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FBI Continues to Target Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis (VIDEO)

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

On December 6th, Chicagoans came out for an Emergency Response Rally organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression to support activists who have been targeted by the FBI in the past months. Those present stood in the cold and condemned U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been directing the FBI to expand its repression of activists in Chicago.

The rally specifically addressed the recent targeting of three young women who had traveled to Palestine last summer. On Friday, December 3rd, they were given subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury on January 25, 2011. Since then, two more individuals have been subpoenaed. This new wave of repression came a week after subpoenas for three activists in Minneapolis -” Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sarah Martin -” were re-activated and asked to appear before a Grand Jury again after refusing to speak to a Grand Jury in October.

The father of one of the Chicago women subpoenaed, Stan Smith, appeared at the rally and read a statement from her daughter, Sarah Smith, “Friday morning I received a phone call from an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he was not at liberty to discuss it.”

“I felt there was something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were,” read Smith. “I reiterated that it would be much easier for me to sit down with him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said it had to deal with a trip I took this last summer. He emphasized I think you know, which one I’m talking about.”

Smith noted, “I don’t think I need to speak in defense of her character. While she was in high school, Crain’s Chicago Business had a special edition called the “100 Most Influential Women in Chicago” and they chose my daughter as being one of Chicago’s six most influential and up-and-coming women high school students. Crain’s Chicago Business chose her partly because they saw she was willing to travel to different parts of the world and see for herself and to make up her own mind about what was happening over there. Evidently, the FBI thinks that there is something criminal in doing that.”

Subpoenaed activist Stephanie Weiner, who had her home raided by the FBI on September 24th of this year, lamented the fact that more activists were being subpoenaed and explained it was being done to put fear, intimidate and divide members of activist movements in the country. She outlined the fact that they are from many different movements: union, immigrant rights, justice, and Latin American and Palestinian solidarity movements.

Matt Brandon of SEIU Local 73 said, “When people can’t get together and peacefully protest without being threatened by arrest or a raid or a subpoena, it’s a sad state of affairs.” He provided a brief history of how dissent has been repressed in America and why it is important for all movements to come together and fight bac

The hunting down of activists began on September 24th when the FBI raided homes and offices of activists from Minneapolis and Chicago. Computers, phones, documents and other personal items were seized and the FBI officially subpoenaed 14 activists to appear before a Grand Jury. The FBI began to contact members of the “peace community” and ask them what they knew about the subpoenaed activists’ “material support for terrorism.”

The attorneys representing the activists have noted “the current definition of “material support’ can cover just about anything, like providing humanitarian aid that ends up in the hands of a group tagged as ‘terrorist’ by the US government, or posting a link to an informational website. The implications of this law, as it is being used, are troubling to anyone who does community organizing, or anyone who does journalistic reporting or academic research on wars, conflicts or controversial movements.”

Months later, the activists in Minneapolis and Chicago have not been charged with a crime, but they continue to face possible jail time if they refuse to go before a Grand Jury and participate in this “witch hunt.” They have yet to have their belongings, which were seized by the FBI, returned.

In the face of repression, activists across the nation have held actions in cities to show solidarity with activists who have been targeted. In Minneapolis, supporters held a protest outside Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. And, a delegation of people has visited Congress to inform key House and Senate members of the FBI’s targeting of individuals engaged in activism.

In Chicago, those opposed to the FBI raids plan to meet with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Members of the Committee have noted in recent weeks that some in Congress have been briefed on the actions of the FBI but, for the most part, few know what is happening to activists in Chicago and Minneapolis.

The Committee to Stop FBI repression designated December 9th as a “Call-In Day” and urged supporters and those concerned to call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and demand that he end the “witch hunt” on activists in America.

Here is a video from the rally in Chicago on December 9th:

The New Republic’s Sean Wilentz Greatly Misunderstands Movement Politics

8:39 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


People from various social movements gather for “One Nation Working Together,” a rally held on Oct. 2nd that demonstrated movements in America are convinced they must depend heavily on the Democratic Party for success. | Photo by Kevin Gosztola

Sean Wilentz, writer for The New Republic, thinks he understands why the Obama Administration has floundered: movement politics has undone and unraveled his presidency. To a point, Wilentz would be right, but the conclusion that Wilentz comes to is to utterly disregard movements and engage in “‘status quo’ politics” to save his presidency and ensure re-election in 2012.

A look at recent columns on “movements” and “activism” in the country would likely reveal that there is nothing all that exceptional about Wilentz’s view. It’s conventional wisdom in professional journalism. All the more reason to dissect his viewpoint.

His article titled, “Live By the Movement, Die by the Movement,” characterizes social movement politics as “Obama’s doomed theory.” The outline of history on how a veteran union organizer and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Marshall Ganz, was “hired as an Obama campaign official and charged with training volunteers” may be interesting to some who are unaware with how Obama developed his campaign.

Peter Dreier, a member of Progressives for Obama and a politics professor at Occidental College, also receives some attention as a publicist who posted articles to The Huffington Post, The American Prospect, and Dissent. Dreier apparently channeled “memories of the civil rights and farmworker union movement, imbued with high moral as well as political purposes,” to help develop a campaign that could “transform the very sum and substance of the political system.”

Readers are reminded that President Obama, as president, would be “organizer-in-chief” tapping into movements that elected him to “reform health care, end global warming, and restore economic prosperity.” The movements would provide President Obama with the opening to bring change the people believed in. But, unfortunately, as progressives or liberals know, things didn’t go as planned.

After the midterm election, Ganz, according to Wilentz, charged that President Obama “lost his organizer’s fire and neglected to deliver the wonderful speeches that would frame the political course for the movement.” He “lamely sought reform”inside the system structured to resist change” and ignored, in fact, scorned “liberal and leftist advocacy groups.” Networks on MyBarackObama.com were demobilized and he became “transactional” instead of “transformational.” (President Obama acknowledged this reality in his post-midterm election press conference saying he had hoped to change processes but in the end his Administration had been in such a hurry to get things done that they didn’t change how it was done.)

Wilentz argues that Ganz does not understand is that bringing movement politics into the presidency “may have been a dead end” and that it may have “helped foster an inevitable disillusionment.” Here is where Wilentz starts to misunderstand and craft a false understanding of movements and politics in America.

If Ganz is right that President Obama and his administration ignored and scorned advocacy groups–which they did—Wilentz is proceeding a premise that doesn’t exist. In order to criticize movement politics in the White House as a failure, movement politics would have had to be employed by its members. Say one entertains the idea that movement politics were tried, what about Wilentz’s concepts on movement politics?

Wilentz’s suggests “fundamental to the social movement model is a conception of American political history in which movements, and not presidents, are the true instigators for change. Presidents are merely reactive. They are not the main protagonists.” He says Obama “endorsed” this idea when he proclaimed, “Real change comes from the bottom up.” He adds an example: people who believe this model claim President Abraham Lincoln would “never have been the Great Emancipator had the abolitionists not pushed him to do so.”

Interwoven in this article is the deep-seated contempt Wilentz had and still has for the late Howard Zinn. He was asked by the Los Angeles Times to provide his opinion on Zinn’s work as a historian. Wilentz told the newspaper, “To a point, he helped correct mainstream popular conceptions of American history that were highly biased. But he ceased writing serious history. He had a very simplified view that everyone who was president was always a stinker and every left-winger was always great.”

Wilentz also told the newspaper, Zinn “saw history primarily as a means to motivate people to political action that he found admirable. That’s what he said he did. It’s fine as a form of agitation — agitprop — but it’s not particularly good history.”

If one knows that Wilentz utterly rejects the notion history has been determined by people at the bottom, it becomes obvious that his essay will likely be one designed to disparage the idea that political leaders allow movement politics to influence their governance.

He argues that “Abraham Lincoln did not have to be awoken to the evils of slavery; he hated slavery all his life” so “the idea of change coming from below, of course, is simplistic.” If one ignores the recent history books published (which are featured in this article from US News & World Report), Wilentz is correct. But, President Lincoln did not believe that the Constitution granted states and territories the freedom to abolish slavery. He thought he had to avoid the issue of slavery as president to preserve the Union. Black abolitionist and “radical” Republicans helped shift the political climate and create the opening that led President Lincoln to propose the idea of emancipation.

After providing his version of history on President Lincoln and the abolition of slavery, Wilentz shoots down Ganz and Dreier’s idea that what had been liberal or Democratic politics had been suffering a “values” problem. There’s reason to criticize Ganz and Dreier, who were likely responding to conventional wisdom promoted by the corporate media in 2004 that “moral values” influenced people’s votes. But, Ganz and Dreier were smart to try and ignite a movement based on “feelings and values.” If the Bush Administration had done anything to citizens, it had made them feel powerless and wary of government. The people desired a leader to campaign and contend they could put this country back on the right course and ensure government returned to upholding the values and principles it should uphold.

Wilentz correctly brings out a paradox: that the movement leader, President Obama, would now push politicians to create change when he was in the White House. Such a paradox compels one to ask, did his position in the White House effectively mean whatever “movement” built up prior to his election was destined to splinter and dissipate completely? Possibly.

What’s missing from this analysis of movement politics is a mentioning of the influence of corporate and special interest money, especially money from Wall Street, which Obama used to fund his campaign. And, what’s missing is an understanding that the people in his “movement” ceased to be “grassroots” when they began to take marching orders and go to “Camp Obamas” run by campaign leaders. This meant the “movement” was now under the control of the Obama campaign and their votes were not up for grabs and they could be counted on to be foot soldiers for the campaign.

