Anti-Muslim hatred and domestic right-wing terrorism has hit close to home for many Montrealers late this morning/early this afternoon. Concordia University has evacuated two buildings on its downtown SGW Campus, the EV Building and the Hall Building, after receiving a bomb threat targeting Muslim students:

A group calling itself the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada sent the threat in letter form to news outlets including the Montreal Gazette, claiming that “now that President Trump is in office south of the border, things have changed.”

Concordia is currently hosting Islamic Awareness Week until Thursday. The letter threatens bomb detonations every day until Friday unless Concordia bans what the bigots call Muslim activities (including prayer spaces in the Hall Building).

For now, these buildings are being evacuated. Classes may resume at 6pm if no explosives are found.

* Featured image from Periscope Live video via Global News

Last night news broke that a gunman had opened fire in a mosque in Sainte-Foy, a suburb of Quebec City, as people were starting to pray. The casualty toll started to climb, eventually settling at six dead and five injured.

Before the details came in, it was pretty easy to guess at what had happened. Quebec’s far-right groups, which we have been hearing about quite a bit in the media lately, and the spate of racist attacks across the US following the Trump victory emboldened some racist loner to the point where he committed a hate crime. Turns out the easiest guess anyone paying attention and not blinded by their own willful ignorance would have made was absolutely correct.

Quebec Police identified 27 year old Alexandre Bissonnette as their suspect. He is white, from Cap-Rouge, Quebec, an admirer of French ultra-nationalist politician Marine Le Pen and a defender of Donald Trump. His Facebook profile was removed following his arrest, but people who knew him and members of immigrant rights groups in Quebec City described him as someone who posted anti-refugee and anti-woman’s rights views quite frequently and was also a troll.

FOX and Islamophobic Friends

Some online commenters, rather incorrectly and incredulously, jumped to a different conclusion the night of the shooting: that the attacker must have been Muslim. You see both Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had labelled it a terrorist attack, and I suspect that if you are brainwashed enough to equate an entire religion with terrorism, then a terrorist attack carried out by someone who isn’t of that religion just does not compute for you.

It didn’t help matters that Quebec Police had also brought in Mohamed el Khadir, one of the worshipers at the mosque to question as a witness. He was of Moroccan origin and FOX News had no problem mentioning that and calling him a suspect:

Screengrab of the original FOX News tweet which has since been deleted, presumably at the request of the Canadian Government. Also, likes? Really?

They later corrected their story, but the damage was already done. Now Islamophobes could blame Muslims for an Islamophobic attack.

Enter Donald Trump

When a major event like this happens, it is customary for leaders of foreign countries to offer condolences to the leader of the country where the incident took place. US President Donald Trump did just that when he called Justin Trudeau. Fine. That’s protocol.

If Trump had wanted to go further and apologize for any effect his policies and rhetoric had on the shooter, that would have been a welcome change of tone. But he didn’t. What his administration did instead is absolutely appalling.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spîcer, after going through the protocol, tried to use the attack on the mosque as a justification for his boss’ ill thought out and wholly terrible Executive Order concerning immigration, the so-called Muslim Ban:

No, Mr. Spicer, it is not. I’d say nice attempt at being an Orwellian asshole, but this is far to serious for that. Trying to turn this horrific hate crime inspired, in part, by your boss’s policies into a justification for those policies is as absurd as it is incredibly insulting, predominately to the victims, but also to any rational thinker.

Speaking of the victims, and we should speak of the victims, they were mainly immigrants, immigrants from predominately Muslim countries. They were looking for a better life in Quebec and have been profiled in The Globe and Mail as such. These are the people Trump’s Executive Order targets. These are the victims of right-wing white supremacist anti-immigrant obsession.

The fucking nerve Sean Spencer. The fucking nerve Donald Trump. You, Marine LePen and our local hatemongers here are to blame, too.

Now, as vigils take place across Canada, solidarity from other communities is expressed and everyone agrees that this was a terrible hate crime designed to terrorize Muslims and all Canadians, we must not forget how we got here.

Carl Paladino is human garbage.

Carl Paladino’s ACTUAL answers: (see the rest of the article)

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?
“Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?
“Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

My city is making INTERNATIONAL NEWS because of a deadbeat politician spewing racially charged hate and transphobic bullshit. First Carl told people if they didn’t like what he said then they can suck it, again getting racist about one of the editors of The Buffalo News when they attempted an interview. He then retracted all of his statements, saying someone else sent that email, or wait, maybe he sent it but it was supposed to go to friends, not Artvoice. Yea, ok bud

He said that people just didn’t get his sense of humor. Oh we got it, you are racist and horrible. This isn’t the first time he has made remarks like this about the Obama family either.

Paladino has been doing dirty business in Buffalo for years. The fact that he was voted in to any kind of position ever is a discredit to our citizens.

He is an open ally of Donald Trump, going on his political tour with him and all. I remember seeing his monstrous glare at the Trump rally (I was at the protest across the street but could see the big screen).

Maybe it is also a sign that the now former coach of the Buffalo Bills Rex Ryan was also fired this week. He was the person who announced Trump. Anyone who supports Donald Trump and the racist mysogynist hate filled America he represents is dead to me.

He used to come to a local lesbian bar, Roxys, where I performed burlesque with The Stripteasers. One night he was in with a bunch of his goon friends and one of the men attempted to insert a bottle into one of the dancers while she was performing. He then complained to the owner for being kicked out! This man is a testament to what kind of person Carl is. I was disgusted but not surprised when I saw his comments in Artvoice.

I want to thank Artvoice for exposing him, but still think that what they do is no longer worth reading. Often having images of president elect hate monger Trump on the cover.

I remember once upon a time when Artvoice was a credible publication, that’s until it was purchased by the uber republican Niagara Gazette and a there was a complete shift is staff. It was once an awesome art publication that is now on the decline, posting any kind of garbage that will get clicks and has nothing to do with art.

Back in the day, when he was running for governor in 2010, a group of my friends and I dressed like ninjas and destroyed Paladino signs. This man is a waste of space and a perfect example of the impending apocalypse according to a Trump regime. He has been the herpes of our local politics.

He is also very anti gay, saying that it is not the way god created us. Paladino had stakes in several former gay clubs in Buffalo, including Cobalt and Buddies II. Patrick Paledino, his youngest son, was a homosexual, and tragically passed away after a car accident in 2009.

How could he talk so much hate about his own family? This is the kind of man who should not have power.

