Israel Detaining Jewish Activists for Supporting Palestinian Rights

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Facing backlash against its controversial “nation-state bill” last month, Israel has detained Jewish writers and activists who oppose the law’s definition of Israel as an entirely Jewish state, with no mention of the value of democracy or equal rights for Palestinians.

On Sunday, writer, professor and political commentator Peter Beinart was on vacation, traveling from Greece to attend a family bat mitzvah in Israel when he was detained by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, at Ben Gurion Airport in Jerusalem, he reported Monday in an article for The Forward.

Beinart’s was one of three such detentions at airports and border crossings in recent weeks.

Israel-born poet Moriel Rothman-Zecher arrived at Ben Gurion with his wife and infant daughter on July 29. Agents allowed his family through customs, but detained him for approximately three hours, claiming his involvement in nonviolent protests was a “slippery slope” to violence against the state, and asking him for the names of pro-Palestinian and peace organizations and of fellow activists and friends.

Rothman-Zechner called the experience “jarring and unpleasant,” but acknowledged how common and more abusive the situation is for countless Palestinians, and anyone else without his Israeli citizenship and white privilege.

He wondered how he would explain the incident to his daughter when she is older. “It’s painful to think about telling her one day, ‘Hey kid, on our first visit to Israel, your aba [father] was detained at the border because he thinks Palestinians are human beings deserving of equality,’ ” he said.

A week after Rothman-Zecher’s detention, Beinart’s former colleague, Simone Zimmerman, a founder of IfNotNow, an organization of young American Jews fighting Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, was detained with a friend, Abigail Kirschenbaum, at the Taba Border Crossing between Israel and Egypt.

According to New York magazine, the two “were held for roughly three and a half hours, had their phones inspected, and were asked a litany of queries about their opinions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, their involvement with human-rights groups, and their interactions with Palestinians, among other topics.”

The incident involving Beinart occurred a week after that of Zimmerman and Kirschenbaum. While long an advocate for a two-state solution and Palestinian rights, in the past Beinart has been more cautious about separating his advocacy for the Palestinian people from his Zionism and defense of a Jewish state. Those nuances, however, may be lost on Israeli security forces.

“I was detained and interrogated about my political activities,” Beinart writes, describing how agents first detained him with his family, asking innocuous questions about where they were from and why they were in Israel before escorting Beinart separately to another room, where the questions turned accusatory and aggressive:

<blockquote>Was I involved in any organization that could provoke violence in Israel? I said no. Was I involved in any organization that threatens Israel democracy? I said no—that I support Israeli organizations that employ non-violence to defend Israeli democracy.</blockquote>

The agent then confronted Beinart about his participation in a protest on his last trip to Israel, one that Beinart explained was due to “the fact that Palestinians in Hebron and across the West Bank lack basic rights.” He described his involvement in The Center for Jewish Nonviolence.

The conversation took a strange turn after that, with the interrogator comparing the center with North Korea. As Beinart recalls:

<blockquote>He asked if the Center had incited violence, and I replied that, as its name suggests, it practices non-violence. My interrogator then replied that names could be misleading. The government of North Korea, he observed, calls itself a democracy but is not. I told him I didn’t think the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and the North Korean government have much in common.</blockquote>

Beinart recognizes that he had immense privilege due to being white and Jewish and armed with the number of a lawyer he called, who helped set him free. He also was the only one of the three recent detainees to receive an apology from Shin Bet and a rare admission of wrongdoing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We are sorry for the distress caused to Mr. Beinart,” a Shin Bet spokesperson said in a statement, The Times of Israel reports. Netanyahu called the incident “an administrative mistake” and “immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened.”

For Beinart, Netanyahu’s statement didn’t go far enough. On Monday he tweeted, “Benjamin Netanyahu has half-apologized for my detention yesterday at Ben Gurion airport. I’ll accept when he apologizes to all the Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans who every day endure far worse.”



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Resistance Is In the Air, From Sweden to the U.S.

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan.

Last Monday, Elin Ersson, a young Swedish student, boarded a plane at the airport in Gothenburg, Sweden, bound for Istanbul. The plane was crowded as its crew prepared to take off. Ersson stood up in the aisle, protesting that a fellow passenger, an Afghan refugee, was being deported. She was livestreaming as she spoke: “I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane, because he will most likely get killed if he is on this plane when it goes up.” The government officials accompanying the refugee tried to force her away from them. Turkish Airlines flight attendants tried to take her phone. But she persisted.

The tension on the plane, in her voice and on her face was palpable. “The pilot has the right to say that he is not allowed to be on the plane. And as long as he is not on the plane, then I will comply.” As she waited for the captain’s decision, she calmly continued her live narration. She was accosted by an angry man who grabbed her phone, which she recovered. “I am very sorry that a man is going to die and you are more worried about missing your flight,” she told him. When told that she was inconveniencing passengers, she replied, “But they’re not going to die; he’s going to die.”

In the background, a man’s voice can be heard explaining the situation to other passengers in Turkish. Suddenly the cabin is filled with applause. She panned her camera around to show that the cabin was now filled with people standing as well. Ersson’s eyes teared as she continued to describe the reasons for her protest. Word came that the refugee was being removed through a door at the back of the plane. Elin Ersson stood at the front door, refusing to disembark until she could confirm that the refugee was actually on the ground. The protest only took 15 minutes, but might have saved an asylum-seeker’s life.

The plight of migrants and refugees, in both Europe and the United States, has become one of the central controversies of our time. Wars, violence, climate change and growing global inequality are driving people to leave their home countries seeking safety. In Europe, most refugees come from Syria and Afghanistan. Violence in the Central American nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are driving refugees north to the U.S. The journeys are long and dangerous.

Protests against the cruel anti-immigrant policies of President Donald Trump are diverse and fierce. From the airport protests against Trump’s “Muslim ban” in his first weeks in office, to vigils and sit-ins at the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, to the halls of Congress, people have been putting their bodies on the line to oppose the ongoing persecution of migrants.

Opposition to harsh immigration policies is resonating in electoral politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic candidate for Congress who upended the Democratic Party with her recent primary victory over a powerful incumbent, said in a recent interview with “Democracy Now!,” responding to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that separated nearly 3,000 children from their immigrant parents, “We need to occupy every airport, we need to occupy every border, we need to occupy every ICE office, until those kids are back with their parents, period.”

This week, the nattering nabobs of nativism over at Fox News got their comeuppance when they tried to book Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democratic congressional candidate in Arizona who is pro-ICE. They mistakenly booked a different candidate, from Massachusetts. She knew her airtime was limited:

“Good morning. I’m actually here to speak directly to Donald Trump. I feel that what’s happening at the border is wrong. I’m a mother of four, and I believe that separating kids from their parents is illegal and inhumane. I’m actually Barbara L’Italien, I’m a state senator representing a large immigrant community. I’m running for Congress in Massachusetts. I keep thinking about what we’re putting parents through, imagining how terrifying that must be for those families, imagining how it would feel not knowing if I’d ever see my kids again. We have to stop abducting children and ripping them from their parents’ arms, stop putting kids in cages, and stop making 3-year-olds defend themselves in court.” She was soon cut off by the befuddled co-hosts.

