Social Justice and Struggle in Lebanon and Syria: Joey Ayoub and Leila Al-Shami
This week on The Final Straw we’re featuring a chat with Joey Ayoub and Leila Al-Shami. In this conversation, Joey tells us of some of the history of Lebanon, since the civil war that ended in 1990 and up to the current demonstrations against the clientelist warlords in power in that country. Intertwined with this, Leila speaks about the sparking of the resistance to Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, the tumult of the civil war, and the state of anti-authoritarian and social justice organizing and media work in that country. Then the two talk about the experience of countering disinformation, conspiracy thinking and poor solidarity in the so-called Left in the West and ways to combat ignorance.
This is another long conversation, covering a lot of the last 30 years in these two neighboring nations. The guests proposed speaking about the interrelations across that border because of the similarities, differences, and shared experiences between the two places. Lebanon has Syrian refugees, it was occupied by Syria until 2005. Both spaces share Palestinian refugees, experienced war with Israel, are politically influenced from Hezbollah, mostly speak Arabic and even the flames of the recent wildfires that ignited anti-regime sentiment in Lebanon last fall crossed the border between Lebanon and Syria. We hope to have future chats that play with borders in this way to explore ways we can bridge these borders in our understanding in hopes of increased solidarity.
Lebanese Protests of 2015 & 2019 [00:21:35 – 00:31:40]
Syrian Revolution to Civil War [00:31:40 – 00:41:34]
Current Social Justice Struggle in Syria [00:41:46 – 00:45:56]
Daesh / ISIS and Syrian Civil War [00:45:56 – 00:49:56]
Solidarity with Syrians in Lebanese Protests [00:49:56 – 01:05:38]
Leila on Tahrir-ICN [01:05:50 – 01:09:18]
Educating Ourselves on Syria and Lebanon [01:09:18 – 01:23:07]
White Helmets and other Conspiracy Theories [01:23:07 – 01:32:59]
Syrian Diaspora and Western Left [01:32:59 – 01:37:19]
Rojava and the Syrian Revolution [01:37:19 – 01:41:56]
Better Practice in Solidarity with people in Syria and Lebanon [01:41:56 – 01:53:38]
Michael Kimble Benefit
Last week we announced a fundraiser for Michael Kimble. Because of issues with the platforms, the fundraiser for Michael Kimble’s legal benefit to help raise money for his fight to get him released from prison has been moved. Now you can find it at ActionNetwork.org/Fundraising/Support-Michael-Kimble . Because the fundraiser had to be moved a couple of times, some of the initial push to get word out and initial donations may be irreplaceable. So, folks are asking for an extra push to help rasie this money to get our comrade out and organizing on the outside after 33 years behind bars.
BADNews February 2020 (#31)
This month, the A-Radio Network released it’s monthly, international English-language podcast featuring voices from anarchist and anti-authoritarian radio shows, pirate stations and podcasts from around the world. The episode is up at A-Radio-Network.org by clicking the B(A)DNews. If you’re interested in joining the network or learning more, info’s up on that site.
This week, we have two portions to the show. First, we catch up with Mitch from Red Strings and Maroons podcast about some of what they saw at the A2 rally in Richmond on January 20th, about antifascist intervention and the effectiveness of intervening to call out white nationalists in gun advocacy spaces. More of their work available at RedStringsAndMaroons.com.
Then, we spend the remainder of the show speaking with Alexander Reid Ross. Alexander is a PhD candidate in Portland State University’s Earth, Environment, Society Program, a Doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, and the author of “Against The Fascist Creep”, which you can get from AK Press or our affiliate Firestorm Books!
For the remainder of the episode we speak about conspiracy theories, how they wind their way into some leftist approaches to critique, bleed-over between left and right anti-establishment critiques and media that hold a pro-Kremlin position, the ideas of Alexander Dugin, ways of combating disinformation and some of it’s sources. More of his writings and interviews can be found at AlexanderReidRoss.net and this article that we reference a bit is called “Fooling The Nation: Extremism and the Pro-Russia Disinformation Ecosystem”.
This week we are presenting a special guest interview, done by Scott who is an anarchist academic and regular listener, with Eli Meyerhoff about his book “Beyond Education: Radical Studying for Another World”. In this book, Meyerhoff “traces how key elements of education emerged from histories of struggles in opposition to alternative modes of study bound up with different modes of world-making. Taking inspiration from Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Indigenous resurgence projects, he charts a new course for movements within, against, and beyond the university as we know it.” and this quote is from the University of Minnesota webpage, who also published his book.
I found this interview really thought provoking and well crafted, it brought up a lot of issues I hadn’t really thought of in such terms, specifically about the historical and colonial construction of what we think of today as education. In this interview, Scott and Eli talk about his book, the vast terrain that the book covers, experiences in academia when one is operating as politically radical, and some alternatives to education that we can see and experience in the world around us.
Humor, Shaming and Yelling At Racist Dogs w Tom Tanuki
On the show this week, Bursts spoke with Tom Tanuki, front man of the group Yelling At Racist Dogs (Y.A.R.D.), a performance anti-fascist group that directs insulting yells at far-right, xenophobic events and speakers. For the hour we talk some about Tom’s background, the landscape of far-right politics in Australia and the place of humor and public shaming in confronting racist public figures in the work that Tom and his comrades do. You can follow Tom on twitter at the handle @tom_tanuki, on instagram at the same handle minus the underscore (@tomtanuki), and on fedbook by finding Yelling At Racist Dogs. And you can find the shirts Tom talks about at their bigcartel page.
[Sean Swain at 2min 53sec, Tom Tanuki at 11min 23sec]
We stole this picture from Subversion1312’s interview with Tom. A couple of the resources that Tom references at the end of the interview are Blackfulla Revolution and Black Feminist Ranter by Celeste Liddle, both pages on fedbook, and the book on Australian history he suggests is called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode where we share my interview with Andy Fleming, the maniac behind SlackBastard, an exhaustive commentary on the far right in Australia (as well as the tankie left and Andy’s thoughts about anarchism, antifa and more) up at slackbastard.anarchobase.com.
