Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Supreme Court rejects challenge to Wisconsin voter identification law

By Tom Carter
March 30, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Last week, the Supreme Court declined to review a federal appeals court decision upholding Wisconsin’s antidemocratic “Voter ID” law.

Wisconsin’s voter identification regime, championed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, is among the most restrictive in the country. The law was enacted in 2011, the same year that Walker confronted mass protests against his administration’s assault on education, social services, and workers’ wages and pensions. The law, presented as a measure to combat non-existent “voter fraud,” is expected to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.

A federal district court struck down the Wisconsin law as unconstitutional in April of last year, but a divided appeals court reversed the district court’s decision and upheld the law on January 7. The Supreme Court issued its decision on March 24.

Under the Wisconsin law, known as “Act 23,” voters are required to produce one of a narrow set of acceptable forms of identification in order to vote. In many cases, voters simply do not have any of these forms of identification, and obtaining the required identification can be difficult and expensive– especially where there are errors in the state government’s own records.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cited the example of Shirley Brown, an elderly African American woman who was born at home and was never issued a birth certificate. “Brown, who had voted in Wisconsin for decades, was denied an ID because she did not have a birth certificate. DMV [the Department of Motor Vehicles] rejected a statement from her elementary school attesting to her birth, even though Medicare accepted the statement.”

Another voter, Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., was denied an ID because his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway” instead of “Eddie Lee Holloway Junior.”

The Supreme Court is not required to decide every appeal on the merits. Instead, appellants must file requests for their cases to be heard, called petitions for writ of certiorari. The votes of four of the nine justices are required to grant a petition, after which the case is briefed, argued, and decided on the merits. If the petition is denied, then the decision of the lower appellate court stands.

Denial of certiorari is frequently the mechanism by which reactionary rulings by the lower federal appellate courts quietly take effect, largely obscured from public view.

The lawsuit, Frank v. Walker, was filed in 2011 by the ACLU, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other organizations. Federal district judge Lynn Adelman, who first heard the case, came to the conclusion that the Wisconsin law violated the constitution’s Equal Protection Clause as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The Equal Protection Clause, part of the 14th Amendment and ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War, provides that no state can deny to any person “the equal protection of the laws.” The Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed nearly 100 years later, in the course of the Civil Rights upheavals, contains positive prohibitions on categories of state and local legislation that interfere with the right to vote or that have a racially discriminatory impact.

Judge Adelman held that “voter fraud,” the ostensible reason for the Wisconsin legislation, was a sham pretext. “The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. The defendants [state officials] could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past… It is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”

Judge Adelman pointed out that the law will disenfranchise enough voters to affect the outcome of elections. Approximately 300,000 otherwise eligible Wisconsinites were without the necessary identification under the law, while the 2010 gubernatorial election had been decided by about 125,000 votes.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Adelman’s decision, pointing to the Supreme Court’s decision in 2008 upholding a similar regime in Indiana.

The ACLU responded to the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case last week by immediately filing a new federal lawsuit seeking to delay the implementation of Act 23 and seeking to permit voters to use other categories of identification. State officials subsequently agreed that the law would not go into effect in the upcoming state elections in April.

There are, of course, shameless factional interests behind the Republican-led effort to enact “voter identification” laws throughout the country. These laws are a barely disguised effort to disenfranchise large numbers of poor workers, elderly people, students, people with disabilities, and the homeless, who the proponents of such laws expect to be more likely to vote Democrat.

However, important historic and democratic issues are involved in the drive to introduce laws like Act 23 in Wisconsin. After all, the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Wisconsin voting case falls during an especially significant year: the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

As the recent film Selma illustrated effectively, citizens in the Jim Crow south enjoyed the nominal right to vote under federal law. However, the local reactionaries had erected so many procedural obstacles—fees, tests, obscure voting locations and hours, record-keeping requirements, early deadlines, and other arbitrary restrictions—that casting a ballot could be impossible for even the most determined voter.

From a legal standpoint, one of the central democratic reforms that emerged from the struggles of the Civil Rights period was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act was designed to sweep aside all of these fetters, as well as to restore public confidence in a political system that was widely discredited.

The Voting Rights Act targeted state and local regulations on voting, regarding them as presumptively illegitimate, and it banned many such regulations outright. It established a strict system of federal oversight that required many areas with a history of voter disenfranchisement to obtain advance clearance for any proposed regulations.

The political right has always chafed under the Voting Rights Act, regarding it as a thorn in their sides that should be removed as soon as possible. Beginning as early as 1972 with the appointment of later Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to the Supreme Court, the essential legislation of the Civil Rights period has been progressively weakened, culminating in recent years with major Supreme Court decisions dismantling or gutting essential provisions.

By infiltrating arbitrary restrictions on the right to vote back into the electoral system, the Wisconsin law is reactionary in the precise sense of the word. It is a direct attack on the reforms of the Civil Rights period and an attempt to re-introduce laws that were abolished in the course of bitter and prolonged struggles.

