Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pot Legalization in California – Why Obama and the Democrats are Losing Their Base

As windows at the DNC headquarters in Downtown Modesto still lay shattered and broken from an attack by a revolutionary group last month, many are left wondering where the broad support from the administration has gone in the last two years. The following essay details this frustration, and how the administration's hard line stance against marijuana legalization is simply the continuation of racist policies and attacks on poor and working people.

By John Jacobsen, from
Trial by Fire

Once again, President Obama’s administration is standing in the way of pro-working class, civil rights legislation. In response, the Democratic Party’s base is dropping out from under them.
In order to offset the lost votes, Obama and the democrats are doing everything they can to get their base motivated – everything except listening to them.

Obama speaking to students at George Washington University in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010.
President Obama has been racing across the country these past several weeks in a desperate attempt to rally the Democratic base and get out the vote, responding to large Republican gains in key senate and gubernatorial races.
Panicked Democratic Party organizers have hurriedly booked him on several tour stops across the country targeting youth, African-Americans and first time voters in an effort to recreate the wave of enthusiasm that swept Obama into the White House in 2008.
The tour, however, will likely be seen by many Americans as too little, too late.
According to a recent Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll, Obama’s core base is falling apart at the seams: nearly a fourth of the constituency that voted for him in 2008 will be voting Republican this mid-term election. On top of that, only half of Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 have committed to turn out this November.
“In a reversal from 2008,” observes AP author Liz Sidoti, “[a recent AP poll] found that Obama backers who expected change in Washington – 63 percent – now think nothing ever will happen. Just 36 percent still think Obama can do it…”
The feeling is understandable. Most of Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s most notable achievements have left the American people wanting much more. Americans who believe health care legislation should have gone much further, for example, outnumber Americans who opposed the legislation by a margin of 2-1.
Of course, to recoup much of the lost youth turnout for these mid-term elections, many might wonder why the Obama administration isn’t taking a more lenient stance on the recent attempts to legalize marijuana in California. Turnout for the November elections in California this year are up significantly, largely because of the widespread support marijuana legalization has from young voters (54% of whom support it, against 34% who oppose). Endorsing the proposition could prove beneficial for many Democratic candidates.
“He’s not listening to the majority of the people who elected him,” said SaraSue Crawford of Jacksonville, Fla. in an interview with the Associated Press. “It’s like he’s ignoring his base.”
Most of Obama’s liberal base (well over half of whom support the legalization of marijuana) are probably saying the same thing about his administration’s recent stance on California’s Prop 19 – the ballot initiative which would legalize the growth and sale of weed.
The Obama Administration’s Attorney General Eric Holder, it was revealed last week, is strongly opposed to the proposition. In a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Holder made it clear that even if California voters pass the measure, the administration’s Department of Justice will continue to aggressively prosecute possession and distribution of marijuana in California. Says Holder,
“We will vigorously enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law…”
The move has outraged many of prop 19′s supporters, including the ACLU, which responded to the Obama administrations’ hard line on marijuana on Monday, arguing that the continued criminalization of marijuana wastes scarce resources during hard economic times and disproportionately affects communities of color, particularly black and Latino communities.
“The ACLU took heart from Director Kerlikowske’s acknowledgment that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed,” states the ACLU’s letter. “But instead of scaling back the rhetoric associated with that ineffective and out-of-date campaign, it appears the administration would resist California’s modest attempt to begin dismantling one of the defining injustices of our failed drug policies: that the war on drugs has become a war on minorities.”
The assertion has some powerful statistics behind it.
Of all drug users in the United States today, 70% are white, while only 14% are black and 13% Hispanic. However, when we look at incarceration rates, the numbers are nearly turned on their heads. Only 29 percent of inmates in state prisons for drug offenses were white, while a whopping 45 percent were black and 20 percent were Hispanic. Federal prisons were no more representative, with 25%, 31%, and 40% for whites, blacks and Hispanics, respectively.
In 2008 alone, California police made 78,500 arrests related to marijuana.