Creative protests and acts of solidarity, in concert with the determination and courage of the refugees themselves, are changing politics in the U.S and abroad. When Elin Ersson was reprimanded in the midst of her action, told that the Afghan man was being deported according to Swedish law, she replied, “I’m trying to change my country’s rules.” Rulebreakers, troublemakers, dissenters: resistance is in the air.

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From Muhammad Ali to LeBron James: Howard Bryant on The Revolt of the Black Athlete (Audio and Transcript)

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Robert Scheer.

On This Episode

In the latest “Scheer Intelligence,” sports journalist Howard Bryant, author of “The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism,” joins Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer to examine the intersection of sports, race and politics. They discuss the lineage of black athletes protesting in the United States, the tension between activism and extreme wealth, black physicality as both an asset and a vulnerability and the conflation of the military, government and police into one authoritative entity. Politics and sports weren’t always so closely intertwined. Sports arenas were typically safe from political exaltations and watching a game was a form of escapism. Things changed after 9/11, when patriotism surreptitiously crept onto the field and into the arena as a result of covert marketing campaigns. Bryant explained that 9/11 provided “…an opportunity for the Department of Defense, or the military, to sell war essentially at the ballpark.”

However, one group of athletes has been politicized from the moment they joined professional sports in the United States: black athletes. Their mere presence on the field was, and still is, a political act. Some of the first celebrity black athletes–Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, for example–built a heritage of racial activism that continued through the 1960s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, this heritage declined. O.J. Simpson famously stated, “I’m not black. I’m O.J.” Tiger Woods identified not as a black athlete but as “Cablinasian,” a blend of Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian.

Now, in a post-Ferguson world, athletes like Lebron James, Colin Kaepernick and Carmelo Anthony have reclaimed the heritage through their boots-on-the-ground activism.

So what does it take to be part of this black athletic heritage? Bryant explained, “You have to literally be arm in arm and take a risk and recognize that this is something that is required of you, is being asked of you. It’s not something that your shoe company can protect you from with a commercial. You have to do it yourself.”

Listen to Editor in Chief Robert Scheer interview Howard Bryant or read the transcript of their conversation below.

—Posted by Samantha Shadrow

The Heritage

32:45: “People have asked me this question, ‘What does it take to be part of this heritage? Is a player who gets involved in criminal justice reform, like the Philadelphia Eagles have done, does that put them in this pantheon?’ And to me the answer is no, to me the answer is you have to, you have to be in the street. You have to literally be arm in arm and take a risk and recognize that this is something that is required of you, is being asked of you. It’s not something that your shoe company can protect you from with a commercial. You have to do it yourself.

Capitalism and Protest

4:40: “Is it possible, if you’re LeBron James, to be connected with this corporate world at the highest levels and also still be a protester? It’s a very delicate balance, it’s a very difficult balance, and I think that’s going to inform where we go going forward. I think that that’s gonna be the question for these super-rich athletes.

5:10: “…I think that that next battle is going to be incorporating player power into management. As we know, the players don’t choose the commissioners. The players, especially in the National Football League, they don’t have guaranteed contracts. Their safety is very much at risk. They don’t have the power that goes with the glamour and the money as much as we would think that it does.”

15:19: On veterans: “They don’t wanna be commodified. They don’t wanna be used by billionaires to sell products and camouflage jerseys and alternate jerseys and all of the different things that come with the selling of sports.”

Black Bodies and Black Minds

7:55: “What’s been interesting to me, especially when you talk about that [mind and body] dichotomy, is the capitalism of it and the commerce of it. It’s very difficult when you look at the LeBron Jameses and some of these other athletes who make money off their anger in a way. You see them dunk and snarl and show that physicality and profit off of that physicality. There’s a lot of currency in that sort of black athleticism. But at the same time that is happening, at the same time we’re selling that sort of black masculinity, it’s also being used as justification for shooting black men.”

18:50: “You do have this amputation that takes place where advocating for your own people or something that is important to you or a part of your identity has suddenly become a negative in a sport where your blackness and your physicality is being profited from.”

28:30: “If the player is going to conclude, at this late date, that without sports they would be dead or in jail then we have failed. We have failed miserably. And you sit and you listen to these players talk about this, that without their jump shot or without their 40-yard dash time, they would be dead or in jail. And I just begin to ask the question, how people who went to the University of Kentucky or North Carolina or UCLA or USC, how you could be a byproduct of these schools and conclude that your margin is that thin. What does that say about where we are today, that it has been a failure and that this athletic story that was once so heroic maybe isn’t that heroic if the players are uneducated…”


7:20: “The argument I make in the book is that the black athlete, because of his role and her role integrating the community, the society in general, before the military, before schools, before neighborhoods, is that the black athlete is the most important, most influential and most visible black employee this country’s ever produced. They’re the ones who made it and because they’re the ones who made it we have this expectation of them. We want them to speak for us because of that great disparity, because of how much the young look up to them because they’re the ones who have the influence. ”


10:20: “I think the issue for me had been how 9/11 has completely changed how we package, market, sell sport to the public. And that provided, as you said, an opportunity for marketers, an opportunity for the Department of Defense, or the military, to sell, to sell war essentially at the ballpark. To recruit soldiers at the ballpark, potential soldiers and to do all of these things surreptitiously under the guise of an organic supporting of the troops when actually these are business transactions taking place.

12:16: “These concepts actually matter, these themes actually matter. And to the point where sports is now one of the most politicized if not the most politicized place of entertainment in America.”

14:40: “…It’s not just the Red Sox and Yankees battling out on the scoreboard. You’re also fighting, in some level, for, to use the old Iraq War phrase, the hearts and minds of the people. And you’re using sports as that place where we’re going to try and question people’s patriotism or solidify the patriotism of our citizens when at the same time, what’s also happening, is you’re also getting pushback because of the disappointment on the part of veterans.”

Listen to the interview in the player above and read the transcript below. Find past episodes of “Scheer Intelligence” here.

RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, an arrogant-sounding title, but the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, Howard “Howie” Bryant. Many people know him through ESPN; he’s been a well-known sports journalist writing for the Washington Post, the Oakland Tribune, the Bergen Record. He is involved with the Weekend Edition on National Public Radio. And the reason I’m excited about doing this interview is I read what I think is one of the best books I’ve ever read about the role of sports in America. It’s called “The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.” And it’s a grand sweep, from the days when I was a kid and I was rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, and no Negro could play. And the next year Jackie Robinson came in, and my hero Enos Slaughter spiked Jackie Robinson going around first base, and the Cardinals turned out to be one of the most racist teams. And this book takes us from those days through a period in which black athletes could rise to their potential, become actually quite prosperous and wealthy. And there was something called the black heritage that was manifested. And then we went through a rough period of the OJs and the Michael Jordans, where there was a deliberate avoidance of controversy and any concern for your own people. And now, in the post-Ferguson, post-9/11 era, there’s a whole new revitalized consciousness. Is that a good summary of what the book is, basically, the trajectory of the book?

