LONG BEACH CA: POLICE STATE USA
Long Beach is no place to get busted. You call your friend, you say, 'Hey, I got busted. Come bail me out.' They say, 'Where you at, man?' You say, 'Long Beach, bro.' They say, 'You shit out of luck, man. No way I'm coming down there to bail you out.'--Richard Pryor, "Live in Concert," 1979.
Long Beach has grown some since Richard Pryor uttered those words to cheers, laughter and applause on a performance stage in the city 23 years ago. The laughter stopped a long time ago, but little else has changed. The city of under a half-million, fifth largest in California, is still plagued by a police department notorious for its racism and repression. More than one-sixth of its residents live in poverty, and among children that percentage rises to nearly 30%. It is a city divided on racial and class lines, with a majority of people of color who are disproportionately among the ranks of the poor and powerless.
The city's strategic plan for the next decade calls for an increased emphasis on what they call 'community oriented policing' and 'gang abatement among young people.' But in real world terms, this has meant what it has always meant in Long Beach. The city where NBC TV cameras caught two cops throwing an off-duty Black police officer on a sting operation through a plate glass window; the city where Black, Mexicano and Asian residents fed up with police abuse had a rebellion of their own after the acquittal of the LA cops who beat Rodney King; is the same city where the police in past few months have killed two Black women, shooting one and choking the other to death. And Long Beach is the city where key organizers of the fight back against police abuse have been targeted for police harassment, repression, and frame-ups.
In the wake of September 11, a police department which already reveled in its repressive powers is now the model for Police State USA. On April 20, Matthew Gordon Lamont, an anarchist activist in CopWATCH and Food Not Bombs, who has also worked with independent truckers in the Harbor area trying to unionize, was arrested in La Habra CA with the connivance of the Long Beach cops. He is now facing a string of charges. Jeff Hendricks, another anarchist involved in those projects, whose elbow was broken by the LB cops on May Day 2001, was arrested at a hearing for Lamont and is facing other charges, also with the instigation of Long Beach cops, as well as an attempt to end his probation from May Day. Long Beach police played a role in the harassment and imprisonment by local law enforcement and the INS, of Hasan Hasan, an Arab activist and (now ex-)professor at nearby Cerritos College. As defendants come to trial on the May Day charges, such as street medic Sarah Roberts, the courts are throwing the books at them. Repression in Long Beach is a microcosm of what is going on around the country, and it is vital that it be met by a strengthened unity and resistance.
Since May Day 2001, the now infamous police riot in the streets of Long Beach, the LBPD has been on a mission to destroy the growing anarchist movement in Southern California. On that date, the cops attacked a peaceful reclaim the streets march, declared it an illegal assembly, and swept up nearly 100 protesters, beating, injuring and even shooting several with rubber bullets. On the Fourth of July 2001, the police came out in force to intimidate and try to break up a peaceful "energy independence" rally. Undercover officers were seen posing as members of the Black Bloc. When these tactics resulted in greater resistance, including the opening of an anti-authoritarian community center and a Copwatch project, the police stepped up surveillance and harassment. Lamont was targeted because he was instrumental in organizing a large demonstration against the killing by the LBPD of Marcella Byrd, a mentally-disturbed Black woman. The day of the rally, a second Black woman who had been in a coma died as a result of choking by the LBPD. Lamont had reached out to the homeless as well through Food Not Bombs, documenting extensive police sweeps to clear the streets for tourists in time for the Long Beach Grand Prix. ("Trade, tourism and technology" are the city's professed selling points, and anarchists apparently threatened all three, in the minds of the city's leadership, particularly as they built relations with the homeless, with so-called gang youth, with the African American community outraged over LBPD killings of Black women, and with Mexicano and Central American truckers.) As soon as CopWatch began, police stepped up surveillance of the info-shop where it met, on one occasion shining bright lights in to prevent members from videotaping the police harassment. The police goal is to jail a few of the most outspoken anarchists in order to intimidate the rest of the movement.
