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July, 2013 | Occupied Stories

Archive | July, 2013

I am a Refugee

I am already misunderstood before you even look at me,

Imagine being forced out of your own country,

I saw death and my relatives go away explicitly,

Imagine how it feels to miss your own homeland,

And have no other way of getting back without the idea of death in your head,

I live in a gated camp with limited accessibility,

To food water gas and even electricity,

Imagine how it feels not to see your old friends and most of your family,

I have no income or it may be limited,

Everything I have is internationally supported,

By organizations that I have never even heard of,

Everything I have is internationally supported,

By corrupt governments, politics, and diplomatic appointments,

I am a burden on the whole world,

I am pity to the eyes of the average human,

A favor that I have never asked for,

Inferior, in my mind, I have no power,

They took it away when they put me these tents,

They took it away when they threw the food in the caravan,

They took it away when they treated me like an animal,

Yelling for my cooperation, seeking information,

They took it away when they woke me up, one day and I realized I am a Refugee I am a burden on the whole world,

I am a refugee

-Belal Bahader-

Written during travels in Jordan and Palestine over the last few months. Photo taken by Belal at Zaatari Refugee Camp. His name is Abderahman.

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A symphony for Trayvon Martin

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

Atlanta, GA–I had been to Atlanta, Ga., before — running trainings with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta as part of the Wildfire Project. But until Saturday, I had never been to Atlanta the day George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

In some ways, it was strange to be away from New York when it happened — the city whose streets I’ve gotten used to marching in, the people I’ve struggled alongside for years, the cops I’ve learned so well. But in many ways, being in Atlanta felt lucky — away from the shiny glass of Wall Street, the manufactured dreams of Times Square, even the quiet Park Slopes that blur our vision and obscure hard truths. Instead, I was in a place where the faces of slave-owning Confederate generals still stand chiseled into the sides of mountains commemorating them, where a sizeable majority of the population is descendant from people kidnapped, enslaved and brutalized ever since. Being in the South felt somehow closer to the truth. But you know what Malcom X said: “Long as you south of the Canadian border, you’re south.”

The first night after the verdict came we marched in the streets, and the march grew with the very real anger and sadness and fear and hope drawing people out to join. The next day was even bigger, in the thousands. We must have marched five miles, much of it in the pouring rain. The city erupted in a symphony of car horns honking in solidarity, echoed by people cheering and clapping from their windows, emboldened by thousands of people stopping on every sidewalk with their fists up, and strengthened by people jumping out of homes, restaurants and cars to join. The music was loud — genuine mourning, righteous fury and deep purpose. I remember thinking, while marching to the beat, that this is the kind of music that revolutions come from.

The sound of the car horns struck me most — in anger, but not anger that they couldn’t get through, all in solidarity and encouragement. I heard from friends who were part of the demonstrations that took over Times Square that even there — in a city where people are so stressed out that they eat while walking — the honking was supportive. Tens of thousands were in the streets in dozens of cities across the country, and the media couldn’t help but report on it. Friends and family who have never identified themselves as political or radical were furious, and many of them took their first steps into a march. Maybe people have had it. Maybe the music is finally getting loud enough.

I suppose it’s like Aura Bogado wrote in The Nation: The question is not whether the Zimmermans of the world (or the rest of us) are white, brown or black; the question is whether we uphold white supremacy or fight to dismantle it. Oddly enough, in this sense, this case is black and white. In a country where a black person is killed by a cop or vigilante every 28 hours, where more black men are in prisons today than were enslaved just before the Civil War, where drones come home to rest after bombing people of color all across the world in the service of U.S. imperialism, you are either for white supremacy or against it.

The honking horns seemed to compel us — white, black and anyone else — to choose a side. They pierced through the wall of white guilt that threatens to handicap some of us, booming: Yes, you are different, your experience in this country is different, and your role in the struggle is different — but you, too, can choose a side.

Rather, You must choose a side.

As the march snaked through downtown Atlanta, the protesters flooded around cars like water. The drivers — the musicians of the day — sat with their windows down, high fiving or clenching a fist in the air. And every so often a marcher would stop at an open window, have a conversation and take down the driver’s phone number to put it on a list for future organizing. At moments like those I was reminded that people don’t march forever, that crisis moments pass and that we must always think of tomorrow today.

