American policing can’t be reformed

I know all my friends want police violence to stop as much as I do. But we must understand that there are no reforms that can change the values at the very foundation of American policing, and those are white supremacy, patriarchy, and violence. 

We don’t need kinder, gentler slave catching patrols. We don’t need cops that learn to behave better only when we are filming them. We need to starve (defund) the beast while we reinvest in structures designed for community care, restorative justice, and public safety. 

We don’t need to have all the answers to know that the current systems are unacceptable. Let’s educate each other and start having conversations about what comes next.

If you need a place to start, Eight to Abolition and the BREATHE Act offer a way forward.

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC

None of us are free until all of us are free

One year ago today, I and eight other lovely humans were arrested by the Graham Police Department as we attempted to walk to the Alamance County Detention Center and hold a Jewish-led ceremony to say #NeverAgain, to mourn the many who have suffered at the hands of ICE, and to protect the ICE detainees currently held by Alamance County’s racist sheriff Terry Johnson.

Half of the group is STILL being charged, but the nine of us are fortunate to have the freedom to not be detained while we await trials. Unfortunately others are not as lucky. With COVID the jail is even more inhumane than ever. Please donate to Down Home North Carolina’s bailout fund to free as many people as possible:

NEVER AGAIN Ice Out of Alamance

Graham 9 Update

Here is a personal statement and an update on the Graham 9 – the group arrested at a Never Again Alamance protest last November.

On our first trial date, one member (who was charged with “masking” if you can believe it) received a Prayer for Judgement. The rest of us are charged with failure to disperse. Two had trials and were convicted. Those judgements will be appealed. The rest of us (including me) are now scheduled for trials in November and December.

The Burlington Times News wrote a quick story about the gathering we had before the trial with supporters, who came to walk us to court. They included an excerpt of the comments I made that morning as well as very thoughtful remarks from my co-defendant Xavier Adams.

Here is the full text of my statement:

I grew up next door in Orange County, and I’m here to stand with my neighbors both new and old who have had enough of the childish tantrums, violent threats, and racist intimidation in Alamance County.  Sheriff Johnson must go, and he can take all the city and county officials that coddle racists and arrest racial justice supporters with him.

I am old enough to remember life before ICE. I was 30 when the planes struck the twin towers on September 11. To many of us at the time, the whole idea of a Department of Homeland Security smacked of nationalism and violence. And sure enough it has grown to become a source of xenophobia, violence, and human suffering for nearly 2 decades now. ICE is our gestapo: terrorizing communities, abandoning people in concentration camps, and tearing families apart.

As a Jew and as an American, I have a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of all people, not just those who look or act like me.

As a parent I have an obligation to try to make this world a better place for my son and all the kids he’s growing up with in these unfortunately historic times.

And as the descendant of immigrants who were also demonized and ghettoized and exploited, I know that today’s immigrants are my siblings coming to the United States for a better life just like my ancestors did.

So when I learned last year that Terry Johnson was not only terrorizing women and people of color of Alamance County with his authority but also taking money from ICE to lock up innocent migrants in the Alamance Detention Center, I knew I had to come to Graham and join with others in calling out his racism an in humanity.

This summer in Graham demonstrations have continued for civil rights, Black lives, and freedom. Unfortunately we’ve also seen a lot of ugly white supremacy on display. Many around NC and around the country have looked on in horror as Alamance County officials have not only allowed actual neo-Nazi and neo-Confederates to swarm the streets and intimidate people, but in fact have arrested peaceful demonstrators who had the audacity to simply disagree with racist symbols and policies.

Crowd of protesters facing sheriffs deputies and riot police

Challenging racism and saving souls in Alamance County

Ten months ago, I joined hundreds of Jews, immigrants, and our friends in Graham, North Carolina to say “no more” to the the cruel, racist, and unnecessary practices of ICE and to call out Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson‘s enthusiastic enforcement of their white supremacist agenda. I was arrested at that demonstration, along with nine other lovely human beings.

