The Invisible Whiteness of the Olympic Beer Riot 

Tim Wise, 


February 25, 2002

So what's the deal with white folks and beer? I mean, I
love a good Nut Brown Ale, and have been known to
sample at least a couple of the local brews in each
town I visit. But really now, is maintaining a buzz so
central to one's existence that being denied the
opportunity should result in violence?

Case in point: Salt Lake City, where in the waning
hours of the Winter Olympics, white folks who were
turned away from a local "beer garden" decided to take
out their frustrations on cars, cops and each other.

That the coverage of the Olympic "beer riot" was
decidedly different than that for any riot ever led by
people of color goes without saying. News reports of
the events in the land of Mormon discussed the violence
in a whimsical, bemused fashion, on a sort of "gee,
don't they have anything better to do" kind of tip --
as opposed to the preachy and scared shitless tone
reserved for black and brown folks who act up in such a
fashion. And of course the mere labeling of the
phenomenon as a "beer riot" in the first place is
instructive. With apologies to the National Rifle
Association, beer doesn't riot, people riot.
Specifically, people who are desperate for beer riot --
white people, to be precise.

Naturally, the racial identity of the Salt Lake rioters
passed without mention in the press, and probably
without notice by most Americans, in a way it most
assuredly would not have -- in fact never does -- when
the shoe is on a darker foot. When "they" tear things
up and attack police we call them thugs and animals.
But when we do it, we're just "hooligans," or perhaps
"out of control youth," caught up in the moment. But
lest one think otherwise, it should be note that this
latest incident is but another in the never-ending
string of riots by my pale-skinned brethren, upset by
our inability to procure cheap highs when we want,
where we want.

Since the mid-'90s, white riots have occurred on more
than twenty college campuses, mostly as the result of
crackdowns on underage drinking or earlier closing
times for local bars. Whites also have taken to rioting
as the result of college football or basketball games.
Unlike people of color, who at least choose important
issues to raise hell over -- like police brutality,
poverty and racism -- we whites lose our minds over the
twin oppressions of cover charges and midnight last-
calls. And you think blacks have it rough?

Funny thing is, white folks have been rioting over beer
for a long time: indeed, this is pathology with a

In 1715, two warring political factions in England
brawled in the streets, during what became known as the
Mug-House Riots, named for the Taverns at which
loyalists to the House of Hanover -- the opposition to
King James II -- would gather to drink. When the King's
minions made the mistake of congregating at the same
pub, all hell broke loose.

In Germany, frequent riots occurred between 1844 and
1910, in response to attempts by the brewmeisters to
fix prices for their potions. The worst of these
occurred in Munich in 1848, and the Bavarian riots of
1844 were so renowned that Freidrich Engels -- Marx's
esteemed colleague -- made them the subject of an
article he penned as a correspondent for The Northern

In Chicago, the election of reactionary Mayor Levi
Boone in 1855 led to the biggest beer riots in the U.S.
during that period. Boone was rabidly anti-German and
anti-Irish, viewing both as foreign parasites, and
drunken ones at that, in the body politic. His decision
to raise liquor license fees by 600 percent and to ban
drinking on Sundays touched off protests and then all
out street-warfare. A similar "Lager Riot" that year
took place in Indianapolis.

More recently, there were the Cleveland beer riots of
1974, as well as the multiple campus beer riots at
places like Colorado, the University of Oregon,
Washington State University, Southern Illinois
University, and Penn State among others in the last few
years. While people of color have been keeping things
relatively calm, with flare-ups only in a few cities
like Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, or Los Angeles, whites
are rioting somewhere in America every three to four
months. But of course no one notices, as we become
conveniently color-blind in the face of dysfunctional
behavior by members of the dominant group.

Or more to the point, we are quick to downplay its
significance or even excuse it. In the wake of riots at
Michigan State and Colorado University, neighbors in
the riot zone and local police sought to "reach out,"
to attempt to "understand their frustrations,"
referring to the students who had just trashed their

Students at the University of Oregon claim that the
"iron fist" of campus police (presumably being applied
to them in a fashion no different from that experienced
by Blacks and Latinos in South Central L.A.) is the
main cause of the riots. Sharing a level of frustration
that must rival that experienced by Rodney King, one
white male victim of police abuse exclaimed, "The
police just roll around in their squad cars looking for
parties to break up." One female student there recently
called campus police "a box of shit," which one
supposes is just the white middle class version of rap
group NWA's "Fuck Tha' Police." Make way for KWA: Kappa
Kappa Gammas With Attitude.

In 1999, one columnist for the University of Idaho
student newspaper explained that beer riots were
understandable. After all, "We look at the two parties
running the country and see little difference. We don't
feel like political involvement is worth the trouble.
So when we have problems with the system, they fester
until something snaps." In other words, unless Ralph
Nader builds that mass movement pretty quick, thereby
breaking the two-party duopoly as he calls it, look out
America -- more beer riots are on the way!

