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News :: Human Rights : Media : Organizing : Police and Prisons
Indybay Censorship, Sabotage, and Defamation
by Steven Argue
16 Dec 2016
In organizing "Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith protests, the Revolutionary Tendency works in a non-sectarian manner with protest co-sponsor Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom and with participation and support from Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs, 15-year-old Luke Smith’s mother, Luke Smith’s class mates, and with food and coffee provided by Joe Schultz of India Joze. As these are grass-roots community events, one would think that the “non-hierarchical” censors at Indybay could look beyond their unexplained and seemingly irrational hatred, censorship, sabotage, and defamation of these community events demanding justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith. Yet, this is not the case.
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Indybay Censorship, Sabotage, and Defamation
I Never Called For “Community Control of the Police”
By Steven Argue
Indybay, a supposed leftist alternative media source providing self-publishing for the people, is censoring posts for community organized events that are protesting the police and sheriff killings of Sean Arlt and Luke Smith. Here is a link to one of several of these postings that have been censored. The following link, which would otherwise be to that event, shows how almost all of it has been deleted and the rest has been crossed-out (that is, it shows that, unless Indybay censors have since rerouted the link, as they have done in the past):
Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith! (Censored)
The full text of what Indybay has censored, a protest being held Sat. Dec. 17th in Santa Cruz, can be found at the following Facebook event page description. We encourage people to sign up and invite your Facebook friends.
Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith! (December 17th Facebook page)
For some mainstream media coverage of one of our past protests on these issues check out the following KION Coverage:
After December 17th, there will be continued actions. We have been doing these protests every Saturday at 1:30, but will skip Christmas Eve on the 24th. Past events on this issue were also censored by Indybay, and we expect this to continue into the future. People can get updates on these events by subscribing to the following site:
Liberation News (Internationalist)
For those who are unfamiliar, Indybay is part of an international network of other regional sites that go by the name “Indymedia”. Indybay is a site that claims to provide open publishing "support for local, regional and global struggles against exploitation and oppression.” They also falsely claim to be “organized along anti-authoritarian principles of open and transparent decision-making processes, including open public meetings; a form of modified consensus; and the elimination of hierarchies.” It is on these premises that they obtain donations from the communities that they supposedly give voice.
It has, however, become clear that Indybay’s promises are not reality based. Despite the false claims of Indybay, their hierarchy is presently censoring notices of important community events calling for “Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith!” Despite their claims of “transparency”, they are carrying out these acts of censorship without any explanation to the community and organizations they have censored. As bad as that censorship and lack of transparency are, this gets far worse and more malicious.
Indybay Sabotage and Defamation
In addition to Indybay censorship of the "Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith!" events, when one of the event postings was removed, the widely-circulated URL link to that specific censored posting was redirected by the Indybay censors to a different event that had already occurred in the past. This act of sabotage against a widely-circulated link likely confused some people and prevented them from attending our event.
Not only did the censors at Indybay redirect people to an event notice that one would need a time machine to attend, the event posting that the Indybay censors redirected people to falsely states that the piece is written “by Steven Argue”, when in fact I had no hand in writing it at all. Furthermore, I oppose the demands that were put down in that writing in my name and find them extremely embarrassing. That event posting also fails to include the central demands of our protests. Yet, the “anti-authoritarian” Indybay censors have deleted my comment section postings stating I am not the author as well. In the statements that they delete, I have attempted only the most basic clarification by saying nothing more than, “I did not write the above post, despite being attributed as the author.”
The redirection of this URL by the Indybay censors combined with the deletion of this elementary clarification can then only be seen as a malicious defamation of both me and the community protests I represent. This redirected link was widely distributed locally, nationally, and internationally. For some of us involved who take our program and demands very seriously, associating our name with what we do not support is a serious act of defamation that tarnishes our image. The deletions by the Indybay censors of my attempt to simply say that I did not write that post makes clear that these acts of censorship, sabotage, and defamation were carried out, and continue to be carried out, with the upmost malicious intent.
The date of the event at the redirected link was December 3rd, but my deleted event posting was to occur on December 10th. An event on the same issue had been held on December 3rd, as these protests are being held weekly, but clearly that event had already happened. It was a fellow activist who posted that Dec. 3rd notice before that event occurred. He mistakenly posted his embarrassing demands in my name due to two innocent facts. First, he wanted to credit me and not himself as a central organizer of the event. Second, he felt rushed to get the post up himself as I was busy working out of town for a couple of days.
