Friday, November 04, 2005


There is surprisingly little analysis of the uprisings occurring now in France. Lots of news stories, little in depth reporting. Below is a sample of the little which I found available out there. Sorry, but I didn't take the time to space all the paragraphs like I usually do.

FROM: World Socialist Web Site

France: widening anti-police riots provoke government crisis
By Antoine Lerougetel
4 November 2005

Nightly riots and clashes in the Paris suburbs, between the police and youth mainly of North African and African descent, are entering their second week. A thousand police officers were deployed Wednesday night in Seine-Saint-Denis, northwest of Paris, and half of the department’s 40 towns were affected by violence. Shots have been fired at police officers, and one official spokesman described events as a descent into civil war.
The conflicts have provoked a severe crisis for the French government. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has cancelled a scheduled visit to Canada, and Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy has pulled out of a visit to Afghanisan and Pakistan. Emergency meetings of the government of de Villepin and President Jacques Chirac have been held to discuss the situation.
The rioting began on the evening of October 27 after two youth were electrocuted when they climbed onto an electrical transformer while fleeing from the police. The deaths of the boys, in the northern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, sparked confrontations between youth and 400 to 500 riot police dispatched by Sarkozy. Violent protests and clashes with armed riot police have continued every night since and have spread to other working class suburbs.
The eruptions are the product of desperate poverty, mass unemployment and a vicious, openly racist law-and-order campaign spearheaded by Sarkozy, who has been considered the main rival to Chirac within the Gaullist Union for a Popular Party (UMP) and the leading contender to replace him in the next presidential election. Sarkozy has sent armed police into the immigrant slums and used terms such as “scum” and “gangrene” to describe their inhabitants.
On Wednesday, a council of ministers meeting was held, as well as a meeting of Gaullist deputies to the National Assembly. A question session was held in the National Assembly, at which Socialist Party and Communist Party deputies criticised Sarkozy, who sat mute. The deputies blamed him for instigating a social explosion through his law-and-order policies and provocative statements. De Villepin answered for him, trying to present a united government front. However, it was widely reported that deputies at the closed Gaullist meeting had heatedly attacked Sarkozy.
At the council of ministers, Chirac asked for a plan for urban renovation to be accelerated. He relieved Sarkozy of his responsibility for the preparation of the plan to prevent delinquency and entrusted it to de Villepin, who thereupon announced that he would be working for “equal opportunities” and “a plan of action” for youth employment in Seine-Saint-Denis, the department where Clichy and many other such communities are concentrated and the scene of a dozen outbreaks since October 27. De Villepin is Sarkozy’s most likely rival for the presidency in 2007.
The provocative language used by Sarkozy against the youth on suburban housing estates has been part of his attempt to mobilise a right-wing and racist movement under his leadership and that of the UMP. He hoped that this would not only secure his succession as president, but also provide popular support for the attacks on the working class required to break its resistance to the destruction of the welfare state and labour rights.
Since the beginning of the present government’s term of office in 2002, Sarkozy has led a drive to diminish the rights of defendants and extend police powers. He set up special brigades of police to send into troubled estates.
This has gone hand in hand with media campaigns demonising the immigrant youth and whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment, at the centre of which was legislation outlawing the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in state schools—a measure passed in 2004 with the support of virtually the entire political establishment, including the Socialist Party.
More than 20 years of austerity policies and accelerating attacks on workers’ living standards and rights by successive governments—those headed by the official “left” parties as well as those of the right wing—have stretched social tensions to the breaking point.
The chronic national 10 percent unemployment rate rises to well over 50 percent on many Parisian estates. The Gaullist government’s policy of encouraging job insecurity and short-term work contracts has been made more unbearable by savage cuts in benefits for the unemployed. Rises in gas and petrol prices have further increased the economic pressure on these communities.
The mass reaction on the night of the tragedy on the Chêne-Pointu estate has spilled over into many other estates in the Paris suburbs, in recent days involving small groups of youth burning vehicles and rubbish bins, attacking firemen attempting to extinguish the fires, and constantly clashing with the police.
The government fears that the Paris riots could spark broader upheavals all over France. Not only the towns in the Seine-Saint-Denis department have been affected, but also estates in the Val d’Oise and the Yvelines deparments of greater Paris.
Tensions were heightened still further when a tear gas canister was fired into a mosque on October 31. The following night, 1,250 cars were reported burned and at least one primary school was trashed.
Already, the Ousse des Bois estate in Pau, a thousand kilometres away near the Spanish border, has seen three continuous nights of clashes between youth and the police.
Despite the concern expressed within ruling circles, there is unanimity on the need for ever-greater repression to deal with the unrest. Minister for Social Cohesion Jean-Louis Borloo said the government had to react “firmly,” while UMP deputy Jacques Myard complained that the government had been weak because it had “accepted, step-by-step, that every night youths burn cars, destroy business and so on. Those guys will use the pretext of everything to riot, to demonstrate, to destroy.”
While making a show of criticising Sarkozy’s excesses and calling for the beefing up of social services cut by the government, all of the currents of the Socialist Party, the Greens and the Communist Party have called for the police to suppress the rioting.
Dominique Strauss Khan of the Socialist Party, a former minister in Lionel Jospin’s Plural Left government (1997-2002) and contender for the party’s nomination for the 2007 presidential election, stated on Europe 1 radio, “I utterly condemn the incidents at Clichy-sous-Bois. When it comes to law and order, an extremely firm attitude is required...repression and prevention should be employed.”
The Socialist Party and the Communist Party have presided over many of these municipalities for decades and maintained the peace for the French ruling class, while conditions have eroded. They are complicit in the austerity policies and the police build-up that underlie the explosion of anger among oppressed and impoverished youth that is now shaking France.

FROM: Alt. Muslim
Paris Is Burning: What's Religion Got To Do With It?

While religious ideology may have a role in other types of violence (i.e, al-Qaida), in this case it just happens to be the faith of the disenfranchised population.

By Shahed Amanullah, November 4, 2005

When the sun sets, the violence begins. Burning cars, balaclava-clad youth battling police (sometimes with real bullets), and an increasing sense of hopelessness cover neighborhoods long afflicted with high unemployment. It could be the West Bank, but this time the unrest is happening in the French working-class neighborhoods that are home to immigrant populations who have been excluded (or have excluded themselves, as some critics charge) from the relative affluence of French life. "The deep problem is the sentiment of exclusion from the social and economic game," explains Laurent Mucchielli, director of the Center for Sociological Research on Law and Penal Institutions near Paris. "The riots are of the same nature as in past years, which reminds us that the problems haven't been solved." While tensions in these areas have been simmering for years, the escalation into violence started when Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy visited the Clichy-sous-Bous region with media in tow, pledging a "war without mercy" on street crime (taking a page from the book of Ariel Sharon?). Local youths, who have long complained about being harassed by police, responded by pelting him with stones and bottles. Days later, when two immigrant youth fleeing a police identity check were electrocuted when hiding in a power relay station, the crowds grew more defiant. The next several days were followed by a series of escalations: police roundups, burnings of hundreds of cars, and the spreading of violence to other cities. Imams in the area had some success in calling for restraint among the Muslim population (urging, for example, that mothers keep their teenagers at home after sunset), but they lost control when a teargas grenade struck a mosque on Sunday. French politicians such as Interior Minister Dominque de Villepin appealed for calm (President Chirac didn't commment until the fighting was nearly a week old), but even de Villepin's valiant opposition of the Iraq war hasn't been able to give his pleas for calm more weight among France's restive Muslim populations. While right-wing politicians in France (most notably the Le Pen family and the National Front party) are using the riots to strengthen their anti-Muslim stances, the truth is that the reasons for the unrest are the same as those that caused riots in many Western cities over the past few decades. Poor or immigrant communities have not been successfully integrated into the larger society (and in this case, both French and immigrant societies share the blame), unemployment gives rise to crime that compounds the misery of the population, and mistrust between authorities and those in the ghettos snowballs into confrontation. While religious ideology may have a role in other types of violence (i.e, al-Qaida), in this case it just happens to be the faith of the disenfranchised population. Those seeking a solution to the problem would be more effective by looking deeper than that.

Shahed Amanullah is editor-in-chief of alt.muslim.

