Walmart cedes to pressure not to promote Israeli fascism

Major retailer Walmart promoted the state of Israel and the “Israeli Defense Force” as a Halloween costume for children, all for under thirty dollars. The costume, which was sold alongside that of the navy seal and the US police offer, has been deshelved after outrage by people across the country and successful pressure advocacy by civil liberties organizations such as CAIR and ADC.

What does it mean when a corporation such as Walmart’s, with their track record of poor labor and racist practices, decide that the very same IDF soldiers that apparently are too controversial to market to children train the police that continue to be marketed and celebrated on shelves across the country? What does it mean when war-making and the logic of policing continues to marketable, profitable and acceptable?

It is in fact nothing but repulsive to market the IDF while the Israeli military is extra judicially killing Palestinians in the West Bank, restricting movement for Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, and the six-decade occupation of Palestine under racist and apartheid policies. In addition, Operation Protective Edge killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, and hundreds have been injured or wounded, and 10,000 homes have been destroyed in Gaza just this last year. In the past 3 weeks, at least 60 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,000 Palestinians have been injured. The protests earlier this month were triggered after the Israeli government restricted the access for worshippers to Al-Aqsa. One of the main factors to the protests was the continuous vigilantly settler armed gangs attacking and murdering Palestinians on a daily basis.

The IDF costume is, however, consistent with the profitable industry of costumes promoting racist stereotypes and such as the “Sheikh Fagin Nose.” On the Walmart website, the prosthetic nose was described as the “perfect for an Arab Sheikh. (The Nose has been taken down while this post was written.) . Walmart has a history of promoting and selling racist costumes. Last year, Walmart featured the “Pashtun Papa,” which was a long grey beard, a turban, a black vest, and brown one piece. The description of this “costume” stated: “Represent the Middle East in the Men’s Pashtun Papa Costume this Halloween season. Whether you’re making a serious political statement or staging a political parody, this authentic- looking outfit is sure to fit the bill.” Pashtuns have been reduced to an offensive costume. Walmart took the item of their online store after a wave of social media outrage. The Sheikh nose was able to be both anti- Arab and anti-Jewish at the same time. Fagin also appeared on the label for the Sheikh box, a Jewish character in the novel “Oliver Twist.” It has been recalled from the online store after civil rights groups like CAIR, USPCN, and others directed a call to drop the nose. Walmart continues to site “third party product policy” have nothing to do with Walmart’s mission statement towards “community sensitivity” and “diversity.”

Walmart in the past has profited from racist symbols like the Confederate flag, which was later pulled off their shelves after Dylan Roof, a white supremacist, murdered nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Walmart has taken down the IDF costume as they should.

So long as, every 28 hours a black man is killed by the police, it is the logic of policing and war that will continue to permeate society and result in hate crimes, discrimination, and state violence.

20151027-screen-shot-2015-10-27-at-11.38.39-am 1414786038952_Image_galleryImage_Walmart_is_removing_the_c Walmart-costume-2

One year ago, we made history.

Block the Boat, One Year Later

One year ago the Bay Area made history by blocking the largest Israeli shipping line from docking at the port of Oakland. When the entire world was taking to the streets against Israeli Apartheid and the war on Gaza, so too were thousands in the streets of San Francisco. People from all across Northern California stood shoulder to shoulder to march in the spirit of justice, liberation and self-determination.

Then on August 16th, we put those convictions into action with the Block the Boat coalition – AROC along with over 70 immigrant rights, anti-war, abolitionist, queer, economic and racial justice organizations, and numerous individuals – set on stopping the largest Israeli shipping line, the Zim ship, at the Port of Oakland. We mobilized en masse with a remarkable show of solidarity between ILWU Local 10 rank-and-file and our community, building on the radical legacy of the longshoremen, the South African anti-Apartheid struggle, and Arab solidarity with workers in the Bay Area. We made history by ultimately stopping the Zim shipfrom docking at the Port of Oakland indefinitely. The workers honored picket lines by refusing to unload the ship in August, September and October – and the Israeli Zim ship hasn’t returned since.

