles of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at Visit [] and [].
Join the march on Saturday, March 29, for Alex Nieto at 2 p.m. from Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission St., to Bernal Heights Park, San Francisco
(Photo: Alejandro (Alex) Nieto)

Below article is PNN TV video footage of the police meeting.

“We don’t want to hear Alex’s murderers,” people shouted intermittently into the air of the Leonard Flynn Elementary school auditorium. The standing-room-only town hall was yelling above the police as they spoke about the murder on March 21 of young Raza organizer, City College of San Francisco student and beloved son de la mision (of the Mission), Alejandro Nieto, 28, by police in Bernal Heights Park.
“At approximately 7:11 p.m., 911 dispatch received a call: ‘A Latin male in a bright red jacket is pacing near a fence,’” said SFPD Chief Greg Suhr as he recounted the events leading up to the murder of this peaceful young brother. My version of this 911 recount, “There is a Brown man left in the Mission. How did that happen? He must be here to hurt me.”
Gentrification killed Alex. Everyone in the meeting knew this. From the young children like my own son who goes to that humble public school, to the teachers, revolutionaries and abuelas waiting patiently to speak. The shooters were the gangsters in blue with their clique etched in a copper and iron star that they display on their chests.
“I am a friend and brother of Alex and I need to tell you that Alex wanted to be a probation officer. Alex respected the cops, so please respect the police,” said Eli Flores to the increasingly angered crowd.
(The Mission packed a police-sponsored town hall to decry the SFPD murder of Alejandro (Alex) Nieto. Forty-50 police bullets struck Alex. – Photo: PNN)

“Alex was a peaceful, beautiful young man. He wanted to run for school board,” Guiliana Sorro, long-time Bernal Heights resident and organizer and widow of the leader and truth-teller Bill Sorro, told me between tears at the town hall.
“This was the weapon he was holding,” Suhr said, his voice prevailing through the intermittent shouts to recount the murder of this young leader by police who allegedly mistook his legally possessed taser for a gun. Alex was an off-duty security guard with a license to hold that taser.
“I used to be afraid of gangs with my two Latino sons. Now I am afraid of the police shooting them,” a mother of two testified at the town hall, holding back tears of a thousand lost sons.
“At 7:14, the 911 reporter reported that the ‘suspect’ was now eating sunflower seeds while resting his hand on the weapon,” Suhr added.
Alex, who was Buddhist, was meditating on the Bernal Hill. He was taking a walk he always took before he went on duty at a club. He was thinking. He was shadow-boxing. He was walking.
He was alive while Brown in his neighborhood, the Mission, a neighborhood suddenly and rudely colonized by people who don’t understand our cultura, our traditions or our skin. Who see a Black or Brown man walking, convening or meditating somewhere they now claim is theirs for “jogging” or “picnicking” and call us a criminal.
And then the kkkorporate media lies, crafted around Euro-centric, Western therapeutic industrial complex values conveniently roll out to rationalize the cold-blooded profiling and murder of a peaceful young man. “He was acting abnomal.” “He had a restraining order against him.” “He was struggling with mental health issues.” Multiple narratives have been rolled out since his shooting on March 21, all adding up to a vague profile of mental instability of this young son.
As the mental instability profile rolled out, I thought of my own troubled soul as I used to take my infant son up Bernal Hill to rest in some modicum of nature. I would cry up there. Cry about my houselessness. Cry about my very sick Black-Indian mama. I would pray in the Yoruba tradition, calling out my ancestors as I stood and built small oferendas to Orixas.
Even my melanin-challenged, white-looking self was at risk. I would get sideways glances from the endless onslaught of $300 athletic shoe-wearing yuppies. I clutched my son closer and quickly descended, realizing that this once peaceful mountain, long ago stolen from the indigenous Ohlone people was, in fact, being stolen again, by the new colonizers who hold iPhones and state-of-the-art headsets and heart monitors, leaving no room for us.
I am praying for Alejandro Nieto’s spirit journey, like I am for Andy Lopez and Kenny Harding Jr. and Oscar Grant and Derrick Gaines and Idriss Stelley and all the young sons who continue to be killed for being Black, Brown and young in this stolen indigenous land the colonizers call Amerikkka.
I am also praying for all of us mamaz, daddys, abuelas, abuelos, tias and tios still left in our gentrified hoods, barrios, streets and homes. Praying loudly and in stolen, policed and gentrifyer overrun public spaces. So please, if you see me, pray with me, ‘cause I think together we stand a better chance of not being shot.

