Saturday, August 23, 2014

At the End of a Long and Lawless Day, Burque Media Represents in Ferguson

Article and images (unless noted) by Frances Madeson
New Mexico is love-bombing Ferguson.

One of the most positive concrete outcomes of the police brutality movement in Albuqerque this season is the founding of a community media outlet whose focus is media justice. With all due respect, we in the activism community refer to the local corporate paper as The Albuquerque Urinal, and the alternative press while seeming to engage with many issues of concern also manages to stop well short of providing information and perspectives that would fundamentally challenge the status quo. Into this gaping void Burque Media, whose tagline is Countering Lies, Exposing Truths, was born.

Image by Dinah Vargas. "A visual exploration of what it means to be from somewhere."

Along with the state flag, the Desert Spirits banner is representing New Mexico on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri this weekend.

"I almost feel like I'm going to war, like it's a duty," Dinah Vargas, co-founder of Burque Media Productions told me about the impulse to join the fray in Ferguson. "The violence, the threat is very real. But Albuquerque's still in this. No one said we're out. I feel called to go."

Partners in Media Justice--Dinah Vargas and Steve Kramer
1,037 miles separate Albuquerque from St. Louis County, but that isn't stopping Steve Kramer. He says he's primarily impelled by a desire to demonstrate reciprocity, solidarity. "We've had people come here to join us in our struggle. It was important to us, it meant a lot. Likewise, we will go there.

"As organizers ourselves, we're sensitive to the fact that they don't want troublemakers who can hurt their cause. We understand about outside agitators. But we reached out to organizers there on the ground, and got positive feedback as to our coming. We bring that sensitivity being involved in our own community."

Within hours three vast coolers were filled with supplies for the people on the ground contributed by people in the Albuquerque Police Violence movement. Medical supplies too.

Among the truckload of contributed goods, Nora Anaya, one of the Burque 13, made sure there were healing roots and herbs used by the Curanderas healers of New Mexico. Nora explained to me:

"The healing herbs I sent were what was used in times of old, when there were no doctors for thousands of miles--roots and herbs from the cabinet. For instance clove that you might use to spice a ham could take the pain from a toothache until they could find a way to pull the tooth. Or eucalyptus oil for asthma, a few drops under the nose helps clear the passageways.

"I sent contra yerva, one of the most powerful herbs that I've encountered. When you pull it out of the earth and it dries, it becomes almost rock like. It's grated and used in powder form and would be very helpful in healing wounds from rubber bullets, for instance. I sent two bags of contra yerva, and a parmesan cheese grater.

"And I meant to give them a quick lesson on healing facial wounds before they left. The best band-aid on the face is the skin of the shell of an egg. It has proteins and you can use a little of the egg white for adhesive. Hold it down with a little bit of pressure and it becomes like a second skin."

At the Enterprise Car Rental where we went to rent the truck--rows of vehicles from various law enforcement agencies.

"We're fighting a system of unlimited resources," says Steve Kramer.

"We'll have a different presence, being from Albuquerque," Dinah explained. "We're coming as citizen journalists, community people who have been through it. When the tear gas clears, the rubber bullets have been picked up off the street, and the press goes away, it doesn't mean that the problems go away. They remain."

Joining the entourage, Ledford Thomas who will be radio blogging on Burque Media. Thomas hopes to meet the Brown family while in Ferguson.

Thomas, a retired Account Manager for Sprint, sees this moment as a "defining moment." He sees "a Nation of People coming together around this." He hopes to document "the historical moment when change DID happen. I want to be able to tell my grandson that I was there."

Our friend Isaac Mitchell, who thanks to the APD will have no grandsons from Jonathan. (Dinah's image, I think)

After hours of preparation (including picking up gas masks, just in case), it soon came time to pack up the truck. Vi from Burque Media came with her young son to give her friends a sendoff of hugs, smiles and fine words. "These are my brothers and sisters in the fight," she told me brimming with a current of high emotion. "I want to be here with them before they go. The National Guard is in Ferguson, and that's bad."

"The police are shooting people," Vi continued. "Because they feel threatened by the color of their skin, or their clothes, all these superficial reasons. This is a Class War we've been engaged in for many years now, and it's all over the country. At Burque Media we're just trying to wake people up, and bring visibility to experience and knowledge from other places."

In addition to the many visitors who had come by to drop off supplies, many emails and other messages of support were conveyed. "This is a peoples' effort," Dinah explained. "We wouldn't be on our way if it weren't for the many contributions of cash and Western Union wires we received from about fifteen contributors so far. Every time someone said I wish I could give even more, I said What you gave is exactly what we needed. And it's true.

