[imc-st.louis] What the Police Won't Apologize For
fitzdon at aol.com
Fri Sep 4 14:04:01 PDT 2009
from today's CounterPunch...
September 4-6, 2009
/*The Case of the Biodevastation 7 */
What the Police Won't Apologize For
By DON FITZ
In early September, St. Louis police will send an apology for their
illegal arrest of biodiversity activists. Be assured that it will not
mention their role in destroying public dialogue on dangers of
genetically contaminated food.
On August 24, 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Eastern
Missouri announced that the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners
would pay $13,500 to each of four anti-genetic engineering activists for
violating their first and fourth amendment rights and would apologize to
them for police actions in May, 2003.  That was when several hundred
people gathered to protest the World Agricultural Forum [WAF] and hold
the 7th Biodevastation Gathering to expose the racist use of genetic
engineering in agriculture.
But the letter of apology is highly unlikely to address the most serious
aspects of the repression. Do not expect the letter to say anything
about helping to consolidate control of world agriculture and throwing 1
billion people off of small farms. Don't look for the letter to mention
the role of police in attempts to force genetically contaminated food on
Africans with immuno-compromised health. And don't be surprised if the
letter contains not a word about St. Louis police entering into a
conspiracy with Monsanto, the FBI and corporate media to eliminate
public discussion of the potential threats of genetically modified
St. Louis police were not stand-alone players. As Daniel (digger)
Romano wrote in the August 31 /St. Louis Post-Dispatch/ "...Allied
Intelligence [is] the private security agency hired by the WAF and its
principle player, Monsanto, the biotech giant. Allied Intelligence told
police '50,000 anarchists' were coming to St. Louis to riot and wreak
havoc on the city." 
The police apology will certainly misdirect attention onto its own
illegal and repulsive behavior of May, 2003: warrantless entry into a
home where a woman was subjected to "an unlawful and humiliating strip
search," a second warrantless entry under the false claim of the
building being condemned, and arresting several activists for "riding a
bicycle without a license," a crime which did not exist. 
*Under the FBI Eye*
Preparations for the Biodevastation 7 Gathering started in 2002 when Jim
Scheff, an organizer for the Missouri Forest Alliance, called to tell me
that the WAF would be meeting in St. Louis the upcoming year. He
suggested that Biodevastation, which had been held in five cities after
beginning in St. Louis in 1998, return to Monsanto's home town so that
people coming to WAF could hear a different view of biotechnology.
Documents obtained by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) show that the FBI was deeply involved in scrutinizing many
documents that I wrote for the event, including emails from my
computer. The ACLU judged the FBI reports to be some "of the most
troubling documents we received." 
A November 2005 cover letter from the FBI refers to "Subject: GATEWAY
GREEN ALLIANCE/01012000 TO PRESENT," indicating that we had been in FBI
sights for years.  Its first memo on "Counterterrorism" asserted
that "The WAF was created to provide a continuing, neutral arena for the
discussion of world agriculture..." Counterposed to the "neutral" WAF,
the memo warned of "issue-specific terrorist groups...which oppose...the
bio-engineering of plants and animals." 
What particularly worried authors of the memo was that "organizers from
the Gateway Green Alliance, a local affiliate of the Green Party USA,
have joined with member of the Organization for Black Struggle in St.
Louis and are attempting to label the WAF as a 'forum on environmental
racism' in an attempt to lure African-American groups."  (The
authors probably meant to say "Biodevastation" rather than "WAF.")
The memo observed that "no specific threats of violence or unlawful
protest have been received." But its authors were disturbed that
"protest organizers" might be "able to successfully promote a racial
element to the forum..." 