Typically in history, movements have run leaders to wage electoral struggles for social justice. The Anti-Slavery Party (which later became the Republican Party) and the Liberty Party were both parties that ran against slavery in the mid-1800s. They made it possible for the issue of slavery to become a mainstream issue and understood they had to have an electoral component as well as a social movement component to their struggle to end slavery.

A better analysis from Wilentz would suggest that because the “movement” didn’t run a leader for president the dynamics of movement politics were different. While Obama appeared to understand bottom-up or grassroots politics, the campaign still expected to exact a level of control over the people who wanted to see him win. The campaign did regulate what issues were important to the campaign and what were not. And, when factions of the campaign took issue with Obama (like when he voted for the FISA Amendments Act and supported the expanded use of wiretapping), those factions were mollified quickly.

In concluding his essay, Wilentz illuminates how Obama’s post-partisan attempts to work with the Republican Party failed and then proceeds to suggest that Obama must engage in “day-to-day political trench warfare” like President Clinton did after 1994 in order to survive politically. Such a conclusion raises the question: Can a historian understand movement history if he or she is not a participant in any movements?

Wilentz’s solution sounds very similar to other commentators’ suggestions that Obama must uphold centrist politics because liberalism or “left-wing politics” lost severely in the midterm election. His prescription for Obama is a liberal intelligentsia answer to solving the current woes the president faces. It does not consider how “day-to-day political trench warfare” would impact citizens and it does not ask why citizens should favor that tactic.

Ultimately, his essay is lazy. He doesn’t address any of the interest groups that have tried to influence Obama since his election. He offers no insight on how groups advocating for healthcare for all or a public option were asked to remain in a proverbial veal pen so the Administration could continue to get away with backroom deals with private insurance and drug companies designed to prevent the companies from killing the health reform legislation. He does not discuss all the organizing unions have engaged in for President Obama and how the Administration has opted to protect Wall Street instead of showing interest in improving the wellbeing of workers in America and what that might mean for movement politics. And, he does not discuss the environmentalist movement or the peace movement and how they have been valiantly trying to organize in a climate where independent activism is becoming more marginalized.

Oddly, the Tea Party doesn’t enter into this analysis at all. He doesn’t address their impact on the public’s conception of movement politics. Are Americans to assume they aren’t really a movement? Or should Americans be informed of how corporations are using fearful Americans to co-opt and revise the history of social movements in this country to fit their capitalist agenda?

The people’s interests aren’t and will never be the same as the interests of political leaders in America. The people are not politicians. They are citizens. They don’t have corporate financiers. They don’t need to worry about getting re-elected or staying on message. They don’t need to craft an identity. Their interests involve fixing communities and upholding values that do not provide cover for the destruction of humanity. Their interests should be survival and, therefore, when the top 1% seek to concentrate all wealth at the top and keep it out of the hands of the lower classes, that should be regarded as an affront to survival.

If, in fact, Obama sought to utilize any “movement” over the past two years, the failure isn’t because he was inept or didn’t know what to do. The reality is history indicates movements have been managed and herded into supporting Democratic presidential candidates for decades. Movement leaders have willingly allowed the Democratic Party to herd their movement and then splinter it in two by proposing reforms that will divide movements (e.g. proposing a public option which splintered those who favored “Medicare for All” lessening the impact of health care activists).

Restoring Sanity to Our Elections: Are We Managers of Democracy or Citizens?

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Many of the people who energized support for Barack Obama in 2008 gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the “One Nation Working Together” rally.  by Kevin Gosztola

Our electoral and political system is broken, co-opted by corporate and military interests. That is why we are talking about restoring sanity. That is why we see people, Republican and Democrat, wishing the polarization of politics stops.

A vacuum has grown in American politics thanks to Democratic Party leaders who have abandoned the notion of waging crucial debates and putting forth new ideas. They now instead behave like staff members of a marketing communications or public relations firm. They handle the president’s agenda and message to the people and finesse arguments to justify timidity and spinelessness, which favors the wealthiest three or four percent of Americans and endangers the bottom ninety percent. This also endangers innocent civilians all over the world who continue to fall victim to wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberals and progressives who form the base of voters for the Democratic Party have failed to muster the courage to make Democrats bear the consequences of their transformation over the past decades into a corporate party. Upset, instead of offering a different vision, they defend politicians in the party hoping to curb Republican, Tea Party, and free market enterprise organizations who have gone on the offensive.

Choosing to do nothing more than defend the idea of voting or supporting Democrats, failing to fill the vacuum with a language for something other than a society that lauds the individual and loathes the notion that “we are all in this together” is why the Tea Party has enjoyed prominence.

Among people who participate in political discussions, it is increasingly difficult to nuance one’s support for Democratic or Republican politicians. Many think you either must be with one side or the other. This is what America’s two-party system does to its citizens.

Instead of focusing on what actions politicians have taken or failed to take, concerned citizens fight each other and accuse people who dare to vote outside the two parties of being responsible for enabling crimes or dark trends in society. Citizens beat each other into lining up behind one of the two parties, which for at least three elections have dealt with an American population wary of re-electing incumbents.

The two most prominent parties are co-opted by moneyed interests that neutralize our votes, they allow the dominance of money in politics to increase, and instead of breaking away and making reasonable calls for reforms to voting or elections, citizens fret about the possibility of spoilers. They fear being good to themselves and voting their conscience on Election Day.

Fear of “Purism” Bringing America Closer to Ruin

People especially Obama supporters are good and ready to argue a number of things will happen if Republicans are elected. But, how many of these things that are feared are already manifesting themselves in politics, government, or society in America?

One could say the Tea Party will be bad for gay people, but Democrats and President Obama have done very little to shift the consensus on rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in America. Obama has contradicted himself by expressing his view that he is a “fierce advocate” for gays and lesbians and then asserting that he is opposed to same-sex marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman. Even worse, in a legal brief filed in June 2009, Obama’s Justice Department “compared gay unions to incestuous ones and that of an underage girl in the sense that states have the right to not recognize marriages that are legal in other states or countries.” This happened days before the Democratic National Committee was to hit up the LGBT community for cash in a fundraiser featuring Biden (perhaps, he told them to “stop whining” then, too).

President Obama’s Department of Justice continues to obstruct a rescinding or repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That’s as conservative pundits like Bill O’Reilly and John Stossel genuinely or opportunistically express condemnation for the Obama Administration’s continued legal defense of the anti-homosexual military policy.

One could say the Tea Party will ensure that future-eaters continue to reign over America and imperil a world’s population because the Tea Party does not “believe” in the science of global warming. That supposes that Democrats would take steps that would begin to truly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lawyers with the Environmental Protection Agency, Laurie Williams & Allan Zabel, wrote in the Washington Post on current legislation on the table:

“The House and Senate climate bills are not a first step in the right direction. They would give away valuable rights in cap-and-trade permits and create a trillion-dollar carbon-offsets market that will not lead to needed reductions. Together, the illusion of greenhouse-gas reductions and the creation of powerful lobbies seeking to protect newly created profits in permits and offsets would lock in climate degradation for a decade or more. The near-term opportunity to create an effective international framework would also be lost.”

One could say the Tea Party will privatize Social Security. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has already opened the door for privatization by allowing Alan Simpson to lead a “Catfood Commission” or Deficit Commission to find ways to reduce America’s deficits. Simpson has displayed sharp ignorance about Social Security by promoting the Republican idea that Social Security is going bankrupt and is a burden on government. How could anyone have faith in an Administration’s effort to fight the privatization of Social Security when a man who said Social Security is “a milk cow with 310 million t-i-ts” is involved in putting together policy recommendation that will determine Social Security’s political future?

One could say the Tea Party will put food stamps programs at risk, but Democrats have already cut food stamps. They made cuts to fund education and health care. They chose austerity and cut the social program instead of taking money from defense, which is about 57% of the federal budget and could be significantly reduced.

On jobs and the economy, the top issue in the midterm election, the Tea Party’s gospel of free markets with a twist of Ayn Rand ideology would surely be bad for Americans. The GOP plan would raise the deficit $4 trillion. But, the Democrats are not a guaranteed panacea for fixing unemployment and making the economy work for all Americans instead of just the top 1%.

The Democrats are split on the Bush tax cuts, despite a Moody’s Investors Service report that “U.S. companies are hoarding almost $1 trillion in cash” and “are unlikely to spend on expanding their business and hiring new employees due to continuing uncertainty about the strength of the economy.” Lest you be optimistic about the split, the last time Democrats were this divided the people lost the public option or a Medicare buy-in. Conservative Democrats or Blue Dogs won the battle over what would be in health reform and would likely win the battle over tax cuts.

Finally, Obama supporters greatly fear a government shutdown or impeachment proceedings against Obama. Why the consternation? Democrats should welcome a shutdown. The shutdown Newt Gingrich briefly engaged in back in the 1990s likely contributed to President Clinton’s re-election in 1996. If Republicans displayed their obstructionism even more prominently, it would probably be easy for Democrats to sell themselves to voters in 2012 unless a number of Democrats became involved or complicit in the shutdown to win votes in their districts (not beyond the realm of possibility, many Democrats have run ads against supposed accomplishments of the Obama Administration).

