Imagine for a moment, there is a terrorist attack based on ethnic hatred that took place in the heart of America. Now imagine that the President of the United States went on TV and said the victims are just as much to blame as the terrorists. Well, that happened yesterday.

To recap, there was a so-called “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia which ended up being a unite fans of the Confederacy with the KKK and neo-Nazis. I’m not exaggerating. There were flags with swastikas on them. There were Hitler quotes on t-shirts. David Duke was there. And this followed a nighttime march where they carried tiki torches and chanted Nazi slogans.

There was also a counter-protest made up of people from groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter and some who just didn’t think those proud of their racism and hatred should go unchallenged. If hatemongers can use free speech to defend their ignorant, white supremacist views then it’s good that some people are there to point out that this is, in fact, hate speech and fight it.

Then someone rammed a car into the counter protest, killing one and injuring many. If ramming a car into people on foot is terrorism when an Islamic extremist does it in London, then it clearly is terrorism when a white supremacist does it in Virginia.

Eventually Donald Trump, current President of the United States, made a statement:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

Um, wait, what? The hatred and bigotry were clearly only on one side in Charlottesville (hint: it’s the people carrying the swastika flags, not those opposing them). The violence, in the form of mowing down people with a car, was only on that side, too.

Groups against race-based police assassination of innocent people and groups opposed to fascism in all of its forms, new and old, are not hate groups, they are defenders of human rights. Nazis, the Klan and their associates are hatemongers and a threat.

That is a simple concept that shouldn’t need someone murdering people with a car to prove. But now, even with a white supremacist terrorist attack, the President is still on the fence.

Things couldn’t be clearer. I’m all for nuance, but this time it’s black and white. The guys with the swastika flags, they’re the bad guys. Those with the confederate flags, they’re associates of the bad guys. If you can’t see this, you are either truly ignorant or so obsessed with not alienating your own base that you don’t care if they are the scum of the earth.

If it’s the latter, at least, for now, you’re presidential material. For the rest of us, it’s another sad day when racists can kill and not be labelled as the terrorists that they are.

M-103, the Private Members’ Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, to fight Islamophobia in Canada has sadly and predictably sparked anger and debate. While most of the venom being spewed in comments sections and at rallies comes from Islamophobes afraid they may have to stop hating Muslims in public, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is fighting it in a different way, at least officially.

The CPC’s Religious Freedom Critic David Anderson introduced a counter-motion which doesn’t use the word Islamophobia and instead calls on the government to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”

Looks like this was the kind of “doesn’t sound that bigoted” cover some were waiting for. I’m now seeing arguments on social media that start by asking why Muslims should be singled out for protection. Of course these are made by some of the same types of people who have no problem singling them out for criticism.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly and Iqra Khalid

Generally, a few comments later, or sometimes even in the same paragraph, their cover drops and they show exactly why we need to take Islamophobia seriously. As if the recent Mosque attack in Quebec City, Friday’s “anti-Islam” blockade in Toronto and the threats received by Khalid and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly over this motion weren’t each enough to do just that.

The CPC approach sounds very familiar to that employed by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and here in Canada as well. Instead of speaking out against police indiscriminately murdering people in communities of colour, some opted to promote the All Lives Matter narrative instead.

Basic deflection. Saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t whereas insisting that people say All Lives Matter instead means that you want everyone to ignore the disproportionate amount of young people of colour being murdered by police. No one counters a Stop Cancer fundraiser by saying All Diseases Matter.

And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Yes, there are hate crimes against other religions, too. Here in Montreal, synagogues get vandalized on a regular basis. Antisemitism is a problem that needs to be dealt with and people are trying to fight it. That doesn’t mean Islamophobia shouldn’t be attacked as well.

When there is a real and present danger to a specific group of people within a society, that danger needs to be admitted, addressed and fought. I’m not sure if a motion in the House of Commons is anywhere near enough to fight Islamophobia, but admitting that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with is essential.

The CPC would stop us from performing even that most basic of civic duties. Meanwhile, some of their leadership candidates are openly campaigning for the Islamophobic vote. It’s two sides of the same coin, like the All Lives Matter crowd and the open racists.

Defending the right of the special snowflakes in their base (two can play at that particular name game) to be bigots is no justification to block fighting Islamophobia. Muslims are a target and no amount of defensive re-wording of language will change that, only action.

* Featured image of David Anderson in the House of Commons

A 20 year old black man died in the hands of police in my neighborhood on Tuesday night. His name is Wardel Davis, say it out loud. His friends called him Meech.

The facts are not clear on what happened exactly but he is dead. He was coming out of a known drug house “they” say and when confronted he tried to run. He tried to run because he knew what would happen to him if they caught him.

Officers Nicholas J. Parisi and Todd C. McAlister (both officers with 10+ years on the force) were able to chase down Davis and place him into custody. After taking him down he mysteriously stopped breathing. They immediately uncuffed him and tried CPR to revive him but he passed away shortly after at Buffalo General Hospital.

This is an issue of out racist classist system smashing down on the already battered youth. One officer was black and the other was white, they were not in uniform, walking the neighborhood to “serve and protect” right?

Why is he is dead? What did he do to warrant being stopped in the first place? He was acting “suspicious” and they are not saying how long the fight was.

A lot of details have not been released. Police said no shots were fired and no taser or other implements were used against him.

The state attorney general is investigating this case and both officers are now on administrative leave. I hope justice is served, but I don’t see that happening.. As I type this people are chanting BLACK LIVES MATTER outside of the police station next door. Shit must hit the fan!

You cannot condemn someone for being a victim of circumstance, born into a society that holds you down from birth. Wardel Davis had already lost both of his parents, his girlfriend and grandmother are now left behind with an empty void where their loved one used to be.

The Buffalo News talked to his girlfriend and the article says that he was about to go to jail for drug charges the next day due to a missed court appearance. She said that she would have been ok with visiting him in jail but it is NOT ok that he is dead.

I did not personally know Wardel Davis but I know he should still be alive right now. I do not have all of the facts and cannot make assumptions, but I do know one thing: more people will die if this system does not change.

I know all cops aren’t bad, I am not even saying that these specific cops are bad, it may have just been an arrest gone wrong. But what I am saying is that they did not have the right to put this boy in that situation to begin with.

Even though one of the officers was black that doesn’t mean racial profiling wasn’t at play here. He is part of a police state that targets people of color every single day. There is a system of radical inequality in place. The war on drugs is the war on poor young black men, period. BLACK LIVES MATTER! WARDEL DAVIS MATTERS!

I am furious but this is not about me. This is about the terrible state of the world that we live in. Drilling also started back up for the Dakota Access Pipeline, Betsey Devos is in charge of education, and Cheeto satan is still the president.

