If the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis is true, expect a political earthquake

Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank

The potential consequences of the origins of the virus are shattering – if they can be proved

‘My own complacency on the matter was dynamited by the lab-leak essay that ran in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists earlier this month.’
‘My own complacency on the matter was dynamited by the lab-leak essay that ran in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists earlier this month.’ Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Tue 1 Jun 2021 (theguardian.com)

There was a time when the Covid pandemic seemed to confirm so many of our assumptions. It cast down the people we regarded as villains. It raised up those we thought were heroes. It prospered people who could shift easily to working from home even as it problematized the lives of those Trump voters living in the old economy.

Like all plagues, Covid often felt like the hand of God on earth, scourging the people for their sins against higher learning and visibly sorting the righteous from the unmasked wicked. “Respect science,” admonished our yard signs. And lo!, Covid came and forced us to do so, elevating our scientists to the highest seats of social authority, from where they banned assembly, commerce, and all the rest.

We cast blame so innocently in those days. We scolded at will. We knew who was right and we shook our heads to behold those in the wrong playing in their swimming pools and on the beach. It made perfect sense to us that Donald Trump, a politician we despised, could not grasp the situation, that he suggested people inject bleach, and that he was personally responsible for more than one super-spreading event. Reality itself punished leaders like him who refused to bow to expertise. The prestige news media even figured out a way to blame the worst death tolls on a system of organized ignorance they called “populism.”

In reaction to the fool Trump, liberalism made a cult out of the hierarchy of credentialed achievement in general

But these days the consensus doesn’t consense quite as well as it used to. Now the media is filled with disturbing stories suggesting that Covid might have come — not from “populism” at all, but from a laboratory screw-up in Wuhan, China. You can feel the moral convulsions beginning as the question sets in: What if science itself is in some way culpable for all this?


I am no expert on epidemics. Like everyone else I know, I spent the pandemic doing as I was told. A few months ago I even tried to talk a Fox News viewer out of believing in the lab-leak theory of Covid’s origins. The reason I did that is because the newspapers I read and the TV shows I watched had assured me on many occasions that the lab-leak theory wasn’t true, that it was a racist conspiracy theory, that only deluded Trumpists believed it, that it got infinite pants-on-fire ratings from the fact-checkers, and because (despite all my cynicism) I am the sort who has always trusted the mainstream news media.

My own complacency on the matter was dynamited by the lab-leak essay that ran in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists earlier this month; a few weeks later everyone from Doctor Fauci to President Biden is acknowledging that the lab-accident hypothesis might have some merit. We don’t know the real answer yet, and we probably will never know, but this is the moment to anticipate what such a finding might ultimately mean. What if this crazy story turns out to be true?Advertisement

The answer is that this is the kind of thing that could obliterate the faith of millions. The last global disaster, the financial crisis of 2008, smashed people’s trust in the institutions of capitalism, in the myths of free trade and the New Economy, and eventually in the elites who ran both American political parties.

In the years since (and for complicated reasons), liberal leaders have labored to remake themselves into defenders of professional rectitude and established legitimacy in nearly every field. In reaction to the fool Trump, liberalism made a sort of cult out of science, expertise, the university system, executive-branch “norms,” the “intelligence community,” the State Department, NGOs, the legacy news media, and the hierarchy of credentialed achievement in general.

Now here we are in the waning days of Disastrous Global Crisis #2. Covid is of course worse by many orders of magnitude than the mortgage meltdown — it has killed millions and ruined lives and disrupted the world economy far more extensively. Should it turn out that scientists and experts and NGOs, etc. are villains rather than heroes of this story, we may very well see the expert-worshiping values of modern liberalism go up in a fireball of public anger.

Consider the details of the story as we have learned them in the last few weeks:

 Lab leaks happen. They aren’t the result of conspiracies: “a lab accident is an accident,” as Nathan Robinson points out; they happen all the time, in this country and in others, and people die from them.

 There is evidence that the lab in question, which studies bat coronaviruses, may have been conducting what is called “gain of function” research, a dangerous innovation in which diseases are deliberately made more virulent. By the way, right-wingers didn’t dream up “gain of function”: all the cool virologists have been doing it (in this country and in others) even as the squares have been warning against it for years.

