Bail Bonds

I’ve recently written about the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund. Concentration camps versus abolition

A Quaker friend reminded me that some early Friends (Quakerism began in the mid 1600’s) refused to be released from prison by posting bail. For some it related to why they were incarcerated. Refusing to take oaths, for example. So paying bail could be seen as an implicit acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Or refusing to pay bail could be related to causing a continuing financial burden and/or embarrassment for the government.

What do we do about posting bail today?

The bail bond system currently exists as a part of the unjust criminal justice system in this country. Those with money can bail out. Those who can’t are incarcerated until their trial. If you or your supporters have the money do you pay?

I believe our work should be to abolish the criminal justice system as it exists now. A bail bond system would not be part of a just system of community justice.

But while that is happening, I believe we should pay bail for those who are arrested for agitating for the abolition of this very system. They are arrested to silence their voices. We need them out in public to continue the work of abolition of policing and prisons. This is financial privilege. But when we abolitionists are successful, no one will be incarcerated just because they don’t have money. (see #FreeThemAll below)

“Back the Black”, Abolish the police. Des Moines, Iowa 4/17/2021

The idea of abolishing police and prisons seems threatening to our safety, at first. Of course who is “our” is the fundamental part of this. The current system of policing and incarceration is certainly not making things safe for black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). It’s not only the dangers of engaging with police. It’s the constant state of terror in BIPOC communities.

I’ve been participating in the Quaker Abolition Network that was started by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. The following is from an article they wrote in the Western Friend.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?

Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.

Mackenzie: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?

As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December, 2020

Abolition of slavery and its afterlives arises from a sense that the system of policing, prisons, and detention, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is corrupt at its root: we cannot reform or tweak our way to a better system. The story of the Walnut Street Jail and Eastern State Penitentiary, both arising from Quaker and Protestant efforts to ameliorate suffering, demonstrates the dangers of innovating on systems and methodologies that foundationally dehumanize; criminalize; and do not offer justice and healing for victims, or true transformation for those who cause harm.

Abolitionist thinking is holistic—that ending the system of punishment and incarcerating control itself is necessary—and invites us to imagine a whole new way of not only dealing with harm but of how we think of ourselves in community. It provokes questions like, what does true justice look like? What does it mean to center healing and transforming relationships and create community safety from authentic accountability and relational reconnection? Abolition does not minimize the reality of harm or violence but rather invites us to consider a way of doing things that interrupts cycles of harm, violence, and trauma, and restores perpetrators and victims into community and their humanity.

What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected  and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan, Friends Journal, Friends Journal, April 1, 2021

Historically, the police and other law enforcement were formed to protect the interests and property of the moneyed classes from the rest of the People. This “property” included the bodies of the enslaved, and was the justification for brutally repressing the righteous and inevitable revolts born from the atrocity of slavery. This same philosophy of endless possession was the bloodlust that fueled the “Indian Wars” and the theft of Indigenous land and bodies that continues to this day. (Wampanoag, 2020)

Today, this same war of conquest, the repression of the many for the benefit of the few, continues. 

Currently, Des Moines Mutual Aid and it’s many accomplices have been fighting a battle with the city of des moines and it’s foot soldiers trying to repress our houseless population from utilizing unused “property”. The basic universal need of a place to rest and be safe is trumped by the need of the wealthy, and the wannabe wealthy, to control every inch they can possess. It is a war for control, and the pigs have enlisted willingly.

This same war of conquest is currently using the mass incarceration machine to instill fear in the populace, warehouse cheap labor, and destabilize communities that dare to defy a system that would rather see you dead than noncompliant. This is the same war where it’s soldiers will kill a black or brown body, basically instinctively, because our very existence reminds them of all that they have stolen and the possibility of a revolution that can create a new world where conquest is a shameful memory.

As bleak as this is, there is a significant amount of resistance and hope to turn the tide we currently suffer under. We stand on the shoulders of giants that have been doing this work for centuries, and there are many lessons we can learn from.

The first, and possibly the most important, is that it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way. 

Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist


The Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund provides bail for protesters arrested in Central Iowa. Call us or leave a voicemail to request aid! Organized by Des Moines Mutual Aid, a group of street medics, social service providers, and community members.
Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund


My friend Ronnie James told me how Des Moines Mutual Aid was started.