If not for the redirected URL of the Indybay censors, however, this problem was otherwise corrected soon after the posting for Dec. 3rd event. I made clear, and the other activist in question accepted, that both I and the Revolutionary Tendency never wanted to be associated with those demands ever again, nor should those be put forward as the demands of the protests we are organizing. Fact is, it is likely that nobody would have ever looked at that Dec. 3rd posting ever again were it not for the censors at Indybay deleting our notice for the December 10th event and redirecting those who clicked that URL to the obsolete December 3rd posting. This brought back an otherwise resolved problem due to the fact that this sabotaged redirected link, just before it was sabotaged, was widely distributed locally, nationally, and internationally by Liberation News and the Revolutionary Tendency.
Unfortunately, Indybay is now opposed to the simplest acts of common decency in allowing individuals and organizations the most basic right to our own words without the libel of misquotes that they are currently promoting against us. As a result, I must now also respond to the demands that they are falsely promoting as my own words. I have three main fundamental differences with the posting under my name. The first two are specific to the demands that I think need to be raised in the Sean Arlt and Luke Smith cases. The third is a demand raised in my name that I view as a fundamental violation of my political ideology.
Libel Number One: Police Claims of a Rake
First. the post falsely attributed to my name states, “Lethal shooting is NOT a necessary response to individuals carrying a rake…”. This fails by omitting one of the most fundamental questions, the fact that the police have never backed-up their claims that Sean Arlt even threatened them with a rake. We will not know whether or not there is any credibility to police claims that Sean Arlt ever threatened anyone with a rake until the audio and video is released which police claim backs their story. I am strongly opposed to all statements that concede a rake was involved as this one did. All flyers and notices actually written by me before and after that posting made this clear. Here is an example still found on current flyers:
“The Santa Cruz Police claim they killed Sean Arlt to prevent him from attacking them with a garden rake. They also say audio and video back their story. We say prove it. Release the audio and the video NOW! We are outraged at the stonewalling by City Manager Martin Bernal, Police Chief Kevin Vogel, Mayor Cynthia Mathews, and the entire Santa Cruz City Council--allowing the police to withhold the video and audio of the incident and the name of Arlt's killer. Even if the police version of events is true, which we in no way assume to be the case, we ask why four cops could not subdue Sean Arlt without shooting him in the head and chest. Why weren’t tactics of de-escalation used? Why didn’t police use less lethal force like a Taser or aim for his legs? Yet, until the audio and video is released, we don’t assume that the police are telling the truth about anything. As far as we know, there may not have even been a rake involved.
“We are also outraged at the corporate media’s coverage, taking the unproven allegations of the police as fact. For instance, stories that identify Sean Arlt as “the man who attacked police with a metal rake” should insert the word “allegedly”. Until the police release their evidence, all we have is an unproven allegation by the police. The corporate media show their blatant bias by treating unproven police claims as fact.
“We are reminded of the Santa Cruz police murder of homeless activist John Dine in 1997. The police falsely claimed that John Dine was pointing a toy gun at them, but all independent eyewitnesses contradicted this lie. Some eyewitnesses were so outraged that they became activists on the issue. John Dine was, however, murdered by the Santa Cruz police with complete impunity.”
We must be very careful not to get sucked into circulating police lies and propaganda as fact. In the case of John Dine, the eyewitness evidence is clear. John Dine never pointed a toy gun. Instead, the police murdered him in cold blood and lied about the entire incident. Everyone who circulated the “toy gun story as fact” scenario, even if it was with arguments about better “mental health training for police”, or whatever, were actually circulating police lies and propaganda as fact. In the police killing of Sean Arlt, ever since he was killed on October 16th, 2016, all authorities have suspiciously refused to release any real evidence while at the same time making unsubstantiated claims about a rake. Anyone who treats police claims of a rake in Sean Arlt’s hands as fact, no matter what their arguments may be regarding lethal force or mental health, are still circulating unsubstantiated police propaganda. The protest notice falsely attributed to me, by failing to question police claims of a rake in any way, submits to this police propaganda in a manner that I strongly oppose.
Fire and Jail Deputy Chris Vigil!
My second objection to the post that is wrongly attributed to my name, and promoted by the Indybay censors, is that it fails to call for the criminal prosecution of Deputy Chris Vigil on charges of murder for shooting and killing Luke Smith. At the time that Deputy Chris Vigil opened fire on Luke Smith with an AR-15 rifle, fifteen-year-old Luke Smith was at a safe distance and, despite holding a small 4-inch knife and being high on LSD, clearly was no immediate threat to anyone. This shooting by Deputy Vigil was, as a result, an act of murder. We call for the immediate firing of Deputy Chris Vigil and his prosecution on the charge of murder. The notice posted in my name also failed on these most basic of demands in a manner that I would have never done.
