Conservation in Baltimore, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Conservation Update: Replanting Baltimore’s Harbor

6 November 2015

In 2010, the National Aquarium launched its first-ever floating wetland into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor! In the five years since, floating wetland islands have offered local wildlife refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city and improved water quality!

To learn more about our Floating Wetland project, click here.

Better than other news from Baltimore, about police killing someone etc.

FBI spy planes over Ferguson and Baltimore, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

FBI Planes Are Watching You

3 June 2015

The Associated Press did a report on the FBI using small planes throughout the country to spy in on us. They claim that they are spying in on the bad guys. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Cenk Uygur (The Young Turks) and John Iadarola (Think Tank) break it down. Does the FBI need to gather this much data to keep us safe? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

“Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.

“It’s important that federal law enforcement personnel have the tools they need to find and catch criminals,” said Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But whenever an operation may also monitor the activities of Americans who are not the intended target, we must make darn sure that safeguards are in place to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans.”

By Tom Hall in the USA:

FBI director admits use of spy planes over Ferguson and Baltimore

26 October 2015

FBI Director James Comey admitted in testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee that the agency conducted surveillance flights over mass protests against police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland over the past year, at the request of local police departments. Comey’s remarks confirmed an earlier Associated Press report revealing the FBI’s extensive use of secret flyovers throughout the country.

The hearing itself, mislabeled as being dedicated to the “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” was a further indication of the ability of government agencies like the FBI to carry out illegal mass surveillance against the American population with impunity. Comey contradicted himself at key points through his testimony, which the members of the Committee allowed to pass without comment.

He absurdly claimed in his testimony that the FBI’s flyovers are not used for “mass surveillance,” but only to track specific individuals targeted by an investigation, despite the obvious fact that low-flying, camera-equipped aircraft are ideally suited to follow large numbers of people simultaneously over a wide area. As the ACLU noted recently on its website, new technologies that are now commercially available to police departments nationwide can monitor an area of 25 square miles from low-circling aircraft.

Comey subsequently contradicted this claim when he effectively admitted that the FBI’s spy planes were deployed to Ferguson and Baltimore to spy on the protests as a whole and not specific individuals. “If there is tremendous turbulence in a community, it’s useful to everybody, civilians and law enforcement, to have a view of what’s going on,” Comey told the Committee. “Where are the fires in this community? Where are people gathering ? Where do people need help? And sometimes the best view of that is above rather than trying to look from a car on the street (emphasis added).”

In fact, the federal government closely coordinated with state and local police from day one in both Ferguson and Baltimore in directing the military-style crackdown on largely peaceful protesters. Leading Washington officials, including Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder, lent their voices to the demonization of protesters in order to legitimize the use of violence against them. There can be no doubt that the FBI, an organization with a long history of political repression against dissident groups, was intimately involved at the highest levels in the direction of the crackdown.

Comey then explained under direct questioning that the agency does not obtain warrants before carrying out flyovers, because, as he claimed, “We are not collecting the content of anybody’s communication or engaging anything besides following someone in that investigation … The law is pretty clear that you don’t need a warrant for that kind of observation.” However, Comey later admitted to the Committee that at least some FBI planes are also equipped with “Stingray” technology, which mimics cell phone towers in order to fool nearby phones into establishing connections with it, enabling police to monitor communications and track users’ whereabouts.

Although the Justice Department changed its internal policy last month to require the FBI and other agencies to obtain search warrants before using “Stingray” devices, state and local police are able to use their own devices, subsidized by the federal government, with complete secrecy and without even token oversight. Furthermore, while a recent Justice Department memo banned agencies from using drones “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment,” this restriction does not apply to manned aircraft such as those operated by the FBI.

Comey’s claim of a limited scope for surveillance does not square with the extraordinary level of secrecy surrounding the program. The Associated Press story this June, which first revealed the FBI’s use of surveillance flights, traced over 50 aircraft to shell companies set up by the bureau throughout the country, and found that the agency had conducted more than 100 flights in 11 states during a one-month span this spring.