It makes sense to me that Carl Paladino grew up in East Lovejoy, on the edge of the East Side of Buffalo. That is also where I grew up, and honestly, people there are DISGUSTING!

There is so much blatant racism and hate spewing from a neighborhood called LOVE and JOY. This is a place where they openly destroyed property and threatened any black family trying to move into the neighborhood.

He is a vulgar loser, he is INSANE, an ego tripping monster, and he spews lies and hate. He says the middle class wants to take back the government.

Buffalonians are done with Carl. He does not represent us and cannot have a say in our children’s education. He is a bully and must be suspended.

I remember seeing all of the Trump signs, and being so sad knowing that this meant racists and hate mongers lived in my city. It hurt even worse when members of my own family openly supported him. Then Carl Paladino was elected to the school board and the antichrist won the presidency. I wanted Austin Harig, he was an 18 year old high school senior running for real change, not Carl, not ever! Whats next?

On Thursday December 29th residents protested in Niagara Square and later at a special city hall board meeting. The resolution stated that if Carl Paladino does not resign within 24 hours they would petition to the NY Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia to remove him. She has not commented. The disrespectful and inexcusable comments reflect negatively on the Buffalo Board of Education.

Two board members – Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn are Paladino supporters and only want him to apologize. Pierce went a step further and made this brilliant comment thinking he deserves forgiveness: “take a page our of the horrific massacre that happened in Charleston, SC, where nine innocent people in a house of worship were slain by a hateful, hate-filled man.”

Everyone gasped except for one woman who left shouting that is was offensive to use murdered African American church goers in this moment. Who would say these things? How can you use an unspeakable tragedy to excuse this bag of shit?

Quinn also stood up for him, saying that other member of the school board feel similar. WRONG, dude, the majority if the school board is black. Patti and Larry ALSO need to be taken off the school board, we cannot stand for this!

School board members need to set the standard for good behavior and be a positive example for children. We have to get him out as soon as possible, all of the slime is rising now that Trump is elected. It must end!

These assholes think they are safe hating out in the open. They are not ashamed of their hate and think its just a big joke. This is real life Carl, and we are mad as hell.

He says he won’t step down, I say “Bye Felicia!” Thousands have signed petitions to boot him as well as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. If he does not willingly resign this could be a painfully slow process.

We all need to take this as a reminder to get involved in politics. Apathy allows this to pass as acceptable. We need to be motivated to make change in our own community and stop the hate.

You may have heard the term alt-right quite a bit lately. It has been everywhere ever since President-Elect Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon to a senior adviser position. Bannon had bragged about turning Breitbart “News” into “a platform for the alt-right” when he was CEO of the website.

But just what is the alt-right? The easiest explanation is that it’s a new term for white nationalists, which is, itself, a whitewashed term for white supremacists. So basically racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic anti-Semites with suits and computer skills.

Of course, many in the alt-right movement argue vehemently that this is not the case. Bannon himself even told the Wall Street Journal last Friday that he has “zero tolerance for the anti-Semitic, racist elements of the alt-right.”

Bannon’s claim, though, is called into question by the headlines that appeared on Breitbart when he was in charge and completely debunked by what happened this weekend in Washington.

On Saturday, the National Policy Institute was holding its annual conference in the Ronald Regan Building. Most of the speeches were subdued, but after dinner, when most of the press had gone home, Richard B. Spencer, the man who had originally coined the term alt-right and is considered a leader of the movement, took the stage.

The Atlantic still had their camera rolling and caught a speech that began with Spencer shouting “Hail Trump!” and many in the crowd responding with Nazi salutes. Spencer also brought back the old Nazi term for media detractors “Lügenpresse” and applied it to the US media.

As if not subtle at all references to the Third Reich weren’t enough, Spencer also went on to defend racial inequality and suppression of minorities as some sort of right with complete ignorance of American history.

If you already know about racism in the so-called alt-right and what a Trump Presidency is bringing with it, you don’t need to watch this nastiness. If you know people who aren’t convinced, though, this video can be a real eye opener to what they really are supporting or brushing off:

President Trump. President Donald Trump. Yes, a few months from now that will be an actual thing people say. For now, he’s President Elect, but sadly, he is no longer a joke and he never should have been. We need to keep fighting Trump.

The over-the-top reality star will soon be Commander-in-Chief of the largest military in the world. Islamophobia, racism and misogyny have been part of American politics for a while, but they just went uber-mainstream with Trump’s win a little over a week ago.

What’s now frighteningly apparent is that his alt-right (really a fancy way to say white nationalists with computer skills) base, emboldened by his win, are voicing their bigotry and hatred and scaring the crap out of immigrants, visible minorities and anyone that doesn’t fit into their white supremacist, misogynistic and anti-Semetic worldview.

Swastikas are showing up all over the US, people are being attacked, middle schoolers are even chanting “build that wall” and making school a frightening place for some of their classmates. Buzzfeed has even put together a tracker of racist incidents in the US since the Trump victory.

While Trump did tell his supporters to stop it with their racist attacks and graffiti, his early staff choices send the opposite message. He just appointed Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart “News” as CEO until joining the Trump campaign, his top policy adviser. Bannon had proudly declared Breitbart to be a “platform for the alt-right” and oversaw the publication of articles with incredibly nasty headlines.

Just a taste of the nastiness (image: gizmodo.com)
Just a taste of the nastiness (image: gizmodo.com)

There is also now word that Trump will, in fact, be creating a Muslim Registry. One of his supporters even cited American internment of citizens of Japanese origin as precedent.

Throw in promises to break US climate agreements and the prospect of a second Supreme Court pick after he fills Scalia’s seat and you get a picture that is terrifying for people of colour, the LGBT community, women and the planet.

How Did We Get Here?

President Trump is bad news, that much is clear. But why is this now a reality? It’s because no one took his candidacy seriously. Comics thought him running would produce gold for them, but no worries, because, of course he wouldn’t win. Pundits, same thing. Even I didn’t take him seriously at first.

But we’re not the only ones. The establishment of the Democratic Party clearly didn’t consider Trump as a serious threat, either, despite their public rhetoric. They even tried to push both him and Ted Cruz to the top of the GOP heap thinking they would be easier candidates to beat than Jeb Bush.

clinton-sanders

It’s true that Trump’s core support came from xenophobic racist misogynists and they’re now the ones strutting and scaring the shit out of everyone,  but this “basket of deplorables” weren’t the only ones who voted for him. If they were, the electoral map would have looked quite different. The bigots are still a minority.