Community Control of the Police?
My third objection to that post that is wrongly attributed to me is the fact that it states, “We will be speaking out demanding strong changes in local law enforcement to establish real community control over the armed agencies.” Yet, I have been active against police brutality ever since I was a young teenager in the 1980’s, but I have never once, including now, supported demands for community control of the police.
My first stand against police brutality was when the police handcuffed and shot Hal Saran Scott in the head right near my high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. As usual, the police got away with murder. In that case, they did it by intimidating eyewitnesses into silence. I continued to stand-up to the police, including leading a walk-out of hundreds of students at my high school, St. Paul Central, demanding the police be removed from our school and our doors be unlocked. I soon became a victim of false arrest and brutal police beatings myself, but was backed in my struggle for justice by the Inner-City Youth League, American Indian Movement, Young Socialist Alliance, Progressive Student Organization, and the Socialist Workers Party.
Yet, never then, and never in my decades of experience standing up to police violence since, have I ever supported the demand of community control of the police. My organization, the Revolutionary Tendency, holds the same position. The reason is simple. We refuse to lie to the people. It is our opinion that community control of the police will only be won through proletarian socialist revolution that smashes the capitalist state and establishes a new police force representing working class interests. No reform of bourgeois police forces will do this and, in our opinion, any real community control of the police under the capitalist system is a pipe-dream. As revolutionary socialists, we are not going to lie to the public, selling them some snake-oil prescription that somehow democracy and community control of the police is possible under the capitalist system.
Under our current system, the purpose of all bourgeois cops in the United States is to defend the established bourgeois order of exploitation of the majority by the wealthy capitalists who actually own this country and its politicians. That is to say, the purpose of the bourgeois cops is to serve and protect the rich while oppressing and terrorizing leftists, poor people, Black and brown people, and the working class in general. This includes the police carrying out orders to make sure that actual working class democracy does not come to the USA. Likewise, all Santa Cruz cops are required, unless they quit, to uphold the city's discriminatory laws against homeless people. Cops throughout the United States play the role of slave catchers in the mass incarceration of the poor by enforcing drug laws. In addition, even the supposed "good cops" of myth are silent when other cops make-up charges, frame people, use excessive force, or murder people. Likewise, to keep their jobs, cops in the Bay Area and everywhere else in the United States carry out other political orders from their superiors to oppress leftists, protests, and strikes when this is deemed necessary by the ruling class. Brutality, murder, and other crimes from these cops is also generally allowed with impunity because this maintains a loyal police force willing to do the dirty work of the bourgeoisie. We cannot tell a lie. Community control of such forces, whose main purpose is to oppress our communities, is about as absurd as demanding an anti-racist KKK. It runs counter to their entire purpose and reason for existence.
The oppressive and brutal role of the bourgeois cops is a central component of the capitalist state itself. The capitalist state is at its heart its cops, courts, prisons, and military. Any study of history and international current events shows that the role of the capitalist state is one that is universally so entrenched in preserving capitalist injustice that it cannot be transformed into the opposite of its current role and become an instrument of the working class under any reforms that supposedly bring “community control”.
Karl Marx also observed and correctly argued these points in a piece on the Paris Commune written in May, 1871, where he supported a declaration of the Paris Commune stating, “They have understood that it is their imperious duty, and their absolute right, to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power.” Marx backed this declaration of the Paris Commune for the smashing of the capitalist state saying, “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.” Marx listed components of that capitalist state at that time in France to include “its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature…”
During the Paris Commune, much of the French military had disintegrated, but the Paris Commune didn’t raise its own standing army to thoroughly abolish the old order and defend the working-class revolution. As a result, the Paris commune was eventually crushed by a motley mish-mash of counterrevolutionary troops slopped together by the French bourgeoisie. With the victory of the counterrevolution, around 20,000 communard men, women, and children were slaughtered. Vladimir Lenin cited this as an example of how the “bourgeoisie will stop at nothing.” Another lesson not lost on Marx and Lenin was the need for the working-class revolution to establish a strong professional standing army and police force of the workers’ state capable of defeating the capitalist counterrevolution.
I agree with Lenin and Marx. The capitalist state, including its police forces, cannot be reformed. They must instead be smashed and liquidated in a proletarian socialist revolution. It is only through such a seizure of power by the working class, establishment of a workers’ state, and the establishment of a planned socialist economy through the total expropriation of the bourgeoisie, that the new police force will cease to be instruments of brutality and oppression for the wealthy capitalist class. While police oppression and brutality have also been carried out on behalf of privileged bureaucratic rulers in deformed socialist workers’ states, it is our position that unlike capitalism, this is not inherent in the socialist system and can be curtailed through establishing legitimate institutions of workers’ democracy and workers’ debate, eliminating bureaucratic privileges, and fighting to build socialism on a world scale.
