we’ve got to stop this, or else brexit and johnson’s election will look like amateur stuff soon

UK government wants your credit details and more, with some help from Cummings’s pals
Tom Coburg, The Canary, Jun 4 2020

The artificial intelligence (AI) firm employed by Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave project is now working directly with the government on a highly sensitive data-matching project. The Canary has obtained a partly redacted version of the project’s contract, and the details are scary. In short, according to the contract, the government will be able to match someone’s credit details with their social media accounts and their utilities payments. All, apparently, to assist in coronavirus (COVID-19) intelligence gathering. The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) offered the contract, and project costs are given as £400k. The project, ‘Data scientists for MHCLG COVID-19 response,’ has a start date of Apr 16 2020 and a completion date of Jul 2020. But it was not until May 27, six weeks after the start date, that the government listed a summary of the contract. The contract was awarded to Faculty Science Ltd. It’s understood that it was awarded without other companies being granted the opportunity to bid. The contract describes the project as “Provision of data scientist capability to develop and support data sources and analysis to support MHCLG response to COVID-19.” The stated aim is to organise data-matching technologies and provide specialist support. Specifically, the remit (redacted) is described as:

  1. Identification, exploration and setup of alternative data sources (e.g. social media, utility providers and telecom bills, credit rating agencies, etc.) as well as data provided by MHCLG for monitoring and forecasting;
  2. Application of data science and machine learning across data provided by MHCLG and alternative data sources;
  3. Development of interactive dashboards which summarise the above activities into an easily consumable interface to inform policy makers

The contract also states how Faculty would support the MHCLG with data scientists and other specialists, “with an estimated project duration of 3-6 months.” However, the contract states elsewhere that:

This Call-Off Contract will expire on the Expiry Date in the Order Form. It will be for up to 24 months from the Start Date unless Ended earlier.

Moreover, the contract adds that supplier staff will “work with the Buyer on any ongoing work.” There appears to be nothing in the contract that specifically refers to anonymisation of data. The contract also makes it clear that Faculty staff working on the project are subject to security vetting. Faculty was formerly known as Advanced Skills Initiative (ASI). In its earlier form, it worked on the Vote Leave project, whose director was Dominic Cummings, now chief political adviser to PM Boris Johnson. A search of the Electoral Commission database reveals that five invoices for five sets of work for Vote Leave, including ‘advertising’, were provided by ASI to Vote Leave. According to the Guardian:

Faculty is run by Marc Warner, whose brother Ben Warner, a data scientist, was reportedly recruited to Downing Street last year by Cummings after running the data modelling for the Conservative party’s general election campaign. Ben Warner is a former senior employee at Faculty and is also said to have worked on Vote Leave.

Neither Ben Warner nor Downing Street special adviser and Vote Leave mastermind Cummings are medical scientists. Yet both attended meetings by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), set up to provide the government with advice on the coronavirus crisis. Marc Warner admitted via an article in the Sunday Times that he too attended Sage meetings:

In short, Marc and Ben Warner attended SAGE meetings, were directly involved in the campaign that helped Johnson come to power, and Ben is now working for Downing Street. Altogether, Faculty has been awarded seven other government contracts over the last year and a half. This includes, alongside controversial multi-billion-dollar firm Palantir, the coronavirus datasets projects. Serious questions should be asked about the suitability of companies that appeared to work on dubious advertising campaigns or were contracted to intelligence organisations, such as GCHQ, to now work on government data-matching projects.


Pindo conspiracy-mongers, QAnon accounts spread ‘infodemic’ tweets against China, research finds
Hu Yuwei, Li Qiao, Global Times, Jun 5 2020

Photo: Screenshot of Twitter

A new research has revealed that twitter accounts of Trump supporters and infamous Pindo conspiracy-mongers endorsing the QAnon movement are at the center of a coordinated astroturfing campaign to spread rumors about the coronavirus, particularly the conspiracy theory saying “China created the virus as a bioweapon,” an unverified accusation repeatedly embraced by the POTUS and his administration, leading many to suspect the political purposes behind the coordinated retweeting campaign in promoting the interests of far-right Pindo politicians. A recent report released by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology found that the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought about an “infodemic,” a term the WHO defines as spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus, after the research team analyzed 2.6m tweets and 25.5m retweets that used coronavirus-related hashtags on Twitter over 10 days from late Mar 2020. The coordinated efforts to promote the “Chinese bioweapon” conspiracy theory focused on 882 original tweets, which were retweeted 18,498 times and liked 31,783 times, creating an estimated 5m reaches on Twitter users. Similar research in January suggested there is a highly sustained and coordinated effort to promote this theory by pro-Trump and QAnon accounts, though highly suspected to be bot-like accounts, according to the research. Many of these conspiracy theories also frequently oppose the rise of China as a global power, 5G mobile network construction and vaccine development efforts funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Many of them can be marked as anti-Chinese accounts with posts criticizing the Chinese Communist Party or posting other racist and hate speech content. Analysts suggest that the goal of those rumor-mongers is to sow confusion, further exacerbate political divisions both within and between countries, and erode the public’s trust in democratic and scientific institutions.

Dr Timothy Graham, one of the authors of the recently released report co-written with Graham’s colleagues Professor Axel Bruns and Guangnan Zhu from Queensland University of Technology, told the Global Times on Thursday that he was impressed by the overwhelming evidence for loosely (and in some cases strongly) coordinated amplification of the “China bioweapon” conspiracy theory from self-identified right-wing accounts on Twitter. Of the 30 most important clusters of co-retweet activity, 28 of those were either pro-Trump or QAnon accounts. QAnon is one of the most dangerous Pindo-made conspiracy theories starting in 2017 that concocted medical disinformation and downplayed scientific logic and the overall severity of COVID-19. QAnon conspiracy theorists believe there is a secret plot by an alleged “deep state” against Trump and his supporters. They believe the political elites of the “deep state” are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they regard as the only hope to wipe out the deep state. They seem to like to fight against any entities that oppose Trump, including China in this case. For QAnon, this conspiracy theory aligns with their broader narrative that the coronavirus was planned by the so-called “deep state,” as a new tool to damage Trump’s presidency and upcoming election campaign. This falsely positions the virus as both engineered and weaponized. The author of the report said:

It is possible that QAnon members rallied together to coordinate the spread of the China bioweapon conspiracy on Twitter.

This paints a fairly clear picture of this kind of false information being politicized and weaponized at least in Pindostan, analysts suggested. Those conspiracy theorists aim to mislead public perceptions of other countries, or even nurture a hatred sentiment against China, as many in Pindostan have a very vague understanding of China, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Thursday. Widespread conspiracy theories and rumors across Western social media reflect how anti-intellectualism prevails among the Pindo public, said Li. It is very likely that there are anti-China forces behind those social media accounts with political purposes to weaken and smear China to serve far-right politicians for their political and economic interests, Li added. However, Graham stressed that these may not necessarily be true Trump supporters, and in some cases may not even be human as the research team saw a small amount of “bot-like” activity, which we define as accounts that co-retweet the same tweets repeatedly within one second of each other. But mostly it was troll-like accounts, or hyper-partisan Trump supporters, QAnon conspirators and broadly conservative accounts. Graham told the Global Times:

These accounts explicitly support Trump, but they could well be disinformation campaigners or lone trolls who are exploiting political identities for other reasons.

The 2016 Pindo presidential election saw how foreign interference campaigns successfully created “pro-Trump” troll accounts, making observers suspect that it’s entirely possible that some of these accounts are not in fact real Trump supporters, but instead bots or trolls with malicious motives. Widespread narratives that are related to conspiracy theories over COVID-19 released by ostensibly pro-Trump and pro-QAnon accounts exist partly due to the idea that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been publicly amplified by Thug politicians, observers concluded. Sec State Pompeo has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims that the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab though it has been widely rejected by the WHO and global scientists. Likewise, on Jan 27, Thug Congressman Jim Banks tweeted specifically about the “China bioweapon” conspiracy theory by citing an Israeli biological warfare expert, showing support for it. The researcher, Graham, told the Global Times that he believes that this amplification and support (indirect and direct) by elected officials provides a major explanatory factor for why this kind of idea spreads from the fringes into the mainstream. He said:

It’s not a big leap to go from the idea that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, to further arguing that it was a bioweapon, and perhaps even that it was released on purpose. None of them is substantiated. Once the MSM pick up on these false narratives espoused by elected officials, it’s too late. They spread like wildfire and the damage cannot be reversed. I believe social media platforms need to work harder to detect and remove coordinated mis- and disinformation. In many ways, this particular conspiracy theory has been very damaging for foreign relations between China and other countries> This is a terrible loss, as we all have shared goals and can benefit so much from good will, exchanges of culture and trade opportunities.

Downing Street Shoots Down Ex-MI6 Chief’s ‘Fanciful Claims’ COVID-19 Escaped From Chinese Lab
Sputnik News, Jun 5 2020

A Prime Minister’s Office spox has dismissed as “fanciful” earlier claims by former head of MI6 ‘Sir’ Richard Dearlove that the coronavirus was man-made at a Chinese lab before accidentally escaping it due to biosecurity flaws and setting off a global pandemic, reports The Sun. The PMO spox slammed Dearlove’s Richard’s comments, saying:

We’ve seen no evidence the virus is man-made. These are fanciful claims. World leading scientists in the UK, Pindostan and the WHO have said numerous times that the virus was natural in its origin and likely moved into the human population through natural transfer from animals, not through a specific accident or man-made incident.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock echoed the statements regarding Dearlove’s claims, saying there was “no evidence” to support the theory that the COVID-19 virus originated at a laboratory. Sir Richard Dearlove, who led MI6 from 1999 to 2004, claimed during The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast that a peer-reviewed scientific report published by a Norwegian-British research team suggested the COVID-19 pandemic had been sparked by the novel respiratory virus “escaping” from a laboratory in China. Dearlove cited the research as saying clues had been discovered in the genetic sequence of the virus that seemed to suggest its key elements were man-made. Dearlove told The Telegraph’s podcast:

I do think that this started as an accident … It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations? I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.

He added the “important” report could force China to pay “reparations” to the rest of the world for the deaths and economic woes triggered by the pandemic. According to the research cited by Dearlove, secret gene-splicing experiments on bat coronaviruses had been underway when COVID-19 somehow escaped from the lab. He said:

It’s a risky business if you make a mistake.

According to the authors of the report, alluded to by Dearlove, the virus was suggested as having “unique fingerprints” that cannot have evolved naturally. The Telegraph said the study, which had not yet been accepted for publication in any scientific journal, had been rewritten several times, with an earlier version supposedly claiming COVID-19 could be dubbed the “Wuhan virus” and having cited proof “beyond all reasonable doubt that the COVID-19 virus is engineered.” As Beijing has been facing pressure to reveal the details of how the coronavirus first began to spread late last year in the city of Wuhan, the lab theory has been amplified by claims China lacked transparency on the issue of the pandemic’s origins. Trump earlier labelled COVID-19 a “Chinese virus”, while Pompeo insisted there was “enormous evidence” that the virus was man-made. The official theory ascribed to by international scientists and supported by British security agencies is that the respiratory virus emerged in animals, such as bats or pangolins, before jumping to the human population in a Wuhan wet market. The Chinese government has vehemently rejected all speculations regarding the origins of the coronavirus, insisting the outbreak started at a “wet market” in the city of Wuhan late last year. The WHO said on Apr 21 that all available evidence pointed to the coronavirus originating in animals in China late last year and was not man-made in a laboratory.


Mass reopenings worldwide have accelerated the coronavirus pandemic
Bryan Dyne, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

MSF COVID workers at a squatters camp in Sao Bernardo do Campo, greater
Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Wednesday Jun 3 2020. (Photo: Andre Penner/AP)

The mass economic re-openings in the Americas, Europe and Asia that began in May have paved the way for a massive spread of the coronavirus pandemic internationally. According to data aggregated by Worldometer, the average number of new cases has been more than 115k since May 27, a number which has been steadily rising since May 12. The accelerating spread is also reflected in the number of new deaths each day. Starting in April, the number of new deaths had begun to decrease, a result of the physical distancing taken up by hundreds of millions of workers, toilers and youth around the world. The rate of new deaths, however, has now stabilized at an average of 3,770, as those people have been steadily forced back to work, and it is poised to climb in the wake of the hundreds of thousands of new infections. As of this writing, there have been nearly 6.7m officially confirmed cases and more than 390k deaths caused by COVID-19 worldwide. A plurality of cases are in Pindostan and Brazil, which have totals of 1.9m and 610k cases respectively, along with 110k and 33k deaths.

The governments of both countries have also whipped workers back into factories and plants under threat of economic destitution if they don’t return. In Brazil, meatpacking plants were opened on May 20, while auto production started resuming the previous week. Hundreds of workers in these facilities have already become infected, spreading it to their homes and their communities. Despite this, Pres Bolsonaro is storming ahead with the full reopening of the country, overseen by local mayors and regional governors. Factories in Pindostan began opening even earlier. Some states, including Oklahoma, North Dakota and Nebraska, never had stay-at-home orders, while states such as Georgia began reopening the last week of April. Certain industries, such as auto, waited until the second or third week in May to fully resume manufacturing their products, but these were only ever shut down in the first place as a result of wildcat strikes that erupted in early April, after reports emerged of infections spreading in the auto plants. The spread is in every state. While states such as New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Connecticut report a 14-day decrease in the number of new daily cases, nearly half of states have an increase in new cases, particularly in areas where the pandemic did not initially widely infect. Florida, for example, yesterday saw its highest new case count yet, bringing its total cases above 60k. The state’s death toll stands at more than 2.6k.

Mexico has also emerged as a new hotspot for outbreaks of the pandemic. It is now on par with Pindostan and Brazil for the number of new deaths each day, and is the fourteenth country to exceed 100k cases and the seventh to breach 10k deaths. Hundreds of these were caused by the premature reopening of the country’s maquiladora sweatshops, which are used by Pindo auto and other manufacturing companies to produce cheap parts. Similarly in India, large sections of industry were ordered to resume production in mid-May, particularly parts and car companies. Even then, the number of cases in the country were still increasing, largely a result of the haphazard lockdown implemented by the Modi government in April that trapped millions of migrant workers in the already crowded and unsanitary slums of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and other cities. The Modi government’s actions have caused India’s official case and death counts to soar. They currently stand at 226k and 6,309 respectively, and are increasing exponentially. The outbreaks in these countries and many others underscore the warnings that have been repeatedly issued by the World Health Organization against reopening without having a system of mass testing, contact tracing and isolation in place to fight the coronavirus. Hans Kluge, the European director for the WHO, recently noted:

The second wave is not inevitable. But an increasing number of nations are lifting restrictions, and there is a definite threat of a repeat outbreak of the COVID-19 infection. If those outbreaks are not isolated, a second wave may come and it may be very destructive.

Even this statement is behind the times. The first wave of the pandemic, in global terms, never actually abated, and is now cutting a bloody swathe through some of the poorest regions of the world. South Asia, as well as Africa, have not only been devastated by the coronavirus, but also from powerful typhoons and massive locust swarms. Kluge also noted:

We still have neither a vaccine nor a cure for COVID-19.

Similar statements were issued on Wednesday by Anthony Fauci, the director the NIAID in Pindostan. He warned that, while it is possible that there will be a vaccine available sometime next year, there is no evidence that any immunity will last. Fauci said during an interview with Journal of the Pindo Medical Association Editor Howard Bauchner:

When you look at the history of coronaviruses, the common coronaviruses that cause the common cold, the reports in the literature are that the durability of immunity that’s protective ranges from three to six months to almost always less than a year. That’s not a lot of durability and protection.

The re-openings are also occurring alongside the mass protests in Pindostan and internationally against the police murder of George Floyd and the dictatorial actions taken by Pres Trump. While many protesters are wearing masks in an attempt to protect themselves from the disease, the large crowds, chanting and holding hands are ideal for the contagion to rapidly spread. George Floyd himself was infected when he was killed, his autopsy showed. The protests are also becoming an excuse for areas to close testing sites in California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Testing for the disease is a crucial step in containing outbreaks and is the only way to objectively know how far the pandemic has spread. Less testing also artificially deflates the case counts, which can in turn be utilized to justify further re-openings. In a story virtually ignored by the national media, the worker who developed Florida’s coronavirus database was fired last month for refusing to manipulate the data in order make it seem as though the state had reached the threshold to safely reopen. As testing becomes less common, it becomes easier for false data to be presented as legitimate.

Swedish health officials admit “herd immunity” policy led to “too many” deaths
Jordan Shilton, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

Anders Tegnell, who as state epidemiologist is responsible for Sweden’s coronavirus policy, has been forced to acknowledge that the effective pursuit of a “herd immunity” strategy by opposing lockdown measures has produced a catastrophic level of death. His remarks are not merely an expression of the mounting crisis for the Swedish political establishment, but a damning indictment of all the bourgeois media outlets and politicians internationally who held up the “Swedish model” to enforce a reckless back-to-work campaign that threatens the lives of millions around the world. Tegnell commented:

There is quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done.

Asked whether the strategy of the Swedish authorities of allowing most schools, restaurants, bars and businesses to remain open, and refusing to impose strict contact restrictions had produced too many deaths, he answered:

Yes. Absolutely.

As of yesterday, Sweden recorded over 40k infections and 4,562 deaths in a country of just 10m people. On a seven-day rolling average, Sweden recorded the highest death rate in the world for the seven-day period ending on Jun 2. This was the second time over the past month that Sweden led the global death rate over a seven-day period. The deaths have overwhelmingly affected the elderly living in under-resourced and poorly-staffed care homes, who were effectively denied intensive care treatment in hospitals in many areas. Immigrant and other low-income communities where residents could not social distance have also suffered badly. Compared to its Nordic neighbors, all of whom implemented tougher lockdowns, Sweden has lost 10 times more citizens per head of population than Norway, 7 times more than Finland, and 4½ times more than Denmark. Sweden’s policy has been lauded internationally by mouthpieces for the financial elite and big business, who were determined to force working people back to their jobs as soon as multi-billion-dollar bailouts for the financial oligarchy were completed. Under the headline “Is Sweden doing it right?”, Thomas Friedman demanded in a column in the NYT in late April:

Sweden has essentially opted for a strategy of “herd immunity” through exposure. This strategy posits that most people under age 65 who get the coronavirus will either experience it as a typical or tough flu, or completely asymptomatically, and the number who will get so sick that they require hospitalization or emergency care will reliably be less than the number of beds needed to care for them. So, if you do your best to shelter and sequester all of those over 65, and let much of the rest of the population circulate and get exposed and become naturally immune, once about 60% of your population has gone through this you’ll have herd immunity and the viral transmission will be blocked. After all, herd immunity is our goal.

In early May, Der Spiegel news magazine granted a lengthy interview to Johann Carlson, general director of Sweden’s Public Health Agency, to claim that “closing schools is excessive.” The following weeks saw an editorial in Britain’s Financial Times, “Sweden chooses a third way on coronavirus,” and an article in the CFR policy journal ForeignAffairs.com, “Sweden’s coronavirus strategy will soon be the world’s.” The latter piece was produced by researchers who had no expertise in infectious diseases or medicine, funded by the Swedish Confederation of Employers. As the scale of the death produced by such criminal policies begins to become clear, all of these authors and publications should be held to account. Their propaganda helped facilitate the adoption of the premature lifting of lockdown measures throughout Europe and North America, the reopening of schools, and the sending of workers back to unsafe workplaces. In effect, they helped implement policies that follow in the footsteps of Sweden’s disastrous COVID-19 strategy. Neighboring governments have been forced to acknowledge the reality that Sweden remains a high-risk area for infections. While Norway, Denmark and Finland agreed to open their borders for travel between each country, they excluded Sweden from the arrangement. Cyprus has barred Swedish tourists even as it recklessly opens its borders to travelers from across Europe.

The mounting public criticism has forced the government to adopt some face-saving measures. Yesterday, Health Minister Lena Hallengren announced that the government would pay for everyone with symptoms to be tested for coronavirus at a cost of 5b kronor (around €560m). Sweden has consistently maintained one of the lowest rates of testing in Europe due to an extremely restrictive testing policy. The government’s goal of processing 100k tests a week by the end of May never came close to being reached. The lack of testing played an important role in the crisis in elderly care facilities. Staff found it almost impossible to get tested, allowing the virus to spread undetected. However, the main problem for care workers is precarious employment. Many workers are paid by the hour by private job agencies. Pay is so low and jobs so insecure that care workers simply could not afford to stay home even when they had symptoms. A random check of 57 care workers at a Gothenburg care home on one day found that 40% had symptoms, including coughing, fevers and sore throats. Four tested positive for COVID-19. This state of affairs is the product of years of savage austerity. An investigation by the trade union-aligned Arena Ide think tank found that 96% of Sweden’s municipalities plan to cut spending on care for the elderly during 2020. Hallengren, who still insists she “would not have wanted a lockdown” knowing what she knows now, sought to blame the entire population for these conditions in a recent interview, telling The Local:

Nobody can say anything other than that it is a society-wide failure that the infection entered the homes of the elderly and that we had in fact not equipped elderly care to cope with this situation.

This is a lie. The privatization of elderly care and the health-care sector more generally is the product of decades of right-wing neolib policies implemented by the political establishment, including governments led by Social Democrats and conservatives alike. Sweden became a center for state-funded free schools and hospitals operated by private conglomerates. John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldrridge, former editors of the Economist magazine, wrote in a 2014 book:

The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows. The local think tanks are overflowing with fresh ideas about welfare entrepreneurs and lean management. Sweden has done most of the things that politicians know they ought to do but seldom have the courage to attempt.

These hard-right prescriptions proved deadly wen the pandemic hit. Sweden’s “lean” hospital system, which has among the lowest rates of beds per head of population in Europe, was not able to deal with the surge of COVID-19 patients. Health-care was severely rationed, with many elderly care home residents not even brought to the hospital. A study by Germany’s public broadcaster NDR found that less than 1% of people aged 80 and over infected by COVID-19 received intensive care treatment in Sweden, compared to 12% in Germany. The rapidly mounting death toll and the continued spread of the pandemic threatens to destabilize Sweden’s political establishment. The Social Democrat/Green government has been forced to concede to the demands of the conservative Moderate Party and far-right Sweden Democrats for a commission of inquiry prior to the summer break. PM Stefan Löfven initially wanted to delay the inquiry until after the pandemic. More fundamentally, public trust in the government is collapsing. While a poll conducted in April found that 63% of Swedes either had fairly high or very high faith in the government’s approach to the pandemic, the latest edition of the Novus poll released yesterday saw the figure collapse to 45%. It is no mere coincidence that thousands of people in major Swedish cities including Stockholm and Malmö participated this week in mass protests against the brutal police killing of George Floyd and police violence in general. Participants who spoke to the media stressed that domestic issues with police racism and the targeting of impoverished immigrant communities were also motivating factors. Around 2.9k demonstrated in Malmö yesterday. Thousands more took to the streets in Stockholm on Wednesday, where police confronted a group of protesters with pepper spray.