It’s white working class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and now Michigan that tipped the balance this time around. It’s not that their privilege blinded them to what a Trump Presidency could mean, it’s simply that Trump’s obvious bigotry meant less to them than the prospect of losing jobs due to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did. Some lifelong rust belt Democrats who voted Obama twice and supported Bernie in the Primaries switched to Trump in the General.

A truly selfish act, to be sure, and an ultimately counterproductive one. Stopping the TPP is probably the first campaign promise Trump will break.

There was also a real feeling of dissatisfaction with the political establishment which Trump, posing as a populist, was able to tap into. If the choice had been between a right-wing, xenophobic pseudo-populist and a real left-wing populist like Bernie Sanders, Sanders would have easily won.

This election also proved that standard political tactics like a good ground game and mainstream media support are now less important than huge rallies and a solid social media strategy. Trump ran an unconventional campaign, so did Sanders. Clinton played it business as usual and lost.

What Needs to Happen Now in the Democratic Party

It’s all water under the bridge, now, but that water is what people need for drinking and bathing, so we can’t ignore how we got here and Democrats can’t ignore the mistakes they made. If they do, they are bound to repeat them.

The party establishment didn’t just lose. They lost to a third-rate PT Barnum who only ran to get a better TV deal with NBC. They lost to a man who admitted to being sexual predator during a national radio interview and who has bragged on tape about sexual assault. They lost to their dream opponent. They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.

If that’s not the impetus Democrats need to show their leadership the door, I don’t know what is. Now is the time to replace everyone at the top who pushed for Clinton over Sanders in the Primaries. Progressives need to take over the Democratic Party…soon!

If there is pushback, and there will be, fight it. If the pushback from the DNC establishment succeeds, it might be time to think about a new party. Even as President, Trump may end up destroying the Republican Party and there could be room for a new party in the two-party system.

What Needs to Happen Now Outside of the Echo Chamber

I had thought, as did many, that if he won, protests against Trump would start on day one of his Presidency. I was wrong. They started less than 24 hours after he won the Electoral College vote and became the President Elect.

From mass marches in New York City, Chicago and around the country to high school students walking out of class, people are voicing their displeasure with an impending Trump Presidency and what it will mean for them and their communities. This needs to continue.

Anti-Trump Protest NYC (image CBS)
Anti-Trump Protest NYC (image CBS)

No, the whole “just accept the election results” line or the “give him a chance” attitude don’t fly in this case. First, he’s already shown us by appointing Bannon that he blew his chance to change the tone to a more President of all Americans one. Second, protesting the government, or even an incoming government is never wrong, in fact, it’s a right.

If Clinton had won and stepped too far to the right with her picks, I would expect progressives, even those who voted for her, to be challenging her every step of the way. Now with Trump living up to the worst nightmare scenario fears and his most fervent bigoted supporters having their day in the sun, protesting has become a necessity.

An  election does not give the winner immunity from protest in a democracy. When the President Elect is promising to usher in a downright dangerous environment for marginalized groups, those groups and their allies should challenge the President Elect any way they can.

As for tactics, hitting the streets, boycotting Trump-aligned brands and calling out racism and misogyny can all be effective. Right here in Montreal, there is a Stop Bannon Phone-a-Thon putting Americans living here in touch with their local elected officials. There is also a solidarity action in the US encouraging people who aren’t the target of persecution (ie. white people) to register as Muslims if Trump enacts a registry.

While I like the idea behind the move to impeach Trump, I’d like to remind those behind it that success would only lead to President Mike Pence, who, in many ways, is just as bad if not worse.

I would recommend aligning anti-Trump protests with other groups fighting against the things that this incoming President stands for. Solidarity with the #NODAPL protesters, for example, would be a great first step.

Politicians, other people and the mainstream media not taking Trump seriously during the Primaries and the General Election is what got us here. We can’t afford not to take the threat of a Trump Presidency seriously now. It’s time to fight.

 

Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.

Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.

It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.

It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.

If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”

Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.

Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”

Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society
Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society

The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.

Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”

She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.

Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.

Discussing Canadian Racism

Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”

However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”

How Different is it Really?

In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.

Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.

Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.

“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.

“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”

* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)

A few years ago, following the Michael Brown shooting, FOX News host Sean Hannity explained that he never has problems with police because when he gets pulled over, he simply informs the officer that he is licensed to carry a firearm and it’s in the car. Philando Castile did just that and was murdered by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her young child.

Castile, by all accounts, was a pillar of his community, well loved by hundreds of children at the school where he worked, not to mention their parents, his colleagues, friends, family and, of course Lavish Reynolds, his girlfiend. A woman who, after witnessing her boyfriend get shot, was able to muster the strength to go live on Facebook and show the world what had just happened.

Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile probably didn’t know what the public now knows about him. All he had to go on was that Castile had a busted tail light, was riding with a woman and a small child, had informed him that he was carrying a licensed firearm and was reaching for something.

Could it be his registration? It would make sense. That is what you’re supposed to show the police when they pull you over, after all.

Could it be his gun? Why? Why would someone take the time to inform an officer that they are carrying a legal firearm if their plan was to whip it out and shoot? Why would someone riding with a small child be likely to kill over a busted taillight?

Why would a police officer jump to this unlikely conclusion and shoot before even telling the person to freeze? Truth is they wouldn’t if it was Sean Hannity in the car, or if it was me or most white people.

Castile, though, was a black man. When it comes to black men and sometimes black women and children, it’s sadly all too common for police to shoot first and hope nobody asks questions later.

Not Close to an Isolated Incident

There would have been significantly fewer questions when Baton Rouge police murdered Alton Sterling just a day before Yanez shot Castile in St. Anthony, Minnesota. However, a group called Stop the Killing had caught the whole thing on video and had the forethought to wait for the police to tell their side of the story before showing the world what really happened.

Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store and allegedly pointed a gun at someone who called the police. According to the convenience store owner who witnessed the shooting, the police were aggressive from the start and quickly escalated the situation. Sterling was complying with them and never went near his weapon which he was licensed to carry.

The cellphone video shows police yelling at Sterling to get to the ground and then tackling him almost immediately. One officer shouts “he’s got a gun!” This was in reference to the firearm the officer had found in his pocket, not a weapon Sterling was brandishing or even going near. Hearing this, the other officer shot Sterling in the chest.

Two black men murdered by police in two days. A record? Hardly. Two black men murdered by police in two days and the public has video proof. That is new, and a reminder that filming cops is not just a right but a civic duty.