 There are strong hints that some of the bat-virus research at the Wuhan lab was funded in part by the American national-medical establishment — which is to say, the lab-leak hypothesis doesn’t implicate China alone.

 There seem to have been astonishing conflicts of interest among the people assigned to get to the bottom of it all, and (as we know from Enron and the housing bubble) conflicts of interest are always what trip up the well-credentialed professionals whom liberals insist we must all heed, honor, and obey.

 The news media, in its zealous policing of the boundaries of the permissible, insisted that Russiagate was ever so true but that the lab-leak hypothesis was false false false, and woe unto anyone who dared disagree. Reporters gulped down whatever line was most flattering to the experts they were quoting and then insisted that it was 100% right and absolutely incontrovertible — that anything else was only unhinged Trumpist folly, that democracy dies when unbelievers get to speak, and so on.

 The social media monopolies actually censoredposts about the lab-leak hypothesis. Of course they did! Because we’re at war with misinformation, you know, and people need to be brought back to the true and correct faith — as agreed upon by experts.


“Let us pray, now, for science,” intoned a New York Times columnist back at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. The title of his article laid down the foundational faith of Trump-era liberalism: “Coronavirus is What You Get When You Ignore Science.”

Ten months later, at the end of a scary article about the history of “gain of function” research and its possible role in the still ongoing Covid pandemic, Nicholson Baker wrote as follows: “This may be the great scientific meta-experiment of the 21st century. Could a world full of scientists do all kinds of reckless recombinant things with viral diseases for many years and successfully avoid a serious outbreak? The hypothesis was that, yes, it was doable. The risk was worth taking. There would be no pandemic.”

Except there was. If it does indeed turn out that the lab-leak hypothesis is the right explanation for how it began — that the common people of the world have been forced into a real-life lab experiment, at tremendous cost — there is a moral earthquake on the way.

Because if the hypothesis is right, it will soon start to dawn on people that our mistake was not insufficient reverence for scientists, or inadequate respect for expertise, or not enough censorship on Facebook. It was a failure to think critically about all of the above, to understand that there is no such thing as absolute expertise. Think of all the disasters of recent years: economic neoliberalism, destructive trade policies, the Iraq War, the housing bubble, banks that are “too big to fail,” mortgage-backed securities, the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016 — all of these disasters brought to you by the total, self-assured unanimity of the highly educated people who are supposed to know what they’re doing, plus the total complacency of the highly educated people who are supposed to be supervising them.

Then again, maybe I am wrong to roll out all this speculation. Maybe the lab-leak hypothesis will be convincingly disproven. I certainly hope it is.

But even if it inches closer to being confirmed, we can guess what the next turn of the narrative will be. It was a “perfect storm,” the experts will say. Who coulda known? And besides (they will say), the origins of the pandemic don’t matter any more. Go back to sleep.

  • Thomas Frank is a Guardian US columnist. He is the author, most recently, of The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism

Update on #BLOCKTHEBOAT Seattle ~ Article + Emergency Update re arrest (from Adrienne Fong)

Article with photos:

‘Stop taking anything from Israel’: Block the Boat movement aims to halt cargo ship at Seattle Port – June 17, 2021


EMERGENCY UPDATE From June 17th – 11:30pm

 Our community protest tonight was violently broken up by the police. At least 8 of us are currently in jail. We picketed against an apartheid-profiteering ship that had already been officially asked to leave the port, arm in arm with several city council members, and with the solidarity of dock workers, truckers, and thousands of community members.

These brutal tactics show the true face of ZIM; and the complicit relationship between Zionist attacks in Palestine and police brutality here in Seattle. Don’t let them get away with it!

 Please call the King County Sheriff’s office and King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office as soon as you can and demand the release of the peaceful protesters whose only crime was to stand up to Israeli apartheid.

King County Sheriff – (206) 296-3311  Sheriffs Dept. say the Seattle police dept. made the arrest Tel.# (206) 625-5011 

King County Prosecuting Attorney – (206) 296-9000

#BlockTheBoat #BDS #ShutDownApartheid

Progressives fed up with Feinstein, want her to resign now

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 9, 2021.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 9, 2021.Stefani Reynolds/Associated Press

June 17, 2021 (SFChronicle.com)

Progressives aren’t just boiling mad at Sen. Dianne Feinstein (again). Some want the senator, who has been in office since 1992, to resign.

