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Police State and Prisons

Barbara Lee, Renegade from Peace and Justice, Honors Oakland's "Fallen Heroes"
by junya + repost
Sunday Mar 29th, 2009 1:25 AM
When four Oakland police were killed, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-09) issued two press releases expressing condolences to the victims’ families and support for their colleagues. The following day she took to the floor of the House and for more than six minutes paid tribute to these “fallen heroes,” as she put it.

Rep. Lee thus far has not been moved to similarly elevate Oakland's 124 homicide victims in 2008 from their status as "nameless, faceless individuals". And after the BART police murdered Oscar Grant III, Lee made no public statement about the incident for more than a week, finally declaring that her “thoughts and prayers are with the family of Oscar Grant as they grieve the loss of their loved one.” - with no Congressional action. The self-described "renegade" thus left no doubt that, in her calculus of blood value, the killing of Oakland police meant sacred blood had spilled.
The Berkeley Daily Planet

Reader Commentaries:
Does Barbara Lee Still Speak for You and Me?
By Henry Norr
Wednesday March 25, 2009
When four Oakland police officers were killed last weekend, Rep. Barbara Lee wasted no time before speaking out. The very next day—on a Sunday, no less—she issued not one but two press releases expressing condolences to the victims’ families and support for their colleagues. The following day she took to the floor of the House and for more than six minutes paid tribute to these “fallen heroes,” as she put it. The press statements promptly appeared on her official website, and a video clip of her remarks to the House was posted to her YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t nearly as quick to respond to some other recent incidents of violence that have concerned many of her constituents:

• Oscar Grant. After the BART police murdered Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station, Lee made no public statement about the incident for more than a week. Only after hundreds of her constituents had taken to the streets to express their outrage—not only at the killing, but also at the establishment’s demonstrable indifference to it—did she issue a statement declaring that her “thoughts and prayers are with the family of Oscar Grant as they grieve the loss of their loved one.”

Even then, she and her staff don’t seem to have made much of an effort to get her statement out. They didn’t even bother to post it on her website—as of March 25, it’s still not there—and the only place Google finds the text is in a Bay Area News Group blog, not even in the Oakland Tribune or other East Bay papers. (On Jan. 14 Lee issued another statement saying she was “pleased” at the arrest of former officer Johannes Mehserle. That one did make it to her website.)

• Gaza. As I detailed in the Jan. 22 issue of this publication, Lee was similarly reticent about the U.S.-funded Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. She refused to join Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Lynne Woolsey, and John Conyers, among others, in sponsoring a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted humanitarian access to Gaza. She didn’t issue a statement of her own about the onslaught until it had raged for 20 days and upwards of 1,200 Palestinians, including more than 400 children, had been killed.

Even at the time there was plenty of evidence about the brutality of the Israeli attack, and by now it has been amply documented by international and Israeli human-rights groups, European and Israeli newspapers, and now even Israeli soldiers who participated. Top UN officials, progressive leaders around the world, even several American Jewish organizations have condemned what Israel did and continues to do in Gaza. Lee still hasn’t.

• Tristan Anderson. On Friday, March 13, Oakland resident and well-known activist Tristan Anderson was critically injured in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, when he was hit in the forehead by a high-velocity tear-gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier. The incident occurred at the end of Ni’lin’s weekly demonstration against the construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall, which will make a quarter of the village’s land inaccessible to its farmers. (That’s a quarter of what’s left—over the last 61 years Ni’lin has already lost more than 80 percent of its original area to Israeli landgrabbing.)

By all accounts Tristan was simply standing quietly, with his Jewish girlfriend, and taking pictures when he was shot. Israeli soldiers fired more tear gas at the Palestinian medics trying to rescue him, then blocked the ambulance transporting him for at least 15 minutes. When he finally made it to an Israeli hospital, doctors had to remove parts of his right frontal lobe. Almost two weeks later, he remains there in critical condition.

A few days after the shooting, I called Lee’s Oakland office to urge her to speak out—not just about the injury to one of her constituents, but also about the lethal weaponry and violent tactics Israel routinely unleashes on Palestinian demonstrators, however nonviolent they may be. (Since the 4,750 residents of Ni’lin began their weekly demonstrations last summer, the Israelis have shot and killed four of them, including a 10-year old; on the same day Tristan was hurt, a resident was hit in the leg with live ammunition, and five non-violent demonstrators were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets at the nearby village of Bil’in; three more demonstrators, including two Americans, were injured at Bil’in a week later; and so on, ad nauseam.)

