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Seattle PD drowning #BlackLivesMatter rally with Christmas tunes

Date: November 28, 2015

Yesterday I attended the whitest #BlackLivesMatter rally that I’ve ever seen in downtown Seattle. I have things to say about the whiteness of the Seattle BLM crowd or the seemingly opportunistic white socialist/communist/anarchist/lefty/etc. groups promoting themselves at BLM rallies, but that’s not the topic for this post.

BLM Seattle Banner

As I arrived at the Westlake Park where the rally was held, I immediately realized that I could not hear anything speakers were saying because of the loud Christmas songs blasted through the sound system in the park. But this being the Black Friday for the rest of the community, I thought the music was something that just came with it in a busy shopping area like the Westlake Center area. But it wasn’t.

The sound was blasting from the “Pine Street Holiday Stage” set up in the park, but the stage was not in use at the time.

BLM Seattle Stage

And the music was not endless looping track: there was a hired DJ in the audio booth set up for this stage, along with at least a dozen police officers inside the fence protecting the booth. The man in the top right of the next photo is the DJ. I looked at his computer screen and verified that the music was coming from the computer.

BLM Seattle DJ

Of course there were cops everywhere—several dozens of them, including some on the second floor balcony looking over the park. Curiously, they were almost all on one side of the park facing Macy’s and Nordstrom.

BLM Seattle Cops

After a while, the march began, leaving the park almost empty. At that moment, the music also stopped. And it started blasting again from the sound system about fifteen minutes later when the march that went around a few blocks came back to the park.

BLM Seattle March

BLM Seattle Return

I understand that police officers were “just doing their job” surveilling the rally and protecting fancy department stores. But intentionally drowning the rally by blasting Christmas songs near the rally (perhaps the DJ was hired by the business association or something, but he was clearly collaborating with the police) seems more than a little pathetic and mean-spirited.

Dear the white BLM participant holding a sign demanding more “trainings” for police officers, do you really think that’s the solution?

(Also posted on Tumblr)

New Zine: Against Japanese “Comfort Women” Denialism in the U.S.

Date: November 9, 2014

“Against Japanese ‘Comfort Women’ Denialism in the U.S.” was written in response to the recent rise of Japanese right-wing nationalist activities among some of the Japanese residents in Southern California (not Japanese Americans, but Japanese people from Japan), especially their campaign against resolutions, memorials, and other recognitions of Japanese “comfort women” during the WWII by U.S. cities.

This zine analyzes the “talking points” of Japanese right-wing nationalists, and applies the same nuanced approach to the issue of “comfort women” that the author (a co-founder of Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization) has advocated for in the contemporary anti-trafficking movement for many years, pointing out precisely what responsibilities Japanese government bears.

The zine is available for purchase online, or at the upcoming workshop “Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Nationalism in Southern California this Friday, November 14th at UCLA.

Faces of CW Denialism

Canadian city council candidate Paul Pesach Gray’s intellectual dishonesty [Update: Retracted]

Date: August 15, 2014

London, Ontario city council candidate Paul Pesach Gray just published a blog post in support of Bill C-36 that is aimed at suppressing prostitution by targeting “johns and pimps.” That isn’t particularly newsworthy, but it became relevant to me when he decided to quote me (out of context) and attack me as “un-compassionate and short-sighted.”

Let’s read what Mr. Gray wrote.

According to sex trade activist and opponent of Bill C-36 Emi Koyama, in War on Terror & War on Trafficking:

Many more (sex trade workers) cannot get or keep other jobs because of mental health issues, addictions, criminal record, immigration status, or discrimination (and a severe lack of social resources to help them with these issues).

Basically, what Koyama is saying is that prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from mental health issues, addiction, discrimination (which must be proven on a case by case basis) and people who might stand to be deported from Canada, or at the very least must clarify their immigration status but haven’t done so for reasons unknown.

Why doesn’t Ms. Koyama and others who share her opinion put more energy into improving the social resources which they say are lacking so severely? Why defer to the “soft bigotry of low expectations”?

First of all, he is wrong to describe me as an “opponent of Bill C-36.” I have not taken a position on the bill at all, as I am not familiar with the Canadian situation and do not want to speak over our Canadian friends that the law would impact, though I am aware that many Canadian progressives, (intersectional) feminists, and sex worker activists and allies oppose the bill. Mr. Gray needs to dialogue with members of Canadian society who oppose the bill, rather than quoting an American who has not even made a single statement about Bill C-36 (until now, that is).

Mr. Gray summarizes my quote as “prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from” various social and economic circumstances that diminish their ability to find other sources of income. The quote comes from a blog post which was later included in the booklet he mentions.