Everything sucks, but that doesn’t mean stop fighting back. It’s difficult to write about fun times and raunchy sex stuff when you are constantly inundated with reality. Reality is death, it is racist, it is all about money.

I was on a bar dancing down the street as this boy died in the arms of authority. It is hard for me to find clarity in this, I need to help, in a more physical way that making art or giving hot coco to protesters. I know I am white, therefore I have less to fear, that is a privilege that I was born with. My skin color has offered me mobility and safety that others do not have.

White supremacy must end now! Call out people you know! Call yourself out! It is uncomfortable to stomp out hate when it lives within you. Young, black men are being targeted and picked off by the police and it must stop!

One of my best friends is a young, gay, black man who lives right around the corner. He has so much to be afraid of and that’s not fucking fair. If I were him I would be terrified to leave the house, but he stands with his head held proud.

We have to realize that all of us need to stand together in solidarity to make sure that nobody is afraid. All people must take part in the movement to end these lynchings. We need to dismantle a hate that has been breeding for too many years.

Even the headlines are terrible, none of them mentioned that he was only 20, all of them said MAN. This happens with all cases of racial injustice! These young kids are being called men in headlines to make it slightly more palatable. Nobody wants to hear about kids dying so let’s call them men.

This crime was not just in my country, not just my state, not even just my city, it was my street, my neighborhood, I probably ran into this kid a hundred times without knowing who he was.

Let’s not forget about India Cummings too, she died in Buffalo Police hands at the Erie County Holding Center, BPD needs some serious training. We need to start with community involvement. We need to take back the night, a grassroots community direct action against oppression.

I remember the anti-rape task force taking to the streets, but we have to keep more than just the rapists and robbers in check now. It’s the cops too!

Whenever you see an interaction with cops and ANYONE (but especially if they are of a targeted race or religion, such as African Americans or Muslims) PAY ATTENTION! Film it! Say something out loud while it’s happening.

We need to make sure that everyone feels safe to leave their house. We need to have their backs! Solidarity and direct action are needed desperately.

A safety pin is not the same as a hand on the back to say you are here and nobody will fuck with you on my watch! We need to be more educated about racism.

If you have children talk to them about race. Don’t wait until they see a hate crime at school to engage them and make a difference. It is also so important to get off your ass and protest. Make art, informational zines, articles, and share the work of others!

Activism is more than just a hashtag or sharing this article. It is being present, and standing up for justice.

In the week since t-bag took over a lot has already changed. The pipeline will chug on, a wall will be constructed, funding for the arts is gone, legal safe abortion is threatened, media block on the EPA to hide climate change, it’s acceptable and legal to discriminate against gays, people in important positions are jumping ship and everyone that trump puts in is more evil than the last.

He is plotting evil as you read this. More and more rights are going to be stripped from us. We must stand up to this. Scientists put the clock one minute closer to impending doom.

Washington DC had a very dystopian feel, it was so foggy that you could not see the penis tip of the Washington Monument. Inauguration Day meant broken glass on the streets of DC. Starbucks, bank, and McDonalds windows smashed like the patriarchy itself. A limo burned.

Protesters were greeted with a wallowing pink smoke, tear gas, mace burned, and ears rang from flash cannons. It was a strange feeling.

Impending doom and the need for empowerment. We all must organize and resist.

The time is right now to make a difference and show the world that this asshole does not represent the silent majority. Riot gear is more than a pink knitted pussy cat hat.

I hope the women in pink hats taking selfies saw this and were changed. Step one is getting off of the internet and out into the streets. Then real change must happen.

People of privilege need to get called out and then call out others like them. I am an a white woman and I carried a vagina sign, I am now ashamed of that, not because I have a vagina, but because not ALL women have them.

I was not marching for white vaginas, I was marching for ALL women. Intersectional feminism requires us to stand up in solidarity for all. When we are inclusive but still blind it actually adds to the problem. Showing up but not listening. Trans women, Non binary humans, Black women, Muslim women, Immigrant women, Disabled women, Single Mothers, Mother Earth, Rape Victims, Sex Workers, and everyone who needs love all deserve to feel safe. All of these humans need to be protected from the evil afoot.

I was upset with all of the Angela Davis quote signs out there and these girls didn’t even know that she was speaking right over to the left of them. She was just a sign that was on the internet.

Too busy taking selfies to actually hear the words written on your sign, too busy celebrating yourself to give a hand to those who need lifting up, and too white washed to see the problem.

It is a privilege to even go to Washington DC and march. Many women cannot just take off of work and go. I was sad that I didn’t get there a day earlier for the big gay rave in front of Daddy Pence’s house.

I will be there in June when the gays march. Rainbows will take over! Can’t stop, won’t stop.

I was disgusted to hear that a group of women that are water protectors on the front line of the Dakota Access Pipeline were treated like pieces of selfie meat. People took photos of them but did not listen about their struggle or even take a pamphlet.

The struggle is real, it is not a hashtag. People are being brutalized and mother earth is being raped for money and power. DO NOT OBJECTIFY THEM for Facebook likes!

The first woman I met was 62, from California. She said to my friends and I that she was here for us and our future. She had been fighting her entire life and would die trying to make this world better.

She inspired me, in her 60s she started climbing mountains because why not? She was sick of society telling her not to do things and told us to always do what we dream and take action.

Life goes by fast, we only have a short time to make things better for the next generation. She was brave and beautiful.

On the flip side an older woman came up to me and told me I was a distraction and that I should be ashamed of myself because I was topless. I told her I respected her as a woman but did not agree.

I am empowered and I wish to inspire others to be the same. There needed to be more breasts out at the woman’s march. This should be a safe place to feel confident about yourself and not hide behind what society wants from you.

Well behaved women seldom make history is a sign I saw and something I agree with wholeheartedly. I will not put my breasts away for you Missy.

The whole event kind of felt like Facebook in real life, censorship and all. I even saw straight up memes printed out on signs. You take the meme from the internet then but it on a sign and take a picture of it, just to post it back on the internet, like a TV within a TV. You cannot carry a sign without carrying the burden of hate.

Signs are all well and good but don’t really mean shit. You need direct actions behind those words.

I was also pretty turned off by the fact that people weren’t even paying attention to both sides of their signs. One protester carried a sign that said FEDEX on the back, both sides are advertising bro, always think of both sides of every sign or argument.

There were llamas there marching too, which is wrong! The poor creatures were scared. Do not abuse an animal for your agenda! This is a protest, think!

I was also turned off by the fact that there were a zillion pussy signs and no toilet paper to be had, so everyone is there with a dirty pussy. The revolution needs more toilet paper and access to tampons etc. I want to be a vag warrior and hand out tp and tampons to all women. Also I will include a zine about inclusion and loving and supporting our transgender sisters.