Pindo colleges prepare full opening of campuses in the name of football
Andy Thompson, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

Pindo colleges and universities have begun announcing plans for how they will reopen campuses for the fall 2020 semester amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many schools indicating that they will operate on a modified schedule or implement more online learning options for the fall. However, many prominent schools including the University of Louisville, Syracuse University, the University of Texas at Austin and Ohio State University, among others, have unveiled plans to reopen with in-person classes and other school activities for the fall semester. The schools that are particularly committed to having full or partial reopening of campus activity all have one thing in common: large multimillion-dollar football or basketball programs, with playing seasons that start in the fall. Over the past several decades, college sports has become a multibillion-dollar industry and has made athletics the center of revenue and funding plans in most major US universities. In early May, the National College Athletics Association (NCAA) released a statement outlining their plan for resuming college sports titled “Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport.” The principles include a number of conditions that must be met in order for sports to begin: COVID-19 testing for the athletes, adherence to federal guidelines, and a three-phase plan where social distancing measures are gradually lifted over time. These “principles” differ little from the phony PR statements of other industries which have already begun sending workers back to factories and workplaces. In these instances, the workers are being forced to return to work with little to no protections that they had been promised. Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 cases have surged in many of these major industrial sectors.

Students returning to campuses, living in crowded residence halls and attending large classrooms, will be confronted with similar circumstances. They will have no guarantee that they will not catch the virus and spread it to others once they return to school. Eager to restart the multibillion-dollar college sports industry, NCAA has also announced that it will permit student athletes to return to campus for summer workouts and training starting on Jun 8. Most schools with large sports programs will have their teams on campus in June to prepare for the upcoming season. Some schools like the University of Oklahoma will wait, but only until Jul 1, before sending their students back to training. Delaying training could set back the athletic performance of those teams. For college sports, winning games is critical for revenue streams. Canceling the fall 2020 football season alone would result in estimated losses upwards of $4b for the top NCAA schools. Athletics programs at 36 colleges reported over $150m in revenue in FY 2018. The University of Texas at Austin and Ohio State University both garnered over $200m. In total, the revenue generated by college sports programs has surpassed $14b/yr. The revenue produced from college sports is mostly from advertising deals and sponsorships from major corporations like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Google. These companies pay handsomely for exclusive access to market their products to the millions of Pindos who enjoy college sports. During the televised broadcast of the March Madness basketball tournament, a 30-second commercial costs over $1m.

Despite the giant sums generated by college athletics departments, only 12 schools actually see a profit return from their sports teams. Most schools go into debt hiring coaching staff and building exclusive, luxurious facilities to entice talented high schoolers to sign on to their teams. In 41 out of 50 states, the highest-paid public employees are college coaches, who are often considered to be the most critical part of a successful sports program. The 25 highest-paid college coaches all have salaries of over $4m/yr. The highest is Dabo Swinney of Clemson university’s football team, who is paid $9.3m/yr. Only the few schools who make it to the top of their divisions by winning games and tournaments can land the million-dollar corporate sponsorships. The competition for these slots is immense. Oftentimes, the schools that do make profits off their teams put that money back into the program to keep a step ahead of other schools. In other words, the money very rarely, if ever, goes to improving the quality of education for students. The athletic departments that are not in the exclusive group that makes giant profits are looking to get there and consider it necessary to keep pumping money into the sports programs to develop winning teams and see a return on their investments. There is no doubt that the fierce competition for the few money-making spots is a major motivating factor driving schools to bring their athletes on campus and get them in shape for the season as quickly as possible. At the University of Georgia, where athletes are returning immediately on Jun 8, head coach Kirby Smart told ESPN reporters that student athletes will likely be safer than if they stayed home outside of coaching staff supervision. Smart said:

I know that our facility is one of the safest, and we certainly have the ability to care for that facility better than a lot of places they can go back home.

Schools like the University of Georgia have invested sums into the tens of millions to build professional facilities staffed with trainers whose job it is to keep athletes in good health so they can continue to perform and win games. When the players return for workouts, they will be closely monitored and have their health tested regularly to ensure that a COVID-19 outbreak does not occur within the student teams. Such a development would devastate the performance of a team and potentially take them out of the season entirely, which would cause a financial disaster for teams whose ticket prices and lucrative sponsorship deals depend on winning. The athletes will be receiving testing and special treatment, but the general student population is another question. The average student will not receive regular testing, access to special facilities, and other precautions that would help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Instead, they will be expected to pay the full cost of tuition, for food in the dining halls, and of course buying tickets to football games. The NCAA official football schedule is still largely to be determined, and representatives have said they will continue to evaluate the situation as it progresses over the summer before making a final decision for the fall. But statements from coaches and athletic directors make it seem increasingly likely that the games will go on. Last week, University of Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told ESPN that the school is planning normal operations at their football stadium, where games see upwards of 65k fans in attendance. Oregon State athletics director Scott Barnes said:

Anywhere from 75% up to almost 85% of all revenues to our departments are derived directly or indirectly from football.

The head of Texas Christian University athletics, Jeremiah Donati, told reporters:

If there’s no football season, or if the football season is interrupted or shortened, there will be a massive fallout. There would have to be massive cutbacks.

Many schools, particularly those who are in the less elite Division II or Division III, have already cut many of their smaller sports programs that do not generate revenue. But even schools with a Division I sports program are cutting their less profitable departments. This includes sports like track and field, lacrosse, soccer, and even baseball. The pandemic has triggered a crisis in college sports. Years of inflated spending on football programs have driven many schools to rely on the anticipated income of future seasons to cover debts incurred from building stadiums, workout facilities, and high salaries for coaching staff. The potential shutdown of the football season will provoke cuts in funding that will likely target other academic departments to make up for the loss of football revenue. This could include cutting student scholarships and tuition waivers for graduate workers, an increase in costs and fees for undergraduates, and layoffs or wage freezes for teaching staff. Schools are eager to avoid the looming financial disaster and are making plans to ensure football will open, even if delayed until the spring. The cost of this decision will instead be the health and lives of the student body and the larger university communities.

Alberta’s hard-right premier dismisses coronavirus as “influenza”
Janet Browning, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

Jason Kenney, Alberta’s hard-right United Conservative Party (UCP) premier, has taken a leaf from the playbook of Trump and Bolsonaro, and dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as an “influenza.” Kenney’s callous remark, delivered during a parliamentary debate last week, is part of his government’s reckless back-to-work policy and underscores the broad support within Canada’s ruling elite for a criminal “herd immunity” strategy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking in the Alberta legislature on May 27, Kenney declared:

We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic, as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population, for potentially a year for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the elderly and the immunocompromised. The average age of death from the influenza in the province is 83, and the average life expectancy in the province is 82.

This implies that those who succumb to COVID-19 were on the verge of death anyway. Kenney’s remarks show the criminal indifference to human life that pervades his UCP government. Alberta has witnessed repeated workplace COVID-19 outbreaks, including one of the largest in all North America at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River. A third death resulting from that outbreak, which has sickened well over 1.5k people, was recently reported. Benito Quesada, 51, a union shop steward who had worked at the Cargill plant since 2007, contracted COVID-19 in mid-April and spent weeks on a ventilator in a medically induced coma. The first two deaths linked to the outbreak were Hiep Bui, a 67-year-old Vietnamese immigrant who worked at the plant since 1996, and Armando Sallegue, the 71-year-old father of another worker at the plant. Sallegue’s son, who fell sick after contracting the virus at the Cargill plant, tragically passed him the virus, while he was on a visit from the Philippines. In total, Alberta has recorded over 7k COVID-19 infections and 145 deaths.

Kenney’s contempt for the lives of these workers is far from unique within ruling circles. Governments across the country, from Francois Legault’s right-wing populist Coalition Avenir Quebec regime in Quebec to Doug Ford’s hard-right Progressive Conservative government in Ontario, have enforced the return to work of hundreds of thousands of workers to workplaces where little to nothing has been to protect them from the contagion, and as COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to rise sharply. This back-to-work policy has been greenlighted and overseen by the federal Liberal government. PM Justin Trudeau and his union and NDP-supported Liberal government have focused their response to the pandemic on guaranteeing the wealth and investments of the rich and super-rich. They have funnelled more than $650b into the financial markets and big business, while placing the millions of workers who have lost their jobs and incomes on what amounts to temporary rations under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. It pays just $2k/month, or less than the rent for an average two-bedroom apartment in Toronto and other cities. Provincial governments have exploited the resulting economic distress among workers to force them back to their jobs even though the infection risk remains high. Kenney’s comments are of a piece with Legault’s, who declared during the initial stages of Quebec’s “reopening” campaign that his government wants people to get sick. The Quebec premier declared:

It may sound frightening, but once Quebecers understand the concept of herd immunity they will see it is the best way out of the current pandemic. What we are saying is people who are less at risk, people who are under 60, can get a natural immunization.

Neither Kenney nor Legault care to admit that wherever “herd immunity” policies have been pursued, they have proven catastrophic. Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist who designed Sweden’s murderous policy of refusing to implement lockdown measures so businesses could keep on generating profits, was forced to admit last weekend that the authorities should have done things “differently.” Sweden has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world, with over 4.5k deaths in a country with a population of just 10m. In Brazil, Bolsonaro’s dismissal of the virus as a “little flu” and his constant attacks on officials who refused to rescind lockdown measures have played a major role in that country having the second-highest total of infections worldwide. Over 32k Brazilians have lost their lives, with more than 1k now dying daily.

Kenney’s effort to dress up his back-to-work policy with alleged concern for the “mental health and physiological wellbeing” of Alberta’s population is no less hypocritical. It comes from the head of a government whose first full budget, tabled last fall, included sweeping cuts of up to 10% in real terms to health-care, social services and education. The spending plan will result in over 6k layoffs, including hundreds of health-care workers, teachers and social services staff. In its contract negotiations with the province’s 180k public sector employees, the UCP government is demanding wage cuts of up to 5%. While Kenney claims to be concerned about Albertan’s health and well-being his government is targeting the most vulnerable, no doubt causing acute distress. To give but one example, the UCP government has eliminated annual cost-of-living increase for recipients of the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped. AISH recipients who receive the maximum $1,685 each month will in real terms receive approximately $30 less per month this year. By 2023, the reduction will be $120 a month per month, providing annual “savings” of more than $200m for the provincial government. Kenney’s fall 2019 budget was based on a report prepared by a task force headed by former Saskatchewan New Democratic Party Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon, which advocated savage austerity and authoritarian methods to suppress popular opposition. These included the use of the anti-democratic “notwithstanding clause,” the outlawing of strikes, and the imposition of concessionary contracts by government decree. Significantly, just days after Kenney’s UCP government tabled its class war budget and Trudeau won re-election by posturing as an opponent of Conservative cuts, the Liberal prime minister publicly embraced Alberta’s premier as the legitimate representative of “Western interests.”

Now in response to the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic and a further steep decline in oil prices, Kenny has appointed a second blue-ribbon committee, this one an advisory council on Alberta’s “economic recovery.” It is to lay the political groundwork for further sweeping attacks on working people, from the gutting of labour standards and environmental regulations to the privatization of health-care. The 12-member council includes former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, WestJet co-founder and former chairman of the board Dick Beddoes, Canadian Western Bank CEO Chris Fowler, ATCO CEO Nancy Southern, six other corporate bosses, and as a token representative of “labour,” Bob Blakely, the ex-head of Canada’s Building Trades Union. The council is being chaired by Jack Mintz, a University of Calgary economist and Financial Post columnist who has long claimed that Canada’s shrunken public services are financially “unsustainable” and its tax rates for business and the rich are a “disincentive” to investment. He recently published a rant against public sector workers in which he claimed that in the name of “equity” they must be compelled to make “sacrifices.” As for Harper, who Kenney long served as a cabinet minister, he recently published a column in the WSJ in which he decried a supposed “new age” of “big government,” and insisted that governments must quickly transition to making massive spending cuts. Harper declared:

If they fail to practice mild austerity proactively, a brutal kind will be thrust upon them.

Opposition builds to re-opening of UK schools
Tania Kent, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

The Johnson Conservative governments’ push to partially reopen schools from Jun 1 for children in nursery, Foundation Stage, Year 1 and Year 6 has been dealt a blow after hundreds of thousands of parents kept their children at home. A survey by the National Education Union (NEU) found that more than two in five schools (44 percent) decided against admitting more pupils Monday. According to figures obtained by the Guardian, up to 90% of primary schools in some areas are remaining closed to more pupils, amid rising fears about the spread of coronavirus. In large parts of the north-east of England, not a single primary school opened to more pupils on the government’s target date for reopening. Data from 11 of the 12 largest local authorities in the region, which has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the UK, showed just 12% of the 856 primary schools admitted additional pupils Monday. The Guardian reported:

In County Durham, Gateshead and Hartlepool, not a single primary school out of 309 reopened to more pupils. In Newcastle, officials said only two of its 73 primary schools might be able to admit more pupils before next week.

In the north-west of England, the proportion of schools opening to more pupils was even lower, at just 8%, according to the NEU. The reopening of schools has nothing to do with genuine concern by the government for the education and well-being of children. Educators and children are being sent into unsafe environments as part of PM Boris Johnson’s “back to work” drive to boost profits for the rich. The conditions for the children who have been forced to return are distressing, according to accounts from many staff. The measures have transformed schools into holding pens, a precondition for returning the parents of the children to work. There is growing anxiety and high levels of stress as educators desperately attempt to maintain social distancing. There is also increasing anger, revealed in social media and comments sent to the WSWS, directed at the teaching unions for not acting to protect their members. In response to a Zoom webinar held by the NEU on Wednesday, two days after the re-opening of schools, many on Facebook expressed hostility to the inaction of the union. Questions repeatedly posted included, “What are you doing about it?” and “What have you done about it?” One member, Haider, commented:

What a useless union. Can we get a refund on our union fees we’ve paid in over the years? All that money to pay a lion with no teeth for protection of pupils before next week.

Leanne raised:

Okay, so I want to know when will they ballot to strike? Stop the talking, it’s getting us nowhere. Let’s get the action going, for god’s sake!

Janice said:

It’s definitely not safe. I thought the union was going to try and stop schools opening on Monday, but no!

Others noted the attack on their working conditions and the levels of stress being imposed. Kathy said:

Well, that’s not exactly helpful for those of us already back in classrooms. I have really tried to be supportive & encouraging of Union engagement in this, but kinda a bit late for us heading into early years or Year 6 groups THIS WEEK. And school leaders are taking the brunt of the burden on who should be back & when for both pupils & more crucially staff — ridiculously stressful.

Rebecca commented:

My school have been back two days already, all doing longer hours as school opening earlier and finishing later, now have no planning, preparation and assessment time and have 10 mins break in the morning and 15 mins for lunch! (If they are lucky!) Would like to know what the union is going to do about the working conditions of its members?

Mary, a teaching assistant in a primary school in the south-east, sent comments to the WSWS on the conditions facing children and staff on reopening. Her school has only extended attendance to Year 6 pupils and only 30 of those have attended. Mary wrote:

Children are split into ‘bubble’ groups and contained in the same classroom. The desks are spread out with equipment packs per child, no sharing is allowed. Hand gel is provided at every entrance and on each desk to be used after each activity. Children are not to leave their desks for any reason other than to go to the toilet. Each class has a designated play area that they have to stick to. Teachers cannot leave their bubble and must stay with the children during break times. During wet weather, the children have to remain at their desks for play-times. Windows and doors have to be kept open at all times. This is very problematic when it is raining, like yesterday with heavy showers. Desks must also be cleaned during break times. Door handles must be disinfected throughout the day. During play-times, however, social distancing goes out the window, as children naturally want to be together and play with each other.

Alan, a secondary teacher who has worked through the lockdown to support key workers and vulnerable children, told the WSWS:
The past 10 weeks have been extremely stressful for all staff from the headteacher to each teaching assistant. The constant changes to advice and expectations have left heads having to draft and redraft plans to ensure the safety of their staff and the pupils with stretched budgets. Tape has been put on the floor in front of the canteen to ensure the pupils keep two metres away. This is just to show that there is something being done to follow the government’s advice. In the staff room, tape has been put around chairs to ensure that staff keep two metres apart. Seeing pupils sit in the canteen with taped crosses showing where they can sit has been heart-breaking.

The SEP warned that the role of the education unions and Labour politicians is to systematically demobilise opposition to the government and prevent a coordinated national movement and break resistance down to the level of local authorities, individual schools and even individual parents and teachers. In our statement, “No to the reopening of schools! Build action committees to safeguard children and teachers!” we explained: All the education unions are reporting a growth in membership, with the National Education Union boasting of 20k new members and an additional 2k reps due to teachers looking for a way to fight back. But the NEU, NASUWT, NAHT and the ASCL all support the staged resumption of classes so that the collective resistance of teachers can be broken down.” Opposition to reopening of schools can and must be the spearhead of an independent movement of the working class against the Johnson government and its murderous back-to-work campaign. We urge educators to study our statement below and contact the SEP for advice and assistance in setting up action committees in your school.

pindo crackdown continues to intensify

Trump intensifies campaign to brand domestic opposition as terrorism
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

Utah National Guard near the White House, Thursday Jun 4 2020.
(Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

The Trump administration is continuing its campaign for military intervention against the mass protests over police brutality that have swept Pindostan since the police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25. Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray held a press conference Thursday afternoon to voice lying claims that left-wing groups bent on violence had “hijacked” the protests, in an effort to manufacture a pretext for repression. Barr advocated the use of anti-terrorism units to apprehend “agitators” whom he accused of “hijacking” demonstrations. The branding of domestic political opposition as terrorism is aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing all opposition to police violence and the policies of the oligarchy. The level of lying in the Barr press conference would be admired by Josef Goebbels, the propaganda chief for Hitler’s “big lie.” Barr conjured up an invented world in which demonstrations involving millions of people in hundreds of cities, large, medium and small, are being manipulated by Antifa, an “organization” that has not a single identified member. He also claimed that “foreign actors” were intervening in the protests, adding the specter of a Russian, Chinese, Iranian or AQ role. Antifa is little more than a label adopted by youth who protest against ultra-right and white-supremacist provocations. As an organized group, it exists mainly in the fevered imaginations of FBI informers and agents, who likely comprise most of its “membership.” If Antifa did not exist (and it may not), Trump, Barr & Co would be compelled to invent it, as a pretext for the mass repression that they are carrying out against the Pindo working class.

Barr advocated the use of existing Joint Terrorist Task Forces against the supposed Antifa threat. The JTTF unite federal and state police agents in a common effort, initially directed against the Islamic fundamentalists who (supposedly – RB) carried out the 9/11 attacks in NYC and Faschingstein, but now to be turned against all left-wing opposition to the policies of the Trump administration and its collaborators at the state level. FBI agents working through the JTTF will go out to question people about their political views, in gross violation of the First Amendment, and seek to criminalize their participation in protests. A DHS memorandum obtained by Politico cited the need for intelligence agents to be “vigilant in looking for any kind of emerging threat to the homeland,” while making the revealing admission:

Some of the observed suspicious behaviors include constitutionally protected activities.

Barr has emerged as one of the principal agents of Trump in preparing a presidential dictatorship. The “chief law enforcement officer,” as the attorney general is described, is actually a fully fledged co-conspirator in the assault on the Constitution and democratic rights. Trump has threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, but unlike 1992 in California, no state governor has requested federal military assistance, so the White House aims to use Faschingstein, which is federal territory and not part of any state, as a demonstration of the use of overwhelming military force to crush protests and intimidate the largely Black population. As press reports have begun to show, it was Barr who played the main role in the police-military attack on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, on Monday night. The anti-riot force of the federal Bureau of Prisons, under Barr’s direct authority since it is part of the Department of Justice, was the spearhead of the effort to clear the park, using tear gas, pepper balls, and other riot gear, so that Trump could take his massively publicized walk across the park and pose, holding a Bible, in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had suffered minor fire damage over the weekend. At the press conference, Barr hailed the role of myriad federal agencies in the DC repression, declaring:

We have deployed all the major law-enforcement components of the department in this mission, including the FBI, ATF, DEA, BoP, and Federal Marshals Service.

He recalled his own role in 1992, during his previous term as attorney general in the Bush 41 administration, the last time that a president invoked the Insurrection Act, during the upheaval in LA that followed the acquittal of the police thugs who beat Rodney King, an earlier racist atrocity by police that like the killing of George Floyd, became a national scandal because it was filmed by bystanders and the whole country was able to witness the true nature of Pindo “law and order.” Vice Pres Pence, who was absent during the Lafayette Square provocation, has resurfaced as a fervent advocate of the Insurrection Act and the use of federal troops. In an interview with a Pittsburgh television station, Pence condemned the Demagog governor of Pennsylvania for only calling out 500-600 National Guard troops and threatened to send in the army instead, declaring:

The president and I will continue to urge the governors, like Governor Wolf, to call up the National Guard, deploy them to the streets and in a strong and decisive manner to restore order. The Pindo people expect nothing less.

While lies on the scale of those advanced by Barr may seem demented and unbelievable, there is a definite logic at work. It is part of a game plan to justify a military coup d’état that would place unchallenged power in the hands of the president. The gangster language of Trump and his accomplices, including aides like Stephen Miller and advisers like Steven Bannon, demonstrates that they are not playing by any sort of constitutional democratic rulebook. They will do and say anything to carry out their plans to establish an authoritarian regime based on the military and the police. The greatest danger for working people and youth would be to underestimate the danger, and believe that Trump has given up his plans for military rule because of opposition from within the political and national-security establishment, as the corporate media and the Demagog Party would suggest.

Spreading this poisonous complacency was the main function of the sermon delivered by Demagog Party operative Al Sharpton to the memorial service held for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Thursday. Sharpton was compelled to admit that the massive turnout at nationwide protests, with large numbers of young whites comprising a clear majority of those outraged and angry over the murder of George Floyd, marked something new in Pindo political and social life. But he quickly turned to his real purpose: portraying the attack on Floyd as purely racial, thus concealing its class character as an attack on the working class, and the role of the police, whether white or black, as the repressive arm of the capitalist state. Making light of Trump’s threat to use military force against the protesters, Sharpton called the president “all bark and no bite.” This under conditions where at least a dozen people have already been killed by police and National Guard since the protests began, and where Trump and his co-conspirators are actively preparing an intervention by the military on the streets of Pindostan that would mean a terrible bloodbath.

Not one prominent Demagog has denounced Trump for threatening a military takeover or demanded that he be removed from office. Biden has been virtually invisible. Pelosi, the top Demagog in Washington, merely sent a letter to the White House on Thursday, requesting it to supply Congress with a list of the military and police agencies involved at Lafayette Park, as though there were not an ongoing effort to overthrow the constitutional structure of Pindostan. The SEP has issued a call for workers and youth to oppose the White House plans to suppress democratic rights and impose a police & military regime. We said: The working class must intervene in this unprecedented crisis as an independent social and political force. It must oppose the conspiracy in the White House through the methods of class struggle and socialist revolution. The millions of workers and youth taking part in mass protests against police violence must begin to raise political demands against the gangster methods of the Trump administration, calling for the removal of Trump, Pence and their conspirators from office.