It started as group of my friends working with the houseless camps some years back. It has now grown into a solid crew that runs a free food store started by the Black Panthers, still work with the camps, we organized a bail fund that has gotten every protester out of jail the last few months, and we just started an eviction relief fund to try to get a head of the coming crisis, in cooperation with Des Moines BLM. We have raised $13,000 since Wednesday and the application to apply for the grants goes live this week.


The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) supports #FreeThemAll

Immigration activists, prison abolitionists, and those calling to defund the police are organizing across the country under the call to #FreeThemAll. Together, we’re calling for the immediate release of people from behind bars as we continue to work for a future without incarceration. 

#FreeThemAll booklet FreeThemAll_one-pager.pdf (afsc.org)

Join the call to #FreeThemAll

FreeThemAll_one-pager.pdf (afsc.org)

The peace testimony challenges Friends to be critical of the coercive aspects of imprisonment and to think creatively of ways of responding to crime that are less damaging.

Truth and integrity led many individuals to become prisoners of conscience. They are equally fundamental to restorative justice approaches. These seek to work towards the truth as represented in the experience of those involved so that they may be able to learn about others whilst experiencing that their own story is validated. Truth and reconciliation processes that seek to enable individuals and societies to move on and experience a degree of healing are forms of this. Friends in Rwanda were very active in this after the 1994 genocide.

Community is also a key motivation for advocating restorative justice, as it reminds Quakers that members of the community are damaged by crime.  Quakers also have a longstanding concern for the relief of suffering due to famine, natural disasters and war. More recently concerns for situations nearer at home have emerged, especially for homeless, disadvantaged or elderly people and those who are particularly vulnerable, such as political prisoners, those with AIDS and those who are addicted to drugs. All these matters have a close connection to the causes of crime and Friends’ wish to meet needs, rather than punish behaviour.

The equality testimony leads Friends to seek a fairer distribution of wealth, and equal opportunities for employment, education, housing and health services. Fairness in these areas is key to preventing offending and to addressing the underlying causes rather than the symptoms.

Quakers in the World, Testimonies and Crime and Justice

What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

Lucy Duncan, American Friends Service Committee

If we are proud of our heritage of opposition to slavery, we have no choice but to take a stand on mass incarceration. Last spring Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting passed a minute in opposition to mass incarceration. As one step in bringing that minute to life, to test the role of outside observers in the effort to end cash bail, several members of our meeting recently ventured through a metal detector and down to the small basement room in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center where bail hearings take place. There we found the court players separated by a glass wall from a few benches for observers. People who have been arrested appear via a video screen from where they are being held at different police districts around the city.

It was hard to watch people attempting to dispense justice in the midst of such an unjust system. There was no uniform treatment here. The Commissioner and DA’s rep in the second session were both much more punitive than those in the first. At one point, the latter recommended a bail of $300,000! That the Commissioner came down to $50,000 was probably of scant comfort to the guy on the screen. The $5000 required up front was clearly beyond his reach or the reach of anybody else we saw that day. Even the challenge of finding $500 for bail of $5000 would keep most of these folks in jail or send them straight to the bail bondsmen and their extortionate rates.

Did any of the thirty or forty people we observed need to be behind bars before their arraignment? Maybe the guy who had missed 23 of his last 26 court appearances.  Possibly the two who had threatened family members. If so, then why not just say that those few need to stay in jail, rather than using a bail system that punishes the poor and lets the rich buy their way out? Looking at the bigger picture, the people who are seriously endangering us and eroding the quality of life in our country have fat wallets, work in high places and would never be caught by this system.

We now carry the weight of what we witnessed. How can those of us who have some protection from this part of our penal system take in its enormity?  How can we face squarely the incredible injustice and pain that permeate it, and acknowledge how we have acquiesced to its existence? In a situation where silence implies consent, what needs to happen for us to speak out?

Slavery, Mass Incarceration, and Ending Cash Bail, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, by Terry Roberts  06/19/2018

David Wills (1903-1980) was a centrally important figure in the development of what is regarded as being one of the most just and humane types of holding regime. In the 1930s and 40s he developed the concept of therapeutic communities in Hawkspur Camp and the Barns Hostel School, based on principles of relationships and self-learning. His was a strong influence at Glebe House in Cambridgeshire, set up in 1969 as a therapeutic community for teenage men. His understanding of punishment as intrinsically evil led British Friends to take up this issue, and ‘Six Quakers look at Crime and Punishment’ – published in 1979, was the result.

