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(en) Australia, ABC Melbourne Oz harassed by Fed Police - Come to a conference

From <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(abcmelb-A-yahoo.com.au)
Date Wed, 1 Sep 2004 06:44:10 +0200 (CEST)


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My name is Marisa Sposaro and I am a human rights aactivist and prisoner support
advocate. I am also a radio broadcaster at 3cr radio. The Federal Police came
to my home unannounced and interrogated me about my Anarchist activities in
Anarchist Black Cross, Australia. They asked me many questions about my
activism and told me that they had a conference paper in their posession.
Following this article is the conference paper. It was written for a Mayday
Anarchist Solidarity conference.
They also asked me if I was involved in Earth Liberation Front and said
that the Fbi in America had asked them to investigate me. The police, who are
connected with Asio asked me many personal questions about my friends in America
which I refused to answer.

Under the new Anti-terrorist legislation, the feds have a right to come
unannounced to your home if they feel that you are from a "terrorist"
organizeation. The definition of terrorism is very broad. I was home
alone at the time. I feel that I am being persecuted for my political beliefs. Being
blind, I asked if they could show me their badges. They gave me an
opportunity to feel the badges.

I explained that I had nothing to hide and that Anarchist Black Cross is
involved with providing ongoing support to prisoners through letter writing
campaigns. I told them that I am a community worker and an activist. You
don't have to commit a crime to become a target of the state.

It is urgent that we address these issues at the upcoming conference on
September the 11th...

Subject: Conference on the Howard government's Anti-Terror Laws: on
Saturday, 11 September 04, from 2pm at 195 Sydney Road, Coburg.

Want to know more about the anti-terror laws that are being legislated into
Australia? Have your civil liberties ever been violated? Have you ever been
harassed for your political beliefs? In these times of political insecurity
and manipulation, it is important to be educated about your rights. For
those of us who organise and who are political, the possibility of prison
can be real. Also for many others, particularly Muslims, asylum seekers and
activists. Everyone can be affected by this legislation.

Come to a conference
Come to a conference hosted by Anarchist Black Cross on 11 September 2004
Venue: 195 Sydney Road, Coburg.
Time: 2 pm
Speakers:
Robbie Thorpe, Aboriginal activist, to discuss genocide and the erosion of
civil liberties for Aboriginal people.
Aunty Susan Rankin descendant of Jara country and aboriginal activist
who will discuss also, the genocide of Aboriginal people.
Anthony Kelly, from the Activist Legal Rights Guide project at the Fitzroy
Legal Service, to talk about activist legal support strategies, building
resilience in the face of legal and extra-legal repression and the new
activist legal rights information and resources website which is to be
released soon.
Marisa Sposaro, human rights and prison activist, will present a paper
about FBI harassment tactics, resulting from her recent experience of harassment
in California, drawing upon the Patriot Act in America, and giving also,
introductory points on the anti terrorist legislation.

Peta Murphy, lawyer from Rob Stari, and Patrick Emerton, law lecturer
from M onash University, will give separate talks on the anti-terror laws and ASIO
powers in Australia.
Reta Kaur, anti-war activist, and member of Women for Peace: No Weapons No
Wars, will discuss her activism, police harassment, and criminal damage
charges from a peace protest at the USA Consulate in Melbourne.
Turan Ertekan, activist from the Turkish community will discuss
anti-terrorist legislation in Turkey and his political experiences.
With an election looming, please participate in this community forum, and
discuss issues of civil rights, terror laws, repression, and the
manipulation of fear worldwide for political gain.
Cost: Free, refreshments provided.
To register, please contact Anarchist Black Cross Email: abcmelb at
yahooddcom
Tel: Grasslands on 93620830
PO Box: 300 Brunswick East 3057
Or email:info@womenforpeace.org.au <mailto:info@womenforpeace.org.au>
(Reta Kaur)
Tel: 93876490

Here is the conference paper that the Federal Police had in their
posession, as they interrogated me on that basis.
oTRANSCRIPT of Lecture For the Solidarity Anarchist Conference Held on 8
May 2003 Delivered by:

Marisa Sposaro

When it was suggested that I speak on the topic of being a blind Anarchist
woman in today's society I laughed. It brought back vivid memories of
when I was in high school and how I used to speak to the other year 7 classes
about blindness. At question time, one very curious year 7 girl asked "When
you have a shower how do you know you're clean?" As a twelve-year-old my answer
was: "I take a mirror in with me."