FROM: Christian Science Monitor

Deep roots of Paris riots

President Chirac has called for dialogue after a week of clashes.
By Peter Ford | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS, FRANCE - The fire engine and police sirens blaring through the darkness Wednesday night, as officers raced to put out yet another fire set by angry youths in this poor Paris suburb, signaled more than an immediate warning of danger.
After a week of nightly disturbances that have left hundreds of cars and buses torched, and several buildings burned down, the horns echoing off the concrete walls of grim housing projects sounded a broader alarm. The spreading violence has lifted the lid on an ugly stew of poverty, discrimination, and desperation amongst immigrant-descended families that most French citizens have long preferred to ignore.
"Frankly I am not surprised by what is happening," says Dounia Bouzar, an expert on French-born Muslims who has worked in the mostly black and North African districts on the outskirts of Paris. "Given the way these kids live, I wonder why it doesn't happen more often."
The outburst of violence, pitting youths throwing stones and Molotov cocktails against riot police, erupted after two teenagers in the nearby suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois - apparently hiding from the police - died by electrocution.
That incident, says social worker Michèle Lereste, "crystallized the hatred" that some of the most disaffected and hopeless young men living in what the government calls "sensitive urban zones" feel toward authority.
In these 751 zones that the government has designated for special programs, unemployment stands at 19.6 percent - double the national average - and at more than 30 percent among 21- to 29- year-olds, according to official figures. Incomes are 75 percent below the average.
Stung by charges that the government has mishandled the wave of unrest in a dozen suburbs, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy have both cancelled planned trips abroad. President Jacques Chirac called Wednesday for "dialogue" to cool tempers.
Mr. De Villepin and Mr. Sarkozy met Thursday to discuss ways of dampening the violence beyond deploying more riot police, which has been the government's approach so far. But after two decades of policies that have tried, and often failed, to strengthen schools, provide jobs, and improve housing, critics say it is time authorities took the problems more seriously.
The ugly, often poorly maintained blocks of public housing that have become a nightly battlefield are testament to 40 years of government policy that has concentrated immigrants and their families in well-defined districts away from city centers, as housing there became more expensive.
"Working class suburbs have become ethnic ghettos," says Marc Cheb Sun, who edits "Respect," a magazine aimed mostly at young black and North African readers. "That is the origin of the problem."
And it is not easy for even ambitious young people to break out if they come from a district with a bad reputation, as Jean-Francois Amadieu, a university professor who founded the "Discrimination Observatory" discovered in experiments over the past year.
He sent out fictitious applications for sales jobs, allegedly coming from six different sorts of applicant, ranging from a white male to a woman of North African origins, all with the same résumé.
Applicants writing from addresses known to be in "difficult" areas received half as many invitations to an interview as those from less notorious districts. The "North African" male candidate received five times fewer invitations than his white counterpart, says Prof. Amadieu.
At the same time, complains Michèle Lereste, who runs the "Green Light" social-work agency in Villetaneuse, just North of Paris, where the projects are almost entirely inhabited by immigrant-descended families, government funding cuts have closed a number of job-training institutes, "and we are finding it harder and harder to get employers to take apprentices from our district."
"The kids learn all the French republican values such as equality in school, and then they find in practice that it's an illusion," says Ms. Bouzar, who was recently named one of Time magazine's 50 "European Heroes" as a role model for those seeking to be good Muslims and good French citizens. "There is an enormous gap between theory and practice."
Nowhere is that gap clearer, say young men in Clichy-sous-Bois and adults who work with them, than in the behavior of the police. "They check our papers everywhere, all the time, for no reason," complains one youth in Clichy who did not want to be identified. "And the checks are getting rougher and rougher."
Those sorts of experiences "delegitimize the state" in young peoples' eyes, worries Bouzar, which helps explain why authority figures such as firemen and doctors have been stoned on recent nights even as they tried - with police protection - to save lives and property.
Taïb Ben Thabet, who has been a social worker in the projects north of Paris for 35 years, fears that the kind of discrimination his young wards face undermines his patient efforts to help them find their place in society.
"I teach them that the state is for everybody, that it treats everybody the same," he says. "But what credibility do I have when everything I say is contradicted by experience? The kids say it's all lies."
He is particularly upset by the manner in which Mr. Sarkozy referred to youths in the projects recently as "scum," pledging a "war without mercy" against them.
"We are giving power to the (Islamic) radicals," he argues. "When kids hear the minister call them scum, the obscurantists are there to take advantage of the way they feel."
"This is not just a problem for the kids in the projects," warns Mr. Cheb Sun. "Society created these ghettos and now it has to deal with them."

FROM: French Press Agency (AFP)
What is behind the Paris riots? Organised gangs of criminals -- even Islamic radicals -- out to undermine the state, or a failure by successive governments to give millions of immigrants a chance in life?
Rampages that have gripped the poorer immigrant-populated outskirts of Paris since October 27, spreading for the first time Thursday night to other parts of the country, have left many in the country struggling for an explanation.
The rioters are young, overwhelmingly Muslim men, second-generation immigrants from France's former Arab and African colonies, who claim they are protesting economic misery, racial discrimination and provocative policing.
This argument has been widely echoed in the press, by Muslim and community representatives and by the left-wing opposition, which accuses the centre-right government of slashing budgets for social work in these communities.
Hardline new law-and-order policies implemented by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy have also been widely accused of fuelling anger in the high-rise, mainly immigrant estates where the trouble has spread.
Sociologist Michel Wierviorka, speaking in Le Parisien newspaper, charged that Sarkozy had "stigmatised entire communities" by arguing that crime-ridden areas should be "cleaned with a power-hose".
But the interior minister -- while recognising more must be done to haul the suburbs out of poverty and exclusion -- insisted on Thursday the violence was being orchestrated by unknown ringleaders.
Police union leader Bruno Beschizza described the riots as "urban terrorism", led by small knots of criminals as well as Islamic radicals.
"This is a form of urban terrorism led by a minority of kingpins, who have a financial interest, such as drug trafficking, or an ideological one, such as Islamic radicals who have been seen by our colleagues."
These ringleaders were a "tiny minority", the head of the Synergie union said on Friday, adding his view was backed by a number of social workers and lawmakers in the worst-hit Seine-Saint-Denis region northeast of Paris.
The role -- if any -- of Islam in the recent upsurge in violence, which has affected mainly Muslim neighbourhoods, is a highly sensitive issue in France.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, a Socialist, has warned against lumping together "a religion, Islam", with "a handful of extremists" and with "criminal networks".
In many cases Muslim community leaders have been acting as mediators between youths and the authorities, going door-to-door to talk to the families of young rioters, or stepping in at night to stop the clashes.
Most observers searching for the root causes of the riots accuse successive governments of turning a blind eye as immigrant ghettos, synonymous with unemployment and social deprivation, swelled outside France's big cities.
Today, some 750 areas are classed as "Sensitive Urban Zones" (ZUS), where unemployment hovers at 20 percent -- twice the national average -- and average incomes are 60 percent of the national average, government statistics show.
Among young men between 15 and 25, unemployment reaches 36 percent -- and even higher if only young Arab men are counted.
Youth violence -- with car-burnings a regular feature -- has been steadily building in these dilapidated estates, with major outbreaks of rioting around once a year and countless minor incidents which go unreported.
Sociologist Wieviorka said the riots stemmed from years of "broken promises" by the French state, and called into question the country's entire model for integrating newcomers into French society.
The French model, secular and republican, insists that all citizens are equal before the state, but has been accused of leaving cultural minorities without a voice, notably France's estimated five million Muslims.
"(These riots) demonstrate the failure of the so-called Republican model for social integration. We need to find something new, some combination of social solidarity and economic realism," Wieviorka said.
Le Figaro newspaper, in an editorial, said the run-down estates had "rotted" away to become "prisons" for the estimated five-million people who live there.
For the newspaper, the main culprit was French immigration policy since the 1970s, which had allowed family reunification but failed to provide sufficient mechanisms to integrate newcomers into society.

FROM: International Herald Tribune
In Paris suburbs, anger won't cool
By Katrin Bennhold International Herald Tribune

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France Talk to people outside the Bilal mosque in this rundown suburb north of Paris and they will tell you what has gone wrong: why rioters for the past week have confronted the police in overnight bursts of anger in the streets, torching cars, hurling rocks and even firing bullets in the worst civil disobedience in France in more than a decade.

