Sacramento, CA —Three anti-fascist activists are accusing California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion” with white supremacists during their investigation of a rally that turned violent back in 2016, the Guardianreported Friday.
The activists, who attended the Sacramento rally to counter-protest the message of the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), the neo-Nazi group that organized the original event, were arrested and charged with felonies for their participation.
But the activists fired back this week, presenting documents to the judge they say provide evidence that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) worked hand-in-hand with the neo-Nazis in an effort to identify the counter-protesters.
Further, the defendants allege, the records reveal that investigators actually showed sympathy toward the white supremacists and worked to try to protect the identity of the TWP member who obtained the permit for the event.
“It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis,” Yvette Felarca, a teacher and one of the anti-fascist organizers, told the Guardian.
Felarca says during the clash that day in Sacramento she was stabbed in the arm and bludgeoned in the head, a wound that required more than 20 stitches. She says it took her weeks to fully recover.
“The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys,” she said.
Shanta Driver, one of Felarca’s attorneys, told the Guardian that the documents presented before the judge show a “textbook case of a political witch-hunt and selective prosecution.”
In one instance, the records reveal that in a phone call, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned Doug McCormack — the TWP member who obtained the rally permit — that the cops may have to release his name due to a public records request.
“I’m gonna suggest that we hold that or redact your name or something until this gets resolved,” Ayres told McCormack, adding that he wasn’t sure who had requested records of the permit. “If I did, I would tell you,” Ayres said.
Additionally, Ayres’ write-up about an African American activist — one who was stabbed in the chest, abdomen, and hand during the rally — raised alarms in the minds of the defendants and their attorneys.
Records show the man was treated more like a suspect than a victim, with Ayres recommending he be charged with 11 offenses, including unlawful assembly, conspiracy, assault, and wearing a mask to evade police.
To support his recommendation, Ayres provided Facebook photos of the man holding up his fist. Ayres claimed the man’s “Black Power salute” and his “support for anti-racist activism” demonstrated his “intent and motivation to violate the civil rights” of the neo-Nazis.
Documents also show that cops worked with TWP member Derik Punneo while trying to identify the anti-fascist activists. Audio recordings reveal that investigators brought photos to Punneo in jail after he was arrested on unrelated charges.
“We’re pretty much going after them,” officers told Punneo, assuring him that “we’re looking at you as a victim.”
Neither Punneo nor McCormack, as well as several other TWP-affiliated individuals who were involved with the rally, have been charged with any crimes.
In a response filed Thursday, prosecutors in the case state “every assertion” in the defendants’ motion to dismiss is “inaccurate or fabricated” and further accused the activists’ lawyers of using the filing to “make a political statement.”
As for the white supremacists themselves, prosecutors stated that “no one is beneath the protection of the law, no matter how repugnant his or her rhetoric or misguided his or her ideals.”
Washington, D.C. — Through a trio of search warrants, the Department of Justice (DoJ) isdemanding Facebook hand over the personal information of potentially 6,000 of its users, it was revealed Thursday.
According to CNN, which obtained court documents pertaining to the case, the DoJ warrantstarget the accounts of three “anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration’s policies.”
That description comes from the three users’ attorneys, CNN reports. It all stems fromarrests made in Washington, D.C. on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration back in January, following what the government claims were riots.
The warrants were served to Facebook in February, but a gag orderprevented the social media giant from alerting the three users to the government’s intentions until the order was lifted in mid-September.
Once alerted, the users contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which now represents them.
“What is particularly chilling about these warrants is that anti-administration political activists are going to have their political associations and views scrutinized by the very administration they are protesting,” the ACLU’s Scott MichelmantoldCNN.
One of the warrants is for Emmelia Talarico, who ran the disruptj20 page where much of the anti-Trump protesting was organized. The other two are for Facebook users Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour.
If Facebook complies with the DoJ’s reqest, it willmean the federal government will have access to the personal data — including private messages — of the nearly 6,000 users who simply “liked” the disruptj20 page.
In the ACLU’smotion to quash the warrants, filed with the D.C. Superior Court on Thursday, Michelman notes the type of data the government is seeking to obtain. From one of the warrants:
“All profile information; News Feed information; status updates; links to videos, photographs, or other web content; Notes; Wall postings; Comments; Friend lists, including the friends’ Facebook user ID numbers; groups and networks joined by the Account, including the Facebook group ID numbers; event postings; and pending and rejected ‘Friend’ requests.”