HB: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that the only part that I would add to that is simply the collision of this heritage coming from, or stemming from the deaths of Michael Brown and the problems in Ferguson, colliding with this uber patriotism and nationalism that we see at the ballpark post-9/11.

RS: You talk about the fans, mostly white; and you talk about the athletes who are, can be very highly paid, way beyond what they were in the past, as the workers. And then you have the owners. And as someone who sits up there in Row 15 at the Lakers games [laughs], you know, and what used to be a $35 ticket now is a $50 ticket, I greet the news this morning as we’re doing this recording, LeBron James is coming to the Lakers, and I think that’s great, great for the home team. But, you know, it’s hard to think of him as a worker, exploited worker; he’s being paid $154 million for a four-year contract. And you know, reading your book, though, LeBron James comes out as a really major figure in your story. He picks up after Jackie Robinson, or going way back to Paul Robeson, who’s a great singer and a great athlete, all-American, at Rutgers football and so forth, but then a victim of McCarthyism. Then you have Jackie Robinson, and you describe him really as a complex but basically very heroic, progressive figure. And then you take us up through the O.J. Simpson, and you know, days where you wanted to run away from all that. And then, as you say, in the post-Ferguson period, you have black athletes speaking up and taking the knee and what have you. And the hero, the modern hero in your book–and correct me if I’m wrong–is really LeBron James. Can you be a heroic, progressive figure and be making $154 million on a four-year contract?

HB: Well, exactly, and I think that’s the question. I think the other question in that is, too, is do you join this heritage? Do you join the pantheon of Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali and John Carlos and Tommy Smith, simply by wearing a T-shirt, when you have your corporate backers doing commercials, such as Nike, wearing T-shirts that say “equality” when you’re really battling the type of capitalism that puts these guys at risk in the first place? Is it possible if you’re LeBron James to be connected with this corporate world at the highest levels, and also still be a protestor? It’s a very delicate balance, it’s a very difficult balance, and I think that’s going to inform where we go, going forward. I think that that’s going to be the question for these super rich athletes. You saw Carmelo Anthony, after Freddy Gray’s death in Baltimore, walking arm-in-arm with the people. The question, when you see that, also is, OK, well, where is the next front in this battle? And I think that when you look at what LeBron James has done and where he’s been, I think that that next battle is going to be incorporating player power into management. As we know, the players don’t choose the commissioners; the players, and especially in the National Football League, they don’t have guaranteed contracts. Their safety is very much at risk. They don’t have the power that goes with the glamour and the money as much as we would think that it does. So I think that that next step is going to be, what do the players do with this newfound wealth? What do they do with this power? And also, how do they balance being the super rich and then also being expected to maintain fidelity to the streets and to the workers, to the people?

RS: You know, your book raises so many contradictions about the role of sports, and indeed the role of celebrity, in American culture. Because I mean, the fact of the matter is, we basically have two images of black life. We have an imprisoned population, and incredible disproportionate jailing of black people, association with violence, and you know, unemployment and what have you. And then we have the celebrity blacks, whether it’s Oprah, whether it’s Michael Jordan or what have you. And your book deals with the limits of that celebrity. On the one hand, it’s a false message of how you can succeed; I mean, you have to be particularly good to succeed in that world, and there’s many people left behind. And also, generally, it’s at the cost of denying who you are. In the case of Carmelo Anthony, he went back to Baltimore; that’s his home neighborhood, and he felt this connection. But most people want to break that connection.

HB: Yeah, there’s no question. And I think one of the issues in the book for me, when I was conceptualizing it, was this entire notion of black body over black brain. And this question of, what do we do with all of this money, and what do we do with all of this celebrity with these black athletes? If they’re still uneducated, if they go to college and come out with no education, the argument that I make in the book is that the black athlete, because of his role and her role in integrating the community, the society in general–before the military, before schools, before neighborhoods–is that the black athlete is the most important, most influential, and most visible black employee this country’s ever produced. They’re the ones who made it, and because they’re the ones who made it, we have this expectation of them. We want them to speak for us because of that great disparity, because of how much the young look up to them, because they are the ones who have the influence. What’s been interesting to me, especially when you talk about that dichotomy, is the capitalism of it and the commerce of it. It’s very difficult when you look at the LeBron Jameses and some of these other athletes who make money off their anger in a way. You see them dunk and snarl and show that physicality and profit off of that physicality; there’s a lot of currency in that sort of black athleticism. But at the same time that is happening, at the same time we’re selling that sort of black masculinity, it’s also being used as justification for shooting young black men. “Oh, I feared for my life,” that seems to be the, that is the excuse or the justification du jour as to why police officers pull the trigger. So at the same time this massive sort of physicality is being glorified in sports, it’s also the reason, one of the reasons why you find these players out there protesting as well.

RS: Patriotism is a profit-making center–

HB: No, that’s right, yeah.

RS: –for these leagues. And as is other good causes, whether it’s wearing pink, you know, for breast cancer or what have you. These are paid activities that are profit, but they also send a message–no, authority is good, the cops are good, military intervention is good, patriotism is good, we should all rally around the flag. And then we should discuss the most recent taking the knee, objecting to that. But it goes back to the Olympics of ‘68, right, when you had two track stars having a clenched fist in the air. So give us some sense of why it persists, why there is rebellion, why there is an issue.

HB: Well, I don’t think that you can have this conversation in 2018 without talking about 9/11. To me, the demarcating line in all of this is 9/11. When you look at what you’re seeing in sports today, when you watch a sporting event and you see the flags and the flyovers and the policing and the national anthem, and every, every other shot has an American flag somewhere, the players have American flags stitched to their jerseys. If you watch the NBA finals, there’s the NBA logo of Jerry West on one side of the backboard, on the left side; and on the right side, there’s an American flag. I think that all of this is, these are all byproducts of 9/11. And I think that the issue for me had been how 9/11 has completely changed how we package, market, sell sports to the public. And that provided, as you said, an opportunity for marketers, an opportunity for the Department of Defense, for the military, to sell—to sell war, essentially, at the ballpark. To recruit soldiers at the ballpark, potential soldiers. And to do all of these things surreptitiously, under the guise of an organic supporting of the troops, when actually these are business transactions taking place. One of the responses to this book so far has been “I didn’t know that,” when you go into the sections, that the flags the size of the 50-yard line and the surprise homecomings and the “God Bless America” at the ballpark–all of those things are being paid for by the Department of Defense. People don’t know these things. And I think that was the one stunning revelation for me. As I’ve said before, on the one hand whenever you do a project it’s gratifying that somebody would tell you that you gave them information they didn’t know. And then on the other hand, there’s a part of me that says, well, this has been going on for almost 20 years; how come we don’t know this? Why don’t we know these things? Shouldn’t we know these things? The fact that the Milwaukee Brewers charged the Wisconsin National Guard $49,000 to sing “God Bless America”–these are not organic displays of support of the military. This is a business opportunity. And I think as that collides with this heritage, what you find, especially with a contested and a very contentious election in 2016, now you have a president who’s involved who is taking protest and using it to challenge one’s citizenship, and one’s fitness to be an American, and one’s patriotism. All of these things are taking place in an arena where you’re supposed to go to get away from your problems. Sports was supposed to be the place where, OK, you were a Lakers fan, I’m a Celtics fan, and we’re going to battle it out for three hours, but at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. These concepts actually matter; these themes matter. And to the point where sports is now one of the most politicized, if not the most politicized, place of entertainment in America.