The Democrats should also welcome endless investigations of Obama. What with Birthers, the Tea Party, and the fact that a poll has been released suggesting Bill Clinton is America’s most popular politician, the Democrats could on a daily basis remind Americans of how Republicans engaged in a hunting of President Clinton and stalled change and that is exactly what they are doing now. It would resonate because a significant amount of Americans remember the Clinton Years as being good years compared to the Dubya Years.

And, alas, there is little reason to fret about the possibility of a paralysis of government. Senate Democrats struck a bargain with Senate Republicans to block Obama nominees and prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments while senators were back home campaigning for the midterm elections. This means Republicans and Democrats are willing to either push for or be complicit in the paralysis of government.

Plus, in the run-up to the election, Democrats have failed to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and pass a 9/11 First Responders health care, a small business bill, and a defense supplemental. They also struggled to get jobless benefits extended. All they were able to get through were measures comparable to resolutions commending the University of Southern California men’s tennis team or acts to provide for the issuance of a Multinational Species Conservation Fund Symposium stamp.

Change Takes Time, Give Obama a Chance

Loyal Democrats and Obama supporters call reasoned debunking of fears disloyal, unforgiveable, and even criminal because they argue such thoughts enter the echo chamber of political debate, mesh with reactionary Tea Party outrage toward President Obama and make it harder for President Obama. That notion should be challenged. There is a key difference between the type of criticism offered above and that of the Tea Party, which Democrats are rightfully committed to defeating: it isn’t malicious nonsense based in racism or unfounded fears of socialism.

Also, as Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor-in-chief and journalist, said in a Live Chat earlier this year, criticism of the president would only strengthen the Obama Administration if it came from the grassroots and the people around him had to deliver to the people who vote.

Those who discuss what to do in politics and how to vote in elections are members of the informed citizenry, which Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson understood would be the “true repository of the public will.” People willing to engage each other are those who understand their responsibility toward shaping a political and social culture that will contribute to a society where all people share in setting the agenda and bear the consequences for agendas which jeopardize the wellbeing of the country.

Not just during elections, this citizenry is expected to not leave the most pressing issues untended. It is not to allow suffering or let profit-driven competition-oriented ethics pervert democratic culture. Yet, the nature of elections has us all behaving as pundits, strategists, or managers of democracy.

Saturated with advertising or political party propaganda filtered through print, radio, television, etc, the citizenry or grassroots that the experiment of democracy depends upon to survive begins to think and operate like the very bums it increasingly wishes to see out of power. It lets “electability” get in the way of supporting candidates, a corporate idea that primarily rests upon whether that candidate can raise millions or billions of dollars and demonstrate support from the private sector.

At the nation’s peril, those who most care about this country devalue elections by letting pundits choose the issues that matter. In this election, jobs and the economy became the top issue and how economic problems were framed. What if the framing had been unemployment and privatization? Or corporate power and accountability?

Wars are determined to be unimportant to Americans or unworthy of being a key election issue, a crude victory for the military industrial-complex or war profiteers who sap American taxpayer dollars and continue to waste the blood of US soldiers and civilians for their own gain. Three to four trillion dollars will be expended on Iraq, hundreds if not trillions more on Afghanistan, and, so, the wars are most certainly important and should be a part of any discussion of jobs and the economy.

Another key problem is the catnap the collective takes between elections. The late Howard Zinn understood how a people could truly bring hope and change to a country having seen an inspirational civil rights movement make huge gains in the Fifties and Sixties. In a still relevant article, “Election Madness,” he wrote:

“Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.

Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

Corporate executives and business managers are and have been waging direct action. They have foreseen what many of us have thought to be the unexpected and engaged in “crisis management” at the expense of Americans (e.g. the economic crisis of 2008). They have been ready to contain any change that citizens and politicians might deem fit for this country so that their enterprise does not face consequences for misconduct. They have even taken opportunities for change and aggressively turned those opportunities into chances to leverage power over government so they can reap huge financial or monetary advantages in the long run.

They have it easy with a revolving door spinning between their offices and the halls of power. But, that doesn’t mean citizens should go cynical and give up. It doesn’t mean they should let the failures of the Democratic and Republican Parties turn Americans cynical and pessimistic. And, it doesn’t mean it is required that citizens abbreviate or modify their condemnations of government to suit the so-called politics of the possible.

Voting one’s conscience wouldn’t be such a problem if one could point to key movements that are out in force making gains independent from the two political parties in between Election Days. Unfortunately, unions and civil rights organizations have been bought off by Democratic Party operatives and all the Republican Party is interested in is maximizing the efficiency of fake grassroots organizations, which are front groups for corporate and special interests in America.

Conclusion

There’s something insane about American elections, that’s for certain. But, it isn’t the Tea Party. It isn’t that we get candidates like Christine O’Donnell or Alvin Greene. It isn’t even that guys like the “Rent Is Too Damn High” candidate in New York somehow manage to get into debates. It’s the idea that only two candidates are allowed to run against each other and all other candidates, even if they win ballot access, are off limits to voters that is insane.

People who wish to restore sanity: having more than two candidates means society gets more than a party of “no” in power or a party of no ideas in power. It means a third or fourth person can cut through arguments that deepen division and offer input that may lead to democratic consensus necessary for true progress in society.

Open, free and fair multi-party elections won’t come now, but let this election be a teaching moment. Support for a third party alternative in politics is between fifty and sixty percent each time organizations poll Americans. And, surprisingly, Howard Dean has come out in favor of ranked choice voting, something that would do away with winner-take-all elections that have contributed to conflict among liberals or progressives.

Obama may not be able to change the culture or process of politics in Washington, but absent our involvement, we shouldn’t expect him to.

As Stewart said to President Obama, “Are we the people we were waiting for or does it turn out those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?”

There probably are phone calls to be made, but Americans do hold the answers to their future and can continue to push for a society supportive of all people, if they want it.

Chicago Activists Raided by FBI Refuse to Participate in “Fishing Expedition”

10:15 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Joe Iosbaker (left) and Stephanie Weiner (right) talk to the press about their subpoenas and the FBI raiding activists’ homes. by Kevin Gosztola

Weeks after the FBI raided their home, two Chicago activists, Stephanie Weiner and Joe Iosbaker, stood before a crowd of about 150 Chicagoans gathered outside the Dirksen Federal Building and declared during a press conference they, and twelve others who were subpoenaed, have no intention to go before any grand juries and participate in a "fishing expedition."

Weiner read a statement on behalf of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, a coalition formed in response to the FBI raids on activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. She recounted, "On September 24, the FBI raided the homes of anti-war and international solidarity activists and delivered grand jury subpoenas to activists across the country. The subpoenas claim that the grand jury is investigating violations of the 1996 law on the issue of "material support" of "designated foreign terrorist organizations."

Weiner, Iosbaker and three other activists had been called to testify before a grand jury on October 5th. He shared that he was outside the Federal Building at a press conference and not inside giving testimony to a grand jury, as he and Weiner had been scheduled to do, because they were given a postponement until October 19th. Three others submitted letters invoking their Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Iosbaker reported, "Nine others who have dates scheduled for later this month have also submitted letters invoking their right not to testify." And declared, "Today, we are here to state to the press that we too have nothing to say to a grand jury."

The fourteen activists have not been charged with anything. That is why they were called before a grand jury — so the government could find information they could possibly use to press charges. Attics and other parts of activists’ homes have been searched, property has been seized, but none of the activists at the press conference spoke as individuals charged with committing any crimes.

Weiner explained to the crowd and press that were present, "One does not even need to be opposed to U.S. foreign policy to recognize that the government is working here to establish a dangerous precedent in targeting us. This case endangers the right of every person in the U.S. to organize for and express their views."

The statement appeared to encapsulate the reason for the outpouring of support and solidarity the activists have been experiencing. Reverend Dan Dale, senior pastor of United Church of Christ, read an interfaith statement by the Faith-Based Alliance of over thirty Muslim, Jewish and Christian organizations and over eighty religious leaders and clergy.

"We are people of faith and conscience who condemn the recent FBI raids in Chicago as a violation of the constitutional rights of the people in organizations raided. They are a dangerous step to further criminalize dissent," declared Rev. Dale. "The FBI raids chisel and bypass fundamental constitutional rights by hauling activists before grand juries under the guise of national security. An overly broad definition of "material support for terrorism’ in the June 2010 Supreme Court ruling concerns us as people of faith who continue to actively engage in humanitarian work and peacemaking."

Anne Sullivan, an individual who had been involved in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, and Miryam Rashid from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization of people of various faiths committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service both expressed solidarity with the subpoenaed activists. Sullivan reminded people of how Nelson Mandela and the ANC (which Mandela was part of) had been regarded as a "terrorist" organization by the U.S. government at one point. And, Rashid told the crowd and press:

"The AFSC has worked for over 90 years to end the wars and to help give voice to the most vulnerable members of society. This is not the first time that our government has come after Palestinians and the progressive community in Chicago. Recently, the target was Muhamma Salah and it was intended to make Palestinians afraid of helping their families who are struggling for civil rights and equality in Palestine. Now the target is Hatem Abudayyeh, a father and a friend to many of us and to many members of the progressive community in Chicago."

A man from the Michigan Emergency Committee to End War and Injustice was invited to go up to the microphone and give a few words on his organization’s support for the targeted activists.