Quakers in Action: Reformers in Criminal Justice, Jane Coppock, New Haven Friends Meeting 01/17/2018


In the story Diary of a Jailbird, my late friend Sherry Hutchison was arrested at a protest at the National Guard in Johnston about sending the Iowa National Guard to the Middle East in 2002.

After a long morning, it was time for lunch — a repeat of last night’s supper menu. A person could get malnutrition while gaining weight on jail food. It was late afternoon when a jailer came and told me to bring my mat and blanket; I was being bailed out! (Owen & D.J. Newlin were my benefactors.) The bail money had been brought that morning; it took all day for the jail & court people to labor through their paperwork. 

Wendy and Carla had spent the night in the holding tank with Desiree and another young woman who was brought in. She’d been arrested on a warrant for missing her court date; she’d been giving birth to a baby at that time. 

It was a relief to be able to change back into my own clothes, get my wrist watch back, and to be able to discipline my hair again with the clips and hair band I’d had to take off — and to see cars driven by friends ready to take us all back to our cars or home. I was thankful merely to feel like a human being again.

Sherry Hutchison



Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, police, prison, Quaker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hassan Ramazani Kooshan

My friend Hussain Leo Kooshan is a Senior at Scattergood Friends School. He is asking for help so his younger brother, Hassan Ramazani Kooshan, currently living in war torn Afghanistan, can attend school in the United States. Following is Hassan’s story.

GoFundMe https://gofund.me/d5f7542c

Meet Hassan.

Hassan is 16 years old and a 9th-grade high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan.

His school, the Rishkhoor Families Boys School, has been burned and where he has been studying Math lessons has been bombed by the Taliban. He has lost friends and teachers because of the violence. Despite the tragic situation, Hassan has stayed on top of his studies.

Hassan remains hopeful and is committed to studying to become a doctor in the future. He is goal-oriented, passionate, and strong. At the same time, he is caring, loving, observant, curious, and unfailingly polite.

Hassan’s father is a day laborer who works for local people in Kabul, and he earns $4 per day which barely supports his family. Hassan works with his father to help pay for math lessons for himself and notebooks for his siblings.

After much work, Hassan has been admitted to The Orme School, a unique college preparatory school in Mayer, AZ, and has received nearly a full scholarship to begin in the Fall. Still, he needs additional funds to pay for room and board, books, and airfare, and other costs of being a US high school student.

The funds collected here will go to meeting those other costs. Will you please help us help Hassan continue his education in the U.S. and work toward his dream/?

In gratitude for your help,

Penn Valley Friends Meeting, Kansas City, MO

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Concentration camps versus abolition

This is some follow-up related to yesterday’s post, Today Where I try to answer yesterday’s question, “what will you do?”

I had forgotten to mention my reaction to writing the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund phone number on my skin. “Don’t go to a protest without it!” Doing that makes the idea of being arrested real.

Bail Fund phone number written on my arm

It also brought to mind the identification numbers tattooed on the skin of Jewish and other people when they were taken to the Nazi Germany concentration camps. Where most of them were killed. I wonder how much of that, if any, is taught these days. Which seems important as I’m wondering how close we are to concentration camps right now.

Today we have tremendous numbers of people in prisons. Where some are put to death.

There are scary similarities in far right politics. The America First’ Caucus proposal to Protect ‘Anglo-Saxon Traditions’. Removing restrictions on guns. The plethora of restrictions on voting rights. The criminalization of protests. The idea that an attack on the US Capitol is called for.

The greatly enhanced militarization of police. We see constant images of large numbers of police who look like solders. Who are equipped with military vehicles, equipment, and tactics.

Which is why calls to abolish the police are so important now.

The idea of abolishing police and prisons seems threatening to our safety, at first. Of course who is “our” is the fundamental part of this. The current system of policing and incarceration is certainly not making things safe for black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). It’s not only the dangers of engaging with police. It’s the constant state of terror in BIPOC communities.

I’ve been participating in the Quaker Abolition Network that was started by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. The following is from an article they wrote in the Western Friend.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?

Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.

Mackenzie: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?

As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December, 2020

Why Abolition?

The criminal justice system is violent and harmful: The UK’s prison population has risen by 90% in the last two decades, bringing the number to over 90,000. At the time of writing we are 156 days into 2018 and already we have seen at least 129 deaths in prison, immigration detention centres and at the hands of the police. As the effects of neoliberalism and austerity deepen each day, increasing numbers of people find themselves made disposable by our economic system and structural inequality, targeted by the agencies of the criminal justice system simply for being homeless, experiencing poor mental health or being born in a different country.

