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September 14, 2006

 In the News

Heading: Short Stories


CULTURE CITATION: A mixed lot of music fans showed up at the HSU quad Saturday afternoon for the Sixth Annual Fall Harvest Festival, a production of the Associated Students. It was mostly a college crowd. A few club kids were there for the rhythmic "outernational" music spun by Algerian-born DJ Cheb i Sabbah, a cool cat wearing sphoto of Everton Blenderhades and a fuzzy red sweatshirt who smoked clove cigarettes as he laid down an Arabic beat.

Left: Everton Blender. Photo by Bob Doran

Cheb was pretty much the only one smoking. While it's not unusual to catch a whiff of the distinctive smell of marijuana smoke at any outdoor music gathering in Humboldt, that was not the case Saturday, perhaps because the crowd was aware that the vigilant eye of the campus police might well be watching. That remained the case even after a smattering of dreadlocked reggae fans started showing up as 3 p.m. approached. They'd come to see Everton Williams, aka Everton Blender, a dreadlocked Jamaican reggae star, backed by the Blendem Band. But when the clock on the tower showed that reggae time had come, DJ Cheb played on. The reggae set was delayed for more than 45 minutes for reasons unknown to the audience. In fact, Everton and his band almost did not play at all.

As anyone vaguely familiar with the Rastafarian roots of reggae knows, "the herb" is crucial in the Rasta lifestyle. Prior to his performance Everton and one of his bandmates discreetly retired to a wooded trail behind the University Center for a smoke. As they were returning to the venue, they were stopped by a member of the University Police Dept. Saying she was responding to a call, she claimed she smelled smoke and asked the musicians to empty their pockets. Among the items Everton pulled out of his coat was a pack of rolling papers and a small quantity of marijuana. He was busted. The officer gave him a choice: Leave campus immediately or receive a citation for herb. Leaving was not really an option. The crowd was waiting to hear him sing. The show must go on. He agreed to the citation, and before long the air was filled with the throbbing bass lines of reggae music.

Aaron Bailey serves as an AS Presents commissioner and sits on the executive counsel of HSU Associated Students. He sees the incident as "borderline harassment," with a racial element.

"I think they were targeted because of the culture they come from," said Bailey in a call from Associated Students offices. "The office of the president [Rollin Richmond] has been adamant about covering up the marijuana culture and denying its existence at the university."

Bailey's fear is that black artists performing on campus are being singled out. "At events with white performers there's not the same campus police presence. When Particle played at the Kate Buchanan Room recently and Deerhoof played the next night, there was not the same police presence. But when it's hip hop or reggae there seem to be plenty of officers available. I think there is a connection," he said.

As to the "harassment" of Everton Blender, Bailey noted, "Not only did she give him that ultimatum, she also insisted he leave directly after the show. And she gave one of their vehicles a parking ticket."

As Williams/Blender left the stage he was asked about the citation. "I didn't know, mon," he remarked in a thick Jamaican accent. With fans thanking him for his performance he quickly left campus. The officer who had busted him was there to make sure he did so. Before leaving, he gave her copies of a couple of his latest CDs. She asked could she have one more thing. She needed his autograph. She'd somehow forgotten to have him sign his citation.

-- Bob Doran


FOG OF WAR: At 6 p.m. on Monday the little patch of lawn and concrete beneath the squarish-mphoto of protestod edifice of the Eureka County Courthouse seemed to hover in its own private patch of sunshine -- or maybe the whole city had lit up for the moment, during a time when the evening fog should have been flowing in to muffle, comfort and obscure.

Yes, it was all light and calls-for-reality out there on the courthouse steps, where several Scholars for 911 Truth and members of the 911 Truth Humboldt organization had gathered to read their speeches. Nearly 50 people collected on the sidewalk and benches around them to listen and chime in, offering at times a bit of call-and-response: "Why does it take 411 days to begin an investigation of these events?" shouted speaker Joe Shermis, at one point. A cleanshaven young man in the audience yelled back: "Because it's a cover-up." "Thank you," replied Shermis. The man nodded, with a tight smile.

Tables next to the sidewalk held posters, including one dedicated to Richard Guadagno, the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge manager who died on Flight 93, and books and suggested reading lists: The New Pearl Harbor, by David Ray Griffin (one speaker read extensively from this book), The 9/11 Commission Report -- Omissions and Distortions, also by Griffin, Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert, and 9/11 Synthetic Terror, by Webster Griffin Tarpley.

Traffic roared past on 101 North -- many cars beeping in a friendly fashion, and one pent-up bugger yelling "Fuckers!" and something else that was dopplered beyond meaning. Meanwhile, a tender breeze gradually plucked apart a section of the long streamer of paper that was wrapped around three palm trees to form a sort of triangle of remembrance: On the paper were the names of the people who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Even in tiny print, on a banner coming undone and trailing on the grass, those names could produce thunder in the mind.

But for many of the folks gathered here, the thunder is in the form of skepticism -- which they insist is not to be confused with conspiracy theory -- and their growing sense that, perhaps, our own government masterminded the whole 9/11 tragedy. Among many things, they ask: What really hit the Pentagon? What really happened to Flight 93 in that field in Pennsylvania? And was it just airplanes that took down the Twin Towers in New York City, or controlled demolitions? And what about the mysteriously collapsing World Trade Center Building 7 -- 911 Truthers say researchers have shown it collapsed similarly to the other two towers even though a plane didn't fly into it.

The speeches were rife with citations of the names of scientists and engineers who question what the public has been told about 9/11, and of the other times in history where, College of the Redwoods speechifier Jake Gaeta said, the government has conducted a "false flag operation" against its own citizenry to further its aims. "Would our own government carry out an attack like 9/11?" Gaeta asked. "History says it's possible. We need to ask questions, and demand answers."

Afterward, people lingered, talked. Mark Konkler, standing by the info table, said he wasn't sure he knew enough to go so far as to say our government orchestrated the attacks. "But certainly we know about a plan to take down the buildings, and the administration chose to do nothing about it," he said.

Frank Cullinan spoke with more conviction: "I am amazed that, over the last year, the truth of 9/11 is starting to come out. And the truth is, a bunch of angry brown people was not behind 9/11."

And with that everyone drifted away in ones and twos. The fog would roll back in later, heavily, in the night.

-- Heidi Walters



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