It should be added that despite our recognition that the socialist systems established after Stalin took power had the deficiencies of bureaucratic privileges, a lack of real workers’ democracy, and police abuses, we also don’t back western imperialist lies against these systems either. Every socialist revolution, through their planned socialist economies, brought major advancements in education, employment, healthcare, housing, development, and women’s rights while some also brought substantial advancements for oppressed nationalities and the environment as well.
Within this context, not all police measures of these deformed workers’ states have been wrong, despite what western imperialist propaganda would have us think. For instance, before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the U.S. backed capitalist dictatorship of Batista murdered 20,000 people. After the revolution, the Castro leadership executed a few hundred of these torturers and murderers, including brutal cops that would have never been brought to justice under capitalism, like Santa Clara Police Chief Cornelio Roja. Likewise, Cuba has since jailed people who have violated the law, including 75 co-conspirators in 2003 who were proven in court to be part of a CIA plot of destabilization. While criticizing some legitimate problems that occur in socialist Cuba, we also answer Yankee imperialist lies that portray legitimate acts of self-defense and punishment as repression no different than that which is dished out by the capitalist states. The people of Cuba, on every level, are far better off today than they were under the U.S. imposed mass murderer Batista and we support their right to defend those gains from imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution.
For the sake of unity in the fight against police brutality in Santa Cruz, California, however, we have been happy to drop the debate on “community control of the police” versus “proletarian socialist revolution” in favor of working unity to demand justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith. In this manner, the Revolutionary Tendency works in a non-sectarian manner with protest co-sponsor Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom and with participation and support from Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs, 15-year-old Luke Smith’s mother, Luke Smith’s class mates, and with food and coffee provided by Joe Schultz of India Joze. As these are grass-roots community events, one would think that the “non-hierarchical” censors at Indybay could look beyond their unexplained and seemingly irrational hatred, censorship, sabotage, and defamation of these community events demanding justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith. Yet, this is not the case.
Indybay Censorship on Mumia
Besides Indybay censorship against events demanding justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith, other unexplained cases of censorship have occurred on Indybay as well. On December 16th, an article written by the IBT covering a December 9th protest demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal was censored by Indybay. Here is a link to that censored article:
Thirty-five Years too Long - Free Mumia Now!
That article stated in part:
“To mark the 35th anniversary of the frame-up of American political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and to protest the criminal refusal by prison authorities to provide necessary medication, IBT comrades in Toronto, Canada, Wellington, New Zealand, and Oakland, California co-sponsored united-front demonstrations with a variety of organizations. A demonstration was also held in Philadelphia.”
Indybay Censorship on the Cannibal Cop
Just this December as well, censors at Indybay also removed, again without explanation, another article that I wrote. That piece in question was also against police misconduct, specifically covering the case of the cannibal cop in New York City.
My piece protested the overturn of the conviction, upon appeal, of the cannibal cop in New York City. It explained that while nobody has ever produced evidence that the cannibal cop ever killed and ate any women, the cop’s crime did go far beyond a supposed “thought crime”. Yes, the current bourgeois laws of the United States do allow the cannibal cop, Gilberto Valle, to share his fantasies of kidnapping women, cooking them alive to inflict maximum pain, and then consuming their meat.
Sick fantasies are allowed in the United States. Yet, the cannibal cop took concrete steps that crossed the line between pretending and plotting. This included using his position as a cop to illegally access FBI files to find women with profiles he thought would make for vulnerable and easy victims. He then used this illegally collected contact information to stalk them. He also kept individual files on each intended victim with personalized plans to kidnap, cook, and eat each one based on illegally obtained information. Furthermore, he also conspired with self-identified experienced cannibals on the internet who gave him advice on the best methods for cooking women alive.
It is the position of the Revolutionary Tendency that the exoneration of the cannibal cop was a gross injustice which continues to perpetuate the impunity with which the police in the United States get away with crimes. It also shows the bourgeois state’s blatant disregard for the safety of women. Yet, as bad as that is, the criminal injustice system of this country has also allowed cops to cook women alive with impunity as well.