Weiner shared how those targeted "have been very involved in the anti-war and international solidarity movements for many years" and "all worked together to organize an anti-war protest attended by tens of thousands at the Republican National Convention in 2008." Some even "traveled to other countries to understand [the U.S.] government’s role in places like Palestine and Colombia."

The Committee’s statement outlined the U.S. government’s history of using grand juries as tools of repression:

"The grand jury has been used as a tool of political repression against many movements for social change in this country. From the pre-civil war abolitionist movement to the Civil Rights movements, the movement against the war in Vietnam, the American Indian Movement, the Central America solidarity movement, the Puerto Rican Independence movement, animal rights and environmental movements, there have been many targets of political repression and grand jury inquisition."

In fact, on GreenistheNewRed.com, Will Potter has written regularly about the ongoing criminalization of environmental activism in America. Recent revelations on FBI surveillance of the Thomas Merton Center in Pennsylvania, which the FBI engaged in to connect antiwar activism to terrorism, is another indication of FBI involvement in the suppression of dissent. Finally, all one has to do is look at drafted legislation that was put together years ago (but didn’t pass) the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act to see how government has been growing increasingly interested in obstructing dissent and activism.

Jim Fennerty, a lawyer representing activists subpoenaed, mentioned the government has, in connection to this case, been asking for "documents on how people are indoctrinated. You know, it’s amazing." And, he urged those present to call their congressman and express support for a new Church Committee to be formed to look into routine violations of civil liberties by agencies like the FBI in this country.

Despite the government’s history of political repression of activists, those subjected to raids displayed a sense of empowerment. The knowledge that over 60 demonstrations were held across the country in the past weeks to show solidarity gave them hope that the people will be there to help them through this injustice. It also gave them hope that there will be a groundswell of activism aimed at re-asserting the people’s right to fundamental civil liberties in America.

As Iosbaker said to the press, "I think the government never expected that thousands of people would speak up against repression after their home raids and subpoenas. I think that they are very surprised." And as Stephanie added, "The American people do not want laws that can be rolled out on a whim with no lawyer there, with no judge, and no charges. The American people don’t want America to go there. That’s what this is about."

On Monday, Minneapolis activists protested and declared that they would not be traveling to Chicago to testify before the same grand jury Chicago activists have been called to testify before either. TheUptake.org has coverage of the activists targeted in Minneapolis.

*Here is video of the statement raided activist Stephanie Weiner read at the press conference:

Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Raises Hell in D.C.

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Hundred activists sit in front of the White House demanding the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining be abolished. by Kevin Gosztola

*See end of article for video montage of events.

Over a thousand Appalachian residents and activists participated in a rally and march in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 27th. The action was the culmination of a multi-day convergence that had been put together by a coalition known as Appalachia Rising, which organized the activity to advance the movement to abolish mountaintop removal coal mining in the United States.

Those organizing understood in order to wage comprehensive action to end mountaintop removal all the players involved had to be sent a message. Plans were made to visit regulators, corporations making the practice possible, and President Obama, who has the power to end this practice once and for all.

Just before the rally, a number of activists staged an action at the Army Corps of Engineers building (the Army Corps of Engineers has the power to give permits for mountaintop removal projects). Nine young people went into the Department of Interior Office building and issued a series of demands for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. They refused to leave and staged a sit-in. And, at PNC’s flagship location in D.C., Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Choir, Earth Quakers, and RAN Chicago all had activists inside who engaged in a sit-in inside the branch.

As the march made it’s way to the White House, it stopped at the EPA building and at the PNC branch, where activists were still sitting in. Those marching chanted, "EPA do your job," and outside the bank, which is now the top funder of mountaintop removal projects, "PNC, you’re killing our communities." One man, who presumably works for the EPA, laughed at those who had paid the agency he works for a visit. And, at the PNC location, bank managers and security detail expressed frustration that police could only arrest 4 people inside the building because they had to take care of the major action that was about to take place in front of the White House.

Led by key leaders of the movement like Teri Blanton and Larry Gibson, the march entered Lafayette Park and congregated and then took off across Pennsylvania Avenue to line up on the sidewalk outside the fence surrounding the White House. One group of Appalachians went to the White House gate and attempted to deliver a letter. Another group went in the opposite direction. And then, the two joined each other in front of the White House.

In rainy weather, one hundred people sat down on the wet sidewalk and were cheered. They began to chant and sing as they waited for police to give their three warnings and then begin the arrests.

A bus that read, "This Bus is Running on Clean Natural Gas," menacingly sat ready for taking away those who were about to engage in civil disobedience and indicated just how important it is to, as the director of Gasland, Josh Fox, told filmmakers and activists at the convergence, merge the movements against mountaintop removal and natural gas drilling. Police vans were also brought to take the activists away.

The police were slow, arresting people one by one. This was likely because they wanted the hundreds of people who were standing behind police caution tape to leave and thought by prolonging the arrests support for those who were making them do extra work would dwindle. However, many remained and, in fact, walked under the caution tape multiple times giving food and water to anyone who was making a small sacrifice for the people of Appalachia.

Monday’s actions started on Freedom Plaza with a rally that featured outspoken Appalachian residents from the movement and others.

Maria Gunnoe, an organizer from West Virginia who has earned awards for opposing the practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, declares that Appalachians will not back down. She delivered a message that the destructive practice is stealing our country’s homeland security.

Gunnoe explained, "The youth is so knowledgeable of mountaintop removal and its impacts on their water and their land. Now, we have a government that thinks that they can regulate blowing up mountains. You cannot regulate destruction." And, she talked about being interviewed by people from other countries who don’t get how the government in West Virginia expects Appalachians to blow up their mountains so they can have jobs.

Hansen said, "We’re gathered here today to draw attention to the failure of our government to protect the rights of the people and the failure to provide equal protections of the laws. People have suffered a long train of abuses invariably with the same objective: to enrich the few at the expense of the many." And, he added, "Our government allows and contributes to a great hoax perpetrated on the public by monied interests aimed at confusing the public about the reality of climate change. We are in danger of becoming the land for the rich and the home of the bribe."

Ken Hechler, the ninety-seven year old principal architect of the Coal Mine and Health Safety Act of 1969 and a man who ran against Governor Joe Manchin in the special election to fill the late Senator Robert Byrd’s seat because he wanted to draw attention to the devastating impact of mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, sent a letter to be read at the rally. Mari-Lynn Evans, executive producer of the documentary film Coal Country, read the letter.

 Hechler’s letter explained, "I have been a fighter my entire life. I fought a world war. I disposed the very Nazis who I faced in that theater of war. I’ve advised presidents. I’ve served in the U.S. Congress and I marched with Martin Luther King for the rights of oppressed citizens. In my ninety-seven years, I’ve seen people sacrifice and be sacrificed. We together take up the fight for our history, one that would be and has been endangered by historical revisionists armed now with heavy equipment called the coal industry. 

He called upon the second battle of Blair Mountain to be a "focal point of the movement" and drew attention to the history of Blair Mountain as a key example of how the coal industry wishes to obliterate any symbols from labor history that might energize people against mountaintop removal. He called himself a hellraiser and then he asked the audience to "get political" and endorsed a candidate running in the special election to fill Byrd’s seat:

"Ask yourself to step up and don the mantle that I wear hell raiser. If you believe in this struggle, then it is time to double your efforts. If you don’t like to get political, then it’s time to understand that the very circumstances of your life is political. So, do it now. Get political. You must realize the power to change is not only within your grasp but it is to your responsibility to your generation and the one to follow

To exert this power and citizenship, I have chosen to ignore my own political party and I’ve endorsed a fighter, Jesse Johnson, whose running for Senate in West Virginia. Jesse is a fighter, he too is a hellraiser, and he is the one to carry this baton. I have deemed him the ultimate solution in this fight."

Johnson, of the Mountain Party in West Virginia, came up on the stage and, after leading people in a song, declared, "They want to erase the history of labor in this nation. And, they want to remove it for a little bit of coal and then another mountain and then another mountain and then another mountain." He added, "They take the miners out of the mines. They are killing the jobs. They are poisoning our waters at their very source."

During the march, Lorelei Scarbro, an activist born and raised in the Coal River Valley, declared while standing on the steps of the EPA building, "We have asked over and over and over for Lisa Jackson [head of the EPA] to get out of her comfy little office up here in this building and fly to Appalachia and see what’s going on. [We have asked her to] knock on the doors of the people in our communities, listen to their stories, look in their eyes when you can tell that they’re drinking poison water and they are dying and then after you do all that then you have to believe us and when you believe us you’re gonna have to change it."

Many marching wanted to believe that the Obama Administration would listen to them. They chanted, "Yes you can! Yes you can!" and talked about wanting change they could believe in today, which means friends and family who are suffering and dying would stop suffering illness and death because of what the coal industry and political leaders failure to treat Appalachians like the human beings they are.

Hansen, who was arrested during the action, indicated how this action and future actions might help finally end mountaintop removal. He suggested those arrested not beg the courts to forgive them for violating the law and instead ask the courts "to order the government to present plans to phase down fossil-fuel emissions at a pace dictated by the science, a pace stabilizing climate, preserving nature and a future for young people, providing young people equal protections of the laws."

Appalachians face some of the worst symptoms of capitalism in America. In states like West Virginia, the economy is a mono-economy, which means everything is defined by one industry–coal.

