Trigger warning. This post includes narrative descriptions of sexual violence, sexual coercion, assaults, stalking, and harassment by police officers against women, men, and children, including several cases of extreme violence. It may be triggering for past experiences of sexual assault. It is certain to be extremely grim reading for anyone.
All of these news stories appeared in my feed reader at some point within the past month and a half. There are actually about four or five more on my list that I could have included (mostly domestic violence assaults), but I had to give up because I’ve been working on this for about twelve hours now and I cannot stand to type up even one more case tonight.
1. Officer Thomas Tolstoy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Cont’d.)
You may remember Officer Thomas Tolstoy, the serial rapist on Officer Jeffrey Cujdik’selitenarco-police shake-down squad, who, besides participating in repeated evidence-less paramilitary drug raids, also repeatedly took the opportunity to pull women aside during these hyperviolent home invasions and sexually assault them. The police department’s response to three independent complaints from April 2008 to February 2009 was to temporarily place Tolstoy on desk duty (from October 2008 to January 2009), then put him back on the street to do more drug raids with Cujdik. The other stories about Cujdik’s wolfpack appeared in local newspapers in March 2009; Tolstoy was finally put back on desk duty in May 2009. Meanwhile, while Tolstoy is rewarded for his sexual assaults with an easy desk job, he continues to receive not only his regular salary of $57,800, but also thousands of dollars in overtime pay for sitting his ass on a court-house bench while the DA extends subpoenas on tainted drug cases in which he will almost certainly never testify. The bill for maintaining Tolstoy in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed will, of course, be sent along to Philadelphia taxpayers, including Tolstoy’s three known victims. Deputy District Attorney John Delaney explains that the D.A.’s office continues to issue these money-wasting subpoenas on dead-end cases becauseWe want to maintain the status quo.No doubt.
2. Police Chief Michael Classey, Atlantic Beach, Florida.
The city government in Atlantic Beach, Florida hired a lawyer, allegedly toinvestigatecharges that chief Michael Classey had forced unwanted sexual contact on a female officer, Renee Jackson, who works sex crimes for the department. Instead, the lawyer put together a legal brief to defend the city from a lawsuit for sexual harassment — a charge that Jackson never made. Both the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have refused to investigate the charges.Professional courtesy,I guess.
3. Deputy Gary C. Handley, Rogers County Sheriff’s Office, Rogers County, Oklahoma.
Earlier this month, Deputy Gary C. Handley turned himself in to face charges on one county of sexual battery for forcing unwantedinappropriate touchingon a female courthouse employee.
4. Officer Jeffrey John Sung. San Francisco Police Department. San Francisco, California.
Earlier this month,veteran San Francisco motorcycle officerJeffrey John Sung plead not guilty to charges for sexual battery andfalse imprisonment without violence[sic] for grabbing a female friend in her home, forcing unwanted groping on her while he talked about having sex with her, and refusing to let her leave when she tried to get away. When the victim managed to break free and call a relative for help, he ran away and left on his government-issue police motorcycle. Sung’s lawyer has told the media that it wasa misunderstanding of sorts.
5. Officer Roberto Pagan. Staten Island, New York.
Roberto Pagan, a patrol cop working for city government police on Staten Island, was suspended without pay last week after he started choking his girlfriend and then punched her in the eye during an argument on a public street. He has been suspended without pay and is facing misdemeanor charges; since he is a cop, this batterer was released on his own recognizance pending trial.
6. Officer Johnnie K. Hicks. Newport News, Virginia.
Last week, Johnnie K. Hicks, a cop working for the Newport News city government’s police force on theSouth Preinct High Impact Patrol Unit,was arrested for assaulting a woman in her home around 2:00am and brandishing a gun. While the Incident is being Internally Investigated by his coworkers, Hicks is being given a paid vacation at taxpayer expense.
7. Deputy Brian Gillespie. Broward Sheriff’s Office. Oakland Park, Florida.
Last week, Deputy Brian Gillespie, a cop patrolling turf in Oakland Park, Florida for the Broward County government’s sheriff’s office, was arrested and charged with domestic violence battery after he grabbed his wife’s arm during an argument, in order to force her not to leave the house without his permission, and then punched her several times and threw her down two steps onto the floor. This dangerous batterer has been given a paid vacation, at taxpayer expense, while under investigation, and was released from jail on a $250 bond.
8. Chief Deputy David E. Gidley. Tucker County Sheriff’s Department. Tucker County, West Virginia.
Earlier this month, while he was on duty and in police uniform, Chief Deputy David E. Gidley, a cop working for the Tucker County government’s police force, drove out in his police car to confront his estranged wife; in the course of an argument, he grabbed her by the arm hard enough to leave marks, and then chased her around her car while waving hisASPtactical baton and beating on her car with it. Unhinged wife-beater Chief Deputy David Gidley has been arraigned on misdemeanor assault and domestic battery charges, and has been released on a $600 personal recognizance bond.
9. Police Chief Robert Peterson. Maysville Police Department, Maysville, Oklahoma.
Earlier this month, the Maysville city government decided to fire boss cop Robert Peterson, the chief of their government police force, after witnesses (including two fellow cops) saw him slap his girlfriend in the face during an argument outside of their apartment.
10. Police Chief Anthony Batts. Oakland Police Department. Oakland, California.
In California, on the other hand, city governments don’t even maintain those minimal standards. Anthony Batts, formerly a cop working for the Long Beach city government’s police department, had at least four crime reports taken against him for domestic violence charges in the cities of Long Beach, San Pedro, and San Diego. At one point he gave his then-wife, Laura Richardson-Batts, a black eye; she later sought refuge in a friend’s house to get away from him. That didn’t stop Batts from being promoted by the Long Beach city government to chief of police, and once he was, he put the domestic violence reports under lock and key in the police chief’s office and altered reports to conceal their contents. Other cops working under him kept copies of the originals and used the reports to blackmail Batts to insulate themselves from disciplinary actions during a scandal over unprofessional conduct and retaliation and vandalism against whistleblowers within the department. Batts’s domestic violence history has caused him problems in securing FBI security clearances and in maintaining his permit to carry a firearm. None of which, of course, has stopped the corrupt wife-beater Anthony Batts from being named chief of police for the city government in Oakland, California.
11. Officer Ronald Montgomery. Tulsa Police Department. Bixby, Oklahoma.
Officer Ronald Montgomery, a cop working for the Tulsa city government’s police force, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly beating his wife and pointing his government-issued gun at her during an argument in front of their infant son and 8-year-old daughter. His wife went to the hospital with bruising and swelling to her arm and wrist; Officer Ronald Montgomery claims that hehad not touched herduring the argument. This dangerous batterer, who beat a woman and pointed a loaded gun at her during an argument, is currently roaming free on $11,500 bond.
12. Police Officer Sam Parker. Lafayette Police Department. Lafayette, Georgia.
Sam Parker, a cop formerly working for the Lafayette city government’s police force, is currently on trial on charges he abducted and murdered his ex-wife, Theresa Parker. The story this past Friday was that a former coworker, a Lafayette cop named Stacey Meeks, testified that Officer Sam Parker spent years openly bragging about killing people while on the job, and kept trophies to show off from people he had killed, such as the lethal bullet and crime scene photos from the killing. According to Meeks, Officer Sam Parker also carried a loaded weapon to the Grand Jury and said he planned to go out in a hail of bullets rather than get arrested if the jury voted to indict. After another Incident in 2003 where Officer Sam Parker fired off his gun on the job, several shrinks ruled him homicidal; Officer Sam Parker bragged about that with his coworkers, too. He also repeatedly watch Officer Sam Parker use chokeholds totake people downwhile on the job. None of this deranged, attention-seeking, hyperviolent behavior seems to have endangered his position with the Lafayette city government’s Police Department, or to have caused any legal consequences whatsoever for Officer Sam Parker; I wouldn’t be surprised if he expected no more consequences when he went on to murder his wife.
13. Officer Jared Rohrig, Orange Police Department, Orange, Connecticut.
In Milford, Connecticut, Officer Jared Rohrig, a cop working for the Orange city government’s police force, posed as his twin brother Joe to deceive his girlfriend into having sex with him. She realized while they were having sex that he wasn’t Joe, and tried to get up and leave, so he grabbed her by the arms, threw her down, and forced her to continue having sex with him while she cried and struggled to push him off of her. The woman reported the rape to the government police three days later; Rohrig was given a paid vacation from his job starting the next day pending the result of an Internal Investigation.
14. Officer Matthew Raymond, Eliot, Maine.
In Maine, Officer Matthew Raymond was allowed to take a two-month-long paid vacation (to keep getting paid while using up vacation and sick time) before finally losing his job yesterday, so that he could continue to extract his $45,000/year regular salary from perfectly innocent Eliot taxpayers, while awaiting trial on charges of domestic violence stalking against his ex-lover. Besides common stalking behaviors like showing up constantly at her hous, tracking her whereabouts, and incessantly calling her wherever she went, Officer Matthew Raymond also specifically used his legal privileges as a police officer to intimidate her and facilitate the stalking. After she moved out and went to live in another town to get away from him, he parked his marked police cruiser outside her house at least 68 times within a two-month period. He also used his police car, and his legal powers of detention and arrest, to force her to pull her car over so that he could ask her to come back to him.
15. Officer Jeffrey Luff. Bakersfield Police Department. Bakersfield, California.
Last month, Officer Jeffrey Luff was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor sexual battery committed while in uniform and on duty. He went out on a call to break up a loud party, which turned out to be a lingerie party; he then drove out to an after-party later that night and picked up two women there who he offered to drive back to where the first party had been. Then he took opportunity to grab one of the women’s buttocks and genitals without her permission.
