We just belatedly received this report. Please continue sending in news and analysis regarding demos and occupations. Received and published:
Bloomington’s Black Lives Matter marched into the city council chambers on Wednesday March 29 in response to the Bloomington Police Department’s plans to purchase an armored Lenco Bearcat Assault Vehicle . The city council meeting ended early, and all but three council members left the building as the march arrived. Volan, Piedmont-Smith, and Ruff stayed to talk to the crowd of protestors. Black Lives Matter organizers said they would shut down every city council meeting until the purchase decision is revoked.
The protestors cited information from their recently published “Bloomington People’s Report” on the armored vehicle, hosted at https://bloomingtonpeoplesreport.weebly.com/
As the situation for immigrants in the United States becomes even more dire with the unfolding DACA repeal, it is important to consider contributing historical factors in an international context. This educational panel includes presentations and personal testimonies from the director of a migrant shelter in Mexico, a graduate student researching migrant crises, and activists fighting for immigrants’ rights in Indiana. Join us in learning about and discussing how state violence in the forms of displacement, detention, and deportation produce a vicious cycle of isolation, desperation, and poverty.
– Marbella Chavez, activist with the Center for Healing & Hope
– Guadalupe Pimentel, Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance (IUYA)
– Sayra Campos, Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance (IUYA)
– Nicholas Greven, activist and researcher with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at IU
– Ramón Marquez, director of the La 72 migrant shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco.
— Students Against State Violence
From IDOC Watch:
Several inmates at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility have announced that they have begun a hunger strike to protest their deteriorating conditions. Their immediate demands include: removal from camera monitored cells, relocation from abusive staff, and the cessation of tampering with food and the confiscation, reading and withholding of mail by administration. The announcement follows a sequence of escalating problems that have unfolded in the prison for the past several months, rekindling a too-long dormant culture of resistance to IDOC policies. Last year, a significant challenge to the censorship of Afro-Centric literature such as the San Francisco Bay View, which effects all prisons in the Indiana Department of Corrections, began a process of increasing clampdown on political prisoners. This was merely the spark which lit the fire. The hunger strike now in motion has its origins in the entire structure of the IDOC, in particular, and of mass incarceration, in general.
For some time, the IDOC has pursued a path of repression characterized by the isolation of inmates whom it perceives as threatening to the stability of their regime of oppression. These inmates are often kept in Indiana’s form of solitary confinement known as “Secure Control Units.” Wabash Valley has taken this practice, widely recognized to be a form of torture, to new extremes by indefinitely detaining inmates in isolation cells monitored 24 hours a day through video surveillance. Shaka Shakur, a political prisoner currently incarcerated at Wabash Valley, has demonstrated how these cells are intended to function as psychological torture, and the policies which are supposed to govern their use are flagrantly violated by administration.
The selective treatment of politically conscious inmates is not limited to isolation and surveillance, however. Prisons in Indiana have developed a parallel judicial system in which the civil protections available to free citizens are completely absent. Inmates are consistently penalized and charged with internal violations which can result in their placement in isolation or loss of “good time” which by Indiana Code cannot be regained. In these faux-courts, prisoners are deprived of any right to representation or possibility of viewing the “evidence” used against them. Charges are often brought as a form of reprisal, beginning with disciplinary reports filed by disgruntled or sadistic guards looking to punish inmates for refusing passive obedience to their oppression.
The increasingly severe forms of repression manifest on all levels of the IDOC and affect all inmates as well. Several trends have coalesced and finally culminated in an irreconcilable crisis. The current landscape of the IDOC is the result of these trends, primarily the entrenchment at the tops levels of executive administration of old-guard prison staff experienced in the ways of prisoner abuse, the construction of prison facilities in rural, economically depleted areas which produces a situation that pits the solidarity of largely euro/ “white” communities against predominately non-euro/ “white” prisoners, and finally the privatization of all aspects of prison operation and management. These trends mutual influence and extend one another, creating an increasingly antagonistic atmosphere, resolvable only through the initiative of prisoners in taking all measures to reassert their humanity.