RS: Yeah, you know, you have really startling examples of that in your book. But I mean, one that people don’t even notice, you fly a B-2 bomber over a game, a stealth bomber, and it would degrade the very quality of the plane that made it stealthy. And so they would have to spend an enormous amount of money in a very short period of time to compensate for having flown over the game. And yet, our military budget paid for that.

HB: That’s right.

RS: And there’s a great deal of expenditure. So it becomes, you know, if you want the analogy, in any totalitarian society, the celebration of war. And you know, it was our first president, general turned president, George Washington, who in his farewell address warned the American people to beware the impostures of pretended patriotism.

HB: No question.

RS: And you have in your book the example of Pat Tillman, for instance. Somebody who was a, you know, Arizona Cardinals professional, walks away from, you know, a couple of million bucks in his contract. And with his brother Kevin, who was playing for, you know, the farm team of, I guess, St. Louis. And they joined the Rangers, and then his death, which was by friendly fire, is turned by the military into an occasion for whipping up war feeling. And that’s the context in which, then, some football players take a knee. Why? Because they say: your propaganda is basically concealing a lie about our country.

HB: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that had surprised me, Robert, about this the most, was when I brought this up to some people and we talked about these displays, and we talked about, well, this is a deception–this whole thing has been a deception in so many different ways. One of the responses that I got, and I put it in the book, is well, was well: maybe it is a deception, but because it’s for the troops, it’s a harmless deception. And I was thinking to myself, what is a harmless deception? And if this is an organic display, and if these are displays that should be respected, then why are we lying? Why would you have to conceal something that you would be proud of? And so there’s no question that where we are today, that there’s a battleground that’s not just the Red Sox and Yankees battling it out on the scoreboard. You’re also fighting on some level for, to use the old Iraq War phrase, the “hearts and minds of the people.” And you’re using sports as that place where we’re going to try and question people’s patriotism or solidify the patriotism of our citizens, when at the same time what’s also happening is you’re also getting pushback because of the disappointment in the fact, on the part of veterans. That was one of my favorite parts of the book, was actually talking to veterans themselves and asking them, how do you feel about this? This is why Chapter 7 is titled “Props.” They don’t want to be commodified. They don’t want to be used by billionaires to sell products and camouflage jerseys and alternate jerseys, and all of the different things that come with the selling of sports. But that’s what it’s become.

RS: [omission for station break] I want to get back to your point about patriotism, because that’s always been the gloss over things. You’re right, at one point sports was supposed to be a place where you could escape, go have a beer, get a hot dog, and so forth. But there’s always been this sort of macho thing, and our team, USA, USA. And yet sports were actually, throughout their history in this country, a disguise, a coverup of a harsh reality. I mean, you go in your book to the fact that there were the Negro leagues, and that sports were segregated, and the, you know, I mentioned that World Series in ‘46, the Cardinals were the southernmost team, and they were racist, and they let out a black cat from their dugout, and they mocked Jackie Robinson, and so forth. You know, then we had a different kind of black athlete who becomes–he’s not black. You know, Michael Jordan; OJ Simpson is somebody you deal with quite a bit in your book. And they are–Tiger Woods. They are sanitized. What was the word that Tiger Woods uses to describe his identity?

HB: Cablinasian. That he was some composite of Asian, Caucasian and clack.

RS: Yeah. And that’s sort of the ideal. Or Michael Jordan; you don’t say anything offensive, you may give some money to charity on the side. And that is what makes LeBron James refreshing in your book. That he lets people know that there’s a there there. That he can feel anger. And–

HB: Well, absolutely. And not just anger, but advocacy. That you don’t have to be mad about it, but he is the first athlete—which is why I believe he’s so significant—who since the mid-70s, since Muhammad Ali, who really has attached his black identity to his public persona. He doesn’t run from it, he’s not afraid of it, he’s not ashamed of it, he’s not–he’s not trying to be “greenwashed” is a term that I use, which is to have money amputate your identity. He doesn’t do that, he takes his identity with him. And that provides a great deal of cover and pride for fellow athletes, and also for the kids looking up to him; that you don’t have to run from this part of you. You do have this amputation that takes place, where advocating for your own people, or something that is important to you, or a part of your identity, has suddenly become a negative in a sport where your blackness and your physicality is being profited from. Why is this such a bad thing? And it’s not just the players. It’s also baked into our language, when you have these conversations about race, and people will say to you–well, to me as an African American–oh, when I look at you, I don’t see color. Well, why not? Or are we moving toward a colorblind society? Well, why must it be colorblind? And obviously, there’s nuance within those words. But those are the words that we use, and each one of those words is essentially saying, “I don’t want you to be who you are. I can’t handle who you are.” At least, the country hasn’t been able to handle you being you; we need to find some other way to negotiate you. The players bought into this completely. I remember, there’s one anecdote I think in Chapter 5 or 6, they all sort of roll in together now, where Chris Webber was telling me about how when he was a rookie, the black veterans in the NBA told him not to have a black agent because of the message that it sent to white owners, that you were being militant. And he was like, well, I wasn’t being militant, I just want to give people jobs who I think deserve them, who may not have access to this industry, and are qualified to have access to this industry. So it just shows you how deep the racial elements go. And that is in a league that’s 80 percent black. So what could it possibly be like in baseball or in other parts of our country?

RS: What I think is particularly gutsy about this book, and getting into stuff that people don’t want to talk about, is examining this phenomenon of patriotism. And law and order, and the cops, and so forth; the display of authority. And you give these people their due. You talk about their bravery, you talk about, you know, the real damage to people in war, and the risks that firemen take and policemen take; you know, 9/11 and what have you. But you get at a kind of propaganda element here, which is don’t question authority. Don’t challenge it. That to my mind–and the last third of the book is really strong on that, what has happened to our culture. And the interesting thing is, going back to the figure of Muhammad Ali, you know, I remember–because I’m old enough to remember intimately–this guy was vilified.

HB: Yeah, he was hated. Very much so.

RS: You know, we should talk a little bit about that, because he actually was an incredibly courageous figure. And he turned out to be a, you know, a very smart, perceptive figure. But I remember at the time, they just wanted to vilify, destroy this guy.

