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Noe Kamelamela

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Yup. A heartbreaking read about BLM, SPD and erasure of racist violence.
Police/BLM liason week one -- lessons learned
some boundaries are not serving us well

Wall of text, but bear with me please.

Week one of my journey as a facilitator of the BLM/LE liason project or whatever it ends up being.


I grew up with my dad working night security for the summer marches with Dr King and the SCLC, starting in 1963 around the time of the Salem-Montgomery March. Yes, thank you, it was scary as hell. Black life, white life, it did not matter, 0% to Bull Connor in Birmingham at that time if you did not respect Jim Crow.

My dad, along with a number of non-black Unitarian Universalist ministers, joined the cause.

Among their number was our minister Dr James Reeb, of our church in Roxbury MA, a few miles from where I live now. Many many many blacks died, including the four little black girls in the church basement that year, RESPECT, but I am saying, my mom and I are listening on the news, and Walter Cronkite says, "A northern Unitarian minister has been shot and has not been released pending notification of next of kin..."

Now, I was four. But I can tell you every detail. The brown upholstery of the Laz-y-boy. The pool of light from the lamp overlapping the odd color of the cathode ray from the old B&W TV we had. I looked at mom, she looked at me. And the phone rang, and time stopped. Forever. Probably only two rings.

And my mom FLEW out of that chair, and ran for the wall phone by the kitchen. "HELLO?" It was a woman from the church asking about a chicken pot pie social. My mother was cool. She answered everything like nothing was going on. She hung up the phone, she came back to the La-Z-Boy. And we just bawled.

Next morning I learned my dad was ok, but we'd lost a friend. Another. Later more. People with careers ruined, beaten crippled, dead, families broken by their activism, lost to addiction, suicides. When I was little, I had two ambitions, I wanted to be an astronaut or a great civil rights leader.

Everyone told me that they wouldn't take me for the first, but in civil rights, there were kick ass women. Mostly blacks, but I could kick ass with any black woman, I knew I was that good. There were amazing orators and writers. Mostly black men, but I could do that too, I knew I could be that good. I had the fire of Amos in my soul.

So here I am, 2016. I have done my bit in digital divide, digital rights. I'm stepping up more directly. I have worked the edges. I have worked with law enforcement and intelligence services and military and I know how they work and think, and I expect I can help. I'm an Army mom, and a third generation union member.

So this week, the Patrollman's Union president, Mike McGrath, at the Somerville Police Department, sends an inflammatory, disinfo ridden, dog-whistling letter to our mayor, saying that the BLM banner on city hall (which includes the seal of the police department and has been up since I think a year ago April?) is demoralizing, and should be replaced with "all lives matter." Mayor Joe, who is a gem, refuses. The police chief, Fallon, says it's not within policy of the department. Hmm...

So when this letter hit, I'd been hitting my social media pro-BLM since Ferguson, and I've been active in local affairs here in Somerville for...well, I'm old, lol. I got one of my son's housemates to help me get my rollator downstairs and went to city hall and checked in with Communications, and no, this wasn't some union dispute under the surface, so fine, I'd head to SPD HQ.

On the way out, three news trucks for national feeds mobbing folks for comments on replacing the #blm banner with "all lives matter." They weren't interested in long form, reasoned comments, in history, they were interested in four second clips.

I gave them a nice answer about how when we say "Women's rights are human rights" no one says we have to change it to "Human rights matter," and we pledge "Justice and liberty for all" -- until blacks get 100% parity in justice, I'll be saying "black lives matter." Otherwise, we're falling down on that pledge.

Black camera dude for Fox gave me a wink. Heh.

Anyway, everyone at SPD HQ was so cool. I made a "science fair" display on the history of nonviolent civil rights 1963-2016, and some suggestions on how the police unions might help. I got great constructive feedback, offers to get me water, one officer brought me a chair with lumbar support (seeing the walker) because those lobby benches are murder on a bad back.

Where's the not-love?

Chief Fallon had stated that the union president's letter was not department policy. Every officer in the rank and file who stopped was not only friendly but intense and enthusiastic.

But my note and my email to the union president went unanswered.

I got to SPD HQ late Thursday so I went back early Friday. In an otherwise empty lobby, an officer approached me. He told me, he didn't want me to think badly of the patrolmen's union, that Mike McGrath, the union president, had gone rogue.