The current crisis can be explained only by observing these facts. For example, guards in the Security Control Unit at Wabash Valley leverage their familial and professional ties to maintain impunity while threatening and intimidating inmates under their “protection.” The former commander of the SCU, Lt. Gary McMillin, consistently stated that he would “stand by” his guards whenever they filed disciplinary reports. Reports are supposed to be reviewed once filed and approved by the Lieutenant before any action can be taken against an inmate. In this case, those reviews were performed by Mr. McMillin’s wife, Mrs. S. McMillin. Her “reviews” tend to result in conviction rates that would make any prosecutor blush. The result of this circle of corruption? More good time lost, more years spent inside, more money to J-Pay, Union Supply, Aramark, and Global Tel-Link.
On the state level, the IDOC just this month “reviewed” its new mail restriction policies. As many know by now, inmates can no longer send or receive correspondence unless it is written on lined, white paper in a white envelope. The IDOC claimed this was to counter drug trafficking, but has provided zero data on the flow of drugs into the facility coming through mail. Ironically, the only confirmed source of trafficking in the recent past is that conducted by a former corrections officer at Wabash Valley. There are no indications that the mail ban will be overturned, and more inmates and their families are forced to go through J-pay for all correspondence and increasingly, visitations.
The current crisis is the latest iteration of the fundamentally racist and increasingly corporatist exploitation at work in the IDOC. The kinds of oppression outlined here are well-documented as ineradicable aspects of mass incarceration in Indiana. Indeed the condition in Indiana prisons was meticulously outlined in the 1997 Human Rights Watch Report, Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement in Indiana. Since that time, conditions have only worsened. Now inmates are fighting back. Their selfless struggle deserves the widest possible, most dedicated support. IDOC watch firmly stands with Shaka Shakur and all the hunger strikers. We demand that their demands are met, and further that an independent investigation be permitted to inspect the facility. Those will be the first steps, and very far from the last, in a long march toward eradicating the unjust, racist prison system in Indiana and, one day, the united states.
Information on Wabash Valley and the case of Shaka Shakur can be found on our blog at idocwatch.org
Please call: Warden Richard Brown (812) 398-5050
IDOC Commissioner Robert Carter (317) 232-5711
IDOC Chief of Staff Randy Koester (317) 232-5711
Demand that the inmates on hunger strike be moved from abusive guards and camera-monitored cells, and that their mail and food be secured from tampering.
This is the body of a flyer (PDF: Charlottesville text) distributed at yesterday’s vigil, called by Indivisible Bloomington (a front for the Democratic Party). The organizers of the vigil hoped to recuperate the tragedy of Heather Heyer’s murder into votes for the Democratic Party. Much of the crowd openly found this distasteful, leading many to leave early, while others called for a breakaway demonstration towards the end of the evening.
We find this text to be a potent criticism of Indivisible’s craven politicking:
We cannot separate yesterday’s murder from the structure of white-supremacist power in the United States. The police, the judges, the politicians have for the entirety of this nation’s history grounded their political base in the violent suppression and exploitation of people of color. Only now, when it has become politically opportune, have the Democrats and reformers made any effort to express their supposed opposition to alt-right and neo-nazi mobilization. But where was their outrage when the Traditionalist Youth Network was forming itself right here in Bloomington? Where were they when motorists were threatening and on numerous actions attempting to drive through peaceful demonstrations on these very streets?
Refining laws and electing politicians cannot dismantle white supremacy. The way to Honor Heather Heyer is to live as she died, fighting. It’s easier to attend SURJ meetings, finally cut your dreadlocks, and check off your daily call-a-congressman, than to struggle to materially, actually dismantle a centuries-old system of white power. With neo-nazis now openly marching and murdering leftists, let’s not get distracted with individual gestures of allyship, attending vigils to express abstract “solidarity”, or with electing one more Democrat, Republican, or “independent” who professionally pretends to solve the problem for us.
The truth is that the terrorist violence in Charlottesville did not magically appear out of nowhere. Fascists like the neo-nazis marching in Charlottesville, or the back-to-the-land white supremacists down in Paoli (that the Herald Times so enthusiastically promoted), do not appear out of nowhere. They are a paramilitary force, working on the same project of white power as Trump and the Fraternal Order of Police that endorsed him. You don’t have to look as far as Charlottesville to see the violence of white supremacy in action. To be fair, focus is hard. It’s difficult to train your eye on what’s important in life, especially when there are distracting, easy answers at hand.
Politicians and their local “organizer” allies know this, and their game (of thrones) is one of redirection. But if we take the question of fighting white supremacy seriously enough to take the time to refocus, it’s clear that there is plenty of work to be done right here, at our fingertips.
