Category Archives: michigan

Defend Catherine Wilkerson

Catherine Wilkerson’s trial began today in Ann Arbor. Michelle Kinnucan wrote an article for Critical Moment (Dr. Wilkerson Fights Political Repression, Issue 22) a while back laying out this case.

It was at this time that she was physically assaulted by Ann Arbor police and detained. To this day, Wilkerson still requires physical therapy for the shoulder injury she suffered at the hands of Officer Warner. Wilkerson was never handcuffed or even required to produce identification because she had committed no crime in advocating for a patient in her care. However, nearly two months after the incident and just seven days after she filed a police brutality complaint, she was charged by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie’s office, at the request of the UM police, with two attempted felonies—one against Officer Warner and one against the EMS personnel.

Alexander Cockburn also wrote this article in Counterpunch.org. It contains a background of the events that led to the court case but also some more recent information. I found this quote from the defense lawyer particularly interesting:

Her attorney, civil rights lawyer Buck Davis, tells me that that county judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines recently threw out two subsequent charges, claiming that Wilkerson had tried to interfere with the campus police as well as the police officer.

Buck Davis tells me that “ten or fifteen years ago this case would have been a slam dunk, on First Amendment and medical privilege arguments, with no physical contact with the cops, all in liberal Ann Arbor.” Wilkerson would have been swiftly acquitted.

“But now people are scared to death. They know the social system is falling apart. They no longer have a generous spirit. I’ve learned that the erosion of the economic and social fabric means people want to believe the cops. They’re frightened. So I’m not as arrogant about ‘slam dunk’ cases as I once was.”

The Huron Valley Greens have called for supporters to pack the courtroom:

*1. Trial Starts Monday–Pack the Courtroom*
The first day of trial is Monday, November 26th, starting at 1 PM. Jury selection is scheduled to continue on this day. The trial continues on the 27th, 28th and 30th at 8:30 AM every day. All events take place in the courtroom of 15th District Court Judge Elizabeth Pollard-Hines. The court is located at 101 E. Huron St. (corner of Main St.) in downtown Ann Arbor [directions].

The court phone number is (734) 222-3380. We’ll try to keep you apprised of scheduling changes but if you’re coming in from out-of-town then you may want to call first

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How Far We’ve Come

AMC2007It wasn’t very long ago when I was convinced that the open publishing websites known as Indymedia were the ultimate radical media tool for social change. Of course, there was tons of other ‘media’ activism that did not fit as neatly into that category, but the (relatively privileged) communities of activists that came out of the anti-globalization movement did not necessarily recognize them as such. The definition of radical media as conceived by the Indymedia activists was in need a serious update, and we got it with this year’s Allied Media Conference.

This year’s Allied Media Conference broke new ground. The areas of independent media, media justice, and movement media were connected in ways that I have never seen before. I managed to attend some great sessions and I know from talking to other people that there were many other excellent ones that I missed. I caught a few minutes of D. Blair’s “History of Black American Through Music.” I learned a lot even in the brief period that I was there. He explained about the deeper meanings of the lyrics of slave songs and how his academic research in that area made him able to connect to an elderly group who knew the songs, but not their meanings. Of course he also sang the songs in his awesome booming voice.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to that much of the Pop Ed Symposium because I was ensnared in helping set up the Youth Media Lab. Not that I can complain about that. I didn’t quite know what it was beforehand and wasn’t down there the whole time, but from what I gathered I think it might have been one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the AMC. (One piece of feedback I have for next year is to promote the Media Lab more so that people besides the participating organizations know more about it). Basically it was a hands-on workshop for different youth organizations. So, some of went on there included Detroit Summer, the Prometheus Project, and other organizations building an educational FM transmitter. Elementz ran an audio studio and by the end of the weekend had produced five full tracks were produced (hope to hear these on the AMC website soon). They even used the tables and sheets that were already in the room to make a makeshift sound-proof booth to record lyrics.

On Saturday we had the Print Caucus (workshop/caucus/meeting, whatever you want to call it). It was interesting but not quite as productive as I thought it could have been. Of course as a co-facilitator I take some responsibility for this. I was pretty tired and out of it and Jen did most of the actual facilitating during the meeting. But the meeting made me more aware of the significant differences between projects with national distribution like Bitch and Left Turn and projects with local distribution like Critical Moment and Fault Lines. We definitely can learn from each other’s experiences but there are also going to be huge parts of our operations that don’t apply to each other. One cool idea that came out of this was Jordan Flaherty’s suggestion of a national print media tour. So local and national projects would go on tour to get people hyped up about print. Yeah, whatever, you think it’s boring, but I want to go on tour. Plus we need creative ideas to keep print alive (for example becoming a Critical Moment issue sponsor).

On Sunday was the presentation on Political Murals in the North of Ireland. Damn we didn’t record this one! Had no idea how this was going to turn out, but Eoin Ó Broin most definitely rocked it. Mike mentioned that the look on everyone’s faces was, “This is so incredible and how did I not know all of this stuff before!?” I’m going to post the pictures Eoin used in his presentation and will maybe write about that presentation a little more then.

I first came to the AMC because of my involvement in media. But independent media is not revolutionary unless it is intimately tied to movements and movement building. I don’t think that a lot of projects are aware of this, and even if they are, it’s hard to actually incorporate this into your work. Many of the projects featured at the AMC were on the cutting edge of this kind of community based, community empowering media work. Congrats to the AMC organizers and see you next year if not sooner.

