Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

The Las Vegas Police Beat: Officer-Involved

  • Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Last weekend, at the Costco in Summerlin, Erik Scott got into an argument with some workers at the store. A Costco employee noticed that he was carrying a handgun in his waistband, so they freaked out and called the cops, then evacuated the store. Three Las Vegas Metro police officers — William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola — rolled up and waited outside the store. When they saw Scott walking out of the store, they came up behind him and grabbed him on the shoulder and screamed at him to get down. He turned around and obeyed less than instantaneously, so the cops opened fire and stone cold gunned him down in the parking lot. The cops claimed that before they lit him up with 7 shots, Scott had reached for his gun in his waistband. Then, later, they claimed that he refused orders [sic] and instead withdrew a handgun and pointed at them.. Most of the witnesses, including a friend who was standing right next to Scott when the police gunned him down, say that he never did. A few witnesses differ — they say they did see him take out his gun but that he never pointed it at the cops. Metro said that Scott was ripping merchandise apart, kind of going berserk, and that they had received numerous 911 calls for his erratic behavior and reporting he was carrying a gun. Turns out that what actually happened is that another customer saw Scott opening up a box of aluminum water bottles putting some in his cart and some on the floor, in order to find out how many would fit in his cooler; when store security tried to confront him about it, Scott’s voice got elevated. A number of later 911 calls, provoked by the store’s panicky evacuation, recorded parts of the cop’s confrontation with Scott; the police have refused to release the 911 tapes. The Costco has surveillance cameras on the parking lot; the police took the tapes, but claim that they haven’t looked at them yet because of technical issues. The investigation of this police shooting by Las Vegas Metro is, of course, being handled by more police from Las Vegas Metro. There will almost certainly never be any kind of public trial; a coroner’s inquest hasn’t been scheduled, but will probably happen sometime in September. (There has been only 1 Clark County coroner’s inquest in 34 years that ever found any Metro police shooting to be neither justified nor excusable.) Meanwhile, the three cops who gunned down Erik Scott have been given a paid vacation from their jobs. The local newsmedia has been all over this story, mainly because Scott shops in Summerlin and used to be a tank commander in the United States government’s Army. Bill Scott, Erik’s father, has said that he hopes this case will draw attention to how many people Metro has gunned down: There are a lot of people who have been killed in Las Vegas, a lot of them by the police. They didn’t have a voice. This time, quote me: they killed the wrong guy.

  • Officer Bryan Yant. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. For example, one of the people who has been killed in Las Vegas was Trevon Cole, an unarmed man who police shot in the face with an AR-15 assault rifle in the bathroom of his own apartment, while his 9-months-pregnant fiancee, Sequioa Pearce, was forced to get on the ground and watch. Metro was in his apartment because they had forced their way in in an extremely violent late-night raid to serve a drug search warrant. (Trevon Cole was violently seized and killed because he allegedly might have sold marijuana to an undercover narc, a crime which posed no threat at all to any identifiable victim’s rights.) So late at night while Pearce and Cole were relaxing in bed, a gang of police wearing camouflage and masks smashed in their windows and broke down their door, blitzed into the room holding assault rifles on their terrified victims. Trevon Cole was surrounded by a gang of heavily armed, masked men, was obeying their commands to get down, and had put his hands up in the air, but Yant decided he’d seen a furtive movement, so he stone cold shot Trevon Cole in the face at close range in front of his terrified fiancee. Officer Bryan Yant had already gunned down two other people in his career before he showed up to shoot an unarmed man in the face; An inquest jury into Yant’s 2002 fatal shooting found the officer justified in his actions despite a serious discrepancy between his story and evidence at the scene. The shooting will be considered by another Clark County Coroner’s Inquest on August 20. In the meantime, Bryan Yant, who is being investigated to determine whether or not he murdered an unarmed man, is being given a paid vacation from his government job. Meanwhile, his buddies on the force decided to show up at Sequoia Pearce’s mother’s house in order to mau-mau the only surviving witness and toss the house looking for guns and ammo that aren’t there.

