Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council on Police Agreements with the Trump Regime

James McFadden
Tuesday May 16, 2017 - 10:40:00 AM

As you make your decision this coming Tuesday on Berkeley’s cooperation agreements with NCRIC (3.12) and UASI (3.6), and make decisions regarding the purchase of militarized equipment (armored van) and participation in Urban Shield, it is important to recognize that you, our City’s representatives, are deciding on cooperation with the Trump regime. With the firing of FBI director James Comey, one can no longer argue there are independent institutions within the executive branch. Before you vote on this cooperation, you should examine what your cooperation means by reviewing the related Trump Administration’s actions, policies and appointments undertaken during its first 100 days in office: 

1) the choice of the racist Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, 

2) the racist and xenophobic Muslim ban on travel, 

3) the escalated attacks on water protectors at the DAPL and on other environmental protestors, 

4) a president surrounded by authoritarian followers who believe that “the powers of the president … will not be questioned” (Stephen Miller) 

5) the gutting of regulatory bodies, like the EPA, which are designed to protect the public, 

6) the firing of FBI head James Comey to be replaced by a Trump lackey, 

7) the appointment of a far-right Supreme Court Justice, 

8) the anti-gay agenda of the administration from his choice of Pense as VP to, his selection of the anti-LGBT Ben Carson, Mark Green, Scott Garrett and Jeff Sessions, reversing civil rights protections to transgender children, ending federal opposition to state anti-LGBT laws, proposals to gut HIV/AIDS programs, and Trump support of the anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense Act. 

9) Trump’s “Blue lives matter” executive orders which seek to increase penalties resulting from confrontations with police officers to ensure the loyalty of Police Officer Associations and designed to intimidate protestors, 

10) the escalation of racist and xenophobic rhetoric by the president that encourages authoritarian followers to gather in our community and celebrate white supremacy, 

11) the escalation of state laws that criminalize protesting and impose severe penalties on protestors for exercising their right of free speech, 

12) Trump’s economic policies that will increase tax breaks for the super-rich and require compensating austerity policies that will be imposed on the poor (including ending ACA), all of which will result in increased protests, 

13) a general consolidation of power by the multi-millionaire and billionaire class who dominate the current cabinet and top administration positions, and who benefit most from these tax and austerity policies, 

14) an escalation of the war on the free press including a demonization of any news that reflects badly on the president or his policies, characterizing it as “fake news”, 

15) the continued militarization of the police (started under Bush and escalated under Obama) and the consolidation of police control under the umbrella of homeland security -- all in violation of the intent of the Posse Comitatus Act, 

These changes must be understood as a slow shift toward fascism – a fascism that must be resisted. The enforcement arms of the federal government (the FBI, Homeland Security, etc.) are not capable of creating a totalitarian state without the cooperation local law enforcement. The agreements with NCRIC and UASI are attempts to consolidate federal control over local police. Under the authoritarian Trump administration, these agreements become a threat to the public and our civil rights. It can no longer be argued that the FBI is independent of Trump control. Voting to endorse police cooperation with the FBI and Homeland Security creates a direct threat to the citizens of Berkeley. The City Council needs to take a moral stand and make a statement: “Berkeley will not cooperate with this xenophobic and racist Trump administration.” 

If instead you vote to continue these agreements, you are either engaging in willful ignorance, wishful blindness, or moral cowardice. Don’t be one of the guardians of the status quo who puts their own short-term, narrow self-interest ahead of the public interest. Don’t side with the plutocrats and authoritarians who rule for profits over people. The Trump regime is soft-core fascism (economic consolidation, mass surveillance, and militarism). Don’t be afraid to defy Trump – take a moral stance. The people of Berkeley will have your back just like the people of SF had Gavin Newsom’s back on the moral issue of gay marriage. Don’t help Trump create the surveillance state – a national police state. Remember Orwell’s warning: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." 

Agreements 3.6 and 3.12 are specifically designed to continue the militarization of police and build an infrastructure allowing Homeland Security to usurp local control. Such militarization is not in response to any actual terrorist threat – only an imagined terrorist scenarios used to scare us into erecting this structure – the same fear-mongering used to pass the Patriot Act – the same fear-mongering used to justify the invasion of Iraq. We don’t need their money and we don’t want military grade weapons. We should reject these agreements on moral grounds. Urban area police working groups are designed to suppress urban unrest, urban protests, and urban strikes. There is no credible threat of terrorism in the bay area, but there is a threat of protest. This will be especially true when the current debt bubble pops and when austerity is imposed. Urban Shield training and propaganda is not about public safety, it is about public control. Police militarization and cooperation agreements with homeland security, combined with NSA and FBI spying, are essential to their strategy of full-spectrum dominance over civil society as outlined in the Snowden leaks. 

Using these agreements to usurp local control of our militarized police force, the Trump regime will be able to crush all progressive movements. Don’t believe the nonsense that local ordinances will take precedence – the agreements have outs to allow the police to be the arm of Trump in a crisis. These agreements cement the federalization of our police that began with the Patriot Act – a clear effort to undermine the Posse Comitatus Act. Police militarization is directly linked to solidification of corporate rule and a merging of corporations with the State. This merging is exactly how Mussolini defined fascism. Police militarization is directly linked to the need to maintain control as the State imposes austerity to maintain corporate profits. Police militarization is the antithesis of community policing. 