HB: Yeah. Well, one of the areas that I think is really important when we talk about this sort of byproduct of 9/11 has been this notion of authority, and of patriotism, and the conflation of police and the military. One of the interesting responses I got from a column where I talked about, I think it was in 2014 or 2015 I had written a column about Memorial Day, and how I didn’t like the fact that the networks were showing images of the police on Memorial Day. And they were conflating all of these different images of authority, which is a byproduct of 9/11. Because let’s not forget, as much as we talk about the military, you had so many of those police officers and Port Authority run into those buildings, and it cost them their lives. And Fire, of course. And I received a letter from someone who said, how dare you criticize the police on Memorial Day. That’s a day where we honor the fallen. And I sent him a message back saying, dear sir, thank you for your good letter, but the police have nothing to do with Memorial Day. And that’s how far we’ve gone in terms of even understanding what these days are, because these symbols and these institutions have been conflated. One of the areas that had concerned me the most, in terms of authority, was after 9/11, the outpouring of T-shirts that said “NYPD” on them. And “FBI” and “CIA.” And these weren’t hipster, you know, punk kids being ironic, like they used to in the seventies, wearing the CCCP, USSR jerseys. These are people who are supporting the CIA and the FBI and the DEA. If you walk around New York or D.C., you see these being sold as souvenirs. And on the one hand you might look at that and say, well, it’s kind of harmless, or maybe it’s just respect for what happened on 9/11–these citizens are also your juries. So if you walk around treating the police like your favorite ball club, why would you convict an officer? They’re the good guys. They’re supposed to be the good guys. It makes it even more difficult to look at these authoritarian symbols and view any sort of wrongdoing.

RS: You know, this whole idea that somehow the sacrifice is always worth it, that they did the right thing–no. No. The government screwed up. First he went to Iraq, and he didn’t believe in that war, and it was a phony war, and it was a lie, and then he said–

HB: That’s right, Robert. And that goes to what you were saying about Ali, and I didn’t mean to lose track of that part of your question. Was, that’s the reason–to me, there are two reasons why we talk about Ali. And one of the hard things about Muhammad that is so difficult is that we criticized and vilified Colin Kaepernick for taking his knee in September of 2016–Muhammad Ali had just passed away less than two months before. Just before that, we were celebrating this man for his courage. And we made that disconnect. And part of the reason we made the disconnect that Ali could be a hero and Colin Kaepernick was a villain, was because Ali was harmless. One, he was dead; two, he hadn’t spoken, because of the Parkinson’s; he hadn’t been a dangerous figure to public life in 30 years. He had been rehabilitated. He had won his championship back, too, which is one of the reasons that separates him from this heritage of Smith and Carlos and Robinson and the rest of them, because a lot of those guys had been destroyed. And Ali was the one who got his title back; he actually won. And then the third part of that was that he was also, when you look at this country that was so tired coming out of the 1960s, and weary finishing with Watergate in Vietnam, that he was vindicated; he was right. And so why wouldn’t you celebrate him being right? And that’s one of the questions that people have said to me: are we going to do the same thing to Colin Kaepernick 15, 20 years from now? And I say, maybe, maybe not; but why can’t we do it now?

RS: Let’s take it back finally to Ferguson. Because that, for you in your book, The Heritage, is really a decisive moment. And I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it seems to me what you’re saying is, you can be a famous black athlete making enormous amounts of money, but you can also be stopped by a cop. And you have, you have–

HB: Well, that’s right. Well, and Ferguson is important, because Ferguson was what activated the player. When you go back and look at this lineage, and you say OK—you go Smith, Carlos, 1968, they raised the black fist. And then all of a sudden you start to see this heritage begin to disappear as players began to make more money and people were tired going into the 1970s. And then you don’t see anything else for years—O.J., Michael, Tiger run the show; you know, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley—none of these great players really got involved. And then all of a sudden they’re back. Ferguson is the moment. Obviously, Trayvon Martin two years earlier activated LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat. But Ferguson, beginning in Ferguson, then Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland—and all of a sudden you had this tidal wave of shootings that were taking place, very high-profile and captured on video. That to me is the moment where the heritage was revived. And in a lot of ways, when you talk to the players, that was where they began to essentially repudiate the Michael Jordan attitude that ballplayers weren’t supposed to get involved, or that they shouldn’t get involved, or that because he didn’t get involved they shouldn’t either. Ferguson is that moment. So that is really, when I thought about conceptualizing this book, two things hit me that made me really think about it. One, 9/11, what was happening in 9/11, and two, the black athlete waking up after Ferguson.

RS: Let’s talk about O.J. Simpson. I happen to teach at the University of Southern California, where I wonder, what education did he get there? What was it, this role model? And in your book you spend quite a bit of time on that. And it was a role model, first of all, that for a young kid in the ghetto, if you get the right sneakers and you buy the product, you’re going to be O.J.. And that’s a lie; you’re not. And you better, you know, find another way, and the schools better be improved, and jobs better be there. So that’s the first thing. And secondly, that you’re going to not pay a price for your previous history. And that the society is really going to welcome you, where in fact, in the case of O.J., there also was a lot of excitement that he fell from the pedestal.

HB: Well, absolutely right. And I think the point that I was trying to make there was, one, obviously, the player began making more money. And the players began to distance themselves from the general public. When Hank Aaron was playing, and Willie Mays and those guys were playing, their kids went to public schools. Jackie Robinson’s kid went to public school. That’s not the case when you’re making $25 million a year, it’s all very different. But the other thing that struck me was this entire notion of integration, and it’s one of the conversations that we talk about a little bit in Chapter 9. If the player is going to conclude at this late date that without sports they would be dead or in jail, then we have failed. We have failed miserably. And you sit and you listen to these players talk about this, that without their jump shot or without their 40-yard dash time they would be dead or in jail. And I just begin to ask the question, how people who went to the University of Kentucky or North Carolina or UCLA or USC, how you could be a byproduct of these schools and conclude that your margin is that thin. What does that say about where we are today? That it has been a failure, and that this athletic story that was once so heroic, maybe isn’t that heroic if the players are uneducated. And you’re starting to see this sort of–I don’t want to call it a surrender, but you’re seeing an alternate solution, which is now paying the players. It’s almost a surrender, in a way, or an acknowledgment that we are simply going to use you for your body; that the black brain is not going to overcome the value of the black body in this culture, so we might as well just give you the money too, in college.

RS: Your book gives a really wonderful sense of an ignored history. And I want to just get to two figures: Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson. Paul Robeson, for many people who don’t know, first of all did get, have a great education at Rutgers. He had a real sense of the world, he traveled very widely in the world. He also was a very, you know, a great singer; he understood classical music and everything, he understood different cultures around the world. And he rejected a kind of an American-centric, white American-centric view of the world at a time when the American military was segregated. You know, it wasn’t just in the Deep South, and he experienced segregation. Jackie Robinson was another product of a good education at UCLA. And in your book, you describe how Jackie Robinson was used to try to destroy Paul Robeson. And then you develop a very complex view of Jackie Robinson, that he then later regrets that he was used, and he gets–he’s embittered by how he was used. And you provide, you know, I know there’s the movie and all that, but you provide actually a more sympathetic view of Jackie Robinson, and a more respectful view, I think, than I’ve seen in a long time.

