Why I Won’t Be Risking Arrest

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by Karen Topakian

Comrades, I’d like to apologize in advance for not committing acts of nonviolent direct action with you for the next six terrible months. The sentencing agreement to which I agreed prohibits me from getting arrested anywhere for anything until September 2nd. Here’s what happened the last time I made this agreement.

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“I’m not part of the demonstration,” I declared emphatically to the San Francisco police officer as he pulled me by the arm across O’Farrell Street.

“You are now,” he said, pushing me through a row of police officers barricading 1,000 people protesting Henry Kissinger’s presence at a luncheon at the Hilton Hotel in Union Square on May 16, 1984.

The group targeted Kissinger for his role in promoting the Reagan Administration’s policy in Central America, which killed thousands of campesinos in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

“She’s not part of the demonstration,” stated one of the protestors. The police refused to believe us and wouldn’t let me leave.

For once, I wasn’t demonstrating. Though my heart was with the folks publicly opposing Reagan and Kissinger’s deadly policies, I couldn’t get arrested.

At that time, I had to live by the probation terms dictated by the Rhode Island Superior Court, which prohibited me from “violating the criminal law of any state for six months” or face prison at the Adult Correctional Institution in my hometown, Cranston, RI.

These terms stemmed from a 1983 conviction for disorderly conduct at Electric Boat in North Kingstown, RI, which builds nuclear powered and armed submarines.

When my fellow activists and I stood on trial for committing our nonviolent direct action, we had argued a necessity defense, which “permits a person to act in a criminal manner when an emergency situation, not of the person’s own creation, compels the person to act in a criminal manner to avoid greater harm from occurring.”

We based our defense on the necessity to stop the submarine production because the use of nuclear weapons would cause irreparable harm to life on this planet. Not surprisingly, we lost our case.

The judge sentenced us to either prison or probation. I chose probation because I didn’t want to delay my start at graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute, where I was currently enrolled.

On that day, I was on route to renew my passport at the Federal Building not to a protest. The police probably didn’t believe me because my clothes indicated otherwise. Instead of wearing more “lady-like” clothes – a skirt or dress – to the passport office, I donned “art student” fare – ratty jeans and a denim jacket.

The protestor who defended me to the police introduced himself as Jeff Yippie, whom I later learned was a local activist and co-founder of Bound Together bookstore, an anarchist bookstore on Haight Street.

This gregarious good-natured character, took me under his wing as the SF police rounded us up, drove us to the SF Police Department at 850 Bryant Street and left us to languish in the basement cells.

The police hadn’t arrested us. They were merely holding us for what seemed like hours. Without access to a phone, I couldn’t call my partner to tell her where I was or what had happened. I feared she thought I might have been “disappeared,” an exceedingly rare occurrence in the US but a frequent one committed by Central and South American governments toward dissidents.

Though I knew no one in this group, I wasn’t new to protests, jails or police. These activists exhibited the universal incarceration behavior – friendly and supportive. Since we weren’t arrested, the police hadn’t confiscated our belongings and, therefore, we could share food and resources. When the SF Police didn’t separate us by gender, I could stay close to my new friend, Jeff.

As we waited, I shared my predicament with him. He suggested I refuse to give my name or produce any identification. By withholding it, my information wouldn’t appear in any public records and wouldn’t make its way to RI. Having refused to give my name in the past, I was quite familiar with the practice and process. It could mean that I would spend more time locked up in San Francisco for non-cooperation but it would not pull me back to RI.

Taking his advice, I decided to not cooperate, fortunately I didn’t need to employ this practice because after sitting for many hours on a jail floor, the police just unlocked the cell doors and released us, without requiring us to give our names, produce IDs or promise to stop protesting. Instead, we walked outside into darkness. I emerged unscathed.

Though that took place 33 years ago, once again I find myself in the same court ordered situation, stemming from hanging the RESIST banner in Washington D.C. For six months, I cannot get arrested or I will face a judge in D.C. who can sentence me to prison, to pay a fine or both.

“That is like activist lent for you!” remarked Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

In order to comply with this order, I’m considering staying indoors for six months because avoiding arrest in San Francisco during the Trump reign may prove impossible.

