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Two and a half years ago I penned "Wouldn't 136 bullets have been enough?" detailing the egregious and unjustified deaths of two Clevelanders in a hail of police bullets - chased twenty miles through the streets of that city because their car had backfired and officers thought they had fired a weapon (they had no weapon).

Michael Brelo, the officer who fired the last 15 shots from on top of the car they were driving, was put on trial and today, to few people's surprise, was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The judge (who was also the jury) decided that there was no proof that Brelo had fired the fatal shots.



So now we have uncovered yet another way for police to kill and get away with it: a firing squad. And they don't even have to load one of their guns at random with a blank.

There is little more I can say. Having police fire 137 bullets at innocent, unarmed citizens and there be no consequences is absurd, yet that is the world we live in.

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This about sums it up.



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Overview:

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Surveillance of oppressed groups and so-called undesirables has been a tenet of America's heritage. Slave patrols and infiltration made sure the smallest hints of rebellion were brutally repressed. As early as the 1860's, police were spying on labor organizers. J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was compiling dossiers on anyone perceived to be a threat, including the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

The '80s saw the Drug War used to extend the monitoring of people of color - with massive phone data collection, public cameras, and individual randomized targeting, best known as 'Stop & Frisk.' After 9/11, many such practices extended to Muslim faith communities.

Today, new technologies are allowing police to deploy surveillance on an unprecedented scale. Unsurprisingly, the weight of this is being brought to bear most heavily on minorities and the impoverished.

 

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Police pull up suddenly on some young black men. One of them runs. A cops gives chase. "Shots fired." One more dead. "I feared for my life."

This is a script that is running on loopback in cities large and small across America. But it's a script that some say might become less popular if there was an unimpeachable witness to the play - video as it happened.

The Oakland Police have had body video cameras for some years now. Three years ago to this day, late into the night of May 5th, 2012, Oakland Police Officer Miguel Masso was wearing his camera as he and his partner cruised East Oakland. Spotting 18 year old Alan Blueford and his two companions "walking while black," the script played itself out.

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As officer Masso approached the young men he turned on his body camera. But when Alan took off running and he began a footchase he TURNED IT OFF. Alan ran into the midst of a street party and the event was witnessed by a number of people, but despite the gathering no video was recorded.

Alan Blueford's parents will never know for sure what happened just minutes after midnight. They do know that Alan died then in the street with three bullets to his chest. Witness testimony is conflicted and Masso's testimony - in which he admits to essentially having a PTSD episode before firing his weapon(1) - is riddled with inconsistencies and is contradicted by the evidence. The fact that Miguel Masso took one of the four shots he fired in his own foot further compounds the fog. A camera might have shown what Masso should have seen, rather than what he says he thought he saw.

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Sat May 02, 2015 at 05:07 PM PDT

R.I.P. A Garden Grew in Oakland Today.

by jpmassar

Oscar Grant Plaza filled Saturday afternoon with a couple hundred people come to the first #BlackSpring event in Oakland. The organizers came up with a great idea, an its already spread across the twitterverse.



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A simple tweetpic essay.




Putting the final touches on chalk art at Oscar Grant Plaza before the march arrives. The March in Solidarity Against Police Terror, called by ILWU Local 10 and community organizations united against murder by police, left the Port of Oakland as scheduled at 10:00 AM and arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza outside of City Hall in downtown Oakland at 11:30 AM.



The pre-march rally at the Port of Oakland. Mollie Costello, of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, revs up a crowd that reached nearly one thousand people.

Out of the Port, into West Oakland.



The post-march rally at Oscar Grant Plaza. I'm in there! One of more than a thousand.





More tweetpics and tweetvideos below.

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It's hard to know exactly what's going on.  

From the storyline the tweets tell, after Freddy Gray's funeral this morning things heated up considerably.  Various police transports have been set on fire, and the police inexplicably seem to have had a major confrontation with a bunch of high school students who were sent home early because of the protests but were unable to get home because the major public transport hubs in Baltimore have been shut down.