- there was no meeting, no vote
- no coordination with rank and file
- no coordination with the chief
- no coordination with city hall

This was one man's opinion going out over his union title on union stationary. The chief couldn't touch it because of rules about retaliating against a union officer doing union business, even though technically, the officer didn't know anyone -- couldn't swear there wasn't anyone -- who agreed with it, and there wasn't any procedure involved. Rank and file were forbidden to speak out publicly because it's politics, and policy is, police can't speak out on politics. So Mike probably figured he had his stuff sewn up watertight. He was probably the kind who wanted it to go viral, hit all this media, he assured me when I said maybe he was just ignorant -- it was just what he'd intended.

I thought for a minute. I said, "Well look, I don't want to get you in trouble, so this goes nowhere unless you agree, but I am press. See on that sign where it says I'm retired NWU/UAW? That's National Writer's Union. Retired press. I still freelance, and make about $400/mo on my writing. This circuit of the courts will protect a confidential source, if you want to go off record and whistle blow on a union official abusing his office. But I am going to say we didn't have this conversation if you don't say yes. It's the honor of the city here though among other things. This is making us look like some dogwhistle as far away as Toronto and beyond, when we're a strong community policing city -- we do ok."

His eyes had been going a little wide. He took a deep breath and said, "Yes. Our job is to keep everyone feeling safe."

Now, this makes me a little extra mad, because I may be misreading some subtext here, but part of what makes me extra mad about McGrath is that every community policing officer is taught de-escation of conflict spirals -- which that letter really violates. And part of that letter throwing gas on the fire inflames the very lone wolf types and general yahoos -- outside of the nonviolent reform movements including BLM -- who are confronting officers on the street with verbal and physical violence, and ultimately guns.

So just as you have the choice to "be the change you want to see in the world," we tend to assume that means people will want to choose to be peacemakers. This story is a good parable for you, where you can be the mayhem you want to be in the world if that is really your choice.

Discord is an option. The most common people calling people out falsely for f'ing things up are the guardians of a rotten status quo. Painting targets on the peacemakers' backs? That's a tradition that I've seen 1963-2016. But it must be called out and de-escalated. We can not sit by. We must be warriors for peace.

So this means, like Dr. King, who negotiated with segregationists and beltway insiders, that sitting down inside a police station for days on end not in jail, not protesting, is a path to peace. Set aside your anger, beat your swords into plowshares. Take the barbs off your tongues. Open your ears and your minds.

wwMLKd -- he took direct action after he did all these other things, yo? Read up.

Here's what I bring forward and what else I learned:

- community policing programs are very well trained in nonviolence and de-escalation of conflict. They have education departments that have excellent curricula in topics concerning negotiation, conflict spirals, protocols for dealing with crisis, and so on. These curricula could help all of the nonviolent protest/reform movements in the same/neighboring communities. However currently they are not resourced to share these curricula. Their cities or local nonprofits or the protest/reform movements could raise resources to bring those curricula into the greater communities. This has the huge advantage that movements on the street also understand the language of conflict de-escalation, and it's vocabulary, from the law enforcement POV.

- police are forbidden to discuss politics in public. If you are waiting for the police to sit down and negotiate around police brutality issues as a social issue, you can sit and rot. They can't discuss it any more than an active duty military person is able to go on the campaign trail and be a surrogate for a future commander in chief. It's the way we've set up boundaries. Is it possible to set up "safe space" for police to discuss these things? Gosh, that's supposed to be what police oversight/review boards are about, but they rarely work because they are usually viewed as outsiders looking in, and punitive. Is there a community policing model for a safe space to discuss political issues with community policing, do we need a new model of facilitation? Do we just need new boundaries?

- BLM often assumes police don't understand the culture of protest. But they forget that nearly every police officer they look in the eyes is a member of a union. The union movement in this country basically established the protocols for police/demonstration interactions. These folks know exactly what they are doing, and think that BLM is not following protocol and discipline, or whatever. They're happy to do what they are doing if dialog isn't happening, or they have orders, whatever is going on under the surface. Do not assume.

- Several officers I spoke to were of the opinion that in many parts of the country, officers hope that BLM never reaches the level of organization in formal nonviolence that the SCLC had, working with churches and having a more paramilitary solidarity. I pointed out to them (and it surprised them not at all) that many of the leaders of the SCLC were military vets before they became preachers, WWII or Korea, it being that they were that age, poor and black, some of the men getting div degrees on the GI bill. This helped them organize, heh. Also, knowing that the police are going to KILL YOU and send the Klan for your family if you call them pigs will enforce formal nonviolence as a set of strategies and tactics far more effectively than today's conflicts.