The sight of a young woman taking down people’s numbers reminded me how too often we tell ourselves the myth of spontaneity to avoid the hard work of organizing. There is nothing spontaneous about people streaming into the streets. It comes from a rage that builds over years and centuries, the hard work shifting narratives and raising consciousness, the organizing to bring people in and connect groups to one another, the movement-building to create structures to carry us as we fight. And, of course, people join only when an organized community is willing to step off the curb in the first place, ready to go into motion when confrontations are thrust on us and lines are drawn in the sand.

Then I drifted back into the music, an epic score dedicated not just to Trayvon Martin, but also to all the kids carried through the streets those nights by their parents, whose raised fists seemed to declare that they would no longer permit a world in which they were forced to fear for their children’s lives. The horns — and the rest of the music that gives life to our struggles — blasted through Atlanta and all across the country. The tune was unmistakable: Choose your side, organize and take to the streets.

-Yotam Marom-

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Because I’m Afraid for My Child

Last Saturday (July 13) was the night that reiterated for the thousandth time that the system we continue to seek justice from will never provide that for us–especially if we aren’t white.

The months leading up to the Zimmerman verdict were filled with vigils and protests, outcries and anger, not for 1 young soul taken away from the earth too soon, but for many youth who have been murdered because they are black.  I remember sitting in the pew at the church where the 1 year vigil for Ramarley Graham was being held, listening to countless stories from a group called Stolen Lives.  I couldn’t contain my tears, my pain for them.

I have a 6 year old boy who I have to fear will grow up to be not a successful beautiful human who contributes to his community, but a target because of his skin color.  My son’s future is riddled with obstacles because they close schools to build prisons.  My child is worth more money to this capitalist slave system as an inmate than a productive member of his community.

All of these things came to a head Saturday night, and I could not contain the rage, the anger, the disappointment, the fear.  How in the Hell can I protect my child from being the next Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, or Kimani Gray?  I felt helpless because I can’t protect him from this world, and it only made me more angry.

My temporary therapy is expression on social media, and while I do this often, this time was different.  Some family and “friends” reacted to my posts and became critical of me and upset.  They tried to pacify my anger and rage.  I was told that this behavior wasn’t good; I was told it wasn’t productive, and was even called a divider, a racist.  This society is so fearful of words, especially when spoken from the mouths of the oppressed.  An angry Latina anarchist who speaks her mind is viewed to be so dangerous and wrong, yet we passively watch as a controlling system wipes their ass with the Constitution and no one blinks.

My words aren’t the bullets that kill our youth, but rather the ones that blow holes through the oppressive state that systematically attempts to make us worthless, to make us afraid.

I used social media to process my very strong emotions about the verdict and what it means to a society of people who share that child’s skin color.  They don’t care about Black people.  They don’t care about our kids and they will never give us justice.

I had the amazing opportunity to process my anger in a more direct way because I was able to participate in the NYC Justice for Trayvon march.  Over 5,000 stood together in Times Square to rally for Trayvon and his family as well as all the families who have lost their loved ones to senseless violence at the hands of a racist system.

It was so invigorating to take the middle of Park Avenue in NYC and march all the way to Harlem.  “Whose streets?!” That night they were ours.  I was able to belt out chants and hug my comrades, break down and cry when I needed.  Why? Because we were all one community that night.  We all worked together that night.  We were all one.

That was the display of unity I needed to see and feel.  That unity is what will move mountains.  That unity is what my son needs to be enveloped in, in order to survive.  That unity is what will save the lives of so many children in our communities.

I will stay angry and diligent.  I will continue to be a connector, bringing the members of our communities together so that we don’t have to hold a rally for a child who was senselessly killed.

It has been less than a week since this verdict and while my voice has become sore from all the chanting, I will continue to organize, educate and equally agitate the system, which has failed to represent us–especially the darker shades of us in this society.

-Katt Ramos-

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Speechless Death

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared at Existence is Resistance.

Sometimes, words can never describe how you feel. That feeling that is called “speechless”; yes, that is how I feel right now. I have witnessed what I have never thought I would witness. I have seen what I have never seen before. I have felt what I have never felt before.

I saw death in front of my eyes.