The Bloomington Police Department plays their PR game carefully. But even then, it’s a very thin veil over their classist and racist violence. It’s not a coincidence that the largest anti-racist movement in recent history, the Black Lives Matter movement, focused on dismantling the power of the police. It’s not a coincidence that it was a police officer in an unmarked car who was most recently threatened a peaceful Bloomington demonstration outside the jail (in defense of recently arrested homeless neighbors and friends). The BPD and Monroe County Jail have a recent and decades-old history of violence against people of color and the socio-economically excluded in Bloomington. It’s time to look at the whole system which perpetuates white supremacy, which includes BPD, and fight back.
Received and posted:
In the early afternoon on April 11th, 2017, students chalked outside of Franklin Hall: “Pseudo-science advances one racist at a time.” Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, would arrive at Indiana University that evening to present an invited lecture. At 4PM, the Indiana University Police Department (IUPD) began to set up gates around Franklin Hall in preparation. A crowd gathered as police lugged in large bags with riot gear: gas masks, helmets and face shields, combat gloves, batons.
Murray’s academic work has been pivotal in reawakening and legitimizing the pseudoscience of race. Rather than a critique of race rooted in a history of Western European colonialism and oppression, Murray offers us an account of intelligence and class structure that rests on a flimsy and ahistorical conceptualization of race. His book The Bell Curve argues that people of color and women are all inherently less intelligent than affluent white men. Murray weaves this claim into a framework of economic class, arguing that intellectual inferiority accounts for the economic class structure in which affluent white men dominate. Murray’s argument allows for intelligent women and people of color only as exceptions to the rule, intellectual elites on the peripheries of their respective demographics. Since the book’s publication in 1994, Murray has stood strong by the racist implications of his work in The Bell Curve, decrying Affirmative Action and other social welfare programs that seek to alleviate some of the struggles of poverty and working-class life. He has continued to publish white-supremacist and patriarchal works, such as his 2005 essay “Where are the female Einsteins?”.
Two hours after the fences were erected, President’s Hall — a cathedral-ceiling lecture hall in Franklin reserved for administrative meetings and esteemed guest speakers — became a platform for white supremacy, thinly-veiled in the rhetoric of science. The brick footpath under Indiana University’s iconic Sample Gates became a scene of police intimidation and, later, brutality. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and community members arrived to reject Murray’s academic work and his commitment to white supremacy, all disavowing the invitation he received to speak at IU.
Meanwhile, officers surveyed and photographed the crowd from the rooftop of the adjacent building. Another two cops, then three, hawkishly followed a person in black bloc.
Charles Murray’s lecture comes less than a week after dozens of students marched down Indiana Avenue to deliver a modest demand to the office of IU Provost Lauren Robel: provide social justice education and hire more faculty of color. Students have sworn to escalate the situation if these demands are not met in one week. The demand cites a resolution passed by the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC), the University’s governing faculty body, exactly one year prior. The BFC resolved to hire more underrepresented faculty and to admit more students who receive Pell Grants. A year later, the BFC and Office of the Provost have provided only empty words, a slew of diversity statements and a buzz-word ridden responses to Donald Trump’s immigration ban. Their resolution to affect substantive, material change in the lives of marginalized students and faculty remains unfulfilled — to no one’s surprise.
The University administration’s apathy toward modest student demands made the silence surrounding Murray’s lecture all the more deafening. The talk remained unannounced, even to professors, staff, and students who would find their classes and labs on lockdown, until just a few days prior. On April 10th, the Media School and Political Science Department were notified for the first time that the IUPD would ticket and police the event, and that Franklin Hall would be heavily restricted and surveilled.
A few days after the event, the organizers and funding sources behind Murray’s lecture are still largely unknown. The Political Science Department’s Tocqueville Program, directed by tenured professor Aurelian Craiutu, hosted and moderated the lecture, claiming some responsibility for inviting Murray. News sources (WFHB, WTHR, IndyStar) shifted a large share of the responsibility for Murray’s invitation to a student chapter of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the AEI Executive Council. Yet, there is no AEI student organization registered with Indiana University, and unregistered student groups lack the ability to reserve on-campus spaces or fund university events.
As word of the lecture spread, the University responded by cloaking Murray’s invitation in free speech rhetoric, justifying the lecture under the need for a platform that respects all views. This justification, which manifested largely through a standardized response to criticism on Twitter, demonstrated the University’s willingness to adapt their liberal values to reproduce systems of oppression.