 

An Alternative Post-Election Letter to Staff

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by Karen Topakian

Though the presidential election took place only last month, it feels like a lifetime ago. As we struggle to accept the news and wrestle with the impacts of a Trump presidency, I’ve drafted some initial thoughts about how our organization will respond during these uncertain times. I want to hear your thoughts as well, because we’re all in this together.

First, it’s time to take a deep breath. Let’s think through this clearly. WTF. WTF. WTF. OMG. OMG. OMG. SOS. SOS. SOS.

Next, I reviewed our organization’s mission and values for guidance. Let’s face it, they are useless. I don’t even know why we have them.

Second, our community needs our support. We should continue serving the most vulnerable people, seeking new funding to expand and increase our services, working towards mutual support with our allies…wait, what? Trump just tweeted Putin would make the best Defense Secretary!!!

Breathe, Karen. Breathe, Karen. Ok, I’m back.

When I read the President-elect tweets bloody vile messages, I think the Communications Department should respond to the whirlwind. But why should they get all the fun while we sit on the sidelines responding to our whiny clients’ constant needs?

Third, we will keep our messaging short and pithy – as did the President-elect so successfully – but populated with facts and truthful statements without dumbing it down instead of how we’ve communicated in the past with excessive explanations.

Fourth, I suggest we work on improving our mental health in preparation for what the next four years will bring. We must stay positive. After looking at several health improvement options, i.e. exercise, diet, meditation, I decided to focus on only one – alcohol. If we work together, we can easily increase our alcohol consumption. I would like to set a goal of one bender a week per person for the next 208 weeks. To kick off the campaign, this Friday at noon we will showcase the new Margarita machine. Feel free to invite friends and colleagues to join us in a show of inebriated solidarity. Therefore, effective immediately, we will add add to our benefits menu, hangover days and TDW – “too despondent to work” days.

Finally, it’s critically important to keep our clients… Sorry gotta go, Trump just tweeted a screed against a toddler for crying at his rally!!

Election Disaster Preparedness

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by Karen Topakian

The Red Cross advises families to make a plan to prepare and respond to all types of emergencies from flood to flu to landslides. Unfortunately, they don’t tell you how to prepare for the disaster wafting our way on January 20, 2017 and ending on January 19, 2021.

So I will.

                                                                  MAKE A PLAN

Create an emergency plan so your family will know what to do in the crisis.

  1. Discuss how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that will most likely happen where you live, learn, work and play.
  • Identify people of color, Muslims, immigrants, women and LGBT type people in your household and in your workplace.
  • Decide on a course of action if assaulted or harassed. For example, enlist a straight male Caucasian friend, preferably Republican or from the alt-right to help you, go into hiding, lighten your skin, convert to an “acceptable” religion, a.k.a. Christian, try to act straight, hire a civil rights attorney to accompany you 24/7
  • Purchase a Presidential Disaster insurance plan, which will cover loss of access to abortion, a free press and sanity. Add-on miscarriage of justice insurance and former homeowners policies.
  1. Develop an action plan and assign tasks. Remember to work together as a team. Responsibilities may include:
  • Monitoring the news to see which way the political winds are blowing
  • Making protest signs
  • Stashing bail money
  • Disguising your home as a Trumpian refuge if under attack, i.e. display white nationalist banners
  • Updating passports
  • Keeping social media accounts on high alert
  • Filling up gas tanks
  • Hiding undocumented immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women and queer folks
  • Packing do-it-yourself surgical kits for the inevitable loss of access to health care
  • Digging a hole in the backyard big enough for your whole family
  • Resupplying your bomb shelter
  1. Stockpile basic disaster supplies.
  • Loose fitting clothing and running shoes required for long marches and fast getaways
  • Extra underwear and a toiletry kit in case of a round up
  • Involuntary-change-of-address cards
  • Blankets, sleeping bags and tents packed up to serve as an emergency home
  • A battery-powered radio tuned to the easy listening channel to avoid adding stress
  • Cash, cash, cash – US and Canadian dollars, Euros, Rubles and Pesos
  • American flags and extra matches
  • SPF 1,000 to protect against the inevitable rise in global temperature
  • Snorkels, fins and oxygen tanks, for coastal residents. Oh heck, even for folks in the Mid-West.
  • Anti-pollution masks
  • Fire extinguishers to douse cross burnings
  • Coat hangars to help women in need
  • Bullet proof vests, particularly for young men of color
  • Cases of Xanax, Valium, Zoloft and Prozac. In extreme circumstances, a do-it-yourself lobotomy kit

Gropers Poke Trump

 

 

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by Karen Topakian

In a rare public statement, the Gropers Really Are Brazen (GRAB) officially denounced Donald Trump and withdrew his longstanding membership from this international clandestine group.

