Phoenix: Report Back from March Against Police Violence

from It’s Going Down

Over 1,000 people took to the streets of Phoenix on a hot Friday night to protest numerous issues associated with the police in the wake of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  While the march took to the streets, it was largely self-policing, aside from a notable confrontation with a Trump supporter who had to be escorted from the rally by police after he was knocked to the ground.

The mood of the march changed after a group of armed militia, who had shadowed the march, began to run ahead of the march, at one point cutting through the front of the march. The crowd gave chase to the militia but was stopped when officers in riot gear were driven into the fray to help the camouflage wearing militia men escape, providing marchers with the first look at the plans the Phoenix PD had in place for those who stepped out of line. I yelled at the militiamen as they had ran by, and then complained about the armed group aloud, three older women were walking next to me, one said that they all had wanted to bring firearms to the demonstration, but the march organizers had insisted that attendees leave all weapons at home.

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While much has been made locally since the march as to whether a march
organizer tricked the crowd to march towards the I-10 on ramp, I overheard a number of people in the crowd (mostly younger people) call for the freeway to be taken. Some of these same voices were also denouncing the march leadership.

Once the march turned onto 7th St. to head north to the freeway, a large presence of police were visible, creating a skirmish line across 7th St. and Fillmore. While some of the march organizers’ people tried to divert marchers from a head on confrontation with police by turning the march onto Fillmore, many younger people surged forward to the shields of riot police. Water bottles flew through the air at police, some of those in conflict removed their shirts and used them to conceal their identities as the Phoenix PD’s mobile surveillance unit “Freedom on the Move” sat parked well behind the police line with a raised camera high over the crowd to record the coming conflict.

The cops sprayed the crowd with pepper spray, causing hundreds of people to turn and run from the skirmish line. As many laid in the street, some screaming, as they dealt with the effects of the spray, others were being lifted off of the crowd, or helped from the ground as they had been trampled by the crowd in retreat.  Soon water bottles gave way to rocks, and the Phoenix PD declared the march to be an illegal assembly.  March organizers scrambled to move the crowd away from the police line as the conflict intensified, and the pleas to stop the confrontations with police fell on many deaf ears.

As the march finally moved away from the police line, much smaller than when it had first arrived as the police dispensed liberal amounts of pepper spray, it appeared that the march organizers had succeeded in diverting the crowd back to the core of the downtown Phoenix area. A group of people towards the front of the march broke away and pulled the rest of the march with them down a side street, an attempt to bypass the police line and make it to the freeway.

13682353_10154357895649810_894017575_oI could see police running up 7th St. and police vehicles making hasty u-turns to assemble a skirmish line at 7th St. and Roosevelt, the crowd ran too. Some were picking up rocks from dirt lots, others snapchatting and calling friends to tell them what was going down in Phoenix, and other stood in the way of police vehicles that had yet to make it north of Roosevelt. While there were only three arrests Friday night, there were dozens of people who unleashed rocks on the reassembled line of riot police blocking the street north of Roosevelt, while a police helicopter flying overhead made periodic announcements regarding the order to disperse. More people arrived, some jumped out of cars, maybe after a phone call from a friend or after watching the fights on the news, many grabbed the biggest rocks they could find to heave at police lines.

The police responded with tear gas, pepper balls, and more tear gas. Some of the tear gas was thrown back, but the amount of chemical weapons deployed had the desired effect of breaking up what was left of the crowd.

I arrived late to the march with pretty low standards, considering the reputation of the march organizer, and the warnings put forth by both the Mayor and Chief of Police to cancel the demonstration in the wake of the Dallas shootings.  I didn’t hear anyone say a word about Dallas that night, a night that saw the largest confrontation with the Phoenix PD since the anti-Nazi rebellion against the National Socialist Movement in November 2010. The last time there were anti-police violence demonstrations of this size was in December 2014, just days before the bullets of an assassin targeting NY cops caused many to retreat from their agitation against the agents of the state.

Unlike the December 2014 demonstration, this was considerably less white, perhaps an effect of the Dallas shootings, as the march was overwhelmingly black and brown, minus the consistently conservative input from white allies and activists.