PNN TV footage of SFPD public meeting about Alejandro Nieto
#1 Po'Lice speaks

#2 Po'Lice & Familia

#3 Familia

#4 Po'Lice Momentary Apology

#5 Gloria La Riva

#6 Queenandi X from PNN

#7 Tiny from PNN

#8 S. Cortez

#9 Ingrid DeLeon from PNN

#10 A Mother & Sun Ask Questions

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Why Did the FBI Label Ryan Shapiro’s Dissertation on Animal Rights a Threat to National Security?"

Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) [link]

2014-03-25 by Amy Goodman & Juan González from "Democracy Now" []:
Ryan Shapiro, known as a "FOIA superhero" for his skill at obtaining government records using the Freedom of Information Act. He is suing several federal agencies, including the NSA, for their failure to comply with FOIA requests regarding former South African President Nelson Mandela. Shapiro is also a Ph.D. candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has received tens of thousands of FBI files on the animal rights movement while doing research for his dissertation, titled "Bodies at War: Animals, Science, and National Security in the United States."
Over the past decade, Ryan Shapiro has become a leading freedom of information activist, unearthing tens of thousands of once-secret documents. His work focuses on how the government infiltrates and monitors political movements, in particular those for animal and environmental rights. Today, he has around 700 Freedom of Information Act requests before the FBI, seeking around 350,000 documents. That tenacity has led the Justice Department to call him the "most prolific" requester there is — in one year, two requests per day. It has also led the FBI to claim his dissertation research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would "irreparably damage national security." Shapiro discusses his methodology in obtaining government documents through FOIA requests, and the details that have emerged therein about the crackdown on animal rights activists.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Ryan Shapiro, who is called the "FOIA superhero," best known for requesting FBI documents related to animal rights activism, which the agency has dubbed the nation’s "number one domestic terrorism threat." The documents have been used in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights that challenged the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a 2006 law targeting activists whose protest actions lead to a "loss of profits" for industry. One FBI file Shapiro obtained in 2003 details how animal rights activists used undercover investigations to document repeated animal welfare violations. The agent who authored the report said the activists, quote, "illegally entered buildings" in order to document conditions in a slaughterhouse, and concludes there is, quote, "a reasonable indication" they "violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act," unquote.
Ryan Shapiro, can you explain how these activists, who go in undercover to document what’s happening in slaughterhouses or on factory farms, are equated with terrorists?
RYAN SHAPIRO: I can try. So, in 2004, the FBI designated the animal rights and environmental movements the leading domestic terror threats in the country, despite the fact that neither of these movements have ever physically injured a single person ever in this country, and then, not long thereafter, as you said, the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, this pernicious piece of post-9/11 legislation, explicitly targeting animal rights and environment activists as terrorists. People have been prosecuted under the AETA, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, as terrorists under federal law, facing federal felonies for writing anti-animal-experimentation slogans on the sidewalk in chalk. And in this particular document, yeah, this is the FBI looking at animal rights activists who have gone undercover on a factory farm, and the FBI’s response to the horrific conditions on this farm, and the actions uncovering them, is to consider bringing felony terrorism charges against these activists. These are activists who are exposing animals confined in cages so small they can’t stand up, turn around or spread their wings, just horrific conditions which are the absolute norm on factory farms. And the FBI is considering bringing terrorism charges against these activists.