The columnist then likens the crackdown on his campus
peers to the criminalization of black and brown youth
in inner city America, and concludes, "Sometimes we
drink to excess, it's true ... (and) there are
definitely better ways to handle our problems with the
cops than rioting. But with politics inaccessible to
most of us, we have few options ... As long as cops
keep up their crackdown on youth, beer riots will

By that logic, the public housing projects of this
country -- which are home to many youth being cracked
down upon by police (and sent to prison, as opposed to
merely having their kegger disrupted) -- should be
aflame with Colt 45 Malt Liquor mayhem. Were that logic
expressed by a black man or Latino, it would be heard
as a dangerous call for permanent insurrection, instead
of a merely laughable rationalization for decidedly
apolitical violence.

And taking the white-college- student-as-victim trip to
truly dizzying, orgiastic heights of inanity, Julian
Heicklen (a State College, Pennsylvania candidate for
Jury Commissioner) explained in a campaign speech at
Penn State last fall that because of campus police,
"Centre County has become Mississippi of the 1950's.
Penn State students are its niggers." From limited
campus parking to efforts to curb drinking and drug
use, the university had created a virtual police state,
to hear Heicklen tell it. Imagine: they actually
arrested him for smoking pot at a PSU football game,
after he announced that he was doing it over a battery-
powered bullhorn! Surely anyone can see the
similarities between his treatment and that of Emmett
Till. Mississippi indeed.

But at least help is on the way. To deal with the
problem of binge drinking at colleges -- a behavior
engaged in nearly three times as often by white
students as others -- the Feds have been throwing
around grant money for anti- binging education
campaigns. At Michigan State, home to the largest and
probably drunkest campus riot of recent memory, over
$150,000 was distributed for such efforts. And who will
be in charge of the money and the program? Why, the
University's fraternities and sororities, of course!
Which is sort of like giving the CIA millions of more
dollars for the purpose of combating terrorism. Which
we also just finished doing.

It's enough to drive you to drink, or perhaps to even
drive drunk! Which is also mostly a white thing (over
80 percent of all drunk drivers are melanin deprived).
By the logic of racial profiling, any day now we should
see roadblocks leading into white suburbs and
checkpoints for white college students returning to the
school parking lot after a hard night of Fuzzy Navels
at the "Drink or Drown" party.

Then again, don't count on it. For whites, drinking and
rioting are merely two more things we can do without
facing the risk or stigma encountered by people of
color who might do the same things. Two more indicia of
privileges in a sea of daily advantage to which we have
grown accustomed and can now afford to take for
granted. Yes, even our good time is an indication of
the inequalities that beset our nation; even our
partying is implicitly political, wrapped up in
symbolic meaning, power differentials and blindness to


Tim Wise is an antiracist activist, educator and
writer. He can be reached at

Back to Main News Page


Ogletree and Reparations

Greetings of IMANI (FAITH) Sister Marpessa:

May our magnificent Creator and beloved Ancestors find you and (y)our 
extended family in the best of spirit and health.

i share your concerns. i also attended Tavis Smiley and Tom Joyner's "Where 
Do We Go From Here" event in Philly, and heard Professor Charles Ogeltree's 
remarks regarding the folks who are running "reparations scams." Later, when 
i and N'COBRA Philadelphia Chapter members were distributing materials about 
the "A Year of Black Presence" kick-off event featuring Congressman John 
Conyers (which was held on this past Friday, also in Philly), several 
interested Sisters negatively asked "Are you the scam artists that the 
moderator (Ogletree) was speaking of?" Of course, WE used the opportunity as 
a teaching moment to explain a bit about our righteous Reparations movement, 
and N'COBRA, and to encourage their participation in building our struggle.

Since Prof. Ogletree is a member of our N'COBRA coalition, WE will ask him, 
and you should challenge him, to clarify who and what specifically they mean 
by "scam artists"; and, to avoid any comments that could further discourage 
our sometimes, demoralized, disbelieving and disunited Afrikan family members 
from involving themselves in our just movement. i should tell you that last 
summer, N'COBRA sent out letters and press releases regarding some of these 
"hustlers." WE will (re)run similiar notices in upcoming newsletters and 
notices this month. 

Asante Sana (Many Thanks) for your great Spirit, positive energy and hard 
work over the years. Ase`.

Hotep (Peace), Love and Continued Blessings,

Brother Jahahara Alkebulan-Ma'at, N'COBRA National Co-Chair
Editor of REPARATIONS, NOW—Justice! Self-Determination! Healing!

Back to Main News Page


60 Feet Under 


March 3, 2002; The New York Times 

WASHINGTON - In a banner headline on Friday, The
Washington Post blared: "Shadow Government Is at Work in
Secret." The article said President Bush had assembled a
cadre of officials to operate under the radar, out of the

This is news?

The president did that on Jan. 20, 2001.

But it turns out that after Sept. 11, wanting to make sure
that everything wouldn't collapse if there was a nuclear
attack on Washington, he did it again. He formed a secret
government within a secret government. A shadow of a

It suits this administration to a T- ball, reflecting its
twin obsessions with secrecy and self-perpetuation.

The president realized that Dick Cheney couldn't govern
all by himself after an Armageddon, so he set up a pre-
post-apocalyptic staff, sending about 100 midlevel
officials to two subterranean locations outside the

Now Mr. Cheney is Lord of the Rings, ruling over his very
own Moria, an underground kingdom of bureaucratic hobbits
and orcs.

