Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Santa Cruz Protest Against U.S. War in Syria

On August 31, community members in Santa Cruz gathered on Ocean Street as part of a series of nationwide emergency demonstrations against U.S. military involvement in Syria called for by the Answer Coalition.

Expressions of disbelief and skepticism were common among those present at the demonstration regarding reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and multiple individuals held Answer Coalition picket signs that stated, "War Against Syria: Built on A Lie."

Anti-war protesters in Santa Cruz where encouraged by drivers honking on their way to the beach on the busy tourist route of Ocean Street.

Demonstrators compare the situation in Syria to that of Iraq ten years ago, and the sentiment by demonstrators is that the war in the Middle East is a long-term, ongoing conflict that some called an "endless war." Individuals say the war has continuously shifted from country to country in the region over the course of decades.

The Answer coalition has stated that the idea of the Syrian government launching a chemical weapons attack as a U.N. team is currently in the country, "defies all logic."

"In a sign of their total disregard for the truth, the United States government has declared, in advance of any actual investigation, that the Syrian government is guilty of using chemical weapons," said the Answer Coalition.

According to the group, the far greater likelihood is that the conflict in Syria is a "staged provocation" by the opposition to, "invite U.S./NATO intervention in order to save their weakening military position in the conflict."

Two of the 'Walmart 60' Picket Salinas Walmart Store

Two members of the 'Walmart 60' recently picketed the Salinas Walmart store. They and their supporters continue to ask that the members of Wallmart's Board of Directors reinstate the more than 60 workers, known as the Walmart 60, who were fired after protesting working conditions at the retail giant. They want the public to know that the vast majority of Walmart workers aren't paid enough to afford basic health care, to pay for rent and utilities, or to keep food on the table, yet the Walton family who controls the retail chain has more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. There have been a number of recent events protesting working conditions at Walmarts in the greater Bay Area, and they have all been leading up to a large march in San Francisco on September 5 as part of a national day of action in support of the striking workers who lost their jobs.

Walmart's poor treatment of its Associates was put into context when it was revealed in a recent study that each Walmart store costs taxpayers nearly $1 million in government subsidies for programs such as food stamps and other public assistance that struggling workers rely on to survive.

The protest at the Salinas Walmart took place on August 17, the same day Walmart Board Chair and Walton heir Rob Walton planned to race two of his race cars, worth more than $16 million dollars, at the annual Monterey Motorsports Reunion at nearby Laguna Seca Raceway.

The two members of the Walmart 60 in attendance at the Salinas store, Dominick Ware and Raymond Bravo, both said they thought they were fired in retaliation for speaking out publicly against business practices at the stores they worked at. They are both members of OUR Walmart, an employee lead organization that is working to insure that every Walmart Associate is respected.

Raymond Bravo was a Walmart Associate at the Hilltop Mall store in Richmond for two years until he was fired for speaking out against Walmart's unfair labor practices, he said. Bravo lost his job on June 27 after picketing Walmart between May 29 and June 8 of this year. Bravo believes he lost his job due to retaliation because the day they said he was fired was one of the days he was on strike.

Bravo said he wants his job back. 

"I want Walmart to end its illegal retaliation against workers who speak out and everybody that Walmart fired for going on strike," he added

Dominick Ware worked at the Walmart in San Leandro and said he was picketing in Salinas to inform people of what is going on behind the scenes for workers.

"I'm here today in Salinas to tell the shoppers and everybody out here in Salinas that Rob Walton of Walmart is really supplying his 16 million dollar race car that he is doing this weekend with taxpayers money," Ware said.

"We have to deal with disrespect on the job as well as not being treated fairly with our scheduling," Ware also said, adding, "if you work here you have no family time."

"You work here for a year, you get a 40 cent raise, while Rob Walton makes billions, it makes no sense, and they are not putting their money into the company, they are putting it into their pockets. He is putting it into these race cars. They are puting it into other things, but not back into the people or the communities that is making them all of this money."

Ware said he was one of the first Walmart workers to go on strike on Black Friday of 2012.