May Day in Asheville
If you’re in Asheville this May 1st, Wednesday, there’re a few events we’re happy to share. At 10 am there’s a rad families meetup at Vermont Ave playground at the West Asheville Park. Buncombe County schools are closed due to call ins by teachers as a part of the organizing wave known as Red4Ed and there’ll be a large march and rally in Raleigh, the state capital. For those unable to make it, there’s an 11am rally by teachers at the Vance monument downtown. Festivities begin at 3pm at the park on Vermont Ave with a roving bike ride, with some bikes provided. This’ll be followed at 4:30pm by a game of kickball and at 6pm, a short parade will commence from 644 Haywood Rd complete with a marching band. At 7:30 there’ll be a potluck with free vegan and gluten-free options and, finally, a public showing of the working class-ic, “9-5”, featuring Dolly Parton. More info by visiting https://tfsr.wtf/avlmayday
This week on the show we feature two interviews. The first is with a volunteer at the Steady Collective, a group that self-describes as “ dedicated to promoting the wellness of people who use drugs through empowerment and respectful collaboration. Our goal is to improve overall community health by reducing the rate of drug overdose and the spread of infectious disease with education, advocacy, and direct services. “ Their ability to operate a harm reduction program around needle exchange and narcan distribution to stop overdoses in the midst of the #opiodCrisis in Appalachia is being threatened by the city of Asheville. Here’s the website for 12 Baskets, the food distribution program out of Kairos West.
Then I spoke with Mary Ratcliff, the editor of 27 years of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, with a print distribution of 20,000 copies around the U.S., including thousands behind bars. For the hour, Mary talks about the history of the paper, it’s relationship with prisoners and prison struggles and the difficulties faced by the poor and populations of color in white supremacist capitalism in the so-called U.S.
A12 in D.C., Cville & Boston
Last weekend witnessed far right, nazi-affiliated, sexist, homophobe rallies in Portland and Berkeley, which I’m sure folks are aware of. Patriot Prayer and Proud Boy goons schlepped their way out from under rocks in their goofy-ass larping costumes to spit their deranged and hateful screeds and threaten and attack counter-demonstrators where they could. And the police helped by holding back and assaulting the anti-racists at both events with pepper spray, batons, tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as legal charges. Big ups to the brave folks who came out to stem the tide of hate on the West coast, and also a big a thanks to the comrades who came out in Providence, R.I. where they were able to shut that crap down real fast.
This weekend the year anniversary of the August 11th Torch Rally and August 12th Unite The Right Rally in Charlottesville approaches. On Sunday, August 12th in Cville there’s a day of events of remembrance and mourning starting at 9am in Washington Park. The police presence has been shown to be huge in the runup to this weekend with Martial Law and States of Emergency declared by local and state officials, leave for police being suspended, and swaths of the city shut down and blockaded. Follow #AllOutCville for updates. In Washington, D.C., haters are trying to put on a second UTR to draw their morons in swastika and Pinochet shirts and confederate bafoons into the streets. Information about what’s happening and how to congregate against it can be found at https://shutitdowndc.org/ . And check out the ItsGoingDown’s “This Is America #24” for voices from the ground in DC & Cville.
On August 15th in Boston there is planned a Town Hall Meeting at the Arlington St Church in preparation for the counter-demonstration on August 18th at the MA State House to shut down the far-right hate front group, “Resist Marxism”. More info at http://bit.ly/fight-right-boston
Be safe out there, cops and klan go hand in hand. Bring water, watch out for your friends, don’t leave alone.
Worker’s Assembly Asheville
On Monday, August 20th at 6pm and every 3rd Monday of the month, the Asheville IWW is hosting a service industry workers assembly at Kairos West. If you work in food serice, retail, hospitality, breweries, or other service industries and don’t have the right to hire or fire, come by and join the discussion on issues facing your ilk including wages and hours, but also issues such as racism and gendered violence that workers face in and outside of their workplaces. The discussions are aimed at creating direct action solutions and creating class solidarity. To hear about their first Assembly, check out our interview on the topic.
Reminder on upcoming #August21
A few CZN member projects have been producing content specific to supporting and understanding the Nationwide Prison Strike. You can find great, related content to enjoy and share by ItsGoingDown podcast, Kiteline Radio & Rustbelt Abolition Radio. Links are in our notes to those recent episodes. Also, visit incarceratedworkers.org for the new and very shareable video breaking down IWOC’s role in the strike and reasons to support #August21.
If you appreciate this podcast and the voices that we bring to you each and every week (at least once), please consider a one-time or recurring donation via paypal or liberapay. You can also subscribe to recurring donations to us at patreon.com/tfsr and get some pretty sweet swag. If you want one of the shirts or mixtapes or sticker and button packs we offer to patreon supporters but can’t afford a monthly donation, drop us an email and we’ll work something out.
This week we feature two segments. The first is a roundtable discussion with producers from various audio projects around North America that focus on prisoner struggles and amplifying incarcerated voices. In the chat you’ll hear from me, two producers of The Prison Radio show on CFRC radio in Kingston, Ontario, a producer of the Prison Radio Show on CKUT from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and a producer of the June11 audio series released this last year and revving to mark the day in solidarity with Marius Mason and other long term anarchist and ecological prisoners.
Follow-Up with Walid Zazai on Manus Island
The second conversation is an update from Walid Zazai, the 24 year old Afghani man being held on Manus Island off of the coast of Papua New Guinea. Walid has been in detention for 4 years now awaiting resettlement at the pleasure of the government of Australia. We spoke with Walid two weeks ago after the Manus Regional Processing Centre in which he was living had been closed and he and roughly 450 other refugees stayed in protest of their longtime lack of freedom of movement and the violence they feared from PNG security forces and locals on the island. More coverage of the struggle immigrants against the Australian border authorities and other updates from the Oceania can be found on the long running Anarchist radio show based there, Subversion1312. Subversion1312 is also a recently added member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts.