On July 5th 2013, I decided that it is time to speak up against all the unfairness that we face; I decided to go down the streets and protest and protect my revolution, our revolution.

Before joining the protests, I put on some sun block and wore my sunglasses; well, I never saw what was coming my way. As my parents and I headed towards the Nahda Square, we were adjusting our intentions; we are not protesting for Morsi, we are protesting for democracy, for our votes and for our freedom. As we entered the square, I could see my loved ones and friends that I always see at such times since January 25th, 2011. Surprisingly enough, my spirits started lifting up; I felt that there was still hope.

We joined the chants that were calling for the fall of the SCAF and the old regime: “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر”. On the stage stood Bassem Ouda, the ex-minister of supply and internal trade, embedding in his audience the courage, hope and belief that we will win in sha Allah. My respect for that man increased the double; he was one of those respectful men who love this country truly from their hearts. As soon as Bassem Ouda finished his words, the square chanted in its loudest voice: “الإعلام فين، الشريف أهوه” (Where is the media, The noble man is here). I could see in the people’s eyes a lot of respect to that man; they carried him on the shoulders as he got down the stage. People hugged him and kissed his forehead; pictures were taken of him all the time; in those people’s eyes, he was a true hero and will always be.

After chanting for a few hours, we felt that our voices are unheard; there was no media coverage and no one acknowledged our presence, so we decided to march down the streets in Dokki and Mohand is in to make our voices heard. The march was marvelous; I could see more than 200,000 people in front me and behind me. The spirits were so high; the chants were so loud that we could hear the echoes as we march. We were so loud that the people in the buildings all came out to look at the march. We started our march at Al-Dokki street, then Al-Tahrir street, then Sheraton and Maglis Al Dawla. The chants were so powerful:

“دب برجلك طلع نار، إحنا معانا عزيز جبار”

“إرحل يا سيسى، مرسى هوه رئيسى”

(Leave Sissi, Morsi is my president)

“الإعلام فين الشعب المصرى أهوه”

(Where is the media, The Egyptian people are here).

The residents in the buildings started reacting; most of them were very supportive as they held Morsi’s pictures and cheered with us, while others would just take a look and turn around. Even though we marched with our loudest voices so that the media would cover this march and the world would know how we feel, not a single TV channel bothered to cover this march or even state that we were the longest human march done to support Morsi in Egypt.

We did our best. Now if the television won’t come to us, we will go to the television ourselves. And so, the march to Maspero (The Official TV station in Cairo) began. We won’t give up; we will make our voices heard no matter what. As we turned around to face the 6th October bridge, we started chanting in our loudest voices: “هما معاهم تلفزيون، و إحنا معانا رب الكون” (they have the television, but we have Allah, The God of the world)

We walked down the Korneish Street in the Agouza district till we reached the 6th of October bridge. I could see thousands of people climbing the bridge in front of me; hope, pride and dignity took over me. We can do it, God willing. Chanting all the way as we approached Downtown on foot through 6th October bridge, many people in their cars were chanting with us, showing their full support to our march. I started doubting; if all those people support Morsi, then what right does El-Sissi have to raise a Coup?!

As we crossed to the other side of the bridge to avoid getting near to Tahrir Square, we kept chanting “سلمية سلمية سلمية” (peaceful peaceful peaceful) to avoid any clashes with any of the protesters at Tahrir. Suddenly, we found the men standing in the middle of the bridge waving to the women to walk quickly and chant loudly. At the beginning, we did not understand what is going on, but when we asked one of those men, he said that there are some clashes on the other side and asked us to keep chanting loudly. As we descended the bridge, we could see thousands of people ahead of us in front of Maspero already; I was convincing myself by then that it was impossible for clashes to occur when we are in such great numbers, but apparently, I was totally wrong.

