GAZA – Abdullah Mortaja, a Palestinian journalist working for al-Aqsa TV Channel, died on Monday evening of wounds he sustained in an Israeli artillery attack on al-Shujaiya neighborhood, east of Gaza city.
Palestinian medics said Mortaja breathed his last after his health status went downhill and he kept bleeding non-stop due to the injuries incurred in the attack.
Mortaja is a graduate of the Journalism and Media Department at the Islamic University of Gaza. He worked as a correspondent for al-Aqsa TV Channel and a youth activist in Gaza.
Mortaja is the son-in-law of Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum. His murder brings the death toll of journalists killed during the Israeli offensive, rocking besieged Gaza since July 7, to at least 17.
Scores of human rights and humanitarian organizations have called for the need to immediately launch an international investigation into Israel’s premeditated slaughter of journalists covering Gaza war.
The Palestinian Information Ministry said in a statement on Monday that 102 Israeli violations, targeting journalists and news reporters working for local and foreign news agencies have been registered.
The casualties’ list includes: Ali Shahta Abu Afsh, working for the American Agency, Italian journalist Simone Camili, working for the Associated Press, driver of Media 24 agency, Hamed Abdullah Shihab, and female media activist, Najla al-Haj among others.
According to the ministry, at least 16 Palestinian journalists and an Italian journalist were killed while 18 others sustained severe wounds. 29 journalists’ family homes and 17 media offices came under Israeli shelling, including the headquarters of al-Jazeera, al-Aqsa, Associated Press, and Doha Media Center.
More than 15 media sites, radios and TV channels have been jammed, the ministry further documented.
The report outlined a detailed account of journalists who have turned homeless as barrages of Israeli strikes rocked their family homes. Journalist Mahmoud Ahmad al-Athamna and his wife, along with their little child, sustained deadly wounds after Israeli fighter jets hit their home, razing it entirely to the ground.
Homes of journalists Rami al-Ajala, Shahda Naim, and al-Jazeera reporter Ahmad Fayadh, along with brothers Youssef and Atiya Abu Sharia’ were all subject to the same fate.
The Israeli occupation has stepped up its belligerent aggression on Palestinian and foreign pro-Gaza journalists since the launch of the Gaza offensive on July 7, denying local and international news agencies the right to broadcast an authentic coverage of Israel’s mass-murder of Gaza people.
Inside Higher Ed has gotten some of the preliminary documents on the back and forth between Chancellor Wise, officials at the University of Illinois (including a top person in charge of fundraising), and a high-level donor, before Wise made her initial decision to dehire Steven Salaita. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the external and internal pressure that went into this decision (though from my own experience with this issue I can only assume that the fear of external financial pressure was very very high), and as the article notes, none of these emails tells us what ultimately prompted Wise to make the decision she did. Still, it’s telling that in the days leading up to her decision, she received 70 communiques (in one instance from a very high-level donor), regarding the Salaita hire, only one of which was urging her to keep him on board.
The communications show that Wise was lobbied on the decision not only by pro-Israel students, parents and alumni, but also by the fund-raising arm of the university.
For instance, there is an email from Travis Smith, senior director of development for the University of Illinois Foundation, to Wise, with copies to Molly Tracy, who is in charge of fund-raising for engineering programs, and Dan C. Peterson, vice chancellor for institutional advancement. The email forwards a letter complaining about the Salaita hire. The email from Smith says: “Dan, Molly, and I have just discussed this and believe you need to [redacted].” (The blacked out portion suggests a phrase is missing, not just a word or two.)
Later emails show Wise and her development team trying to set up a time to discuss the matter, although there is no indication of what was decided.
At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. “Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career,” the email says.
Two Crimean journalists, including a photographer who works with AFP and RIA news agencies, say they have been detained by enforcers from Ukraine’s Right Sector movement, while covering the conflict in the east of the country.
Reporter Evgeniya Korolyova and photographer Maksim Vasylenko were returning on a bus from the war zone near Donetsk, which is besieged by government forces, when a Right Sector patrol made them disembark, before taking them prisoner.