HB: Well, there’s no question that McCarthyism destroyed Paul Robeson, not just in his time but also in the later retellings of who he was. If you view Paul Robeson only through the lens of the Cold War, you’ll never get the true Paul Robeson. And that has been the lens through which he’s been viewed. And in terms of Jackie, I give Jackie his credit for his growth; Jackie Robinson made a lot of mistakes. Jackie Robinson made a lot of missteps. But Jackie Robinson always stayed on the front lines in terms of being committed to what he thought was required for the liberation of his people, to push us forward. He was used by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1949, when he was asked to denounce Paul Robeson. But during that testimony, he also recognized that he used that platform for something that didn’t get discussed that day in the newspapers, but is in the testimony. And that’s what I refer to as the beginning of this heritage, where he talks about just because a communist says police brutality is a problem doesn’t mean it’s not true. And lynchings, and poor education, and mistreatment by the culture. When he talks about these things, that’s the responsibility; that’s where the responsibility was born, in my opinion. Where Jackie was not going to be quiet. And after that he criticized the New York Yankees for not [being] integrated, and he went to the Deep South and took a young Curt Flood with him down to Alabama and Mississippi on tours during the Civil Rights Movement, to show just what was taking place in some of those, the violence with the voting rights campaigns and everything. And so what you have here is someone who remained committed. People have asked me this question: what does it take to be part of this heritage? Is a player who gets involved in criminal justice reform, like the Philadelphia Eagles have done—does that put them in this pantheon? And to me, the answer is no. To me, the answer is you have to, you have to be in the street. You have to literally be arm-in-arm and take risk and recognize that this is something that is required of you, is being asked of you. It’s not something that your shoe company can protect you from with a commercial. You have to do it yourself.

RS: The book is called “The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.” The author is Howard “Howie” Bryant. So thanks again for coming. That’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. Our producers are Joshua Scheer and Rebecca Mooney. Our engineers here at KCRW are Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. And we had a good assist from New England Public Radio at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


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All Charges Dropped Against Trump Inauguration Protesters

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Julia Conley / Common Dreams.

More than three dozen defendants in the year-long #DisruptJ20 trial celebrated Friday evening after prosecutors dismissed all remaining charges against them, following a number of failures to prove the protesters were guilty of wrongdoing.

“The state failed at silencing dissent and today our movement is stronger than it was on #J20,” tweeted Dylan Petrohilos, who was charged with conspiracy, rioting, and destruction due to his participation in planning to protest—even though he did not attend. “I’m proud of all my co-defendants, and everyone in the streets who resisted fascism and state violence.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped charges against 38 people who were among the 234 arrested on January 20, 2017 at a protest against President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Some of the charges had carried sentences of more than 60 years in prison.

The government initially charged the protesters with felony rioting, but were able to secure only one guilty plea to the charge. Twenty pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

The protesters have been tried in groups, with six defendants acquitted late last year after prosecutors failed to convince a jury that the protesters were responsible for the property damage they were accused of committing.

Prosecutors also came under scrutiny for relying on videos shot by the right-wing group Project Veritas to build their case—leading to a judge’s ruling in the trial of 10 protesters in May, that the government had withheld evidence.

“I do think it’s a serious violation,” Wasington D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin said of the prosecution’s failure to disclose the entirely of Project Veritas’s undercover video of a meeting about the protests.

The protesters and their supporters posted on social media about their victory in court on Friday.

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Poor People’s Campaign Protests Against Mistreatment of Immigrants (Live Blog)

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Emily Wells.

Activists and civil rights advocates have gathered for the final week of action by the Poor People’s Campaign, an effort to relaunch Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight against poverty, war and income inequality. A press release from the organizers explains the goals behind this week’s actions:

The protests will culminate in a massive march on the U.S. Capitol Saturday led by people from across the country who are affected by President Trump and Congress’ policy violence. Saturday’s protest will launch the next phase of the groundbreaking revival of the 1968 movement started by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Thursday’s protest comes on the anniversary of the 1964 disappearance of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and David Goodman, whose bodies were found buried in a dam in Philadelphia, Mississippi Aug. 4 of that year. David Goodman, the brother of Andrew Goodman, will join the Poor People’s Campaign protest.

Truthdig correspondents Michael Nigro and Clara Romeo are reporting live from today’s protest at the Capitol:

2:30 p.m. EDT: Michael Nigro reports from the field with a Facebook Live:

2:45 p.m. EDT: Clara Romeo reports that delegates from across the nation have gathered on the National Mall to protest families being separated at the border:

Demonstrators have begun a march to the Capitol:



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Truthdig’s Michael Nigro Talks About Being Arrested While Doing His Work

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Truthdig photojournalist Michael Nigro was arrested last week in Jefferson City, Mo., while covering the Poor People’s Campaign, a 40-day event to raise awareness of and demand solutions to economic injustice in America. Nigro was officially charged for failure to obey orders, but, as he said in a podcast with Connect The Dots following his release, he believes that the underlying charge was the fact that he was practicing journalism at the time of his arrest.

Just before his arrest, Nigro was documenting more than 400 participants from across Missouri who were marching toward the Missouri Capitol and Chamber of Commerce. A group of activists was sitting in the middle of the street and blocking traffic, which Nigro attempted to document from the curb. As he reports in his June 11 live blog, police gave him three warnings to move off the sidewalk but did not tell him to stop filming. “I believe,” he said, “that they were intentionally preventing me from reporting and by arresting me were purposefully intimidating others from continuing to film.”

Nigro was arrested at 10:52 a.m. by police officers who also confiscated his equipment. His bail was set at $500, and he was released at 1:31 p.m.

The theme of the Poor People’s Campaign the week Nigro was arrested was “Everybody’s Got the Right to Live: Education, Living Wages, Jobs, Income, Housing.” A few days after his arrest, Nigro joined Alison Rose Levy of Connect the Dots to discuss the importance of that theme, his experience of being arrested while doing his job, and the broader attempts to restrict the freedom of the press in America. Listen to the episode below.

Truthdig is running a reader-funded project to document the Poor People’s Campaign. Please help us by making a donation.

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Nationwide Protests: ‘Families Belong Together’ No Matter Their Legal Status

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Clara Romeo.

The protest in Washington, D.C., illuminated the inhumane treatment of detained immigrant families through stories and testimonials from supporters, medical professionals and congressional members striving for reform.