Residents are treated like sub-humans. The coal industry fights them as they try to tell their stories. The political leaders refuse to listen or take seriously the destruction Appalachians face. They, instead, are whores for the industry, taking donations from coal and so-called "friends of coal" to help them get elected and re-elected. And, regulators have not the fortitude or courage to act in defense of the humans suffering from weapons of mass destruction in Appalachia. They choose to instead send patsies to share coal industry-produced pseudo-science with students in high schools and tell students that sludge ponds from mining are not really toxic and that certain elements polluting the air, water and environment are not to be worried about because they are on the Periodic Table of Elements.

The system refuses to respond to Appalachians so, therefore, it is up to Applachians and others to stand up and fight. Just like people stood up to fight for women’s suffrage and civil rights for African-Americans, the people of America must fight.

The following is a video montage of Monday’s action:

Why FBI Raids Against Antiwar Activists Should Matter to Activists Fighting King Coal

5:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson defends the mountains from King Coal.

The FBI raided six locations in Minneapolis and two locations in Chicago on Friday. The raids appeared to target antiwar activists, particularly ones who had been outspoken on the U.S. policies toward Colombia and/or the Palestinians. FBI Special Agent contended the FBI was "seeking evidence related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.

The FBI found there was "no imminent threat to the community" after conducting the raids, which might lead one to wonder if the raids are as questionable as previous FBI activity that has been the subject of discussion in the past weeks (see Coleen Rowley’s "Inspector General Criticism Doesn’t Phase FBI Raids on Midwestern Anti-war Activists.").

How interesting is it that just prior to a massive convergence of anti-mountaintop removal activists other progressive activists were targeted for their activism. Those fighting for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining may not take positions on Palestinian or Colombian issues (although a letter from Colombians expressing solidarity with those gathered for Appalachia Rising was read Saturday evening), but they do favor the protection of civil liberties because those liberties protect their right to assemble and organize.

Unfortunately, Appalachian citizens are taking huge risks every time they speak out against coal and fight to keep the land they live on from being destroyed by the coal industry’s weapons of mass destruction. The explosion of mountains and the criminal degradation and exploitation of land where people live may seem like an injustice one should have the right to stand up and oppose, however, those who are friends of coal beg to differ. Though it may seem like they fit the mold, it is not those who aid and abet the coal industry that are targeted for conspiring to commit terrorism. It is, instead, the working class families in Appalachian states, whose histories are deeply entwined with the history of coal, that face targeting.

The coal industry, especially corporations like Massey Energy, have an interest in using the agencies of counterterrorism to target activists for conspiring to commit acts of "domestic terrorism." Corporations like Massey Energy have lobbied for support from federal law enforcement so that they can be protected from the threat posed to them by a movement to end mountaintop removal. And, government has yielded to the power of King Coal and infringed upon the rights of outspoken citizens.

On GreenistheNewRed.com, Will Potter has a post detailing how Eric McDavid (and two other activists) were arrested in California and charged with knowingly conspiring to use fire or explosives to damage property. McDavid went to trial and was found guilty of eco-terrorism. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and he was believed to be part of an operation "to target banks, commercial trucks, mountaintop removal projects in West Virginia, Communist party office, and the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics in California, according to the affidavit."

Potter’s post detailed how an FBI informant or provocateur "provided the group with bomb-making recipes; at times financed their transportation, food and housing; strung along McDavid, who had hopes of a romantic relationship; and poked and prodded the group into action."

McDavid’s attorney said, "There has never been a case in America that has involved this much entrapment, this much pushing by an informant, by the U.S. government and by the FBI behind it." The judge, however, had no problem with applying a "terrorism enhancement" and said, "It’s a new world since September 11th, 2001."

On this "new world," Potter wrote, "One where fears of "terrorism" are used to justify sweeping police powers, government spying and entrapment. Perhaps most damaging of all is that the press has largely swallowed the "War on Terrorism’ rhetoric, labeling activists as "eco-terrorists" at every turn, often long before they even have a foot in the courtroom."

In one session at the Appalachia Rising Conference, two Lynch, Virginia citizens explained those in their community regard them as "domestic terrorists". Jesse Johnson, a West Virginia Mountain Party candidate for the Senate (who has received the endorsement of Democrat Ken Hechler who lost in the West Virginia primaries) has in the past received death threats and been harassed on the road by other vehicles for taking on Gov. Joe Manchin and the corporate powers that be which own West Virginia politics–coal.

Keeper of the Mountains Larry Gibson delivered a speech last night. During the speech, he told of how he has been the victim of drive-by shootings at his home. Gibson has drawn interest among those who work for Homeland Security. Gibson has been followed, harassed, had his phone tapped and had staff in the capitol tell him they were going to have to call Homeland Security. That’s all because he has been protesting the coal industry in West Virginia and standing up for the people of Appalachia.

Today, on Monday, September 27th, about a thousand will rally at Freedom Plaza, march to banks that fund mountaintop removal projects and to the EPA, which hasn’t properly enforced environmental regulations in Appalachia. They will continue on to the White House. At the White House, a protest will take place and then hundreds will cross the line to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience to end mountaintop removal mining in America.

Remembering the past history of union activism in Appalachia, recalling at least thirty years of activism against the coal companies’ practice of mountaintop removal surface mining, hundreds will make a sacrifice and move forward in solidarity displaying courage. But, that courage is nothing compared to the courage they have to display when they return to their homes in Appalachia.

Especially in states like West Virginia that are entirely owned by coal–that is essentially a coal-o-cracy, individuals will return home and, depending on how much people who work for companies like Massey Energy think they are succeeding in their mission to abolish mountaintop removal, they will be targeted. They will face intimidation, harassment, and will be tracked by the FBI or possibly Homeland Security. (In fact, there will be protesters nearby protesting the FBI raids that took place on Friday.)

This day is as much about ending mountaintop removal as it is about standing up for the rights or liberties that all Americans celebrate. And, it’s also about reclaiming a tradition of rebellion in this country that the Tea Party, with the help of the GOP and Big Business investors, have co-opted and trivialized with their teabagging tomfoolery.

You may not see this event on your local news tonight or even on your cable news. And, if that is in fact the case, just remember that coal is likely the fuel that keeps the lights on for these news companies and likely part of the advertising they need to survive. Also, understand that just because you don’t see it break into the news cycle, just because you don’t get to hear an Appalachian’s soundbite featured, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The coal industry is destroying the land and the very lives of people who live upon that land. They are being treated as sub-humans and they have been treated as sub-humans for decades. So, today they fight to not only restore honor and reclaim sanity but to also claim dignity for themselves, their families, their friends, and for all who work for the coal industry and people this is the only option they have to make a living. All they can do to get by is participate in environmental destruction.

Find stories from today by searching for "Appalachia Rising" on the Internet. Circumvent the corporate news media. That’s what I am doing. And, when one considers the scale of injustice going on in Appalachia, when one notes how much one industry has taken control of business and politics and holds democracy and freedom hostage unless one is willing to march lockstep for coal, making sure the story of these people gets out to Americans is the least anyone can do.

A Roar of Anger Against the Coal Industry That Cannot Be Ignored or Silenced

9:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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The anger and courage of Americans who have been expressing opposition to the coal industry and expending energy to chip away at the power coal companies have to destroy America’s environment is paying off.

A federal judge
recently "ordered Patriot Coal Corp. to spend millions of dollars to clean up selenium pollution at two surface coal mines in West Virginia," an order that environmental groups said was the "first time a court has demanded restrictions on selenium, a trace mineral commonly discharged from Appalachian surface mines, where the tops of mountains are blown away to expose coal."

Activists especially those affiliated with Appalachia Rising are building up support for the abolition of surface coal mining in America. Applachia Rising plans to confront the Obama Administration and other politicians for their failure to halt this devastating mining practice on September 27th just after they have a two-day conference at Georgetown University on September 25th and 26th.

While most activism against the coal industry in America is focused on ending the practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, there is a movement of solidarity building in this country against coal. The dirty practices of the coal industry are all around us. If you consider the fact that Patriot Coal has operations in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest, it is not hard to see why citizens in cities like Chicago are taking on the coal industry and demanding the industry cleans up its practices.

Clean Power Chicago
, a grassroots coalition of organizations in Chicago working to clean up two coal-fired power plants and build a clean energy future for Chicago, in the past month achieved a huge victory: Alderman Ricardo Muñoz signed on as a co-sponsor to the Clean Power Ordinance, which organizers in the coalition hope will pass and help reduce emissions from Midwest Generation’s Fisk and Crawford coal plants in Chicago.

Alderman Muñoz is the alderman for the ward where the Crawford plant is located. His sponsorship, which was the product of lobbying by a grassroots organization known as the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and ward residents, sent a huge signal to other aldermen in the city of Chicago and increases the likelihood that other aldermen will support the ordinance.

I spent some time interviewing three leaders who are playing key roles in the movement toward a clean energy future in Chicago. They spoke to me about how this initiative has earned the support of national environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and how it could be a model for other cities with residents who want to organize their community to advance clean energy agendas.

Dorian Breuer, a member of the Chicago environmental all-volunteer group in the Pilsen neighborhood called the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), explained this is "a case where we are acting locally to affect our local health that will have "global effects." According to Breuer, the coal plants in Chicago are "the largest single source of carbon emissions in the city of Chicago."

