Bjorn AgainstBjorn Against's Journal
I have heard too many people tell me not to blame guns for the violence in our society these last few days, but I do blame guns. People may try to tell me that I am exploiting a tragedy, but I have been too close to tragedy and the NRA assholes sure as hell better not try to tell me that I am wrong to hate guns after they contributed to my friend's death.
Today I am going to tell you about a close friend from my childhood whose life was taken by a couple of gun-wielding teenagers. This is my story, and I know that there are many other stories like this that need to be heard. I am sure that I am not alone on this site, I am sure that there are many other people here who have known people whose lives were ended early because of guns. These are stories that need to be told and I strongly encourage everyone to tell their own story about their lives or the lives of people close to them were permanently altered by guns.
I first met James when I was fifteen years old, I was loner and I did not have very many friends at that time and James had just moved into my neighborhood from his previous home in California. James did not know anyone when he first moved into my community, but he immediately seeked me out as a friend at a time when I had nearly no one else to talk to.
Every single day as soon as I got out of school I would call James up and we would get on our bikes and ride across town, we had great times together and James gave me a friendship that I desperately needed at the time.
After several months James started to meet some new friends and I was still a loner, sometimes he would start picking on me to impress his other friends and our friendship started to fall apart. We did not talk for a few months, but then we started hanging out again and having some great times. Unfortunately those times did not last forever because stole some money from me and at that point I stopped hanging around him altogether. About a year later I moved out of town and never saw James again, but then one day I got a phone call that I will never forget.
James had just graduated from High School two days before I received the phone call that a police officer found his dead body in a ditch on the side of the road. James had been shot, stabbed, and beaten with the butt of a rifle until his throat swelled up and caused him to suffocate.
Most people thought I did not like James anymore because of our falling out, but deep down inside he was still a close friend and he will always be a friend even though he is not with us anymore. While I tried to hold my emotions in I was devastated by his death, and writing this has made me realize just how much his death still effects me to this day.
James was not perfect, he could be a total asshole and I was not the only person he stole from. Despite his imperfections however he was a good person inside, he made some dumb choices but it was always clear that he regretted his dumb choices. He may have been a petty thief and a jerk from time to time, but he was not a violent person in any way. I may not have trusted him with my possessions, but I knew he would never physically harm anyone. I fully forgive James for any wrong he ever did to me, but I can never forgive the people who took his life because they were mad at him over a petty theft.
The thing that pains me the most however is that some people will only look at his problems and think he had it coming to him. They will focus on the petty thefts and ignore the human being that he was, we want to think that because people do bad things that makes them bad people. James was not a bad person, he was a good person who did some stupid things but aside from taking some items of small monetary value and making some rude comments he never did anything to harm anyone.
When I see people who spout NRA talking points suggesting that it is acceptable to shoot people who commit minor crimes in self defense it sickens me. To be clear James was not shot by anyone who was defending themselves, he was taken to a city park and murdered in cold blood. Yet I know that there are some who would try to pretend that he deserved this, I know this because I have heard it with my own ears.
When I see the reaction from the gun nuts to the Trayvon Martin murder it reminds me of those who suggested that James deserved to die. I am sure we have all heard the gun nuts defend George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, of course they don't claim it was murder instead they try to tell us that it was justifiable self defense. You see Trayvon Martin used marijuana, he got in trouble at school a couple of times, to the gun nuts this provided evidence that he deserved to die.
For those of you who wonder why we don't trust people with concealed carry, just take a look at the comments of those who support George Zimmerman. If people believe that George Zimmerman used his gun properly then I don't want those people carrying a gun because they are clearly telling us that they believe murder can be justified on the flimsiest basis.
As disgusting as the massacre in Connecticut is I believe the Trayvon Martin case provides an even bigger reason for gun control. I have not heard a single person defend the Connecticut shooter, but many NRA allies did come out in support of George Zimmerman and suggested that it is proper to kill in the way that he killed.
The gun nuts have given us good reason not to trust them with guns after their expressions of support for a murderer like George Zimmerman. When I see those people I think of the people who justified James' death and it makes me sick to my stomach.