And I wanted to know why. And so, I have about 600 FOIA requests currently in motion with the FBI pertaining to the FBI’s campaigns against the animal rights movement. And the FBI—and I’ve sued the FBI, because they’ve stopped complying with my requests. And the FBI is now arguing in court that those FOIA requests themselves are threats to national security. Keep in mind, they’re not arguing that releasing the documents would be a threat to national security. They’re arguing that having to decide now whether or not they will release the documents—they want a seven-year delay so they can think about whether or not to release the documents; otherwise, it will constitute a threat to national security. Further, they argued the threat to national security is so severe that they can’t even tell us why. The FBI’s primary support for this radical and crazy argument, they’ve submitted to the court in the form of an ex parte in camera declaration—so, again, a secret letter from the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI to the judge about what a threat to national security complying with my FOIA requests—or even deciding whether or not to comply with my FOIA requests—
AMY GOODMAN: And you can’t see that letter?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Can’t see it. My FOIA attorney, Jeffrey Light, did a tremendous job fighting that, and we were able to get a very heavily redacted copy of it. But—
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you conclude from that heavily redacted copy?
RYAN SHAPIRO: It’s very hard to tell, but there was one footnote to a redacted section. So we don’t know what the section is, but the footnote is all about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. So the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act has something to do with why the FBI refuses to release these documents. And I would encourage everyone to check out journalist Will Potter’s website and book, Green is the New Red, because Will Potter does a tremendous job exploring these issues, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read from a 2005 FBI memo obtained—well, that you obtained, Ryan, when an agent in Knoxville, Tennessee, writes, quote, "Organizers of the Animal Rights Movement can be discredited and removed from the scene by planting rumors that they are plants and/or informants," unquote. He goes on to note there is, quote, "no risk of violence to these persons about whom these false rumors may be started as most of the animal rights people are also strict advocates of nonviolence against human persons," unquote. Ryan Shapiro?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Yeah, absolutely. And Will Potter, who I just mentioned, wrote a wonderful piece on Green is the New Red about that document when I obtained it. I mean, here we see explicitly COINTELPRO-esque-like strategies from the FBI, spreading false rumors about good activists being agents, knowing that the FBI can get away with it now, because animal rights activists, primarily being nonviolent, won’t do anything about it, other than, at most, shun the person. I mean, we are seeing just the most cynical strategies coming from the FBI, and it absolutely very much has the feel of continued COINTELPRO activities.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your own animal rights activism that led you to become such a prolific FOIA requester? 2004, New York police file felony burglary charges against you and Sarahjane Blum for entering Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which is upstate New York, recording inhospitable conditions endured by the ducks living there. Ultimately, you both rescued and removed ducks from this Hudson Valley facility. What came of that?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Sure. So, along with a handful of other very dedicated activists, including Sarahjane Blum, I conducted a year-long undercover investigation of foie gras factory farms. Some of us were in New York, and some of us were in California. And Hudson Valley Foie Gras was one of those locations. The conditions were just horrific. The same is to be found on factory farms anywhere: animals confined in cages so small they can’t stand up, turn around, spread their limbs. Plus, these animals are being force-fed. Just horrible—