On April 20, Lamont and a juvenile, a Food Not Bombs activist, were pulled over in the city of La Habra in Orange County, after being followed from the Long Beach info shop by 2 Long Beach detectives far out of their jurisdiction. The car was searched without valid cause or permission, and detectives found a container of gasoline, arrested the two men and took them into custody. The juvenile was taken to the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center in Orange, CA. He was charged with transportation of a destructive device, and pled out. Matthew Lamont is being held on high bail in Orange, CA. and was originally charged with several felony counts of possession of a destructive device, transporting of a destructive device, the use of a destructive device, and the possession of materials/instructions to make a destructive device. Claiming Lamont was intending to attack a nazi music show, the DA added a "hate crime" to the charges. Matt's bail was placed at 100,000 dollars.
An Anarchist Defense Committee has been formed to focus on his case and that of Jeff Hendricks, and a larger united-front Long Beach Justice Coalition has also come together. Lamont is representing himself, with the assistance of counsel, including James Simmons of the National Congress of Black Lawyers. Lamont presented two in pro per motions demurring against the hate crime and use of an explosive device charges. The DA was forced to drop those. But Matt is still being held on prohibitively high bail.
Tuesday May 14th, 2002, Lamont had a scheduled court date in Santa Ana's Central Court for his extended arraignment. A small demonstration had previously been called for in front of the courthouse. However, when the demonstrators arrived they were greeted by at least 100 cops in full riot gear, undercover cops, sheriff's deputies, police horses, etc. The first group of demonstrators who arrived - unmasked, unarmed, unthreatening in every way - decided to go inside to view court proceedings. They proceeded to walk up to the court and waited for a few others to show up before proceeding inside. The demonstrators were told that Matthew Lamont's hearing was held first thing in the morning before his scheduled appearance. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. It's an obvious attempt to lower his morale by making it difficult for supporters to appear in court and show support.The demonstrators then decided to wait out in front for more people to show up. Several sheriff deputies then confronted the demonstrators and said, "OK, people! I need to see your I.D's!". Only one person co-operated with them and the rest refused to show identification. The sheriffs then backed off when they realized they wouldn't be able to get any more information. Just moments later, the police started forming a line in front of the court door and strapped on their riot helmets and gear. They then surrounded the demonstrators up against a wall, and one officer read a dispersal order saying that if the group didn't disperse immediately they will all be arrested. Disappointed, the small group had no choice but to leave. As the small group proceeded to leave, two demonstrators were searched by police as they arrived to their car. When the rest arrived at the parking lot, the parking attendant told them that the police ordered him to let them into the lot to investigate for bombs. Just as the small group of demonstrators were forced to leave, another group of 8 had arrived. They stood across the street with a banner that read, "FIGHT POLITICAL REPRESSION! FREE MATT & MAX!". Police, and undercover officers proceeded to surveil the peaceful demonstrators with video cameras. Similar harassment and intimidation took place at a press conference held to announce the formation of the Anarchist Defense Committee. Sheila and Geoffrey of the committee detailed police harassment of anarchists, and disputed the charges against Matthew, pointing out that he had been charged with using an explosive device, when there was no explosion, possession of a destructive device when there was no device, and a hate crime for attacking a nazi show when there was no nazi show. Simultaneously, police stopped and harassed a carload of supporters arriving for the press conference, and cited another for spitting, requiring 2 marked and 2 unmarked police cars and more than a half-dozen officers to issue the ticket. When participants marched to the local courthouse, police sealed off two major streets in downtown Long Beach to prevent cars or pedestrians from witnessing the protest.
HASAN EL HASAN, THE LBPD AND THE INS
On April 23 at 11:30 Long Beach resident Hasan el Hasan, an Arab immigrant on a work visa, is in his classroom in Cerritos College teaching mathematics. The following account is based on his own report of what happened to him at the hands of the LBPD and the INS. The dean intrudes in his classroom and asks Hasan to see him after class, 12:30 pm. After hemming and hawing, the dean says, "Hasan, I don't know how to put it for you. I am just a messenger. You are one of the best instructors I have. You have done all the paperwork I have asked you to do. I received no complaint whatsoever about you and I know how much students love you, but I received an order from the college vice-president to relieve you from duty. I am very sorry and I need you to turn the keys right now and to leave."
