Glitter is now “bio-terrorism”

Everybody run, the drag queen’s got a gun.

I read a lot of news each day and quite a few blogs. Among my favorites are Marcy Wheeler’s ‘Emptywheel‘ and Digby’s Hullabaloo. Sometimes by a trick of coincidence in my news RSS feed program, I’ll see two different stories that might as well be two sides of the same coin. Today that coin is ‘terrorism.’

The stories?

Enviro protesters charged with bio-terror for having glitter on banners

Well first, there’s this one from Digby, commenting on the linked story at Mother Jones:

When protest becomes terrorism

What happens when the government declares “war” on what is basically a violent political tactic, the working definition of which is in the eye of the beholder? When it further turns it into an existential threat so great that only the suspension of the constitution and the dedication of every possible national resource can keep it at bay, is it only a matter of time before normal dissent becomes a manifestation of that tactic and is thus considered a mortal enemy of the people? We’re not there yet. But the seeds are planted in certain dark corners of the country:

“It’s not uncommon for environmental protesters to face arrest, but here’s an apparent first: On Friday, Oklahoma City police charged a pair of environmental activists with staging a “terrorism hoax” after they unfurled a pair of banners covered in glitter—a substance local cops considered evidence of a faux biochemical assault.”

Emphasis added. It gets worse. More from the Mother Jones article:

“Police who responded to the scene arrested Warner and Stephenson along with two other protesters. But while their fellow activists were arrested for trespassing, Warner and Stephenson were hit with additional charges of staging a fake bioterrorism attack. It’s an unusually harsh charge to levy against nuisance protestors. In Oklahoma, a conviction for a “terrorist hoax” carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold drag heads. (Shutterstock)

I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold drag hands. (Shutterstock)

Oklahoma City Police spokesman Captain Dexter Nelson tells Mother Jones that Devon Tower security officers worried that the “unknown substance” falling from the two banners might be toxic because of “the covert way [the protesters] presented themselves… A lot were dressed as somewhat transient-looking individuals. Some were wearing all black,” he says. “Inside the banners was a lot of black powder substance, later determined to be glitter.” In their report, Nelson says, police who responded to the scene described it as a “biochemical assault.” “Even the FBI responded,” he adds. A spokesman for Devon Energy declined to comment.”

Let me get this straight. Two people who unfurled a banner with an excess of glitter on it are facing up to ten frickin’ years in prison and a lifetime of wearing the Scarlet T (‘Terrorist’) — just because the police got scared. Needlessly.

Captain Nelson’s description sounds an awful lot like an attempt after the fact to justify arresting Warner and Stephenson by making them and their friends out to be big scary anarchist/eco-terrorists.

HSBC gets wrist-slap for actually aiding and abetting terror

Juxtapose that thought with this now, the post by Marcy on Emptywheel (emphasis added):

US Government Slaps HSBC’s Wrist for Facilitating Terrorism, Again

As I noted last year, when DOJ trumpeted their settlement with HSBC for a slew of money laundering violations, they didn’t mention that HSBC had provided almost a billion dollars to a Saudi bank that funded terrorists. Effectively, HSBC’s material support for terrorism for 5 years after it first realized it was doing so got completely ignored.

It turns out, between the time in 2010 when HSBC stopped providing cash dollars to a terror-supporting bank and the time of the DOJ settlement, HSBC was still violating counterterrorism sanctions. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls just issued another settlement with HSBC’s US branch, detailing how HSBC processed 3 transfers totaling over $40,164 involving Husayn Tajideen after the bank learned he had gotten listed a designated terrorist.

(…)(T)he claim that HSBC hadn’t had any substantially similar violations in the five years previous is just ridiculous. They had been busted for all sorts of very similar money laundering problems involving known drug kingpins and were uniquely important in providing cash that terrorists likely used for significant attacks. It’s only not substantially similar because it is orders of magnitude worse, so much so DOJ got involved and the settlement was with a different agency!

And in response to a recidivist being caught again, OFAC fines a bank with $14 billion in profits $32,400.

A $32,400 fine against $14 billion in profits. Doing the math, that’s 0.00023%, by the way. Not even pocket change for a company the size of HSBC.

Why do they hate America? (Kids with glitter via Shutterstock>

Why do they hate America?
(Kids with glitter via Shutterstock)

Up to ten years in prison each for two people who, in a protest, were mistaken to be terrorists by paranoid law enforcement officers.

Versus a tiny fine of a little over thirty-two grand for a company which will never even feel it — for actual, concrete financial support of terrorists in the form of money laundering. Which they were already caught doing before. And apparently can concur these tiny fines are just a cost of doing business, like a back-hander to the cops who willingly turn a blind eye to one’s criminal enterprises.

