Monday, October 31, 2016

There Is an Epidemic of Assassinations Targeting Human Rights Defenders in Latin America

Published on Alternet (

There Is an Epidemic of Assassinations 
Targeting Human Rights Defenders in Latin America

By Sarah Lazare [1] / AlterNet [2]
October 30, 2016

   On October 18, human rights defenders José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio were murdered [3] after they left a meeting of peasant farmers in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras. Both were organizers with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA), whose former president Johnny Rivas said [4] “death squads chasing peasant families fighting for land rights" were behind the assassinations.

  On September 18, indigenous environmental defender Máxima Acuña de Chaupe says [5] she was attacked at her remote farm in the northern Andean highlands of Peru by private security under the employ of the Yanacocha mining company, a local subsidiary of the Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation. Máxima has attracted international claim for her years-long resistance to the company’s campaign to transform her plot into the open-pit Conga gold and copper mine, and she says this latest incident is just one of many physical attacks she has endured.

    According to a new briefing [6] from Oxfam International, such attacks—many of them deadly—reflect a record-high surge of violence targeting human rights defenders across Latin America. This trend, Oxfam says [7], is “related to the expansion of extractive industries as a national revenue model for Latin American and Caribbean countries.”

  “When the state fails to fulfil its role and allows the rights of some to be violated while increasing the economic and political power and impunity of others and granting them privileges, it appears that government institutions have been captured for the benefit of economic elites,” states the report [6].
The human toll continues to rise. The advocacy organization Global Witness reports [8] that 2015 was the most deadly year for human rights defenders yet. According to the group, at least 185 defenders around the world were killed, 122 of them in Latin America.

    The Oxfam briefing notes, “This trend appears to be continuing in 2016, given that 24 defenders were murdered in Brazil in the first four months of the year; 19 defenders were killed in Colombia between January and March; seven were murdered in Guatemala between January and June and at least six defenders in Honduras and two in Mexico were assassinated between January and April.”
According to Oxfam, the “link between violence and the mining and agro-industrial sectors” has been building for years. “A case reported by CODEHUPY in Paraguay involved the execution and disappearance of 115 leaders and members of farmers' organizations between 1989 and 2013,” the report explains. “This was part of a strategy to displace rural communities by force and appropriate their land, using a form of state aggression that is a clear example of the appropriation of state institutions in favor of landowning groups linked to agribusiness.”

  Cindy Wiesner, national coordinator for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, told AlterNet, “Unfortunately, this blood is on our hands here in the United States. We know that U.S. corporations are driving the oil and energy extraction happening across Latin America and the Caribbean. U.S. military aid has directly supported this horrific spike in violence against women and Indigenous human rights defenders.”

   Many of those killed had repeatedly warned of threats against them or were even under government protection, raising questions about state inaction and complicity. The briefing states that “of the 63 human rights defenders murdered in Colombia in 2015, 21 had previously reported threats and four were under the protection of the National Protection Unit. In Honduras, 14 people under IACHR precautionary measures have been killed in the past four years.”

   Due to patriarchal cultural norms, the report warns, women are “victims of stigmatization, hostility, repression and violence more frequently and to a greater extent than men.”

  "We are witnessing an unmitigated rise in attacks, including killings of leaders who fight in their own countries for basic human rights such as equality, access to water, or access to water or land,” said Asier Hernando, the Oxfam´s regional deputy director in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Even international recognition or support for human rights defenders has offered little protection, as seen in the cases of Berta Cáceres, murdered in Honduras, or Máxima Acuña, who continues to suffer ongoing attacks in Peru. If they can kill and threaten these recognized figures, the level of exposure and vulnerability for lesser known leaders is that much greater."

  But Wiesner said concrete actions could help stem the violence. “Right now there is a bill before U.S. Congress—HR5474: the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act—that would stop all U.S. military and police aid to Honduras until these abuses cease,” she said. “As a feminist, I call on Hillary Clinton in particular to support this bill, especially after having supported the military coup that set the conditions for this kind of violence against women defending their land.”

 Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare [9].