Now maybe some people will understand why I hate guns so much, but before any of the gun nuts try to tell me that I am basing my argument on emotion I want to remind them what brought about my emotion. It was a murder that involved a gun, and you can try to pretend that guns are no threat to us all you want but a person who I consider one of the closest friends I ever had despite his problems is dead because of a gun and if you try to tell me that I have nothing to fear from guns I will think about his body that now lies beneath the ground.
It is time to take the NRA and their allies to task, too many people have died and those who are working to prevent change will have the blood of people like James on their hands.
The battle for equal rights for all Americans has been going on for as long as America has existed, it has been a very difficult battle but we as a nation have come an enormous distance towards the dream of full equality for everyone. Before we saw the gains our nation made however we saw numerous examples of what appeared to be major setbacks. Make no doubt about it that during the Civil Rights Movement many supporters of that great movement felt beaten and discouraged when they saw the fire hoses turned on their supporters. Many of them no doubt felt helpless when they saw that the majority of the population strongly supported segregation and voted in racist politicians. When blacks southerners saw their neighbors lynched, when they saw the KKK burn their homes to the ground, when they saw the "white's only" sign on the door of countless businesses, when they were told they could not sit in the front of the bus, and when they were constantly held back they no doubt felt defeated on many occasions. No matter how many times they felt defeated however they kept fighting back and eventually they won a victory that most people thought impossible, they got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. While the Civil Rights Act did not come close to fixing everything it brought us closer to equality than we had ever been at any point since Columbus first landed in America.
Today leaders of the gay rights movement are fighting a similar battle to the one that was fought by the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's, like the Civil Rights Movement they have suffered numerous setbacks but have slowly started to win over public opinion. The gay rights movement has not quite reached their Civil Rights Act of 1964 moment yet, but that moment is coming and when that moment comes all the setbacks that were suffered in the past will no longer seem like setbacks.
Today the bigots threw a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" and it appears they were very successful at getting long lines of homophobes to spend their money in support of a corporation that donates to hate groups. This "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" was obviously designed to counter the boycott that gay rights advocates have called against Chick-Fil-A, and at least in terms of dollars it will probably appear that they were successful. Let's be honest, most of the people who are with us in boycotting Chick-Fil-A did not eat at Chick-Fil-A to begin with. Chick-Fil-A has been known to be a homophobic company for a long time and most gay rights supporters probably stopped eating there a long time ago, sure they lost some customers but the number of customers lost is more than offset by the number of bigots who will start eating there or going there more often to prove their homophobic credentials. Today's profits will almost certainly be the biggest single day profits Chick-Fil-A has ever seen in their company's history, my guess is the annual profits will also more than likely be the biggest numbers Chick-Fil-A has ever posted. As much as a setback as this may seem to those who have been advocating a boycott I can not say it loudly enough, DO NOT LET THIS DISCOURAGE YOU!
In the end Chick-Fil-A's profits this week or this year do not matter to us, what matters is that we are able to reach our Civil Rights Act of 1964 moment and we bring about permanent and lasting change that spreads well beyond any fast food chain. Once we reach that moment I can assure you that there won't be any more lines at Chick-Fil-A like the ones you saw today. Once we reach that moment all those people who posted the pictures of themselves with their Chick-Fil-A bags on Facebook today will be forced to explain those photos to their children and grandchildren some of whom will no doubt be gay. Once we achieve equality many of the people who chose to stand in line at Chick-Fil-A today will hang their head in shame that they supported bigotry just as many of the blatant racists of year's past now like to pretend that the were big Martin Luther King supporters when they were really attending KKK rallies. History is moving in our direction and while Chick-Fil-A may be showing big profits today their name is going to be severely tarnished by this in the long run.