  • Officer Luis Norris. Las Vegas Metro Police Department. Another cop working for the local government in Las Vegas opened fire on an unarmed man this past Tuesday, for the crime of taking a shortcut through a residential neighborhood while the cop was Investigatin’. The man appeared on the wall while the cop was talking to a local homeowner about a possible prowler. Of course, all kinds of people live in a residential neighborhood (by definition), and all kinds of people pass through, so a civilized person might take this as a reason to shout What are you doing here? but Officer Luis Norris was packing heat and startled so he whipped out his gun and opened fire on this innocent man, who was not the prowler, was unarmed, had committed no crime, and posed no threat to anything other than the cop’s composure and poise. Thankfully, Officer Luis Norris is a bad shot: he missed the man he was trying to gun down in a moment of irrational panic, so his intended target lived through the night long enough for Authorities to later determine he was not a threat. Since Luis Norris just recklessly endangered the life of an innocent man, but didn’t kill him in the process, there will not even be a coroner’s inquest. Instead, Officer Luis Norris’s has been given a paid vacation from his government job, and eventually, his actions will be reviewed by the department’s use of force board, which may hit him with such serious consequences as a written reprimand or even firing him from his job. In case you were wondering, the process is not open to the public.

Las Vegas Metro is full of heavily-armed, twitchy, terrified cops who are easily startled and ready to open fire on helpless or harmless people at even the most furtive motion. Whether you’re resting in bed with your fiancee on Eastern and Bonanza, or going shopping with your fiancee in Summerlin to celebrate your new life together, or just talking a quiet walk through the neighborhood out at Desert Inn and Sandhill, there is a heavily armed force, patrolling 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, constantly ready to come down on you and gun you down at even a moment’s hesitation to obey their bellowed commands, or the slightest twitch that they don’t understand, or just for startling them. If they shoot at you, or even if they kill you, they will almost certainly never be held accountable for their actions; the worst that’s likely to happen is that they might lose their job, and what’s more likely is that they will be put back onto the streets to continue a long and storied career of killing unarmed people. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force constantly in our lives and at our throats in order to stop our community from being overrun by small-time possible neighborhood prowlers, by erratic men who take aluminum water bottles out of their boxes at Costco, and from black men who might maybe be willing to sell a bit of pot to willing customers. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force in order to keep us safe. But who will keep us safe from them?

Support your local CopWatch.

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Men In Uniform (Cont’d). Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada

Trigger warning. Briefly describes the crimes of a male police officer working for the North Las Vegas city government, who, while in uniform, harassed and attempted to sexually assault several women that he forced to pull over.

Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada.

From Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Officer James Vernon Clayton, a three year veteran ex-cop formerly working for the North Las Vegas Police Department, repeatedly used the power of his badge and gun in order to pull women over, sexually harass the women he was holding captive, pull down his pants and show his dick off to them against their will, used threats of false arrest to grope at least one woman under the excuse of a pat search, and to try to extort sexual favors by threatening them with legal retaliation if they wouldn’t. He did this to at least five women that we know of, while on duty, in uniform, in his police cruiser, and heavily armed. So the boss cops with the North Las Vegas city government gave him a six month paid vacation; then the government prosecutor cut a deal with him so he could plead guilty to five misdemeanors — none of them sex offenses. The government prosecutors wanted this serial sexual predator to spend four months in jail; the government judge accepting this plea decided to give him three years’ probation instead, and told him to pay off the government to the tune of $5,000. The women he harassed, intimidated and coerced[1] will, of course, get nothing.

The government prosecutor had this to say, about the case:

From the onset of this case, what the state found most disturbing is here’s an individual charged with our public safety — we’ve blindly given him our trust to protect community, we’ve given him a badge, and he’s vitiated all of that, including blemishing his department, Chief Deputy District Attorney Stacy Kollins said.

— Quoted by Cara McCoy, Las Vegas Sun (2010-05-18): Ex-officer who sought sexual favors during traffic stops sentenced

Well, sure, except that you ought to speak only for yourself — I never gave Officer James Vernon Clayton a badge or my trust, and neither did much of anyone else outside of the North Las Vegas city government. But that said, perhaps what you ought to learn is that it’s foolish to blindly give your trust to men with guns and uniforms, and dangerous to create an environment in which they wield incredible power over ordinary citizens, with a reliable expectation that even if they get caught, they will never face any serious personal consequences for their violent and abusive actions. Until you figure that out, expect your blind trust to keep getting vitiated, over and over again, by men who use those weapons and that unaccountable power to stalk, harass, and assault the women who they force under their power.

