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Monthly Archives: August 2018

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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, repression of HGR members who participated in Occupy Eureka was in full swing, in 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. 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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In 2015 the 7th Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair Committee’s best-laid plans for Michael Knapp with Tatort Kurdistan from Berlin, Germany to the keynote speaker. He is a co-author of the books Democratic Autonomy in Northern Kurdistan and Revolution in Rojava. He was to discuss democratic autonomy as it developed in the Kurdish movement, including models for gender equality and autonomous democracy. A living breathing model to address inequality and the growing ecological l crisis that threatens the world.

Michael was doing his Ph.D. in 2015 he has it now. So we will have to catch him between classes to talk more about it. You may have guessed Michael couldn’t make it to the 7th Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair because  Obama’s low key 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. A video presentation couldn’t work it out at that time. We may do it in the future. In the meantime go read the books! Don’t let borders get in the way of the revolution. We have both of his books available in the infoshop for you to borrow!

Rhizome Infoshop

http://new-compass.net/publications/democratic-autonomy-north-kurdistan

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