That is why you must keep the boycott going no matter what the quarterly profits say, even if it appears that Chick-Fil-A is profiting off the controversy you can not give up because those profits won't last forever. Victory is not going to come overnight and there will be days like today that appear to be setbacks but in the end they will just be bumps on the road to victory. Just a few short years ago a vast majority of the country opposed gay rights, today it is pretty much split 50/50 and things are moving rapidly in our direction. The bigots are still a powerful force in this country but we have all the momentum on our side in this battle and a couple years of increased Chick-Fil-A profits are not going to change that. We need to show that we are not going to back away from a battle that needs to be fought because of the first sign of setback, we need to show them that however much they may want to believe they are winning we are going to keep fighting and we will be the ones who determine the future. Let the Chick-Fil-A boycott continue for as long as it takes to bring about equality.
Last night the Walker Methodist Church in Minneapolis burned to the ground in what may have been arson. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation there are reports that a neighbor witnessed two people running from the church right before it became engulfed in flames.
I have visited the Walker Church on several occasions as did many other Twin Cities peace activists. The Walker church was known as a place that opened its doors to activist groups that were organizing peace and justice campaigns, groups such as the Welfare Rights Committee and Communities United Against Police Brutality had offices located there and their organizing materials were destroyed in the fire. Michelle Gross who serves as the director of Communities United Against Police Brutality says that the fire started near her group's office and she believes they may have been a prime target of the arsonists. While she does not rule out the possibility that the fire could have been caused by lightning, the circumstances around the fire do appear very suspicious.
The loss of this church is a major blow to the Twin Cities activist community, the people of Walker Church have been absolutely great about accommodating those who were working for change and it will be difficult to find another good meeting place that will be as open as they were. While they were a Methodist church people of many different faiths as well as atheists gathered there because they were so welcoming of so many different people. They are saying they are going to rebuild, but this is no doubt a major blow to their community.
If this was arson the people responsible are apprehended very quickly, five firefighters were injured trying to put out the blaze and people could have easily been killed. This was a serious attack on our community and its effects will be long felt, we can not allow this to slip under the rug.
Three of the five Minneapolis firefighters who were taken to a hospital after battling a raging blaze that destroyed a historic church Sunday night have been released, authorities said.
Deputy Fire Chief Harold Breffle said Monday that two other firefighters were still in Hennepin County Medical Center's burn unit, but that their injuries were not life-threatening. The three others were released overnight.
The department has not yet released the injured firefighters names.
Fire broke out about 8:20 p.m. Sunday at the Walker Community United Methodist Church. Flames raged for hours and drew hundreds of spectators and scores of firefighters.The cause has not been determined. Some people at the scene Sunday night speculated lightning was the culprit, while close neighbors said they thought it could be arson.
One thing every activist realizes eventually is that when you stand up for justice you will witness injustice. Many of us were raised to believe that in America people can state their beliefs without fear of getting our heads bashed in by police, that is something that is only supposed to happen in dictatorships it is not supposed to happen in the so-called land of the free.
I am sad to say that the America I learned about in school is a myth, I was aware it was a myth for quite some time but today I witnessed the effects of police brutality with my own eyes and once you actually see people with blood gushing out of their heads after participating in a peaceful protest it effects you in a way that no book or video can prepare you for.
I have been involved in dozens of protests over the past several years, I have marched on the past two Republican National Conventions, I have marched on the School of the Americas, I have marched with Occupy, I have crashed our former Governor's fishing opener, I have been in many marches both permitted and unpermitted and I have certainly seen my share of police abuses but still nothing could prepare me for what I witnessed today.
Last night I got on a bus that left Minneapolis to arrive in Chicago at 5:00 am this morning. Not too many protesters were out yet at that hour as the rally to protest the NATO summit would not begin until much later in the morning, but there was already a heavy police presence. At that point the police were leaving us alone for the most part, but when you see police with batons and homeland security vehicles cruising the streets that early in the morning you know to expect police intimidation, but that still does not prepare you for it.
Despite this intimidation on the streets however police largely left the rally itself alone and I was having a great experience. I got to meet a few people I consider heroes, and I don't use the word hero lightly. First I met Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin who has been one of the lead figures in the anti-war movement over the last decade. Shortly after meeting her I caught Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello practicing for his performance and after waiting a bit I was able to meet him and have my picture taken with him. Tom Morello's music was instrumental in influencing me to become an activist, before I started really trying to understand Rage's music and reading their web page as a young adult I actually held some pretty right-wing views, Rage Against the Machine got me to question those views and I would have probably never became a lefty much less an activist if I had never heard their music. Being able to thank Morello personally for influencing me was something I always wanted to do so meeting him was enough to put me on what I thought would be a permanent high.