Here is the concluding paragraph of the blog post/article:

In short, “end demand” campaign is harmful to women because it diminishes their bargaining power, forcing them to do more for less money, with more dangerous johns, under less safe environments. We cannot criminalise our way out of the current situation; we must address social and economic concerns with solutions that aim at achieving social and economic justice. We can begin to do so by funding affordable housing, childcare, treatment programs on-demand (instead of many months’ wait list), and education and job training programs, instead of more jail beds or police cars or some “class” for the johns to take.

I think it is clear that I am in fact arguing that we must “put more energy into improving the social resources which they are lacking so severely,” as Mr. Gray says, rather than merely accepting the status quo, as Mr. Gray alleges.

Even after (supposedly) reading my article, however, Mr. Gray does not respond to my argument that “end demand” strategy is harmful to women; he simply ignores my main argument, or the fact that I have not even made a single statement about Bill C-36 until now, and quotes me out of context to paint opponents of Bill C-36 as “un-compassionate and short-sighted,” when in reality he is the one promoting un-compassionate and short-sighted approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations.

I don’t know much about Canadian politics, but this kind of intellectual dishonesty (more than any political disagreements) would put me off as a voter if he were running for an office in my city.


I received the following email from Mr. Gray’s campaign manager.

Dear Emi Koyama:

Paul is sincerely sorry for mischaracterizing your work and important message.
He is currently in the processes of removing your name from the post and is putting together a public statement of apology to you.
Basically, Paul had received the information he posted to the web from this source:
In the future, Paul plans to do further research and even contact those he quotes.
Again, Paul is sorry and will publish the public apology/retraction by the end of today.

Brian Moskowitz

Sent from my iPhone


Brian Moskowitz: Campaign Manager

Ward 4 City Council Candidate:
Paul Pesach Gray

Thank you, Mr. Gray, for acknowledging the mistake. So it appears that Mr. Gray saw my quote second-hand in a University of Manitoba student newspaper, and did not do further research to find out the context (and assumed the worst).

Given that, I realize now that calling Mr. Gray’s writing “intellectual dishonesty” was a bit too harsh. However, it was intellectually lazy for sure, and I appreciate his retraction.


Mr. Gray issued a public apology over his mischaracterisation of my work. Thank you for your prompt response!

Meanwhile, a pro-criminalization activist insists that it was okay for Mr. Gray to defame me because I “align with the ‘sex work’ lobby,” whatever that is.

Natasha Falle tweets

I was attacked at the Tea Party rally–but not by Tea Party members.

Date: April 18, 2011

This past Friday, April 15th, I went to the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland to check out the Tea Party tax day rally. It was my second time attending a big Tea Party event after the Oregon Tea Party convention right before the 2010 election, which was at the warehouse of a gun shop (I’m not making this up). Readers of this blog may remember that I’ve also attended an Oregon Right to Life rally in the past.

I of course do not support these groups, but I am interested in learning about groups and people who are politically active and hold views that are very different from my own. I am particularly interested in reading hand-made signs people bring to these political events, because I feel that they demonstrate the inner logic and emotions of people who hold (what I believe to be) reprehensible views more than any official speakers, or FOX News hosts that repeat lines calculated to energize the crowd.

So here are some of the signs I saw at the rally:

“Obama’s spending means freedom’s ending”
“Cut taxes, cut spending, no more pork”
“Are you better off than you were 4 trillion ago?”
“Re-distribute my work ethic, not my wealth”
“Less gov = more love”
“God bless the USA #1”
“Obama – Don’t let your socialist chefs cook Ameria’s goose”
“We the people own this house” (picture of capitol)
“Obama… You’re Fired!” (picture of Donald Trump)
“Wake up America – The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants”
“Prosperity follows liberty”
“Give me liberty not debt”
“Hell no to tyranny”
“Impeach Comrade Obama”
“Your ‘fair share’ is not in my bank account”
“We are not a piggy bank” (worn by young children)
“My debt today is $45,979.25” (worn by young children)
“Stop Obamunism before it stops U.S.”
“Taxation is theft!”
“Who caused the recession? The federal reserve bank!”
“$ support police fire military not banks”

As this was the tax day rally, many signs focused on taxes and how they take away (economic) liberty. Several speakers made critical comments about the public transit system Portland is famous for, and how they must stop the light rail’s expansion to Milwaukie and Lake Oswego, both of which are predominantly white suburbs to the south of Portland. Public transit is a public system funded in part by tax money, but I felt that there was more to their opposition than simply that they oppose public projects; it seemed that they disliked these suburbs connected to Portland by fast light rail because they think that it would bring criminals and other undesirables (including people of color, except those who clean their houses and cook their meals) to their neighborhoods in the suburbs.