Addressing the reality that this is the second time Chicago residents have mounted an effort to clean up the plants (an attempt was made in 2002), Brewer suggested more and more residents "recognize the pollution [from] these coal plants [does] not stay in a small band around this coal plant, which are in the communities we live in.

"The health effects go citywide and they know the statistics of not just these coal plants but all the pollution from coal plants affecting the outside air in Chicago," explained Breuer.

Christine Nannicelli, an associate field organizer with Sierra Club, explained, "Our asthma rates here in the city are staggering and they are some of the highest in the nation."

Clean Power Chicago’s website lists the following facts from the EPA and other experts: on average, 1 out of 7 school-aged children has asthma; in a number of Chicago-area neighbors upwards to 1 out of 3 children suffer from asthma; 13 million school days are missed each year due to asthma; asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children under 15 and nearly 2 million emergency department visits each year are asthma related; and it is estimated that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025.

Coalition organizers said the public health aspect of this really resonates with Chicagoans and plays a key role in convincing Chicagoans to take action.

In relation to the public health aspect of the issue, Edyta Sitko, an organizer with Greenpeace in Chicago, explained people want to "move away from fossil fuels that are not only contributing to global warming but having dire health effects on our city." And, she contended, "There are a lot of cities looking toward Chicago being a leader and cleaning up the coal plants in Chicago."

On top of that, organizers view this as a "justice issue." Breuer described the communities around these coal plants as having the following characteristics: lower income, lots of minorities, lower education levels, higher rates of unemployment, lower quality schools, and higher number of students per teacher ratios."

Affirming Breuer’s description, Nannicelli said, "The two neighborhoods, Little Village and Pilsen, where these two coal plants are located and the predominantly lower income Hispanic neighborhoods around these plants" are really moved to action because of the social justice aspect of this issue.

The campaign has placed a focus on aldermen as the key to success. Sitko described how the grassroots are convincing aldermen to support the ordinance:

"About a month and a half ago, we launched an organizing effort in Alderwoman Leslie A. Hairston’s ward specifically around asking her to sign on to the Clean Power Ordinance. There was an organizer in Hyde Park that had been working with constituents there–getting sign up letters, getting phone calls into Alderwomen Hairston’s office–letting her know she needed to support the ordinance. Before a press conference on Thursday, [on Wednesday night] we called a community meeting in Hyde Park. A few hours before we found out that Hairston had signed on."

Much of the effort owes a lot of its success to Alderman Joe Moore, who represents the 49th Ward, which includes Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Edgewater, making it one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in Chicago.

Midwest Generation, the owner of the plants, asserted, according to Chicago News Cooperative journalist Kari Lydersen, "the city lack[s] the authority to regulate the coal plants" and "only the state and federal government could do so." The corporation further asserts, "If the Moore proposal passes, the company will challenge Chicago’s regulatory authority in court."

Breuer said of Midwest Generation’s disregard for its pollution of Chicago’s climate, "The reality is thanks to relaxed campaign finance and lobbying laws the company has a lot of power. We found that over the last ten years, when we looked at state of Illinois records, it donated 100,000 dollars just to local aldermen in the city of Chicago and that’s a huge amount."

Breuer contended Midwest Generation has "an interest" in not spending "a lot of money to clean up their plants" and that is "absolutely impacting public space." But, he concluded Midwest Generation always says they are "following the law and the public in theory has created the law" so they can’t be faulted for doing any wrong.

"Most of what they do is fully within the law. And that’s why this campaign is targeting the law," said Breuer. "That law operates in favor of coal plants and against the local residents and all the residents anywhere near coal plants."

Now that Alderman Muñoz has signed on, the coalition hopes to earn the support of Danny Solis, who is the alderman for the ward where the Fisk coal plant is located They hope Muñoz’s leadership and example will compel him to take similar action and sign on in support of the ordinance.

The ordinance has 13 co-sponsors: Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Alderman Leslie Hairston, Alderman Freddrenna Lyle, Alderman Sandi Jackson, Alderman Toni Foulkes, Alderman Joanne Thompson, Alderman Ricardo Munoz, Alderman Sharon Dixon, Alderman Ed Smith, Alderman Scott Waguespack, Alderman Rey Colon, Alderman Eugene Schulter, Alderman Mary Ann Smith.

The story of this Clean Power Ordinance Coalition is just one example of how Americans can take personal responsibility for the health of their community and the environmental future of America. Thousands are tuned in to the impact of the coal industry and no matter what the coal industry does these Americans are not going to back down in the face of their corporate power and influence over public policy and the wider American population.

100 Days Since the BP Gulf Oil Disaster Began, NOLA Natives Explain Disaster is Not Over

8:36 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Flickr Photo by dsb nola

 

One hundred days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded creating the worst environmental disaster in the world’s history, those who live down along the Gulf coast in the areas that have been most impacted are standing strong and reminding the world that, while the well gushing oil may have been capped and while BP CEO Tony Hayward may be going to Siberia, the disaster is not over.

 

Elizabeth Cook, a Louisiana native, said she’s “lived in New Orleans most of [her] life” and “when this happened, [her] sense of anger and grief moved her to begin to talk to friends about organizing some sort of people’s response.” She had been organizing post-Katrina on the housing issue because after the hurricane there was a real situation with lack of housing, which produced a huge homeless problem.

 

She connected with a group called the Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster and helped organize a People’s Summit that took place on June 19th. She has been organizing protests, press conferences, meetings, gathering data, creating fact sheets, and writing about the disaster in the Gulf ever since.

 

Cook described the current situation:

 “We don’t know how long the dispersant is going to remain in the water with the oil, how long it will take to break down the dispersant and/or the oil. We’re not sure of the full impact on our marine life and our wildlife and also the government and BP are not forthcoming with scientific information about this. Certain areas of the Gulf have been reopened for fishing and their testing the seafood for oil but they aren’t testing it for dispersants…

… We want to remind folks and make people aware this is not over. We’ve got 1.8 billion gallons of toxic dispersant that was dumped in the Gulf and also sprayed pretty close to shore in Barataria Bay and along the shoreline of the Gulf coast. We are continuing to see the effects of this toxic chemical. We need to be vigilant. We need to demand accountability. We need to demand remediation and bio-remediation.“

 

Robert Desmarais, also someone who lives in New Orleans, said he’s been back since the city flooded after Katrina (the federal walls broke along the canals in his neighborhood and he was unable to come back to where he lived for a while). Now that “this volcano in the Gulf” has erupted, Sullivan explains “it just hit me very hard. I’d come back to the city, redid the house, got very involved in politics and I’m [now] facing exile again. I’m angry.”

 

For people like Desmarais, the worst-case scenario is a real possibility. Desmarais said it’s “really sad to think that if something happened in this hurricane season a lot of people including me probably wouldn’t want to come back to a city that had been flooded by oil as well as water. A lot of us see that [if that happened] it would be the end of the city. And, a lot of people are hurt, really hurt.”

 

The plight of fishermen in the Gulf, as a result of the disaster, is especially disconcerting for Desmarais.

“The real crisis is along the Gulf — Mississippi, Alabama, where my family is from. Those people fish for a living. I’ve had students who have left school at the age of 16 because they figured they were going to do what their father and grandfather had done. They were going to be a shrimper. They were going to be a fisherman. And, that’s all they knew. That’s all they wanted. They loved the life. It wasn’t just a way of earning a living. And now not only do they have no means of earning a living any longer but that whole lifestyle – going out in the boat in the morning, being in the water, being with friends and relatives—that’s being poisoned.”

 

Those impacted—for example, the people in the oyster industry who are having to close up shop—are going to be compensated for the economic and emotional trauma being endured. Right? Partially, at least. In full? Highly unlikely.

 

According to Cook, Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar administering the BP escrow fund, is working for BP (although he claims to be independent) and saying “folks have to make a decision as to what their long term damages are going to be now and accept the payouts now.”

“This is absurd. This is a contradiction because no one knows yet what the long-term damages or impacts of the toxic oil and dispersant are going to be on the livelihoods of people down here. Yet, they’re being asked to make a decision now as to what kind of monetary payout to accept,” said Cook. “And this is outrageous. There should be a national cry. Folks should not be put in these positions. This is unfair, unjust and criminal.”

 

In addition to this apparent corporate scheming to escape accountability and responsibility, another scheme continues on. Those down along the Gulf still are unconvinced that information is flowing properly. They do not think they know what is happening and many are skeptical that the oil has in fact stopped leaking into the Gulf.

 

“Personally, I was lied to twice by coast guards,” explains Desmarais. “A coast guard told me dispersants weren’t harmful,” which was contrary to scientific information Sullivan has been reading.

 

Desmarais added, “Residents haven’t been told how much oil was gushing out. And, the “worst thing was that the Coast Guard ordered under penalty of arrest for a felony and a $40,000 fine that no one” could get within sixty-five feet of a prohibited site. At that point we went to see the ACLU and we complained about this.”

 

Cook spoke with someone with a nonprofit organization in Louisiana monitoring the Gulf’s water and he said he got the “necessary permit to go within 65 feet but they had since laid boom so he could only get within 80 feet.” She added, “I spoke to a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries person who explained that you don’t want people trampling around Barrier Islands where chicks are yet.” There would be no problem except:

“We have got to be able to somehow assess our damages. We have got to be able to see, to witness, to document. With all of the clampdown on information, the purpose isn’t just to protect the birds, the islands where they are nesting, it’s to clampdown on the flow of information.”

