UNDER the TREE: a seminar on freedom RETURNS

November 15, 2021

42) Transition: Malik Alim

Malik Alim, 28-years-old, an inspirational organizer and activist, a spark of energy and hope for me and countless others, died in a dreadful accident on August 20, 2021, and we’ve been grieving this tragedy ever since—an unfathomable loss to his family, to our community and to the world. With Malik’s death, we suspended Under the Tree, and now, after several months and with the encouragement of his partner, Kristiana Colon, and with the wise guidance and support of Damon Williams and Daniel Kisslinger from AirGo, we’re re-launching. Today’s Episode—# 42—is called TRANSITION, and it’s devoted entirely to remembering Malik. And FYI, you can hear Malik Alim on most Episodes of the pod, but Episode # 38 (“Haiti on my Mind”) is one that we co-authored, and the inspiration for a lot of planning, including future Episodes and a trip to Haiti, and Episode # 15 (“Revolution is a Curatorial Act”) features Kristiana Rae Colon.


Klonsky on the Vigilante Trials

November 14, 2021

A tale of two trials

Both lay new basis for white vigilantes to use the ‘slave-catcher’ defense

Michael KlonskyNov 14

In his classic work, “Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880,” W.E.B. Du Bois discussed why poor whites didn’t make common cause with poor blacks and slaves but instead prized their roles as overseers and slave catchers. This fed their “vanity because it associated [them] with the masters.”

The new normal

The imminent verdicts in two current trials, could reaffirm the right of armed white vigilantes to commit murder in the name of “self-defence.” This right dates back to the days of slavery when armed slave-catchers killed suspected runaway or rebellious slaves with impunity. This right has been affirmed in case after case involving white cops killing unarmed Black men and women and was reaffirmed 8 years ago in the trial of George Zimmerman, the armed neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted after profilling, tracking down and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

White right is being challenged in the trials of white supremacist, Kyle Rittenhouse, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Ahmoud Arbery’s three white killers in Glynn County, Georgia.

“The problem is that with a citizenry armed with guns, we have blurred every line,” writes Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, arguing in the Texas Law Review that a potent mix of “stand your ground” provisions and citizen’s arrest statutes have given people license not just to defend themselves but to go after others.

Rittenhouse tries to surrender after shooting 3 protesters.

Rittenhouse told his nearly all-white jury that he went to Kenosha with an military assault weapon to “give first aid and help extinguish fires.” He ended up using the weapon to kill two men and wounding a third at a protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Rittenhouse did not find himself at the Kenosha protest by chance; he crossed state lines to attend. He illegally obtained an automatic weapon and brought it with him. He shot three people. While out on bail, he showed up at a bar in T-shirt that said “Free as Fuck,” and took photos with members of the Proud Boys.

After his shooting spree, Rittenhouse actually tried to surrender to police who instead waved him through police lines and allowed him to drive back home to Antioch, IL.

A headline in the Tribune story reads

Kenosha cops explain why they ignored Kyle Rittenhouse’s attempt to surrender after shooting.

Their explanation explains nothing. It goes like this:

The [cops] didn’t think it was unusual to see someone walking around with an assault rifle strapped to their chest, given the chaos and violence that engulfed the downtown.

Yes, white supremacists walking around carrying assault rifles at demonstrations or state capitols is the new normal…

… and Judge Schroeder is the new Julius Hoffman

Judge Bruce Schroeder has made it clear which side he’s on in the Rittenhouse trial. He’s contunually berates the prosecutor and in one incident asked the jury to applaud a defense witness. He’s also ruled that if he decides to declare a mistrial, there will be no retrial of Rittenhouse. The gunman simply walks free.

When Schroeder’s phone rings in the middle of the trial, it plays, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. That’s the unofficial theme song of the Trump rallies, typically playing whenever he takes the stage.

Legal expert, Ron Filipkowski says he’s never seen a judge act like this in a criminal trial.