In front of Maspero, the men stood to pray Maghrib while the women prayed as they sat on the ground. It was time to take a breath and drink some water to get back to the chanting. Unfortunately, we were unable to enjoy 5 minutes of peace and rest; the men starting asking us to move forward in a hurry. I could see the panic in their eyes; what was going on?! The chanting started again: “عسكر عسكر عسكر ليه؟ هوه إحنا عبيد و لا إيه؟” (Why Military? Are we slaves or what?). I could see in the people around me that something wrong was going on. My doubt became certain when I heard the gun shots as clear as they can be. The men started shouting, urging the women to move faster and keep chanting, but everybody knows women; they worry, and my mother was the first to worry. As my mother grabbed my hand and told me to stay next to her, I turned around to take a peek at what is behind us; I was unable to see the clashes or the thugs, all I could see was fireworks in the sky on the other side, on Tahrir square’s side. With each firework, I could hear a gun shot. With each firework, somebody was injured. I turned back to see guys running towards us shouting for people to step aside; there was a car coming towards the crowds. I could see the women look inside the car then their faces turn pale. I swallowed. Did someone die? I took a glance at the car as it passed by me; there were many people in the car, but on the couch lied two injured people drenched in blood. One of them looked dead with his face covered by red blood, red cold blood; he was shot in the head. The other man’s abdomen was drenched with blood; it looked like he was shot in below the heart. It took the car a glimpse of a second to pass by us, but it will take me years to forget how those martyrs looked like. I looked around me to see a girl drenched in tears, a woman with her hands up in the sky screaming “يا رب” (Oh God) and many others stunned in pale faces. My mother was already crying and saying “ده مات، قتلوه قتلوه”. I stood there, unable to comprehend what I just saw. I felt something hurting in my heart, a lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes. I looked at my mum, I found her crying as she mumbled “they killed him, the killed him”; I was unable to pat on her shoulder or ask her to calm down, how could I?!

The girl next to me was still crying as she leaned on her friend’s shoulder.

This time, a motorcycle passed by; there was an injured man on it, he was covering his eye with a white piece of cloth that turned red.

A minute passed.

The girl was still crying.

Another injured man passed by us, this time the white piece of cloth was on the back of his head, he was unconscious.

My mother was at that time fine. She locked her tears in and started chanting with the rest of the women.

The girl next to me was still crying.

Another girl started dropping some tears on the opposite side.

Another injured man passed on the motorcycle, but this time there was no piece of cloth, the blood covered all of his shirt and face; the piece of white cloth wouldn’t have been enough.

I stood there numb. Tears started falling, questions revolving in my mind; why do they have to die? I could not control my tears; it hurt so much that I couldn’t control it.

Two injured men passed by on the same motorcycle.

The girl was still crying.

I turned my face away, tears rolling down my cheeks. All I could think of is one thing: “يا رب احفظهم يا رب احقظهم” ( Allah, please protect them, please protect them)

I looked around me again; many girls now were crying.

Suddenly, a woman stood between us and shouted at the top of lungs:

“Those who are crying, go cry alone, or lock your tears in. We are not here to cry. We have Allah on our side and He will never let us down. Stop crying and pray and say يا رب يا رب يا رب”

All the women raised up their hands in the sky as one of the women started praying as loudly as she could while we all said “Ameeeeen” after her.
I can’t find the words that can describe how I felt at that moment. Injured men were still brought in to the crowds while we raise our hands asking Allah for His mercy and help. It was something I have never experienced before. Death was so close, so close that it could have taken anyone of us, and it did; but it took those who deserved it.

I lost count of the number of injured men who were brought to the field hospital as well as the number of fireworks in the sky. All I could hear was the sound of stones breaking next to me and people shouting and others chanting.

Standing there within all of this, I had flashbacks in my mind of the way I used to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters. Is this how they felt each time there was a clash?! I got flashbacks of the people who always abuse them with their words or actions. I got flashbacks of Mubarak and his old criminal regime. I got flashbacks of revolution.

It hurt. I wanted to scream out loud.

WHY DID THEY HAVE TO DIE?

Those guys were defending me, protecting me from those thugs and police that were attacking us. And after all that, they were called the killers, liars and criminals. WHY?!

I found my mother pulling me towards the other side asking me to move faster; I didn’t understand where we were going; I knew I didn’t want to leave. Apparently, we were leaving through a boat in the Nile, since there was no way out except through the Nile.

We got into a boat with many other women and families; we were running away as if we were criminals through the Nile. Very humiliating.

The boat driver asked us to remain silent as we passed under the 6th October bridge in order to avoid getting caught by the police or thugs. I looked around me, I could see the thugs shooting at the courageous men on our side, and I could see the fireworks on the other side.

