Who Protects New Yorkers from the NYPD?
Nicholas Heyward is a haunted man. He is one of many New Yorkers who have lost loved ones to the police. Nineteen years ago, Heyward’s son was playing with a toy gun in the stairwell of a Boerum Hill housing project in Brooklyn, New York, when he was fatally shot by an NYPD officer. Nicholas Jr. was 13 years old when he was killed.
“I heard Nick say, ‘We’re playing,’ and then I heard a boom,” Katrell Fowler, a friend of Nick Jr.’s told the New York Times shortly after the incident. Yet blame was placed on the boy’s toy rifle, instead of officer Brian George, who fired his very real revolver into the child’s abdomen.
The tragedy Heyward suffered has turned him into an activist. These days he spends much of his time calling for the Justice Department to review cases of alleged abuse committed by the NYPD, including that of his son’s. Heyward claims he had a deposition taken by his attorney in which officer George contradicts reasons cited by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes—currently up for reelection and the subject of a new reality show on CBS—for closing the case.
“Hynes said the stairwell was dimly lit, it was not. Hynes said George was responding to a 911 call, he was not.” Heyward has written several letters to Hynes over the years, he said, without receiving a response. In 2001, he was granted a meeting with the Brooklyn DA, after confronting him at a press conference. Heyward pleaded his case in Hynes’s office but nothing came of it. The DA’s office declined to comment on Heyward’s allegations when I called them yesterday, saying that since the case is more than ten years old, the office did not have the case’s file on hand. But for Heyward, the the pain of the slaying of his 13-year-old boy are still very fresh.
“I want the officer who murdered my son to go to jail,” he said to me, dressed all in black and holding a school-portrait photograph of his son over his heart at a protest last Friday in front of the Federal Court building in Manhattan’s Foley Square to demand the Justice Department appoint an independent prosecutor to scrutinize the death of his son and those of other’s killed by the NYPD.
Heyward is not alone in his suspicion of foul play in Hynes executions of justice. The DA has recently come under great scrutiny for spending years refusing to review convictions that he and his predecessor obtained through working with a homicide detective of such dubious repute. Last week, the Hynes office was forced to reopen 50 cases in which NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella was involved, after the Times uncovered that he obtained false confessions, lied, and relied on testimony from a single, crack-addicted prostitute to obtain a number of convictions. While families of those convicted through Scarlla’s police plan to start bird-dogging Hynes, others, like Heyward, have vowed to win justice for those they will never see again.
It Was Probably the Internet, Not Chechnya, That Radicalized the Boston Bombers
The Tsarnaev brothers are the first Chechens to have been implicated in alleged jihadist attacks on US soil. But the more we learn about Dzhokar and Tamerlan, the blurrier their motives become. Why would these two seemingly well-integrated young men indiscriminately kill citizens of the country that welcomed them with open arms? What has America done to Chechnya? And is the horror we witnessed in Boston the beginning of a frightening new trend—an amalgamation of foreign and domestic terrorism into a bouillabaisse of confused and largely undefined hate?
While we’ll still be searching for more information about the Tsarnaev brothers and what motivated them for months—if not years—to come, their roots in Chechnya and the history of that country are a good place to start.
In the early 19th century, Chechnya resisted Russian attempts to occupy their small mountainous motherland, nearly 1,000 miles south of Moscow. The fight intensified when the region was assimilated into the Soviet Union. To quell rebellion in the 1940s, Stalin forcibly relocated the entire Chechen population to remote areas of Central Asia, repopulating the mountains with ethnic Russians. Some 200,000 people, one-third of the Chechen population, lost their lives to this process, called Operation Lentil.
A family takes an afternoon walk amid the rubble and burned-out apartment blocks destroyed during the fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels.
While Islam remains a central part of Chechen identity, religion didn’t play a major role in the nationalist struggle until recently. In the mid-90s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechens again attempted to wrestle their independence from Moscow. Volunteer fighters, preachers, and NGOs espousing Wahhabism (an Arab Gulf version of ultraconservative Islam) flocked to the region to fight against Russia and instill Chechens with their radical views. A Chechen administrator explained at the time, “They [the Wahhabis] went to the market, and they paid with dollars. There was no power here; there was disorder everywhere, and their influence was very strong. The poor Chechen people were already suffering so much, and our young guys simply couldn’t think. They were ready to accept any ideas.”
Sectarian Tensions Build in Northern Syria
Above: Adbul Rahman Ali shows his former Baath ID, in Hayyan.
The sentiment is echoed by Abu Jood, 36, a former electrician and member of the jihadist militia Jabhat Al-Nusra.
