The Spokane 17–Defending Freedom–Power to the People–July 4, 2007
Posted by Arroyoribera on September 30, 2007
Legal defense teams are hard at work in Spokane on the behalf of the Spokane 17. These seventeen young people were arrested on July 4, 2007, following a coordinated action against them by the Spokane Police TAC* Team. (*See the end of this post for important information about the TAC unit).
Four and a half years into an illegal war of aggression and occupation by the United States government against the people of Iraq — a war which has cost $500 billion, 3800 U.S. lives, and in excess of half a million Iraqi lives — it is important to begin to look at this and other incidents in a broader historical context.
The 1960 and early 1970s in the United States were characterized by intensive efforts by local and state police departments, the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department and military intelligence to repress the activities of a wide array of organizations and individuals involved in the exploration of personal freedoms, the challenging of the status quo, and opposition to militarism, war, and political deceit. Much of this activity occurred as part of COINTELPRO operations and domestic CIA activities against U.S. citizens.
Much has been written on the mechanisms of state oppression. Noam Chomsky’s Domestic Terrorism: Notes on the State System of Oppression addresses “the effectiveness of the system of controls that has been in force for many years, the activities of the FBI being only the spearhead for far more extensive, substantial, and effective — if more low-keyed — measures enforced throughout American society.”
In this piece, Chomsky writes:
(quote) Given the historical context, it is entirely natural that the beginnings of protest and organization in the early 1960s set the apparatus of (state) repression into operation once again, in the manner described above and elsewhere. Nor is it surprising that American liberalism looked the other way, until the repression struck home under Nixon; and even then, it is important to emphasize once again, indignation was largely restricted to Nixon’s crimes, insignificant in comparison to the revelations of the same period. (end quote)
Chomsky analysis makes reference to the January 2, 1920 “Palmer raids”, which resulted in the arrest of nearly 4,000 (10,000 by other accounts) anarchists and other radicals. Chomsky describes US Attorney General Alexander Palmer as…
(quote) … a liberal and progressive. His purpose was “to tear out the radical seeds that have entangled American ideas in their poisonous theories.” His belief that the state has the authority to prevent these seeds from germinating is within the general framework of American liberalism. The mass media, the schools, and the universities defend ideological orthodoxy in their own, generally successful, ways. When a threat to reigning dogma is perceived, the state is entitled to act. (end quote)
The events of July 4, 2007, in Spokane were just one incident out of many around the country since the start of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And they will not be the last.
At the same time that we frame these events in a current national and international context, it is also important to view them within the history of Spokane and the actions of the Spokane City government and its police agents.
(quote) On November 2, 1909, the city government at Spokane, Washington, started to arrest the speakers of the I. W. W. (International Workers of the World) for holding street meetings. The locals at that point decided to fight the city and force it to allow the organization to hold street meetings. The fight lasted up to the first of March following, and resulted in compelling the city to pass a law allowing street speaking. Over 500 men and women went to jail during the free speech fight. Two hundred went on a hunger strike that lasted from 11 to 13 days, and then went from 30 to 45 days on bread and water; two ounces of bread per day. Four members lost their lives as a result of the treatment accorded them in this fight. (end quote) http://www.iww.org/cic/history/V_St_John.html
As the Spokane community prepares for the legal defense of these brave young people who on July 4, 2007, acted out of moral conviction and who represent informed American values and traditions, we are well advised to renew and deepen our sense of history as well as our perception of the threats we face if we fail to rise to occasion of defending our basic freedoms.
History simply keeps repeating itself. Facts and ideologies vary and the circumstances mask themselves in the idiosyncrasies of communities, individuals and historical contexts. The powers-that-be will ride this current wave of American imperialism and international lawlessness for as long as a cowed, distracted, and de-politicized public allows it.
Each local uprising, each act of collective resistance, and each moment of courage in the face of state power and societal complacency is to be defended, is to be celebrated, and is to be carefully protected from the efforts to distort it, to re-write it, and to demonize it.
For a number of reasons, I think it is an appropriate moment to re-visit the Trial of the Chicago 7 (which was the Chicago 8 until Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party was given a separate trial). The last of the three links following is the testimony of Abbie Hoffman.
* Spokane Police Department Tactical (TAC) Team
The TAC Team is a unit specializing in crowd management (e.g., at demonstrations, rock concerts, special events, etc.) and civil disturbance response and control. The unit consists of 36 officers, 1 sergeant, and one lieutenant. Currently, the SPD TAC Team is the only team from a Washington agency providing instruction through the Washington State Training Commission on riot control tactics and civil disturbance tactics. (For an article on the TAC unit, their January 13, 2007 training at Finch Elementary School, and photos of some 21 all-white TAC members, as well as their Lieutenant, Lt. Dave McGovern, please see page 4 of Chief Ann Kirkpatrick’s February 2007 Newsletter.)
Question: Given the events in Riverfront Park on July 4, 2007, and the unjustifiable conduct of the Spokane Police Department TAC Team, why would the SPD’s TAC Team — according to the Spokane Police Department website — be “the only team from a Washington agency providing instruction through the Washington State Training Commission (WSTC) on riot control tactics and civil disturbance tactics”?
I call on Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Washington State Senator Lisa Brown and other Spokane area legislators to demand an immediate investigation of the WSTC’s continued use of the Spokane Police Department TAC Team for such trainings.
Furthermore, given the fact that the SPD TAC Team has been conducting such trainings, there should be an immediate investigation of the impact upon the performance of police units and individual police personnel throughout the state who have received such training from the SPD TAC, as well as the impact on the public in specific instances in which SPD TAC-trained units and/or personnel have engaged the public with these so-called “riot control tactics and civil disturbance tactics”.
The people of Spokane are involved in an epic struggle to bring a renegade and unrepentant police department under civilian control. Given the atrocities committed by SPD officers over the last several years, elected officials such as Governor Gregoire, Attorney General McKenna, and Senator Lisa Brown, as well as organizations such as the ACLU, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, and the Spokane Human Rights Commission can no longer silently sit out this struggle without suffering the shame and discredit associated with closing their eyes to evident violations of the public trust.
SpokanePoliceAbuses.wordpress.com will continue to provide additional information on the SPD/TAC Team as well as past SPD/TAC members who now work as law enforcement consultants and trainers around the US and world — such as Andrew “Skip” Pavlischak, the retired 27 year Spokane Police Department veteran who works for tactical training contractors such as Front Range Training and Consulting LLC and Team One Network.
The people of Spokane are now awaiting appropriate investigatory and oversight actions by our elected officials and agency heads at the state, county and local levels.