Justice for Rumain vs. Black Lives Matter- Disunity Prevails

Maupin

The Arizona manifestation of the Ferguson movement began on December 2nd, 2014 when a police officer in Phoenix fired upon and killed an unarmed, suspected drug dealer, Rumain Brisbon. Immediate parallels were drawn between Brisbon and Mike Brown, giving birth to Arizona’s own “Ferguson.” From this birth, two sub-movements formed; Justice for Rumain Brisbon and Black Lives Matter Arizona.

Black Lives Matter Arizona comprised clergy, National Action Network, and African American activists from the Phoenix area, including the outspoken Reverend Jarrett Maupin. Justice for Rumain comprised millennials, immigration activists, and a smattering of other special interests. Orbiting around these two groups are Carpe Locus, Nation of Islam, and Wave of Action-Phoenix, all of whom lend their support. The Justice for Rumain group attracted more militant voices while Maupin’s group seemed to attract more tempered activists. Plenty of people rose to leadership status in the various movements but Black Lives Matter Arizona was clearly in control, and Rev. Maupin was the de facto leader.

That was until January 7th, 2015 when Reverend Maupin participated in three, staged, police scenarios armed with a body camera and a simunitions gun. In one of the scenarios Maupin is faced with a large, unarmed suspect charging toward him. Maupin fired his sim-gun “killing” the suspect. Later, when reflecting on the entire experience Maupin stated very clearly that people “need to comply…for their own safety.” Within hours of the newscast, the video of Maupin went viral on social media. By the next day, it was filling Facebook streams and Twitter feeds of friends and foe. It was quickly evident the Maupin video was going to be the watershed moment for Arizona activists.

On Friday the 9th, Yonasda Hill, the Justice for Rumain co-chair, issued a short statement on Facebook wherein she declared, “Stop police terrorism. We will never comply until the police comply. We are a movement of many leaders not just one leader.” A few hours later the entire Justice for Rumain committee issued a statement declaring the news story a “media stunt.” They went on to state, “Jarret Maupin is not our leader” and demand the officer who killed Brisbon be indicted. Tia Oso, an outspoken immigration activist and committee member declared the news story propaganda and reiterated Maupin did not speak for the group. Interestingly enough, she stated they were not anti-police, a sentiment she apparently abandoned when she penned her own statement wherein she unequivocally rejected the premise of seeing things from the police perspective. She accused Maupin of furthering police injustice, racism, and civil rights violations. Her final slap to Maupin came in the last paragraph when she stated, “There is no room for those who are focused on personal gain and glory at the expense of the community.”

Another activist linked with Justice for Rumain went even further referring to Maupin as an “Uncle Tom” and several more epithets and slurs. She engaged in direct debate with Black Lives Matters Arizona organizer Katt McKinney who tried in vain to explain why communication with the police was essential for change. Kim and her followers overpowered Katt’s arguments and affirmed their opposition any cooperation with, or understanding of, the police. Kim, Tia Oso, and many others revealed themselves to be anti-police extremists hell bent on breaking the system rather than working to correct its’ ills.

The division could not have come at a worse time for the movement. Super Bowl XLIX is just around the corner. The groups need to be unified in order to carry out any effective direct action. If the Justice for Rumain group does not unify with Black Lives Matter-Arizona, they will be forced to the outer extremes of the group which means their tactics will go from bringing attention to their cause, to “smashing the system.” A proposition that would lead to quick infiltration by the police, and an even quicker demise. Other groups have experienced a similar demise; Occupy: Phoenix and Shut Down all Ports are just a few. In many ways the dynamic at play in Arizona is one that will soon, or already is, affecting the Ferguson movement across the country. Specifically, do they strive for reasonable catharsis with law enforcement, or do they fight?

One shows promise, the other desperation.

