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(The first version of this interview appeared in print in the 4th Humboldt Grassroots paper that came out in early 2012. It wasn’t well edited at the time, most of the editorial collective was missing for good reason it was early 2012…)

Hurt, Kristian Williams most recent book, is a collection of articles on the what, where, why and how of torture, and how it must be stopped. Hurt argues convincingly why stricter laws and more human rights observers can’t end torture. Human rights observers are deceived and not given access is not provided full access to necessary information by governments. Thus, tons of torture goes unreported. So to end the practice of torture, we must dismantle the institutions and systems that benefit from inflicting maximum pain and suffering. That means creating a real democracy the prison abolition movement and the feminist movement collaboration described in Critical Resistance 10 conference. How do we dismantle the prison and the police state while keeping people accountable and safe? That conversation needs to be had to find and share solutions to replace systems of oppressions rely on torture with community power that relies on real democracy.

Torture and democracy don’t mix the whole concept of torture is the subjugation and dehumanization of another runs as the complete opposite to the practice of justice, equality, solidarity and the universal freedom of all humanity.

I asked some questions of Kristian Williams.

Also, I have a few questions about a few topics discussed in Hurt:

How has the use of torture terror and physical subjugation you describe in
hurt, played out in your view in the repression against the Occupy Wall Street Protests across the country?

I haven’t really done a thorough study of Occupy and the state’s response.
There are a couple of notorious instances of the cops using pepper spray to
force compliance (UC Davis) or as a kind of gratuitous punishment (NY).
By my reckoning that instrumentalization of pain counts as torture. And I
think it’s telling that those were probably the incidents that proved most
discrediting to the cops. I mean, it really backfired for them and
generated lots of sympathy for the protesters. Of course, the fact that
there was video was crucial to have that political effect.

> I wanted to know more about your work with Critical resistance and
> incite, what your assessment of the current prison abolition movement is,
> where you think it is going, and the political change for real
> democracy(anarchism)needs to go

I haven’t myself done any work with Critical Resistance or Incite
directly, aside from attending the CR10 conference and contributing an
article to the CR newsletter. But the organization I’m part of, Rose City
Copwatch has taken a lot of inspiration from the joint statement by CR/Incite about the need to address community violence without relying on
police and prisons. Part of our work over the past many years has been
advancing the notion that there are and can be alternatives to the
official criminal justice system. We put out a pamphlet a few years ago
profiling quite a number of those existing alternatives. (It’s on our
website, rosecitycopwatch.org.) And that, of course, has a natural overlap
with my intellectual work, especially the afterword to Our Enemies in
Blue.

I think the prison abolition movement has made impressive strides in the
past 15 or so years. It’s really managed to establish itself as a
legitimate position on the political spectrum — to such a degree that the
state is beginning to co-opt some of the ideas about restorative justice
and the like. And the advances of the prison abolition movement have also
had the effect of completely changing the left’s agenda around policing as
well. It used to be that anti-cop organizing was almost entirely under
the sign of police accountability, but in the past dozen or so years
there’s been a shift more and more in the direction of abolition.

As for next steps: I think we’ve done a pretty good job in pushing the
notion that there could be ways to resolve disputes and respond to
violence that the community controls directly and that doesn’t rely on locking people in cages. But so far we have not done nearly enough regarding actually creating and sustaining those alternatives. I hope
we’ll see more experiments in that area in the years to come.

> What are your suggestions? Do we need to create better anarchist media? Should radicals put more of an emphasis on organizing in their neighborhoods than into protest camps? Do you suggest we protest specific police practices and policies?

Yes. We need all of that. I’m always reluctant to try to tell people
what to do, though, because political strategy needs to be tailored to a
specific context. What makes sense in Portland right now may make no sense in Humboldt — and may not make sense in Portland in six months,
either.

> I know you described how torture is hidden in plain sight in your book,
> but what impact does that tacit knowledge tend to have on people?
> How is a regular person who hasn’t been arrested affected by torture in our society?

Torture has effects far beyond its immediate victims. It also traumatizes
their families and loved ones, it’s disruptive to their communities, it
intimidates those who even just her about it, and it indeed casts a shadow
Over the entire society. It’s a kind of terrorism, and I don’t use the
word hyperbolically.

People are afraid of prison, for example, in large part, I think because
they’re so scared of what happens to people in prison. That fear is itself a
system of control, every bit as real and the walls and the razor wire.
And of course, living in a society stratified by race and class, certain
types of people are vastly more likely to be sent to prison than others.
In particular, Black men are more likely to be incarcerated than any other
group. The effect of that imprisonment, and of some of the things that
happen to them while they’re there, has been pretty devastating to the
Black community.

take care,
Kristian

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  • Our keynote speaker will be Michael with Tatort Kurdistan from Berlin, Germany. He is a co-author of the books Democratic Autonomy in Northern Kurdistan and Revolution in Rojava. He will be discussing democratic autonomy as it is being developed in the Kurdish movement, including models for gender equality and autonomous democracy. Michael is doing his Ph.D. work on the revolution in Rojava in depth us about that.