The AP found that some flights circled “large, enclosed buildings,” such as malls and airports, “where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection,” suggesting the use of “Stingray” technology.

Furthermore, numerous flyovers have been observed in Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb with the country’s largest Arab-American community and which has been subjected to routine harassment by local and federal police since the September 11th attacks.

Comey’s frank admission of the FBI’s use of aerial surveillance was met with hardly a word of protest from the members of the House Judiciary Committee, ostensibly tasked with overseeing the activities of the federal police. Neither Comey’s claim that the FBI planes were not conducting “mass surveillance” in Ferguson nor his argument that such flights did not require a warrant were challenged by the Committee. Instead, members of the Committee competed with one another in showering Comey and his organization with fawning praise.

The day following his testimony before Congress, Comey gave a speech at the University of Chicago Law School in which he attempted to pin the blame on a supposed rise in crime rates on the increased public scrutiny of police in the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing last year. Comey was in Chicago in advance of this week’s conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Comey said. “I’ve been told by a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video … Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing. We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”

The theory that a spike in violent crime nationwide in US cities is due in part to fear on the part of police that their activities will be recorded by hostile bystanders and posted on Youtube, known as the “Ferguson Effect,” has no basis in fact.

In the first place, there is no evidence that, outside of a few municipalities, there has been a statistically meaningful spike in violent crime in the United States at all. Second, the claim that police are legitimately concerned that they could face punishment if videos of their activity were recorded does not hold water when even officers who have been filmed committing acts of murder have not been disciplined, let alone arrested and charged with a crime. Finally, the only significant slowdowns in arrest rates this year have been due to work slowdowns, such as those organized in New York City and Baltimore, directed against city administrations deemed to be insufficiently fervent in their defense of the police.

Instead, the Ferguson Effect “theory” is a politically-motivated slander against police brutality protesters designed to portray police as victims and shield their activities from scrutiny. It has been most heavily promoted by right-wing demagogues and officials of local police unions. Even the New York Times, which functions as a compliant mouthpiece for the American state, was compelled to admit in its reporting of Comey’s remarks that the existence of a “Ferguson Effect” was “far from settled.”

The decision by Comey to publically solidarize himself with the arguments of the far-right was allegedly a source of some embarrassment to the Obama administration (the Times cited unnamed officials who “privately fumed” at Comey’s remarks).

If Comey felt secure in scapegoating police brutality protesters the day after he confirmed that the FBI conducted surveillance against them, it is because he knows his agency is subjected to virtually no democratic restraints.

WHITE HOUSE DISAGREES WITH FBI DIRECTOR ON SOURCE OF CRIME WAVE “The White House on Monday slammed FBI Director James Comey’s notion that pervasive cellphone footage featuring police actions has led to an uptick in violent crime.” [Nick Visser, HuffPost]

In two recent speeches in Chicago, FBI Director James Comey has asserted that police anxiety in “the era of viral videos” is partially responsible for a rise in violent crime in many big US cities: here.

FBI Director James Comey’s apology for police murder: here.

Cybersecurity corporation spying on Black Lives Matter movement

This video from the USA says about itself:

Here’s Sandra Bland talking about Black Lives Matter: It’s amazing

24 July 2015

Everyone is working to figure out how Sandra Bland died, and that is important. But what people are missing is how she lived. This extraordinary woman was an amazing activist, and this video shows the kind of passion she had for other black people. Take a listen.

After the National Guard in the USA called demonstrators against the death of Michael Brown ‘enemy forces’

From Mother Jones magazine in the USA:

Black Lives Matter Organizers Labeled as “Threat Actors” by Cybersecurity Firm

“It confirms that us telling the truth about police violence is seen as a threat.”