Interesting Reads : As the marijuana legalization debate rages on, the professionals who run drug rehabs continue to help those who seek treatment and rehabilitation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

People Hit the Streets as Ex-Cop Details Ongoing Brutality

"Sgt. Craig Plante writes about the "good ol' days" when veteran police officers taught new recruits the "unwritten rule:" You could beat "anyone who ran from us."' - Modesto Bee

On Saturday, October 23rd, 25 people took to the streets of Modesto against the ongoing murder and brutality of police on the streets and at the local county jail. The march was organized by Modesto Anarcho and Modesto Copwatch, with many families representing Francisco Moran and Rita Elias. In September of 2010, two people in less than 20 days were shot and killed by Modesto Police and Stanislaus County Sheriffs. Francisco Moran was killed in east Modesto, as police responding to a domestic call killed Moran and later claimed he was brandishing a knife. The knife turned out to in fact be a wooden spoon, that Moran had in his waistband. Rita Elias, a West Modesto resident, was shot and killed by an off duty Stanislaus County Sheriff, who was trying to evict Elias from her home for her landlord parents. After an argument ensued, Elias was shot dead. Police claim that Elias brandished a realistic looking toy gun, which she aimed at the Sheriff, who killed Elias in self-defense. Family and witnesses dispute this claim. Also, in the last year, 6 people have died at the Stanislaus County Jail. Half of those families of the murdered are launching lawsuits on their behalf for wrongful deaths. By the Sheriff's own admission, half of those who have died in the past year also had tasers deployed on them inside the jail.

Marchers marched to the spot down town where a mentally handicapped man was shot and killed by Modesto Police in 2009, the Modesto Police station, the County Jail, and ended at Paperboy Park, which was shut down by the City of Modesto in mid-2010. The park closure is part of an effort to kick out homeless people from the downtown and re-develop the area. Marchers also marched through the downtown bus station, handing out several hundred copies of the new time lines of Ongoing Police Repression in the Central Valley and the newest issue of Modesto Anarcho. Marchers then discussed where to go next with the movement to fight police repression in the local area.

While the marchers where able to draw connections to repression across the city; in the jails, in the streets, in the service of upper class interests, a recent leaked email details how police repression is everyday common policy. The leaked email only gives more ammo to those who have be calling for an end to ongoing police repression and murder for decades.

According to the Modesto Bee:

A vivid account of police brutality came to light Tuesday after a judge
ruled an e-mail written by a retired Modesto police sergeant be released as
evidence in a murder case.

In the e-mail, Sgt. Craig Plante writes about the "good ol' days" when
veteran police officers taught new recruits the "unwritten rule:" You could beat
"anyone who ran from us."

"The bad guys knew it as well as we did," Plante wrote. "If we chased you, it was coming. … You were pummeled, taken to Scenic Hospital, put to the front of the line, patched up and booked."

The biggest "B&R [beat and release] event" — when officers would beat and release people — was Modesto's Graffiti Night festivities, Plante wrote. Police would remove their name tags before doing it, the sergeant said. Plante said he wore another
officer's name tag from 1986 through 1991, the only dates referenced in the

"You'd start hitting, they'd start running and eventually they'd escape into the crowd," Plante wrote. "The SWAT (team) had their own 'Strike Squad.' …
They'd pour out and start clubbing people … until everyone ran away."

Police Chief Mike Harden confirmed Tuesday that Plante sent the e-mail to his colleagues on his last day of work, Sept. 12. Harden said he was "deeply
disappointed," but said there was no specific name or incident mentioned in the
e-mail that the department could investigate. He said Plante's e-mail was merely

"It's either a reflection of his career or it's made up," said Harden, a 27-year veteran of the department. "I think it's inaccurate. It's not how this Police Department was run then and surely not now. This department does not willy-nilly use force without a legal justification to do so." In an e-mail to The Bee late Tuesday, Plante said he first heard a veteran officer use the term "beat and release" after breaking up fights at Graffiti Night, when thousands of people jammed downtown Modesto and McHenry Avenue to celebrate classic cars. He said these were not "one-sided affairs" but officers "fighting with groups of people," some of whom evaded arrest by fleeing into the crowd.

[An] attorney, Frank Carson, called the e-mail an eye-opening look into the mentality of Modesto police.

"It's a culture that lends itself to 'We're all in this together, and it's us versus them. The rules don't apply to us. We make the rules,' " Carson said. "It's about time that people found out, because our clients certainly know."

Read the email in full here.

The email details what many people already know. That the Modesto police can beat and murder with impunity. Sgt. Craig Plante ends the email by stating that he leaves the MPD with a 'ton of friends.' Sadly for Plante and the rest of the pigs - there will always be more of us than them. It is time we start talking with each other about if we are going to allow the police to continue with their now publicly stated policy of brutality - or stand up and fight them.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Modesto Anarcho #15: Out Now! Plus: Timeline of Police Repression Repression 2008-2010.