They’re frustrated that Feinstein continues to balk at killing the filibuster to pass a voting rights bill. But even more so, they’re baffled that she said she doesn’t think democracy is in jeopardy.

“If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it,” Feinstein recently told Forbes. “I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.”

That is tough for some Democrats to swallow. Republicans have introduced almost 400 voter suppression bills across 48 states. Through last month, 14 states have passed 22 laws that would restrict voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Those stark figures are one reason that Feinstein’s San Francisco neighbor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wrote to her House colleagues this week to say that “sadly, the clock is ticking on our democracy with respect to the sanctity of the vote.”

Pelosi knows there aren’t many ticks left for Democrats who want to pass federal voting rights legislation that would supersede state laws making it harder for citizens to vote — many of whom are people of color.

Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, wants a vote next week on the For the People Act, a sprawling voting rights bill that Pelosi shepherded through the House. It would create uniform voting laws for the states, including requiring them to allow ample early voting and mail balloting.

But even though Democrats control the Senate, they do not have 60 votes to get over a certain GOP filibuster. And Feinstein, like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, isn’t ready to ditch the filibuster, which allows a minority of members to block legislation.

“My focus is on getting things done and solving problems,” Feinstein said in an emailed statement Wednesday to The Chronicle. “I strongly support S. 1, the voting rights bill, but the votes simply aren’t there.”

“We have to find a path forward on voting rights,” Feinstein said. “We must respond to any new laws across the country that make it harder to register and harder to vote.”

While the legislation may not have the support of Senate Republicans, many of its key provisions have bipartisan backing nationally among likely voters, according to a Data for Progress poll in April.

Some California Democrats wish Feinstein would leverage her power as the senior senator from the nation’s most populous state to translate that popular support into votes on the Senate floor.

So far, she hasn’t. And voters are getting fed up. Feinstein’s support is its lowest ever, according to a May survey by the Berkeley IGS Poll. Just 35% of voters statewide approved of the job she’s doing; 46% disapproved. It is a long fall for a politician who was once the state’s most popular Democrat.

Irene Kao, executive director of the left-leaning grassroots group Courage California, said many of the group’s 500,000 members in the state have had it with Feinstein.

“This is just another example,” Kao said, “of how she’s out of touch with her constituents and not paying attention.”

The challenge for critics is that Feinstein isn’t up for re-election until 2024. So some, like David Campos, vice chair of the California Democratic Party, want her to step down.

“I personally think that she should consider resigning,” Campos told The Chronicle, emphasizing that he was not speaking on behalf of the state party. “I don’t see how anyone who makes that statement can represent the interests of this state in the U.S. Senate, as a California Democrat.”

“The fact that she’s unwilling to see what’s happening and to do anything about it tells me that she’s not in a position to really represent, not just me, but the interest of all Californians,” Campos said.

Few elected officials in California have dared to publicly criticize Feinstein. Many view her with respect for a pioneering career that began more than a half century ago when she joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She was the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor and, along with former Sen. Barbara Boxer, the first women to represent California in the U.S. Senate when they were both elected in 1992’s “Year of the Woman.”

But her latest comment was enough to push some elected Democrats to speak out.

“I’m sorry to say this because she is a Democratic Woman icon… But, enough. What world is she living in?” tweeted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

I’m sorry to say this because she is a Democratic Woman icon… But, enough. What world is she living in? https://t.co/Y2Pu4N6dFd— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) June 10, 2021

San Jose Assemblyman Ash Kalra was similarly aghast.

“This is a California Senator,” Kalra tweeted. “Unbelievable but, unfortunately, not surprising from Feinstein. Incredibly wealthy and unbelievably out of touch with the state of our democracy.”

This is a California Senator. Unbelievable but, unfortunately, not surprising from Feinstein. Incredibly wealthy and unbelievably out of touch with the state of our democracy. https://t.co/prjgnJDq0y— Ash Kalra (@Ash_Kalra) June 11, 2021

But no other California elected officials publicly addressed Feinstein’s remarks. That includes Vice President Kamala Harris, who on Wednesday was headlining an event in Washington as part of her new role as the White House’s point person on voting rights. Her office did not respond to a request to comment on Feinstein’s words.