AMY GOODMAN: Where is this place?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Hudson Valley Foie Gras is in Liberty, New York. And we openly rescued a number of animals from—
AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean, "openly rescued"?
RYAN SHAPIRO: We—as an act of civil disobedience, rather than as a clandestine activity, we openly rescued, so we filmed—we made a movie about it. We made a documentary, which you can find at We made a documentary called Delicacy of Despair, which not only showed the conditions, the horrific conditions on these factory farms, but also showed us openly rescuing animals from these farms, rehabilitating them and giving them new lives. Hudson Valley Foie Gras brought felony burglary charges against us for stealing their animals. And, yeah—
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?
RYAN SHAPIRO: We ended up getting out of it, to our great surprise, with misdemeanor trespass charges. But the important thing here is that if we had done this even a year later, we wouldn’t have been fighting conventional state charges, even felony burglary charges, which have a hefty sentence; we would have been fighting federal terror charges. We wouldn’t have been getting out with misdemeanor trespass and 40 hours of community service for a group of our choice. We would have been sitting, like many animal rights activists did, colleagues of mine, sitting in federal prison cells for doing far less, convicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and its predecessor act, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your dissertation and why it’s been called a threat to national security. You go back to the 19th century. You talk about animal rights activism and government spying then.
RYAN SHAPIRO: That’s right. So the only part of the dissertation the FBI is designating a threat to national security is the FOIA component. They’re leaving the rest of it alone. But as I said, the FBI is arguing that to even decide whether or not to comply with my FOIA request constitutes a threat to national security so dire they can’t even tell us why. My dissertation is looking at the use of the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to marginalize animal protectionists from the late 19th century to the present.
AMY GOODMAN: Give us a brief history.
RYAN SHAPIRO: During World War I, when opponents of animal experimentation in the United States protested wartime animal experimentation, the self-described research defense community, so the pro-animal-experimentation lobby, alleged that American animal protectionists were agents of the kaiser, and there was an effort made to bring the new Espionage Act to bear against these animal protectionists for opposing wartime animal experimentation. And for another example, skipping ahead, during the early Cold War, the research defense community alleged that opposition to animal experimentation was a criminal and directed plot meant to undermine American security in order to pave the way for Soviet atomic aggression and overthrow of the United States government. And these arguments held a great deal of force. They were very convincing at the time.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of what Upton Sinclair did in his famous book, The Jungle, 1906, I think it was. What exactly did he do in Chicago?
RYAN SHAPIRO: He brought attention to an issue that people flatly had not been paying attention to. In some way, it’s analogous to undercover investigators today. It is—or to FOIA work. It is bringing suppressed information to public light. And as with much suppressed information—again, there’s more suppressed information than there is unsuppressed information in the world—it can have a devastating impact on public opinion.
AMY GOODMAN: And he went underground into these slaughterhouses in Chicago, and he exposed what was going on there. He’s hailed as one of the great investigators and writers, Upton Sinclair.
RYAN SHAPIRO: Absolutely. I mean, the public is starved for information. We are flooded with information, but so much of it is useless or misleading or false or distracting. When real information about the horrific conditions that so many of us in this world—human, nonhuman—endure on a daily basis come to light, yeah, it can definitely set the public moving.