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-called criminal justice system gives 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 their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. 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 — although it certainly does require that. 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 into custody, 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 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

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  1. [1] Who chose not to speak out at the sentencing hearing, because they were afraid of retaliation from the would-be rapist who the judge then proceeded to turn loose.

Priorities

The government-installed administration at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas says that, what with the current round of massive state budget cuts, and the threat of future cuts one or two years down the line, they don’t have enough money to teach classes in unpopular majors. (Based on recent decisions from administrative committees, UNLV’s — excellent, but small — Women’s Studies program, among others, might just barely manage to escape the axe. For this round of budget cuts.)

But apparently they do have enough money to build a big memorial to dead government soldiers.

Of course they do; it’s a matter of priorities. When the allocation of money for the University is political, it’s always going to favor what’s politically popular over what’s educationally important. And there’s nothing more politically popular than Patriotically Correct monuments to dead government soldiers.

This is, of course, exactly why UNLV should be liberated entirely from government appointments of administration and from the government strings attached to government funding.

Supporters of the Women’s Studies department, and of academics at UNLV broadly, often view the prospect of privatization of the University with horror. I don’t—because if privatization just means turning UNLV over from governmental ownership to non-gvernmental ownership, that could mean a lot of different things. I understand the reaction, if they are thinking of the kind of legislative privateering where the University simply being sold off to the best-connected corporate bidder. What I think is that the University doesn’t belong to the state government in the first place, and so the state government has no right to sell it to anyone; it belongs to the students and the faculty who use it. And privatizing, or if you prefer socializing it, directly into the hands of the campus community is the only just way to dispose of the University.[1] It’s also the best thing that could possibly happen to education at UNLV. As long as a government-imposed administration is in charge of UNLV, UNLV will be about serving the priorities of administrators, and serving the priorities of the government. UNLV will be about learning and teaching when it’s controlled by learners and teachers; the sooner we end the government occupation of campus, the better.

NV out of UNLV!

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  1. [1] Of course, a plan like that — just handing the University for free over to those who work and study in it, with no political strings attached, instead of coming up with some scheme to create a subsidized sale to an bureaucratic efficiency-minded corporate management, with lots of lingering state control over what they can do — is almost certainly something that will never come out of a committee of the state legislature. Or rather, it’s something that will never come out of a legislative committee unless they are forced to it by events on the ground. If it’s going to come about, it’s something much more likely to come about by a strategy of campus organizing, concerted strikes by faculty, staff, and students, and student occupations of buildings and facilities, aimed not at legislative influence in Carson city, but at asserting effective physical and cultural control over the campus. But I see the need for people-power tactics, instead of bureaucratic gamesmanship and legislative lobbying, as an advantage of my proposal. Not a weakness.

This Thursday at Vegas Anarchist Cafe: a presentation by Jim Haber and a screening of “Death and Taxes” — on war, taxes, and direct action for peace. Thursday, April 8, 6:00pm

Please forward this notice far and wide! Pass the word along to anyone who you think might be interested in the film, the talk, or in learning more about direct action for peace.

The Vegas A-Cafe and Southern Nevada ALL are pleased to announce that this week’s A-Cafe will feature a special presentation and screening of the short film “Death and Taxes,” hosted by Jim Haber of the Nevada Desert Experience. The film and presentation discuss war tax resistance as a form of practical direct action for peace — depriving the warfare state of financial support, and redirecting our labor and our resources towards a positive countereconomy — a community that supports life rather than death.

WHAT: Screening of “Death and Taxes” and presentation on war tax resistance by Jim Haber

WHEN: Thursday, April 8, 2010, 6:00pm-8:00pm. (30 minute short film, with a talk and discussion to follow.)

WHERE: Back meeting room of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, across the street from UNLV, 4550 S. Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV

WHO: Anyone interested in peace and freedom

Jim Haber is a long-time war tax resister who is transitioning from being an “income-reduction” resister to one who is refusing to pay part of his tax liability. He has been serving on the National Committee of the War Resisters League since 2002. Jim is currently coordinator of the Nevada Desert Experience which organizes interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war.

Jim is looking forward to presenting Death & Taxes a new 30 minute documentary produced by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, and featuring several new and long-term resisters of different generations (and great music). The film directly addresses many fears and questions that people have about tax resistance in general and war tax resistance in particular.