During the Women’s March two trump (he does not get the capitol T) supporters walked by. One of the men dropped a button with trump’s face on it, then continued walking on.

My friend pulled the button in with her foot and started to stomp it. Within a second it seemed that one of the men came back. He literally pushed my friend to the ground to get her off of the button. I instantly ran to her side and into his face. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You have the audacity to push down a woman at a fucking women’s march?

All of my aggression and screaming did not turn a single head, no woman came to help. The only person who did approach me was an older woman who just kept saying ‘love trumps hate’.

In retrospect I should have fucking nailed him. Getting arrested wearing nothing but rainbow and wielding a rubber fist would have made me a hero. I know that fighting hate with more hate is not the answer, but when he was walking away he said “Nice tits!” THEY ARE NOT FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT!

We need to call people like this out and stand up against violence and oppression. I think every woman needs to start carrying a rape whistle again, so people notice you when you are in trouble.

While the pink hats did get women out, they need to get more involved and know that getting out once is not enough. We all need to criticize our own activism.

Do not question why BLACK LIVES MATTER is being chanted at a women’s march! Do not destroy Mother Earth by littering your signs and hats on the ground. You should be saving those signs to use again for the next rally. Always keep fighting.

Yes we need to fight for our reproductive rights and equality for all in pay and opportunity, but don’t forget about climate change, the fact that water is life, and war is always looming over us too. Global issues affect all humans.

The Women’s March was a worldwide gathering of the goddesses! Women and feminist men took to the streets and spoke out against oppression and hate. It was truly monumental. It must become a movement, it must keep strong.

We must support all of the efforts of our community and work together to prevent a meltdown. I expect to see pink hats at the next Black Lives Matter event, or at the #NODAPL rally, or to fight against Muslim registries or Immigration blocks. This country and world needs all of us to be accountable and brave.

There was a girl on a light post with a megaphone leading chants and giving out info. Someone asked her if she was an organizer, she said “No, someone just gave me a microphone!” BE THAT GIRL! Take charge of the moment and be the change.

I felt like I could become President, that it needed to be one of us and NOT one of them! No more politicians! No more businessmen! We need to be informed, educated, and strong together.

My rubber fist said FILTHY AND PROUD, I will never be silenced. My voice will spark the revolution in harmony with the war cries of a million of my sisters. Daily direct action wins. Nobody can stop us.

* All Photos in this post by Kat Whitefield from the Buffalo Forum and The Voice of Revolution Newspaper

When you look back on 2016, you may think of all the greats we lost like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and, most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. You may also remember it as the year the UK decided to leave the EU or the year the US decided to leave its senses politically.

No matter how you saw it, though, you have to admit that quite a bit happened. With that in mind, we take a look back at 2016 in the News.

As this post had two authors, parenthetical initials indicate if the section was written by Jason C. McLean (JCM) or Mirna Djukic (MD).

Canadian Politics

2016 was the first year of the post-Harper era and it was an agitated one in federal politics.

Justin Trudeau’s popularity soared for a while, still largely carried by the expectations built during his campaign and his undisputable quality of not being Stephen Harper. To his credit, he did score some significant points in his first months in office by immediately opening the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and rebuilding relationships with our neighbours (which gave us both the most hilarious handshake attempt of all time and the TrudObama Bromance).

One of the first flies in the ointment was the infamous #elbowgate incident in the House of Commons.  Last May, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to escort Conservative Whip Gordon Brown through a cluster of opposition MPs in order to move the procedures along and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. This was perhaps a fairly embarrassing show of temper for the PM, but it degenerated into something out of a Shakespearian comedy in the following days, with Trudeau issuing apology after apology and the opposition throwing words like “molested” around.

Inopportune elbows aside, the Liberals took quite a few steps during the year that caused the public to question how different they really are from their predecessors. Not only did they go through with the $15 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but they also quietly changed the country’s policies about export controls to ensure that they could continue to trade arms with shady regimes with a lot less obstacles.

As the year went on, the government kept up the progressive discourse that got them elected, but too often failed to follow it up with actions. The Prime Minister even blatantly went back on his promise of electoral reform, driving the last nail in the coffin for a good portion of increasingly disgruntled voters.

This year was not any less turbulent for smaller parties.

The NDP was licking its wounds and doing some soul-searching after their grueling 2015 loss. Fortunately, many members signed an open letter recognizing how disastrous their electoral strategy of aiming for the middle ground was and declaring their desire to go back to the unashamedly leftist positions they used to hold

As for the Greens, they started the year as the underdogs who were doing unexpectedly well. The increased attention, though, revealed a world of messy internal struggles. These started when the party voted in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Leader Elizabeth May disliked this so much that she considered resigning. (MD)

Canadian Pipelines

Indeed, discrepancies between the government’s discourse and their actions accumulated throughout the year. None was more flagrant than their attitude toward pipelines.

The Liberals campaigned on promises to restore the trust of Canadians in the Environmental Assessment Process, “modernize” the National Energy Board and make Canada a leader in the worldwide climate change fight. Trudeau was the first to admit that the current environmental assessment protocols were immensely flawed and he mandated a committee to review them.

While still waiting for their conclusions, though, he had no problem with major projects still being approved by that flawed process. He had no comments when it was revealed that the NEB board members in charge of reviewing Energy East had secretly met with TransCanada lobbyists nor when indigenous resistance against various projects started rising.

If he thought that the population was on his side, or that they would remain passive about it, he was sorely mistaken. In August, the NEB consultations about Energy East were shut down by protesters. Anger and mistrust towards the NEB only grew after that, with environmental groups calling for a complete overhaul.

None of this stopped the government from approving two contentious pipelines in late November. Both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Line 3 were officially accepted. Fortunately, they did reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which was set to go through the Great Bear Rain Forest. (MD)

Standing Rock

2016 was the year that saw the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe emerge victorious (for the moment) over big energy and the North Dakota Government.

In July, Energy Transfer Partners got approval for the $3.78 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe’s only source of drinking water. The plan also saw DAPL cut across sacred burial grounds.

The Standing Rock Sioux challenged this both in court and with water protectors on the front lines. They invited others to stand in solidarity with them and assembled the largest gathering of Native American tribes in decades.

Things came to a head on Labour Day Weekend early September when DAPL sent private corporate security to attack the water protectors with pepper spray and dogs. Democracy Now’s shocking footage of the incident got picked up by major networks and there finally was major media attention, for a while.

As more people joined the camp and solidarity actions, including Facebook Check-Ins from around the world, increased, corporate media interest waned. Meanwhile the Governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which brought law enforcement from ten different states to Standing Rock.

