Wednesday, July 6, 2011

IWSJ no longer active - Check out these other orgs

We regret to inform you that IWSJ is no longer active. This blog may continue to periodically be used to post announcements about political events in Seattle. In the meantime, check out the currently active groups that we worked closely with and that some of our past members are organizing with in Seattle. Here is a list:

1. Disability Advocacy Student Alliance (DASA) and their campaign: UW Disability Revolution
2. Autonomia

3. Red Spark Collective

4. For a Democratic University (FaDU)

5. Black Orchid Collective (BOC)

6. Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol)

7. Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) - Seattle

8. All Power to the Positive Podcast

Friday, January 21, 2011

High Schoolers Call for Walkout Against Police Brutality


Location: Victor Steinbrueck Park
2001 Western Ave. Seattle, WA
(North end of Pike Place Market)

When: January 26, 2011

Time: Walk out of your school at 1 PM; Rally all together at 2 PM at Victor Steinbrueck Park

Have you ever been harassed by a police officer for no reason? If you have or if you know someone who has, come and help us stop police brutality by walking out on January 26 at 1p.m. and rallying at 2.

John T. Williams is one of the victims of police brutality. He was shot 5 times by Officer Ian Birk for having a carving knife which was CLOSED. He was in the 7th generation of a Native American carving family. John T. Williams isn’t the only victim of Police Brutality; Martin Monetti was stomped on multiple times by cops who suspected him for robbery, they didn’t even know if he was really a robber. These two people aren’t the only people who have been through this; there are many more victims of police brutality. HELP US STOP THIS!

Organized by 90's Upheaval, a new group of youth fighting for justice!

People from every school, every hood, every gender, and every race are welcome to join.

Contact Info:

Facebook event page:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

IWSJ talking points on the John T. Williams murder

1. Point out facts widely accepted in the mainstream
Our greatest strength in building a broader base of support demanding Birk's imprisonment and a call for better police accountability is to rely on ironclad evidence which is already accepted as fact by a significant portion of the city's residents. There are three major points which we can lean on in this vein:
* The fact that Williams' knife was found closed
* Williams was shot 4 times only 4 seconds after being issued a warning
* Autopsy found the bullet wounds from Birk's pistol were all to Williams' side, indicating he could not have even been facing Birk at the time of the killing
These three points alone raise serious questions and cast major aspersion on Birk and his cohorts.

2. How would this case be handled if Birk was a civilian?
This is a serious question we should be raising by simply looking at criminal law regarding acceptable uses of self defense. Is it justifiable self defense according to our laws to shoot someone in the side because they are refusing to drop a closed carving knife in close vicinity to the shooter? To even ask the question sounds absurd.

3. Point out incongruences in police accounts of the incident
We need to do some more research for this one because I know the cops changed their story regarding Birk several times since the actual shooting, but it would be helpful to connect the dots clearly. I do know from reading Real Change that Deputy Chief Nick Metz went on record initially saying that Williams' knife was open and even after evidence to the contrary was exposed he did not apologize for or reverse his claim. This raises the question of whether Metz was outright lying from the start or had been lied to by his troops. Either possibility is negative and helps open a discussion about this case being more than just one rotten apple with an itchy trigger finger. It implicates the entire police department as either untrustworthy from top to bottom or rampant with misinformation and corruption which its leaders are powerless to control. This should undoubtedly be pursued further.

4. Discuss other recent police misconduct and lack of accountability
This continues in the vein of #3, where we strive to turn the discussion towards addressing more systemic problems with the police force rather than just seeing Birk as an anomaly. SPD has been making a lot of headlines recently and they haven't been good. We should dredge up every story we can find, but once again our best bet is with incidents that have already received mainstream media coverage, such as:
* The innocent 17 year old who was stomped by an undercover cop
* The girl who was punched by a cop after her friend was being charged with jaywalking
* The cops who stomped the innocent Mexican man while one said "I'm gonna beat the Mexican piss outta you homie"

5. Touch on disconnection/friction between cops and community
I've heard several reports from community members who knew Williams personally and they all add up to this: He had fairly limited mobility (he couldn't even have raised his arm to lunge with a knife, as SPD initially claimed) and a hearing problem who didn't cause much trouble and just liked to be left alone. Birk's interaction with Williams went the way it did because Birk had no concept of or connection to Williams or anyone else in the community he was policing. This is a widespread problem with SPD and needs to be addressed.