The information was reported by the Crimean Telegraph newspaper, where both journalists are on the payroll, which says that it received a phone call from the detainees on Sunday night.
“Evgeniya was allowed one phone call, but it seemed that there were people watching her every word as she spoke, so she couldn’t say exactly where she was arrested. Asked if her life was in danger, she denied it, but specified that she was detained as a journalist, not an ordinary citizen,” wrote the Crimean Telegraph.
The newspaper said that the pair were not on an editorial assignment, while Russia’s RIA news and AFP’s bureau in Moscow confirmed that Vasylenko had been working for them as a freelance photographer.
Crimean Telegraph editor in chief Maria Volkonskaya said the newspaper would submit an official query about the whereabouts of the two, while journalists in the Crimean capital Simferopol have scheduled a demonstration demanding their release for Tuesday afternoon.
Salaita Deemed Excellent Teacher, UI Trustees Meet Again
I’m still on vacation and mostly staying offline but I wanted to do a quick update on the Salaita affair.
1. Tomorrow, August 22, the Executive Committee of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet again. The Executive Committee met on Monday, August 18. In an email, Phan Nguyen wrote to me, “According to the listing of BOT Executive Committee meetings on the website, there haven’t been two such meetings held within four days of each other” in quite some time, if ever. But where the Monday meeting agenda explicitly stated that employment and litigation matters would be discussed, the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting specifies no specific topics for discussion. And where Monday’s meeting was listed a closed meeting, this meeting doesn’t say if it’s closed or not.
2. Going into Monday’s meeting, many of us thought something —a decision, a deal, something—was afoot. But according to this report in the local media, no decisions were made at the meeting.
“There are a number of issues being discussed,” President Bob Easter told The News-Gazette after the meeting, but trustees are “not at a place where I can say” if resolution is close. He declined to talk further because it was a closed session about personnel. [...]
3. One of the issues that comes up frequently among the University of Illinois’s defenders is that Salaita’s tweets suggest he might create a hostile environment for students, that he’s not fit for the classroom. It’s a strange claim to make under any circumstance—how I am on Twitter bears little relationship to how I am in the classroom or in my interactions with students; all of us have different relationships with different people, and we act differently in different circumstances—but in Salaita’s case it’s especially strange because he actually has a demonstrated track record as a teacher that the University of Illinois could consult.
Salaita taught for eight years at Virginia Tech, and like most professors, he was evaluated by his students every semester. According to this report, these were the results:
The student evaluations for Steven Salaita are stunning.
In Fall 2009, 29 of 30 students responding rated Salaita’s “knowledge of subject” as “Excellent”. In the same course, 93 percent of students rated Professor Salaita’s “overall rating” as “excellent,” and 2 as “good.”
In the same term, another group of students gave Salaita nearly identical—though even better —marks: 29 of 30 rated him “excellent” for knowledge of subject, 30 of 30 graded him excellent for grading fairness, and 93 percent rated him “excellent” for overall rating, 1 good.
These numbers repeat consistently over all six of the courses Professor Salaita submitted for review. The lowest rating he received in the “excellent” category for “overall rating” was 86 percent. Salaita never received, in any of the six courses evaluated, a single rating of “poor” for any of ten categories of teaching reviewed. In his lone graduate seminar, he scored a perfect 100 percent rating of “excellence” in the category of “overall rating.”
But for purposes of our argument, it is especially important to note student evaluations of Professor Salaita in the category of “concern and respect” for students. Here is where students evaluate their professor for professional empathy, respect for diverse points of view, and sensitivity to student opinion and student lives.
In the six courses reviewed, Professor Salaita scored as follows in this category:
# of Students
30 Total: 28 Excellent 2 Good
30 Total: 30 out of 30 Excellent
10 Total: 10 out of 10 Excellent
29 Total: 28 Excellent 1 Good
28 Total: 28 out of 28 excellent
28 Total: 25 out of 28 excellent, 2 good, one No Response
In addition to these metrics, Professor Salaita submitted a peer review letter of his teaching by a Virginia Tech colleague in English. This colleague visited Salaita’s classes to provide the department an assessment of Salaita’s teaching.