Carpe Locus Collective (Profile and Analysis)

Carpe Locus is an Anarchist collective in the traditional sense, however they are also an activist group. Formed in 2013, the group formed with the goal of creating a common space similar to the now defunct Dry River center in Tucson, Arizona. A common space in collectivist terms is a home or structure where people can gather, rest, eat, find food, and work as a small community to survive. Often common spaces have gardens, donated clothing, donated food, a soup kitchen, and a stage for concerts. Carpe Locus’ original intent was to convert a house in Tempe, Arizona into a common space. There are unconfirmed reports the group was successful in finding a house in late 2014.

Where Carpe Locus is most effective is local activism. They are closely aligned with another anarchist inspired group, Wave of Action Phoenix. In terms of ideology, Carpe Locus is a traditional socialist-anarchist group, combined with the modern social justice movements. As such they are anti-statist, anti-police, pro-indigenous rights, and oppose male dominated entities and “white privilege.” They plan and participate in banner hangings, protests, direct-action, and counter protests. In late 2014 and early 2015 the group openly opposed any pro-police rally in the Phoenix metro area in support of the Ferguson movement.

With the decline of Occupy Phoenix, Carpe Locus became a mainstay in the Phoenix metropolitan anarchist community. They’ve participated in dozens of rallies and protests, usually in conjunction with other activist groups. Carpe Locus’ actual membership numbers are unknown, but estimates range from six to 12. The group maintains a robust social media presence where they do not hesitate to blast law enforcement, decry capitalism, and detail the ills of the American government.

The fundamental element in all anarchist collectives is community consensus. For example in common spaces, also known as a safe spaces, each aspect of the space is maintained by everyone in accordance with their skill set. Governance, as it were, is accomplished through the common good providing for the common need. Decisions are made through consensus, removing the risk of unjust governance. The template has been successful in other areas, including Tucson where a common space survived for just over six years. Unfortunately because the space is governed by a community, they often fall victim to apathy, low involvement, and decreased interest. The Dry River collective space in Tucson is an example of this downfall. For this reason, it was suspected Carpe Locus would not be able to create a common space in the Phoenix area, and if they did, it would be short-lived. As of January 2015, it was unclear if Carpe Locus secured a space. Given Arizona law enforcement’s focus on anarchist groups in the past, it is not uncommon to hear Carpe Locus members talk of being followed, having their phones bugged, or being subject to unjust arrest. There is no indication however law enforcement focuses more on Carpe Locus than other active groups.

Shut Down All Ports of Entry (History and Analysis)

If there was ever any doubt that right wing activism in the United State is fragile, one simply need to read the controversy surrounding “Shut Down All Ports.” A simple idea put forward by a self-proclaimed disabled “house wife” from California and a shunned militia member from Texas, SDAP seemed to be doomed from the beginning. While shutting down ports is not a new concept, SDAP took the brunt of betrayals, backtracking, and pot-shots from the media as though it was some farfetched notion worthy of scorn rather than review. Through all of it, the founders remain staunchly dedicated to their cause, and in two days we will know what their perseverance will yield.

The history of SDAP begins with militia organizer, Barbie Rogers. Rogers is the owner and operator of the “Patriots’ Information Hotline” a communication hub for militia heading to the southern border. Rogers teamed up with Rob Chupp, a small business owner and former “Camp Lonestar” militia member from Indiana. It is not clear why Chupp and Rogers started SDAP, other than to say it was probably due to Rogers’ success at organizing the initial militia response to the southern border.

SDAP’s web page was submitted to Go Daddy on or about 8/8/14 and on 8/11/14, Rogers created the Face Book page. The first several members of the Face Book group comprised militia members from Arizona’s largest groups, Arizona Praetorian Guard and Arizona Border Recon. Stasyi Barth was one of the pages’ administrators and quickly became the groups’ co-leader. Barth would go on to administrate the group’s official web page and grant media interviews, often with Chupp.

By 9/11/14, several media outlets were reporting on the group with many claiming law enforcement were receiving briefs on the group and their intent. Barth and Chupp were very open about their intent to clog every port of entry from California to Texas. The methods were simple; drive the largest vehicles you can onto the roadway near the port, park them, and walk away. Barth listed several demands on the web site including the release of jailed Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooresi, a cessation of benefits provided to illegal aliens, a plan to completely seal the southern border, and many other common demands by anti-illegal immigration groups. In short, SDAP was nothing spectacular and probably would have come and gone without notice if it had not been for serious setbacks.