He lost his job after the prolonged strike of this year. Ware said he picketed the home office of Walmart, among other places, and after two weeks of protesting he returned to work after being promised there would be no retaliation against him.

Ware says he had been back at work for a whole month when then they eventually fired him.

"They said that Walmart didn't respect the strike, they said it was just no-call no-show. Right now I have to fight that. I'm going through the National Labor Board trying to get my job back."

According to the organization Making Change at Walmart, $15,500 is the average annual salary of a Walmart Sales Associate (based on an IBIS World figure), $8.81 is the average hourly wage, and 46¢ is the additional cost per shopping trip for a Walmart customer if the company offered a minimum wage of $12 an hour.

With earnings of $408.2 billion in 2010, Walmart’s revenue earned the company the number one spot on Fortune's 100 list.

Walmart Sales Associates began organizing in June of 2011. At that time they traveled from across the United States to the Walmart Home Office in Bentonville, Ark., and presented a Declaration of Respect to Walmart executive management. The Declaration calls on Walmart to publicly commit to:

- Listen to us, the Associates
- Have respect for the individual
- Recognize freedom of association and freedom of speech
- Pay a minimum of $13/hour and make full-time jobs available for Associates who want them
- Create dependable, predictable work schedules
- Provide affordable healthcare
- Provide every Associate with a policy manual, ensure equal enforcement of policy and no discrimination, and give every Associate equal opportunity to succeed and advance in his or her career
- Provide wages and benefits that ensure that no Associate has to rely on government assistance.

Raymond Bravo

Dominick Ware

Salinas City Council Member Tony Barrera (on the right)

Commander X Quits Cyber-activism, Leaves Anonymous and PLF

On Tuesday, Commander X (also known as Chris Doyon), announced he has "permanently and completely" retired from cyber-activism, which includes all activities in the Peoples Liberation Front and Anonymous. "I have removed my mask from the wall of my office. I am an Anon no longer," Doyon said in an August 27 "farewell" statement in which he cited exhaustion as the reason.

Commander X on the first night of the occupation during Occupy Santa Cruz, October 6, 2013.

In Santa Cruz, "X" was well know for his participation in PeaceCamp2010 and Occupy Santa Cruz, where on October 6, 2011 he was the first person to set up bedding and lie down on the first night of sleep in San Lorenzo Park. He became a mentor figure to activists during the two month occupation, and he shared his knowledge about a wide range of contemporary actions with many.

In February of 2012 Doyon released a statement saying he had left the United States to escape the federal charges against him for hacking. He now says he is becoming established in Canada, and beyond professional pursuits, he intends to continue amateur research into the field of autonomous robotics and artificial intelligence, which were passions for him before he began to devote most of his time to political activism. 

Full statement from Commander X:

Farewell Statement From X

Tuesday - August 27, 2013

Greetings --

I have been an activist for 30 years. My entire life has been dedicated to fighting for justice and freedom, for both human and animal rights. For 28 of those years I have been what some call a "hactivist", and in the past 5 years I have been a part of the amazing idea called Anonymous. In fact, during these past 5 years I have dedicated an average of 10 hours a day to cyber-activism within the context of the PLF and Anonymous. In the course of these events, the persona of "Commander X" has developed and expanded to almost mythic proportions. In a sense the "Commander X" persona has become a bit like BatMan, a sort of cyber-super hero. But like BatMan, the impossible persona of "Commander X" rests upon the shoulders of a simple man. And like all men, I have frailties, weaknesses - and limits.

In the past few years, in order to support this "Commmander X" persona I have sacrificed my family, my freedom, my home - and even my country. I will never regain these, I will die as a man without a family or country. I will die alone in a foreign land, my ashes spread across a foreign forest. I have no regrets in this regard, "Commander X" made a difference - he saved lives and inspired thousands to join this critical fight for the very soul of humanity.