The letter cites Salaita’s numerical excellence in student evaluations, but goes on to praise his teaching in terms that would be the envy of Professors everywhere:
While the numbers are impressive, the student comments bear out in detail how deserving Steven is of the high ratings. The students are acutely aware that they are privileged to be studying with a well-regarded scholar, who draws his knowledge from years of study and experience. Steven is perceived as being knowledgeable and accessible—he takes time to talk with students and to encourage them in preparing their writing assignments… When asked questions in class, Steve gives factual and thoughtful replies. It is clear to all that the teacher has mastery of his field.
Salaita’s colleague goes on to say:
The classes I visited focused on several very contemporary bodies of literature, most specifically Arab-American literature. These works are difficult to understand and appreciate fully without the help of a good guide who knows the turf. Professor Salaita is extremely well-informed on the history and current status of the many nations, political parties and religious sects of the Middle East. This subject matter is urgently important not only for specialists in international affairs, but for anyone seeking to better understand the violent and volatile contemporary world.
This record shows only one thing: that Steven Salaita is an outstanding classroom teacher.
4. The campaign on behalf of Salaita has gathered steam. Yesterday, philosopher David Blacker canceled his scheduled appearance at the prestigious CAS/MillerComm lecture series at the University of Illinois. In a letter to the university, he wrote:
I regret to inform you that I must cancel my CAS/MillerComm lecture at the University of Illinois scheduled for September 29….
I have decided I must honor the growing worldwide pledge of academics not to appear at U. of I. unless the Salaita matter is acceptably resolved….
… Instead of choosing education and more speech as the remedy for disagreeable speech,the U. of I. has apparently chosen “enforced silence.” It thus violates what a university must stand for — whatever else it stands for — and therefore I join those who will not participate in the violation. In my judgment, this is a core and non-negotiable issue of academic freedom.
My hope is that the U. of I. will relent and restore its good name. I would be delighted to reschedule my talk if and when this happens.
5. I haven’t got complete updates on the boycott campaign, but here are some new numbers (if I don’t have new numbers, I don’t list the petitions here; for a fuller list, go here):
Latino/a and Chicano/a Studies: 70
Political Science: 169
Contingent academics: 210
Along with our other signatories on other petitions (for which I do not have updated numbers), we’ve got 2716 scholars committed to not engaging with the University of Illinois until Steven Salaita is reinstated.
A more general petition calling on the University of Illinois to reinstate Salaita has over 15,000 signatures.
Updated (9 pm)
An entire conference scheduled at the UI has now been officially canceled.
The Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been carefully observing the growing international academic boycott of our campus and weighing the potential impacts upon our Strategies for Action National Conference on Higher Education in Prison. After thoughtful deliberation, we have canceled the national conference.
This decision has not been easy.
We reached this decision after consulting with conference presenters and attendees, directors of other prison education programs, members of the higher ed in prison listserv, and with members of the Education Justice Project. We concluded that for EJP to host the conference at this time would compromise our ability to come together as a national community of educators and activists.
Updated (10 pm)
Yet another scholar has pulled out from a distinguished lecture series at the University of Illinois. This time it’s Allen Isaacman, Regents Professor of History at the University of Minnesota.
Since beginning its assault on the Gaza Strip on July 8th, Israeli officials have prevented human rights observers and experts employed by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch from entering Gaza to conduct independent investigations.
Both groups are known worldwide for their work in exposing human rights abuses, and both groups have, in the past, filed reports critical of both the Hamas party in Gaza and of Israel’s practices toward Palestinians. But Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch employees have been unsuccessful in their attempts to bring observers into Gaza during the Israeli invasion.