The first was the announcement by the Southern Poverty Law Center that SDAP was anti-government. It is understandable that with so many members of SDAP originating from large militia groups, SLPC would label them anti-government, however the term is toxic enough to render anything to which it is attached dead on arrival. The second crisis to hit SDAP was their ironic public denouncement of militia. Barth took great pains to clarify that SDAP was not part of the growing militia movement. In doing so, she alienated much of her base and lost credibility with the public especially when Chupp and Rogers were very public members and supporters of militia. The third crisis to hit SDAP was the breakup between “Camp Lonestar” and the duo of Chupp and Rogers. “Camp Lonestar” was the largest militia operating post in Texas and enjoyed direct support from Chupp and Rogers. Details are unclear but “Camp Lonestar’s” de facto commander, KC Massey, denounced Chupp and Rogers and even went so far as to accuse both of them of theft. The final blow to SDAP came on 9/18/14 when Andrew Tahmooresi’s mother requested they no longer fight for her son. Barth was forced to remove his name from her site, and rework their mission.

When September 20th arrives, Barth, Chupp, and Rogers will see the fruits of their labor. It is very likely they will still see supporters arrive at various ports of entry, however it is unlikely they will see the turnout they expected. Shutting down ports of any type requires detailed coordination, a solid plan, and dozens of willing people. Occupy Wall Street partially succeeded in their mass port closures in 2011 because they had a very willing activists and they capitalized off the pro-labor movement. SDAP is truly alone in the right wing activist world and does not have the support of the general public or the militia. In the end, if the group is unable to accomplish their mission it will be due to their own missteps.

Citizens for a Better Arizona (History and Analysis)

CBA Toilet Award

Success and failure are mere heartbeats away. Activist groups must rapidly evolve their product or face irrelevance. While the foundation is sound and principled, everything else must be pliable. This is because activists are born suffering from one of two ailments; obscurity or brilliance. One may think it curious to suffer from brilliance, but in the activist world brilliance can be just as damning as obscurity. Nowhere has this been better exemplified than with Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA).

Citizens for a Better Arizona chose brilliance as their poison. In January of 2011 a failed candidate for U.S. Senate and lifelong activist, Randy Parraz, announced his intention to oust Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce. Parraz and a handful of local unknowns essentially told the Arizona political establishment they were tired of Pearce’s shady allies, insane legislation, and above all, his co-authorship of the now world-famous SB1070. What they were really saying, at least at the time, was they were crazy. There was no way a handful of upstarts was going to recall a sitting State Senator who held stewardship in one of the most conservative districts, in the most conservative city, deep in the heart of conservative Maricopa County.

By November 2011 however, the political landscape in Arizona changed forever. After months of signature gathering, petitions, slanders, and campaigning, Russell Pearce was recalled. Citizens for a Better Arizona exploded into the lime-light, taking the immigration throne away from longstanding groups like Puente and Alto Arizona. They were so popular, even Democrats who initially kept their distance from the recall, flocked to their doorstep. It seemed CBA was on the fast-track to activist superstardom. Their next target would have made them legend, however it was a mountain too far.

In 2012 Citizens for a Better Arizona adopted an older Randy Parraz mantra, and turned their sites to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. If Pearce was a giant in Arizona, Arpaio was a titan. CBA called for his resignation, bought ad time on CNN, and talked to any and every media outlet that would listen. By October however, their efforts had done nothing to move the needle. They were slipping in popularity as the AZ DREAM Act rose to prominence. CBA was unable to contend with the DREAMER’s national support which meant they were literally adrift in a sea of deep Maricopa County red. Also, despite their efforts, Arpaio was going to keep his seat as sheriff. In what seemed desperate at the time, CBA decided to take live chickens to Arpaio’s office. They wanted to make the point that Arpaio lacked the fortitude to debate his only opponent, but they also needed the publicity. The display earned sneers from the Democrats in Arizona and began a division between CBA and the rest of the Arizona immigration movement. Even with some moderate Democrat gains in Arizona, 2012 was not nearly as bright for CBA.