One especially emotional moment was felt by hundreds of rallygoers when Washington State Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal shared her experience visiting a federal Bureau of Prisons facility near Seattle on Saturday. At the detention center, immigrants told the congresswoman of their inhumane treatment:

“They [detained immigrants] call them [detention centers] nicknames like the ‘icebox’ and ‘dog pound.’ ‘Ice box’ because there were such rigidly cold temperatures. Many of the women crossed the Rio Grande and came across the river soaking wet and then were put into this freezer. No blankets, no mattresses, and no clean drinking water. … The ‘dog pound’ was called that because they were kept in kennels and cages. They looked like a dog pound.”

Jayapal, who co-introduced and supports the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, went on to say that some women were placed in separate rooms from their children “where they could hear them [the children] screaming for them.” Other mothers were separated from their children under the false pretense that the centers were giving the children “showers.”

New York Congressman Eliot Engel, who could become chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee should the House flip in the midterm elections, was the next congressperson to speak against the recent immigration policy change: “What happens is the parents don’t know where the children are, the children don’t know where the parents are. We say this is patriotism? Shame on us.”

The crowd chanted “shame” in agreement.

The rally’s last word came from one of the many children in attendance. Standing amid a crowd of protesters, a child shouted: “Show me what family looks like!”

The crowd of immigrants, supporters and children responded in unison: “This is what family looks like.”

Watch the Facebook Live video from the Families Belong Together demonstration in Washington, D.C., here:

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Activists Plan Nationwide Protest Over Immigration Policies

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Emily Wells.

In response to Trump administration’s immigration policies, which include separating parents and children attempting to illegally cross the border, Families Belong Together is organizing a nationwide series of marches demanding reform. The marches are set for Thursday.

Organizers of the group wrote in a press release:

[I]t is unconscionable that the US government is actively tearing apart immigrant families. They are victims of violence, hunger, and poverty and our government’s actions re-violate them, causing untold damage. Children as young as 18 months are torn from their mothers’ arms by our own government. This is violent abuse and as concerned citizens and voters we state, unequivocally, that this is not in line with American values. We oppose the inhumane policies of the Trump Administration, Border Patrol, ICE, and other federal immigration agencies. We are disheartened by the lack of leadership in Congress whose job is to be a check on the federal government when it overreaches and abuses its power. We are calling for immediate reforms and an end to this barbarism.”

The marches, which are listed on the group’s Facebook page, were organized by more than 3,500 parents, grandparents and other citizens through the group’s website. The group opposes “the cruel, inhumane, and unjustified separation of children from their parents along the U.S. border with Mexico and at other ports of entry into the U.S.”

“The outrage and opposition will only keep growing if the Administration continues this cruelty of separating families,” says Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and chair of Families Belong Together. “This shouldn’t be up for debate. No one should accept babies being torn from their mothers’ arms or children being locked away from their parents. Congress has the power to stop this inhumane practice.”

His group cites family welfare experts on the drastic effect that separating parents and children can have on families. In an open letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, a group of scientists writes:

The scientific evidence is clear that early life experiences and resulting development shape a person for their lifetime. This “critical period” in early life can set the stage for cascading effects on psychological and biological wellbeing.

We also know that, during this critical period, parents play a vital role in facilitating the growth and development of their children. Decades of psychological and brain research have demonstrated that forced parental separation and placement in incarceration-like facilities can have profound immediate, long-term, and irreparable harm on infant and child development.

Appeals to Nielsen from experts in child welfare, juvenile justice and child development echo the scientists’ concern:

We write again today, after the formal implementation of practices to separate immigrant families, to renew our shared concern that your agency is harming children by taking them from their parents to deter or punish parents and children who come to our border seeking protection. The separation of children from their parents to deter migration, or to punish migration, will have significant and long-lasting consequences for the safety, health, development, and well-being of children. We therefore urgently request that the Administration reverse course on its practice of separating families at the border.

Truthdig is running a reader-funded project to document the Poor People’s Campaign. Please help us by making a donation.

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The Administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel Keeps Monitoring Protesters

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by By Mick Dumke / ProPublica.

Even before thousands of demonstrators gathered in downtown Chicago to speak out against President Donald Trump’s inauguration last year, city police were watching.

Recently released police and city records show that officers combed through social media posts and opened a formal information-gathering investigation into the protesters.

Then, throughout that day—Jan. 20, 2017—police and top aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel closely tracked the movements of protesters, from when they boarded trains and buses in their neighborhoods and continuing through hours of rallies and marches in the Loop.

It was another example of how the Emanuel administration routinely tracks protesters and activist groups, according to records I’ve acquired over the last several years through the Freedom of Information Act.

Now the mayor and police department may soon be able to use drones to monitor demonstrations and other public events.

This spring, mayoral allies in the Illinois General Assembly helped pass a measure that would allow law enforcement agencies statewide to use drones for “legitimate public safety purposes” at public gatherings, including to keep tabs on crowd movements. Each department would have to submit an annual report to the state on its drone usage, but otherwise would largely be able to create its own policies. The bill hasn’t been sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner yet.

Chicago’s police and political leaders have a long, troubled history of snooping on groups exercising their First Amendment rights. Police investigated demonstrators and activists under Emanuel’s predecessor, Richard M. Daley. And for decades before that, including the 20-year reign of Daley’s father, Richard J. Daley, the department’s Red Squad infiltrated dissident groups, civil rights organizations, and others seen as opponents of City Hall. The unit was dismantled in the 1970s and the department adopted new rules that were supposed to safeguard civil rights.

Still, the police department has opened investigations to monitor, infiltrate or conduct surveillance on protest groups at least five times since Emanuel became mayor in 2011, records show. Its previous targets included Occupy Chicago protesters, opponents of the 2012 NATO summit, Black Lives Matter activists, and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, a network of churches and neighborhood groups.

As events on Inauguration Day show, the Chicago Police Department and other city agencies already maintain an extensive camera, data-collection and communications network to keep tabs on protests and other public gatherings.

In late 2016, two activists created a Facebook page to announce plans for an Inauguration Day protest outside Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Chicago. Eventually 23,000 people indicated they were interested. Hundreds commented on the event’s Facebook page.

From the beginning, organizers stressed that they wanted the event to be peaceful and focused on speaking out against hate. But dozens of the comments on the Facebook page came from Trump supporters who mocked supporters of Hillary Clinton and other “liberals,” often with crude language.

On Jan. 19, 2017, a suburban man named Jeffrey Jacobs weighed in.

“Good place for a bomb downstairs Wacker,” Jacobs wrote, referring to the lower level of Wacker Drive, below the spot where protesters planned to gather across the river from Trump Tower. “In one of those homeless persons tents [sic].”

Even a cursory look at Jacobs showed he wasn’t an anti-Trump protester. On Facebook he had “liked” pages such as the Tea Party Patriots, “Ban liberals not guns,” “Not voting for Monica Lewinsky’s ex boyfriend’s wife,” and Occupy Democrats. His post about bombing Lower Wacker also prompted reprimands from other commenters.

