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Examining police violence in St. Louis before major changes

Earlier this month, I published an article on Truthout examining the continuing resistance to police violence in St. Louis. The article explains the roots of the latest uprising, the cable news blackout that has kept most Americans from learning about it, escalating police responses to continuing protests, and reforms introduced in the city's Board of Alders that could, if adopted, limit future surveillance by local police. It observes:

Rather than reflect an isolated occurrence, police violence responding to protests (protests that were, of course, sparked in response to police violence) constitute an apparent pattern and practice. On Sunday, September 24, police responding to protests downtown not only arrested more than 120 people en masse, but also meted out seemingly random violence. Police assaulted -- and viciously injured -- not only dozens of civilians protesting police violence, but also an undercover police officer among them, as well as journalists. Victims of the assault included an active duty Air Force officer who was not participating in the protests but merely lived nearby and was reportedly "kicked in the face, blinded by pepper spray and dragged away."

Reacting to mounting public alarm, the office of Mayor Lyda Krewson stated, "The allegations are disturbing." City prosecutor Kim Gardner proposed to local policymakers that her office be given independent authority to investigate and prosecute police misconduct. As Gardner argued, "Both the community and police deserve an objective, fair and transparent investigation, and it is no longer acceptable for police to be essentially investigating themselves."

My Truthout article also examines the implications of the latest uprising for social media. It notes:

Hyping social justice in Black Rock City

Each August, tens of thousands of freakniks congregate in the Black Rock Desert about 3 hours northeast of Reno, NV for something resembling an annual pilgrimmage. Burning Man is a phenomenal experience, and I was proud to promote social justice through several projects this year. My musical performances raised various political themes (especially my Saturday afternoon set at TransFOAMation, where I spit a new rhyme amidst others addressing issues from police violence to climate change and intersectional solidarity), and I was thrilled for the chance to publish a blog post about a week before the convergence to explain and promote the otherwise disparate actvities of several camps dedicated to racial, immigrant, climate, and gender justice.

Que Viva brought together activists in the movement for black lives, Red Lightning included indigenous elders and activists from Standing Rock, and TransFOAMation (my camp) joined forces with Gender Blender to give thousands of burners an intro to gender expression and the history of trans resistance. In the few days since returning home, I've heard several former burners explain that they stepped away from burner communities because their hedonism seemed self-indulgent. To that, I would simply remind anyone that life in general, or any experience--including Burning Man--is entirely what you make it!

West Coast jurisdictions advance community oversight of police surveillance

My latest writing for EFF examines a series of campaigns up and down the west coast challenging secret, unaccountable mass surveillance by local police. From Seattle to Los Angeles, cities are taking action to impose public control on the acquisition of police surveillance tech, and the entire state of California is in play.

These measures not only shift the law governing the millions of people living in those jurisdictions, but also represent crucial oversight principles strikingly absent at the federal level. With Congress forced to consider NSA mass surveillance this year by the scheduled expiration of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, these campaigns (alongside others in cities across the country) could not come at a better time.

Expansive protections against police abuses win approval in Providence, RI

My latest writing for EFF addresses the nation's most visionary local civil rights & civil liberties policy, adopted by the Providence (RI) City Countil to impose several sets of limitations on the Providence Police Department. The passage of this measure feels like a tremendous vindication, as it eclipses less visionary alternatives and reflects both the intersectional vision (and even some of the text) from the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act that I compiled at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee back in 2009.

A breakthrough in Washington

For years, I've championed the power of transpartisan resistance to the co-optation of our Republic by the Deep State, whose role in secretly undermining democracy in America is explained (in writing, or video) more elegantly by professor Michael Glennon than by me. My latest writing for EFF celebrates a milestone in the struggle to overcome secret government: the creation of a bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus in the House of Representatives. 

On matters implicating privacy, such as mass surveillance or the powers of investigatory agencies, Congress has too often failed to fulfill its responsibilities. By neglecting to examine basic facts, and deferring to executive agencies whose secrets preclude meaningful debate, the body has allowed proposals that undermine constitutional rights to repeatedly become enshrined in law. In last week’s launch of a new bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus in the House, however, the Constitution has gained a formidable ally.

Every Member of Congress swears an oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Yet the most significant threats to our Constitution include the powers of U.S. intelligence agencies, enabled by Congress’ faith in the agencies’ willingness to respect legal limits on their powers.

A local victory offering a model to emulate

On June 15, I published a post on the EFF Deeplinks blog reporting on a local victory for transparency and accountability in Santa Clara County, CA, where policymakers took the seemingly obvious steps of requiring local authorities to seek their consent before buying sophisticated surveillance equipment, and reporting annually on how they deploy that equipment in their communities. It explains:

Santa Clara County—which encompasses much of Silicon Valley—set a new standard in local surveillance transparency after months of activism by residents and allies from across the Bay Area. Their efforts, and the policy it enabled, suggest an overlooked strategy in the national battle to curtail unaccountable secret mass surveillance.

Remembering a dear friend

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the loss of my friend, Jay Marx. Today, the Burning Man blog published a memorial I wrote to celebrate his life and activism. 

It's worth a read when you have some time, and includes videos of Jay to preserve his legacy in his own voice. Here's a teaser:

I’m hardly the only person to whom Jay Marx offered a memorable introduction to Washington, DC. Jay passed through this world entirely too briefly, but he touched a great many of us and presented a powerful example of how to apply the principles of conscious counterculture beyond building community to help refashion a new default world.

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