That's right, the new issue of the magazine is out now. You may have already picked it up at the Firehouse, or maybe you're just seeing it now, but either way check out the online, full-color PDF. It's fun! This issue: class divisions & conflict at CSU Stanislaus as former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin comes to town, a report-back from Modesto PRIDE, a strong critique of leftist recuperation, gentrification, privatization, and the lumpen proletariate collide in Downtown Modesto, and a run-down of local police killings with background information and more. Also, look for stacked Action and Repression sections, letters from prisoners, and more!

In addition, we're proud to release a new timeline of Ongoing Police Repression in the Central Valley, showcasing important instances of police violence and actions taken against the police all over the Central Valley.

Download both here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mommie, can I go out and, revolt tonight?

Millions of working families risk losing jobs and face eviction and foreclosure, as the Governor vetoed funds that would go to day care for young children of working parents. Lack of access to free day care means that working people will have to take time off work and shell out thousands a year to make sure their kids are taken care of. For many families in the United States right now, such a feat is impossible. According to the Stockton Record:

1,600 San Joaquin County children will be without state-subsidized child-care services under a last-minute reduction made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in signing California's budget. Local advocates are calling the cuts "catastrophic," saying they jeopardize the employment of hundreds of San Joaquin County parents, further threatening an already vulnerable economy. The governor used his line-item veto power, in part, to cut a $256 million program that pays the child care costs of former welfare recipients who have been off of cash aid for two years.
A bay area based blog read:

The governor slashed $256 million from CalWORKS, money that was meant to aid children of families trying to move off of welfare. [Also, in regards to foster kids,] The battle to save the funding has been ongoing, with thousands of California’s foster kids hanging in the balance since August 2009. That’s when Schwarzenegger vetoed $80 million in child welfare money that was meant for services such as foster care, transitional support for youth aging out of the system and efforts to decrease social workers’ caseloads.
Attacks against education, jobs, benefits, health care, and social welfare continue. When we will start standing up in our work places and in the streets against such attacks? We need only look at the fires lit by the riots and general strikes in France currently to see that if we don't want to be wiping blood from our face on our knees, we'd better start hitting back on our feet.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Evictions or Occupations?

People in Merced Protest eviction of homeless squatters.

In Merced today, police and city workers began the eviction process of a homeless encampment that has existed for several years. Where will these people go? Many will simply go to other camps, or find shelters to go into. According to the City of Merced website, "It’s estimated that one out of every 82 homeowners in Merced is having problems paying the mortgage." So, while the streets continue to swell with people kicked out of their homes, or unable to make payments due to job loss or low income, there is a lot of vacant property out there!

Taking over some vacant property is just what some friends of ours in Homes Not Jails, a SF based organization did in the oh-so hard Tenderloin District in San Francisco. These people didn't ask or lobby the government to give them something, they went out and took it. They aren't begging, they are taking what they need in their own city and defending it from the pigs. Many of us know people that have stayed inside their foreclosed houses after the banks want to evict them, or maybe we even know people that break into vacant ones so they can have a place to stay. The point is, we all know what it's like to be evicted, or face that threat. It's time we stop being afraid and start taking and defending what we need. Whether that's a place to stay, or keeping the homes that we have.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Eric; Prisoner Letter-Writing Party

Tomorrow, October 7th, is Eric McDavid's Birthday. As readers of MA will know, Eric is a local (Sacramento-based) political prisoner, currently serving a 20 year sentence in federal prison for “thought crime.” He was arrested in January 2006 (as part of the government's ongoing "Green Scare" campaign against environmental and animal rights activists) after being targeted by an undercover informant who formulated a crime and entrapped Eric in it. Eric was targeted by the state for his political beliefs, and his case is important for everyone who dares to stand up. He is currently appealing his conviction and his sentencing.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday, September 21st, the 9th circuit court denied Eric's appeal of his conviction and sentencing. Given all that has happened these past 4+ years, this news isn't shocking so much as it is maddening and upsetting. The state has, from the beginning, used dirty tricks and lies to hold Eric captive. As many have said, they wished to make an example of him...
And in that, at least, they have been successful. But not in the way that they might have wished. Because for us, Eric has been a constant example of strength, courage and integrity. Of staying the course, even when the deck is totally stacked against him. And of not losing one's Self in the midst of potentially crushing adversity. This is a very difficult time for Eric and his loved ones. Please send Eric a note of support to let him know he is not forgotten. For more info on how to write Eric, you can visit his website at:

To wish Eric a happy birthday, we will be meeting 7:00 PM October 7th at Firehouse 51, our social center in Downtown Modesto. Email for directions if needed. Feel free to bring friends, food, paper, and pens, and music. We will also provide a brief rundown of Eric's case for those who are not familiar with it. See you there!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Can We Say About Those Windows That Hasn't Already Been Said About Afghanistan?

