NYS is a no SWAT zone! Reject SWAT conferences & police militarization
Rochester Indymedia's Ted Forsyth spoke with Ursula Rozum of the Syracuse Peace Council about the New York Tactical Officers Association's "SWAT Conference" happening in Syracuse, NY, April 26 - 28 and what is being done to stop it.
Here's the press release from the Syracuse Peace Council and the War Resisters League:
This coming Wednesday the 27th, the Clarion Project's Ryan Mauro - designated as an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his anti-Islam views - will be addressing attendees of the New York Tactical Officers Association Conference. Attendees will include police officers from from across NY state, including the NYPD and the Syracuse PD, as well as officers from around the country: LA, Colorado, and Ohio.This has caused alarm among advocacy groups such has the Council on American Islamic Relations which called this past Thursday for police departments to probe Mauro's upcoming training.It has also led local media in Syracuse, as well as other websites, to question both Mauro and the Larry Beresnoy, Executive Director of the New York Tactical Officers Association which puts on the conference. This has only led to defenses of Clarion by Beresnoy, who will not allow media to attend the conference, and will not disclose the full list of attendees, nor its funding sources.Mauro promotes the surveillance and profiling of Muslim Americans, often propagates the myth that there are Muslim 'no-go' zones across the US., attempts to link CAIR and other groups to terrorist activity, and has even argued that Islamists have infiltrated the Republican Party. The organization for which he works, The Clarion Project, was at the center of controversy for supplying the NYPD with anti-Islam films such as The Third Jihad, that then police chief Ray Kelly apologized for showing to his department.NYTOAC also features several major weapons manufactures at their expo including Northrup Grumman - the 5th largest arms dealer in the world, amidst ongoing concern regarding the militarization of the police, including the NYPD.Finally, at at least one of NYTOAC's workshops will promote the idea that SWAT Teams are the ideal entity to engage people having mental health crises, though a third or more of people killed by the police have such a disability. According to the ACLU there are more than 100 SWAT raids a day in the US, the great majority of which impact Black and Latino neighborhoods. (See this video of SWAT testimony.)The many US conferences like NYTOAC, such as the controversial Urban Shield in the Bay Area (see recent Guardian coverage), are often funded directly by the Department of Homeland security through the Urban Areas Security Initiative.A cross-community effort, including Black Lives Matter Upstate, the Syracuse Peace Council and the Arab American Association of New York, to oppose this conference which produces such harmful effects in so many communities, promotes militarized mentalities among the police, and dovetails disturbingly with the rising culture of fear in the US and worldwide. WRL's petition calling for its cancellation has reached nearly 2,000 singers.Endorsing organizations:AF3IRM NYC * Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) * Black Lives Matter Upstate NY * Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration (CAAMI) * CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities * Civilian Soldier Alliance * Equality for Flatbush * The Icarus Project * Iraq Veterans Against the War * Jewish Voice for Peace - National * Jewish Voice for Peace - Westchester * Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice * Muslim American Women's Policy Forum * New Yorkers Against Bratton * Organization for a Free Society (OFS) * Palestine Solidarity Collective * Raha - Iranian Feminist Collective * Stop LAPD Spying * Syracuse Peace Council * Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP)To add your organization, contact stopNYTOAC@gmail.com
Another forceful and violent use of Rochester's SWAT team was the unjust eviction of Catherine Lennon-Griffin over a fraudulent eviction order pursued in the courts by Fannie Mae. The bank, that had taken $90 billion in taxpayer bailout money through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), refused to negotiate with Ms. Lennon-Griffin after her husband died suddenly of brain and lung cancer.
The SWAT team arrived early on the morning of March 28, 2011 and removed her from the home, dispersing 11 of her family members, including seven grandchildren, and landing her in a motel. Around two dozen police remained as bank-contracted workers boarded up her home and removed her belongings. In the middle of this, five people committed civil disobedience and were arrested as they attempted to block the doorway to the home. Two others were arrested for failure to move, one being a 70 year-old neighbor in her pajamas. Local mainstream media got coverage of the arrests as did Rochester Indymedia. Four years later, Ms. Lennon-Griffin got her home back free and clear, after squatting her own home shortly after being evicted, while fighting to have a new day in court. Ms. Lennon-Griffin's story went viral and was picked up nationally. Former Obama Administration official Van Jones called her a “modern day Rosa Parks."
