Easing multi-ethnic conflict by creating multi-ethnic alliances

Sam Smith – One of the great problems with the way that we approach ethnic discrimination is that we rarely discuss cures other than the condemnation of its examples. The media, for example, seldom discusses solutions. This approach is in full swing right now as can be seen in how little real police reform is being discussed and proposed. Doing away with choke holds won’t come close to solving all the problems. We seem to assume that identifying evil is its cure, which is sadly not the case.

One major exception has been Rev William Barber II who started Moral Mondays in North Carolina in 2013 and has since revived the Poor People’s Campaign.. As historian Timothy Tyson put it, Barber is “the most important progressive political leader in this state in generations,” saying that he “built a statewide interracial fusion political coalition that has not been seriously attempted since 1900.”

In order to have a well working multi ethnic society we need to discuss how to design it. Just attacking racism won’t create its alternative. Here are a few excerpts from an interview Chris Hayes did with Rev. Barber a year ago:

Rev Barber: We commissioned a study called the … Souls of Poor Folk, Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign. Two or three things came up. Number one, we removed poverty out of the political discourse, worst thing we could have ever done, and race as moral issues. So you go through 26 presidential election debates in 2016, not one of them was on poverty. Not one whole debate was on poverty even though 43.5 percent of your people live in poverty and low wealth.

Number two, not one of them is about voter suppression and gerrymandering and restoring the Voting Rights Act, even though in 2016, you have less voting rights than you had in 1965 when the Voting Rights was passed on August the 6th.

That kind of anemic, weak political debate and discourse keeps us in a rut. It’s not honest… Most time if you talk about poverty, people say, “Well, there are more black people in poverty.” That’s not true. There’s more of a concentration of poverty among black people, but in raw numbers, there’s more white people in poverty.

And here’s the ugliness we’ve got to show people. The very people who engage in racist voter suppression and gerrymandering today, when they get that power, guess how they use it? To hurt mostly white people. There are 40 million more poor and low-wealth white people than there are black. People get power using race, then use the power to hurt in raw numbers. Why? Because if you take those former Confederate states, you get close to 170 electoral votes. If you can just control the 13 former Confederate states, you get 31 percent of the United States House of Representatives, and 26 members of the United States Senate.

… If I could put a pin that’s one of the mistakes that I believe of how the health care piece has been pushed. We haven’t rolled it out in the South and shown people in the South how it impacts them, and that’s why you can get a state like North Carolina blocking 500,000 people getting health care, and 346,000 of them are white. And yet people think that it’s primarily going to just minorities.

If you look at what Reconstruction was about, it was about policy. And they were able to find the linkage to show poor white people, their connection to black people, and black people their connection to white people, and how the persons that were the ones that were pushing the racism, pushing the division were actually hurting everybody. And so, you have to learn in this season to do that same kind of moral fusion.

Sam Smith – Fifteen years ago I took part in one of the most remarkable one day conferences I have ever attended. It was designed to bring progressives of different ilks together to agree on a common program. Here’s my report from the time:

In 1995, as an active member of the Green Politics Network, I joined a number of other Greens in hosting a conference of third party activists. Over a hundred showed up, ranging from one of the founders of the ancient American Labor Party to Greens, Libertarians, Perot backers, and Democratic Socialists of America. It was a recklessly dangerous idea for a Washington weekend, but Green activists John Rensenbrink, Linda Martin and Tony Affigne seemed to know what they were doing and I was happy to go along.

We established two basic rules:

o We would only discuss issues on which we might find some agreement.

o We would reach that agreement by consensus.

We broke the body into tables of ten or so, each dealing with a different topic. All policies that were proposed were written on newsprint posters. Then participants were given three color stick-on dots with their names on them. Everyone then went up to the board and placed their dots on their favorite issues (cumulative voting style, so that all three dots could, if desired, be placed on one issue). After the vote, those with only their dots on a particular issue were allowed to move them to their second choice (a la instant run-off voting) and so forth until a clear consensus of three issues emerged. This scheme not only produced a consensus, but one that was physical and visual as well as intellectual and was fun to watch.

When the various groups produced their recommendations, they were turned over to what was known as a “fishbowl negotiation.” Each small group selected a representative to negotiate for it with representatives of all the other tables. The representatives sat in a circle with those they represented behind them. Anyone could stop their representative and request a small group conference but only the representative could speak in the larger assembly. It worked remarkably well.

The small group that had the most difficulty with such techniques was comprised mainly of Marxists who had selected economics as their area of concern. One result, ironically, was that the weakest section of the final statement was that dealing with economics. On the other hand, the libertarians came to the organizers at one point and offered to leave the meeting so a full consensus could be maintained. We encouraged them to stick around, changing our own rules to accept several levels of consensus.

Despite the wide range of views present, despite the near total absence of Robert’s Rules of Order, the final document, with full consensus, called for nothing less than a major transformation. The group unanimously agreed to support proportional representation, campaign finance reform “to provide a level playing field in elections;” initiative, referendum and recall; better ballot access; the end of corporate welfare; strong environmental policies; sexual and reproductive freedom; an end to the war on drugs and treatment of addiction as a health matter rather than as a crime; a dramatic cut in military expenditures; workplace democracy and the maximum empowerment of people in their communities “consistent with fairness, social responsibilities and human rights.”

Not bad for a group ranging from one of the founders of the ancient American Labor Party to Greens, Libertarians, Perot backers and Democratic Socialists of America. It shouldn’t have worked at all, but because the rules we had used felt fair to those present, it did. By ignoring topics of obvious disagreement, we even surprised ourselves with the level of consensus.

We had also discovered the possibility of a political transformation, of moving beyond left and right. We understood that these were different times — not the thirties, not the sixties — times that required different imaginations and different risks. We had reached out and had found that we were not alone.

I have since repeatedly had the dream that national leaders of the black, latino, women’s, labor and youth communities would come together for similar discussions. You can’t create a working multi-cultural society if you don’t even sit down and talk with each other.