NRA Double Standard

Both victims were also legal gun owners. After much pressure the National Rifle Associaton (NRA) released this statement, which didn’t even reference what happened to Sterling:

“The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

The NRA’s reluctance to rush to the defense of black men who legally owned firearms when we all know that they would have been all over the stories if the gun owners had been white is not at all surprising. While I’m not a fan of open carry laws in general and think no one has a legit reason to own an AR-15, this video shows just who the Second Amendment applies to and doesn’t, at least in the eyes of law enforcement:

Dallas Doesn’t Change Anything

As I was writing this, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests against these two most recent murders were happening in cities all across the United States (and still are a few days later). In Dallas, Micah Xavier Johnson, an Afghanistan War veteran with sniper skills who was not a part of the march turned the peaceful protest into a bloodbath shooting twelve police officers, killing five.

According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown:

“The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. He was upset at white people. He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

While Johnson did attain his goal of killing white police officers, he also shifted mainstream media focus away from the recent police killings he claimed he was upset by. Instead of simply chalking this up to the work of a spree killer with easy access to firearms, the training to use them properly and a likely case of PTSD, quite a few people in the media, online and at least one former politician decided to use this to attack BLM, despite this statement that they do not support murder:

This is already being used by some and will undoubtedly continue to be used to push a #bluelivesmatter agenda. There are three huge problems with this.

First, cops choose to be cops, people don’t choose to be a particular race, so the comparison is nowhere near valid. Second, the hashtag was created specifically to reinforce the notion that police are entitled to murder black people, despite being disguised as some sort of BS equalizer. Third, according to politicians, the media and mainstream thinking, police lives do matter and to some, matter more than others.

The shooting in Dallas is being treated as a national tragedy. Prominent voices on the right and even the supposed left equate an attack on police with an attack on everyone. The President is even cutting his trip short to visit Dallas, something he didn’t do for any of the black victims of police shootings.

Police were attacked by one spree killer who is now dead. Black people are under constant attack by an officially sanctioned paramilitary force that has killed and continues to kill them with impunity. Systemic racism is a real thing that’s alive and well in police forces across the Western world.

No, All Lives Are Not Dealing with this Right Now

If you think we should be saying #alllivesmatter, then you’re missing the point entirely, either intentionally or because you just don’t get it. This kitchen table analogy should explain how you’re basically the person railing against a cancer fundraiser by screaming that other diseases matter, too or this cartoon dude:

all houses matter

I’m white and I don’t think for a second that my life doesn’t matter because I say #blacklivesmatter, I know that my life mattering is not in dispute. I know that if I had been driving that car with a busted tail light instead of Philando Castile, I’d probably still be alive right now.

Sure, police kill white people without a valid reason, too, but they do it nowhere near as frequently as they murder black people. 26% of Americans killed by police are black, though only 13% of the population are. The ratio of unarmed black men killed by police versus unarmed white men in the US is six to one (and I got those stats from a right-wing website trying to argue, badly, just the opposite point while doing their best to misinterpret Washington Post numbers).

I know my life matters, I don’t need to scream it. I know that Black Lives Matter and I feel it’s important to let everyone know. It’s not an either-or situation. It is a dire situation that needs to be addressed and fixed now.

Now, sadly not now more than ever, it’s important to keep saying Black Lives Matter.

On Friday night, protesters successfully disrupted a rally for Republican presidential frontrunnner Donald Trump. When the race-baiting businessman realized that anti-Trump activists made up roughly half the crowd, he cancelled the event. Then he went on the offensive. Predictably Twitter moaning about freedom of speech:

First, Trump clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, that the right to free speech enshrined in the US Constitution (the states doesn’t have hate speech laws like we do in Canada, where Trump could probably be charged) doesn’t work that way. As this civil rights and constitutional lawyer pointed out:

What is really ironic, though, and what would really be tragic if Trump ever ended up in the White House, is that his recent rally rhetoric promotes an attack on the very constitutional right he claims he was denied on Friday.

Trump’s “Good Old Days” Were All About Suppressing Free Speech

Over the past few weeks, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to attack protesters more and more. As Rachel Maddow and others pointed out, this was most likely a deliberate attempt to provoke violence so he could claim he was the victim.

What is the most troubling about his rhetoric are his constant references to the “good old days” where there were “consequences” for protesting and protesters would most likely be “carried out on a stretcher.” To be clear, Trump misses the use of state violence to stifle dissent, to stifle free speech.

While his hypocrisy is palpable, so is the (perhaps willful) ignorance of his supporters. That they can claim to support a right while championing someone who seeks to repress it, most likely in a brutal manner, when in power, is stunning.

It’s About the People Rising Up, Not Politics

By Saturday, Trump had already named a culprit: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. This was based, at least on the surface, on the fact that some of the protestors inside the event were vocally supportive of the Vermont Senator and completely ignored all the other protestors inside and the thousands in the student-led demo outside.

For his part, Sanders responded the best way he possibly could:

“As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama.”

In response, Trump threatened to send his followers into a Sanders rally and now the story has basically turned into Trump versus Bernie, at least in the mainstream press. While this will help Sanders in the upcoming primaries, especially given Hillary Clinton’s lack of support for the protesters, it distracts from what is really at play here: that a group of protester, mostly people of colour, were able to stop a Donald Trump bigot love-in.

Maybe Trump can’t fathom or admit the truth, so blaming a well-organized political machine is the only way out. I think, though, that admitting it wasn’t a power play but rather a play against power makes it impossible to deny that it is the protesters who are on the side of freedom of speech.

Donald Trump’s rights were not violated Friday night, he was in the power position while seeking a greater power position. But if he becomes President, you can believe he will do his best to eliminate the right of free speech through protest for everyone.

On November 23, 2015 the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) of Concordia University reached a settlement with a former executive who accused them of discrimination and harassment based on her ethnicity and gender. The executive is known under the pseudonym “Mei Ling” to undoubtedly discourage harassment from misogynist and racist trolls and supporters of her harassers.

She sought $30 000 in damages after discovering a Facebook conversation about her between two male executives that was left open on a shared computer. The conversation made sexist and racist comments about her, referring to her as a “chink slave,” “bitch” and “whore” and joking about having her impeached if she didn’t have sex with them. Her complaints also include being excluded from executive events, being denied an award before she’d even applied for it and being the only executive not to receive a bonus.

She, with the help of The Centre for Research-Action of Race Relations (CRARR), a civil rights advocacy group, filed a formal complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Youth Rights Commission last March. Though a settlement – which includes an undisclosed sum, a public apology and a promise to set up a task force to address the issues arising from the case – was reached with the ASFA, Mei Ling told the press she has every intention of pursuing her harassers individually before the Quebec Human Rights Commission. An investigation is currently underway.