Beyond the poverty and despair of life in the shoddy immigrant communities ringing the shining French capital, local Muslims say, there is no one left with any sway over the rioting youths. Parents, the police and the government have all lost touch, they say.

On Thursday, after rioters disregarded an appeal for calm by President Jacques Chirac, firing bullets at the police for the first time as the rioting spread for a seventh consecutive night, the government held emergency meetings throughout the day. But despite Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's vow that "law and order will have the last word," the police were bracing for more violence as night fell.

In Clichy-sous-Bois on Thursday afternoon, outside the entrance of the Bilal mosque - a converted warehouse where a tear-gas grenade landed on Sunday, stoking fury against the police - celebrations of the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast were overshadowed by the widening disturbances.

Opinions about the riots among people gathered at the mosque differed, but everyone from the deputy imam to local council workers and men leaving the midday prayer agreed that the trouble has been compounded by a vacuum of moral authority.

"If you want authority over these kids you need their respect - but all the normal channels of authority lost their respect a long time ago," said Ali Aouad, 42, who has lived in this northeastern town for two decades. "They feel neglected by the government, and the police just provoke them."

Even the government's minister of equal opportunity, Azouz Begag, who himself grew up in an immigrant household outside Lyon, carries no authority here, residents said.

"Where has he been? He is representative of nothing and nobody," said a young man of Algerian descent, who identified himself only as H2B. "He has done nothing for us and now he is trying to compensate by criticizing Sarkozy," the French interior minister, "but it's too late."

The crisis has penetrated the top level of the French government, where Nicolas Sarkozy and Villepin, the two most senior ministers, are sparring over how to deal with the violence and have both come under fire for failing to bring the violence under control.

The trouble erupted in Clichy-sous-Bois on Oct. 27 after two teenagers, apparently thinking they were being pursued by the police, fled and were electrocuted when they hid in an electrical transformer. The disturbances have since spread to at least 20 neighboring towns.

In the early hours of Thursday, rioters torched 315 cars, burned a car dealership and a local supermarket, and attacked two commuter trains, the police said. Nine people were wounded.

But as appeals for calm by the government fell on deaf ears and a heavy police presence across the northern suburbs only appeared to provoke more violence, a number of local organizations seem to have quietly taken on the task of cooling tempers.

Abderamane Bouhout, president of the cultural organization that manages Bilal mosque, mobilized small groups of young believers during recent rioting to go between the rioters and the police and urge the disaffected youths to express their anger in nonviolent ways.

Aouad, who witnessed one such intervention on Monday night not far from the mosque, said it was impressively effective. "It worked," he said. "They went right between the two sides and a lot of the kids listened to them. The damage the next day was a lot less serious than the previous nights."

At the local city hall, Lamya Monkachi says the role of religious personalities along with that of young locals recruited from the suburbs to mediate for the city authorities has been key to reducing the violence in Clichy-sous-Bois in the past two days, even as it intensified in other suburbs. "What helped us here in Clichy to calm nerves was that we work a lot with people who know the local youths and speak their language," she said.

There are eight Muslim organizations in Clichy alone that have been mobilized to participate in starting a dialogue with the rioters. In addition, a group of youths, working closely with city hall, have formed an association in response to the riots last week called Beyond Words. Their representatives - young North African men dressed in white T-shirts with the names of the two dead teenagers printed on the back and the words "Dead for Nothing" on the front - have campaigned for peaceful dialogue.

But, says Marilou Jampolsky of SOS Racisme, a non-governmental organization fighting discrimination, the current government has made such informal mediation efforts more difficult by cutting back public funding for them.

"The number of neighborhood organizations that organize sports, help with school work and just generally check up on these kids has significantly declined since this government came to power" in 2002, she said. SOS Racisme, which also has local branches in suburbs, has lost half its money, she said.

One of the most prominent young mediators is Samir Mihi, 28, who has become an informal spokesman for the various groups that have stepped in to calm the violence and mediated between the rioters and the government.

According to Mihi, who grew up in Clichy, the key ingredient for restoring peace in this and other suburbs is to build relationships with the local youths and give them the feeling that their concerns are being heard.

"If they listen to us it is because we give them what they most want: respect," said Mihi, who organizes sports activities for teenagers at city hall. "If you respect them, they respect you."

One reason politicians fail to make themselves heard in the suburbs is that successive governments have failed to tackle disproportionately high unemployment and crime rates in the suburban housing projects, leaving youth with few opportunities. That feeling of exclusion is exacerbated by a lack of political representatives of North African origin and other role models, Mihi said.

The lack of moral authority is perhaps most flagrant with the police, locals said, because the interaction between officers and residents is often reduced to frequent and random identity checks that are perceived to be humiliating in the mainly North African communities in the suburbs.

At the local market, Muhammad, 24, who declined to give his last name, said such checks sometimes happen even outside his own apartment. He recounted how the police stopped him as he was walking home the night before.

"They grabbed me and touched my hood to see if it was hot or sweaty," he said, describing what he called a regular practice. "If you're caught with a sweaty hood, it means you've been running and that you have probably committed a crime."

Meanwhile, the parents of the teenagers in question lack authority because poverty has often made family life more difficult, says Jampolsky. Neither do they share the quest for identity so prevalent among the younger generation.

FROM: Open Democracy

Paris in flames: the limits of repression
Patrice de Beer

Nicolas Sarkozy’s hardline, zero-tolerance – and pre-election – rhetoric is foundering on France’s intractable urban realities, reports Patrice de Beer.

A week after the riots in the Lozells area of Birmingham, England, between people of African-Caribbean descent and those of Asian origin, the northeast Paris banlieues (suburbs) of Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil exploded in violent confrontation between police and black and Beurs (north African) youths. There have been clashes for six nights in a row – extending on the night of 1-2 November to the suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. They involve the stoning of police vans, the burning of dozens of cars, attacks on firemen, and the vandalising of a police station, a post office, and a city hall. The disturbances have gone as far as a bullet being fired at a police van and a tear-gas canister being thrown at a local mosque during evening prayers – in the midst of the Muslim fasting month, Ramadan.

As in Birmingham, rumour was at the heart of the unfolding events. On 27 October, two teenagers – Ziad Benna and Bouna Traore, sons of working-class African Muslim immigrants – were electrocuted while hiding in an electric substation. The circumstances of the incident are contested; it was quickly alleged – though by politicians rather than police, who strenuously deny the claim – that they had tried to escape a police check.
This is not the first racial riot – and it certainly won’t be the last – in the suburban ghettoes of France or other European countries. Youth violence, and more particularly violence in immigrant communities – legal or illegal, involving French citizens or not – has been here for a long time, and seems here to stay. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister and candidate to succeed president Jacques Chirac at the Elysée palace in 2007 – the two men hate each other despite belonging to the same UMP party – has adopted a repressive, law-and-order, zero-tolerance strategy towards the banlieues.
The rhetoric is as polarising as it is simple: it threatens evildoers (“them”) with jail sentences if they dare threaten the law-abiding citizens (“us”). Until now, this hyper-mediatic policy has paid off, helping make “Sarko” – himself the son of an Hungarian immigrant – one of the most popular politicians in France.
But today, in a tense situation of racial unrest, unemployment, loss of faith in politics and a bitter pre-presidential fight within the Union pour un Movement Populaire (UMP) as well as the Socialist party, Sarkozy’s strategy is losing steam. Crime may be down statistically , but it remains as visible as ever, and only a third of physical assaults are recorded. The number of cars burned might be down, but the vehicles look as disturbing as ever on a TV screen. Daily “misbehaviour” – the politically-correct word for petty violence – might be unacceptable to many, but the cowboy-like behaviour of police launching armed operations in banlieues look no more acceptable, especially if they prove ineffective; or when they go too far, like firing tear-gas at a mosque.
It seems more obvious than ever that violence attracts more violence, and that it becomes a vicious circle where violent police repression of local riots nurtures even more violence and in turn even more repression. It is true that, in the banlieues as in the more affluent inner cities, people fear petty crime, drug-peddling, and carjacking by jobless youngsters. But nor do they like being fingered by police and politicians as potential criminals because of their appearance or creed. The only Beur member of government, Azouz Begag, “minister for social promotion and equality of opportunity”, criticised Sarko for his provocative words: “You must not call youngsters ‘scum’, tell them that you’re going to hit them hard. You must try to appease the situation,” he said, adding “I use the verb ‘clean up’ for my shoes or my car, not for neighbourhoods”.
Repression has shown its limits. Not that it is useless or harmful, as any government has to protect its citizens against crime. But a repressive policy cannot compensate for racial and social integration, nor offer an answer to discrimination, the housing problems of ghettoised suburbs and (above all) to the unemployment which hits the immigrant population even harder than the majority of job-seekers. Histrionic posturing to attract voters in pre-electoral times can cause more harm than good especially when the very social structure of France is at stake.