Fifty years after the Voting Rights Act, the US Supreme Court refuses to enforce it. This occurs as the American ruling class is rolling back political and social reforms across the board at an accelerating pace.

The author also recommends:

The US Supreme Court’s dismantling of the Voting Rights Act
[27 June 2013]

Killer Cops in Madison

“Most Liberal City”

By Paul Gottinger
March 19, 2015
Counter Punch

 

ca8e3-copsworkforyouMadison, WI

Last Saturday over 1,000 people gathered for the funeral of Tony Robinson on Madison’s East side. Robinson, an unarmed, biracial, teenager was shot and killed on March 6 by Madison police officer Matt Kenny. Officer Kenny shot Robinson in the head and multiple times in the torso after he responded to a call that Robinson was acting “erratically”.

According to friends of Robinson, he was tripping on hallucinogenic drugs the night he was shot. One of the calls to the police came from friends wanting help for Robinson.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where the police exist to offer help. And officer Kenny is no exception. He responded to a teen in need of help with the cold compassion of multiple gunshots. Moreover, Kenny’s murder of Robinson was not his first.

In 2007 Kenny shot and killed a drunk man holding a pellet gun. His punishment? He earned the Medal of Valor, the department’s highest honor.

Robinson is Madison’s third officer-shooting victim in the last 10 months. Executive director of Wisconsin ACLU, Chris Ahmuty, stated, “Madison has a problem that cannot be ignored. The Madison Police Department needs to take all steps possible to reduce the likelihood of excessive use of force incidents and other types of misconduct, including biased policing.”

Obviously, the murder of our country’s young men of color by police officers is a national problem. But Robinson’s murder occurred in one of the most “progressive” neighborhoods in Madison, the near-Eastside, in one of the most “progressive” cities in the US.

There’s two points to make here.

The first point is that liberalism often contains not so subtle forms of racism. Madison liberal icons like mayor Paul Soglin have proven themselves disinterested in the problems of the city’s African-American community.

Madison, and Wisconsin in general has a well-known racial divide. Three-quarters of African-American children live in poverty in Dane County, while only 5% of white children do. The Madison police play their part as well. The MPD arrested African-Americans compared to white folks at a rate of 11-1 in 2013.  The Dane County jail’s population is 48% Black, yet only 7% of the county’s population is black.

The statistics go on like this…

Mayor Soglin addressed students who walked out of class in protest of Tony Robinson’s murder last week.

Soglin had no problem attempting to turn the protest into a PR event for himself. His speech almost entirely ignored the murder of Tony Robinson, and instead focused on his usual talking points. He babbled on about the importance of public education and the indescribable horror of Scott Walker.

Couldn’t he pick a different event to hijack? This protest was organized by students to express their outrage over a murder. It’s clear bringing killer cops to justice isn’t a priority for the mayor.

The students, feeling the discordance with “their” mayor, interrupted him with chants of “What about Tony??”

It’s not just Soglin. A close friend of mine had a conversation with a nationally known Wisconsin politician. One who is something of a liberal icon across the country. To my friend’s shock, this individual essentially justified Robinson’s murder by saying there was a gang shooting at a local mall, therefore the cops were on edge.

This politician was essentially putting a liberal spin on the idea known within US foreign policy as a “pre-emptive strike”. Embedded in this argument is the same logic George Bush used to invade Iraq. The perceived threat in both instances obviously does not justify the violence.

These liberal politicians have no problem labeling Robinson’s murder a “tragedy”. However, they are unwilling to take any serious steps to prevent the next “tragedy”.

The second point is that the police should be understood as a violent institution. Violence has seeped into every crevice and cranny of it. The American police were created to capture escaped slaves and returning them to their slave owners.

The function of police today isn’t so different. Crimes of poverty such as loitering, loud music, or a broken taillight force people of color down a pipeline of imprisonment and into another form of slavery.

The police reek of the stench of violence. Cops exist so that the powerful can maintain control of society. Violence and the threat of violence are their methods of control.

So far, the police have killed 228 people in 2015. There have been 75 days so far in 2015. That comes out to over 3 people killed everyday this year. Last year the police killed over 1,100 people. Again, that comes out to over 3 people killed everyday by our police officers.

Liberals tend to have some problems with the death penalty. Yet, the most prevalent form of execution in this country is death by cop.

Since 1976 there has been 1,403 people convicted of a crime, sentenced to the death penalty, and then executed. This number is only slightly larger than the number of Americans killed by cops LAST YEAR ALONE.

Imagine if ISIS, or Black gangs were killing at this scale. What would the country’s reaction be?

Now we’re told to wait for the investigation of Robinson’s murder by the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation. We’re told there will be justice for Tony. If history is any guide, the murdering officer will walk free, and the blood of black and brown men will continue to spill in the streets.

That is, unless the Black Lives Matter protesters continue to show the country its racist underbelly. That is, unless the protests can force the police to disarm and operate under real accountability. It’s only then that the specter of police violence that haunts the darkened corners of our cities can begin to come to an end.