Now For Some Fun Events
If you’re in the Asheville area today (December 3rd 2017), at 5pm at Firestorm Books and Coffee, Blue Ridge ABC will be hosting it’s monthly letter writing session, where you can swing by, find out about political prisoners in the U.S., write to some with upcoming birthdays and meet other local radicals. After that, tonight at 8pm at the Lazy Diamond, 98-A, North Lexington Ave in downtown Asheville, comrades will be hosting a Radical Trivia night to benefit the 2nd Asheville Carolina Anarchist Bookfair, or ACAB2018, planned for this summer. Alone or in teams, you are invited to test your wits on subjects of Black Liberation, Anarchist History, Queer Resistance and more. A cash prize will go to the winning team or individual.
This week on The Final Straw, we’re featuring an interview produced by comrades from Anarchistisches Radio Berlin with Elisa. Elisa has been involved in the anarchist movement for a long time and is one of the co-founders of the Brazilian Indymedia. Which in turn is one of the earliest counter information projects using the name and mode of Indymedia. In the conversation they talk about the political developments in Brazil of the last years as well as how the autonomous movements have been reacting to them. More audio from A-Radio Berlin can be found at aradio.blogsport.de. A-Radio Berlin is a member of the International Anarchist Radio Network that produces B(A)D News: Angry Voices from Around The World, a monthly English-language bulletin from many radio projects around the world.
This conversation we’re airing was recorded in July of 2017. We air this audio in the wake of the German government raiding and shutting down the website, linksunten.indymedia.org, allegedly for being infrastructure used in the organizing of the G20 Hamburg protests and other mass mobilizations and direct actions. Autonomous media is super important, and we suggest you check out the crimethinc article on the subject.
On the subject of autonomous and anarchist media initiatives, A-Radio Berlin is also a member of the Channel Zero Network of English-language anarchist radio and podcast projects. Along these lines, we also want to share the following jingle for Rustbelt Abolition Radio, another member of CZN. Check out our 24/7 audio stream at channelzeronetwork.com
Stay Safe Berkley!
Firstly, much love and solidarity to those fighting nazis in Berkley today. We are thinking of you here. Stay safe out there!
Benefit for grand jury resistor Katie Yow
On Tuesday August 29th at the Double Crown there will be a benefit show, bbq, and cake auction for grand jury resistor Katie Yow! BBQ sandwiches start at 6pm, with vegan and non vegan options for all you cats, with a cake auction to follow! Then music will commence with Bob Boob, Nomadic War Machine, Wyatt Yurth and the Gold Standard, Snake Musk, and Darien! All proceeds will benefit our brave comrade fighting state oppression and putting her safety and freedom on the line by doing so.
Comedy Show to benefit J20 Arrestees
And also, because Asheville loves a benefit show, there will be a night of laughs and comedy at the Mothlight on Monday September 4th at 9pm!
This event is described as:
“An evening of comedy by some of #Asheville’s leading comedians: Minori Hinds, Kelly Morgan, Moira Goree & Dana Williams!
9pm, Labor Day 2017 at The Mothlight in West Asheville
The proceeds will go to help cover legal and travel costs for defendants from the mass arrest at the protests against Donald Trumps inauguration in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2017. More info on the case at http://defendj20resistance.org/”
Here is an announcement on behalf of Joshua Zero Cartrette, who is an incarcerated member of IWOC and an anarchist. From his support page:
“After years of struggling behind bars for prison abolition and against white supremacy Joshua Zero Cartrette will be returning to the community sometime in the next few weeks! But the struggle continues! Let’s make sure our comrade who has been so important in the fight against white supremacy and the prison industrial complex in Oregon has the chance they deserve to build a life beyond prison walls!
While incarcerated, Josh was an active member of the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and the founding member of the Anarchist Black Cross Oregon Prison Chapter.
Over the years Josh encouraged dozens of Prisoners around the state of Oregon to contribute to the Oregon Prisoner Forum – a monthly newsletter that circulates articles and information from incarcerated peoples – which he also founded. (Read about that here). Josh also became an outspoken anti-racist and spent years mentoring incarcerated youth to escape the trappings of the white supremacist movement. For his organizing, he was repeatedly targeted by organized white supremacist gangs with death threats, forcing him to spend much of his time in protected custody.
Across the state Josh was able to form several study groups that provided both basic civil rights education as well as more in-depth political analysis for prisoners. Josh’s educational work has empowered prisoners from across the state to take steps towards self advocacy and to take a stand to improve the deplorable conditions they are subjected to – the 2016 prisoner work strike at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution being just one example (read more here).
On September 9th 2016 prisoners across the country self-organized to take a historic stand against prison slavery and its continuation of institutionalized white supremacy and genocide. Oregon joined other states across the country in the wave of resistance that worked its way into institution after institution.
As a result of the subsequent wave of repression across the country, Josh was subjected to over 6 months of solitary confinement (a punitive practice considered across the world to be a form of torture) when prison officials found him to be working to “orchestrate Oregon prison inmates to become involved in a massive prison work stoppage in all institutions” where the “purpose of these prison work stoppage was to shut down the daily operations of the institutions based on the inmate’s perception that institutions utilize inmate labor for capitalist needs”. (See Joshes Report back and the ODOC official Misconduct Report here)
White supremacists openly organize, fascist violence creeps back into the commonplace and the reactionaries are all abuzz – in this age, we have an obligation to support those who contest the fascist creep in the belly of the beast, where it festers and finds its most fertile recruiting grounds. Not only does the prison industrial complex act not only as a coercive and disciplinary institution created to enact and “legitimize” violence against marginalized communities, it serves as an incubation chamber for supremacist ideology and street violence by routinely allowing open white supremacist gangs to promote their toxic ideas, thus recruit more henchman and build lucrative criminal syndicate networks – within and outside its walls.
The severity of racism in Oregon prisons was expressed by the all afrikan revolutionary Rashid Johnson while incarcerated in Oregon in 2011,
“while the mainstream postures to project racism as a thing of the past, its rabid forms persist. Which I found upon my imprisonment in Oregon, where in contrast to most everywhere else in Amerika, the prison population is overwhelmingly white and thus feels no compulsion to conceal its bigotry. Security in numbers.