I don’t know what else to say, except that my ire and outrage are beginning to peg the meter again. We clearly have two entirely separate systems of justice in this country: One for the serfs, which is becoming ever more oppressive, authoritarian, and reactionary, and another for the plutocratic oligarchy, which excuses absolutely anything they might do in the pursuit of profit.

Including aiding and abetting actual terrorists.

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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72 Responses to “Glitter is now “bio-terrorism””

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just want to add this recent story:

    “A vigil for a 17-year-old who died in police custody in North Carolina ended in violence on Thursday.

    The march was intended as a peaceful memorial for Jesus Huerta, who died in the back of a police car of a gunshot wound to the head last month.

    Police, some dressed in riot gear, used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd of about 150 friends, family and supporters as they marched towards Durham Police Department.”

  2. HelenRainier says:

    Unbelieveable — what has happened to America? Big Brother has gone around the bend. Pity.

  3. tsuki says:

    You might enjoy this piece.

    It starts:

    “I’m beginning to think the DHS, NSA, FBI and TSA are largely extraneous
    entities. We appear to have a shortage of terrorists to defend against.
    We can’t seem to find enough terrorists worldwide to justify needlessly intrusive surveillance programs. The FBI can’t seem to land any big fish without dropping the line into its stock pond. And what we have managed to scare up as prime terrorist suspects have been captured by zealous local law enforcement teams, utilizing a blend of expansive anti-terrorism laws and a credibility not normally granted to foul-mouthed teens using social networks.”

  4. MyrddinWilt says:

    I get pissed when some NYC politician who spent their entire career pandering to the IRA claims to be serious about fighting terrorism.

    Giuliani was particularly obnoxious. He stopped Yassir Arrafat attending an event at Carnegie Hall on the same day he went to an IRA fundraiser.

  5. Zorba says:

    This is unconscionable! Indeed, why bother with a jury, then?
    It totally negates the idea of “trial by jury.”

  6. ComradeRutherford says:

    Terrorism is defined as: A human citizen exercising their civil rights in defense against a corporate citizen that is engaging in actual terrorism.

  7. Butch1 says:

    I wish there was a way to sue these guys and make them feel the Karma they put on others.

  8. BeccaM says:

    As many have commented, there’s a ready cure for ‘Affluenza’: Remove the source of corruption, namely the money.

  9. ArthurH says:

    In Alabama they have judge nullification. If a jury rules against the death penalty in a case, the judge can still send the guilty party to death row. Kind of wonder why they go through the trouble of a jury trial.

  10. BeccaM says:

    As The Fixer notes above, consider who it is today who dresses all in black, with intimidating uniforms, armor and helmets.

  11. ArthurH says:

    Maybe the rich Texas kid got off without jail time, but I read where five liability lawsuits have been filed against his parents because they owned the pickup truck he was driving. I hope the settlements are big enough to teach the parents a lesson for not raising their kid to be responsible.

  12. Zorba says:

    The cops (and the prosecutors) have gotten worse. They pile on these bogus charges, and even if the individuals are found not guilty, they have to spend a lot on lawyers, and perhaps spend time in jail before trial if bail is not granted, or if they cannot put up any bail.
    Can you spell “police state”? :-(

  13. karmanot says:

    Just plain evil and stupid.

  14. Butch1 says:

    So both of those things automatically makes you a suspicious person or in their eyes, guilty? They’ve been watching too many old cowboy movies where the “good guys” where white and the “bad guys” where black. Come to think of it, even the good guys were transient. ;-)

  15. Butch1 says:

    They don’t recognize that THEY are the terrorists and not us.

  16. Butch1 says:

    One has to qualify as being human before that rule would take affect. Stare away. ;-)

  17. Butch1 says:

    A decent cop would have laughed it off and told them to clean it up and get the hell out of here before they get arrested. That would have been the end of it. These two morons want to punish these people especially the cross-dressing kind. They helped choose the charge that would get the most time. This is pure evil and a vendetta against gays. They want to teach a lesson by striking back at these folks.

    Whatever happens, if the ruling is against them they need to appeal it.

  18. Butch1 says:

    I know they lean to the right in Oklahoma, but are the cops really that dense or just plain evil?

  19. pappyvet says:

    It just hurts my brain to think about it.

  20. Ford Prefect says:

    I can’t, oddly enough. I can imagine them thwarting with with eye pokes and a pie fight though. No one could maintain order enough to manage it in the chaos.

  21. Bomer says:

    Ok. Now I’m going to have to make one of those for myself.

  22. karmanot says:


  23. karmanot says:

    I picked it up in the nineties when doing advocacy: att. to Alan Dershowitz

  24. karmanot says:

    Just imagine the Stooges being water-boarded.