16. State Trooper Derek S. Snavely, West Virginia State Police, Jefferson West Virginia.
Last November, State Trooper Derek S. Snavely pulled a woman on a chickenshit traffic stop (the claim is that she was driving left of the center line). He used the threat of a bogus DUI arrest (which would have cost the woman her job) and getting her car towed to detain her, force her to kiss him and unbutton her blouse, and then take him back to her house, where he repeatedly raped her. The story’s in the news now because his victim recently filed a civil-rights lawsuit after State Police Internally Investigated the Incident and the government prosecutor decided — in spite of records from home surveillance cameras and text messages sent by Trooper Derek S. Snavely to his victim’s cell phone — not to press any criminal charges.
17. Unnamed officer. Dunbar Police Department, Dunbar, West Virginia.
A woman in her 20s has come forward, through a public statement from her lawyer, with allegations that a police officer working for the Dunbar city government’s police force used intimidation and the threat of legal charges to force her to have sex with him, after pulling her over on a routine traffic stop. (She had been caught driving on a suspended license before the stop. The cop threatened her with charges on the traffic violations unless she would have sex with him, and then drove her to a dark remote location, where she was afraid for her safety not to comply.) The city government refuses to confirm whether or not the police force is investigating the report. As it happens, Sergeant R. O. Conley is currently onadministrative leave with pay for an indefinite period,which is to say a mandatory paid vacation, but the city government refuses to say in public whether or not Conley is the cop accused of the rape.
18. Unnamed deputy. Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. San Antonio, Texas.
Earlier this month, n unnamed Bexar County sheriff’s deputy used his uniform and gun to pull a woman aside while she was walking down the street on the south side of San Antonio. He claimed (falsely) that she had an outstanding warrant for her arrest, and ordered her to get into his patrol car. Then he drove back to her house and then he grabbed her by the neck and forced her to have sex with him. As of the most recent news reports I could find (from about a week ago), the survivor had bruises around her neck, had been hospitalized for her injuries, and was being treated in a hospital psych ward for post-traumatic stress. The deputy, who was caught naked on the survivor’s couch by the San Antonio city government’s police, claims that thesexual relationshipwasconsensual. So far, the San Antonio city government has filed no charges against the rapist deputy, although his own bosses at the Bexar County government’s Sheriff’s Office have forced him to take a vacation from his job while he is under investigation.
19. Deputy Donald A. Harder III. Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, Edinburg, New York.
Last week, Deputy Donald A. Harder III, a cop working for the Saratoga County government’s Sheriff’s office, was released on $25,000 bond after being arrested for forcing sex on a 27-year-old woman in his patrol car while on duty on a patrol car, armed, and in full police uniform. According to the Sheriff’s office, his victimbelieved she had to comply [with his demands for sex] because she was in the vehicle and he was in uniform.. Before raping women on the Saratoga County government’s police force, Deputy Donald Harder was a Marine working for the United States in its invasion and occupation of Iraq.
20. Officer Cleveland Reynolds. Birmingham Police Department, Birmingham, Alabama.
Last month in Alabama, Cleveland Reynolds, a cop working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. patrol shift for the Birmingham city government’s police force, was arrested for repeatedly raping a 23 year old woman while he was out on duty. Pending the outcome of the trial, Reynolds is being given a paid vacation at taxpayer expense.
21. Officer Perry Young. Birmingham Police Department, Birmingham, Alabama.
Also last month in Alabama, Officer Perry Young, a patrol cop who formerly worked for the Birmingham city government’s police force, finally went to jail for forcing a 19-year-old woman to have sex with him while he was on duty, armed, and in uniform, after he used his legal powers to force her into his custody and took her to a remote location to force sex on her.
22. Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss. Broward Sheriff’s Office, Oakland Park, Florida.
In addition to wife-beater Deputy Brian Gillespie, the town of Oakland Park, Florida is also patrolled by serial-rapist Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss, who repeatedly used his uniform and his legal privileges as a government police officer to target Latino men on routine traffic stops or bike stops, roust them out of their cars or off their bikes, force them to show identification, and then, if he found that they were undocumented immigrants — therefore legally vulnerable easy targets — threw them down against his patrol car, forced them to submit to frisking, grabbed their penises during thesearch,propositioned them in Spanish, and then forced them to have sex with him in his patrol car under the threat of being arrested or reported to ICE for imprisonment and deportation. He repeatedly demanded phone numbers after raping the men in his custody, which he would later use to stalk his victims and try to arrange futureencounters.Bleiweiss is known to have assaulted at least eight different undocumented Mexican and Salvadorean immigrants ranging in age from 17 to 30 years old. The Internal Investigation into Bleiweiss’s targeting of legally vulnerable men for serial rape began inearly Aprilwhen the boss of one of the victims approached police with a report — but Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss was allowed to continue patrolling his regular turf for three more months while under investigation, during which time (beginning April 23) he repeatedly assaulted and later stalked at least one more undocumented Mexican immigrant who he had hunted down while out on patrol. Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss was finally moved to a desk job and then later suspended without pay in July. His boss, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, says they were giving an accused serial rapist on active patrol dutythe benefit of the doubtuntil they completed their investigation. The case is likely to be difficult for government lawyers to prosecute because Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss deliberately targeted undocumented Latino immigrants for his serial rapes; his lawyer has already used their undocumented status to smear the victims in court, and given that all of the victims face a standing threat of being arrested, imprisoned, and deported by the United States government’s federal immigration cops if they come into contact with the government criminal justice system, [many of the victims have been extremely reluctant to come forward to the government police or to testify in a government court]((http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/sfl-bso-deputy-arrested-sex-abuse,0,1484852.story).
23. Officer Billy Ray White. Louisville Metro Police Department, Louisville Kentucky.
In 2006, serial rapist Officer Billy Ray White, of the Louisville Metro Police Department, was found guilty of raping a woman at gunpoint in front of her 9 month old daughter of threatening to kill her if she reported it, and of using the threat of jail to coerce sex from another woman that he had arrested. The story is in the news again because an appeals court judge recently threw out Billy Ray White’s conviction and ordered a new trial, on the grounds (1) that the coerced sexual relationship with a woman he had arrested, conducted under the threat of imprisonment, was in some sense of the wordconsensual(?) and so different enough from the forcible rape that the joinder of the cases asimpermissibly prejudicial,and (2) that the trial judge should not have allowed testimony from several women about Officer Billy Ray White’s repeated and insistent use of his badge and uniform to stalk and try coerce sex from them after an arrest. According to Honorable government judge Thomas B. Wine, evidence that the Officer Billy Ray White, a heavily-armed, legally-privileged enforcer for the state, while acting in uniform and under color of authority over women under his legal power,was constantly on the prowl to use his uniform in furtherance of his lust,has little probative value in determining whether or not the man had a propensity to force sex on unwilling women. As a result of the reversal of the conviction, the new trial judge, rather than scheduling a trial date, told the government prosecutor to cut a plea bargain with White; they eventually agreed that this serial-rapist would cop a plea, get sentenced to time served, and get back out on the street.
24. Officer Julian Steele, Cincinnati, Ohio.
In Ohio, Cincinnati city government cop Julian Steele falsely arrested and imprisoned a teenage boy while investigating a robbery. Then he used this bogus imprisonment to force the boy’s mother to have sex with him in order to get her boy released from jail. Remarkably, the county government is actually calling this exactly what it is by charging Steele with 10 felony counts including abduction, extortion, sexual battery and rape.
25. Officer Jesus Sanchez and the Lorain Police Department. Lorain, Ohio.
A woman named Sarah Long recently came forward with a lawsuit against the city government governing Lorain, Ohio after the city government and its hired police department repeatedly ignored complaints that Officer Jesus Sanchez, a28-year veterancop working for their police force, repeatedly forced kisses on her, groped her, stalked her, made phone calls every day threatening her safety, and used the power of his badge and his legal privileges as a police officer to force her to pull over her car and deal with him 15 to 20 times. When Long complained about this pattern of harassment and the use of legal power to facilitate sexual violence, nothing happened; when she finally forced the issue by talking to the federal government’s Department of Justice and filing a civil lawsuit, Sanchez was charged withmenacing by stalking.After he was convicted, the penalty for singling out a woman for unwanted sexual contact, imprisoning her in her own home, and using police powers to make her constantly afraid for her safety was 60 days in jail. During his trial, Sanchez’s defense lawyer said that he had beendisciplined … by Lorain police years agofor his stalking and sexual coercion — purely administrativedisciplinewhich, of course, resulted in no legal consequences whatosever for Sanchez for six years, until the lawsuit forced the issue. Sanchez was allowed to retire from the police force after his trial in spite of his conviction. The story is in the news again because Sanchez, and fellow retired cop Dennis Davis, recently filed statements in Long’s lawsuit stating that pervasive harassment, sexual abuse and rape against women had been well-known and tolerated by the boss cops for years. Sanchez himself stated in his affadavit thatI have observed what I believe is a pervasive pattern of sexual misconduct by Lorain police officers committed while they are on duty. The Department persistently ignored these reports. I believed that nothing would happen to me as a result of my sexual advances …. The primary reason I made sexual advances …. while on duty was my knowledge of the City’s policy of tolerating such conduct and deliberate indifference toward such conduct by on-duty police officers.Retired cop Dennis Davis stated in his affadavit that other cops working for the Lorain city government’s police force repeatedly forcednonconsensual sexual misconducton women while on duty and thatIt appeared to me that Lorain police officers engaged in this misconduct without receiving meaningful discipline to the best of my knowledge.Boss cop Cel Rivera admitted that he had handled 30 complaintsrelating to non-consensual sexual contact involving a police officer and a third-partysince he took the job in 1994. Court documents listnumerous other incidents of alleged misconduct by other officers, including stalking, forced sexual encounters, armed threats and other behavior he contends shows a pattern of ignoring misconduct by Lorain police over the years.