The groups have called on both Israel and Egypt to lift the restrictions on human rights observers, and allow their employees to enter Gaza.
The joint press release filed by the two groups reads as follows:
Israel should immediately allow access to Gaza for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organizations so they can investigate allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today.
“The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll mounted” said Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International’s Director of Research and Crisis Response. “The victims’ and the public’s right to know about what happened during the recent hostilities requires the Israeli authorities to ensure full transparency about their actions and to refrain from hindering independent and impartial research into all alleged violations.”
Since the beginning of Israel’s military operation on July 8, 2014 in Gaza, code-named “Protective Edge”, Israeli authorities have denied repeated requests by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing. Both groups also requested access from Egyptian authorities, who so far have not granted it.
“If Israel is confident in its claim that Hamas is responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza, it shouldn’t be blocking human rights organizations from carrying out on-site investigations,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Public pronouncements by a warring party don’t determine whether attacks violated the laws of war, but field investigations could.”
Since July 7, Amnesty International’s International Secretariat has submitted three applications for permission to enter Gaza via the Erez Crossing to Israel’s Civil Administration, which operates under Israel’s Defense Ministry. In each case, the Civil Administration said it could not process the requests, and that the Erez Crossing was closed. Journalists, United Nations staff, humanitarian workers, and others with permits have been able to enter and exit via Erez throughout this period.
“Valuable time has already been lost and it’s essential that human rights organizations are now able to enter the Gaza Strip to begin the vital job of verifying allegations of war crimes,” FitzGerald said.
Amnesty International requested assistance on this matter from Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and various third-party governments have raised the issue with their Israeli counterparts on Amnesty International’s behalf, but none of these efforts has been successful.
Human Rights Watch received similar responses from the Civil Administration to its request for permission to enter Gaza since the recent escalation in hostilities. Israeli authorities at the Erez Crossing also said that Human Rights Watch was not eligible for permits to enter Gaza because it was not a registered organization. However, the Israeli authorities acknowledged that they had discretion to make an exception. On August 17, Human Rights Watch requested such an exception as soon as possible; Israeli authorities denied it on August 19. Prior to 2006, Israeli authorities repeatedly granted Human Rights Watch access to Gaza without requiring the group to register or seek a special exception.
During the recent hostilities, Israeli forces have intensively bombarded the Gaza Strip from the air, land and sea, severely affecting the civilian population there. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1,975 Palestinians have been killed, including 1,417 civilians of whom 459 are children and 239 women. Thousands of unexploded remnants of war are dispersed throughout the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Sixty-seven Israelis have been killed including three civilians.
Palestinian armed groups have fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets toward Israeli population centers; have reportedly stored rockets in empty school buildings; and allegedly deployed their forces without taking all feasible precautions to prevent harm to civilians, in violation of international law. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had some staff already stationed on the ground in Gaza but the quantity and magnitude of reported violations require the investigative assistance of other researchers, which Israel is blocking.
The Israeli government must allow all allegations of war crimes and other violations to be independently verified and the victims to obtain justice. Active human rights monitoring on the ground can also help serve to prevent further abuses being carried out – by all sides.
The Israeli authorities last granted Human Rights Watch access to Gaza through the Erez Crossing in 2006, and Amnesty International in the summer of 2012.
Since then, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly been told that they must register with Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, which only registers diplomats and UN personnel, or the Social Welfare Ministry. Registration with the Social Welfare Ministry is an option for humanitarian and development organizations with offices in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but it is virtually impossible for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as international human rights organizations, to meet the conditions for registration.
An overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis think that the Israeli army used either the “appropriate” level of force or “too little firepower” during its latest aggression, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge”, in the Gaza Strip. A majority also expressed their support for the government’s restrictions on the freedom of expression during the war, as well as for the mediation efforts led by the post-coup government in Egypt.
According to the latest poll for the Peace Index, which is conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and the University of Tel Aviv, 48 per cent of Israeli Jews believe that the force used by the army was appropriate, while 45 per cent actually think that too little force was used. Only 6 per cent said that Israel used excessive force against the Palestinians.
