What it’s like to be a guard (at least for this guard)

I liked working night shifts, because whenever they were awake, I wanted to apologize to them. When they were sleeping, I didn’t have to worry about that. I could just walk up and down the blocks all night long.

There was usually one detainee who would lead the call to prayer at five in the morning. That person was in the very last cell. The detainees, they sang beautifully. It was so eerie to hear, because it was such a beautiful song, and to hear forty-eight detainees just get up in the morning and, in unison, sing this gorgeous song that I could never understand — because Arabic is way out of my range of possibility — it was really intense.

Every day you walked down the blocks, forty-eight people in two rows of twenty-four cells, and you have no idea what any of them are there for. They’re just sitting in their cells. You give them food, and if they get crazy, you spray them with this terrible oil-based chemical. Then you send these five guys in to beat the shit out of them.

I couldn’t deal with it. I tied a 550 cord to the ceiling fan that was in my room and I tried to hang myself, but I ripped the fan out of the ceiling. I’ve never been happier about poor construction.

What it’s like to be a prisoner

They used to beat everybody. There was a man — he was really old and couldn’t see and couldn’t hear. If the guards told him something to do and he didn’t do it because he couldn’t hear, they went into his cage and beat him up. They did this for a couple minutes, and after that they took him out and brought him to isolation. That happened to me as well, a lot of times.

There doesn’t need to be a reason. First they would use a pepper spray. It’s burning. It is hot. You have trouble breathing and opening your eyes. All of your face is burning — your eyes especially and inside your nose. You can’t open your eyes because they are burning very hot. Since you have trouble breathing, you have to cough all the time. Then they’d punch me with their elbows. After they were done, they would write something down as to what could be the reason for it.

We were allowed to do the call to prayer every day, but they used to play music over us at the same time. The music some of the time was rock music, but most of the time they played the [American] national anthem. Or they used to kick the doors.

Dr. Al-Arian, a former university professor, has been held in jail for the past 5 years by the U.S. gov’t for allegedly heading a Palestinian militant group.

He was once heralded as a supreme advocate of Palestinian civil rights and was even comended in person by President George Bush for his tireless efforts.

He is now considered a terrorist by the US government who has been unable to convict him of any of the 53 crimes he has been charged with despite all the “evidence” they have by way of 11 years of FBI wiretaps and searches, over $50 million spent on trial, 80 witnesses, 400 transcripts of intercepted phone conversations and faxes. Yet they continue to hold him in hopes of pressuring him into a “confession”.

Of course, this is all so the government can save face for being so incredibly wrong.

This could be any of us. Anyone who sympathizes with those that we are taught to hate such as the Palestinians, supposed terrorists being held and relentlessly tortured, anyone of the Muslim faith who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“You are either with us or against us”, said President Bush. Those words send shivers up my spine everytime I hear or think of them. In a world where there are two sides to everything we have been brainwashed to believe whatever we are told by our gov’t because the people running this country, our beautiful country that has been ravaged by those infected with greed and power, are the only ones who can tell us what is right and what is wrong and to even think otherwise makes you a terrorist and you’re told to get out of this country if you don’t like it.

I love my country. I love my Earth. I don’t believe any human being on this planet deserves death or torture. How that makes me a terrorist, I don’t know?

Please read more about the story of Sami Al-Arian

Do you think the Second Amendment gives the individual a right to own a gun?

News Observer

The U.S. Supreme Court is on the brink of issuing what could be its most important ruling ever on the controversial Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Gun rights and gun control advocates alike are anxiously awaiting the high court’s ruling, the first time since 1939 that the nation’s top justices have tackled the Second Amendment. A decision could come this week.

“I feel the founding fathers gave us this right,” said Henry Williams, 54, a Raleigh resident who attended the Capital City Gun Show at the N.C. State Fairgrounds on Sunday. “I don’t see that anybody has the right to take it away from us.”

But Roxane Kolar, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, argues that gun rights advocates have misconstrued the Second Amendment. Moreover, she contends, “Most people believe in gun safety and sensible gun legislation.”

