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Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico

FBI agent sprays Puerto Rican reporter in the face with pepper spray

This is slightly old news, but still probably news that far too few have heard. On last Friday, February 10, FBI agents raided six private homes and one business in Puerto Rico in an attack of intimidation and repression against the Ejercito Popular Boricua (Boricua Popular Army). The raids were conducted under the pretense of a “terrorist threat,” though no arrests have been made. People’s homes were ransacked, and files, computers, and other belongings were seized from the homes and office.

When the press attempted to observe and record the raids, the FBI clashed violently with them, spraying many in the face with pepper spray, as in the picture above. The use of excessive force by the FBI has been widely decried, by media and journalism outlets and organizations, Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and US congresspeople, who are demanding a federal investigation into the FBI’s actions.

Of course, the mainstream media is primarily spitting out the spin they’ve been fed by the FBI, saying that the FBI thwarted a terrorist attack. How, exactly, did they do that? By making no arrests and producing absolutely no evidence of any sort of planned attack? But see, the FBI knows that it doesn’t have to answer those questions. In our current political climate, one only need conjure up the specter of Terrorism to justify any excessive force, any civil rights violations, any complete and utter trampling of that worthless stack of papers called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It seems to me like all the FBI has done is to continue their campaign of terror, violence and intimidation against those people and organizations who are trying to rid Puerto Rico of their imperialist, oppressive colonizers. These most recent actions are completely in line with the September assasination of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, comandante of the Ejercito Popular Boricua. The FBI (or Fuerza Bruta Imperialista, as I read on the Indymedia PR website) continues to crack down on the independence and nationalist movements in Puerto Rico with absolutely no regard for the civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, further driving home the US’s attitude towards the Puerto Rican people as second class citizens. Also reflecting that attitude, the FBI neglected to inform any Puerto Rican authorities, such as the governor or the island’s chief of police, of the impending invasions. As reported in the NY Sun article on the call for an investigation from US congresspeople,

“In our democracy, the most fundamental obligation of law enforcement agencies is to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens as well as to protect the freedom of the press,” the congressmen wrote to the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. “Even in Puerto Rico, where the Bureau and its agents have a reputation for behaving as if they are above the law, the FBI is not exempt from these duties.”

If the US government is going to continue its colonization of Puerto Rico, shouldn’t it at least treat the Puerto Rican people as true US citizens, enjoying all civil rights and liberties therein? Oh, but wait, that respect isn’t even present on the mainland, at least not for people who have ideas or identities that the government doesn’t like, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be present on the island, either.

All of this is frightening, infuriating and disgusting. It makes me really fucking angry. It also makes me reflect more on my own activism, the places where I devote my energy. Right now, I mostly do my work around issues facing queer and trans people of color. Issues that are obviously very important, both in the grand scheme of things and personally in my own life. But, more and more, I think that my struggle – or at least, a larger part of my struggle, my energy, my work – should be for the liberation of my people. Incidents like this only make that feeling stronger.

More info:

One of the most thorough accounts of the FBI invasions that I’ve found so far, from the Monthly Review Zine

Pictures from the FBI raids, from Indymedia Puerto Rico

An article from Prensa Latina about Puerto Rican Association of Journalists President Oscar Serrano’s challenge to the FBI to prove that journalists were breaking the law and that any force against them was justified.

more info from the UrbanGuerrilla blog

An account from Infoshop News

I was happy to see this article in the Swarthmore Phoenix (my alma mater’s newspaper), about the long history of political repression in Puerto Rico, right up to the FBI’s most recent acts.

Tagged, I’m it!

I have something of a rule against memes on this blog, but since I was tagged by Brownfemipower over at Woman of Color Blog, I feel obligated to break that rule.  It actually brings up a general internal debate about where I post different stuff.  I’ve got a livejournal for the fluff and the really personal stuff, and a defunct website where I used to have a public, personal blog.  Maybe I’ll wind up consolidating stuff somewhere at somepoint.  But given that I barely blog lately, with the exception of memes… well, anyhow.  Hopefully I’ll get back on track with the blogging here soon, but for now, a meme.
Four Jobs I’ve Had in My Life:

  1. Circuit Rider – my current job.  It means I’m a travelling computer techie, working with non-profits and grassroots organizations.
  2. Shipper at a feminist film distributor
  3. Worker at an arboretum
  4. Manager of one night a week at the most slackerly campus café ever

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have

  1. Immortal Beloved (Gary Oldman as Beethoven?  Can’t get much better than that.)
  2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  3. PCU (and I’ve never even watched it while under -any- influence.)
  4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Four places I’ve Lived

  1. Hillside, New Jersey
  2. London
  3. Swarthmore, PA
  4. New York City – Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn, so far

Four TV Shows I Love To Watch

  1. Arrested Development (big finale marathon riday, folks!)
  2. Jeopardy!
  3. Desparate Housewives
  4. Grey’s Anatomy

Four Places I Have never been but want to go

  1. Puerto Rico.  I actually went with my family for a week when I was around 11 or so, but I think it would be a drastically different experience for me now.
  2. Vienna
  3. Venice
  4. the Pacific Northwest

Four Guilty Pleasure Websites:

  1. (it’s so addictive)
  4. (for all of these, the guilt usually stems from me wasting time on them instead of doing work)

Four Foods I can’t stand and why

  1. Mushrooms.  Something about the texture and the taste combined.  I’m starting to tolerate little ones cooked and mixed in with other food, but the big ones, blech.
  2. Eggplant.  See above, except that I don’t tolerate it at all.
  3. Many types of seafood, especially particularly seafoody tasting stuff.
  4. Tea.  I know it’s not a food, but it really makes me gag.  I’ve tried to like it, to no avail.

