News

1. Black Lives Matter

“[Senate Human Rights] Committee chair Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard looks into a cramped cell with two bunk beds. Senator Bernard wore a wave cap at Dorchester to bring awareness of the cultural significance of wave caps. The committee heard from several witnesses that black prisoners are not allowed to wear wave caps because prison staff fear they signify gang ties.”

“We have been watching the Black Lives Matters protests and the conversations about police violence,” write a group of people in a federal prison. “We have been taking part in our own conversations with prisoners of all races. We would like to share some of our conversations and conclusions with people outside prison.”

Click here to read “Black Lives Matter in prison, too.”

12-year-old Joe Bass Jr. was hit by buckshot spread during a police/civilian altercation. Another photo of Bass Jr. shocked the world on the cover of the July 28, 1967 issue of Life Magazine. Joe Bass Jr. survived.
Photo: Bud Lee Archives / Sergio Waksman Design

“Beauty was in short supply for those who tracked police violence against African-Americans during the summer of 1967; a siege of lawlessness from ‘the law’ that ignited fiery rebellions in Newark and Detroit (among other locales),” recalls Evelyn White:

The uprisings left scores of people dead and injured thousands including Joe Bass, Jr., a 12-year-old Black boy who miraculously survived an errant bullet fired by a white policeman. In a precursor to the haunting footage of a prone George Floyd, a photo of Bass’s bleeding body later appeared on the cover of Life magazine.

Then age 13, I took careful note — from my Chicago-area home — of the racial unrest that dominated headlines across the nation. And it was not lost on me that shortly before the discord began, Martin Luther King, Jr., had prophetically declared: “All of our cities are potentially powder kegs. … A riot is the language of the unheard.”

I also observed the response of my parents to the “long hot summer” of 1967 (as it was dubbed). They, who were among the multitudes of Blacks who’d fled the Jim Crow south for the promise of better lives in northern cities — a mass migration recounted (to riveting effect) in The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. While my parents never openly discussed the police brutality that fuelled the rebellions, I marked a distinct “not today, Satan” shift in their attitude toward white folks.

Click here to read “Ice cream and the Long Hot Summer.”

2. Rethinking police

The Halton Police Department has an armoured vehicle that looks like this.

“We are in a moment,” writes Stephen Kimber:

It has forced us to rethink what we mean by policing, and by public safety, and to begin to reimagine a world in which public safety does not necessarily mean a cop with a gun killing someone with whom he is supposedly conducting a “wellness check,” or six cops with guns subduing an unarmed 23-year-old woman navigating two kids through a Walmart because someone thought she might be shoplifting because… well, because she’s Black.

Click here to read “Councillors cancelled the tank contract. Good. Now what?”

3. Pit bulls

Dog trainer and dog behaviour consultant Silvia Jay with her rescue dog Bowie.

“A dog behaviour expert says the death of a young woman killed by her dog in Middle Musquodoboit this week should prompt us to look for solutions that don’t include breed specific legislation (BSL),” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

Silvia Jay is a longtime dog trainer and dog behaviour consultant. She believes breed bans aren’t the answer. She said that for more than 20 years she’s worked with many pit bulls, dogs she prefers to refer to as “bully breeds.”

“They are not meant to be and they weren’t bred to be aggressive to people. I’ve met a good number who were absolutely wonderful and completely trustworthy and I felt completely safe with them right away,” Jay said in an interview.

“I’m not in favour of a breed ban because these people would be losing their family members and also because it’s not a solution to the overall problem of having aggressive dogs in communities.”

In Jay’s ideal world, the solution would involve more stringent measures around who breeds, rescues, and adopts dogs. She said she’d love to see the province step in and regulate dogs coming into the province via rescue organizations. She said there are some “retail” rescue groups bringing in dogs, including bully breeds, purely for profit, with no concern for the wellbeing of the dogs or the families and communities they are going into.

Click here to read “Dog trainer: ‘retail dog rescues’ need to be regulated.”

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4. Northwood

The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The CEO of Northwood says the Halifax long-term care facility is entering a recovery period,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

COVID-19 swept through the nursing home, infecting 345 residents and staff. Fifty-three people died.

As of this past week, Northwood now has no active cases. Two dozen elderly residents who had recovered from the disease were moved to a local hotel; they will be returning to Northwood Centre and Northwood Manor, said CEO Janet Simm during a briefing yesterday. These two buildings were built in the 1960s to house 485 residents. Both public health officials and Northwood managers have blamed double-bunking in small rooms for the speed with which the virus spread.