…despite the delusions of many, is the level of civilization in Amerika, which one sees reflected in Oregon prisons, where a rabid racist culture parades openly stripped of pretense and lying in wait for the moment it can be given free violent expression.”
To bring down the walls of racism and fascism we must begin by bringing down the prison walls.
Anti-racists and anti-fascists have an obligation to support those on the inside –the ones engaged in a life or death battle against these forces – and to welcome back our comrades when they re-enter our communities.
Support your fellow worker, fellow anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anarchist Joshua Ames Cartrette! We are asking folks across the country to consider throwing a benefit show or a letter writing night to incarcerated anti-racists and to donate some funds to Josh’s re-entry. Help him get his life off the ground once again and continue the work that he once began in prison.
The funds will be used to help josh find a new place to live and with all of the associated move in costs and to provide him time to look for work and to recover from the traumatic experience of incarceration.”
This week we are rebroadcasting an interview with Peter Werbe of Fifth Estate magazine, which originally aired in February 2015. Fifth Estate is an “anarchist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-profit project” which is published cooperatively three times a year, and this year marks its 50th year of publication. The magazine tackles current events, issues, theory, and praxis which would be of interest to an anarchist audience. To find out more about this project, and to subscribe, you can visit http://www.fifthestate.org
In this interview we talk about the magazine’s historical trajectory, from its inception in 1965 as a weekly, less political periodical, to its takeover by anarchists in 1975, to what it is today. They talk about the Eat The Rich Gang and its associations with Fifth Estate magazine, as well as directions the project could take. For more on Peter Werbe’s radio work, you can visit http://www.peterwerbe.com
Nina Chaubal Needs Help
The founder of the crisis hotline Trans Lifeline is being detained by immigration authorities in Arizona after being stopped while driving home to Chicago.
Nina Chaubal, 25, an India-born Chicagoan and the co-founder of Trans Lifeline (a San Francisco-based non-profit), was driving to Chicago from California on Interstate-8 with her wife and two friends when the group encountered an immigration checkpoint in Arizona on Wednesday. There, officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained Chaubal and demanded she show them her passport (Chaubal was carrying her Illinois drivers license at the time, but not her passport, because she was traveling through the United States and not crossing international borders, so she provided ICE with a photo of her passport) and that she provide proof that she is married to a U.S. citizen. They then took her into custody after learning that her gender identity did not match the gender listed on her Indian passport and that she was in the country on an expired work visa.
Chaubal’s family and friends are urging ICE to release Chaubal, who has been held since Wednesday by ICE in two Arizona immigration detention facilities. She is currently being held at Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona—a privately operated prison with a disturbing reputation for violence against LGBT detainees.
Chaubal’s wife is pushing to have her released—reasoning that the well-known activist and non-profit founder should not be imprisoned and is not a flight risk—or at least transferred to another detention center with a better track record for treating LGBT people. She is also urging friends, family and supporters to help amplify her voice by contacting ICE with these requests.
To hear more about this situation, and to contact ICE in various ways about their treatment of Nina Chaubal, you can visit the website http://messica.codes/freenina/
On Jan 5th, 2017, The Odditorium in Asheville will be hosting a benefit concert for the newly-formed Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross starting at 9pm. Come early for a Security Culture 101/201 training where folks’ll talk about things you need to keep your community safe.
The lineup includes: Secret Shame, Nomadic War Machine, Kangarot & Cloudgayzer
–Before this event, don’t miss the Anarchist Bookfair Planning and Info Session at Firestorm from 8-9:30pm on the 5th for Asheville’s first ever anarchist book fair in the summer of 2017! Come share ideas for what you would like to see at this event and for ways on how to get involved.
The Trump Era: An Anarchist Viewpoint
And on Tuesday January 10th from 7-9pm at Firestorm Books and Coffee, there will be a presentation entitled Preparing for the Trump Era: An Anarchist Viewpoint. In this talk, the presenters will address various questions such as how did Trump come to power, and what does that tell us about the era we are entering? They will go on to discuss what strategies might be effective in countering repressive government policies and the rise of grassroots nationalism.
This week we are airing two short interviews, the first is with an anarchist legal worker who has been participating in resistance at Standing Rock in so called North Dakota. This interview is specifically about the grand jury summons which was recently served to someone who was struggling at Standing Rock, we speak about what a grand jury is and how people might resist them, also a bit about what it means for this movement to have a grand jury subpoena occur at this moment.
Scott Campbell on upcoming tour of Mexico with It’s Going Down
The next interview we will present is a conversation with Scott Campbell who writes the Insumisión column for itsgoingdown.org. Insumisión is a semi regular publication which aims to highlight anarchistic and anarchist struggles and news all around Mexico. Scott and members of IGD are in the process of launching an information gathering and affinity building tour around Mexico in early next year. In this interview we talk about Insumisión and what inspired it, as well as some of the strategies and influences both North American and Mexican struggle can take from one another, among other topics. To read Insumisión and for a write up about the upcoming tour, you can visit https://itsgoingdown.org/insumision/. To donate to the tour and to see a write up about it, you can visit the rally dot org website https://rally.org/igd-mexico
“[This project] is an international watchdog against state sponsored repression. It is the project of a small collective of volunteers in the U.S. and Mexico. We publish and translate communiqués, articles, and other media by, about, and for social movements. Our primary focus is on indigenous peoples, women, and youth, in both urban and rural communities in Oaxaca, but we also publish about other struggles against neoliberalism throughout Mexico”.
A quick shoutout of thanks to KFED for the lovely new image for the series podcast. Much appreciated!
Since the time that this episode of the Final Straw podcast was recorded, Steve Martinez, a Water Protector and grand jury resistor appeared at the U.S. District Court in Bismarck, North Dakota. On January 4th, 2017 Steve gave a statement outside the courthouse amidst dozens of other Water Protectors who braved the single digit temperatures to stand in solidarity.
