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Four Still Dead in Ohio

Man lying on the ground dead a woman screaming over his body, others looking on

Back when “tin soldiers and Nixon” were “cutting us down” in 1970, a group of Ohio State University students and campus activists started an underground newspaper in Columbus. Driven mostly by the murder of four students at Kent State – Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Sandy Scheuer and Bill Schroeder – shot during a demonstration that was opposing President Nixon’s illegal attack on Cambodia and the Vietnam War, the Columbus Free Press was born.

Not surprisingly, the Free Press was the first western newspaper to expose Cambodia’s killing fields thanks to international law professor John Quigley’s reporting from Southeast Asia. In the first issue of the Free Press, the October 11, 1970 issue, a Free Press opinion attacked a special grand jury’s decision not to indict Ohio National Guardsmen for the Kent State killings.

The Free Press wrote at the time: “The jury conveniently disregarded the FBI report which stated that the guardsmen were not ‘surrounded,’ that they had tear gas, contrary to claims of guardsmen following the shooting.” The Free Press went on to point out the obvious facts: “…a film of the shootings shown on a northern Ohio TV station on the night of May 4th the slope, then turning, kneeling, firing a volley, and rising to fire a few more scattered shots before regrouping and going over the hill. Panic may have aided in the shootings, but it was not the cause.

THE GUARDSMEN FIRED ON ORDER, and the men who gave the order and the others who carried it out are free.” Of course, the same could be said of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who waged an illegal war against the people of Iraq and murdered over a million civilians, yet still walk free. And the war endured under President Obama. The Kent State precedent of letting known murderers move among us set the stage for the smiley-face pro-torture policies of the Bush years.

Former Free Press Editor Steve Conliff did his best to bring Governor James Rhodes to justice for inciting the National Guard to violence against peace demonstrators. At the 1977 Ohio State Fair, Conliff pied Big Jim, exemplifying the underground press motto – If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own. Hardly the people’s tribunal longed for by the Free Press staff, but nevertheless, great political theater. Local Free Clinic physician Pete Howison performed an experiment at Conliff’s trial, proving that pie-ing did not constitute a violent assault. Conliff was found not guilty.

Rhodes was pied by proxy again in 1990 on the 20th when his statute, then on the Ohio Statehouse grounds, took a direct hit to the face by a strawberry cream pie, thrown by Howison. A photo of the red goop symbolically dripping down Rhodes’ face appeared in the next Free Press issue. In 1992, the Free Press moved into an East Broad Street office that had an unusual wall in the back erected only three-quarters of the way up to the ceiling. When the office started leaking after a rainstorm, I climbed over the wall to determine the damage. Ironically, I found the original ACLU legal files containing documents from their lawsuit against the National Guardsmen at Kent State. The morgue photos of the dead students are seared into my brain.

When Jim Rhodes died, the Free Press made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from his FBI file. Here we learned the dirty truth of Rhodes’ ties to the mob and the FBI’s use of that information, some would call it blackmail, to win concessions from the governor. As the Free Press wrote in 2003, a January 14, 1963 memo noted that: “He [Rhodes] is completely controlled by an SAC [Special Agent in Charge] contact, and we have full assurances that everything we need will be made available promptly. Our experience proves this assertion.”

The FOIA file revealed that the SAC contact was none other than Robert H. Wolfe, publisher of the Columbus Dispatch. Dispatch reporter Bob Ruth had earlier disclosed to the Free Press that Rhodes had run a gambling operation in the OSU campus area. His headquarters during the 1930s was allegedly Gussie’s State Tavern, across the street from the law school. Serendipitously, the building would later house the shop Tradewinds, one of the early headquarters of the Free Press.

The FBI would cut the corrupt numbers man Rhodes all the slack he needed because: “He is a friend of law enforcement and believes in honest, hard-hitting law enforcement. He respects and admires [the] FBI.” In 2007, the Free Press decried “The lethal media silence on Kent State’s smoking guns” in an article I co-wrote with Harvey Wasserman. When tape-recorded evidence surfaced 37 years after the fact proving the original Free Press editorial to be correct, the mainstream for-profit corporate media, including the Dispatch, ignored it.