A different kind of cop story

Sam Smith This is the first in an Undernews series on improving policing so we can have fewer disasters like the recent one in Minneapolis. The reaction to the murder there, as is typically true, was one of anger and condemnation. But the solutions get rarely discussed. Your editor has been involved with this issue since the 1960s when he started a newspaper in a majority black neighborhood to the east of the Capitol in Washington DC. In 1968 the community had two of the city’s four major riots. But it also had some good things like a black police officer named Isaac Fulwood.

I first met Isaac Fulwood in the 1960s when I did a feature for the Capitol East Gazette on neighborhood policing and went with Fulwood and his partner on their beat. The pair had been specifically assigned to deal with youth problems and community relations. Less than a year before the riots that would ruin much of our neighborhood, a few cops like Fulwood (along with the Recreation Department’s roving leader program) were on the streets attempting to stop trouble before it happened. But like a lot of good things back then, it was too little and too late.

Fulwood had grown up in the ‘hood, gone to high school there, knew the places, the people and its problems. In the years that followed, our paths would cross – our children being baptized together at St. Mark’s Church, being in a jury pool together and once – during a major anti-war protest at the Capitol – running into now Washington Chief of Police Ike Fulwood and getting a big bear hug, not the sort of thing that usually happened to alternative journalists during a 1960s demonstration.

I find myself thinking of Ike Fulwood and how he would have handled today’s situation so much better because he understood that there are all sort of opportunities to create a community that lessen the problems leading to the need for law enforcement. As he said to me back in 1967 as we drove by grim public housing jammed into a small site, “They never ask the police for their opinion when they build public housing.”

I noted in a story, “The police might have a few things to tell the planners about that happens when you crowd people into places like this. But the police come later, when the trouble starts.”

And of cops like Fulwood, I added, “If you spend any time with these men, you can’t help but believe – as they do – that their work is important and that it is fitting and proper for a policeman to aid in solving a community’s social problems as well as serving as its armed guard.”

After the riots, Fulwood was part of the community coming together again. For example, the Gazette reported:

||| The Fifth Precinct is planning to establish a 200-man auxiliary police reserve using local residents. Members would undergo training and work alongside regular officers. Precinct officials feel the plan will ease the police workload here and will improve police-community relations. Those interested are asked to call officers Cephas or Fulwood at 626-2375 |||

There was even a new group – the Capitol East Community Organization – whose board members included major neighborhood figures, among them police private Isaac Fulwood.

Years later the Washington Post would write an article about the now former police chief in which it noted his efforts to organize African-Americans as mentors for the city’s young men. According to the Post, eighty-two men had signed up to mentor, and 24 had been paired with a child. About 45 men had completed training and were waiting to be matched.

What I learned from Ike Fulwood was the difference it made when police officers were actually a part of the community they served. How this not only help the community but improved the officers’ policing. They were protecting and strengthening a ‘hood with which they related, not just enforcing the law in a place that was not theirs.

A different cop story

Sam Smith – I first met Isaac Fulwood in 1967 when I did a feature for the Capitol East Gazette on neighborhood policing and went with Fulwood and his partner on their beat. The pair had been specifically assigned to deal with youth problems and community relations. Less than a year before the riots that would ruin much of our neighborhood, a few cops like Fulwood (along with the Rec Department’s roving leader program) were on the streets attempting to stop trouble before it happened. But like a lot of good things back then, it was too little and too late.

Fulwood had grown up in the ‘hood, gone to high school there, knew the places, the people and its problems. In the years that followed, our paths would cross – sometimes in odd ways such as attending a baptism preparation session together at St. Mark’s Church, being in a jury pool and once, during a major protest by the Capitol, running into now Deputy Chief of Police Fulwood and getting a big hug, not the sort of thing that usually happened to alternative journalists during demonstrations in those days.

Fulwood was no softie. After all, Mayor Marion Barry was arrested on his watch as chief of police.  Fulwood didn’t like crime not just because it was a violation of law but because of what it had done to communities like the ones he had lived in. Whenever things like the Ferguson or Garner incidents occur, I find myself thinking of Ike Fulwood and how he would have handled it, partly because he understood that there are all sort of opportunities to create a community that lessens the need for law enforcement. He said to me back in 1967 while we drove by some grim public housing jammed into a small site, “They never ask the police for their opinion when they build public housing.”

As I noted, “The police might have a few things to tell the planners about what happens when you crowd people into places like this. But the police come later, when the trouble starts.”

And of cops like Fulwood, I added, “If you spend any time with these men, you can’t help but believe – as they do – that their work is important and that it is fitting and proper for a policeman to aid in solving a community’s social problems as well as serving as its armed guard.”

Years later the Washington Post would write an article about the now former police chief in which it noted his efforts to organize African-American men as mentors for the city’s young men. According to the Post, eighty-two men had signed up to mentor, and 24 had been paired with a child. About 45 men had completed training and were waiting to be matched.

Of hate crimes and traitors

Sam Smith – The recent killings in Kansas  City have revived talk of hate crimes. The problem with having a category of hate crimes is that there is no constitutional prohibition against hating, rotten as it may be. In fact, the right to be wrong is one of the most basic concepts behind our constitution. If you do something illegal, you are to be caught and punished, but for the act, not the evil thoughts behind it. What’s next? Anti-war crimes in which additional penalties are added to offenses by protestors?

By blending a clearly illegal act with a constitutional right, we have opened the door to a plethora of crime penalties based on formerly constitutionally permitted acts and beliefs. And the sad fact is that no one seems to be even arguing about it, even despite the complete absence of any evidence that hate crimes reduce the number of hate encouraged offenses.

The motivation behind such laws – like those centered on the ever expanding definition of terrorism – is actually more political than judicial. It gives a comfortable tag for politicians and the media to use to make it look as though they’re doing something. In fact, viral hate in this land seems to have increased since these laws were passed. It would make more sense to do something about the problem.

But we live in a time when name calling is – for both liberals and conservatives – a convenient alternative to constructive action. Consider the latest issue of Vanity Fair with the headline “Edward Snowden: Patriot or Traitor?” Since he gave considerable space to Snowden’s story, should we be asking the same question of Vanity Fair’s editor Graydon Carter? Or should we merely suggest a fairer and less libelous headline?