There was also a small group of protesters who showed signs opposing the Tea Party. Here are their messages:

“Tea puppets for Koch”
“Tea puppet fascist”
“A future with the Tea Party: Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever”
“Pay your taxes asshole”
“The party is over”
“Free humanity not free market”
“My movement isn’t paid for”
“Support people not corporate greed”
“Tea Party – No bright ideas from dimwits”
“Don’t be a Koch sucker”
“Tea Party – This is not 1773”
“Veterans Against a Dick Armey”
“Tax wealth like work!”

In case you didn’t recognize the name, “Koch” (pronounced Coke) refers to billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who have contributed close to 200 million dollars in the last ten years in conservative politics and is now the biggest funder of Tea Party groups such as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. Dick Armey by the way is a former congressman who heads FreedomWorks now. The sign stating “My movement isn’t paid for” is a snipe at how Tea Party claims to be a grass-roots movement of regular people, but is in fact heavily financed by super-rich like Koch brothers. But that doesn’t justify the statement “Don’t be a Koch sucker,” which, given the context, I find homophobic.

Some statements like “Pay your taxes asshole” seems to be an attack on the tax breaks rich people and corporations enjoy, but directing that at average Tea Party attendees doesn’t make very much sense, considering the fact that most of them are not rich. Calling them “puppets” or “fascists” probably only leads to further polarization, which make us forget that many Tea Party participants are angry about the same thing that those of us on the left/liberal/progressive are, which is the bailout of rich bankers while the rest of us struggle to find or keep employment and pay rent or mortgage or healthcare costs. I don’t agree with their solutions, but calling them fascists does nothing to improve the situation.

I experienced first hand what being called fascist feels like. I was taking pictures of Tea Party, and then moved on to the gathering of protesters to take their photos as well. But as I approached the protesters, I was surrounded by three white men who began yelling and screaming at me from three directions “Fascist!” “Go home teabagger!” “We’ll post you on YouTube” and various insults about my appearance. They apparently thought that I was a supporter of Tea Party, but this is not an acceptable treatment of another human being even if I were one.

At first, I didn’t want to tell them that I’m not a Tea Party supporter, because I didn’t want to imply that it was okay to act this way to someone if they were one. But I felt scared for my safety, so after some hesitation I told them “hey guys, I’m on your side.” But when I thought about it, I’m not really on their side: I oppose Tea Party, but I also oppose people who lack some basic level of civility and common decency.

My feeling was further reinforced when I saw the only physical violence that took place that evening. Pioneer Courthouse Square has a theatre-like stairs on the edge where protesters were gathering while Tea Party rally took place at the base of the stairs, but there was an elderly woman on a wheelchair on the other corner of the top of the stairs. She was sitting there by herself with a Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread On Me” with the rattle snake), which Tea Party as adopted as a symbol. It made sense that she would sit there: it’d be dangerous for someone on a wheelchair to be in the middle of a crowd, and she wouldn’t be able to see the stage if she went to the square.

At one point, several protesters walked over to the woman and surrounded her with big signs, blocking her sight. They also used whistle to make loud noise next to her so that she could not see or hear the rally. Someone carrying a Tea Party sign noticed this, and came over to demand that the protesters leave her alone. Protesters ignored him, so he jumped on the protester holding the sign and took him down. Others from Tea Party saw this, rushed over, and quickly separated the two.

As much as I oppose Tea Party and I also oppose violence, in this particular instance I totally support the Tea Party guy who came to defend the elderly woman who was surrounded and intimidated by the protesters. She probably benefits personally from government programs like Medicare and social security quite a bit, programs that would be eliminated if Tea Party had its way, but it doesn’t matter: there simply is no justification for behaving the way some protesters did. Who is fascist here?

It appeared that most of the rational, reasonable liberals and progressives did not show up to protest Tea Party, perhaps because Tea Party is not a big factor in Portland. But these protesters do nothing to promote rationality and civil discourse and probably push Tea Party attendees to be even more extreme in their convictions. If I was a Tea Party supporter and experienced what I experienced that evening, it would probably make me less likely to listen to those who protest Tea Party. And if I was a Tea Party supporter and witnessed the protesters’ harassment of the elderly woman, I would further strengthen my belief in the moral superiority of the Tea Party movement.

I don’t question that Tea Party is a fundamentally deceptive and irrational movement fueled in no small part by racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and other prejudices. But if those of us who oppose Tea Party also practice these same prejudices or inhumane treatment of other humans, we are simply creating a left-wing version of the Tea Party movement. Still feeling scared from the hostile encounter, I went home feeling disappointed by the protesters’ inability to imagine something better.