The public silence among California elected officials was similar to what happened after what many considered Feinstein’s weak handling of the case against Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The end of the nomination hearings culminated with Feinstein giving a hug to then-Republican Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“That was the hug of death,” Yvette Simpson, CEO of the national progressive organization Democracy for America, told me on my “It’s All Political” podcast this week. “I lost a lot of love for her then.”

Said Simpson after Feinstein’s latest comment: “She needs to resign.”

That is unlikely at this point. But it won’t stop California grassroots organizations from continuing to turn up the heat. Left-leaning activist group Indivisible, which counts 500,000 Californians on its mailing list, is circulating a letter among its 300 organizations in the state asking Feinstein to take a stronger stand and urging its supporters to contact her office.

“We think that our senior senator needs to step up to the challenge of the day and recognize it now,” said Aram Fischer, a leader in the Indivisible community, “rather than wake up after the 2022 midterms when we’ve had elections overturned.”

Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer. Email: jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @joegarofoliIt’s All Political

Joe Garofoli is the San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer, covering national and state politics. He has worked at The Chronicle since 2000 and in Bay Area journalism since 1992, when he left the Milwaukee Journal. He is the host of “It’s All Political,” The Chronicle’s political podcast. Catch it here: bit.ly/2LSAUjA

He has won numerous awards and covered everything from fashion to the Jeffrey Dahmer serial killings to two Olympic Games to his own vasectomy – which he discussed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” after being told he couldn’t say the word “balls” on the air. He regularly appears on Bay Area radio and TV talking politics and is available to entertain at bar mitzvahs and First Communions. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and a proud native of Pittsburgh. Go Steelers!

HEARST newspapers logo

©2021 Hearst

Dandelion Chocolate workers protest layoffs during union battle

A rally outside of the company supported the workers.

As NLRB counts votes, nine union backers lose their jobs.

By GARRETT LEAHY JUNE 16, 2021 (48hills.org)

When Kenneth Cabrera was fired from Dandelion Chocolate on June 2, he was taken completely by surprise.

“I wasn’t prepared for it,” said Cabrera. “I felt like my name was dragged through the mud.”

Cabrera, who worked as a barista at the Valencia storefront for nearly two years, openly supported Dandelion workers’ campaign to unionize, and said that Dandelion Chocolate management has opposed unionization since workers went public with the effort in March. Cabrera and eight other workers laid off the following day were outspoken union supporters and members of the Dandelion bargaining committee. Cabrera said he believes that the fact that these nine layoffs of workers from the bargaining committee was an act of retaliation by the company against those openly supporting unionization.

“There are things that management would say about us, our movement, or specific individuals about the union,”said Cabrera. “In my case, the manager was vocal about his gripe with the union, he literally said that he was “pissed off” that they were unionizing,” said Cabrera.

In response to these layoffs, more than 50 Dandelion employees, union leaders, elected officials, and union supporters gathered outside Dandelion Chocolate’s storefront on 740 Valencia Street on Sunday to decry the layoffs and demand that the nine dismissed workers be re-hired immediately.

“There is a lot of talk in City Hall about economic recovery…let’s not measure economic recovery by whether the stock market goes up…let’s measure economic recovery by how many workers unionize, by what happens to workers wages,” said District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston.

The layoffs came amid a contested union election held by the NLRB on April 20, from which four votes are currently being litigated by the ILWU Local 6, the union that hopes to represent Dandelion’s workers, and Dandelion Chocolate management, with a decision projected to arrive in six to eight weeks. The outcome of that review will likely determine whether workers unionize or not, according to Agustin Ramirez, Northern California lead organizer for ILWU Local 6.

“It could come down to one or two votes,” said Ramirez.

These layoffs, Ramirez said, come after thinly veiled termination threats, presented frequently during “all hands” weekly company meetings going back as far as March, around the time when Dandelion workers went public with their plans to unionize.

According to Ramirez and Cabrera, Dandelion Chocolate founder and chief executive Todd Masonis has said that unionization would deter investors, damaging the business’ finances and forcing layoffs to remain solvent.

“When he laid them off, we felt that it was targeted. There’s no way that these nine workers were just people who had to be laid off. None of the nine layoffs were anyone who was not a union supporter,” said Ramirez.