The criminal justice system does not reduce social harm: Policing, courts and the prison system are presented to us by politicians and the media as solutions to social problems. Yet, as the prison population has soared, we have continued to seen violence and harm in our society on a massive scale. Violence against women and girls is endemic, racism and the far right are on the rise in Britain and rates of murder and violent assaults are beginning to increase again. As politicians continue to scapegoat those with the least power in society, the conditions of structural violence that so often precede interpersonal violence remain in place.

We can build a world based on social justice, not criminal justice: All over the world, communities are coming together to build real solutions to societal problems. These solutions lie outside of the criminal justice system, in preventing harm through building a better society. By bringing together groups and organisations working for social justice, we want to demonstrate and strengthen the links between prison abolition and wider struggles for housing, health, education, and environment; and for economic, racial, gender, sexual and disability justice.

Abolitionist Futures, Why Abolition?


We are in perilous times. White supremacists are desperately implementing any way possible to retain their privilege. On the other hand, widening protests to abolish police and prisons are rapidly gaining strength.

So we return to the question, “what will you do?”

Des Moines Black Liberation asks us to create mutual aid. Asks our places of worship to open their doors. Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting supports Mutual Aid by offering their kitchen for preparation of food for those who are houseless.

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation


So many people are showing what it looks like when we take care of each other!
Thanks to everyone whose donated to help houseless folks survive the extreme weather! Let’s keep this going!!
Des Moines Mutual Aid – Camp/General aid
Venmo: @DesMoines-MutualAid
https://tinyurl.com/DSMCampAID

Funds needed for winter survival. Donate to these mutual aid groups to support our houseless neighbors!!
Then, think of how you can create mutual aid!
Call upon the city council.
Ask your place of worship to open their doors.
Ask friends to donate.
Des Moines Black Lives Matter


Des Moines Mutual Aid
https://www.facebook.com/Des-Moines-Mutual-Aid-108955753983592/
Des Moines Black Lives Matter
https://www.facebook.com/desmoinesblm/
Des Moines Rent Relief
https://www.facebook.com/DSMBLMRentRelief/
Des Moines Bail Fund
https://www.facebook.com/dsmbailfund
Edna Griffin Mutual Aid
https://www.facebook.com/Edna-Griffin-Mutual-Aid-104364828102971
North Des Moines Mutual Aid
https://www.facebook.com/NorthDesMoinesMutualAid/

“Back the Black” Des Moines City Hall, 4/17/2021
Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, police, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, race, Uncategorized, white supremacy | Leave a comment

Today

Such a variety of things happened today, I can’t come up with a good title. So today.

It was kind of a stream of conscious day.

I have a routine that involves writing first thing in the morning. If it doesn’t happen then, I usually can’t seem to get into the state that allows me to write.

Often Saturday mornings break that routine, since I usually sign up to help put boxes of food together with my Mutual Aid friends. Which means getting to the church in downtown Des Moines at 9:00 am. Those who know me well understand that it has to be something important for me to consider driving.

That means leaving Indianola a little after 8:00. I rarely have the day’s writing finished before then. As was the case today. I did begin writing, hoping I might be able to finish it later. I was thinking about what I wrote yesterday, What will you do? I had written about a photo I’d taken at a Black Lives Matter gathering in Indianapolis in 2016.

And they seem to be asking me/us, “what are you going to do?  Do you have a little courage yourself?  Will you make yourself, and others uncomfortable by speaking the truth about these things?”

I had planned to attempt to answer that question myself in today’s blog. And that is what I’m trying to answer here. But what I had begun to write this morning was going in a totally different direction. So this is a reset.

Participating in Des Moines Mutual Aid is one of my answers to “what are you going to do?” Building community is what Mutual Aid is about. Our Mutual Aid group is diverse in many ways. And there is a tight relationship with Des Moines Black Liberation.

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation

But I skipped a part of today’s actions. The trees and flowers are blooming, and the lighting is great in the early morning. So I stopped several times to take photos on the way to Mutual Aid. It’s a warm sunny day.

I arrive at the church and about 6 of my friends are there. We have to wait for Ronnie to arrive and unlock the door. Like a well-oiled machine we begin putting together about 60 boxes of food. Vegetables are taken from a back room, and then laid out in piles on the tables. There is some visiting, but often we just move around in silence.