At issue in the Supreme Court case is Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns.

That ban was challenged by a D.C. special police officer who is entitled to carry a gun while working as a guard at the Federal Judicial Center but was denied a permit to keep a firearm in his home. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled the ban violates the Second Amendment; the district appealed that ruling, and the case was argued before the Supreme Court in March.

The Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

That wording is ambiguous enough for both sides of the gun control issue to find comfort. The gun lobby says it grants individuals the right to bear arms. Gun control organizations contend the right to bear arms is restricted to serving in a government-sanctioned militia.

I probably don’t need give my opinion on this. Actually, I really can’t because I simply don’t have the words. Well, two do come to mind…I’m scared.

Natural News

(NaturalNews) A Rhode Island school district has announced a pilot program to monitor student movements by means of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted in their schoolbags.

The Middletown School District, in partnership with MAP Information Technology Corp., has launched a pilot program to implant RFID chips into the schoolbags of 80 children at the Aquidneck School. Each chip would be programmed with a student identification number, and would be read by an external device installed in one of two school buses. The buses would also be fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices.

Parents or school officials could log onto a school web site to see whether and when specific children had entered or exited which bus, and to look up the bus’s current location as provided by the GPS device.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has criticized the plan as an invasion of children’s privacy and a potential risk to their safety.

“There’s absolutely no need to be tagging children,” said Stephen Brown, executive director of the ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter. According to Brown, the school district should already know where its students are.

“[This program is] a solution in search of a problem,” Brown said.

The school district says that its current plan is no different than other programs already in place for parents to monitor their children’s school experience. For example, parents can already check on their children’s attendance records and what they have for lunch, said district Superintendent Rosemary Kraeger.

Brown disputed this argument. The school is perfectly entitled to track its buses, he said, but “it’s a quantitative leap to monitor children themselves.” He raised the question of whether unauthorized individuals could use easily available RFID readers to find out students’ private information and monitor their movements.

Because the pilot program is being provided to the school district at no cost, it did not require approval from the Rhode Island ethics commission.

This is extremely disturbing. At first thought, you might think that this article is pinpointing dictatorships. Not that it makes this okay, but you may initially turn the other cheek since something of this nature isn’t really surprising at all. What is surprising is that the article lists countries like the US and the UK as having arrested citizens for voicing their political opinions or exposing human rights abuses in a blog. It should be more surprising to me, but really…it isn’t. That’s what’s disturbing.

Here is a great post from a fellow blogger who sees the injustice that comes from not giving people, no matter what crime they are accused of, their right to be charged, to appear in court, and be given a chance to refute the evidence against them.

I don’t get it. 42 days without charge seems like a very very long time.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights states:

Article 3:

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Surely to arrest someone you must have an idea that they have done something bad. To have an idea they have done something bad you would need some kind of proof. Why would it take 42 days to gather enough proof to charge someone. Isn’t there an offense of ’suspicion of terrorism’? Do the police stop investigating at charge?

Perhaps that’s what needs changing rather than locking up people who MIGHT be guilty but against whom not enough proof has been gathered.

Innocent until proven guilty is the foundation of democracy. Eroding that foundation is a very dangerous thing to do.

In my previous post I described the suspicious activities of our government that seem to point to them preparing to detain thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American citizens at the presidents behest should a “national emergency” be declared by Mr. Bush.

It is not beyond my comprehension that some people might think this is preposterous so I thought it pertinent to give a gleaming example of how they would not hesitate to do so. The story I am about to tell you happened about 4 years ago at the Republican National Convention and had received very little, if any, attention by the mainstream media. Almost two thousands American citizens were held without charge at at Pier 57 which is described as a three-story, block-long pier that had been converted to a holding pen for at least 24 hours with barely any food or water. Some of them were released early due to a court order instructing the police to release those not accused of a serious crime and give them a desk appearance ticket, very few of them were. Some described the conditions they had to endure during their stay to which the Mayor of New York at the time explained, “It’s not like it’s supposed to be club med”.