“We are continuing our effort to provide residents with private rooms,” said Simm. Prior to the pandemic, Northwood had 216 residents sharing double rooms and 270 people living in single or private rooms in Northwood Centre and Northwood Manor, she said. Today there are about 60 residents still housed in double rooms and sharing a bathroom.

Click here to read “It was ground zero for coronavirus deaths in Nova Scotia, but now Northwood is recovering.”

5. Gunman’s remains

Friday morning, we published an article by Jennifer Henderson about how GW, the gunman in the mass murder spree of April 18/19, wanted to be buried in the Portapique Cemetery, but the cemetery’s owners vow not to accept his remains.

Later in the day, I received a copy of GW’s probate records, including his will, which detailed his wishes:

The man responsible for the Nova Scotia massacre on April 18/19, left a will directing that his “unembalmed” and “non cremated” (emphasis in original) remains be placed in a “Hudson Bay blanket” and placed in a concrete vault in the Portapique Cemetery.

My understanding is that GW has already been cremated. I don’t know what will happen with his remains, but as Henderson noted, “in many cases, family members of a murderer opt to have the body cremated, either with the ashes dispersed privately or buried in an unmarked grave, to avoid the possibility of an identified site being desecrated or attracting the morbidly curious.”

6. The racist (and dumb) iconography of the anti-gun control zealots

Last week, Joan Baxter interviewed Michael Ackermann, the co-founder of Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility (DFSR), for her article about doctors on either side of the gun control debate — long story short: many, many doctors want tighter gun regulations, but a handful of doctors are on the anti-gun control side.

Yesterday, Baxter discovered that DFSR is no more:

In response to questions about the disappearance of the DFSR online presence and accusations about a meme it had posted, Ackermann told the Examiner that Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility has “disbanded under accusations of racism” that he said are “totally unfounded.”

Click here to read “Pro-gun doctors’ group disbands amid accusations of racism.”

The meme in question is this one:

I’ve been distracted, and so when I first saw the meme my initial response was it’s the guy with face tattoos at upper right who is not like the others — he’s the only one not carrying a gun. But of course, that wasn’t the intent of the meme. As Ackermann told Baxter:

The graphic depicts three men and one woman. The three men are in threatening poses, two brandishing weapons and one with gang tattoos. The facial expressions are all those of predatory violence. The woman is obviously a sport shooter, engaged in her chosen discipline. The gangsters are definable by their behaviour. The sport shooter as well. The text asks why Trudeau conflates the sport shooter with the gangsters.

Even if we take Ackermann’s words at face value, the argument is implicitly racist: we’re supposed to be afraid of people because of their facial expressions.

But facial expressions are read in social context. Like spoken language, the expressions originate in learned behaviour in specific cultures. And my reaction to your facial expression depends in large part on my cultural and social biases based on our relative social positioning. There’s extensive academic literature about this.

So I wondered about the anti-gun control meme, and researched each of the photos.

To the point of different cultural reads of facial expressions, when I looked at this photo I saw something plaintive about it — maybe akin to pained suffering — but not a threat. A bit of research, however, found that it might show both suffering and threat.

The photo comes from a 2005 Reuters article about the El Pavon penitentiary in Escuintla, Guatemala, where M13 gang members are imprisoned. While the gang members use facial tattoos as a means of intimidation, the tattoos also reflect a much older Mayan tradition of tattooing. I suspect there’s more to the tattoos than I can understand sitting in safely colonized Halifax.

So how to read the photo above? The subject has probably committed horrible deeds, but he comes from a nation ripped apart by a genocidal civil war waged by a fascistic regime against the Mayan peasantry, and like many, he has found survival in a gang imported from Los Angeles. His position is far more complicated than simply “gangster.” Besides, he’s in prison in Guatemala; he’s not a threat to anyone in Canada.

Obviously, given the watermarks, this is a stock photo. It comes from the portfolio of Jason Stitt, a Texan who lived in New Zealand for many years, and so calls himself “keeweeboy.”

His portfolio ranges from family portraits to weddings to landscapes to pin-up type images of busty women, to a handful of stereotypic photos.

It appears Stitt took the photo used in the anti-gun control meme, titled “Gang Banger,” in 2013, when he was living in New Zealand. If he has expressed any political views whatsoever, I can’t find them.

This is Joe Logon, and the photo comes from a photo shoot — titled “Playing gang banger with a plastic Tec-9” — he did in 2008 in reaction to a news story from Reston, Virginia, where he lives. He wrote a post about it on his blog, “Dumb things I have done lately,” commenting on a Washington Post article about a crime:

“A Reston woman armed with a pistol walked into D.C. police headquarters Thursday afternoon and attempted to take a guard’s gun before she was wrestled to the ground, authorities said.”