13672173_10154357894334810_1432342449_nFinally, the media, the march organizer, and the police did their best at minimizing the scale of the hostilities towards police, reducing it to the actions of the three people arrested on Friday night. The police touted the low number of arrests as an example of the department’s close ties to “the community,” while the protest organizers slandered the arrested on TV the next day. For my perspective, what happened on Friday was significant because those fighting the police refused the leadership of clergy and politician, the authority of the state, and the expectation to self-police in the midst of an unfolding national crisis. Phoenix is a poor town, second only to Detroit for the level of poverty, this poverty is shared unequally among the indigenous, black, brown, and white residents of this doomed metropolis on these occupied Akimel O’odham land.

A social explosion is long overdue.

Valley law enforcement’s internet “Red Squad” takes center stage at International Social Media and Surveillance Conference

from Down and Drought

A group of law enforcement officers who coordinated the crackdown on Occupy Phoenix, and regularly monitor the pages of activists through internet surveillance, are scheduled speakers at next week’s “Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement” (SMILE) three day conference.  The Phoenix Police Department are the host agency for this year’s conference,  Detective CJ Wren and  Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) All Hazards Analyst Brenda Dowhan will be representing Phoenix,  Detective Chris Adamczyk, a TLO from Mesa Police Department will also be presenting.

What they will be presenting on, should be of interest to anyone concerned with the powers given to police agencies to spy and collect information on individuals and groups engaged in political activity.  While the justification has been provided that these departments are concerned with anarchists and “criminal activists,” much of the documentation surrounding Occupy Phoenix revealed that these individuals and their respective police organizations (Phoenix PD and Mesa PD coordinating with other departments through the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC)) were using secretive technologies to identify individuals who merely criticized department policy.

Journalist Beau Hodai obtained thousands of pages of documents from various law enforcement agencies on the varied multi-agency responses to  Occupy Phoenix, and related events.  What Hodai learned was that the counter-terrorism infrastructure established in Arizona, through the ACTIC fusion center, worked closely with corporate partners to pass information along information on protests being organized against them.

We made good use of the Hodai’s source materials, which were generously posted online, to write a series of stories that Hodai had not covered, including the revelations that a co-owner of Changing Hands Books was passing information about Occupy Phoenix along to the Phoenix PD.  Another unsettling story we covered was on the Facial Recognition Unit within ACTIC that was using a facial recognition software to scan the state’s drivers license database to identify participants in protests, using photos found on social media.  Given that most of the information regarding the activities of ACTIC, and the TLOs involved in targeting Occupy Phoenix, is approaching four years old, the upcoming SMILE conference affords us the opportunity to shine a light on these digital spies.  Here are some highlights from the conference agenda:

TLO All Hazards Analyst Brenda Dowhan is giving a presentation on Using Social Media for Event Planning and Real-time Monitoring, in her event description Dowhan advocates for “pro-active policing,” citing an anti-police protest as an event which “could impact public safety and the community.”  Given what we know from Dowhan’s history with the Occupy protests, anarchist events, and marches affiliated with indigenous causes, her objective is not to merely pass along information to other regional TLOs about a possible protest or activist gathering, but to coordinate disruption.  Hodai noted in his “Dissent or Terror” article that after Tempe Homeland Defense Unit Detective Derek Pittam wrote of a guerrilla gardening event successfully disrupted by Tempe police, Dowhan responded with “Good to hear. Every site I’ve been on, they know that we are watching them.”

Dowhan was often aided by Mesa Detective Chris Adamczyk, a TLO and self-described expert in “subversive organizations.”  Adamczyk will also be presenting to other officers on the topic of  Unmask the Movement: Using social media to assess the risks of subversive organizations.  In his description, Adamczyk laughably describes the “dark side of social media,” the world of street gangs, syndicates, criminal activists, and terror organizations. In addition to his obsessing over the Facebook page of Food Not Bombs, Adamczyk has launched a private enterprise to share his unique skill set.  His website and smartphone app, called the Protestus Project, claims to be”making sense of the world of activism,” but for who?  The site is updated infrequently, and appears to rely of the same open source information that Adamczyk receives on the daily from his position as a TLO at the Mesa Police Department.  The website and app are uneven in what information is shared, for example the website documents an activist group involved in recent anti-police protests and provides analysis of the local Black Lives Matter/Rumain Brisbon protests, while the app appears to be an alphabetized threat assessment of local activist groups.  It’s unclear if Detective Adamczyk writes all content for the website or app.

