The Witch Hunt For Activists
Above is a photo of police infiltrators in Barcelona who later threw rocks at police to justify police violence against protesters. The photo shows the police infiltrators: On the left, they are preparing for duty alongside their riot police colleagues, on the right they are posing as anarchists among the protesters.
Occupy Radio interviewed reporter Kevin Gosztola on the NATO 3 trial, the surveillance state, the rise of counter-terrorism operations, and the use of terrorism law in relation to activists. Listen here: http://occupythemedia.podomatic.com/entry/2014-02-20T00_23_50-08_00
Cops need criminals. Otherwise, there’s no reason for police to exist. Likewise, counter-terrorism agencies need terrorists to justify the billions of taxpayer dollars the U.S. Government spends preventing their attacks.
There’s just one problem. Terrorists are relatively rare.
So, every now and then, undercover cops have got to go out and drum up some likely suspects to reassure the public that our money isn’t being wasted. The agents go to activist communities, sit around in anarchist cafes, hang out at punk rock concerts, and pop into open air, general assemblies. After getting the lay of the land, they start to advocate violence . . . just to see if there are any violence-prone potential terrorists in the crowd. The agents then arrest the individuals they have actively encouraged to consider violent means. Some would call this entrapment, but, apparently, the courts disagree.
Forgive me for being less than grateful to the undercover agents who disrupt meetings, encourage violent tendencies, and even go so far as offer instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails, but this is hardly amusing to those of us in the activist community who take nonviolence – and our work – seriously.
“Terrorist” and “activist” are not synonymous terms. Just as Muslim communities resent – and rightly so – the profiling of their people and the infiltration of their mosques, so do nonviolent activists find the interfering presence of undercover agents to be insulting to our integrity as human beings.
The terrorist label is being applied to activists to suppress dissent, in violation of our Constitutional Rights. Organizers, activists, political dissidents and dissenters, are some of the first citizens to be denied their rights when a State slides toward authoritarianism, fascism, or totalitarianism. The civil liberties of a democratic society are denied them. The protection of the courts devolves into a mockery of justice. The abuses of police power are upheld while the basic human and civil rights of the dissenter are ignored.
It is a very old story. Even terrorism is a stale hat trick. Using the fear generated by 9/11, the government justifies broad scopes of activities that would previously have been untenable to the public. The terrorist label is slapped on activists – first the ones like the NATO 3, who were easy targets unlikely to ignite public empathy, then onto more and more activists until the act of dissent itself is claimed to be a method of terrorizing the public. What seems Orwellian at this moment is simply the slow slide of inevitable chains of causes and effect: departments need money; government funds counter-terrorism; such operations require terrorists; agents fabricate them where they can’t find them; as more activists are arrested and brought to trial, the public slowly accepts the reasoning of the authorities; activism is further marginalized; the sanctity of the State is strengthened, and dissent becomes terrorism.
The Red Scare, the Salem Witch Hunt and Nazi Germany all bear witness to where this trend leads. There is a famous saying by Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The witch hunt for activists has only just begun. As public unrest grows, as movements build, and the people seem ready to rise up against the tyranny of the state, we will see more intentional persecution of activists.
The populace is already being primed for it. Outside of social media and alternative, independent journalism, the bulk of the population is fed the rhetoric of the corporate-political state by the media machine. This system profits from the persecution and marginalization of activists. By covering the NATO 3 trial instead of the thousands of peaceful demonstrations that occur, the media ensure that the mass of our nation continue to identify with the status quo of the State against angry, extremist, violence-prone activists. In this world of deception and lies, the people view our dangerous regimes as sane, rational, and reasonable . . . and citizens exercising their Constitutional Rights as extremists.
Independent journals, alternative media, and activists have a responsibility to dispel the sensationalized stereotypes of the mainstream media. The NATO 3 trial, regardless of its verdict, served to reaffirm the public’s negative perception of activism. The burden of changing this portrayal is central to the success of the many movements for justice, equality, peace, and environmental sanity. Unless activism becomes accepted and participated in by the mainstream, the marginalized few can never hope to wield the strength to effect lasting social change.
Fortunately, we have truth on our side. The many faces of activism stretch across all divides. Conservative ranchers, native tribes, and environmentalists alike stand opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline. North Carolina’s Moral Mondays campaign is gathering veterans, elderly, families, and crossing the racial divide. Six thousand business websites, online journals, and individuals placed a banner opposing online surveillance across their homepages. Lawmakers in four states introduced legislation to cut off power and water to NSA offices for violations of our Constitution. The reality of activism is a breath of fresh air in the polluted world of lies. We are a drink of clean water in a toxic sludge of misinformation. We offer hope . . . a wild hope, because rather than propelling our country further into disaster, we are striving for change.
Truth is a powerful force.
Listen to Occupy Radio: NATO 3, and the US Terror State with Kevin Gosztola
Author/Actress Rivera Sun is a co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network, a co-host on Occupy Radio, and, in addition to her new novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is also the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. www.riverasun.com
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