26. Officer Timothy Gerek, Jr. Lorain Police Department, Lorain, Ohio.
One of those cops working for the city government in Lorain was Timothy Gerek, Jr., who was indicted in 2002 for beating and then raping his estranged wife in December 2001. Gerek threatened to murder their children if his wife left him or if she called police. When she told government prosecutors that she was too afraid to testify against Officer Timothy Gerek Jr. in court — while he was violating the protection order that required him to stay away from her and her children — the prosecutors decided to offer Gerek a plea-bargain that dropped the rape charge and reduced the domestic violence charge to misdemeanor assault. When Gerek accepted the bargain and plead guilty, this rapist and wife-beater was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine to the county government. Some years later, Gerek tried to pull strings to try to get prior criminal charges expunged from his record, including getting the record of his misdemeanor assault charge from the beating and rape in 2002 sealed. If he had succeeded in getting the record sealed, it would have eliminated the public record of his agreement never to work in law enforcement again.
27. Officer Stanley Marrero. Lorain Police Department. Lorraine, Ohio.
Another cop working for the Lorain city government’s police force, who was frequenty mentioned in those complaints was Officer Stanley Marrero, was accused of raping a woman while responding to a call at her home in 1993. Then he was accused of using a routine traffic stop in 1995 to hit on the woman he was detaining, ask her personal questions and get her phone number, which he later called at 4:00 in the morning. The Incident was Internally Investigated and Marrero was exonerated. In 2003, another woman filed a complaint that Officer Stanley Marrero had followed her while on duty and in uniform and asked her personal questions. The Incident was Internally Investigated and he was ordered to leave her alone, with no further consequences. In 2000, when Officer Stanley Marrero was sent out to a woman’s house on a domestic violence call in 2000, allegedly to help keep her safe from an abusive husband, he took the opportunity to use his legal powers to order her husband to leave, then, once he had her alone, forced the traumatized domestic violence victim to have sex with him. When the woman filed a complaint with the police department, they Internally Investigated, pressed no charges against Officer Stanley Marrero, and gave him a 3 day suspension. In 2006, Officer Stanley Marrero was finally arrested and sentenced to 60 days in the county jail forpublic indecency, dereliction of duty, and intimidation of a witnessafter forcing sex on two different women while on duty and after forced his way into an acquaintance’s neighbor’s house under cover of an investigation, exposed himself to her and demanded oral sex from her, and then, after she refused and unleashed her dog to defend herself, threatened her with retaliation and arrest if she told anyone what happened. Officer Stanley Marrero is only now, finally, being investigated for the rape in 1993. When he was finally convicted in 2006, after years of acting with impunity as a stalker and serial rapist under color of legal authority, the judge in the case, Edward Zaleski, saidThe evidence appears overwhelming. Mr. Marrero, police scare the hell out of me. They sure scare the hell out of most people.
28. Deputy William Hatfield. Pike County Sheriff’s Office. Pike County, Kentucky.
In Kentucky, WilliamBillHatfield, a volunteer sheriff’s deputy working for the Pike County government’s sheriff’s office in return for gas money, a gun, and power, used that power to sexually assault a woman he had forced to the side of the road and detained for a routine stop.
29. Officer Dewayne Curtis Hart. Pittsburgh Police Department. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Back in 2007, Dewayne Curtis Hart, a cop working for the Pittsburgh city government’s police force, went out on a burglary call at a woman’s house; a few minutes after he left, he came back, told the burglary victim that there was a warrant for her arrest on a robbery charge, threatened to arrest her, and then used the threat to forcibly undress and fondle her, then force her to fondle him. The story is in the news again because Officer Dewayne Curtis Hart’s trial on the sexual assault charges was recently delayed until October; meanwhile, while the charges are still pending, the Pittsburgh city government’s personnel refuses to say whether or not this accused rapist cop is still on the job.
30. Trooper Carlos Torres. Washington State Patrol.
Back in June 2005, a Washington State Trooper named Carlos Torres forced a woman to pull over on the highway on suspicion of drunk driving, placed her under arrest and forced her into his patrol car to give her a blood test, then drove her to a weigh station to be picked up by her fiance. (She wanted her fiance to pick her up at the jail; Trooper Carlos Torres refused, and forced her to go with him to the weigh station.) The whole time he asked her invasive personal questions about oral and anal sex; then, while keeping her locked in the back of his patrol car at the weigh station, he demanded her to undress and forcibly fondled her through the divider in his patrol car. The story is in the news again because Trooper Carlos Torres recently made an unsuccessful attempt to get a custodial sexual misconduct charge thrown out on the grounds that his victim was not in fact beingdetainedby him while she was locked in the backseat of his patrol car with no ability to open the doors or windows and no way to get out without his permission, after he had already forced her to get into the car against her will.
31. Deputy Police Chief Jody Beaudry, Mulberry Police Department, Mulberry Florida.
Back in 2004, a 40-year-old man Jody Beaudry, a cop working for the Mulberry, Florida city government’s police force, used his position as a police officer to threaten to revoke a 16-year-old girl’s probation, and used this threat of arrest and jail to force her to have sex with him. By the time he was arrested in 2008, he had been promoted to Deputy Police Chief. The story’s in the news because he just recently plead guilty tounlawful sexual activity with a minor, a crime which may put him in jail forup to7 years in prison. (The crime that he actually committed, by using the threat of retaliation and his powers of arrest to commit sexual battery, is, under Florida state law, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.)
32. Patrol Deputy Michael Jared Boulware, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, Wedgefield, South Carolina.
26-year-old Deputy Michael Jared Boulware is out on bond awaiting trial for sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl. According to the government prosecutor, who asked the judge to deny bail, the victim isextremely upset and worried he will locate her.According to his defense attorney, the fact that Boulware is a former cop is supposed to provide a reason for lowering bond. Actually, I think it’s a reason for thinking that he’s potentially more dangerous to the victim.
33. Kevin Yuhas, Streator Police Department, Streator, Illinois.
Earlier this month, Kevin Yuhas, a 42-year-old 911 dispatcher working for the Streator, Illinois city government’s police force, was arrested in Wisconsin for inviting a 14-year-old boy into his home, plying the boy with 10 to 15 shots of hard liquor, and then raping him. Yuhas admits that he invited the boy over and got him drunk, but can’t remember anything that came after.
34. Officer James Stackhouse. Nashville Metro Police Department. Nashville, Tennessee.
Earlier this month, Officer James Stackhouse, a cop working for the Nashville local government’s Metro Police Department, was forced out of his job as a result of an ongoing investigation into allegations that he had aninappropriate sexual relationshipwith a 12-year-old girl in Clay County.
35. Donald Silcott. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Jacksonville, Florida.
Earlier this month,veteran police officerDonald Silcott, anevidence technicianworking for the county government’s Sheriff’s office was arrested for sexually assaulting a teenage girl in his home. The victim was taken to the hospital after she was found crying on a doorstep holding a photo of Silcott and a note with his name, address, and the date of the incident. The girl, apparently distraught and terrified, hid in the bushes and asked the woman who found her to dial 911 so she could be taken to the hospital. According to the arrest report, they performed a rape kit and recovered DNA evidence at the hospital.
36. Officer Aaron L. Jones. Harrington Police Department, Harrington, Delaware.
Aaron L. Jones, a 40-year-old cop working for the Harrington city government’s police force, was arrested earlier this month for having sex with a minor female who was staying in his home. Jones was released on a $2,500 unsecured bond and the government police have put him on a paid vacation from his job while they investigate the charges.
37. Officer Todd Spikes. Florala, Alabama Police Department. Florala, Alabama.
After driving to Flagler Beach for what he thought was a meet-up for sex with a 13 year old girl he met on the Internet, Officer Todd Spikes, a cop working for the Florala, Alabama city government’s police force was exposed as a sexual predator on national television and arrested in December 2006. The case is in the news again because government prosecutors recently offered their former colleague Todd Spikes a plea bargain which would give him probation with no prison time. Spikes turned the offer down, because it would have required him to register as a sex offender.
38. Officer Todd Lengsfield, Newnan Police Deartment, Newnan, Georgia.
Earlier this month, Officer Todd Lengsfield, a 34-year-old cop working for the Newnan, Georgia city government’s police force, was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old girl. His bosses were tipped off byinappropriatecontact with the girl using a government-issued cell phone. A blogger at eXaminer.com claims that the story is a reason whyParents have to be careful with children and technology.Actually, it sounds to me like a reason parents and children have to be careful around cops.
39. Officer Luke Morrison, Henderson Police Department, Henderson, Nevada.
You may remember Officer Luke Morrison of Henderson, Nevada for the time when he shot and killed a distraught Albanian ice-cream truck driver after she had already been knocked to the ground with a taser. Before lighting up Deshira Selimaj for the Henderson city government’s police force, Officer Luke Morrison was a former soldier who fought in the United States government’s army’s war and occupation in Iraq. Anyway, it turns out that when Officer Luke Morrison is not busy gunning down middle-aged women with no legal consequences, he also enjoys sleeping with 15 year old girls. Commenterlv2genon the Las Vegas Sun website wants us to know thatA few bad apples don’t mean every cop is dirty.