(Note: I guess there may be a post now and then after all with regular OD coming back Monday)

From Sinn Fein News

An Irish Times report Wednesday morning quoted US State Department sources saying that the US Administration is planning to place a restriction on Gerry Adams visa and ban him from speaking at fundraising events in the United States. Sinn Féin's Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has described such a move as "wholly negative" and said it will "be used by anti-agreement unionists, including the DUP, to undermine the progress that has been made this year and damage the hopes for progress in the months ahead. It is important that this matter is resolved as speedily as possible".

Mr. McGuinness said:

"These fundraising events allow supporters of Irish unity to contribute to Sinn Féin's political programme to achieve this through peaceful and democratic activity. Such support is entirely legitimate and indeed necessary in demonstrating that politics works.

"The US has played a pivotal role in the creation and evolution of the peace process. An even handed approach has been the hallmark of success in this. All parties have been treated equally. However any heavy handed attempt by the State Department to try and dictate Sinn Féin policy on policing is misguided and will do nothing to help in the resolution of this key issue.

"Sinn Féin knows what we have to do on policing, our position is very clear. The British Government also knows what it has to do on policing. It has given a series of commitments on this. The upcoming period will provide ample opportunities to establish whether these commitments have been honoured. President Bush's special envoy Mitchell Reiss knows this and he and the State Department have been fully briefed on our party's position.

"If Gerry Adams has restrictions imposed on his visa this means you would have the ludicrous and unsustainable situation where he is allowed to travel to the US, but he would be banned from attending the fundraising event which will go ahead in any event.

"If Gerry Adams is banned from addressing US citizens at fundraising events next week he will not travel to the United States. Of course he and others in the Sinn Féin leadership will continue to engage with US opinion and he will travel there as part of that engagement in the time ahead.

"The adoption of this position by the US Administration would cause huge anger among supporters of the peace process in Irish America especially and is out of step with, for example the British governments approach. There is no ban on Gerry Adams attending fundraising events in Britain.

"Inevitably, such a wholly negative approach by the US would have serious political repercussions and would be used by anti-agreement unionists, including the DUP, to undermine the progress that has been made this year and damage the hopes for progress in the months ahead. It is important that this matter is resolved as speedily as possible."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


No more Oread Daily until next Monday. Must be time to clean the presses...


I don't know about you but I always get a kick llistening to right wingers complain about the judicial activism of "liberal" judges. I mean really, the complaint of the right is that the supposed judges of the left, don't happen to rule the way they like. Their judges just interpret the constitution. They don't try to make law. Yeah, and the Yankees don't try to buy pennants either.

Anyway, the following article by Michael Parenti taken from Political Affairs Magazine I think pretty well shatters the myth of the "strict constructionist."

Right-Wing Judicial Activism

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee as nominee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts assured the senators that he would not be one of those noisome activist judges who inject their personal values into court decisions.

He would behave like "an umpire calling balls and strikes." With a completely open mind, he would judge each case solely on its own merits, with only the Constitution to guide him, he said.

None of the senators doubled over with laughter.

A fortnight later, while George Bush was introducing another Court nominee---his right-wing Jesus-freak crony Harriet Miers---he prattled on about his "judicial philosophy" and how he wanted jurists to be "strict constructionists" who cleave close to the Constitution, as opposed to loose constructionist liberals who use the Court to advance their ideological agenda.

It is time to inject some reality into this issue. In fact, through most of its history the Supreme Court has engaged in the wildest conservative judicial activism in defense of privileged groups.

Be it for slavery or segregation, child labor or the sixteen-hour workday, state sedition laws or assaults on the First Amendment---rightist judicial activists have shown an infernal agility in stretching and bending the Constitution to serve every inequity and iniquity.

Right to the eve of the Civil War, for instance, the Supreme Court asserted the primacy of property rights in slaves, rejecting all slave petitions for freedom. In the famous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Court concluded that, be they slave or free, Blacks were a "subordinate and inferior class of beings" without constitutional rights.

Thus did reactionary judicial activists---some of them slaveholders---spin racist precepts out of thin air to lend a constitutional gloss to their beloved slavocracy.

When the federal government wanted to establish national banks, or give away half the country to speculators, or subsidize industries, or set up commissions that fixed prices and interest rates for large manufacturers and banks, or imprison dissenters who denounced war and capitalism, or use the U.S. Army to shoot workers and break strikes, or have Marines kill people in Central America---the Supreme Court’s conservative activists twisted the Constitution in every conceivable way to justify these acts. So much for "strict construction."

But when the federal or state governments sought to limit workday hours, set minimum wage or occupational safety standards, ensure the safety of consumer products, or guarantee the right of collective bargaining, then the Court ruled that ours was a limited form of government that could not tamper with property rights and could not deprive owner and worker of "freedom of contract."

The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868 ostensibly to establish full citizenship for African Americans, says that no state can "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," nor deny any person "equal protection of the laws."

In another act of pure judicial invention, a conservative dominated Court decided that "person" really meant "corporation"; therefore the Fourteenth Amendment protected business conglomerates from regulation by the states.

To this day, corporations have legal standing as "persons" thanks to conservative judicial activism.

By 1920, pro-business federal courts had struck down roughly three hundred labor laws passed by state legislatures to ease inhumane working conditions.

Between 1880 and 1931 the courts issued more than 1,800 injunctions to suppress labor strikes. No trace of conservative restraint during those many years.

When Congress outlawed child labor or passed other social reforms, conservative jurists declared such laws to be violations of the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment says that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states or the people. So Congress could not act.

But, when states passed social-welfare legislation, the Court’s right-wing activists said such laws violated "substantive due process" (a totally fabricated oxymoron) under the Fourteenth Amendment. So the state legislatures could not act.

Thus for more than fifty years, the justices used the Tenth Amendment to stop federal reforms initiated under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fourteenth to stymie state reforms initiated under the Tenth. It’s hard to get more brazenly activist than that.

A conservative Supreme Court produced Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), another inventive reading of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. Plessy confected the "separate but equal" doctrine, claiming that the forced separation of Blacks from Whites did not impute inferiority as long as facilities were equal (which they rarely were). For some seventy years, this judicial fabrication buttressed racial segregation.

Convinced that they too were persons, women began to argue that the "due process" clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (applying to state governments) and the Fifth Amendment (applying to the federal government) disallowed the voting prohibitions imposed on women by state and federal authorities.

But in Minor v. Happersett (1875), the conservative Court fashioned another devilishly contorted interpretation: true, women were citizens but citizenship did not necessarily confer a citizen’s right to suffrage. In other words, "due process," and "equal protection" applied to such "persons" as business corporations but not to women or people of African descent.

At times, presidents place themselves and their associates above accountability by claiming that the separation of powers gives them an inherent right of "executive privilege." Executive privilege has been used by the White House to withhold information on undeclared wars, illegal campaign funds, Supreme Court nominations, burglaries (Watergate), insider trading (by Bush and Cheney), and White House collusion with corporate lobbyists.

But the concept of executive privilege (i.e. unaccountable executive secrecy) exists nowhere in the Constitution or any law. Yet the wild-eyed right-wing activists on the Supreme Court trumpet executive privilege, deciding out of thin air that a "presumptive privilege" for withholding information belongs to the president.

Bush just recently talked about "how important it is for us to guard executive privilege in order for there to be crisp decision making in the White House." Crisp? So Bush presents himself as a "strict constructionist" while making claim to a wholly extra-constitutional juridical fiction known as "executive privilege."

With staggering audacity, the Court’s rightist judicial activists have decided that states cannot prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts on public referenda or other elections because such campaign expenditures are a form of "speech" and the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech to such "persons" as corporations.