For anyone interested in conversation. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Las Vegas Anarchist Cafe is a weekly meetup featuring informal discussion and the exchange of ideas about grassroots organizing, consensual society, and peaceful alternatives to war, taxes and government. Anyone interested in conversation is welcome to attend. See http://vegas.anarchistcafe.org/ for more information.

Rad Geek Speaks: “Ask An Anarchist!” THURSDAY, at the Vegas Anarchist Cafe. Las Vegas, Nevada, 1 April 2010, 6:00pm

This week, at the Vegas Anarchist Cafe — specifically, THURSDAY, 1 April 2010Vegas ALL will be sponsoring a special Ask An Anarchist! event with ALLy Charles Johnson. Ask An Anarchist! is a freewheeling Q&A session, where A-Cafers, guests, the anarcho-curious and anyone interested in a conversation about the idea of a stateless society, all get the chance to fire away with any question they care to ask about Anarchy, Anarchism, or Anarchists. As our handbill puts it:

re you curious to learn more about Anarchy, Anarchism, or Anarchists? Have you got questions about Anarchist ideas, the history of Anarchism, how Anarchism has affected mainstream culture, Anarchist solutions to contemporary social problems, or how Anarchists believe that a free society would work without government? Want to know whether the picture of Anarchism that you’ve gotten from the mainstream culture is accurate or based on misconceptions? Want to try and stump an Anarchist? Bring all your burning questions this Thursday, and our speaker will do his best to answer any question you care to ask. Come on in and fire away!

This event is for anyone curious about the ideas of philosophical Anarchism, or interested in conversation. All are welcome to attend.

The Q&A session will run from 6–7pm. An informal meet-up and discussion will follow from 7–8pm. f you’re in the Vegas area (or even if you’re not), it’d be great to see you there. If you know anyone around abouts who might be interested in a talk about Anarchism, or a chance to find out more, then please do forward the announcement on to them.

  • WHAT: Ask An Anarchist! Q&A with Vegas ALLy Charles Johnson.

  • WHERE: Weekly Anarchist Cafe at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza (4550 S. Maryland Pkwy, right across the street from UNLV), Las Vegas, Nevada

  • WHEN: This Thursday, 1 April 2010, 6:00pm – 7:00pm. The regular A-Cafe informal meet-up and discussion will continue after the talk, from about 7:00pm to 8:00pm.

  • WHO: Anyone curious about the ideas of Anarchism, or interested in conversation.

Hope to see y’ALL there!

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The present anarchy of our commerce (cont’d)

So, here is the latest on the Alliance of the Libertarian Left at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair.

First — I’d like to give a big shout-out to the three very generous donors who chipped in to cover all of the costs for the table registration fee and the shoestring-budget travel expenses from Las Vegas to San Francisco. Thank you! You’re awesome. Seriously.

Second. Along with the selection of booklets and buttons that we had at last year’s Bay Area bookfair, and last month’s bookfair in L.A., James Tuttle from Tulsa ALL will be bringing along some new literature from ALL and from Corvus. And Southern Nevada ALL will be bringing along a passle of new literature, including four new Market Anarchy Series zines and several new button designs. If you’re curious, or interested, we’ve added the new items to our distro page. If you need some literature and merchandise for your ALL local, or just want to pick some up for yourself, check it out — everything’s available either as an individual item or for discounted bulk orders. It’s a great way to get the word out; also a way that you can pick up some solid left-libertarian materials while helping us defray the costs of supplies and printing for the Bookfair.

Here’s a sampler of the new booklets and buttons we’ve got in at the Distro.

Market Anarchy #13: Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin

Charles Johnson (2008)

(Specially commissioned by James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL.)

Government is Violence / think Anarchy for consensual alternatives [ALL] (1.5″)

Market Anarchy #14: Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved

Roderick Long and Charles Johnson (2005)

(Specially commissioned by James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL.)

Deporten a La Migra! [ALL] (1.5″)

The Best of BAD Press: Tracts in Individualist Anarchism 1986–1999

BAD Press (2001)

i don’t pay war taxes [ALL] (1.5″)

MA15: Property to the People! Expropriate the Expropriators!

Where Are The Specifics? Karl Hess (1969)

NO BORDERS / NO STATE [ALL] (1.5″)

MA16: Liberty, Equality, Solidarity

Charles Johnson (2008)

(Specially commissioned by James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL. Ships on or after March 1, 2010.)