10k people have been arrested across Pindostan as protests against police violence continue to expand
Kevin Reed, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

An arrest near the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, Wednesday Jun 3 2020.
(Photo: John Minchillo/AP)

More than 10k people have been arrested in Pindostan during the protests against police violence as of Thursday, the tenth day of demonstrations in a row since George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day. In a tally taken of recorded arrests across the country, the AP reported that the number of protesters arrested has grown by the hundreds each day. The news agency reported that one quarter of the arrests have been made in Los Angeles followed by NYC, which has 2k arrests, Dallas, and Philadelphia. The AP analysis also showed that the majority of the arrests are for “low-level offenses such as curfew violations and failure to disperse.” Exposing as false the claims by Pres Trump and Demagog politicians such as Minnesota Governor Tim Walz that the majority of the protesters are outside agitators, AP reported:

During a 24-hour period over the weekend in Minneapolis, 41 of the 52 people cited with protest-related arrests had Minnesota driver’s licenses.
In the capital, 86% of the more than 400 people arrested as of Wednesday afternoon were from Faschingstein, Maryland and Virginia. The protesters are often placed in zip-ties and hauled away from the scene in buses, at a time when many of the nation’s jails are dealing with coronavirus outbreaks.

New York County Supreme Court Justice James Burke ruled on Thursday against a writ filed by New York’s Legal Aid Society and refused to release anyone held longer than 24 hours between arrest and arraignment. While New York courts stipulate that those in custody over 24 hours are entitled to release, Judge Burke ruled that the pandemic and mass protests were a “crisis within a crisis” and the NYPD had thereby provided justification for the delays.

The historically unprecedented protests in the face of arrests and ongoing police assaults with tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and other “non-lethal crowd control munitions” continued to expand across the country on Thursday. According to a summary published by Pindostan Today, protests have been reported by local news media in 584 cities and towns across all 50 states and as well as the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam. In NYC, thousands of protesters marched from a memorial service for George Floyd in Brooklyn, which featured the first public appearance of George’s brother Terrance Floyd, across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. The assembled crowed expressed hostility by turning their back on Demagog Mayor Bill de Blasio, drowning him out and forcing him to cut his remarks to 90 seconds at the memorial as they chanted, “I can’t breathe,” “resign” and “defund the police.” Protesters were particularly angry about the baton assault by police on Wednesday night against those who remained on the street past the 8:00 pm curfew. Both de Blasio and Demagog Governor Andrew Cuomo defended the violent actions of the police on Thursday morning, which had been captured on video and seen widely across social media. Amid the melee, two police officers were shot and one was stabbed in the neck in Brooklyn. Unlike the night before at the Manhattan Bridge, NYC police did not attempt to block demonstrators from entering the bridge, as the crowd swarmed both the northern land side and the pedestrian walkway. According to a report in the NYT:

Drivers in the opposite lane honked horns and raised fists in shows of support.

Protests in Faschingstein continued on Thursday near Lafayette Square and the MLK Jr Memorial, while many rallied near the Maryland border. Earlier in the day, Faschingstein’s Demagog Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted the 11 pm curfew, citing the fact that there had been no arrests the previous day. Bowser has also adapted herself to the stationing of federal troops in the city, merely demanding that non-DC troops leave. Meanwhile, military vehicles and police expanded the perimeter around the White House on Thursday, erecting tall metal fencing and putting in concrete barricades in preparation for what is expected to be a mass protest on Saturday. According to a statement by the Secret Service:

The areas, including the entire Ellipse and its side panels, roadways and sidewalks, E Street and its sidewalks between 15th and 17th streets, First Division Monument and State Place, Sherman Park and Hamilton Place, Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets and all of Lafayette Park will remain closed until Jun 10.

Demonstrations took place in multiple locations in the Chicago area on Thursday, including several hundred protesters who marched from Lincoln Park High School to Whitney Young High School, three miles away on the north side of the city. Other protests took place in the northern suburbs of Evanston, Grayslake and Zurich Lake. Chicago Demagog Mayor Lori Lightfoot declined to answer questions at a press conference regarding a high-speed police chase on Wednesday evening that resulted in the death of a female motorist as well as two other incidents of police violence. One was at Brickyard Mall parking lot, where officers were caught on video pulling two women out of their vehicle and brutalizing them, with an officer kneeling on the neck of one of the two while she was on the ground. In another video, an officer is seen chasing down and punching a protester uptown on Monday night. Tensions are high in New Orleans on Thursday evening, following the events of the previous night in which New Orleans PD used tear gas to disperse a large group of protesters who marched onto the interstate from downtown New Orleans and headed for the Crescent City Connection bridge to cross over into the West Bank, Jefferson Parish, where the police are notorious for their brutality and cruelty, known to be openly racist and blatantly abusive. Superintendent Shaun Ferguson defended the repressive actions at a press conference on Thursday morning, showing social media videos of the confrontation and claiming that rubber bullets were not used on the crowd, although this was disputed by protesters. When asked about plans for Thursday evening, Ferguson said:

We don’t know what they’re planning to do tonight.

Despite the rain, protesters gathered in Orlando, Florida for a fifth night in a row on Thursday downtown near city hall and prepared to march to the headquarters of the Orlando PD, where a dozen officers were reportedly waiting in helmets and with shields. On Wednesday night, tear gas was used after a crowd at city hall of approximately 2k people began moving through downtown and violate a previously announced 8:00pm curfew. Protests continue to grow in size and scope throughout the San Diego area, with many held Thursday throughout smaller cities and suburbs in addition to the downtown protests which included over two thousand people. Cities such as Chula Vista, Oceanside, Julian, North Park, Carlsbad, Encinitas, La Mesa and Santee held protests in the hundreds. In the growing downtown protests, police and national guardsmen kettled in protesters and shot rubber bullets and tear gas indiscriminately into crowds. Just the day before, at least 200 armed national guardsmen arrived in San Diego, following a request from San Diego Sheriff Gore. After Wednesday’s protests, the San Diego Police Chief announced a ban on chokeholds. San Diego County is home to the largest military and naval base in Pindostan. Stoked by Trump and the brutality of the state’s response, some right-wing and white nationalist groups have been organizing in cities such as Santee and Carlsbad to join police and engage in violence against protesters, but these small groups represent a tiny fraction compared to the thousands who continue to take to the streets throughout the county. In an example of the spread of protests across Pindostan, hundreds of people demonstrated at the downtown parking garage in Grand Forks, North Dakota, 80 miles north of Fargo, and marched through the downtown area as organizer Kollin King shouted over a bullhorn, “What’s his name?” and the crowd yelling back, “George Floyd!” The demonstration stopped briefly near the Red River and then continued on past its previously agreed-on route.

Austin police critically injure young protesters with “less lethal” beanbag rounds
Matthew Taylor, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

Justin Howell

Twenty-year-old Austin college student Justin Howell was hospitalized on Sunday with life-threatening injuries after being shot in the head by police with a beanbag round while participating in a demonstration against police violence. Howell, who is a political science major at Texas State University, was peacefully protesting when officers opened fire upon him at close range. When fellow protesters along with volunteer paramedics attempted to bring the young man to police for medical attention they were fired upon as well. Volunteer paramedic Maredith Michael vividly described the incident in a Facebook post:

I had my hands in the air, I begged for them to help, they said: “Bring him over here.” I told them that his head injury was too severe, he was convulsing and unable to move, that I needed their help. They repeated: “You’re going to need to bring him here.” Several guys started to carry him. I was clearing the path, with my hands up (crossed wrists, our signal that I was volunteering for the medical tent across the street). They started firing into the crowd and shot my hands from no more than three feet away. I don’t remember falling to the ground, injuring my shoulder, hip, and neck. I woke up to what seemed like the relentless sound of these “less lethal” bean bags and my own screaming.

Austin police claim that another protester near Howell had thrown his backpack and water bottle at them, and that he was their intended target. They described the beanbag rounds, fired from a twelve-gauge shotgun, as “less lethal” munitions. Howell suffered a fractured skull and brain damage. Howell’s older brother Joshua, who is the opinion editor for the Texas A&M school newspaper The Battalion, wrote in an op-ed for the paper that doctors told him his brother will have a hard time telling left from right when he wakes up. Howell was just one of several protesters injured by Austin police in Sunday night’s protest. Also critically wounded was 16-year-old Brad Ayala, who had just finished his shift at a nearby sandwich shop and joined the protest when he too was shot in the head by a beanbag round. His sister Valerie Ayala told the Austin Statesman:

He’s conscious and in a lot of pain, because he was shot right in the middle of his forehead. The bullet stayed inside of his head for five hours. The front of his head is fractured and dented, and he had some bleeding.

Other protesters were also injured by the beanbag rounds, including a pregnant woman, according to a statement given by Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. In a press conference held on Monday, Manley offered the usual “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the injured protesters, pledged to investigate the incident and claimed:

This is not what we do as a police department.

A viewing of the 45-second recording of what followed Howell’s shooting refutes the police chief’s claim. As five of Howell’s fellow protesters carry his limp body to police lines to seek medical care, they are clearly unarmed, and fully visible to the officers that fired upon them at close range. It is clear that the police in Austin made a deliberate decision to use wanton violence on unarmed protesters, in order to terrorize the crowds into submission and deter further opposition to police brutality. This strategy of mass terror is standard operating procedure for all police departments. Arbitrary arrests and indiscriminate violence are the tools used by police against the working class not just in times of social upheaval, but as an everyday policy to maintain control over the population and prevent opposition to capitalist exploitation from emerging on a large scale. The Austin police themselves have a notable history of violence. In 2016 officers shot and killed David Joseph, a black teenager suffering from mental illness, even though he was naked and unarmed. More recently, in April of this year, Austin police killed 42-year-old Mike Ramos after first shooting the unarmed man with a beanbag round in the face and then following up with live rounds as Ramos fled in his car. The Demagog Party-controlled Austin city council has declared an emergency meeting for Friday to discuss the violence at last weekend’s protests, and to discuss ways to bring “accountability and transparency” to policing. This will solve nothing. Like past efforts by city officials across Pindostan, including mandating body cameras, implementing joint police/citizen oversight boards and hiring more minority officers, whatever changes that may emerge from the city council’s discussions will only function as political cover for the police as they continue to brutalize the population.

Thousands of medical workers join protests against police violence
Clara Weiss, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

Thousands of health-care workers have joined the protests against police violence that have swept Pindostan and other countries in recent days. This weekend, videos showed hundreds of nurses cheering protesters in Manhattan in NYC, and on Tuesday, hundreds again joined a protest in Times Square. Protests have also taken place in Boston, Chicago and Oakland. On Thursday, the protests expanded significantly, with thousands of medical workers staging demonstrations under the banner “White Coats for Black Lives” in cities across the country. The protests have continued to grow despite the violent police crackdown, which has rapidly escalated this week with Trump’s moves to deploy the military and establish a presidential dictatorship.

Protest by medical workers at Stanford

At Stanford, one of the leading medical schools in the world, hundreds of medical students and workers joined a demonstration in which they knelt down for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck. Nearly 1k health care workers joined a protest at Indiana University’s medical school, and hundreds joined protests in Chicago, Illinois, and the surrounding area, as well as in Miami. Protests also continued to take place at several NYC hospitals, including Jacobi Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, Lincoln Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital. All of these hospitals serve overwhelmingly poor and multi-ethnic, working class communities. Left without proper PPE, their staff have battled for months against the coronavirus pandemic which hit New York particularly hard, resulting in over 30k deaths. Many more protests are planned for Friday and Saturday, including in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania. Like the protest movement as a whole, the demonstrations by medical workers have been multi-racial and multi-ethnic, encompassing a wide range of generations. They practiced social distancing and wore masks. Medical workers have also directly joined the ongoing protests and have been targeted by police, in blatantly illegal actions. On Wednesday night, police in Austin deliberately shot medical workers with rubber bullets who were trying to treat Justin Howell, a 20-year-old who was shot in the head with rubber bullets, is still in critical condition and has suffered brain damage. One of the medics who was shot in the hand later reported:

Just so you know, I had been there two full days. With one of my firefighter shirts on that I sewed a huge red and white medical cross on the front and back on. I had red and white crosses taped on my helmet. They knew I was a medic.

Protest at Kings County, New York

Earlier this week, Rayne Dominic Valentine, a medical worker with Brooklyn Hospital who has stacked bodies of COVID-19 victims, was brutally assaulted by police when walking home. As he was filming an attack by police on protesters, he was himself assaulted by police officers who kicked and beat him so badly that his head cracked and required staples in the hospital. A GoFundMe page for Valentine quickly gathered over $13k, more than 10 times the requested amount. Many of those who donated were fellow medical workers. One worker commented on the fund page:

I work at Kings County. We have fought COVID-19 together and I will fight alongside you against this terrible injustice. Thank you for all that you have done.

A scientific worker from Pittsburgh wrote:

I am SO sorry this happened! I am a scientist working on COVID-19 treatments to help those severely ill and prevent them from dying. I had THIS EXACT fear in Pittsburgh. I have to break curfews here because I work the night shifts to process the blood we get from the doctors (who work day shift.) I’m often walking home between midnight and 5 am. The bus isn’t an option due to Coronavirus. While I’m Caucasian, I still had this fear that cops would shoot first and ask questions later. I’m so sorry this actually happened to you. It is OUTRAGEOUS that police are allowed to do this.

It is not a coincidence that the mass protests against police violence and racism now find a strong resonance among health care workers, a section of the working class that has been at the forefront of both the social crisis and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Anger runs particularly high among doctors and nurses over the tens of thousands of preventable infections and deaths, including at least 291 medical workers who have died because of a lack of PPE. In Pindostan, the richest country in the world, where the government spends hundreds of billions on war and the military every year, over 100k people have died from COVID-19, and over 62k health care workers have been infected. After decades of social austerity and devastating cuts to health care, the policy of “malign neglect” has left hospitals, especially in the poorest and hardest areas of the country like the Bronx in NYC, without the medical equipment necessary to adequately treat patients. On top of that, almost 1.5m health-care workers have been laid off, tens of thousands have been furloughed and further hospital closures are being prepared despite the raging pandemic. In opposition to the attempts by the Demagog Party to promote racial politics to divide the working class, the fight against racism and police violence among medical workers must be consciously fused with a struggle for social equality and the mobilization of resources to seriously combat the pandemic, and against the attempts of the Trump administration to establish a military dictatorship.

total confusion at the NYT about senator tom cotton’s “send in the troops” op-ed

NYT says Cotton’s ‘send in troops’ op-ed ‘did not meet standards’ the day after Sultzberger defended its publication
RT.com, Jun 5 2020

Under a wave of criticism, the NYT has reversed course on a hot-button op-ed urging the military to put down rioting, saying it was rushed into print even after repeatedly defending the decision to publish it. Though as recently as Wednesday editors at the NYT were busy fending off attacks surrounding the op-ed penned by Senator Tom Cotton, the paper appears to have given in less than 24 hours later, issuing a statement suggesting the article should have never been published.

Cotton himself waded into the row sparked by his article, tweeting on Thursday night that the NYT had “surrendered to the mindless woke mob,” which he said staged a “walk out” on the liberal newspaper for daring to publish a “perspective from a conservative.”

While the senator’s hawkish op-ed did separate protests from rioting, arguing that demonstrators “shouldn’t be confused” with looters and vandals, critics nonetheless widely panned his call to further militarize Pindo streets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in its own news coverage of the controversy, the NYT outright ignored Cotton’s distinction, writing that he urged the government to “suppress protests,” rather than riots, with military force, effectively lumping the two into the same category. Earlier on Thursday, NYT editor James Bennet, who oversees the paper’s editorial page, published a lengthy piecedefending his decision to run Cotton’s op-ed. But just hours later, the NYT itself reported that Bennet hadn’t bothered to read the article before publishing it, drawing further criticism as the paper did a complete about-face.

NYT Says Senator’s Op-Ed Did Not Meet Standards
Marc Tracy, Rachel Abrams, Edmund Lee, NYT, Jun 4 2020

Executives at the NYT scrambled on Thursday to address the concerns of employees and readers who were angered by the newspaper’s publication of an opinion essay by a United States senator calling for the federal government to send the military to suppress protests against police violence in Pindo cities. James Bennet, the editor in charge of the opinion section, said in a meeting with staff members late in the day that he had not read the essay before it was published. Shortly afterward, the NYT issued a statement saying the essay fell short of the newspaper’s standards. Eileen Murphy, a NYT spox, said in a statement:

We’ve examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication. This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish.

The Op-Ed, by Tom Cotton, Thug of Arkansas, was posted on the NYT website on Wednesday afternoon with “Send In the Troops” as its headline. the senator wrote:

One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.

More than 800 staff members signed a letter protesting its publication, according to a union member involved in the letter. Addressed to high-ranking editors in the opinion and news divisions, as well as NYT company executives, the letter argued that Mr Cotton’s essay contained misinformation, such as his depiction of the role of “antifa” in the protests. Dozens of NYT employees objected to the Op-Ed on social media, despite a company policy that instructs them not to post partisan comments or take sides on issues. Many of them responded on Twitter with the sentence:

Running this puts Black NYT staff in danger.

More than 160 employees planned a virtual walkout for Friday morning, according to two organizers of the protest. Conversation and debate filled videoconference meetings for many newsroom departments on Thursday. The newspaper scheduled a town-hall meeting for Friday to allow employees to express their concerns to company leaders, including A G Sulzberger, the publisher; Dean Baquet, the executive editor; and Mr Bennet, the editorial page editor. Mr Bennet said in a video meeting attended by Mr Sulzberger and employees late on Thursday that he had not read Mr Cotton’s essay before it was published, according to two people who were present. On Thursday morning, Mr Sulzberger had sent an email to the staff backing the Op-Ed’s publication. He wrote:

I believe in the principle of openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with, and this piece was published in that spirit. But it’s essential that we listen to and reflect on the concerns we’re hearing, as we would with any piece that is the subject of significant criticism. I will do so with an open mind. We don’t publish just any argument. They need to be accurate, good-faith explorations of the issues of the day.

On Thursday night, Mr Sulzberger struck a somewhat different tone in a message distributed via Slack, the internal messaging software used by NYT employees. He said that “a rushed editorial process” led to the publication of an Op-Ed “that did not meet our standards.” He added that an editor’s note from the newspaper’s standards department was on its way. Mr Sulzberger said:

Given that this is not the first lapse, the Opinion department will also be taking several initial steps to reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again.

He added that the opinion section would “rethink Op-Eds generally” for the social media age. Mr Bennet had also defended publishing the Op-Ed early on Thursday, saying in an article published on the NYT website that he disagreed with Mr Cotton’s opinion but believed that it was important to publish views that ran counter to his own. He wrote:

It would undermine the integrity and independence of the NYT if we only published views that editors like me agreed with, and it would betray what I think of as our fundamental purpose, not to tell you what to think, but to help you think for yourself.

Through a NYT spox, Mr Sulzberger and Mr Bennet declined requests for interviews. The Op-Ed was handled by Adam Rubenstein, an editor in the opinion section, according to staff members in that department. Several of them said they had not been aware of the article before it was published. During the editing process, Mr Rubenstein asked a photo editor, Jeffrey Henson Scales, for photographs of state and federal forces who were sent to the University of Mississippi in 1962 to quell segregationists protesting the enrollment of the first Black student at the school. Mr Cotton had cited the military’s role in desegregation to make the case for sending troops into the streets. Mr Scales raised an objection., writing to Mr Rubenstein on Slack:

A false equivalence, but historical images are there now.

Mr Rubenstein responded, adding an emoji of a frowning face:

Yeah, there are a few in there.

Mr Scales objected again in the Opinion section’s Slack channel shortly after the Op-Ed was published online, calling it “highly inappropriate.” At the time, he was unaware that the essay had already appeared online, he said in an interview. Mr Rubenstein referred a request for comment to a NYT spox, who did not reply to inquiries. In a video meeting of the opinion department on Thursday afternoon, Mr Bennet and James Dao, the deputy editorial page editor, acknowledged that there had been a breakdown in the process of preparing the essay for publication, according to four people who attended it. The editors said that the article had been fact-checked, but added that they would fact-check it again. Mr Dao did not reply to a request for comment. Mr Baquet, the executive editor, who oversees the news division, which is run separately from the opinion department, said he heard from a number of reporters and editors who believed that the Op-Ed did not meet the standards of the NYT. “When my newsroom is agitated, I respond to that,” he said. He acknowledged that some readers might not be aware of the wall separating the news and opinion departments. He said he first saw the Op-Ed when it was posted online. He said:

I’ve had very sophisticated people say to me: “I had no idea that opinion and news were separate.” I don’t think we’ve always done the best job in the world explaining that to people and making the distinction.

Mr Baquet declined to comment on the substance of the Op-Ed, but said he agreed with those who believe the opinion section should include a wide range of views. In the days leading up to the Op-Ed’s publication, Mr Cotton called for military action against what he saw as violent protests in a series of tweets. In one he called for “No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” Giving “no quarter” to enemy combatants is considered a war crime in modern international conflicts, under a statute of the International Criminal Court. On Thursday, the senator tweeted his praise for NYT leadership:

They ran my piece, even if they disagreed with it, and stood up to the woke progressive mob in their own newsroom.

But after the NYT said the Op-Ed did not meet its standards, Mr Cotton’s office put out a statement:

We weren’t contacted by the NYT in advance of this statement and our editorial process was similar to our past experiences at the NYT and other publications. We’re curious to know what part of that process and this piece didn’t meet their standards.

The senator had previously contributed to the opinion section, arguing last year that Pindostan should buy Greenland. Mr Cotton has also clashed with NYT editors. In 2006, as an Army lieutenant serving in Iraq, Mr Cotton called for the prosecution and imprisonment of Bill Keller, then the executive editor of the NYT, and two of the paper’s reporters, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen. He accused them of violating espionage laws in reporting how Pindo counter-terrorism officials had uncovered the funding schemes behind AQ and other terrorist groups. The national mood has been brought to a boil by a polarizing presidency, a once-in-a-century pandemic and the protests touched off by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody murdered in the public street in Minneapolis last month. Mr Bennet served as the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief before taking a job as the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic in 2006. He returned to the NYT as its editorial page editor in 2016. He has hired several young writers for the opinion section, many of them with expertise in the tech industry, and added more conservative voices. Last year, Brent Staples, a member of the opinion staff, won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing for a series of columns on race and Pindostan. Mr Bennet’s tenure has had its bumps. Last year, a federal appellate court found that Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential candidate, could proceed with a defamation lawsuit against the NYT over an editorial edited by Mr Bennet that inaccurately linked her statements to the 2011 shooting of a Pindo congresswoman. Two years ago, Mr Bennet hired a journalist as the opinion department’s lead tech writer, only to rescind the job offer after a social media storm over her past use of slurs and friendship with an internet troll who had worked for a neo-Nazi website.

all in fun, no doubt

Bill Barr And The Justice Dept Send In Their Own Troops
Mark Perry, AmConMag, Jun 3 2020

Members of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and other law enforcement block
16th Street NW near the White House. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

Writing in the NYT on Wednesday, and in the midst of growing public protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Arkansas Sen Tom Cotton decried Pindostan’s “anarchy” and “orgy of violence,” saying that local cops “in some cities” are being overwhelmed by the protests. Cotton’s solution was that Trump invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy the military to quell the demonstrations. “Send in the Troops,” the headline to the Cotton op-ed blared. “The military stands ready.” In fact, as recent events show, Cotton got it wrong: the military doesn’t stand ready and it certainly doesn’t want to “send in the troops.” Far from it. How do we know? Because in the hours following the publication of Cotton’s proposal, Marine Gen (Retd) James Mattis (who served as Trump’s first Sec Def) and Marine General (Retd) John Allen published articles saying otherwise. The power of their voices should not be underestimated: during their careers, Mattis and Allen were two of the most celebrated officers in uniform, and since the end of their careers, they’ve become icons of the retired military community. Mattis wrote in The Atlantic:

We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values.