In a dissenting opinion, the liberal Justice Stevens noted, "Money is property; it is not speech." But his conservative colleagues preferred the more fanciful activist interpretation.

They further ruled that "free speech" enables rich candidates to spend as much as they want on their own campaigns, and rich individuals to expend unlimited sums in any election contest. Thus poor and rich can both freely compete, one in a whisper, the other in a roar.

Right-wing judicial activism reached a frenzy point in George W. Bush v. Al Gore. In a 5-to-4 decision, the conservatives overruled the Florida Supreme Court’s order for a recount in the 2000 presidential election. The justices argued with breathtaking contrivance that since different Florida counties might use different modes of tabulating ballots, a hand recount would violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

By preventing a recount, the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush.

In recent years these same conservative justices have held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause could not be used to stop violence against women, or provide a more equitable mode of property taxes, or a more equitable distribution of funds between rich and poor school districts.

But, in Bush v. Gore they ruled that the equal protection clause could be used to stop a perfectly legal ballot recount. Then they explicitly declared that the Bush case could not be considered a precedent for other equal protection issues. In other words, the Fourteenth Amendment applied only when the conservative judicial activists wanted it to, as when stealing an election.

We hear conservatives say that judges should not try to "legislate from the bench," the way liberal jurists supposedly do. But a recent study by Paul Gewirtz and Chad Golder of Yale University reveals that conservative justices like Thomas and Scalia have a far higher rate of invalidating or reinterpreting Congressional laws than more liberal justices like Byers and Ginsberg.

By this measure, too, the conservatives are the more activist.

In sum, the right-wing aggrandizers in black robes are neither strict constructionists nor balanced adjudicators. They are unrestrained power hustlers masquerading as sober defenders of lawful procedure and constitutional intent.

If this is democracy, who needs oligarchy?

--Michael Parenti's recent books include Superpatriotism (City
Lights), The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New
Press), and The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press), all available in paperback; also visit:


This is one of those out of the way stories I run across from time to time. I don’t have a total handle on what is going on here, but I can tell something sure is.

In Australia, the Queensland government has refused a request from Palm Island council to close the Indigenous community to visitors because of a severe water shortage. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Minister John Mickel says the water shortage is being addressed by a number of government departments. He says an extra plumber will ensure that no water is wasted. Mickel said the Government would supply fresh water at cost price. "I'm advised now that supplies of fresh water will be available at the retail store and that will be available at cost for the islanders," he said.

Palm Island's mayor Erykah Kyle had asked the government to close the island to visitors, including the 10 public servants who travel there each day – and who use the island’s water. She said water supplies on the island were unlikely to last much more than a month unless it rained. The Government declined.

The water shortage affecting the small island is so sever that its Aboriginal residents are suffering hygiene problems such as an outbreak of boils, Red Cross workers said. A Red Cross spokesman said the relief agency hoped to supply the island's residents with much-needed drinking water within days. The spokesman said some residents were suffering so badly plans were underway to bring them to the mainland. "Red Cross workers on Palm Island have told us that there has been an outbreak of boils over there – we haven't got the extent of that," he told ABC radio. "But clearly that relates to issues of hygiene and a lack of water and I understand that they're making arrangements for a number of people to move over to the mainland so it is a very serious situation."

Mayor Kyle says hygiene is not the problem. The quality of the limited water available might be.

The residents of Palm Island want an evacuation plan to be drawn up as the north Queensland island's water crisis worsens. The Government says that, too, isn’t necessary.

A former water department supervisor on Palm Island says residents are angry that they were not told sooner about water shortages. Jacob Baira says staff should have been monitoring the water levels and making regular reports. "My concern is for the people of Palm [Island] at the present moment.”

"It's unbelievable,” Baria said, “that you get down to one month's supply of water and then they tell you. It's not good enough." Baira says he is concerned for the welfare of his wife and 11 children.

Baria asked, "Where are we going to go, are we going to start digging wells? We haven't been told that yet," he said. "Whether we're going to be evacuated or how we're going to get our water in the next couple of weeks, this might turn into a real concern then. If it doesn't rain, it's going to drive people to panic."

Mayor Kyle told The Australian if island residents had to be evacuated there would be problems finding temporary accommodation for them. "We have older people here that would be difficult to move," she said. "But it doesn't matter -- young and old, they would be saying, 'We have nowhere to go, we don't have any money'."

Palm Island was the scene of a major uprising following the death in late 2004 of a young aboriginal man in police custody.

Originally used by early European settlers as a leper colony, Palm Island is now home to 4000 Indigenous Australians, making it the largest Aboriginal community in Australia. The Aboriginal settlement on Palm Island was set up in 1918 by the government in Queensland after a cyclone had devastated another state-run institution near the town of Innisfail on the mainland. Over the years, hundreds of Aborigines were sent to live on the island, which is part of a small archipelago. The practice continued until the late 1960s. The Palm Island settlement became an all-purpose repository for Aborigines. It served as a detention camp, an old people's home and a centre for the mentally ill.

The community, deriving from about 42 mainland tribes, has an unemployment rate of 90% and an average life expectancy of 50 years, thirty less than the national average. Many of its residents suffer from substance abuse. Mayor Kyle says it is not unusual on the island to have up to 20 people living in a three-bedroom house.

Criminologist Professor Paul Wilson from Australia's Bond University, who has closely studied the island, told the BBC that these problems were caused by the repression of the past. "This history of how white colonizers have treated black people on this island is appalling and we are seeing now the result of that legacy," he said.

Got that right, dude.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1971 that it seemed the outside world took notice that Palm Island really was an Aboriginal reserve run like a jail. Its inmates had committed no crimes but were forbidden to leave. Young people could only marry with the consent of the superintendent. No one could own property.Keith Windschuttle, conservative Australian historian and journalist wrote, "Palm Island breached almost every known principle of human rights and freedom. It was far worse than anything the American Civil Rights Movement had exposed in the USA. It was legalized white racism. It was part of the policy of separatism that underlay the Aboriginal reserves.”

And now, the enlightened government of Australia is ready to send in a plumber and to sell the “locals” some bottled water for their troubles.

Gee, thanks. Sources: National Indigenous Times (Australia) Advertiser (Adelaide), The Australian, Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Wikipedia, BBC, European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights, Bennelong Society


The brutal sectarian murder gang, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) announced on Sunday that it was standing down all its units following the announcement of an end to its summer feud with the rival UVF. During its nine-year existence the LVF was involved in sectarian murder and drug dealing. Ten of its members were killed as a result of feuds with other unionist paramilitaries.

The LVF has been blamed for more than a dozen sectarian killings since it was founded in mid-Ulster in 1996. The LVF was formed by Portadown loyalist Billy Wright after the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) leadership stood down his unit in 1996.

Wright was shot dead in the Maze prison in December 1997.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said: "Given the LVF's history, nationalists and republicans will of course be cautious of anything being said or promised by them." He added: "This grouping has a history of sectarian violence, murders and widespread drug dealing, so with relation to the LVF, it is very much wait and see."

Some just aren't buying it.

Terry Enright, whose son Terry Enright Junior was murdered by the LVF outside a Belfast night-club in 1997, said he would take a lot more convincing. "The LVF is a gang of criminals that tried to cover up its activities by carrying out sectarian murders," Enright said. "It is going to have to prove it is serious by decommissioning."

Loughgiel Sinn Féin Councilor, Anita Cavlan pointed out, “After the IRA statement in July the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) insisted on there being a long period to ‘assess’ the historic move in an effort to try and stall the process. But when it comes to the LVF however, a group that has not only been murdering innocent Catholics but has been involved in ruining young Protestant lives through the distribution of illegal drugs, it has only taken the DUP one day to assess their move as being genuine!!”

Jeffrey Donaldson, of the Democratic Unionist Party, said: "If we are to have any real hope of lasting peace, then all of the paramilitary groups must end their violent crime for good and also deal emphatically with the issue of illegal weapons."

Sinn Fein's Kelly said: "The LVF is a small part of the unionist paramilitary problem. The larger organizations the UVF and UDA have been involved in the summer months in ongoing violence and attacks on Catholics especially in areas like North Antrim. These campaigns need to end."

When the LVF announced that its members would be stood down from midnight on Sunday, it said the move was in response to the IRA's decision to disarm and it was not "leaving the stage from a position of weakness or under threat".