Once we are done with the vegetables there is sometimes a pause as we wait for the food from the grocery stores to arrive. So I asked a new friend what else she was doing this weekend. Not surprisingly she said she was going to the Black Lives Matter gathering that afternoon (see below).

And she mentioned doing laundry. I remarked that I usually lived in apartment buildings, so would go to the basement to use the laundry. I went on to say since I didn’t have a car, whenever I moved I needed to make sure there was a laundry in the building or nearby. And a grocery store, and being on a bus line.

When she asked if I was doing anything tomorrow I said something about going to Quaker meeting.

When she asked if I’d always lived in Iowa, I explained how I came to live in Indiana most of my life. I mentioned spending 2 years in inner city Indianapolis in the early 1970’s for alternative service for the draft. She asked if it was easy to be classified as a conscientious objector. I told her how unfair it was, that if you were a member of a peace church, like Quakers, it was usually pretty easy to get that classification. I went on to tell how I’d turned in my draft cards as a draft resister.

She told me she had lived in Sioux City before moving to Des Moines. I asked if she knew my friend Trisha CaxSep GuWiga Etringer, who lives in Sioux City, and she did.

Then the rest of the food arrived, and it was back to work.

I remember when Ronnie was explaining this to me, he said at the end of the food distribution you were tired, sweaty and feeling good. And it was so.

On the way home, I noticed the leaves beginning to come out on the trees at Ewing Park. So I stopped in and took about 70 photos. Each set of trees led me deeper into the woods.

Back in Indianola, I edited those photos and tried to decide if I was going to go back into Des Moines for the Black Lives Matter gathering at the City Hall. I had attended a lot of Black Lives Matter events in Indianapolis. I was friends with those involved. But had not, yet, here in Iowa.

I was actually thinking about “what are you going to do?” when I decided to go back to Des Moines. REALLY driving too much today, but important work.

I knew Des Moines Mutual Aid had a bail fund.

Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund

The bail phone number is 515.218.1994.
Don’t go to a protest without it!

My arm

I put the bail number on my arm above. I’m going to have to practice writing on my skin. How permanent is permanent ink? 🙂

There was an announcement for “Back the Black” earlier, but the location was not published until a few hours before the rally began.

One thing Ronnie had spoken with me about was how important it is these days to not take photos of people’s faces, because law enforcement uses online images to identify people to bring charges against them. So this is the photo I took today. Definitely no faces.

Everyone was of course outraged by all the killings of Black men and children in just the past few weeks. There were many calls to abolish the police.

I’ve become involved in the Quaker Abolition Network. It seems obvious to me, and many others, that police and prisons need to be abolished. But those are discussions for another day. abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

The Des Moines Register has a story about today’s gathering.

Hundreds march in Des Moines to ‘Back the Black,’ protest deaths at hands of police, present list of demands by Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register, April 17, 2021

Indira Sheumaker, who is a local activist and City Council candidate, said part of that fight is a list of demands that activists presented at the police station:

  • Terminate Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders, Police Chief Dana Wingert and “all officers with violent records.” Numerous activists have argued that the department should not allow Sgt. Michael Fong to help lead the department’s de-escalation training. Fong and another officer were involved in an incident that resulted in an $800,000 settlement of a lawsuit accusing them of excessive force. He was also disciplined for an excessive force incident in 2007. Sanders and Wingert have defended Fong and have said they don’t plan to remove him from his position.
  • Legalize and decriminalize cannabis. The city created a task force that recommended cannabis possession be the lowest enforcement priority for police. But Wingert stated the DMPD would not comply with city policy if it conflicts with state law.
  • Defund and abolish police. Calls for defunding and abolishing the police in Iowa began last year after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died under the knee of a police officer in May 2020. Des Moines City Council members have balked at activists’ calls for defunding and abolishing the police.
Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, police, Quaker, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What will you do?

I’ve often looked at, and thought about this photograph I took at a Black Lives Matter protest in Indianapolis in July, 2016.

DSC03797

It was a warm, sunny summer evening, around sunset.  I arrived about half an hour early and there weren’t many people gathered on the lawn of the Indiana Capitol, yet.

I almost walked past the trio above, but something made me stop.  I thought they created an excellent image of the Black Lives Matter Movement…poised, stressed and tired, respectful, determined, nonviolent, hurt, angry, but very, very intent and serious. 

It was important to me that I ask for their permission to take this photo, something I didn’t usually do then at public events. These days I no longer take photos that show people’s faces, because law enforcement uses such photos to bring charges.