I have been a criminal law attorney for 27 years. I was both a federal and state prosecutor, and defense attorney. In all my years of practice, I have never seen a trial judge during a trial put the jury in a position where they would have to applaud a defense witness right before they are about to take the stand and testify…This incident has followed a series of rulings and admonishments against the prosecution that has created the impression on many in the public that the judge is biased toward the defense for political reasons.

I have seen such a judge. It was back in 1969 and that judge was Julius Hoffman in the infamous Chicago 7 trial. Hoffman appears to be Schroeder’s role model.Ron Filipkowski @RonFilipkowskiHere, we learn on cross-examination in the Rittenhouse trial, that the defense witness “journalist” happens to work for Steve Bannon’s ‘Real America’s Voice.’ Judge Schroeder won’t allow him to be asked about that though because, “This is not a political trial.” November 11th 20215,339 Retweets12,662 Likes

As expected, the Rittenhouse case has because a cause célèbre for Trump’s MAGAs, the NRA and white supremacist militia groups across the country. I don’t know why I didn’t expect a white liberal columnist like the Sun-Times’ Mark Brown to chime in with a call for acquital even before the trial is concluded. According to Brown, Rittenhouse is guilty of nothing more that “reckless foolishness.”

Brown says he knows this because he’s watched a lot of the trial on TV.

I saw Rittenhouse crying on the witness stand. I wasn’t sympathetic, but I found it genuine. I’m sure Rittenhouse feels very badly — for himself. Even though I think an acquittal would be a proper verdict, I’d still come away from the Rittenhouse trial believing that to be an unjust result.

Sick.


Putting Ahmaud Arbery on trial.

In Georgia, another nearly all-white jury will decide in the next few day whether three white men, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Bryan William, who acted as vigilantes, could claim “self-defense” after profiling, hunting down and shooting Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black 25-year-old jogger.

The first shocking thing about the case is the resistance there was to a trial even taking place. One of the first prosecutors assigned to the case initially recommended not charging the men involved, saying their pursuit of Arbery was “perfectly legal” because of slavery-era law that gave private citizens the power to arrest people if they thought a crime was being committed.

Preposterous yes. But it’s not without cause to think that a nearly all-white jury in southern GA might buy into the slave-catcher scenario.

The white judge noted that there appeared to be “intentional discrimination” in the selection of the predominately white jury, but allowed the trial to continue anyway.

In both trials, there’s been an attempt to criminalize the victims instead of their killers. AP is still calling it the “Arbery trial.”

Arwa Mahdawi writes in the Guardian:

Not only does the defense seem to have an issue with Black jurors, it has also made clear it has an issue with Black pastors. A day after the Rev Al Sharpton sat in the back of the courtroom, defense attorney Kevin Gough told the judge: “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.” Gough was worried they could be “intimidating” for the predominately white jury.

A tale of two trials

Both lay new basis for white vigilantes to use the ‘slave-catcher’ defense

Michael KlonskyNov 14

In his classic work, “Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880,” W.E.B. Du Bois discussed why poor whites didn’t make common cause with poor blacks and slaves but instead prized their roles as overseers and slave catchers. This fed their “vanity because it associated [them] with the masters.”

The new normal

The imminent verdicts in two current trials, could reaffirm the right of armed white vigilantes to commit murder in the name of “self-defence.” This right dates back to the days of slavery when armed slave-catchers killed suspected runaway or rebellious slaves with impunity. This right has been affirmed in case after case involving white cops killing unarmed Black men and women and was reaffirmed 8 years ago in the trial of George Zimmerman, the armed neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted after profilling, tracking down and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

White right is being challenged in the trials of white supremacist, Kyle Rittenhouse, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Ahmoud Arbery’s three white killers in Glynn County, Georgia.

“The problem is that with a citizenry armed with guns, we have blurred every line,” writes Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, arguing in the Texas Law Review that a potent mix of “stand your ground” provisions and citizen’s arrest statutes have given people license not just to defend themselves but to go after others.

Rittenhouse tries to surrender after shooting 3 protesters.