With most media focused on the elections, police used tear gas and water cannons on water protectors in freezing temperatures. The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice demanding the camp be cleared by December 5th and roadblocks went up.

The Sioux Tribe’s infrastructure survived, however, and once 4000 veterans showed up in solidarity, the official stance changed. President Obama’s administration got the Army Corps to change its tune and deny the easement over Lake Oahe, meaning the DAPL will not go through Standing Rock, at least not until the Trump Administration takes office.

While their fight may not be over, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did flip the script in 2016 and was even named FTB’s Person of the Year. (JCM)

Indigenous Issues in Canada

Meanwhile in Canada, indigenous issues did make their way a bit more to the forefront in 2016. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women finally got underway September 1st.

While long overdue, the Inquiry will be independent of the Federal Government and has a budget of $53.86 million to be spent over two years. While overall optimistic, some in Canada’s First Nations communities are concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too broad, making it easy to not investigate police forces and specific cases.

Quebec is considering its own inquiry. It’s needed, especially when you consider that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) treated accusations that its officers were assaulting native women in Val d’Or by going after Radio-Canada and its journalists for reporting on the story and no one else.

Meanwhile, conditions in many First Nations communities continued to deteriorate. An indigenous police force in Ontario even recommended its own disbanding for lack of proper funding. (JCM)

Quebec Politics

Couillard struggling during a TV interview

The provincial government keeps slowly but steadily dropping in the polls. According to a Léger-Le Devoir poll conducted in November, the Liberals hit their lowest approval rating since the 2012 crisis. With only 31% of the intended vote, they are now barely 1% ahead of the PQ.

This is undoubtedly linked to the fact that the real impact of the budget cuts in public services started becoming more apparent. In a memorable interactive interview with Radio-Canada last June, Premier Philippe Couillard was confronted with an onslaught of people suffering from his austerity measures. Some had lost their jobs and others were overwhelmed healthcare workers and angry parents.

The fact that they did reach a budgetary surplus as a result doesn’t seem to have calmed the popular discontent. The shadow of past corruption scandals also remains.

Couillard assured the public that none of the scandals happened under his watch and that his administration is fully committed to fighting corruption. This commitment was, however, brought into question by a recent report which accuses the government of lagging behind on the Charbonneau recommendations.

If the PQ is now breathing down their necks in the polls, it is hardly due to their own accomplishments this year. In fact, the Parti Québécois spent most of 2016 trying to find a new leader after the freshly elected Pierre-Karl Péladeau resigned, citing family reasons. His excuse, standard as it might be, is not very hard to believe, considering he was later found to be stalking his ex-wife and is now in a grim legal battle against his late girlfriend’s ex.

In any case, the party was left in turmoil. It wasn’t long before another of its prominent figures left. Bernard Drainville, champion of the infamous Charte des valeurs, but also a major architect of the party’s policies and democratic reforms, decided it was time to call it quits. In a slightly surreal move, he announced that he was retiring from politics to co-animate Éric Duhaime’s notoriously salacious radio show.

Those who had hoped that his departure would help the PQ move toward a better relationship with minorities and immigrants were disillusioned by the conclusion of the leadership race. Veteran Jean-François Lisée and his divisive views on immigration won by a landslide, while the favorite, Alexandre Cloutier was left in the dust with Martine Ouellet and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon.

However, let’s not forget that Quebec’s political scene is not limited to the two major parties. In fact, a new player is preparing to enter it before the next election. FTB learned that a provincial NDP is in the works, hoping to provide the voters with a progressive option that doesn’t aim for Quebec’s independence. (MD)

Rape Culture

Rape culture neither started nor ended in 2016, but it did seem to find its way to our newsfeed frighteningly often.

First came the disappointing conclusion of the Gomeshi trial in May. The fact that a celebrity with so much airtime on the CBC and elsewhere had been sexually harassing his colleague for years and committing multiple sexual assaults while his entourage and superiors turned a blind eye was outraging enough on its own. The fact that four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking pretty much ended with a slap on the wrist from the court was worse. It made it very hard to keep pretending that our institutions and our society were not rigged to protect aggressors and silence victims.

Barely a month later, as if to demonstrate the scale of the problem, there was the Brock Turner case. Turner, a 20 year old student athlete at Stanford and a perfect mix of white, male and class privilege, was standing trial for raping a young woman on campus. Caught in the act by other students, he was found guilty. This could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, but he got six months in a county jail (he only served three).

A horrible event brought the discussion about rape culture a lot closer to home for many Quebecers in the fall. Multiple attackers entered the dorms of Université Laval and assaulted several students during one night in October. This sparked a wave of compassion and awareness with province-wide protests.

During a solidarity vigil in Quebec city, a young student named Alice Paquet revealed that she was raped by Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos back in 2012. Despite an onslaught of victim blaming and skepticism, Paquet decided to finally press charges, and her lawsuit is now in front of the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales. The latter will decide if the case goes to court. (MD)

US Presidential Election

Painting by Samantha Gold, buy the original on eBay

For most of the year, politicos everywhere, including here in Canada, were glued to what was transpiring in the US Presidential Election. And for good reason, it was an interesting one, to say the least.

First there was the hope of some real and unexpected change in the form of the political revolution Bernie Sanders was promising. The upstart Vermont senator managed to go from basically nothing to winning 23 states in the Primaries and even got to meet with the Pope, but that wasn’t enough to beat the largest political machine out there  and the Democratic Party establishment’s chosen candidate Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, another upstart candidate, though one of the secretly pro-corporate and openly far-right variety, easily clinched the Republican nomination. With the exception of a bit of plagiarism on opening night and the whole Ted Cruz non-endorsement incident, the GOP Convention was quite unified behind Trump.

The Democratic National Convention was a completely different story. Sanders delegates booed speakers endorsing Clinton and connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even left the room in protest when Clinton officially won the nomination.

The ensuing General Election campaign went back and forth for a few months with each candidate having their ups and downs. Clinton’s health rumours and Wikileaks revelations and Trump’s…well, his being Donald Trump.

Then it looked like it was finally over for the Donald with the release of the Access Hollywood tape. That was the last straw for several prominent members of the Republican establishment. Was the GOP going to implode?

Well, on Election Day, the unthinkable happened. The ideal “pied piper candidate” the Democrats had sought to elevate, because he would be so easy to beat, ended up beating their “inevitable” future President.

The bogeyman came out from under the bed and was elected to office. The joke went from funny to scary. Failed casino owner and third-rate reality star Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President Elect of the United States.