"Officials who are activated for what some of them call
`bunker duty' live and work underground 24 hours a day,
away from their families," The Post reported.

The hidden administration is known as Continuity of
Government, or C.O.G., while the one at 1600 Pennsylvania
is known as C.O.D., or Continuity of Dynasty, a project
designed to keep the Bushes in the White House until 2008
and beyond.

In the bunker, the Bush-Cheney dream of ruling without
justifying their actions is beautifully realized. The
administration-in-waiting features only the executive

Continuity does not require checks and balances. Sixty
feet under, the vice president will never be sued by the
General Accounting Office. Executive privilege is safe
when the only branch is executive.

The Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, said on Friday
that he hadn't even been told about the existence of a
shadow government, much less offered a cranny or a cot in
case of a nuclear attack.

"We have not been informed at all about the role of the
shadow government or its whereabouts or what particular
responsibilities they have and when they would kick in,"
Senator Daschle said drily. First he'll have to figure out
which administration to pry the information from - the
secretive one or the really secretive one.

The Bushies probably need Mr. Daschle's space for Karl
Rove, a.k.a. King C.O.D. And by keeping out the
legislative and judicial branches, the atomic government
can continue to do what it's already done: set up a long
mahogany bar with single-malt Scotch for Pioneers, out-of-
gas Enron chieftains and other corporate sycophants.

Down there, they won't have to heed the nagging of Senator
Robert Byrd, who last week threatened to stop writing
"blank checks" for the military if the administration
could not explain its war plan.

The Bush bunker does not bother with bipartisanship or
even the pretense of it. It is all about blank checks and
carte blanche.

If Washington gets whacked, C.O.G's mission is to maintain
"essential government functions."

C.O.G. will implement the I.R.S. dictum that in the event
of nuclear attack, tax collection will continue (from the
poor and the middle class, not the rich). It will
undoubtedly figure out how to keep up those arsenic levels
after the E.P.A. is flattened and commence drilling in
Alaska after the Energy Department is gone.

Without Democrats or journalists, the underground
executive branch can operate the way the real executive
branch would like to, and frequently does - without a lot
of second-guessing, Freedom of Information Act requests,
complaints from civil libertarians and attention to the
rights of Marin County hot-tubbers.

Nothing will be transcribed. So there will be no reason to
clean up the language in President Bush's transcripts, as
the White House has done routinely since 9/11.

The government Down Under won't need a press secretary,
even one who is as opaque as Ari Fleischer. It is
universally accepted there that all the world's woes can
be traced back to Bill Clinton, and there is no need to
apologize for simply stating the obvious. ------- End of
forwarded message ------- From: "Irene Stuber"
<istuber@u...> To: abigails-l@u... Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002
13:25:17 -0600 Subject: Shadow government activated for
U.S. Reply-to: istuber@u... Priority: normal

{{ In other words, no matter who the people elect from
here on out, the shadow government that is in place - and
it is always the bureaucrats who really run things - is
ultra-right stone-age thinking religious nuts. Notice the
bushette junta does NOT include congress in its
"continuation of government." Just imagine this "secret
government" in place and a liberal democrat being elected
president. How long would he and his people live? Sieg
Heil. - istuber }}

Shadow Government Activated for U.S. Fri Mar 1, 1:15 PM ET
By RON FOURNIER, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) - A "shadow government" consisting of 75
or more senior officials has been living and working
secretly outside Washington since Sept. 11 in case the
nation's capital is crippled by terrorist attack. "This is
serious business," President Bush (news - web sites) said
of plans to ensure the continuity of government.

Such an operation was conceived as a Cold War precaution
against nuclear attack during the Eisenhower
administration but never used until now. It went into
effect in the first hours after the terror attacks and has
evolved over time, said senior government officials who
provided details of the plan.

Without confirming details of the government-in-waiting,
Bush told reporters in Iowa: "We take the continuity of
government issue seriously because our nation was under
attack. And I still take the threats we receive from al-
Qaida killers and terrorists very seriously."

"I have an obligation as the president and my
administration has an obligation to the American people to
put measures in place that should somebody be successful
in attacking Washington there is an ongoing government,"
Bush said. "That is one reason why the vice president was
going to undisclosed locations. This is serious business.
And we take it seriously."

The shadow government plan was activated out of heightened
fears that the al-Qaida terrorist network might obtain a
portable nuclear weapon, sources said. U.S. intelligence
has no specific knowledge the network has such a weapon,
but the risk was great enough to warrant the activation of
a plan, said a senior government official who spoke on
condition of anonymity.

Under the classified "Continuity of Operations Plan,"
which was first reported by The Washington Post in Friday
editions, high-ranking officials representing their
departments have begun rotating in and out of the
assignment at one of two fortified locations along the
East Coast.

The Post said the first rotations were made in late
October or early November, a fact confirmed by the senior
government official.

A second government official who has visited one of the
secure sites in a mountainside outside Washington said it
is equipped with generators, telephones, television sets,
private offices, command centers and computers. It is a
large office space deep beneath the ground, sectioned off
by agencies.

In an unsettling reminder of the stakes involved, the
official recalled seeing food rations at the site.