Mattis went on to criticize Sec Def Mark Esper and CCoS Mark Milley for appearing alongside Trump during the president’s Monday stroll (“a bizarre photo-op,” as Mattis described it) from Lafayette Park to St John’s Episcopal Church and continued:

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Faschingstein, sets up a conflict, a false conflict between the military and civilian society.

Allen followed suit in ForeignPolicy.com, in a pointed response to Cotton. he wrote:

Right now, the last thing the country needs, and, frankly, the Pindo military needs,is the appearance of Pindo soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on Pindo citizens.

Mattis and Allen weren’t alone in expressing their views. The day before their articles appeared, former CCoS Adm Michael Mullen wrote a scathing critique of the Trump administration’s use of pepper balls and flash bangs against protesters just prior to Trump’s stroll. Mullen wrote:

I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops. Certainly we have not cross the threshold that would make it appropriate to invoke the provisions of the Insurrection Act.

The views of this military triumvirate shocked the Trump administration. Inside the Pentagon, senior officers were less surprised with Mattis’, Allen’s, and Mullen’s views than with those expressed by CCoS Gen Martin Dempsey, who is not only known for his reticence in offering his views on political issues, but has been outspoken when other retired officers have done so. That changed on Monday, when Dempsey tweeted:

While it seems likely that the rising chorus of retired military voices had a sobering impact at the Pentagon, it also simply accelerated a process that was already underway, as a senior Pentagon civilian told me. Esper, this Pentagon official claims, was intent to back off his comment within hours of it becoming public and regretted that he’d been included in Monday’s “bizarre photo op” when he stood alongside Trump in front of St John’s Episcopal Church. While Esper’s explanation for his Monday appearance with Trump was muddled, his statement about the use of the military to “dominate the battlespace” was not. Esper told the press during a hastily called briefing on Wednesday afternoon:

The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.

Esper then added that he regretted making the statement:

In retrospect, I would use different wording so as not to distract from the more important matters at hand or allow some to suggest that we are militarizing the issue.

In the wake of Esper’s appearance, rumors swept through the corridors of the Pentagon either that the Sec Def was planning to resign, or that Trump would fire him. As of Thursday morning, both options are still in play, with contradictory rumors swirling through the Pentagon that Esper will soon be shown the door—or that, alternatively, his friendship with fellow West Point graduate Mike Pompeo could save him. Reports that Esper was embarrassed by his trot-with-Trump hold true also for CCoS Gen Mark Milley, according to a senior Pentagon official. Milley not only followed in Trump’s wake during Monday’s Lafayette Park to St John’s walk, but was then videotaped on the streets of Faschingstein that same night. Milley told a group of reporters who tracked him down:

Freedom of speech, that’s perfectly fine, we support that. We took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of Pindostan to do that, to protect everyone’s rights. That’s what we do. We’ve got the Faschingstein National Guard out here and I’m just checking their, seeing how well they’re doing, that’s all.

That Milley looked uncertain reflected his discomfort with appearing on the streets of Faschingstein in camouflage, a senior retired army officer who knows him says. this officer told me:

He was chagrined, and frankly this isn’t who he is. He’s a decent guy. He’s not someone who has trouble talking to people.

A second senior retired officer had a similar, if more pointed, take. this officer said:

He’s walking a really delicate line. He answers to the president. He can’t just go out and have a press conference, like Esper. So when I look at Milley I feel for him. And you can almost read his mind. I mean, at one point Trump says he had put Milley ‘in charge,’ and Milley was probably thinking, ‘in charge of what?’

In fact, the person that Trump appears to have made the field general of the federal response to the demonstrations, and particularly those in Faschingstein, is Attorney General William Barr, who is not only not in the chain of command, he’s not even in uniform. If the presence of uniformed officers monitoring the demonstrations in Faschingstein is any indication, then Barr has responded to Trump’s desire that the military deal harshly with the demonstrators by flooding the streets with law enforcement officers of the Bureau of Prisons, units of which were flown into the city as early as Tuesday night from Texas and other locations. Included among the contingent were Crisis Management Teams (CMT) and Special Operations Response Teams (SORT) that are normally deployed to put down prison riots. According to a BOP spox, the teams have been dispatched to Faschingstein and Miami, Florida, “per the request of the Attorney General.” Photographs of the teams began appearing on social media on Wednesday afternoon, with demonstrators asking them where they were from and who they answered to. “DOJ,” one of the team members told a demonstrator. The teams were not wearing identifying badges, because while all law enforcement officials are required to do so by Faschingstein law, that statute does not include federal law enforcement forces. While the BOP SORT teams did not have identity badges or military markings, some demonstrators assumed they were military police, or even members of the notorious right-wing “boogaloo boys.” A number of states, including New York, have established their own SORT Teams, mimicking the federal Bureau of Prisons template. According to the website of Spec Ops Magazine, a typical SORT team is armed as follows:

Sig Sauer P228s, Glock 19 pistols, Colt 9mm SMGs, Benelli M1 Super 90 shotguns, McMillan M86 SR Sniper Rifles, 37 mm gas guns, diversionary devices and chemical munitions.

Why such weapons would be needed now on the streets of Faschingstein is not clear. The DoJ did not respond to a request for comment, but DoJ boxtops officials told a local television reporter that specific information on the teams could not be provided “for safety and security reasons.” The senior Pentagon officer with whom I spoke had his own theory. He said:

Makes sense. As the military has stepped back, the DoJ has stepped in.

But when shown a photo of a BoP SORT Team deployed in downtown Faschingstein, a senior retired military officer had a much different take. He told me in an email:

These are more Delta wannabes. Now, every law enforcement agency has its own SWAT team. This is not good.

Trump administration deploys unmarked paramilitary units in Faschingstein
Zac Thorton, WSWS, Jun 5 2020

On Wednesday Jun 3, protesters gathered near the White House in Faschingstein were confronted by mysterious personnel equipped in tactical riot gear, including shields and “non-lethal” weaponry. These paramilitary units, which appeared alongside National Guard troops, were virtually absent of any identifying badge or insignia. In a fascist rant on Monday Jun 1, delivered only minutes after a violent attack by police against protesters exercising their democratic right to peaceful assembly, Trump made clear that his administration is preparing to trample on the Constitution and establish a presidential dictatorship. The appearance of these unmarked paramilitary units must be seen as a significant step in that direction. When asked by protesters and reporters to identify themselves, the personnel either remained silent, or simply stated: “DoJ.” For the few who wore badges or insignias, these were mostly inconspicuous. Those whose markings have so far been identified belong to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP) and the BOP Special Operations Response Team (SORT), heavily militarized tactical units within the BoP similar to the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units in police services. According to Wikipedia, BoP SORTs are typically employed for “riots, assault on staff or inmates, escape or attempted escapes, hostage situations, any terrorist or military strike on Pindostan.” Citing a “senior DoJ boxtop,” an NPR report on Jun 1 stated:

Attorney General William Barr has directed the BoP to dispatch riot teams to the nation’s capital and to Miami to assist local authorities in responding to protests there.

In a press conference with Barr, the BOP director, Michael Carvajal, responded to a question from a reporter about the presence of these unidentified units, saying:

First of all, I’m not aware of any specific Bureau (of) Prisons personnel being told not to identify themselves. What I attribute that to is probably the fact that we normally operate within the confines of our institution, and we don’t need to identify ourselves. Most of our identification is institution-specific and probably wouldn’t mean a whole lot to people in Faschingstein.

On the contrary, protesters in Faschingstein would no doubt like to know who is beating them with batons, dousing them in pepper spray, and shooting them with rubber bullets and tear gas. The presence of unidentified federal and police personnel creates a cover for other groups, including fascist far-right militias, to freely take part in the violence against protesters. After all, there are a number of websites offering riot gear to civilians which is similar to that worn by the police and military, including riot shields emblazoned with the word “police.” In addition to BoP personnel, the DoJ has also deployed agents with the FBI, DEA, BATF and the Federal Marshals Service. Other agencies outside the DoJ have also been activated. These include the Federal Protective Service (FPS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Secret Service and the Park Police. While it is unclear to what extent the various agencies are involved, an article in BuzzFeed reported that the DEA has been granted jurisdiction to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on protesters. The Park Police have helped assault protesters with smoke canisters and pepper balls. The involvement of CBP is particularly noteworthy. On May 29, the agency flew a Reaper (aka Predator B) drone over Minneapolis in the wake of protests there. This vindicates the analysis of the WSWS, which has always maintained that while agencies such as CBP and ICE are ostensibly directed towards external “threats,” in actuality the buildup of these forces is ultimately directed against the working class in Pindostan.

A dangerous new factor in an uneasy moment: Unidentified cops
WaPo, Jun 3 2020

After more than a week of unrest, tensions in a number of major Pindo cities has eased. The vandalism and looting that had often used large, peaceful protests as cover has faded; the eruption of violence at protests appears to be less common. The AP reports that active-duty members of the military who were moved into Faschingstein to help keep order would be moved back out, though that decision was later reversed. But it wasn’t only components of the DoD that had been brought to the nation’s capital to help with the “domination” that Pres Trump sought to display in the wake of the turmoil. Washington residents have also been confronted with a number of other heavily armed law enforcement officers who share an unexpected characteristic: Neither their affiliation nor their personal identities are discernible. On Tuesday, Mother Jones reporter Dan Friedan encountered these individuals, who gave no more specific identification than that they were associated with the DoJ. As it turns out, each of these encounters was apparently with elements of the Bureau of Prisons, called to the region by Attorney General William Barr this week.

Former NYC police commissioner William Bratton said in a phone interview with the WaPo on Wednesday:

The idea that the federal government is putting law enforcement personnel on the line without appropriate designation of agency, name, etc. That’s a direct contradiction of the oversight that they’ve been providing for many years to local police and demanding in all of their various monitorships and accreditation. The prospect of government agencies involved in policing the city seeking to obscure their identities is very concerning.

The vagueness of their identity and their disinterest in identifying themselves introduce specific challenges and risks, as former Army officer and FBI special agent Clint Watts explained in a phone interview with the WaPo. For one thing, Watts pointed out, a civilian might refuse to respond to an order from a law enforcement official who doesn’t identify themselves in that way. He said:

If I go out and I pull out a gun and I say, ‘Freeze,’ and they say why, I would have to say, ‘I’m an FBI agent’ or law enforcement officer or whatever, because otherwise they would be totally in the right to defend themselves, potentially.

He imagined his own reaction if he was on the street in New York or Faschingstein and an unidentified officer pushed him with a shield: His instinct would be to fight back. The added danger, particularly given the influx of cops in the area, is that they wouldn’t recognize one another. Bratton noted that one reason for identifiers is that cops would be able to recognize one another. Riot helmets often have identifying numbers on their backs in part for that purpose. Watts described an incident shortly after he began at the FBI when an undercover agent who’d drawn his weapon was killed by another agent who confused him with the perpetrator. Introduce scores of officers without identification into a volatile scenario and it’s easy to see similar (if less deadly) mistakes being common. Particularly given another component of the moment. It’s not uncommon for civilians to dress in paramilitary gear and show up at the protests as self-appointed assistants to the cops.

Watts said:

You can have this weird thing where you have these militia group guys just dressed up in their gear, which they like to do anyway, show up and just start pushing protesters around, and if you’re a protester you don’t know if you have to respond to this person.

Granting unidentifiable cops the ability to engage with and confront protesters functionally allows any unidentifiable individual to more easily pretend to be law enforcement. It introduces an opportunity for those looking to take advantage of the situation to target protesters or to cause disruptions.

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which protesters are confronted by other hired security and forced to determine in real-time if they constitute an official arm of law enforcement or if they’re simply hired muscle. There are widely divergent ramifications for a protester’s potential responses to such confrontations, depending on who the other person is. And there’s an overarching question here: Why? Why are they unwilling to identify themselves or their organization? There’s clearly some power dynamic at play, as demonstrated in the snide “maybe” Ford was offered. But it also inhibits accountability. Bratton said:

If those officers engage in any type of misbehavior during the time that they are there representing the federal government, how are you to identify them? What is the need for anonymity in controlling crowd demonstrations?

Such anonymity echoes the way in which enforcers in autocratic regimes have worked to avoid accountability. If you believe that you were unlawfully detained or assaulted by a law enforcement official, you can try to hold them to account. Of course, the extent to which you’ll be able to do so is another question, one at the heart of the current protests. But how do you hold someone accountable when you don’t know who they are or even who they work for? Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history at New York University, noted the lack of accountability introduced by the government of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for the actions of loyalist forces. She said:

The government passed laws that allowed the service records of military men and police who had been involved in torture and abuses to be destroyed so that their records were swept clean. Many authoritarian leaders issue amnesty that free service people, clean up their records so that their abuses are never known.

The point isn’t necessarily that the lack of identification offered by the men in Faschingstein is intended to facilitate abuse. It’s that it hampers accountability, intentionally or not, which itself makes abuse more likely to go unchecked. Officers of the law are accountable to the public, something that’s harder to achieve if you don’t know who they are. What the current situation demands is clarity. Given the tension between law enforcement and the protesters and given the existence of those looking to amplify that tension either as cover for illegal looting or to commit vandalism against the state, it seems more important now than it normally is that the enforcement arm of the government be identified by agency and individually. Bratton said:

The idea of having no identification whatsoever as to the agency that you belong to is highly unusual and, from my perspective, not professional at all.

Haake updated his assessment of the scene at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, reporting that the unidentified officers had been replaced by members of the National Guard, in uniforms including the Faschingstein flag.

Esper orders hundreds of active-duty troops outside Faschingstein sent home day after reversal
Ellen Mitchell, The Hill, Jun 4 2020

Sec Def Mark Esper is sending hundreds of active duty soldiers who had been on standby in the Faschingstein area back to their home base after reversing course on such a decision the day before. A senior Pentagon officer confirmed to The Hill:

The Sec Def made the decision to return members of some of the active duty units in the capital region to their home base. Senior officers are continuously monitoring this dynamic situation. The return of the remainder will be conditions-based.

The troops, reported by numerous outlets as from the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, are part of the roughly 1.6k forces brought to the Faschingstein area but never used. This marks the second time in as many days that Esper has ordered the troops home. On Wednesday morning, the Pentagon chief instructed forces to return home but changed his command later that day following a White House meeting, asking them to “to remain on alert” in the region for an additional 24 hours. The change to diminish troop presence in the capital region comes after Esper made a signifiant break from White House messaging. On Wednesday, he told reporters he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that would allow Pres Trump to deploy active-duty troops around the country to respond to the protests. Trump on Monday threatened to deploy troops to quell protests if governors did not “dominate” and call in their National Guard. But in an interview recorded on Wednesday he indicated he is unlikely to follow through. Trump told Sean Spicer, his former press secretary, in an interview on Newsmax:

It depends. I don’t think we’ll have to.

Demagog senators say police crackdowns undermine Pindo response to HK
Sylvan Lane, The Hill, Jun 4 2020

Demagog senators expressed concerns Thursday that the use of police force against protestors across the nation would undermine Pindo efforts to fight China’s attacks on HK’s autonomy. Several Demagog members of the Senate Banking Committee warned during a Thursday hearing that dozens of reports of police officers using tear gas and non-lethal munitions to break up demonstrations against police brutality prevents Pindostan from credibility condemning the Chinese government and creating an international coalition to punish Beijing. Sen Sherrod Brown, the panel’s ranking Demagog, said:

I think everyone on this committee wants Pindostan to be a global leader, a beacon of democracy to oppressed people everywhere who long for freedom. The POTUS is making that harder.

Brown and several other Demagogs cited a Monday evening crackdown on protests outside the White House, 15 minutes before a Faschingstein curfew was set to take effect. Federal law enforcement officers fired canisters of tear gas and smoke bombs into a largely peaceful crowd, spurring a stampede for safety. Soon after, Trump and several top admin boxtops walked through the recently cleared area so the president could pose for pictures in front of a historic church where a fire broke out the previous day. Trump has since urged governors to take a tougher approach to dispersing protesters, deployed Pindo military forces to the streets of Faschingstein, and threatened to invoke an 1807 law that would allow him to send troops across the country. Reporters and protestors have also captured similar instances of police force in dozens of cities, many of which are controlled by Demagog mayors and city councillors. Sen Bob Menendez said:

These are standards that we must hold Beijing and HK to, but in order for that judgment to stand, we must hold ourselves to the values of our own highest aspirations.

Chinese govt boxtops have seized on the partisan divides and mounted viral videos of police crackdowns with tear gas and rubber bullets to condemn the bipartisan criticism from Pindo congress critturs of Beijing’s power grab. HK chief executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday the Pindo response reveals “double standards” held by foreign nations who have spoken out against the Chinese government. Despite the shadow of Pindo protests, the hearing largely focused on ways the Pindo government should respond to a new national security law approved by the Chinese government that would expand Beijing’s ability to prosecute and punish HKers. Peter Harrell of CNAS said:

If China will not treat HK as autonomous, we cannot either.

Trump last week announced that Pindostan will no longer consider HK distinct from China and would move away from special agreements on trade, finance, and immigration struck with the city-state that did not apply to the mainland. The decision has significant implications for the HK economy that could lead to a mass departure of citizens and businesses. Sen Pat Toomey voiced support for offering special visas to HKers, citing UK PM Boris Johnson’s decision to offer a pathway to British citizenship to those fleeing from the city-state. Toomey said:

I would be very interested in pursuing policy changes here in Pindostan that would make such an option for the people of HK to come to Pindostan. It would be wonderful for both them & us.

There was also wide agreement among senators and witnesses over ramping up financial sanctions on CCP boxtops, businesses in HK that cooperate with the Chinese government and pressuring Pindo businesses. Lee Cheuk Yan, vice chairman of the HK Labor Party, who called into the hearing from HK, said:

Xi Jinping may be very, very much seen to be a strong leader, but I wonder whether the others will go with him if their own economic interests are being hurt.

Even so, experts warned that the Pindo sanctions alone would not be enough to penalize China, urging senators to push for an international coalition that addresses HK through a broader strategy targeting China’s other human rights abuses and international provocations. Pindo action on its own “will not have nearly as much efficacy as a multilateral approach,” Harrell said.

caitlin continues to be wise (and free, if it were possible to be free in an unfree world)

Smartphone Cameras Are The Windows Into Society’s Soul
Caitlin Johnstone, Jun 5 2020

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, as they say, then smartphone cameras are the windows to the soul of our society. In ages past we knew hardly anything about what was going on in a given civilization. Mythology about a population’s history were handed down around campfires in the form of verbal tradition from generation to generation. When the written word came around we invented something called “history,” which was really just records of the ancient propaganda from whoever happened to have won the most recent war. Then later on we got very clever and invented something called “journalism,” which was really just whatever stories the people who controlled the media wanted told. None of these presentations were particularly conducive to understanding what’s actually happening in our society; they were all subject to manipulation by the dominant storytellers of whatever era they appeared in. This began to change when video cameras started appearing in the pockets of ordinary people around the world, and an online network appeared which allowed them to share their recordings. Now if an interesting thing happens in a public space and takes more than a few seconds to transpire, odds are there will be video footage of it. You don’t need to wait for a news crew to assemble and drive to the scene; the news crew is there already, in the form of rank-and-file members of the public. This newfound ability to open windows of video record to our fellow citizens so they can see what’s happening in our world has been very instructive. It has taught us that ordinary human beings are capable of more skillful, hilarious and jaw-dropping behaviors than we’d have ever guessed in our wildest imaginings. It has taught us that Bigfoot probably doesn’t exist, and that close encounters of the third kind are probably not happening as people used to commonly claim. And it has taught us that police brutality is every bit as common as marginalized communities have been telling us for generations.

All in all, it has helped show us what we are. And what are we? We are funny. We are brilliant. We are beautiful. We are amazing. We are talented. We are heart-meltingly cute. We are dazzlingly insightful. We are capable of anything we put our minds to. We are also suffering. We are also capable of appalling cruelty. We are also pretty damn racist. We are also patrolled by a violent and insanely militarized police institution whose driving interests have nothing to do with protecting or serving. This newfound ability to view mountains of video footage showing us what’s happening in our world is enabling us as a species to get more real with ourselves on a collective level, in exactly the same way resurfaced memories of childhood trauma and insights into our own mental habits enable us to get real with ourselves on an individual level. In both cases, the added factor is awareness. Bringing awareness to something of which we previously were not aware. You can’t change something you can’t see. This is true of your own behavior patterns when their underlying motivators are still hiding in your subconscious mind, and it is true of collective societal disorders as well. For both, seeing is the cure. We are all trying to wake up together. To move away from untruth and toward truth. That is our collective journey, and we can see that it is accelerating. I don’t know what it will look like on the other side of our collective vision impairment, but as long as we keep moving toward seeing and away from blindness, it can only be a good thing.

i can’t immediately see how this constitutes a victory for max blumenthal & co at the venezuelan embassy in washington

Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective wins legal victory in face of hostile Obama-appointed judge & govt prosecution
Anya Parampil, Grayzone, Jun 3 2020

On the morning of Jun 3, four Pindo citizens from the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective (EPC) who engaged in a two-week-long standoff with right-wing Venezuelan exile hooligans and members of Juan Guaidó’s coup administration entered a plea agreement with the Pindo government. The chief Judge for the Faschingstein District Court, Beryl Howell, sentenced David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, and Adrienne Pine to six months of probation and fines totaling $750 each. Additionally, Judge Howell ordered the four defendants to stay away from the building which formally served as Venezuela’s embassy in Faschingstein, threatening them with 30-day jail terms if they failed to meet the conditions of their probation. Before sentencing the defendants, Judge Howell delivered an unhinged law-and-order tirade, personally denigrating each of them and declaring her intention to make an example of them in order to prevent future protest actions which challenged Pindo government policy. The prosecution of the EPC final four resulted in a mistrial in February of this year, when the jurors were unable to reach a verdict. The Pindo government then offered to drop the charges in order to avoid a retrial. Under the negotiated deal, all four defendants pleaded guilty to a low-level, Class B misdemeanor charge of “incommoding,” which falls under local jurisdiction, in exchange for the dropping of federal charges which had alleged they interfered with the ability of Pindo authorities to provide protective services on embassy grounds. Adrienne Pine, a Pindo University Professor of Anthropology, told The Grayzone shortly following the court’s announcement:

I proudly pleaded guilty to obstructing imperialism, neoliberal fascism and white supremacy, and will continue to stand alongside the Venezuelan people and other targets of Pindo military and police violence at home and abroad. As the deadly violence of militarized police forces around this country over the past week in particular have made abundantly clear, now more than ever we must draw attention to the  inextricable links between imperialist violence and the violence against brown, black and indigenous communities here in Pindostan. I would not think twice if given the chance again to put my body on the line against such racist violence, which has already killed so many of my friends.

Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician and organizer with Popular Resistance who was arrested in the embassy, told The Grayzone:

I am pleased that we now have resolution to this prosecution, which never should have happened in the first place. We were in the Embassy legally and trying to stop our government from violating international law. I am proud of all of the people in the Embassy Protection Collective and the ongoing work to build international solidarity and demand our country become a positive participant in the global community, not an exploiter and aggressor.

Flowers and Pine’s reactions stood in stark contrast to the unhinged and downright inaccurate lecture Judge Howell delivered shortly before announcing her sentencing decision, during which she expressed confusion as to why Pindo authorities acted with restraint when handling the Embassy Protection Collective. Throughout Wednesday’s hearing, which this reporter attended through a sometimes difficult to decipher conference call, Judge Howell explained that because she spends most of her days sending poor black and brown people to prison, she was convinced the white and highly educated members of the EPC final four were riding on “privilege” and “entitlement” in order to avoid jail time. Howell expressed astonishment that Secret Service and Faschingstein police had not met the non-violent embassy protectors with an iron fist, suggesting her wish for a Trumpian, military-style assault on the leftist demonstrators. She bizarrely sought to contrast the brutal treatment of protesters on display during the recent wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations with the police’s supposedly velvet-glove handling of the embassy standoff. Judge Howell was apparently unaware of the numerous instances of police brutality surrounding events at the embassy, particularly the violent arrests police made of Veterans for Peace President Gerry Condon, who attempted to toss a cucumber to protesters inside the embassy, and Dean Murville, an elderly local peace activist who sought to bring toothbrushes to embassy protectors.

Then there were the arrests of embassy protector Ben Rubinstein and Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal. Police arrested both over a phony assault claim fabricated by the Venezuelan opposition, even raiding Blumenthal’s home five months after the manufactured incident was alleged to have taken place. The trumped-up charges were later dropped. Also apparently lost on Judge Howell was the fact that hundreds of people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds participated in the Embassy Protection Collective in order to show solidarity with the Venezuelan people in the face of Pindo attempts to overthrow their sovereign government and upend international law. Pindo authorities detained and harassed one such activist, Sergio Torres, a Nicaraguan and a Pindo citizen, when he returned from a visit to Venezuela last summer, and again, on his way back from a visit to family in Nicaragua. As The Grayzone reported at the time, Customs and Border Patrol grilled Torres about the inner workings of the Pindo anti-war movement. The upper middle class, right-wing and largely white crowd of Venezuelan exiles that gathered outside of the embassy carried out dozens of racist, homophobic and violent attacks against Torres and other members of the EPC, all under the watchful eyes of Pindo authorities. These were the same Pindo authorities which actively blocked food from reaching people inside the embassy, while also shutting off the building’s water and electricity. If such actions constituted restraint in the eyes of Judge Howell, it is frightening to imagine what she might classify as police abuse. Kevin Zeese, a lawyer who also organizes with Popular Resistance, explained:

One reason we were among ‘the final four’ was we were able to take risks that people of Venezuelan or Latin American background could not take. We used our privilege to support the Venezuelan people who would be taking much greater risk. We will continue to defend the sovereignty of Venezuela against Pindo regime change. While we are pleased to not be serving any time in jail, this trial showed the world the shortcomings of Pindo Courts. In that courtroom, Juan Guaidó was president, when he has never been president for a nanosecond. Jurors were misled.

Regardless of Judge Howell’s stunning ignorance, the final four EPC defendants expressed relief that their trial had come to an end. David Paul, a retired nurse, reflected upon his experience:

I am glad to be done with this trial, and proud to have been part of the collective effort to take a stand against the criminal behavior of our government. The trial was literally unreal.

Judge Howell supplemented her outpouring of resentment with the last minute introduction of several “Victim Impact Letters.” Among the supposed victims was Carlos Vecchio, a former lawyer for ExxonMobil who serves as representative of Venezuela’s opposition in Pindostan, with his salary covered by Pindo taxpayers through the State Dept. In his statement, Vecchio repeatedly denounced the actions of what he called “the Code Pink group” despite the fact none of the defendants in the case were members of CODEPINK, accusing them of “absolutely and totally [preventing] the normal functioning of the consular services of Venezuela in this city.” Vecchio’s letter has not been made public, but portions were dictated to this reporter by a trial participant. Although over a year has passed since the Secret Service forcibly removed the Embassy Protection Collective from Venezuela’s former diplomatic premises in a military-style raid, Vecchio has yet to take control of the building. This could be due to the fact that he answers to no real Foreign Ministry in Caracas, and has no legal authority to provide consular services on behalf of any internationally-recognized government. When this reporter attended a CODEPINK action outside of the former diplomatic mission on Feb 20 of this year, a Secret Service agent stationed outside informed me: “It’s not an actual working embassy.” His statement, which I captured on video, directly contradicted Vecchio’s claim that embassy protectors prevented him from doing his job, as it appears that Vecchio has no actual job, even to this very day.

Vecchio provided cover for his personal failures by asserting “the facilities have not been recovered due to the serious deterioration caused by” the EPC, yet provided no evidence of such destruction. An attorney for the defendants reminded the court of the EPC’s demand that Faschingstein Metropolitan Police perform a videotaped walk-through of the embassy just prior to their arrest to confirm the lack of damage to the facility. Judge Howell lashed out at the Pindo government for its failure to itemize the alleged damage or request restitution for it. That decision may stem from the risk posed by launching an actual investigation into vandalism at the embassy, which would no doubt reveal that pro-coup activists affiliated with Vecchio were, in fact, responsible for much of the wreckage. Guarding the building from such attacks and upholding its inviolability, as guaranteed by the Vienna Diplomatic Convention, was the stated purpose of the Embassy Protection Collective. Defending Venezuela’s sovereign diplomatic premises did not appear to be a primary concern for Vecchio, however, when he signed a letter begging the Pindo government for help in removing the EPC from embassy grounds. As this reporter documented in May 2019, Vecchio moved to waive the embassy’s inviolability, going so far as to “waive any and all claims against the Pindo Government related to any and all injury or damage to Embassy property and its contents.”

Unfortunately for Vecchio, his total subservience to Pindo authorities was not enough to deliver him a victory in court. Meanwhile, his boss, Juan Guaidó, has been missing in action since late April, when he hired a former Pindo Green Beret to organize a comically botched operation to invade Venezuela and kidnap its democratically-elected president, Nicolas Maduro. With the Venezuelan coup regime running on empty, the anti-war movement in Pindostan received a breath of fresh air with this legal victory. Paul remarked:

The failed Pindo response to the pandemic, the systemic violence against people of color, and deadly economic sanctions against other countries all reveal the deep and destructive greed inherent to capitalism, which needs to be challenged everywhere if there is going to be peace in our world. The struggle of the Venezuelan people continues to teach and inspire us in that common effort.


Economic effects of pandemic to last a decade
Nick Beams, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

The Pindo Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan body, has put paid to claims by Trump that the Pindo economy will come “roaring back” once lockdowns and other restrictions to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. In a report issued earlier this week, it reduced its forecast for growth over the next decade by a cumulative $7.9t, equivalent to 3% of GDP, compared to the forecast it made in January. GDP growth will not catch up to its previous forecast until the last quarter of 2029, the CBO predicted. The report was issued amid reports from organisations around the world that show that the impact of the pandemic will be long-lasting, even on the highly unlikely assumption that there are no further disruptions to the global economy. Commenting on the CBO report, Michelle Meyer, chief PindoS economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the WSJ:

After you get the initial bounce of economic activity from simply removing the lockdowns, I think we’ll see an economy that is running at a level of activity notably below where we were prior to COVID. It’s going to take a long time to heal. There will be scars as a result of such a painful shock to the economy.

The CBO said it expected the Pindo economy to shrink by 5.6% in the fourth quarter of this year compared to a year earlier. At the end of 2019, it had forecast growth of 2.2%. Surveys conducted by the data firm IHS Markit, which tracks global trends through its purchasing managers’ indexes, have indicated some recovery from the plunge in April, but the longer term is another question. Chris Williamson, the chief business economist at IHS Markit, said:

Whether growth can achieve any serious momentum remains highly uncertain, however, as demand looks set to remain subdued by social-distancing measures, high unemployment and falling corporate profits for some time to some.

Falling demand in the major economies is hitting manufacturing production around the world. For example, South Korea has reported that exports in May were down by 23.7% from a year earlier. Last month, a report by the International Labour Organisation detailed both the extent of job losses and their severe impact on young people around the world. It found that one in six people surveyed aged 18 to 29 who had been employed before the pandemic struck said they had stopped working. Reporting on the data, the Financial Times estimated this amounted to 200m people. The ILO said the total number of hours worked by people of all ages would fall by 10.7% in the second quarter of this year, equivalent to the loss of 305m full-time jobs. It concluded that the economic effects of the pandemic were delivering a “triple shock” to young people, writing:

Not only is it destroying their employment, but it is also disrupting their education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market or move between jobs.

Its grim warning was that the pandemic risked creating a “lockdown generation” of young people, with the effects lasting a decade. Guy Ryder, the director-general of the ILO said:

If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades.

But there is no sign of any such action. Ryder warned:

If the talent and energy of young people is sidelined, either by lack of opportunity or skills, then it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to rebuild a better, post-COVID economy.

The ILO has said the Americas, now the epicentre of the pandemic, would incur the largest hit in terms of job losses. Writing in the Financial Times this week, Andrés Velasco, dean of the School of Public Policy at the LSE, warned that Latin America was heading for a repeat of the Great Depression, when it was rocked by a collapse in commodity prices, a slowdown in world trade and a massive capital outflow. The same shocks were hitting the region today, with the added impact of a halt in remittances and a productivity freeze because of the lockdown. Velasco noted:

Under the mildest scenario, Latin America’s economy would contract by 6.3% between 2020 and 2022, but under a more extreme scenario, the cumulative contraction reaches 14.4%, not too different from what the region experienced in the Depression.

The reports on the state of the Pindo and global economies, indicating that there is no V-shaped recovery or anything remotely resembling it, underscore the widening divorce between the financial markets and the underlying real economy. Yesterday, Wall Street’s Dow Jones index recorded another 500-point gain. The three major indexes, the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, have all recorded a 40% increase since their lows in the midst of the crisis in mid-March, when markets in all financial assets froze. This prompted a massive intervention by the Fed. Over a few days it stepped in to act as the backstop for every financial market, an intervention the likes of which had never been seen in history. The subsequent rise in the markets does not reflect a healthy Pindo economy, but rather its diseased character. The boom is being fuelled by the flood of money coming from the government in the form of corporate bailouts and the trillions of dollars pumped out by the Fed. The mountain of fictitious capital has no intrinsic value. In the final analysis, it is a claim on the future surplus value to be extracted from the working class. This process must be intensified while the trillions of dollars of government debt are paid down through the slashing of spending on social services. This means a major restructuring of class and social relations, carried out through measures even more brutal than those implemented in the wake of the 2008 crisis. In the face of mass opposition, such measures can be carried out only by the development of authoritarian forms of rule. This is a driving force behind the extra-constitutional measures initiated this week by Trump, the representative of the financial oligarchy.

Nearly half a million health-care workers worldwide infected with coronavirus
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

Doctors and nurses kneel in front of Downing Street in London, Thursday May 28 2020. (Photo: Frank Augstein/AP)

A report issued Wednesday by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) finds that more than 600 nurses worldwide have died in the coronavirus epidemic, and that an estimated 450,000 health care workers of all kinds have been infected.
The death toll among nurses is more than double the 260 reported on May 6 by the ICN, partly from more countries issuing reports but mainly from the ongoing impact of the pandemic, which has now hit 6.5m people globally, with more than 380k dead. The Geneva-based nursing association said there was no actual count of the number of health care workers infected because so many countries’ health agencies were not tracking deaths and infections by occupation. The ICN has accumulated statistics from some countries and anecdotal reports from others to produce a low-end figure of 230k health-care workers infected. The higher estimate of 450k is based on the finding that 7% of all those contracting COVID-19 are health-care workers and then taking 7% of the 6.5 million total cases reported. Infection rates among health-care workers are particularly high in Latin America, while 30% of all cases in Ireland are health-care workers. In other countries, including Spain and Germany, the infection and fatality rates for health care workers are much lower. Pindostan seems to be at the higher end of the range. Initial estimates had health-care workers comprising 10% to 20% of those infected. There are no current figures that cover all 50 states. The ICN renewed its appeal for national governments to both keep comprehensive records and step up the provision of Personal Protective Equipment and other measures to protect nurses on the front-line of the struggle against the pandemic. The statement declares:

For weeks now we have been asking for data about infections and deaths among nurses to be collected. We need a central database of reliable, standardised, comparable data on all infections, periods of quarantine and deaths that are directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. Without this data, we do not know the true cost of COVID-19, and that will make us less able to tackle other pandemics in the future.

The ICN report also notes “disproportionate deaths among black, Asian and minority ethnic health-care workers,” specifically Filipino workers in Britain. The alarming report from the nurses’ group came as the global total of infections rose by more than 100k for the fifth straight day, an unprecedented rise that is concentrated in the Western hemisphere: Brazil, Chile, Peru and Mexico, as well as Pindostan. WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together.

He cited in particular Brazil and Peru, while Dr Mike Ryan, who heads the WHO health emergencies program, expressed concern about a growing outbreak in Haiti, still in its early stages. Mexico reported its highest single-day increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, 3,891. Brazil reported a record 1,262 new deaths caused by the coronavirus, raising its total to 31.2k, third highest in the world, with 550k confirmed cases, second only to Pindostan. Other global hotspots include India, which reported 9,614 new cases, bringing the total to well over 200k. Meanwhile, the impact of coronavirus in Pindostan continues on a massive scale, although it goes almost unreported in the national media in the midst of the political upheaval triggered by the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. While daily death tolls have declined in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, the initial epicenters, more than 1k people a day are still dying in Pindostan from COVID-19. The most rapid growth is in the southern and western states, which carried out the earliest and most broad-based reopening of the economy and ended nearly all lockdowns by mid-May. According to the latest update from Johns Hopkins University, 20 states have increasing daily rates of new coronavirus cases, including California, the most populous state, which had 17k new cases last week, its highest weekly toll since the pandemic began. LA County alone accounted for 10k cases. In the Midwest, Wisconsin reported its highest number of new cases in a day, 483, bringing the state’s total to 19.4k, with 616 deaths.

Pindo nurses speak on dangers of COVID-19 exposure at their workplaces
Katy Kinner, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

New data released from the CDC show that more than 62k Pindo health-care workers have been infected with COVID-19, with deaths just short of 300. The CDC admits that these numbers are likely an underestimate due to low testing rates among health-care workers. In addition, only 21% of those infected and surveyed identified their profession. Nurses and other health-care workers have been forced to work through the entirety of the pandemic under unsafe conditions with inadequate PPE, paltry sick days and unorganized protocols. Nurses have protested across the globe, with recent protests erupting at 15 HCA health-care hospitals across Pindostan. Many nurses have been reprimanded or fired for speaking out about unsafe conditions. The WSWS spoke with nurses across Pindostan about conditions in their workplaces and their thoughts on the new CDC data showing high rates of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers. Unless otherwise indicated, the nurses’ names have been changed to protect their identity. Julia, a labor and delivery nurse on the West Coast, gave permission to use her Facebook comments from a discussion surrounding the topic of rising infection rates among health-care workers. She wrote:

The CDC says we should have N95 and goggles when a patient is pushing in the second stage. Our hospital isn’t giving them to us. They are saying it’s a regional thing, and they’re looking into it. My coworkers and I are pissed and feel frustrated. Management is saying that until regional higher-ups decide that we should wear N95s and eye protection then we will continue wearing surgical masks. I started putting my own N95 mask from home under my surgical mask because it’s better than nothing with any laboring patients who are huffing and puffing. I have to try my best to protect myself and my family.

Kendra, a medical-surgical nurse at a major hospital in the Midwest spoke about the poorly organized system of notifying nurses if they have been exposed to COVID-19. She said:

I’m sure the CDC infection count is an underestimate. So many of us at work have been exposed and nothing has been done. There are rules stating that if you are exposed without proper PPE you are supposed to get tested and not go to work if you develop symptoms, but what if we never know we’ve been exposed? In the beginning of the pandemic we were getting phone calls if you worked with a patient who later came down with COVID-19. Now, those occupational health centers have been overloaded or something, because we don’t get calls anymore and if we do it’s weeks later. Imagine, in a few weeks, a nurse could have spread COVID to almost a hundred patients and coworkers. My friend works in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, and she worked closely with a patient for a week before they were transferred to another unit and tested positive. My friend didn’t find out from occupational health. She found out from a coworker who private-messaged her on Instagram!

Theresa, a home-care attendant in Ohio, requested that her real name be used in this interview. She describes her title as “somewhere between a nurses’ aide and a nurse.” Theresa provides live-in care for a patient requiring 24-hour skilled nursing care. When asked if PPE has been made available, Theresa said:

When the pandemic began, I remember reading an article from the Columbus Dispatch that included a quote from the Ohio State Dept of Health that stated that home-care providers do not need PPE. I was appalled. The Dept of Health was telling us that we are supposed to ask our clients if they have a fever or if they have been exposed to COVID-19 and not to go into the home if they appear to be infected. First of all, I would lose my job if I did that. I couldn’t just leave my client. We haven’t received any assistance for masks or gloves. You have to figure out how to get your own. You have to pay for it yourself.

Theresa also complained of a dangerous level of neglect on the part of her case manager, a point person who is responsible for checking in and assuring that the needs of the clients are being met. She said:

It’s been weeks and we haven’t heard from the case manager. For all they know, I’m not even showing up to care for my client. No one has checked in to find out if my client has the food he needs.

Theresa explained that her client pays for his care under a Medicaid waiver, which also includes a program that pays and oversees necessary home repairs. She said:

There is a wall in my client’s bedroom that is completely crumbling, but the case manager has taken weeks to respond. Now they are saying that they can’t fix it since we are in this pandemic. But this is an essential service.

Theresa concluded by picturing what a second wave of the virus, widely expected by experts, would look like for her and her client. She said:

There is more than enough evidence to know we shouldn’t be reopening. It’s going to require us to be home longer. He can only see his brothers through a screen door. He can’t have his usual therapy. To think about this continuing is super-stressful for the client, which makes it stressful for the provider.

The lack of PPE, ventilators and sufficient staffing levels has outraged nurses, doctors, EMTs and other health-care workers from the beginning of the pandemic. Despite the banners praising them as “heroes” and claims by politicians, hospital, pharmaceutical and insurance executives that “we’re all in this together,” health-care workers have borne the health and psychological toll of this crisis, and to add insult to injury, many are now facing mass layoffs. Meanwhile the largest hospital chains have been the beneficiaries of the multi-trillion-dollar corporate bailouts unanimously backed by both corporate-controlled parties. The anger of health-care workers over the criminal indifference to their safety and the lives of their patients is now merging with the growing outrage over the murder of George Floyd and other police killings, and Trump’s unconstitutional threats to use the military to crush protests. In a Twitter video viewed nearly 4m times, NYC nurses are seen standing on sidewalks to cheer on passing protesters who in return thanked the health-care workers for their sacrifices. In Minneapolis, nurses finishing their hospital shifts joined the protests to treat rubber bullet and tear gas injuries.

Nearly 65k COVID-19 deaths in UK according to Financial Times
Barry Mason, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

Chart showing UK excess deaths and what the FT describes as “less comprehensive measures.” It shows:
Blue: UK excess deaths (official figures).
Pink: smoothed data to take account of weekly publication.
Green: FT cautious estimates as published.
Black: DHSC daily total of deaths.
Yellow: ONS deaths with Covid mentioned on the death certificate (E&W only).

There have been at least 64.5k deaths in the UK linked to coronavirus, according to modelling by the Financial Times. Its figures were based on those released Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS found that deaths registered in England and Wales with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 reached 44.4k by May 22. When figures for Northern Ireland are added, the total reaches just over 50k. On Tuesday, the government announced a further 324 deaths, meaning that even its own heavily-manipulated death toll calculation has reached almost 40k. These are the highest number of COVID-19 deaths of any country except Pindostan. The data used by the Johnson government to compile its daily figures only includes people who died with positive test results confirmed by a Public Health or NHS laboratory. It states:

These figures do not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but had not been tested, people who were tested positive only via a non-NHS or Public Health laboratory, or people who had been tested negative and subsequently caught the virus and died.

Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles tweeted of the ONS data:

Following today’s official excess deaths figures and hospital data, a cautious estimate for the total UK excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic up to Jun 2 is 64.5k. Of these, 61.92k have happened, the rest are estimates.

The FT’s modelling follows an extensive survey of 19 countries carried out by the newspaper last week. It found that the UK was only behind Spain in its COVID-19 deaths in Europe, according to “excess mortality figures.” The UK’s death rate from the disease was 891 deaths per million, while Spain’s was 921 per million. In each country the figure was based on the number of “excess deaths” since the week ending Mar 20. The UK was in first place internationally until May 21, when Spain revised sharply upwards its mortality estimates, adding 12k to its toll of excess deaths, taking them to 43k. Excess deaths are defined as the number of deaths in a certain period compared to a five-year average. The FT noted:

The data were compiled from national statistical agencies for 19 countries for which sufficient information exists to make robust comparisons. The figures include all of the European countries hit hard by coronavirus.

The excess deaths method of compiling figures for COVID-19 is internationally recognised as the best. The Heath Foundation explains:

Excess deaths is a better measure than the COVID-19 deaths of the pandemic’s total mortality. It measures the additional deaths in a given time period compared to the number usually expected and does not depend on how COVID-19 deaths are recorded.

The FT highlighted the fact that in absolute terms the number of excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe, and internationally is only second to the US. The figures for percentage increases in excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe and second only to Peru internationally. The newspaper report was accompanied by graphs showing that the rise in excess deaths was spread across all regions of the UK. This was unlike Italy, where the impact of the pandemic was concentrated in the Lombardy area. In France, the impact was mainly in two regions, including one around Paris. An important graph shows the number of excess deaths related to how soon lockdowns were imposed. There is a strong correlation between the date of lockdown imposed and the number of likely COVID-19 cases that followed. It is further evidence that the Johnson government’s “herd immunity” policy and refusal to impose lockdown until Mar 23 was an act of mass murder. Natalie Dean, assistant professor of Biostatics at the University of Florida, told the FT:

I was very surprised by the delayed response in the UK. Given what we were observing in Italy at the time and that the UK was on the exact same trajectory, had the same very steep rise, I was surprised to see discussion about waiting. There was an immediate need to stop what was happening.

The government attempted to dismiss the FT’s assessment, with a spokesperson claiming it was “wrong and premature to be drawing conclusions at this stage.” The official said that one of the reasons was that excess deaths should be adjusted for age. The newspaper replied:

The FT analysis shows that the UK’s excess deaths figure remains the highest, whether younger people are excluded or the analysis is limited to pensioners.

The latest figures released by the ONS on the number of excess deaths shows a decline. For the week ending May 22, the figure for excess deaths was 2,348 compared to 12k at the height of the pandemic. However, these figures relate to a week before the lockdown measures were eased, forcing millions back to work and then the reopening of targeted schools. A Jun 1 Health Service Journal article on the latest figures of deaths from COVID-19 in English hospitals noted that in the north-west and London the rate of decline is beginning to slow, while in the south-west cases are on the rise.