My name is Steve Martinez. I have been subpoenaed to this federal grand jury. I refuse to cooperate with these proceedings on the grounds of not helping opposition towards water protectors. I will in no way condone or cooperate with this attempt to repress the movement here at Standing Rock. I know that by refusing to cooperate I will most likely be incarcerated. The loss of my own freedom is a small price to pay for keeping my dignity and standing up for what is right- the defense of the earth and all that is sacred. Mni Wiconi!
The motion to quash the subpoena was denied by the federal judge and a new subpoena was issued by the U.S. Attorney demanding that Steve appear on February 1st, 2017 in Bismarck.
What we know about grand juries is that they have a long history of being used to target those in resistance to the state and engaged in political or revolutionary movements. The purpose of this grand jury and all grand juries that target revolutionary people and communities is to cause division, manufacture prisoners of war, and create paranoia or suspicion amongst comrades. We will not be intimidated and resistance to this is only strengthening our resolve to kill this black snake and all the others.
Water protectors stand in resistance to this grand jury and all tools of state repression, be it on the ground through Morton County’s violent tactics or in the shrouded secrecy of a grand jury courtroom. We will continue to build on the vibrancy of our resistance movement here at Standing Rock in order to destroy the pipeline, the grand jury and their world.
– Water Protector Anti-Repression Committee
TFSR: So we are here talking with an anarchist legal worker who has been participating in the Standing Rock resistance, and we’re here to talk about the grand jury subpoena, which recently came to a Water Protector at
Standing Rock. Would you briefly explain what a grand jury is for those listeners who don’t know and how they have historically been used to divide and subdue radical movements?
Standing Rock: So what a grand jury is is a federal proceeding and it’s intended to produce a federal felony indictment. So in order for a felony indictment to happen, there has to be some process, and it’s typically a grand jury process, that determines whether there’s enough evidence to proceed with a federal indictment and formal charges. And while grand juries are used as a way for U.S. attorneys to produce indictments for a wide array of things, they are especially used as a tool of repression towards political movements, resistance movements, and have a long history of that, going back to the origins of grand juries, which are a holdover from British legal proceedings. So it goes back a really long way, but most recently people have memories of their use around political resistance movements, like the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement, even more recently
earth and animal liberation movements.
TFSR: Gotcha. And I think that we can remember people like Jerry Koch who got sent to prison for nine months for doing grand jury resistance in response to a bombing that happened in Times Square in New York City. I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about what the specifics of grand juries tend to look like on the ground, or how participants of grand juries, what people have to go through if they are subpoenaed for a grand jury.
So the first step that typically happens when somebody’s called to be a witness at a grand jury, or provide testimony or physical evidence, is that you would be served a subpoena by a federal agent. So in the case of Water Protectors at Standing Rock, a federal agent could be an agent from B.I.A. (or Bureau of Indian Affairs), which is a federal policing force, but often times it would be an F.B.I. agent or even a U.S. Marshall who might serve you the subpoena. And then what that means is that you’re required to attend the grand jury and provide information to them. So at a grand jury, they’re unlike any other court proceeding, where normally there’s a judge in the courtroom and you’re allowed to have your own legal council present with you at a legal proceeding. But at a grand jury, there’s no judge in the courtroom, the courtroom really belongs to the U.S. attorney and the
prosecutor. And you are the person who’s been called to the grand jury, you don’t know for sure why you’ve been called because they operate in almost total secrecy. You don’t know if you’ve been called just as a witness, you don’t know if you’re the target, or the person that they are
potentially trying to indict. And so you’re also not allowed to have your legal council in the room with you. You can, and you really should, obtain legal council if you’ve been subpoenaed to a grand jury, because they can provide you support in the process of resisting a grand jury.
So once you’ve been served and you’re required to go to the grand jury, you have a few options as a person who is working to resist the grand jury. Your first option is that you can just ghost. That’s a really hard option for most people because it means you can’t talk to your friends, your loved ones, your family, your comrades, it means you can’t go to the normal places that you go to. It means that you probably need to leave your hometown, or maybe even the country as a whole. And some people have done that, andthe people have done that have had very difficult experiences. It also puts you at risk still of being in contempt of court and my understanding is that if you just ghost after you’ve received a subpoena, that the contempt can turn into a criminal contempt versus a civil contempt, which I’ll explain a little bit as well.
And so your other option would be, well basically some people have never walked into a grand jury room. They would just show up, hold a press conference with all their friends, loved ones, comrades, and legal council and read a statement in front of the courthouse, or in front of the grand jury room, and that says “We’re never gonna talk to you. I stand in solidarity with my community and this is a tool of repression, and I’m part of a impenetrable wall of silence.” And people have certainly taken that tactic.
Another tactic that people used to resist a grand jury, if they’ve been called to testify, would be to enter the grand jury room and provide only their name. And then any question that they’re asked after giving their name to the U.S. attorney, they would invoke their 5th amendment right, which is their right to not say anything that would incriminate yourself. What happens typically though, is that a prosecutor then says, “Okay we get it, you’re using your 5th amendment right.” And then they might let you go for the day, or they might right on the spot go have a hearing with a judge in another room, and at that hearing the judge would almost certainly impose on you immunity. And I say impose because a lot of people have the idea that immunity would be a good thing, right? That they can’t say
the things that you’re saying in the testimony against yourself, but the thing is they can still use it against your friends, they can still use it against the movement as a whole, they can still use it against all kinds of people,
you might not be aware of how they would use it.
And so then once you’ve had immunity imposed on you, you’re no longer allowed to invoke your 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. And so when you refuse to answer questions, then the U.S. attorney is going to say, “Okay I get it, you’re not going to answer any of my questions.” They’re going to have another hearing with a judge. And that hearing is a civil contempt hearing. Which is not a criminal proceeding, it’s a civil proceeding. And what grand juries do is if you refuse to cooperate, they
try to coerce your cooperation out of you. And if you’re charged with civil contempt in that hearing, then they can incarcerate you for up to the length of the grand jury.