Other FBI counterterrorism documents listed frightening people who hoped
to speak at St. Louis, including Vandana Shiva, Percy Schmeiser, Mae-Wan
Ho, Brian Tokar, Ignacio Chapela and Michael Hansen.  Any defender
of the Public Order must have been horrified to read in the captured
documents of the threat to national security posed by the Caravan Across
the Continent held in conjunction with Biodevastation: "The Caravan will
be a month-long bicycle spectacle covering over 1000 puppet shows,
presentations, speak-outs, freak-outs, clown acts, and music..." It
invited "citizens, clowns, puppeteers, bike riders, messengers, farmers"
and urged everyone "to bring a bicycle and join the ride!" 
The FBI was most traumatized by information that "The May 2003
Biodevastation Gathering will be the cutting edge event defining links
between racism and the biotechnology industry." Documents monitored by
its sleuths uncovered plans for the event to "focus attention on
efforts" to use "Food Aide as a weapon of narrow economic interests and
to force genetically contaminated food on Africa." 
Luckily, the FBI did not stand alone in efforts to protect good
citizens. FOIA reports confirm that the FBI had "been working with
local police agencies to collect intelligence related to the WAF." 
Not content to rely on local police, the FBI proudly documented
collaboration with the private sector:
Corporate officials from Monsanto who monitor the Biodev website
(www.biodev.org) allege that the speakers at the Biodev conference are
against genetic engineering of any type, that they are outspoken critics
of Monsanto and are extreme in their views. 
*A Public Dialogue Cut Short*
During weeks prior to Biodevastation 7, there were a few stories about
the dangers of GMOs, but St. Louis media focused on police preparation
for 50,000 anarchists to invade downtown. They warned business owners
to protect their property.
Then, on the opening day of Biodevastation 7, the Mother of All Horrors
occurred: There was an actual public debate on genetic engineering! The
only St. Louis daily paper, the /Post-Dispatch/, carried a front page
story, "Focus on the future of agriculture." It had an article
describing the corporate view of the WAF on one side and another article
reporting on Biodevastation on the other.
Not to worry. St. Louis police, with backup from the FBI and Monsanto,
had worked overtime to ensure that reporting would take a sharp turn.
Shortly after I got to the Gathering site and prepared to coordinate
presentations, phone calls began pouring in that demonstrators were
being arrested all over town.
Members of the Flying Rutabaga Bicycle Circus were arrested for the
fictitious crime of "riding a bicycle without a license." About the same
time, a building inspector nailed a "condemned" sign on a St. Louis home
just before police pushed through the door and arrested those who had
been planning to take part in weekend protests. They were charged with
"inhabiting a condemned building."
Two hours later, police raided the Community Arts and Media Project
(CAMP) building, which housed the St. Louis Independent Media Center,
Green Party of St. Louis and several other groups, taking more to jail.
Sarah Bantz, organizer for Missouri Resistance Against Genetic
Engineering (MoRAGE), which was coordinating the demonstration planned
at the WAF, was pulled over while driving to give a talk at the
Gathering. Her vitamin A was seized as a possible illegal drug and she
was taken to jail for not wearing a seatbelt.
As I tried to make sure that speakers (minus Sarah Bantz) were there,
that panels could start on time, and that lunches were on their way, I
was called by one reporter after another. With the lurid drama rivaled
only by stories of a US politician whose weenie went where it wasn't
supposed to go, corporate media had turned on a dime. Dangers of
genetic engineering were far from their minds as reporters drooled at
the prospect of a story on demonstrator violence.
Police Chief Mokwa egged on the frenzy. He held a press conference to
display the "weapons" seized during the raids: rocks, roofing nails,
torches and Molotov cocktails.
By the next day, it became apparent that the rocks were paperweights;
the roofing nails were to repair a leaky roof; and the torches were
flaming batons of the Bicycle Circus. When the St. Louis Independent
Media Center website posted an eyewitness report of a cop putting toilet
paper or a rag in a beer bottle, all press reports of "Molotov
cocktails" disappeared --- as if they had never been mentioned. The
"weapons" charges were the first charges dropped against those arrested.