We accomplished this victory by centering Arab leadership, building on worker solidarity and committing to long term cross movement building. We organized in coordination with actions in Vancouver, NY, Tampa, Long Beach, Seattle and Tacoma. And together we achieved one of the most successful Boycott, Divest and Sanction victories in history by making a political, cultural and economic impact on the Apartheid State of Israel.

The BDS movement is growing as people are recognizing that Israeli occupation of Palestine is linked to repression worldwide. The relationship of Israel to the policing and repression of Black and Brown communities has been exposed, and the connections between movements for self-determination from the streets of Oakland, Baltimore and Ferguson to the movements in Haiti, the Philippines and Palestine are deepening.

Alongside all our people struggling here and in our homelands, we remain committed to rising up against policing, war and militarism. As we commemorate the Block the Boat victory, we ask you to join AROC in the Stop the Urban Shield coalition to continue to rise up against repression for the sake of our dignity and liberation.

And be sure to take a few minutes to watch this Block the Boat video documenting the resilience, commitment and power of the people in standing up against state violence.

Action Alert: Support AROC and Arabic Language Pathways in SF Schools!

SIGN COMMUNITY LETTER OF SUPPORT [HERE]

Over the last month, our small yet powerful grassroots Arab community organization has been the target of an attack by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). They have vilified us on media and to public officials, and have been attempting to intimidate our allies for supporting us. The attacks escalated when the Examiner printed this article.

Who is JCRC?

They are a well-financed group that furthers the interests of the apartheid state of Israel. Their objective is to challenge Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions work in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Wherever they see an organization successfully supporting the Palestinian struggle for liberation, they attack.

Now, they are attacking both AROC and the opportunity for children in San Francisco to learn Arabic language and culture.

JCRC is attempting to convince the San Francisco Board of Education to revote on a resolution that the board passed unanimously on May 26, listing AROC and the Vietnamese Youth Development Center as community partners who championed the campaign to implement Arabic and Vietnamese language pathways in SFUSD. This initiative, born of an inspiring community effort, would expand the opportunity of Arabs and Vietnamese to have their languages and cultures better represented in the schools they attend.

What does JCRC really want?

They want to discredit AROC because of our impactful work in support of Palestinian rights, and they want control of the Arabic pathway process so they can ensure there are no cultural elements to the curriculum that could “threaten” their conservative agenda.

Don’t let JCRC undermine Arab culture in our city to advance their harmful agenda.

Will you take two minutes to sign on to community support letter to urge the Board of Educations continued support of AROC and our role in developing the Arabic language pathway in SFUSD?

The Board of Education is on break until August. By signing onto this letter you will help affirm that communities are in support of AROC and against the attempt of political interest groups like JCRC to undermine grassroots community efforts. By signing on you show that people of conscience are united against racism.

MORE INFO

SFUSD PRESS RELEASE ON ARABIC LANGUAGE PATHWAYS

AROC Announcement and Photos of Arabic Language Pathways Victory

JCRC Case Study: the Attack on Eastside Arts Alliance

JCRC attack on Children’s Art Exhibit from Gaza

IJAN report, the Business of Backlash: the Attack on the Palestinian Movement and Other Movements for Justice

VIDEO OF FULL SPEACH BY LARA KISWANI, ED OF AROC (MISPRESENTED BY JCRC)

 

AROC supports SJP in the face of attacks published by the Daily Cal

AROC supports SJP in the face of attacks published by the Daily Cal

On March 31, 2015 UC Berkeley’s student paper, the Daily Cal, decided to become a vehicle of anti-Black and anti-Palestinian racism. It seems that it isn’t enough that the US government continues to wage wars against people of the Third World, develops policies and practices targeting Palestinians in the US, and works with the the Apartheid State of Israel to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Palestinian population, and to train local law enforcement on how to do the same to Black and Brown communities in the US. No, apparently the Daily Cal feels that they too should contribute to this systemic violence.