“I studied in Nubl for four years. Now I cannot even speak to my former friends who live there,” says Jood, positioned on the periphery of the village of Mayer, less than a mile from Nubl. “The Shia swear their allegiance to the Iranian regime and correspondingly the Baath party here.”
“I don’t want to fight them, but they follow the propaganda of the Assad regime.”
Spokespeople for the government have frequently appeared in the media warning that its downfall would result in the country being overrun by Sunni extremists. Something Bashar Hajj knows too well.
Hajj, 28, a former mechanic and native of Bayanoun is married to a Shia woman from Nubl. A member of the Nasr brigade of the Free Syrian Army, Hajj fondly recollects meeting his future wife while in high school.
“I studied at a secondary school in Nubl. We were classmates,” recalls Hajj. “We were married for five years. We were happy.”
“When the war broke out, I joined the FSA. She supported my decision, but her father worked with the regime and her brother was killed fighting for the army. He tried to convince my wife that I was a terrorist.” continues Hajj.
On the January 1, Hajj’s wife went to visit her family in Nubl. She has not returned.
“For the first week, I spoke with her on the phone. I asked her to come back, but she said her family wouldn’t let her. Then her mobile line went dead. I haven’t heard from her since,” says Hajj, his hands clasped together looking skyward.
“I still love her. She is my wife. God willing, I will see her again.”
Hajj’s story is just one example. Sitting in the salon of his family home in the Qoreitem district of Hayyan, Mustapha Outroo, 19, a student in the final year of secondary school when the civil war broke out, holds a picture of his older brother Mahmud.
A People’s History of April Fools’ Day
Above: An engraving by Johann Michael Voltz depicting an April Fools’ Day riot against Jews in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1819.
Herschel Hoff is a professor of history and sociology at the City University of New York who specializes in the history of social movements and political activism. He’s written for Danger Zone, BoWwOw Magazine, A Bunch of Popsicle Sticks Stuck Together with Fudge, Taki’s Magazine, and other online publications. His book, A Riot of One’s Own: Activism, Alienation, and Change in the Internet Agewill be published by BARFY University Press this fall. What follows is an excerpt from that work that we thought it would be appropriate to publish in honor of the “holiday” today.
For centuries, April Fools’ Day—known by a number of names—has been associated with class, race, and social status. Many date the day’s origins to the Persian holiday of Sizdah Be-dar, or “Day of Far Too Many Puddings,” when traditionally the king would give everyone the day off on the condition that they all make and consume pudding until they vomit. This, according to Zoroastrianism, would purge men of all bad thoughts and spirits. Notably, however, the nobility was exempt from actually making any pudding and would often play cruel tricks on their slaves; thus, it was actually a festival that enforced class privilege rather than a day of rest and equality.
Other candidates for the “original” April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hillaria, a weeklong event that encouraged lying and homosexual horseplay, and the Feast of Fools, a holiday celebrated in medieval Europe on which children would be given authority over their elders. This latter occasion gradually evolved into the “Test of Fools,” which mainly consisted of townspeople quizzing each other on the Bible. Those who answered too many questions incorrectly were determined to be Jews and stoned to death. (This tradition was particularly popular in Scotland, where it became “Hunt-the-Gowk Day” [“Gowk” meaning “Jew” in Scots], which was banned in the 1970s.)
The tradition migrated to the Americas with Christopher Columbus, who instituted a “Day of Fools” day at the gold mines he owned in the West Indies. His slaves were only required to mine two pounds of gold each rather than four, and they were “rewarded” with a feast of roast pheasant that night. The real “trick,” however, was that Columbus, his mind by then addled by drinking from lead-lined goblets, forced the slaves to listen to his “light humorous verse” (mainly nonsensical doggerel that detailed Columbus’s fictional, and grotesque, sexual conquests). Those who did not laugh sufficiently, or consume enough pheasant, would have their tongues cut out.
Bahrain’s PR Campaign Is Doomed to Fail
Hey, do you happen to be the proprietor of a family-run dictatorship in the Middle East? Tired of seeing stories about your country that are all, “Bahrain Princess Accused of Torture” and “Teenager Killed in Bahrain Anniversary Protests” and “The US Sold a Bunch of Weapons to Bahrain During Its Brutal Crackdown” and even “King of Bahrain Beats Up Arab Pop Star on a Yacht”? That sure is some bad “optics,” as they say in the business, and you probably can’t repair your reputation solely through articles titled “Bahrain a Land of tolerance…” in government-run media outlets, especially when that ellipsis might be an indication that even the “journalists” on your payroll can barely believe the shit they’re writing.