6. Raise the public safety issue of cops going rogue with no oversight
Everyone loves to talk about why police are important for public safety, but we should point out that as (supposed) safeguards of the public, police officers should be the last thing this city's residents has to fear. Given all I've listed above which portrays SPD as violent, dishonest, and lacking appropriate oversight to control their habits, they must be seen as a safety hazard as well, particularly to certain marginalized segments of the population (people of color, working class folks, the homeless).

7. The basic moral issue: an innocent man was murdered
This is a pretty straightforward point. It ranks lower than the others because it's fairly self evident and unfortunately people don't tend to be won over by pleas for morality alone.

8. Why is IWSJ's involved: How is this a worker issue?
Inevitably the question will arise "why does your group care about this?" Our response should be to discuss the Birk case in the context of a broader war by the city and the police department on working class and homeless people, making sure to mention that homeless folks are generally simply the working class who got unlucky. Police brutality is something which primarily affects working class and homeless folks, making it unquestionably a workers' issue and therefore of great concern to IWSJ.

Birk's inquest questions

Here are the questions which supposedly will be asked at Ian Birk's inquest hearing on January 10th.

1. On August, 30, 2010, did Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk observe John T. Williams crossing the street?
2. Was John T. Williams carrying an open knife at the time he was observed?
3. Did Officer Birk get out of his patrol car to contact John T. Williams?
4. Did Officer Birk attempt to stop John T. Williams?
5. Did John T. Williams have a knife in his hand when he was contacted?
6. Did Officer Birk tell John T. Williams to drop the knife?
7. If yes, did John T. Williams comply with that order?
8. Did Officer Birk believe that John T. Williams posed an imminent threat of serious physical harm to himself or others at the times he fired his weapon?
9. Did John T. Williams die in King County, Washington on August 30, 2010?
10. Did Officer Birk fire his service weapon at John T. Williams on August 30, 2010?
11. If yes, did John T. Williams die from the gunshot wounds caused by Officer Birk?
13. When Officer Birk fired his service weapon, did John T. Williams have a knife in his hand?
14. If yes, was John T. Williams knife open when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
15. Was John T. Williams facing Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
16. If no, was John T. Williams turning towards Officer Birk when Officer Birk fired his service weapon?
Our analysis:

Several of the questions listed are simple legal procedure to verify facts everyone already knows. However, some questions do offer an idea of how the prosecution is approaching their case against Birk. Firstly, it is worth noting that the document is fairly sloppy for a legal one in such a high profile case. If you noticed that I went directly from question 11 to 13 and are wondering where 12 is, the answer is 12 doesn't exist. In the actual document, the numbers jump from 11 to 13. Also, the unnecessary extra comma before "30" in the first question is a very small imperfection but shows further lack of attention to detail.
However, all nitpicking aside, the questions themselves lack much force and are worded so as to cast Birk's actions in the most positive light possible. Question 8 offers Birk an opportunity to justify his murderous actions based on his "belief" regarding Williams' potential threat. This is a ludicrous question given the fact that no credible U.S. court would recognize "believing someone to be dangerous" as a justifiable cause for murder. If that were the case no murder would be prosecutable because anyone could claim they "believed themselves in danger."
Questions 14 and 15 are probably the strongest of the bunch, as they question whether Williams was even facing Birk or holding an open knife at the time of the shooting, but their potency is sapped by the final question, #16, which offers Birk yet another route of excuse. By asking whether Williams was turning to face Birk at the time of the shooting, the prosecution hints further at a ghostly rationale for Birk's actions, as though maybe the act of turning to face a police officer might be threatening enough on its own to warrant murder.