Announcing Critical Bloggers

Critical Moment, a local independent magazine that I help publish, has just launched Critical Bloggers, a blog that syndicates other radical and progressive bloggers from around Southeast Michigan.

It’s interesting to think of this project as being descended, at least in part, from the Michigan Independent Media Center. Some of the ex-Michigan IMC editors are part of Critical Moment, which is the sponsor of Critical Bloggers. I guess it’s more democratic, in the sense that there is much less moderation of individual posts. It’s also less democratic, since you need to have your own blog to be syndicated and can’t write directly for the site (of course it’s ridiculously easy to get a blog these days). But already, I think that Critical Bloggers is offering some tough competition against what the IMC offered in terms of amazing content. I think that there is also a greater diversity of voices, which might have something to do with the culture of Indymedia and the fact that a lot of the syndicated bloggers probably wouldn’t write for their own blogs and then take the extra time and effort to also post to the Michigan IMC.

This was also a good learning experience for me on the tech end of things, since in the end I ended up doing pretty much everything myself. My usual co-conspirator/web helper friend was too busy to answer my incessant questions and so I had to figure most of it out myself. The moral of the story: WordPress pretty much rules. I was able to set up the site and get the syndication plugin going in basically no time. If anyone out there is interested in setting up a syndication blog, I would love to assist.

Check out CriticalBloggers.org. Thanks to Josh for the shout-out(s).

Also, now the sad secret is out: BFP posts more than literally every other of the syndicated bloggers combined. So now we’ve got to step it up…

Talking about water on the air

Last Wednesday, rachel and I were interviewed on WDET about a film we have been working on and about the the economic situation in Highland Park and Detroit as it relates to water rights. I didn’t really talk about current stuff in Detroit since I don’t live there, but it was good to get on the air and say loud and clear that water is a human right and to try to expose the fact that many people get their water shut off because they can’t afford it. This kind of thing should be a huge scandal, but of course it’s not, and every year 40,000 people continue to have a utility shut off. In my opinion, we only got the interview because we’ve got a movie coming out. But I hope that the fact that we were on the air spreads some knowledge and outrage about this issue to a broader range of people.

Speaking of which, you can expect to catch a rough cut of that long-awaited documentary posted here not too long from now…

Listen to the interview.

Critical Moment party this Thursday

If this awesome picture doesn’t make you want to come to the Critical Moment party, well, then, I don’t think you should even come. Seriously, though, you should come. We would love to see you there.

The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and the editors of Critical Moment would like to invite you to a party to support local independent media! All of you Critical Moment fans out there, now is your chance to support CM, hang out with a great crowd, and have a good time doing it. DJ Shomer Shabbazz will be providing the music.

Arbor Brewing Company will be donating 1/2 of all proceeds from the bar back to Critical Moment.

Snacks, music, and unlimited copies of CM #21 provided.

April 5, 8PM-midnight @ Arbor Brewing Company’s Tap Room, 116 E. Washington St.

  • $5-15 donation
  • free admission if you become an issue sponsor
  • free Army of None poster to anyone who becomes a $10 issue sponsor
  • no one turned away for lack of funds!

“Don’t Come to Ann Arbor”

If the specter of another US foray into regime change disturbs you, google the word “Tanter.” If the prospect of another country’s being bombarded with US weapons outrages you, and if inserting the adjective “nuclear” into the narrative sends a chill up your spine, go to the “Guardian” website and search “Tanter.” Or if you hanker to find out what a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator can do to humankind, click onto the Union of Concerned Scientists.


But if you want to take a stand against another US/Israeli war crime, don’t come to Ann Arbor. Not unless you’re prepared for the worst. Unless you’re prepared to be brutalized by the cops, thrown in jail, and subjected to improper and punitive medical treatment, you’d better keep your mouth shut. Or so the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Police, and the Zionist forces in the community would have it.

US war crimes

Tonight I heard Rana Elmir of the ACLU speak on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This was the torture bill that Debbie Stabenow voted for a few months back (you can even buy a Stabenow Voted for Torture bumper sticker). Somehow I ended up on Stabenow’s email list in the months leading up to the 2006 election, and I usually just ignored or deleted her campaign messages because I generally don’t support the Democrats. But after I heard this I replied and asked to be removed from her email list because I was so disgusted. I wrote to her, “Please remove me from this list. I’m not interested in having anything to do with a candidate that voted for torture.”

The bill states in part that “the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.” Basically it legalizes torture carried out by the US government.

As if the bill itself wasn’t disturbing enough, at the event they also showed the film “Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the ‘War on Terror.” This really was an intense film to watch. It tells the story of two men, Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, who are survivors of US rendition, secret detention, and torture. They describe how they were abducted, tortured, blindfolded, and flown to and from secret prisons all across Europe. When they were done with El-Masri they dumped him in a forest. He made his way back to his home in Germany to find that his family had moved back to Lebanon because they did not know where he was and ran out of money. He was the one on film telling his own story, which was very powerful to watch. Mohamed is still at Guantanamo, where he participated in the hunger strike that went on there earlier this year. His family read from his diary but their faces were obscured at their request.

I think I knew some things about extraordinary rendition and the secret prisons that the CIA has, but it really didn’t click for me until I saw this film. It’s just insane that the US is putting bags over innocent people’s heads and flying them halfway across the world to be tortured, what’s more insane is that it’s all done totally in secret, and what’s even more insane is that there isn’t a huge public outcry or movement to stop this activity. These actions are being carried out in the name of the US and that makes all Americans complicit to some extent.

The movie is available online and I also posted it here.