The Daily Cal editorial board made a decision to publish an op-ed by well-known slave apologist and racist, David Horowitz targeting Students for Justice in Palestine. There is no need to unpack Horowitz’s baseless arguments attacking Arabs and Palestinians. There is a need, however, to ask why the Daily Cal would choose to prop up such hate and divisiveness? And to allow someone like Horowitz to spew hate while invoking UC Berkeley’s “Principles of Community.”

Surely, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Blacks and all those that Horowitz targets are part of the community that the Daily Cal applies to their principles. Surely war mongering, slavery, apartheid, and genocide are not part of those principles. In 2001, Horowitz ran ads in college newspapers stating that black people should be grateful for slavery and are indebted to America for it. In fact, the Daily Cal was forced to apologize for running this shameful ad at the time. Earlier this year, Horowitz ran an anti-Palestinian poster campaign across the country on college campuses.

And now, the man that the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the “Godfather” of the anti-Muslim movement in the US, is given space in UC Berkeley’s student paper to incite hate and violence. All the while, the Daily Cal consistently censors op-eds by SJP or pro-Palestinian students.

As an organization that works to challenge state violence against our communities, we hold the Daly Cal accountable for the perpetuation of systemic racism against Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims and all those who stand for justice and liberation of Palestine. And we specifically hold the Daly Cal responsible for creating a divisive and harmful environment for Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley.

We call on people to continue to support the work of Students for Justice in Palestine and to hold institutions accountable for the repression of all movements for liberation and justice.

March 21: Anti War Protest on 12th Anniversary of US Invasion of Iraq

Arabic English Antiwar protest 3:12:15

English Anti War protest

SF Anti-war Protest on 12th Anniversary of U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Saturday, March 21, 12noon, Powell & Market Streets

Stop Pres. Obama’s new 3-year AUMF – Authorization for Use of Military Force!

End War and Occupation in the Middle East and Central Asia – U.S. Out!

No to U.S. sanctions & intervention vs. Iran, Venezuela, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, Russia, Haiti, Philippines & everywhere

Free Palestine – End U.S. Aid to Israel!

Fund People’s Needs, Not Endless War!

[FACEBOOK PAGE] 

Initiated by the ANSWER Coalition

Endorsed by:
AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center
Aypal: Building API Community Power
BAYAN USA
Code Pink,
Critical Resistance – Oakland,
General Union of Palestine Students -GUPS SFSU
Haiti Action Committee
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Middle East Children’s Alliance
Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA)
OccupySF Action Council,
Palestinian Youth Movement – حركة الشباب الفلسطيني
Party for Socialism & Liberation,
PODER (SF)
Cindy Sheehan,
Socialist Viewpoint,
Unitarian Universalists for Peace & Justice,
WORD – Women Organized to Resist & Defend,
Workers World Party,
World Can’t Wait,
XMC: Xicana Moratorium Coalition

info@araborganizing.org | 415-861-7444

Block the Boat Declares Decisive Victory Over Apartheid Israel

portofoklalandlarge

Oakland has made history once again with another BDS victory for Palestine against the Israeli Zim shipping line. This latest round of organizing has been the most momentous and historic. Members of ILWU Local 10 informed Block the Boat organizers that the Zim Beijing which was headed to the Port of Oakland, has been re-routed to Russia to avoid disruptions at the SSA terminal. For the first time ever, an Israeli ship has been completely turned away before reaching its port of destination due to sustained overwhelming community organizing.

The damage to Israel’s credibility can’t be exaggerated–the Zim line, though privately owned, is an Israeli “security asset.” Israel exerts control over the corporation through a “golden share” which it uses to prevent the sale of the company into foreign hands. The Zim line is mandated to be part of Israel’s critical supply chain during protracted military conflicts. The brand and economic impact on Zim has yet to be calculated, but is surely devastating. Goods have been rerouted, and undelivered for months. ILWU workers have honored our pickets and sided with the community against US complicity in Israeli apartheid. Zim has been disrupted and confronted by anti-Zionist protests in Seattle, Tacoma, Los Angeles, Vancouver, New Orleans, New York and Tampa. Ports all over North America are making it clear that Israel can no longer conduct business as usual because Zionism is simply not welcome on our coasts.