By Brandon Ellington Patterson

Mon Aug. 3, 2015 10:38 AM EDT

Documents from a “crisis management” report produced by the cybersecurity firm ZeroFox indicate that the firm monitored Black Lives Matter protesters during the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore earlier this year.

The name ZeroFox reminds me of Fox News and the Rupert Murdoch empire; also massively spying on people for profit.

They also remind me of other ‘cybersecurity’ and spyware corporations, like Hacking Team and FinFisher, colluding with oppression in Bahrain and elsewhere.

The documents, which surfaced online last Wednesday, also state that the firm “protected” the online accounts of Maryland and Baltimore officials and members of the Baltimore Police Department and Maryland National Guard.

The report identifies DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, two prominent Black Lives Matter organizers who took part in the Baltimore protests, as “threat actors” for whom “immediate response is recommended.” It describes McKesson and Elzie as “high” severity, “physical,” and “#mostwanted” threats and notes both have a “massive following” on social media. It says that ZeroFox was engaged in “continuous monitoring” of their social media accounts and specifies their geographical locations at the time of the report. The report does not suggest that the pair were suspected of criminal activity but were “main coordinators of the protests.”

ZeroFox describing civil rights activists as 'theats'

McKesson and Elzie both tell Mother Jones they were “not surprised” that they were being watched. “It confirms that us telling the truth about police violence is seen as a threat,” McKesson says. Both activists say they do not know why they were identified as physical threats. McKesson and Elzie live in Missouri, where they helped organize the Ferguson protests. They traveled together to Baltimore for a week and a half during the Freddie Gray protests.

A link to the ZeroFox report first circulated on Twitter last Wednesday. ZeroFox did not respond to a request to confirm the authenticity of the documents. The Baltimore Police Department and the mayor’s chief of staff did not respond to request for comment. The Maryland governor’s office says that the state does not have a contract with ZeroFox.

In emails exchanged in April, ZeroFox’s CEO, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake’s chief of staff, and the president of the Maryland chapter of an FBI intelligence partnership program discussed ZeroFox’s potential surveillance “help” for Baltimore. These emails were released to the Baltimore Sun last week following a public records request. The emails also indicate that ZeroFox “briefed our classified partners” at the Fort Meade Army base in Maryland on “intelligence” it had collected during the Gray protests. Other emails from the Baltimore Police Department indicate the department had collected “intelligence regarding potentially violent agitators.”

The report on the Black Lives Matter organizers is dated the day after the Fort Meade briefing. It states that ZeroFox intended to “alert Baltimore PD on all monitoring threat actors and influencers.”

According to the leaked report, ZeroFox monitored 62 “threat actors” and 187 “threat influencers,” including a Twitter user who was “a main local protest organizer” and another who was “sending supplies from New Jersey.” The report also identifies people, organizations, and systems for “asset protection,” including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Baltimore Police Department Captain Eric Kowalczyk, and other members of the Baltimore police and Maryland National Guard.

This report has emerged amid growing evidence of federal, state, and local government monitoring of Black Lives Matter protests. Last month, the Intercept published Department of Homeland Security emails showing that the department had closely tracked Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington, DC in April. Since protests started in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, the department has also monitored non-protest events such as cultural events and prayer vigils in DC, Atlanta, Oakland, Chicago, Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.

The emails obtained by the Baltimore Sun also say that ZeroFox performed surveillance for the New York Police Department during protests over the death of Eric Garner. ZeroFox also has a contract to provide equipment to the State Department.

McKesson says that during last year’s protests in Ferguson, he and other prominent organizers became suspicious that they were being monitored by local police officials there as well. On numerous occasions, he says, they interacted with police officers that knew their names and Twitter accounts. “The police officers in St. Louis knew us. They knew many of us by Twitter handle. It was clear they read our Twitter feed. It was clear they watched the live streams [of protests],” he says. But the ZeroFox documents mark the first time he has seen written evidence that his activity was being tracked.