On the War Resisters League petition site, part of their statement reads:
Over the past several years regular, militarized attacks on Ferguson and Baltimore’s Black communities have gained increased attention--but they are not new and they are not stopping. Police repression continues to grow across the U.S. and globally through coordinated efforts to militarize policing tactics and weapons. As our communities increasingly lack basic infrastructure, local police departments are now directly funded and trained by the Department of Homeland Security and many receive military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense. Now in its 10th year, The New York Tactical Officers Association Conference (NYTOAC) is a two day training conference taking place this April 26th to 28th with participating agencies from across NY state and the country, from Buffalo to Brooklyn, Colorado to Ohio and beyond. NYTOAC plays on a growing culture of fear and hate by featuring as its keynote speaker Ryan Mauro with Clarion Project, which defends the profiling and surveillance of Muslim-Americans, absurdly attempts to link advocacy groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) with terrorist activity, and has provided the NYPD with its notoriously Islamophobic “training” film The Third Jihad which drew such outrage in 2012.
As part of the growing movement against militarization in cities everywhere, activists across New York state are continuing our fight by calling on decision-makers to reject NYTOAC for good!
The War Resisters League also released a video exposing these #SWATstories and the militarization of police:
#SWATstories from the War Resisters League
In Kristian Williams' Our Enemies In Blue: Police and Power in America, he offers the equation "Community Policing + Militarization = Counterinsurgency," which is to imply that the militarization of police (a jargon term) works in tandem with another jargon term, community policing, in order to not only repress disorder, but to actually prevent it from occurring in the first place. This, according to Williams, is counterinsurgency (from page 358):
Understood in terms of counterinsurgency, community policing represents [a] strategy for establishing and maintaining police control over the community--an approach enhanced by the insights of military experiences in restless colonies. Organizationally, militarization provides the model by which the police can work in teams, enhance officer discretion, and maintain tight command and control; community policing efforts, meanwhile, create the infrastructure for intelligence gathering and co-optation. Strategically, community policing strives toward directed, proactive action, with a geographic focus and attention to the causes of disorder; military planning gives a central role to intelligence work and takes an aggressive approach to confronting the enemy. Hence, military tactics are used to clear and hold contested areas, while community policing programs seek to build partnerships that bring the police legitimacy, information, and access to community resources. Ideologically, community policing serves to legitimize military-type efforts, while the rhetoric of a 'war on crime' can be used to mobilize the community to aid the police. And of course, the threats of a militarized 'Bad Cop' encourage cooperation with the 'Good Cop's' community policing projects.
It's a lot to take in but makes a lot of sense in terms of a coordinated effort at counterinsurgency. The dual efforts of community policing (in all its vagueness) and militarization of police (with all that that phrase connotes) are both locations of resistance and confrontation within our communities. It is vital that we not lose sight of these efforts and only focus on the grandeur and fearsomeness of high powered weapons, uniforms, and military vehicles, controlled by our local police departments.
Ms. Rozum did say that these SWAT conferences would be in New York for the next four years and that a growing, state-wide movement is coming together to force officials to cancel the remaining conferences. It's time to demilitarize our police and hold them accountable for the crimes they've committed.
Enough Is Enough!
Related: Military Academy Report a Sham | Islamophobia: The New Racism | McGriff family evicted; two arrested | #SayHerName #JusticeForIndia | Joey Lipari on Syracuse's Citizen Review Board | Cornel West's "Connecting the dots: Poverty, Racism, & Drones" | Suspended Justice: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline | BYP100/We Charge Genocide activist Jason Ware shares his experiences | From the Vault! Rochester Indymedia digs for content from the past | New venue found for Palestinian rights speaker after divinity school rescinds invite | Remove the cloak of secrecy! Police transparency now! | "Youth Organizing Against War" a workshop at the Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire convergence | Civil Resistance, What is it? and why do we do it?--a workshop