Rhodes’ good friends in the FBI had in their possession a tape that documented that the guardsmen were ordered to fire. Prior to the shootings, Terry Strubbe, a Kent State student had hung a microphone out of his dorm window and captured 20 seconds of sound, including the gunfire. In an amplified version of the tape, a Guard officer is heard shouting: “Right here! Get set! Point! Fire!” Those, like the Free Press, who argued that there was an order to shoot the students were dismissed per standard mainstream media protocol as “conspiracy theorists.” It’s never too late to embrace the truth.

Rhodes was a mobster being blackmailed by the FBI who agitated his guardsmen against the students and was in the middle of a heated primary campaign for U.S. Senate. The day before the shootings, Rhodes is on record stating that student peace demonstrators were the “strongest, well-trained militant revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America. They’re worse than the brown shirts and the Communists and the night riders and the vigilantes. They are the worst type of people that we harbor in America.”

The Free Press demands a Truth Commission on the Kent State shootings. Let all sides present their evidence, even the well-trained propagandists and coincidence theorists who specialize in blaming the victims, usually for political or monetary gain. Four remain dead in Ohio and justice remains unserved.

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Why the Drug War Has Been a Forty-Year Lynching

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Poster of Nixon about the drug war

The Drug War has been a forty-year lynching….
…the corporate/GOP response to the peace and civil rights movements.

It’s used the Drug Enforcement Administration and other policing operations as a high-tech Ku Klux Klan, meant to gut America’s communities of youth and color.

It has never been about suppressing drugs. Quite the opposite.

And now that it may be winding down, the focus on suppressing minority votes will shift even stronger to electronic election theft.

The Drug War was officially born June 17, 1971, (http://www.drugpolicy.org/new-solutions-drug-policy/brief-history-drug-war) when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs to be “Public Enemy Number One.” In a nation wracked by poverty, racial tension, injustice, civil strife, ecological disaster, corporate domination, a hated Vietnam War and much more, drugs seemed an odd choice.
In fact, the Drug War’s primary target was black and young voters.

It was the second, secret leg of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” meant to bring the former Confederacy into the Republican Party.

Part One was about the white vote.

America’s original party of race and slavery (https://zinnedproject.org/materials/a-peoples-history-of-the-united-states-updated-and-expanded-edition/)was Andrew Jackson’s Democrats (born 1828).

After the Civil War the Party’s terror wing, the KKK, made sure former slaves and their descendants “stayed in their place.”

A century of lynchings (at least 3200 of them) (http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html)efficiently suppressed the southern black community.

In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal social programs began to attract black voters to the Democratic Party. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson’s support for civil and voting rights legislation, plus the 24th Amendment ending the poll tax, sealed the deal. Today blacks, who once largely supported the Party of Lincoln,  vote 90% or more Democrat (http://blackdemographics.com/culture/black-politics/).

But the Democrats’ lean to civil rights angered southern whites. Though overt racist language was no longer acceptable in the 1970s, Nixon’s Republicans clearly signaled an open door to the former Confederacy (https://www.thenation.com/article/why-todays-gop-crackup-is-the-final-unraveling-of-nixons-southern-strategy/).

But recruiting angry southern whites would not be enough for the Republicans to take the south. In many southern states more than 40% of potential voters were black. If they were allowed to vote, and if their votes were actually counted, all the reconstructed Democrat Party would need to hold the south would be a sliver of moderate white support.

That’s where the Drug War came in.

Reliable exact national arrest numbers from 1970 through 1979 are hard to come by.

But according to Michelle Alexander’s superb, transformative The New Jim Crow, and according to research by Marc Mauer and Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, more than 31,000,000 Americans were arrested for drugs between 1980 and 2007 (http://newjimcrow.com).