Perhaps nothing is more humorous than the presentation given by Detective CJ Wren on Stalking 2.0 ~ Stalking in the Social Media Era, which is apparently about a man who found 30 social media pages belonging to the police and saved the info to disk, and why police officers should lock down their social media profiles.  Detective Wren is the Arizona Chapter President at Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, and Law Enforcement President of the Arizona Terrorism Liaison Association.  Despite Detective Wren’s counter-terrorism expertise and his online privacy tips for law enforcement, a simple Google search reveals that Wren himself has a revealing social media footprint.  Perhaps he should consider using his own online activities as a case study!  This is all the more laughable considering his employment (along with Dowhan and Adamczyk) relies on him stalking radicals, anarchists, indigenous activists, and immigrant rights groups on their respective social media pages and storing the information forever through a joint partnership with the Federal government.

Detective Wren would like to have it both ways; an open internet for for Wren, Dowhan, and Adamczyk to prowl, collecting “open source intelligence” to share with their TLO partners and the FBI through ACTIC; and, under the justification of officer safety,  a closed internet to protect the identities, actions, and opinions of police officers, shielding them from criticism. These agents of the law are speaking at SMILE because they are skilled in the use of surveillance, disruption, and repression to halt protests and groups opposed to the actions of government and business.

Creepy name aside, networking hubs such as SMILE, the ACTIC fusion center, and the activities of the anti-protest “Red Squad” counter-terrorism departments must be dragged out into the light.  The increasing efforts of local police departments to spy on and disrupt the efforts of activist groups and political protest goes hand in hand with the riot police using military equipment to intimidate and control people when they sign off from the internet and take to the streets.

Press Release

The Phoenix Anarchist Community has been active in recent weeks as a result of a report ‘Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America Turned on Occupy Wall Street’ compiled by The Center for Media and Democracy that details the vast web of collaboration between the Phoenix Police Department, The FBI, The Department of Homeland Security, and Counter Terror apparatuses in infiltrating and shutting down the Occupy Phoenix movement, as well as surveilling activists before and far beyond the initial dates of protest.

According to the documents, the protestors were being monitored and infiltrated by undercover police at an October 7th meeting, a full week before the protests began. It was around this time that the decision to enforce arbitrary city codes and lesser known laws for the purpose of disrupting and crushing the Occupy Phoenix movement was also made. It is of little wonder now why hundreds of police, and a helicopter descended on Margaret T. Hance Park the first night of the protest to arrest anyone in the park.

Also included in the documents is the collusion between the ALEC conference, and the Phoenix Police Department in infiltrating activist circles to monitor planned activity at the ALEC conference which came to Scottsdale on November 30th, 2011. The documents detail how the Phoenix Police circulated activists pictures as “potential persons of interest” before the conference, though who created that list, and why is still unknown. It also reveals that the ALEC conference paid upwards of 30,000 dollars to off duty Phoenix Police officers to work private security at the event, to insulate themselves from a potentially riotous assembly.

All of these documents go to show what us anarchists have been saying all along: The police are not a benevolent force to protect our rights to demonstrate. They are a militaristic machine intent on disrupting, infiltrating, and destroying our movements and breaking apart our communities. They do not, and never will, have our interests in mind, only that of power, and property.

The surveillance isn’t surprising to us, seasoned activists who have long been aware that police, and private interests collude to crush potentially rebellious movements and spaces. What should be gleaned from this information is that the police state, greatly expanded after 9/11 , is being used to criminalize dissent in the name of counter terrorism. As a community, we will not stand for this and vow to mobilize around police and state repression in all forms. We will deliberate as a community, and act as a community. We will not stand for police harassment and surveillance of our communities!

Signed,

The Valley Anarchist Circle, The Phoenix Commune, East Valley Revolution, DeColonize Phoenix,artists, and other concerned community members.