“Now, there are several odd elements to this story,” commented Logon. “For starters, isn’t it usually suburbanites who worry about crime being exported from the cities?”

He continued:

However this particular episode turns out, it only adds to the growing body of evidence that Reston is hardcore. (Check out the Brandon Vedas story if you don’t get the reference.)

To that end, I will show you what a vato loco I am, by mean mugging for all you civilians.”

This is weirdly ironic. A white suburbanite woman went to DC to rob the police (which itself is ridiculous), and in response a brown skinned person joked around with a plastic gun for a photo shoot, and then a photo from the shoot got used for anti-gun control propaganda in Canada.

Twelve years later, Logon’s still at his blog, where he writes about tech stuff, living in quarantine, and his old Rollerblades. “I’m a guy living in Northern Virginia,” he explains. “I try to think about online communities and social media. (I’ll let you know when I get it figured out.)”

He’s about the furthest thing from a gangbanger.

The woman is Robyn van Nus, an Olympian who competes in the Women’s Small-Bore Rifle. She seems like a lovely person, and is a third generation shooter. Notably, van Nus is Australian, and Australia has among the toughest gun control legislation in the world, including the regulation of air rifles (van Nus’s sport); this heavy-handed state regulation of firearms has evidently not impeded van Nus’s career, nor has she complained about it, so far as I can determine.

Ackermann doesn’t even get the racial identities right. He says that “Of the three gangsters, one is White, one Asian and one Black.” But my research finds that the images show one Black man, one Mayan, and, best I can determine, a man of hispanic descent, not Asian. And, in reality, of the supposed “three gangsters,” only one is an actual gangster — the Mayan — while one is a stock photo and the other is some guy making a joke about dumb white people.

There are lots of dumb white people out there, especially among the anti-gun control zealots.


In the harbour

00:30: MOL Marvel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
04:30: CMA CGM Aquila, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Marsaxlokk, Malta
05:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: YM Evolution, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
12:00: Vole au Vent, offshore supple ship, sails from IEL for the offshore
15:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
16:00: Bigroll Beaufort, deck cargo ship, sails IEL for sea
17:00: YM Evolution, container ship, sails for Rotterdam
20:00: Cape Gavi, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John


Footnotes

This week will be kinda crazy for me. I’m being interviewed across the continent for the podcast. Which you should totally subscribe to.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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5 Comments

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  1. Loving this publication in general, and in particular, today, the piece breaking down the meme’s origins. There are so many inaccurate memes being shared wily-nily on social media, from both ends of the political spectrum. In many cases it takes only the slightest bit of digging to discover the discrepancies. Thanks for digging deeper! Glad I subscribed and keep up the good work!

  2. re “The subject has probably committed horrible deeds, but he comes from a nation ripped apart by a genocidal civil war waged by a fascistic regime against the Mayan peasantry, and like many, he has found survival in a gang imported from Los Angeles. His position is far more complicated than simply “gangster.” Besides, he’s in prison in Guatemala; he’s not a threat to anyone in Canada.”

    Though it’s unfortunately not true that we in Canada are not a threat to him, making the choice of photographs in this context doubly ironic. That genocidal civil war was a consequence of a US coup against democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz, supported – like so many US imperial crimes – by Canada.

  3. RE: Northwood

    I have a friend who works in the LTC world (not at Northwood), and she says that Northwood had only 22 more deaths than the same period last year, and it was supremely prepared for the pandemic. As for two to a room, she notes hospitals still have people share rooms. Meanwhile, she notes the number of seniors who have been moved from LTC into hospital beds and what a logjam that is creating. I haven’t heard anyone reporting from these POVs…. COVID versus normal times, and what effect on long term (not emerg or critical care) hospital beds.

  4. Thank you for your deconstruction of these images. Important to know thing before we knee-jerk. The propensity of police to shoot to kill, instilled by their egregious training, has a lot to do with the widespread gun ownership and gun use in the (American) public. Non-compliant « criminals » may pose a lethal threat, so copper shoots first. A good way to alter this response would be to reduce the number of guns on the streets.

  5. I know smart anti-gun control people, they just aren’t dumb enough to put it on Facebook. GW gave them a perfect ‘this is why we need everyone to be armed for self-defense’ case (a white killer who attacked people in their homes rather than a crowd or school), and they pull out racist tropes anyway. How on earth did these idiots become doctors?