The Israeli government barred Israeli reporters from entering into Gaza to cover the war, thus Israelis were not exposed to the horrors taking place in the Strip. Israeli strikes have left more than 2,000 dead and 10,000 wounded, in addition to causing massive destruction to civil infrastructure, homes and businesses, leaving many without a place to sleep or work.
On another note, 97 per cent of the Jewish Israeli respondents said that the performance of the Israeli army during the operation was “was very or moderately good”, while only 3 per cent rated the army’s performance as “as not so good or poor”.
58 per cent said they were in favour of limiting the freedom of expression during times of war, while 39 per cent believe that these restrictions are unnecessary.
92 per cent of the Jewish population said the aggression on Gaza was “justified” while 58 per cent said that Israel should not respond to any of Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire and instead should continue fighting until the Palestinian resistance movement surrenders.
Some 44 per cent believe that Israel has achieved most of its goals as a result of the war on Gaza, while 48 per cent said that only some of the goals set for the operation have been achieved and 6 per cent said that Israel did not achieve anything from this operation.
As for the Arab Israeli citizens, 65 per cent believe that no goals have been achieved.
Regarding the mediation efforts in Cairo, 60 per cent of Israeli Jews trust Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi “to act as a fair mediator”, with only 38 per cent not trusting him.
On the other hand, 55 per cent of Israeli Arabs do not trust President Al-Sisi, while 31 per cent trust him to mediate the conflict.
As tensions continue to simmer following nine days of street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where a teenager was shot dead by a police officer, two watchdog groups have slammed the heavy-handed police tactics.
To compound the physical and mental strain of reporting on the weeks-long protests in Ferguson, where the public is desperate for justice after a white police officer shot black teenager Michael Brown to death, journalists themselves are finding themselves the target of police tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bang grenades.
However, Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said the police tactics would not prevent reporters from doing their jobs.
“Ferguson is an international story and journalists are going to cover it. They have a right to do so without fearing for their safety or liberty,” Mahoney said. “The harassment and detention of reporters must stop. From senior commanders on down, the word must go out to security forces to let journalists do their job.”
CPJ also released a guide for journalists on how to stay safe while covering events in Ferguson.
Jasmine Heiss, an observer with Amnesty International, expressed concern over reports that journalists were being tear-gassed while performing their jobs.
“Just last night I’ve heard several journalists and community say that either gas was thrown at them while they were reporting, or, in the case of the community members that gas was thrown into residential neighborhoods while they were walking,” Heiss told RT.
“Increasingly repressive tactics [are] being used to curtail free speech,” she added.
Six journalists were detained by police while covering the protests on Monday and early Tuesday, compelling the American Society of News Editors to describe the incidences as a “top-down effort to restrict the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and the press.”
According to CNN, 11 journalists have been arrested in the course of the protests, which have thrown a glaring spotlight on US race relations, not to mention military-style police equipment and tactics now being deployed on the streets of America.
Police were caught on video firing a tear gas canister that exploded directly in front of an Al Jazeera America crew, causing the reporters to discard their camera equipment and flee the fumes.
In another heated encounter, a police officer is actually caught on video telling journalists, “I’m going to f***ing kill you!”
Meanwhile, social media accounts have exploded with real-time proof of the “severe press intimidation,” as the Huffington Post described the heavy-handed tactics, where Ferguson police fired at journalists with rubber bullets and flash bang grenades, in some cases preventing media from leaving their vehicles for fear of being targeted.
German reporter Ansgar Graw and his colleague Frank Hermann were detained by police for taking photos of a burned-out gas station, close to the spot where Michael Brown was killed.
“I tried to take some pictures at a spot where before I think were taken several thousand photos of the same spot, and some police officers tried to shoot me and my colleague from Germany…but it was on Monday at 2 o’clock, it was perfect…there was no threat, no tensions were in the air,” he told RT.