I also pointed out that when an Israeli bulldozer killed Rachel Corrie in 2003, her Congressman, Brian Baird, made a public appearance with her parents just three days after her death, in which he described himself as a “strong supporter of Israel,” but called Rachel’s death “profoundly troubling,” demanded that people be “held accountable,” and pledged to introduce a resolution in the House calling for the State Department to undertake a “thorough and comprehensive” investigation.

I know that many other friends of Tristan and of Palestine also called or wrote to Lee’s offices. After a week without a substantive response, some of us let it be known that we would be raising these issues at an appearance Lee has scheduled at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco (12 noon on Friday, March 27), as well as at several upcoming readings from her recently published autobiography (Renegade for Peace and Justice: Barbara Lee Speaks for Me) at local bookstores.

Whether that’s what did the trick, I can’t say, but this past Tuesday—11 days after Tristan was shot—the following statement finally appeared on Lee’s website:

“My thoughts and prayers remain with Tristan Anderson and his family as he continues to recover from the tragic injuries. The day after this horrible incident, I conveyed my concern to the State Department and have asked for a complete report and ongoing updates about the incident. I remain very concerned about Tristan’s case and will continue to press for answers about this tragic incident.”

I appreciate Lee’s concern, and I’m sure Tristan’s family and personal friends do, too. But for someone who calls herself a “renegade for peace and justice,” her statement was pretty namby-pamby. After all, as a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, she’s in a position to do more than just express concern.

For starters, for example, she could call for cutting off the $3 billion plus the U.S. spends annually on military assistance to Israel, on the grounds of its repeated violations of the Arms Export Control Act, a U.S. law that requires governments that receive weapons from the United States to use them only for legitimate self-defense. How about proposing that that money be redirected to low-income housing or child-care support or drug treatment programs here at home?

More broadly, as someone who boasts in her autobiography of her role (as an aide to then-Rep. Ron Dellums) in pushing through the Congressa policy of sanctions and divestment from South Africa, she could have announced her intention to lead the struggle for similar penalties on Israel, until it agrees to a just peace with the Palestinians.

Of course, all this is sheer fantasy, at least for now. But if her constituents make it clear to Ms. Lee that we expect her to speak out as promptly and forthrightly about attacks on civilians—at home and abroad—as she does about the murder of police officers, maybe we can drag her back to her progressive roots.





Henry Norr can be reached at henry@ norr.com.

- "On the Loss of Four Fallen Oakland Police Officers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyK4VgHQO74

Honoring the lives, and mourning the loss, of Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege, members of the Oakland Police Department in... (Introduced in House)

HRES 290 IH

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. RES. 290

Honoring the lives, and mourning the loss, of Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege, members of the Oakland Police Department in California who were brutally slain in the line of duty.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 26, 2009

Ms. LEE of California (for herself, Ms. PELOSI, Mr. MCNERNEY, Mrs. TAUSCHER, Mr. BACA, Mr. BECERRA, Mr. BERMAN, Mr. THOMPSON of California, Ms. MATSUI, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California, Ms. SPEIER, Mr. STARK, Ms. ESHOO, Mr. HONDA, Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California, Mr. FARR, Mr. CARDOZA, Mr. COSTA, Mrs. CAPPS, Mr. SHERMAN, Mr. SCHIFF, Mr. WAXMAN, Ms. WATSON, Ms. ROYBAL-ALLARD, Ms. WATERS, Ms. HARMAN, Ms. RICHARDSON, Mrs. NAPOLITANO, Ms. LINDA T. SANCHEZ of California, Ms. LORETTA SANCHEZ of California, Mr. FILNER, Mrs. DAVIS of California, Mr. CALVERT, Mr. CAMPBELL, Mr. ISSA, Mr. LEWIS of California, Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California, Mr. RADANOVICH, Mr. ROHRABACHER, and Mr. DREIER) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

RESOLUTION

Honoring the lives, and mourning the loss, of Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege, members of the Oakland Police Department in California who were brutally slain in the line of duty.