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email: paul.gottinger@gmail.com

 

Video shows police gunning down mentally ill Texas man

Notes on police violence in America

By Evan Blake
March 18, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Body camera footage released Monday shows police killing a mentally ill man in his Texas home last year, claiming that they felt threatened by a small screwdriver he was holding. Jason Harrison, 38, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was shot by police officers in June 2014 in Dallas, Texas.

The video clip was made public by the Harrison family’s attorney, Geoff Henley, who has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two officers responsible for the shooting, claiming that they violated Harrison’s civil rights.

The footage begins as the officers arrive at the Harrison home. Harrison’s mother opens the door calmly, with her son standing behind her, quiet and unassuming. She slowly walks past the officers, audibly informing them that her son is “bipolar and schizo.” Her son is now standing still in the doorway by himself, and can be seen holding a screwdriver.

Instantly, the officer with the body camera begins screaming at the man to “drop that for me, guy!” Seconds later, he shouts even louder, “Drop it!” As the officers both draw their firearms, Harrison’s mother repeatedly cries out, “Jay!” In less than five seconds after his mother walks past the officers, they collectively fire at least three bullets into Harrison.

He then falls to the ground in front of the garage, near where the other officer was standing. Police claim that Harrison was moving in the officer’s direction when they opened fire, but by the time police begin shooting the camera is no longer facing Jason and it is impossible to tell whether he was moving toward the officers when he was shot.

While Harrison is lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with blood visibly flowing onto the driveway, the officers repeatedly yell, “Drop it guy!” and “Put the damn thing down!” When he slips into unconsciousness, the officers pick up the screwdriver and place his hands behind his back, discussing whether or not to handcuff the unconscious man. Neither officer attempted to administer first aid, apply gauze or help the man in any way, and by the time paramedics arrived he was pronounced dead.

Dallas police have closed their criminal investigation, with the case now under the Dallas County District Attorney’s office. Both officers were placed on paid administrative leave for five days, and have been on active duty since then.

David Harrison, Jason’s older brother, denounced the officers’ actions at the news conference where Henley released the body camera video. He notes that the officers “didn’t acknowledge him… they just acknowledged the screwdriver. As soon as [my mother] got out of the way, [the officers said] ‘I need you to put that down, sir!’ It went from zero to 100.”

Henley added, “When you’re dealing with somebody who is mentally ill, you’re not supposed to agitate. You’re not supposed to move fast… you’re not supposed to inflame.”

Bystander video shows officers failing to help dying victim of police shooting

A bystander’s cell phone footage, taken in the immediate aftermath of the February 20 police shooting of unarmed 31-year-old Ruben Garcia Villalpando, was released by the family’s lawyer last Saturday. Grapevine, Texas police have refused to release the shooting officer ’ s dash-cam footage to the public, making this cell phone footage the first to appear publicly.

The 46-second video shows Villalpando lying on the freeway motionless, with numerous officers standing nearby and none providing any sort of medical assistance to the dying man. The footage was captured a few minutes before the arrival of an ambulance that took him to nearby Fort Worth hospital, where he was pronounced dead hours later.

The man who released the video, Juan Pablo Chico, says that he was driving home from work, and recorded the scene as he passed by. Chico claims that after he stopped recording he saw Villalpando raise his head up from the ground.

Relatives and the family’s attorney, Domingo Garcia, have been shown dash-cam footage from that evening, and assert that the officer who killed Villalpando first shouted profanities at Villalpando. They claim that as he walked toward the officer with his hands up, he asked the officer, “Are you going to kill me?”

Police had pulled Garcia over, alleging that he fled from a possible burglary scene. Villalpando’s family has urged police to release the video to the public.

Attorney Garcia told reporters that “We won’t know if he would have gotten immediate medical care from these officers if they had applied the tourniquets, they applied the blood-clotting gauzes on those two gunshot wounds, if maybe he would have been stabilized enough by the time the ambulance took him to the hospital. What we do know is he was left to lie like roadkill on the side of the road.”

Protests have been held in recent weeks, demanding that police release the dash-cam footage to the public. The Grapevine police department had initially stated that it would release the video, but was instructed not to do so by the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer shoots second man in one month

Officer Pablo Torres shot and killed Aaron Siler, 26, of Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday morning, following a vehicle and foot chase. Siler, who leaves behind a four-year-old daughter, was the second man shot by Torres this month.

Witness Gysai Daniels and his partner, Brenda, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that they heard six gunshots fired by the officer.

A Kenosha Police Department press release states that “When confronted by an officer, the suspect armed himself with a weapon. The officer fired his handgun, striking and killing the suspect.” As of this writing, the “weapon” that prompted Torres to fire at least six bullets at Siler is still unnamed.

Torres had returned to patrol work that very day, after a stint of paid leave following his shooting of a suicidal 64-year-old man. Police allege that the elderly man, who survived the shooting, had been wielding knives at the time. His name has not been released to the media.