Today we are here to celebrate diversity. For this reason I will not be
spending the next 25 minutes giving listeners a few societal stereotypes
about vision impairbbt, with a list of blindness agencies at the end, who
claim they work in the interests for and of blind people. Yet, historically, there
have been, many, many mainstream conferences, packed full of blind consumers and
their service providers. What solutions have actually come out of these
conferences? None. Working conditions and wages are still unsatisfactory
for blind workers slaving their guts out at the blind institute, alternative
literature is still being censored by braille libraries across the country, and
braille itself is still undervalued and underresourced. And if you are an
Anarchist, forget about having any material to read. Of course, blindness
agencies across the country are forever promoting their wonderful services and
how they can assist vision impaired individuals to cope with their los!
s. What loss? No, my time with you will be totally different. As I said
before, we are here to celebrate diversity. So, Today I will be discussing a
critique which encompasses anarchism, vision impairment, instutionalisation of
prisoners, censorship, and prison abolition. These topics are all
interwoven.
You will see that without anarchism, there are no solutions.

I will start off by telling you a little about my background. I was born in
Australia but I am of Italian descient. At fifteen, my mother was forced to
marry my Father, after which both parents left Italy to settle in this
country.
Times were hard, with Dad working as a labourer and mum landing work in
various
factories, as a machinist. Although things were difficult, we were all very
close. As a blind child, I was free to roam the neighbourhood, playing with all
the children and getting into all sorts of mischief. I remember playing a
delightful game called ""Knick-knocks" during which my cousins brothers and I
would run up to houses in our street, knock on the windows and flee. Of course,
all the neighbours thought it was the girl across the road, not Marisa! she
wouldn't be a troublemaker like that mob of boys there, she's blind. My parents
had a large vegetable garden. There was always plenty of food for the
table.
At five, my freedom was under severe threat. !
I was sent to a school for the blind where it was organised that I should live
at the school Monday till Friday and go home on weekends only. My activist self
surfaced. I took steps to prevent my own instutionalisation. I refused to eat,
cried and screamed and would not coperate with the nurses who were employed to
look after us. The long dormitories scared me, just like it would have
frightened Aboriginal children when they were taken from their parents for their
own good, as those repressive policies stated. Against the doctor's and the
school's wishes, Mum withdrew me from this hell and I got my freedom back. I
attended the blind school as a day pupil for 6 years, but at the end of grade
6 I went to a regular school. At eleven years old, I informed the principal
that I was bored, and that I would not be staying at the blind school any
longer. I was not in the principal's good books to start off with, because
every time newspaper articles were printed to prom!
ote the reputation of the school, I would refuse to have my name or ph
otograph in the article.



At seventeen, in the 1980's, I joined a group of blind workers and students,
called Peni, people for equality not instutionalisation, and participated in the
picket Held outside the blind Institute in St. Kilda road. We were protesting
for better working conditions, and services. (I don't know if the Iww is
committed to this sort of thing). We eventually occupied the Executive's
office of the Rvib. That was in the days when blind communities were radical.