The journalist said the police told them they could photograph, but they had to continue walking otherwise they would be arrested. Despite complying with the police orders, Graw said they were still detained.
The situation in Ferguson seemed briefly like it was getting better last Thursday, but that didn’t last long. Over the weekend, the militarized and threatening police fired tear gas at protestors and continued to escalate the situation, rather than de-escalate it. The governor declared a state of emergency and instituted a curfew — which created some more problems, and resulted in continued protests, but also some looting. In the last few hours, however, things have gone from bad to worse again. Police went back to arresting journalists, including Robert Klemko from Sports Illustrated and Rob Crilly from the Telegraph (who, believe it or not, is the “Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent” for that paper — now reporting live from… Ferguson, Missouri). While both were quickly released, police appear to be quite aggressive towards reporters. Chris Hayes, the MSNBC TV host reports that he was threatened with being maced.
A live stream from the local radio station KARG (Argus Radio — which is a local volunteer run radio station that has been doing amazing work) caught police screaming, “Get the fuck out of here or you’re going to get shelled with this” while pointing a gun at the reporter. Many reports claimed that he was saying, “You’re going to get shot,” but it’s pretty clearly “shelled.” Not sure it really makes a huge difference.
Huffington Post reports that reporters were ordered to “leave the area and head back where we wouldn’t be able to witness anything for ourselves.”
As you can see from the video (thankfully clipped and uploaded by Parker Higgins), another police officer, “Captain Todd,” claims that the lights from the reporters are the problem, not that that somehow makes it okay to point guns at reporters and threaten to “shell” them (or to arrest them). Meanwhile, Ryan Reilly of the
All of this really ought to make people wonder: if this is how the police act when they know the world is watching them and live streaming what they’re doing, how do you think they act when no one is watching? The photos from Ferguson feel unreal, but are, in fact, quite real.
The situation has become so ridiculous that Amnesty International has sent in a human rights team, saying this is the first time ever that the group has done so inside the US. Think about that for a minute or two…
And then recognize that the press are almost certainly being treated significantly better than the residents who are protesting.
Photography Is Not A Crime again reports on police acting like they have the right to confiscate people’s cameras and phones in order to “secure” recordings of apparent police misconduct.
Police in Northern California beat and tased a mentally ill man before siccing a dog on him, then turning on citizens who recorded the incident, confiscating cell phones and in one case, ordering a witness to delete his footage.
But one video survived anyway, slightly longer than two minutes, where a cop from the Antioch Police Department can be heard saying he wants cameras confiscated right before the video stops.
The video is shot at a distance that makes it unclear as to how much damage is being done, although you can hear the meaty sound of someone being struck several times, as well as the nearly nonstop barking of the police dog and crackling bursts of Taser fire. Being filmed vertically doesn’t help, although I’m generally of the opinion that simply collecting footage that wouldn’t normally be captured is always useful and whatever makes the person filming most comfortable (seeing as it’s generally a very uncomfortable situation) is the method they should use. The recording also shows the arrival of more officers, as though the nearly invisible civilian at the bottom of the cop pile (which begins with 5 officers and a police dog) was on the verge of escaping the whole time.
Towards the end of a video, an officer pulls his squad car directly in front of the “scene” in an obvious attempt to limit the amount of onlookers with damning recordings. Shortly after that (and after the video ends), the cops started attempting to seize “evidence.”
A second witness ABC7 News spoke to says officers began confiscating cellphones from anyone who shot video of the incident. An officer asked for his cellphone after he shot video and the witness said, “Then he took my phone anyway because I didn’t want no problems. He emailed the incident to his phone.
The first witness said, “They didn’t take no for an answer apparently because they pulled one lady out of her vehicle to get it, and she wouldn’t give it up and they were about to arrest her and finally they let her go because I believe she gave it up.”
However, a third witness told ABC7 News he was ordered to erase his video. So he did. He said, “They were being kind of controlling, like demanding, ‘erase your phone’ and they were trying to take people’s phones away.”