  25. karmanot says:


  26. Naja pallida says:

    I’ll have to wear my black hoodie that says: “Recreational hoodie wearer, please do not shoot.”

  27. Bomer says:

    Remind me never to go to a rally/protest then. 99% of my clothes are black. I think I own one white shirt, two red ones, and two olive green sweaters. Everything else is black. Think the only articles of clothing I have that aren’t all black are my socks and some undergarments.

  28. nicho says:

    At least they weren’t wearing hoodies. That calls for summary execution.

  29. Monoceros Forth says:

    Right-wingers throughout history have had an extreme adulation for the government, but deny that they would vote for someone who takes advantage of it.

    You said it. It’s hard not to notice that, for all the talk of libertarianism and small government and how guns will save us from tyranny, right-wingers get really moist in the pants for violent exercises of state power. They like unfettered war powers; they like when the police shoot people and always jump to the cops’ defence; they love to see protestors’ skulls being cracked.

  30. BeccaM says:

    I once got a bunch of glitter in one of my carry-on suitcases, due to a cheaply-made birthday card.

    I’m pretty sure that glitter is now everywhere in the entire world by now.

  31. LanceThruster says:


  32. Fentwin says:

    Or even a “dehumanizing stare”.

  33. cole3244 says:

    yes there are but only on polls not at off year election time where it really counts.

  34. Anonymous says:

    If we let protestors win, we let opponents of the gov’t have a voice, and we can’t have that anymore. Parallel this to the forced colonoscopies and other egregious forms of punishment by police lately.
    Right-wingers throughout history have had an extreme adulation for the government, but deny that they would vote for someone who takes advantage of it. The protestors are always those “damn liberals” who “deserve it.” The result is right-wing sociopaths voted in by idiots who are too dumb to see it. 2010 elections anyone? We live in desperate times.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Texan Republican judge. I still see comments on the Daily Mail blaming some liberal, somewhere, over the direct decision of a racist, classist judge.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Disgusting – shows the bias the “justice” system can have when corrupt people are making decisions.

  37. Ford Prefect says:

    That’s good. I may use that one until I burn out on it.

  38. Ford Prefect says:

    Indeed. The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges would all be facing capital charges if they were alive today.

  39. The_Fixer says:

    I once had a sheriff’s deputy pull me over on my bike (wrongly claiming that I couldn’t ride on the highway, and I proved it to him). I was wearing my Cartmann T-Shirt that had him pictured saying “Respect My Authoritah”.

    The deputy complemented my shirt, saying that he liked it. I instantly became very scared of this man. He has no business being a cop.

  40. karmanot says:

    “Cops make stuff up. Prosecutors make stuff up. Politicians make stuff up. It’s all good.: Indeed. It’s called testilying.

  41. The_Fixer says:

    Dressed all in black? You mean like the police do when they’re in their SWAT drag?

    I’m sure that somewhere a teenage kid has been shot for the crime of dressing all in black and listening to The Cure on his iPod.

    “The officer reported that the man appeared to have a covert communications device…”

  42. karmanot says:

    I guess terrorist cream pies are out now.

  43. karmanot says:

    There are millions of us who feel that way too.

  44. karmanot says:

    Make that a $50.00 fine for fabulous and I’m on board!

  45. The_Fixer says:

    Of course. It’s another method of intimidating people.

    Ever take a good look at a police squad car? Solely designed to intimidate. Look at the way cops appear when they’re in uniform. Not to mention the paramilitary SWAT uniforms. They’re all designed to intimidate us.

    Intimidation equals control, control is suppression. And that’s the goal here, folks.

  46. Indigo says:

    Glitter is forever, that’s a fact. I’m still finding it in outfits I wore on gay Caribbean cruises back in the not-all-that-gay 90s.

  47. BeccaM says:

    You said it yourself: Rich kid. That’s why.

    Money buys a certain level of justice, even if one has committed negligent vehicular homicide.

    If that kid had been a person of color and with a public defender, he’d most likely be looking at spending the rest of his life in jail. And yes, that means they’d have found some way to charge him ‘as an adult.’

  48. BeccaM says:

    Given personal experience with knowing how hard it is to clean up glitter, I could see misdemeanor charges of vandalism, disorderly conduct, and/or criminal mischief (the last is a stretch though…).

    But in any case, this is pretty clearly an instance of “Don’t question our authoritah!” At least in my judgment anyway.

  49. rextrek says:

    HUH..? yet a DRUNK Rich Kid, robs a store, drives drunk – kills 4 people, and cripples another and gets 10yrs probation?????

  50. Indigo says:

    It could happen in a neighborhood near you.