Currently, I do some work for Grasslands, which is a not for profit vegan
organic grocery store, radio work at 3cr and prisoner support work in the Abc
(Anarchist Black Cross.) Last but not least, I belong to a group called BRAG,
braille reading action group, which is a campaign aimed at overcoming censorship
of alternative braille literature. A small bunch of Anarchists held a rally
outside one of the braille libraries in October last year. In fact, one
experience that really opened my eyes about what's going on is that without
warning, braille production refused to finish brailleing my herbal medicine
course. Perversely, it was stopped on the very same day (21 May 2002) that I
rang in to ask for Anarchist literature. My college is very small and was
unable to fund the course, but this blindness agency would not accept money from
me either. Despite the intervention of a solicitor advocate and media
coverage, I have been forced to finish my course alone.

I would like now to look at Anarchism and what it means to us. Today,
dictionary definitions still define anarchism as the absence of government.
These modern dictionary definitions of anarchism are based on the writings and
actions of anarchists of history and present. Anarchists understand, as do
historians of anarchism and good dictionaries and encyclopedias, that the word
anarchism represents a positive theory. Exterior sources, however, such
as the media, will frequently misuse the word anarchism and, thus, breed
misunderstanding.

A leading modern dictionary, Webster's Third International Dictionary,
defines
anarchism briefly but accurately as, "a political theory opposed to all
forms of
government and governmental restraint and advocating voluntary
cooperation and
free association of individuals and groups in order to satisfy their
needs."
Other dictionaries describe anarchism with similar definitions. The
Britannica-Webster dictionary defines the word anarchism as, "a
political theory
that holds all government authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and
advocates a society based on voluntary cooperation of individuals and
groups."
Shorter dictionaries, such as the New Webster Handy College Dictionary,
define
anarchism as, "the political doctrine that all governments should be
abolished."

These similar dictionary definitions of anarchism reflect the evolution
of the
theory of anarchism made possible by anarchist intellectuals and
movements. As
a result, dictionary definitions, although fair, only reflect watered down
definitions of the word anarchism. Professor Noam Chomsky, in fact, has
refuted
the definition, as written in the New American Webster Handy College
Dictionary,
describing anarchism as a "political doctrine."

According to Chomsky, ?.disddanarchism isn't a doctrine. It's at most a
historical tendency, a tendency of thought and action, which has many
different
ways of developing and progressing and which, I would think, will
continue as a
permanent strand of human history." Anarchists are against chaos When
you hear
about anarchists you are led to believe that we are mad bombers. Every
other
group that lets off a bomb is immediately labelled 'anarchist' whether
they be
nationalists, socialists or even fascists. The myth is created that we
believe
in violence for the sake of it. The other myth is that anarchism is
chaos. It
is claimed by politicians, bosses and their hacks in the media that if
there was
no government there would be chaos. But did you ever wonder about
society today
and come to the conclusion that perhaps we are already living in chaos?
At the
moment thousands of builders are on the dole yet homeless people need
housing to
live in. Thousands of people are dy!
ing of starvation around the world yet millions of dollars are spent
every day
on nuclear arms which have the potential for wiping us and the world out.

You might ask why is this so? We say that there is one big reason -
PROFIT! At
the moment we live in a society in which there are two major classes - the
bosses and the workers. The bosses own the factories, banks, shops, etc.
Workers don't. All they have is their labour which they use to make a
living.
Workers are compelled to sell their labour to the boss for a wage. The
boss is
interested in squeezing as much work out of the worker for as little
wages as
possible so that hestnesshe can maintain high profits. Thus the more wages
workers get the less profits the bosses make. Their interests are in total
opposition to each other.

Production is not based on the needs of ordinary people. Production is for
profit. Therefore although there is enough food in the world to feed
everyone,
people starve because profits come first. This is capitalism.
Voluntary coperation is at the root of all activism: no leaders, just
voluntary
coperation. Instutionalisation goes against all anarchist principles.
Institutionalisation is not necarily confined to an actual institution,
such as
the one I was almost imprisoned in. Instutionalisation is also about
capitalism, which I defined earlier on. It's about beaurocracy, and about
government rules, or the rules of churches and organized religions. In
anarchy,
there are no laws except for the natural laws made by Nature. The Green
Anarchists fight to protect our Earth from logging and war, but this is
another
topic in itself which perhaps someone can take up at another time.