- Formal nonviolence (this was me) aims for Truth and Reconciliation, with the ultimate goal of uniting The Beloved Community. I love @deray and them but this is my one great beef with the BLM movement as it stands today, is that the eyes are not on the prize, which is one community, one nation, one Beloved Community that we gave up on probably in the summer of 1968 when a couple months after Dr. King was murdered, Bobby Kennedy, running on a pro-Civil Rights platform and knocking McCarthy out of the running the summer before the 68 convention, was shot dead. Probably for his Civil Rights stances. And our anti-apartheid movement, our poor people's movement, died. No Truth and Reconciliation, no Beloved Community, just we lost the war. and retreated with the gains we'd taken and took what skirmishes we could from there out in the culture war since.

- Remember when people started talking about domestic violence and suddenly it was everywhere and people freaked out? Remember when people started talking about rape, or child abuse, or child molestation and suddenly it was everywhere and people freaked out? Ultimately these are good things. They clean old wounds. People did not beat their spouses more because we talked about it. They started to beat them less because it became so not ok, and their spouses had resources, and the police said, "Oh, we need to deal." Well, a bunch of us have been saying, "police violence against minorities has been disproportionate" for over a half century, and a lot of police have said, "Nah, look at the FBI stats, that's bullshit." Then about two years ago, WaPo and The Guardian started a new kind of recordkeeping and invalidated the FBI stats, and Director Comey agrees that his stats are invalid (and I will assert that they were for a half century back). OK, so people in the press never covered cases of police violence against blacks, because stats said, they didn't happen. Now, they know they do, and it's fashionable. Just like spouse abuse, rape, child abuse, child molestation had been when those became things. And the black community is freaking out, and some of the rest of us too. Because for fifty years, some of us knew, but no one listened. And now it's in the news, and people say we lie that children are dying unjustly because they never heard it before. And some of us are also freaking out, because we knew some folks were hit near us, but we had no idea how big the problem really was, and we're frightened, and heartbroken, and our faith in our country is shaken. And some are very very angry. And some are very very defensive.

By rights, this should be a temporary thing -- nothing has changed from before the media exposed what had already been going on. Now we know. Can we fix it?

We fixed a lot when we found out people were beating their spouses.
We fixed a lot when we found out that rape was a bigger issue that we thought.
We fixed a lot when we found out more children were being physically and sexually abused.

These are all problems in society that will likely never be eliminated. Perhaps racism will never be eliminated.

But we can peacefully confront these problems as a society, just as we confronted those others, de-escalate the conflicts, identify why dialog is not working, find peaceful solutions and pursue them.

We can identify and isolate bad actors, and encourage the press to understand that clickbait is not worth damaging our communities. That the charge of the press is to heal our communities, not to sell ads. And people, when you see a TV or online press group selling division?

We need a "bus boycott" of their advertisers. Any group that is distorting race relations in this highly charged environment, I think we should be organizing to tell their advertisers they are doing poorly by their community, so turn off that ad blocker, folks, and start contacting advertisers. Tell every pickup truck advertiser that you do not appreciate a TV affiliate that doesn't support "Liberty and Justice for All." That sort of thing.

So besides that, I'm hoping to go back to SPD. I am hoping to work with the city to see what we can do to get some formal nonviolence/de-escalation/etc curricula going. I am hoping to get some further backup than just me from local BLM etc. because I am old, ill, and frail. I am hoping that Somerville corroborates the issues with the police union president, so it can get out into wider media and become damage control, and heal some divisions here and in the greater world that that story did. I am hoping this story shows that one person, righteously pissed off and with faith that people are acting in good faith, can help out with a $20 budget in office supplies and snacks and an uppity but friendly attitude.

And I love my history with the black community, and if you are not black, that should not keep you from working for equal rights any more than it should keep anyone from working for women's rights, or rights of those in poverty, or for literacy, or for better STEM education, or disability rights, or anywhere else you see need. These are the nonviolent fights for our future and for peace and well being in all our communities.

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This is playing at the BCA through August 13th.  I highly recommend it.  It has elements of The Lily's Revenge, but its not for the squeamish.  Katie and I went this past weekend.

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Good music for floating in space! :D

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Positivity is infectious! Jackson Bird is super adorable. Let's enjoy him.

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There and back again.
8 Photos - View album

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So many trigger warnings: ptsd, stalking, online harassment, assault. This is a long read that's a great State of the Internet address. I suggest saving the link and reading it in chunks so that when you ragequit or sadquit you can go back for the good stuff.

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Nearly halfway funded!  The art looks great.  I am excite.  If AO3 can get it, let those of us who love fandom and feminism get this off the ground, too.
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