According to GRAB’s CEO, Fred Feelgood, GRAB members wanted the world to know that Mr. Trump did not “speak for them.” Its public announcement included the following statements:

Mr. Trump’s potty mouth deeply offended our members’ delicate sensibilities. We may touch, fondle, grab, prod, maul, squeeze, pinch, grasp, feel, clutch, thumb, paw and poke “lady parts” but we never say the p-word.

We remain committed to groping in public but not talking about it in public. We only retain members who can remain tight-lipped about their achievements, conquests and dalliances.

GRAB’s bylaws require its members to publicly deny their own behavior vociferously and to seek immediate protection from the organization’s rich and famous like-minded friends. Mr. Trump’s 2005 statements made public on October 7 required us to remove him immediately from the membership roster.

The group called an emergency meeting when the videotapes became public. “Our members dropped everything to attend,” declared Mr. Feelgood. “We have a brand to protect. Sure, we like to grope as much as the next guy, but we don’t boast about it. We’ve learned to zip it up.”

Mr. Feelgood noted that this incident wasn’t Mr. Trump’s first offense as a GRAB member. “When Ivana charged him with rape we put his membership on probation.” Feelgood noted that the bylaws clearly do not allow members to rape. “We reinstated him when she encased the word rape in quotes.”

According to Feelgood, the Groper-American community likes to seize life by the throat, though usually lower. As loyal Americans, they exercise their right to peacefully assemble – very, very closely together.

He uttered their motto, “You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can,” with a nod and a wink.

GRAB’s members include all racial, ethnic, age and religious groups but currently only men. Several years ago, a handful of women joined GRAB committed to groping men but the membership found the mere mention of such behavior repugnant, demeaning, offensive, distasteful, objectionable, dehumanizing, repulsive and possibly illegal. They quickly amended the bylaws disallowing it.

According to Feelgood, women may join if they agree only to grope other women.

“We’re not sexist because anyone can join,” reported Feelgood. “We even reached out to the lesbian community, assuming they might share our common interests in groping women, but our friendly overtures were met with vulgarity.”

Individuals may join GRAB by invitation only. “We can’t just let anyone in willy-nilly,” said Mr. Feelgood. “Certainly not pedophiles, exhibitionists and necrophilias. Those people are perverts.”

This century’s old secretive group, founded by men lurking in and slinking around crowded busses, trains and elevators, prefers to conduct its business behind closed doors and in the dark. Throughout the year, GRAB sponsors public events at a variety of locations, i.e. Black Friday waiting lines at Wal-Mart, tree-lighting at Rockefeller Center, Super Bowl entry gates, Penn Station, TSA lines…

“Trump’s lowered our standards,” announced Feelgood. “And we certainly never kiss. That’s ticky-tacky.”

Republican Presidential Candidates Struggle to Find New Scapegoats

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by Karen Topakian

“Should I blame the mentally ill again for yesterday’s killings in San Bernardino?” mused Dr. Ben Carson to his advisor, Armstrong Williams. “I just blamed them last week in Colorado. Let’s find a new group.”

Carson and Williams sat in silence for a few moments.

“What about heathens or Catholics?” suggested Williams. “It’s high time we brought back blaming Catholics.”

Dr. Carson shook his head while stroking his salt and pepper beard. In a moment, his eyes flashed and he announced, “The Huns. I just read about their leader in the book, Attila the Hun: Better than Hitler.”

“Do you mean the nomadic people of the Caucasus?” questioned Williams.

“Did you say Secaucus, as in New Jersey?” asked Carson. “Yes, let’s blame it on Governor’s Christie’s people.”

“Caucasus,” repeated Williams. “The mountainous region in western Turkey. Didn’t you learn anything from our foreign policy advisor?”

“We agree. It’s the Huns.”