 

Residents are relying on fishermen for information and, because they aren’t being told how polluted their environment is, people have gone ahead and are testing their own rainwater to “circumvent the clampdown” and do what they can to get the data needed to stay healthy and as free of toxic chemicals as possible.

 

There are some residents finding a sliver of hope and optimism in the midst of what some think is a disaster with no end in sight. Sullivan shared his thoughts on people who have come down to the Gulf to organize, take action and give back to people in the Gulf.

 

He explained that he has “learned to appreciate the people who come here” as they are “animated by an amazing generosity for Louisiana.” He said it “touches me to the heart. Sometimes they are not so saddened by the immediate effect that they see, that my own depression might not allow me to see. And they wake up to possibilities that stimulate me quite a bit and get me energized again with hope. For their energy and inspiration I’m very glad to see them here.”

 

People have come here with the intent to reach out to residents and help them confront BP and the government. People like Frederick-Douglass Knowles, an English professor, spoke with a member of the Emergency Committee and within weeks, left his home in Connecticut to travel down to the Gulf and hear stories from people.

 

Knowles didn’t know any of the people he would be meeting, where he would be staying or what plans he would be taking part in until he got to the Gulf, but what he did know was that he would hear stories from people like Desmarais. He said that he now has stories he can take back to Connecticut when he returns home.

 

“What I’ve witnessed is a very strong presence of strong-spirited people in New Orleans. They have been through a lot,” said Knowles. “They went through Hurricane Katrina years ago and they are saying, ‘You know, we’re not going to take this lyin’ down.’”

 

Knowles hasn’t made it to the “frontlines” or the coast but he has talked with a few residents, people like one lady he remembers who lives on the coast and her yard is the ocean. Her backyard has become “an oil swamp.” She is breathing “toxic fumes every single day” and there’s nothing she can do; this is her home.

 

When Knowles arrived, he learned the Emergency Committee would be organizing for “100 Days of Outrage,” which takes place today, July 30th. The event meant to promote the organizing of 100 different actions across the nation in response to the ongoing situation in the Gulf moved Knowles to contribute his energy and spirit to the creation of a “100 Days of Outrage: Collective Piece,” a collective poem one hundred verses long made up of 4-line verses from one hundred different people expressing their poetic reaction to the disaster in the Gulf.

 

He now thinks people all over the country should come down here and spend some time seeing what has happened through their own eyes so they can really get a sense of what has taken place here.

 

Actions all over the country are taking place as a result of "100 Days of Outrage." For example, Burlington, VT will hold a Rally and Speak Out Against BP in Burlington City Hall Park. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, they will be marking the 100th Day with a protest action to call attention to their city’s recent oil disaster that has unleashed millions of gallons of oil into a major Michigan river that runs through their city. And, in Chicago, there will be a demonstration against Nalco, makers of Corexit.

 

Thousands if not millions will be taking snapshots of themselves with a sign or quote on the snapshot. They will be posted on the StopGulfOilDisaster.org website for everyone to see how millions aren’t giving up on the people who are down in the Gulf still suffering from this disaster. (If you would like to have a photo posted  and participate in this effort, send it to stopgulfoildisaster@gmail.com.)

Many Celebrate, Defend Racial Profiling as SB1070 Goes Into Effect

9:11 am in Government, Race, State Government, Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by DrCuervo

 

The day before SB1070, the Arizona immigration law, was to go into effect, Federal Judge Susan Bolton halted the "worst" of the law from going into effect.

 

A New York Times editorial, "Showdown in Arizona," indicates that Bolton affirmed the "government’s final authority over immigration enforcement." She made the following basic points that "those who support the Arizona law have ignored or forgotten:"

 

-A state cannot require its police officers to demand the papers of people they stop and suspect are illegal immigrants. As the judge wrote, the law places an "unacceptable burden on lawfully present aliens." 

-Arizona cannot require that every arrested person have his or her immigration status checked, or that people be detained until they prove they are here lawfully.

-Arizona cannot make it a state crime for immigrants not to carry papers at all times, or for an undocumented immigrant to look for work.

-It cannot give officers the power to make warrantless arrests of anyone they believe has committed a crime that makes them deportable. Deportation is a matter to be decided by a judge in court, Judge Bolton wrote, not a state trooper or sheriff’s deputy in a traffic stop.

 

Despite the ruling, there will be civil disobedience in Arizona against the SB1070 law today. There will be a national day of action in support of immigrant rights and in opposition to the SB1070 law. And, there will be a formidable amount of Americans who rally in defense of the SB1070 law in support of targeting "illegals" who are in America.

 

The key problem with the law, as many who have followed discussion of the law since May, is that the law racially profiles. People like Arizona police officer Paul Dobson, a man who has posted video and conducted interviews in opposition to the law, are convinced it will put them in situations where they have to racially profile individuals and behave like Nazis.

 

Fernando Silva, a US citizen who has been speaking out against SB1070, asks, "If the law is not racist then why would racial profiling need to be explicitly prohibited in it?…It says race may not be a factor in explicitly prohibited in determining immigration status, which is useless because there’s no other factor."

 

"To say the law permits racial profiling isn’t a fact. On its face, the law is perfectly constitutional because it doesn’t say anything about race," added Silva. "But there are certain facts, which could prove that this law is racially biased." Silva cited Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s record and Kris Kobach’s email to Senator Pearce as evidence that racial profiling is a legitimate fear.

 

Silva’s thinking is exactly what promoted me to record the following video message. I directed this message to viewers who had been commenting on a previous video called, "Do I Look Illegal?" that now has over 120 comments from people who, for the most part, fervently support the SB1070 law.

The law may not explicitly single out Latinos, but the country understands Arizona is a border state. More than 75% of illegal immigrants in Arizona are Latino. So, instinctively, law enforcement authorities especially police officers are going to be especially attentive to the presence of Latinos as a way of eradicating the immigration "problem" the state’s political leaders and many of its citizens think exists.

 Here is the video I made prior to my comment on how those in favor of SB1070 support racial profiling.

There are two routes to go when discussing the law. One can talk about the facts and what the law will and will not do. One can cite studies and try to employ well-reasoned arguments to explain why people, whose prejudice against immigrants is too much for them to bear, exaggerate the immigration problem. Or, one can simply share the remarks with others and give the reactionary views of people who support the law what the remarks most deserve: sunlight.

 

How many actually think you can reason with people who are so stuck on their worldview that immigrants are The Threat? It’s much easier to expose them and take them on for what they are saying rather than trying to find common ground and instead of hoping you can question them and get them to see the error of their judgment.

 

So, I’ll conclude this with a few comments I received on my post.

PatriotSue

 2 months ago

Arizona Rancher Krentz and his dog was slaughtered by ILLEGAL MEXICAN DRUG SMUGGLING ALIENS on his ranch last month. He is just one victim of the TENS OF THOUSANDS of U.S. citizens murdered, raped, robbed and tortured at the hands of ILLEGAL HISPANIC ALIENS. Several of Arizona’s Police officers have been slaughtered by your people, ILLEGAL HISPANIC ALIENS. Hundreds of Arizona’s citizens have been killed on their streets by ILLEGAL HISPANIC ALIENS. Officer shot, by ILLEGAL, YESTERDAY.

TwiztedAnimator



2 months ago 



@chi1088 [my handle on Youtube] In Arizona, there is a kidnapping every 35 hours. In Arizona, there is a murder everyday. In Arizona there are 5 Rapes everyday. In Arizona, 56,000 burglaries occurred in 2008. 6.5 Million People, 500,000 Illegal Immigrants….. you do the math.



 

SARGEHVFD



2 months ago 



@chi1088 Apperantly he smoke to much crap. He doesn’t understand Illegals in the US cost over 338 Billion a year, never file taxes, and sendt about 50% of their income overseas. And yes, demand proof of citizenship from all people, I.E. Chicago, NY, DC,

TakebackAmerica2010



2 months ago 



We have lost TENS OF THOUSANDS of U.S. CITIZENS, while our brave young soldiers have died on foreign soil. We have lost MORE U.S. CITIZENS at the hands of ILLEGAL HISPANIC ALIEN, than we have lost brave soldier in both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon be over, but the slaughter of our people, at the hands of ILLEGAL HISPANIC ALIENS will continue, until we remove EVERY SINGLE ILLEGAL ALIEN. ILLEGAL ALIEN COMMUNITIES protect those

 

TakebackAmerica2010



2 months ago 



YOU ARE THE REASON AMERICA WILL BECOME MEXICO YOU STUPID FaG!



 

rbrown6984

 2 months ago

Since the Arizona law does not specify nation of origin, like our federal laws, you certainly could look illegal. What does an illegal immigrant look like? Do illegal immigrants wear funny hats or something? Maybe they’re all barefoot or dark-skinned. Is that it? Your ignorance and prejudice toward anyone who looks different from you is showing, though you’d never admit it. Dare I say racist? There are MILLIONS just like you, unfortunately.

 

CTastic1



 2 months ago 



Stop from the bottom and go up I was responding to your whole retarded video. Do you look illegal. Hmm I don’t know. If I pull you over for speeding, I will ask for You i.d. your papers, insurance, check your tags, check your inspection, If you can’t even furbish an I.D. or speak English, I guess I could legally start to assume you’re illegal right? See it’s stupid people like you who fill your head with propaganda from the news. It’s liberal bullshit.