This article is not about the fact that Mei Ling’s harassers are clearly racist misogynist slime who have no place in any position of authority.

It is not about the fact that Concordia’s refusal to give her justice and address the issues of misogyny and racism directly make them an accomplice to the harassment she received, and that the settlement reached is clearly an acknowledgment of their guilt.

This is about the reach of the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal.

quebec charter of rights newspaper headline

The Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal are the organizations charged with the enforcement of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This law was enacted in the 1970s and prohibits, among other things, discrimination based on “race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.”

Though the Quebec Charter isn’t part of the Canadian Constitution and therefore can technically be changed by a simple act by the Quebec legislature, it is considered a fundamental “public order” law with quasi constitutional status. This means that it can’t be trumped by other laws or contracts unless said laws provide even more rights and freedoms than the Quebec Charter and even contains a rule stating that all other laws can’t violate articles 1 to 38 (regarding fundamental rights, freedoms including judicial and political rights and freedom from discrimination) unless the other laws specifically say that they apply in spite of the Charter.

quebec commission logoUnlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which applies only to the government and anyone acting on its behalf, the Quebec Charter applies to all violations of rights and freedoms, including those that occur between private parties. That means that even if your harasser is a private business or some jerk on the street, he could still find himself before the Human Rights Tribunal while the Human Rights Commission demands an explanation and compensation on your behalf.

It works like this: your rights are violated, so you go to the Human Rights Commission and file a complaint. The Commission then conducts an independent investigation. If the Commission decides there are legal grounds and evidence justifying the complaint, it then decides the best course of action which could be the negotiation of a settlement between you and the violator, submitting the dispute to arbitration, or referring the issue to the Human Rights Tribunal.

If the Commission goes to the Tribunal, it can seek “any appropriate measure against the person or to demand, in favour of the victim, any measure it considers appropriate at that time.” (section 80 of the Quebec Charter). This could not only include compensation for material damages but also any grief (known as moral damages) you experienced as a result, and even punitive damages if the violation of your rights was clearly intentional.

Take the case of Richard Zilberg. He’s a Jewish hairstylist who worked for a spa in Montreal. In 2012 he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission when his boss Iris Gressy told him he’d no longer be scheduled on Saturdays, his busiest workday, simply because he’s Jewish and shouldn’t work on the Sabbath.

Zilberg, like many Jews, does not keep the Sabbath and rightly felt that his level of observance was his decision alone. The Human Rights Commission agreed and asked that the spa pay him $17 500 in damages: $12 500 for loss of income and $5000 for moral damages. In addition, the Commission recommended that Gressy pay Zilberg an additional $2500 out of her own pocket for her intentional violation of his civil rights. Gressy has since refused to pay and is planning to go to the Tribunal.

Then there’s the case of Lettia McNickle, a black waitress working at Madisons New York Grill & Bar in Montreal who was given less work due to her natural braids. She claims racial discrimination. Though the chain’s head office has since issued an apology, the restaurant, which had initially agreed to mediation, has since withdrawn. With the support of CRARR, McNickle too filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and an investigation is scheduled.

To many, the Quebec Charter may seem like excessive policing of individual behaviour, but it and the bodies made to enforce it have their place in a society where suing someone on your own is so expensive. It’s an additional protection from harassment and discrimination and gives recourse to people who would otherwise have none.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in France, a video appeared on YouTube of someone in a Joker mask threatening to kill Muslims in Quebec. In it, the man brandishes what looks like a real gun and threatens to cause the death of one Arab per week.

Shortly after the video appeared, Montreal police arrested 24 year old Jesse Pelletier, husband and father of one, who has since been charged with uttering threats, possession of a false weapon, public incitement of hatred, and involvement in a hoax regarding terrorist activities. Pelletier was released on bail this Monday with various conditions attached to his release.

Shortly after Pelletier was arrested, his lawyer told the press that he meant the video as a joke and sincerely regrets the situation he is now in. Regardless of what Pelletier meant by the video, the joke is on him because arguing that he was just kidding is not a legal defense for any of the charges.

The Canadian Criminal Code is very clear on the matter of uttering threats. If you knowingly utter, convey, or cause any person to receive a threat of death or bodily harm, you are most likely looking at a sentence of 18 months to five years.

Inciting hatred falls under article 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which identifies the crime as “communicating statements, other than in private conversation, willfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group.”If convicted, Pelletier is facing a prison term of two years for that particular charge.

The law, however, doesn’t stop at defining what the prohibited behavior is and what the penalties are. It also lists what defenses he and his counsel can use to free him of the charges.

If you’re accused of inciting hatred, you have the following defenses to choose from:

  1. Establish that what you said was actually true.
  2. Claim that you – in good faith – tried to establish via argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a religious text.
  3. Argue that the statements you made “were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit” and that you had reasonable grounds to believe what you were saying was true.
  4. Prove that you meant the statements in good faith for the sake of pointing out things that produce hatred towards an identifiable group in order to get these matters removed.

Not surprisingly, there is no joker defense here. It should also be noted that in order for Pelletier to be convicted, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, who has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s guilty of the crime. Should his lawyer try an insanity plea, the burden of proof shifts to her, as defendants are always presumed sane until proven insane.

The fact that Pelletier used what turned out to be a fake gun in the video could add another 14 years to his sentence. Fake guns, called “imitation firearms” in the Criminal Code, are illegal in Canada.

They are defined as anything that imitates a firearm and using one to commit indictable offenses like inciting hatred and hoaxes regarding terrorism could result in a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 14 years. As for the first charge, the burden of proof is primarily on the prosecution. All his lawyer has to do is raise a reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

Then there’s the charge of involvement in a hoax regarding terrorist activities. Under 83.231 of the Criminal Code, anyone who “without lawful excuse and with intent to cause any person to fear death” does something to cause a reasonable belief that terrorist activity will occur without believing it actually will, is guilty of involvement in a hoax regarding terrorist activity. The terrorist activity in question is the act that was done with the intention of intimidating a segment of the public with regards to its security, in this case Muslims in Quebec.

Whatever defense he uses, Pelletier is unlikely to escape the charges completely free and clear. All the reports on his court appearance and bail hearing indicate that he is probably guilty. His lawyers’ only hope is to try for the minimum sentence on all the charges by arguing that he had no criminal intent and no awareness that his joke was actually a crime.

