Dear friends and allies —
As some of you might know, there has been a series of scare-mongering articles in New York City and beyond — targeting mainly anarchists and other left-wing political organizers — in anticipation of the mobilization against the Republican National Convention (RNC) this weekend and next week. Some of these articles mention me by name (although I was never contacted beforehand for comment by any of the reporters, and I’m not even attending the anti-RNC protests). Normally, I wouldn’t care too much about these negative pieces, based solely on anonymous police sources, but two of the recent articles in mainstream New York City daily newspapers are just so outrageous and untrue that I need to respond clearly and publicly.
In yesterday’s New York Daily News (August 26, 2004), the frontpage reads: “Police Intelligence Warning: Anarchy Inc.” The headline inside refers to “Anarchists hot for mayhem”. The supposed “exclusive” by writer Patrice O’Shaughnessy (of the Daily News Police Bureau) begins as follows:
“Fifty of the country’s leading anarchists are expected to be in the city for the Republican National Convention, and a handful of them are hard-core extremists with histories of violent and disruptive tactics, according to police intelligence sources. Police said each of the 50 have up to 50 followers who are willing to be arrested during disturbances at the convention.”
The article later goes on to refer to me by name:
“Jaggi Singh, a Canadian citizen, is known for allegedly setting off hoax devices to detour police resources. He allegedly catapulted teddy bears soaked with gasoline at police at the Quebec G-20 protest in 2001, according to NYPD reports. A member of the International Solidarity Movement, or ISM, he was seen shooting a handgun, and allegedly received firearms training from Toure, according to a police source.”
(Kazi Toure is referred earlier in the article as “[A] Black Panther from Boston also known as Christopher King, convicted in the 1980s of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and with arrests for bank robbery and transporting firearms, was observed training younger militants in weapons use.”)
An accompanying article refers to “Potentially violent groups identified by the NYPD”, and includes SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Anarchist Black Cross, and two groups referred to as “The Organization” and “No Police State” (the last described as a “[f]ringe group of anarchists planning to spark violence.”)
[The original Daily News article is available online at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/story/225853p-193988c.html]
Ten days ago (August 16, 2004), the Daily News’ competitor — the New York Post — ran its own scare-mongering piece (isn’t free market competition great!) with the headline: “Finest prep for anarchy: Radicals eye GOP gala” (co-written by Murray Weiss and Andy Soltis). That article includes brief profiles of activists Lisa Fithian, Starhawk and myself. However, accompanying my profile, under the title “Here’s trouble,” is an undated photo of someone who is dark-skinned and vaguely resembles me shooting a gun at some sort of outdoor range. I’m referred to as a “key anarchist leader who has become increasingly militant.”
Clearly, these recent articles are not just limited to the usual innuendo and lack of context of most of the usual reporting about protesters or anarchists, and I feel compelled to respond.
In reference to yesterday’s Daily News article’s claims about me, here is a point-by-point rebuttal (with a bit of editorializing):
* I don’t have 50 followers. I don’t have 5 followers. I don’t even have a dog.
* I have never set any hoax devices.
* I don’t know, and have never met someone named Kazi Toure or Christopher King.
* I have not received firearms training from Kazi Toure, or anyone else for that matter.
* Based on the recent New York Daily News article, out of sheer curiosity, I would now like to meet Kazi Toure.
* I was nabbed by undercover police from the streets of Quebec City in April 2001 during an anti-Summit of the Americas protest, and charged with participating in a riot, as well as possessing a dangerous weapon — a teddy-bear launching catapult. I was jailed for 17 days.
* Based on my subsequent knowledge of the catapult, and the people who operated it, only teddy bears and confetti were launched. Based on the police services’ own videos from Quebec City, the catapult only launched teddy bears and confetti.
* The teddy bears were not soaked in gasoline (although, knowing some of the folks involved, they might have perfumed the bears).
* The article mistakenly refers to a “Quebec G-20 protest in 2001”. I was arrested, with many others, at an anti-G-20 protest that took place in Montreal in October 2000, and charged with participating in a riot. I was acquitted, along with two co-accused, by a Montreal jury in April 2003. Many of the jurors personally congratulated the defendants after the trial.
* The charges against me from the Quebec City protests in April 2001 were dropped in January 2004. I always insisted on my innocence but the charges were stayed before I could be unequivocally acquitted in front of a jury (actually, the charges were stayed because the courts knew I would be unequivocally acquitted in front of a jury, and a second jury acquittal would have been embarrassing to the state).
* Yes, I was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), and I’m a member of the ISM in Montreal. I was privileged to be able to observe firsthand the courage and steadfastness of ordinary Palestinians as they confront daily injustice and defend their dignity, and to continue to support the work of the ISM from Montreal. The ISM is a Palestinian-led group of Palestinians and internationals that are working to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation. The ISM uses nonviolent, direct-action methods of resistance to confront and challenge illegal Israeli occupation forces and policies while also recognizing the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle. However, the ISM itself is committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance. The claim that the ISM is a violent group, or might potentially engage in violence at the RNC, is ludicrous.
* Based on the outright fabrications and lies against me in the Daily News article, all the allegations aimed at other named individuals and groups are highly questionable. I would like to express my solidarity with them.
As for the New York Post photo on August 16, 2004: it’s a fake. As a friend of mine who saw the photo put it to me by e-mail: “It’s not you. I got a copy of the article and the photo is not actually you. It is some brown guy with high cheekbones and a Harry Potter haircut, but it’s not you.”
By responding publicly, perhaps I’m drawing just more attention to the smears. But, I do have something of a track record as a political organizer, and anybody who knows me can verify how untrue the tabloid claims against me are. Instead, I hope I can modestly contribute to exposing the level of corporate media complicity in the police and state’s marginalization of radical dissent, and the extent of their fabrications. Of course, it’s not a surprise that out-and-out lies are used in smear campaigns against “radicals” or “anarchists.” Still, we should remind ourselves of the proof when it exists, such as yesterday’s Daily News article, or the Post photo.
Good luck to everyone who is organizing and gathering to confront the RNC. In my mind, the best response to these media and police attacks will be to continue our open conspiracy to effectively expose and disrupt the RNC, and to persist with our collective and daily struggles for social justice.
In solidarity, Jaggi Singh