AMY GOODMAN: So, on this issue of terrorism and animal rights activism, what are the—what exactly is the government doing now, and what exactly are the movements doing? I mean, there’s a great trend in the United States for—for organic food, a whole push, especially, even in the medical community, for vegetarianism. Talk about how times have changed. And has that changed the attitude of the government when it comes to calling animal rights activists terrorists?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Well, a very important piece of this puzzle is the role of industry. Industry is definitely critical in persuading the FBI to target animal rights activists and environmentalists as terrorists. And industry is definitely a critical factor in pushing back against, absolutely, the trend towards vegetarianism, towards veganism. Even "Meatless Mondays," the meat and dairy and egg industry has been just vociferous in its condemnation of Meatless Mondays just asking people to reduce their meat consumption or to eliminate their meat consumption one day a week, much less to go vegan. And so, we’re seeing a lot of conflicting pieces in play at the moment. We have reports out from official medical bodies that a vegan diet is as healthy or even far healthier, in many cases, than a standard American diet, and yet, at the same time, we have American politicians pushing back heavily against that, pushing—it isn’t surprising. The agricultural industry is a tremendously powerful lobby.
AMY GOODMAN: What role do corporations play in writing this kind of legislation, like the Animal Enterprise Act?
RYAN SHAPIRO: Huge. I mean, for example, the American—ALEC has just—
AMY GOODMAN: The American Legislative Exchange Council.
RYAN SHAPIRO: The American Legislative Exchange Council has played a profound role in pushing forward ag-gag bills. And these bills criminalize undercover investigations of factory farms or laboratories or fur farms. And it’s interesting, because there’s a relationship also between these ag-gag laws and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, because if you commit a crime, any crime, including violating an ag-gag bill, on a state level, then you can be prosecuted federally as a terrorist under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism law.
AMY GOODMAN: And what effect has that had on the movement, this whole issue, the specter of being charged as terrorists?
RYAN SHAPIRO: It’s definitely had a chilling effect on the movement. There’s no doubt. The animal rights movement is a very different place than it was 10 years ago. And different people have and different groups have responded in a variety of ways, but there is no doubt that there is a chilling effect. And that’s why, along with Sarahjane Blum and J Johnson, Lauren Gazzola and Lana Lehr, I’m one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act that the Center for Constitutional Rights—
AMY GOODMAN: And explain that.
RYAN SHAPIRO: We argue that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act violates our First Amendment rights. We are chilled from engaging in the sort of advocacy that we once did, and that the AETA is overbroad on its face and it is—it suppresses our First Amendment rights. And so, the Center for Constitutional Rights is pushing that case.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about, when an animal rights activist goes to jail, the difference, when they’re charged with this overlay of terrorism, in terms of time that they have to serve.
RYAN SHAPIRO: Well, yeah, as I mentioned, I openly rescued, or stole, animals from a factory farm, made a movie about it. I mean, this is—it’s a real crime. I did it as an act of civil disobedience, but it’s a real crime. And I did 40 hours of community service, and that was it. People have gone to prison for years for running a website opposing animal experimentation.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to end—we have about a minute to go—with your slogan, "See something, leak something."
RYAN SHAPIRO: Right. So, secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy. The records of government are the property of the people, but they’re consistently withheld from us on the basis of undefined national security. But as wrote Judge Murray Gurfein in his ruling against the Nixon administration’s infamous attempt to prevent The New York Times from publishing the leaked Pentagon Papers, "The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions." And so, building upon this ruling, we as a nation need to foster a broader conception of national security. And in the interest of promoting such a conception, a conception borne of the free exchange of ideas among an informed citizenry, I call upon all of those with access to unreleased records about illegal, immoral or unconstitutional government actions to return those records to their rightful owners: the American people. Or, "See something, leak something." The viability of our democracy may depend upon it.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you suggest people leak it?
RYAN SHAPIRO: It’s going to be different in all individual cases, but the information is not hard to find online.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Ryan Shapiro, for being with us, called a "FOIA superhero" for his skill at obtaining government records using the Freedom of Information Act, suing several federal agencies, including the NSA, for their failure to comply with FOIA requests regarding former South African President Nelson Mandela. Ryan Shapiro is also a Ph.D. candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Thanks so much for being here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"DA Ravitch Stonewalls Investigation into Assault by Security Detail at Pasta Fundraiser; Mounting Evidence of Bias Against Lopez Protestors"