When I reached Jacobs by phone recently, he volunteered that he voted for Trump. He also told me his Facebook comment was meant to be “sarcastic”—his way of saying that demonstrations can be dangerous when they take over the streets.

“I consider that a riot when they come down and protest,” Jacobs said.

Police analysts highlighted the comment last year as they were conducting “reviews” of social media about the planned protests, according to department records. The next morning, police Commander Leo Panepinto cited it in paperwork requesting approval to open an investigation. He also wrote that other commenters, including some he described as “Black Bloc” members, discussed “civil disobedience.”

That, he said, raised the possibility of violence. He didn’t name these commenters.

Panepinto is the commanding officer at the department’s Crime Prevention and Information Center, or CPIC, where police analyze information on crimes and public events alongside officials from the FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

“To allow for lawful demonstrations to take place and to investigate the threat and possible criminal acts that are associated with these postings,” he wrote, “analysts will review the main sites that call for gatherings and then drill down on individuals that are associated with the threats.”

That seemed to indicate that, as part of the investigation, police would look into the Facebook post about violence.

Panepinto then asked for legal approval to “monitor” the protest event page and other social media—even though his analysts had already been doing so, as he wrote in his investigation request.

Under the department’s rules, Chicago police are allowed to monitor, infiltrate or conduct surveillance on protesters and political groups—in what they call “Investigations Directed at First Amendment-Related Information”—if they can establish a “reasonable law enforcement purpose” for doing so. But the approval doesn’t come from anyone on the outside; the department’s lawyers make the call.

In this case, the lawyers signed off on the investigation, and police continued to go through protesters’ social media.

Meanwhile, both the department and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications tracked protesters in real time. The information was then shared with top mayoral aides.

Shortly after 11 a.m. on Inauguration Day, for example, Anthony Pascente, the city’s deputy chief operating officer, emailed a protest update to then-Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, chief of staff Joe Deal, mayoral spokesman Adam Collins and other city officials. Pascente informed the group that students from Juarez High School in Pilsen were planning to attend a protest in the Loop that afternoon. He and police officials also sent updates about groups headed downtown from Pilsen and the Near North Side.

Two hours later, a dispatch from CPIC informed Emanuel aides and other police officials that the Juarez students were on their way.

Just before 3 p.m., CPIC issued another bulletin noting that students and other protesters had assembled in the Loop, and more were coming: “Approximately 35 people have boarded the Red Line and are heading to Daley Plaza.”

Over the next eight hours, police and other city officials kept tabs on crowds that grew to thousands of protesters as they took trains and buses downtown, gathered near Trump Tower and eventually split off into several marches. One group shut down sections of Lake Shore Drive.

Along the way, police arrested 16 people for misdemeanor offenses such as waving flares, obstructing traffic and running into police officers on bikes. None resulted in a conviction, though one case is pending.

Early the next morning, Panepinto filled out paperwork to close his inquiry into the protests. He noted the arrests but offered no additional details of what investigators had done.

But Jacobs — whose bomb comment was used as a reason for the investigation — told me he was never contacted by the police or any other law enforcement agency.

That’s because police concluded the comment wasn’t “credible,” department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi wrote me in an email. Guglielmi said police received a tip about Jacobs’ post and then opened their investigation—which is a different account than the one Panepinto offered in his paperwork.

“The Department reviewed the tip and vetted the information,” Guglielmi wrote. “It was determined that it was not credible and there was no further need to question the poster.”

Both Guglielmi and a statement from the mayor’s office said city departments team up to ensure public safety while protecting citizens’ First Amendment rights.

Drones would simply enhance those efforts, they said, by adding to their camera network while costing less than using helicopters, which police are already able to do.

“The proposed changes to the Drone Act strengthen the transparency requirements set forth under current law,” Guglielmi wrote, pointing to its annual reporting mandate.

But many questions remain.

Officials in Chicago and beyond are expanding their abilities to watch people in the name of public safety, but the public has little ability to watch them back.

Truthdig is running a reader-funded project to document the Poor People’s Campaign. Please help us by making a donation.

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Covering Activism Beyond the Poor People’s Campaign

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Our first reader-funded project was a success! With Truthdig readers’ help, we raised $16, 000 to send Truthdig photojournalist Michael Nigro all over the U.S. to cover a full 40 days of action by the Poor People’s Campaign as activists revived Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic vision. Nigro’s work took him from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, Ill. and Lansing, Mich. in recent weeks, documenting progressive activists led by The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis as they demonstrated against racism, income inequality, climate inaction, and other important issues.

We are grateful for your support in helping us reach our initial goal. Now we’re working to build momentum off of this successful campaign to bring you exclusive multimedia reports about protests, marches, and other events in coming months, and we’d love for you to be a part of that effort.

With your continued support, we can keep top-notch journalists like Michael Nigro on the ground for Truthdig to cover the dynamic activism happening around the country as we head toward the mid-term elections this fall. Consider making a donation today to help us keep up the important work of documenting activism across this nation at this historic time.

Truthdig’s exclusive coverage of the Poor People’s campaign has included extensive audio photo essays as well as several pieces from Nigro, and live blogs with multimedia dispatches from the dynamic days of action as they happened. Below are the themes for each week of the campaign’s planned action, including for the upcoming weeks as the movement wraps up its initial plans. Click on the hyperlinked headlines to see the topnotch journalism we were able to deliver with your help.

Week 1, Washington, D.C.
Somebody’s Hurting Our People: Children, Women and People With Disabilities Living in Poverty

Poor People’s Campaign Kicks Off in Washington, D.C.

‘Poverty Is Violence’: First Day of Action of the Poor People’s Campaign (Audio Photo Essay), Michael Nigro

Building Morality From the Ground Up, Michael Nigro

Week 2, Chicago and Springfield, Ill.
Linking Systemic Racism and Poverty: Voting Rights, Immigration, Xenophobia, Islamophobia, and the Mistreatment of Indigenous Communities

A Struggle Rising From the Streets

An American Movement Hidden in Plain Sight (Audio Photo Essay), Michael Nigro

The Art of Resistance: A Look at the Poor People’s Campaign’s ‘Justice Art Movement,’ Clara Romeo

Week 3, North Carolina
The War Economy: Militarism and the Proliferation of Gun Violence

Poor People’s Campaign Continues Strong in North Carolina

Protesting a Country That Values Killing Over Caring (Audio Photo Essay), Michael Nigro

Week 4, Lansing, Mich.
The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet: Ecological Devastation and Health Care

This Peaceful Army Can Wage a ‘Revolution of Values’

Every Human Has a Right to Health and a Healthy Planet (Audio Photo Essay), Michael Nigro

Week 5
Everybody’s Got the Right to Live: Education, Living Wages, Jobs, Income, Housing

Week 6
A New and Unsettling Force: Confronting the Distorted Moral Narrative

Saturday, June 23, 10 a.m. EDT
Global Day of Solidarity and Sending a Call to Action: Mass Rally in Washington, D.C.

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