Since January 5, 2015, there have been seven police shootings in Wisconsin alone, with four of them fatal. There have been at least 229 police killings in the US so far this year.

Police killings and the collapse of democracy in America

By Andre Damon
March 10, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

LibertyIt is becoming increasingly clear that in working-class communities across the United States, the police function as virtual death squads, beating and killing people with legal impunity.

This reality was once again demonstrated Friday with the killing of 19-year-old Anthony Terrell Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin. On Monday, some 1,500 people, including hundreds of high school students, massed inside the state capitol building to protest the killing.

Matt Kenny, a twelve-year veteran of the Madison Police Department, forced his way into the house where Robinson was staying and fired multiple bullets into the unarmed teenager. The officer, who subsequently claimed Robinson had assaulted him, shot and killed another man in 2007 but was exonerated and even received a service commendation.

Robinson had just graduated from high school and was preparing to attend Milwaukee Area Technical College to study business.

Every day, millions of workers and young people in America face threats, intimidation, beatings and even murder at the hands of cops, whose badges give them a license to kill. Arbitrary police violence and terror are facts of life, alongside chronic mass unemployment, worsening poverty and dwindling educational opportunities.

Robinson is the 192nd person to be killed by police in the US so far this year. In the three days since his death, there have been five more victims. According to official statistics, the number of Americans killed by cops in 2013 was the highest in decades.

Robinson’s mother said the young man spoke about police brutality “constantly” and was deeply affected by last summer’s protests against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri.

The de facto state sanction for police killings was demonstrated only days before Robinson’s death when the Obama administration announced that it would not file charges against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, another unarmed African American youth, in August.

Speaking before students at a town hall event in Columbia, South Carolina on Friday, the same day Robinson was killed, Obama defended the Justice Department decision to clear Wilson, who pumped at least six bullets into Brown in broad daylight. Obama praised the police for doing their jobs “fairly” and “heroically.”

“Officer Wilson,” Obama declared, “like anybody else who is charged with a crime, benefits from due process and a reasonable doubt standard. And if there is uncertainty about what happened, then you can’t just charge them anyway just because what happened was tragic.”

This is a staggering falsification of due process as defined by the US Constitution, the practical result of which is to virtually preclude the prosecution of cops, no matter how brutal their crimes. Obama ignored the fact that Wilson was not charged, and justified this travesty of justice by substituting the standard of proof required to convict a criminal defendant at trial, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, for the much looser standard, probable cause, for filing criminal charges.

There was more than ample “probable cause” for charging Wilson with murder, including multiple eyewitness accounts, as there was for charging the New York cop who was videotaped choking Eric Garner to death, and was similarly allowed to go scot-free.

The White House has extended to the police the de facto immunity that applies to higher operatives of the capitalist state, such as CIA torturers and their superiors, and those, including Obama himself, who order the extrajudicial assassination of alleged terrorists, including American citizens. This above-the-law status also applies to the Wall Street criminals who plunged the US and the world into economic slump and have used the disaster of their own making to cheat and steal with even greater abandon, growing still richer in the process.

While Obama demands virtual certainty of guilt to charge police killers, their victims have absolutely no rights. The Declaration of Independence’s eloquent invocation of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is rendered meaningless in a society where police operate as judge, jury and executioner, free to snuff out the life of a youth like Tony Robinson, secure in the knowledge that they will not be called to account.

That police in large swaths of America function as the equivalent of paramilitary counterinsurgency and occupation forces was indicated by the Justice Department’s own report on systematic police abuse in Ferguson, released the same day as the announcement that officer Wilson would not be charged.

The report declared that “officers violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force.” It noted that “people are punished for talking back to officers, recording public police activities, and lawfully protesting perceived injustices.”

The report cited the example of police siccing a dog on a fourteen-year-old boy, then “[striking] him while he was on the ground, one of them putting a boot on the side of his head,” and laughing about the incident afterward.

Contrary to Obama’s claim that the regime of terror in Ferguson is not “endemic” to America, the federal government itself has issued similar reports over the past year on the police departments in Cleveland and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The same conditions prevail in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and every other city in the country.

What accounts for the growing wave of police violence and murder? Attempts to attribute the situation to a few “bad apples” or even mere corruption are derisory. A phenomenon of such virulence and on such a scale must reflect objective factors deeply rooted in the structure of society. Even if one wished to put the primary blame on the homicidal tendencies and social backwardness, including racism, of individual cops, the question that would have to be answered is: Why are such forces recruited in such numbers into the country’s police departments?

The United States is riven by social and class contradictions that can no longer be contained within the framework of bourgeois democratic procedures. First and foremost is the ever more virulent growth of social inequality. This goes hand in hand with escalating military violence and aggression internationally, as the American ruling class seeks to offset its economic decline by means of war and plunder.

Endless war and militarism abroad fuel the militarization of society at home. The American ruling class looks upon the American working class as its greatest enemy. It lives in perpetual fear of the emergence of mass social opposition to inequality, war and repression. Hence the militarization of the police at home and the increasing use of the counterinsurgency methods of murder and repression employed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries against workers and youth within the borders of the United States.