We were dying  while they were celebrating.

I am home safe.

I am a coward. But that was only till today.

Not anymore.

-Soumaia Hashad-

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VIDEO: Understanding Egypt

In the following video, Egyptian Shimaa Helmy describes the recent military history of her country and answers some questions about government and power.

-Shimaa Helmy-

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‘Lone Ranger’ Premiere, Part II: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and a Mystery Woman

This piece was originally published at Indian Country Today. This is the second part of Simon Moya-Smith’s coverage of the Lone Ranger premiere held at Disneyland on Saturday, June 22. To read his first installment, click here.

Anaheim, CA–By 5 p.m. I was completely sunburnt – even my eyes felt singed by the scorch of the Southern California sun. I was seriously depleted of anything resembling energy. I was done. My knees were buckling underneath the weight of my tape recorder, sweat and even that faux black feather that landed ever so gently on my shoulder … No energy to flake it off. I was losing it.

Calmly, coolly coming down the red carpet, past the teen and tween Disney actors, past that juggling long-legged stilt master, was a finely bedecked LaDonna Harris, Comanche, president of Americans for Indian Opportunity. Harris, Johnny Depp’s adopted mother, wore hypnotic turquoise. I could hear the audible gasps of the white reporters around me. They don’t experience turquoise often – not like this. They see it on shelves in Middle American trading posts. Not on bona fide Indians, and definitely not on red carpets at Disneyland.

I spoke with Harris, the whole time feeling the bony fingers of my elders poking at me insistently: “You have one mouth and two ears for a reason. Shut up and listen.” So I did. I asked only questions, if I could, and then thanked LaDonna for sharing a moment with me – Simon, the oft-verbose pain in many asses.

Then along comes Johnny Depp. There was an immediate roar from the crowd, like teens at a TOOL concert. People pushed hard at my back. “Johnny! Over here! Johnny!” The actor’s name was shouted maddeningly … like cries from a sinking boat. And all I could think was, “Who is this lady standing in front of me?”

The lady had appeared almost immediately. I could see her eyeing the white, laminated sign I stood before. It read, “INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY.” She looked at it with a stare & glare, then said, “Here, Armie. Right here.”

Armie Hammer, the actor who plays John Reid/The Lone Ranger in the film, suddenly appeared in front of me, standing tall in a soft-grey suit and with a smile that could melt the hearts of the darkest demon.

I found myself before the man in the mask. … What do I ask him? I thought. I could jab him with something major – like, “What do you know of the plight of Native Americans today?” Or “What does ‘Redskin’ mean to you?” No, I thought. Just tag him with the question I laid on Bruckheimer. I have only a moment:

“Why should Native Americans support this film? Why should they watch it?”

“Because I think this is a great project and one of the few examples when you actually see the Native side,” he said. “You see what happens when, through the Industrial Revolution and the building of the railroads, there was exploitation of indigenous peoples across the entire continent. And this is a movie where they don’t paint it in a positive light. In fact, there’s a very serious thing that happens at the end of the movie, and I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a moment where you look at it and go, ‘Uh, yeah. We definitely didn’t handle that right.’ There’s no glorification of it. It’s a very real sort of side of what happened, and I think it’s a great side to see.”

Then, zip. Armie moved on and Johnny was gone, slipped past me somewhere behind Hammer during the interview. …Did they plan this? I thought. Was that an intentional diversion?

Who was the mysterious lady?

I didn’t get to speak to Johnny Depp, or even see him up close. But from the roar of the reporters and photographers, and the elbows in my back, I know he was there, in close proximity, just on the other side of Armie and the mysterious lady.

-Simon Moya-Smith-

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A Native at the ‘Lone Ranger’ Premiere, Part I: Jerry Bruckheimer and the Mosh Pit

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Indian Country Today.

From the story’s original editors: Late last week we received an unexpected call from our New York-based correspondent Simon Moya-Smith: He had obtained press credentials for the copy,000-a-ticket gala premiere of The Lone Ranger at Disneyland in Anaheim, outside of Los Angeles. He attended and was one of a few Native journalists on the scene for an event tied to a film that has sparked nearly endless debate in Indian country. We didn’t know what to expect — would he speak to Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto in the film and who has proven unresponsive to ICTMN’s invitations? Would he get to see the movie? Would anybody even talk to him? “Give it a shot,” we said. “It’s going to be a crazy circus. Get what you can.”