The road gets shorter

Sam Smith, 2006 – It is not easy to recognize fascism if you haven’t been there before. Our eyesight is blurred by everything from cultural optimism to psychic denial. But news of the NSA’s mass spying on American’s phone records – in number of victims, at least, perhaps the most broadly illegal and unconstitutional act in our history – makes it all simpler. There is not an ounce of hyperbole in calling the NSA’s action those of a fascist regime and not of a democratic state. NSA has not only violated the law, it even refuses to allow the Justice Department to investigate its violation. This is the behavior of a dictatorship, not of a democracy.

Sadly, even more telling that NSA’s action – in determining how far down the road to fascism we have traveled, is the response to it by the public, the press and the law. In a real democracy, citizens, media and their attorneys stand up against such abuse; in this case there is a truly frightening ambivalence and apathy.

According to the Washington Post, nearly two thirds of Americans support the NSA in its actions – 44% strongly. This may not be so surprising when one considers how little time and space the media has permitted for arguments that paranoia is a poor way to protect oneself or that a regime that will trash its laws and constitution rather than adopt a more reasonable foreign policy is not to be trusted to be either fair or safe. On a regular basis the press reinforces the idea that “national security” is inherently at odds with democracy and decency, repeatedly nudging the citizen towards the former even if it is, as it so often is, a phantom refuge.

Further, many lawyers – and the commentators who quote them – foster such trends by the mythology that justice is best served by following precedents or case law. This bias is based on the cheerful presumption that progress in the law as elsewhere is inevitable. On a number of occasions, however, I have asked extremely intelligent lawyers what does one do in a society where the legal precedents are becoming worse – as they are in a country dismantling two centuries of ideals? Not one has given a coherent answer. One can not tell how much longer America has before it gives up on democracy completely. What we can say, however, is that the road has just gotten much shorter.

How much do we learn from evil?

Sam Smith
2005

The 60th anniversary observance of Auschwitz brings back a question that periodically lurks in the corner: how much do we really learn from evil?

It is widely assumed in this country that humanity is significantly improved by such things as Holocaust studies, international war crimes, and showing teens scary films about driving. There is, however, far more faith than evidence about all this.

This is not to say that such matters should not be an part of the human curriculum, only that in American culture they are approached with a zeal that borders on moral pornography and, in the process, overwhelms the far more important matter of learning and practicing alternatives to that which we are meant to avoid. It is almost as though we were constantly being given directions by naming all the streets we shouldn’t use without ever being told the ones we should.

I learned about Auschwitz in 1956, on the eleventh anniversary of its liberation. It was at the tail end of Soc Sci 2, taught by intense, red-headed liberal Samuel Beer, who covered six revolutions — including the French, industrial and Nazi — with enthusiasm for real people and events. Each revolution required a two thousand word paper. The climax of the course led us from Nietzsche to Hitler to an evening of Nazi propaganda films and footage of concentration camps liberated just a decade earlier. The concentration camps were gruesome, but the movies the Nazis had made to celebrate themselves were in some ways even more horrific, depicting as they did millions of Germans voluntarily surrendering their souls as millions of others were involuntarily losing their lives. In one of the films, the frame was almost entirely filled with an overhead shot of Nazi soldiers. One thin corridor cut through the dark mass and down it walked three tiny figures — Adolph Hitler and two aides.

What we saw had been placed in history’s context; we had been taught not just brutal endings but far more instructive beginnings, and we got to see not just evil’s horror but its accompanying banality.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that college students all over America weren’t learning the same thing and that when they did, it would have acquired a name, and a politics, and a semiotics, and it would have become multiple worlds inhabited by victims, philosophers, journalists, politicians, leaches, symbol snatchers, propagandists, self-servers and deniers. And that people like Sharon and Bush would do new evil in the name of exorcising the old. I had learned about the Holocaust before it became whatever anyone wanted it to be.

By the time I graduated, I had read William Shirer’s new book, The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich, and found myself absorbed not so much in what the Nazis had become but how they had begun – how normal, how ordinary so much of it had been, with that frighteningly familiar mix of opportunism, lust, incompetence, and failure of courage at a time when something still could be done. If they had let me build the Holocaust museum that would have been its prime exhibit: not what had happened, but how.

Years later I read Martin Mayer’s book, They Thought They Were Free, based on interviews with ordinary Nazis before and after the war. In it, this Chicago Jewish reporter summed up:

“Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany. . . It was what most Germans wanted — or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it. I came back home a little afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under pressure of combined reality and illusions. I felt — and feel — that it was not German Man that I had met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here, under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I.”

Here is the part of the Holocaust that is most frequently denied. Not that millions were slaughtered but that those who did the deed might under certain conditions be either you or I. And we would do it, as Adolph Eichmann had suggested, simply by finding the right words for it, what he called ‘office talk.’

It is this unrecognized, undiscussed denial, especially at moments of solemn observance, that most frightens me. And our recovery does not lie in still more talk, ceremonies, and professions of horror. It lies instead in the study, honor, and practice of the good and the decent.

If you watch good people closely, their good comes as naturally as evil came to Eichmann. It does not have to be propped up with memories of great wrongs; it is just the everyday unconscious behavior of those graced with honor: the banality of decency.

We need perhaps a museum of the good, curricula in decency studies, and practice in their skills and rhythms. We need peace experts instead of military experts talking about Iraq on Fox TV. We need mediators instead of just lawyers on Court TV. We need movies, and heroes, and moving stories that win Academy Awards and models for our children that lead them to the contentment of cooperation and fairness rather than to brutal examples drawn from the play-by-play of violence and wrong that appears with every other click of the zapper.

Even our memories and mourning of the wrong can be directed toward the better. Do we only regret or do we reconstitute ourselves and our community, creating a soul and a place where we don’t even have to imagine something like that happening again? Too often, confronted with past great horror, we not only mourn the victims, we join them in unconscious capitulation to the presumed inevitability of the evil.

The frightening thing about Auschwitz is not that some would deny it but how real it still seems. The frightening thing about Auschwitz is that our leaders go to honor it while still denying Guantanamo and Al Graib and Palestine. We will know that we have finally learned the Holocaust’s lessons when we no longer hear new echoes of it.