To look at vision impairment, we need to go back in history for a
moment. In
the 18th century, institutions and asylums for the blind were set up and
the
families of blind and vision impaired children were convinced by the
authorities
to place them in these homes. The seed of division between the
able-bodied and
the disabled was created, with the gulf widdening as the years passed. At
present, the gulf has taken a different shape.

I meet a lot of blind people these days, who either don't wish to engage as
activists, or, as so often happens are used as puppets by blindness
agencies so
that they may acheive a reputation as the expert, on blindness. Over the
years,
many blind people have become afraid of me because of my activism and
because of
the braille campaignj and also because I hitchhiked around Australia.
One blind
woman who works at a particular blindness agency refused to inforview me on
radio for the Blind unless I left out the hitchhiking experiences so I
declined
her invitation. In my own experience, it appears that activism is
divided, with
the government and the institutions attempting to create wedges and
divisions
between us. For instance, the braille Campaign which I mentioned
previously,
aims to educate activists and community groups in the area of providing
information in accessible format. Ask yourselves these questions. When an
action or rally is planned, is there money put as!
ide from benefit gigs for instance, to provivide braille fliers, posters
etc.
Was money set aside for the braille timeableing of this confouence? If a
food
co-op compiles a recipe book, is thought put into pooling resources for the
brailleing of this literature? With radical music ie cd distros, is
thought put
into placing braille labels on cds? The mainstream view of economic
rationalism
(lack of resources), should not be rampant in our movements and safe
spaces.

What can we do about this? Well, I can only speak for myself and all the
fantastic activists that I have been involved with. Grasslands Groceries
bought
braille labels to place on the till so that I could serve customers at
the cafe.
The info shop also purchased a small taperecorder so that I could do
research
for the braille campaign. Anarchist Black Cross put aside some money from a
benefit gig to ensure that all bulletins are brailled. A poetry book
written by
Prisoners has also been placed on computer disk ready for brailleing.
Various
anarchist publications have also been brailled, or at the very least put
on disk
so that this is accessible to blind people. The question is not how many
people
will read this but rather, it is about availability, for if there is no
availability how then can people read, and be educated about Anarchism? 3cr
provided braille labels on the pannel to enable me, as a blind person to do
radio broadcasting. But there is still a long way t!
o go, before our movements stop mirroring the mainstream.

I must talk about the bad experiences as well as the good ones, and to
point
out that many activist collectives are also conditioned. Ie They put the
disability rights issue into the "too hard basket". In fact I have attended
activist forums where some people have sarcastically remarked "Next
thing you'll
be wanting publications in Chinese."

Once every couple of years, the blindness agencies in this country hold
what is
known as the World Blind Union. This is where delegates from all over
the world
come together to make decisions on behalf of blind and vision impaired
people.
It is similar to the world economic forum. It is put about by bness
agencies
and many brainwashed blind people, that we should be grateful for what
we have.
There is an illogical viewpoint that because millions in backward parts
of the
world are deprieved of their proper right to receive basic care, we, in
more
advanced situations should be satisfied with any basic service that is
substandard. The general public are free to access bookshops and
libraries, and
it is purely discriminatory that the right of blind people to gain
knowledge and
information is inhibitted by any restrictive practice of those providers
who are
entrusted by the public, with the delivery services such as braille
production?
Should we regard ourselves as members o!
f an underclass, happy to receive handouts prescribed for us by some
impersonal
alms dispenser? Anyone who imagines that what I am saying is in any way
extreme,
would do well to catch up on their history homework, bearing in mind that
history has a compelling habit of repeating itself in one way or
another. The
instutionalisation of vision impaired people continues, as braille
libraries
across Australia merge into one centralised privatised cormrate body,
archiving
the braille books, and preventing anyone from browsing the shelves.
Books must
be posted to the blind person. There are no catalogues in braille. In
fact, I
was told in no uncertain terms that public libraries are for sighted
people,
these are lending libraries, not pulic libraries.