Outside the door of the dean's office, two cops from Cerritos College are waiting to escort him immediately off campus. They walk toward the exit of the division building. There are two cops from the Long Beach PD waiting. The cop says, " Put your hand behind your ass and spread your legs." They handcuff Hasan in a parking lot. After an hour's wait in the hot sun, two women INS agents arrive and inform Hasan he is under arrest for being an illegal immigrant. "But I have a work visa valid to December of this year," he protests. "You were working until an hour ago, but now you are not," the INS woman says, "so you are violating the permit." Under the pretext of obtaining the students' grades for the college, the INS agents and the two LBPD cops take Hasan home and conduct an intensive search through his belongings. They question his possession of Christian religious materials and a donation he made to a Jewish group, since he is adviser to a Muslim student group on campus.The INS agent says, "As an advisor of a Muslim club, you must teach them to hate Jews and Christians." Hasan denies these absurd insinuations. Then he is told he is a suspect in a Long Beach serial rapist case and must give a DNA sample. Eventually, he is taken to Long Beach city jail, then moved to LA County Jail, then Lancaster jail and an INS detention center.
In Lancaster he is placed in the highest security suite. It is called the "Jackals'" (Arabs) section. He discovers that eighty percent of the prisoners, however, are not Arabs but Armenian. The jailers are unable to distinguish between the two groups with different languages and religions. Kamilian is an Armenian in his early twenties. He and his sister wanted to surprise their parents, who had emigrated to Glendale years before by coming to visit them without a previous notice. They were arrested at LAX and taken to Lancaster. All their belongings including the papers containing their parents' address, were deposited to the property department. They have been here for three months... no way to contact their parents... no way to contact each other...One of many such horror stories. After a month in detention, Hasan is able to obtain a release and a court date.
At this point, the story is taken up his friend Russell. "Today both Hasan and I were arrested by LBPD from Hasan's 7th street apartment. As I was riding my bike to work, I went past his place and noticed a squad car and an unmarked car in front of Hasan's building. I hung around the front door to see if anyone would open it. Soon his manager appeared and she informed me that Hasan was in the process of being arrested. I went upstairs to check the matter out and came upon a plain clothes officer who was just hanging on the periphery. He immediately started to interrogate [me]. We had a short argument which was ended by him lunging at me and cuffing me, dragging me down the hallway and slamming me on the ground with the help of another officer who placed his full weight on my head with his knee. Hasan, at this time, was being interrogated, still undressed from sleeping. One of the officers let it slip that someone had called and complained about Hasan making threats. We were both taken downtown and booked -- I was sent to the misdemeanor side, allegedly for obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest, and Hasan was sent to the felony side for charges I haven't had chance to verify."
At Matthew's first arraignment, Tuesday April 23rd, one if his supporters, Jeff Hendricks, yelled out in support as he was being led back out of the courtroom by the bailiff. The Judge pressed the emergency button and the bailiff immediately arrested Jeff on two misdemeanor charges: contempt of court and communication with a prisoner. Jeff was held on $15,000 bail until his arraignment on April 25 when bail was lowered to $7,500. When he made bail, a deputy ran into the release room of the jail with a hold: A new warrant from the Long Beach police department for remaining at the scene of a riot (on May Day 2001). Jeff was placed back into custody and transported to an L.A county facility. He had been put in high security after being arrested, had his picture taken by the FBI, and was continuously questioned by authorities. His car was impounded and searched. Jeff is currently out on bail and is facing his two misdemeanor charges as well as a probation violation. The probation stems from his plead of no contest to failure to disperse after his arrest in the Long Beach May Day 2001 police riot. Jeff now faces up to 2 years in jail.
MAY DAY 2001
Two minutes into the peaceful May Day demonstration for workers' rights, police began swinging their batons. The police opened fire with rubber bullets, forcing half of the march to disperse down a drive-way where they were beaten to the ground. The other half dispersed up against a building where they were trapped after police unloaded several hundred rounds of rubber bullets on them. With guns still drawn, one-by-one, police arrested everyone. Demonstrators suffered fractured arms due to baton swings, and penetrating wounds from scatter-shot projectiles fired from 12-Gauge shot guns. Bail was set as high as $25,000 for some arrestees. Many were being charged with 6 different misdemeanor charges. Despite the enormous repression, many of those arrested still decided to take their cases to trial. After September 11th occurred, the prosecutor and judge decided to include 3 years maximum jail time if convicted, along with a new plea offer which consisted of 30 days minimum in jail time if the previous plea bargain (1 year probation) wasn't taken immediately. After this, the majority of arrestees decided to plea in fear of serving heavy jail time. This was an obvious threat which demonstrated a clear act of prejudice directed towards the arrestees because of their political beliefs.