They each considered my request for a moment, then each, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, indicated that would be permissible.  I knelt in front of them, framed and then shot the photo, and thanked them.  Silent nods, but also slight smiles.

I like each of the facial expressions, the story each person’s posture tells, and the raised fist salute.  I like the sense of support, leaning in toward each other.  I like the messages on the signs.

But the reason I keep coming back to this is because I also feel a real challenge from them to me/us.  I think they are saying “we’ve taken the time and effort (and I would say courage) to come out in public to support our community and each other, and demand that these injustices stop.”

And they seem to be asking me/us, “what are you going to do?  Do you have a little courage yourself?  Will you make yourself, and others uncomfortable by speaking the truth about these things?”

Back the Black. Tomorrow. Keep an eye out for location.
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement | Facebook

May be an image of text that says 'DAUNTE WRIGHT ADAM TOLEDO ANTHONY THOMPSON JR. BACK THE BLACK THE FIGHT IS FAR FROM OVER. ABOLISH POLICE. SATURDAY, APRIL 17 AT 4PM DES MOINES, IA LOCATION DROP SATURDAY'
Des Moines Black Liberation Movement | Facebook

Posted in Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, race, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Making New Worlds

This week the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has been offering a series of online events related to “Making New Worlds – Pursuing Peace with Justice.”

What does it mean to dismantle systems to create justice? What is the Quaker historical perspective on working for liberation, and what is the vision of contemporary Quaker organizers? How is AFSC working to end injustice and the institutions that perpetuate it—and create alternatives based on care and a solidarity economy? 

Making New Worlds – Pursuing Peace with Justice

Yesterday I wrote Instructions on Not Giving Up, because that is a temptation as the world is falling apart all around us. In just the 24 hours since that was written, the news was released of the police shooting of 13 year old Adam Toledo, and 8 people were shot and killed in the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, where I lived most of my life.

We need to be making new worlds now.

One session I attended was Quakers, AFSC, and abolition: Then and now

Presenters include: historians Marcus Rediker and Katharine Gerbner, formerly incarcerated long term AFSC volunteer Bob Eaton, formerly incarcerated Quaker abolitionist Khary Bekka and one of the founders of the Quaker abolition network, Jed Walsh.  Moderated by Lewis Webb and Lucy Duncan

We examine the powerful witness of earlier Friends, the reality of Quaker complicity with slavery and the creation of the penitentiary system, and AFSC’s 1978 minute on penal abolition (below). We will also hear from contemporary Quaker abolitionists and AFSC staff who will tell their stories and reflect on what this means for Quakers and AFSC today. 

On the panel was my friend Lucy Duncan, whose article A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation was just published in Friends Journal, April 1, 2021.

I’ve been getting to know another one of the people on the panel, Jed Walsh. As described, he is one of the founders of the Quaker Abolition Network, that I have been participating in.
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American Friends Service Committee – Minutes on Criminal Justice

Adopted by the National Board of Directors, January 27-28, 1978

AFSC’s approach to prison construction moratorium

The American Friends Service Committee, believing prisons to be dehumanizing and destructive institutions, commits itself to support a moratorium on the construction of jails and prisons in order to prevent the expansion of the capacity of our country to hold people behind bars. It also commits itself to working for humane and socially constructive alternatives to prisons.

Abolition of imprisonment

The American Friends Service Committee rejects imprisonment as punishment for those whose behavior may be considered criminal. Constructive and creative means of addressing criminal behavior should be employed. This stand is based on our belief in the dignity of all human beings. It does not address issues regarding other forms of restrain as a response to destructive behavior. We are aware that the abolition of prisons cannot be immediately realized but commit ourselves to working toward this goal.

Revision of the Thirteenth Amendment

The American Friends Service Committee totally rejects the concept of slavery and involuntary servitude. Therefore, we support amendment of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which now reads:     

Neither slavery no involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The exception clause should be deleted so that the Thirteenth Amendment would prohibit all slavery and involuntary servitude within the U.S. and its jurisdictions.

1978 Board minutes set direction for AFSC’s work to end mass incarceration | American Friends Service Committee


Last night I attended the Plenary session on abolition with Nyle Fort

Nyle Fort is a minister, activist, and scholar based in Newark, New Jersey. He has worked in education, criminal justice, and youth development for over a decade in various capacities including: the national director of Communities Against Militarized Police; founder and co-director of the Organizing Praxis Lab at Princeton University; and lead trainer at Momentum, an activist incubator that builds large-scale social movements in the United States and around the world. Nyle’s activism involves local, national, and international efforts. In 2014, after the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, Nyle traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to help build the Movement for Black Lives. Upon his return home, Nyle created “Last Words: a liturgy commemorating the last words of Black people killed by police and vigilantes.” He also established Newark Books and Breakfast, a cultural and political education program that provides free books and breakfast to local youth and families.