Here is a link to the actual pdf document.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anti-police brutality

This fall, we've been involved in anti-police brutality organizing. This flyer explains why we chose to take this up and how it relates to our ongoing labor struggles. We've been passing it out in working class neighborhoods and at rallies demanding justice for John T. Williams, a Native man who was killed by the police.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Small Victories at UW

Good news ya'll, we won the struggle against unpaid overtime (see flyer in the post below for more info on what that struggle was about). Also, while management would not allow custodians to heat up food or drink in their custodial closets, we did manage to win designated break rooms with microwaves instead for all custodians, which is even better.

This is all possible because Sal, a key rank-and-file custodian leader and a member of IWSJ took the initiative. He organized his coworkers, and wrote a letter demanding that unpaid overtime end and that management let workers heat up their food and drink (see post below for a copy of that letter). IWSJ organized a public picket to support this, and members of Seattle Solidarity Network, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, and For a Democratic University came out in solidarity. All of this got the leaders of WFSE local 1488 moving, and the union leaders helped workers file a stack of grievances. Then workers, union leaders, and supporters from IWSJ marched to Human Resources to deliver these grievances (see here for news coverage of that action).

All of this successfully pressured management to negotiate.

In a workforce beaten down by police repression, management divide and conquer, harassment, and arbitrary reassignments that make it difficult to organize, this is a small but significant step forward. It shows that solidarity works and that something can be done if we come together and fight back.

We need to continue the struggle. We've heard rumors that some professors are now complaining about custodians eating in the designated break rooms because they don't like the smell of immigrant workers' food. If this is true they should get used to it, this isn't the Jim Crow South in the 1950s, you don't get to decide who can and cannot eat at the same lunch counter with you! Also, custodians are fellow workers who keep the university running every day, and without them professors wouldn't have clean classrooms or labs so they should show a little more respect.

We will be talking with custodians to research this situation, and if anyone verifies complaints along these lines please contact us. We will encourage workers to file grievances and we will organize around it to make sure that all custodians can use the break rooms they just won.

Also, Team Cleaning (a thinly veiled form of speedup and assembly-line style overwork) is continuing in manager Yang Sook's area, as well as other parts of the university, and we need to keep struggling against this.

If you are interested in getting involved in this kind of organizing at your workplace, or if you want to support UW custodian struggles, please contact us at . If more people get involved, more victories like this will be possible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stop discrimination, retaliation, and unpaid overtime at UW- Picket Thurs Oct 7 at 1:15 Red Square, UW Seattle

Members of IWSJ who are custodians at UW presented this letter to UW Director of Facilities Services Charles Kennedy on Tues Sept 28th at a forum he was holding on budget cuts at UW. The letter outlines how UW custodial services manager Yang Sook Choe has been mistreating custodians in her area. She has banned them from using UW electricity to heat up their food in their custodial closets during breaks, and she has required them to stay in their buildings so late that they don't have time to get to the clock station to clock out before their shift ends, leading to mandatory unpaid overtime.

We demanded that Kennedy and Custodial Services director Gene Woodard respond within one week. If we do not hear back from them by tomorrow, October 5th, we will begin a public campaign of actions aimed at correcting Yang Sook's abuses. We had to do this once before, back in February, and after that action Yang Sook had let up on some of her most oppressive abuses. Maybe she thinks we went away and therefore she can get away with it this time. If so, she is wrong.

Immediately after custodians from her area presented this demand letter to her supervisors, Yang Sook announced that she would be imposing team cleaning in her area. Team cleaning is a much-hated cleaning method that robs workers of creativity, initiative, and freedom on the job and forces them into an assembly line-type procedure that management uses to enforce overwork and unsustainable speed-up of the cleaning process. Custodians in Yang Sook's area have been resisting this for decades. Her move to impose it beginning today is widely perceived to be an act of retaliation against our demand letter.

Because of this bad-faith response, IWSJ will be organizing a picket line on Thurs, Oct 7th at 1:15 PM on Red Square at UW-Seattle (in front of Gerberding Hall), right after the custodian day shift ends. We need to make clear that retaliation is not welcome on our campus and in our workplace! This will be followed by a student-worker speak out at 3:30 PM against budget cuts. Both of these actions are part of the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education against budget cuts. We hope to see you there.

You can find a copy of the demand letter here.