Dandelion Chocolate founder and chief executive Todd Masonis said that protesters’ outrage regarding the nine layoffs misrepresents what really happened, saying that there were a total of 16 layoffs, and the fact that nine of them were union supporters on the bargaining committee was a coincidence.

Masonis also said that the 16 layoffs included managers and non-managers alike, and that layoffs were made based on where profits were low, and then, by seniority.

“I don’t know who is on the union organizing committee, so I can’t speak to that except to say that these actions affected managers and non-managers, both union supporters and non-union supporters. We reduced departments solely by profitability — and within those teams — by seniority,” said Masonis in an email interview.

Ramirez, however, said he is not convinced, and argued that the layoffs are intended to weaken the pro-union presence inside the bargaining unit, which is composed of 39 workers, but leaves the number of workers who do not support unionizing intact.

“Out of the bargaining unit, out of those 39, nine were let go, and all nine were union supporters. If he let six or seven others go, they were probably managers or other people who can’t vote anyway…I believe at the end of the day, the union would win the election by one or two votes, so if you let nine votes out of the 21 that were possibly going to be “yes” votes on the bargaining committee, and you leave the 19 or 20 that did not vote for the union in the election intact, where’s the majority now? The “no” votes are intact, and the union supporters are cut in half,” he said.

Masonis did not identify which 16 positions were dismissed.

Masonis also said that Cabrera’s termination was done for reasons separate from the other layoffs, but did not elaborate.

Cabrera said he disagrees.

“The situation itself, the context, that so many workers were laid off suddenly, I think my termination was part of the management’s reaction to chill the union movement,” said Cabrera.

Masonis said that the layoffs had to happen, with the alternative to layoffs being to go out of business, and that 40 percent of the company has experienced reductions in pay, hours, and layoffs.

Union supporters, however, expressed skepticism at Masonis’ proclaimed fears of financial ruin if workers unionize, pointing to the hiring of law firm Littler Mendelson P.C.–which is notorious for its hardball legal tactics against unions. That firm doesn’t come cheap.

Demonstrators promised to keep pressuring Dandelion Chocolate to rehire the nine dismissed workers, saying they will continue raising their voices until that demand is met.

“We’ll be back,” chanted protesters.

ABC7, SF reporter silent about alleged reporting inaccuracies in Chesa Boudin coverage

In this Jan. 30, 2020, photo, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin stands for a portrait outside his office in San Francisco. 
In this Jan. 30, 2020, photo, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin stands for a portrait outside his office in San Francisco. Eric Risberg/Associated Press

June 17, 2021 (SFGate.com)

It’s been three days since a Washington Post article alleged that KGO-TV (ABC7) anchor and reporter Dion Lim reported inaccurate information about San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s handling of a carjacking case in March 2021. And yet, both Lim and KGO-TV still haven’t said anything about the allegations, including whether they’ll be issuing a correction.

On Monday, the Washington Post published an opinion piece from writer Radley Balko, a supporter of progressive criminal justice policies, that accused Lim — who has been confrontational with Boudin in the past — of distorting facts in the case and pressuring sources to give on-the-record quotes. Lim reported in May that charges were dropped against a 16-year-old suspect — which Lim deemed a “bombshell development” — but Balko wrote that the victim’s family was informed by Boudin’s office that Lim’s story was completely inaccurate. (Because the case involves a juvenile suspect, state law prohibits Boudin’s office from discussing charges with members of the general public.)

According to Balko, the juvenile suspect is still facing charges and had a court date last week. A full three days later, Lim’s story on KGO’s website has not been updated in any way (the headline reads, “EXCLUSIVE: Charges dropped for suspect in assault, attempted carjacking of older SF woman”), and Lim has not responded to requests for comment from both the Washington Post and, most recently, SFGATE.

Additionally, neither KGO nor its owner The Walt Disney Company have responded to multiple requests for comment from SFGATE asking whether the TV station stands by its reporting, which is attributed to unnamed sources. 

The victim of the carjacking said that Lim “was sharply critical of Boudin’s office” in text messages and “persisted until [the victim] reluctantly provided a quote criticizing the district attorney,” Balko wrote. The man who broke up the carjacking said Lim pressured him into saying something critical about Boudin, the opinion piece says. “The reporter called me out of the blue and then kept pushing me to say something,” he said, adding, “Honestly, I felt a little violated.”