Zim‘s Maneuvers

The Zim Beijing, which was scheduled to arrive in Oakland on the morning of Saturday October 25, 2014, instead broke from its heading soon after it reached the north western coast of Mexico on Wednesday, October 22nd, and headed further northwest. Several sources, including Zim’s own online schedule, and port and union authorities confirm that the Beijing’s intended destination was Oakland, but that it changed its itinerary to avoid yet another humiliating defeat. In an article published on 10/26, headlined “Zim Beijing Avoids Oakland” the GulfShip News reported, “The ship was due to call on Saturday, but then delayed its call to today [Sunday]. Reports from Oakland suggest Zim has now decided to cancel the call altogether. Zim has been hit by protests at Oakland in August and September, disrupting its schedules.”

We also tracked the ship via satellite using an online marine tracking service and documented that the ship listed its destination as Oakland just minutes after it left the Panama Canal–the norm for Zim ships on the Asia Pacific line, which stop at either Los Angeles or Oakland before heading to China and Russia. Just days into its 9 day journey from the Canal, however, Zim abruptly removed Oakland from its online schedule, and headed northwest, taking it ever farther from Oakland.

Confronting Global Repression

It is clear that the Zim Beijing diverted course in response to the powerful Block the Boat organizing. In August, Block the Boat organized and inspired a series of historic night and day pickets, which with the support of ILWU workers, prevented the Zim Piraeus from unloading for 4 days, and eventually forced the ship to leave before even a fraction of its cargo could be unloaded. In September, Zim faced another set of pickets that forced the Zim Shanghai to offload in Los Angeles, rather than its intended Oakland destination. The Block the Boat coalition along with the broader Bay Area community has made it clear that we can determine what takes place in our towns. And business with the racist, exclusionary, Zionist state of Israel, which works alongside local and federal law enforcement to repress our communities, will not go unchallenged.

Activists remained focused throughout Zim’s obfuscations, organizing for a large turnout to picket the Beijing whenever it would arrive–Saturday, Sunday, or any day of the coming week. Given the convoluted maneuvers Zim used in August, in which it left the port under the cover of an Israeli consulate press release, only to return to another terminal less than an hour later, organizers now know to be thorough and patient. After tracking the Zim Beijing for several days, Block the Boat prepared for a week of possible pickets by staging a late day march of hundreds on Sunday to the Port of Oakland to show the strength and focus of this movement. It was a warning to Zim to keep going as it reached the 1000-mile mark from Oakland and a promise that the gates would be lined again with unstoppable anti-Zionist picketers if it returned.

As the Beijing sails beyond the horizon, it still bears the destination of Oakland, though it is over 1200 miles away from San Francisco Bay at the time of this statement. Our efforts have paid off; Zim Beijing does not appear to be turning around. Even if it did reverse course and head back to Oakland at this point, it would be a week late, and it would find us once again, prepared to stop it at the port.

BDS Victory

We are declaring a historic victory in our effort to block the Beijing. It is very likely that Zim has been completely prevented from doing any future business at the Port of Oakland. Only time will tell if Zim’s changes to its schedule reflect the real re-routing of its ships, or simply just another ruse to fool opponents of Israeli apartheid. Obviously, here in Oakland, we are ready for Zim’s return any time. Together with our brothers and sisters from Ferguson to Palestine, we are fighting back against state violence and apartheid and we are prepared to bring it down brick by brick, wall by wall, port by port.