Rittenhouse told his nearly all-white jury that he went to Kenosha with an military assault weapon to “give first aid and help extinguish fires.” He ended up using the weapon to kill two men and wounding a third at a protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Rittenhouse did not find himself at the Kenosha protest by chance; he crossed state lines to attend. He illegally obtained an automatic weapon and brought it with him. He shot three people. While out on bail, he showed up at a bar in T-shirt that said “Free as Fuck,” and took photos with members of the Proud Boys.

After his shooting spree, Rittenhouse actually tried to surrender to police who instead waved him through police lines and allowed him to drive back home to Antioch, IL.

A headline in the Tribune story reads

Kenosha cops explain why they ignored Kyle Rittenhouse’s attempt to surrender after shooting.

Their explanation explains nothing. It goes like this:

The [cops] didn’t think it was unusual to see someone walking around with an assault rifle strapped to their chest, given the chaos and violence that engulfed the downtown.

Yes, white supremacists walking around carrying assault rifles at demonstrations or state capitols is the new normal…

… and Judge Schroeder is the new Julius Hoffman

Judge Bruce Schroeder has made it clear which side he’s on in the Rittenhouse trial. He’s contunually berates the prosecutor and in one incident asked the jury to applaud a defense witness. He’s also ruled that if he decides to declare a mistrial, there will be no retrial of Rittenhouse. The gunman simply walks free.

When Schroeder’s phone rings in the middle of the trial, it plays, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. That’s the unofficial theme song of the Trump rallies, typically playing whenever he takes the stage.

Legal expert, Ron Filipkowski says he’s never seen a judge act like this in a criminal trial.

I have been a criminal law attorney for 27 years. I was both a federal and state prosecutor, and defense attorney. In all my years of practice, I have never seen a trial judge during a trial put the jury in a position where they would have to applaud a defense witness right before they are about to take the stand and testify…This incident has followed a series of rulings and admonishments against the prosecution that has created the impression on many in the public that the judge is biased toward the defense for political reasons.

I have seen such a judge. It was back in 1969 and that judge was Julius Hoffman in the infamous Chicago 7 trial. Hoffman appears to be Schroeder’s role model.Ron Filipkowski @RonFilipkowskiHere, we learn on cross-examination in the Rittenhouse trial, that the defense witness “journalist” happens to work for Steve Bannon’s ‘Real America’s Voice.’ Judge Schroeder won’t allow him to be asked about that though because, “This is not a political trial.” November 11th 20215,339 Retweets12,662 Likes

As expected, the Rittenhouse case has because a cause célèbre for Trump’s MAGAs, the NRA and white supremacist militia groups across the country. I don’t know why I didn’t expect a white liberal columnist like the Sun-Times’ Mark Brown to chime in with a call for acquital even before the trial is concluded. According to Brown, Rittenhouse is guilty of nothing more that “reckless foolishness.”

Brown says he knows this because he’s watched a lot of the trial on TV.

I saw Rittenhouse crying on the witness stand. I wasn’t sympathetic, but I found it genuine. I’m sure Rittenhouse feels very badly — for himself. Even though I think an acquittal would be a proper verdict, I’d still come away from the Rittenhouse trial believing that to be an unjust result.

Sick.


Putting Ahmaud Arbery on trial.

In Georgia, another nearly all-white jury will decide in the next few day whether three white men, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Bryan William, who acted as vigilantes, could claim “self-defense” after profiling, hunting down and shooting Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black 25-year-old jogger.

The first shocking thing about the case is the resistance there was to a trial even taking place. One of the first prosecutors assigned to the case initially recommended not charging the men involved, saying their pursuit of Arbery was “perfectly legal” because of slavery-era law that gave private citizens the power to arrest people if they thought a crime was being committed.

Preposterous yes. But it’s not without cause to think that a nearly all-white jury in southern GA might buy into the slave-catcher scenario.

The white judge noted that there appeared to be “intentional discrimination” in the selection of the predominately white jury, but allowed the trial to continue anyway.

In both trials, there’s been an attempt to criminalize the victims instead of their killers. AP is still calling it the “Arbery trial.”