But in addition to the sacrifices named above, the past few years of endless work on the PLF and Anonymous have thoroughly wrecked my health, physical, psychological - and spiritual. "Commander X" may be invincible, but I am extremely ill from the exhaustion and stress of fighting in this epic global cyber war. I always believed I would have the strength to fight until the bitter end. I do not. I can not go on, and as of this moment I permanently and completely retire from cyber-activism, the Peoples Liberation Front - and Anonymous. I have removed my mask from the wall of my office. I am an Anon no longer.

The majority of things that I have sacrificed in order to bear the persona of "Commander X" are lost to me forever. I can never endanger my family by contacting them, and I can never return to the USA. But there is one thing, one delight of my past life that I thought lost to me forever that I can recover.

Many years ago, long before the eruption of this global cyber-war - I was an amateur scientist in the field of Machine Life (autonomous robotics) and AI (artificial intelligence). For five or so years I had a lab in my basement filled with dozens of robots ranging from those the size of a large spider to bipeds two foot tall. As for AI, there is nothing like the thrill of writing code that is capable of learning, code that can literally rewrite itself. Code that can think, respond intelligently - even create. Those years were the happiest and most intellectually fulfilling of my life.

Lately, here in Canada - I have been picking up some small and discrete web design and network security jobs. I have managed to be able to rent a spare, small and very plain office and furnish it with simple things like a microwave and coffee maker. It is in this space that I intend to take up once again my amateur research into the field of autonomous robotics and artificial intelligence and rebuild my laboratory. The field has progressed much since I was drawn away from it into the great global cyber-war, and I look forward to all the catching up I have to do! In addition, I will re-establish the Machine Life & Artificial Intelligence Foundation which I founded so long ago as a repository for my research. For those few true friends I have out there in the movement for whom these things are interesting, I have established a new personal Twitter account @M0RPHE0US where I will tweet about things related to this field. But PLEASE, no politics or activism. These things are finished for me.

Commander X will now step off the stage of history, and fade into the mists of myth and legend. Hopefully his sordid and exciting story will inspire others to take up the fight for justice and freedom. As for the tiny simple man upon whose shoulders he rested, he will now spend his days in sheer delight watching the antics of his little robots, and his nights talking to computer programs that can think and dream.


Commander X also released a statement about disbanding the People's Liberation Front:

Final Statement On The Disbanding Of The Peoples Liberation Front

Tuesday - August 27, 2013

On April 1, 1985 six activists formed the Peoples Liberation Front. And today I announce that this organization has run it's course. The Peoples Liberation Front is no more. Hopefully this statement will explain why this is necessary.

For many years I followed the Grateful Dead. I attended over 400 concerts spanning ten years. Many band members died and were replaced, and it seemed that the Dead were more of an institution than a band. I could never imagine a day when they would no longer tour the country bringing joy and enlightenment to millions each year. But within the band, over it's 35 year history - a subtle process was taking place that would eventually lead to it's demise. While they were a team, slowly but surely the creative and administrative responsibilities of the band shifted to one individual - Jerry Garcia. And thus he became irreplaceable, and on the day he died the Grateful Dead ceased to exist.

The analogy to the Peoples Liberation Front is apt indeed. In the beginning back in the 80's, the PLF was a team effort. Everyone could do everyone else's job. But over the past 28 years, and most extremely in the past four years - the burden of both administration and creativity of the Peoples Liberation Front has shifted onto my shoulders. This has become so extreme that I was unable even to take a brief vacation without the PLF simply grinding to a halt.

Many rock bands chose to fight on to the bitter end, when once they could fill stadiums - they content themselves to devolve and become club bands. The Grateful Dead chose to quit while they were at their peak and thus become legend, rather than to slowly whither away and become a joke. I make this same choice now for the Peoples Liberation Front.

In our 28 year history, we fought everything from apartheid in South Africa and CIA recruitment on college campuses to brutal dictators in the mid-east and Africa. In the past few years we watched the meteoric rise of Anonymous, and proudly helped to shape what that amazing movement has become today. Everyone who was ever a member of the PLF has great reason to be proud. We made a difference. We made history.

SINCERELY -- Commander X

Former Supreme Commander of the Peoples Liberation Front