One case is that of Marcia Powell who was cooked to death by prison guards in an Arizona prison on May 20th, 2009. When Marcia Powell, a white woman in prison for prostitution, complained of being suicidal, she was placed in an outdoor holding cell in the full sun in the 107-degree Fahrenheit heat. In that cage, her requests for water were denied by prison screws. As Marcia Powell’s condition deteriorated, her screams of pain and pleas for help were also ignored by prison guards for hours as she lost control of bodily functions and was cooked to death. After she died, her core temperature was measured at 108 degrees Fahrenheit and she was found to have suffered first and second degree burns on her face and body.
None of the misogynistic prison guards who tortured and murdered Marcia Powell was ever charged for their crimes. Likewise, a temporary suspension in using these outdoor oven torture chambers was lifted after media publicity of Marcia Powell’s murder died down.
Indybay Censorship Motive?
As I have shown, the Indybay censors have deleted and, in one case attacked, libeled, and sabotaged events opposing police injustices. These events include those organized by a coalition of forces demanding justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith, a piece demanding justice for frame-up victim Mumia Abu-Jamal written by a group I am not even connected to, the International Bolshevik Tendency, and another piece I wrote exposing injustices in the case of the Cannibal Cop in New York City.
The supposedly “transparent” and “anti-authoritarian” censors at Indybay, however, have consistently failed to explain their reprehensible behavior. In speculating at a motive, one could perhaps look at what is censored and see a liberal pro-capitalist and pro-cop bias. Or, perhaps more likely, the Indybay censors are so filled with sectarian hatred towards revolutionary socialists like myself that they are willing to censor, sabotage, and libel everything we are part of, even when we are organizing joint actions with the wider community.
For over a decade and a half, I shared my hard work on Indybay, sometimes with featured front-page articles, and I spread links to their site far and wide. Through this, I brought large amounts of traffic to their site, including people who have perused their site and made donations. I don’t know the motive for what started these attacks by Indybay against me for certain, as they in all their “transparency” explain nothing, but I am certainly a focus of their sectarian hatred now as all of my work is presently being deleted. Perhaps Indybay will someday try to explain their indefensible behavior against me and the wider community, but what is more important right now is organizing an alternative to Indybay.
Facebook is Not the Needed Long-Term Alternative
Many of the links I have posted here as an alternative to what has been deleted at Indybay are instead on Facebook. It is a sad irony that Facebook, a capitalist social media site with its own history of censorship of events organizing against police brutality, the struggle for Palestinian justice, LGBT rights, and those calling for a boycott of British Petroleum after BP’s 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, presently has less censorship on the issue of demanding justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith than a supposedly anarchist, leftist, and anti-authoritarian site like Indybay.
Still, some of my work has been censored on Facebook as well, while new threats to freedom of speech are also on the horizon at Facebook as they begin moves towards flagging and potentially filtering out what they deem to be “fake news”. Panels of “fact checkers” are being set-up on Facebook that include the corporate news media sources of ABC News and the Associated Press. The irony is that it is these kinds of sources that pass off fake news with zero credible sources, like the supposed atrocities carried out by the Kurdish YPG and Syrian Arab Army with their recent liberation of Aleppo from U.S. sponsored Wahhabist rebels, or the Putin’s supposed hacking into Clinton e-mails as well as the U.S. corporate owned electronic voting machines. Those who spread fake news will now be the gate keepers on what is real at Facebook. For those interested in learning more of some of the issues of censorship on Facebook and potentially fighting back, people can join the following site I started:
End Facebook Censorship!
It is also interesting that corporate Facebook still allows discussion of their site’s own censorship on their own pages. Indybay, on the other hand, allows zero discussion of its censorship on their site. In this author’s experience, all questions or complaints regarding censorship on the Indybay site are immediately deleted by their “anti-authoritarian” censors.
Part of our past reliance on Indybay is that we have lacked our own professional website, largely relying on Indybay as well as an e-mail site at Riseup! called Liberation News, and posting at several sites I have established at Facebook. Boston Indymedia has also been useful, but it is not local. Pure necessity is now pushing us to remedy this situation by setting up a professional website, in part using Indymedia models of self-publishing, local, national and international pages, and local event notifications. We are seeking site designers, donations, and volunteers to establish such an alternative website to Indybay. People can contact us at: liberation_news (at) lists.riseup.net and make donations at the following site:
Donations for Revolutionary Voices Website
-Steven Argue, for the Revolutionary Tendency
Revolutionary Tendency (Like us on Facebook)
Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith!
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New Event Page for the 31st
by Steven Argue
(No verified email address)
17 Dec 2016
Modified: 06:21:57 AM
Justice for Sean Arlt and Luke Smith! (December 17th Facebook page)
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