On the rights of juries

Sam Smith
1990

William Penn may have thought he had settled the matter. Arrested in 1670 for preaching Quakerism, Penn was brought to trial. Despite Penn’s admitting the charge, four of the 12 jurors voted to acquit. The judge sent the four to jail “without meat, drink, fire and tobacco” for failing to find Penn guilty. On appeal, however, the jurors’ action was upheld and the right of juries to judge both the law and the facts — to nullify the law if it chose — became part of British constitutional law.

It ultimately became part of American constitutional law as well, but you’d never know it listening to jury instructions today almost anywhere in the country. With only a few exceptions, juries are explicitly or implicitly told to worry only about the facts and let the judge decide the law. The right of jury nullification has become one of the legal system’s best kept secrets.

Now a remarkable coalition has sprung up to challenge this secrecy as undemocratic, unconstitutional and dangerous. Though organized by libertarian activists, the Fully Informed Jury Amendment movement includes liberals and conservatives, Greens, drug decriminalization advocates, gun owner groups, peace activists, both sides of the abortion controversy, helmet and seatbelt activists, alternative medicine practitioners, taxpayer rights groups, environmentalists, criminal trial lawyers and law professors.

Organized by Larry Dodge and Don Doig, both of Helmville, Montana (population: 26; elevation 4300′), FIJA seeks to require that juries be informed of their nullification rights. Informed jury amendments have been filed as an initiative in seven states and legislation has been introduced in the Alaska state legislature.

Merely raising the issue of nullification can make prosecutors nervous, for it takes only one person aware of the right in order to hang a jury. In Washington, DC, where the concept was discussed in connection with the Marion Barry trial, a local television station reported that the US Attorney was worried that a jury might nullify the law in that case. The joke in DC was that Barry was campaigning, but only for one vote, that of a single juror. The specific charges against Barry revolved around his use of drugs and a growing number of people are coming to accept the argument that drug use or addiction should not be a criminal offense. Further many DC residents were concerned about the prosecution’s heavy-handed pursuit of the mayor. Despite the refusal of courts to inform juries of their right to nullify, American juries have periodically exercised it anyway. In recent years, some peace protesters have been acquitted despite strong evidence that they violated the law. In the 19th century northern juries would refuse to convict under the fugitive slave laws. And in 1735 journalist Peter Zenger, accused of seditious libel, was acquitted by a jury that ignored the court’s instructions on the law.

Those who have endorsed the right of a jury to judge both the law and the facts include Chief Justice John Jay, Samuel Chase, Dean Roscoe Pound, Learned Hand and Oliver Wendell Holmes. According to the Yale Law Journal in 1964, during the first third of the 19th century judges did inform juries of the right, forcing lawyers to argue “the law — its interpretation and validity — to the jury.” By the latter part of the century, however, judges and state law were increasingly moving against nullification. In 1895 the US Supreme Court upheld the principle but ruled that juries were not to be informed of it by defense attorneys, nor were judges required to tell them about it. Stephen Barkan, writing in Social Problems (October 1983), noted that the attacks on nullification stemmed in part from juries acquitting strike organizers and other labor activists. And in 1892 the American Bar Review warned that jurors had “developed agrarian tendencies of an alarming character.”

Today, the constitutions of only two states — Maryland and Indiana — clearly declare the nullification right, although two others — Georgia and Oregon — refer to it obliquely. The informed jury movement would like all states to require that judges instruct juries on their power to serve, in effect, as the final legislature of the land concerning the law in a particular case.

As the diverse nature of the movement suggests, many groups in this country feel the government has overstepped its power in some way and that there must be protection for the natural rights of American citizens. They are defending not only the right to protest or carry a gun or not wear seatbelts but challenging the right of the government to decide such matters without the mediating effect of a jury’s judgement of fairness in a particular case.

For many liberals and progressives, who tend to be confident of the beneficent nature of government power, such a challenge may be a bit uncomfortable — understandable in a case involving a peace protest, less appreciated if invoked by a member of the National Rifle Association. The libertarians argue that the two are of one cloth. As government intrusion in individual matters has increased, the libertarian view has gained influence, helping to tilt normal left-right divisions on their side. Libertarians, for example, have been key to the growing opposition to the barbaric Reagan-Bush war on drugs, providing some of the best analysis and advocacy available on the issue.

Libertarians are again in the lead on the nullification issue. Many progressives may be uneasy about the thought of a western jury nullifying a case involving a gun control or seatbelt law, but this unease reminds one of little discussed principles that were once considered central to being an American — not the least of which was freedom from some government official telling you how to live your life. As the design of the modern centralized welfare state frays and becomes increasingly authoritarian, reacquaintance with some of our individualistic roots has much to recommend it.

NULLIFYING NULLIFICATION

It was nice to see the Washington Post finally giving some attention to jury nullification, even if after four months of research and interviews with more than 100 jurors, judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors, it still couldn’t get the story right.

For example reporter Joan Biskupic stated, “Anyone accused of a crime in this country is entitled to a jury trial.” The Constitution may say so but, in fact, this is simply not the case — and becoming less so as politicians fiddle with legal definitions and sentencing standards in order specifically to reduce the number of persons entitled to a trial.

Biskupic also wrote: “The American custom is that jurors decide the facts of the case (whether the person did what he is accused of) and leave it to judges to interpret the law. There is no room, in other words, for jurors to say whether they think the law is a good one, though there have been a few celebrated exceptions — notably the 18th-century acquittal of John Peter Zenger of seditious libel and the 19th-century acquittals for prosecution under the fugitive slave law.”

This is a rewriting of history, one of the privileges of a reporter who works for a paper free to do so thanks to the rights of jurors upheld in the Zenger case. — TPR 2/99

In fact, it is unlikely that a jury considering a gun control case would excuse the leader of an underground Nazi movement or a gang of bank robbers. It 1is far more likely that it would acquit the respectable rancher who simply believes that gun control represents further destruction of his paradigm of individual liberty. If so, what have we lost?