Elzie, too, says she already knew she was being watched. “I never needed a paper confirmation. But I guess it made it real for other people who just didn’t think that it was possible.”

‘Rihanna’s Freddie Gray concert plan blocked by Baltimore, USA police’

This video from the USA says about itself:

Rihanna, Nas, Alicia Keys: Superstars react to Ferguson grand jury decision

25 November 2014

Social media has been set ablaze after the police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown was not indicted by a grand jury in the murder trial in Ferguson, Missouri yesterday and big stars are now reacting differently from all over the world. Rihanna, Nas, Alicia Keys, Pharrell Williams, Gabrielle Union, Keri Hilson, Katy Perry, Michelle Williams, Ludacris and many more jumped on social media to air their views on the shocking verdict which has now left the city of Ferguson in complete violence.

RiRi posted a picture on her Instagram of a board which read: ‘Justice for – (I left it blank) because I’ll probably need this next year‘ and captioned it “Fact”.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Rihanna’s Freddie Gray concert was blocked by Baltimore police – reports

Singer had planned to walk with protesters and give free concert for 25-year-old African American man who died in police custody

Nadia Khomami

Wednesday 29 July 2015 12.34 BST

Rihanna was reportedly blocked by Baltimore police from playing a free concert for Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old African American man who was fatally injured by six police officers in April.

According to newly released emails between police and the singer’s representatives, obtained by the Baltimore Sun, Rihanna wanted to go to Baltimore in the week after race-related rioting broke out, to walk with protesters and perform a free concert.

In a message dated 1 May sent to Captain Eric Kowalczyk, the then head of media relations for Baltimore police, an officer detailed a conversation he had with a representative for the singer. He said the representative advised that Rihanna would arrive by plane and “in an effort to divert press/media she will be travelling to the city by train (or by car if necessary)”.

The officer added that the representative “had hoped to secure some extra police security and was directed by the governor’s office to seek assistance through communications”.

The email was forwarded to Anthony Batts, the then Baltimore police commissioner, and Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The possible concert was also mentioned in a situation report on 1 May, which revealed the location to be the intersection of Pennsylvania and West North avenues, the focal point of the protests. “Possible Rihanna Concert at Penn & North,” it read. “No time given. Police are claiming they have no permit so it will not be allowed.”

A state of emergency was declared in Baltimore amid widespread civil unrest across the city following Gray’s death, which a medical examiner ruled was a result of spinal injuries inflicted by arresting officers. Criminal charges including murder and manslaughter have since been brought against the officers involved.

During the unrest, Rihanna posted on Instagram a picture taken by Baltimore photographer Devin Allen of a black police officer with tear-filled eyes. The picture was accompanied with a crying emoji.

Other musicians who expressed concern about the situation included Kelly Rowland, Gerard Way, and Prince, who played a show at the city’s Royal Farms Arena on 10 May. The concert, Rally 4 Peace, was broadcast live by Tidal, the livestreaming company backed by rapper Jay Z.

Ferguson and Baltimore in new Solange Knowles song

This 10 May 2015 music video from the USA is called PrinceBaltimore (with lyrics).

From Entertainment Weekly in the USA:

Solange Knowles addresses Ferguson and Baltimore in new song

by Dana Rose Falcone

Solange Knowles premiered her latest song, “Rise,” Thursday night at a Los Angeles stop of Bessie’s 81 Theatre Tour. The track was inspired by the unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, following the deaths of young black men in police custody.

Beyoncé’s younger sister isn’t the only artist to turn the turmoil in Baltimore and Ferguson into powerful lyrics. Prince wrote “Baltimore” about the protests and chaos that erupted in Maryland as a result of 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s April 19 death … . He debuted the track, which also mentions Michael Brown and Eric Garner, at his Rally 4 Peace concert last weekend.

There is no word yet whether “Rise” will appear on Knowles’ next album. HBO’s Bessie, a biopic of blues singer Bessie Smith, premieres Saturday at 8 p.m.