One way to solve your image problem would to welcome reform and stop committing gross human rights violations—ha, ha, just kidding! Clearly that’s not on the table, so you need to spend millions on PR and invite journalists to your brand new Formula 1 race track to see how lovely it is. According to Bahrain Watch, that’s what the country’s regime has been doing: It’s spent at least $32 million on image management since the start of the Arab Spring. I’m familiar with this because one of these companies threatened to sue the Guardianfor libel after I wrote an article with Nabeel Rajab which accused the Bahraini security forces of torturing employees at the F1 track. The PR firm did not question that torture had taken place, just that it had not happened on the premises of the F1 track. The libel threat was eventually withdrawn after a footnote was added to the article, but the point was made: We have money and we will bully and threaten you if you criticize us.
Meet the Nihilist-Anarchist Network Bringing Chaos to a Town Near You
On May 7th, 2012, two masked gunmen crept up on the CEO of nuclear engineering firm Ansaldo Nucleare outside his home in Italy. As their target—56-year-old Roberto Adinolfi—emerged from his house, the gunmenfired three shots at him. One shattered Adinolfi’s right kneecap. The attackers weren’t petty extortionists or Mafia guns-for-hire, as was initially assumed, but members of what is considered to be a highly organized and shadowy left-wing terrorist organisation named Federazione Anarchica Informale—shortened to the FAI, or The Informal Anarchist Federation in English.
After the FAI had claimed the attack on Adinolfi, the mainstream press effectively attributed it to a bunch of trigger-happy Italian anarchists who were trying to imitate the Red Brigades—the Leninist-Marxist Brigate Rosse whose paramilitaries caused havoc in Italy throughout the 70s and 80s. In reality, the FAI actually holds no Marxist beliefs at all and have stated to me via an anonymous source that they have no affiliation with the Red Brigades whatsoever.
My source has taken many precautions and will only communicate with me via methods that are virtually untraceable, secretly handing me reams of FAI literature to sift through for research. The group’s members are people who international security agents would very much like to sit down and talk to. Clearly they’re anxious about police infiltration and take every precaution they can to protect the identities of their “comrades.”
As demonstrated by Adinolfi’s kneecapping (carried out because of his company’s affiliation with Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica, currently being investigated on corruption charges), the FAI’s MO is to carry out violent resistance against what they call the “European Fortress”—an FAI term for the unjust and oppressive forces they feel are running the continent.
Instead of peacefully handing out leaflets, they mask up and employ the full force of “direct action,” proven by their many attacks like the bombing of private banks in Rome, the torching of surveillance towers in Russia, and the destruction of rail lines in the UK. They’ve also tried to send letter bombs to MEPs, which were either intercepted or didn’t explode (something the FAI says was an intentional scare tactic).
Notes from a Hitter: High school football filled me with rage and damaged my brain
By the age of 18, I had undergone enough head trauma playing football to cause irrevocable damage to my brain. The three (documented) concussions I experienced resulted in a seizure disorder I will deal with for the rest of my life. I don’t discount my own role in the seizures I’ve had—some of them were partially due to poor decisions, lack of sleep, and excessive alcohol consumption—but according to my neurologist, my condition is undoubtedly caused by brain injuries suffered as a high school linebacker whose only goal at the time was to prove to his toughness to his teammates, coaches, and himself. That meant hitting people, and that meant harming my brain.
I consider myself lucky. Lifestyle changes and daily doses of an anticonvulsant have rendered my seizure disorder latent; its effect on my life is now minimal. More importantly, my mental faculties have remained intact enough to allow me to launch a (so far unsuccessful) writing career. Many NFL players aren’t nearly as fortunate—some have committed suicide, presumably due to the mental deterioration caused by their lengthy careers, including Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest rather than the head so his brain could be studied by neurologists after his death, and Junior Seau, whose family is suing the NFL. I hope that every player on the field during the Super Bowl lives a full, long life and doesn’t suffer any mental difficulties as a result of his career—but I know some probably will, and some will have much worse problems than I do.
KILLING UP CLOSE -
THE DEATH OF WILLIAM WOLD
Below is an excerpt of TheThings They Cannot Say’s opening chapter, which chronicles the tragic demise of Marine William Wold. Kevin Sites first interviewed William while covering the Iraq war in 2004, only minutes after the 21-year-old corporal and his fire team gunned down six insurgents inside a mosque in Fallujah. Back then, William was wired for combat, calloused from killing and watching friends die. This excerpt picks up with William’s story seven years after meeting Kevin in Iraq and explains how the decorated Marine’s life was irreparably broken by the things he saw and did in the name of his country.
We’ve paired the text with photos from artist Nina Berman’s Purple Hearts series, which is comprised of portraits and interviews with American soldiers who were seriously wounded in the Iraq War, focusing on their struggle to find identity and purpose after returning home. For more information about the project, visitNoorImages.com.