During the convention there were mass protest by varying organizations. At some point the New York police decided to start rounding up as my people as they could. They gave no warning to passers by to vacate the premises which they had cordoned off. There was no apparent reason as to why they decided to start arresting people. The marches and demonstrations did not escalate to violence. Several by-standers who weren’t even part of the protests were handcuffed and thrown in the holding center without being read their rights and without being allowed a phone call to let their loved ones know where they were.

One person managed to smuggle in a cell phone and they called Democracy Now!. The phone was passed around as several of those being detained told of the horrible conditions they were in. Some had already been there for 12 hours with no blanket and only a glass of water and a sandwich for nourishment. They had to sit on the concrete floor covered in dirt and oil. One detainee told of how there were several chemical warning signs instructing the use of face masks and goggles and some people were starting to break out into itchy rashes. Some seemed to be developing chemical burns. Those who were either hurt during the round up or were developing some sort of chemical reaction were denied medical attention for hours on end.

Here are pieces of the transcript from that phone call. You can read the entire thing here.

EMILY: My name is Emily. I was arrested yesterday off of Union Square East, on East 15th Street in between Union Square East and Irvine. [sic] I was on the sidewalk, and I was never told that I would be arrested. I was just on the sidewalk. And no one ever read me my rights. They just took us all away. They trapped us and put us all into buses. We’ve been in jail for over 13 hours right now. In our first nine hours, the only food we received was an apple. In our first four hours here we weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom or get water. So none of us were read our rights; we haven’t been able to talk to any lawyers. A lot of people here that were arrested without even protesting, they were—just happened to be on the sidewalk where everyone was on that block—was arrested. And there are chemical warning signs all over this place that we’re being held. A lot of people are forming rashes on their skin from the floor—from whatever it is that is on it. And I’m going to pass this on to someone else who has another story.

VOICE SHOUTING IN THE BACKGROUND: I need medical attention!

ALTHEA: My name is Althea and I was—am a New York City public school teacher. I was out on Union Square on 16th Street between Irving and Union Square just walking, trying to enjoy the day, and I got swept up in a demonstration. I wasn’t a part of the demonstration and I was arrested. I was arrested about 8:00 p.m., handcuffed and we’ve been sitting in the Chelsea piers in very crowded conditions. Right now some people are experiencing toxic reaction to the environment, itching in their skin, and we’re very crowded. We have been given water and a sandwich, but they have not been giving us any information, and we’ve just been sitting here really penned in.

MIKE BURKE: Have you been able to communicate to any of your family or friends about your situation?

ALTHEA: No, I haven’t. I have been asking my arresting officer when can I make a phone call? And no one knows where I am. Basically I feel like I’ve been ‘disappeared.’ Nobody knows in my family that I have been arrested. And I was out by myself shopping; so, you know, there’s no one to—they haven’t allowed me to contact anyone.

VEEPA MAJAMUTAR: Hi. This is Veepa Majamutar. I’m calling also from the arresting facility. Basically I was just a stand-by and I was walking on the sidewalk and there was a march going on. They cordoned off the whole street and just arrested all of us. When I tried to explain that I was just walking by—I had a receipt from a store that I had bought something from on that street. They did not pay any attention. And here we are sitting in this almost a human-rights abuse conditions. So many of us are cold. We are freezing. Some of us need medical attention; but nobody’s telling us what to do. Nobody’s listening to us. Nobody’s giving us any timeline, any idea of when we might get out. They’ve always been saying ‘Next two hours. Two hours.’ It’s been more than 12 hours now.

MIKE BURKE: Could you describe what you were doing just before you were arrested?

VEEPA MAJAMUTAR: What was I doing?

MIKE BURKE: Yes.