In the months since then, two things have become even more clear than before. One, our government has no regard for civil rights, human dignity, or democracy and will stop at nothing to promote the interests of the rich, white, and powerful at the expense of everyone else. And two, there are some people in and around Alamance County that will happily and shamelessly attempt to shut down peaceful dissent if it in any way challenges their racist assumptions about the world. (Alamance County is the home base of neo-confederate ACTBAC.) But we’ve also learned that there are even more people in and around Alamance that believe that Black Lives Matter and that protest is patriotic, and they’ve been bravely showing up in the streets of Graham for the past several months.

When I drove to the Never Again protest on November 24, I wasn’t aware there was a Confederate statue in Graham. I learned later that the Sheriff had sent his troopers to the town square to protect it from the imagined threat. Meanwhile, we were four blocks away attempting to peacefully march to the Alamance Detention Center so that we could say the Mourner’s Kaddish, sit shiva, and observe other Jewish rituals in remembrance of the many people who have died in ICE custody. Unfortunately, the racist Sheriff Terry Johnson would not allow this to happen. Ironically, once we were arrested we were transported by the county directly to the same detention center that they prevented us from walking to!

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC
Photo of me (Ruby Sinreich) being arrested by Officer Ellis of the Haw River Police Department at a protest against ICE and Sheriff Terry Johnson in Graham, North Carolina on November 24, 2019. Photo by Anthony Crider https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrider/49118904508/

As Jews we have a special responsibility to remember the horrors of government-backed xenophobia, the dangers of draconian law enforcement, and the nightmare of illegal incarceration and family separation. When we say NEVER AGAIN, we must mean it. We cannot idly watch the actions of federal, state, and local government as they gradually but steadily march toward fascism. Those of us with privilege are called to spend it now in many forms of resistance large and small to stop the gears of authoritarianism, save people’s lives, and in doing so, save our own souls.

This summer, nonviolent protesters speaking out for Black lives and against the Confederate statue were arrested on a public sidewalk. (The ACLU of NC sued the town of Graham over their anti-protest ordinance and won.) And in recent weeks, as we have learned about a tragic and predictable COVID-19 outbreak at the Alamance detention center, people speaking out for health and human rights were arrested for such nonexistent offenses as swearing in the presence of a police officer.

It’s now undeniable that Alamance County officials have a racism problem, and that elected leaders are not concerned about the health or human rights of their residents. Alamance has the biggest prison COVID outbreak in the state of North Carolina with over 100 cases (out of just about 400 incarcerated people), far surpassing big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. Thankfully the wonderful people of Down Home NC are working to free as many people from this nightmare as possible by raising bail funds.

In this new context of weekly demonstrations for and against racism in Alamance County, the town of Graham’s reactionary attempts to squelch free speech, and the increasingly grim reality of living in an uncontrolled pandemic stoked by racism, toxic masculinity, and ignorance, the nine of us arrested in Graham last November are scheduled to have our second appearance in court next week! You can show your support for us by donating to the Alamance Mass Bail Out.

Never Again Action in Graham (2019 Nov)
Enjoy scrolling through this album of Tony Crider’s excellent photos from November 24, 2019 in Graham.


Flippable districts according to Swing Left

We have to do a lot more than voting, but vote we must

The Washington Post writes today that a survey of battleground House districts shows Democrats with [a] narrow edge. But you know those elections aren’t going to win themselves. Thanks to gerrymandering, the votes of people like me who are packed into safe Democratic districts won’t make much difference. But there are potentially-swing districts in North Carolina. It’s a much more diverse state than the leaders of the N.C. General Assembly would have us believe, and there are still some districts where voters can chose their representatives instead of the other way around.

Flippable districts according to Swing Left

Flippable districts according to Swing Left

Look at all these places within driving distance of cities in NC where we can be supporting Democratic campaigns right now. 👉🏽

Indivisible/Flip NC is organizing canvasses in districts right here in the Triangle and I will be joining them to knock on doors next weekend (thanks in part to a nudge from a civic-minded friend). It’s not the most fun way to spend my free time, but I won’t be able to live with myself if we miss this opportunity to reduce the power of of the most greedy, craven, imperialist, chauvinist, white supremacist political party I’ve seen in my lifetime.