Balko’s article, titled “The bogus backlash against progressive prosecutors,” is unmistakably an opinion piece in defense of Boudin and progressive policies. However, Balko draws from fact-based reporting about Lim’s coverage on the carjacking case, and his piece has since drawn outrage from activists and media members.

Boudin has taken sharp criticism for a rise in San Francisco crime in 2020, though Balko argues that because crime rose everywhere across the nation because of the pandemic, Boudin’s policies — which include ending cash bail, compassionate release during the pandemic and refusing to seek sentencing enhancements — are not primarily to blame for the crime wave.

You can read Balko’s full Washington Post piece here.

Eric Ting is the editor of California Issues, SFGATE’s politics section. He is an East Bay native who has a Master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University. Eric did his undergrad at Pomona College, where he majored in politics and minored in economics. Email: eric.ting@sfgate.com

June 17, 2021 6:00pm Update re Seattle #BLOCKTHEBOAT

From Adrienne Fong

6:00pm, Lara from AROC just posted this on facebook…· 

I don’t tweet so those of U that do can follow what’s going on.

Follow #BlockTheBoat and @AROCBayArea on Twitter and show some love for Falastiniyat and the Seattle community picket rising up against apartheid-Israel.

Cops have called for 3 dispersal orders and communities are holding it down as workers stand by. No worker has crossed the picket. All this while Israeli consulate and elected officials pressure the port to work the ship, despite requests for it to leave by port officials.

Update 6/17 on ZIM ship in Seattle – Mobilization TODAY! (from Adrienne Fong)

AROC posted this about an hour ago on their facebook site.
Ship in Seattle is ZIM SAN DIEGO. Please share with your Seattle friends.
From: AROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center

#BlockTheBoat Seattle Update:

ZIM Refuses to leave despite Seattleites saying NO! BTB Seattle needs everyone at Bridge Gear Park at 3:30pm today (6/17) to tell the State of Israel and Seattle’s Mayor Durkan that Israeli war profiteer ZIM is not welcome and #BlockTheBoat will not cave to their pressure.

Subscribe to BTB Seattle text alerts by texting (833)584-1948.

Follow @falistiniyat on IG for more info and check out their website:



When MLK Visited San Francisco

UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

By Hayeswire – Published on January 21, 2013 (hoodline.com)

For your Martin Luther King Jr. Day, take a look back at a time when the young civil rights leader visited our neck of the woods.

You’ve no doubt heard of Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist in Montgomery, Alabama who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. She was arrested on December 1st, 1955, and four days later was convicted of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance.

On the day of her trial, December 5th, a one-day boycott of the local bus system was arranged in protest. The boycott was so successful that organizers decided to form a group, the Montgomery Improvement Association, to continue the boycott until changes were made to the bus system. They elected as their president a local reverend named Martin Luther King Jr.

Six months later, while the boycott was still underway, the NAACP held its annual national convention in San Francisco, at the Civic Auditorium (now called the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium), at Grove and Larkin. More than a thousand delegates from 35 states attended. Rosa Parks was a featured guest, and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then Chief Counsel for the NAACP, gave the keynote address. Martin Luther King Jr. was also invited to speak.

NAACP Convention at Civic Auditorium, 1956 / UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
On June 27th, 1956, King addressed the convention. In his speech, he discussed the Montgomery bus boycott, but within the context of the larger history of African Americans in America. Here are some excerpts from King’s speech that day.

“It was suggested to me that I talk this evening about the Montgomery story… It is the story, a dramatic story, of a handsome little city that for years has been known as the cradle of the Confederacy. It is the story of a little town grappling with a new and creative approach to the crisis in race relations. It is impossible, however, to tell the Montgomery story without understanding the larger story of the radical change in the Negro’s evaluation of himself. A brief survey of the history of the Negro in America reveals this change in terms that are crystal clear.