    Edit 2018
    That couldn’t happen because of the then quieter travel ban on anyone who has visited Syria (ever practically) that isn’t a US citizen. The US government canceled Michael’s trip after we had bought his ticket. Luckily the refund was relatively quick. We considered video chatting him in, we just couldn’t work it out at that time. We may do it in the future. In the mean time go read the book! http://new-compass.net/publications/democratic-autonomy-north-kurdistan
    Borders really get in the way of social progress! Just another reason these states and borders have to go! They are in the way of the work that needs to be done to heal this world and make it better!

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The curated radical and anarchist multi-media platform of our dreams that will be the Rhizome Infp-shop is taking shape. It will be a place to browse our physical  library and email us to borrow books, find out books to get yourself and get access to all the best anarchist  media that we can find. Podcasts, news outlets, videos, online reading, books, zines pamphlets, art music…We hope to have it launched and ready to go by Spring 2018.  Also there are classes being taught monthly, more about that later…

We now have a way to catalog that has been dogging us for a while. We lost a number of books in the most recent move but we are restocking our collection day by day, with friends and publishers contributing to the Rhizome Info-shop.

This collection will be very accessible, not in an upstairs loft or any particular location, we will meet you where you are at and work with your needs. That is the hope to get the right book to the right person as often as we can.

The most destructive force on earth is ignorance, we hope this new iteration of the info-shop will kick ignorance in its teeth.

to contact the folks working on the rhizome info-shop

email: rhizome [dash] infoshop [at] riseup [dot] net

If you are not a robot you’ll know how to read that.

 

More to come!

Thanks to The Ink People and J-Birds Treasure Nook in Eureka for their support!

 

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Humboldt Grassroots was asked to pass this letter along where Andy Mills could see it (we know you’re watching). They have chosen to write under a moniker out of concern for their safety.

Dear Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills,

How dare you compare a band’s name that makes you uncomfortable to genocide! In what world do you live in where the two are even remotely similar? The band is called Millions of Dead COPS so don’t act like it has anything to do with Jews just to make a point. You chose to be a police officer, and while some Jews converted, most of us were born into it. How can you possibly compare our real tragedy with political satire? How do you even feel so attacked and marginalized by the name of a band that you think the Holocaust is a reasonable comparison? As long as we’re making huge jumps, what about the millions of dead Natives who lost their lives so you can call your city Eureka? Why wouldn’t you reference a genocide that you have personally benefitted from?

You think this band’s name is a hate crime? Do you know what a hate crime is? I have had FOUR ACTUAL HATE CRIMES committed against me in the City of Eureka since the election. They happened because of my brown skin and African features, which is something I did not choose and cannot change. You were not born a police officer, that was a life decision you made as an adult. It was not forced on you. There is a huge difference between people hating you because of the color of your skin and because you choose to associate with the largest and most organized violent gang in America. And don’t fool yourself, you are a gang. You travel in packs, heavily armed, wearing matching colors and other identifiers, you speak to each other in code and use fear tactics and brute force to control people. That is why I never reported either instance of somebody deliberately trying to run me over while yelling racial slurs out their window, or the person who tried to physically intimidate me in front of the Coop while screaming in my face and not letting me pass them. I didn’t report any of these actual hate crimes because I already knew from personal experience with your department that you wouldn’t do anything to help me. Why should I trust you now? In ten years I have not dealt with nearly as much racist bullshit as I have encountered since the morning of November 9, 2016. And you have the audacity to insinuate that the name of this band a hate crime? Now that is what I call “repugnant”!

Do you realize there are children in this country who wonder why they are hated? Black children internalize the hatred, bigotry, marginalization and violent treatment black Americans face today and have faced ever since the days of chattel slavery. Native children wonder what they’ve done to deserve having their land stolen and their water poisoned. Jewish children wonder how horrible they must naturally be to deserve near extermination. So if children are wondering why people blindly hate them for things they have no control over, why don’t you, as an adult, think about why people hate the police? If soul searching and reading up on your history was too much, you could have attended last night’s performance as a patron and talked to other attendees about their opinions, rather than try to stifle a message you disagree with on the surface. Anyone with a brain between their ears can come up with a few dozen reasons why people don’t like you. Your asinine, thoughtless, insensitive, inaccurate tweet and pathetic attempt to damage a local business is a perfect example.

Do not pretend to be for freedom of speech while actively trying to silence someone’s message. If you were just some angry citizen, I would hold nothing against you for your statements yesterday. But since you are the police chief, your word is law as far as many people are concerned. Should local business owners be worried you’ll call for a boycott against them for exercising their First Amendment Rights as well?

You’ve insulted the Jews in your community by comparing our genocide to a band’s name that you dislike.You’ve insulted everyone who has endured real hate crimes in your community with your foolish comparison.You’ve asked for a boycott against a safe, all-ages music venue in your community.You’ve responded to an anti-Trump event in his signature style; by using your power and authority to threaten the reputation of Siren’s Song because you dislike the name of a band they hosted. Sad.

Look at your actions and ask yourself why people hate the police. Ask yourself why a band called Millions of Dead Cops had a line going around the corner.

I write this to you anonymously not because I am ashamed of anything I have to say, but because I am afraid to stand up to a police officer while also referencing my race and religion. I fear what your supporters would do to me if I make my identity public, and I am certain that you would not help me.

Yours truly,
MADaf

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