Anaheim, CA–At about 4 p.m., some slippery lookin’ reporter with a double chin and gigantic sweat beads on his brow asked me which outlet I was working for.

Indian Country Today,” I blurted.

“Hoping to interview Johnny Depp then?” he buzzed.

“No, man,” I said. “I’m here for the Ceremony. There’s going to be a fire later, and tobacco and spirits and all kinds of goodies. So keep the camera ready. They’re bringing in the wood now.”

My conversation with the portly camera handler was quick and ugly. Good, I thought. Talking to him was a waste of my time; I needed to watch this whole scene take shape. We, the journos, were huddled together like cattle ready for the slaughter. And any musician-turned-reporter will tell you that there’s very little difference between a press pit and mosh pit: throw your elbows. Avoid the wiggy drunkard in the middle. Gain the upper hand by staying low beneath the frenzy. Occasionally you may suffer a knee to the mouth, but it’s all in the name of The Story.

On my way out of the red carpet area, I caught a sudden glimpse of the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. He was straggling far behind the herd of ticket holders; the B-list celebrities and even the stars of the film had long made their way to end of the path, which, it occurred to me, was the exact shade of blood. Jerry B. was talking to a gesticulating show host who seemed too jittery in her posture not to be doped up on caffeine or coke or Red Bull. A moment later, I swooped in like a vulture hoping to steal some last scraps of meat (or at least nibble on the bone) of what looked like a rich interview. The Disney gods favored me that day, because as soon as I walked to the metal partition separating Bruckheimer from myself, the interview between Jerry and the frazzled reporter was over.

“Sweet Jesus, Jerry, do you have a second?” I shouted. “Indian Country Today. Can I ask you a few questions?”

My curious cry caught him off guard (as you want to do as a reporter in high-octane, red carpet situations like this — if you don’t grab their attention, they’ll keep on truckin’ and you’ll miss some seriously good comments or wisdom).

Bruckheimer obliged, and then I went in with the business that mattered to me. I asked the question that has been gnawing at so many of us from day one:Why?

“Why should Native Americans support this film? Why should they watch it?” I asked.

“It’s a retelling of a tale from a whole different perspective,” he said. “… From a Native American telling of the tale.”

Then zip. He was gone.

-Simon Moya-Smith-

 

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‘Lone Ranger’ Premiere, Part III: Debauchery, Cleavage and Good Works

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Indian Country Today. This is the third and final installment of Simon Moya-Smith’s reports from the Lone Ranger premiere at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. (See his previous pieces here and here.) The movie, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, opens nationally on July 3. Photos by Jonathan Wheelhouse.

Anaheim, California–“Ah, god! Jesus!” I shouted. “Here they come!” Several reporters behind me clawed at my back to see what the Hell this savage reporter was staring at. Suddenly, a gaggle of white kids, clad in faux Native garb and face paint, sauntered down the red carpet; Mom dancing jubilantly in front of them, snapping photographs and goading reporters with mics to interview her brood.

They had Ritalin grins and privilege in their eyes … but also ignorance – yes, I knew it had to happen. Someone had to do it. Costumed-bodies crowded the red carpet, and wherever there’s face paint and fringe, there will be a white Indian. You can bet your ass, slick. #Halloween.

But I don’t want to get into that now. First thing’s first: the cleavage.

Stilts guy at the Lone Ranger premiere. Photo by Jonathan Wheelhouse.

The Lone Ranger has caused a serious division in Indian Country, but we’re no stranger to that, are we? Divide & Conquer. We know the phrase – all too well. Nobody on this goddamn continent knows the detriments of the D&C quite like the indigenous peoples of this place, our place. “Remove the head and you kill the body.” That might’ve worked in 16thCentury Europe, but not here. No. You remove the head we honor it and then sprout another. We’re relentless like that. We’re the rock in the American shoe. Rumor has it that, at least once a week, President Andrew Jackson would wake up and find several stones in his boots. Jagged Toe Jack, they called him, and so do I.

