Precarious Performances: The Thirty Meter Telescope and Settler State Policing of Kānaka Maoli

by David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile

Settler states criminalize protectors of Indigenous life, land, and water by labeling them ‘threats of violence.’ But, Indigenous protectors are exposing policing to be a precarious performance of settler sovereignty.

“The state reinforces a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed.” –Macarena Gómez-Barris

The State of Hawaiʻi was founded on land stolen from Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. To be clear, it is a U.S. settler state. It formed initially in the wake of the illegal U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. As the Republic of Hawaiʻi, it granted the unlawful annexation of the Hawaiian islands and transferal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national lands to the U.S. federal government in 1898. After being the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. federal government manufactured the “State of Hawai‘i” in 1959 and institutionalized it as the so-called fiftieth state, without consent from Kānaka Maoli. The legal, economic, political, and social processes for settlement of Hawaiʻi are ongoing to this very day. One pivotal way that settlement has continued is through the criminalization of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. Particularly, the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i turns Kānaka ‘Ōiwi into criminals to be detained, incarcerated, maimed, removed, murdered, and disappeared. The criminalization of Indigenous people—from Hawai‘i to the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere—is an eliminatory technique for colonial dispossession. As Kānaka Maoli have been labeled threats of violence to be criminalized for defending our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, water protectors of Mnisose, the Missouri River, have been also as a way to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accusations of violence were used to unleash dog attacks, strip search women, bag heads in hoods, rip flesh from bone with water cannons. The assault on Indigenous life, land, and water at Standing Rock clarifies how, as Chickasaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd laments, “in the United States, the Indian is the original enemy combatant.” For legal historian Lisa Ford, the criminalization of Indigenous populations, across Oceania and America, is an original feature of settler sovereignty. She writes, “The exercise of jurisdiction over indigenous crime performs the myth of settler sovereignty over and over.” What Ford refers to as legal myth literary critic Mark Rifkin calls the empty sign of settler sovereignty, which, performed obsessively over and over again, reveals a hollowness in settler state power to be targeted and antagonized.

But how does the state materially reinforce a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed? In this essay, I suggest it is through the management of threats of violence. To support this argument, I explore settler state policing from the vantage of Kanaka Maoli opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a development project for the astronomy industry at our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea on Hawai‘i island. Analyzing three material objects—an emergency rule, bullet hole, and knee—I track how symbolic threats of violence are manufactured to obscure and exact concrete violences. But, what can an administrative law, image of a hole in a door, and body part of a police officer tell us about threats of violence? Indeed, these legal, visual, and fleshy objects are quite revealing. Interrogating discourses mingling through and amongst them, I argue ‘threats of violence’ is a discursive formation produced by the settler state and dispersed through its institutions of media and police. Weaving together scholarship from Critical Police, Hawaiian, and Indigenous Studies, I demonstrate ‘threats of violence’ maintains a dual function. First, suggesting that Kānaka Maoli who defend Mauna a Wākea from the TMT threaten acts of violence, and are violent threats themselves, rationalizes police intervention by the U.S. settler state. In other words, figurative threats of alleged violence from kia‘i, the guardians and protectors of our mountain, condone material violence against them by police. Second, ‘threats of violence’ defers and tries to erase not only the colonial violence animating the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i, and its deployment of police and their militarized interventions, but also the diversity of violence that TMT does. In what follows, I mine three material objects, offer two interventions, and conclude with one mo‘olelo—a story that lays bare how settler state policing of Kānaka Maoli is a performance of precarity.

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Black August Resistance poster, by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson, via Black Opinion, August 26, 2016

Black August and Its Global Importance

by The Bucharest Anti-Racist Collective, Bucharest, Romania

Why is the US national prison strike important not for just for the Americas but also for global attempts to fight racialized capitalism?

This time of year, dubbed Black August, is the time when a prisoner-led movement should be at the forefront of our attention. This is probably the biggest prison strike in US history. Although not always visible, comrades in prison are “boycotting commissaries,” “engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge,” and “will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside.” Yet, other frames which count as political protest and contestation fight for visibility in the global media. Tropes such as “the corruption of politicians” and “the urban carnival of political protest” work to highlight these politics branded as “resistance to power.”

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Like a Game of Chess: The Prison Strike and Abolitionist Strategy

by Alejo Stark

The 2016 prison strike was the most widespread coordinated action undertaken by prison rebels in the history of the United States. Today, we are in the midst of a second wave of such extraordinary actions. But what is the prison strike, the specter that haunts the racial capitalist state in an “age of riots”? To begin to answer this question, this essay thinks the relation between the prison strike and the recurrent crises of state and capital, showing that the terrain of struggle of the recent waves of prison strikes is partially produced by state budget cuts in the wake of the 2008-10 “financial” crisis. I then proceed to defend an abolitionist strategy of “disruption” of the reproduction of the carceral state apparatus. Lastly, I provide one possible framework that might help us think the relation between the prison strike and other contemporary flashpoints of Black struggle, such as the 2014 Ferguson rebellion.