“It was in the year of 1619 that the Negro slaves first landed on the shores of this nation. They were brought here from the soils of Africa, and unlike the Pilgrim fathers who landed at Plymouth a year later, they were brought here against their wills…

Throughout slavery the Negro slave was treated in a very inhuman fashion. They were things to be used, not persons to be respected. They were merely de- personalized cogs in a vast plantation machine…”

With the rise of slavery, it became necessary to justify it. It seems to be a fact of life that human nature cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some rationalization with which an obvious evil is covered up in the garments of righteousness… This is what happened to the slave owners. They fell victim to the danger that forever confronts religion and a too literalistic interpretation of the Bible. There is always the danger that religion and the Bible not properly interpreted can be used as instruments to crystallize the status quo. This is exactly what happened. So from pulpits all over the nation it was argued that the Negro was inferior by nature… Then there was one person who had probably read something of the logic of Aristotle and he could put his argument in a framework that was somewhat similar to an Aristotelian syllogism. He could say all men are made in the image of God… God, as we know, is not a Negro; then the conclusion: therefore, the Negro is not a man. That was the type of reasoning that prevailed.

In time the Negro lost faith in himself and then he came to fear that perhaps they were less than human. The tragedy of physical slavery was that it finally led to the paralysis of mental slavery. So long as the Negro accepted this place, this place assigned to him, a sort of peace, a racial peace was maintained. But it was an uneasy peace in which the Negro was forced patiently to accept injustice, in- sult and exploitation.

“But then something happened to the Negro. Negro masses all over began to reevaluate themselves. The Negro came to feel that he was somebody. His religion revealed to him that God loves all of his children, and that every man, from a bass black to a treble white, is significant on God’s keyboard.

With this new self-respect, this new sense of dignity on the part of the Negro, the South’s negative peace was gradually undermined. The tension which we witness in the southland today can be explained by the revolutionary change in the Negro’s evaluation of his nature and destiny, by his determination to stand up and struggle until the walls of injustice have crumbled…

That is at bottom the meaning of what is happening in Montgomery. You can never understand the Montgomery story without understanding that there is a brand new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny…

“Now I might say that in the beginning we were not out to compromise or to sanction segregation. Some people have wondered why we didn’t ask for integra- tion in the beginning. We realized that the first-come,first-serveseating arrange- ment was only a temporary alleviation of the problem. We felt that the ultimate solution to the problem would be integration on the buses, but we knew that we had a case that would come up in court on that so that we were willing to accept this as a temporary alleviation of the problem, knowing full well that the ultimate solution was total integration…

The history of injustices on the buses has been a long one. Almost everybody in the community, almost every Negro citizen of the community, can point to an unfortunate incident that he had experienced or that he had seen. But you know there comes a time in this life that people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of exploitation where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. The story of Montgomery is the story of fifty thousand Negroes who are tired of oppression and injustice and who are willing to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk and walk and walk until the sagging walls of injustice have been crushed by the battering rams of historical necessity…

“From the beginning there has been a basic philosophy undergirding our movement. It is a philosophy of nonviolent resistance. It is a philosophy which simply says we will refuse on a nonviolent basis, to cooperate with the evil of segregation. In our struggle in America we cannot fret with the idea of retaliatory violence. To use the method of violence would be both impractical and immoral. We have neither the instruments nor the techniques of violence, and even if we had it, it would be morally wrong…

“Along with this emphasis on nonviolence goes the emphasis on love as the regulating ideal. We have refused in our struggle to succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter and indulging in a hate campaign. We are not out to defeat or to humiliate the white man. We are out to help him as well as ourselves. The festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro, and so we are not out to win a victory over the white man. And I assure you that the basic struggle in Montgomery after all is not between Negroes and white people. The struggle is at bottom a tension between justice and injustice…

“This in brief is just an introduction to a story that would take many, many speeches to tell, and even many books. It is the expression of a method. It might well be added to the several methods that we must use to achieve integration in America…

“I have no doubt that by 1963 we will have won the legal battle. On May the seventeenth, 1954, the Supreme Court of this nation gave the legal death blow to segregation. Then after the legal battle is won, we must confront the problem of lifting the noble precepts of our Constitution from the dusty files of unimplemented court decisions. This problem of implementation will be carried out mainly by the Negro’s refusal to cooperate with segregation.