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - October 28 - November 5, 2016

37] Peace vigil at White House – Oct. 28
38] WIB peace vigils – Oct. 28
39] "Understanding Chinese Nuclear Thinking" – Oct. 28
40] Black Lives Matter vigil – Oct. 28
41] There is a Latina March to Stop Violence Against Women – Oct. 28
42] Mark Novak in Focus – Oct. 28
43] Ballroom Dancing – Oct. 28
44] Help Gun sense candidates – Oct. 29 & Nov. 5
45] Support Green Party candidates – Oct. 29
46] Hike with the Sierra Club Oct. 29
47] Interacting with The Other – Oct. 29
48] West Chester peace vigil – Oct. 29
49] Healthy Working Families Act – Oct. 29
52] Keep Trump Away from Nukes – Oct. 29
53] Howl—ween Fest – Oct. 29
54] Help pass Question J
55] Room for rent
56] Sign up with Washington Peace Center
57] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
58] Do you need any book shelves?
59] Join the Global Zero campaign
60] Join the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil
37] – On Fri., Oct. 28 from noon to 1 PM, join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in a vigil urging the powers that be to abolish war and torture, to disarm all weapons, to end indefinite detention, to close Guantanamo, to establish justice for all and help create the Beloved Community! This vigil will take place at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Contract Art @ or at 202-360-6416. 

38] – On Fri., Oct. 28 from noon to 1 PM, join a Women in Black peace vigil. A vigil will take place in McKeldin Square at the corner of Light and Pratt Sts., and another will take place outside Roland Park Place, 830 W   . 40th St., across from the Rotunda.  Stay for as long as you can. Wear black. Dress for who knows what kind of weather. Bring your own poster or help with the "NO WAR IN MY NAME" banner.  When there are others to stand with, you don't need to carry the burden alone. Do this to be in solidarity with others....when everything around us says “Be afraid of the stranger.” Carpool and parking available at both locations. Just send an email that you need a ride [].  Peace signs will be available. 

39] – On Fri., Oct. 28 at 2 PM, Gregory Kulacki, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sha Zukang, former Chinese Ambassador on Disarmament, Yao Yunzhu, Chinese Academy of Military Science, Tong Zhao, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, and Li Bin, Carnegie Endowment, will discuss "Understanding Chinese Nuclear Thinking" at Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. Email Clara Hogan at chogan@ceip.orgor.

40] – There is usually a silent vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings, outside the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St.  The next scheduled vigil is on Oct. 28. Black Lives Matter.

41] – There is a Latina March and Vigil to Stop Violence Against Women in Lamont Park, 3258 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, WDC, on Fri., Oct. 28 from 6 to 9 PM. Latino Agencies United to Stop Violence Against Women hold their the annual Vigil and March. Come support and help make noise to educate and create awareness about domestic violence in the Latina immigrant community. The march ends in front of the SunTrust Bank on 18th St. & Columbia Rd. NW.

42] – There is a Book Talk on Fri., Oct. 28 at 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201. MARK NOWAK IN FOCUS will include a reading by the poet, social critic, and labor activist. Nowak is the author of three books of poetry: Coal Mountain Elementary (2009), Shut Up Shut Down (2004), and Revenants (2000). Combining radical pedagogy and documentary poetics, Nowak’s work explores the possibilities of working-class literature in the present. A native of Buffalo, NY, he directs the MFA Program at Manhattanville College as well as the Worker Writers School at the PEN American Center. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship and the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism from Split This Rock. Nowak’s visit is co-sponsored by the Arrighi Center for Global Studies and the Johns Hopkins Department of English. Call 443-602-7585.  Go to  

43] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at  8 PM.  Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St.  Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be Oct. 28. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

44] – On Sat., Oct. 29 and Sat., Nov.5, volunteer to help elect gun sense candidates and win critical fights on background checks. During these national days of action, Gun Sense Action Network members will get to work by calling voters in key battleground states -- without even having to leave home. This is a perfect chance to invite a few friends to join you in the incredible work you're doing. Ask them to chip in and help make this election a huge win for gun safety. Share this link to invite five friends and ask them to join you for the days of action:

45] – On Sat., Oct. 29, there is a full day of events on the Eastern Shore to support Green party candidates!  These events include a farmers market, a parade and a bonfire event that night! Contact Harry at Go to