As Trump started building his brand new bubble filled with climate change deniers, corporate execs and white supremacists, the fight against him in the streets started and shows no signs of stopping in 2017. The real question is now: will the Democrats change gear and become a progressive alternative or stay the establishment course that led them to defeat at the hands of an orange carnival barker? (JCM)

Montreal Politics

At least Montreal didn’t spend 2016 electing a frequently cartoonish populist who doesn’t listen to experts. We had already done that back in 2013.

This was the year, though, that our Mayor, Denis Coderre, really started to shine. And by shine I mean make Montreal nationally and even globally famous for some really bad decisions and ideas.

2015 ended with the Mayor dumping untreated sewage right into the river. With that out of the way, 2016 was going to be the year where we planned for our big 375th Anniversary in 2017.

By June there were already approved proposals for really ugly granite fake tree stumps for Mount-Royal and a national anthem for the borough of Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles. How was the city going to pay for all of this? In August a task force gave the Mayor one option: taxes on water consumption and trash collection.

Coderre’s focus was squarely somewhere else in the last half of the year, though. After a 55-year-old woman was killed by a dog in June, Coderre tabled rather extreme Breed-Specific Legislation aimed at pit bulls, despite no initial proof that a pit bull was the culprit (and the later revelation that it absolutely wasn’t).

There were protests and even international condemnation, including that of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper. Coderre would hear none of it, though, even ordering the mic cut on an citizen during a City Council meeting.

When the so-called Pit Bull Ban, officially the Montreal Animal Control Bylaw, became law in September, the proverbial other shoe dropped. People started picking up on some of the other aspects of it, in particular the fines and fees and the fact that it covered other breeds of dog and cats, too.

The SPCA got a temporary injunction on the “dangerous breeds” aspects of the law in early October which was overturned on appeal in December. The bylaw comes into full effect March 31, 2017, at which point the SPCA will no longer deal with stray dogs or accept owner surrenders.

In September, another project met with a legal obstacle. Turns out fines Société de transport de Montréal (STM) security officers were handing out constituted a human rights violation.

While the STM will be appealing the Montreal Municipal Court decision, for now at least, they’re not supposed to be sending out squads of transit cops acting as glorified revenue generators. In practice, though, we’ve heard reports they’re still doing it.

The Montreal Police (SPVM) were also in trouble this year. They were caught spying on at least four journalists in November. Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden even mentioned this story ahead of his livestream talk at McGill University.

What was really surprising was that the SPVM got warrants for this surveillance. What was not surprising at all is how high this probably went. Police Chief Philippe Pichet must have known, and he was handpicked by Mayor Coderre a few years prior.

The Mayor said he stands by his police chief before cancelling an investigation into the matter.

Coderre probably wants Montrealers to forget good chunks of his 2016 and focus instead on 375th celebrations, then vote him back in near the end of the year. The opposition has another idea, though.

Official Opposition party Projet Montreal held its first ever leadership race in fall 2016 culminating in the election of Valérie Plante early December. (JCM)

Black Lives Matter/Police Killings

2016 continued the sad tradition of police murdering innocent people of colour for no good reason and getting away with it (for the most part). The Black Lives Matter movement also continued to speak out against these killings.

There were two such murders in early July very close together, to the point where it was possible to confuse notification of one with the other. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died at the hands of police in different cities in different states within 24 hours of each other.

This prompted solidarity protests across the US. There was also an impromptu BLM sit-in during the Toronto Pride Parade and a couple of Montreal marches which highlighted that racist police violence was not just an American problem.

BLM sit-in during Pride Toronto, photo Hector Vasquez (BlogTO, Creative Commons Licence)

In Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper, not part of the peaceful protest, decided to murder nine police officers, which, of course, became a national tragedy and an excuse for the right wing to incorrectly attack BLM.

In September, following the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted. There were days of protest and the governor declared a state of emergency on the second night.

There is sadly no sign that any of this will change in 2017, especially given the positions of the incoming administration on race and police. (JCM)

Syria

Sadly, this year was marked by the continuing conflict in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has again been accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The carnage in Aleppo reached new heights as the regime’s forces renewed their assault, driving residents to send their goodbyes over social media.

The Anti-ISIS coalition lead by the US is also responsible for a lot of civilian casualties. Amnesty International and the official opposition of al-Assad even called for a suspension of their airstrikes after they were reported to have killed between 100 and 200 civilians in the region of Manbij over two months.  This number is now confirmed to have surpassed 300, although the US still refuses to acknowledge it.

Local groups have been fighting the rising terrorist factions in Syria, namely the now famous Kurd “women’s protection unit”, also known as YPJ. However, despite their important role, their status with the international community is on shaky ground. One YPJ fighter is currently detained in Denmark under terrorism charges. (MD)


So that’s our look back at 2016 in the news. Here’s hoping for overall more uplifting stories in 2017!

Forty-four hours after the police shot and killed another person of colour, Charlotte (North Carolina) is under a state of emergency. One man is on life support and the mayor is raising the possibility of imposing a curfew amidst calls for peace and demands fo22-09-1r answers.

It all started Tuesday with a despairingly familiar scenario: a police officer fatally shot a 43 year old black man named Keith Lamont Scott for questionable reasons. Police claim that the man had a handgun that he was refusing to drop. Eyewitnesses claim that Scott was only holding a book and that he tried to get out of his truck with his hands up.

Tuesday: Shooting and Mass Protests

One thing is undisputed: it ended with Keith Lamont Scott being shot four times at 3:54 PM. The shots were fired by Brentley Vinson, a black officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.

Family and eyewitnesses soon took to social media to spread their version of the events. Three hours later, people were already taking to the streets and demanding justice.

Three hours and 45 minutes after the shooting, police stated that the protest was turning violent, and that one officer was injured while trying to de-escalate a situation.

The Mayor of Charlotte, Jennifer Roberts, issued a first statement urging the community to stay calm. A few minutes later, she issued another one to announce a full investigation into the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, saying that the community deserves answers.

Around 11 PM, police ordered the crowd to disperse and deployed tear gas. Clashes with police continued throughout the night. A group of protesters shut down Interstate 85. Different sources report rocks thrown at police cars, two trucks looted, and two fires started.

However, even the Mayor said that the mass protest, in a park, was peaceful. The rioting and looting that happened near the interstate and downtown was the doing of a small group of agitators.

Wednesday Morning: A Gun or a Book?

On Wednesday morning, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney held a press conference to share the police’s conclusion. Officers approached Scott while they were trying to execute an arrest warrant for someone else. Putney said that Scott exited his vehicule, then got back into it before coming out with a gun in his hand and ignored orders to drop it as he advanced towards police officers.