Like you mentioned before with Jerry out in New York, he was incarcerated for around nine months. People in the Pacific Northwest who were resisting a grand jury in 2012 were incarcerated for around four-to-six months, and that’s a coercive incarceration that’s meant to pull testimony out of you. But they’re not allowed to punitively incarcerate you, which is like all semantics right? We all know that all incarceration is punitive. It’s all meant to punish us for something. But they’re using tricky legal language, so that it’s not punitive, “It’s just coercive, we’re just trying to torture all of your testimony out of you by incarcerating you and removing you from your community and your loved ones.”
But, because people have used this tactic of being really public and saying that not only are they not personally going to cooperate, and they personally have put up a wall of silence, but also that they’re whole community is in a silent resistance to this grand jury. Then that can be used as evidence further that you’re not ever going to cooperate, and something then that can happen is called a grumbles motion, which is a fantastic name and it’s actually named for people who were a married couple who resisted a grand jury, it has a really beautiful history of it’s own.
A grumbles motion can be filed by your council, by your attorney, and it’s basically saying “This person has made it evident and clear that they’re not going to cooperate with this grand jury, and this incarceration has gone from coercive to punitive.” Which is illegal for a civil proceeding, which is what that is, it’s a civil contempt charge. And so that’s how Jerry was able to get out of coercive incarceration, and that’s how many other people have been able to do that. But I think it also really ties into this public display, community-wide, nationally, even internationally, that people have taken up around grand jury resistance, especially in this last decade, of being really firm and open from the onset, from the moment they receive a subpoena, instead of being quiet as a community which is what the feds hope will happen. That you get scared and that you self-isolate. But instead, build your own vibrancy in our communities of resistance and that same loving solidarity that we have, we continue that as a way of resisting.
TFSR: Yeah, like you said it seems like so many things in the legal system, this just seems like a pretty diabolical framework for doing this sort of thing and I think that like so many things, the success of it just rides on isolation,it rides on personal despair or being worn down. And it seems really interesting to me, and really telling, this grand jury subpoena has come pretty hot on the heels of the supposed easement of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I was wondering if you would speak about the timing of this
grand jury subpoena.
SR: I think it’s smart for us to be looking at the whole picture like that. You know on November 20th there was a battle, a kind of stand off, at the backwater bridge, which is just on the North end of the Oceti Sakowin Camp, there
at Standing Rock, which is the Northern camp, which originally had been an overflow camp for Sacred Stone and Rosebud on the reservation side. And that battle that happened on November 20th, which a lot of people have now burned into their memory, not just across the so-called U.S. but really across the world because of the use of water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures by Morton County Sheriffs. There was also a young woman, Sophia Wilansky, whose arm was horrifically injured, and another woman named Vanessa who might lose her eye due to the insane force that was used by Morton County. So just a little more than a week, a week and a half later, is when this grand jury was convened. And what we know from
on the ground is that those things that happened on November 20th on that bridge, what happened to Sophia Wilansky, we know that Morton County Sheriffs were already trying to victim blame her, saying that somehow she had blown her own arm off. I personally was on that bridge and I can tell you that no one was blowing their own arms off there. What I saw was people who were not, it wasn’t even street fighting in that setting, it was really just people who are so incredibly frustrated and incredibly broken at the continued horrific use of colonial forces in their territories and in their homelands. And I saw a lot of young indigenous people who were just trying to turn that knob on the pressure valve and let some pressure off of them. It’s not just been building for the last month at Standing Rock, but really people are letting the pressure off of ancestral trauma that goes back more than five hundred years. And I think all of that context is really
important when we’re looking at this grand jury situation as well. What we know about this grand jury is that it has something to do with, at least in part, with what happened on the bridge on November 20th. And we know so far that they are looking at potentially eco-terrorism that’s taking
place at Standing Rock, which isn’t taking place. The only terrorism that’s taking place is the terrorism of the state.
The person who received this first subpoena, we believe has been targeted because of their close proximity to Sophia Wilansky. This is a person who helped to transport Sophia when her arm was injured and get her to medical care. And so there’s very little information that any body has right now about what exactly this grand jury is trying to put together information-wise. But at the end of the day, we don’t need to know for sure. We know it’s being used as a tool to repress the work that’s happening with water
protectors at Standing Rock, and potentially to connect it to other resistance movements to extraction and environmental terrorism that’s happening at the hands of capital and the state.
And that first subpoena was received a day before that announcement from the Army Corps (of Engineers) about the easement. And I don’t think that the timing is coincidental. I think the timing is probably pretty intentional. You had a lot of people distracted feeling like they won, and I don’t want to say that that was an entirely false victory, but it’s not a permanent victory. In the camp, when the announcement of the denial happened, and there were cheers, you know rippling throughout the camp for the entire day and night, people celebrating and feeling excited. And I do want to recognize that that only happened because of people’s collective power. The Army Corps didn’t deny the easement, the people who’ve been
fighting this pipeline denied the easement and will continue to deny it, and will continue to deny Dakota Access Pipeline and their ability to do what they’re doing.
I want to recognize that while that is a victory, it’s a victory of one battle in a long-game war. What’s happening is that the state, while people are distracted by the victory of that particular battle, are doing the backdoor dealing with the grand jury and that they’re trying to prey on people who
are in resistance to extraction and to the Dakota Access Pipeline, and really to colonialism in general, and imperialism in general. This is a movement about indigenous sovereignty, and not just about one pipeline. But I think that the timing is really purposeful, and this is also a movement where a lot of people are really new to being in resistance. A lot of people are really new to political and social organizing, and so what is important and the work that’s happening amongst legal workers and supporters at the camp right now is that because there’s so many new, fresh people, it’s also a ripe environment for the feds to prey on people who might not understand that
what feels like innocuous testimony they might give to a federal agent, in or out of a grand jury room, that information is never innocuous to the state. While it might seem like not a big deal to say that you ate dinner with so-and-so or yes once you had coffee with so-and-so, the state can then use that to socially map an entire movement of resistance, and that’s why people have really taken on this work, running full speed ahead, and moving as quickly and strategically as possible to disseminate the
information and make sure that people aren’t just distracted by the victory of one battle, because there’s a whole war that we’re trying to fight right now.