Of course, throughout the events, the only potential violence discussed
was that of demonstrators. When reporters asked me about potential
violence, I never hesitated to point out that "There is a real threat of
lawlessness when the WAF is controlled by Monsanto, a company that
lawlessly trespasses on the land of farmers like Percy Schmeiser,
criminally steals samples of crops and violently drops pesticide bombs
on their fields to test if their crops are Roundup-resistant."
Reporters would tell me that that was not what was meant. They wanted
to know if there was a threat of violence during the demonstration set
for May 18. I always responded "Yes, there is a real threat of
violence. When public safety is put in the hands of a police chief who
has condoned the police murder of over a dozen black youth in recent
years, the city should be concerned."
Predictably, the press had zero interest in reporting on corporate or
state violence. Their prewritten script was to interview one side
predicting that demonstrators would be violent and "balance" it with a
few seconds of an organizer denying the charge.
*Police Attacks *
Police attacks on protestors were illegal, traumatic and disruptive to
planned events. Kelley Meister wrote in detail of her ordeal. The
night before her home was invaded, "police had been circling our house
relentlessly, following my friends home, and harassing them on the
street, and I had feared waking up to the police knocking down my door."
 After breakfast the next morning, a police car pulled up.
Two police officers pushed past me to enter the house, and I asked if
they had a warrant. When they said, "No," I stated that I did not give
them permission to enter my house, and I again asked for a warrant. The
officers told me that a warrant was not necessary because this was a
condemned building. 
After being arrested and put in a police van, Meister
...watched many cops enter and exit our house, most notably, an
officer carrying a piece of art ripped down off the wall from my
room. The cops also stole many other people's personal items such
as journals, posters, props for the circus and puppet shows, welding
tools, roofing nails, and all of our bicycles that were in the
building. The bicycles were eventually returned with slashed tires,
but most of the other stuff that was stolen is either "missing" or
being held as evidence. 
When allowed to return home several days later, she found
The house was trashed. In my bedroom, shelves had been disassembled
or knocked over, boxes of oil paints and other art supplies dumped
out, my large reading chair was on its side and in the middle of the
room, personal items were smashed, and a pile of my clothes that had
been dumped from a small cabinet... 
Meister and a housemate found "their clothes were drenched in urine,"
compliments of St. Louis police.  When it apologizes for
"well-intentioned mistakes," the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners
should explain how urinating on clothes is both well-intentioned and a
*What Corporate Media Didn't Report*
By the second day of Biodevastation 7, the mania had died down. The
/Post-Dispatch/ was even mildly critical of what it called "pre-emptive"
arrests. But the press never returned to a discussion of how genetic
engineering threatens human health, pollutes the environment, and
prepares for agro-business domination of Africa. What remained was a
debate of whether the police had "overreacted."
Two photographs from the Fall 2003 /Synthesis/Regeneration/ illustrate
the bizarre unreality of the police/media fantasy. The back cover has a
photo of the main post office in downtown St. Louis, which was boarded
up to protect it from marauding anarchist hordes. On p. 2 is a photo of
a security guard with so little to do at Biodevastation 7 that she is
playing with the children of those listening to talks.
Though the PATRIOT Act made crackdowns at events like Biodevastation 7
easier, such actions existed long before 9-11. The hysteria generated
by police departments is reminiscent of "red scares" of the 1920s and
phobic reaction to black organizing that white Americans have felt
through the centuries. When Jamala Rogers of the Organization for Black
Struggle introduced the Environmental Racism panel at Biodevastation 7,
the police raids were at the top of the news. She commented that "You
are seeing what black people in St. Louis experience on a daily basis."
One of the vitally important presentations that police raids knocked out
of media attention was that by Mwananyanda Lewanika of Zambia's National
Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research. The previous year, US
trade representatives had bitterly denounced Zambia for rejecting
genetically engineered (GE) corn to feed its hungry. Lewanika traced
the origin of hunger in Zambia to the Structural Adjustment Program of
the 1990s that "stopped government involvement in agricultural
production."  With government assistance gone, small farmers in
southern Zambia could not meet the food needs of their region. Since
there was an abundance of food in the northern part of the country, the
West could have helped Zambia improve the infrastructure of roads.