46] – Come together with the Sierra Club from across the state for a day of good food, hiking, and fun activities on Sat., Oct. 29 from 9 AM to 5 PM at Savage Park near historic Savage Mill in Howard County. Take hikes and walk, learn about native plants and animals, have a great time outdoors and savor a potluck meal.  RSVP at

47] – On Sat., Oct. 29 at 9 AM Interacting with The Other at the St. Ignatius Catholic Church, 740 North Calvert St. The sponsor is The Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace. This will be an interfaith presentation on race, religion, respecting and receiving with the keynote speaker being Imam Yahya Hendi, director of Muslim Life at Georgetown University.  The day will include a panel discussion.  Registration is $15. Register at

48] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

49] – Maryland's paid sick days legislation — the Healthy Working Families Act — came closer than ever to passing in 2016. We are confident 2017 will be the year we win paid sick days for workers across the state. Over 700,000 Maryland workers, or 40 percent of the state’s workforce, lack access to paid sick days. The Healthy Working Families Act would allow employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to seven full days (56 hours) of paid sick days per year. Join Working Matters for Paid Sick Days Outreach in Baltimore County from 11 AM to 3 PM on Sat., Oct. 29 and Sat., Nov. 12.  Meet at the Subway in the Parkville Shopping Center, 8335 Harford Rd. Parkville 21234 for a brief training before canvassing nearby. RSVP to Crystal at or 860-942-6644.

50] – There’s a MUSLIM SPEAKER'S TRAINING planned.  Session 1 of 3 will take place on Sat., Oct. 29 from 11 AM to 3 PM at the MCMF office Building, 811 Russell Ave., Suite G, Gaithersburg 20879.  To fix the misperceptions, American Muslim Institution is pleased to undertake training fellow Muslims, and fellow Americans, to learn about Islam and play a leadership role in removing myths and misunderstandings.  RSVP at

51] – IGNITE PEACE IN HORSHAM with the Brandywine Peace Community. Stop the Drone War Command Center in Horsham.  End the U.S. Policy of Endless War and Drone Terror.  The next Anti-War Demonstration at the Drone War Command Center/Horsham Air Guard Station, is on Sat., Oct. 29 from noon to 2 PM at Route 611/Easton Road and County Line Road, Horsham, PA. The Protest Continues. Wake up.  Show up.  Stand up.  Visit or call 610-544-1818. These demonstrations continue the last Saturday of the month.

52] – Rally to Keep Trump Away from Nukes at the Trump Hotel, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, WDC, on  Sat., Oct. 29 from noon to 1 PM. Donald Trump cannot be trusted with the control of our country’s nuclear arsenal as president. Join No the Red Button campaign.  See

53] – Please join the Maryland SPCA and police officers from the Baltimore City Northern precinct on Sat., Oct. 29 from 3 to 6 PM at 3300 Falls Rd., Baltimore 21211 for Howl-oween Fest! This is a free event open to everyone. Enjoy food trucks, live music, adoptable animals from the MD SPCA and local rescue groups and much more. RSVP at

54] – United Workers is in the home stretch in the campaign to pass Question J - the affordable housing trust fund ballot initiative. There are two key outreach actions to educate voters about Question J: Email to volunteer.

The group is looking for volunteers to cover key polling places with high "traffic". Here are shifts to cover: 7 to 9 AM, 9 AM to noon, noon to 2 PM, 2 to 5 PM and 5 to 8 PM.  In relationship to the polling station coverage (handing out lit to voters on their way in), there is a need for polling captains that will put up campaign signs in the early morning prior to the polls opening and trouble shoot issues that arise during the day.  Can you be a polling captain?  What shift(s) can you could take on? Can you volunteer to spend a couple of hours in a district simply putting the Question J literature in the door of targeted registered voters? Go to

55] – There is a furnished room for rent with private bath in a nice, quiet Lutherville neighborhood, not far from the light rail and 83, 15 minutes from Towson Town Center and various shops on York Road.  Rent, which includes cable, Wi-Fi, kitchen privileges and the use of washer and dryer, is $650 a month and the splitting of gas & electric bill. Call Lynn at 410-960-3008.

