Beast of the Month - May 2000
Charles Ramsey, Washington, D.C. Police Chief
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
NWA, Straight Outta Compton
In recent months, the public has seen revelations of widespread malfeasance by police officers in major cities. Whether it be the corruption surrounding the LAPD in the Los Angeles Rampart scandal or the increasingly Gestapo tactics of the NYPD blue under aspiring Mussolini Rudy Giuliani, there is a coast to coast pattern of public shock at the excesses of the American police state. The reports of ill police conduct have lead many to the big question: how the hell could this happen in the land of the free? All of these examples have climaxed to what clearly is the ultimate example of violation of civil liberties in the USA: the taking of Elian Gonzalez by INS agents in Florida.
But seriously, even those who believe Elian deserved to be returned to his father in respect to normal custody rights couldn't be thrilled at the prospect of SWAT-geared Federal stormtroopers taking a boy by force via submachine guns. (And for supposed liberals who bend over backwards to applaud the Klinton administration over its handling of the Elian affair, it is a sad indictment of Slick Willie and Janet Reno that some feel the need to congratulate them for not incinerating everyone to death.) Still, here's a little perspective: the disturbing behavior of the INS in the Gonzalez affair is nothing new to a thuggish agency that regularly violates individual rights in the supposed battle against illegal immigration. While the korporate media began a shrill call of horror and right-winged politicians demanded Congressional hearings over the dubious actions in Miami, writer Jim Redden perhaps put it best: "Where have (the mass media) been for the past 30 years?" Apparently, it's okay to violate due process and use unnecessary force so long as the victims aren't tied in to a Cuban community with major connections to the CIA.
Unsurprisingly, there were no calls for Congressional hearing for the even more widespread use of force in their own backyard last month. While feigning outrage over the abuse of Elian and his Miami relatives, little sympathy could be heard for the victims of Washington, D.C. police during the protests of the IMF and the World Bank, attacks led by Police Chief Charles Ramsey, The Konformist Beast of the Month.
"They ain't burning our city like they did in Seattle. I'm not going to let it happen. I guarantee it." So said Ramsey in a warning to the protesters before waging war against them. Never mind that Seattle actually wasn't burned by WTO protesters, and that the widespread physical violence in Grungeopolis was actually the police beating opponents of korporate globalization. His point was understood: the Battle of Seattle was a fight over the future, whether or not power was going to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands under the fraudulent banner of "free trade". For all the abuse that was heaped upon protesters by Seattle authorities and the attempt to convince the public that WTO policies really are good for you, the battle was clearly won by opponents of the Evil Empire, who took on an institution which covertly had gained worldwide influence and turned it into a focus of international debate. Ramsey and his cohorts were planning to make sure that the sequel to Seattle in the nation's capital turned out more like Episode V, with the Empire striking back.
Ramsey had quite some help in his battle plan: his Executive Assistant was Terrance Gainer, who in December 1997 was a BOTM in his own right for his part in the repulsive treatment of Shirley Allen, a 51-year-old women victimized in Roby, Illinois during a 39-day siege over refusing to comply with a court ordered mental health screening. (That she survived 39 days with no power or food and water supplies proved she was very capable of handling herself, which was what the screening was supposed to determine.) More important, he had another force solidly in his corner: the korporate media, who with little dissent condemned the protesters. "The Wrong Way to Exercise a Right," declared The Baltimore Sun on April 14th, summing up the official line. "Return of the Luddites," smugly declared Charles Krauthammer in Time Magazine, dismissing the "kooky crowd" of "one-world paranoids" and "the leftover left." That was kinder than how some put it, who tried to claim that the protesters were unwittingly hurting their own cause. "Hostility to Free Trade No Aid to World's Poor," declared The Abilene Reporter-News, as though mass poverty was the fault of those opposed to korporate kontrol. In another article, the paper gushed "Free Trade's a Friend, Not Our Worst Enemy." Yes, global economics really is good for you, you ignorant, ungrateful fools. All of the korporate machine propaganda flew in the face of facts, provided courtesy of a Disinformation Dossier:
The World Bank, which launders money for large corporations by offering loans to poor countries in exchange for reduced trade barriers, lower environmental standards, aggressive anti-labor laws and the elimination of subsidies, is a key player in economic globalization. Once all the barriers are down, the client states have no choice but to accept heavy investment from multinational corporations, which extract natural resources and labor power but offer little in exchange. Not one country has successfully developed thanks to the World Bank's system, and those few Third World countries that have become industrial or trade powers (South Korea, Taiwan, the OPEC states) have done so by doing the exact opposite of what the World Bank prescribes.
Meanwhile, Ramsey and his troops were cheered on by the korporate press. "Hail to the Chief -- and His Cops" was the claim from The Washington Post, appropriately on the infamous date of April 19th. The praise hid the fact that protesters were often illegally arrested in mass, with over 1,300 in 2 days, according to Marc Cooper in the L.A. Weekly, with the usual baton bashing and pepper sprayings that accompany such activities. According to Vergi Bushnell, a witness to one mass arrest:
There was no evidence of mayhem, broken glass, graffiti, or any other potentially criminal activity. These people were arrested for nothing other than assembling in a peaceful manner and expressing their views. Occasionally I would try to ask a nearby officer why the protesters were arrested. My queries were usually met with an ubiquitous stony stare and silence.
You'd think this would be worth reporting on by the mainstream media, but apparently not. As Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) would inform it's readers, no less than the New York Times would shut out IMF/World Bank critics on its influential Op-Ed page. Instead, it ran diatribes from mouthpieces such as Thomas L. Friedman that a "contemptible" group of "economic quacks" were behind the protests, who deserve to be labeled "The Coalition to Keep the World's Poor People Poor" and given "the back of your hand." (Chief Ramsey was quite eager to do precisely that.) This followed the attempts of the IMF and World Bank to bar community journalists from the D.C. Meetings.
Which leads us back to the opening question: how the hell could this happen in the land of the free? The truth is, events such as those in D.C. and Seattle (and New York, Los Angeles, and, yes, even Miami) happen and will continue to do so, as long as information distribution is concentrated in the hands of an oligarchy that benefits from police state tactics in its defense. Charles Ramsey and others like him will continue to lead vicious operations against basic rights so long as it is accepted and excused by those who should be speaking out against it.
In any case, we salute Charles Ramsey as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Chuck!!!
ELIAN RAID: FACE OF FASCISM
POLICE STATE TARGETS THE LEFT
Disinformation Dossier: A16: The World Bank Versus The World
IMF Bars Community Journalists from D.C. Meetings
New York Times Op-Ed Page Shuts Out IMF/World Bank Critics
Protests in Washington Clash With Media Spin
Norman Solomon, April 13, 2000, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
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Los Angeles, California 90024-0825
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