Pelletier’s claim that his actions were meant in jest looks more like a feeble attempt to save face in the aftermath of an act most people with a shred of common sense would have realized was both dumb and dangerous before they even turned on their webcams.

Unfortunately for Pelletier, stupidity is not a defense.

In the midst of all the stories of long lines, screw-ups and smiling politicians voting in advanced polls, we have been, I guess you could say, “treated” to a few theatrical political stunts. There was the image of a woman voting with a potato bag over her head and another one of a man voting in a full clown costume with a mask covering his face and more as the days went by.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I love a good theatrical stunt as much as the next person, even more so, probably, having taken part in a few myself over the years. I’m usually the first to champion such clever expressions of dissent. This time, though, I’m not so sure.

You’re Allowed to Do It and You Should Be

Make no mistake. Voting with your face covered is perfectly legal in Canada. As long as you show your face to an Elections Canada employee briefly for identification purposes or swear an oath; much in the same way a citizenship oath can be taken with face covered as long as proper visual identification is done prior to the ceremony.

It’s all legal and should be. There is no security issue if proper identification is provided, leaving cultural prejudice as the only reason to object to someone covering their face.

While no one has ever attempted to ban wearing clown masks at polling places, there has been talk, far too much talk, about banning Muslim women from wearing niqabs in various aspects of public life. This is all political hot air and distraction which has somehow, unfortunately, caught hold and changed the focus of this election.

The Good

Jon Keefe did it for the right reasons. The St-John’s businessman put out a call to vote in the Newfoundland Christmas tradition of Mummering. He did so because he wanted to make a statement against the predominant role the issue of face covering has taken in the campaign.

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Jon Keefe (image CBC)

Keefe told CBC News that “it seemed like a great way to work in the point that there are already a lot of cultural customs across Canada that might seem bizarre or unusual to people unfamiliar with them, but we’ve all managed to get along pretty well so far.”

Taking the piss out of Harper’s tactics of division and mocking those who, through xenophobia or ignorance, have an obsession with Muslim women voting or taking a citizenship oath while wearing the niqab is a justifiable reason to do a theatrical stunt.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, most people photographed wearing some sort of facial covering in the past few days were doing it for all the wrong reasons. They weren’t protesting the manufactured obsession with the niqab, instead they were endorsing it.

Toeing the Conservative, or possibly the Bloc, party line, people like Rafik Hanna, who voted were quoted saying “truly sad that I can vote to elect a Canadian prime minister without having to show my face and prove my identity.”

If you read between the lines (and ignore the fact that he did have to prove his identity, albeit briefly), the message is clear. These people have a problem with Muslim women who choose to wear a niqab doing so in a citizenship ceremony, or when voting or taking part in any other aspect of public life.

This is even more clear when it is done by someone who shares the image of him voting on the Facebook page of known racist organization Pegida Canada:

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They are effectively campaigning for Harper and his xenophobic tactics of fear and division while at a polling station. Campaigning in a poling station is illegal, by the way. Voting with a mask isn’t.

The Silver Lining

Whenever the bigoted debate over religious face covering at public events rears its ugly head, those vocally opposed always make four arguments:

1. It’s a security risk

2. It’s oppressive

3. There’s nothing in the Qur’an about the niqab.

4. What if I wore a Halloween costume when voting? Would you be okay with that, too?

Arguments two and three are easy to deflate. If the person wearing the niqab is being oppressed, then why oppress her more by denying her citizenship or the right to vote? And if you say there’s nothing in the Qur’an about the niqab, well, I didn’t know you were a scholar. If that is true, though, I’d like to point out there’s nothing in the Bible about wearing a cross around your neck, but you wouldn’t dare make a Christian take off her necklace to vote, would you?

The people wearing masks to the polling station over the past few days have defeated argument four in a way that no bit of intellectual debate ever could. Would we be okay with you wearing a Halloween costume to the polls? Yes, and so is Elections Canada.

Does it look ridiculous? Yes. Does that mean that the concept of voting with a face covering is also ridiculous? No.

A Muslim woman wearing a niqab to vote is not silly. People wearing Halloween costumes to the polls to protest her right to do it look, for the most part, like idiots.

These stunts also have the added bonus of destroying argument one, that a niqab is a security concern. It’s clearly not.

If proper identification is done, it makes absolutely no difference what you wear to the polling place.

When you take away the four main arguments, all that is left for people who think wearing a niqab should be election issue number one is to either admit their ignorance or admit their bigotry. Because if you strip away the rhetoric, they all pretty much sound like this guy:

For those of you who don’t speak French, the man wearing a fake niqab standing outside of a polling place tells the camera that he wants all Muslims out of Quebec before being schooled by a Muslim woman.

Forgive the pun, but the veil is off. The whole niqab debate is a manufactured controversy designed to boost Harper’s polling numbers by playing to people afraid of the Muslim ‘other’ above all else. The intended audience wants everyone to act like “old-stock” Canadians or Quebecois, conveniently forgets that they are themselves the descendants of immigrants and is obsessed with this issue to the point of it blocking out all other electoral concerns.

At least now, thanks to a few people who tried to make a statement while voting, that fact is now crystal clear for all to see.

Donald Trump is in the news once again, and this time, he’s gone a little too far. Since the first Republican Debate, the business mogul has been criticized for his rude behavior on television.

It all began when Fox reporter Megyn Kelly, who hosted the debate a couple of weeks ago, was verbally attacked by Trump after she questioned him over several remarks he made about women. He said: “she had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Whatever that means!

Furthermore, he also retweeted a message that referred to the journalist as a bimbo. How mature of a political candidate who wants to run the country!

His most recent clash with reporter Jorge Ramos is just plain rude. During a press conference, Mr. Trump had the journalist escorted out of the room, after he was trying to ask the candidate questions about his recent call to deport millions of illegal immigrants and build a wall between the US and Mexican border (brilliant idea!).

Donald Trump insisted he had to wait his turn to submit a question. He kept telling the anchor: “You haven’t been called, go back to Univision.” Univision is the American Spanish television network which refused to air the Miss USA pageant, which Trump co-owns, due to his racist remarks. As security approached Ramos, he said: “I am a reporter. I have a right to ask the question.”

While in the hallway, a Trump supporter approchaed the journalist and told him that what he did was rude and that he should go back to his country. For the record, Ramos is a U.S. citizen; go back where exactly? That’s what I call being rude and racist!

He was later welcomed back to the press room and was given the chance to ask his question, even though Trump answered in a non-friendly manner.

Even after all of this, I am still puzzled as to how and why this man is still leading the polls. Not only does this person insult people from the media on live television, he also has the nerve to throw his nasty, racist comments too?!