56] -- The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

57] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at

58] -- Can you use any book shelves? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

59] -- Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees.  This is an historic window of opportunity.  With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

60] – A Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil takes place every day in Lafayette Park, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 24 hours a day, since June 3, 1981. Go to; call 202-682-4282.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan 

Why Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Devastating a Water System Near You

Published on Alternet (

Why Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Devastating a Water System Near You

By Reynard Loki [1] / AlterNet [2]
October 31, 2016

 The canary in the coal mine is singing. The coal industry, which fuels around 45 percent [3] of electricity generation in the United States, is collapsing, hastened by competition, low natural gas prices and sluggish growth in electricity demand. In addition, the coal industry has been battered by new federal standards [4] issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that limit the amount of mercury and other air pollutants, including toxic metals like arsenic. The new rules are forcing utility companies to shutter their coal-fired power plants and launch new plants that combust natural gas.

 In April, Peabody Energy, America's largest coal company, filed [5] for Chapter 11, a move coal opponents have hailed as the death knell for the entire industry. But Peabody isn’t alone: Around 44 percent of America's coal came from companies in bankruptcy, according to an analysis [6] published earlier this year by SNL Energy, a market intelligence firm.

Feds: No more new coal mining leases, for now

  An announcement [7] made by Sally Jewell in January hasn’t helped matters for the nation’s coal barons. In a major blow to the industry, the Interior Secretary implemented a federal moratorium on the issuing of new coal mining leases on public lands across the U.S.—some 570 million acres—as her department conducts a review of the program, the first in more than three decades.
“Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause [8] on approving significant new leases so that decisions about those leases can benefit from the recommendations that come out of the review,” Jewell said following the announcement. “During this time, companies can continue production activities on the large reserves of recoverable coal they have under lease, and we’ll make accommodations in the event of emergency circumstances to ensure this pause will have no material impact on the nation’s ability to meet its power generation needs.”

  Those concerns include a lack of transparency, coal’s climate impact and loopholes that allow coal companies to avoid paying taxpayers the full 12.5 percent [9] of the value of surface-mined coal and 8 percent of underground coal in royalties, which is required by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. “We have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts [7] on climate change,” said Jewell.

   “The president is right to stop this handout to big coal companies, which has cost American taxpayers more than $30 billion [10]over the past three decades,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

End of fossil fuel era?

   While the federal freeze—which could last up to three years—won’t impact existing leases, which generated almost $1.3 billion [11]for the federal government in 2015, the move has fueled the ongoing speculation that the U.S. coal industry is burning its last embers. That belief has grown as coal struggles against the rise of inexpensive, less carbon-intensive natural gas.

   “Peabody Energy's bankruptcy is a harbinger of the end of the fossil fuel era [12],” said Jenny Marienau, U.S. divestment campaign manager with the environment nonprofit “Peabody is crashing because the company was unwilling to change with the times—they doubled down on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and investors backed their bet, as the world shifted toward renewable energy. They have consistently put profit over people, and now their profits have plummeted. Our world has no place for companies like Peabody.”

   Last fall, Fortune's senior editor-at-large Brian Dumaine argued that “coal power is on the way out—divestment or not.” He wrote:

  Market forces have already savaged the U.S. coal industry. Cheap natural gas, which emits roughly half the carbon of coal, has become a favorite of utilities in the U.S.  The amount of electricity produced from coal has declined from 50 percent in 2005 to 36 percent today. As a result, the Dow Jones U.S. Coal index has fallen 93 percent [13] during the past five years, compared with a 75 percent rise in the S&P 500.

Big polluters

   While environmentalists and renewable energy advocates may be cheering coal’s potential demise, coal-fired power plants continue to pollute the nation’s lakes and waterways with a host of highly toxic substances, including carcinogens and neurotoxins such arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium. The plants also discharge nitrates, which cause algae blooms that lead to low-oxygen dead zones in lakes, rivers and coastal waters.