Madison, the state capital of Wisconsin, was the scene of mass protests by workers and young people in 2011 against the drive by Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is now seeking his party’s nomination for US president, to slash social spending, cut public employee pensions, and strip workers of their right to bargain collectively.

Last month, Walker, referring to the US war against ISIS, declared, “If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I could do the same across the world,” implicitly drawing an equal sign between working-class demonstrators and terrorist groups targeted by the US for annihilation.

Walker’s statement reflected the real state of class relations in America. It pointed to the fact, deliberately obscured by the singled-minded focus on race on the part of the political establishment and the media, as well as their pseudo-left appendages, that the essential division in American is between the working class and the capitalists.

While racism certainly plays a role in police violence, the attempts to present the issue as primarily one of race serves to block the working class from recognizing that the root cause of repression and poverty is the capitalist system, and that the defense of democratic rights requires the unification of all sections of the working class in the struggle for socialism.

Students protest Madison, Wisconsin police killing

By Niles Williamson
March 10, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Students gathered in the rotunda of the capitol building to protest the police murder of 19-year-old Anthony Robinson

Students converged on the state capitol building Monday to protest the police killing of unarmed African American teenager Anthony Robinson, Jr. over the weekend. Capitol police estimated that 1,500 students participated in the demonstration, while protests organizers put the number at 3,000.

Robinson was killed Friday night when Matt Kenny, a 12-year veteran of the Madison Police Department (MPD), forced his way into Robinson’s home and fatally shot him. He was responding to reports of a disturbance on the city’s Near East Side. Robinson was reportedly jumping into the street and messing around with his friends the area.

Kenny has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The killing was the second time that Kenny fatally shot someone. In 2007 the Madison police officer shot and killed 48-year-old Ronald Brandon, a mentally ill white man who was brandishing a pellet gun. That incident was declared a “suicide-by-cop,” and Kenny was given a commendation of valor for his actions.

Protests began the night of the killing, shortly after word got out that Robinson had been killed by the police. On Saturday, Robinson’s friends and other protestors were mocked by police officers when they gathered outside of the home where he was slain to lay flowers at a make-shift memorial.

Walk-outs were reported at all four Madison high schools as well as Sun Prairie High School, which Robinson graduated from in 2014. The high schools students march was also joined by several hundred college students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After filling the rotunda of the capitol building with chants of “Justice for Tony” and hanging a large banner which read “Black Lives Matter,” the students moved to the City-County Building where they demanded a meeting with Democratic Party Mayor Paul Soglin and Police Chief Mike Koval. “We demand that the officer who shot our brother be arrested,” the crowd chanted.

Soglin addressed the crowd and later told reporters that he hoped Madison would set the standard for controlling protests that erupt in response to police shootings. Over the weekend Soglin also released a statement in which he praised the MPD as “one of the finest departments in the Country.”

Koval was reportedly not in the building at the time and thus did not address the assembled students or speak to the press that was present. He instead released a statement on his official city blog. He apologized for the murder of the teenager “who [sic] life was ended far too soon,” and asked for the forgiveness of the young man’s family.

Koval called for the protestors to put their faith in the investigation of the killing being undertaken by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI). “I would urge that everyone consider that the foundations of the much-maligned criminal justice system should still pay heed to the basic requirements of due process and fundamental fairness,” he wrote.

This comes after local prosecutors orchestrated the exoneration last year of Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown. This decision was endorsed by the Obama administration last week, when it announced that it would not be filing federal charges against Wilson.

Robinson’s family held a press conference Monday outside of the house where he was shot and killed. Turin Carter, Robinson’s uncle, drew the connection between Robinson’s slaying and the problem of police violence and brutality throughout the United States. “This is a bigger issue than Tony. This highlights a universal problem with law enforcement and how its procedures have been carried out.”

The walk-outs and march were organized in-part by the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, a local black nationalist protest group. They have previously organized protests against the Madison Police Department and in opposition to the construction of a new jail in the city. The demands of the group are extremely limited and centered on race, including a call for the jailing and policing of African Americans proportional to their population in the city, which is in the single digits.

The Madison School District also sought to keep the protests limited by calling on community leaders to attend the protest and dispatching several busses to take students back to their schools after the rally at the capitol. Students were allowed to skip school with an excuse from their parents.

“In general, we thought it was important that if students chose to demonstrate, that we ensure they are safe and provide positive adult presence to support our students as they express their concerns, grief and questions,” school district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Wisconsin Governor Walker, American workers and terrorism

By Patrick Martin
March 2, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

https://i0.wp.com/thefederalistpapers.integratedmarket.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/800px-Scott_Walker_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpgOn three separate occasions in the past four days, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, one of the frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, has stressed the close connection between the struggle against the working class at home and Washington’s militarist policies internationally.