VEEPA MAJAMUTAR: Basically I was just—I was walking on the sidewalk. I didn’t even know that there were police and the march was going on. And all of a sudden the street basically just gets cordoned off and we cannot move. So before I was arrested I was just standing still because that’s all we could really do. And then they just started putting handcuffs on people. They didn’t tell us, please leave otherwise we’ll arrest you. They gave us no warning. They gave us no chance to leave. They just basically closed off the street, put handcuffs, and took us. They did not listen to anybody. They did not listen to even pure reason. They just put us off. We thought we would basically get out in a couple of hours if we had done nothing. But here we are 12 hours later and, basically, almost ridicule us. They ridicule us if we start to complain. And the condition here are atrocious. You have to see them to believe it. It’s dirty. It’s smelly. It’s filthy. We don’t have a blanket. We don’t have something to sit on. We are sitting on the floor. There’s dirt on the floor. There’s oil on the floor. There’s chemicals around us. It’s smelling bad. I could go on and on. It’s atrocious.

MIKE BURKE: Could you describe what kind of room you are in? It sounds like there are many, many people in the same room.

VEEPA MAJAMUTAR: We are like a hundred—a hundred people in a very small room. It’s surrounded by fence and we are like—it’s almost like rats in a hole. I mean, there’s nothing, there is just a floor which is very dirty, which is a lot of oil and all dust in it, I mean, all our clothes are dirty our hands are ditty. We had to eat an apple with our extremely dirty hands because we have no tissue paper, nothing to clean our hands with. We are just basically packed. Nobody can sit down. They don’t even give us a plastic bag to sit on. They don’t even give anything to lie down on. We just have to lie on the hard floor, basically. And there is not enough space for everybody to lie down because we have to sit so close together. It’s cramped. And we were freezing before and people were actually coughing, they were getting cold and nobody paid any attention, nobody gave them even a blanket nobody gave them even a plastic bag to cover themselves with.

In discussing the virtual media blackout on the story, the REAL story we were told by Juan Gonzalas (contained in the transcript from Democracy Now!):

One Daily News reporter told me the story yesterday that on Tuesday, he attended a protest at the Hummer dealership on 11th avenue on the west side. 15 reporters showed up, 40 police, and only one protester showed up at this rally. One young woman who was by herself picketing in front of the Hummer dealership. The police supervisor approached her and said, “you are blocking traffic”. I am giving you a warning or you are going to be arrested. She was stunned, the reporters were stunned because she was the only protester in front of the dealership. She said what do you mean? I am not blocking anybody’s traffic. The police supervisor said “that’s it. You had your time. Cuff her.” And they carted her away. And the reporter wrote a story which didn’t make our paper and in fact, I think there was only a mention in Newsday of it. So there’s a problem here in terms of this preemptive-strike policy by the police department and also in terms of how the media are covering it.

Even when the judge ordered the release of several hundred protesters who had been detained for anywhere between 36 and 66 hours the New York City Police department failed to comply with the order and were fined $1,000 for each protester not release as reported, amazingly, by CBS News.

A judge ordered the immediate release of nearly 500 protesters Thursday – just hours before President Bush’s speech at the Republican National Convention – and then fined the city for refusing to comply with his order.

State Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo fined the city $1,000 for every protester held past a 5 p.m. deadline that he had set for their release. It was unclear how many detainees were still in custody, but Cataldo had ordered the release of 470 people.

“These people have already been the victims of a process,” state Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo told the city’s top lawyer. “I can no longer accept your statement that you are trying to comply.”

The detainees had been in custody for anywhere from 36 to 66 hours. The decision was immediately hailed by attorneys for the demonstrators.

While I can understand the extreme inconvenience these mass protests may have caused and that some arrests were warranted, I cannot, by any imagination, understand the exorbitant lack of discretion given when arresting people. It seemed that anybody they came across they arrested. I’m sure not everyone was acting peacefully, but that doesn’t excuse arresting everyone because of the actions of some.

Then to throw them all in horrendous conditions like wild dogs and refused medical treatment, phone calls, and adequate food and water is deplorable.

No doubt that almost all of these people that were held have been put on “the list” of Americans deemed to be enemies of the state whether or not they were there to protest. These people will undoubtedly be rounded up again should a “national emergency” arise.