Nothing is more threatening to an authoritarian government than the possibility of local government officials and local police siding with the public. When this happens, the totalitarian forces within a government will collapse. Be part of his resistance. End our cooperation agreements, end participation in urban shield, and end the purchase of military equipment. 

As you ponder your decisions on NCRIC and UASI, consider the following words of people far wiser than any of us. Perhaps these words will give you the courage and understanding to do the right thing – to make the moral choice: 

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing" Edmund Burke 

“If you’re neutral in situations of injustice, you’ve chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu 

"You can't save the people if you don't serve the people." Cornel West 

"You can choose to serve truth and justice or privilege and power." Chris Hedges 

“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” Jimmy Carter 

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” Hannah Arendt 

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King 

“I knew that these were theories, even in the mouths of black people, that justified the jails springing up around me that argued for ghettos and projects, that viewed the destruction of the black body as incidental to the preservation of order. According to this theory ‘safety’ was a higher value than justice, perhaps the highest value.” Ta-Nehisi Coates 

“It’s almost as if we believe that if enough data is collected, enough “really bad guys” are tortured into giving up “actionable intelligence,” we ourselves will never die. There is a word for people whose first concern is always for their own safety and who will therefore permit anything to be done in their name as long as it keeps them secure. Such people are sometimes called cowards.” Rebecca Gordon 

“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” Mario Savio 

“Don't give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you and enslave you – who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! … Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines!” Charlie Chaplin 

“Anti-fascist organizing must be bold. The mechanisms working against us do not entertain our humanity: they are hyper-violent. They deal death and destruction in countless numbers across the non-Western world while turning domestic Black and Brown neighborhoods into proxies for how to treat sub-citizen “others.” The militarization of police, border regimes, stop-and-frisk and ICE are clear examples of how the state regards the communities it targets and brutalizes.” William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi 

“The prison-industrial complex has become so big and powerful that it works to perpetuate itself. … the United States has basically offered to the world: a way of managing social problems by refusing to confront them.” Angela Davis 

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Frederick Douglass 

“The role of the police as an ‘army of the rich’ is worth considering inasmuch as their militarization, immunity from prosecution and attendant impunity have grown in approximate proportion to the concentration of wealth that is itself tied to the impoverishment of growing portions of the population. … It is other than paradoxical that the public health interest put forward to explain drug law enforcement finds its most violent expression through repressive policing in poor neighborhoods. Were concern for public health the motivation the police would be helping the poor find jobs, get needed health care and assuring the availability of nutritious food.” Rob Urie 

“What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit?” Arundhati Roy 

“We’re creating a dystopia, where the mania of the state isn’t secrecy or censorship but unfairness. Obsessed with success and wealth and despising failure and poverty, our society is systematically dividing the population onto winners and losers, using institutions like the courts to speed the process. Winners get rich and get off. Losers go broke and go to jail. … The great nonprosecutions of Wall Street in the years since 2008 … were just symbols of this dystopian sorting process to which we’d already begun committing ourselves. The cleaving of the country into two completely different states – one a small archipelago of hyperacquisitive untouchables, the other a vast ghetto of expendables with only theoretical rights – has been in the works a long time.” Matt Taibbi 

“Police reform … they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them. The truth is that the police reflect America and all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority. The abuses that have followed from these policies – the sprawling carceral state, the random detention of black people, the torture of suspects – are the product of democratic will. And so to challenge the police is to challenge the American people who send them into the ghettos armed with the same self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream.” Ta-Nehisi Coates 

"First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." - Martin Niemoller 

“Privacy is essential to human freedom and happiness for reasons that are rarely discussed but instinctively understood by most people, as evidenced by the lengths to which they go to protect their own. To begin with, people radically change their behavior when they know they are being watched. They will strive to do that which is expected of them. … The range of choices people consider when they believe that others are watching is therefore far more limited than what they might do when acting in a private realm. A denial of privacy operates to severely restrict one’s freedom of choice. … if you believe you are always being watched and judged, you are not really a free individual. All oppressive authorities – political, religious, societal, parental – rely on this vital truth, using it as a principal tool to enforce orthodoxies, compel adherence, and quash dissent. It is in their interest to convey that nothing their subjects do will escape the knowledge of the authorities. Far more effectively than a police force, the deprivation of privacy will crush any temptation to deviate from rules and norms. What is lost when the private realm is abolished are many of the attributes typically associated with quality of life. … Only when we believe that nobody else is watching us do we feel free – safe – to truly experiment, to test boundaries, to explore new ways of thinking and being, to explore what it means to be ourselves. … A society in which everyone knows they can be watched by the state – where the private realm is effectively eliminated – is one in which those attributes are lost, at both the societal and the individual level. Mass surveillance by the state is therefore inherently repressive, even in the unlikely case that it is not abused by vindictive officials to do things like gain private information about political opponents. Regardless of how surveillance is used or abused, the limits it imposes on freedom are intrinsic to its existence.” Glenn Greenwald 

“Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.” Sheldon Wolin