"We're going out there, and we might not see any action," Dinah said. "But we're going to get that second story, the one from the people, the story of the community. We live the struggle every day. City Councilman Dan Harris whined that he was tired of the public comments. He doesn't know what tired is. It isn't ever over for us, it doesn't ever end for us. And I don't think it can."

To help bring our friends home from Ferguson on Monday and to support the continued work of Burque Media, won't you please consider making a generous contribution. A Go Fund Me campaign has been established HERE.

Update: Watching the raw footage Burque Media has been sharing via Ustream is everything I personally hoped for. Dinah and Steve are bringing love, soothing people with their voices, words, handshakes, embraces. I can only imagine the richness of experience they will be bringing home to New Mexico, and am so deeply and hugely proud that they are our ambassadors to Missouri.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Best People--Santa Fe Stands With Gaza

Lambchop under siege in Santa Fe. (Photos except one by Frances Madeson)
Resistance in Two Acts.

Act One

On Wednesday, July 23rd, more than 50 New Mexicans came together from Albuquerque, from Taos, and overwhelmingly Santa Fe, to condemn U.S. Senators Heinrich and Udall for action and inaction with respect to Senate Resolution 498, which Heinrich co-sponsored and Udall did not oppose. The resolution, which was passed unanimously, supports Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas' rockets, and calls for the political marginalization and de-legitimation of Hamas. 

Although there is never a good time for savagery, political or military, the Senate passed its expression of blind support for Israel after the Israeli Defense Force had already commenced the evocatively named Operation Protective Edge, its deadly ground invasion into Gaza. For this one craven act alone the U.S. Senate should please do us all a huge favor and abolish itself—what possible good can come from an oligarchic political institution capable of giving notional carte blanche to a killing-spree perpetrated on an unarmed civilian population and then backing it up with over $3 billion in annual foreign and military aid, year after year after year?

Please don't look away, these are our bloody tax dollars at work--a mind-blowing $8 million a day.

Text of the letter delivered to Senator Heinrich:

Senator Heinrich, we are delivering this message to you today, because last Thursday, just after Israel launched its invasion into Gaza, you voted for Senate Resolution 498, to endorse the assault. You voted knowing the Israeli military had already killed scores of civilians by shelling Gaza from the sea, air, and land, and that civilian casualties would increase exponentially with a ground invasion.

It is because you and others like you in the US Senate and House unanimously support Israel militarily, and economically and provide diplomatic cover and protection from international and UN condemnation that Israel feels free to imprison and blockade Gazans and deprive them of the most basic human needs including clean water, adequate food, electricity, jobs, and freedom to travel. Now with your specific endorsement and promise of protection, Israel has escalated its war on Gazans to include massive murder and maiming of civilians,destruction of their homes. hospitals, mosques, schools, water and electricity supply, their sanitation system, and any place of refuge from the IDF’s firing of bombs, missiles, mortars, and machine guns.

Senator Heinrich your continuing endorsement of Israeli actions has, as expected, resulted in massive death and destruction in Gaza. Recent counts are over 600 Gazans killed, including over 80% civilians, 4,000 wounded, tens of thousands homeless, 900,000 without potable water, all caused by the Israeli invasion. You and your colleagues have blood on your hands.

We are Santa Feans outraged by the escalating apartheid developments in Occupied Palestine and the genocide being carried out in Gaza. We demand that the U.S. immediately cease all financial and military aid to Israel until a UN monitored ceasefire is carried out, until the blockade of Gaza is lifted, and until the Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are ended.

Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Haas in the blue cap and his son Justin holding the bullhorn were a model of generational resistance to the generational subjugation of the Palestinians.

Former Brooklynite, long-term Santa Fean, and brother to all--activist Joe Hempfling
I asked Joe,
What did we do here today?

It was an opportunity, we were doing something. But the trick is not to be caught up in results in an Anglo-Saxon kind of mode. We're a spoke in the wheel. We changed our own hearts today. In coming today, we stepped out of our lives, business was not usual today.

And this is what we have to do: Change hearts one at a time, starting with your own. LOVE—it's time has come.

Look at how many brothers and sisters we have all over the world!

Ilse Biel, one of the Burque 13. From South Africa, Ilse became a U.S. citizen so that she could risk arrest for civil disobedience without fear of deportation.

Always inspiring to hear, Consuelo Luz heals us and soothes us while she spurs us on.