As I have been saying over and over: if one more person tells me we can vote our way our of this mess I am going to scream. Given extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression, Russian manipulation, billionaire megadonors, media complicity, nihilist Republicans, and feckless Democrats there is only so much that voting can do, and we have to vote circles around the Republicans just to win something slightly closer to representative. We have to do a lot more than voting, but vote we must.

Start throwing rocks

I’ve been saying for almost 2 years that the only way to stop Republicans is to have a mass movement literally out in the streets (and in factories, and other strategic positions) shutting down business as usual. Unfortunately, there is currently no organization or leader that can mobilize people on a mass scale, and most people are comfortable enough with what they have that they aren’t willing to take confrontational direct action.

I was hopeful about the Parkland kids or Rev. Barber to be that catalyst, but they are too invested in the current system. They seem to think we can vote and sing our way out of this. If democracy was functioning, half the Republican leadership would be prison. But Democrats are still counting on laws and facts to influence greedy nihilists.

There are more of us that are outraged than there are of the greedy haters, but we let them control the media and the government because it would be too risky or inconvenient for us to actually stop them. I’m speaking of myself here too! I have a lot to lose.

Fascists win by making us all think we’re alone, we’re sick because we have no healthcare, we’re exhausted from working 3 jobs, we’re scared because we’re gay/trans/immigrant/Jewish/female/outspoken, we can’t think straight because the news makes no sense, we’re paranoid because our neighbor might be a nazi/narc, we’re poor because the 1% is stealing everything. None of this is an accident.

We can’t wait for the movement anymore. Just start throwing rocks whenever you can. But ALWAYS take care of yourself and your people first. We need to practice as much solidarity as possible just so that we can hope to survive this.

White woman fainting

White feminism can’t save us (and neither can removing Trump)

Amy Siskind’s heinous White Feminism was on full display this week when she responded to some very valid criticism about her oblivious White privilege and about her Republican-friendly past by attacking very intelligent and well-respected Black women like Imani Gandy instead of owning up to her mistakes.

Siskind said and did some patently horrible stuff in the past, including supporting Sarah Palin and collaborating with Alex Jones. Seems like she should take responsibility for herself and acknowledge where she was wrong. If she’s changed, she could just say so. If she hasn’t, people should know where she stands.

My friend Max raised another important issue about Siskind’s very problematic All we have to do is get rid of the Orange Menace, and we can go back to having brunch” attitude.

I’ve seen a lot of this from Democrats and “never Trump” Republicans, and it makes me a little queasy when they talk about impeachment. It’s not like Trump is the only problem. He’s just a festering symptom of the greedy, nihilist Republican cancer. Of course Trump is a criminal and deserves to be impeached, but Congress will never do that (not even if corporate Dems make midterm gains) and more importantly, it won’t solve the problem of being ruled by a party that lies and cheats to enrich and empower themselves with no care for democracy or the future.

Children leaving the Lodz ghetto for the death camp at Chelmno

This is not the bottom

Friends, please stop assuming things can’t get any worse. We got to this nightmare through complacency. Let it stop now. Things can and WILL get worse than this. We need to be prepared and act accordingly as soon as possible to stop this crazy train.

I’m glad to see some resistance starting to form now, in spite of the dearth of anyone seriously organizing it. Wouldn’t it have been great if people had listened when we said resist and don’t normalize19 months ago? How much suffering could have been avoided?

I have the sense that millions of people would be willing to participate in strategic direct action to stop migrant family separation right now, and as far as I can tell no-one is organizing them! Last year I was hopeful that Rev. Barber’s new Poor People’s Campaign would be able to channel people’s frustration into direct action. I appreciate what they are doing, but their actions are inconveniencing no-one, they are aren’t spreading the message beyond existing supporters, they are stopping business as usual.

