By Kayla Moon
An activist by the name of John Lang appears to have recently been murdered – his death part of a much larger pattern. Fresno Police Department (FPD) is under investigation by many independent organizations. Lang seems to have predicted his own death for speaking out against the corruption of FPD. His possible murder is shrouded in mystery, drawing international recognition by the strongest hacker force to ever exist. “Anonymous” publicly targeted Fresno city representatives due to threats the hackers would take down the city’s website, as they declared that “John Lang will not be forgotten.”
This is not the only recent scandal involving Fresno police. The local police have been noted recently for using a new software program titled “Beware” which profiles local activists and places them in the same threat category as violent “criminals”. The program has recently been halted from categorizing potential offenders. BEWARE collects mass data to profile literally everyone who lives in Fresno. It has not been completely suspended. Let us ask ourselves has it always been this way, or is there a root cause for the violence and profiling against the people of Fresno. These are deeply rooted systematic issues including the progression of the militarization of Fresno Police Department.
Fresno has a history of pioneering police state tactics: The earliest mention found was in 1999, when the New York Times said that Fresno of any city in all of America was the most “paramilitary” in its way of policing. In 2006, NBC TV pointed out that Fresno has more DUI checkpoints than any other city in the U.S. Police can pull people over at random sites throughout the city on any given day they decide to. That same year, the Associated Press remarked on how Fresno was the only U.S. city to try a new program, H.E.A.R.T. (Help Eliminate Alcohol Re-Offender Team), where the police could arrest people for drunk driving before they ever even drove a car.
Also in 2006, Fresno police shot and killed a man who was believed to have shot a police officer, even though Fresno police admitted that he had no gun on him and was running away from officers when he was shot. The United Nations created a resolution in 2012 declaring acts such as this “extrajudicial executions” and pointed out it is a practice found in the worst totalitarian regimes around the world. In 2010, McClatchy DC, the main news source for the American capital, talked about how Fresno has stopped its process of automatic review of police shootings.
Officers can stop every person on the corner, ask for identification, check for warrants, and then search the person if one is found.
That same year, the CATO Institute, a think tank which reviews a range of policies, pointed out that Fresno was at the top for all cities across America for police misconduct. Another independent study that same year said that Fresno was the worst California city for lack of transparency. Also in 2010, the Wall Street Journal questioned if Fresno County law enforcement had its priorities mixed up, between revenue generation and actually protecting the public. In 2015, the ACLU noted that the City of Fresno was experimenting with a new way of justice enforcement that created a system where immigrants were railroaded into accepting guilt for any crime for which they were accused.
Fresno has a history of pioneering untested police state technology: In 2002, Fresno’s airport was the first U.S. airport to implement facial recognition software, which the ACLU immediately said would violate civilians’ rights. The next year Fresno’s main university, California State University Fresno, was one of the first American universities to work with the military to develop drones that could spy on civilian populations. In 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle talked about the most surveillance-heavy American city it found being in Fresno County. In 2013, the City of Fresno instituted a new practice of “predictive policing” where using computer algorithms they claimed they could determine who would commit a crime before they did so.
In 2014, the Fresno police chief was noted for traveling to Israel to look at their technology for monitoring the Palestinian population. Only two years later, in 2016, Fresno became the first U.S. city to use a software program that monitored all citizens all of the time and gave them threat rankings. American Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said America was in danger of “becoming a police state” if, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “officers can stop every person on the corner, ask for identification, check for warrants, and then search the person if one is found.” What is the difference between this and electronically doing the exact same thing?
Fresno has a history of targeting those who speak out against police: The earliest mention found was in 2006 when the Associated Press noted that FPD was willfully ignoring the civil rights of Fresno citizens by arresting them for drunk driving before they ever drove. While that is not a targeting of protestors, it is a sign of the willingness of a police department to flagrantly violate citizens’ civil rights on a mass scale. Next was in 2013 when a Fresno City Council member said that African Americans who protest the police are “terrorists”, and the Fresno Police chief laughed along with him. The next year, the Fresno city manager criticized the media for even questioning the integrity of Fresno police after a major investigation by the FBI directly investigated the department.
Looking at these events there is a pattern of Fresno city leaders denouncing citizens for questioning the police on their conduct. In 2014, Fresno police targeted a local pastor who organized protests against the police for destroying camps for the homeless. The following year Fresno police arrested a different pastor who organized protests against police brutality. That same year another activist who protested Fresno police brutality and wrote on a police memorial in washable chalk was also arrested by Fresno police. He faced one year in prison for destroying public property, although the chalk was easily removable.
It came to light that year that Fresno police officially labeled the Black Lives Matter protest movement as a “threat.” Additionally, in 2015, Fresno Chief of Police said that all people who participate in protests against the police will be documented and their information stored in a database. He warned that they could be arrested in the future if they participate in a protest against the Fresno Police Department.
In 2016, John Lang routinely reported being harassed by the Fresno police for his protests of police conduct, primarily online. Later that same year he was found dead of mysterious circumstances. The United Nations has repeatedly criticized the totalitarian regime in China because it routinely arrests activists for similar acts.
Kayla Moon is an activist based in Fresno. She shares her work on the Conscious Resistance Network, http://www.theconsciousresistance.com See Kayla Moon’s in-depth interview with Pastor Breedlove at https://youtu.be/cm4XgCEWJr4