According to a source cited by the Guardian, the LVF leadership secured its arms before ordering members to stand down. The group, which handed over some weapons in 1998 in order for members to qualify for early release from the Maze prison, might now consider disposing of the rest through the decommissioning body led by General John De Chastelain. "They're going to have that debate now," the source said.

Michael McGoldrick (63), from Craigavon, Co Armagh, whose Catholic taxi driver son Michael was murdered in July 1996, believes the commitment by the paramilitary group to stand down marks a significant step forward in the peace process.

His son, a married 31-year-old father-of-one, was killed during the Drumcree protest by renegade members of the UVF who formed the LVF.

McGoldrick yesterday said he hoped the weekend announcement marked a final chapter in the group's history.

"I am very glad that they have stood down and I would be glad if all paramilitary groups stood down," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "I can only hope that it is genuine and I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the politicians to get together and make Northern Ireland a better community for all, I think that is important for everyone.

"I am happy because I see this as a positive step in the right direction towards taking all guns away."

"I would say that there are a lot of people imprisoned that, had it not been for the Troubles, would never have seen the inside of a prison," McGoldrick added.

"I never wanted revenge, not even justice; all I wanted was for it to stop."


Loyalist Volunteer Force
Volatile loyalist paramilitary splinter group formed in 1996. Behind more than 15 murders

Ulster Volunteer Force
Loyalist paramilitary group formed in 1966 to combat nationalists. Responsible for more than 500 deaths

Ulster Defense Association
Biggest loyalist paramilitary organization in Northern Ireland, it was banned in 1992. Estimated to have killed more than 400 people

Sources: Guardian, Sinn Fein News, Release, Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


A caravan of two dozen Indian women from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas arrived in the border city of Ciudad Juarez on Monday, to hold Day of the Dead ceremonies to mark the killings of hundreds of women here.

On the eve of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations _ Mexicans honor dead children on Nov. 1, and Nov. 2 for adults _ the Indian women in traditional garb held a ceremony at vacant lot where investigators discovered the badly decomposed remains of eight women in 2001.

They lit candles, blew conch shells, beat drums and burned incense in what they described as a ceremony of respect for the dead and solidarity for the victims' surviving relatives.

The caravan, dubbed "the Wind of 1,000 Voices," plans to participate in more memorial meetings in Ciudad Juarez during the coming days.

Cesar Alejandro, a filmmaker and border activist from El Paso who wrote, produced, directed and starred in an independent film now being released titled, "Juarez: Stages of Fear", which delves into the murders said the people of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso have become desensitized to the murders. Others, he said, don’t care because most of the victims are poor and some are of ill repute.

"I don’t think people care as much because they are Mexican women and that’s what makes me so mad," Alejandro said. "I think we are all worth the same. Our value as human beings is the same."

Through his film, Alejandro aims to raise awareness about the killings in Ciudad Juarez to people outside of Mexico. For the people in Juarez, he hopes the film will help them see the victims in a different light — as human beings instead rather than another casualty.

In Juarez, the story is shown from different angles, from the eyes of an American business traveler, played by Chris Penn, who is in Ciudad Juarez looking for a good time, another businessman who survived a traumatic experience at the hands of thugs and young woman who are ultimately killed.

All the proceeds from the movie’s soundtrack, De Mariposa A Cruz, will benefit these children, Alejandro said.

Several musicians donated their talents from the CD, including Little Joe, José Feliciano, Alejandra Guzmán, Joe Jackson and Jenni Rivera.

Locally, organizations like Mujeres Unidas, a private, nonprofit agency dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence are also supporting the film and its message.

"Because a large majority of our clientele are female, we see it as being important to speak out against forms of violence towards women in to insure that these issues are not ignored," said Diana Cuellar, Prevention and Education Program Coordinator for Mujeres Unidas. "Silence only facilitates this type of aggression. We feel it is vital to take a stand against all acts of violence. People should feel free to travel alone in their own communities, regardless of gender."

Hollywood, not surprisingly has tried to cash in on the murders.

Jennifer Lopez. and co-stars Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen are currently filming in the Mexican border town of Nogales, where a set resembling the streets of Ciudad Juarez, where the murders took place, has been erected. In “Bordertown,” Lopez plays a Chicago-based reporter whose crusading investigations in Juarez, just across the border from Texas, awaken her sense of identity as a Latin woman. Banderas plays a US-trained reporter who runs a local newspaper and Sheen plays Lopez's editor, who is reluctant to take the story seriously.

Minnie Driver stars in an independent movie, "The Virgin of Juarez," shot last year but as yet unreleased, in which she also plays a journalist.

The victims’ families are not impressed with the big Hollywood productions.

"It doesn't help us at all, there is still no justice and no help for the families," said Celia de la Rosa, whose teenage daughter's raped and strangled body was found in a cotton field in 2001 with seven other victims. "This is making money out of our daughters' murders," she said.

The difference between the Hollywood films and the one made by Alejandro was his personal involvement in every aspect of the picture as well as his longtime knowledge of the subject and passion for the cause. Alejandro organized several marches and events in hopes of lighting a fire under local residents and lawmakers from both sides of the border.

The Hollywooders just come, pick up their checks, and move on.

Alejandro told The Monitor during his research in Ciudad Juarez, several mothers of the victims said that numerous media outlets visited the region, but filed their stories and left. No help was offered to the families, Alejandro said.

"Dozens of children were orphaned as a result of these murders," he said. "Most of them are living with other family members but they still have basic needs, such as schooling and healthcare." Sources: KRIS TV (Corpus Christi), Scotsman, El Universal (Mexico), The Monitor (McAllen, Texas), Guardian


Swedish police have launched an investigation into whether former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke has committed "incitement to hatred against a minority group" in Sweden. Duke has spoken numerous times in Sweden. Last February Duke was in Helsingborg where he spoke before nazis and right wing extremists from Sweden and Denmark.

An initial investigation was shut down about three weeks ago on the grounds that Duke was a US citizen and it wouldn’t be possible for Sweden to push through to a prosecution.

But, according to The Local, that decision has been overturned by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Malmö, Sven-Erik Alhem, and the police inquiry has restarted.

Alhem came to his decision after interviewing Pär Brunmark, the man who initially reported the former Ku Klux Klan leader to the police and who has tracked his work in Sweden for several years.

According to Brunmark, Duke has incited hatred against Jews, which, he says, is documented in recorded speeches.

"We cannot with complete certainty say that he will stay away from Sweden for ever. Therefore, assuming that he has committed a crime, it is wrong to allow him to be let off for what he's done," said Sven-Erik Alhem.

Alhem said police would investigate whether Duke can be tried for "agitation against an ethnic group," a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. If charged, Duke would face arrest if he returns to Sweden, but it was not clear whether Sweden would request him to be extradited.

"That depends on the charges," Alhem said. Sources: The Local (Sweden), KLFY (Louisiana), New Orleans Times Picayune, Radio Sweden


Three land-reform activists have been killed in the past few days in the same northeastern state in Brazil, a spokesman for Brazil's Rural Landless Workers' Movement, or MST, said Monday.

Antonio Jose dos Santos of MST, was stabbed 14 times on Saturday, two days after the government granted him a plot of expropriated ranchland after a four-year fight.

Landless Workers´ Liberation Movement (MSLT) regional coordinator Anilton Martins was assassinated in Itaiba on Friday shot ten times by four gunmen on motorbikes at a gas station. Martins reported to the Public Ministry 15 days ago that he had been receiving death threats for over two years but authorities did nothing.

Fifty two year-old Luiz Manoel de Menezes, president of the Rural Workers' Union, was assassinated on Sunday the 30th, when 2 shots were fired into his home.

"Landowners are acting against us with impunity using hired guns and the courts," said MST spokesman Carlos Magnata, who worked with dos Santos in Pernambuco before his murder.

In addition to the three murders, a number of encamped families have been ambushed by hired gunmen.

Last Friday around 10 armed gunmen encircled an MST encampment, in Altinho. The landless hid in the farm's headquarters, where shots were fired at them the entire morning. The encamped families made a call to the police, who arrived once the gunmen had already fled.

The National Institute for Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA) of Pernambuco is pushing for an in depth investigation with the Federal Police to solve these cases

However, few people are ever punished for killings in Brazil's rural areas where local courts and police are often allied to powerful landholders, according to the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission which monitors human rights.