Beyoncé And Jay Z ‘Wired Thousands Of Dollars In Bail Money To Ferguson And Baltimore Protesters’: here.

A grand jury has indicted six Baltimore officers on a range of charges after the State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby presented her department’s investigation into the death of Freddie Gray. In a press conference Thursday, Mosby announced that the grand jury charged all six officers in connection to Gray’s death. Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, Caesar Goodson, William Porter, and Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice were handed down a slew of charges ranging from misdemeanor negligent assault and misconduct to involuntary manslaughter, intentional assault, and murder: here.

Solidarity with Baltimore in London

This video from England says about itself:

London Solidarity Assembly Vigil 5.5.15

4 May 2015

MAY 5th

We Stand with BaltimoreBlack Lives Matter from Bedford to Baltimore

Location: US Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ

Date: Tuesday 5th May at 6pm

London Campaign Against Police and State Violence are calling for a solidarity vigil to stand with the family and friends of victims of police violence in Baltimore: Freddie Gray, Mya Hall and also victims of police brutality in the UK.
SUPPORTED BY: United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC), Defend the Right to Protest, nus black students’ campaign and Cole Family Truth Campaign.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Solidarity with Baltimore as protests hit US embassy

Wednesday 6th May 2015

HUNDREDS assembled outside the US embassy in London last night to pay their respects to victims of police brutality, after a man in Devon died in circumstances similar to Freddie Gray.

The mass vigil was called after the IPCC confirmed it is investigating the death in police custody of a 38 year-old who had been restrained by Devon and Cornwall police during an altercation on April 29.

The unnamed man died in hospital this weekend leading to parallels being drawn with the case of Gray, which resulted in the recent Baltimore riots.

The brother of athlete Julian Cole, left paralysed after a brutal arrest in Bedford exactly two years ago yesterday, said ahead of the evening rally: “While the people who have done this to my little brother get to live their life, our family are fighting and hurting every day seeing him lay on the bed helpless, unable to talk or know we are there by his side.

“Those people have taken my brother away from me and I will never get to see him get old, have a family or even become a uncle.”

According to an investigation by the Independent newspaper, of the 3,000 police officers currently under investigation for abuse of force only 60 have been suspended.

In April, Home Secretary Theresa May was also forced to apologise to the families of Sean Rigg and Seni Lewis, admitting that mistakes had been made by the police when holding the men in custody. Mr Rigg’s sister Marcia told the Star that she understood Baltimore’s “grief and frustrations at the police and the judicial system.

“It is important to campaign peacefully together to tell our stories about these serious injustices that happen both in the UK and abroad.”

Speaking on behalf of one of the vigil’s organisers, London Campaign Against Police and State Violence activist Kojo Kyerewaa said they were fighting against “institutional racism.”

“We struggle against violence that is racial in nature, this violence is both physical and structural,” he said. “It results in the acceptable deaths of black and other racialised people. “The problem predates Mark Duggan and even the Metropolitan Police. “We want accountability for officers who have acted in ways that have led to deaths in custody and to an end of deaths in custody. “Without justice, there can be no peace.”

London: A democracy campaigner accused the Metropolitan Police of abuse of force yesterday after being left with a twisted knee, ankle and severe bruising following his arrest at a meditation session on Westminster’s Parliament Square. Donnachadh McCarthy was one of the three people arrested next to Gandhi’s statue on Monday evening as the Occupy Democracy camp defied the ban on camping equipment in an “act of Gandhian civil disobedience”: here.

In a massive and daunting attack on democratic rights, authorities in Baltimore detained some 250 people, without charge and in deplorable conditions, following protests on April 27 against the police killing of Freddie Gray. This unconstitutional round up and vindictive treatment received scant attention in the corporate media, with most coverage appearing only after a Facebook post by a public defender in Baltimore went viral, with almost 21,000 shares in fewer than two days: here.