40. Officer Nathan Amosa. Hurricane Police Department, Hurricane, Utah.
Last year, Officer Nathan Amosa, a cop working for the Hurricane, Utah city government’s police force, responded to a call from a distraught mother and went to her house, allegedly to help her find her missing child, who had wandered away. Instead, he threatened to cite her for child neglect and have the government take her child away from her unless she would have sex with him. The victim says that she felt she had to do what he demanded because of the threat against her child and because Officer Nathan Amosa wasin uniform and had a gun.After raping her, Officer Nathan Amosa later went on to intimidate his victim at a local grocery store. This rape is dignified by the news media as anon-duty sex episode; the story is in the news again because the government prosecutor and government judge agreed to let Officer Nathan Amosa — who had been charged with forcible sodomy and two counts of forcible sex abuse — plead no-contest to a charge ofcustodial sexual relations,, for which he will spend 60 days in county jail and get three years’ probation. According to the government prosecutor, this confessed rapist will get only 60 days in jail (and, becausecustodial sexual relationsconvictions don’t require it, will not be required to register as a sex offender) because he is a cop and (therefore?) because he believes thatit would have been difficult to prove the victim did not consent. During sentencing, the government prosecutor told the government judge thatIf this was anyone other than a police officer, we would not even be here. No doubt. Over at the Desert News website, a commenter going byCopswants us to know thatThere’s a lot of great cops out there and just a few high-profile incidents like this that can give them all a bad name.
41. Officer Anthony Rollins. Anchorage Police Department, Anchorage, Alaska.
Last month in Alaska, Officer Anthony Rollins, a 13 yearveteranof the Anchorage city government’s police force was arrested on 10 charges of sexual assault for raping at least 6 women that he encountered while on patrol and lured into his police car, from March 2006 to April 2009. This serial rapist, who repeatedly used the power of his uniform and his legal privileges to force sex on unwilling women (including at least one rape committed at a police substation) was finally arrested after a local anti-rape group approached the police department in April, and during the investigation five more women came forward to report sexual assaults. The investigation is ongoing and more survivors may yet come forward. Meanwhile, although unwilling Anchorage taxpayers were forced to pay Anthony Rollins over $142,892 last year for his unrequested services as a patrol officer, and were forced to pay him $78,668 this year prior to his arrest, and have been forced to pay him and his wife (who also works for the city government’s police department) over $1,100,000 over the last five years, this millionaire government cop has been declaredindigentby the government judge handling his trial, so that innocent Alaska taxpayers, including his six victims will be forced to pay for a government-appointed defense lawyer for his trial. Rollins’s former boss, Anchorage boss cop Rob Heun, issued an angry statement to the press in which he called Rollins’s career as a serial rapistaberrant and detestable.Well, I certainly agree with him about the latter.
42. Officer Kenneth Moreno and Officer Franklin Mata. New York Police Department. New York, New York.
Last December in New York, a pair of cops working for the city government’s police force responded to a 911 call from a cab driver about a woman he had driven home who had gotten sick from being extremely drunk. They showed up around 1:00am, allegedly to help her get home safely; instead they decided to make up a cover about their whereabouts, go back to the apartment, and rape her while she was half-conscious, violently sick, and physically helpless. (Apartment security cameras show them returning to the apartment; Officer Kenneth Moreno was recorded on the phone admitting to the victim that he had sex with her.) NYPD boss cop Ray Kelly — who knew about the case for months before any charges were filed or any allegations made public, and who didn’t even suspend the cops accused until the charges hit the newsmedia — claims thatThe allegations are so egregious here that its imperative that I speak out. This is a shocking aberration in stark contrast to the good work that the members of the New York City Police Department do every day.
Yeah, a huge fucking aberration. Just like all the others.
Back in Anchorage, when a reporter asked him how serial-rapist Anthony Rollins could get away with attacking at least six women while he was out on patrol over a period of three years before the police began an investigation, boss cop Rob Heun responded that there was nothing other police could have done about Rollins becauseNo policy or procedure is going to preclude anybody who wants to break it to do just that … This is a matter of behavior — just like no law will preclude anyone from breaking the law.Of course it is true that any written law or policy can be broken, but the problem here is not just the laws that are being broken; it’s the laws that are being followed, government laws which create an institutional environment of entitled privilege, and which give any male cop who happens to be a sexual predator an arsenal of legally-sanctioned weapons and immense unaccountable power over any woman or man who he wants to place under his power while out on patrol. As I said in December 2007 about a case involving several male patrol cops in San Antonio:
What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-calledcriminal justice systemgives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into theircustodyor to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. … And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.
A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability …. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people intocustody,and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.
- GT 2009-07-31: The Police Beat (on rapist-on-patrol Officer Feliciano Sanchez)
- GT 2009-06-11: The Police Beat (on rapist-on-patrol Officer Thomas Tolstoy)
- GT 2009-05-14: Rapists on Patrol (#3). Officer Gary Pignato. Greece, New York.
- GT 2008-03-10: Rapists on Patrol (#2). Officer David Alex Park, Irvine, California.
- GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol. Officers Victor Hugo Gonzalez, Michael Anthony Munoz and Raymond Ramos, San Antonio, Texas.
- GT 2009-04-19: Men in Uniform (#3). Los Angeles, California.
- GT 2007-12-02: Men in Uniform
- GT 2008-02-26: Cops are here to protect you. (#2)
Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’
Las Vegas correspondent Walter E. Gunther writes in to the Las Vegas Sun, Politicians mostly put their own needs first.
And in breaking news from NARAL Pro-Choice America, it turns out that government provision of healthcare means that women’s healthcare will be allocated through a political process, and when women’s reproductive healthcare is allocated through a political process, women’s reproductive healthcare ends up being subjected to the vicissitudes of political debate over abortion.
NARAL may not draw the conclusion from its report, but the editorial board here at News of the Obvious will: setting aside outright political prohibitions, which aren’t likely to pass in the near future, a broad expansion of political control over women’s healthcare is the single worst thing that could possibly happen towards undermining women’s access to abortion and reproductive medicine.
December 17th, 2008 is the 6th annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
The commemoration began from the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project’s memorial and vigil for the victims of the Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer. Since then its purpose has expanded to a memorial for, and protest against, all forms of violence against women in prostitution and elsewhere in thesex industry.
I’m opposed to prostitution as an industry, on radical feminist grounds. I frankly have very deep and sharp differences with the organizers of the event, and I’m iffy at best towards the rhetorical framework ofsex workas a whole, for reasons that are way beyond the point of this post). But so what? The day is an important one no matter what differences I may have with the organizers. Real steps towards ending the ongoing daily violence against women in prostitution and elsewhere in thesex industryare more important than that; here as much as anywhere — probably more than anywhere else — women’s lives are at stake.
You can read the rest at the original post. Any serious commitment to freedom for, and an end to violence against, women, means a serious commitment to ending violence against women who work in the sex industry. All of it. And that means any kind of violence, whether rape, or assault, or robbery, or abduction, or confinement against her will, or murder. No matter who does it. The one image of violence against sex workers that the malestream media never tires of repeating is the roving madman, cutting women down in the streets. But roving madmen come in a lot of shapes and sizes and uniforms. It may be a serial killer. But it may be a pimp. Or a trafficker. Or a john who imagines that paying for sex means he owns a woman’s body. Or, lest we forget, it may be a cop who believes that his badge, and his victim’s status in the system of patriarchal sex-class, makes absolutely any kind of sexual predation or physical torture a cop’s prerogative and nothing better than what the victim deserves. Or, lest we forget, a cop or a prosecutor or an immigration control freak, who calls the violence of an assault, restraint, and involuntary confinement anarrestor asentenceunder the color of The Law. The Law has no more right than anyone else to hurt women or shove them around.
No matter who does it, this kind of violence — violence against peaceful people whose work, whatever you think of it, is honest work for willing customers, and is a way to get by, and doesn’t do one thing to threaten or violate the rights of a single living soul — violence against women who are made vulnerable by the violence and the killing indifference of the State — violence against women practiced in the name of enforcing patriarchal sex-class and misogynistic hatred forovertly sexualwomen — is wrong, absolutely wrong, and it has to stop. Immediately, completely, and forever.
In Las Vegas tonight, SWOP-Las Vegas is holding a vigil:
Reminder! TONIGHT in Las Vegas…
Join SWOP-Las Vegas to commemorate December 17th, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers!!
Wed, December 17th
Meet at The Center: 953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite B-31, Las Vegas, NV, 89104. (In the Commercial Center) Phone at The Center: 702-733-9800
We will memorialize those sex workers who have lost their lives, and honor those who are missing. We’ll also make signs for the vigil.
We will hold a vigil in The Center parking lot with candles and then take our signs and red umbrellas to Sahara, where we will walk towards the strip. We will have masks for those who wish to use them. Afterward, we will return to Commercial Center to eat Thai food! Yum!
For more information, email us at info(at)swop-lv.org or call us toll-free at 1-866-525-7967, ext. 701.
In Washington, D.C., sex workers’ freedom and harm-reduction groups are coming together for a National March for Sex Workers’ Rights:
Advocates from across the nation will converge to mark the 6th Annual Internatinal Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW). We are calling for an end to the unjust laws, policing, shaming and stigma that oppress our communities and make us targets for violence. We will both honor the lives of sex workers whose lives have passed and celebrate our vital movement. SWOP-USA, Different Avenues, HIPS, SWANK, Desiree Alliance, and many allies in harm reduction and social justice welcome your support. Join us as we march on Washington to demand human rights!
I wish that I could attend an event tonight but I will be away, traveling. In commemoration of the day, in memory of the 48 women murdered by Ridgway, and in solidarity with the living, I have contributed $120.00 tonight to Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, a harm reduction group that provides counseling, safety resources, clothing, and food to prostitutes on the streets of the Washington, D.C. area, and $120.00 to Alternatives for Girls, whose Street Outreach Project provides similar services out of a van along the Cass Corridor in downtown Detroit. For other groups that provide similar resources and mutual aid, you can check out the links at the end of my original post.
May we all live free in the glory and joy of life that every human being deserves.
—Daisy Anarchy, I deserve to be safe
Remember. Mourn. Act.