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

  1. Laying out in Prospect Park with my dog and friends, if the temperature was about 30-40 degrees warmer.
  2. Ireland
  3. Amsterdam
  4. The Shire.  Post-War of the Ring, of course.  Alternatively, someplace where I could go roaming through woods and over hills and through streams and generally bask in the glory of nature, preferably accompanied by good people.

Four people whom I tag next:
Maybe I’m no fun, and maybe I just need to get back to work already, but I’m actually not going to tag anyone else.  ¡Lo siento!

Playing my get out of blogging free card…

Clearly I’ve been a bit out of the loop lately. That’s what business travel, freelance work, and a few other projects and events will do to me. But it presents a good excuse to use this, which cracks me up:

Get out of blogging free card

courtesy Emilienne Ireland

Voting mishaps to avoid

First off – I hope y’all either voted already, or are planning to later! As the social justice calendar on my wall says, “Vote, but realize it is a small part of being a citizen and creating a truly democratic system.” Hell yeah.

Also, for New Yorkers who have not yet voted: note that the ballot proposals are located on the far right of the voting booth panel thingie. Don’t forget to look there.

This morning, I went to the polling place with my girlfriend. On the way there, we discussed the ballot proposals, how confusing they were, and how we planned to vote. She went into the booth before me and took a while in there (she was writing in Norman Siegal for Public Advocate, and write-in votes are tricky!) When she finally came out, I poked fun at her for taking so long, then stepped through the curtain.

And then I panicked.

Pull the red lever which way? Did I do it right? Did I already mess up? OK, Jack, calm down. It’s not all that hard. OK. Where are my candidates? Did I vote for Bloomberg by accident? What the hell is this mess over here where all the third party candidates are? Did I vote for the Green Party candidate or for the Libertarian? Did I remember to vote for folks under Working Party instead of Democratic? Ack. Ack. Ack.

Finally, I pulled the lever back, felt exhilarated at my participation in the democratic process, and went on my merry way to work.

I got to work, started speaking with my coworker about the elections, and suddenly had a Homer-Simpson-slap-my-forehead-moment:

I didn’t vote on the ballot proposals.

I never even saw them! And in my voting-booth-induced panic and confusion, I didn’t even remember to look for them! AUUUUGH!

I know, I know. My votes on the ballot proposals (probably no but maybe yes, yes, no, no) most likely would not have made much of a difference in the end. But still!

I think this speaks to the need for some changes in those damned voting booths. I’ve been inside of them maybe four or five times now, and they still make me all nervous and scared of making a mistakes. Imagine new voters! Imagine folks who aren’t extremely comfortable with the English language! Imagine people with impaired vision!

But I most definitely don’t want the fix to come in the form of electronic voting machines, at least not in their current form. From Democracy Now! a few days ago in a report on how the 2004 vote was may have been stolen :

Last week the Government Accountability Office – the investigative unit of Congress – issued a major report on the safety of electronic voting machines. Although the report has received little attention in the corporate media, its findings have startled critics of electronic voting. There are three main problems the GAO found with the machines: First, some electronic voting systems did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected. Second, it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate. Third, vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.

Scary stuff, folks. Scary stuff.

Something different.

Welcome to AngryBrownButch. Clearly, it’s brand spanking new. Over the next few days I’m going to be working on design, layout, content, all that good stuff. For now, we’re going bare bones.

If you’re looking at this, either your one of my friends or you’ve amazingly stumbled upon this newborn site. Either way, let me introduce you to AngryBrownButch.

I’m Jack, and I’m an angry brown butch. I like to rant about the sick state of affairs in this world today. Being not only an angry brown butch, but also a techie and lapsed blogger, I’ve decided to take it back to the blog. I’ve done this not least of all because the so-called liberal or progressive blogosphere seems to be overpopulated with mainstream, usually white, usually male voices. The kind of folks who, for instance, freak the fuck out when a person of color (that’s me, surblimity) presents a definition of racism that personally implicates them in the enduring system of racism in our society. I’d like to add my voice to those of other bloggers of color (to be linked to and blogrolled soon), queer bloggers, genderqueer bloggers, and women bloggers. (For more on the lack of attention paid to bloggers of color, check out this article from the Amsterdam News, as posted by Afro-Netizen.)

So, yeah – I’m going to return to getting this place looking good, but soon, there should be some actual content up here. I hope you’ll check back.