A while later I saw a long haired man in brown camouflage walk by and it was a face I was not expecting to see but who I recognized immediately. It was Scott Olsen, the Iraq Veteran and Occupy Oakland protester who became a national symbol of the movement when he suffered brain damage as a result of unprovoked police brutality. I thanked Olsen for his activism, the fact that he keeps fighting despite the suffering he has faced makes him worthy of being called a hero and I let him know that. Little did I know that a few hours later I would witness seeing a couple protesters bleeding from the head and the images of Scott Olsen that I remember seeing on the internet last fall would become all too real.
We marched through the streets of Chicago with hundreds of police officers lining the streets, a few were in riot gear and holding their batons at the ready but most were in normal uniforms and just casually watched as we marched by. We made it to the end of the march without incident and I started looking for where our bus was parked thinking the big events of the day were over and I was about to come home.
As I gathered with some of the fellow Minnesotans I traveled out to Chicago with a fairly large group of what appeared to be Black Bloc anarchists suddenly marched by us. I should make it clear that none of these Black Bloc members were doing anything violent, I had been in the city the entire day and did not witness any violence from any protester it was a very peaceful day. Many people believe that wherever the Black Bloc goes there is violence, but this is quite simply a myth. I have been in many protests the Black Bloc has shown up at and not a single one of them has ever turned violent. As much as the police might want to use the fact that several Black Bloc members marched into the area as an excuse for their actions, the truth is that the entire march was peaceful and wearing a black mask and endorsing anarchism is protected speech as long as there is no violence involved and there was no violence.
That did not stop the police from greatly overreacting however and jus minutes after the Black Bloc marched by a huge line of what seemed to be hundreds of police in full riot gear marched right by me. They lined up right between me and my friend's isolating me from the rest of my group. I started filming with my camera so I could show people just how much overkill there was, but right when I thought I got them all on video another huge group would show up. There were even a small group of them wearing Army green one of whom was wearing a black face mask, they appeared to be military.
A few minutes later I saw my friends who were allowed to leave from behind the police lines and we headed towards a much more quiet street where our bus would meet us. We were far enough away from the riot police that I finally felt safe and things were quiet for a few minutes until I turned my head and saw medics walking two men to the corner where I was sitting with blood streaming down their heads after getting hit by police batons. The medics asked us to form a circle around them with our backs turned to provide a privacy wall so I helped out, but the whole time I stood there I was deeply disturbed. There were hundreds of police in the streets, but the only people helping were the street medics. Hundreds of police to harass protesters, but not a single one to assist a couple of injured demonstrators who appeared to be peaceful protesters (If they were not peaceful they would have been arrested for sure with that large of a police presence so it is a very safe assumption that neither of them committed any crime. As far as I could tell neither of them appeared to be Black Bloc). Eventually a police official did show up when the ambulance was called and that officer was very professional, the rest of the force however deserves no praise at all. Intimidating peaceful protesters is wrong, and beating them over the head is even more wrong. Unless some Chicago police officers face assault charges over this then we need to hold the entire force accountable for allowing this sort of behavior within their ranks.
As for mayor Rahm Emmanuel, he needs to be pressured to resign immediately. His actions are indefensible, he allowed this police state in his city to happen and he needs to lose his office. I know he is not likely to leave on his own, but people need to put enormous pressure on him until he is forced out.
Democracy requires the right of people to speak their mind without risking violence at the hands of the state, until police are held accountable for these sorts of abuses I can not pretend that we live in a democracy.
Local independent media activists and members of Communities United Against Police Brutality began investigating police conduct around the Plaza after witnessing police dropping off impaired people at the plaza and hearing rumors that they were offering people drugs. We videotaped police conduct and interviewed participants, learning some very disturbing information about the DRE program.