Jeff Haas, one of the organizers of the action, also read this statement (sadly since the 23rd, the number of dead Gazans has trebled!):

I am here today to protest the escalation of Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinians.

I am here today to protest the killing of over 650 Palestinians, overwhelmingly

civilians, by Israeli bombs missiles, rockets, drone strikes and machine gun bullets.

I am here to protest the wounding of over 4000 Gazans, and tens of thousands made

homeless, and hundreds of thousands of Gazan refugees fleeing for safety with nowhere to go.

I am here to protest Israel’s destruction of homes, hospitals, mosques, schools

and today ...Gaza’s only power plant. Indeed Gaza’s entire infrastructure is being

destroyed and living conditions are even worse than before the recent invasion

when they barely supported subsistence.

I am here today to protest the ongoing blockade of Gaza, the virtual caging of its

people, and the daily deprivation of even subsistence items such as clean drinking

water, adequate food, and sanitation, electricity, and the right to leave.

I am here today to stand in support of the brave Gazan people who, despite taking

horrible human losses, stand together to demand an end to their imprisonment by


I am here today because I could not stay home and be silent, after watching,

listening and knowing what Israel is doing to Gazans.

I am here today because I have witnessed firsthand the abuses that Israel inflicts

on the Palestinian people every day in Occupied Palestine including stealing their

land, demolishing their homes, building a wall to segregate and isolate them, taking

most of their water for their pools and lawns and denying Palestinians water for

household necessities and irrigation, building settlements and protecting settlers

who shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their olives, protecting Jewish Israelis

who invade Palestinians homes in East Jerusalem and throw out the occupants.

But I am here today mostly because the US and our Congress are the financiers,

military providers, and diplomatic protectors of all of Israel’s aggression. It is the

US government that supports and enables all of Israel’s atrocities and violations of

International Law and then provides diplomatic protection by vetoing every

UN Resolution condemning Israeli action.

Most recently our Senate and House of Representative, unanimously and

shamelessly voted to support Israeli’s bombing and invasion of Gaza. No one stood

up against the demands and threats of AIPAC. They are like the gun control lobby

on steroids and no Congress person has dared to stand up for human rights and

criticize Israel for the indiscriminate and intentional killing and maiming of civilians

It is the US that guarantees Israel that all its war crimes including its illegal

Occupation of the West Bank, its blockade of Gaza, and its regular and periodic

murder and imprisonment of Palestinians will not be met with UN sanctions or even


I am here to demand that our Senators and Representatives stop all military and

economic aid to Israel, until Israel ends the Occupation of the West Bank and

East Jerusalem, ends the blockade of Gaza, stops the arrest and imprisoning of

Palestinians without charge or legal recourse, and returns Palestinian land

Occupied by settlers.

I am here, as we all are, to call for an end to the horrible massacre that the Israeli

Military is inflicting on the people of Gaza. But like the people of Gaza, we are

seeking more than a temporary ceasefire. We are seeking a recognition of the basic

human and civil rights of Gazans to live free of the deadly blockade and embargo.

As Mohammed Omar wrote in and editorial in today’s New York Times,

The terms outlined by Hamas for a cease-fire are the same

as those the United Nations has called for repeatedly: open

the border crossings; let people work, study and build the

economy. A population capable of taking care of its own

would enhance Israel’s security. One that cannot leads to


End the Siege of Gaza! Stop the Shelling of Gaza!

Gaza Gaza don’t you cry Palestine will never


Act Two

Carmen Stone, whose dear friend Santa Fean Denny Cormier is currently in Gaza risking all to keep Al Shifa hospital from being bombed by making known his physical presence there, interrupting the utterly banal meeting to speak truth to Power.

Carmen Stone, about to be ejected from the meeting, up against Tom Udall's wall of fake sunshine.

On Saturday, August 2nd, Tom Udall invited his fellow member of the white man's millionaires club, U.S. Senator Al Franken, to schmooze with the proles at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe on the occasion of something or other--opening a campaign office, I think. Franken was one of the co-sponsors of Senate Resolution 498 and the chance to bring up the urgent emergency in Gaza to the very people who had endorsed it unconditionally was an historic opportunity we could not miss--not one but two U.S. Senators had materialized from the ether to hear our pleas and cries and demands.

Leslie Lakind, another brother to all, with Erin Currier

On Cerrillos about 40 people were standing with signs and other props. Susan Tarman from Amnesty International Santa Fe was there juggling three clipboards, each with a petition to Heinrich, Udall and Congressman Lujan.

Did the Democrats call the police?

Yes, they most certainly did.