2013 was not any kinder. The immigration movement was being controlled once again by Puente Arizona and the AZ DREAM Act. Citizens for a Better Arizona tried to turn the tide in their favor by announcing the recall effort of Sheriff Arpaio. By May however the effort failed to gather the requisite signatures. Arpaio slapped CBA with a statement calling their effort theatrics, which would ironically be embraced by the group. CBA was undaunted in their passion. In October CBA tried to show solidarity with the DREAM ACT by sending several members dressed a witches to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s office. In December CBA arranged for Santa Clause to deliver coal to the state DES Director, much to the confusion of dozens of children attending a Christmas concert. 2013 ended with the group further distanced from the mainstream immigration movement than it ever had before.

For CBA, 2014 has been nothing but theatrics. From chickens to toilets, the group has gone from movement to circus act. As the Arizona immigration movement turned to direct action, CBA’s antics have left them all alone. During a recent strategy session, the immigration group “Mi Familia Vota” elected to avoid CBA while protesting in Arizona. This one decision by such a large group is symbolic of the problems facing CBA. They are avoided by the movement, disregarded by state Democrats, and laughed at by Conservatives. Unfortunately when you don’t have friends anywhere, you have enemies everywhere.

CBA began in brilliance, but were unable to keep up with their success. They didn’t learn quick enough that political headhunting can only sustain a group for so long. It requires time, money, and willing public. None of those elements are reliable. As the national immigration movement evolved, CBA bounced from local issue to local issue never really making a noticeable impact. They sadly missed the opportunity to capitalize on their 2011 success and thus were relegated to media stunts and sarcasm.

The future of Citizens for a Better Arizona is cloudy at best. With the 2014 mid-terms upon us and the 2016 General just over the horizon, they may yet again rise to prominence. It will leadership and a willingness to turn away from the absurd, but it can be done. With Arizona being the center of the immigration universe there is still a lot of opportunity for growth. It is altogether possible CBA will join the ranks of Puente, AZ DREAM Act, and others at the top of the activist mountain. Time will tell.

Westboro Baptist Church (History and Analysis)

Aside from the Ku Klux Klan, there isn’t another group in America that evokes an immediate visceral response like the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). They have turned funerals into media circuses and trampled over what many consider to be sacred ground. At the front of their crusade against all things sinful they fly a rainbow colored poster declaring “God Hates Fags.” Most people are unaware of the church’s origins, makeup, and theology. These facts are concealed under hate-laced rhetoric and threats of litigation. The truth is, the WBC history is as colorful as the posters they hold.

The origins of the WBC can found in 1954 on the eastside of Topeka, Kansas. At that time the East Side Baptist Church of Topeka invested in a second chapel across town. The East Side Baptists employed an associate pastor by the name of Fred Phelps. By 1955 the chapel was ready to open and was christened the Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps was promoted to full Pastoral status and placed as the head of the new chapel. Soon after his appointment, he cut ties with the church on the eastside and began his own theological curriculum.

From 1955 to 1963 there is little known of the church, other than to say Phelps was conforming the church’s ideology to strict Calvinism. In 1963 a book titled, “The Five Points of Calvinism Defined, Defended, and Documented by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas” was written and spread through the Calvinist reformers. From this work, many followers of Calvinism, Phelps included, adopted the “Tulip” method for explaining their faith. The word is an acronym for the five points; Total depravity (everyone is a sinner by nature), Unconditional election (only God’s chosen will return to him), Limited atonement (Christ only died for the chosen), Irresistible grace (once chosen, you are compelled), and Perseverance of Saints (the chosen will continue in righteousness). Phelps and his followers strictly adhere to the ultra-Orthodox TULIP Calvinism. Among the Five points are smaller theological planks including zero tolerance for homosexuality. Adherence to this overly rigid theology goes a long way in explaining the unabashed confrontational nature of WBC members. True to their ideology, they fully believe they are the wake-up call to a world that is irreversibly hell bound.

