New York City
The New York City Council on March 25 passed five bills and three resolutions aiming to increase the transparency and accountability of the New York Police Department (NYPD). One bill ends qualified immunity for police officers, meaning that individual officers may be sued for rights violations. The move makes New York the first US city to ban the use of qualified immunity for police officers. The legislation also creates a new "local civil right," protecting residents from unreasonable searches and seizures as well as from the use of excessive force. Another measure requires the NYPD to issue quarterly reports on vehicle stops, including information on the demographics of targeted drivers, whether vehicles were searched with or without consent, and other information.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed suit in federal court against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) Jan. 14 over its handling of peaceful protests and use of excessive force. In her complaint, James charged that the NYPD unjustifiably used pepper-spray and batons against Black Lives Matter protesters in violation of official department policies, asserting that such action caused protesters to suffer both physical and psychological harm. Additionally, James charged that officers corralled protesters without an opportunity to disperse, resulting in mass arrests without probable cause. James stated that this use of excessive force violated protesters' First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The NYPD's violent mass arrest of peaceful protesters in the South Bronx this past June violated international human rights law and will likely cost New York City taxpayers several million dollars in misconduct lawsuits, according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch. The in-depth report examines the June 4 incident in the Mott Haven district, where hundreds of demonstrators were "kettled" behind police barricades before being arrested. As riot police blocked protesters' path minutes before Mayor Bill de Blasio's 8 PM curfew, a second line of officers charged them from behind, "unprovoked and without warning...wielding batons, beating people from car tops, shoving them to the ground, and firing pepper spray into their faces before rounding up more than 250 people for arrest."
An NYPD officer and Army reservist was arrested by federal authorities Sept. 22 on charges that he has been acting as an agent of China's government and surveilling Tibetans living in the New York City area. Baimadajie Angwang of Nassau County worked as a community liaison officer at the 111th Precinct in Queens and held a "secret" security clearance as a member of the Army Reserves at Fort Dix, according to documents filed by prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York federal court. Court papers say Angwang, a native Tibetan and naturalized US citizen who reportedly served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine, sent information to officials at the Chinese consulate in Manhattan about the activities of ethnic Tibetans in New York.
In Episode 55 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg exposes the hidden agenda behind Verizon's abandonment of landline service. Far from being driven by public demand, the ubiquity of wireless has been instrumented by Verizon and imposed on the populace as a design to finally extinguish the public entitlement of telephone service. Verizon is the most recent inheritor of this public trust responsibility that goes back to the establishment of the New York Telephone Company as a state utility in 1896. But the trust responsibilities go with the old copper wires—once they are gone, Verizon no longer has legal obligations as a "carrier of last resort." Weinberg calls for a public expropriation of Verizon, and making internet access as well as phone service a public entitlement. Those who are refusing to give up their landlines are, consciously or not, on the frontline of resistance to corporate rule—and the attendant digitization of all reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Portland-based musician and vlogger David Rovics interviews CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg for Fifth Estate Live. The two discuss Weinberg's upcoming story for the anarchist journal Fifth Estate on the "two faces of fascism" the US confronts at this moment—a Trumpian dictatorship or a post-pandemic "new normality" of complete surveillance and social control. But the moment is also pregnant with possibility, witnessing the mainstreaming of anarchist ideas such as abolishing the police. Initiatives such as cannabis legalization as a first step toward this aim are gaining ground nationally. Looking back, they draw lessons for the current revolutionary moment from the Tompkins Square Park uprising on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the 1980s, and the rebellion of the Zapatistas in Mexico in the 1990s—who continue to hold liberated territory in the southern state of Chiapas even today. Watch the video archive on YouTube or listen to the audio version on SoundCloud.
In Episode 48 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg speaks with Ernie Harburg, co-author of Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz? Yip Harburg, Lyricist, and Deena Rosenberg, author of Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin. Ernie and Deena are, respectively, son and daughter-in-law of the legendary Yip Harburg, who penned the lyrics to the beloved songs of The Wizard of Oz movie. Born to poverty on the Lower East Side, Yip's breakthrough song was the Depression-era populist anthem "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Known as the social conscience of Broadway and Hollywood, he would be "blacklisted" in the McCarthy era—despite his antipathy to all forms of totalitarianism, fascist or communist. Ernie and Deena and their family are keeping his legacy alive today through the Yip Harburg Foundation and Yip Harburg Lyrics Foundation. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
"Who is James Bay?" That's the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a "who" but a "where," and a large portion of New York City's electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio's so-called "Green New Deal," and how maybe it isn't so green after all. The mayor's plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as "zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity." But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec's far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region's ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn't even really "zero-emission." Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.