This year I my hopes were raised by the students who survived the massacre in Parkland, FL. But it doesn’t seem that they’ve been able to hold the national attention, and while they have been expanding their vision and starting to see how many issues intersect with gun violence, they are not in a position to lead a national movement against Republicans as a whole, which is what I think is needed right now.

Note: There will be actions across the country on Saturday June 30. Visit familiesbelongtogether.org to find one near you. If there isn’t one on the map, organize it!

Red paint is poured on the statue called #silentsam at #uncchapelhill; a statue that celebrates a racist history in a public space unavoidable to students and community members who are threatened by it and the white supremacy it represents.

Confederate context

I stand with UNC PhD student Maya Little who was arrested today for pouring blood and paint on Silent Sam. Here is her statement:

Maya Little was arrested today after pouring red paint on the statue called #silentsam at #uncchapelhill; a statue that celebrates a racist history in a public space unavoidable to students and community members who are threatened by it and the white supremacy it represents. https://www.instagram.com/p/BiNQ5jbA4Ql/I have been an organizer for the Silent Sam Sit-In since September 2017, when campus police confiscated the belongings of the 24 hour occupiers. Every weekday we provide context around the statue. This is an opportunity to teach. It is also our duty to continue the struggle against white supremacy that countless others have led since black students have been on this campus. The statue, a symbol of UNC’s commitment to white supremacy, has been defaced and protested since 1968. Yet the statue remains on campus 50 years later. These last 5 years Carol Folt has been chancellor and she has not taken a single step towards removing Silent Sam. The armed, Confederate soldier dedicated and built by racists during Jim Crow has remained. However, the dedication and courage of each successive group of students fighting for racial equality at UNC has made our message louder and clearer. The threat of Neonazis and white supremacists marching on our communities has made it more urgent.

Chancellor Folt and the administrators are more dedicated to silencing us. In her first two years, there was no state law against removing the statue. She has heard countless activists tell her the statue’s presence dehumanizes and threatens people of color. The governor has written an open letter asking her to remove the statue. White supremacists have marched around Silent Sam and threatened violence. How has Folt responded? She has called us outside agitators. She has refused to call a statue dedicated for and by proud racists, white supremacist. She has never met with members of the Sit In. She has allowed white supremacist groups to invade this campus. She, Derek Kemp, and Jeff McCracken appointed a campus police officer to go undercover, lie about his identity, and gather information on us. According to McCracken, they continue to spend $1,700 dollars per day to protect the statue.

What do you see when you look at this statue, Chancellor? We see the mutilation of black bodies, the degradation of black people, the celebration of an army that fought for our ancestors’ enslavement. I see Julian Carr whipping a black woman. I see your willingness to traumatize, dehumanize, and endanger every black person on this campus. We see our blood and now you will too.

Today I have thrown my blood and red ink on this statue as a part of the continued mission to provide the context that the Chancellor refuses to. Chancellor Folt, if you refuse to remove the statue, then we will continue to contextualize it. Silent Sam is violence; Silent Sam is the genocide of black people; Silent Sam is antithetical to our right to exist. You should see him the way that we do, at the forefront of our campus covered in our blood.

But UNC does not want this context. Chancellor Folt will order Silent Sam to be cleaned immediately. But she should clean my blood and the ink off Silent Sam, not campus workers. The Chancellor and all who have used their power to keep Silent Sam here must embrace the truth about UNC. UNC is Silent Sam. Chapel Hill is Silent Sam. The statue stands smirking and defiant representing a community that has failed many times to work for justice and racial quality. Chancellor, the blood is on your hands.

Folt cares more about plastering our black faces over the Campaign for Carolina than about our safety, our dignity, our right to exist on this campus. Black community members are harassed by campus police. Black athletes are exploited by this university for the Tar Heel brand. Black faculty are not retained. Black students are forced to live and study in buildings named after people who made their fortunes through the sale of black children.

But we are not silent. The statue will be contextualized to show UNC’s racist past and present. You, Chancellor Folt—and your donors, the students you recruit, the alumni you cater to—will be forced to see it until every facet of white supremacy on this campus has been removed.

 

Photos by https://www.instagram.com/dhosterman/