In 1964 Phelps achieved a law degree and opened his own law firm. He immediately dove into civil rights cases. Phelps won a series of cases wherein he represented African American clients in discrimination lawsuits and civil rights violations. Phelps was well known for confronting “Jim Crow Laws” and at one point claimed to be the reason they “fell” in Kansas. He and his family would later claim that racist suspects were responsible for shooting at their vehicles and wreaking mayhem on the family. In 1977 Phelps was disbarred after targeting a clerk of court whose only mistake was failing to produce a transcript on time. Phelps conjured up eight fraudulent sworn affidavits against the woman leading to his ouster. He continued to practice law on a federal level well into the 1980s. At one point he even filed a lawsuit against President Ronald Reagan alleging a violation of the “Church and State Clause” because the US had an ambassador in the Vatican. In 1989 Phelps’ federal law career ended in a compromise with a district court.

In 1984 Phelps and the WBC were deep in Kansas politics. They strongly backed Al Gore’s Senate run in ’84 due to Gore’s anti-homosexual position. The WBC also backed Gore in 1988 for the same reason. In 1991 the WBC held their first official protest. They selected a Topeka public park and labeled it a “den of homosexuality.” By 1994 WBC was protesting across the United States with a great emphasis on anyone or anything that supported or was thought to support gay rights. By 1998 they were fairly well known, but in ’98 WBC became a household name. The WBC decided to protest at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was killed in an alleged hate crime. The news of the WBC spread quickly through cable news networks, elevating the WBC to mega-status overnight.

Throughout the 90’s the WBC won several court cases and lawsuits across the country. By 2005 WBC was dead-set on protesting at military funerals. Members of WBC stated in very clear terms that each death in the battle field was God’s divine punishment for accepting homosexuality. This set off a fire-storm of criticisms and legislation across the country. WBC members often claimed they were threatened or even assaulted at funerals. Some of the cases proved to be true, including one incident in Arizona where two members were nearly run-down by a distraught mourner. By 2010 however many people began to believe the alleged assaults were nothing more than publicity stunts. WBC went on to protest at the funerals of Michael Jackson, an LDS Prophet, Steve Jobs, and the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

In 2014 Fred Phelps died of natural causes. Many people feel his successor is not as radical which they hope will lead to a decline in the church’s activities. This is probably wishful thinking as Phelps himself was never the driving force behind the church’s protests. WBC members are motivated by a very strict ideology that transcends personal boundaries. As long as there are members with such devotion, the Westboro Baptist Church will persevere as will their colorful signs.

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Ordain Women (History and Analysis)

 When a religious activist group rises to the main stage, it is nothing new or all that surprising. Internal theological activism however is surprising and worthy of examination. This is especially true when the activist group is able to break through the ceiling of obscurity and garner national attention. Thus is the case with the enigmatic Mormon activist group called, “Ordain Women.”

The group was formed in 2013 in Washington DC by Kate Kelly, a civil rights attorney in the District. Kelly was an accomplished law student having been named to several fellowships and worked in at least two different countries. Her connection to the LDS church is self-admitted and includes an education at BYU and a mission to Spain. Kelly formed “Ordain Women” along with several other women, some of whom have well-documented altercations with the LDS church.

Ordain Women’s first public action took place on April 6, 2013 in Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, UT. The original purpose of the gathering was to persuade the LDS church to allow the all-woman delegation to enter a lecture hall where male members of the church were holding a meeting. After the action failed, the group’s real purpose emerged; force a change in LDS theology. Ordain Women believe, as their name suggests, that female members of the LDS church should hold the Priesthood and serve in high clergy positions within the church. The group followed up with a similar action in October 2013, only to be rebuffed once again. As of 3/18/14, the group was planning yet another foray into the very same conference.