Whereas, since May 17, 1792, when Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith of the New York City Sheriffs Office was killed, more than 18,270 Federal, State, and local law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty;

Whereas, on Saturday, March 21, 2009, in Oakland, California, Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Dan Sakai, and Officer John Hege, all of the Oakland Police Department, were killed by gunfire while serving in the line of duty;

Whereas the senseless slaying of Sergeants Dunakin, Romans, and Sakai, and Officer Hege represents the first multiple-fatality shooting incident of law enforcement officers in the United States in more than a year, and the first time in more than 15 years that 4 law enforcement officers were killed by gunfire in the line of duty in a single incident;

Whereas the killing of Sergeants Dunakin, Romans, and Sakai, and Officer Hege represents the deadliest incident involving California public safety officers since the infamous `Newhall Incident' occurred nearly 40 years ago in Los Angeles County on April 6, 1970, when 4 California highway patrolmen were killed in a gun battle with 2 heavily armed suspects, an incident so traumatic and shocking to the Nation that it galvanized the movement to reform police training procedures, firearms use, and arrest techniques;

Whereas the slaying of Sergeants Dunakin, Romans, and Sakai, and Officer Hege serve as a reminder that the risks assumed by police officers daily in serving and protecting their communities continue to be enormous, ever present, and lethal, even as the number of law enforcement officers killed by gunfire in the United States has steadily declined over the last 20 years;

Whereas the bravery, devotion to duty, and love of community of these fallen heroes has forever earned them a place in the hearts and memories of the citizens they willingly risked their lives to protect, an honor that comes at enormous cost to the people who knew them best, loved them most, and remember them simply as husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and friends;

Whereas Sergeant Mark Dunakin of Tracy, California, was an 18-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, a graduate of Chabot College in Hayward, California, an experienced homicide investigator, and according to his captain, `a cop's cop,' who was `absolutely committed to anything that he leads' and absolutely devoted to his wife Angela and their 3 children;

Whereas Sergeant Ervin `Erv' Romans of Danville, California, was a 13-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, one of the most capable members of the Oakland Police SWAT Team, and highly respected for his work in the Narcotics Division of the Department, where he was responsible for solving several major drug cases;

Whereas Sergeant Daniel Sakai of Castro Valley, California, was considered by his peers and supervisors as a rising star on the Oakland Police SWAT Team, where he served as leader of the entry team and was beloved for his dedication to serving others, as evidenced by his previous work as a community service officer at University of California, Berkeley, escorting students around campus at night, and his tenure as an English teacher in Japan, but most of all by his devotion to his wife Jennifer and their young daughter;

Whereas Officer John Hege of Concord, California, was a 10-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department who graduated from St. Mary's College of California, taught at Tennyson High School in Hayward, California, loved both his dog and umpiring high school baseball games, and knew the incredible joy of realizing his cherished dream of becoming a motorcycle cop, and who could always be counted on by his colleagues to be one of the first to respond to requests for assistance or to cheerfully volunteer to help on departmental projects; and

Whereas in the face of this horrible loss, the people of Oakland, California, have come together and rededicated themselves to making Oakland the safe and peaceful community that Sergeants Dunakin, Romans, and Sakai, and Officer Hege sacrificed their lives to preserve and defend: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives extends its condolences to the families and loved ones of Oakland Police Department Sergeant Mark Dunakin, Sergeant Ervin Romans, Sergeant Daniel Sakai, and Officer John Hege and stands in solidarity with the people of Oakland, California, their neighbors in the East Bay, and entire Bay Area community, as they celebrate the lives, and mourn the loss, of these 4 remarkable and selfless heroes who represented the best of their community and the future the people of Oakland are determined to create for their children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d111:20:./temp/~bdkaSH::
by Jon Jackson
Sunday Mar 29th, 2009 9:17 AM
Thank you for a well-written essay.

It's frustrating that Rep. Lee is "progressive except for Palestine".
Hopefully with enough pressure from her constituents we can get the kind of progressive leadership that Cleveland, Ohio, has.
by junya
Sunday Apr 5th, 2009 3:16 AM
Henry Norr's updated story on Barbara Lee:
On Tristan’s Case, Barbara Lee Gets in Gear
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2009-04-02/article/32615?

The House resolution praising the "fallen heros" passed.