The history of jury nullification suggests there is little to fear. In those states where the concept is respected to some degree it has had minimal effect on the overall functioning of the law. Nullification has, on the other hand, played a little noted but significant role in the advance of religious and press freedom, the abolition of slavery and the building of a labor movement. Even in the face of hostility by contemporary courts, it has cropped up in political protest trials of the past few decades. And it might have surfaced more frequently absent that hostility. As one of the jurors said following the conviction of the Berrigan brothers in 1980:

We convicted them on three things, and we really didn’t want to convict them on anything. But we had to, because of the way the judge said the only thing that you can use is what you get under the law… I would have loved to hold up a flag to show them we approved of what they were doing. It was very difficult for us to bring in that conviction.

The nullification principle involves the power to say no to the excesses of government, and thus serves as a final defense against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson put it to Tom Paine in a 1789 letter, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” To get in touch with the fully informed jury movement write: Fully Informed Jury Association, Box 59, Helmville MT 5984, 406-793-5550

“If a juror feels that the statute involved in any criminal offence is unfair, or that it infringes upon the defendant’s natural god-given unalienable or constitutional rights, then it is his duty to affirm that the offending statute is really no law at all and that the violation of it is no crime at all, for no one is bound to obey an unjust law.” — Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone

“For more than six hundred years– that is, since Magna Carta, in 1215–there has been no clearer principle of English or American constitutional law, than that, in criminal cases, it is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what was the moral intent of the accused; but that it is also their right, and their primary and paramount duty, to judge the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are, in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such law.” –Lysander Spooner, The Right of Juries

If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence. — 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, US v Moylan, 1969

Every jury in the land is tampered with and falsely instructed by the judge when it is told that it must accept as the law that which has been given to them, or that they can decide only the facts of the case. — Lord Denham, O’Connell v Rex (1884)

The jury has the power to bring in a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts. — Justice Holmes, Homing v District of Columbia, 138 (1920)

When a jury acquits a defendant even though he or she clearly appears to be guilty, the acquittal conveys significant information about community attitudes and provides a guideline for future prosecutorial discretion…Because of the high acquittal rate in prohibition cases in the 1920s and early 1930s, prohibition laws could not be enforced. The repeal of these laws is traceable to the refusal of juries to convict those accused of alcohol traffic. — Sheflin and Van Dyke, Law and Contemporary Problems, 43, No. 4, 1980

It is not only the juror’s right, but his duty, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment and conscience, though in direct opposition to the directions of the court.– John Adams

Notes of a nullifier

Sam Smith, 1999 – The October issue was late because your editor was tied up in a six-hour voir dire for a double-robbery case. In the end, I maintained my perfect record of having never sat as a through a full trial. As a Coast Guard officer I was bounced from two courts martial, and I have been dismissed from three jury panels. In the one case in which I was seated, the first two witnesses — both US Park Police officers — identified the defense counsel as the defendant. The trial was over in 20 minutes.

In the most recent case, the judge’s impressive if tedious effort to obtain a fair jury resulted in a long series of bench conferences as citizens told of their connections to crime and law enforcement. For my part I mentioned my USCG background, three house burglaries, one office break-in, one stolen car, being detained at Washington National Airport as a suspected terrorist due to a defective computer-screening machine, and the fact that one of my brothers in-law had been killed in a drug store robbery.

Then I explained to Judge Michael Rankin that, while I doubted it was relevant in this case, I had been advised that I should reveal my long public advocacy of the right of juries to judge both the law and the facts. I noted that this view had upset some judges. Judge Rankin said it didn’t bother him although he didn’t mind debating the issue and had done so with Paul Butler, the black lawyer-scholar who has promoted nullification as a form of protest.

I told the judge that I didn’t think Butler’s arguments were effective because they were based on ethnicity rather than history, which offered a much stronger case. I then began a brief spiel the subject citing Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Thomas Jefferson. While previous US Attorneys had expressed hostility towards my views, this one merely asked whether there were any legal principles that I would uphold. I asked for an example and Judge Rankin said, well, you would support the presumption of innocence wouldn’t you? I said, of course, and then — brazenly rapping my hand on the judge’s bench to punctuate the point — said my concern was that the jury remain our last defense against tyranny, the final legislature deciding the law as it pertained to the case under consideration. To my amazement, Judge Rankin said, well, you’ll get no argument from me. The judge and both attorneys agreed that the case under consideration did not raise such issues and that was the end of the matter. I was later dismissed on a peremptory challenge.

The incident reminded me of another pleasant surprise I recently stumbled upon in a DC courthouse. Twenty citizens, including myself, are suing the President, Senate, House, and federal control board for the lack of DC self-government. The day before our hearing before a special three-judge panel in US District Court (in the very courtroom of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Monica fame) someone called the US Marshals and warned that our group might be planning some disruption. Sure enough, when I entered the courthouse with co-plaintiff and black minister Graylan Hagler, there seemed an excess number of surly cops standing outside. A US Marshal approached and asked if he could help us. Rev. Hagler asked for directions to the cafeteria which the Marshal gave and then he looked at Hagler, and said, “I’ve been to your church, Reverend. In fact, one of my men is on your board of trustees. Let’s go and bless him.” So the marshal and the reverend left me to find the cafeteria by myself and to recall again something that is easy for activists to forget: not all your friends are out of power.