@blocktheboat #blocktheboatpalestinedesignaction (1)

Endorsed by:
Addameer: Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization
Advance the Struggle
Af3irm
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition USA
All African People’s Revolutionary Party
American Muslims for Palestine
Anakbayan East Bay
Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)
ANSWER Coalition
ASATA
BAYAN USA
BDS collation in Illinois
BDS collation in Texas
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee
Bay Area Women in Black
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
Catalyst Project
Center for Political Education (CPE)
The Coalition for Justice in Palestine in Illinois
The Coalition for Justice in Palestine in Texas
Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel
Cognitive Liberty
Community Futures Collective
Critical Resistance Oakland
Critical Resistance Los Angeles
East Bay Solidarity Network
Free Palestine Movement
Freedom Archives
Freedom Socialist Party
Friends of Deir Ibzi’a
Friends of Sabeel–North America (FOSNA)
GABRIELA San Francisco
Global March to Jerusalem – North America
Gray Panthers of San Francisco
General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS)
Haiti Action Committee
Helena (Montana) Service for Peace and Justice/SERPAJ
Interdenominational Advocates for Peace
International Action Center
International Coalition to Free the Angola 3
International Jewish Anti Zionist Network (IJAN)
International Socialist Organization (ISO)
Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) – Bay Area
ISM – Northern California
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Justice for Palestinians
Labor for Palestine
Lighthouse Masjid Social Justice Committee
Marcha Patriotica Colombia – California Chapter
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Milbes Family Foundation
National Lawyers Guild
New York City Labor Against the War
NorCal Friends of Sabeel
Occupy SF Action Council
Palestinian Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions National
Committee (BNC)
Palestinian American Youth League
Palestinian American Council/ National
Palestinian American Congress /National
Palestinian Humanitarian Relief Fund/National
Palestine Poster Project Archives
Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM)
Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL)
The Peace and Freedom Party of Alameda County
Phat Beets
Queers Undermining Israeli Terror (QUIT)
Real Cost of Prisons
Ruckus Society
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
SF Women in Black
Students for Justice in Palestine – Cal
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
UAW2865 BDS Caucus
US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)
WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend)
Workers World Party

AROC Opposes War, Embraces Self-determination

The Enemy of My Enemy is Not (Necessarily) My Friend: U.S. Imperialism, and IS

As the U.S. government embarks on a new form of the War on Terror, now on the Islamic State (IS), AROC asserts its opposition against all forms of U.S. imperialism, and specifically the bombardment of Iraq and Syria. Last week, Obama described his plan of action for stopping IS, invoking the moral imperative placed on the United States as the rationale for bombing. While it may be difficult to make sense of the complexity of the situation, the U.S. government must be accountable to the damage it has caused in the region, and it cannot make reparations for prior destruction through continued bombardment and violence. Nor can the brutal impact of war be disguised by the supposed absence of ground troops.

We must reject war and state violence in all its forms, whether it is drones, bombs, troops, displacement, economic and military aid to colonial states and dictators, or imprisonment and state repression. We reject the notion that the primary concern should be a contrived threat to U.S. citizens or the safety of U.S. combat troops. This is a public distraction from the real interests of restructuring power and allegiances to serve U.S. capitalist and imperialist goals in the Middle East. Any principled discussion on the matter must center on the lives and self-determination of the people of Iraq, Syria and the region. As such, we oppose U.S. bombing and war and demand that our U.S. tax dollars be used towards social and economic justice, and that U.S. foreign “aid” focus on reparations and rebuilding.

IS is a dangerous force using extreme violence. The U.S. military is a dangerous force using extreme state violence against those who reject or fall outside of its interests. What IS does on the ground, the U.S. military does from the sky and with the backing of state and military power. And it has just promised to continue to do so and further extend its reach. Are aerial bombardment, drones, forced displacement, sanctions, and paramilitary guns-for-hire the more “civil face” of extremism? This is the same violence that has enhanced the conditions and created the fertile grounds for the growth of IS. This is the same violence that continues to disrupt the lives of people all over the world.

Just as more bombing will not save Iraq or Syria, nor can or should the U.S. play any role in fighting sectarianism in the region. The U.S. has consistently fanned the flames of the current violence and sectarianism. The U.S., alongside its puppet dictators, is responsible for creating and propping up new groups serving its interests and crushing any viable social movement for self-determination in the region. Its plans to build more allegiances and dependency with whatever faction-du-jour it wagers will best serve U.S. economic and political interests, without regard for the interests of the people on the ground. We stand against the U.S. waging war on Arab lands. We stand against U.S. imperialism everywhere.