Linking the suppression of workers’ protests to the fight against terrorism, he has presented his success in defying mass demonstrations that broke out in 2011 in Wisconsin against his attacks on workers’ social and democratic rights as proof of his ability to take on and defeat ISIS.

Speaking Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban Washington DC, Walker cited his experience in pushing through anti-worker legislation as proof of his fitness for the presidency. “If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I could do the same across the world,” he boasted, effectively comparing throngs of state workers and students to ISIS terrorists.

The next day, speaking before the Club for Growth, an assembly of billionaires and their political advisers meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, Walker returned to the theme. He declared that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was President Ronald Reagan’s smashing of the 1981 PATCO strike and mass firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers. “It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world,” he said, that the Reagan administration was serious about confronting its enemies and “we weren’t to be messed with.”

Appearing two days later on “Fox News Sunday,” Walker repeated his claim that defeating public employee unions in Wisconsin was relevant to fighting ISIS terrorists, while pretending to disavow a direct comparison. “I want to make it clear right now. I’m not comparing those two entities,” he said, and then proceeded to do just that.

“What I meant was, it was about leadership,” he declared. “The leadership we provided under extremely difficult circumstances, arguably, the most difficult of any governor in the country.” He added that “if I were to run, and if I were to win and be commander-in-chief, I believe that kind of leadership is what’s necessary to take on radical Islamic terrorism.”

Walker’s initial statement at CPAC was widely described in the media as a gaffe. The problem, however, was not his implicit equation of working-class opposition with terrorist organizations that have been targeted for extermination, but rather his indiscretion in blurting out publicly what the US corporate-financial oligarchy thinks and discusses internally.

In the event, comparing public employees to ISIS terrorists has not disqualified Walker in the eyes of the media. If anything, it appears to have enhanced his stature as a serious presidential candidate.

This is certainly the case among the so-called “base” of the Republican Party that attended CPAC. Walker won the loudest ovations of any of the 13 potential candidates who addressed the group. In the CPAC straw poll, Walker vaulted from sixth place in 2014 to second place, with 21.4 percent of the vote, only narrowly behind Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

As the WSWS noted Saturday, Walker is not the first US political figure to equate the struggle against popular opposition at home with the wars waged by American imperialism overseas. In the American ruling elite, whether among Republicans or Democrats, there is less and less of a distinction made between domestic and foreign policy. The financial aristocracy increasingly sees itself besieged and compelled at home as well as abroad to resort to force and violence.

Events of the past several years demonstrate that for the American ruling class, the main enemy is at home: the jailing of protesters on terrorism charges, such as the “NATO Three”; the lockdown of Boston after the 2013 Marathon bombing; the militarized response to protests in Ferguson and other cities over police violence; the constant invocations of “home-grown” terrorism as the pretext for the dismantling of democratic rights and the buildup of a police state.

There has been comparatively little media attention given to Walker’s open linkage of suppressing strikes and protests at home with waging war for imperialist interests abroad. The television networks and national newspapers prefer to leave such discussions to in-house assemblies of the ultra-right and conclaves of the corporate elite.

There was one revealing commentary, however, posted by right-wing columnist Peggy Noonan, on the web site of the Wall Street Journal. Noonan, a White House speechwriter in the Reagan administration, responded to Walker’s invocation of the PATCO strike as a historic turning point that showed the Soviet Union Reagan’s determination to smash opposition to his policies.

She noted that the PATCO strike had a direct international dimension, since Canadian air traffic controllers carried out job actions in sympathy with their American colleagues and there was widespread support among European workers. The Reagan administration bullied the Canadian government to force a return to work.

Noonan then wrote: “Sen. Edward Kennedy and Lane Kirkland of the AFL CIO played helpful and constructive roles” in support of Reagan’s handling of the PATCO strike.

What Noonan noted in passing was a devastating admission, confirming what the Workers League, forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party, and our newspaper, the Bulletin, explained throughout the 1981 strike: the outright hostility of both the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO officialdom to the struggle of the 11,000 strikers, who had enormous support in the working class.

Kennedy had spearheaded the deregulation of the airline industry in the late 1970s and it was one of his aides, working in the Carter administration, who drew up the plans for strikebreaking and mass firings in the event of an air traffic controllers strike, eventually implemented under Reagan.

Kirkland played the central role in the AFL-CIO’s deliberate isolation of the strike. After a mass rally brought 500,000 workers to Washington on September 19, 1981, the biggest labor demonstration in US history, led by thousands of PATCO strikers, the unions shut down all support, blocked any solidarity strike action by airline or airport workers, and tacitly supported the jailing of strikers and the outlawing and destruction of PATCO.

It is critical that workers entering into struggle, such as the US oil refinery workers now in the second month of a bitter strike, carefully consider the significance of Walker’s statements as well as the record of the Obama administration in overseeing the buildup of the forces of state repression. The ruling class will stop at nothing to defeat the resistance of workers to its assault on living standards and social conditions. It recognizes in the working class its irreconcilable enemy.

The working class must respond with the same degree of consciousness, determination and ruthlessness.