- GT 2008-11-19: Gynocide: violence against women in prostitution in Las Vegas
- GT 2008-11-11: R.I.P. Duanna Johnson
- GT 2008-10-24: Ending State violence against women in prostitution in San Francisco
- GT 2008-06-30: Law and Orders #8: Memphis cop Bridges McRae “exceeds expectations” by punching Duanna Johnson repeatedly in the face with handcuffs over his knuckles for failing to stand up on command in the booking area at 201 Poplar
- GT 2008-03-10: Rapists on patrol (#2)
- GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol
- GT 2005-12-17: December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Lew Rockwell’s recentinterviewof Naomi Wolf for his podcast — the scare quotes are there because it quickly turns into a very two-sided conversation, and works very differently from a conventional interview — is really remarkable, and a paradigm for the kind of engagement that could build a vibrant libertarian Left. Naomi Wolf is not my favorite feminist, and Lew Rockwell is certainly not my favorite libertarian, but this is great stuff. Naomi Wolf now says she thinks she’sbeen a secret libertarian for many years in many, many waysand mentions that she’s feeling increasingly sympathetic toward radical libertarianism; she insists on the importance of challenging both Democratic- and Republican-sponsored power grabs, and expresses sympathy for the libertarian case for abolishing federal control over schooling. Rockwell does a tolerable job of explaining the libertarian case against the Fed as a instrument of class warfare, does a good job of cautioning against premature jumps into statist political action, and comes out that the conservative movement has been anengine of fascismfor the past 50 years. Also, Wolf has some great material at about 23:45 in the interview about the way in which media producers deliberately encourage false-alternative shouting matches and instruct their guests that serious deliberation is notgood television.
Socialist Alexander Cockburn writes a libertarian article for the Buchananite newsjournal The American Conservative, discussing the ongoing bipartisan assault on civil liberties, in which he points out the continuity between Clinton’s and Bush’s anti-terrorism and drug war rackets, decrying Social Security Numbers and the Kelo decision, while praising the defense of the individualist reading of the Second Amendment in Heller.
There’s been a lot more discussion of Roderick’s Corporations Versus the Market piece on Cato Unbound. Roderick’s Keeping Libertarian, Keeping Left replies to the initial responses from the Danny Bonaduce of the Blogosphere, Steven Horwitz, and Dean Baker. Roderick’s Owning Ideas Means Owning People makes the case for libertarian radicalism against Intellectual Protectionism (indeed, for a position even more radical than those advocated by Cato minimal-statist Tim Lee and by anti-IP, but pro-governmental Leftist Dean Baker).
Yglesias, in reply to Roderick and Steven Horwitz, says he is a bit puzzled by pragmatic arguments for left-libertarianism, based on the claim that markets do more for human flourishing than government programs, writing:If this means that the absence of governance à la Joseph Stalin is a more important determinant of our well-being than is, say, the existence of unemployment insurance then, yes, of course this is true. But the question facing government programs is not whether they are more or less beneficial than the existence of a market economy, the question is whether the programs are more beneficial than would be the absence of programs.Roderick does a great job of responding to Yglesias (as well as to some another reply by Dean Baker) here. Let me just add a bit more about the fundamental problem with Yglesias’s proposed methods for assessing whether or not a given government program is warranted.
The problem here is that Yglesias seems to be treating this as a ceteris paribus comparison: as if the right question to ask is whether people would be better off with the government program in place or in a situation which is exactly identical, but without the government program.
There are two problems with this. First, unless there is some strong reason to believe that ceteris will stay paribus in the absence of a government program, the real alternative is between a government program and market alternatives to that program. So, for example, Yglesias mentions ex ante environmental regulations. But he rigs the match by apparently comparing outcomes with ex ante environmental regulations to outcomes from a market situation which is basically the same as the present, but in which corporate polluters are free to go on polluting with impunity. An un-rigged comparison would be one between ex ante environmental regulations and free market means of addressing pollution that the ex ante regulations have either directly suppressed or crowded out — like the use of pollution nuisance suits or a more robust use of free market grassroots activism, through boycotts,sustainabilitycertification, social investing, and so on. Maybe these kind of tactics would not be as effective as ex ante regulation, or maybe they would be more effective; but in either case, this is the comparison that actually needs to be made, and as far as I can tell Yglesias hasn’t given any argument to support a claim that market methods would do worse. Indeed, there’s some good reasons to think that they might do better. Since freed-market methods are by their nature decentralized, and not dependent on political lobbying or electioneering, they are also not subject to the same problems of regulatory capture by those who can puta lot of money and political influence behindtheir interests.
Second, Yglesias also more or less explicitly suggests that, when you’re deliberating over whether to favor government programs or freed-market alternatives, any given government program ought to be assessed in isolation from all the others (on acase-by-casebasis). But of course libertarian Leftists have repeatedly stressed the importance of seeing particular social or political processes in the context of how many different processes interlock and interact with each other. So, for example, as Roderick has repeatedly stressed, if you want to know about whether to prefer unfettered free markets or regulatory command-and-control in financial markets, it doesn’t make sense to compare a rigged market where finance capital is tightly regulated and can reasonably expect government bail-outs in case of failure to a rigged market where finance capital is loosely regulated but can still reasonably expect government bail-outs in case of failure. Whether the latter or the former turns out to have better results is a question we could debate, but the important point, from a left-libertarian point of view, is that it would be more interesting and fruitful to compare the rigged markets to a free market with neither ex ante regulation nor bail-outs. Similarly, if we are looking at environmental regulations then we have to consider not only market alternatives to ex ante environmental regulation; we also have to consider other government programs which may indirectly contribute to environmentally destructive practices — like subsidizing corporate centralization and capital-intensive production; or stealing land from homeowners and small businesses for large, polluting manufacturing plants, garbage incinerators, and other forced-modernization boondoggles; or subsidizing fossil fuel dependence; or highway-driven suburban sprawl — and whether the absence of those other programs, taken together with the absence of ex ante environmental regulation, would make freed-market alternatives to ex ante environmental regulation even more palatable than they would be when considered in isolation. (For some similar points in the context of health care, see GT 2007-10-25: Radical healthcare reform.)
Meanwhile, Roderick’s article has also prompted a lot of discussion outside of Cato Unbound, most notably interesting but misguided replies from Peter Klein, Will Wilkinson, and an extremely ill-conceived response by Walter Block and J.H. Huebert. I’ve already discussed Block’s and Huebert’s comments, with a focus on their distortion of my own expressed views (cited favorably by Roderick) on radical labor unionism.. There’s a lot of fascinating exchange among Klein, some other right-libertarians and agnostic-libertarians, and a number of libertarian Leftists in the comments thread on Klein’s article; note especially the exchange among Araglin, Klein, P.M. Lawrence and others over the legitimacy and viability of the corporate form, limited liability, etc., under freed markets, and this short comment by Jesse Walker:It seems clear to me that, at the very least, the “more local and more numerous” claim is correct, if not in every sector than certainly in the economy as a whole. Removing occupational licensing laws alone would unleash such a flood of tiny enterprises — many of them one-man or one-woman shows, sometimes run part-time — that I doubt the elimination of antitrust law and small-business setasides would offset it. Especially when large businesses have proven so adept at using antitrust and setasides for their own purposes. […].(Jesse promises a more detailed follow-up at Hit and Run; I look forward to it.)
Meanwhile, as promsied, Roderick has added his own (detailed, excellent) reply on most of the points raised by Klein, Wilkinson, Huebert, and Block back over at Cato Unbound, entitled Free Market Firms: Smaller, Flatter, and More Crowded.
Read the whole damn thread. It’s great.
On the activist front, this past Monday, New Jersey ALLy Darian Worden announced a new series of Alliance of the Libertarian Left outreach flyers andsubversion squaresavailable from the NJ ALL website. Enjoy! (I also think there will be some interesting news in the near future about ALL in Southern California, England, Denver, and some new activities for ALL in Las Vegas. But I’m not going to tip my hand more than that in public, just yet. If you’re curious — and especially if you are in one or more of those geographical areas — drop me a line in private.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas police said there may be more victims in a string of slayings of Las Vegas prostitutes whose bodies were found along highways.
Police Detective Larry Hanna is asking police in other areas to check for cases similar to those of four young women with ties to Las Vegas.
The body parts of three of the women have been found off of highways in Las Vegas, California and Illinois, and a fourth woman who matches the descriptions of the others is missing.
Hanna said the women could have been slain by the same person, possibly a truck driver, because of the proximity of the women to major highways.
This year, please remember that December 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
As promised, here is (finally) the text (more or less) of my speech at the Libertarian Party of Clark County. There was a scheduling mix-up, so I got about half the time I expected in which to speak; parts that are struck out are parts that I omitted in the interest of time. I should note that, if you’re not familiar with public speaking, reading from a more or less completely prepared script like I did can be both a crutch and a handicap at the same time; if you’re nervous it provides a guaranteed route from where you are to the end of the line, but having it ready at hand also encourages nervous tics, including obtrusive glances down to the sheet, that can really detract from the reading. In my own case, I’m fairly familiar both with talking from notes and with reading prepared papers, but the written-out script was mainly the result of time pressures, and, since I didn’t have time to rehearse it, and also found out, too late to do anything about it, that I wouldn’t have a lectern to make my glancing at the sheet less obtrusive, I know my delivery suffered a bit because of it. The best thing to do in your local groups is, no doubt, to try to make sure you have enough time to meet beforehand and practice your talk. Anyway, on to the content:
I am here today to bring you two messages. So let me cut to the chase and deliver both of them right now. They are the point of this entire talk, and I can put them both in ten words or fewer. Here’s the first: Las Vegas will be free soil in our own lifetimes. And the second is: We are all going to make it happen. And when I sayWe all,I don’t just mean the people in this room. I don’t just mean the people in this political party, either. I don’t mean the people in my own organization, the Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left. I mean all of us, everybody. The LP and Southern Nevada ALL and you and me, yes—but also our friends and our neighbors and our fellow workers. I believe that in my lifetime, all of us in Las Vegas will rise up and we will make ourselves free of the oppression and exploitation inflicted upon us by government laws, government regulation and regimentation, government cops, and government bureaucrats—local government, county government, state government, federal government, and transnational governing bodies like the UN, WTO, and IMF. We will become free because we have, individually and cooperatively, made ourselves ungovernable. We will do this with or without the cooperation of the rest of the world, and whether or not the political powers that be have been persuaded of the truth and virtue of the freedom philosophy; if the souls of politicians and political institutions can be cured, then that will make it so much the easier, but even if they cannot, we can and we will make it no longer worth their while – no longer even sustainable – for them to rule us against our will. We can and we will dump the bosses and the bureaucrats off our backs—politically, socially, economically—and we will stand upright, in control of our own destinies.
