Thursday, July 14, 2005

As national neo-con zeitgeist waivers, local authoritarian trends escalate.

Yesterday in Tucson criminal trespass charges were filed against a group of women whose youngest members were generously estimated to be above retirement age and members of The Raging Grannies, a project within WILPF. Targeted members of the press and a writer doing photodocumentation of the event were also given criminal trespass citations. The Grannies were attempting to enlist in the Army so that they might take the place of some of America's precious youth who they believe are serving in an unjust war entered into under false pretenses. They had hoped that their enlistment might grant them access to Iraqi grandmothers and that by working together that these elder wise women of the two societies might begin a process of diplomatic resolution to a horrifically tragic war.

Instead, recruiters ignored the presence and words of the women who, ironically and iconically, are the very essence of who and what American Troops supposedly protect. But the recruiters noticed enough to call the police to remove the Grannies. Reason, if employed by the recruiters, would have dictated that the women would have left shortly anyway after finishing the reading their statement about why they wanted to enlist because some of the courageous women were truly elderly. At least one of the more fragile and elderly of the women was overheard to say, when queried about whether she wanted to join a protest taking place outside the center after the Grannies had left the Army Recruiting Center, "No, I really can't stand up much longer." This was the condition of the "criminal trespassers" that the recruiters felt they had to file charges against. Shameful. No wonder the Army had to stand down in May to retrain recruiters in ethics. Perhaps they need another stand down day.

Another aspect of the behavior of the Army Recruiters that is worthy of scrutiny is the decision of Sgt. Richardson to point out a writer/anthropologist taking pictures of the event who was not associated with the Grannies, as well as an Independent Media Reporter wearing a Press badge, for criminal trespass citation. Initial reason given by the police for which individuals were being cited was, "Well, he (pointing to Sgt. Richardson) pointed them out." This prompted protest from the woman doing documentary that she was not part of the Grannies and was acting in a function similar to that of the press. After a few minutes the police then gave the reason for citing non-Granny observers and documentors as"the reporters were not inside the office." (This is interesting to note as the parking lot is also private property and effectively no different from the office.) Several people then informed the officer that this also was not the case and that reporters were, indeed, in the office with the Grannies, and also then asked the officers, "Would you (the police) like to see photos and film showing that?" TPD officer S. Morken then conferred with rhe recruiter Sgt. Richardson.
When further questioned about the selective ticketing of people, they said no people inside the office could identify individual members of the press as being inside the office. A woman reporter dressed in pink and the cameraman for Channel 13 were then pointed out by some of the people already cited. At that time selective ticketing of reporters then began again. Some people present noted that police slowed processing at this point giving some reporters the opportunity to leave without being cited.

So did Sgt Richardson decide to point out people in addition to the Grannies based on something other than the current situation? It seems likely. The non-Granny photograper had been inside the office a few months ago to try to get information on how to opt out of the Army "lists" when her 15 year old daughter began receiving information from the Army and an unpleasant exchange between the two ensued. It was likely that he recognized her from that encounter. The woman also helps organize CODEPINK actions, but she was not acting in that capacity, had no protest signs, was not wearing pink, and stayed with the reporters during the Granny action so as not to become involved. Acts such as these by recruiters smack of retribution and show just how desperate recruiters are being made by the pressure to find recruits to fight an unjustified war with dubious tactics. This is disturbing at many levels, but for me the most significant aspect is that honorable and brave men and women willing to risk their lives for their country are being backed into corners as a consequence of political deceit and manipulation. These recruiters have been conditioned by a climate of the end justifies the means to act to squelch the very freedoms and liberties which they are to defend and which at one time motivated the creation of a just state the entire world respected.

Another disturbing aspect of this is that the Tucson Police Department is seemingly being used as a goon squad to help intimidate the populace. I'm sadly reminded of a counter example of an incident in which Medea Benjamin recounts her amazement at a gathering in a South American country where protestors were drowning out a speaker and when she questioned why the distruptive hecklers were not removed, she was told, "But this is a democracy. The police were here to protect them and their right to protest." At best our country has forgotten this, at worst some in our own country are consciously working to destroy our democracy.

It isn't surprising that some of these battles are being waged in Tucson. Many local southern Arizona issues are truly national and international in scope. One event illustrating such issues is the arrest this past weekend of two humanitarian workers who were providing medical transport to severly dehydrated migrants found in the desert to where they could receive care so that they didn't join the 167 people already found dead in the deserts around Tucson this year.

My cynical side says we in Tucson are a test case for significant forays into conscious attempts to restrict and repress participatory democracy. Why Tucson? I mean how many local political fundraisers does Karl Rove fly in to attend? Rove was recently here for just that reason. For the same reason the Prop 200 legislation, that denies basic government services to anyone who does not produce papers proving their U.S.citizenship, in AZ was initiated and funded by out of state interests. National and international corporate interests are meddling in local matters for many reasons. We are on the border that may well be targeted by our enemies as a point of entry with significant targets within 200 miles of that border area. DM Airforce Base, here in Tucson, trains not just our Air Force but the world's Air Forces how to pilot the planes we sell them. Raytheon, also here in Tucson, makes missiles fired by these fighters. We have unique ecosystems with vanishing species whose presence impedes corporate agricultural interests, and other corporate development interests.

Tucson is an activist mecca rivaled only by Austin and large coastsl cities. The Peace Fair in Tucson earlier this year had over 90 booths representing local groups. And this very large number of activist groups is with a good number of local activists abstaining from participation because of the purported "extreme leftist views" of the organizing groups. The fact that Tucson is a liberal enclave does not sit well with those corporate interests that feel their interests would be far better served if Tucson were significantly party-line Republican like Phoenix. We are such a progressive community in a decidedly libertarian state that we are a target for Neocon corporate backed interference in local and regional actions such as GOP redistricting so as to turn a slighter greater number of registered Republicans into a significant outnumbering of Republican dominated districts over Democratic areas. Tucson has little chance of having influence state and local races. Politically motivated voting shenanigans are currently being investigated in Tucson. If they can squelch dissent in Tucson, manipulate votes, and disarm the issues that play out here with double-speak and attacking the messenger rather than the message they are well on their way to usurping democracy everywhere. But the Tucson progressive community is not likely to be intimidated and will continue to be the media, fight the fights, and build the peace here and across the nation because they are true patriots defending the ideas and constructs that made these United States great.

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