The PATCO precedent remains of decisive importance today because the twin obstacles of the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party remain the decisive barriers that the American working class must overcome in order to build a mass independent political movement that will challenge the profit system and advance a socialist and revolutionary program.

 

 

The author also recommends:

Thirty years since the PATCO strike
[3 August 2011]

Governor compares Wisconsin protesters to terrorists

By Patrick Martin
February 28, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, speaking Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an ultra-right political conference held in suburban Washington DC, compared the working class and student protesters who thronged the streets of Madison in 2011 to ISIS terrorists. “If I could take on 100,000 protestors, I could do the same across the world,” he said, boasting that his defeat of the unions in Wisconsin qualified him to wage war in the Middle East.

Following his remarks, Walker was criticized by at least one other potential candidate, former Texas governor Rick Perry, who said on MSNBC, “You are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil. To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.”

In a brief interchange with reporters, Walker backtracked, saying, “There’s no comparison between the two, let me be perfectly clear. I’m just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling a difficult situation was the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with.”

He continued, attacking the media questioners, saying, “You all will misconstrue things the way you see fit. That’s the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there’s any parallel between the two.” Walker’s campaign later issued a statement declaring, “He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS.”

No one at CPAC was fooled by the subsequent disclaimers. On the contrary, Walker’s remarks, including his comparison of protesters to ISIS, were greeted with noisy cheering, and his speech was the most well-attended of the day’s events. Walker is a top-tier candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, leading in party polls in Iowa, the first state primary contest, and well financed by billionaire supporters like the Koch brothers.

The clear favorite among the half dozen potential presidential candidates who addressed CPAC, Walker repeatedly cited his success in pushing through a battery of anti-worker laws in Wisconsin as his political calling card.

When a heckler shouted something about his attacks on workers, Walker received a standing ovation from the crowd as he claimed to represent “the hard-working taxpayers of this country.” He provoked another ovation by announcing he would sign a right-to-work law next week, making Wisconsin the 25th state to outlaw the union shop.

Walker’s “gaffe,” if it was one, was the blurting out of a usually unspoken truth: in the eyes of the American ruling elite, the working class at home is an enemy just as dangerous—and in reality, far more dangerous—than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

The Wisconsin governor is not the first prominent figure in the US ruling elite to make such a comparison. Only a month ago, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton—appointed by liberal Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio—announced plans for a Special Response Unit of 350 highly trained paramilitary police.

This new unit was “designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” Bratton said, equating peaceful marches against the official whitewash of police murders in New York City to the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine that killed 10 people and the massacre of nearly 200 people in Mumbai. (See: New police unit in New York: The ruling elite prepares for class struggle).

Like Walker, Bratton sought to defuse outrage, saying he had misspoken and that there would be two separate elite police units, one to kill terrorists, the other to beat and arrest demonstrators.

In making an amalgam of peaceful protest and terrorism, to justify murderous mass repression, American politicians are following in the footsteps of military juntas and right-wing dictators around the world.

Only two days before Walker’s speech, the Egyptian military dictator, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi issued a decree that broadens the official definition of terrorism to include any group that uses “any means” to disturb public order, endanger state interests, or “disrupt the constitution or law, or harm national unity.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Compares Organized Workers to ISIS

Republican presidential hopeful says battle against organized workers has prepared him to take on foreign militants

By Jon Queally
February 27, 2015
Common Dreams

 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 26, 2015. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters,” said Walker, “I can do the same in the rest of the world.” (Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

Speaking to the audience at the annual rightwing convergence known as CPAC on Thursday, Republican Governor Scott Walker indicated that his ongoing attack on the rights of workers in his home state of Wisconsin is preparing him for a possible future fight with foreign militants such as those aligned with the Islamic State fighters now operating in Iraq and Syria.

“We need a leader who will stand up and say we will take the fight to them and not wait until they take the fight to American soil,” declared Walker, a 2016 presidential hopeful, to the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC.

“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same in the rest of the world,” he added in a clear reference to both ongoing protests against new anti-worker laws and a historic revolt in 2011 against Walker’s push to dismantle collective-bargaining rights for the state’s labor unions.

According to the Blaze.com, the conservative web platform created by Glenn Beck, Walker’s speech received “thunderous applause” from the conference attendees. Fox News‘ national political correspondent Joseph Weber reported Walker “delivered the goods” during the speech.

Though Walker and his handlers later tried to re-characterize the comments—claiming the governor was not making a comparison between Wisconsin workers who have opposed Walker’s anti-labor policies by joining public protests and militants who have released gruesome videos of beheading and lighting afire their captors inside a foreign war zone—local union members were not buying it.

“To compare the hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, grandmothers, veterans, correctional officers, nurses and all the workers who came out to peacefully protest and stand together for their rights as Americans to ISIS terrorists is disgusting and unacceptable,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt in a statement. “To compare hard-working men and women who work for a living to terrorists is a disgrace. Coming together to peacefully protest for freedom, to raise your voice for a better Wisconsin, this is not an act of terror.”