Less lethals have been fired by the Baltimore police; various objects have been sent the other way.  A payday loan store and perhaps a CVS may have been trashed.  And one person decided to exercise his First Amendment rights by mooning the police line.








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Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 10:31 AM PDT

A Photo from Baltimore.

by jpmassar

Photo:



Reflection:




There is nothing wrong with families framing their struggle solely in terms of their child who was killed; similarly, there is nothing wrong with the community framing their uprising within the context of police murder after police murder with nothing but an increasingly armed and hostile police force killing more young black men on the horizon...
Reality:



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It wasn't the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day. Or even the Eleventh Month. It was, though, the 14th Day of Fourth Month of the Fourth Year in the War to Save the Berkeley Post Office and Fight Postal Privatization.

On that day, April 14th, 2015, Federal District Court Judge William Alsup proclaimed a stalemate. He declared that the lawsuit, City of Berkeley v United States Postal Service, which sought to enjoin the Postal Service from selling the Post Office building at 2000 Allston Way, was moot - for lack of there being a buyer. (The prospective buyer, a local developer, had backed out from the purchase in December, 2014.)

But in conjunction with declaring the sale moot, he forced the Postal Service to admit that they were rescinding their decision to relocate Postal Services elsewhere, out of the building. More importantly, he made it clear that should the Postal Service attempt to sell the building at any point in the next five years they must provide 42 days notice and, should the City of Berkeley refile the suit at that point, the case would end up back in court before him.

Two days later, eight god-warrior enemies of privatization sat on the (still public!) steps of the Post Office, relieved yet still wary.


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From left to right, back to front: Thor, Ares, Indra, Pakhet, Athena, Ku, Kali, Tumatauenga.
(appearing in mortal guise all)


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In Oakland, California, every McDonald's in the city but one was shut down beginning at 8:00 AM for an hour in a coordinated  show of force to demand $15 and a union.

All the actions then converged on the remaining McDonald's - at 45th & Telegraph - for a final shutdown action.  Robert Reich, UC Professor and former Secretary of Labor, visited the action and may have spoken.

This afternoon at 1:00 PM there will be a march from Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland to Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley Campus, where the largest rally ever in the East Bay for the Fight for $15 will be being held.  Thousands are expected, converging from all over Northern California.

Below are tweetpics from actions around the globe on this International Day of Action in the fight for a living wage.

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One hundred and seven Corinthian and former Corinthian students have now had their stories of deceit, deception and descent into debt told, in their own words. Stories to make your blood curdle. Stories that, if brought to the silver screen, would be rated R - viewer caution advised - for their disgusting yet true-to-life portrayal of human greed and deceit.

Corinthian Colleges, now bankrupt, has been duping would-be students with tales of great jobs and luring them into loans for decades. The Debt Collective, an offshoot of Strike Debt, has organized 107 of these students (a number increasing all the time) into a Debt Strike (see here and here). Each striker has publicly announced that they refuse to pay off their accumulated, fraudulently-induced debt, and their stories have been collected onto the Debt Collective website.


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TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

19 February, 2015

Who are we? We are the first generation made poor by the business of education.

We are people living paycheck to paycheck, single mothers, and young people just starting out. We wanted an education because we were driven to learn and to achieve a better life for ourselves and for our families.

We trusted that education would lead to a better life. And we trusted you to ensure that the education system in this country would do so. But Corinthian took advantage of our dreams and targeted us to make a profit. You let it happen, and now you cash in.

Each month you force us to make payments into an immoral system that profits from our aspirations.

We paid dearly for degrees that have led to unemployment or to jobs that don’t pay a living wage. We can’t and won't pay any longer.

Repayment plans presented as a helping hand simply aren’t good enough. The wrong done to us is deeper than that.