I digress. … We were about to discuss the bathroom scene before we went on some odd rant about the DCs and heads and Jagged Toe Jack, the bastard.

After the wildly luxuriant premiere, we ended up at the Piano Bar in Hollywood. I was completely stoned. “When in Rome,” they say. And I certainly was in the back alleys of Rome that day. The premiere was over – for good or vicious ill, and I found myself reflecting on the afternoon, listening to my tape recorded interviews with Jerry Bruckheimer, Armie Hammer, LaDonna Harris, Saginaw Grant and others, when this large black man lunged into the urinal beside me.

“What are you listening to?” he asked.

“I’m not sure yet,” I said. “Some hits. Some flops.”

He stumbled a bit, nodded, urinated and then left without washing his hands, massaging the doorknob on his way out.

Alone again, standing in the narrow bathroom of some seedy dive just off the Sunset Strip, I wondered how I’d conclude this journey, this sojourn of wisdom and anger and edification and booze. Would I endorse the film? How could I? I haven’t even seen the end product, and I never endorse things without trying them on. Right.

The author wondering what, exactly, he has just witnessed. Photo by Jonathan Wheelhouse.

Later, I found myself leaning over the bar and writing frantically on several available napkins. I scribbled things like, “Disney is a corporation. Not an advocacy group” and “the [American Indian College Fund] earned hundreds of thousands of dollars today” – which is true. According to Public Education Director Dina Howerdel, the College Fund raised an estimated $266,000 as result of the premiere. That’s what we call a headline in this business, folks – especially in Indian Country.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find this rumpled napkin in my jacket pocket the next morning. “Fine news,” I recall saying as I burrowed my toes deep into the sand of Venice Beach. I had a plane to catch, back to New York, and as I dug deeper into my jacket pockets searching for more evidence of debauchery, I found a ripped parchment with several letters etched into it. The words read, “Keep it pure.” … So I will, and do exactly as my elder in Denver instructed:

“Watch the fucking film and then get back to me. Until then, you’re no expert on it.”

Sweet Jesus, I thought. That’s a solid argument. He should’ve been a lawyer. Cheers.

-Simon Moya-Smith-

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Open Communiqué by Migs (Mark Neiweem)

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at NATO5 Support.

Comrade Migs, NATO 5 prisoner

Greetings of solidarity, comrades and friends.

I sincerely hope this communiqué finds all of you in the very best of health and highest of revolutionary spirits.

I am coming to all of you with all the love and admiration in my heart to thank you for the love, compassion, and solidarity you’ve given me since I was captured, along with 4 other comrades and brothers in struggle, in May 2012.

As most of you know by now, I eventually took a non-cooperating plea after deciding trial was not the best option for me. Though some of you may be disappointed I didn’t “prove my innocence” at trial like so many expected me to do, others were relieved to finally have some closure and an end in sight. I feel I should say why I chose what I did, for this is the first time I’ve been able to speak about this case without formal state persecution.

There is no justice or truth in the United Snakes of Amerikkka’s Justice System. It’s a lie. Propaganda. Laws and courts are about politics, power, and privilege, though of course the Authorities pretend otherwise. I am in political opposition to the state and clearly would never receive a fair trial even if such a thing existed in the system. I am an Anarchist and directly oppose The United States Government, its allies, institutions, armies, and courts. I perceive their very existence to be a direct and immediate threat to freedom and life.

We were targeted and arrested because of our beliefs and love of life and humanity. Though I had the best lawyers who did so much and in so many ways were just really huge emotional supports through this as well (Steve and Matt, I love you), I did not want to go to trial. They argued and fought for me to have the opportunity to be released before my trial would have even started.

I had total faith in both Steve and Matt and the NLG as a whole. However, for me trial would accomplish nothing. If I were to be found not guilty, then what? I still endured all of this time in jail, losing a year of my life already and many, many other things. All of those losses were well worth it to me to stand for Anarchism in the face of Global Capitalism’s military arm. Even if I were “proven innocent,” the system would never clean house or call for the lynching of the pigs, state prosecutors, Feds, warmongers, politicians – the tyrants who orchestrate political and social persecutions, who build a neoslave trade of prisons and prison labor, who send our youth off to die and kill the poor overseas for money, etc. There would be no accountability as usual.