Several White House officials have taken their turn in the
rotation, spending three or four days and nights at the
site. Friends, family and colleagues stay in contact
through a toll- free number and personal extensions.

Officials who are activated for the duty live and work
underground 24 hours a day, away from their families. The
shadow government has sent home most of the first wave of
deployed personnel, replacing them most commonly at 90-
day intervals, the Post reported.

A government official who spoke to The Associated Press
said the groups usually number 70 to 150 people, depending
on the level of threat detected by U.S. intelligence. He
said President Bush does not foresee ever needing to turn
over government functions to the secret operation, but
believed it was prudent to implement the long-standing
plan in light of the gathering war on terrorism and
persistent threats of future attacks.

The team, drawn from every Cabinet department and some
independent agencies, would seek to prevent the collapse
of essential government functions in the event of a
disabling blow to Washington, the official said.

The underground government would try to contain
disruptions of the nation's food and water supplies,
transportation links, energy and telecommunications
networks, public health and civil order, the Post
reported. Later, it would begin to reconstitute the

The government-in-waiting is an extension of a policy that
has kept Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) in
secure, undisclosed locations away from Washington. Cheney
has moved in and out of public view as threat levels have
fluctuated, at times to the same location that the senior
government officials have been hidden, a government source
said Friday.

As next in line to power behind Bush, he would need help
running the government in a worst-case scenario

The plan gelled in December when Bush issued a little-
noticed executive order that spelled out the line of
succession at several key federal agencies in case a
Cabinet secretary is killed or incapacitated. In great
detail, the document lists — in order of power — the top
half dozen or so officials who would take over if an
agency's hierarchy was dismantled.

The shadow government is drawn from that deep pool of
officials who are now formally part of the line of
succession, sources said.

In addition, at least one Cabinet secretary is kept out of
Washington at all times to help maintain the continuity of
government, one government source said. For nearly two
weeks at the end of December, for example, Attorney
General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) was secretly
spirited to his farm in Missouri and kept under high

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. said Congress
has its own contingency plans.

"Precautions have been taken and arrangements have been
made to move the work of Congress to another location," he

The Pentagon (news - web sites), too, rotates top military
officials to secure locations. "We move people around,"
spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said.

Civilians deployed for the operation are not allowed to
take their families and may not tell anyone where they are
going or why.

Back to Main News Page


Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret
After Attacks, Bush Ordered 100 Officials to Bunkers Away From Capital to 
Ensure Federal Survival

By Barton Gellman and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 1, 2002; Page A01

President Bush has dispatched a shadow government of about 100 senior 
civilian managers to live and work secretly outside Washington, activating 
for the first time long-standing plans to ensure survival of federal rule 
after catastrophic attack on the nation's capital.

Execution of the classified "Continuity of Operations Plan" resulted not 
from the Cold War threat of intercontinental missiles, the scenario 
rehearsed for decades, but from heightened fears that the al Qaeda terrorist 
network might somehow obtain a portable nuclear weapon, according to three 
officials with firsthand knowledge. U.S. intelligence has no specific 
knowledge of such a weapon, they said, but the risk is thought great enough 
to justify the shadow government's disruption and expense.

Deployed "on the fly" in the first hours of turmoil on Sept. 11, one 
participant said, the shadow government has evolved into an indefinite 
precaution. For that reason, the high-ranking officials representing their 
departments have begun rotating in and out of the assignment at one of two 
fortified locations along the East Coast. Rotation is among several changes 
made in late October or early November, sources said, to the standing 
directive Bush inherited from a line of presidents reaching back to Dwight 
D. Eisenhower.

Officials who are activated for what some of them call "bunker duty" live 
and work underground 24 hours a day, away from their families. As it settles 
in for the long haul, the shadow government has sent home most of the first 
wave of deployed personnel, replacing them most commonly at 90-day 

The civilian cadre present in the bunkers usually numbers 70 to 150, and 
"fluctuates based on intelligence" about terrorist threats, according to a 
senior official involved in managing the program. It draws from every 
Cabinet department and some independent agencies. Its first mission, in the 
event of a disabling blow to Washington, would be to prevent collapse of 
essential government functions.

Assuming command of regional federal offices, officials said, the 
underground government would try to contain disruptions of the nation's food 
and water supplies, transportation links, energy and telecommunications 
networks, public health and civil order. Later it would begin to 
reconstitute the government.

Known internally as the COG, for "continuity of government," the 
administration-in-waiting is an unannounced complement to the acknowledged 
absence of Vice President Cheney from Washington for much of the pastfive 
months. Cheney's survival ensures constitutional succession, one official 
said, but "he can't run the country by himself." With a core group of 
federal managers alongside him, Cheney -- or President Bush, if available -- 
has the means to give effect to his orders.

While the damage of other terrorist weapons is potentially horrific, 
officials said, only an atomic device could threaten the nation's 
fundamental capacity to govern itself. Without an invulnerable backup 
command structure outside Washington, one official said, a nuclear 
detonation in the capital "would be 'game over.' "

"We take this issue extraordinarily seriously, and are committed to doing as 
thorough a job as possible to ensure the ongoing operations of the federal 
government," said Joseph W. Hagin, White House deputy chief of staff, who 
declined to discuss details. "In the case of the use of a weapon of mass 
destruction, the federal government would be able to do its job and continue 
to provide key services and respond."