Arwa Mahdawi writes in the Guardian:

Not only does the defense seem to have an issue with Black jurors, it has also made clear it has an issue with Black pastors. A day after the Rev Al Sharpton sat in the back of the courtroom, defense attorney Kevin Gough told the judge: “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.” Gough was worried they could be “intimidating” for the predominately white jury.

Rev. Jesse Jackson responded from Chicago:

“They use their strength to eliminate jurors based upon race as far as sending them to the disqualified rank. I will not dignify his position. I’ll be in court next week,” Jackson said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson responded from Chicago:

“They use their strength to eliminate jurors based upon race as far as sending them to the disqualified rank. I will not dignify his position. I’ll be in court next week,” Jackson said.


CHESA

November 14, 2021

Here’s what Chesa Boudin’s detractors get wrong about crime

Justin Phillips

Nov. 12, 2021


San Francisco goes viral often these days, but not for the right reasons.

Videos of property crime and retail theft — including the summer’s Twitter post of a man stealing from a Walgreens — regularly set social media ablaze. The same goes for footage of streets lined with homeless encampments, or photos of people struggling with substance abuse. There’s an ugly glee in how these videos are shared by folks looking to rail against criminal justice reform.

Here’s what the videos actually show: Poverty. An ever-widening gap between San Francisco’s haves and have-nots.

The local economic divide falls along distinct color lines. More than 50% of Black and Latino residents in San Francisco are in very-low-income families, according to the Bay Area Equity Atlas, a progressive data analysis group. Boys born into these families are 20 times more likely to wind up in prison as adults, according to a 2018 study by the the Brookings Institution, a policy research center in Washington, D.C.

We know staggering income inequality is the root of crime. Yet the people doing the painstaking work of addressing it are often scapegoated for enabling it.

Chesa Boudin has become a prime target. Two years ago he squeaked out a victory in the city’s tightly contested district attorney’s race. Support for him was never overwhelming, but the promises he made during his campaign — not criminalizing poverty, focusing on economic advancement for the marginalized — were enough to win him the election.

His short tenure has, at times, felt a bit disorganized and chaotic, but his record is pretty much as advertised. The Chronicle did a deep dive into Boudin’s work and found that his rape and narcotics charging rates are higher than his predecessor’s. He has also co-sponsored state bills supporting forms of universal basic income.

Then there was the pandemic.

The economy cratered, and there was a national spike in violent crime. Feelings held more sway than facts in 2020. And it was in this fog of fear and paranoia that Boudin’s critics attacked.

San Francisco had become a lawless place, they said. Sure, there was a bump in San Francisco’s homicides, 41 to 48 from 2019 to 2020, with 46 so far this year — but overall violent crime is far lower than what city residents endured from 1970 to 1990.

Videos showing Black and brown shoplifters were used to paint the city as a liberal hellscape of its own making. A similar narrative took shape in Los Angeles, where Boudin’s predecessor, George Gascón, was elected D.A. Republican interests zeroed in on both progressive prosecutors, despite California’s crime trends being worse in Republican-voting counties than Democratic-leaning ones, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice of San Francisco.

The effort to recall Gascón failed. On Tuesday, the Department of Elections confirmed the effort against Boudin had more than enough signatures, about 83,000, to be on next summer’s statewide primary ballot. Boudin needed roughly 85,000 votes to get elected in the first place.

San Francisco may not appreciate that addressing crime means healing old, festering wounds of inequity. But others do.

Sheryl Davis, the executive director of San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission, creates programs to combat social and economic inequality in the city. It’s work that requires empathy, she told me, which seems to be lacking in residents’ calls for harsher policing.

“As people develop and talk about strategies that fill the gaps where they think criminal justice reform fails, I’m concerned they’re doing more to ostracize and criticize people who need help the most,” Davis said. “America has decades and centuries of locking people up. We know what doesn’t work.”