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Every Crook Can Govern

George Ciccariello-Maher and Jeff St. Andrews   (Re-published on occasion of the prison strike, August 21st to September 9th, 2018. Originally published in Counterpunch. Download the pamphlet version here.)   Note: We wrote this piece seven years ago, but for white supremacy, the past is never truly past, and nor is resistance to it. We […]

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‘I’m for Disruption’: Interview with Prison Strike Organizer from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

[This interview by Jared Ware with an organizer from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is re-posted from Shadowproof. The Abolition collective aims to amplify the voices of incarcerated folks who are organizing the prison strike from August 21st to September 9th.] A little over one week after the deadliest incidence of recorded violence of prison violence in […]

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Democracy Against Representation: A Radical Realist View

by Paul Raekstad

Abstract: 

In recent years, radical movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy and beyond have been calling for “democracy.” These movements also claim to reject representation—a keystone of many contemporary liberal understandings of democracy. How can we make sense of this? There is ongoing debate about this in these movements and their descendants, part of which consists in figuring out what we should take “democracy” to mean. This article tries to contribute to this process of collective self-clarification by reconstructing one notion of what we could take “democracy” to mean. Thereafter, we will see how we can use this concept to make sense of the critique of representation in many contemporary radical movements and how useful it can be for helping to guide social change and the practices seeking to bring it about. I will thus argue that a coherent conception of democracy can be found, and that it can be a powerful tool both for understanding and critiquing the shortcomings of contemporary societies and for guiding our efforts to overcome them.

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UC Democracy: A Manifesto – Demilitarize! Deprivatize! Democratize!

This manifesto is a demand to finally have our voices heard, as well as a call to action to resist the neoliberal forces encroaching on our university that are increasingly present in higher education systems worldwide.

On May 17, 2017, I traveled with a group of students to the University of California Regents meeting in San Francisco. Originally, we had planned to speak in the “public comment” portion of the meeting, in protest against the Board of Regents and the UC Office of the President (UCOP). However, because of strict security measures, few of us spoke at all. Our experiences being silenced and policed are not unusual and reflect a decades-long struggle against corruption in the UC system, alongside worsening conditions of inequity, social injustice, and a lack of transparency.

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“We Can Be Here Another Five Hundred Years”: A Critical Reflection on Shiri Pasternak’s Grounded Authority

“To best illustrate her convincing analysis of actually existing jurisdiction, Pasternak asks us to sharpen our metaphorical guillotines — or our skinning knives — to lop off the head of the king, the sovereign, the head of state. What authority proliferates in the absence of this false symbol of power? Surely, in Turtle Island what remains and grows in the absence of the long shadow cast by colonialism are the robust forms of Indigenous legal authority: the enduring, preexisting, and co-developed authorities existing alongside imperial and colonial legalities. But from where does Indigenous authority derive? It certainly does not come from a divine ruler, the sovereign, or the most powerful political and territorial imaginary in history: the nation-state. These realms of “civilization” categorically consign Indigenous peoples to that lawless space where life is, to quote Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” A place we can call death. On the other hand, Algonquin political authority, Pasternak powerfully demonstrates, derives from a multiplicity of institutions, individuals, and other-than-human agents that encompass the resilience of Indigenous life in the face of constant erasure, disappearance, and elimination.”

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Looking Historically at the White Working Class in the U.S. | David Gilbert

by David Gilbert, political prisoner

The bizarre and dangerous rise of Donald Trump did not just pop up out of the thin air. The very foundation of the U.S. is white supremacy. This country is, at its core, imperialist, patriarchal and based in a range of ways human beings are delimited and demeaned. Nor are the specific and terribly virulent politics of racial scapegoating brand new. Always a part of U.S. culture, that approach became more central in mainstream politics, with various ups and downs in the rhetoric, since the end of the 1960s. A stable imperialism prefers to rule by keeping the population passive, with large sectors at home placated by relative prosperity. But when the system is in crisis, those running the economy often resort to diverting anger by scapegoating the racial “other.” The sectors of the population who buy into that get the “satisfaction” of stomping on their “inferiors,” which is a lot easier than confronting the mega-powerful ruling class.

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Digging the Needle into Patriarchal Media: The Feminist Journalism of Gazete Şûjin

[The following is a recent interview Abolition Journal conducted with a reporter from Gazete Şûjin, an all female news agency based in Diyarbakır (Amed), Turkey.]

Şûjin means “packing needle” in Kurdish. It refers to two important meanings of the word “jin” in Kurdish: women and life. Şûjin, or the packing needle, was invented by women. A needle created by women is, of course, a part of their own life. And we began our journey by saying “As we dig the needle into ourselves, we also dig the packing needle into the patriarchal media, in order to shake up and break down its masculine structure and language, and to promote women’s consciousness and feminist discourse. In a world of those who say “shut up as a woman,” we will raise women’s voices and words in the media with our female-oriented journalism.” 

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Abolish Border Imperialism! – Seeking Proposals for a Convergence

Call for Proposals:

Abolish Border Imperialism!

a weekend convergence for working towards abolition and decolonization

October 6-8, 2017 – Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota

Resurgent border imperialism is producing a new round of repressions, deportations, and bans. It is emboldening white fascism and militarizing walls. From the reservation to the city, Indigenous peoples, immigrants, women, workers, queer and trans folks, Black and brown communities are facing criminalization, exploitation, deportation, incarceration, harassment, and violence. The organizing collective of Abolition: a journal of insurgent politics invites your proposals for a multi-faceted, multi-group convergence in the Twin Cities this fall!

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