“The officers gave loud, clear verbal commands that were also heard by many of the witnesses […] to drop the weapon,” claimed Putney. “Despite the verbal commands, Mr. Scott exited the vehicle as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it. He stepped out, posing a threat to the officers, and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon, striking the subject.”

The CMPD (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department) recovered a gun at the scene and insists there was no book. Later in the day, a photo of the crime scene where a gun can be seen reached the media. The source of the photo is unclear, but the initial tweet of a local reporter says it’s from CMPD.

The family of the victim is convinced that this is not how it happened. They say Keith Lamont Scott was a disabled father of seven children, well-known and liked in his community. They believe he “wouldn’t have it in him to hurt a policeman.” According to them, he was sitting in his truck and reading while he waited for the school bus to drop his kids off.

Witness Tahesha Williams says she saw Scott get out of the truck unarmed with his hands up.

Wednesday Night: State of Emergency

Peaceful protests rapidly degenerated. One man ended up on life support and the city was put under state of emergency.

Around 7 PM, on Wednesday, Scott’s wife addressed the protesters, encouraging them to keep the peace: “Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that don’t belong to you.”

Two dozen people reportedly sat silently for a while in front of a Bank of America building, holding up Black Lives Matter signs. A peaceful crowd of men, women and children gathered in Marshall Park before marching through the city. You can read a detailed account of the night in Charlotte Magazine. However the atmosphere easily tipped into chaos. Tear gas and explosives joined the game before 8 PM.

At 8:30 PM, someone was shot somewhere near North College and East Trade streets. The city soon tweeted that the shooting was “civilian on civilian. CMPD did not fire shot.” The victim is currently on life support.

One eyewitness, Minister Steve Knight of Missiongathering Christian Church in Charlotte, shared his skepticism: “It was an ambush. The victim was shot while he stood between two ministers, and we believe he was shot by police. We would like to see surveillance video from the surrounding area that may have captured the shooting to determine who was responsible for the shooting.”

Later that night, while police used rubber bullets to disperse protesters, the Governor Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency. He dispatched the National Guard and State Highway Patrol troopers to help local law enforcement.

Gov. McCrory had very harsh words for the protesters since the first night. Incidentally, he also recently passed a law to restrict viewing of police body cam and dash cam recordings. Essentially, he signed off on a bill to take police recordings off public records, effectively allowing law enforcement to keep them from media or citizens.

Now

Thanks to this, the dash cam footage of Scott’s death will probably never be publicly released. Chief Putney said that they would try to accommodate the family’s request to see it, but that he had no intention of releasing it “to the masses.”

“Transparency’s in the eye of the beholder,” he said on Thursday. “If you think we should display a victim’s worst day for public consumption, that is not the transparency I’m speaking of.”

He also warned that the recording did not definitely show Scott holding a gun.

Also on Thursday, Mayor Roberts appeared on ABC news to convey three messages: the city is fine and open for business (do not panic), the majority of protesters was peaceful (we’re on your side) and the possibility of imposing a curfew will be discussed (yes, we can do that because of the State of Emergency).

“A peaceful protest, and many folks do want to express their views peacefully, turned into something else last night,” said Roberts.

The Department of Justice just sent four members of their Community Relations Service to Charlotte. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave a press conference this morning, assuring that they were “monitoring the matter” and that they were looking into the circumstances of Keith Lamont Scott’s death.

* Featured image: CNN screengrab

Podcast panelists Vincent Simboli, Jerry Gabriel and Cem Ertekin discuss Montreal’s Black Lives Matter protests, Mike Ward and the Just for Laughs season, the US conventions and our News Roundup including the Turkish coup, Pokémon GO and more. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Vincent Simboli: FTB Contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB Contributor

 

*Black Live Matter report by Mirna Djukic

*Conventions and Just for Laughs reports by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

Around 300 people gathered in Montreal on Wednesday to protest police treatment of black people, both here and in the US. Over a thousand people have announced their intention to participate in a similar event this Saturday. The Black Lives Matter movement might be finally picking up momentum in Montreal.

Protesters met in Nelson Mandela Park on Wednesday, responding to the call of the Black Coalition of Quebec. The event was organised in the wake of the tragic events that unfolded last week in the United-States.

It was partly in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both killed by the police in the space of a couple of days. Several people payed tribute to them and to the five police officers killed by a sniper during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.

It was also meant to call attention to the way Montreal’s black community is treated by the police. Several speakers stood up on a pick-nick table to address the crowd; some were planned, some were spontaneous. A peaceful march followed and no incidents were reported.

If you missed all of this, you will have another occasion to show your support, this Saturday in Cabot Square. A new Montreal NGO, Twese, is inviting people to gather there at 2pm “to honour the lives lost and express our rejection of police brutality and any kind of racial prejudice.”

Cabot Square is a historically and socially meaningful place for indigenous people in Montreal. Co-founder of Twese Anne-Sophie Tzeuton says that the organisers are aware of the importance of Cabot Square to First Nations and that they want to honour it.

Police brutality and discrimination are also “a huge problem” for First Nations, she noted, “of course we intend to talk about it and we hope many will attend.”

Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society
Anne-Sophie Tzeuton, cofounder of Twese and Vice-President of McGill African Students Society

The main objective of Saturday’s event, aside from rallying people to the cause, is “to offer concrete solutions that we can all apply to our daily lives.” Several speakers will take the microphone to that effect. Spoken word performances and other artistic tributes to lives lost in police shootings are also planned.

Tzeuton is happy with the unexpected popularity of the event on Facebook, but she fears that all this attention won’t last. “It often happens, after a tragedy: there is a lot of media attention at once, but it passes and then we forget.”

She hopes the current momentum can be used to discuss lasting solutions before the hype dies down.

Twese (“everybody” in Kinyarwanda) describes itself as a platform encouraging the diasporas to exchange ideas and further a collective reflection about various topics. It was created this summer by four young black women who have played active roles in black student associations in McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal.

Discussing Canadian Racism

Quebec’s Minister of Public Safety Martin Coiteux reacted amiably to Wednesday’s protest: “We have to be very careful to protect the rights of all minorities in Quebec so I support people who are demonstrating for having equality of rights and we are completely in solidarity with what happened.”

However, according to him, “the situation here is, fortunately, very different to the United States.” He insisted on the importance of preserving “our model here of peaceful coexistence.”

How Different is it Really?

In 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator found that native people were alarmingly overrepresented in federal jails. In 2016, aboriginal youth made up 41% of people entering the justice system, despite representing less than 7% of the overall population.

Quebec’s commission of human rights officially recognizes that police forces practice racial profiling since 2010. An internal investigation published that year by the SPVM revealed that in 2006-2007, in Montréal-Nord and Saint-Michel,41% of young black men had had their identity checked, compared to 6% of young white men. The study also found that black people were more often carded for “vague” motives.

