Results tagged “Civil Rights” from Six Hours A Week: Adventures in American Exile

lady-justice.jpgIf my Senator is co-sponsoring the Justice Bill, he should be into protecting citizens of his own state from ongoing and pervasive civil liberties violations.

I don't have any sort of rescue fantasies, but wonder, who will have the courage and fortitude to help us out of this mess and ensure that no one has to endure anything like it again? If not my Senators (will Baucus demonstrate that he's not completely owned?), then who? Is there a Serpico in our midst? The UN? I mean, it's ridiculous. I've written so many letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and now I'm going on 2.5 years of virtual imprisonment in the U.S. I have to believe that someone out there cares more about justice and integrity than membership in an unprincipled patronage system. The reason the U.S. is assumed to be so great is because we supposedly don't need international observers or rescuers to swoop in and save its citizens from one another. Right?

Dear Senators Tester and Baucus,

I write because I need your assistance to combat pervasive and intractable corruption in our state. My mother and I have encountered judicial malfeasance, unfathomable corruption of the legal profession, and discriminatory, untruthful local law enforcement. We believe these overall gross violations of our rights have been made possible by lax regulation of intelligence contractors and agencies working in tandem with local agencies. In response to FOIA requests, I got the runaround from the FBI and a “Glomar” response from the NSA. The civil rights attorney I hired to help me ended up lying about which agencies he contacted and withholding documents. My mother and I cannot fight such insidious and pervasive interference in our lives alone.

We need the help of senators who are not afraid to upset the current balance of cronyism in Montana.  We are targets of entrenched Republican and Democrat interests seemingly because of our sex, religious affiliation (or lack thereof) and political affiliations and activities. It is very possible that local polluting industries have funded interference in my life at one time or another for at least ten years simply because I was part of a campaign to work with the union and management at Stone Container to stop poisonous dioxin emissions in our valley.

If you are courageous men who are not hemmed by the coal or any other lobby, if you are men who believe that human and civil rights extend to all people in your state and not just the back scratching elite, then please step up and help us. The current strategy seems to be to make the administrative and legal processes of seeking assistance so drawn out and impossible as to drain all of our energy and financial resources. We need men of conscience who truly believe in the best of democratic and republican ideals to keep their compact with the electorate and not the entrenched interests of a corrupt few.

About a year ago, I contacted Senator Tester and described some of the gross violations of my and my mother’s civil rights and liberties. He suggested that I contact local law enforcement. After many more months of harassment, and actual and attempted harm to our persons and property, we did finally contact the Missoula Police Department. We have come up against lies, evasion, and overall discriminatory treatment. Again, we need the help of individuals in a position of power who will use the position that the people of Montana have entrusted them with to take a stand against corruption and cronyism. Every effort is being made to ensure that we cannot do it on our own.

I request that representatives from each of your offices contact me so that we can find a way to work together to ensure that my mother and I emerge from this morass in one piece, and that no citizen of this state will ever have to endure such politically- and socially-motivated hijacking of supposedly neutral local and federal agencies again.

Senator Tester, as a co-sponsor of the Justice Act, I believe it would be unconscionable to leave two citizens of your state who have seemingly been victims of Patriot Act Excesses out in the cold.  We could easily serve as “poster children” for the necessity of reform. Please show us that your commitment to constitutional safeguards is more than mere talk.


Kyeann Sayer

Montana Vigilantes.jpgThe more I think about Sergeant Richardson’s odd third person dictum that I only contact “the neighbors” (not specifying who) through my attorney, the more off the wall it seems. His approach doesn't seem legally or procedurally viable and provides a classic “Blame the Victim” case study.

When you are being systematically harassed, documentation becomes important. It's the culmination of incidences that create the overall picture. Not only is he not interested in receiving documentation or evidence so that he understands the overall situation. He is also intent on stigmatizing the peaceful, nonviolent response we have adopted to protect ourselves.