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (d. 2013-10-22; Santa Rosa) [link]

2014-03-19 from Nancy Palandati, Counsel for assault victim Jessica Perez [], and Jon Melrod, Counsel for Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez []:
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch is being sharply criticized for failing to mete out even-handed justice in the highly charged case surrounding the Oct. 22nd shooting death of 13-year old Andy Lopez at the hands of Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus. The charge against DA Ravitch adds to the growing chorus of voices demanding that Attorney General Kamala Harris appoint an unbiased Special Prosecutor to step in to handle the investigation of Deputy Gelhaus’ criminal wrongdoing.
The incident in question stems from a Dec. 3, 2013 picket line in front of the Veterans Memorial Building where DA Ravitch was holding a Pasta Feed. Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez demonstrators had gathered with picket signs to demand that Ms. Ravitch recuse herself from Erick Gelhaus’s shooting of Andy Lopez, because Ms. Ravitch demonstrated bias towards the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.
According to a December 5th letter sent by a Santa Rosa attorney Alicia Roman to DA Ravitch, “During the event [Pasta Feed] I witnessed Sonoma County District Attorney investigator Les Vanderpool assault three individuals.” Per the Dec. 5th letter, Ms. Roman offered to show Ms. Ravitch a video taken on the spot showing Mr. Vanderpool’s assaulting a young woman. “To this end I would be willing to meet with you to share the video which reveals Mr. Vanderpool’s actions.”
In a telephone and then in an email a few days later, Senior District Attorney Investigator Dave Boffi, informed Attorney Roman that he was assigned to investigate the incident and that the meeting Ms. Roman had requested with Ms. Ravitch, “that is not going to happen [emphasis added] …”
According to the declaration of Jessica Perez, the victim of Vanderpool’s assault, “During the event Les Vanderpool was manning the northeast door when he committed an assault and battery against me. … I was pushed so hard I flew back several feet.” Another demonstrator Carla Green called “the Santa Rosa Police Department to ask for an officer to conduct a citizen’s arrest, however, no officer arrived.”
A twenty-five page packet of documents along with the video showing the Vanderpool assault was sent to Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday accompanied by a cover letter demanding that the AG intercede to appoint an outside Special Prosecutor to fairly adjudicate the criminal liability of Erick Gelhaus. According to the letter, signed by Jonathan Melrod, counsel for the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez, the “purpose of this correspondence is to provide you with further compelling evidence of why an independent investigation of theOctober 22, 2013 shooting death of Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus is necessary.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

FBI places operations against dissent on a higher priority than law enforcement

FBI agencies responsible for targeted harassment and surveillance of dissenters:
* FBI Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) [link]
* FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)
* FBI Field Intelligence Groups (FIGs)

* "FBI Drops Law Enforcement as 'Primary' Mission" [link]
* FBI deputizes more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies to spy on Peace & Justice organizations (Oct., 2003) [link]
* "ACLU Reveals FBI Hacking Contractors" (2013-08-20)  [link]
* "U.S. Attorney General Holder challenged on FBI repression; Anti-war, international solidarity activists interrupt his speech in Minneapolis" (from "Fight Back!" news, 2011-05-28) [link]
* "Why Did the FBI Label Ryan Shapiro’s Dissertation on Animal Rights a Threat to National Security?"  [link]
* FBI called in to investigate "Occupy!"-style "anti-wealth" graffiti (2014-02-25) [link]
"FBI Changes Its Primary Mission to National Security", 2014-03-10 from "Project Censored" [], vetted with Student Researcher: Reyna Vigil (Sonoma State University), and Faculty Evaluator Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University). Source: John Hudson, “FBI Drops Law Enforcement as Primary Mission,” Foreign Policy News, January 5, 2014, [].
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has changed its chief mission from law enforcement to national security. The changes reflect reforms to the FBI implemented after September 11, 2001. As John Hudson reports, commentators and experts have criticized the change and, more than a decade since the 9/11 attacks, been prompted to question, “Why now?”
Kel McClanahan, a Washington-based national security lawyer, told Foreign Policy News that he believes the FBI “is trying to rebrand” itself. “So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security.” A spokesman for the FBI states that the changes reflect new FBI priorities since 9/11: “”When our mission changed after 9/11, our fact sheet changed to reflect that,” according to FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. “We rank our top 10 priorities and CT [counterterrorism] is first, counterintel is second, cyber is third,” he said. “So it is certainly accurate to say our primary function is national security.”
Athan Theoharis, an emeritus professor of history at Marquette University and an expert on the history of the FBI, agreed that the changes reflect the agency’s actual focus, but said that their timing is not clear. “I can’t explain why FBI officials decided to change the fact sheet,” Theoharis told Foreign Policy News, “unless in the current political climate that change benefits the FBI politically and undercuts criticisms.”
Between 2001 and 2009, the FBI doubled the amount of agents dedicated to counterterrorism, according to a 2010 Inspector’s General report.  Hudson report that this period coincided with “a steep decline in the number of white-collar crime investigations,” which had previously been a primary responsibility for the agency.

"FBI Unbound: How National Security Letters Violate Our Privacy" (2008)