 

Mike Huckabee pulled his well-worn Bible off the shelf and plopped into an adjacent upholstered armchair. He thumbed through his favorite book looking for a new group to blame for the most recent killings.

“Sin and evil aren’t good enough. I need something more damning,” muttered Huckabee. “And I need to be ready when the reporters call.”

Huckabee turned to his bookmarked passages, reading his favorite words aloud to help himself focus, ‘fornicators, lustfulness, slothfulness.”

In a moment it came to him. He offered a quiet word of thanks to God “The good Lord has rained violence on us because of atheists. If they prayed more, God would stop the killings.”

 

Donald Trump spent a few extra minutes admiring his profile in the bathroom mirror. He slapped on an extra splash of aftershave to make sure he smelled good for the ladies in the press who would ask him for comments about yesterday’s killings.

“It’s sick people. And I know that because I’m one of the healthiest people in the world,” bellowed Trump. “Everyone else is saying mentally ill. I’m saying sick. All kinds of sicknesses make people go on shooting rampages. Cancer. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Restless Leg. Atypical Mole Syndrome. Even the heebie jeebies. ”

 

Ted Cruz sat at his desk drumming his fingers on his keyboard. He glanced up at his diplomas from Harvard and Princeton.

“I’m the smartest guy in the room. I know I can come up with something better than mental illness,” uttered Cruz looking for a new response to the most recent shootings in San Bernardino. “What about the gays? We haven’t blamed the gays in awhile..”

Cruz thought for a moment then proudly tapped out his new message – “A country allowing homosexuals to marry has lost its way. The husband and wife shooter couple probably sat next to a gay married couple, which profoundly affected their heterosexual marriage, forcing them to arm themselves and slaughter innocent people.”

 

“I still don’t see why everyone reacted so badly to ‘Stuff Happens’,” stated Jeb Bush to his campaign manager. “I didn’t say Sh^t Happens.”

The presidential candidate slouched back in his chair and put his head down.

“Do I really need to have something new to say every time there’s a shooting? I can’t keep up,” complained the brother and son of former presidents.

“You’re mumbling, Governor,” said his campaign manager.

“I bet the shooter had an older, stupid brother who stole the political spotlight from his younger, smarter, better looking brother. I bet the older stupid brother left a big stinking political mess for the younger brother to address and that led him to uncontrolled fits of violent rage,” stated Bush.

“Let’s stick with stuff happens,” announced the campaign manager.

 

“How many times do I have to say it’s our left wing values?” pronounced presidential hopeful Marco Rubio to his campaign staff. “They are undermining our institutions and leading people to pick up guns and just start shooting.”

“But Senator, we need to say something new,” pressed his communications director. “We’ve prepared a few comments for you, tell us which ones you like.”

Mr. Rubio gave his team the nod to go ahead.

“Living in the United States without a plan to address illegal immigrants and rampant abortionists, can make people resort to violence.”

“My Cuban parents fled violence to come to America where they worked hard without killing anyone, why can’t these people do the same?”

“I blame our president for forcing sick people to buy health insurance online. If they didn’t have Obamacare they would be too sick to get angry enough to pick up a gun.”

 

“Ok boys, what am I saying today about these shootings? I need something provocative to catapult me into the primetime debate,” announced presidential hopeful Chris Christie to his staff while they sat in the limo waiting for the bridge traffic to clear. “You have to give me something. I can’t sit with that nitwit Santorum again.”

His aides shook their heads.

“Do I have to do all the thinking around here?” asked the Governor from New Jersey. “Let’s think of something catchy, pithy.”

“How about if you blame the Democrats?” asked his communications manager.

“Can’t. Cruz already did.”

“What about something from the Bible?” asked an aide with a full beard. “Like blaming adulterers?’

“Pastor Huckabee’s sewn up the Bible business.”

“Should I tell him the idea you all rejected?” asked an aide with a persistent cowlick.

His staff aggressively shook their heads.

“Now I gotta hear it,” exclaimed the former prosecutor.

The assembled staff held their breath.

“Ahem, I went back and looked at some of your previous statements about gun violence and thought we could resurrect one. ‘I believe we already have too many firearms in our community. This recent incident proves it again.’”

“Driver, stop the car. You. Out of the car. Now. You’re fired. Don’t ever remind me of what I said in the past.”