We are not alone in this fight. Corinthian’s predatory empire pushed hundreds of thousands into a debt trap. But even beyond for-profit schools, tens of millions of students are in more debt than they can ever repay. And you are the debt collector, with powers beyond a payday lender’s wildest dreams.

To the Department of Education and to the lenders, servicers, and guarantee agencies who have stolen our futures, we say: enough! Erase these loans.

To current and former college students across the country, we say: we stand with you to demand the end of a higher education system that profits from all our dreams. Join our fight.

Here are some excerpts.
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Although Prock finally has the degree,
the only potential job the college helped her find was a janitorial position...

Strike 1:

This morning the Debt Collective announced that a hundred more students and former students have joined a Debt Strike, creating the Corinthian 100.

A month ago the Debt Collective, the brainchild of Strike Debt, itself an offshoot of Occupy, organized the Corinthian 15 - a group of students who went to a cheating, lying, and now bankrupt for-profit university and were willing to announce publicly that they were refusing to pay their student loans. The announcement garnered national and even international attention.

The Corinthian "debt strike" ... has expanded from 15 to 100 former students... The strike is part of a broader effort to pressure the government into forgiving the debt of former students of the controversial college chain, which is in the process of shutting itself down in the wake of lawsuits and investigations. The strike has gained supporters in Washington and nationally, with several prominent legislators criticizing the Education Department for bailing out the struggling for-profit college operator last summer, but continuing to hold students on the hook for their loans.
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Strike 2:

Representatives from the Corinthian students, along with organizers from the Debt Collective, have been invited to talk to an official from the Department of Education at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, March 31st) between people from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and the Department of Education. DoE has so far refused to do anything about Federal loans Corinthian students obtained after being told fraudulent claims on Corinthian's part.

Protesters representing about 100 current and former Corinthian students are meeting on Tuesday with officials with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as well as the DOE. Though the financial watchdog agency lacks direct regulatory authority over the DOE, it has expressed general concern about unjust financial practices that have fueled the for-profit college model.

CFPB's student loan ombudsperson Rohit Chopra has written to the strikers, stating that the CFPB would like to discuss potential "ways to address the burden of their student loans."

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Strike 3:

The Debt Collective has initiated another tactic against Corinthian: a legal manuever called Defense to Repayment. This involves asserting fraudulent representations on the part of Corinthian representatives as they convinced people to sign up and take on student loans, legally rendering the debt so incurred dischargable without payment.  Tomorrow (March 31st) they will be sending hundreds of Debt to Repayment demand letters to the appropriate state officials on behalf of Corinthian students and former students, some debt strikers, others not.

Under a little-known regulation called the Defense of Repayment law, students are eligible for a full discharge on their loans and refund of money paid if the schools they attended have violated state consumer protection laws. To date, 300 people have filed Defense of Repayment forms under the Debt Collective banner, which will be turned into the Department of Education in advance of the strikers’ meeting on Tuesday. The department will have 30 days to respond.
Those exploited by Corinthian's tactics (attendees of Everest, Heald and Wytech colleges) can fill out a form to create a Defense to Repayment letter courtesy of the Debt Collective.   

These are tactics in an overarching battle against all student debt, and even more generally, against all unjust debts.

The central principle is that if you want to pursue a higher education, you should owe nothing to anyone. The education-debt crisis reflects the financialization of the education system - whether through usurious for-profit institutions, or high-risk private student loans that finance both public and private schools, or the student loan industry in general. The push to marketize college not only drains resources from public institutions and core instructional programs, but also potentially hampers long-term social mobility for lower-income students.
Strike Debt has calculated how costly it would be to make all higher public education free (answer: almost nothing per year, when looked at as a fraction - 0.3 percent - of the Federal budget).

Many countries have made their higher education free. Student debt in the United States has reached epic proportions, and it is both ridiculous as a concept and a drag on the economy.  

It should be abolished, and the first step in doing so is fighting back. May the Corinthian 100 grow into the Debt Strike 1,000,000!


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