We reject sectarianism. We believe in social and economic justice. We oppose war. We embrace self-determination.

 

 

 

AROC client released after 10 years in prison!

Palestine has shown the world that the will of the people is mightier than that of any military or state. And from the Ports of Oakland to the seashores of Gaza, our communities have demonstrated that the power of resilience, and an unwavering commitment to liberation can make things happen.

Despite the horrific assault on Gaza, we have victories to celebrate– the steadfastness of the people of Palestine, and the historic success of blocking the Israeli ZIM ship at the Port of Oakland for 4 days straight. And there is more. While AROC members were busy organizing, AROC’s Arab American Legal Services was representing a Palestinian client in detention. After 10 years in prison, stateless and facing deportation, AROC won his case and he was released last week!

From resisting colonialism in Palestine, to stopping Israel at the Port, to supporting our prisoners, we are collectively building a movement for justice and we are winning!

AROC’s Palestinian client in detention released from prison after 10 years!

By Lina Baroudi, AROC Staff Attorney

linaAROC

Ashraf is a Palestinian from the Occupied West Bank. When he was a young teenager, he was arrested by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and detained in an Israeli prison for 40 days, during which time he was severely tortured, both by the IDF and Palestinian informants who were working for the IDF.  The arrest was based on a coerced confession from a neighborhood teenager.  An Israeli military prosecutor filed charges against Ashraf in the Military Court of Jenin, accusing him of membership in Hamas from the ages of 11 to 13.  Upon learning that Ashraf had a scholarship and visa to complete high school in the United States, the parties agreed that Ashraf would be exiled from the apartheid state of Israel and the Occupied West Bank; upon this agreement, the military judge ordered Ashraf released from custody.

Young, isolated and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in the U.S., Ashraf was convicted of two felonies in 2004, for which he received a prison term of four years.  In 2006, Ashraf was convicted of a third felony which, although neither serious nor violent, mandated that he be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison under California’s Three Strikes Law.  Faced with the reality that he would be spending his life in prison, Ashraf focused on rehabilitation: earning his GED and associate of arts degree and working towards his bachelor’s degree, completing 600 hours of training to serve as a mentor to other inmates, becoming a team leader with the Alternatives to Violence project (AVP), becoming certified as a drug and alcohol addiction counselor, and organizing and facilitating an Islam-based 12-step substance abuse program.

In 2013, a superior court judge found that Ashraf was deserving of re-sentencing under Proposition 36, a voter-approved reform to California’s Three Strikes Law, and modified his last sentence to 6 years.  Having served his entire sentence, Ashraf was released from state prison and immediately transferred to immigration custody for deportation from the U.S.  The Department of Homeland Security issued an order of removal against him, but, as a stateless Palestinian, he did not have a passport, and Israel declined to accept him for return.  After seven months in immigration custody, an asylum officer agreed that Ashraf has a reasonable fear of return to the apartheid State Israel and the West Bank and placed him in removal proceedings to fight deportation.

AROC agreed to represent Ashraf, on a pro bono basis, not only to fight his removal from the U.S., but also to seek release from the prolonged and indefinite detention he was facing in DHS custody, through a request to the immigration court and a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court.  After appearing with Ashraf at the immigration court to indicate that he would be seeking withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture, AROC was successful in seeking a bond hearing for Ashraf.  On August 26, 2014, he was granted bond by the San Francisco Immigration Court and – after ten years in state prison and one year in DHS custody – he was released that evening to his family and community!

AROC will continue to represent Ashraf in his removal proceedings, to ensure that he is not deported from the U.S. to either the Apartheid state of Israel or Occupied Palestine, where he faces certain arrest, detention, torture and death.