The Washington Post agreed to a White House request not to name any of those 
deployed or identify the two principal locations of the shadow government.

Only the executive branch is represented in the full-time shadow 
administration. The other branches of constitutional government, Congress 
and the judiciary, have separate continuity plans but do not maintain a 
24-hour presence in fortified facilities.

The military chain of command has long maintained redundant centers of 
communication and control, hardened against thermonuclear blast and 
operating around the clock. The headquarters of U.S. Space Command, for 
example, is burrowed into Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colo., 
and the U.S. Strategic Command staffs a comparable facility under Offutt Air 
Force Base in Nebraska.

Civilian departments have had parallel continuity-of-government plans since 
the dawn of the nuclear age. But they never operated routinely, seldom 
exercised, and were permitted to atrophy with the end of the Cold War. Sept. 
11 marked the first time, according to Bush administration officials, that 
the government activated such a plan.

Within hours of the synchronized attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade 
Center, Military District of Washington helicopters lifted off with the 
first wave of evacuated officials.

Witnesses near one of the two evacuation sites reported an influx of single- 
and twin-rotor transport helicopters, escorted by F-16 fighters, and 
followed not long afterward by government buses.

According to officials with first-hand knowledge, the Bush administration 
conceived the move that morning as a temporary precaution, likely to last 
only days. But further assessment of terrorist risks persuaded the White 
House to remake the program as a permanent feature of "the new reality, 
based on what the threat looks like," a senior decisionmaker said.

Few Cabinet-rank principals or their immediate deputies left Washington on 
Sept. 11, and none remained at the bunkers. Those who form the backup 
government come generally from the top career ranks, from GS-14 and GS-15 to 
members of the Senior Executive Service. The White House is represented by a 
"senior-level presence," one official said, but well below such 
Cabinet-ranked advisers as Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and national 
security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Many departments, including Justice and Treasury, have completed plans to 
delegate statutory powers to officials who would not normally exercise them. 
Others do not need to make such legal transfers, or are holding them in 

Deployed civilians are not permitted to take their families, and under 
penalty of prosecution they may not tell anyone where they are going or why. 
"They're on a 'business trip,' that's all," said one official involved in 
the effort.

The two sites of the shadow government make use of local geological features 
to render them highly secure. They are well stocked with food, water, 
medicine and other consumable supplies, and are capable of generating their 
own power.

But with their first significant operational use, the facilities are showing 
their age. Top managers arrived at one of them to find computers "several 
generations" behind those now in use, incapable of connecting to current 
government databases. There were far too few phone lines. Not many work 
areas had secure audio and video links to the rest of government. Officials 
said Card, who runs the program from the White House, has been obliged to 
order substantial upgrades.

The modern era of continuity planning began under President Ronald Reagan.

On Sept. 16, 1985, Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 188, 
"Government Coordination for National Security Emergency Preparedness," 
which assigned responsibility for continuity planning to an interagency 
panel from Defense, Treasury, Justice and the Office of Management and 
Budget. He signed additional directives, including Executive Order 12472, 
for more detailed aspects of the planning.

In Executive Order 12656, signed Nov. 18, 1988, Reagan ordered every Cabinet 
department to define in detail the "defense and civilian needs" that would 
be "essential to our national survival" in case of a nuclear attack on 
Washington. Included among them were legal instruments for "succession to 
office and emergency delegation of authority."

The military services put these directives in place long before their 
civilian counterparts. The Air Force, for example, relies on Air Force 
Instruction 10-208, revised most recently in September 2000.

Civilian agencies gradually developed contingency plans in comparable 
detail. The Agriculture Department, for example, has plans to ensure 
continued farm production, food processing, storage and distribution; 
emergency provision of seed, feed, water, fertilizer and equipment to 
farmers; and use of Commodity Credit Corp. inventories of food and fiber 

What was missing, until Sept. 11, was an invulnerable group of managers with 
the expertise and resources to administer these programs in a national 

Last Oct. 8, the day after bombing began in Afghanistan, Bush created the 
Office of Homeland Security with Executive Order 13228. Among the 
responsibilities he gave its first director, former Pennsylvania governor 
Tom Ridge, was to "review plans and preparations for ensuring the continuity 
of the Federal Government in the event of a terrorist attack that threatens 
the safety and security of the United States Government or its leadership."

Staff researcher Mary Lou White contributed to this report.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

Back to Main News Page


Barak in to bat for Big Brother
Ian Grayson
The Australian

GIANT globally connected databases containing details on everything from 
travel plans to bank accounts are vital to an effective battle against 
terrorist activity, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak has warned.

While such moves would be regarded by many people as an invasion of personal 
privacy, they were fundamental to the fight to ensure attacks such as those 
of September 11 did not happen again, Mr Barak said. 

Information technology could play a powerful role in world security and it 
was up to governments to work together to maximise its use, he said. A 
co-ordinated global approach to sharing data collected using the latest 
technology was needed now. 

Mr Barak, who led Israel from May 1999 to March 2001, said that in order to 
protect the citizens of the free world, those citizens would have to become 
used to slight disruptions to their daily lives and freedoms for many years. 