  51. Indigo says:

    Somehow, I suspect the cops don’t really have a grip on what glitter is all about.

  52. Zorba says:

    This is the type of bullsh!t charge that cries out for jury nullification, and I hope that any jury they face is smart enough to do so.
    They could have been asked to sweep up the glitter. At the most, and I mean the very most, they could have been given a $50 fine for littering. And that’s all.

  53. BeccaM says:

    Thanks, Ford.

  54. BeccaM says:

    That’s the charge they use when someone tries to video-record one or more officers beating a helpless suspect. So yeah, it’s been done.

  55. Ford Prefect says:

    Ya know, yours is a great post. I can’t just let it go with a flippant remark, as it keeps coming back, reflecting all sorts of crazy crap this country puts up with. Cops make stuff up. Prosecutors make stuff up. Politicians make stuff up. It’s all good.

    Yesterday, my FB thread had someone playing “shoot the messenger” with Snowden. Again, more people making stuff up simply to protect their willfully ignorant sensibilities. My effort at deconstructing that thread was quite good (or so I thought), yet it proved ineffective.

    I’m rambling, I know. But you’ve really hit a nerve with this one. Well done.

  56. WilmRoget says:

    The solution here is to identify young family members of the DA and the cops using glitter, and have them arrested as terrorists – at school, on a play date, where ever. If glitter is ‘bio terrorism’ when activists use it – then it is bio terrorism when anyone, including the family of cops and DA’s use it.

  57. Ford Prefect says:

    Indeed, it was the cops and DA who decided to charge a fake crime in the first place. It’s nice that they can just make shit up, isn’t it?

  58. LanceThruster says:

    Committing no crime will be – Interfering with the duties of a peace officer.

  59. BeccaM says:

    These days they’ll find something to charge you with.

  60. BeccaM says:

    Worse — from the story descriptions and reports, it wasn’t even an attempt at an act of ‘fake terrorism’ on the part of the protesters. As everyone knows, it’s all but impossible to keep glitter contained and glued down to anything.

    It was the cops who decided to escalate an accidental glitter release into a felony crime.

    Still, 10 years, even if the crime were legitimately charged, seems wildly excessive. Then again, we here in America seem to be obsessed with terror.

  61. LanceThruster says:

    And I suppose flipping off a cop is now aggravated assault?

  62. karmanot says:

    What’s next?—roving bands of Negro youths?

  63. cole3244 says:

    i know i live in america and like a fool fought for my country but i don’t recognize it nor would i fight for it again because it practices politics that oppose my sense of fairness.

    america does not resemble the one i once knew since i took off those rose colored glasses long ago.

  64. Ford Prefect says:

    The mind boggles. On the one hand, committing a fake crime results in ten years in the slammer. On the other, helping terrorists launder money (a real crime) means Profits and presumably a White House luncheon at some point!

    I’m so glad our society has its priorities in order.

  65. PeteWa says:

    but destroying the gulf coast… that will just get you future profits.

  66. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, well, these are probably the same sorts who, upon seeing a store display of flashlights will automatically pick the black one because its packaging says “TACTICAL.”

    Because everybody knows ‘tactical’ gear is better, mainly because it’s black and has angled edges or whatever.

  67. Monoceros Forth says:

    I also like the idea that dressing all in black in public during the day and unrolling a big red glittery banner several yards long can be called “covert”.

  68. Monoceros Forth says:

    I’m not sure what’s worse, the possibility that the cops were consciously looking for some sort of vindictive excuse to punish a few protesters and lit upon the “bioterrorism attack” justification after a bit of brainstorming, or the possibility that the cops really were so stupid and paranoid that they saw a bit of glitter on a sign and genuinely thought it was anthrax.

    By the way, let me just say, I really don’t give a flying f–k what’s in some thuggish cop’s fevered brain when he decides to, oh, shoot an unarmed man or beat him to death or accuse him of terrorism. “I genuinely believed my life was in danger!” is always the cry. So goddamn what? That’s supposed to make me feel better and pardon your crimes just because you’ve got a bad case of the nerves?

  69. BeccaM says:

    Yep. ‘Somewhat transient looking’ and ‘some wearing all black’ = Pretty much a description of any earnest young anti-establishment protester.

    The cops were trying retroactively to create menace where none existed.

  70. perljammer says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the “terrorist hoax” charges will be reduced to something akin to “creating a disturbance” or perhaps “trespassing”, and the sentence will be approximately “time served”.

  71. Indigo says:

    “Somewhat transient looking” and “some were wearing all black.” Oh dearie me, the Church Lady has taken over. Well then, Hobos and Anarchists unite! We have nothing to loose but our comfortable clothes!

  72. lless says:

    Terrorism is the hooliganism charge of American jurisprudence.

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