Echoes of Wannsee

Sam Smith – While driving yesterday I happened to turn on a CSPAN program that discouraged me more about my country and its future than anything in recent times.
It was a conference at the conservative American Enterprise Institute featuring three former CIA officials commenting on the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” a film that depicts the capture  of Osama bin Laden as well as the torture that preceded it.
The ex CIA officials spoke in a bland, technocratic manner that eerily brought to mind another conference whose minutes the Review published some years back. As a preface to these minutes I wrote:
John Ralston Saul gives a devastating example of the limits of technocracy: “The Holocaust was the result of a perfectly rational argument – given what reason had become – that was self-justifying and hermetically sealed. There is, therefore, nothing surprising about the fact that the meeting called to decide on ‘the final solution’ was a gathering mainly of senior ministerial representatives. Technocrats. Nor is it surprising that [the] Wannsee Conference lasted only an hour — one meeting among many for those present — and turned entirely on the modalities for administering the solutions . . . The massacre was indeed ‘managed,’ even ‘well managed.’ It had the clean efficiency of a Harvard case study.”
Marshall Rosenberg, who teaches non-violent communication, was struck in reading psychological interviews with Nazi war criminals not by their abnormality, but that they used a language denying choice: “should,” “one must,” “have to.” For example, Adolph Eichmann was asked, “Was it difficult for you to send these tens of thousands of people their death?” Eichmann replied, “To tell you the truth, it was easy. Our language made it easy.” Asked to explain, Eichmann said, “My fellow officers and I coined our own name for our language. We called it amtssprache — ‘office talk.'” In office talk “you deny responsibility for your actions. So if anybody says, ‘Why did you do it?’ you say, ‘I had to.’ ‘Why did you have to?’ ‘Superiors’ orders. Company policy. It’s the law.'”
The three former CIA officials likewise spoke of their illegal, inhuman and disgusting behavior as though it was just another Harvard case study. Reported the WashingtonExaminer:
The three, including a former CIA director and his top spy, said that without so-called “enhanced interrogation,” which President Obama killed in his third day in office, the nation’s security is at risk.
“I fear for the safety of our national security because of that,” said Jose Rodriguez, a 31-year CIA veteran who headed the National Clandestine Service from 2004-2008.
At an American Enterprise Institute forum to discuss the movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, former CIA Director Michael Hayden added that the administration has made capturing terrorists for interrogation such a “third rail” that it’s better for soldiers and CIA operatives to kill their targets rather than face a “legally difficult and politically dangerous” climate.
“It’s a ridiculous assertion when a report says that enhanced interrogation program had no value or produced nothing. Frankly it’s disturbing. Because in my view it is an attempt to rewrite history. The narrative of this administration is that the enhanced interrogation program was torture and nothing came out of it, but in fact we were able to destroy al Qaeda because of it,” said Rodriguez, who added that the committee never interviewed any of the three ex-CIA officials about their program.
Yet, even if you ignore the overwhelming immorality of their approach, not even their justifications hold water. The agents had only killed a symbol but not a movement.  Two of the most establishment institutions you can find said as much last year:
Rand CorporationEven as they debate the appropriate U.S. military role in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the presidential candidates need to address the fact that al Qaeda has expanded its global presence. Since its establishment in 1988, al Qaeda’s strength has risen and fallen in a series of waves. Despite the death of Osama bin Laden, the Arab Spring has ushered in a fourth wave as al Qaeda has tried to push into North Africa and the Middle East.
One significant trend is the expansion of al Qaeda’s global network. The leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in Iraq, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (in North Africa) have sworn bayat, or loyalty, to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and provided him with funding, global influence, and a cadre of trained fighters. None of these affiliate organizations existed a decade ago. But, over the past several years, attacks by these affiliates have increased.
In Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has established control over some areas in the south as the central government faces a leadership crisis and multiple insurgencies. From this sanctuary, al Qaeda plots attacks against the U.S. homeland. In Somalia, militants of the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab are trying to expand their foothold. With a growing number of American citizens from cities such as Minneapolis and Phoenix traveling to — and from — Somalia to fight alongside al Shabaab, there is a possibility that radicalized operatives could perpetrate an attack in the United States.
Al Qaeda has also established relationships with a growing number of allied groups, such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Nigeria’s Boko Haram. While these are not formal affiliates of al Qaeda, a loose arrangement allows them to cooperate with al Qaeda for specific operations or training when their interests converge. Several of these groups have been actively recruiting in the United States.
Seth G Jones, Foreign Policy, April 2012 – Qaeda’s bloody fingerprints are increasingly evident in the Middle East. In Iraq, where the United States has withdrawn its military forces, al Qaeda operatives staged a brazen wave of bombings in January, killing at least 132 Shiite pilgrims and wounding hundreds more. The following week in Yemen, fighters from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized the town of Radda, while expanding al Qaeda’s control in several southern provinces. “Al Qaeda has raised its flag over the citadel,” a resident told Reuters.
Beyond these anecdotes, several indicators suggest that al Qaeda is growing stronger. First, the size of al Qaeda’s global network has dramatically expanded since the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Somalia’s al-Shabab have formally joined al Qaeda, and their leaders have all sworn bayat — an oath of loyalty — to bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
These al Qaeda affiliates are increasingly capable of holding territory. In Yemen, for example, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited a government leadership crisis and multiple insurgencies to cement control in several provinces along the Gulf of Aden. Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Somalia and Iraq also appear to be maintaining a foothold where there are weak governments, with al-Shabab in Kismayo and southern parts of Somalia, and al Qaeda in Iraq in Baghdad, Diyala, and Salah ad Din provinces, among others.
The number of attacks by al Qaeda and its affiliates is also on the rise, even since bin Laden’s death. Al Qaeda in Iraq, for instance, has conducted more than 200 attacks and killed more than a thousand Iraqis since the bin Laden raid, a jump from the previous year. And despite the group’s violent legacy, popular support for al Qaeda remains fairly high in countries such as Nigeria and Egypt, though it has steadily declined in others. If this is what the brink of defeat looks like, I’d hate to see success.
One thing that is not clear about all this is the extent to which the movie was directly influenced by the agency. In August 2011, Maureen Dowd of the NY Timessuggested the effort was not minor:

While Obama takes the high road, his aides have made sure there are proxies to exuberantly brag on him.

The White House clearly blessed the dramatic reconstruction of the mission by Nicholas Schmidle in The New Yorker — so vividly descriptive of the Seals’ looks, quotes and thoughts that Schmidle had to clarify after the piece was published that he had not actually talked to any of them.

“I’ll just say that the 23 Seals on the mission that evening were not the only ones who were listening to their radio communications,” Schmidle said, answering readers’ questions in a live chat, after taking flak for leaving some with the impression that he had interviewed the heroes when he wrote in his account that it was based on “some of their recollections.”

The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film … will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.

The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.

It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.