But that would have made Zambia more independent of the West rather than
dependent on it. So the US offered to donate surplus GE corn. Zambian
scientists replied that (a) GE corn might contain food toxins or
allergens, (b) effects would be particularly serious in Zambia since
corn comprised up to 80% of the diet, and (c) effects would be most
severe on the most vulnerable --- the young, old and immuno-compromised,
which is a large population in southern Africa. Though plenty of non-GE
corn was available and could have been donated, the US insisted on
offering only the corn that was offensive to Zambians and then denounced
them for not accepting it. 
By shifting attention to a manufactured threat of terrorism, the
hysteria ensured that discussion of efforts to force GE corn on Africa
would not reach public awareness. This puts the six year old belated
apology by the St. Louis Police Department (SLPD) in a different light.
The St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners claimed that the raids were
a "mistake" even though police acted "with well intentions."  The
2009 apology spins the myth that the SLPD acted on its own volition.
But the FBI documents paint a very different picture. They suggest that
the most likely course of events was:
A. The Monsanto/WAF/Allied Intelligence troika contacted...
B. the FBI, which contacted...
C. the SLPD, which pumped fantasies to...
D. the St. Louis media, which eliminated a nascent dialogue on GMOs
and focused exclusively on the illusory anarchist invasion.
Far from being the key culprit, the SLPD was targeted to take the rap.
It was a pawn in a far bigger game of using genetic engineering to
destroy small farmers across the globe.
Describing police activities during 2003 as "mistakes" continues the
campaign of misinformation. Their attacks were no "mistake." They were
a vital element in shifting the public eye away from what agribusiness
planned for Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Anyone who seriously believes actions by the SLPD were mistakes should
let us know how often police departments invade offices such as Monsanto
World Headquarters, piss on tuxedos of corporate executives, steal their
electronic equipment, tell the press to print front page stories of
corporate terrorists, and arrest corporate officers for possession of
If 100% of such police attacks are against those resisting corporate
power and 0% of police violence is against corporations, then a
reasonable person might conclude that the function of police is to
protect corporate power. This is quite a bit different from accounts of
the police being a neutral party that occasionally makes the "mistake"
of "preemptive" attacks.
We should applaud each of the plaintiffs against the SLPD receiving
$13,500. But rather than clearing the air, the police apology serves to
further mystify the 2003 web of intrigues. For the corporations that
move pawns around, the 2009 apology is merely a tiny step backward in
their continuing march to subjugate world agriculture.
*Don Fitz* is editor of /Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green
Social Thought/, which is published for members of The Greens/Green
Party USA. If you know of where to find a horde of 50,000 anarchists,
please contact him at fitzdon at aol.com <mailto:fitzdon at aol.com>
1. American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. (August 24,
2009). ACLU applauds police apology to protestors. Press Release.
2. Daniel (digger) Romano. (August 31, 2009). Letter to the Editor,
/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/, p. A11.
3. American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. (Janaury 27,
2006). Letter to Barbara Chicherio and Don Fitz.
4. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (November 15, 2005). Letter to
Denise D. Lieberman, American Civil Liberties Union. FOIPA No. 1021258-000.
5. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (April 9, 2003). Counterterrorism
memo. Case ID No: 300A-SL-188478.
6. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (May 8, 2003). Counterterrorism
memo. Case ID No: 300A-SL-188478.
7. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (April 15, 2003). Counterterrorism
memo. Case ID No: 300A-SL-188478.
8. Kelley Meister. (Fall, 2003). Report from the Bolozone.
/Synthesis/Regeneration/, /32/, pp. 5--7.
9. Patrick O'Connell. (August 25, 2009). City police apologize for raids
in 2003. /St. Louis Post-Dispatch/, pp. A1, A9.
10. Mwananyanda Lewanika. (Fall, 2003). The real story behind the food
crisis in Zambia. /Synthesis/Regeneration/, /32/, pp. 12--14.
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