And yet, as of a week before the talk, Craiutu said in an interview that he was not sure whether they would even offer a Q&A session at the end of the talk. Students who attended the talk in dissent noted that there was a heavily-moderated Q&A; Craiutu and Murray took questions written on slips of paper and selected the ones they would answer.
Standing on a raised flower bed outside Franklin Hall, students from Students Against State Violence, the English Grad Student Solidarity group, Young Democratic Socialists, and UndocuHoosiers Bloomington addressed the crowd. They condemned the University’s student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student (IDS), for repeatedly framing student protests as violent and unruly, in need of police to maintain order. These students asked their peers to look at the police, who came prepared with riot gear and zip ties and batons to protect Murray. They asked their peers to consider the destruction that Murray’s claims have wrought on marginalized students and communities, and they asked “Where is the violence really coming from?”
Students cheered, bearing signs that said “IU Betrayed Us”, “Decolonize IU”, and “IU, No Platform for White Supremacy”.
And then a dance party and noise demo broke out.
Students wheeled around a speaker on a small cart, passing out glow-stick bracelets and necklaces. Another brought a blonde wig, a cardboard cut-out of a Pepsi can, and a sign that read “Kendall Jenner Photo Booth”. Someone handed an officer a Pepsi. It erupted in a volcano of carbonated fizz, and the officer stormed off.
When a student inside reported that Murray moved to the far corner of the lecture hall away from the noise, the party moved seamlessly to that corner.
A little over an hour after it began, Murray’s lecture ended. Students crowded around the building’s exits, inserting their engagement with the guest speaker where the University, IUPD, Bloomington PD, and the Indiana State Police had denied it previously. Students flooded a small parking lot of police escort vehicles with their bodies. Others rallied around the southeast entrance, the northwest entrance, the east and west.
On the northwest side, one IU staffer laid down in front of a car, blocking the only exit for nearly a dozen police vehicles. IUPD Lieutenant Andy Stephenson jeered at her: “When it gets crazy, all of your friends are going to leave you here alone.”
She knew better.
Another officer at the northwest exit told them that “Murray is long gone.” Students demanded proof, sending two students and one staff member into Franklin Hall to see the “tunnels” he supposedly left through (there were none). Outside, students blocked the police motorcade, locking arms at the entrance to the lot, not letting any vehicle leave without all of its windows down. One student representative checked each car to make sure Charles Murray was not in the vehicle before letting it through the student barrier.
Moments later on the southeast side, a sleek black car crept off of Indiana Avenue onto the footpath that runs between the University’s iconic Sample Gates. Without warning, an officer violently shoved one young woman aside. She crumbled into hard ground, sustaining injuries to her hip and leg. The car crept forward, and Murray appeared through the front door of the building. He slithered into the car.
Police assaulted two more students to prevent any possibility of engagement with Murray, destabilizing students’ footing, throwing their bodies back into IU’s unforgiving red brick path. One student was shoved down three times without pause, not allowed to regain his balance until the falls made him light-headed. He would later report minor injuries to his ankles and wrists. But each student bounced back up and confronted police, shouting at them.
Officers detained another student, Eight O’Clock, who had been walking ahead of the car on the footpath, not engaging with officers or with the car. They held her for half an hour without providing a reason for her detainment. Escorted by police, she disappeared into Franklin Hall.
Murray disappeared, too, the black car speeding down the footpath, into campus.
In the moments that followed, students rallied to release their peer from police custody. They shook the fence that police had set up hours prior, and they moved through its gaps, shouting “Let her go! Let her go!” At one point, students locked arms and advanced on police. The police retreated to the top steps of Franklin Hall.
Hours into protest and long after Murray left, the crowd continued to grow in support of Eight O’Clock. Students challenged the role of the police, their preparedness and willingness to assault students who showed up in dissent, their ability to unthinkingly protect a white supremacist.
Then Eight O’Clock appeared through Sample Gates; she was immediately encircled by her peers.
After rallies and disruptions and police assaults on students, dissonant stories poured out from the University and IDS, drawing their conclusions from police records and the administration’s rhetorical weapons of choice. The student experience had been lost: “no injuries” said the IDS, “a victory for free speech” said Provost Lauren Robel.