These slight disruptions included having bank accounts and telephone calls 
monitored, travel movements tracked and electronic data open for examination. 

Such calls for what effectively would be a global surveillance agency were 
also discussed by former US president Bill Clinton in his keynote speech to 
the World Congress on IT in Adelaide earlier this week. 

Mr Barak acknowledged that some people would fear such moves, considering 
them a restriction of personal liberty. However, he said, there were ways to 
ensure this did not happen. 

"The right way to avoid the world degenerating into a police state with Big 
Brother looking at everyone is to put these activities directly under the 
supervision of representatives of the legislative bodies of the free world," 
he said. 

"I'm not suggesting to give law enforcement agencies a blank cheque or 
unlimited freedom to do whatever they want, but to make sure they are 
supervised by legislative bodies." 

He spoke enthusiastically about new technical innovations such as biometric 
scanning that could match people to databases of known criminals in fractions 
of a second. Such technology should be put into widespread use as quickly as 
possible in as many countries as possible. 

It was important to find ways of generating a feeling of community among 

Mr Barak has been retained as a special adviser by US technology company EDS. 
He provides counsel and guidance on how companies can better understand world 

Back to Main News Page


Date: Thu, 07 Mar 2002 23:51:35 -0500
Subject: About Abner Louima's Lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein

By Donna Lamb

When people in Brooklyn, New York's Caribbean Community have a problem
or need legal representation by a person who is not only a top-notch
lawyer but also sensitive to and respectful of their culture, who do
they turn to? Attorney Sanford Rubenstein. That's whom Abner Louima
turned to when he was viciously attacked in the bathroom of a Brooklyn
Precinct stationhouse in 1997. And now, with the overturn of some
verdicts in the case, it is Rubenstein's face we see on the TV and in
the newspapers as he advocates on behalf of Louima. He and Rev. Al
Sharpton have been on the talk show circuit together, appearing on
shows as NY1's Inside City Hall, CNN's Aaron Brown, and others,
for justice.

Though he was catapulted into national fame with his work on the
case, he's been known throughout the Haitian community since the early
1970s when he began practicing law in a storefront in Bedford
Stuyvesant, handling immigration and other civil and criminal cases
the many Haitians moving to Brooklyn at that time. For the last 25
years, he has personally specialized in personal injury litigation,
including police brutality, which led to his becoming a civil rights
lawyer, and representing Rev. Sharpton. But even today, a substantial
number of the cases his firm Rubenstein & Rynecki accepts, be they
or criminal, involve representing people from the Caribbean.

All the while, Sanford Rubenstein--Sandy, as his friends
call him--has been deeply involved in issues regarding social justice.
This includes supporting reparations to descendants of enslaved
Africans. With refreshing simplicity and clarity he stated: "As a
American who supported reparations for those who suffered at the hands
of the Nazis in the concentration camps, how can I not support
reparations for Black Americans?"

How much Rubenstein is respected can be seen through the vast array
awards that grace the walls of his office at 16 Court Street. They run
the gamut from the Haitian Friendship Award "To demonstrate the
appreciation of the Haitian people in the fight for freedom and
democracy in Haiti" to Man of the Year from the Brooklyn Democrats.
Recently he received the Joseph Papp Racial Harmony Award from the
Foundation of Ethnic Understanding, and one that means the most to him
from the National Action Network, presented by Rev. Al Sharpton, the
Keeper of the Dream Award.

Even more impressive than seeing the award plaques is hearing the
reasons why he received them. For example, Supreme Court Judge Reynold
Mason, President of the Caribbean American Bar Association, spoke of
they recently gave him their highest honor, the Eagle Award:

"He's the one guy not from our community who has come in and gotten
involved and really helped us with our problems. He has taken many
not for money but on principle. We appreciate that, and we wanted to
hold him up and say, 'Here's a guy that the rest of you should be

"Sandy is well known in our community, especially for the Louima
Mason continued, "but there's so much more he's done that people don't
know. There's a lot of lawyers out there who are successful, but to
something back and to keep giving back--that is really wonderful and
recognize that."


Sanford Rubenstein was born in Brooklyn, but when he was in the third
grade, his family moved to the Ravenswood Housing Projects in Queens.
Growing up in the projects gave him the opportunity to live and go to
school in a multi-racial, multi-cultural setting. To this he
his like for and ease with people of diverse races and backgrounds
throughout his life.

At 17 he started working his way through Rockland Community College,
and then the State University of Oswego where he received his BA Cum
Laude in psychology. After that he went on a fellowship to City
Baruch School where he received his MBA in marketing management. He
entered their doctoral program for a PhD in business, completed the
course work but never completed his dissertation because he decided to
go to law school instead. While studying at Brooklyn Law School at
night, he taught public school in Harlem during the day.

This was also the tumultuous time of the Vietnam War. Though his
grueling schedule made it difficult, he took part in protests against
the war and was even pepper sprayed at one demonstration in
D.C. "I felt it was so important to protest; I had to participate," he
stated. "I agree with the saying, 'If you're not part of the solution,
you're part of the problem.'"