Further federal uniform crime report statistics compiled by www.freepress.org indicate that, between 2008 and 2014, another 9,166,000 were arrested for drug possession.
Taken together, than means well over 40,000,000 American citizens have been arrested for drugs in the four decades since Nixon’s announcement.
It is a staggering number: more than 10% of the entire United States, nearly four times the current population of Ohio, far in excess of more than 100 countries worldwide.
A number that has gutted the African-American community.  A national terror campaign far beyond the reach of even the old KKK.
Justice Department statistics indicate than half of those arrests have been for simple possession of marijuana.
According to US Bureau of Justice statistics, between 1980 and 2013, while blacks were 12% of the population, blacks constituted 30% of those arrested for drug law violations and nearly 40% of those incarcerated in all U.S. prisons.  Thus some 20,000,000 African-American men have been sent to prison for non-violent “crimes” in the past forty years.
If the Hispanic population is added in, as much as 60% of drug arrests are of racial or ethnic minorities.   \
On the 40th anniversary of the Drug War in 2010, the Associated Press used public records to calculate that the taxpayer cost of arresting and imprisoning all these human beings has been in excess of $1,000,000,000.
Sending them all to college would have been far cheaper.  It also would have allowed them to enhance and transform their communities.
Instead, they were taken from their families.  Their children were robbed of their parents.  They were assaulted by the prison culture, stripped of their right to vote and stopped from leading the kind of lives that might have moved the nation in a very different direction.
Nixon also hated hippies and the peace movement. So in addition to disenfranchising 20,000,000 African-Americans, the Drug War has imprisoned additional millions of young white and Hispanic pot smokers.
Thus the DEA has been the ultra-violent vanguard of the corporate culture war.
In 1983 Ronald Reagan took the Drug War to a new level.  Using profits from his illegal arms sales to Iran, he illegally funded the Contra thugs who were fighting Nicaragua’s duly elected Sandinista government.
The Contras were drug dealers who shipped large quantities of cocaine into the US—-primarily in the Los Angeles area—-where it was mostly converted to crack.
That served a double function for the GOP.
First, it decimated the inner city.
Then Reagan’s “Just Say No” assault—-based on the drugs his Contra allies were injecting into our body politic—-imposed penalties on crack far more severe than those aimed at the powdered cocaine used in the white community.
In 1970 the US prison population was roughly 300,000 people.  Today it’s more than 2.2 million, the largest in world history by both absolute number and percentage of the general population.  There are more people in prison in the US than in China, which has five times the population (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11).

According to the Sentencing Project, one in seventeen white males has been incarcerated, one in six Latinos, and one in three blacks.
By all accounts the Drug War has had little impact on drug consumption in the US, except to make it more profitable for drug dealers (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11).  It’s spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in prison construction, policing, prison guards, lawyers, judges and more, all of them invested in prolonging the drug war despite its negative impacts on public health.

For them, the stream of ruined lives of non-violent offenders is just another form of cash flow.
Like the Klan since the Civil War, the Drug War has accomplished its primary political goal of suppressing the black vote and assaulting the African-American community.
It’s shifted control of the South from the Democrats back to the Republican Party. By slashing voter eligibility and suppressing black turnout, the Drug War crusade has helped the GOP take full control of both houses of the US Congress and a majority of state governments across the US.
But the repressive impacts hit everyone, and ultimately enhance the power of the corporate state.
Toward that end, the southern corporate Democrat Bill Clinton’s two terms as a Drug Warrior further broadened the official attack on grassroots America. Clinton was determined to make sure nobody appeared tougher on “crime.”  He escalated the decimation of our democracy far beyond mere party politics, deepening the assault on the black community, and the basic rights of all Americans for the benefit of his Wall Street funders.  Obama has been barely marginally better.
In political terms, the Nixon-Reagan GOP remains the Drug War’s prime beneficiary. Today’s Republicans are poised to continue dominating our electoral process through the use of rigged electronic registration rolls and voting machines. That’s a core reality we all must face.
But no matter which party controls the White House or Congress, by prosecuting a behavior engaged in by tens of millions of Americans, the Drug War lets the corporate state arrest (and seize assets from) virtually anyone it wants at any time. It has empowered a de facto corporate police state beyond public control.
Regardless of race, we all suffer from the fear, repression and random assaults of a drug-fueled repressive police force with no real accountability.
In the interim, the Drug War is not now and never has been about drugs.
Legalizing pot is just the beginning of our recovery process.
Until we end the Drug War as a whole, America will never know democracy, peace or justice.
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THE SIXTH JIM CROW: ELECTRONIC ELECTION THEFT & THE 2016 SELECTION will be released by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman by January, 2016. Their CITIZEN KASICH will follow soon thereafter. Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES are at www.freepress.org; Harvey’s ORGANIC SPIRAL OF US HISTORY will appear in 2016.