Citizen Investigation

28 Mar

Dear Reader, I am urging citizens to become investigators.  It is apparent now that the House Intelligence Committee will not be able to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into Russia’s interference with the presidential election and the possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Republican Chairman Devin Nunes appears to be working directly for Donald Trump.  Just this past week Nunes ran to the White House to share intelligence information before sharing it with his committee (see Tom LoBianco, Phil Mattingly and Eli Watkins, “Schiff, Pelosi call on Nunes to recuse himself from House Russian investigation,” CNN, March 27, 2017,; accessed 03/27/2017).

I am calling on individuals to gather people they know, ten or so, and create a special event around a citizens’ investigation of the Russia-Trump matter.  We gather the information we can, then share that as a group.  Bring your investigative spoils together and create the iconic crime wall, with Post-It notes, string, and push pins.  Discuss the matter together.  Share your results with others through image or writing.  For such a serious topic, this could be a lot of fun.  I have already arranged for a first group to do this in one week.  Cheers to your effort!

To inspire you, I share my fellow labor historian and activist Gifford Hartman’s notes on recent activities here in our city of San Francisco which show how empowering it can be when people contribute to a group effort.

“Anecdotes on life in the U.S. in the post-election world:

New York’s Anti-Trump “Therapy Wall” in Subway

This past Tuesday, November 14, 2016, one of my co-workers saw post-its all over a concrete column for a clock on the triangular corner of Market, Sutter, and Sansome Streets near our workplace. So he took a group of students from our adult English as a Second Language school there — and they had a blast. So much so, that my students insisted we go there too, with post-its and pens in hand. We went there, planning to stay just a few minutes, but with the spontaneous conversations we were having with strangers we ended up there for an hour. Here’s a picture:


People got really exciting at the prospect of adding their own ideas. And some of them showed us photos of similar efforts elsewhere, like in Oakland, as well as showing us cellphone photos of demos they’d been at. People seemed really excited to open up and be talking with others, and it wasn’t just Trump. Contemporary life under capitalism is so fucking banally atomized and boring that as a species we’re just dying to be social and connected in a non-alienated way. At it’s best Occupy was a perfect forum for doing this. I remember going to the original San Francisco Occupy encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank and thinking I’d check it out for a few minutes, but in the end I stayed into the wee hours of the morning and had fantastic conversations with complete strangers about everything in the world. I had such a good time doing that at Occupy, that we went back during the day with a literal soapbox and organized “speakouts” where everyone had a couple minutes speaking to others. As silly as it sounds, it was so much fun and it sparked further discussions about things like our worklives, debt, and even deepened into a critique of political economy. But it also was just joking and laughing with newly-formed friends.

Tuesday evening, on my bus home, the spirit of the times seemed to be bringing down the barriers of isolation everywhere and a Yemeni guy and I sparked up a conversation. He started telling me about the devastation of his homeland and how the Saudis are bombing it to oblivion. It was a sad and pretty heavy discussion. Then he asked what I thought about Trump. I gave him my opinion of all politicians, that they’re all corrupt. He kept beating around the bush, but seemed sympathetic to Trump. I brought up Trump’s proposals for banning Muslims, and he mentioned the need to restrict the movement of terrorists. This man spoke English pretty well, but he lines of argument sounded like he’d been watching Fox News. When I tried to ask where he got his ideas, he evaded the question and changed the subject. Before I could return to asking again, he got off the bus with a warm thanks for our exchange. I just confirmed my suspicions of how strong the pull to assimilate and adopt the U.S. nationalist line can be.


Today (Thursday, November 18, 2016), my students and I went to another post-it display, this one at the 16 Street BART Station in the Mission District. Again, it sparked spontaneous exchanges and people seemed so giddy and excited to be having conversations with strangers and expressing themselves. And here the messages were clearly more radical, anti-capitalist and suggesting further organizing. And I know the limitations of these things, but can’t help feeling good being able to interact with other people so openly and freely. Here’s a photo from today.


On my walk home down 16th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District (near Folsom), I passed some of the increasingly prevalent tent encampments all over California cities, a condition that began with the collapse of the housing bubble and has only intensified since then. During the election, there was a successful measure to criminalize tent dwellers, but with the legal loophole that the pigs can’t run them off the streets if there aren’t enough shelter beds. There aren’t enough shelter beds, so the homeless tent communities aren’t going away. I bring this up, because I heard this song blasting out of one of the tents”:

YG & Nipsey Hussle “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)”

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