During his last year of Law School, Rubenstein took a job as a law
at the storefront office of Jacobs, Jacobs and Giulini on Throop
in Bed Stuy. There he did a little of everything, helping the
represent the growing Haitian community in all sorts of matters--auto
cases, business, real estate, commercial, and immigration matters.

When he was admitted to the bar in 1972, one of the first persons he
represented was a Jamaican man facing deportation. This case went all
the way to the US Supreme Court. Another very serious matter he tried
right out of law school was a criminal case in defense of a man
accused of selling heroin. "When he was acquitted," Rubenstein said,
think the only person more surprised than him was me!"

As Judge Joseph Levine, Civil Court Judge at that time, stated:
"Rubenstein was a very fine young attorney when he started. He did
great. He was always ready to try his cases and he was always
And I've watched him mature and develop even more along the way."

Soon Rubenstein decided to concentrate on personal injury cases
because, as he said: "Not only can we get recoveries for people in
of money damages, but also create an opportunity to change things for
the better. For example, if you handle a case against the tire
manufacturers for making defective tires, as I am now, you can change
the way tires are made so they will be safer. You do a social good by
letting the manufacturers of products know that if they don't make
products safe, there's someone who will hold them accountable. Or when
you represent victims like the woman who watched in horror as two of
children were killed when she was crossing a street because the
red/green light interval was too short--I was fighting so that what
happened to them won't happen to anyone else. That is very important
me as well as a successful jury verdict in that case of $25 million."

The law firm of Rubenstein & Rynecki also handles criminal cases with
former Supreme Court Justice Ronald Aiello who is council to the firm
heading up that effort.


While he continued his law practice in Brooklyn, in 1979 Sanford
Rubenstein was elected to the Rockland County Legislature where he
served for 20 years as Vice Chairman, Majority Leader, and Chairman of
the Budget Committee. But far from taking him away from the Caribbean
community, it became the means of bringing him even closer.

Around 1990 Rubenstein met the fiery Haitian radio host Wilson Desir.
Desir knew of Rubenstein and thought that he might be able to help get
the US to send observer teams to Haiti for the election in which
Aristide was running for the first time.

Through Rubenstein, Desir and others from the Haitian community
obtained a meeting with the head of the Haitian Desk at the State
Department who, in the past, had never responded to requests from the
Haitian community. Now he greeted them with respect and treated Wilson
like a diplomat, showing him the esteem he deserved as a leader of the
Haitian community. And, as requested, observers were sent to oversee

Stated Rubenstein: "When Aristide was elected President of Haiti,
Wilson Desir was named Council General for Haiti in New York, and I
became an attorney for the Haitian Council General's office, working
whatever problems Wilson gave me. And Wilson became a very dear and
cherished friend."

Around that time Rubenstein represented a Haitian cabdriver, Jacque
Camille, wrongfully shot by the police. Rubenstein obtained a
of $1.5 million for him, requiring the police officer to personally
part of the settlement in order to send a message of accountability to
all police officers.

And it isn't only the Haitian community that's been the recipient of
Rubenstein's expertise. Stated community leader and activist Fernando
Mateo, spokesman for the Latino community:

"Where the underprivileged communities need help, Attorney Rubenstein
is always there. We in the Latino community greatly appreciate what he
does on our behalf. He represents us professionally, with dignity and
without self-interest. He's just one of those people that cares, that
feels for others. He's out there fighting for the rights of all


In August of 1997, the entire nation was shocked by the ruthless
on Abner Louima in Brooklyn's 70th Precinct stationhouse, an attack so
brutal he almost died. Fortunately, he lived to tell the world the
about his torture. Before it was all over, not only had Rubenstein
played a crucial roll in obtaining for him a $7.125 million settlement
from the City--the largest ever in a police brutality case--he also
played a part in making history by forcing the Police Benevolent
Association to pay $1.625 million in damages and to fund an
council to whom police officers who witness brutality by other
can go in confidence to help break down the blue wall of silence. This
was the first case in the nation in which a police union paid damages
a victim of police brutality.

When Sanford Rubenstein was asked by Louima to represent him,
Rubenstein knew that here was a man who, in one harrowing evening, had
his whole life permanently and irrevocably changed. Little did he
however, that this case was also going to change his own life, take
to a whole new level of social activism.

Samuel Nichols, Louima's cousin and Assistant Pastor of the
Crusade Christian Church in Brooklyn who was Louima's spokesperson
during his long hospital stay, stated: "From the beginning, our
relationship with Rubenstein went beyond the client-lawyer
He really took this case to heart and went past performing what he was
supposed to do as a lawyer."

After Louima retained him, it was a real eye-opener for Rubenstein to
learn of the fear for their children's lives that even corporate
executives, owners of their own companies and multi-millionaires in
African American and Caribbean community felt. Said Rubenstein: "I
learned that successful Black executives are more afraid about their
children, especially their teenage boys, being brutalized by the
than they are about them being assaulted by common criminals! It gave
an understanding of the problems people of color in our community have
to live with which I never had before."