He sums it all up as such:
“In short, the warrants sought a complete record of anything the three users communicated or received from a third party via Facebook, everyone with whom the users associated via Facebook, and everything the users searched for on Facebook, during the specified time period.”
That time periodis from November of 2016, just before the presidential election, and February 9 of this year, when the warrants were served to Facebook.
In addition to what the ACLU sees as a clear violation of their clients’ First Amendment protections, Michelman warns in the motion of the precedent that would be set:
“Additionally, the enforcement of the warrants would chill future online communications of political activists and anyone who communicates with them, as they will learn from these searches that no Facebook privacy setting can protect them from government snooping on political and personal materials far removed from any proper law enforcement interest.”
The ACLU also argues that there are no safeguards in the warrants to protect the privacy of those who ultimately had nothing to do with those “riots” back in January. They assert that the DoJ’s action violates Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.
Facebook has yet to say whether it will comply with the government’s order, and the DoJ, as CNNwrites, “is not commenting on these search warrants”
As team Trump gears up to welcome the Chinese president at the end of the week — and as it’s forced to deal with a profound piece of anti-government vandalism burned into a Donald Trump property — nearly 200 theaters around the world simultaneously screened the film version of Orwell’s 1984 on Tuesday.
“This is really designed to get people to be talking and discussing and active in the political conversation that is happening in America right now – and throughout the world, it turns out,” Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the Cinema Arts Centre on Long Island, toldAl Jazeera.
Looking for a creative way to express opposition to the Trump administration, he, along with Adam Birnbaum of the Avon Theatre Film Centre in Connecticut, came up with the idea after the election.
Dubbed “National Screening Day,” over 190 theaters participated. Most were in the U.S., but movie houses in Canada, the U.K., Sweden, and Croatia are also took part.
Skolnick says he could think of no better film than the cinematic version of the classic dystopian masterpiece for the project. Bringing to mind Trump’s “fake news” obsession and his penchant for blustery diplomatic commentary, Skolnick told Al Jazeera:
“In particular, this undermining of the concept of facts and the demonization of foreign enemies really resonate in 1984.”
Echoing a warning found throughout much of alternative media, Skolnick suggests that when it comes to potential dystopian scenarios, the time to sit up and take notice of what’s happening around us is now.
“No one is suggesting that we’re living in Orwell’s world,” he said. “But the road to that world is people just becoming disengaged and allowing their government to do whatever it wants.”
In 1912 the pioneering French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) published The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, which presented his findings (not without controversy) on primitive clan-based religious culture. Durkheim sought to identify the nature of religion by studying it in what he took to be its pristine form. In the course of his work, he realized that modern secular societies had many important similarities to the societies he was observing. For Durkheim, religion satisfied a need for social solidarity and identification that would also require satisfaction in a secular scientific epoch. His observations are pertinent to the proposition that religion and purportedly secular ideologies like nationalism, rather than being opposites, are actually two members of the same family. One implication of this insight is that the West’s proud determination to separate church and state has overlooked the dangers of joining ostensibly nonreligious worldviews to the state.
The parallels between modern Western societies and the Australian and North American aboriginal societies that Durkheim studied reach to things like public feasts, rituals, sacred objects (totems), and holidays (i.e., holy days). Durkheim thought the similarities stem from the very nature of social living (as least as most people have conceived it). He wrote:
In a general way, it is unquestionable that a society has all that is necessary to arouse the sensation of the divine in minds, merely by the power that it has over them; for to its members it is what a god is to his worshippers. In fact, a god is, first of all, a being whom men think of as superior to themselves, and upon whom they feel that they depend. Whether it be a conscious personality, such as Zeus or Jahveh, or merely abstract forces such as those in play in totemism, the worshipper, in the one case as in the other, believes himself held to certain manners of acting which are imposed upon him by the nature of the sacred principle with which he feels that he is in communion. Now society also gives us the sensation of a perpetual dependence….
[I]t imperiously demands our aid. It requires that, forgetful of our own interests, we make ourselves its servitors, and it submits us to every sort of inconvenience, privation and sacrifice, without which social life would be impossible. It is because of this that at every instant we are obliged to submit ourselves to rules of conduct and of thought which we have neither made nor desired, and which are sometimes even contrary our most fundamental inclinations and instincts….
[T]he empire which it holds over consciences is due much less to the physical supremacy of which it has the privilege than to the moral authority with which it is invested. If we yield to its orders, it is not merely because it is strong enough to triumph over our resistance; it is primarily because it is the object of a venerable respect.
Durkheim went on to observe, eerily, something not entirely strange to American society:
[W]e see society constantly creating sacred things out of ordinary ones. If it happens to fall in love with a man and if it thinks it has found in him the principal aspirations that move it, as well as the means of satisfying them, this man will be raised above the others and, as it were, deified. Opinion will invest him with a majesty exactly analogous to that protecting the gods. This is what has happened to so many sovereigns in whom their age had faith: if they were not made gods, they were at least regarded as direct representatives of the deity…. The simple deference inspired by men invested with high social functions is not different in nature from religious respect.
Also, “we have seen society and its essential ideas become, directly and with no transfiguration of any sort, the object of a veritable cult.”
Durkheim explained that in religious and nonreligious societies alike, venerable respect is projected onto objects, turning something abstract and elusive into something tangible and observable. The object “thus becomes sacred.” He noted that “the cause whose action we observe here is not peculiar to totemism; there is no society where it is not active” (emphasis added).
Many objects have been turned into totems, but among the most common are flags, which are emblems signifying an association with a group and a cause taken to be larger than any individual. (In America, other totems include the Constitution, which presidents pledge to “preserve, protect, and defend,” and the military uniform.) There’s hardly a need to point out how the flag is venerated in the United States — especially these days. People routinely pledge allegiance to it. They are willing to die for it, and they express reverence for those who “defend” it. True, the mere “piece of cloth” is a symbol of something, but as Durkheim wrote, “The soldier who dies for his flag, dies for his country; but as a matter of fact, in his own consciousness, it is the flag that has the first place…. He loses sight of the fact that the flag is only a sign, and that it has no value in itself, but only brings to mind the reality that it represents; it is treated as if it were this reality itself.”
In the United States, at least, it would be hard to distinguish the flag from the sacred objects of any traditional religion. Yes, the flag is a symbol, but of what? It symbolizes more than the country’s institutions, history, population, or land. “Venerable respect” extends to something regarded as transcendent and quasi-mystical: the Nation, whose corporeal representative is the government. What else explains why flag-burning as political protest — even if the flag is the protester’s property — incites such wrath? Perhaps a flag, because of what it symbolizes, cannot really be private property — even if you just bought it at Walmart. While we’re fortunate the Supreme Court has ruled that flag-burning is protected expression under the First Amendment, let’s not forget that Donald Trump called for imprisonment and loss of citizenship for flag-burners. A constitutional amendment to prohibit flag desecration would likely have significant if not majority public support today, although in the recent past such an amendment could not get through the Senate after passing the House.
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart. [Emphasis added.]
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries [!] present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes. [Emphasis added.]
Apparently, the drafters tried to anticipate every situation. We find, for example, in section 7:
The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag’s own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag. [Emphasis added.]
The code states that this “codification of existing rules and customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America is established for the use of such civilians or civilian groups or organizations as may not be required to conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments of the Government of the United States.” In other words, these rules are not just for government employees.
Incidentally, section 10 states, “Any rule or custom pertaining to the display of the flag of the United States of America, set forth herein, may be altered, modified, or repealed, or additional rules with respect thereto may be prescribed, by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, whenever he deems it to be appropriate or desirable; and any such alteration or additional rule shall be set forth in a proclamation.” (Emphasis added.)
Remarkably, this power is given to the president not as the civilian ruler, but as head of the military.
Violating these rules apparently carries no penalty. Nevertheless, how can we explain this bizarre code without using terms usually found in a religious context? We can explain it by saying that nationalism is a religion, or that nationalism and religion are both members of a wider family and thus have important features in common. The government is analogous to the church, the nation-state to the deity, and the president to something like the supreme head of the Church of England.
If it is true … that nationalism exhibits many of the characteristics of religion — including, most important for our purposes, the ability to organize killing energies — then what we have is not a separation of religion from politics but rather the substitution of the religion of the state for the religion of the church.
Perhaps we should read the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause — “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” — not as a mandated separation of religion and state but as a non-compete clause.
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