The first law of activism is “Gain the sympathy of your public.” When groups form and then act within and against their target audience, they tend to die out. A great example of this was “No Labels.” Ordain Women unabashedly acts within and against the LDS church while simultaneously trying to recruit members. Thus far they have been moderately successful through what can only be described as a bifurcated strategy. On the outside they are a soft worded, humble movement seeking equal blessings within the LDS church. This very soft, progressive, yet theologically comfortable argument resonates with some women, especially those who are disaffected with the church. The problem however with using such a soft approach is eventually it is going to come up against ideology. At that moment the true intentions of the group will need to take center stage and engage in a public ideological battle, which is where the second tier of their strategy comes into play.

Ordain Women, when distilled down to its base element, is a feminist anti-Mormon movement led by seasoned activists. Among the most influential are Lorie Winder Stromberg, Mary Ellen Robertson, and Margaret Toscano. Stromberg is a highly educated, ardent feminist, and former member of the Sunstone Education Foundation. Stromberg’s essays and speeches show she holds a great deal of animosity towards male members of the LDS church. He affiliation with Sunstone cannot be overlooked as the SEF has been dedicated to undermining the LDS church for many decades. Margaret Toscano is an anti-Mormon activist affiliated with the “September Six.” Toscano, her husband, and five other members directly challenged the church in 1993 through a series of lectures and publications. Six of the members were removed from the church through an internal removal process known as excommunication. It does not appear Margaret was removed. Toscano is a stalwart member of the Sunstone Education Foundation. Mary Ellen Robertson is the executive director of the Sunstone Education Foundation. She is also part of an interfaith activist group comprised of female activists seeking the ordination of female clergy. According to one of her bios, she became an ardent feminist while attending BYU.

The future of Ordain Women will be interesting. Many activist groups never see the type of attention they’ve received. With their plans of a third attempt at attending the Priesthood meeting in April, they have created a potential watershed moment. If they are denied entry they must evolve quickly to stay relevant. If they are allowed entry in April, they will experience a tremendous boost in popularity and will need to shift the focus to ordination. Either way, feminists and anti-Mormon groups will undoubtedly be watching the gates of Temple Square for signs of what is to come.

 

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Black Lives Matter (Profile and Analysis)

Initially formed in 2012 as a response to the Trayvon Martin shooting, the group saw little to no national attention until the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. BLM was formed by three highly educated and well documented activists who hailed from the feminist, LGBT, and immigrant rights movements. After the shooting death of Brown, Black Lives Matter took hold as a hashtag on social media with many people not knowing the hashtag already belonged to a formalized activist group. The phrase became ubiquitous during the rallies, riots, and mass civil disobedience associated with the Mike Brown movement. Several activist groups substituted their own causes into the phrase to show solidarity. In October 2014, one of the co-founders of the original Black Lives Matter group authored a scathing article in an online feminist forum decrying the theft of her work and alleging racism by those who substituted their races instead of “Black.” By December 2014 nearly all acts of civil disobedience, criminal activism, and mass protests were attributed to Black Lives Matter. The protests ranged from peaceful “die-ins” to all out riots and criminal activism.

In the early days of Black Lives Matter it seemed the group was ideologically aligned with Black Liberation Theology. However, research into the group’s founders, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, and Alicia Garza showed them to be averse to Black Liberation in the traditional sense. While they espouse certain aspects of the theology, they stand apart in terms of deep support for LGBT African Americans, anti-statism, and women’s rights. The groups’ slogan was carried into the Mall of America and on BART in late 2014 leading to shut downs and mass arrests. During an interview in December 2014, Alicia Garza adamantly reaffirmed the group’s position that removal of “Black” from the phrase and substituting it with another cause conjures images of a non-existent post racial America. Thus doubling down on their intellectual rights and their near conspiracy theory view of America. A deep review of the group’s web presence and interviews shows they adhere to an ideology that places blame on a structural patriarchy and racism that demands the murder of African Americans. It is unlikely the many people who carry signs emblazoned with the near iconic phrase, know of the group’s deeply held beliefs.

Nevertheless, despite the founders’ ideology, thousands of people banter the phrase around at dozens of marches, rallies, and die-ins all related to the Ferguson movement.

www.blacklivesmatter.com

 

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