And that same month, Politico reported:

Dylan Byers, Politico – Newly available CIA records obtained by Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group, reveal that New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti forwarded an advance copy of a Maureen Dowd column to a CIA spokesperson — a practice that is widely frowned upon within the industry.
Mazzetti’s correspondence with CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, on Aug. 5, 2011, pertained to the Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal film “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a Times op-ed column by Dowd set to be published two days later that criticized the White House for having “outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood.”
According to Judicial Watch, Mazzetti sent Harf an advance copy of Dowd’s column, and wrote: “this didn’t come from me… and please delete after you read. See, nothing to worry about!”
More recently – as CIA criminals are getting over an hour on CSPAN and an CIA manipulated movie gets broad critical praise, an agency official who told the truth is off to prison.
Charleston Gazette, WV – A former CIA officer was sentenced Friday to 30 months in federal prison for disclosing classified information to journalists in a case that underscored the Obama administration’s harsh crackdown on national security leaks.
John Kiriakou, a 14-year CIA veteran, pleaded guilty in October to identifying an undercover operative who was involved in the use of severe interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, on terrorism suspects during the George W. Bush administration.
While the Justice Department has said it won’t prosecute CIA officials who approved or conducted those interrogations, Kiriakou becomes the sixth current or former government official charged with revealing classified information since 2009.
Kiriakou’s lawyers and civil rights advocates portrayed the 48-year-old former counterterrorism officer as a whistle blower who helped expose CIA torture of detainees then held in secret prisons. The CIA and its defenders denied using torture, which is illegal, referring instead to enhanced interrogation techniques.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said Kiriakou had damaged the agency. She called the 2 1/2-year sentence, the result of a plea arrangement with prosecutors, “way too light.”
Kiriakou helped lead the CIA team that captured Abu Zubaydah, believed to a senior al-Qaida facilitator, in Pakistan in 2002. Five years later, after he had left the agency, Kiriakou said in media interviews that Abu Zubaydah and other detainees were waterboarded while in CIA custody, offering among the first insider accounts of the agency’s use of simulated drowning.
Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times, divulged valuable intelligence on key al-Qaida figures, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he was also subjected to conventional questioning, making it difficult to determine if the harsher techniques were effective.
Kiriakou initially defended the use of waterboarding and said it persuaded Abu Zubaydah to reveal important details. But his views “evolved,” he said, and eventually he decided the technique constituted torture.
So Kiriakou is off to prison, while three federal torturers go free, a federal judge covers for them, and major media help to glorify it all.

The Attica that wasn’t

 Sam Smith

Forty years ago this month, on September 13, 1971, 500 New York state troopers stormed Attica Correctional Facility on orders from Governor Nelson Rockefeller to end a four-day standoff following a prisoner revolt that included the taking of hostages. The police fired 2,200 bullets in nine minutes and before it was over 29 inmates and ten guards were dead and at least 86 others were wounded. One year later, there was a prisoner revolt at the Washington, DC Jail during which the director of DC Corrections and a number of guards were taken hostage. But, unlike Attica, no one was killed. Perhaps this is why so few remember what happened on a night when judges, politicians, U.S. Marshals, prisoners, and hostages all gathered in Courtroom 16 to see what could be done – brought together by a single judge who wasn’t afraid to talk when others wanted to shoot. The peaceful resolution of the DC Jail uprising was one of the most extraordinary stories I ever covered and my contemporary account follows.


THE CAST

Marion and Mary Treadwell Barry are civil rights leaders. Marion serves on the School Board and is one of the most popular leaders in the city. He will later serve on the City Council and as mayor. 

Walter Fauntroy is the city’s non-voting delegate to Congress. 

Tedson Meyers, who is white, and Willie Hardy, who is black, serve on the DC City Council, a body appointed by President Richard Nixon. 

Luke Moore is a popular local black figure, later U.S. Marshall for the city. 

Charles Halleck is a white judge in the Superior Court, the son of a former Republican Speaker of the House. 

Del Lewis is a black civic leader, later head of the local telephone company and president of NPR. 

Petey Greene is a black activist. 

Judge William Bryant is a highly respected black judge. 

Kenneth Hardy is the DC Corrections chief, being held hostage by the rebellious prisoners. 

Walter Washington is the appointed mayor-commissioner. Four years earlier he had avoided bloodshed in the 1968 disturbances by refusing orders from the White House to shoot rioters. 

Sterling Tucker is the city council chair. 

Joe Yeldell is a member of the city council.

o o o

The courtroom, number 16, is crowded. Prisoners, lawyers, Marion and Mary Barry, Walter Fauntroy, Tedson Meyers, Willie Hardy, Luke Moore, Charles Halleck, Del Lewis, Petey Greene. People talking during the hearing, witnesses saying things seldom heard in court . . . When Judge William Bryant recesses court, people smoke in the courtroom . . . Ken Hardy, DC Corrections chief, hostage, is there, but you don’t notice him at first. . . . William Brown, facing an armed robbery charge, gets up before the judge and tells him of the inequities in his case:

Judge Bryant: The moving finger having writ, I can’t erase it.

Brown: I knew there was nothing that could be done for it. I’m thinking of the others – the little baby brothers of mine.

Bryant: The problem is that so many baby brothers have put people at the end of a pistol and shot them.

Brown: Then the alternative is to ruin them for life (Turns to audience, voice rising) You say nothing can be done about it. Our little babies are over at the jail and it’s really pitiful. You say they put a gun in their hand. No. Y’all put a gun in his hand. ‘Cause all you do is talkin’, talkin’ talkin’. You gonna put a gun in a 15 year old’s hand and the police will kill him like that boy with the bicycle. We’re tired over at that jail. A rat will get tired and come out of his hole knowing that death awaits him. We don’t want to harm Mr. Hardy. We love Mr. Hardy. We don’t want to kill nobody. We don’t want to hurt nobody. We are tired of people putting us in positions where we act like animals . . . Fauntroy, it was the first time we seen him. Walter Washington wasn’t concerned. Marion Barry came right away – he always comes but he doesn’t have the power . . . We’re going to keep on, and keep on, and keep on until somebody die. Then they gonna say, ‘Wow , they were serious.’

Applause, right-ons, a warning from the judge.

Another prisoner: “What we came here for and what we’re getting is two different things. Nobody thinks this is real. We didn’t come down here to rap with you on your high pedestal. This was like a dry run.” . . .

Hardy is leaving the courtroom, looks awful. Petey Greene is helping him.

Outside a TV man tries for an interview. Greene screams at him: “The inmates let him go. That’s how good he is. Man’s up all night and you talk about motherfucking cameras.” Greene is crying. Hardy is on his way to a hospital with what seems to be a heart attack . . .

Back at the jail, prisoners and other hostages await word of the emergency court hearing that had been called following the rebellion early that morning.

Recess. Everyone is tired. Eyes seem to stare without seeing. Jail guard hostages sit at counsel table glum and silent . . .

Judge Halleck starts to rap with some of the prisoners: “The first man who gets a hose on them, you get a habeas corpus and come into my court and I’ll stop it.”

Says a prisoner: “They don’t pay any attention to courts. They’re ignorant over there.”

Halleck to prisoner waiting eight months for trial: “Sixth Amendment guarantees right of speedy trial.” To another: “Last Friday I had fifty felony cases.” Learn later that Halleck offered to go down to jail to speed up processing of complaints . . .

Sterling Tucker comes over, “The guards are talking about going out. Nobody is listening to them” . . .

Reporter says there’s word of a disturbance over at the Women’s Detention Center.

Prisoner comes up to reporter: “Did you say they had another riot?” “Over at the Women’s Detention Center.” “Oh yeah, right on!”

Mother of youth in jail opens up. She has six children 22 to 16. She was separated from her husband when the baby was one year old. Now the baby is in D.C. Jail, swept up in the trouble. The mother works two jobs, one twelve hours a day, another on weekends. The kid is locked up on a charge of having raped and strangled a 7-year-old girl. Been over at the jail 2 months waiting trial. Kid was run over by a car when he was little. Never seemed quite right since. Only child to get into serious trouble. “If he didn’t do it, they should find the one who did ,” the mother says. “If he did it, I want him to be punished but I want him to get help.” . . .

A few days later the Post would interview the mother of the victim. She has eight children, twenty down to ten. “I tried to raise them right. Many times I told them how easy it is to get in trouble and how hard it is to get out. And then I tell them, if you do get in trouble don’t call momma, ’cause there’s nothing I can do.”

The prisoners have their say. Judge Bryant offers to fix things up a bit. Just a bit. Segregate the juveniles. Do something about food and temperature. Hurry up the suit against the jail now pending In his court. Is it enough to save the hostages?

Back to the jail. The prisoners go in a white bus. The crowd outside the jail is smaller than it had been earlier in the day.

Wait.

Rumor that cellblock #2 has been seized. Wait to hear that denied. Joe Yeldell shows up with a psychiatrist to begin screening inmates to see who belongs at St. E’s [the mental hospital] . . . That’s about 10:33 p.m. . .

Ken Kennedy, Northeast factotum, waits along the police line. Earlier he’d been inside. “Congresswoman Chisholm played a great role,” he says. Kennedy had brought six inmates from Lorton to the jail to help in the negotiations.

11:35 p.m. Mary Treadwell Barry comes out from the jail. “They want two brothers from the black press.” “What does that mean?” asks a white reporter.

Decide on one black reporter from print media and one from TV. Problem with TV crews. Union rules call for three and at best only one is black.

WTTG recruits a black minister behind the police line to serve as light man. Others follow suit. Union technicians are getting uptight. Crowd gathers around Mary Barry. Union man returns to police lines: “They’ve agreed to pay one day’s pay to a sound man and electrician at NBC and WTTG.” Susan Truitt of WTTG covers herself: “If I don’t get sound on film [from the amateur operator], I’m not paying for a soundman. ” . . . Nine hostages and a frigging union dispute is going on outside . . .

Deputy Chief Owen Davis is playing out his role of being the top bully on the force, threatening a reporter who stood in the wrong place. But this is a sensitive situation, requiring subtlety, and they’re keeping Davis out of the foreground.

Now here’s Marion Barry. They’re going to let all the reporters in. “Show your press passes and go in quietly. Nothing is happening in there. Don’t rush in.”

Into an anteroom behind the front door. The door locks behind us. A dozen CDU men with tear gas are lounging in the room. The door to the visitors’ rotunda opens and there are the prisoners; the lawyers rushed down by Judge Bryant – 30 or 40 of them including James Heller and Ralph Temple of the ACLU; District Building types like Dugas, Duncan and Yeldell; Walter Fauntroy and Sterling Tucker; negotiators Ron Goldfarb and Julian Tepper; guards; cops; all milling around a cavernous room under huge, bad 1940’s murals including one of raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

The echo is jamming out the voice of the prisoner who is on a table trying to explain that the man beside him had been beaten by a prison guard while the court hearing was in progress. They’re mad. What is happening? A turn for the worse? Why are we in there? Why are some of the most powerful and some of the weakest men in the city wandering around this towering hall listening to each other, shouting at each other? It’s like one of Fellini’s movies. And there’s nobody around to explain. Why have the prisoners seemed to be talking sense and the unjailed seemed bound and gagged?

There’s a news conference going on, but you have to be at mike’s length to catch the words. There’s a prisoner yelling at jail head, Anderson McGruder, who’s not saying anything back . . .

No it’s not a movie. But the set of a movie, maybe about Attica, during a break. In real life, congressmen, councilmen and newsmen don’t mill around a jail hall with two hundred prisoners. Prisoners don’t go up to the jailer like at some reception and tell him off . . .

The press has regrouped. Standing on a table, you can see a guard talking to the mikes: “I feel okay. They treated me all right.” The hostages are being released. It is real, after all. Julian Tepper says the inmates lived up to every commitment. They released the hostages because “we promised to stay until their problems were dealt with.” Earlier that day Charles Rodgers, deputy chief of corrections, had said, “If there’s one shot, we’re going in there and shoot all 182 of them [inmates in the rebellious cellblock]. Now negotiator Tepper is hugging Rodgers.

Time to go home . . . What had happened? Was it a real event – or just a commercial from the dispossessed – “We’ll be back after this brief reminder from the prisoners at the D.C. Jail.” Was it a victory for the jailed or a successful exercise in crisis management . . . Shirley Chisholm was beautiful. Marion and Mary were. So were Tepper, Hardy, Goldfarb, Petey Greene. “Judge Bryant, handled it beautifully,” said a civil rights lawyer. Beautiful. Beautiful. Unless you are still in cellblock I. . . .