No surprises here. Excessive force deployed, followed by a roundup of “witnesses,” which actually means recording equipment and not human beings. The police have no right to do this, but in far too many cases, they assume the public either doesn’t know this, or can easily be intimidated into complying with the unlawful request.
Here’s the absolute bullshit the police department handed over in defense of its ad hoc phone confiscation:
Antioch police told ABC7 News in a statement, “If a person is not willing to turn it over voluntarily, an officer can sometimes seize the device containing the video. The police would have to get a search warrant to retrieve the video from the device.”
As Carlos Miller points out, this is completely wrong and has been wrong for a few years now. Guidelines from the Department of Justice passed down in 2012 state the exact opposite. Police can ask for compliance, but they need to be extremely careful in how they ask.
A general order should provide officers with guidance on how to lawfully seek an individual’s consent to review photographs or recordings and the types of circumstances that do—and do not—provide exigent circumstances to seize recording devices, the permissible length of such a seizure, and the prohibition against warrantless searches once a device has been seized. Policies should include language to ensure that consent is not coerced, implicitly or explicitly…
Warrantless seizures are only permitted if an officer has probable cause to believe that the property “holds contraband or evidence of a crime” and “the exigencies of the circumstances demand it or some other recognized exception to the warrant requirement is present.”
Cops tend to claim that footage of police misconduct is “evidence” in order to justify warrantless cellphone seizures. It may very well be, but it’s the sort of evidence they want to hide, rather than the sort of evidence they’d like to retain. Note that the above officers ordered people to “delete” recordings, something they wouldn’t do if the recordings held actual evidence of a crime (or at least, a crime not committed by uniformed officers). Either way, crime or no crime, the police can’t just start seizing phones as “evidence.” The DOJ guidelines go on to say:
The Supreme Court has afforded heightened protection to recordings containing material protected by the First Amendment. An individual’s recording may contain both footage of a crime relevant to a police investigation and evidence of police misconduct.The latter falls squarely within the protection of First Amendment. See, e.g., Gentile v. State Bar of Nev., 501 U.S. 1030, 1034 (1991) (“There is no question that speech critical of the exercise of the State’s power lies at the very center of the First Amendment.”). The warrantless seizure of such material is a form of prior restraint, a long disfavored practice.
So, cops know — or should know — they can’t do this. And I firmly believe most of them know this. The problem is that they just don’t care. The quickest “fix” is swift seizures of recordings using baseless arrest threats and other forms of intimidation. It’s an instinctual closing of ranks. Once the requisite dozen or so officers needed to affect an arrest had been met, one of the officers originally in the one-sided melee stands back and says he wants “that cellphone and that cellphone.” Well, he can’t have them. Not legally. And yet, officers apparently got what they wanted — rather than what they could legally obtain — in the end.
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be funded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League. His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson.
An Israeli court has banned the broadcast of Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem that listed the names of Palestinian children killed during Israel’s month-long offensive in the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected B’Tselem’s appeal to overturn a decision by the Israel Broadcast Authority to ban a broadcast produced by the NGO, saying it is of political nature.
The broadcast listed the names of children killed in the war in the besieged enclave.
“The hidden objective of the broadcast… is to get the public to make the government stop the (Israeli army operation) in Gaza, due to civilian deaths and children in particular,” the judges’ decision read, adding, “The broadcast is clearly not meant for informative purposes only,” it added.
Israel launched the latest war against the coastal enclave on July 8, killing at least 1,962 Palestinians, including 470 children, and wounding at least 10,100 others.
On Wednesday, Israel and the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas agreed to extend a temporary truce in Gaza for five more days as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continued talks to reach a long-term deal in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
On Thursday, Khalil al-Haya, a senior member of the Hamas delegation at the talks, said any deal with the Israel regime must include Palestinian’s demand to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel launched the latest war against the blockaded Gaza Strip on July 8. Nearly 1,962 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have so far lost their lives and at least 10,100 have been injured in the Israeli war.