So does Frankie Ramos. The longtime Bay Area community organizer told me it’s programs that prioritize financial incentives to keep low-income youth out of the criminal justice system that show long-term benefits. But they also take time to work.

“For some reason we’re really wedded to the idea that it’s OK for wealth to be hoarded in the hands of a very, very few, and for the vast majority to be struggling,” Ramos said. “That way of structuring our society is inherently unsafe. You have too many people that have nothing to lose.”

San Francisco has always had a conservative streak, noted Brittni Chicuata, a city native and advocate for equitable housing opportunities through the Human Rights Commission. It just feels more out in the open now.

“There’s just this absence of humanity and love in the way a lot of people see those that are struggling,” she said. “You just can’t let people that are both wrong and loud overshadow the work being done to address important issues.”

And herein lies the danger.

Unless you want to live in a police state, truly addressing crime is about uplifting historically disadvantaged communities, or what Chicuata described as “long-haul work.”

However you feel about Boudin, the fact that a recall election is even happening is reason to fear San Francisco becoming what many Black and brown community leaders hoped it wouldn’t after 2020’s racial reckoning: a place where the affluent care more about the preservation of inequality than following through on the painful work to end it.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Justin Phillips appears Sundays. Email: jphillips@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @JustMrPhillips  

Justin Phillips joined The San Francisco Chronicle in November 2016 as a food writer. He previously served as the City, Industry, and Gaming reporter for the American Press in Lake Charles, Louisiana. In 2019, Justin also began writing a weekly column for The Chronicle’s Datebook section that focused on Black culture in the Bay Area. In 2020, Justin helped launch Extra Spicy, a food and culture podcast he co-hosts with restaurant critic Soleil Ho. Following its first season, the podcast was named one of the best podcasts in America by the Atlantic. In February, Justin left the food team to become a full-time columnist for The Chronicle. His columns focus on race and inequality in the Bay Area, while also placing a spotlight on the experiences of marginalized communities in the region.


The Filthy Rich

November 11, 2021

https://inthesetimes.com/article/robert-reich-elon-musk-capitalism-inequality-wealth-tax


White Supremacy, Alive and Well

November 11, 2021

https://portside.org/2021-11-10/white-supremacists-declare-war-democracy-and-walk-away-unscathed


David is Free from the Dungeon–at last!

November 6, 2021

https://mailchi.mp/0eb5127504a5/savoring-time-together?e=f2f67dd77a


BOOTS on Assange

October 31, 2021

Letters: Chesa Boudin, as a son, did nothing wrong in supporting his father’s parole

October 28, 2021

San Francisco Chronicle

Oct. 28, 2021

Regarding “Boudin’s father granted parole for Brink’s robbery” (Bay Area, Oct. 27): David Gilbert was granted parole because he had an exemplary record during his 40 years in prison, served far longer in prison than his co-defendants and had enormous support.

Mr. Gilbert was convicted of murder under the archaic felony-murder rule, now rejected by California. It makes individuals who participate in a crime resulting in death guilty of murder although they have absolutely nothing to do with the killing. Mr. Gilbert was unarmed and drove a getaway car.

The article quotes Ritchie Greenberg accusing District Attorney Chesa Boudin of abusing his office in supporting his father’s release. He did not use official stationery and wrote as a son. More influential in supporting Mr. Gilbert’s release were: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate; Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mohandas Gandhi; The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; and a multitude of religious and civic leaders.

Mr. Greenberg’s uninformed comment is not deserving of being included in this article.

Ellen Chaitin, retired Superior Court judge, San Francisco


Chesa Facing Big Lies and a Recall

October 28, 2021

Chesa:

October 27, 2021

Our son (and San Francisco DA) Chesa Boudin, on the parole of my co-padre David Gilbert:I am so grateful to the Parole Board. I’m also grateful to everyone who has supported my father during his more than 4 decades behind bars. I’m thinking about the other children affected by my father’s crime and want to make sure that nothing I do or say further upsets the victims’ families. Their loved ones will never be forgotten. And I am thinking of the other people inside who have worked so hard to transform their lives and hope one day to return home.