I’m saying these things today because I think they are important. I think they are important because they seem impossible, and yet they are true. It’s easy to doubt that Las Vegas can be free—really, totally free—in our own lifetimes. Government is big. Government is everywhere. Government consumes somewhere between one third and one half of every dollar that you make. Every dollar that you make and every dollar that you spend is itself part of the world’s largest and most powerful government monopoly—the government-centralized banking cartel and its fiat money monopoly. City government patrols every street. The federal government of the United States is the richest, most technologically advanced, and most militarily powerful organization in the history of the world. The two major parties, which thoroughly dominate the electoral process at every level, show no real signs of wanting to roll back government in any major area of policy, or even to contain it at its current levels; no matter whether a Demopublican or a Republicrat candidate wins, the party in power is more or less guaranteed to aggressively push government further and further into our lives. It’s easy to get dizzy just looking at the size and scope of government. It’s easy to lose hope entirely in the face of such an enemy. And it’s just as easy, and just as destructive, in the long run, to lose hope by deferring it, by concluding that freedom is only for our children or our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren, that it takes a long and slow process of chipping away at the edges of invasive government, in the hope that, after the next several four-year election cycles, we might begin to get a little freer, and we might be able to contain or even roll back government a little, leaving the rest of the task for future generations. I am here today to say that that’s not good enough. I am here to say that freedom is much closer than any of us think, if we fight for it, and if we know where to take that fight. And I am here today to ask you all to get into that fight by having the hope to believe in, and the courage to say some things that are both crazy and true.
Well, O.K., then. Now that I’ve said all that, let me back up a bit, so that I can give you an idea of where I’m coming from, and then come back around to the details of where I think we can go from here. My name is Charles Johnson. I’m here on behalf of a new radical libertarian project called the Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left. I write for a weblog called the Rad Geek People’s Daily, at radgeek.com. I’ve been a libertarian writer, activist, and organizer – both inside and outside of the Libertarian Party, especially the Libertarian Party of Alabama – since about 2001. Since 2000, I’ve also been a writer, activist, and organizer for many groups and causes within the radical Left and the radical feminist movement. Depending on where you are coming from, that may or may not seem strange; it may even seem incoherent. I think that with the right understanding of both the Freedom Movement and of the radical Left – or, rather, the right understanding of the particular tendencies within the Freedom Movement, and within the radical Left, that I am working in – it won’t seem that way anymore. But I’ll come back to that in a bit.
First, I want to say a few words about Southern Nevada ALL. We are a new organization, a local chapter of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, which also has active chapters in Kansas City, Richmond, Virginia, and a new chapter forming in the Chicago area. The locals are autonomous and work together as equals: there’s no big central ALL office that tells local chapters what to do, but we keep in touch with the locals in other towns and we share our experiences and our materials, which each local chapter can adapt to the conditions in its own community. We use the ALL name because our groups have certain principles and strategic priorities in common with each other. Let me try to break down what some of those are. The Alliance of the Libertarian Left believes in….
Radicalism – we pull no punches, and we make no compromises, in our presentation of the freedom philosophy. We don’t shy away from emotional and controversial issues, either. We are anarchists, not limited-governmentalists; we are extremists, not moderates; and we’re not afraid to say so.
Populism – we believe that libertarianism is for everybody, and the people who have the most to gain from, and the most to contribute to, the movement, are the people who are the most downtrodden, the most thoroughly oppressed and exploited, in our current social and political regime.
Solidarity and social justice – we believe in many of the goals associated withProgressivesor the statist Left today – anti-racism, anti-imperialism, gay liberation, feminism, environmental sustainability, radical labor solidarity, and many of the other commitments that are commonly grouped together under the heading ofsocial justice.Unlike state Leftists, we believe that these goals can and should be achieved by free people in a free society, using free association and cultural activism to change existing social and material conditions, without getting government regulations or bureaucracies involved. We intend to achieve Lefist goals through libertarian means.
Non-electoral social change – we are not affiliated with any political party or any candidate for political office. We do not try to achieve change by petitioning the politicians currently in power, or by trying to replace them with other, better politicians. There’s a place for that kind of activism, but lots of other organizations – including the Libertarian Party – are already working on it. If we tried to do it, we wouldn’t be very good at it, so what we specialize in are other means of social change: mass education, targeted persuasion, non-violent direct action, and the creation of alternative institutions that counter or bypass the State.
I’ll have more to say about all of this later. But for now, let me say a few things about what Southern Nevada ALL has done so far, and where we are going from here.
Right now we are a new organization, and we are in the process of getting our bearings, making contacts, and looking for allies. Southern Nevada ALL’s first public action was a bit of guerrilla education that we did on Tax Day, April 15th – by posting these flyers around town in Las Vegas, mainly on UNLV campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. The action had two immediate goals. First, to get out a radical anti-tax message that would appeal to anti-authoritarians of all stripes, and also specifically to anti-war Leftists. Second, to get our name out and let likely new ALLies and contacts know that we were forming this new organization. I consider it to have been a smashing success – at least, insofar as it ended up almost tripling our membership (growing from the two founders, David Houser and myself, to five members after the flyering), and laid the groundwork for future actions. I’ll come back around to talk about those in a minute.
First, though, I want to say a few things about non-electoral methods for social change, and then about the Left.
I’m not about to deny that electoral politics – voting, party-building, running better candidates – has some role to play in making social change. I think it has played a very important role in the past, and that it can play a very important role in the future – both through efforts to destabilize or reorient the major parties, as with Ron Paul’s campaign within the Republican Party, and also through efforts to create alternatives to the two-party system and open up new spaces for libertarian ideas, as with the Libertarian Party. What I do want to stress today is that it’s important for us not to limit ourselves to electoral politics. There are all kinds of ways that social change happens, and electoral politics is only one of them. While it can be a very powerful method, it’s also a very difficult one, and a time consuming one, and a slow one. So while I encourage you all to do whatever you find it worth your while to do through electoral politics, I am here to stress the need to add other forms of activism to your toolbox. If we are going to become free in our own lifetimes – and I believe that we will – then relying on electoral politics alone will never be enough. After all, running candidates and voting can only effect a change once you have managed to convert 50%+1 of the electorate over to your position; there’s very little room for accomplishing small changes on the margin. It also imposes a very rigid and quite slow schedule on making social changes: you only have a shot at changing anything for one day every two to four years. And an elections-only strategy necessarily excludes large numbers of people – including especially the very people that are the most thoroughly oppressed by the current political regime, who have the most to gain from a fight for freedom – people like drug war prisoners, and illegal immigrants, who are legally excluded from voting at all. If we want to make lasting change within our lifetimes, we will need to adopt some other methods of social change – methods that don’t have to wait on the next election, methods that don’t have to wait on 50%+1, and methods that can be for everybody, with or without a permission slip from the State.
To give you an idea of what I mean, let me tell you a couple stories.
[Spokane Free Speech Fight, 1910]
I know this story more or less by heart, so I told it off the cuff instead of writing it out. If you haven’t heard it told before, my version was just a slightly shortened version of Utah Phillips’s version. —R.G.
There are a lot of ways of doing direct action. Here’s a recent one that I read about, from a group of middle-schoolers in Readington, NJ. [Pennies work-to-rule in Readington, NJ]
Another special kind of direct action that I want to mention, which is very important to the ALL and to many other libertarian Leftists, is the concept of counter-economics. Counter-economics is the underground practice of radical libertarian theory. Counter-economics means creating your own, unregulated institutions, independently of the State, in which you profit by ignoring or defying the institutionalized requirements imposed by the government and by the business establishment. Counter-economics builds alternative institutions through illegal black markets, and quasi-legalgrey markets.And counter-economics is everywhere: it’s the unlicensed pharmacist slinging drugs to willing customers on the street corner. It’s the illegal immigrant dodging government border controls and then working under the table, without turning over the fruits of her labor to the IRS. It’s the waitress building up a nest egg from cash tips that she doesn’t report to the IRS. It’s e-gold and the Liberty Dollar and the Ithaca Hour producing durable currencies as an alternative to the Fed’s fiat money monopoly. It’s your cousin downloading free MP3s on his college network, in defiance of government-enforced copyright monopolies. It’s agrey marketoutfit like Food Not Bombs, where activists cover their own food costs and provide hot meals to homeless people by dumpster-diving surplus food from grocery stores (which is still fresh enough to eat, but no longer fresh enough to sell under existing government food regluations), cooking it, and serving the food for free in public spaces like parks.