TFSR: I think that’s a fantastic point because I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about “Yay we won! We can go home now!” But I was wondering, maybe you’ve already answered this as much as you want to, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how real the easement is, or how permanent you think it is. Do you think that people will just come back and start building once the regime has flipped, or what are your thoughts on that?
SR: Things up there (at Standing Rock) are in a pretty delicate situation. The tribal government of Standing Rock and their chairman Dave Archambault, you know in the beginning he said that a re-route would never be a victory
of Standing Rock and for Sioux Nation, and the only victory would be a complete block of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Well now you have Dave Archambault, who came to the camp and drove around in his personal pick-up truck, announcing to people that they have won, and that people could return to their homes. And what is suspected to be happening with this denial of the easement by the Army Corps, they’re denying the easement in that spot at the Oahe Lake, which is actually just a lake that’s resulted
by the damming of the Missouri River, which is a whole other history that I encourage people to look into, the way that the Missouri River has been a point of struggle for the people at Standing Rock and the Sioux Nation for many, many years.
And so denying the easement in this one tiny spot on Lake Oahe on the Missouri River is not a victory, because we all, tens of millions of people, rely on the water from the Missouri River, the largest water basin in this region of the country. And putting the pipeline crossing of the Missouri
River twenty miles north or, forty miles north, is still going to result in the same risks for everybody who drinks that water and for all the people of Standing Rock, and for all the people of Sioux Nation. And so I think it’s important for people to be examining. You know, I’m an anarchist, I’malways examining the people who hold power, and I think my indigenous comrades who are up there, or who have been up there at Standing Rock, they also come from a perspective that somebody who is in tribal government, these are governments that mirror colonial government and colonial power. And so there’s something to question there. This isn’t the ways in which traditionally indigenous people of Sioux Nation would have governed themselves. And if we’re going to be talking about being in solidarity with indigenous sovereignty, then we as non-native people,
allies and accomplices to them, need to be following their lead, but we also need to be critical of whose lead we’re following and what kind of power those people are wielding.
But I think that there’s a lot of people who are not going home, and I think that’s really important to remind people right now, that there are hundreds and hundreds of people who will not be returning home. Over on the reservation side at Sacred Stone and Rosebud camp, there’s still around six hundred or more people on that side, at Oceti Sakowin which I believe has actually been renamed to Oceti Oyate, which that rename has come from the indigenous youth council and from this person Chase
Ironeyes who actually had run for U.S. Congress, he did not win, which I think is a good thing, so that he can stay in the community as opposed to ascending to actual power, but Chase Ironeyes is actually from Standing Rock. Him and his wife have been fighting this pipeline really along with the people, and he’s stepped into a real role of leadership that I think is a positive role of leadership. And he is encouraging people along with Ladonna Allard whose land Sacred Stone is on, is one of the founders of Sacred Stone Camp, are telling people to not go home, that people who are already there need to continue holding space, to continue to fight this pipeline, but also to continue to assert their indigenous sovereignty over
these lands that don’t belong to North Dakota and were never ceded by the people of Standing Rock and Sioux Nation.
TFSR: So earlier in the interview you spoke a lot about ways to resist grand juries; ghosting, press conferences and invoking the fifth amendment. Are there any other ways that you would recommend people fighting a grand jury scrutiny?
SR: Yeah, so the first thing, I said a little bit earlier, but I think it bears repeating, it’s scary when you are the person who receives a subpoena, and it’s meant to be scary, that’s the tool that the state is using, is to be the big scary,
secretive entity that intends to isolate you. So number one, reaching out to people and not staying silent I think is one of our strongest tools. And also, I think the grand jury that happened in the Pacific Northwest, the grand jury that happened with Jerry out in New York, I think those are really great recent examples, the grand jury with Carrie Feldman in Minnesota a few years ago as well, are really great examples of building not just localized community resistance, but really started reaching out through the
very vibrant national networks of anarchist, anti authoritarian and radical people. And so I think doing that as well, reaching out in through all the networks that we have, whether they’re political or personal networks, and
building these ways of resisting together.
Also the Water Protector Legal Collective and the National Lawyer’s Guild have a really strong presence up there at Standing Rock and they’re doing a lot of work in the camp and out of the camp to help mount resistance to this grand jury and offer the support necessary. So just as a heads’ up to any person who, because people who are possible targets for subpoenas for this grand jury, so many people have come and gone from Standing Rock, that you could be back home in Ohio and receive a subpoena. You don’t have to be at Standing Rock or in North Dakota or that region of the country to be subject to this risk, and I don’t say that to stoke any fear but just to be really honest with people, that you may have come and gone but this is still a possibility. So reaching out to the Water Protector Legal Collective as quickly as possible is really important because they’re able to offer legal council that could represent you through the grand jury process, they’re able to connect you to those networks of resistance that are already existing if you yourself aren’t already plugged into them.
Water Protector Legal Collective has a website which is waterprotectorlegal.org, but if you received a subpoena, you should call them immediately. Twenty-four hours a day they have a hotline, and the number is 605-519-8180.
And also, right now people who want to help support grand jury resistance, donating to the legal collective fund is especially helpful. Not only does that legal fund that exists through the Water Protector Legal Collective going towards supporting people’s criminal cases, it’s also going towards supporting the people who are up there doing legal work who’ve left their homes and their families back in their own communities and are up there doing that work. The amount of resource that’s necessary to help 571 people, and that number of people with criminal cases is growing, to help those people with their criminal cases, also fighting a grand jury, also trying to support the people who have given up their lives at home to be engaged in full-time legal support. So donations are vital and that is
a way that people at home and outside of Standing Rock can continue to support not just grand jury resistance but also all the people that are facing criminal charges as well.
TFSR: I was wondering, you mentioned looking into the cases of recent grand jury resistance as a way to be more informed, but are there any other resources for grand jury resistance that you would recommend to listeners?