The General Strike

Ralph Chaplin 1933)

(Produced and distributed by Southern Nevada ALL for an ad hoc organizing committee of the IWW in Las Vegas.)

Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities

Timothy C. May (1994)

Market Anarchy Zine Series: full print run

16 Market Anarchy zines for $1500

I’d like to take special note of a couple new items in the Market Anarchy series . There is, first, the most recent issue (#15), which is a reprinting of Karl Hess’s Where Are The Specifics?. For those of you familiar with Rothbard’s (in)famous Confiscation and the Homestead Principle (already part of the Market Anarchy series, as Market Anarchy #1: All Power to the Soviets!), this is the article by Hess that Rothbard was riffing on when he wrote that essay. (The two were first published together in a single issue of Libertarian Forum, along with a polemic against the government assault on People’s Park.) Since the two are of a set, to go along with All Power to the Soviets! I gave the Hess booklet the title Property to the People! Expropriate the Expropriators! Hess’s article is shorter than Rothbard’s, and raises a lot more questions where Rothbard aims for a specific answer (Hess asks what would become of General Motors in a free society; Rothbard tries to answer the question). But it’s notable, among other things, for Hess’s shout-out to militant reclaim-the-land movements in the Southwest U.S. / northeast Aztlan, and for the really excellent programmatic statements at the beginning, on the difference between the defense of individual property and freed-markets, on the one hand, and apologetics for actually-existing property claims and the typical business practices of state capitalists, on the other.

And, second, there is the upcoming issue (#16), which is — at long last — a reprint of my essay Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism, which will be freely available for reprinting with attribution at the end of February 2010. (As a result, the booklet ships on March 1 at the earliest.) It used to cost somewhere between $60 and $80 to get a printed copy of the essay; come March, it can be yours in an attractive booklet edition for only $1.75. The essay ranges pretty widely, from the anarchist case against limited government to radical equality to the interconnection of struggles and thick conceptions of libertarianism to individualist anarchist engagements with radical feminism, the labor movement, and the great capitalist conflation controversy. Thus: The purpose of this essay is political revolution. And I don’t mean a “revolution” in libertarian political theory, or a revolutionary new political strategy, or the kind of “revolution” that consists in electing a cadre of new and better politicians to the existing seats of power. When I say a “revolution,” I mean the real thing: I hope that this essay will contribute to the overthrow of the United States government, and indeed all governments everywhere in the world. You might think that the argument of an academic essay is a pretty slender reed to lean on; but then, every revolution has to start somewhere, and in any case what I have in mind may be somewhat different from what you imagine. For now, it will be enough to say that I intend to give you some reasons to become an individualist anarchist, and undermine some of the arguments for preferring minimalist government to anarchy. In the process, I will argue that the form of anarchism I defend is best understood from what Chris Sciabarra has described as a dialectical orientation in social theory, as part of a larger effort to understand and to challenge interlocking, mutually reinforcing systems of oppression, of which statism is an integral part—but only one part among others. Not only is libertarianism part of a radical politics of human liberation, it is in fact the natural companion of revolutionary Leftism and radical feminism.

(This booklet edition of Liberty, Equality, Solidarity was, incidentally, made possible by a generous commission from James Tuttle of Tulsa ALL.)

Anyway. If you’re there at the Bookfair, these items and some others will be out on the table for you to check out. If circumstances force you to be square rather than there, they are all available now through the Southern Nevada ALL Agitprop & Artwork Distro.

Enjoy!

Newspaper corrections (personal pronouns edition)

Here’s the opening of a story published earlier today by Dan Ball at KVBC News 3 Las Vegas, entitled Few new City Hall obstacles remain

It looks like the city of Las Vegas may soon get a new City Hall.

No, we won’t.

Last I checked, the city government in Las Vegas will soon get a new City Hall.

The rest of us in the city of Las Vegas aren’t getting anything, except the $185,000,000 bill for Oscar Goodman’s new office.

For six years, chef John Simons has operated Firefly restaurant on Paradise and Flamingo. Four months ago he opened a second location inside the Plaza hotel downtown. Simmons says he supports a new City Hall.

I’m hoping that we can develop kind of a really cool, vital downtown scene, ya know?

Because nothing says really cool and vital in a downtown scene like municipal government office buildings.

Betsy Fretwell is the city manager for the city of Las Vegas.

If we can move the City Hall from its current location we will be able to create about $4 billion in private investment in the downtown area and create over 13,000 jobs over the period of time and over four projects.

Well, hell, why don’t we just move the City Hall every year? Why not build a new one every month? Just imagine how much private investment and how many jobs all that new construction could create.

The project is estimated at about $185 million. Fretwell says the city can afford to pay for it.

You do have to evaluate what you can afford. We’ve done that, we’ve done a full feasibility report for the City Council. …

Actually, what’s happening here is that she does the evaluating. We do the affording. Whether we want to or not.

Betsy Fretwell doesn’t have to afford a damned thing; she evaluates, and we’re forced to pay up whether we reckon we can afford it or not.

Hence, this massive screwjob against Las Vegas workers, in order to fund a ridiculous and obviously self-serving local government boondoggle.

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Las Vegas Wobblies Rally Against Chipotle in Support of Exploited Farmworkers (pics)

Click on any of the pictures for the full-size images

During the weekend of November 6-8 members of the Las Vegas Industrial Workers of the World, in conjunction with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas and Southern NV ALL, attended the Living Without Borders encuentro sponsored by the United Coalition for Im/migrant Rights (U.C.I.R.), which was held at UNLV. On the final day of the encuerto, we took part in a demonstration against the Chipotle across from campus organized by MEChA de UNLV in support of the Student/Farmworker Alliance (S.F.A.) and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (C.I.W.) and other farm workers who often work very long hours for wages that average below the poverty level.



The LV IWW, along with Fellow Worker Paul Lenart from the Reno IWW, rallied with other groups from the encuerto in solidarity with fellow workers being exploited by agriculture suppliers in Florida and throughout the industry. The demonstration was for the most part uneventful and garnered some support from passing cars and bystanders. However, at one point a group of Metro policemen (at least 10) descended upon us to preserve order by demanding to know who our leaders were and arrogantly declaring they were going to "teach us how to protest" so they wouldn't "have to" arrest anyone. Things got a bit tense after we responded that we didn't believe in hierarchies and therefore had no leaders and Paul informed the officer who was trying to tutor us on protesting that we weren't required to walk in a circle, as his lesson plan called for us to do. Not long after, a Metro sergeant arrived, spoke to us briefly, agreed that we didn't need to walk in a circle, wished us luck, and told the other Metro officers to leave. The rest of the morning was once again pretty uneventful and rather fun in general. In addition to displaying signs to passersby, we also provided people entering or exiting Chipotle with printed information about the C.I.W.'s grievances, resulting in several instances where potential customers turned away.


The C.I.W. is a community-based organization composed mainly of Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. They have been organizing workers in the agriculture industry since1993 to fight for fair wages, better working conditions, and more respect from bosses, among other issues. Since 2001, they have been using targeted boycotts of fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and other large tomato buyers to encourage them to agree to pay one penny per pound more for tomatoes and other produce directly to the workers who picked them. The resulting increase is minimal for the buyers (25 cents/box), but could increase the average farmworker's wages by 2/3's of the current approximate salary of $10,000/year. In the recent past, such boycotts have successfully led to agreements with Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and Whole Foods Markets to participate in C.I.W.'s penny-per-pound program, as well as agreeing to require that their suppliers respect the rights and safety of farmworkers. In spite of marketing themselves as a socially responsible business and promising customers "Food with Integrity," Chipotle has repeatedly refused to sign those same agreements with C.I.W.

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Billy Jack as an Anarchist Metaphor (with video)


Recently after one of the organizing meetings for Food Not Bombs Las Vegas, Charles "Radgeek" Johnson and I engaged in a conversation with a friend who has attended the A-Cafe several times over the past few months. At one point, the issue of an Anarchist society's ability to defend itself against a statist country was discussed, with the contention that the Anarchists would be unable to defend themselves against an attack by the army of an invading state. More specifically, our friend was of the opinion that Anarchists would be unable to organize themselves in order to fend off such an attack without an hierarchical structure of leadership.

I brought up the Ukrainian Revolutionary Black Army during the Russian Revolution as an example of a force organized along Anarchist, bottom-up principles that was very capable of standing up to statist forces. Another example that was mentioned was the Workers' Committees of the Spanish Civil War, as well as various instances where guerrilla warfare has proven effective against rigidly organized forces.

The perceived flaw with the examples of the Black Army and the Spanish Revolutionaries was that in both cases they were eventually defeated by an alliance of statist forces, due to being vastly outnumbered. In the case of the Black Army there were as many as six separate armies opposing them at any given time, while the Spanish Anarchists were left alone against communists, fascists, and nationalists within Spain, which were supported by the governments of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin from outside Spain. Yet both groups held out for some time and achieved several significant victories during their respective periods.*

So, this is where the Billy Jack reference comes in to play. Anybody that has seen the movie (has anybody not) is aware that Billy Jack was one of the biggest bad asses in movie history, who routinely pummeled anyone that transgressed against his group of outcasts and undesirables (which was just about every scene). However in the end, he meets his match when pretty much every guy in town surrounds him in a park and one of them eventually manages to crack him across the back of the head with a stick.

So the question would be, does the fact that Billy Jack eventually loses to an enemy with far superior numbers somehow invalidate the fact that he was more than able to defend himself, even at times when he was outnumbered to a lesser extent?

The fact that we are surrounded and vastly outnumbered by the State and its supporters is a serious issue that necessitates caution for us outcasts and undesirables within the Anarchist movements. However, it is no reason to conclude that we are incapable of defending ourselves without the State, in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary. Nor is it a reason to throw our hands up in the air and concede defeat without even trying. We can learn from the mistakes of the "Billy Jacks" of the past (try to stay out of the park = lesson number one) without accepting slavery as an inevitable circumstance.

*I realize that this is an extreme simplification of the subjects, but I didn't want to engage in a fifty page history lesson just to make what should be a rather simple point.
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Living Without Borders / Viviendo Sin Fronteras: an encuentro for immigration freedom and radical liberation. Nov. 6-8, 2009, Las Vegas, Nevada

November 6–8, 2009

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Sponsored by U.C.I.R.

Register to attend!

livingwithoutborders.org

The 2nd Annual Living Without Borders / Viviendo Sin Fronteras encuentro will be held the weekend of November 6-9, 2009, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Spread the word to anyone you think might be interested! Register to attend if one of the folks who might be interested is you yourself!

Living Without Borders is an activist and community meeting devoted to freedom and dignity for all immigrants, to the struggle against international apartheid, to envisioning and working to build a world without government borders, and to radical social transformation that tears down all the walls, including both the coercively-imposed boundaries of nation-states and also all the other, interconnected forms of oppression, exploitation and domination that confine and constrain us. The encuentro is organized by the United Coalition for Im/migrant Rights in Las Vegas; after the success of the first conference in August of 2008, we decided to make it an annual event, in the hopes that it will bring folks together, start conversations, make connections, and establish itself as an ongoing, transformative presence in our communities.

Here’s what the organizers* have to say about this year’s goings-on in Vegas:

This year’s encuentro will be devoted to the theme of Building Autonomous Communities y Celebrando Cambio Social.

We’ll be starting conversations, sharing knowledge, meeting, connecting.

There’ll be keynote addresses by author Rinku Sen (The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization), and by Hilda Garcia from La Mujer Obrera (an autonomous women’s community in El Paso, Texas).

There’ll be workshops on immigration freedom, the criminalization of immigrants, the interconnection of struggles, community organizing, activist skill-shares, defending social justice through language, and more.

There’ll be tabling space for participants to connect with artists and organizations in the community.

There’ll be meals to share, with a free breakfast and lunch for registered participants.

And there’ll be cultura, entertainment, and engagement — art, music, a bit of teatro rascuache, and hands-on activism for social justice.

We welcome anyone interested in freedom, equality and dignity for immigrants — in a discussion of how borders limit consciousness and how to break through them — in building autonomous communities and activism for social transformation. We hope to see you there!

Sound good? Then register and come on down. Consider signing up to table for your project or your organization. I think it’d be great to see a strong left-libertarian and anarchist presence at the encuentro.

Radicals, ALLies, agitators, Anarchists, left-libertarians, border-crossers, counter-economists, and everyone committed to tearing down the walls — see you there!

* Full disclosure: I’m one of ’em; I’ve been on the organizing committee for the past few months, and have been especially working on the website, the bookkeeping, and working through Food Not Bombs Las Vegas to help provide the meals.