Separately, four MST leaders were given hefty sentences on Friday in Sao Paulo state for theft and destruction during a ranch invasion five years ago. Three of them are on the run. MST leaders say conservative judges and opposition parties are trying to criminalize their movement, which has the right under Brazil's constitution to occupy unused farmland and demand the government purchase it for resettlement.

Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Portuguese, is the largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members organized in 23 out 27 states. The MST carries out long-overdue land reform in a country mired by unjust land distribution. In Brazil, less than 3% of the population owns two-thirds of the land on which crops could be grown. For the last 25 years, the MST has fought for agrarian reform. Sources: Friends of the MST, WebIndia, Prensa Latina, Reuters AlertNet


To follow up on yesterday’s story concerning the death of American Indian David Croud at the hands of Duluth, Minnesota police (see below), it now appears the medical examiners report will be available sooner then later.

Duluth Police Chief Roger Waller told a special meeting of the city's American Indian Committee on Monday that the medical examiner will shortly release his report on Croud's death.

The Washington County Attorney's office expects to decide whether any criminal charges are warranted by Croud's death after it receives all the reports on the case. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension gave its reports to Washington County last week.

Also, the ACLU of Minnesota announced yesterday that it will be representing Croud's family and raised the possibility of a civil lawsuit in the case. "The ACLU of Minnesota has commenced its ongoing investigation, which may lead to civil rights litigation in the Minnesota District Federal Court," a news release said. Chuck Samuelson, ACLU of Minnesota's executive director, said the Croud family and the Duluth American Indian Commission asked the group to take the case.

"We have the case of an American Indian man who was publicly intoxicated, was aggressively arrested by Duluth police officers and who died while in police custody at St. Mary's hospital," Samuelson told the News Tribune. "The ACLU of Minnesota is involved in other cases where American Indians seem to be the target of excessive police interest, and this just fit into what we perceive as a pattern."

Croud, 29, was taken off life support Oct. 18, six days after witnesses said police slammed him against a stone wall as they were arresting him.

To sign a petition demanding action in this case, go to
Sources: Duluth News Tribune, Star Tribune (Minniapolis-St. Paul)

Monday, October 31, 2005


More than 30 people gathered at Duluth City Hall last Friday afternoon to call for an independent investigation into the recent death of an American Indian, and to protest police brutality.

David Croud, 29, died Oct. 18, six days after a confrontation with police in downtown Duluth.

"I believe in my heart it wouldn't have happened if he wasn't Native," participant Jessica Redman told the News Tribune. "My gut tells me there was police brutality," said Redman, who also questioned the action of emergency room workers at St. Mary's Medical Center who medicated Croud, who police say was intoxicated.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is investigating Croud's death at the request of Duluth Police Chief Roger Waller. But some doubt that the BCA's investigation will be unbiased.

"They are an arm of the police," said Adam Ritscher, who helped organize Friday's vigil. "We do not think it's realistic for police to investigate police."

A local weekly, The Reader, has run an investigative report. It reads in part:

Mike Mancini, owner of Downtown Computer, witnessed the October 12 Duluth Police Department detention of David Croud outside his business at 203 E. Superior St.

Mancini and two of his employees had stepped onto the sidewalk in front of his storefront at approximately 6 p.m. Mancini didn’t notice Croud until the policemen were already confronting him.

Mancini saw the officers (one uniformed, one plainclothes) approach Croud. “They had him pinned face first against the sandstone wall of our building,” he told the Reader. Croud was non-combative while the officers repeatedly thrust him against the wall while attempting to handcuff him. At this point, Mancini asked what “this guy had been doing” and an officer replied that he was causing trouble at the Fond du Luth Casino. Unable to secure the handcuffs, the officers pulled him back from the wall, “then they flung him to the sidewalk, putting all their weight on him, their knees to his back,” finally succeeding at cuffing him. When they pulled him back up, one side of his face was a mass of blood, leaving a pool of blood on the sidewalk.

As he stood up and was being walked to the squad car double-parked nearby, he began complaining about losing his hat, Mancini says. This seemed to agitate him. An officer said they could get his hat. As they tried to put Croud into the squad car, he stopped cooperating, basically he just tried to stand still and would not bend over to get in the back seat. The officers repeatedly and loudly ordered him to stop resisting.

At this time a woman walked up to the rear bumper of the squad. As the officers seemed to know her and did not ask her to step back, Mancini believes she was also a police officer. Mancini noted that the woman remained there and was, in his opinion, in an ideal position to observe the remainder of the incident.

The two officers succeeded in getting Croud into of the squad car and closed the door.

Croud now seemed to be safely restrained. One of the officers then ran forward to another squad car parked three or four car lengths closer to Second Avenue East. The officer reached into the back seat of the car, picked up an item, and carried it back. Mancini could not see what the item was, but heard someone say, “Oh, they’re going to taser him.” The officer reached into the back of the car toward Croud, inserting his upper body and both arms into the car for approximately ten seconds. Mancini observed a blue flash. Mancini is not positive that the blue flash was from a taser. Daniel Keinbaum, an employee of Downtown Computer, said he heard an electronic sound twice, once faintly then louder. The officers then drove Croud away. Only two officers were involved in the detention of Croud.

The longer he thought about it, the more concerned Mancini became over the nature of this incident. Mancini has witnessed dozens of arrests in downtown Duluth over the years and he’s never seen one with this level of police aggression. At the time, Mancini did not know whether Croud was seriously injured. Mancini was just bothered by how violent the event was.

At approximately 8 p.m., Mancini called 911 to report an aggressive incident with a police arrest. The 911 operator referred him to another officer who promptly arranged for the police to go to Downtown Computer, tape it off, and take a variety of pictures of the scene.

A Duluth police officer and Jerome Koneczny of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension interviewed Mancini that evening. Both officers were very polite, professional, and thorough. Mancini described the incident in detail and at length.

Contrary to the Duluth News Tribune editorial lamenting the lack of a camera in this incident, the Reader says Fond du Luth Casino has a high quality security camera at the front corner of their building aimed down the sidewalk toward the Croud incident, which occurred of approximately 160-200 feet away. As it was still light outside, careful analyses of the data should help confirm the truth. The Reader has learned that MBCA’s Koneczny has viewed tape.

Many of Duluth’s American Indians are incensed by Duluth Mayor Herb Bergson’s unequivocal support for the officers involved; feeling Bergson’s statement suggests that the outcome of the investigation has been pre-judged by city officials. Bergson previously was a long term police detective, and served as Mayor of Superior. Croud was a member of the White Earth Chippewa tribe.

Sky5 Max reports, the city's American Indian Commission spent two hours of its monthly meeting talking about the incident. Some commission members said they are concerned. "(Croud) was a lot better before police arrived," commission member Mike Sayers said, questioning the officers' decision to take Croud into custody.

Susan Harris, first Assistant Washington County Attorney, says that the timing of a charging decision will depend on how long it takes to get the results of the autopsy. "Once we have everything we need to make a decision, assuming no further investigation is needed by the BCA, we try to get things out in less than 30 days," she said.

However, Duluth American Indian Commission member Mike Sayers was surprised to learn that it could take eight weeks for the medical examiner's final report. "Eight weeks seems like a long time, but we'll just wait and see what happens," said Sayers, who is on a three-member subcommittee that American Indian Commission Chairman Robert Powless created to examine the Croud incident,to the News Tribune.

The Croud case led to the recent creation of an online petition to the BCA and Duluth Police Department to "stop the continual abuse, racism and violence against Native Americans from police and other authorities.” The petition created by Tamra Brennan of NDN News in New Mexico, states, "The continual racism and violence against Native Americans within the police departments all over the country must come to a end," her petition reads. "These officers should be immediately and permanently removed from duty and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

"There has been a crime committed," Joe Croud, David Croud's uncle told Sky5Max,, "You didn't deal with David in a right manner. Your police department took my nephew." Sources: Reader Weekly (Duluth), Sky5 Max (Minniapolis), Dultuth News Tribune, News6 (Duluth)


After 17 days of picketing, the Ingham Regional nurses have ended their strike. 93% of the Ingham nurses that voted on a 3-year contract voted in favor of it. They say they got what they wanted and they’ll go back to work.