Watch it (h/t ThinkProgress):

According to Reuters:

The Badger State’s 47-year-old governor has emerged as an early favorite in the battle to win the Republican nomination in the November 2016 presidential election. He was among more than a dozen potential candidates due to address activists at CPAC in Maryland near Washington on Thursday and Friday.

Like many other potential candidates, Walker has argued that Democratic President Barack Obama has not been aggressive enough in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and other extremist groups in the Middle East.

Mounting hunger in western Wisconsin

By Gary Joad
January 24, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

While the Obama administration proclaims “the crisis is passed,” and the US economy is well on the way to recovery, social distress is mounting in many areas of the United States, particularly in those where factory jobs were the mainstay of working-class living standards.

In western Wisconsin, where lumber and manufacturing remain deeply depressed, three food pantry directors recently described the rapidly growing demand for emergency food supplies in an interview with the Eau Claire public radio station.

The three were responding to the question: “So since the economy is recovering, we should see less demand on the food pantries in western Wisconsin. Right?”

Emily Moore, administrator of the Feed My People Food Bank of Eau Claire, said, “That’s not our experience. In the last five years, we have seen our demand for food triple. We are now giving out over 125,000 pounds of food a week.”

On the Wisconsin Public Radio show The West Side, host Rich Kremer interviewed Ms. Moore, Jennifer Sandberg of the Mondovi, Wisconsin food pantry, and Jayne Stewart, director of Paul’s Pantry and Kitchen in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

All three food pantry directors declared that food demand has soared in the face of unremitting boasts by the Obama administration of the supposed economic recovery.

Stewart said the food bank in Rice Lake dispensed 189,000 pounds per month in 2009 and nearly three times that amount, 478,000 pounds per month, in 2014.

In Mondovi, Wisconsin, 23 miles south of Eau Claire, food used from the pantry has doubled every year for the last several years, according to Sandberg, who is a member of the board of directors of that food bank.

In the face of the state and federal government declarations of an economic recovery, Moore pointed out that Wisconsin child poverty is at a 20-year high.

The three women noted that both the unavailability of full-time work—with many people working multiple jobs—and the unavailability of full-time work drive the food insecurity crisis to which they are witness every day.

Demands on food banks see seasonal variations as well, with increased hunger among adults and children alike during the summers, when subsidized meals at public schools are unavailable, and winters, when heating bills consume dollars needed to buy food. Soaring propane prices, combined with the record harsh winter of 2013-2014, hit the working poor with an unprecedented ferocity.

Moore noted that persons return to the Eau Claire food bank an average of nine times per year. In October 2014 alone, the food bank saw 2,000 new people, in a county with a total population of just over 100,000.

She also noted that the majority of people obtaining food from the Eau Claire pantry are employed and have a residence. Approximately six percent of the Eau Claire food pantry clients are homeless.

Stewart reported that most persons using the Rice Lake pantry are the elderly, working class and students. All three food bank directors noted that the continued cutbacks to the federal food stamp program (SNAP) have added to the severity of the hunger crisis, and each of the directors confirmed instances in which persons were compelled to choose between vitally required medical care and eating.

Four years after Obama’s inauguration, a 2012 study called Map the Food Gap found 12.6 percent of Wisconsin persons were food-insecure, tallying 724,000 hungry people—a number greater than the population of the state’s largest city, Milwaukee.

Sandberg noted that in western Wisconsin, many more poorly paid adults and their children are moving into apartments and single-family homes with their grandparents and other unrelated adults, forcing them into more crowded living conditions just to make ends meet. These arrangements are inherently unstable, often changing change month to month.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one in five children in the United States is hungry. One-third of children attending Wisconsin public schools are living below the official poverty line. In the 110 public school districts, at least 50 percent of children qualify for free or reduced priced lunches.

Deb Zais, food service coordinator in the Stanley-Boyd district, east of Eau Claire, said, “You can see that these students are hungry. When kids are hungry they are not thinking about anything else, not school, not even having fun, they are just thinking about a full belly.”

The USDA reports that it costs a family of four with two school-age children an average of at least $190 a week to eat, or $826 a month. At the government’s official poverty, that means half of all income is spent on food.

Emily Moore said that a good measure of a community’s hunger level can be seen in the length of the school lunch line, which is often the only meal a child will receive the whole day.

Of the 14 Wisconsin counties where there are Feed My People food banks, over 69,950 persons live in poverty, according to a Poverty and Population estimate of the US Census Bureau—a whopping 76 percent increase from the 2000 census.

One food bank client described the misery of food stamp cutbacks and the resulting hunger to Feed My People: “the day I call (the food stamp office) to say, ‘Hey, I got a job. It’s a temporary position, contracted 160 hours. ‘As of that day … she’s like, ‘Well, you won’t get any food stamps next month then.’ Meanwhile you’re really hungry at work and haven’t gotten paid yet. And then sometimes they hold back a check, too. Yeah, it took me four weeks to get my first check.”