All of the communications with our neighbors have been very rational and measured attempts to deal with only a tiny fraction of the harassment or bizarre behavior we have encountered. Over the last six months, for example:

•    When we started using binoculars to identify license plates on the block in January, we wrote to all of the surrounding neighbors to let them know that we were doing so as a means of coping with an organized harassment campaign and had no desire to violate their privacy or make them uncomfortable in the neighborhood.

•    When there was flash photography in our back yard on a recent evening, I didn’t storm over and knock on doors. I sent emails requesting no further violations of our privacy.

•    When someone on the Ferguson property seemed to be calling my mother a “Motherf*cking p*ssy,” (seemingly John -- if it wasn't directed at her, then someone who did not respond to him and did not make a sound) I wrote requesting that we endure no further verbal assaults in our back yard. I also requested that they please notify us when our driveway was going to be blocked by renovation work at their property.

•    When my polite verbal requests to stop making unreasonable noise were ignored by the Goodmans one Sunday evening, I had not choice but to call the police -- they intervened and the loud banging stopped.

•    After a neighbor across the alley stared at/studied our property for about five minutes, I wrote an email inquiring about it.

•    When a young man on our block illegally parked a bus and commenced a loud and illegal construction/retrofitting project on it, I let him know what laws he was breaking. When he didn’t follow the law, I eventually contacted the police and they intervened. He moved the bus.

•    After another series of provocations from the Goodman household, we finally wrote to their landlords, copying them and a variety of government agencies.

In all of these cases, I have responded to illegal or inappropriate activity in a very calm, rational and legal manner. No one is forced to respond to an email or a letter. We write them to protect ourselves or ask about or document odd behavior.

These communications reflect only a teeny tiny fraction of what we've dealt with and don't begin to reflect the overall atmosphere of terror we've endured.

Why is the focus on my communication rather than the harassing behavior? Can a policeman tell a citizen that she is not allowed to send email or letters? Can a policeman dictate that a citizen only communicate through a lawyer? Not everyone can afford one. If individuals don’t wish to receive communication, shouldn’t they provide the contact information for their attorneys?

It seems that Sergeant Richardson is making up his own protocol as he goes along.  If we weren't dealing with nighttime photography, rude disregard for our lack of desire to endure Sunday evening construction, or disturbing tirades, we wouldn't have a need to contact our neighbors. We have to wonder why this public employee is so invested in blaming the victim here.

(The picture represents vigilante justice in Montana in the 1870s. It's thought that perhaps the vigilantes were actually committing many of the crimes they were punishing... It has often felt, over the past two years (and especially in the last month), that a very thin veil of civility has prevented us from falling victim to such a fate. The "New West" isn't so new.)

MartinLutherKingJr.jpgToday there has been much reflection on MLK's assassination. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be alive then, losing both him and RFK in quick succession.

Someone also asked today what would have been "done about Bush" in an earlier era (meaning -- how he would have been violently overthrown). I think these sort of questions miss the point, and are very contrary to Dr. King's Gandhian and Christian teachings. 

There have been extraordinary abuses of power in the White House, but the people -- citizens in all strata of society -- have allowed them. We have not held our leaders accountable. Taking one man's life would not add a bit of good to the world or correct a corrupt system. In fact, I imagine that any sort of attempt on anyone in the White House would only result in more draconian security measures and civil liberties abuses.

I don't think I actually condone killing of any sort except in extreme self-defense, if I felt my life was in danger (even then, we're in very theoretical territory here -- my fingernails are my most viable weapon). When a friend and I once discussed the possibility of my learning to use a gun, I could only imagine doing so in self-defense, to injure, which apparently is an unrealistic expectation (I have never been so scoffed at in all my life, actually).
I don't remember having handled a gun since I shot a sparrow's eye out with a BB-gun at around age 8. I had to put it out of its misery and felt guilty for weeks.