I hadn’t heard of Nyle Fort but was very impressed with his presentation. I hope the video of his session will be available in the future. A short video follows.

He spoke about going to Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer. I was affected by that fairly directly because of my involvement with a group of young people in Indianapolis who went to Ferguson at that time. They were traumatized by what they saw there, and were committed to create change locally. This group of 10 young people (Indy 10) became the Black Lives Matter organization for Indianapolis.

I also felt a connection because of Nyle’s free breakfast program. For nearly a year now I’ve enjoyed working with my Mutual Aid friends every Saturday morning to distribute about 60 boxes of food to those in need. The program here in Des Moines has been in continuous operation since it was started by the Panthers as their free breakfast program in the 1960’s.

Nyle spoke about how a system that created problems cannot solve those problems. He reiterated what many others have written, that capitalism is a profoundly unjust system, to which we must find alternatives. Alternatives like Mutual Aid.
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Posted in abolition, American Friends Service Committee, Black Lives, capitalism, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, Quaker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Instructions on Not Giving Up

The Spirit gave me this poem this morning. Knew I needed these instructions. I sense hopelessness, pain and sorrow in those around me, human and nonhuman. And the temptation to give up.

Each day, hour, minute brings more trauma. I have learned about intergenerational trauma. Traumas of my ancestors have been passed to me. Just now it comes to me, can we break this cycle of trauma? Wouldn’t we rejoice if we could prevent this harm from infecting our children? Perhaps it is only if we give up that the trauma is passed on. These instructions on not giving up might tell us how to stop the transfer of our trauma.

Fortunately it is not only trauma that is passed from one generation to the next.

I am the holy being of my mother’s prayer and my father’s song.

Norman Patrick Brown, Dineh poet and speaker

Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out

of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s

almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving

their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate

sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees

that really gets to me. When all the shock of white

and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave

the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,

the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin

growing over whatever winter did to us, a return

to the strange idea of continuous living despite

the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,

I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf

unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright Ada Limon

It was a hard winter. My whole body raged against it. But right as the world feels uninhabitable, something miraculous happens: the trees come back. I wanted to praise that ordinary thing as a way of bringing myself back too. Ada Limon

I have been told the trees talk to each other through the network of their roots. Signal to each other when it is time to bloom. I watch for this to happen. Record the images with my camera. I say to some, you are a late bloomer.


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AltEn environmental catastrophe continues

The AltEn environmental catastrophe continues.
See previous posts:
The AltEn Environmental Catastrophe in Mead, Nebraska
Indigenous panel discussion of AltEn environmental disaster

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has launched a public portal keep the Mead community, Saunders County residents and interested citizens informed about significant activities related to the cleanup and mitigation actions at the AltEn ethanol facility.


On Monday night, about 60 residents met at a local church to learn more about the state of Nebraska’s litigation against the ethanol plant. Residents also heard from university researchers who want to study the long-term health effects of exposure to tens of thousands of tons of seed treated with multiple forms of neonicotinoid pesticides and fungicides.

Experts who spoke Monday highlighted the longer the piles of treated distillers grains remain, the more the neonics and fungicides leach into the ground and potentially into the water table. Neonics are relatively water soluble and can flow into ground water, said John Schalles, a biology professor at Creighton University.

“The longer that sits on the ground and in lagoons that are leaking, the worse it gets,” he said.

The seed was treated with varying combinations of insecticides and fungicides.

“We don’t know a whole lot about the toxicology of fungicides,” Schalles said.

Nebraskans Worry About Toxic Seed Piles As Ethanol Plant’s Pollution Problems Stack Up, Owners Look to Transfer Feedyard Permit by Chris Clayton, DTN, Progressive Farmer, 4/13/2021



On March 1, Nebraska’s attorney general threw the book at AltEn, alleging the 24-million-gallon per year ethanol maker near Mead spent most of the last five years making an environmental mess of its biofuels plant and the surrounding rural community.