It all began when Rev. Sharpton appeared on CNN's Larry King Live soon
after the assault on Louima. King was race baiting--trying to get Rev.
Sharpton to say something bad about the new white Jewish lawyer Abner
Louima had added to his team. But far from rising to the bait, Rev.
Sharpton, who knew of Rubenstein's track record in the community, said
in a very friendly manner, "You mean Brother Rubenstein?"

Shortly thereafter both Rev. Sharpton and Rubenstein were at a march
support of Abner Louima and against police brutality, when, stated
Rubenstein: "I walked over to him and said, 'Rev. Sharpton, excuse
me--if I can introduce myself, I'm Brother Rubenstein.' He took my arm
and we ended up marching together leading the demonstration, which
crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, for four hours. And that was when he
giving me an education on the history of police brutality and racial
profiling in the City and Nation--and I've been getting an education
from him ever since!"

His respect and concern for Rev. Sharpton is evident in Rubenstein's
voice when he talks about him. He sounded proud yet humble as he said:
"The first one who ever called me a Civil Rights lawyer was Rev.
Sharpton. I take it very seriously and consider it a badge of honor to
be called that. Rev. Sharpton gave me the opportunity to become the
prominent Civil Rights lawyer I am today, giving me the chance to work
to improve the quality of life for people. That is one of the things I
try to do, and I thank Rev. Sharpton for the opportunity."


When Rev. Sharpton, Roberto Ramirez, Jose Rivera and Adolfo Carrion
sentenced for protesting Navy bombing in Vieques, Rubenstein--who was
Puerto Rico with Rev. Sharpton to attend what they thought was merely
court appearance but turned out to be a trial and sentencing--told
Sharpton, "Rev., if you have to do the 90 days, I'm there with you."

"I made a promise to be there with him, and I was," said Rubenstein.
"And I felt it was important, just as he did, because it would make a
difference for the people, particularly the children, of Vieques. I
that by being with him during his days in prison I was able to join
in his commitment to stop the Navy's bombing exercises which I believe
are morally wrong."

Fortunately, during that time Rubenstein's partner, Scott Rynecki,
willing to work extra hard in conjunction with their firm's large
of attorneys and paraprofessionals, enabling Rubenstein to spend just
about every day from eight in the morning until eight at night in the
prison with Rev. Sharpton. While there, they discussed many
issues--including Rev. Sharpton's possible bid for the presidency.

As sorry as he was that Rev. Sharpton had to do the time, Rubenstein
was glad to get to know him better during his incarceration: "I had
opportunity to see Rev. Sharpton's inner strength, to see how
he is," stated Rubenstein. "And I saw his extraordinary intelligence,
even at that time of stress, and his commitment to the movement."

And he said of Rev. Sharpton's first action upon being released,
leading a demonstration from the prison to the site in Sunset Park
a Dominican family was run over and killed by an off-duty policeman:
was so appropriate for Sharpton. He wasn't thinking about his release;
he was thinking about this terrible tragedy in the community." And he
concluded, "It was an honor to spend as much time with him as I did
during his incarceration."

Said Rev. Sharpton of Rubenstein: "I think that he has an unselfish
unique commitment to social justice and has proven in time to be a
valuable ally to the cause of civil and human rights." He has asked
Rubenstein to be council to his committee, chaired by Charles Ogletree
and Cornel West, which is exploring his possible presidential bid.
Recently they also made swings together through New Hampshire and
states where the two first presidential primaries are held.

Rubenstein has also earned the respect of members of Rev. Sharpton's
civil rights organization, the National Action Network. Two men who
accompanied Rev. Sharpton and Rubenstein to Puerto Rico, Sudan and
Israel are the National Field Director, Dedrick Muhammad, and Eddie
Harris, the Director of NANCOM, the National Action Network's
Communications Group. Muhammad said of Rubenstein: "Here's someone who
had made millions of dollars in his law practice before he met
someone who has no personal stake in the social justice movement. He
doesn't have to personally face the problem of police brutality or
racial profiling. But through the Louima case and then meeting Rev.
Sharpton, he saw the importance of the work because of the effect it
on people's lives."

And Harris stated: "I think that he's very much in the tradition of
Rabbi Herschel and other Jewish activists who marched with Martin
King and fought for human rights. We prize him as a very important
in our struggle."


Along with his in-the-trenches association with the Black and
communities, Sanford Rubenstein also has one of the largest
of modern Haitian art in the world. It includes works by Bernard
Sejourme, Philippe Dodard, Edouard Duval-Carrie, Andre Pierre, and

He has also sponsored Haitian artists such as Edouard Duval-Carrie
said: "The only words I can think of for Sanford Rubenstein are
and very supportive. I was invited to do a piece for the Atlanta
Olympics and I needed the funding to pour 30 bronzes representing the
Voodoo deities. He funded it. And not only that, he later donated most
of that work to the Miami Art Museum."

When it comes to the struggle for justice which takes in many
things--including enabling people to carry on their proud Caribbean
artistic heritage--we each bring what we have, what we are to the
Sanford Rubenstein could have chosen so easily to remain above the
locked in the comfortable, opulent life style he had carved out for
himself. Instead, he stepped out of his box and joined those who are
trying to make this world a better place for everyone. For that, the
Caribbean community respects and is grateful to him.

Donna Lamb can be reached at

Back to Main News Page