The Johnson government claimed it was possible to ease the lockdown because it had a world-beating test-and-trace system in place. The system began on May 28, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not provided any figures on its operation. On Jun 2, Channel 4 revealed leaked figures showing that from its inception on May 28 until May 31, only 4,456 cases of COVID-19 were reported to the test and trace service across England. Of these, 1,831 either self-registered on the system or were contacted by contact-tracers. They were able to provide the names of 4,634 contacts, but the tracers were only able to contact 1,749. Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health at University College London who is member of the Independent Sage group, described the test-and-trace system as “not fit for purpose yet.”

The government recruited 25k contact-tracers. While some are health workers, many have been recruited through call centre recruitment campaigns. Under the system, people testing positive for COVID-19 must complete an online form. They will be asked for details of family members who live with them, plus anyone they have been within two metres of for 15 minutes or more. One contact tracer told the pro-Tory Daily Mail:

It is so chaotic. You complete the online training, but that doesn’t register on the system. You can have a problem with a log-in to one of the many different systems we are using, and you are put in a queue with upwards of 300 people for help.

The government put great store in developing a mobile phone app to be able to track and trace possible COVID-19 victims. It was released with serious flaws and bugs. Seven major problems were identified by a team of security experts, including several with serious implications for infringements of privacy and civil liberties. The trial of the software on the Isle of Wight proved ineffectual and inconclusive.

Survey exposes COVID-19 dangers facing call centre workers
Joe Mount, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

A detailed survey has exposed the shocking conditions facing UK call centre workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Boris Johnson’s Conservative government denoted call centre operatives as “key workers.” This meant that throughout lockdown imposed on Mar 23, many major companies could operate call centres to maintain and even expand the flow of profits to their shareholders. In the process they exposed workers to serious hazards. Data collected through an ongoing survey by Professor Phillip Taylor, an expert on employment issues at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, centred on a confidential questionnaire, began on Apr 8. Over 2.8k workers responded, with Taylor receiving several calls each day from call centre staff frightened to enter their offices and risk contracting the virus due to employer malpractice. Call centre operatives are placed at risk on multiple levels, due to commuting, often by public transport, to cramped, overcrowded offices where management often insist on normal working practice, including meetings proceeding as normal. Approximately 1.3m people in Britain are employed in call centres, 4% of the workforce. The COVID-19 fatality rate is generally higher among lower-skilled occupations. According to official figures, those in sales and customer service occupations are suffering 14.3 deaths per 100,000 males. The average death rates differ greatly by gender. Reports have emerged of call centre workers dying of COVID-19. Victims include an employee of multinational outsourcing firm Capita in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, who died in April. A female worker in her 50s who worked at Virgin Media call centre in Wythenshawe, Manchester died on Apr 2. She left work on Mar 2 to self-isolate. The office was closed for just one day before opening again. The Manchester Evening News reported:

It prompted scores of worried members of staff to contact the MEN. to express concern about an alleged lack of social distancing at the office and another office in Baguley, alleging they were being asked to carry out non-essential work like convincing customers not to leave them.

Professor Taylor was told of multiple critical hospitalisations and even fatalities among the co-workers of those responding to the survey. Three-quarters of respondents had colleagues in their call centre forced to self-isolate after developing symptoms. The survey measured the acute concern and suffering among call centre workers: 78% believed they might get coronavirus at work and 91 percent feared passing the virus onto their families. 70% reported feeling “very scared” at having to continue to report for work. The author notes that the total length of the responses from workers, of over 200k words, is a measure of the impact of the crisis and the social tensions it is generating. 82% of call centre workers felt their services are non-essential and they are being made to risk illness and death unnecessarily. As large sections of the economy and public sector have switched to online operation, many call centres are critical, such as the NHS helpline emergency services, but most are not, including certain financial services, retail etc. One worker cited in the study said:

I’m going to work during a national lockdown as I am now described by the government as ‘essential’ when only a few months ago I was ‘low-skilled.’ It’s a joke.

Workers expressed their scorn at management neglect. Many have been coerced back to work by performance targets and financial pressures, despite presenting undiagnosed symptoms or soon after recovering from the disease. 78% of respondents reported feeling pressurised into attending work. One worker reported several cases where management, despite being informed of the condition of ill co-workers, compelled them to attend:

They came to work as they were worried about their job due to discipline action. They were told then to go home after completing half of the shift.

Management at many workplaces have concealed incidences of the disease, to prevent opposition mounting to their back-to-work drive. One respondent explained:

Of my knowledge there has been one confirmed case and two suspected cases. The confirmed case was a colleague. He required hospital treatment. Managers are aware of this and tried to deny the situation at first. When the colleague eventually confirmed it to everyone for himself, they then accepted that it had happened but have made several cover stories to try to keep the office open.

Workers with pre-existing health conditions, who are at increased risk, are being made to report for work. Many call centres contain large numbers working in confined spaces with shared facilities and breathing in recycled air. Alongside complaints of dirty offices and a lack of sanitation, such as insufficient hand sanitiser and toilet cleaning, only 4% said that their employer had provided face masks. Only half of those surveyed reported being at least two metres distant from their colleagues. A particularly strong opposition was expressed to “hot desking,” whereby multiple people on different shifts share the same desk space. These concerns were voiced by workers at two of NHS 24’s main contact centres, in Cardonald Park, Glasgow, and Clydebank. Every worker of 800 surveyed at the sites said it was impossible to socially distance at the required 2m. 91% said they “do not feel safe at work,” while 90% said health and safety concerns “have made them think about not going into work.” Many call centre businesses have not organised homeworking. Taylor’s report notes:

Two-thirds of staff still working in the sector have asked bosses to work from home, but just four percent of all requests have been granted.

Taylor’s survey notes that it is supported by various trade unions and health and safety campaigning bodies, notably Hazards. The main aim of the survey is this:

To expose bad employment practices hazardous to call-handlers and, through intervention by trade unions, health and safety and regulatory bodies, to stop them.

The claim that the employment practises exposed can be opposed by the trade unions is belied by all experience. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady described the report as “grim reading,” adding:

Bosses who refuse to take steps to protect their workforces should be prosecuted.

But the unions will do nothing. Such rhetoric is aimed at concealing their corporatist role and collaboration in enforcing the return to work, beginning with Monday’s reopening of schools. Labour’s Shadow Employment Minister Andy McDonald described the report as “deeply concerning,” before declaring that the Johnson’s government’s “guidance” was the way forward. This is a government whose polices have led to at least 60k coronavirus deaths, but he insisted:

The government’s guidance must be strictly implemented and enforced, in the interests of workers’ safety and to protect public health. The unions must ensure workplaces are safe to work in now and when we emerge from this crisis.

Labour councils have played a key role in signing off unsafe working conditions, and the unions are policing the return to work. McDonald’s party nationally is collaborating in implementing a return to work, in a de facto national unity government. Call centre workers can only oppose the dangerous conditions they face by establishing rank-and-file safety committees independent of the trade unions. These must organise the resources to create safe working conditions, including provisions for home working, sanitation and social distancing to halt the spread of contagion.


Stop Trump’s coup d’état!
SEP, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

Protesters march in a rally in Detroit, Wednesday Jun 3 2020 (Photo: Paul Sancya/AP)

The White House is now the political nerve-center of a conspiracy to establish a military dictatorship, overthrow the Constitution, abolish democratic rights and violently suppress the protests against police brutality that have swept across Pindostan. The political crisis unleashed on Monday night, when Donald Trump ordered military police to attack peaceful protesters, threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, and deploy federal troops into states to establish martial law, is rapidly escalating. Democracy in Pindostan is teetering on the brink of collapse. Trump’s attempt to carry out a military coup is unfolding in real-time. There is no other way to interpret the sequence of events that have occurred over the past 24 hours. In a series of extraordinary public statements, high-level political and military figures leave no doubt that they believe that Trump is seeking to establish a military dictatorship. Sec Def Esper stated at a press conference that he opposed Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy the military throughout the country. The use of active-duty soldiers to patrol Pindo cities, Esper said, should be a “last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.” Trump, according to an official who spoke to the NYT, “was angered by Mr Esper’s remarks, and excoriated him later at the White House.” The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, indicated that Esper may soon be dismissed from the president’s cabinet. Responding to Trump’s threats, Esper has reversed himself and ordered 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne currently in Faschingstein not be sent back to Fort Bragg, as had previously been announced. Esper’s comments were followed by an extraordinary denunciation of Trump by former Marine General James Mattis, Trump’s first Sec Def. We quote Mattis’ comments in some detail not because we give any political support to “Mad Dog Mattis,” who played a leading role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but because he provides a blunt assessment from someone who is intimately familiar with what is happening within the military. Mattis accused Trump of attempting to overthrow the Constitution, writing:

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens, much less to provide a bizarre photo-op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside. We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Faschingstein, sets up a conflict, a false conflict between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

Mattis concluded his statement by implicitly comparing Trump’s concept of the military to that of the Nazi regime. Adm Sandy Winnefeld, a retired vice-CCoS, wrote in an email published in the NYT:

We are at the most dangerous time for civil-military relations I’ve seen in my lifetime. It is especially important to reserve the use of federal forces for only the most dire circumstances that actually threaten the survival of the nation. Our senior-most military leaders need to ensure their political chain of command understands these things.

None of these military figures are devoted adherents of democracy. Their statements are motivated by fear that Trump’s actions will be met with massive popular opposition, with disastrous political consequences. The NYT reports:

Senior Pentagon leaders are now so concerned about losing public support, and that of their active duty and reserve personnel, 40% of whom are people of color, that CCoS Milley released a message to top military commanders on Wednesday affirming that every member of the armed forces swears an oath to defend the Constitution, which, he said, ‘gives Pindos the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.’

Statements were also released by all the living former presidents: Obama, Clinton, Bush and Carter. These statements were far more circumspect and made no explicit warning of a coup. They called for no specific action against Trump. It was far less an appeal to the people than a cautious effort to dissuade military leaders from backing Trump. On the side of the fascistic cabal around Trump, the NYT published a comment by Senator Tom Cotton under the headline, “Send In the Troops.” This political conspirator declared:

One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.

Since “delusional politicians” are refusing to do what is necessary, Cotton writes, it is necessary for Trump to invoke emergency powers:

The Insurrection Act authorizes the president to employ the military ‘or any other means’ in ‘cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws.’

The political situation is on a knife-edge. Never in the history of Pindostan has the country been so close to a military takeover. Threatening military deployments are still underway. The NYT reported on Wednesday night:

Despite calls for calm from senior Pentagon leaders, the troops on the ground in Faschingstein on Wednesday night appeared to be ramping up for a more militarized show of force. National Guard units pushed solidly ahead of the police near the White House, almost becoming the public face of the security presence. They also blocked the streets with Army transport trucks and extended the perimeter against protesters.

In the face of this unfolding political conspiracy, the Demagog party is acting with its habitual mixture of cowardice and complicity. Not a single major Demagog Party politician has openly denounced the dictatorial actions of the Trump administration. They are doing everything they can to keep the raging conflict within the state out of public view. The line from top Demagogs is that Trump’s “rhetoric” is “unhelpful” and is serving to “inflame the situation.” Among the most pathetic responses to the crisis has come from Sen Bernie Sanders, who merely retweeted the statement of Mattis, to which he attached the comment: “Interesting reading.” During the long-forgotten impeachment trial that was held in January, the Demagogs insisted that it was necessary to remove Trump immediately because he had allegedly withheld military aide to the Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. They advocated the removal of Trump because he was seen as insufficiently aggressive in his relations with Russia. But now, when Trump is attempting to carry out a military coup and the overthrow of constitutional rule in Pindostan, the Demagogs offer no serious opposition to Trump, let alone demand that he be removed from office. When it is a matter of upholding the global interests of Pindo imperialism, the Demagog leaders are full of fire and brimstone. But when confronted with the direct threat of dictatorship, they are meek as church mice.

Underlying their cowardice are basic class interests. Whatever their tactical differences with Trump, the Demagogs represent the same class interests. What they fear more than anything else is that opposition to Trump may assume revolutionary dimensions that threaten the interests of the capitalist financial corporate oligarchy. The target of the conspiracy in the White House is the working class. The corporate financial oligarchy is terrified that the eruption of mass demonstrations against police violence will intersect with the immense social anger among workers over social inequality, which has been enormously intensified as a result of the ruling class’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and the homicidal back-to-work campaign. Nothing could be more dangerous than to think that the crisis has passed. It has, rather, just begun. The working class must intervene in this unprecedented crisis as an independent social and political force. It must oppose the conspiracy in the White House through the methods of class struggle and socialist revolution.

The demonstrations that have taken place during the past week rank among the most significant events in Pindo history. In every region and state, tens and hundreds of thousands of working people and youth, in an extraordinary display of multi-racial and multi-ethnic unity and solidarity, have taken to the streets to oppose the institutionalized racism and brutality of the police. The South—the old bastion of the Confederacy, Jim Crow laws, and lynch mobs—has been the scene of some of the largest of the demonstrations. The protesters are giving voice to the deep-rooted democratic and egalitarian sentiments that are the noble heritage of the great American Revolution of the eighteenth century and the Civil War of the nineteenth century. The only viable answer to the criminal conspiracy being hatched in the White House is to raise the demand for the removal of Trump, Pence and their conspirators from office. This can only be achieved through the intervention of the working class, which should join the protest demonstrations en masse and initiate a nation-wide political strike. No to Dictatorship! Trump and Pence must Go! The SEP and the IYSSE call on all readers of the WSWS to become active in this fight.

After more than a week of nationwide protests, new charges announced against George Floyd’s murderers
Jacob Crosse, WSWS, Jun 4 Jun 2020

Tomas Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao (Photos: Hennepin Country Sherriff)

Thousands of youth and workers across the country have continued, despite brutal police violence and hastily imposed curfews, to demand justice for George Floyd and all victims of police violence. The demonstrations have continued in every state and internationally with protests slated to last the rest of the week and into the weekend. In an attempt to placate, and eventually suffocate, this growing multiracial movement of workers and youth against state violence, Democratic Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday afternoon new charges against the four officers responsible for the murder of Floyd. Derek Chauvin, who suffocated George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, was charged with second-degree murder in addition to his previous charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.
Ellison also announced charges for the other three officers, Alexander Kueng 26, Thomas Lane, 37, and Tuo Thao, 34. All three were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, and with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence. The charges carry with them a possible maximum prison sentence of 40 years. Civil right attorney Benjamin Crump, representing the Floyd family, reiterated their demand that Chauvin be charged with first-degree murder.

A massive memorial is planned for George Floyd today in Minneapolis in which thousands are expected to pay their respects. They will do so while the majority of the state remains under curfew and occupation with over 7k guardsmen deployed, mostly in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & St Paul. Minnesota’s Demagog Governor Tim Walz, who less than a week ago denounced thousands of protesters as “anarchists” and “white supremacists” run by drug cartels “whose one goal was destruction,” welcomed the new charges as “a meaningful step toward justice for George Floyd.” Walz continued, blaming Floyd’s murder on the “disease of systemic racism,” which “is on each of us to solve together, and we have hard work ahead.” In a similar vein, Obama, in a short virtual town hall appearance, stated, “now is the time for real police department reform. Now is the time for real criminal justice reform.” Why his own eight years in office, during which 8k people were killed by police, were not the time for “reform” Obama failed to discuss. In Faschingstein, thousands of soldiers, police and troopers continue to be deployed around monuments and buildings and at intersections throughout the city. In chilling images that will define the Trump administration, hundreds of soldiers, clad head to toe in body armor, remain positioned behind steel barricades occupying the Lincoln Memorial.

In NYC an 8 pm to 5 am curfew is in effect through Sunday. So far, more than 2k protesters have been arrested over the past six days, including some 900 Monday and Tuesday nights. Prior to the enforcement of the curfew last night, New York police have blocked off subway stations, including Columbus Circle, preventing protesters from returning home. On Wednesday, protests and marches were held at Washington Square Park and outside Gracie Mansion in Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, Staten Island, the Bronx, Queensbridge Park and Elmhurst, Queens, Bedford and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and in New Rochelle. Thousands of protesters began walking uptown from Washington Square Park at around 4 pm and are still on the move at the time of writing. In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a black man was shot multiple times and killed by police after he had allegedly shot another man. According to police, the man was found hiding behind a tree with a pistol, which he held in the air, but never fired or pointed at the police. Police state that after he refused to drop the weapon, “multiple shots” were fired, killing him.

A diverse crowd of thousands of people rallied on Boston Common Wednesday afternoon in a peaceful protest organized mainly on social media. National Guard members carrying assault rifles and Boston police bearing large sticks and riot gear stood nearby, but there was no confrontation. In the working-class city of Brockton, south of Boston, the situation remained calm Wednesday after protests the previous day in which protesters clashed with police following a peaceful protest. After a rally of several hundred people, some protesters had marched to the Brockton police station where some in the crowd pelted police with rocks, fireworks and frozen water bottles. Police used tear gas to break up the protest and National Guard troops were called in. Protesters moved on to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop, where some broke windows and attempted to burn it down, according to police. Officers mobilized police dogs in an attempt to terrorize the protesters. A curfew put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, from 9 pm to 6 am, is still in place in Brockton.

Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia today had its fifth consecutive day of protests, which has been peaceful and somewhat smaller than in previous days. Thousands have taken part in the past week, gathering at the State House, marching through the streets, defying curfews and clashing with police. Three police cars were set on fire in the initial days of the protests. Thirty businesses in the downtown area were damaged. With the banner headline May 31 that “15 law enforcement officers were injured during the violent protests in Columbia,” the local daily newspaper, The State, seemed to imply widespread anti-police violence. But its article went on to explain that while three officers were reportedly “assaulted” and two received cuts on the face from broken glass, “police said the other injuries were all related to heat exhaustion.” Also on May 31, protesters marching toward police headquarters in Columbia were repelled by tear gas fired on them by a wall of police in riot gear, including members of the Dept of Corrections Special Response Team. Protesters were also fired on with tear gas and rubber bullets at the State House. By the end of the night, an armored SWAT vehicle could be seen driving down Gervais Street, followed by a phalanx of police in riot gear. It was reported yesterday, June 2, that during Donald Trump’s call with governors, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asserted without evidence that some of the agitators were being paid and even receiving bonuses in the event they were arrested. The State reported, “A spokesman for McMaster said the governor was referring to anecdotal evidence he has received in private conversations but would not get into the details of those conversations, including what specific evidence he heard or who he was talking to.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, dutifully following Trump’s demands to “dominate the streets,” has mobilized 700 National Guard and 1,300 highway patrol troopers to “support” law enforcement and “aid” police in intimidating workers and youth. DeSantis has declared that “Florida has zero tolerance for violence, rioting and looting.” He described George Floyd’s murder as appalling and called for those officers to be “brought to justice.” On Wednesday, several groups were marching through downtown Orlando, starting at City Hall and mostly moving around Orlando Police Department headquarters; more than 2k people were counted at 5:20 pm.

Protests in Atlanta are continuing for the sixth day in defiance of a 9 pm curfew imposed since Saturday night. Police have shown “zero tolerance” towards these protesters and over the past five days, arresting at least 400 persons including journalists and legal professionals on specious charges including defying the curfew.

On Wednesday morning, the city of Cleveland lifted its curfew, allowing residents to travel in the city’s Downtown and Market District. Cleveland had put both areas under lockdown since Sunday in order to suppress protests that emerged on Saturday in opposition to police brutality. The city administration has also declared that it will continue to impose an 8 p.m. thru 6 a.m. curfew until Friday morning. On Tuesday, a crowd of roughly 150 protesters converged outside the First District police station in the neighborhood of West Park. A number of officers filmed the demonstration from the rooftop and a few National Guard soldiers stood outside the station. A separate protest that occurred the same day marched from the First District station to the Downtown area, monitored by police on bicycles. While there were no arrests from the protests on Tuesday, the city’s chief of police, Calvin Williams, declared that he was working with federal and local law enforcement agencies to identify and investigate individuals that broke the law at protests over the weekend. He has also reasserted claims that the police had arrested a number of people from out of state at the protests over the weekend, despite everyone that was processed at the Cuyahoga County jail at that time having an Ohio address.

In the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, hundreds of protesters have gathered at several sites to hold car rallies, marches and gatherings. Protesters marched June 1 from the Nob Hill neighborhood to the University of New Mexico chanting “Help, I can’t breathe!” and “Hands up, don’t shoot!” under the watch of well-armed police. On Jun 2, protesters marched from UNM downtown to gather at the Albuquerque PD HQ.

San Diego
A 59-year-old grandmother, Leslie Furcron, who was protesting outside of the La Mesa police headquarters, last Saturday was shot between the eyes by police with a bean bag projectile. Furcron survived and was placed into a medically induced coma at a local hospital where she is now in stable condition. The shooting was captured on video and has gone viral. According to the family and their attorney, she may lose an eye. A GoFundMe.Com page has been set up by the family to pay for medical costs expected to reach $1m. The La Mesa Police Department held a press conference on Wednesday where they refused to identify the officer involved in the shooting, citing an “ongoing investigation.”

WSWS reporter Julio Patron spoke with an Air Traffic Controller in Seattle who wished to remain anonymous on the ongoing protests within the city and throughout the country. Speaking about the character of the protests and Trump’s use of the military, Bob stated:

They’ve been gearing up for this for years with the militarization of the police, the expansion of executive powers, the stacking of the courts. We’re living in a future high school history book chapter. I’ve seen at least three cases of reporters being shot or gassed. This is insane. Our president has said he wants to send the Army in, in clear violation of the law, but then laws haven’t stopped the fascists ever. The laws aren’t for them, apparently. I really hope that this crisis does push us towards real socialist change. I’m afraid that the crisis will be resolved or ‘dominated’ before the necessary critical mass is achieved. But all we can do is reach out and work hard. The actions of struggle being undertaken now are actually heartening. It gives me hope that this protest has spread as far as it has. A friend of mine in China said that Pindo news dominates their international coverage right now.

Anger over Pindo police assault on Australian journalists in Faschingstein
Oscar Grenfell, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

Amelia Brace and Tim Myers assaulted by cops live on air

Footage of heavily-armed riot cops in Faschingstein attacking two Australian journalists on live television has provoked shock and anger, providing a graphic expression of the state violence being deployed against mass demonstrations in Pindostan over the police murder of George Floyd. The incident took place on Tuesday morning, Australian time, as Pindo police repeatedly charged a peaceful protest near the White House in Faschingstein. The police riot was directly orchestrated by the Trump administration. It coincided with Trump’s declaration that he would illegally deploy the military against protesters, in what amounted to a coup d’état against the Pindo Constitution. The demonstration was being cleared so that Trump could walk the streets with hundreds of security personnel, before posing menacingly outside St John’s Church with a bible in hand. The two media workers, Channel 7’s US correspondent Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers, were doing a live cross to the “Sunrise” breakfast program, which is frequently viewed by half a million people or more around Australia.
Brace, clearly out of breath, explained that they had already been forced to run a block away from charging police. When the cross began, the cops were again lining up along the street with batons and shields raised. Within seconds, they charged the protesters, who began fleeing.