Just a couple of months ago, a black man named Jean-Pierre Bony was killed by the police in Montréal-Nord during a drug raid. Bony was shot in the head with a plastic projectile in front of the bar where the raid was conducted. He died in the hospital four days later.

“The only difference between Jean-Pierre Bony and what we’ve been seeing in the U.S is that there was no camera,” remarked Will Prosper, an ex-cop turned black rights activist, in a recent interview with Radio-Canada.

Many Canadians, like Coiteux, feel that the kind of systemic racism observed in the United-States doesn’t happen in Canada. According to Tzeuton, those claims are most often made by people who are racially or socioeconomically privileged.

“It is very easy for people who are not living those problems to claim they don’t exist.”

* Featured image of the April 6th Montreal North protest following the police killing of Jean-Pierre Bony by Gerry Lauzon (creative commons)

A few years ago, following the Michael Brown shooting, FOX News host Sean Hannity explained that he never has problems with police because when he gets pulled over, he simply informs the officer that he is licensed to carry a firearm and it’s in the car. Philando Castile did just that and was murdered by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her young child.

Castile, by all accounts, was a pillar of his community, well loved by hundreds of children at the school where he worked, not to mention their parents, his colleagues, friends, family and, of course Lavish Reynolds, his girlfiend. A woman who, after witnessing her boyfriend get shot, was able to muster the strength to go live on Facebook and show the world what had just happened.

Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile probably didn’t know what the public now knows about him. All he had to go on was that Castile had a busted tail light, was riding with a woman and a small child, had informed him that he was carrying a licensed firearm and was reaching for something.

Could it be his registration? It would make sense. That is what you’re supposed to show the police when they pull you over, after all.

Could it be his gun? Why? Why would someone take the time to inform an officer that they are carrying a legal firearm if their plan was to whip it out and shoot? Why would someone riding with a small child be likely to kill over a busted taillight?

Why would a police officer jump to this unlikely conclusion and shoot before even telling the person to freeze? Truth is they wouldn’t if it was Sean Hannity in the car, or if it was me or most white people.

Castile, though, was a black man. When it comes to black men and sometimes black women and children, it’s sadly all too common for police to shoot first and hope nobody asks questions later.

Not Close to an Isolated Incident

There would have been significantly fewer questions when Baton Rouge police murdered Alton Sterling just a day before Yanez shot Castile in St. Anthony, Minnesota. However, a group called Stop the Killing had caught the whole thing on video and had the forethought to wait for the police to tell their side of the story before showing the world what really happened.

Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store and allegedly pointed a gun at someone who called the police. According to the convenience store owner who witnessed the shooting, the police were aggressive from the start and quickly escalated the situation. Sterling was complying with them and never went near his weapon which he was licensed to carry.

The cellphone video shows police yelling at Sterling to get to the ground and then tackling him almost immediately. One officer shouts “he’s got a gun!” This was in reference to the firearm the officer had found in his pocket, not a weapon Sterling was brandishing or even going near. Hearing this, the other officer shot Sterling in the chest.

Two black men murdered by police in two days. A record? Hardly. Two black men murdered by police in two days and the public has video proof. That is new, and a reminder that filming cops is not just a right but a civic duty.

NRA Double Standard

Both victims were also legal gun owners. After much pressure the National Rifle Associaton (NRA) released this statement, which didn’t even reference what happened to Sterling:

“The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

The NRA’s reluctance to rush to the defense of black men who legally owned firearms when we all know that they would have been all over the stories if the gun owners had been white is not at all surprising. While I’m not a fan of open carry laws in general and think no one has a legit reason to own an AR-15, this video shows just who the Second Amendment applies to and doesn’t, at least in the eyes of law enforcement:

Dallas Doesn’t Change Anything

As I was writing this, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests against these two most recent murders were happening in cities all across the United States (and still are a few days later). In Dallas, Micah Xavier Johnson, an Afghanistan War veteran with sniper skills who was not a part of the march turned the peaceful protest into a bloodbath shooting twelve police officers, killing five.

According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown:

“The suspect said he was upset about Black Lives Matter. He said he was upset about the recent police shootings. He was upset at white people. He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

While Johnson did attain his goal of killing white police officers, he also shifted mainstream media focus away from the recent police killings he claimed he was upset by. Instead of simply chalking this up to the work of a spree killer with easy access to firearms, the training to use them properly and a likely case of PTSD, quite a few people in the media, online and at least one former politician decided to use this to attack BLM, despite this statement that they do not support murder:

This is already being used by some and will undoubtedly continue to be used to push a #bluelivesmatter agenda. There are three huge problems with this.

First, cops choose to be cops, people don’t choose to be a particular race, so the comparison is nowhere near valid. Second, the hashtag was created specifically to reinforce the notion that police are entitled to murder black people, despite being disguised as some sort of BS equalizer. Third, according to politicians, the media and mainstream thinking, police lives do matter and to some, matter more than others.

The shooting in Dallas is being treated as a national tragedy. Prominent voices on the right and even the supposed left equate an attack on police with an attack on everyone. The President is even cutting his trip short to visit Dallas, something he didn’t do for any of the black victims of police shootings.

Police were attacked by one spree killer who is now dead. Black people are under constant attack by an officially sanctioned paramilitary force that has killed and continues to kill them with impunity. Systemic racism is a real thing that’s alive and well in police forces across the Western world.

No, All Lives Are Not Dealing with this Right Now

If you think we should be saying #alllivesmatter, then you’re missing the point entirely, either intentionally or because you just don’t get it. This kitchen table analogy should explain how you’re basically the person railing against a cancer fundraiser by screaming that other diseases matter, too or this cartoon dude:

all houses matter

I’m white and I don’t think for a second that my life doesn’t matter because I say #blacklivesmatter, I know that my life mattering is not in dispute. I know that if I had been driving that car with a busted tail light instead of Philando Castile, I’d probably still be alive right now.

Sure, police kill white people without a valid reason, too, but they do it nowhere near as frequently as they murder black people. 26% of Americans killed by police are black, though only 13% of the population are. The ratio of unarmed black men killed by police versus unarmed white men in the US is six to one (and I got those stats from a right-wing website trying to argue, badly, just the opposite point while doing their best to misinterpret Washington Post numbers).

I know my life matters, I don’t need to scream it. I know that Black Lives Matter and I feel it’s important to let everyone know. It’s not an either-or situation. It is a dire situation that needs to be addressed and fixed now.

Now, sadly not now more than ever, it’s important to keep saying Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter – Toronto (BLMTO)’s move to demand a more racially inclusive Pride parade descended into a heated debate over police presence at the event. The dispute has put a whole new spin to the Pride Toronto 2016 slogan “you can sit with us.”