ROBERT 'RUCKUS' MIDDAUGH
On November 15th Robert "Ruckus" Middaugh, who was one of those arrested on May Day, was scheduled to begin his trial. Robert had been in Jail since May 1, and was charged with Felony assault against a peace officer, Felony riot, Felony conspiracy, Felony resisting arrest, and misdemeanor failure to disperse. At the time of his arrest on May 1, Ruckus was on formal probation stemming from pleading guilty to assault against a police officer at the Democratic National Convention. When supporters of Ruckus appeared in court the morning of November 15th there were 4 police sitting in the courtroom in the jury chairs. Ruckus' supporters soon learned that these police were there to testify against him in a parole violation hearing. The prosecution put the 'deal' of offering Ruckus 3 years in State Prison and 3 years formal probation upon release. In order to coerce Ruckus into taking the plea the judge informed Ruckus that he would be facing 4 years just for his probation violation not to mention a possible 13 more if found guilty of the other charges. Ruckus was threatened with 17 years in prison. After taking the plea for 3 years in state prison, Ruckus found himself possibly facing a 3rd strike on a new charge from an earlier protest against an anti-immigrant group that could give him another 20 years to life.
For more info or to send donations contact:
The Anarchist Black Cross Federation of Los Angeles
PO Box 3671
Anaheim CA 92803-3671
(310) 608-4106 firstname.lastname@example.org
SHERMAN AUSTIN & RAISETHEFIST.COM
On Feburary 24th, another mayday arrestee, Sherman Austin, was raided by 25 heavily armed FBI and Secret Service agents for running a Los Angeles based anarchist web site, Raisethefist.com. Raisethefist.com was an alternative media site covering a diversity of subjects including anarchism, activism, and current events not reported by mainstream media or even what passes as alternative media. Heavily armed with shot guns and machine guns, the FBI, Secret Service, LAPD and LASD surrounded Sherman in his home before pulling him outside and storming his house. FBI agents confiscated his computer equipment, along with his political literature and shut down the site along with the newly opened, laanrchists.org (Los Angeles Anarchist Collective) site that he also recently created. Despite the raid, Sherman still decided to protest the World Economic Forum in New York that month. After being targeted by authorities, he was then arrested by New York police, interrogated by the FBI and Secret Service for several hours, released, and then re-arrested minutes later by 6 FBI agents on charges from the new "Patriot Act". Sherman was called a terrorist in the court room and was denied bail as the judge rendered him a "threat to the community". After spending nearly 2 weeks in Maximum Security Federal Prison on 2 bogus felony counts that served a maximum 30 years jail sentence, Sherman's charges wereabruptly dropped and he was released "pending further investigation". The FBI to this day still remains in possession his computer equipment and political literature.
A year has gone by since May Day 2001, and in the first verdicts to come out of the violent police riot which erupted from a would-be peaceful march, Jurors on Tuesday, May 21st acquitted two people of failure to disperse and convicted a third of unlawful assembly and wearing a mask with the "intent to commit a crime".Sarah Roberts, 26, the only one convicted, was handcuffed and taken into sheriff's custody after the verdicts were read. Roberts had been on the scene as a street medic. The only mask she had worn was a surgical mask related to her medic duties. She had pleaded innocent and demanded a trial confident that she would be exonerating and refusing to plead guilty to a crime she had not committed. Over the strong objection of her attorney, Roberts was also ordered held on $100,000 bail until her sentencing. At Roberts' sentencing on May 23rd, she was sentenced to 6 months in LA County and given $1,000.00 fine. After a vigil and campaign over her incarceration conditions (she is a vegan and could not eat prison food) Roberts was released from the Twin Towers to house arrest.
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For more info you may contact the Justice Coalition of Long Beach firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 562 434 6934