In a 97-page civil complaint, the state detailed 18 “causes of action” against AltEn ranging from “operating a solid waste management facility” — AltEn now is “storing” an estimated “84,000 tons of distiller’s grain on-site” that contain “elevated concentrations of pesticides” — to “discharge of a pollutant into waters of the state without a permit.”

As explained here last month, the allegations stem from AltEn’s unique ethanol business: in a sales pitch to potential customers last summer it explained that it was “processing 600,000 to 900,000 pounds of treated seed into ethanol daily,” according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

That ethanol feedstock — treated agricultural seed instead the usual farm-raised corn – “created tens of thousands of tons of pesticide-contaminated byproduct” that the plant tried to rid itself of in, what the state now alleges, manners both legal and illegal.

Farm & Food File: The AltEn mess gets even messier By Alan Guebert, AgriNews, April 07, 2021


Unlike most ethanol plants that buy corn for processing, AltEn uses surplus seeds that it receives at no cost. The seeds are often coated with agricultural chemicals, making their leftover residue unsuitable for use as an animal feed supplement.

Jim Macy, the director of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, said his agency doesn’t believe the chemicals have migrated into the soil or groundwater in Mead. Officials were testing the area to confirm that it is safe.

But Macy said testing of a water in a ditch near the plant showed high levels of neonicotinoids, a group of insecticides that have been blamed for killing large numbers of bees.

Nebraska regulators sue ethanol plant, citing pollution By Grant Schulte, AgriNews, March 20, 2021


#WeAllLiveDownstream
#DefendTheSacred
#ProtectTheWater
#ProtectThePlatte
#DefendTheLand
#DefendMead
#WaterIsLife
#MníWičóni
#SuHayattır
#HiFromNE
#HiFromD2
#NEStrong
#AltEnded
#Bees

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Call your spirit back

We are constantly assaulted from all directions. Violence and war, racial injustice, hunger, houselessness, pandemic, environmental disasters and chaos.
Frightened to withdraw. Cover ourselves with a hard shell. Cower.
But we feel how this diminishes us. This is not how we want to be.

Call your spirit back.

For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet (excerpts)

Do not hold regrets.

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return. Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems (pp. 5-6). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

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Indigenous panel discussion of AltEn environmental disaster

This is follow-up on this morning’s article about the environmental catastrophe at the AltEn facility at Mead, Nebraska. The video below is of the panel presentation by Indigenous leaders of the Great Plains Action Society and Ní Btháska Stand.

April 11 at 7:00 PM 

Overview: Join frontline and local Indigenous Peoples from Nebraska as they weigh in on the recent environmental catastrophe on stolen land in Nebraska created by the Big-Ag industry–mainly Bayer-Ag and Syngenta.

Indigenous organizers were the first on the ground to document the catastrophe and bring light to the media and state about AltEn’s irresponsible actions. An ethanol plant just outside of Mead, NE that has been using pesticide-laden seed corn discharged 4 million gallons of contaminated wastewater generated by the facility when a pipe broke on February 12, 2020.

The result is an environmental disaster that has people calling Mead the next Flint event. Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy has since issued an emergency order to close AltEn immediately and to cease any more discharges into its wastewater lagoons as this plant is “likely to cause and may have already caused” pollution of the air, land, and water. (Omaha World-Herald)

Residents of Mead, NE soon reported that they smelt a strange odor in the air and then experienced bloody noses, headaches, upper respiratory distress. Entire bee colonies have since collapsed and important scientific research from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has been destroyed as the toxins run through their fields.

Very importantly, AltEn sits over the Todd Valley Aquifer as well as the periphery of the very important and much larger Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to millions. The Ogallala Aquifer has been a protected site for years, particularly by opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was just canceled by the Biden Administration at approximately the same time as the AltEn catastrophe.

Mead residents have submitted many complaints to the State about AltEn since 2015 leading to dozens of citations for environmental infractions. It is also vital that Indigenous Peoples weigh in on this issue and demand the state to take accountability for siding with corrupt corporate entities for the sake of profit over the health and safety of millions.

#WeAllLiveDownstream
#DefendTheSacred
#ProtectTheWater
#ProtectThePlatte
#DefendTheLand
#DefendMead
#WaterIsLife
#MníWičóni
#SuHayattır
#HiFromNE
#HiFromD2
#NEStrong
#AltEnded
#Bees

Posted in #NDAPL, Dakota Access pipeline, Great Plains Action Society, Indigenous, Keystone XL pipeline (KXL), Ní Btháska Stand, Uncategorized | Leave a comment