Archives for category: Ferguson

riot gear evolution

Protesting is not new to Berkeley California.  The protests of the 1960’s made Berkeley and the campus of the University of California at Berkeley infamous for putting the spotlight on government abuses.  As the protests of police injustice and brutality from the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases are spreading across the country, it is not surprising that once again  Berkeley  is stepping up to add its voice to the protest.

Abuse of power is not new to history nor is the revolt of the people against it.  Although we may believe that society is improved by laws and constraints on human behavior by those in authority, the reality is that the progress of democracy and freedom has always been sourced from a grass roots uprising of the people and not grand gestures by those in power.

The roots of our freedom as Americans goes back to our Anglo-Saxon roots from our mother country -England.  The abuses of British Monarchs sparked revolts that lead to documents securing liberty for the people from the Magna Carta  to the Declaration of Independence.

These revolts have continued throughout our history to move us to a freer society.

If we look at the protests of Berkeley California and the results of those protests, they are a testament to the power of the people.

In May 13, 1960:  Several hundred Berkeley students protest the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in San Francisco. When the demonstrators are barred from the hearing room, a loud scuffle breaks out. The police turn on high-pressure fire hoses and blast the crowd down the marble steps. Officers arrest 64 people, including 31 Berkeley students, but instead of discouraging the protest, the confrontation becomes a call to arms. The next day 5,000 people protest the HUAC hearings at San Francisco City Hall. [Rosenfeld, 2002] http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet.html

These protests lead to the end of the communist witch hunts allowing for freedom of thought and organization of even those who might hold to un-American beliefs.

From 1960 through 1972 nearly every year there was at least one if not more organized protests spear headed by the University of California at Berkeley students and in some cases faculty.  These were directed at the Vietnam War, The draft, and yes, racial injustice as well, like the current protests.  What were the results of the actions of the people? They were the end of the war in Vietnam, the end of the draft and improvements in race relations.

In the 1970’s Berkeley’s activism included the women’s movement beginning with a protest calling for child care on campus for faculty and students.  In 1986 Berkley protests sparked divestment of University holdings in South Africa -a large step in ending  Apartheid .  Both of these efforts caused a shift in society towards more freedom.

There is a place in Berkeley called   People’s Park .  It was the gathering place for activists in the sixties that offered more free speech than the steps of UC- controlled Sproul Hall. There was a battle over the property and Governor Reagan tried to fence it off, but the People prevailed and the development of the property was halted.  It has fallen into disrepair but continues to be a reminder of the Power of the Berkeley rebellions and the Power of the People.

So, now as we issue in a new era of protest and the beginnings of a new revolution, we can be assured that the people have spoken and abuses will end, and as with those of the past we will move one step closer to a freer society.

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RIP Bethboy hugs cop

As violence increases in movies and TV, it continues to increase in our lives as well.

I have been watching The Walking Dead for the past two seasons. During that time there have not been too many characters that I have grown fond of.  As the Apocalypse progresses the characters are evolving to be less compassionate, less vulnerable, and less human.  They are not very lovable.

Even Rick and Darryl, both initially good men, have changed because of the violent callousness they are forced to embody in order to survive.

Hope for humanity is left to the next generation, the children, who have been shielded and protected from most of the violence and for the most part have not had to participate in the killing of walkers or corrupt humans.  Beth is one of these.

After she is rescued from the safe house where she was staying with Darryl, she is taken to a hospital in Atlanta.  She continues to have some hope but finds herself imprisoned by the law enforcement officers, led by Dawn Lerner, who run the hospital.  In the process of earning her keep by working in the hospital, she is put in two situations that force her to kill law officers.  By the final episode of the season Beth realizes that she was set up to make these killings by Dawn so that she could get rid of potentially subversive officers without culpability.

Beth has struggled to stay positive throughout the series, even making a suicide attempt in episode 2.

She seems to have lost hope completely by the mid-season finale episode.  She sits in the broken elevator shaft staring longingly down, remembering her escape attempt with Noah.

“Are you gonna jump?” Dawn asks her.

Maybe Beth is contemplating a more permanent escape.  She does voice her hopelessness to Dawn:

“You… You keep telling yourself you have to do whatever it takes just until this is all over. But it isn’t over, this is it. This is who you are and what this place is until the end.”

Beth shows that in spite of it all, she has not lost her compassion or her humanity.  She fights for Carol when Dawn orders her life support machines be turned off and steals medicine in order to keep her alive.

Her final act of humanity is to kill Dawn to save Noah from imprisonment in the hospital.  Did she know this would be at the cost of her life?  It is hard to say, but I don’t think she would regret her decision either way.

She died with her humanity intact because she was willing to risk her life to end Dawn’s cruel reign of terror and save Noah. As the Good Book says :

John 15:13

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Maybe Beth’s sacrifice will be the conduit to break the hardened hearts of the other characters, so that it will serve a higher purpose as the story unfolds.

As art imitates life, I can reflect on the violence and mayhem that one young man’s death has perpetrated in Ferguson, Missouri and throughout the U.S.  Are we as a nation losing our humanity, our love, and our compassion?  Are we unable to forgive and:

Romans 12:19

never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.?

I am reminded of the words of another young black man:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

May we as a nation return from darkness to light, from hate to love.  May we live and die with our humanity intact.

Rest in Peace Michael and Beth.