 

 

FUSION CENTER MEETING AT TWITTER HEADQUARTERS

Fusion Center Meeting at Twitter Headquarters

Gentrification & State Violence

images.“BUILDING COMMUNITIES OF TRUST”

On Wednesday, May 14th from 1:30-5pm national law enforcement agencies (including the FBI, DHS, ICE) will be meeting with local Bay Area law enforcement agencies at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. 

This is an annual meeting dubbed “Building Communities of Trust,” where federal and local police reach out to civil rights and community groups–mainly brown and black organizations and particularly Arab and Muslim groups–in order to “assure” them that they are committed to the safety and protection of the marginalized.

It would take a hopelessly naïve and ignorant person to believe the sincerity of the government’s intentions, not least because they are reaching out to a few Arab and Muslim organizations to legitimize their efforts, but even more so given the fact that law enforcement are reaching out to Arab and Muslim groups while they have successfully constructed us as the new face of the enemy under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.  Since the deployment of this constructed “terrorist” enemy provides justification for the ongoing criminalization and policing of poor, black and brown communities, the need for “safe” gentrified neighborhoods, and the sought after partnership with tech companies, the participation of our Arab and Muslim communities in these types of meetings is nothing more than an attempt to normalize the ongoing campaigns of state violence and displacement committed by the hosts of this meeting.

The meeting will be hosted by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the local fusion center – which is where the federal government, specifically the FBI and DHS, work in tandem with local police departments to conduct surveillance, monitor our communities, and share intelligence. Fusion centers also house the“Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative” (SAR), a federally funded “see something, say something” program, nothing short of a legalized form of racial profiling.

———–

FUSION CENTER MEETING @ TWITTER HEADQUARTERS

Gentrification & State Violence

images

The connection between the tech industry, gentrification, and law enforcement is deeply embedded in the effort to monitor, control and police our communities. Take for instance a modest look at the changing San Francisco Bay Area landscape over the past five years, Google Bus included, and it is enough to reveal the inextricable relationship between giant tech companies and gentrification of the Bay Area. Law enforcement plays the necessary role of enforcing the safety of San Francisco’s whiter and richer newcomers, ensuring them and their interests protection from the browner and poorer inhabitants of the gentrifying neighborhoods. But the relationship that may not be so clear is the one between law enforcement and tech. Thankfully for us Twitter has made that relationship easier to see.

“BUILDING COMMUNITIES OF TRUST” MEETING

This is an annual meeting dubbed “Building Communities of Trust,” where federal and local police reach out to civil rights and community groups–mainly brown and black organizations and particularly Arab and Muslim groups–in order to “assure” them that they are committed to the safety and protection of the marginalized.

It would take a hopelessly naïve and ignorant person to believe the sincerity of the government’s intentions, not least because they are reaching out to a few Arab and Muslim organizations to legitimize their efforts, but even more so given the fact that law enforcement are reaching out to Arab and Muslim groups while they have successfully constructed us as the new face of the enemy under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.  Since the deployment of this constructed “terrorist” enemy provides justification for the ongoing criminalization and policing of poor, black and brown communities, the need for “safe” gentrified neighborhoods, and the sought after partnership with tech companies, the participation of our Arab and Muslim communities in these types of meetings is nothing more than an attempt to normalize the ongoing campaigns of state violence and displacement committed by the hosts of this meeting.

The meeting will be hosted by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), the local fusion center – which is where the federal government, specifically the FBI and DHS, work in tandem with local police departments to conduct surveillance, monitor our communities, and share intelligence. Fusion centers also house the “Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative” (SAR), a federally funded “see something, say something” program, nothing short of a legalized form of racial profiling.

RACIALIZATION OF SUSPICION: SARS Reporting

demo

The ACLU and ALC were able to make public 1700 Suspicious Activity Reports. What they reveal is astounding, though not in the least bit surprising. The reports demonstrate that you can be accused and investigated for suspicious activities for no other reason than being brown, or “looking Middle Eastern or Muslim,” i.e. fitting the description of a “terrorist.”  Thus, the SARs program is the new front in the domestic “war on terror,” where the government and law enforcement seek to document and criminalize Arabs, Muslims and anyone else who fits this “terrorist” description.