Why give him this much exposure anyway? And as for votes, doesn’t he realize that most voters are Mexican AND women? I really don’t understand why anyone would vote for him. Let’s just hope he doesn’t win the election.

It looks like Donald Trump has gotten himself into some hot water, yet again! Since announcing his run for presidency, Trump has been flaunting his wealth and success non-stop on national television; but this isn’t the first time the multi-millionaire has hinted at a presidential run – the first one was back in 1987! This past Tuesday, the entrepreneur launched his campaign at his luxurious Trump Tower in New York City and all eyes were on him for a good 45 minutes. He described himself as the most successful person ever to run for office, and mentioned that even the Gucci store he owns is worth more than Mitt Romney (o….kay??). “I’m really rich,” he said as he looked at the crowd and added that his positive attitude is what America needs to make the country great again (o….kay?).

We all know the Donald is no stranger to controversy; from his feud with Rosie O’Donnell back in 2006, to his doubt over President Obama’s birthplace. (He actually asked him to release a copy of his birth certificate!) But the most recent one will have him running… period! During his speech, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug-traffickers and rapists, which prompted Univision, an American Spanish television network, to pull the plug on the Miss USA pageant. How does this affect the Republican candidate you ask? Well, Donald Trump is the co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization and not only will the network not air the event, but they have decided to completely cut ties with Trump altogether.

After his comments went viral, a number of Latin celebrities took to the internet to express their anger, including actors Eugenio Derbez and Roslyn Sanchez who have both stepped down as hosts of the pageant. What was he thinking? Is he aware that half of the population living in the United States are Mexicans? What a great way to start your campaign!

Will Donald Trump ever be elected as president? I highly doubt it! After all of his foolish comments and bogus statements, he’s better off sticking to his day job. Just like his comb over, some things will never change.

We need change. What happened to serve and protect? Freddie never had a chance. Apocalypse plague of humanity drawing closer with every injustice to every name I can’t remember, because there are too many. You have the right to remain alive! Too many people are murdered by the people supposedly serving and protecting them.

This revolution will not be televised!

It will be caught with the camera of a dying cell phone by the thumb of child who knows no slavery, but is a slave to connection without being connected to the fact that folks are dying – for what? I sit on a floral covered futon in a room where the only discomfort is that the ceiling fan is making my feet cold and I am too lazy to pull the chord. I am typing on a iPhone that was new at Christmas, but is quickly becoming obsolete. I spent the morning smoking bongs and catching up on what’s happening outside my line of sight. I feel defeated.

Nepal. Baltimore. Places where fates were decided without remorse or recourse. An earthquake quickly drowned out by coverage of a race riot. A man dragged into a police van and then beaten until his spine was severed. Watching videos and reading both genius and fucking ignorant comments, reading the news through my Facebook feed, the Twitters of anyone who is anyone that Fox News can grab on to. Wonderbread reporters saying stupid things to people who are desperately trying to save their children and bring light to the hardships in a desperate America.

Foods not Bombs 2
Food Not Bombs is a peaceful protest against war.

It’s not as hard to talk about race through the safety of tapping of your finger on a little glass screen that has so much power. There is no answer I can provide to why humans judge other humans based on the color of their flesh or contents of their presentation. I know that I have been judged and made similar shameful judgements, but I also know that regardless of growing up in the poorest neighbourhood of one of the poorest cities in the country, I still made it to where I am now. I have not personally been the victim of Police brutality or the true ugly face of racism, but I unfortunately know how very real and present it is in our world.

I was once standing outside of the old Pink, a Buffalo dive bar in the hippest neighbourhood, and there was a man pan handling – not being too pushy, just normal. After several moments: a car pulled up and two police officers dragged him away from the bars patio area and threw him to the ground in front of a crowd of a summer Saturday night drinkers. When he was picked up from the cement one officer pretended to kick him and they all shared a sick smile. I stood there and did nothing. I held my Jack and Coke in one hand and cell phone in the other and said absolutely nothing. I was 21. Out of fear my lips were sealed. I didn’t want to get involved. I regret that everyday. Standing up for even one person is the most important thing one can do.

I am angry, but fighting violence with more violence is counterproductive. Peaceful protests, nonviolence, and using art as activism are the only true answers. There are people rioting for sports teams, the KKK and Nazis still exist. Hate mongers and cold blooded killers, gay bashers and wife beaters roam the streets. War is present in all societies. And the most popular children’s toys are always guns. Why are humans, as a whole, so aggressive? Video games and rap music? Heavy metal perhaps. Violent horror movies maybe. Children being raised by the internet? Unfaithful media? Who the fuck knows! Maybe it’s none of the above or a combination of all.

Foods not bombs 3
We feed people because we love them.

Sadly there are disconnected fronts, people fighting for the right thing in the wrong way. Looking for attention, not resolution. Do not stir the pot in someone else’s battle. Solidarity is important. Stand with and support, but do not fight for them – it’s not always your battle. Be educated. There is a group of rabble rousers in front of every city hall inciting a riot. These people are my friends. I agree with their heart and dedication, but when they jump in bull horns first, that leaves no time for tact.

There was a possibility of my cousin becoming a cop – it made me think. He is a good one with the right intentions. I would hope that the shitty crime filled world wouldn’t eat him up. We need more honorable humans in law enforcement.

I care about everyone, every person deserves love and respect and food and smiles. There is a lot that needs to be done and there is nothing you can do about it by simply being quiet! Incite a riot within yourself, bring peace by being peaceful, helpful, loving, and making your own discussions and decisions based on life and not what the media portrays.

The way a story is covered, paying attention to one insignificant part of the story, grabbing onto the juiciest bit of bullshit and shifting the entire tide – it makes me sick. Violence sells. The News is not Reality Television, just as reality Television ain’t real. None of it can be trusted, get your news by being present in the world you live in, be there when it’s happening and, when actually reading or watching other people’s representations of the world events, make sure to find every perspective and never ever trust the biggest headlines. Again: the revolution will not be televised.

Race: it’s not something you can win by being the tortoise in a world of selfish and ignorant hares. Everyone is different and diversity is a spectacular gift that we all share. We all must accept each other’s differences and appreciate the beauty of being unique. Be the change you want to see in the world. Do not tolerate ignorance or hate. Be a good example for new generations. Do the best you can to fight the good fight in the name of peace, acceptance, freedom and above all else love.

The featured image is a painting by Cat, inspired by the events at Ferguson.