It’s important to see that this kind of black market and grey market activity is itself a form of direct action, no less than filling the jails, and no less than a sit-in or a work-to-rule action. One of the ALL’s chief goals is to promote freedom through direct action, including through counter-economics, to encourage people who haven’tgone counter-economicyet to support the legitimacy and the importance of counter-economic businesses, and to encourage people who are already engaged in counter-economics to become self-conscious and organized counter-economists – that is, to see that what they are doing is not only personally profitable, but also politically valuable, and to see themselves as part of a larger movement to evade, undermine, and ultimately eliminate the invasiveness of the State.
One of the great advantages of counter-economics is that it’s one of the few forms of political activism in which people can strike a blow for freedom without having to become something that they are not, and which most people never will be – that is, die-hard, self-sacrificing activists who have a perfect grasp on libertarian philosophy and consistently make the right policy decisions. Counter-economics puts libertarianism into practice naturally; a practicing counter-economist is a practicing anti-statist as a matter of day-to-day business, whether or not she understands the whole philosophical theory that backs up her practice. And counter-economics also does something that almost no other form of political activism does: it produces direct, immediate profits for the person practicing it (because she makes money she wouldn’t otherwise be able to make, or keeps money she wouldn’t otherwise be able tokeep, or gets goods and services she wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain). Part of the reason I said that I believe that we are all going to be part of Las Vegas becoming free soil is because I believe that if we take this fight not only to the electoral arena, but also to the streets, in the form of self-conscious direct action and counter-economics, we will have a tool at our disposal which will empower the most marginalized and least privileged people to join the struggle, and which will also make fighting for freedom the most selfish and most profitable thing for people – especially poor and oppressed people – to do.
Now, of course, there’s a downside to direct action, and especially to counter-economics: it can be dangerous. Nobody in ALL saying that you should get out there and start your own multimillion dollar heroin ring. (If you have started one, anyway, I’m not about to talk about it, and I’d rather you didn’t tell me about it. The first rule of a counter-economic business is, you don’t talk about a counter-economic business.) I’m the first to acknowledge this, and also to acknowledge that that means we shouldn’t put all our eggs in the counter-economic basket. I don’t think we should put all our eggs in any tactical basket. Counter-economics is important, and other forms of direct action are important, but so are a lot of other things. For the LP, that can mean electoral politics. For Southern Nevada ALL, it means mass education and targeted persuasion – through our flyers, through literature drops, through our website, through public speaking events like this one, and by creating alternative institutions (which I’ll come back to later) for distributing information and views through new channels. Neither education alone nor direct action alone will bring about victory; but when they are put together, each can become much more powerful than they were alone. Educating the people at large about libertarian ideas, and trying especially hard to persuade a handful of people who are especially open to radical politics, can make direct action much more powerful by creating the above-ground and underground networks of supporters that direct action needs to be successful. On the other hand, putting libertarian ideas into practice through direct action also reinforces education and persuasion, and makes them much more powerful than they would be on their own: people are much more likely to get involved, and to stay involved, in a project that leads to concrete action and real results. Libertarian talk accomplishes little if libertarianism remains nothing more than a talk shop; but talk can accomplish a hell of a lot when talk pulls people towards public and private action, and when public and private action get more people talking.
Now, some words about the Left. From the mid-20th century onward, movement libertarians have mostly conceived of themselves as the enemies of the Left (and vice versa), and the radical Left especially. Many libertarians came directly out of Right-wing or conservative movements (such as Young Americans for Freedom, the Republican Party, or the Right-wing talk radio scene). Libertarians mixed fairly freely with, and often worked with,small-governmentconservatives, and, even when they criticized conservative forms of government intervention (especially socially conservative policies, such as the Drug War or anti-abortion laws), they generally reserved their harshest words and most of their political activism for Left-liberal politicians, for redistributionist government social programs such as welfare and food stamps, and forsocial justiceorganizations like the anti-sweatshop movement and labor unions.
Well, to be clear, I for one have no problem attacking Left-liberal politicians, or government welfare programs. I oppose all efforts to expand the scope and power of government, and all forms of government-directed regimentation of trade or redistribution of wealth. But it is important to realize that criticizing the political means that many Leftist reformers have adopted over the past century doesn’t necessarily involve criticizing the ends that they adopted. And it is just as important to remember that the relationship between libertarians and the Left has not always been so chilly on either side. If we distinguish radical Leftists – think the Industrial Workers of the World, or Students for a Democratic Society, or the Black Panthers, or Noam Chomsky – from establishment liberals – think Albert Shanker or Teddy Kennedy or the AFL-CIO – then we’ll find that, while the establishment liberals have always been rock-ribbed defenders of the State, the radical Leftists – especially the radicals of the late 19th century, early 20th century, and, for a few years, the New Left of the late 1960s and early 1970s – have been some of the fiercest critics of the welfare-warfare State, as opponents of imperialism and COINTELPRO domestic surveillance, and also as proponents of people-powered, grassroots projects that provided mutual aid directly to people in the community, without any government welfare bureauracy. (Teddy Kennedy pushed for government welfare and healthcare. The Panthers argued that black people should forget about the government bureaucracy, and served voluntarily-funded free breakfasts in the ghetto instead—while they derided government welfare as a means of alienating poor blacks from their own community and keeping them dependent on the white man’s government.)
Similarly, there was a time when libertarians saw themselves not as the enemies of the Left, but as the most radical and consistent part of the Left. Nineteenth century libertarians such as Lysander Spooner and Stephen Pearl Andrews came out of the radical wing of the Abolitionist movement, and, after the Civil War, allied themselves with other culturally and politically radical movements against political and social privilege – including the labor movement, the anti-racist movement, thefreethoughtmovement, and First Wave feminism. The individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker, whose magazine Liberty was one of the most influential libertarian publications in America from the 1880s through the first decade of the 20th century, described his position asAbsolute Free Trade; … laissez faire the universal rule,but he and his circle also routinely identified themselves as socialists – not because they were setting themselves against the ideal of the free market, but rather because they were setting themselves against actually existing big business. They argued that a handful of men exercised control over finance, capital, and (thus) the daily lives of ordinary workers, not because of free market processes, but rather because of plutocratic government economic regimentation and government-granted monopolies – especially theBig Fourmonopolies of government centralization and regulation of banking for the benefit of finance capital, government protectionist tariffs for the benefit of industrial fat cats, government-granted monopolies on the use of ideas through patents and copyrights, and government seizure of control over wild and unused land. The Tuckerite individualists saw the invasive powers of the State as both the root of, and the reason for, the dominance of Big Business and entrenched capitalists over smaller competitors, workers, and cooperative shops. And they suggested that the Freedom Movement should strike at the root of the problem by organizing workers into countervailing organizations such as boycott leagues and labor unions to expose, challenge, resist, and ultimately simply to bypass the economic regulations that the State and the bosses were conspiring to impose on them by force. In the early 20th century, American individualists like Dyer Lum and immigrant anarchists like Emma Goldman fought for much the same vision, and their influence produced one of the largest and most influential labor unions of the early 20th century – the Industrial Workers of the World, which viewed government planners and bureaucrats as the tools of the bosses and the enemies of workers, and who urged workers to look not to the government, but to themselves, through the creative use of free association, agitation, direct action in the workplace, voluntary strikes, union solidarity, and voluntary mutual aid between workers, which would bypass the State, and create alternative, non-coercive institutions like union hiring halls and workers’ co-ops, which wouldbuild a new society within the shell of the old.
If the labor movement is statist today, it is only because it is now what State regulation and patronage have made it. The I.W.W. was targeted for massive government repression during the 1910s and 1920s, most notoriously in the Wilson administration’s World War I political prosecutions and the laterPalmer raids,in which Wilson’s goon squad rounded up, jailed, and deported thousands of I.W.W. unionists and other anarchists, solely on the basis of their political beliefs. In the 1930s, a conservative, pro-government wing of the labor movement collaborated with theProgressivebusiness class and theNew Dealpro-government liberals to create the modern National Labor Relations Board system, in which centralized, establishmentarian unions like the AFL-CIO have been granted government privileges in organizing and negotiating, in return for submitting to extensive government regulations on the methods and goals that they can adopt. These new laws served as both a subsidy for conservative unionism as against radical competitors like the I.W.W., and also as a form of insurance that the subsidized labor unions would not do anything that fundamentally challenged the fundamental principles on which the state-corporate system and the interventionist political regime were founded.
The reality is that, through government regulation of the labor movement, export subsidies, the Big Four monopolies, government support for regulations that benefit entrenched market players, and through corporate welfare (whether in the form of direct monetary pay-offs, or in the form of land seized, Kelo-style, through eminent domain), big corporations like General Motors have benefited at least as much from government patronage as big unions like the UAW. Yet libertarian criticism of the magntes of state capitalism is hardly expanded into criticism of all businesses as such; while many 20th century libertarians have written as if the labor movement did not exist before the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935, and as if the faults of existing conservative unions are a sort of original sin for which all labor unions ought to b condemned. This difference in treatment is no doubt closely connected with the emphasis many 20th-century libertarians placed on defending the free market against the attacks of Communists and other state socialists. While they were right to argue that existing modes of production are distorted by government intervention, should not be even further distorted by increasing government regimentation, this insight was often perverted into the confused belief that existing business practices – the way that Wal-Mart does business, say, or the way that Nike treats its workers in third-world sweatshops – are themselves the natural outcome of an undistorted market. But these practices did not emerge from a free market in the first place; they emerged from a market already heavily distorted by government intervention. The answer, then, is clearly less government, not more; but there is also good reason for libertarians to condemn the economic distortions that already shape the state-capitalist labor market, and to promote anti-statist models of labor organizing as an essential part of the libertarian defense of free markets.