Brace and Myers were sheltering just off the footpath. As the police stampeded forward, an officer turned to the crouching reporters, battering Myers with a shield before punching him in the face. Brace screamed that they were media. The two were allowed to retreat, but as they did, another officer smashed his baton against Brace’s back. The “Sunrise” anchors were visibly shocked that their colleagues had been attacked on live TV. After they regrouped, Brace stated:

You heard us there yell that we were media, but they don’t care. They are being indiscriminate. They do not care who they’re targeting at the moment.

She later revealed that herself and Myers had been hit with rubber bullets earlier in the day. In addition to the mass live audience, the “Sunrise” segment has been viewed by over eight million people on Twitter. The incident was one of series over the past week in which Pindo police have attacked journalists and media workers, as part of a deliberate onslaught against First Amendment protections of press freedom. On Saturday, the WSWS noted some of the assaults that had occurred over the previous days:

MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet while reporting live in Minneapolis. In Louisville, a local TV reporter and her cameraman were targeted and shot with pepper balls during protests Friday. A freelance photojournalist in Minneapolis was permanently blinded in her left eye after being shot by the police with a rubber bullet.

The response from the Australian political and media establishment has been decidedly muted. Had Brace and Myers been assaulted by police in a country such as China or Iran, the official reaction would have been very different. Calls would likely have been raised for a high-level government apology; demands would be issued for retaliatory action against diplomats; sanctions would be threatened and the media would be full of stories about an “authoritarian regime” attacking “our values” of “press freedom and democracy.” Because Pindostan is the Australian ruling elite’s most significant military ally, and the guarantor of its own predatory operations in the Pacific, nothing of the sort has taken place. PM Scott Morrison, who has closely identified himself with Trump, quietly asked the Australian Embassy in Pindostan to “investigate the circumstances around the footage,” as though there is any doubt about what occurred. Morrison, whose government has refused to condemn the state violence deployed by the Pindo administration, had a private phone conversation with Trump shortly after his unprecedented attack on the Pindo Constitution. The contents of the discussion are not known, including whether Morrison explicitly endorsed Trump’s effective coup. Ensuring that nothing obstructs the Pindo-Australian military alliance was undoubtedly among the topics covered. It appears that Morrison did not even mention the attack on the Australian journalists, with media reports improbably suggesting that, unlike millions of Australians, he was “unaware of it” at the time.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian government, with the full support of the Labor opposition, has intensified its role as a Pindo attack-dog in its protracted diplomatic, economic and military campaign against China that threatens war in the Asia-Pacific. Morrison and government ministers have echoed Pindo condemnations of the WHO and spearheaded calls for an “independent inquiry” into the origins of COVID-19. At the same time the Trump administration was peddling extreme right-wing conspiracy theories that the pandemic was the result of a Chinese plot. Pindo ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse Jr released a statement on Wednesday, as footage of the assault on the journalists continued to widely circulate online. Issued on behalf of a government overseeing a nationwide police rampage against peaceful protesters, reporters and even random bystanders, it proclaimed democracy and press freedom as “a right Australians and Pindos hold dear,” while vaguely stating that “we take mistreatment of journalists seriously.” Culverhouse had the gall to quote similar weasel-words, delivered by Pindo Sec State Pompeo on 2019’s World Press Freedom day.Pompeo, viewed internationally as a thug and a bully, had only recently orchestrated the illegal expulsion of Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy and the issuing of 17 Espionage Act charges against the publisher. Pompeo has played a leading role in the attempt to destroy Assange over WikiLeaks’ exposure of Pindo war crimes, and is directly responsible for the attempt to extradite him from Britain to Pindostan and lock him up forever in a CIA prison.

The hypocrisy from the Australian political establishment is no less blatant. Federal Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese branded the attack on the Channel 7 journalists as “unacceptable,” declaring that “in a democratic society, the role of the media is critical.” His party, however, began Australia’s collaboration in the Pindoe-led vendetta against Assange, despite the fact that he is an Australian journalist and publisher. The campaign against the WikiLeaks founder has formed the spearhead of a broader assault on press freedom. The government last year oversaw federal police raids on the Sydney ABC TV HQ and the home of News Corp political editor Annika Smethurst. The unprecedented police operations, accompanied by threats of criminal prosecution, were over stories exposing Australian war crimes in Afghanistan and plans for expanded domestic spying. Labor had previously joined with the Liberal-National government in 2018, passing draconian “foreign interference” laws, making it a criminal offence for journalists to even receive “classified information” and extending jail terms for whistleblowers. The assault on democratic rights, paralleling events in Pindostan and internationally, is in preparation for the repression of social and political struggles by the working class. The Australian establishment has reacted with nervousness to the upheavals in Pindostan. Morrison has declared that there is “no need to import” the mass protest movement against police violence and Albanese has called for “unity” and an end to “division.” Meanwhile, tens of thousands of workers and young people have indicated they will take part in protests this weekend in solidarity with the Pindo demonstrations, and opposing state attacks on Australian Aborigines.

Pindo Federal Bureau of Prisons implements full lockdown amid mass protests across the country
Sam Dalton, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

The lockdown exposes the ruling class’s fear of the ongoing international mass protest movement.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has placed its facilities on full lockdown as protests triggered by the police murder of George Floyd have spread across the United States and internationally. The BOP runs all federal prison facilities which house nearly 13% of all prisoners in Pindostan. This is the first action of this kind since 1995, when a series of prison rebellions beginning in Talladega, Alabama engulfed the system. On Sunday, the BOP sent an announcement to its employees stating:

The BOP has implemented a national lockdown as of 4 pm due to the ongoing unrest and riots nationwide. We will assume lockdown protocols for everyone’s safety and until it is calm around the nation.

The BOP oversees 122 prisons across the country with 165,575 inmates and 36,846 employees. This action coincides with an increasingly acute health crisis within the entire US prison system due to the spread of COVID-19. As of May 27, in all Pindo prisons and jails, at least 34,584 people have tested positive for the virus and 455 have died. In BOP facilities alone, there have been 5,239 cases and 64 deaths. Given the widespread lack of testing, these figures are likely an under-estimates of the virus’ true toll. Despite a widely-publicized release order by Pindo Attorney General William Barr on Apr 23, since the beginning of the pandemic only 3k BOP inmates have been released. This mirrors slow releases across the entire prison system since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As federal law enforcement agents, BOP personnel have also been intimately involved in the violent and unconstitutional attacks by the capitalist state on protesters across Pindostan in recent days. On Tuesday, Barr directed the BOP to send prison riot teams to Miami and Faschingstein. As early as 7:30 am on Wednesday morning, heavily armed riot teams were seen guarding roads approaching the White House in Faschingstein.

The federal prison lockdown does not only condemn thousands of inmates to indefinite isolation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Politically, it exposes the ruling class’s fear of the ongoing international mass protest movement. As the Trump administration intensifies its criminal repression of protesters, it fears that conditions in prisons and the mass sympathy for the strike movement amongst Pindo prisoners will combine and lead to a huge wave of prison rebellions. In conditions where the class lines that divide society are becoming increasingly clear and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, the ruling class is not willing to take any chances with its prisons. The potential for prisoner unrest has been exacerbated by their criminal mistreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The BOP put its facilities into a partial lockdown on Mar 31 more than two months after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Pindostan. The haphazard response to the pandemic actually led to a suspension of most health services for prisoners, forcing them to remain locked-in place in unsanitary facilities and even condemned many to solitary confinement. Furthermore, arrests, imprisonments and releases without testing have continued through the pandemic, meaning that prisons have acted as vectors in the diseases’ spread through working class communities.

Reflecting the international nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uniformity of the capitalist class’ callous response, prison unrest has been an international phenomenon since the outbreak of the virus in January of this year. Prison rebellions have been recorded in France, Italy, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Russia, Indonesia, Thailand, Syria and Sierra Leone. Hundreds of prisoners have died in these struggles. The international nature of the current wave of protests will undoubtedly reignite these desperate populations. In recent months, Pindostan has also seen a recent spate of prison unrest. From the end of Dec 2019, eleven inmates died in a month of violence in Mississippi state prison riots. Despite prison officials explaining the events as a “gang-war,” inmates insist they were instigated by prison guards. These tensions have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, following an outbreak of the virus at a facility in Lansing, Kansas, inmates ransacked offices before the rebellion was contained by guards. Also in April, the Ohio National Guard was called into the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution under the auspice of helping contain an outbreak at the facility.

Historically, prison rebellions have repeatedly coincided with wider social movements and strike waves throughout American and world history. In the late sixties, major prison riots occurred across the US as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to fight for civil rights and protest the Vietnam war. This culminated in the Attica prison riot in 1971 where hundreds of prisoners in New York took 42 staff hostages. After a 4-day stand-off, an assault by state forces ended the siege. During the uprising 33 prisoners and 10 correctional officers were dead. Following the Wall Street Crash in 1929, there were also a series of prison riots from the Crash through the mid-1930s. As conditions continue to deteriorate in prisons and in wider society, prisons and jails will undoubtedly become a focus for class tensions. Pindostan’s incarcerated population are almost exclusively working class and enjoy broad sympathy. Many of the slogans and hashtags used in relation to the current wave of protests have correctly made the link between the struggle against police brutality and the end of mass incarceration. The recognition of the inter-relatedness of these issues must not stop there, however. These issues, which plague the working class regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality, cannot be separated from their ultimate cause: capitalism.

Use of tear gas by Pindo police may exacerbate COVID-19 pandemic
Meenakshi Jagadeesan, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, May 31 2020. (Photo: Steve Marcus/AP)

The use of significant amounts of tear gas by police against protesters across Pindostan in the last week could exacerbate the on-going coronavirus pandemic. A chilling report published in the NYT yesterday highlighted the fact that the gas, which is being used without hesitation to disperse protesting crowds, directly attacks the lungs, and its corrosive effects could make people far more susceptible to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. The past week has witnessed day after day of popular protests in hundreds of cities around the country following the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, Memorial Day. Scenes of largely peaceful crowds chanting and marching have been interspersed with those of police and military personnel in riot gear wantonly beating protesters, firing rubber bullets and unleashing canisters of tear gas. Justified by the Trump administration and its fascistic supporters as essential to maintaining “law and order” against “anarchists,” “thugs,” “looters” and “terrorists,” these measures deserve condemnation given that they are fundamentally undemocratic, illegitimate and deliberately disproportionate. What makes the situation even worse is the fact that it is unfolding in the midst of the deadly pandemic. Those looking to Trump and his administration for any clues to understanding the current crisis might be forgiven for thinking that Pindostan has turned the corner and that the coronavirus is a thing of the past. The reality, however, is starkly different.

As of yesterday, the official COVID-19 death toll in Pindostan stood at nearly 109k. The number of those infected with the virus is over 1.9m and continues to increase. These numbers, widely regarded as under-reported, would have been even worse but for the stringent lockdown measures that had been put in place more or less since mid-March. And now, despite the dire warnings of public health experts, those measures are being relaxed around the country. State after state, responding to the bullying tactics not just of the Trump administration, but also the initiatives of Demagog governors, has started opening up, setting the stage for what experts warn will be a far worse wave of infection in the coming months. In this context, epidemiologists have issued grave warnings about the dangers of the ongoing mass protests. Politicians like LA Mayor Eric Garcetti have tried to cast themselves as caring human beings by warning people to stay at home since such gatherings could become “super-spreader events.” It is indeed true that social distancing is practically impossible in such situations, as is a guarantee that all participants would be wearing facemasks or any protective gear. Specific aspects of protest gatherings, yelling and chanting in close quarters, create a situation that is ripe for spreading contagion.

What the NYT report, however, makes clear is that it is not just the gathering of citizens in close quarters that is dangerous. The specific tactics that are being employed by the oppressive arm of the state apparatus seems almost calculated to ensure the continuation, and increased virulence of the pandemic—herding protesters into smaller areas citing “crowd control”; shoving large numbers of people into vans, buses and holding cells; and using tear gas to disperse crowds. The immediate effects of tear gas—coughing, stinging in the eyes and throat that can last for about 30 minutes, are only the tip of the iceberg. A 2012 study conducted by the Pindo Army on the effects of CS gas, the main component of tear gas, found that recruits exposed to the agent had a substantially higher risk of acute respiratory illness several days after exposure. Unlike the physically fit Army recruits, many people on the streets might have underlying conditions and thus the effects of the gas could be even worse. Sven-Eric Jordt, a Duke University researcher who has studied the effects of tear gas, told the NYT that he was shocked at how often tear gas was being used against protesters adding:

I’m really concerned that this might catalyze a new wave of COVID-19.

Tear gas, long used as a riot-control tactic by states, has been linked to higher risk of chronic bronchitis and all kinds of lung ailments. While the research on the effects of the gas has not kept pace with its actual usage, it is considered harmful enough that its use is prohibited in war. Given the nature of the coronavirus pandemic, its use should be considered beyond the pale in any context. Its indiscriminate use by the police, and the incitement to use such tactics by the Trump administration, is yet another illustration of the ruling elite’s callousness and complete disregard for the lives of the working class.

Georgia police officers charged after brutal assault on college students returning from protest
Dan Conway, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

A video of the incident caught on police bodycam.

Charges have been brought against six Atlanta, Georgia police officers involved in the brutal and unprovoked assault of two young college students returning from protests against the murder of George Floyd on Saturday. The two Black Pindo youths, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim and 22-year-old Messiah Young, were driving on a congested street in a blue sedan and were seen interacting with another young man, Chancellor Meyers, who was on foot and apparently targeted by the police for arrest. The police, after tackling and apprehending Meyers, turned their attention to Pilgrim and Young, while Meyers could be heard tearfully proclaiming his innocence in the background. Young, the driver, was filming the incident on his phone, as would have been his right. With Meyers’ horrified screams in the background, Young pled with the officers to leave Meyers alone. Young asked the officers to allow Meyers to get into his vehicle to which one of the officers replied that he could “go or go to jail.” Young then drove away, fearing for his safety, repeating the phrase:

I’m not dying today.

A short distance down the road, the car then got stuck in traffic. The officers easily caught up with Young and barked orders to put the car in park and open his windows, while beating the windows with their batons before completely smashing the driver’s window. The police then repeatedly screamed, “He has a gun! He has a gun!” and then tased the young man, forcing him out of the car. No gun was found in Young’s possession nor in the car after the incident. A second group of officers confronted Pilgrim on the passenger side. Even though Pilgrim screamed that she was exiting the car, police deployed a taser against her anyway. The fact that several of the officers wore gas masks and issued muffled commands that could not easily be understood only added to the students’ horror and confusion. Pilgrim later told ABC News:

I thought both Messiah and I were going to die.

According to statements by lawyers for the pair, Pilgrim was detained in a police paddy wagon for several hours, sitting side by side with three other detained women in extremely hot and cramped conditions. Her requests for a face mask to prevent coronavirus infection were repeatedly ignored. In televised remarks, Pilgrim stated that the officer who led her away glibly told her she and Young were on the verge of being shot before exiting the car. Young informed reporters and interviewers that the arresting officers punched him in the back 10 times after he exited the vehicle and that the arrest and brutal treatment at the hands of the police led to a massive gash on his forearm requiring 24 stitches. Video of the incident also shows an officer tasing Young even after he was already immobilized on the ground. Young also reported that one of the barbs from the taser gun remained in his back for six to eight hours while his requests to remove the barb were repeatedly ignored by police and staff. Footage of the arrest was broadcast on live television and has been widely shared on social media, attracting national and international attention. The city administration was thus compelled to act against six of the officers involved. Arrest warrants have been issued for officers Lonnie Hood, Willie Sauls, Ivory Streeter, Mark Gardner, Armond Jones and Roland Claud. The charges include aggravated assault of Young, aggravated assault of Pilgrim, as well as simple battery and criminal damage to property. Pilgrim and Young were both pleased with the arrest of the officers. Pilgrim told ABC News:

I’m so happy they’re being held accountable for their actions. There was not one justifiable thing that they did.

Young said:

I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off the street and no longer able to terrorize anyone else from this point on.

Two of the six officers, Streeter and Gardner, were terminated from their positions Sunday while the remainder have been reassigned to desk jobs with the department. All have until Friday to surrender with a $10k signature bond set for each. With a signature bond, a defendant will forfeit the bond amount if he or she does not appear in court, but a deposit is not required with the court beforehand. It is typically reserved for minor felony type cases involving defendants with no prior criminal history. However, the city of Atlanta is providing this concession to police officers whose actions led to severe unprovoked injury and trauma and nearly cost the lives of these two innocent young people. It is notable that the two terminated officers having the most prominent roles in the assault, Streeter and Gardner, are both Black. Moreover, the city of Atlanta has a female chief of police, Erika Shields, and a Black female mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, the latter considered to be a serious contender for the vice presidential nomination by Biden. This gives the lie to claims that police brutality is simply a product of white racism even though it is certainly a factor in many instances of police brutality. Biden has been particularly impressed by Bottoms’ “incredible” response to events in Atlanta last Friday in which she publicly lambasted “violent” protesters. “You are disgracing our city. she cried out:

You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country!

Her response to the officers involved in the assault on Young and Pilgrim, however, was far more muted and conciliatory. She agreed with Shields, who characterized the officers as good men who had just “made some mistakes.” Bottoms’ tenure on the city council and now as mayor has been marked by vicious attacks on the poor and working class, in particular, draconian legislation against panhandling by the homeless and attacks on city workers pensions. Police brutality, as the events in Atlanta make clear, is fundamentally the product of capitalism. The shuffling of personnel within police departments and city halls on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender does nothing to address the problem. Claims that police departments can be reformed, such as the #8cantwait campaign being pushed by Demagog Party activists and Hollywood celebrities, are likewise a dead end. Legislation changing use-of-force methods and requiring more stringent reporting of police misconduct, even if passed, will be largely ignored. The police are now acting, with the instigation of Trump and the full support of both major bourgeois parties, as a domestic occupying army on behalf of the financial aristocracy. Use-of-force restrictions at home will be ignored, just as rules of engagement are ignored in wars abroad. It should be noted that the implementation of body-cams after a wave of high-profile police killings sparked popular protests during the Obama administration did nothing to prevent the attack on Young and Pilgrim, even though officers had their body-cams in operation the whole time. Furthermore, the attack on these two students is not isolated, as the ruling elite is desperately trying to stamp out resistance and assert its authority over the working class. Not only protesters but uninvolved bystanders have been brutally assaulted: Seattle police pepper sprayed a seven-year-old girl, NYPD cruisers mowed down protesting pedestrians, and police fired rubber bullets at residents watching National Guard troop transports drive down city streets, to cite only a few examples.

Anger grows over refusal to bring charges in killing at Omaha protest
Kristina Betinis, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

James Scurlock, 22

As increasingly explosive social tensions grip Pindostan, opposition is growing to Omaha, Nebraska officials’ decision to release a man who shot and killed a protester on May 30. Omaha officials imposed a curfew for three nights following the shooting and the National Guard was mobilized to assist police in suppressing protests on Sunday. During one of Omaha’s recent protests against the police murder of George Floyd and the unending reign of police violence in Pindostan, 22-year-old black youth James Scurlock was shot and killed in a confrontation with white bar owner Jacob Gardner. Official reports indicate that the father of the bar owner pushed someone twice. Another person then shoved Gardner’s father to the ground. When Jacob Gardner went over to his father, the situation escalated. Reports and surveillance video indicate that Jacob Gardner backed up and lifted his shirt to show he had a weapon in his waistband and then moved the gun to his side before he was tackled. He then fired at least one shot, according to reports. A man and a woman tackled Gardner, who ended up on his back in the street. As he rose from the ground with the weapon in hand, Scurlock jumped on Gardner’s back and the two wrestled. Police say Scurlock placed Gardner in either a chokehold or a headlock and after a struggle, Gardner fired over his shoulder hitting Scurlock in between his neck and shoulder, killing him.

Gardner, 38, a self-described libertarian, is a former Marine who had been deployed to Iraq and Haiti. He recently commented on Facebook about having to protect his business over the weekend, according to the Omaha World Herald. He did not have a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm. Since the shooting, Gardner has reportedly been evicted from two properties where he operated bars on Harney Street. The establishments had public complaints of racial discrimination going back several years. Gardner had a history of making public statements on social media voicing his prejudices, having been in the news for negative comments about transgender women. The Omaha World Herald reported Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine’s initial decision to conclude justified self-defense in the killing was made based on “a handful of grainy and graphic videos.” On Monday, Omaha City prosecutor Matt Kuhse also said the security video of the altercation and shooting was the only evidence he reviewed. Kleine chose his words carefully on this matter:

You can’t use deadly force to protect property. Deadly force can only be used if someone is in fear of their own life or serious bodily injury, and they don’t feel like they can retreat safely. Even if they are mistaken, if their beliefs have a reasonable basis, it’s justifiable for them to use deadly force … that’s what the law is.

But after growing outrage over the murder, Kleine announced on Wednesday he supported a grand jury investigation:

I certainly believe in transparency, and I have no problem with any oversight about decisions that we’ve made.

There is broad support for the Scurlock family. A GoFundMe for the family has collected more than $200k in donations. James Scurlock was the father of a newborn girl. His brother Nicholas Harden spoke to local news media KMTV:

There needs to be further investigation obviously. This man fired shots at different people before my brother jumped on him. They’re trying to portray him as someone involved in an act of violence.

Robert Fuller, a witness to the altercation Saturday, told the WSWS the situation was quite different, noting local and state officials seem to have fully and uncritically accepted Gardner’s tale in releasing him without charge. He said:

I had never met James Scurlock before Gardner walked over. I walked over to James, who Gardner was talking to. That’s when his dad was pushed down. I was shoved, I put myself between James and Gardner. It was escalating, they were in each other’s faces. He accused him of breaking windows. But I’ll be honest, I only saw white kids breaking windows. I put my arm up to physically block him and James pushed me away. Things happened fast. He was waving the gun in a really weird erratic motion. He waved it toward me and others. He seemed agitated and ready to fire. James was trying to stop him. At the first shot, I didn’t know what to do. At the second shot I went back over and someone was trying to help him. I saw the look on his face and I could tell that he was dying. I had no idea at the time of Gardner’s history of racism. We called the police who came over in a big group, nine or ten, from a half a block away. I was trying to offer a statement. Shouldn’t I have been removed to make a statement? They said, ‘Get out, or we’ll arrest you for obstruction of justice.’ I was trying to find an officer to talk with, but they were all on edge and I stayed on the outskirts of what was going on. I called homicide and gave a statement to a detective about 35 hours later. By then Gardner was released and, well, no charges pressed.

On why the events took place in this manner, Fuller said:

Well, it’s obvious! He’s a rich business owner in town. Officials think about everything from his point of view. They never once mentioned the rest of us were afraid. We were terrified for our lives and these people tackled him to get the gun out of his hand. This is the whole point of the protests. The irony is overwhelming. It’s why people are marching in the first place.