On April 12, 25-year-old Freddie Gray “made eye contact” with a Baltimore police officer. Within minutes, Gray was brutalized, “twisted into a pretzel,“which caused his spinal cord to snap, and was subsequently tossed into the back of a police cage. Despite screaming in pain, the police denied Gray medical attention. He lapsed into a coma and died one week later on April 19.

Freddie Gray would’ve been just another statistic of one more Black male “criminal” that died a justifiable, though “tragic” and “unfortunate” death at the hands of hard working cops because he “resisted arrest,” “disobeyed the commands of law enforcement” or had “reached for the officer’s weapon.” However, in the Information Age of social media, a bystander filmed the event and, once again, the official story collapsed and the lies of the police were exposed.

Anger among the majority Black and working class population of Baltimore erupted over the past week culminating in mass protests over the weekend which led to rioting on Monday, April 27. What began as peaceful processions from West Baltimore where Freddie Gray lived and was killed, turned into conflict once the procession reached Downtown. At Camden Yards before the start of the Baltimore Orioles game on Sunday, fights erupted when Black protesters were provoked by petite-bourgeois whites from suburban Baltimore County, who jeered the mostly Black protesters with racial epithets. As the marchers made their way to Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor, white hipsters and shoppers began to physically attack the the marchers. In the face of these provocations, Blacks reacted by throwing objects through the windows of restaurants and bars.

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“Drunk white people looking for a fight were part of the violence narrative last night. I have seen them jeer, spit, and throw things at protestors and try to hit them since wed when protest first went downtown.” – Brandon Soderberg

By Monday, the city’s Black high school students walked out of classes with the intention of having a festival of the oppressed. The police became the targets of reprisal. After decades of repression and brutality, the working class and poor youth of Baltimore decided that it was time to exact revenge. Pitched street battles took place in West Baltimore between rock and brick throwing youth and cops with tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields. The entire city came to a standstill with reports of the police shutting down the city transit system. By nightfall, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and deployed 5,000 National Guard troops to Baltimore. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Black woman, announced the implementation of 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. curfew starting from Tuesday April 28, in effect for one week.

What’s surprising to this writer is how long it has taken for the rebellion to take place. This writer is fairly familiar with Baltimore, having visited the city three times during the 1980s and 90s. Baltimore is a very unique city. It’s a Southern American city with a Northern industrial economic and political structure. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the country with its architecture and geography. Yet it is one of the most socially polarized cities in the world. It’s racial and class divisions reflect its Dixie-Yankee split personality.

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High school students walking out of class.

Most of the world knows Baltimore through the HBO series The Wire. The program is the most realistic portrayal of the economic, political, racial and social state of Baltimore. What makes The Wire unique is how the cops are presented as the villains and the drug dealers and gangsters presented as decent people forced by the decline of industrial capitalism into criminality.

The Wire is not the first time Hollywood has portrayed the brutality and corruption of the police and judicial system. …And Justice For All is a 1979 film with Al Pacino revealing the corruption of judges in Baltimore. For more than 35 years, Baltimore has been depicted as a cesspool of judicial and police corruption and violence.

The Baltimore riots are a belated and desperate response to decades of abuse of the Black working class and poor at the hands of the politicians, police and the courts. This isn’t about race. It’s about class. Baltimore a majority Black city with a Black mayor, police chief and mostly Black police force. This is about the death of American capitalism which offers no future to poor and working class youth of all races.

Der Kosmonaut is an international freelance journalist, poet, social commentator and political philosopher. A graduate of Radio News and Current Affairs from the National Broadcasting School in Brighton, UK, he has been a producer for CKUT News in Montreal, Radio Orange in Vienna. He was the political editor of The Age of Nepotism in Belgrade. As a poet Der Kosmonaut has been published in Vienna where was the winner of the Slam B Poetry Slam in June 2011. He maintains a blog der-kosmonaut.blogspot.com

Featured image by Patrick Semansky.

Every year, Cinema Politica brings some of the most important, relevant and powerful political and social documentaries to Canadian screens. This year, one of the most anticipated films is Blair Dorosh-Walter’s Out in the Night, which tells the stories of four African-American lesbian women who were incarcerated after an altercation outside a New York theatre, labeled as a ‘ruthless lesbian gang’ despite clearly acting in self-defense. In the spirit of films like The Thin Blue Line, Out in the Night methodically deconstructs the case against these four women, as well as shedding light on their lives before and after their prison sentences.

Out in the Night insertFormally, Out in the Night uses the same set of tools as other socially-conscious documentaries. Talking heads, inter-titles, archive footage, you know the drill. Expanding or playing with the limits of representation and documentary form aren’t really the concern of the film as much as communicating information in as direct a manner as possible.

Out in the Night succeeds in this goal, telling the story of these four women and laying out the many holes, inconsistencies and outright fabrications in the case laid against them in such detail that it becomes almost impossible to doubt their innocence. Simply as an example of documentary journalism, Out in the Night is a very strong film.

However, like many films of this nature, Out in the Night doesn’t quite go far enough. Although the story of these women and the many ways in which society and “the system” failed them are laid out, the larger questions, and any attempt at answering those questions, are only slightly touched upon. It isn’t enough, for me, to simply say -how- these women were wronged so spectacularly, but -why-.

What are the systems of homophobia, male entitlement and racism that created a world where these events could even happen? How has the media, whose sensationalist coverage of the incident and subsequent trials is a focus of the film, become so skewed and dependent on hyperbole and exaggeration? What social and political systems are responsible for what happened, and most important of all, how can we combat them?

The film does an excellent job at raising awareness of the many failures of the American justice system and the adversity faced daily by African-American members of the LGBTQ community, but raising awareness is step one. Step two is aiding the audience in putting that awareness to good use, how to channel the outrage at this and similar incidents into real social change. How to recognize the systems, both political and social, that made this happen, and ensure these mistakes are not repeated.

Out in the Night is ideal for festivals like Cinema Politica, and group viewing in general, in that may be at its strongest when accompanied by group discussion. Monday’s CP screening, in partnership with Black History Month Montreal, will include a group discussion with special guest speakers.

Simply watching the film isn’t enough. Talk about it, discuss the questions the film didn’t bring up or answer. Use it as a catalyst, a jumping-off point for discussions of social change and reform. Because although it is very good, it can’t function on its own as a tool for inciting the change in the world that will prevent incidents like the one shown in the film from occurring again.

* Out in the Night plays at Cinema Politica Concordia Monday, February 2, 7pm. 1455 deMaisonneuve Ouest, room H110