It’s for precisely these reasons that those of us in the ALL support wildcat unions and state-free forms of voluntary mutual aid, and look back to the history of those radical Leftist efforts that organized the oppressed and made use of people-power to challenge, resist, or simply bypass the State – such as the I.W.W.’s free speech fights. Or the nonviolent civil disobedience campaigns against British imperialism in India and against government Jim Crow laws in the Southern United States. Or the Jane network in Chicago, in which radical feminists learned how to perform simple first-timester abortions, and provided safe, affordable illegal abortions to hundreds of women in Chicago years before Roe v. Wade. Or the Black Panther Party’s efforts to replace white-controlled government policing and government welfare in black neighborhoods with community-based, non-governmental mutal aid and self-defense. And so on.
So, with these tools in hand and with these examples in mind, what can we do?
As I mentioned, Southern Nevada ALL is a new organization, and what we have done so far has focused on getting our name and our basic message out, on networking and making contacts, and on preparing a base for future activism. Our choice of present and future actions has been guided by a particular understanding of the situation in Las Vegas, and of the place where we can best fit ourselves into the existing activist scene. Southern Nevada ALL can act as a partner for, and as a sort of interface between, three different groups of activists within the Las Vegas area, each of whom we have some significant differences with, but also many overlapping interests: first, voting libertarians such as y’all in the Libertarian Party, and the movement that has grown out of the Ron Paul MeetUps; second, other non-electoral, anti-statist activists, especially Black Flag anarchist groups and projects; third, Leftist social justice groups working on issues such as immigration, civil liberties, police brutality, abortion rights, or the decriminalization of sex work.
Our role and the issues we have chosen come from our analysis of the particular situation here in Las Vegas. There’s clearly a tremendous thirst for anti-war, radical libertarian ideas in Las Vegas – as demonstrated by the groundswell of support for Ron Paul this past year, in direct opposition to the old guard of the state Republican Party. And also as demonstrated, in a different way, by the massive turn-out for immigrant freedom marches two years ago, on May 1, 2006. But this interest has not yet been converted into effective action, and there is a danger that, when election season ends five months from now, and the excitement of campaigning fizzles, a lot of that interest and that organizational energy may dissipate back into the background. We believe that at this point it is vital to reach out to energized, creative activists, and give them a channel for their enthusiasm and their activism that doesn’t require them to wait four more years before they see any action. Now is the perfect time to advance non-electoral methods of social change, and the building of alternative institutions that don’t revolve around multiyear election cycles, in order to keep the push for freedom going beyond the end of the election season.
And here in Las Vegas, the peculiar issues that we face have informed our decision of what sorts of groups to work with and what sort of issues to stress most in our activism. We have chosen to focus most closely on issues that intimately affect the lives of ordinary people in Las Vegas – such as police brutality (especially relevant, in light of the heavy police presence in Las Vegas and the recent string of brutality complaints lodged against the Henderson police), freedom from government border restrictions (especially relevant in a town with as large an immigrant population as Las Vegas, and where so many turned out for immigrant freedom marches only two years ago), and the collusion between politically-connected real estate developers and government interventions such as eminent domain and politically-drivendevelopmentschemes (especially relevant in a town so thoroughly dominated by the Convention Board and other private-public partnerships, not to mention a town which has been hit so hard by the collapse of a government-driven real estate development bubble).
With that in mind, since our Tax Day flyering on April 15th, Southern Nevada ALL has also:
Done literature drops of left-libertarian pamphlets around town, getting our message out on labor solidarity, freedom of immigration, voluntary mutual aid, how government creates and entrenches urban poverty, and so on, using these pamphlets – from William Gillis’s excellent Market Anarchy zine series, and a Vegas Anarchy series of our own;
Done some low-level networking and outreach events with this chapter of the Libertarian Party, the United Coalition for Im/migrant Rights, and local feminist and gay liberation organizations;
Started holding informal dinner meetings of ALL members and sympathizers, for networking, talking shop, and launching new projects. (The next one is planned for June 18th; if you’re interested, I’ll hook you up with the details later tonight.)
Participated in the May Day immigrant rights rally at the federal court house in Las Vegas, where we called for the decriminalization of all peaceful immigrants.
Worked together with other organizations to help build the infrastructure for anti-statist and social justice activism in Las Vegas – by creating a listserv for all libertarians in the Las Vegas area, and by helping to organize, and marching in, the United Coalition for Im/migrant Rights’sMarch for the DREAMon May 23rd.
We are just getting started. Our plans for projects in the immediate future include:
We will distribute literature more widely, both through contacts with other anti-statist and social justice groups (like the LP and UCIR), and also through literature drops in stores and public spaces.
We are planning a second, wider flyering event, focused on police brutality. (This will be coordinated with distributing pamphlets on police brutality, connecting it with the legal privileges involved in government policing, the militarization of police, and the effects of the racist War on Drugs.)
Over the longer term, we intend to use Southern Nevada ALL as a spring-board for creating alternative institutions that will help us more effectively push for freedom, and help create a more vibrant activist community within Las Vegas. In particular, we plan to help re-organize a couple of projects which have mostly lapsed over the past few years – a Las Vegas Independent Media Center, which will provide an open, grassroots publishing forum for anti-state and social justice activists in the Las Vegas area, and which will create new channels for information and analysis outside of the mainstream local media; and also revitalizing the Las Vegas chapter of Food Not Bombs, which provides agrey market,counter-economic form of mutual aid outside of the State welfare bureaucracy and the corporate food market. As Food Not Bombs becomes more stable and sustainable, we plan to regroup and begin to talk about other grassroots mutual aid projects, in order to take stock of what’s most needed in the community, and what sorts of projects present the most transformational opportunities.
Each of our plans and projects is a fairly small undertaking, especially when you compare it to the size of the problems that we face. But I am confident that these small pieces, loosely joined together, can serve as the building blocks for something much larger. Something which I believe Southern Nevada ALL will be an important part of, but in which we all will have a role to play, and in which our power standing shoulder to shoulder will be much greater than the power any of us have separately. Electoral politics can pressure the powers that be and soften up their will to strike back at us. Education can create public support for freedom and make it dangerous or disastrous for government to try to strike back. Direct action, combined with education, and when carried out through a large and vibrant network of people-powered Leftist and anti-statist organizations, can and will make us ungovernable – without depending on petitioning or begging, and without depending on the good will of the powerful. I believe that it can be in our hands sooner than any of us realize, if we make full use of non-electoral, radical, populist methods to create alternatives to the State, to bring everyone into the struggle, and to take direct action against government oppression. That’s a fight we can begin right now, by reaching out to our friends and neighbors and our activist comrades. We don’t need to wait until the next convention or the next election. We don’t need to wait for sympathetic politicians. We can take the power into our own hands. And when we do, we will become free.
Thank you for your time, and your very gracious offer of a forum in which to speak. I’ll be glad to take any questions you may have and to talk some more about anything that you’d like to hear more about.
All power to the people!
As far as success goes, the discussion following the talk was lively and interesting. We got a certain number of folks staring at me like I was from Mars, which I expected, but also a fair amount of interest and sympathy, and we made a couple new contacts who may be good prospects for ALLies or fellow travelers. I hardly convinced the entire LP of Clark County to join the Revolution, but I hardly expected to, and I’d call the whole affair a reasonable success, given my goals for the talk. As far as lessons for the future go, the main ones that I’m keeping in mind for myself, and which you may want to keep in mind if you’re going to give a similar talk, are the following:
The most interested people will always seek you out after the talk, but if you want to get a little something into everybody’s hands — e.g. pamphlets, contact sign-up sheets, handbills, etc. — don’t count on people to come up to your table for anything. Remember to hand it around at the start, if you possibly can.
Because of time pressures, some sections of the talk drew pretty heavily from material that I had already written elsewhere for print publication. Historical references are important but I intend to make the talk for future events somewhat less bookish, somewhat more attuned to my speaking style, and somewhat more present-oriented.
Go to some meetings beforehand so that you can scope out the audience and the space. If you make an appointment at one meeting, to give the talk at a later meeting, and there’s a substantial time period between the meeting where you made the appointment and the meeting where you’ll speak, make sure that you touch base (on whatever pretext; information, double-checking, follow-up, whatever) with the people who will be in charge at the meeting where you give your talk. I went to LP meetings beforehand but neglected to do the follow-up contacts I should have done; as a result there was some unclarity about who they were expecting to give the talk, and I wasn’t confident enough from a previous paper trail to speak up. Touching base more often would have resulted in having more time for the talk. (On the good side, having attended previous meetings gave me a much better sense for who I was pitching to and how to pitch it.)
Keep your audience well in mind. This talk is pretty directly calculated for voting libertarians, like LP members or Pauliticos. If you want to talk to social justice groups, antiwar groups, lefties, and so on, obviously you will want to cover much of the same ground, but probably from a different angle of approach.
Remember that, especially for a new radical effort like ALL, for any large group you are really looking for only a handful, maybe only one or two, new contacts in a much larger audience. Make sure that you have a gaff for anybody who bites — contact sheets, handbills, literature, and especially a well-defined upcoming event (like the dinner meeting, or even better an action that you’re planning) — to pull in likely new ALLies. But don’t worry if many in the audience give you the blank stare. You’re not there for them, except to give them some notional idea of your existence. You’re there for mass education and targeted persuasion, and the one or three or five potential ALLies or fellow travelers in the audience are your target.
Anyway, as I said, I consider the talk to have been a reasonable success and a good start. I hope that we can continue giving talks like this to other local groups in the future.
Other ALLies who are thinking about hitting up local groups for similar talks should feel free to appropriate, repurpose, and re-use the material in this talk.
Have y’ALL given any talks for your local chapter of ALL, or made any plans to give talks in the future? Let me know in comments. I’ll be glad to discuss any questions you might have about how my talk went, and to use the blog to talk up any talks that you have given or will be giving in the future.