“Wherever segregation exists we must be willing to stand up in mass and courageously and non-violently protest against it. And I might say that I must admit that this means sacrifice and suffering. Yes, it might even mean going to jail. But if it means going to jail, we must be willing to fill up the jail houses of the South. Yes, it might even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free our children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more honorable.”

The crowd in San Francisco cheered King’s speech, but his message of passive resistance was controversial. Some NAACP leaders like Marshall were wary of endorsing the tactic of willfully breaking the law. But many delegates, including a young Medgar Evers, were so persuaded by King’s speech that they pressured the NAACP to consider officially endorsing the strategy.

The organization agreed to have its NAACP Legal Defense Fund assume legal responsibility for the boycott. This support helped the boycott continue for six more months, until it ultimately proved successful.

In December of that year, a court ruling paved the way for the declaration of segregation as unconstitutional. So today, when you hear people talking about King, you can tell them about that crucial moment during the Civil Rights movement when he spoke at Civic Center, just a few blocks away from where we are today.

Saudi Arabia executes man for crimes committed as a minor in ‘flawed trial’

Issued on: 16/06/2021 – 01:38 (france24.com)

Photo of Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish taken from Reprieve website. www.reprieve.org
Photo of Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish taken from Reprieve website. www.reprieve.org © Photo from www.reprieve.org


Saudi Arabia executed a man from the minority Shiite community on Tuesday who was convicted on charges related to an anti-government protest when he was a teenager, in what campaigners called a “deeply flawed” trial.

Mustafa al-Darwish was executed in the eastern city of Dammam for launching an “armed revolt” against Saudi Arabia‘s ruler and “destabilising security” in the kingdom, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Darwish was arrested in May 2015 over his alleged participation in protests during the Arab Spring uprisings between 2011 and 2012, said campaign groups including Amnesty International, which added that he was 17 or 18 at the time.

“By carrying out this execution the Saudi Arabian authorities have displayed a deplorable disregard for the right to life,” Amnesty said in a statement.

“He is the latest victim of Saudi Arabia’s deeply flawed justice system which regularly sees people sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on confessions extracted through torture.”

Britain-based campaign group Reprieve said authorities had not informed Darwish’s family about his execution and they found out “by reading the news online”.


There Will Be Another March on Polk Street on Pride Sunday (June 27)

16 JUNE 2021/SF NEWS/JAY BARMANN (SFist.com)

Returning to the protest origins of Pride, and for the second year in a row without an official (and heavily corporate-sponsored) SF Pride parade, there will be a People’s March and Rally down Polk Street and in Civic Center on Pride Sunday.

The People’s March was the main event of last year’s pandemic Pride weekend, when all other events went virtual. Masked activists and community members, led by Juanita MORE!, marched in protest of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police and other injustices on the original Gay Liberation Day parade route of Polk Street.

This year there will be fewer masks, and newly crowned Empress Juanita MORE! will be hosting her annual Pride bash in the Tenderloin a few hours later. But the People’s March and Rally is on once again, and it will kick off at 11 a.m. on June 27 at Sacramento and Polk.

There will be a rally at Civic Center with speakers — in place of the usual Civic Center Pride festivities — and then attendees will “march from Civic Center on Market to Castro Street for a Pride dance party,” according to a news release received by the Bay Area Reporter.

Alex U. Inn, a co-leader of the event, tells the paper that there will be DJs spinning in the Castro, likely the same ones who typically perform at the Soul of Pride stage in Civic Center.

“It needs to happen again,” MORE tells the BAR. “A lot of the feedback we got last year is that it felt like the reason Pride happened in the first place.”

The event’s theme this year is “Unite to Fight,” and the release says that marchers will “stand in protest of transgender and racial injustice, police violence and killings, unjust healthcare, the fight for gun control, reparations to Black People, and the right for people of color to have the right to vote without laws of intimidations.”

“We will roar our voices in solidarity with our Black, Brown, and Indigenous trans and queer family, friends, lovers, and neighbors,” the release continues. “We will show up in droves with amplified voices to advocate for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, denounce and condemn police violence against our communities, and raise awareness for the need to defund police departments, which will allow for funds to be reallocated to social services, mental healthcare providers, and social justice organizations.”

Top image: Alex U. Inn, Juanita MORE!, and Honey Mahogany leading last year’s People’s March. Photo: Juanita MORE/Instagram