Their decision in court means nothing to me because I will not be deterred and because I do not acknowledge them as my masters or a legitimate Authority, period. I feel, plain and simple, that I have a job to do as an Anarchist and Activist and a revolutionary. And that is to rebel, resist, and defy (as my comrade Hybachi says) against tyrants. Though many political prisoners continue from behind bars to do beautiful work and projects, to organize within these institutions – because it is not over, prison isn’t the end by any means – the fact remains that we are more efficient and have access to more resources outside these walls.

I felt I had an obligation to all of you and myself to do what I needed to do, without compromising my values, to get back to fighting and pushing the best I can. That meant taking this 3-year plea so I can get out soon and get back to our collective struggle. I felt it was the best option I had and was the best for my comrades, friends, family, and myself, as well as our struggle.

Now I have to speak about what is most important to me by far. More than anything else, I want all of you to know that your support, and compassion and solidarity, throughout all of this was and is so incredible. I fail to articulate the extent of how it has truly touched me. You showed us so much solidarity I could never forget. The countless letters of support (the guards hated that) and encouragement and inspiration moved me in ways I struggle to articulate. Having all of my legal expenses paid for and the NLG standing with us. Having money raised for us to be able to buy food, hygiene supplies, stamps, etc from commissary regularly. I received regular visits from so many people.

All of these acts of solidarity continue to prove how beautiful our humanity and “the people” really are and display why we need not a State and a force to regulate and stunt our growth, to keep us from experiencing our full humanity. I was not allowed to be forgotten. I was loved and supported the entire journey, and even now in prison, I’m walking with you. Never alone.

So many of you I did not know before this, and I have made new connections with many groups and individuals. Many of these new, beautiful relationships, forged and birthed from state violence and repression, I will have for the rest of my life. I am so fortunate to be part of such a strong and amazing community and network of communities. Local and global, we’ve stood together.

The State uses prisons and jails to divide and alienate us, to break unity and solidarity, to divide and conquer – attack us individually, break our “individual will,” and scare us collectively. As long as you do not let go of our hands and we do not let go of your hands extended in solidarity to us through the rows of razor wire, this entire tool and tactic of imprisonment as well as their intended outcomes will fail!

Solidarity is the strongest weapon we have, and it works.

The State uses prisons to destroy our movements and crush resistance. They are tools to maintain social control and psychologically destroy the mind and will of the prisoner. The support given me has enabled me to convert all of the abuse and violence of my incarceration into more pushups in my revolutionary boot camp and not paralyzing bullets, like intended.

I, like many “political prisoners,” was targeted, beat, threatened, thrown in segregation, starved, refused medical treatment, and on and on for most of my stay to varying degrees. Now, some of the most violent, volatile, and sick individuals I’ve ever encountered (including anti-fascist struggles and maximum security inmate populations) are employed as guards at Cook County Jail. Because of your campaigns and actions, these violent fascists were ordered to no longer put their hands on me, and then refrained from doing so. They eventually turned to less aggressive (and nearly laughable in comparison) forms of harassment. Your pressure got me released early from “the hole” more than once, and in many ways my treatment and handling improved altogether.

I want all of you to know this because we learn from experience. We learn to resist more effectively. What I want to convey is: because I was given the aid I needed, I have been able to use this terrible State repression and miserable incarceration to become a much more confident, strong, and determined Anarchist and Activist. I could not have done that without you. I give you my full love and gratitude.

I would also like to extend a special thanks to the NATO 5 Defense Committee, the Anarchist Black Cross, the NLG (National Lawyers Guild), the Occupy movement, and all of the people who’ve penpalled me through it all. Thanks to those who worked so hard to raise awareness of our cases, raise money for our defenses, representation, and commissary, and share information on the tactics the State employed to entrap and railroad us, in order to prevent and counter future attacks on others by the same means.

I will never forget you as you never forgot me.

I hope to be back out, side by side with you soon enough, continuing to fight for total Liberation.

No prisoner left behind! Dot your I’s, cross your T’s, and Always circle your A’s!

Til my coffin drops and til the end of days, long live Anarchism!

In solidarity and struggle,

Comrade Migs
NATO 5

Government name: Mark Neiweem
Slave #: M36200
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

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