Police violence against the demonstrations also played a role in this murder. Two witnesses confirmed that, prior to entering the downtown area on Saturday, demonstrators had gathered in Omaha’s traditional area for protest at the intersection of 72nd and Dodge, almost six miles away from where the shooting took place. Demonstrators said police “kettled” the protest of about 1k into a parking lot and broke it up using teargas for the second night in a row. Within an hour, many protesters moved the demonstration to the downtown area, where the shooting eventually took place. Nebraska’s Thug Governor Pete Ricketts, who is from a billionaire family of financiers and political operatives, apologized Tuesday for referring to black leaders as “you people” in a meeting with religious and community leaders, Omaha’s mayor and the chief of police in the aftermath of Scurlock’s murder. The discussion was on legislation governing accountability of law enforcement. A party to that meeting, Pastor Jarrod Parker, voiced his frustration and concern, saying:

That’s why the city is going to go up in flames, Mrs Mayor and Mr Chief. You’re not listening, and you can’t listen because at the top of the state is a racist governor.

Ricketts has pursued viciously reactionary policies as governor, including Nebraska’s first execution in decades in 2018, pioneering the use of the opioid fentanyl to carry out a state killing. In 2015, state congress critturs voted to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska, but Ricketts financed an effort to reinstate capital punishment after the critturs overrode his veto. Contributing $300k of his own wealth to a petition drive organized by several close associates, the issue was placed on the Nov 2016 general election ballot and approved by a 61% majority.

Pindo workers voice support for mass protests against police brutality
Evan Blake, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

Nurses and protesters cheering each other on in NYC

The mass, multiracial and multiethnic demonstrations that have erupted across Pindostan and internationally in response to the police murder of George Floyd are quickly becoming the most powerful protest movement in Pindo history. Demonstrators have courageously defied the increasingly dictatorial moves by the Trump administration, with tens of thousands protesting following Trump’s threat to deploy the military in any city he chooses. The central strategic questions facing demonstrators are how to broaden their struggle as widely as possible and the need to maintain its political independence from the procorporate Democratic Party, which can only be accomplished through the mass mobilization of the entire working class and the development of a revolutionary leadership. As the SEP (US) noted in its statement Monday: The working class, upon which the functioning of society depends, has the power to stop the assault on democratic rights, create a massive political movement to drive Trump from power, break the back of the corporate-financial oligarchy and begin the restructuring of economic life on a socialist basis. There is broad sympathy for the protesters within the working class, with the vast majority of protesters being working class youth of every race and ethnic background. During a march through parts of NYC Tuesday, nurses and other health care workers across the city stood on sidewalks to cheer on passing protesters. In Minneapolis, nurses finishing their hospital shift joined the protests to treat rubber bullet and tear gas injuries. The WSWS spoke with a cross-section of Pindo workers, including workers at UPS, Fiat Chrysler and Amazon, a transit worker in Faschingstein, and a teacher in Pittsburgh. All of the workers voiced support for the protests, while denouncing the criminal response of the Trump administration and the brutal police crackdown against the demonstrators. A young worker at Fiat Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit, Michigan told the WSWS:

The murder of Floyd is a metaphor for a system that is putting pressure on us so we can’t breathe until all the life is sucked out us. The crisis we face is not about a particular race. It’s about the way the system continues to exploit workers and strip us of our rights so the rich capitalists can control every aspect of our lives. It doesn’t matter whether you are flipping burgers at Burger King, are a barrister at Starbucks, a cashier at CVS or a production operator at Chrysler. We all have the same problems. Trump wants to become a dictator and use the military as his private militia. The Demagogs claim they are for us, but they aren’t. They want to shut people up as soon as possible too. But what about the rights of the common working people? The working class should have our own party. We’re not the megarich, but we make the products and create all the wealth. So we should be entitled to say where that wealth goes. Race has always been used to divide us. But this is a multirace, multiage movement, and it’s becoming a class movement.

We have to take the anger and energies of these protests, communicate and discuss solutions and speak the truth. We have to be aware of those who want to distract and pit us against each other. These are times to help those in need, not to step over each other but to get in line together and fight. In the protests, you are standing next to someone who feels exactly the way you do. With that power, they can’t conquer us. My generation doesn’t care about race. I work with all types and races of people in the plant. We don’t care who is Jewish, who is Catholic or whatever. If we have common ground, then we stand together. The rich are only concerned with keeping their power and positions safe and keeping the racial thing going. The demonstrations are now growing in other countries, like France and New Zealand. That is great. We have multimedia platforms to connect and broadcast. Earlier generations did not have this access, and we have to capitalize on the internet, which is always a day or two ahead of the news. Clearly their capitalist system is set in stone, and we can navigate and unite against it.

Another Fiat Chrysler worker, at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, commented on the protests:

I think it goes to show how people are tired of racism and of the disparity between classes. It’s not just black people. Everyone is fed up. I think workers are fighting to be heard and listened to, not just passed over. We have to become united and stay united.

An Amazon worker from Baltimore, Maryland spoke about the wave of protests and the outlook of the younger generation. the worker said:

Kids today don’t have it like we did earlier in our lives. There’s more diversity now. They learn how to respect people. Donald Trump acts like he can do whatever he wants. He’s going to pay for it. The Demagogs have put forward Black politicians such as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to denounce the protesters as violent. They want to divide the protests based on race. It’s the easiest way to control people. The kids aren’t going for that. They’re intelligent, and they have access to a lot more resources of information.

Another Amazon worker in Baltimore said:

It’s not acceptable to be abused by a badge-wearing police officer. It’s happened to me before in my own home. My fiancée at the time was yelling at the cop to let me breathe. I’m encouraged by all the people taking a stand. Trump’s actions against the protesters were idiotic. Amazon employees have to take a stand. We must have rank-and-file committees and cut the ruling class off at the knees.

T-shirt designed by Dylan

Dylan, a UPS worker in Fremont, California, is furious about the murder of George Floyd. Dylan, who is white, created shirts that he gave out to family and friends who are also protesting. He explained his support for the protests, saying:

I see how black people get treated. I’ve been mistreated by the police too. I’ve been beaten up twice by the police, and it’s just awful, especially when you’ve done nothing wrong. I know what that feels like. I hate the police. They are messing people up. It’s more of a poor thing, than a race thing. It’s poor people who get screwed. If people didn’t protest, the officer probably wouldn’t have been charged. He probably won’t be locked up for more than a year and some months. It’s important for the working class to be involved with every issue like this. More working-class people need to be involved. We’re the ones who run everything. If we stopped working, nothing would work, and nothing would stand.

A transit worker in the Faschingstein area said:

The Pindo Constitution states, “All men are created equal.” We know that’s not true in practice. I knew two of the people who were framed in the Central Park 5 case. They were from my neighborhood. White people have stood with us in all important fights. There was the Underground Railroad, there was John Brown. White versus black: it’s all an effort to divide us, while Congress is letting Donald Trump get away with these things.

A retired teacher from the Buffalo, New York area attended the protest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Saturday with her two college-aged daughters, saying:

It was something we wanted to take part in, add our voices to, as all of us shared in the horror of witnessing the murder of George Floyd. The police no longer consider it necessary to give even the pretense that they are here to protect people, that they will respect people’s right to a trial, or that they are concerned about the lives of those they take into custody. Nor are they worried about there being any consequences for their brutality. They understand the Trump administration’s message that cops will be protected at all costs. The police are inculcated with the belief that they are fighting an enemy on Pindo soil, that enemy being the working class! The Pittsburgh protest was mostly youth, and it was noteworthy that no single race predominated. There were blacks, whites, Hispanics, and others, all standing and chanting in solidarity with one another.

At a certain point, the police and National Guard began launching compression grenades and teargas into the crowd, causing protesters to flee and regroup elsewhere. As with the police violence against protesters across the country, the teacher commented:

There was no violence on the part of the protesters, so their attacks were completely unjustifiable. As curfew approached, the Guard began assembling into military formations, as they were going to move in against the protesters. As we began to clear out, we noted the courage of youth, walking with determination into the area of the protests rather than away. The right to assemble and peaceably protest is being stripped away. Protesters are already being subdued by militarized police forces and the National Guard. Trump’s illegal invocation of the 1807 Insurrection Act to use the military against legal protest movements and civilians exercising their constitutional rights demonstrates that we are quickly moving towards martial law and a military dictatorship. The continued protests demonstrate that the working class, especially youth, have no intention of allowing this to happen. Although escalating police brutality has been the catalyst for these protests, the true meaning of them is the need to remove from power the capitalist class and its endless attacks on the working class. The ultimate aim of the protests is to create a society that meets the needs of the mass of people, including the right to employment, education, health care, housing, and the end of environmental degradation and endless warfare.

Canadian establishment shrugs off Trump’s authoritarian power grab, voices “horror” over mass protests
Roger Jordan, Keith Jones, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

The eruption across Pindostan of mass multiracial, multiethnic protests against racist police violence and the Trump administration’s incitement of a vicious military-police crackdown have shaken Canada’s ruling elite. While glossing over the dangerous implications of Trump’s shredding of constitutional prohibitions on the deployment of the military against the American people, the comments of Canada’s political leaders and corporate media underscore that their greatest fear is that the demonstrations now sweeping Pindostan will trigger an explosive upsurge of the class struggle in Canada. Mimicking the Demagog Party’s fecklessness, no political leader in Canada has directly criticized Trump’s decision Monday to arrogate the power to unleash the military against peaceful protesters, in what amounts to a bid to establish a presidential dictatorship. Asked at his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday for his opinion of the Trump-incited police rampages against demonstrators, the President’s smearing of the protesters as “terrorists” and his vow to “dominate” the street with the military, all Canadian PM Justin Trudeau could muster, after a lengthy 21-second pause, was:

We all watch in horror and consternation at what is going on in Pindostan.

Pressed by a reporter to condemn Trump’s use of heavily armed police to expel peaceful protesters from a park near the White House, Trudeau deliberately avoided doing so, answering:

Canadians need a government that will be there for them, that will support them and that will move us forward in the right direction, and I will do that.

There was one grain of truth in Trudeau’s response: the ruling elite is horrified by the emergence of a mass working class movement in opposition to police violence, state repression, and social inequality. It is terrified that the political and social destabilization of its key military strategic partner will undermine Canadian imperialist interests around the world, and that the wave of protests in Pindostan, the largest since the 1960s, will fan social opposition in Canada, demonstrating the class unity of workers on both sides of 49th parallel. To conceal the class character and significance of the protests, Trudeau, together with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, have portrayed them as being almost entirely about race relations. Singh, who described Trump’s role as “reprehensible,” avoided any reference to Trump’s move towards authoritarian forms of rule. Instead, he accused people in general of being “passive bystanders” to “hatred and racism.” As they do whenever confronted with a crisis, Canada’s political leaders and corporate media have responded to the explosion of working class opposition in Pindostan by brandishing their principal ideological weapon, Canadian nationalism. Desperate to insulate and inoculate Canada from the “social contagion” of class struggle, they relentlessly promote the lie that Canadian capitalism is a more “humane” and just society, qualitatively different from the rapacious dollar republic to the south. Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star observed:

While Donald Trump was lashing out over mass civil unrest in his country on Monday, Canadians were getting practical protest advice from top-level government officials.

Another variant on this theme was provided by the Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason, who placed all the blame for the social convulsions shaking Pindostan on the figure of Trump, who has apparently descended from the sky to infect an otherwise healthy social and political order. Mason wrote:

The Pindo president is the embodiment of white privilege. At a moment in the country’s history that cries out for leadership, that yearns for someone to speak to a country that is hurting and frightened and doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring, he is incapable of such empathy. He is devoid of anything that even slightly resembles the common touch.

While left unsaid, the implication was clear, Canada’s ruling elite has such a leader in Trudeau. The Canadian bourgeoisie’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the class character and social grievances animating the Pindo protests says more about that state of Canadian society than it cares to admit. Over the past four decades Canada, like Pindostan, has witnessed a massive growth in social inequality and brutalization of society. For the better part of a quarter century, it has been almost perpetually at war, and the ruling elite has increasingly sought to criminalize social opposition. The solidarity protests that have been joined by tens of thousands in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax and other cities in recent days underscore that a process of political radicalization among workers and young people is well under way. This has no doubt been further fueled by the ruling elite’s response to the pandemic, which has been to bail out the banks and big business to the tune of $650b while placing workers on rations. More than 7k Canadians have perished from COVID-19, and 25% of the labour force has lost their jobs. As in Pindostan, democracy in Canada is in shambles.

Following 9/11, the ruling elite enthusiastically joined Bush 43’s “war on terror,” including the deployment of military forces to Afghanistan and the erection of a police state infrastructure. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have instituted legislation attacking basic democratic rights and have used the same concept of “domestic terrorism” now invoked by Trump to justify his military crackdown to intimidate and suppress protests. In 2016, a Liberal government minister told big business at a closed-door meeting that the government was prepared to deploy the army against anti-pipeline protests. This discussion was given new life earlier this year during the railway blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en land rights protest. The blockades were ultimately broken up by the police, but only after substantial sections of the ruling class clamoured for the army to be sent in. The ruling elite’s readiness to abrogate democratic forms of rule has been proven time and again. It was Trudeau’s own father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who seized on two kidnappings by the FLQ in 1970 to invoke the War Measures Act and deploy troops on the streets of Canadian cities amid an upsurge of militant working class struggles. Trudeau continues to defend his father’s political legacy, including the detention without charge of hundreds of leftists in Quebec. In the midst of the 2008 economic crisis, PM Stephen Harper was strongly supported by the ruling elite when he shut down parliament to prevent the fall of his government, using the anti-democratic powers of the unelected Governor General in what amounted to a constitutional coup. This manoeuvre enabled his right-wing government to cling to power for a further seven years and launch a devastating onslaught on the working class, including the virtual abolition of the right to strike, sweeping social spending cuts, the promotion of Canada as a “warrior nation,” and the whipping up of Islamophobia. Harper’s willingness to ride roughshod over democratic rights was enthusiastically applauded by the Globe, which hailed him during the 2011 election campaign for his “bullheadedness.”

Trudeau’s trade union-backed Liberals have picked up where Harper left off in 2015, persisting with austerity, accelerating the buildup of the military, and expanding the powers of the national security apparatus. As in Pindostan, the ruling elite is increasingly promoting the far right. Police and the management of FCL, one of the largest companies in Western Canada, have collaborated with the anti-immigrant, ultraright United We Roll Group in violent attacks against 750 locked out oil refinery workers in Regina. Trudeau, his Liberals, and the dominant sections of the Canadian bourgeoisie were undoubtedly taken aback by Trump’s election in 2016. Subsequently, they lent support to the anti-Russia campaign that was spearheaded by the Pindo intelligence agencies and promoted by the Demagogs, with the aim of removing Trump by methods of intrigue and palace coup. Now they fear that Trump’s provocative actions could trigger a social explosion that could threaten capitalist rule. But their opposition is of a tactical rather than a principled character. Like the faction of the Pindo oligarchy aligned with the Demagog Party, the Canadian bourgeoisie fears a mass popular upsurge of the working class against Trump, far more than it does the POTUS’ turn to authoritarian forms of rule. This is demonstrated by the Trudeau government’s record of close cooperation with Trump and his administration. Within days of Trump’s election, the Liberals agreed to renegotiate NAFTA, which had been one of Trump’s main campaign pledges. Ultimately this resulted in USMCA or NAFTA 2.0, a trade war bloc aimed at the global rivals of Pindo and Canadian imperialism, above all China. In keeping with the orders of Canada’s “newspaper of record,” the Globe and Mail, which insisted Canada must be “inside” Trump’s walls, the Liberal government has worked with Trump’s fascist thugs in ICE to persecute and deport immigrants. The Trudeau government has also expanded Canada’s role in Faschingstein’s three principal military-strategic offensives against China and Russia, and in the oil-rich Middle East, and assisted Pindo imperialism in its intrigues and aggression in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America.

Whilst Canada’s ruling elite has bristled at the adverse impacts some of Trump’s “Pindostan First” policies have had on their wallets and geostrategic interests, they have egged on the purported “human rights” advocate and “progressive” Trudeau in his pursuit of closer ties with Trump-led Faschingstein. In her speech on the release of the Liberals’ national defence policy in Jun 2017, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland hailed the “outsized role” that Pindo imperialism has played since WW2 in creating and sustaining an “international rules-based order,” that is, in defending and stabilizing world capitalism under Pindo economic and geopolitical dominance. She reaffirmed Ottawa’s commitment to the Pindo-Canadian military security partnership that has formed the cornerstone of Canadian imperialist strategy since 1940, and which saw Canada serve as a key Pindo vassal throughout the Cold War, and join a never-ending series of Pindo-led wars including in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq over the past quarter-century. But Freeland had to acknowledge that the Pindo-led postwar order was unravelling. Canada, she declared, would therefore need to do more to assist its strategic partner in upholding North American global dominance, including through “hard power,” the waging of war. The deepening social crisis in Pindostan and its precipitous global economic decline, processes which have accelerated dramatically over the intervening three years, are rapidly eroding the material and ideological foundation of Canadian imperialism’s predatory partnership with Faschingstein and Wall Street. Pindostan is no longer a force for global capitalist stability, but a source of increased conflict and friction, as it pursues aggression and unilateralism around the world in a desperate attempt to reverse its decline and beat back rivals. Faschingstein no longer has the economic heft or inclination to enforce a “rules-based order.” It has played the leading role in tearing it down. And how can Canada’s “progressive” politicians cloak the pursuit of profits and strategic advantage in “human rights” and “democratic” rhetoric when Canada’s closest ally embraces dictatorial forms of rule and launches brutal military police crackdowns on peaceful protesters, producing popular revulsion around the world? For the Canadian ruling elite, which has always benefited from a close partnership with the dominant imperialist power of the day, this has created an unprecedented crisis with no obvious solution.

Notwithstanding Trudeau’s desire to accommodate himself to Trump, powerful sections of the ruling circles are increasingly hostile to his strategy, arguing that Canada must pursue an even more aggressive policy. Foreign policy experts are openly discussing the outdated character of the Liberals’ 2017 defence policy statement, since no “rules-based order” to speak of exists. One faction is pushing for an even closer alliance with Trump. In an editorial Monday, the Toronto Sun assailed Trudeau for making “political sideswipes” at Trump on the issue of racism and not “denouncing” the protesters for “violence and riots.” Just two weeks earlier, the Sun suggested that Trudeau’s ouster would be warranted if he fails to take a harder line towards China. While the Liberals have lined up behind Trump’s aggressive moves against Beijing, the Sun and other right-wing forces are angered by Trudeau’s hesitation over excluding Chinese tech giant Huawei from Canada’s 5G network, among other issues. Trump’s shift in the direction of a presidential dictatorship will only throw fuel on the fire of these factional disputes. But whatever their disagreements, all sections of the ruling class are implacably hostile to the working class and, as demonstrated in their response to the events in Pindostan, complicit in the assault on democratic rights. Their principal concern is how best to advance the global interests and ambitions of Canadian imperialism under conditions of the deepest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression. In the final analysis, this means escalating military violence abroad and ratcheting up the exploitation of the working class at home. In opposition to this, workers and young people in Canada must unify their struggles with their class brothers and sisters in Pindostan to beat back Trump’s presidential dictatorship and the turn towards authoritarianism and war that is supported by the ruling elites of both countries. This requires building the SEPs of Canada and Pindostan to provide the mass struggles now erupting with a socialist and internationalist program and perspective.

European media outlets fear bitter class struggles in Pindostan
Peter Schwarz, WSWS, Jun 4 2020

The Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita wrote on Tuesday:

The image of Pindostan as the centre of Western civilisation is collapsing before our eyes. Will it be possible to rebuild the old image again?

This sums up the fear of substantial sections of the European ruling class. The claim that capitalist private property and the market economy provided the basis for freedom and democracy, and that altogether this amounted to “Western civilisation” has served as the ideological cement for capitalist rule in Europe, and Pindostan played not an insignificant part in this. In Western Europe and Germany in particular, it was Pindostan through its economic power and democratic traditions that helped revive the bourgeoisie following its discrediting due to its crimes during the war. In 1990, the Pindo model, although somewhat tarnished even then, played an important role in Eastern Europe in selling the restoration of capitalism and its horrific social consequences as a step in the direction of freedom and democracy. Reading through the European comments on Monday’s events, one senses that they are not particularly troubled by Donald Trump’s efforts to establish a presidential dictatorship. Rather, they fear the president’s provocative actions could provoke resistance and class struggles that will endanger the capitalist system and spread to Europe. After all, the social and political situation is no less explosive there. With a few exceptions, the comments acknowledged that the nationwide protests are not just directed against racism, but are motivated by social oppression and exploitation and are being joined by people of all races and ethnicities. They accuse Trump of dividing instead of reconciling. By contrast, they hardly say a word about the mobilisation of the military and the preparations for dictatorship connected with this. The Norwegian tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang wrote:

Once again it becomes clear how unequal Pindo society is. These problems run deeper than Trump, but Pindostan has never needed a unifying president more than now.

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung commented:

When the country goes up in flames, the president ought to mediate and unify. But Trump is incapable of protecting and calming his compatriots.

The Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) pointed to three key factors it believes are at work, all of them connected:

Racist police violence against blacks, a greater susceptibility of blacks to COVID-19, and an economic crisis that has hit minorities the hardest. Economic disadvantage leads to a lack of access to health care, which allows health problems to become chronic thus increasing the vulnerability to the lung disease. No wonder that frustration is widespread.

Another comment in the NZZ says:

In such a situation, Pindostan needs a unifying figure who can calm the country down, unify it, and lead it forward in cooperation with other political forces. But Trump is polarising the country and inciting people against each other.

The Tagesschau (a news and public affairs programme) on Germany’s public broadcaster ARD commented:

An uprising is the language of those not being listened to. With words of reconciliation, Donald Trump could calm things down quickly. Instead, he is escalating the situation with ruthless Rambo rhetoric.

The suggestion that the situation could be brought under control if only Trump would give up his Rambo rhetoric is of course absurd. As the WSWS has explained in numerous analyses and comments, the preconditions for the current social explosion have been brewing for a long time. The Demagogs have contributed no less to this process than Trump & the Thugs. The gulf between rich and poor increased more rapidly under Obama than any of his predecessors, and police violence continued apace. The Demagogs, much like the European media, fear that Trump could provoke a revolutionary uprising that could no longer be controlled. This is why they are doing everything to evade the issue and suppress the protests against Trump, with whom they agree on virtually every question of domestic, social and foreign policy. Like the German bourgeoisie in 1933, they fear a mass movement of the working class more than a fascist dictatorship.

In Europe, preparations for authoritarian forms of rule and dictatorship are already far advanced. In Hungary and Poland, the parties in power have suspended basic democratic rights. Italy’s far-right Lega, which was in government for a year-and-a-half, responded to Trump’s Twitter announcement that he would classify the Antifa organisation as a “terrorist group,” by marking the post with a “Like.” In France, Macron brutally suppressed Yellow Vest protests with the police and now attacks demonstrations in solidarity with George Floyd. In Germany, the SPD and CDU made the far-right AfD the official opposition in parliament and have implemented its policies in the grand coalition. Anyone who dares to criticise capitalism or resist the growth of militarism is branded a “left-wing extremist” and criminalised. At the same time, neo-Nazi structures within the state apparatus are built and covered up. The crisis of Pindo democracy, which is the underlying cause of Trump’s attempt to establish a personal dictatorship based on the military, is the product of unprecedented levels of social inequality and endless wars. It cannot be reversed on a capitalist basis. The same process is taking place in Europe. The struggle against the fascist danger requires the independent mobilisation of the working class, which must assume the leadership of the defence of democratic rights.