In the same way, Prisoners are instutionalised and blatantly discriminated
against. In the States and other countries, prisoners are forced to legally
challenge the Department of Correction's unjust policies of censorship and
discrimination against those inmates who are labeled or self-described as
"anarchist."


It is our position that the classification of anarchist inmates as a
"Security
Threat Group" is unfair and unnecessary. As an Anarchist who sees the
abolition
of Prisons as part of a utopian vision, I'm always challenged with the
question
"What do you do about crime?" "How about the sociopaths and violent
ones?" Two
excellent questions that as far as I know of have never been addressed
by most
Anarchists.

Anarchist Black Cross seeks to address these questions, by providing
prisoner
support, by sending letters and tapes, producing a monthly bulletin and
compiling poems and other artistic endeavours, from people in prison. There
have also been times when I have been involved with providing advocacy for
prisoners, ie matching them up with a lawyer.

"Prisons" or "Penitentiaries" originated over 202 years ago with the
Quakers in Philadelphia who believed that sinners, or lawbreakers should
spend
their time alone to study the Bible to be penitent for their crimes so
as to be
released as a productive member of society. Rules of complete silence were
strictly enforced. It didn't take long to realize that this approach
wouldn't
work as prisoner after prisoner suffered nervous breakdowns and
displayed signs
of mental illness due to their complete lack of human contact (1)

The Quakers realized that this solution was meaningless because it didn't
address the underlying roots that lead to criminal activity. But it was too
late as society picked up on the idea and mutated it beyond recognition
complete
with tax subsidies and massive propaganda. Today, as in the 1800's,
isolation
blocks make up the primary means of confinement and they are commonly
called
Control Units. The guards which work in these units are some of the most
brutal
and inhumane. The newer units have solid doors and the only contact that
one
confined behind it has is through a small window for counting purposes
and a
food slot. The debilitating effects of total, isolated confinement as the
Quakers found out, results in jeopardizing a Prisoner's well being. This
inhumane and barbaric treatment is meant to debase and degrade a
prisoner's very
soul, the purpose being they will cause no problems for the Prisoncrats in
general population for fear of being sent back. You do not!
have to break a rule to be placed in one of these units. All one has to be,
is have a screw think you are uncontrollable or a potential threat to the
security of the institution. Other degrading laws such as strip searches
seek
to further degrade prisoners.

Censorship and degradation are also present when there are whole areas
of work
that simply don't get published into braille because someone decides
there is no
demand for them. Works by anarchist authors and books on pagan religions
for
example, just don't make their way into Braille. Works such as Mills and
Boon
and popular mainstream material do, some aboriginal literature also
finds its
way into the braille collection. I have always been a very determined
person.
I made certain that I worked a whole range of jobs, and when I got tired of
working I chucked work in completely and hitchhiked around various parts
of the
country. I would like to finish by saying that just because something does
not affect you, it does not mean that we can ignore it. An injury to one
is an
injury to all. This means that we as Anarchists need to work
coperatively and
collectively to help each other because everything is interwoven. It is not
enough to say "But I don't know anything!
about blindness, I know nothing about braille equipment." "I know nothing
about prisoners, I've never been in gaol and probably never will be."
Wrong.
One of our number could end up in gaol at any time, especially with all
these
repressive anti-terrorist policies that are creeping in.

Solutions:
To have a social centre without paid membership, and have mechanisms put in
place where solidarity can be exercised. Our movement desperately needs
coneaflict resolution. I urge us all whether anarchist or anything
else for that matter, to educate yourselves. So, if you wish to join the
braille campaign please contact Grasslands on 93620830 or if you wish to
join
Abc write to pobox 300 East Brunswick 3057 or you can see us today at the
conference.



www.geocities.com/abcmelb <http://www.geocities.com/abcmelb>




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