William Wold seemed fine initially when he came home from Iraq, according to his mother, Sandi Wold, when I speak to her by telephone seven years after my conversation with her son in Fallujah. Wold had begged his mother to sign a parental-approval form when he wanted to join the Marines at 17, taking extra online classes to graduate a year early in order to do so. But after four years of service, he had had enough.
“They were going to promote him to sergeant, but he didn’t want to reenlist. He just wanted to be normal,” she says, echoing his own words from our videotaped interview. His much-anticipated separation from the Marine Corps would come in March 2004, but in the interim, she had promised to treat him and a couple of Marine buddies to a trip to Las Vegas as a coming-home present. She and her second husband, John Wold (William’s stepfather, whose last name William took), met the three Marines at the MGM Grand and got them adjoining rooms next to their own. Sandi was elated to see her son home safe and in one piece, and she wanted to see him leave the war in Iraq behind as quickly as possible.
“There’s no way I can show you how much I appreciate your willingness to die for me,” she remembers telling the three. But she tried her best anyway, going so far as to hire in-room strippers for them through an ad in the Yellow Pages.
“They talked me into buying them suits and renting a stretch limo. These guys show up and they go out partying that night, these guys are pimped out, I’m spending so much money it’s stupid,” she says, laughing at the memory. “Those Marines swam down some drinks, just the three of them. The hotel called my room—‘Do these Marines belong to you?’—as they’re stumbling down the hallways.”
When the strippers show up at the Marines’ room, Sandi says the sound of partying was like its own war zone. Then around midnight there’s a loud banging on the adjoining door.
“The door swings open and it’s Silly Billy, drunk and laughing, and he introduces us to them [the strippers]… I could’ve gone a lifetime without meeting them,” Sandi says.
“He says, ‘Mom, I’m going to need an extra $1,200.’ ‘Dude,’” she remembers telling him, “‘you gotta be fucking shitting me.’ But I’m counting the money out, he’s dancing around, happy as can be.”
The whole trip, she says, was indicative of the closeness of their relationship. He would always stay in touch with his mom even while he was in Iraq.
“He would hang out with the snipers at night,” Sandi says, “because they always had satellite phones, and he would make sure to try and call me almost every week. It would just be, ‘Hey, I’m fine, can’t talk long, love you. Bye.’”
“He was through and through a mama’s boy. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t share with me,” she says. “Sometimes I had to tell him I just don’t want to know.”
But Sandi says she began to sense something was wrong after William made a trip back East to see a woman he had met while doing presidential-protection duty at Camp David. He had called her his fiancée and said he planned to marry her, but the relationship ended after his visit.
“He flies back there and doesn’t last 24 hours,” Sandi says. “He lost it. He calls me and tells me to find him a flight home. ‘I can’t close my eyes, I can’t sleep,’ he tells me, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I think he knew he was so unstable he was going to end up hurting her.”
The extent of his post-traumatic stress became clear to Sandi that summer after his discharge.
Being a Brazilian Policeman Sucks
On May 12, 2006, a wave of violence was sparked in Sao Paulo. Over the span of four days the city saw 299 attacks against public establishments (police stations, justice forums, buses), over 20 uprisings in prisons, and just under 150 murders. It was a major buzzkill for anyone living in the city. The official reasoning behind the violence was that seven main leaders of the criminal organization PCC were being moved to maximum security prisons, where it would be harder for them to exercise their influence on the outside crime world. The PCC and the Sao Paulo police department have been at war ever since.
Six years in, and 2012 saw the death of at least a hundred police officers before November. The number of criminal and civilian deaths also rose, while a curfew was placed on certain favelas and particularly dangerous areas of the city, both by the state and the PCC. We tracked down a policeman—who wanted to remain anonymous, because he’s not insane—who gave us a testimony that makes A Prophet sound like a lullaby.
I’m a military police soldier in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and if I disclose my identity, I’ll lose my job. I work downtown, in the heart of the city. It’s one of the areas controlled by the criminal organization PCC. I’ve been in the force for eight years and previously worked in the southern part of the city in a favela called Heliópolis. I’ve been a part of the tactical force unit for most of that time.
The situation we’re experiencing as police officers at the moment is worse than ever. In 2006, we knew who the enemy was. We had all sorts of communication media at our disposal, as well as the possibility for backup in the form of helicopters or the ROTA (Rondas Ostensivas Tobias de Aguiar, or Ostensive Rounds—the most violent of the Brazilian special forces). It’s different these days. Keeping your family away from danger is a real and basic concern.
The largest violent outbreak yet happened in September. At first, we’d have one death every week, or one every two weeks, then it became a daily occurence. A police officer would die every night. We’d known something was going on since August, but the governor was quick to dismiss the deaths as unrelated events, as did the Department of Public Security, while officials completely denied the attacks.