 

CTastic1



2 months ago 



Federal government has to uphold the LAW. WHEN THEY DON"T We do. Again everyone has been repeatedly asked to prove they belong here. Every time you talk to a cop he asks for ID. That’s basically showing your proof. You just somehow forgot it’s a law and want to call this racism all the sudden. The burden belongs on them. THEY ARE ILLEGAL. what part of the word illegal doesn’t mean illegal? 

 

And two favorites, posted as a comment on a video I shot at an SB1070 protest at Wrigley Field months ago:

 

dogncatmom

2 months ago 

@ese1818 Yeah they can but the reason Democrats made people get social security numbers for babies (something that they did not need) was so that there would be a lot of available numbers in the system for illegals to use when they got jobs. You must be an illegal,

 

XazulxWolfX

2 months ago 

@chi1088

Wants don’t mean shit. We are a country and we watch after our collective asses; not the entire fucking planets. It’s as if someone broke into your house to live there and when caught said " well i’d rather legally live in a house but i cant therefore me breaking in and tresspassing is entirely justified ". It’s the most retarded logic i’ve ever heard. There is NO LAW stating that I have to be compasionate to my fellow man; and its immoral to say that i’m required to be.

 

If you participate in protest or civil disobedience actions today, I encourage you to return to this post and leave a comment about what it was like to be out participating in today’s national day of action. If you are in Arizona, I especially want to hear if police crackdown significantly on those engaging in resistance to the law.

 

 

 

Day 1 of the United National Peace Conference in Albany, NY

5:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While the Netroots Nation Convention commands the attention of many who are tuned into activism this weekend, there is another gathering of significance that is happening in Albany, NY–the United National Peace Conference.

 

The conference, co-sponsored by 31 different peace and justice organizations, is, as Teresa Gutierrez characterized it, a "visionary event" that is filling a vacuum. Activists have gathered to deliberate and come to a meaningful consensus on what can be done "to end the U.S. wars, occupations, bombing attacks, threats and interventions that are taking place in the Middle East and beyond" and to discuss where the U.S. peace movement is today and where it must go from here.

 

The organizers are united behind the following demands: immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, mercenaries and contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq; funds for jobs, health care, education, the environment, infrastructure and other human needs; compensation for peoples whose countries have suffered from U.S. attacks and occupation resulting in loss of lives, suffering and massive destruction.

 

The conference began Friday night with a panel discussion called "Strategies and Tactics in the Struggle to End the Empire’s Wars and Occupations."

 

Panelists included: Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK), Michael Eisenscher (National Labor Coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War), Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report), Chris Gauvreau (Administrative Body, National Assembly to End US Wars and Occupations), Teresa Gutierrez (International Action Center), Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence), Nada Khader (Palestinian-American and Exec. Director of the Westchester Peace Action Coalition Foundation), Bianca Misse (Graduate Student, UC Berkeley), and Debra Sweet (National Director, World Can’t Wait).

 

Medea Benjamin asked the audience if they had ever been called un-American or unpatriotic for engaging in "antiwar work." She suggested there was a shift going on where that was no longer the attitude. She talked about leaving the halls of Congress to go to a rally where librarians were saying they needed money. She connected that to war and ran back in with a group of activists and, unable to contain themselves, they shouted at Carl Levin for the activity going on in Congress to spend another $30 billion on war and called support for more war funding "downright unpatriotic."

 

Benjamin spoke of the need to find ways to show the peace movement is behind finding money for librarians and for rebuilding the country and that we need to make that message visible through signs that could say things like "End War, Build America." And, closed by calling for "not just ending money for war but also money for empire" by closing the 800-plus bases the US has around the world. And, she said that the movement needed "to make this month really hot for Democrats and Republican politicians."

 

Michael Eisenscher talked of the peace movement’s responsibility "to remove the boot of foreign occupation from the necks of the Iraqi people." He recounted how the newly elected government in Iraq continues to suppress union organizing. For example, he mentioned how the Iraq regime "escalated war [on unions] by banning all foreign travel by union leaders" unless they get approval of the government prior to travel. He mentioned how the Iraqi government has filed charges against two top officers of an oil workers federation that has organized in opposition to the privatization of Iraq’s oil resources. And, he shared how the Ministry of Electricity is engaged in the repression of trade union activity and all forms of cooperation with unions in the workplace.

 

Eisenscher pledged to circulate a letter to Congress asking for opposition to be registered against the Iraq government’s actions against unions (even though this may be happening with the consent of US political leaders). And noted that people suffering aggression need peace movement to be united and that there must be an "effort to find common ground" instead of engaging in "the zealous pursuit of political purity."

 

Glen Ford talked about the culture of resistance that used to make black people the most dependent antiwar demographic in the U.S. Bu, now, with Obama elected, they have become more confused than anybody else. He cited a poll that indicated blacks are now the largest group who believe they are better off than before the recession, which indicates Obama’s presence has served as a "narcotic" for the black population.

 

Ford said, "Breaking the Obama spell is the must do task for a renewed movement for social justice and peace" and added, "There is nothing complicated about it. You simply tell the truth. Obama works for Wall Street and the militarists. That is the truth."

 

Chris Gauvreau highlighted the importance of the April 9th mobilization and talked about utilizing the October 2nd March on Washington being organized for jobs and how the peace movement should utilize it to build the movement. She talked of the value of mass action and how it is possible since hundreds of thousands have shown up to AZ, to march in the National Equality March for LGBT rights, and for immigrant rights in D.C. She encouraged a move away from divisiveness and toward cooperation and encouraged the assembly to stand for political independence and build a movement visibly independent from both major political parties in the country.

 

Teresa Gutierrez talked of the revival of May Day in the country and how immigrant rights could play a role in the building of a peace movement. She condemned the militarization of the border, the breaking up of families by authorities, and the mass incarceration of worker "whose only crime is that they were trying to survive." She highlighted the continued saber-rattling against Iran that the U.S. is engaged in and talked of how the 7,000 troops in Costa Rica are there to challenge the symbol of revolution that is Cuba, the people of Honduras who continue to resist the coup that has been imposed upon them, and the country of Bolivia, which has become a symbol of resistance.

 

Kathy Kelly said it’s "very difficult to find actions commensurate to crimes being committed." But, she explained in many cases members of the peace movement need to continually "displace" themselves from the comforts of the world. They have to get down to the nitty-gritty and update that database, send that press release, make the phone call, etc. And, spoke of how being a peace activists forces you to change your priorities in life.

 

Nadia Khader talked more about immigrants and made the distinction that many of the people being criminalized are not illegal immigrants but rather "economic refugees," who have fled their countries due to trade union policies that have connect to the movement and suggested that leaders who have traditionally enjoyed privilege (whites) "know when to step back" and let those who have internalized racial suppression speak up and share their views in a safe space.

 

Khader urged the movement to take up the issue of Palestine and make it central to the movement. And, she spoke of a resolution the Palestine Solidarity Caucus would be attempting to pass at the assembly.

 

Kevin Martin suggested that the "empire is dying." He said he thought the tide was turning on Afghanistan and on the Palestinian issue especially as more and more boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) actions take place. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger in his speech and highlighted the success of peace activists in shutting down an Army Experience Center.

  

Michael McPhearson talked about the past and how the progressive left and peace & antiwar movements had the energy sucked out of them by Obama’s presidential campaign. He said he believed it is now clear the Obama Administration will not bring the change this country needs and that the peace movement needed to work to pull elected officials to the left. He also spoke about a "new left configuration" emerging that likely would take on the new reality that has come about as a result of the Tea Party in this country.

 

Blanca Misse, who had helped to organize on March 4th in a national day of action to defend education, spoke of building a "grassroots activist independent movement for mass action." She talked about shutting down UC Berkeley and unfurling a banner that said, "Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War & Incarceration." She said the movements of the country need to bring their issues together and work with each other and understand this is about the future of generations, the future of children in this country, and about taking on unemployment, foreclosures, lack of public services, the need for union rights and workers’ rights, and, of course, peace.

 

Debra Sweet responded to all the speakers of the night urging them to understand that the Democrats are not the peace movement’s friends because "they know what we think" and "their job is to keep [peace movement] shut up and quiet." She noted the incident with Shirley Sherrod this week and said, "What about if the Democratic Party said look we’re not going to stand for this Tea Party racism? You all come into the streets right now."

 

Sweet cited the escalation of war in Afghanistan and the constant voting for war funding in Congress. She stated, "Democrats are here to channel your anger into meaningless worry about legislation polling and voting what I call bullshit when we ought to be out in the streets" and then unfurled a poster ad that had been published in various print media that read, "Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Commits Them," a call to people to consider how Obama’s continuation of Bush policies should be opposed as much as Bush’s war policies were opposed when he was president.

  

There will likely be a debate among peace movement organizers at the assembly on how much of a role the issue of the economy and jobs should play in the organization of future actions supported and led by peace organizations in this country. Also, "political purity" and when to compromise will likely become a contentious issue as well.

 

After two days of deliberation, movement leaders hope to have a resolution that will help set an agenda for the peace movement to move forward and take on the Obama Administration’s continued support and escalation of war.

Here’s a video of Glen Ford speaking on the panel (for more videos, go to MediaSanctuary.TV. (Media Sanctuary will be live streaming from the event all weekend if you would like to hear more about what peace movement leaders and organizers are talking about.) –