SR: Yeah, so I would say one of my number one favorite spots for grand jury resistance information is there’s a lot of really great detailed information that’s available through the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, OR, and their website is cldc.org, and they have a number of resources that are available on there, both for a person or people in a community that are thinking about grand juries but also resources available for legal workers or attorneys about grand juries and how to fight them when they are being used against people of political or social resistance. Other good stuff that’s out there; crimethInc has some information, also the Midnight Special Law Collective has a grand jury training available on their website which is midnightspecial.net, and there’s also some really good history and information that’s available through the Freedom Archives. On the Freedom Archives, if you just search on there, which is freedomarchives.org; you can search “grand jury” or “grand jury repression” or things like that. There’s a lot of really good information on there, and there’s a lot of really good historical context about how grand juries have been used against people in social and political movements. People like the Puerto Rican Independinistas, people from the American Indian Movement, and the long history of grand jury use and FBI repression.
TFSR: Do you have anything else that you’d like to add?
SR: I think the only thing I would want to add is I think that there’s a lot of really exciting and beautiful and hopeful things that are coming out of this movement at Standing Rock. We’re seeing that spirit of resistance spread from Standing Rock Reservation, which probably most people had never heard of until a few months ago, but that’s spreading out not just across this country and continent but really globally, there’s global solidarity for this. And I think, I really want to drive home to people who are non-native people who are allies and accomplices to Indigenous people who are in this struggle, that part of what I feel like our responsibility is, we’re in solidarity
with Indigenous people who are fighting for sovereignty, that we not only be in solidarity with them on the frontlines, we not only be in solidarity with them in those kind of glamorous moments of resistance, but that we
be in continued solidarity with them when the repression, the inevitable repression comes raining down on those movements of resistance. And that we really take it very seriously that the grand jury, the feds, and local law enforcement, more importantly County law enforcement, that this isn’t something that’s just going to be happening in this next couple of months, that the repression that’s going to be coming against people who are in struggle for indigenous sovereignty over their lands, their water,
their communities, their spiritual practices, that this repression is going to last for a long time. I hope that non-native allies and accomplices are in it for the long haul as well.
This week, we air 2 interviews, one about the case of the Cleveland 4 and one with members of Unicorn Riot.
The Cleveland 4
Firstly, we speak with Amanda Shemkes. Amanda does legal support for members of the Cleveland 4. The Cleveland 4, or CLE4, are 4 anarchists who’re serving around a decade in Federal prisons in the U.S. on charges of terrorism. Back story is that Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Doug Wright, Joshua “Skelly” Stafford and Anthony Hayne (Anthony took a cooperating plea deal) were arrested on April 30th in 2012 for attempting to blow up a bridge with the provocation of an FBI informant named Shaquille Azir. The young anarchists had coalesced during Occupy Cleveland as a group after encamping together, being involved in food distribution and activism and were targeted and entrapped by Azir who escalated their talk of direct action to the bombing plot and provided them with work, housing, drugs, alcohol, access to (fake) explosives and more. Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Doug Wright and Skelly all received sentences of around a decade each with terrorism enhancements promising lifetime probation. Amanda talks about their case, their time inside, government attacks on social movements and how to support Brandon, Connor, Doug & Skelly, the Cleveland 4. More on their case can be found at http://cleveland4solidarity.org
Also of note, Connor Steven’s birthday is coming up on December 17th, so send him a bday card! Same day is Chelsae Manning’s bday, actually… on that note, why not visit PrisonBooks.Info to see political prisoner birthdays for this month and sign up to receive the monthly calendar that the Prison Books Collective puts out? No good reason, I reckon.
pt 2: Unicorn Riot
Following that, we speak with volunteers with the non-profit, radical media outlet Unicorn Riot. Founded in 2014, UR has expanded from it’s Minneapolis base to be present on the ground at struggles around the U.S. covering events as they unfold with the words of the people involved, documenting the brutality of the state’s reactions and bravery in the streets and the fields of those resisting. As a platform, UR distributes regular tv episodes, podcasts and features small news briefs as well as a presence on social media. UR’s coverage of the uprisings in Minneapolis around the killings and lack of justice in the killings of Jamar Clark & Philando Castille and more recently of the struggles of Water Defenders at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota have gone viral, increasing solidarity and pressed mainstream media outlets to expand their coverage of these violent government interventions. In this second half of the episode, the plucky media rebels share their views on activism and journalism, on media paradigms, their project and some of the resistance it’s participated in. http://www.unicornriot.ninja
Lots got trimmed from this episode due to time constraints, so check out that podcast version at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org
Patrick misspoke a couple of times during the interview that we didn’t catch. Corrections are: 1.) When describing the drone rules on Standing Rock, he meant to refer to no-fly rules from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and not the FCC (which oversees broadcast restrictions and allowances in the U.S.); 2.) When Patrick talks about Niko being flagged down by police to broadcast a police statement over Unicorn Riot, it was actually during the Justice for Jamar Clark struggle, not in the aftermath of the killing of Philando Castille.
Also, a real cool journalistic tool that the UR folks shared was this site, called MuckRock. Check it out!
This week Sean Swain shares his thoughts on Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution in light of Fidel’s death last week. More from Sean at http://seanswain.org
Asheville NoDAPL protest
Tomorrow, Monday December 5th in Asheville there’s a prayer and vigil in Soldarity with Standing Rock as regards the struggle to stop the expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline we’ll be talking about later in the episode. Folks are meeting at 6pm at Pack Square. Bring an offering.
Also, big ups to the folks who went out to face off the kkk motorcade on Saturday the 3rd in Danville, VA & Pelham, NC. This time the KKK got their own stabby after the fact.
Of note, our hearts here at the final straw go out to those suffering the devastating effects of the fire at the ghostship warehouse on Friday December 2nd during a 100% Silk party. According to the most recent KGO-7 news out of San Francisco at 2pm EST on Sunday the 4th of December, 24 victims have been found inside the warehouse. A list of missing people has been compiled in an article on heavy.com. Not all of those pictured are known to be among the victims of Friday’s fire. To donate to relief funds, visit youcaring.com.