One of the people who recently entered my life under false pretenses did a lot of talking about a friend of hers who runs a gun control organization out of the U.K. -- brought her up every time we met. Like much of what she said, this apparently was designed to elicit some sort of incriminating self-disclosure from me (instead, I expressed interest in interning with the organization before commencing the study of human rights law). Reflecting on her motivations makes me want to be very clear in case my passions for civil liberties and civil rights have been misunderstood.

When it comes to "martyr-like" characters responding to fascism (and we in the U.S. luckily still have the opportunity to ensure we don't go Germany's route), I would relate much more to Sophie Scholl than
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose story a friend introduced me to last fall). Scholl expressed her political views in a rather unobtrusive manner, trying to influence through words, and was subjected to a kangaroo court and then execution. An example was made of her and two others in the White Rose resistance. I admire her courage, fortitude, and loyalty and would expect nothing less of myself. I strive to be the kind of person who would have the will to face my fate with such resolve.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, was a Protestant minister who was part of the resistance that attempted to assassinate Hitler. At this point, the war was raging on, and, the way I see it, this was more of a tactical/militaristic decision. For him it was also one of faith. I have no military training, or mind, and would certainly be the last person to ever do well in any such undertaking. I can see the value of having Hitler gone, but don't see how that situation at all applies to our current one. Again, we are still in a place where we have the ability to prevent something like Nazi Germany from fully flowering on U.S. soil.

King's sentiment seems the most effective:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

People are at the heart of King's dream. We aren't meant to kill them to get there.

constitution-m.jpgMy six hours over the last two weeks were concentrated on civil rights movement immersion (through lectures and documentaries) and meeting my Montana Senator, Jon Tester.

Those two tracks merged last Friday at a Montana Human Rights Network MLK Day benefit. I got to shake my Senator's hand, chat, and give him a fact sheet on the full-on terrifying Homegrown Terrorism Bill. Meeting him was actually thrilling -- rarely have I so respected someone representing me.

Senator Tester assured me he's going to fight against Telecom immunity. He also opposes Real ID, along with Governor Schweitzer (who's turned out to be quite a bad-ass on this issue). He hasn't had the opportunity to dig into the ramifications of the Homegrown Terrorism bill yet, but I trust that he will find it as problematic as most of us do. (After all, the bill's vague language would have labeled Dr. King a terrorist.)

I also believe that Americans will come together to fight for our privacy and basic civil liberties/rights. Dr. King and so many nameless, faceless people gave their time and lives so that minorities would have access to the opportunities our Constitution affords. Now all of us stand to lose them. Those liberties are worth fighting and dying for. So even if in the short time we see our White House criminals get away with monitoring and spying on us, and using double-talk to scare us into giving up our rights, I know that we can make the integrity of our Constitution a campaign issue. I know that we will stand up and write letters and march and fight until we see an America worthy of Dr. King's dream.

~~ Senator Tester
     Montana Human Rights Network

martin Luther King 2.jpgUntil quite recently I wasn’t into monuments. I think it has to do with whatever generational/marketing segment I belong to: all about irony, and too aware of hypocrisy and injustice to spend my time remembering in any sort of predetermined “patriotic” manner.

A couple of weeks ago I finally noticed the Martin Luther King memorial at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.

I had passed the roaring waterfall at least a few dozen times on the way to the MOMA or a movie and never stopped because I didn’t know that pictures of King and civil rights leaders and inscribed King quotations were hiding there beneath it. Visitors walking under the fall can’t avoid a slight spray. When I made it to the end and read the final quotation, realizing that the water represented King’s dream of justice washing over us, my own tears spontaneously started flowing.  Seriously. I had to pull myself together before buying my movie tickets.

Now it is one of my favorite places in the city; each time I’ve returned since, I've left feeling fortified by the reminder of the civil rights struggle and committed to doing my small part to promote justice. Monuments can work as important, non-cheesy, living remembrances.

Now, as MLK Day approaches, I'm trying to fill myself in on the history of the civil rights movement. Here's a short quiz to spark your memory (I got 8 out of 12... time to brush up!).


Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.