It was really beautiful to see the Udall supporters in full regalia coming out to support the protest. One had to respect the sight of them there asserting their belief in a system of governance they still believe to be substantively affectable by citizen input. Though I personally do not share their worldview--I no longer believe that our institutions are salvageable and I am breathlessly waiting for them to topple of their own internal rot--I admired them for having the courage of their convictions in their own context.

Eta Gordon, one of the best of the best

I greeted Jeffrey Haas and shook his hand with overwhelming respect. I hadn't had a chance to tell him personally how very much I had admired his latest brief on the Mora County Anti-Fracking Ordinance, and what a great pleasure it was to read. It goes to the heart of the matter and stays there beating steadily, page after page. Each succeeding argument adds strength to the ones that preceded until the cumulative effect is one of undeniable intellectual triumph. It is a mighty challenge to the premises and merits of big Oil and Gas' right to bring their suit in the first place. I was in the presence of a towering legal figure, and I felt appropriately thrilled.

The senators were late. I don't know what happened earlier in the day at the Albuquerque action at the Peace and Justice Center where a similar event was staged, but whatever it was had clearly rolled off their backs like rain off a couple of duckies. The duo waddled in completely relaxed, even jocular. Franken in a $1,600 suit looking primped and pampered, wearing his wealth and power easily, a deep entitlement oblivious to privilege, which in his remarks he mistook for "luck." Udall knows better than to flash his opulence back home. His preppier-than-thou ensemble couldn't have been more Inside the Beltway, and his yellow polo shirt matched his campaign poster. It occurred to me that his handlers might be trying to insinuate a subliminal homophonic associative message--sun, son, reflected glory of his father who, as these things go, was known as a man of principle.

Al's tie is also a perfect match with Udall's campaign poster. It's not just colors that these two coordinate.

Udall, it turns out, is a deeply mediocre speaker who knows his audience and gives them exactly what they want--a patrician's reassurance of continuity, the sense that the familiar world of traditional platitudes and hegemony the white-haired audience has always held dear is still operational, the benign and benevolent wizard yet reigns unexposed behind the curtain. For that illusion they'll tolerate even his inane crassness--Udall introduced Franken as a grandfather, a pater familias, who could've made great sums of money in show biz, but was slumming in the U.S. Senate. As if his public service was some kind of sacrifice, and not the ticket to a Swiss bank account that it likely is.

A union hall for the NM film industry, the room itself is accustomed to show biz.

It was a great relief when Jeff Haas interrupted the meeting to talk about the war crimes in Gaza, but like Carmen, he was escorted by security out of the building. One of the well-heeled Democrats said to no one and everyone sotto voce about Jeff--He's an asshole. I saw the Dem's face when he said it-- ratlike, pinched, distorted with contempt. I can only hope his karma delivers him to this post or that he somehow otherwise comes to be confronted with the picture of the child above, and recalls his slur.

I held up my impromtpu sign, scrawled quickly on a page from my notebook--ABOLISH THE U.S. SENATE. Franken squinted to read it then gave me a look like, C'mon now, lady. I wish I could say that I had flustered him and that that was the reason his remarks were so diffuse and insincere sounding. But I have seen Al do his shtick before at a DLC21 event in Manhattan, and he was similarly vague and unimpressive. In Santa Fe his biggest laugh line involved a child and a microwave, but that didn't stop him from getting a standing ovation from the polite Santa Fe Democrats, who no doubt wanted to send him off with a good impression of their club.

To be honest, this Al's far more entertaining. Maybe Udall can get him to come rouse the troops!

Kay Matthews at La Jicarita has a good write-up of the event too, and hers includes a vid of Carmen being shouted down, and ousted. Somewhere Eleanor Roosevelt is not pleased. There's quite a lively comment thread following the post, though my last comment didn't manifest. I'll end with it:

Mr. Gomez:
I fear you’re missing the point of interrupting the meeting while the senators were present, although it’s a simple principle: Speaking truth to Power. (Not to the sycophantic aides or folks who were there to see a former tv star, be seen by Udall, or snack on some free refreshments.)

If you’ve been paying attention then you know by now that Operation Protective Edge is pretty much a natural gas grab tarted up to look like something else. and

Your precious Democratic senators went along with a military assault on an unarmed civilian population to get better business terms for Halliburton. Why don’t you spend some time thinking about the implications of that? Especially for New Mexico, given this state’s beholdenness to big Oil and Gas, not to mention its colonial history–past, present and future?

Bianca Sapoci-Belnap and babe