Joseph Marutiak, representing the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 459, said the hospital agreed to immediately increase staffing levels in three units - the nurses' key reason for striking.

Nurses at Ingham Regional Hospital voted 282 to 23 in support of a three year contract that will immediately increase staffing in 2 critical care units and the emergency room.

Cindy Jeffries, Service Representative, Local 459 told WLNS, "We've added up to 20 new positions between the 3 areas that were critical, just designated for those areas to start us out."

Jodi Watts, Nurse, Ingham Regional Hospital: "The main floors that had issues were addressed. There's a guarantee in the contract that the other floors will be addressed through a council that will be established within the next 7 days."

While the union's staffing concerns were met, they were unsuccessful in obtaining a better pension plan. They had wanted plans upgraded to equal those that nurses receive at other hospitals owned by Ingham's parent company, McLaren Health Care Corp. But Marutiak told the Lansing State Journal the union will have to fight for that in the future. In the agreement, he said nurses will keep their existing pension plans; new employees will have a different plan in which they share the costs of the plan with the company.

But he again emphasized, "Staffing was a more important issue to us." Sources: WLNS, Lansing State Journal


Around 60 nazis got together the other day to call for the release of their friend Ernst Zuendel from a German prison in front of the German Embassy in Prague. The rally was led by the National Resistance, the country’s most visible nazi like organization.

Almost three times that many showed up to oppose them. "Nothing but lies. Learn to read," anti-Nazi activists chanted over the heads of police guards at the ultra-right protesters listening to their leaders' speeches.

The counter protest, initiated by the Tolerance and Civic Society Association, was attended by several well-known personalities, including MPs Tatana Fischerova, Svatopluk Karasek, Karel Schwarzenberg (all for Freedom Union, US-DEU) and Jaromir Stetina (for Greens).

“I was alive in 1937, I saw what the Nazis did, and it is my obligation to come here and say it and to support the action by the German government,” said Senator Karel Schwarzenberg, descendent of a long line of Bohemian aristocrats.

Ivona Novomestska, a 22-year-old student at Charles University, said she felt obligated to protest against the neo-Nazi demonstration because “although their numbers are very small, if we all ignore them, they could get a lot bigger.”

Leo Pavlat, director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, said during the event that he felt encouraged that so many prominent personalities and journalists showed up for the counter protest. “It shows that Czechs don’t think of this as a Jewish question anymore,” he said.

Ernst Zundel, a white supremacist and longtime Canadian resident charged in Germany with inciting racial hatred, will go on trial on Nov. 8, a court said Friday. Zundel will go on trial in the western city of Mannheim court spokeswoman Bettina Krenz said.

German authorities accuse Zundel, who was deported from Canada in March, of decades of anti-Semitic activities, including repeated denials of the Holocaust - a crime in Germany - in documents and on the Internet. Prosecutors charged Zundel, 66, with incitement in July, four months after his arrest on arrival in Germany after a long legal battle. He remains in custody.

He had been detained in Toronto since 2003 under anti-terrorism laws and deported after a Canadian judge ruled his activities a threat to national and international security.

According to prosecutors in Canada, Zundel funded organizations and “advised and directed” white supremacists who advocated violence against blacks, Jews and other minorities, and the overthrow of the U.S, German and South African governments.

Among them were Wolfgang Droege, former leader of the neo-Nazi Heritage Front, who was shot to death earlier this year; William Pierce, author of the racist tract The Turner Diaries; Richard Butler, founder of Aryan Nations; the fascist Ewald Althans, who had designs on becoming the fuehrer of Germany before being arrested for sedition, and whom Zundel was sending $2,000 a month; Dennis Mahon, publisher of the racist Oklahoma Excalibur, which urged the overthrow of “Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG)”; and Tom Metzger, director of White Aryan Resistance.

Donald MacIntosh, the lead Crown prosecutor in the deportation case in Canada told Canadian Jewish News, “Zundel counseled these people on how far they could and should go under the First Amendment [of the U.S. constitution],” MacIntosh said.

MacIntosh said Zundel attempted to get the names and addresses of certain Jewish Canadians on the pretext that he wanted to subpoena them, but the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was concerned it was really to give them to the white supremacists.

“Zundel was one of the most important purveyors of hate literature in the world, distributing to 42 countries since the early 1970s,” MacIntosh said.

“All countries must be vigilant in the fight against hate and resolutely bring to justice those committing crimes against humanity or counseling others to do so,” he said.

To prevent the spread of hatred, people from all backgrounds and walks of life must work together, MacIntosh said.

He added that education alone is not necessarily a guarantee against racism, noting that Zundel’s third wife, Ingrid Rimland, has a PhD in educational psychology, yet has posted “some of the most virulent material” on Zundel’s website. Sources: CTV, Canadian Jewish News, Czech News Agency, JTA


Now that is more like it. A nominee the President and his buddies can all be proud of. Samuel Alito has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit since his appointment by the first President Bush in 1990. In that time, he has done nothing but buff up his right wing credentials.

And this judge ain’t gonna take no flack from a bunch of uppity women folk. At least, not unless they get permission to give it from their husbands first (unmarried women just need not apply at all).

In his famous dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey he made clear his view that women must ask permission from their husbands before they have medical procedures (or as blogger Joel Achtenbach put added, “…or go shopping or try to ‘talk back’ or anything like that.”).

The Supreme Court disagreed with Judge Alito on that one. The court in its majority said, "For the great many women who are victims of abuse inflicted by their husbands, or whose children are the victims of such abuse, a spousal notice requirement enables the husband to wield an effective veto over his wife's decision."

Or as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's commented, "Women do not lose their
constitutionally protected liberty when they marry."

But then she's just a woman.

But hey, the Judge’s opinions on abortion actual are only the tip of the iceberg.

Judge Alito joined the majority of a sharply divided Third Circuit in holding that female students who were physically sexually abused, including touching and sodomization, by fellow students during the course of a class do not have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because the state does not have a special duty of caring for them. D.R. v. Middle Bucks Area Vocational Technical Sch., 972 F.2d 1364 (3d Cir. 1992). Anyway, if your daughter, or you, happens to be sodomized at school, don’t come crying about it to the champion of family values Judge Samuel Alito.

And as far as racial discrimination goes. Well, you know, the judge would tell you that whole racism schlock just gets blown out of proportion.

Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

And just because you’re handicapped, don't come crying to Judge Alito over spilt milk.

In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.” [Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1991]

However, if you like strip searches, you couldn’t be more happy with President Bush’s pick.

In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004] Doe v. Goody...just sounds cute, doesn't it.

And don’t think he would just parrot other conservative judges’ opinions. After all he split with former Chief Justice Rehnquist on the Family and Medical Leave Act. Judge Alito wrote an opinion that Congress had no authority to require state employers to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act. Justice Rehnquist wrote the Supreme Court’s majority opinion that repudiated Alito on that one.

And, dad gummite, he is a crime fighter.

Lawrence Lustberg, a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer who has known Alito since 1981 and tried cases before him on the Third Circuit, describes him as "an activist conservatist judge" who is tough on crime and narrowly construes prisoners' and criminals' rights. "He's very prosecutorial from the bench. He has looked to be creative in his conservatism, which is, I think, as much a Rehnquist as a Scalia trait," Lustberg says. Thank God, this guy is a creative not a compassionate conservative.

And with Judge Alito on the bench our machine guns are safe. Alito ruled that the feds could not regulate the possession of machine guns. In a dissent to a ruling that upheld the constitutionality of a federal law banning the possession of machine guns, Alito argued for greater state rights in reasoning that Congress had no authority to regulate private gun possession.

And if all that isn't enough to sell you on this dude, well, as Orin Kerr, Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University, says at some website called the Volokh Conspiracy, “Judge Alito is one of the most likable people you'll ever meet. He comes off as modest, quiet, and very thoughtful, but he also has a sharp sense of humor.” Not only that but University of North Carolina Law Professor Eric Mueller says of Alito, “He seems younger than his years. There is a boysihness to him.”

So lets get out there and throw up a big cheer for the guy who could make the Supreme Court fun again – Samuel Alito. Sources: Legal Momentum, U.S. News and World Report, Court TV, Underneath Their Robes, Save the Court, Washington Post, Liberal Oasis, Think Progress