The reason we are not surprised by these kinds of revelations is because Arabs and Muslims, and all communities of color know all too well the racialized nature of “suspicion” and surveillance programs. The logic of “if you see something, say something” is exactly what led to Alejandro Nieto’s murder by SFPD this past March, for doing nothing more than eating a burrito on Bernal Hill before work. In the tragic but not exceptional case of Trayvon Martin, the logic of “see something, say something” was expanded to “see something, do something”: murderer George Zimmerman was unsatisfied with simply reporting a “suspicious-looking” person to the police, but took it upon himself to play policeman. The message is clear: SF’s gentrifying neighborhoods and Zimmerman’s gated community should rid themselves of dark-skinned “suspicious” elements, and the police (or wannabe police) are more than happy to carry this out.

POPULATION & SOCIAL CONTROL

And here we begin to better understand the inseparability of law enforcement, big tech, and surveillance, especially in the context of the gentrifying city. Where mega tech giants like Twitter are one of the major driving forces of wealth polarization and displacement in the Bay, they need the surveillance and brutality of law enforcement to protect their economic interests. In order for gentrification to be successful, brown and black communities must be monitored, controlled, priced-out, locked up, and murdered

– in short, criminalized for existing. And attempts by communities to struggle against this violence will also be criminalized (take for example, one of the activities documented as suspicious by a California fusion center: “Reporting party received an e-mail that describes a scheduled protest by an unknown number of individuals on July 7, 2012. The information indicates the protestors are concerned about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers”).

Though disturbing, it is not at all surprising that major tech companies like Twitter would partner with both federal and local law enforcement agencies and programs. The last meeting like this took place at Facebook’s headquarters. Tech needs law enforcement to defend its interests, through both surveillance and violence, and law enforcement needs tech to provide it with the means and tools of surveillance and repression.

COMMUNITY RESPONSES: DAC & Urban Shield

Thus, surveillance and practices of “fighting terrorism” on a national level bear an DACundeniably intimate relationship with the campaign to “fight crime” in the urban cities. As a clear recent example, take the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) in Oakland. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, it is basically a mass surveillance center meant to keep the Port of Oakland safe from “terrorist attacks.” The City of Oakland, seeing a glorious opportunity for population control, proposed to expand the functions of the center throughout the entire city, citing the need to “fight crime.” This would have meant that all the feeds of Oakland’s surveillance cameras, license plate readers, sound recorders, social media monitors, etc, would have been aggregated into one place. Further, emails made public showed that Oakland city officials were in conversation with Google about working together on the project. So here we have the whole party – federal and local law enforcement, big tech, the campaigns of “stopping crime” and “stopping terrorism,” all taking place in the quickly gentrifying context of Oakland, and all housed under one roof.

Fortunately, the people of Oakland obtained a partial victory when the Domain Awareness Center was stopped from operating throughout the whole city, its activities being restricted to the port. This victory was a direct result of communities coming together and organizing against the implementation of the DAC, packing city hall during city council meetings and holding protests against such a widespread surveillance project.  Community organizing is ever more necessary given the intensified project of state repression facilitated through gentrification, surveillance and policing of our communities. It doesn’t start or end with Fusion Centers. And it doesn’t end with the DAC.

This September, Oakland will host its 8th annual Urban Shield event – a trade show and training exercise for SWAT teams and police agencies – bringing local, national and international law enforcement agencies together with defense industry contractors to provide training and introduce new weapons to police and security companies.  Urban Shield represents everything our communities have been struggling against from displacement, militarization, to state violence and repression. It exposes the role of tech, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and international actors including the apartheid state of Israel, in maintaining a global state of repression.

As we draw on the connection between tech, surveillance and gentrification, we must also challenge its role in militarization, state violence and repression. Through the shutting down of fusion centers and events such as Urban Shield, through collectively organizing our communities, and challenging efforts to co-opt our movements, we can we make it known that these forces are not welcome in our neighborhoods.

AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center | www.araborganizing.org