BLMTO staged a 25 minutes long sit-in during the Pride parade on Sunday, asking the organisation to address the deeply embedded “anti-blackness of the festival.” They presented a list of nine demands, eight of which were asking the organisation to secure better support and independence for black events and cultural groups during Pride. The last one required that police floats and booths be excluded from Pride marches and community events.

Pride Toronto’s executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed the document and the march continued. Supporters were not yet finished cheering what they called an epic win for inclusivity, when Chantelois changed his tune.

“Frankly, Black Lives Matter is not going to tell us that there is no more floats anymore in the parade.” He told local news station CP24 on Monday. “It is definitely bigger than me and my committee. That is the kind of decision that needs to be made by the community.”

Pride Toronto announced they would meet with Toronto police to discuss their representation in future festivities. There is still no word about any “community” consultation.

Black Lives Matter’s move has been widely and harshly criticized by more conservative elements in the mainstream press. Globe and Mail published a column calling them bullies, National Post’s Barbara Kay accused them of trying to guilt white people into victimizing black people. Some voices on social media and from within the LGBT community echoed similar, if more nuanced sentiments.

They generally earned a lot of heat for rocking the celebration by drawing attention to the politicized issue of racial equality. It is especially ironic, considering that Pride Toronto decided to make them a “honoured group” for that very reason.

In an interview with CBC, Rodney Divelrus, co-founder of BLMTO, tried to highlight that the fight for black rights can not be separated from the fight for LGBT rights:

“I really want to challenge that discourse that separates black issues versus LGBT issues. Because what it does is silence the thousands and thousands of people who live in the middle and the thousands and thousands of people who want to come to Pride and feel included, but cannot because of the police.”

Including the Police More Important than Including Minorities?

A gay police officer pleaded against a ban on police floats in an open letter to Toronto Pride, published on Monday. Constable Chuck Krangle said that BLMTO’s intervention made him fear that his first participation at the parade would also be his last.

“Police officers are significantly represented in the LGBTQ community and it would be unacceptable to alienate and discriminate against them and those who support them. They (too) struggled to gain a place and workplace free from discrimination and bias… exclusion does not promote inclusion,” he wrote.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, insists that Toronto Pride should present excuses to police forces for signing the document in the first place.

“I’m not surprised at Black Lives Matter and their shenanigans, but when people who are the organizers of this sign a document basically saying police shouldn’t be involved … I think our officers are feeling betrayed,” declared McCormack.

Black Lives Matter Toronto assured that their fight was against the increasing presence of police delegations at pride, not the participation of LGBTQ2 officers.

“To be clear, we said, ‘No floats. No police floats,” said BLMTO co-founder Janaya Khan. “there are LGBTQ police officers on the force and we have no right to say whether or not they should participate”.

Khan, who identifies as a member of the black and the gay community, insisted that their goal was to make Pride more inclusive. She argued that the abundance of uniformed policemen “caused deep and grave concern because of the distrust that exists.”

Khan pointed out the LGBT community’s lack of sensitivity to black issues. She had previously called attention to the racism her BLM colleagues faced during a Pride Mural revealing. “Remember. White pride is still White Pride,” she wrote on Facebook. “some of y’all will be waving that gay flag as quickly as the confederate.”

The Place of a “Political Agenda” in Pride Parades

One million people attended this year’s pride parade in Toronto. Toronto’s Mayor, Ontario’s Premier and Canada’s Prime Minister were among them. Canadians everywhere retweeted pictures of the politicians, celebrating how inclusive and progressive our country has become.

Black Lives Matter interrupted our collective moment of patting ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come as a society by reminding us of how far we still have to go. And people resent them for it.

“We’re supposed to be celebrating … and now what are we talking about? We’re talking about Black Lives Matter and them hijacking the parade to facilitate a political agenda,” said the president of the Toronto Police Association (a sentiment apparently shared by a fair part of the public).

The mere fact that the presence of a political agenda at a Pride parade comes as a surprise is a big testament of how far we’ve come in a short time span. The first Pride parade was a protest against police brutality.

In 1969, a police raid in New-York’s gay bar Stonewall Inn descended into violence and triggered days of protests and riots in the LGBT community. Primarily lead by trans women of colour, the Pride movement spread across the country and across borders.

Toronto staged the first edition of what would soon become their Pride parade in 1981 to protest against a series of police raids on gay bathhouses. Toronto’s police apologized for those raids just last month.

Over the years, the Stonewall marches’ image went from controversial to inspirational. It is very telling that Hollywood made a movie about them just last year. Even more telling is how horrifically whitewashed this movie turned out to be.

Police brutality and discrimination is recent past for the LGBTQ2 community, but it is a very present issue for people of colour.

It would be wilful blindness to think that LGBTQ2’s plight is over when homosexuality remains illegal in 74 countries. North Carolina’s recent bathroom bill and Orlando’s shooting were a sharp reminder that legal persecution and rampant homophobia are an ongoing issue in western countries as well.

However LGBTQ activists are not the controversial topic they once were; politicians support them openly without walking on eggshells, companies sponsor them to show they are on the right side of history. We can and should celebrate that, but should also remember how we got there.

* Featured image by Hector Vasquez (BlogTO, Creative Commons Licence)

During the first Democratic Debate a few months ago, all the candidates were asked a rather simple question: “Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?” The moderator called on Bernie Sanders first and the Senator answered simply “Black Lives Matter” before addressing the issue of racial injustice in America.

While Hillary Clinton spoke of racism as well, she dodged the actual question, perhaps afraid to attach herself to a protest movement that mainstream white America wasn’t sure about. Sanders had no problem throwing his support behind Black Lives Matter that night and he still doesn’t.

On Thursday, his campaign released their latest ad, though you wouldn’t know it was a Sanders ad (aside from the logo in the bottom-right of the screen) for the first two minutes and 37 seconds of the 3 minute and 56 second spot. For most of the ad, Erica Garner talks about her daughter, fighting racism, her father Eric Garner who was murdered by police and her work with Black Lives Matter.

This is a very powerful and moving ad and one which flips the script on standard campaign advertising, making it more about the story of the person supporting the candidate than the politician. It is also rather slick and clearly professionally produced. This ad wasn’t made on the cheap.

It has now become clear that the hefty amount of small donations pouring into the Sanders campaign are being put to good use. Even if Bernie doesn’t become president or even win the Democratic nomination (though I really hope he does both), he is helping to spread the Black Lives Matter message in a way that only a well-funded presidential campaign can.

Bernie is putting the issues and the message first. Maybe that’s why Garner says in the video “I think Bernie is a protester.”