Officers stated on record the DRE program, run by the Minnesota State Patrol, has no Institutional Review Board or independent oversight. They agreed no ambulances or EMTs were on site at the Richfield MnDOT facility near the airport where most subjects were taken. Multiple times, participants left Peavey Plaza sober, returned intoxicated, and said theyd been given free drugs by law enforcement. We documented on more than one occasion, someone being told they were sober by one officer, and then picked up by a different officer, and returning intoxicated.
The 35 minute video contains interviews with several witnesses and video of a State Patrol Officer offering drugs to Occupiers, let's make sure people know abou this and that the police are held accountable for once.
Update: I want to point out that the witnesses in the video are not just saying the police were giving away pot, they were giving hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth as well.
Two years ago I witnessed a tragedy that changed my life forever, many people have heard the words "Shaken Baby Syndrome" spoken, but nothing can prepare a person for seeing what happens to an infant after they have been shaken with their own eyes.
I am very close to a young boy who was shaken by his "father" when he was only six weeks old. I still have flashbacks of seeing this tiny little baby laying in his hospital bed kept alive by only a machine, his head swollen beyond recognition. I can't go into all the details of what I witnessed, both out of respect for privacy for the victims of this horrible tragedy and my own personal well being. While I have not been officially diagnosed I believe I likely have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of what I witnessed and simply hearing about any sort of child abuse at all even if it is just a spanking can trigger flashbacks. I think nearly everyone gets disturbed when they hear about child abuse on the evening news, but for those of us who have actually witnessed the effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome it goes beyond feeling disturbed, a story on the evening news can make us feel our previous tragedy all over again.
I absolutely hate hearing the words "Shaken Baby Syndrome", but I want people to be aware of what it is so I am glad the media covers it sometimes even though when I see stories about it I feel a great deal of pain. Today when I heard the words "Shaken Baby Syndrome" in the news however in a context in which it should have never been I was not only hurt, I was infuriated.
George Zimmerman's lawyers claimed today that Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin because he was worried that Trayvon would give him Shaken Baby Syndrome. There are real victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome, but George Zimmerman is not one of them. The real victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome are not 28 year old men, they are infants who don't carry guns and were completely defenseless at the time they were attacked. I won't go into too much graphic detail on what a real victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome looks like, but I will say you sure as hell don't need an "enhanced" video to see the injury.
It sickens me that a 28 year old man like Zimmerman would use fear of Shaken Baby Syndrome as an excuse for shooting an unarmed child. Simply hearing the words "Shaken Baby Syndrome" can trigger PTSD in those who have witnessed actual cases of it, and Zimmerman's lawyers are exploiting a horrible ailment brought about by violence against infants in order to justify violence against a child. To make things even more sickening on the same day that Zimmerman put forth his "Shaken Baby Syndrome" defense his lawyers announced they are opening a web site where people can donate to pay Zimmerman's "living expenses", in other words Zimmerman is using this not to raise money for actual victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome but rather for his own personal profit. As a person who is close to a real victim, seeing something like this exploited not only to justify violence but also for personal profit sickens me.
If you want to know how close I was to the child who was attacked, both him and his mother moved in with me for a year after the incident and I was one of his primary care takers for the first year he was out of the hospital. While this child does not live with me any more I still take care of him regularly and in fact had him with me nearly the entire day today. I don't want to go in to much detail about his current condition, but I will say he is doing much better than the doctor's initially expected he would do but he still faces enormous challenges and he will have to face many of those challenges for the rest of his life. While I believe he can still live a good life, I highly doubt he will ever be able to live independently and he will require a caretaker most likely for the rest of his life. I don't want to go in to any more detail than that but if people are curious I will provide the link to the newspaper article from when his "father" was sentenced.
Please respect that I don't want to say any more than I already have so I will not respond to any posts in this thread, but I will read them.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is truly tragic for all those who have to witness it, those who try to exploit such a horrible thing to justify violence against innocents are truly reprehensible.