   According to a 2015 report, “Selling Our Health Down the River [14]," which was co-authored by EIP, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Clean Water Action and Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. power plants discharge more than 5.5 billion pounds of pollutants into the nation’s waterways every year, contaminating more than 23,000 miles of rivers and 185 water bodies. The pollution renders these waterways unsafe for drinking or fishing, poisons the fish and other wildlife that depend on them to survive, and even threatens child development.
"Coal-burning power plants are pouring poisonous heavy metals into our waterways. These toxic substances—like mercury, lead and arsenic—are putting at risk the health of our children and the developing brains [15] of our babies," said Barbara Gottlieb, director of environment and health at Physicians for Social Responsibility.

   A recent report published by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington DC-based environmental nonprofit, took a close look at America’s coal plants and ranked the top 10 worst polluters for a range of toxic metals.

   “Coal plants are the single largest industrial source of toxic water pollution [16] in the U.S., releasing more than five billion pounds of pollutants every year into rivers, lakes and small streams,” said EIP, in a press release. “These discharges include large quantities of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and selenium, which are hazardous in very small concentrations.”
Image: EIP [14]

   The report, “Toxic Wastewater from Coal Plants [17],” is based on self-reported data for 2015 recorded in the Toxic Release Inventory [18], a publicly available database maintained by the Environmental Protect Agency that tracks toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities as reported by industrial and federal facilities. The report looked at 216 coal plants that discharged wastewater to rivers, lakes or tidal waters in 2015.

Among the report’s findings:
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Cumberland power plant in Cumberland City, Tennessee, discharged 120 pounds of mercury to the Cumberland River in 2015.
  • The Elmer Smith plant in Owensboro, Kentucky, released 1,112 pounds of lead to Blue Lake.
  • The DTE Monroe Power Plant in Monroe, Michigan, dumped nearly a ton of arsenic into Lake Erie, and the SWEPCO Pirkey Plant Plant in Harrison County, Texas, released the same amount into the Brady Branch Reservoir.
"Based on our review, EPA, states, and power companies have a lot to do to close monitoring gaps, upgrade wastewater treatment, and revise permits to get the new standards in place,” the report’s authors write.

New rules must be enforced

    Last fall, the EPA finally updated energy industry regulations that have not been revised since 1982. The new rules reduce the amount of toxic pollutants power plants can legally discharge by 1.4 billion pounds [19] per year—which would reduce toxic pollution from coal-fired plants by 90 percent [16].

     But issuing new rules is one thing; enforcing them is another. Many plants will have to install or upgrade wastewater treatment plants to comply with the new federal regulations. Adding to the problem is the fact that more than half of the power plants evaluated in the report have state permits that are expired, and over a third have permits that expired more than two years ago. EIP warns that the new rules “will be undermined [16] by power plants that are badly behind in installing pollution control equipment, a staggering backlog of expired state permits, and weak monitoring.”
Image: EIP [14]

   If the EPA and the states don't update coal plant permits, increase facility monitoring and require the installation of better wastewater treatment systems, EIP warns, the new regulations meant to protect environmental and public health could be delayed, or even worse, derailed altogether.

   “These limits on toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants are already nearly 30 years overdue, ” said Eric Schaeffer, EIP’s executive director. “Unless EPA and states move promptly to make these plants install modern wastewater treatment systems, the delay will stretch well into a fourth decade—and our streams, lakes and rivers will continue to be a dumping ground for some of the deadliest toxins [16] known to man.”

   Here are America's top 10 coal plant water polluters for mercury, lead and arsenic, according to the EIP report [14]:

Reynard Loki is AlterNet's environment and food editor. Follow him on Twitter @reynardloki [20]. Email him at[21].



[22] on Why Coal-Fired Power Plants Are Devastating a Water System Near You

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How the Oregon Militia Acquittals Reflect the Influence of White Nationalist Agitators

Defendant Shawna Cox speaks at left as supporters hug outside federal court in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday. (photo: Don Ryan/AP)
Defendant Shawna Cox speaks at left as supporters hug outside federal court in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday. (photo: Don Ryan/AP

How the Oregon Militia Acquittals Reflect the Influence of White Nationalist Agitators

By Andrew Gumbel, Guardian UK
29 October 16

The verdicts mark for the third time in 28 years that a high-profile federal case begs the question – do far-right anti-government radicals evoke sympathies among jurors that other defendants do not?