According to the Modesto Bee, sometime between Friday night and Sunday night, people broke out the windows to the Democratic Party headquarters in Modesto. According to one commentator, "The vandals made several attempts to break out every window, but were only successful breaking four of the windows completely. The viciousness of the attack is evident by one window that suffered 7 strikes but failed to shatter." Some at first speculated that Republicans were to blame for the attack - or even that Democrats themselves caused the vandalism. Perhaps, some thought, they had carried it out in an attempt to gain some press. However, graffiti left at the scene spelled out simply "RAAN," and a post on a website claimed responsibility for the attack. RAAN, or the 'Red and Anarchist Action Network,' is a "loose network of anarchists and anti-state/anti-Leninist communists" across the United States and the world. In 2006, another RAAN action took place in Modesto, targeting the "Tittz Salon," a 'gentleman's club' with accordingly sexist imagery.

While Modesto Anarcho does not engage or participate in illegal action, and exists to disseminate combative working class news and analysis, we can't help but find the reaction to the vandalism to be very telling. As one poster on the Modesto Bee said:
Republican/Democrat? Doesn't really matter. Neither has done what they said they were going to do for the last 50 years. If you buy what either party is selling, get a receipt because what you get won't be what you are paying for. Neither delivers the philosophies that they say they stand for. I think Lewis Black said it best. Republicans suck, Democrats blow.
Another poster wrote:
The Democrats in the last several decades have gained a reputation for being the "party of working people," but this or course has never been the case. The Democrats in the past greatly supported slavery, and then later segregation. During the depression, liberals like FDR realized that unless a welfare state was created and the bosses worked closer with union leaders, workers would revolt en mass, possibly overthrowing capitalism. Thus, the move to support a "welfare state" and labor unions was a move to protect capitalism, not reign it in. The late Howard Zinn discusses this greatly in his famous book, A People's History of the United States. Click on the link to view the book in full.

In recent years, the Dems lead the charge in supporting globalization, as the Clinton crew backed NAFTA, FTAA, and a host of other trade agreements that displaced millions of jobs and made it easier for corporations to move across borders and exploit workers and the environment better. Let's also not forget about those wars either! Either the hundreds of thousands that died under Clinton as Iraqi babies died through sanctions, or death squads that murdered villagers in Columbia under the pretext of the 'drug war.' The current Obama regime expanded the ground war in Afghanistan, backed the bailout for the banks, failed to create universal health care, and stood behind the attacks on civil liberties. The Republicans of course are just as worse, but can any poor, broke, or working person point to anything Democrats have done for us in the past year? The political parties continue to be a shit sandwich without the bread. As we wrote in Modesto Anarcho before the election:
The alternative to electoral politics has always been direct action. We must organize as a class of people against the ruling class. We must break the divisions within ourselves such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. Our true power lies in our ability to suppress and destroy class society, to gain space and territory for ourselves. We have felt this power on the streets of Modesto and elsewhere during the May Day marches and walkouts that involved tens of thousands and brought the city to a standstill. We have seen it in the ongoing occupation at DQ-University, where poor people of color have lead a struggle to take back the land. We have experienced it in the community struggles to shut down the Tallow Plant, the Covanta Incinerator, and also stop racist groups like Save Our State. We have watched it in the rent strikes in Ceres, homeless tent cities in Fresno, riots against the police in Stockton, and the Copwatch programs against police brutality in Modesto.
Perhaps more important than who did the vandalism is how it signals that the mirage that Obama rode in on; the youthful support from so many people that were ready for "change," is over. Many people are waking up to the fact that the ruling parties are only interested in playing the same game, albeit with different color jerseys.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rita Elias: Protests Continue Over Shooting Death

Protests against the shooting death of Rita Elias continued on Friday, when protestors marched from outside the Modesto Police Station into the downtown, chanting, holding signs and banners, and then stopping to protest outside of the jail. Members of both Rita Elais family and Francisco Moran were present, and protestors handed out flyers promoting an upcoming rally and march that will take place on October 23rd, on 10th and J Street. The protest will bring attention to those that have died inside the Stanislaus County Jail and all those that have been shot and killed by Sheriffs and local police.

Meanwhile, the DA's Office has yet to release their findings for thier own investigation, as more information comes out in regards to Kari Abbey and her involvement in her parents real estate business.

To print and view a flyer for the march on October 23rd, go here.