Last spring Michael Brodkorb was worried because he thought his marriage was being threatened by some scary gay people. Brodkorb was the Republican Communications Director for the Minnesota Senate and he stood firmly behind his party to help push forward a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman...and perhaps another woman on the side.
That other woman on the side was Amy Koch, the family values Republican Senate Majority Leader who did everything she could to make sure that no marriages would be destroyed by gay people. In working together to protect marriage Koch and Brodkorb got very close, much closer than either of their spouses would have liked. Don't blame them though, I am sure they would have never had the affair if gay people had not tried to destroy marriage by allowing more marriage.
When Koch and Brodkorb's affair went public Koch resigned her position as Senate Majority Leader, she will stick around the Capitol just long enough to see whether or not the public will vote to defend her marriage from gay people.
Brodkorb does not get that opportunity, once it became known that Brodkorb was a Koch Sucker he was fired. Of course he is the victim here, he was only fired because he is a man and the state senate is sexist against men. That may sound like an argument coming from some drunk guy stumbling off the end of the bar, but it is actually the legal argument Brodkorb intends to use.
Mr. Brodkorb has evidence that similarly situated female legislative employees, from both political parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators. It is clear that Mr. Brodkorb was terminated based on his gender, the legal document said.
So Brodkorb claims there are female staffers who have had affairs with other members of the legislature from both parties. Brodkorb has provided absolutely no evidence of any other affairs yet, but he is suing the state for wrongful termination because he says the state will allow women to have sex with their boss but men are treated differently. To prove this he plans to have his attorneys question several legislators and their staffers about possible sexual activity, remember we have no evidence at this point that any of these people have actually had affairs but Brodkorb claims they did and wants to put them on the stand to talk about their sex lives so that they are humiliated along with him.
Yes Brodkorb is slime and his lawsuit is totally frivolous, I feel bad for some of the staffers who are going to be subject to Brodkorb's witch hunt. I can't feel bad for the Republicans however, they knew this guy was a smear merchant and that is why they hired him in the first place, their only mistake was thinking he would only go after Democrats and never turn on them. Brodkorb says he has info on affairs from members of both parties, but I don't think Democrats are going to face any damage from what is clearly a frivolous law suit.
Republicans on the other hand? This is going to be a nightmare for them. Even though the lawsuit will probably eventually be dismissed, the damage the publicity around it will do could be quite severe.
And who pays for the legal costs for the state in defending itself from this law suit? Us taxpayers do, we get to fund the lawyers for the state to defend itself from a Republican who is suing because the Republicans fired him for having sex with another Republican. This is purely a Republican scandal, but the state is paying the costs of a frivolous lawsuit from a guy who rants about how bad frivolous law suits are and demands tort reform.
This is what the defenders of marriage have given us, a legal battle over an affair between two of the leaders in the fight against equality. As we see this lawsuit play out over the next year I hope many people take the time to think about who is really damaging the institution of marriage and vote no on the constitutional amendment this fall.
I won't speak ill of the dead.
I won't speak ill of the children who were killed by the bombs that were dropped on Iraq, the right-wing pundits may have cheered the bombings that killed those children but I won't.
I won't speak ill of the people who die every single day because they can not afford health insurance and were not able to get public assistance because the corporate shills scream "socialism" whenever someone tries to get help for people in need.
I won't speak ill of the homeless who die on the streets of America, some of them received help from community organizations such as ACORN for example but when those organizations came under attack underprivileged communities that were already struggling were left with even less support.
I won't speak ill of the gay teen who commits suicide after being bullied, maybe if the right-wing media had not spent so much time convincing people that being a homophobe is a moral duty the bullying would have never happened and that teen might still be alive.
I won't speak ill of the cancer victim who died because they were exposed to toxic chemicals in the environment, nor will I speak ill of the workers who die after safety standards are lowered because the Tea Party demanded less regulation.
I won't speak ill of the former death row inmate in Georgia who the evidence suggested may be innocent but was killed anyways while a group of people who call themselves "pro-life".
No I won't speak ill of the dead, and I demand those who cheer wars of aggression to stop speaking ill of the dead as well.
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