  Conventional wisdom has it that defendants never catch a break in US federal court: the conviction rate last year was more than 95%. But it seems those odds improve if, like the leaders of last winter’s armed standoff at the Malheur national wildlife refuge in Oregon, you are part of the radical anti-government right.

   The clamorous decision by a Portland jury to acquit the Bundy brothers, Ammon and Ryan, and five others on conspiracy and firearms charges on Thursday night marks the third time in 28 years that a high-profile federal case involving armed anti-government agitators has collapsed.

   In each case, questions have arisen whether white nationalist agitators evoked sympathies among jurors that other defendants do not.

    Four years ago, an attempt to charge members of the Hutaree Christian militia in Michigan with sedition ended in similar embarrassment for the government after the judge said there was no evidence the five defendants intended to attack anyone, much less murder a police officer and ambush his funeral as the prosecution alleged.

    In 1988, another sedition trial in Fort Smith, Arkansas – this one featuring a rogue’s gallery of more than a dozen of America’s most visible far-right anti-government luminaries, some of them already serving long sentences for violent crimes – also led to acquittals all around, not to mention the marriage of a juror to one of the defendants.
In the wake of the Portland verdict, some civil rights advocates and anti-gun activists were quick to suggest a double standard when it comes to civil disobedience and attitudes to gun ownership.

  “Apparently it’s legal in America for heavily armed white terrorists to invade Oregon,” the former TV talk show host Montel Williams wrote on Twitter. “Imagine if some black folk did this.”

    On the other side of the political fence, others suggested the prosecutors may simply have overreached. Sedition is notoriously hard to prove and the charge has been leveled only a handful of times since the founding of the republic for that reason. In the Oregon case, one juror said he would have had no problem convicting the defendants of trespassing but the conspiracy charge, which carries much stiffer penalties, was a stretch.
In an age of anti-establishment anger, jurors also appear to have been swayed by the sheer confidence of the prosecuting attorneys.

   “The air of triumphalism that the prosecution brought was not lost on any of us,” juror four wrote to the Oregonian newspaper, “nor was it warranted given their burden of proof.”

   Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League, one of America’s foremost authorities on right-wing extremism, said he could only imagine that courtroom dynamics along these lines had undone what had otherwise seemed like a very strong government case.
“I was hardly alone in thinking that,” he said. “The mere fact that many of the standoff defendants entered into plea deals rather than go to trial suggests that they and their attorneys also felt the government had a very strong case.”

   There was similar incredulity at the not guilty verdicts in Fort Smith in 1988, as analysts pondered how the government could possibly lose a case against leaders and foot soldiers of the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations, among other organizations, some of whom had previously been proven to have robbed banks and armored trucks, killed people, and openly called for the violent overthrow of the government.

   On that occasion, the jury’s sympathy for the defendants was clear. One female juror started up a romance with defendant David Lane, previously convicted of murdering a talk-radio host in Denver. Another female juror ended up marrying David McGuire, charged with plotting to kill an FBI agent and a federal judge.

   It didn’t help that the judge dispensed with standard jury selection and hand-picked an all-white panel over the objections of the prosecution.

   “If we’d had good jury selection, I think we would have won the case,” the FBI agent targeted for assassination, Jack Knox, said in an interview years later. “The judge … was dredging right at the bottom of the barrel.”

    Another former FBI agent with extensive experience of the radical far right, Danny Coulson, did not exclude the possibility of similar sympathies being at play in the Oregon case – on the side of law enforcement as much as the jury. Portland may be a liberal city, he said, but gun culture is deeply entrenched in Oregon and many people may have had some bedrock sympathy for the protesters’ complaints.

   “It’s the tenor of the times,” Coulson said in an interview. “A lot of people in our country are sick of government trying to control every aspect of human life.

   “I’m not saying I agree with that position, but there are a lot of people who make that case… The bureau [FBI] is brought into this stuff all the time, and they don’t want to do it. They don’t want to be brought into it, and they probably have some sympathy for the cause.”

    Pitcavage did not agree that sympathy for far-right defendants was a given, in this or any other case.

    “Almost every prosecution of right-wing extremism is successful,” he said. “Our prisons are full of right-wing extremists. It’s no more difficult to prosecute right-wing extremists than any other class of people. With any particular trial, though, there can be things that affect it.”

C 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs