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Tar Sands Healing Walk 2014

6:39 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

 

Late last month, indigenous activists from Canada’s Athabasca region and their allies took part in the fifth and final “Tar Sands Healing Walk.” Over a route of about 10 miles, they marched and gave witness to the devastation that Tar Sands extraction has brought to the land.

In Yes! Magazine, Liana Lopez shares a beautiful, photo-filled essay about this direct action:

‘This isn’t protest or a rally,’ organizer Crystal Lameman told the participants in the walk. ‘This is a spiritual gathering with prayers and ceremony in order to help bring all of us to an understanding about how bad this is and why it has to stop. The best way to stop it is at the source. So we need to start here.’

The Healing Walk gathering took place from June 27 to 29, with workshops and traditional ceremonies leading up to Saturday’s walk. A lot of discussion this year centered on the Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, announced the day before the gathering, which granted aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The decision may set a precedent for other First Nations, allowing them better footing in their fight against tar sands pipelines and other forms of industrial development.

Groups even came from the United States:

In this final year of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, organizers were quick to point out that their fight is not yet won. Far from it, as tar sands extraction is ramping up in Canada. Yet, just within the last five years, awareness about the issue has spread at a tremendous pace. And this year’s Healing Walk drew participants from all over world, including, for the first time, a Gulf Coast delegation from Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala., where tar sands refining and storage is set to take place this year.

‘We wanted to come see the source of what will be coming to our area and learn what can be done to stop it,’ said Mae Jones, who came with the Alabama delegation. ‘We are honored to be part of the walk this year.’

As noted in Lopez’s article, the Healing Walks are ending after five years but the work is just beginning.

A row of drummers marching as they drum on the Healing Walk.

Solidarity to all the earth justice superheroes that joined this Walk! -Kit

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A Conversation with Scott Crow, Part 2: Mutual Aid

7:05 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Previously: Part 1, Occupy & Activism

Banner on Occupy Sandy relief site: "Occupy Sandy, Mutual Aid Not Charity" with Circle A

Radical activist networks are powerful sources of mutual aid during disasters. But what comes after?

One reason I wanted to chat with Scott Crow was his experience with Common Ground Collective in New Orleans. In recent years, we’ve seen similar collectives spring out of the activist networks formed by Occupy Wall Street — projects like Occupy Sandy. Late last year, alongside key Common Ground Collective organizer Lisa Fithian and many others, I organized Austin Common Ground Relief to respond to a record-breaking flood on Halloween. As the group’s dispatcher, I relied on the networks and skills formed during Occupy Austin.

Kit O’Connell, Firedoglake: You mentioned projects that appear during lulls. I see Occupy Sandy, or the Common Ground Relief work we did here recently and all that ties into what you were doing at Common Ground Collective. 

Scott Crow: Right.

FDL: Mutual aid is good for its own sake, but how do we connect that politically? We don’t want to turn anyone off. We don’t want to politicize our aid but our aid is political. How do we make that connection? What happens next after an Occupy Sandy?

SC: I think it only is what it is. You can only ‘politicize’ it as much as you can. I think what’s really important is the culture we create internally within our political movements and social movements and also the way we engage outwardly with other people — though it’s more permeable than that. We’re not trying to convert people to anarchy or to communism or whatever it is — although communists did try to convert people just like religious wingnuts. Really what we do is you just make it make sense to people.

FDL: Sure!

SC: When you go to help someone and you name it mutual aid, people see that in real life and real time. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to do it. There is no conversion.

“It’s the idea of attraction, not the idea of conversion.” That actually comes out of Alcoholics Anonymous, I didn’t make that up. The aid work is something which just emerges sort of by accident out of all these projects. Like at Common Ground Collective in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, we were able to pull from the alternative globalization movement: street medics, indy media, and Food Not Bombs and all these things which had been going on.

FDL: These were networks built through activism that then were pulled in for aid.

SC: We didn’t consciously say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this for aid!’ Now we’re starting to see that this has become a newer model, another point of intersection against the crisis of capitalism.

Make it as political as possible without drawing fake lines: like “we’re anarchist and you’re not.” Or, “this is radical and you’re not.” And also just being honest about who we are. I don’t want to convert anyone.

FDL: But you’re honest about where you’re coming from.

SC: Absolutely! I told people I was an anarchist from the beginning in New Orleans. And these are people, in some communities, who had hardly ever seen white people. I’m literally serious about that. They’d say “I’ve barely seen white people except on TV. You’re an anarchist, what is that? And why are you here?”

Now they’ll tell you, “The anarchists came. No one else showed up, but the anarchists came.” I’m sure your experience with Austin Common Ground was maybe not as extreme, but similar.

FDL: Sure, I had some people who took me aside who were like “I get what you guys are doing here.” We didn’t avoid talking about our politics, people knew we were organizers but it was never about that, obviously. It was about “here’s a meal.”

SC: Right.

FDL: During some of the later events in December, people told me, “We will remember you and what you did.”

SC: It’s also about connecting things. So when you’re gutting somebody’s house, you can come in like a service organization and say, “Yeah, we’re going to gut your house. Then we’re going to go on to do something else.” That’s the charity model. But if you come in with the solidarity model, it’s like, “We’re doing this because we want you to get back on your feet, because we want you to build your own community power the way you see fit.” It’s a different way to approach it.

FDL: We’ve been able to pass the work off to the new Onion Creek Park Neighborhood Alliance, which we helped them form. 

SC: That’s what I’m talking about! These things happen all the time, and I don’t care if we name them as anarchy or not. It’s not a brand. There’s no gain in it. It’s just a point of reference, at least to me.

FDL: I feel the same way about Occupy. Some people want to fly that banner and it’s really powerful to them, and other people don’t want anything to do with it. At the end of the day, I don’t care as long as they’re doing something.

SC: Right, right.

In Part 3: Technology and intersectionality.

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#OpValentine: Show A Prisoner Revolutionary Love

4:28 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Valentine’s Day: some people love the romance, others decry it as an obligatory expression of love or lament the misery of being single on a day devoted to coupledom. If being single on February 14 seems unbearable, imagine if you were not just alone but locked away from everything — your family, your friends, the outside world.

Vintage Valentine Card: Do you cat-ch on? I want you for my Valentine.

This Valentine's Day, tell a prisoner: "I choo-choo-choose you!"

Such is the plight of our nation’s political prisoners. Some, like Leonard Peltier, have spent decades behind bars. Others, like the NATO 5 are victims of a new wave of political repression. To bring comfort to these victims of the system, Anonymous, occupiers, Anarchist Black Cross groups and other activists have come together to create Operation Valentine (#OpValentine):

Where will we be on Valentine’s day? With whom? One thing is certain, most of us will have the freedom to tell whom we care ‘I love you’ and shower them with hugs. Separated from their friends, their family, all of their love ones, many of our brothers and sisters will be deprived of this most basic human right. They have sacrificed their freedom to expose corruption and human rights violations. And as would say Che: ‘At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.’

It’s easy to participate in #OpValentine. Just pick a prisoner (or more than one), write or make a note or postcard, and send it in the mail. Valentine’s Day is less than a week away as of this writing and our postal service is being gutted, but I guarantee you’ll brighten someone’s dreary day no matter when you send your mail.

When you’re writing to a political prisoner, it’s best to share your love and daily life. These are regular people who need our support, not heroes to worship. It’s also important not to discuss a case with pre-trial prisoners or to write anything you wouldn’t want read by police, the government, or the media. The New York Anarchist Black Cross has a great guide to writing political prisoners:

For the first letter, it’s best to offer an introduction, how you heard about the prisoner, a little about yourself. Tell stories, write about anything you are passionate about–movement work and community work are great topics until you have a sense of the prisoner’s interests outside of political organizing.

And what we hear from prisoners time and time again is to include detail. Prison is so total that the details of life on the outside become distant memories. Smells, textures, sounds of the street all get grayed out behind bars. That’s not to say that you should pen a stream-of-consciousness novel.

Remember, even the simplest of notes is a potentially life- or sanity-saving connection to the outside world.

I’m going to include the complete #OpValentine document below, but an updated list can be found in this pastebin.

[Editor's Note: See the comments for more political prisoners who need our love. -MyFDL Editor]

#OpValentine

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VIDEO: Peaceful Streets Rally for Anaheim

11:11 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

The Peaceful Streets Project with help from members of Occupy Austin held a solidarity rally on Saturday for the people of Anaheim California.  This video, by Meg Seidel and Jeff Zavala of Zgraphix, intersperses footage of the rally with video from Anaheim and two Austin events: the February 2012 Fuck the Police march through downtown and a violent arrest of a shopper at Austin’s Barton Creek Square Mall who attempted to join a CODEPINK protest.

Antonio Buehler holds a sign: APD Kills

Antonio Buehler at the Peaceful Streets Anahem Solidarity Rally, Austin Police Department HQ (Photo: Meg Seidel / ZGraphix, used with permission).

All around the country, in over a half dozen cities, people have come out in support of the people of Anaheim. Though the mainstream media frequently continues to defend the police or report their side of the story, video shot on the scene by every day witnesses and a growing number of Occupy livestreamers and citizen journalists is spreading through social media channels and letting the world see the truth. Rather than calming the situation with open community dialog, the Anaheim Police Department (APD) is escalating through the use of militarized police in army-fatigue uniforms with heavier weaponry.

About a dozen of us gathered at the Austin Police Department (another APD) headquarters in downtown near highway IH-35. It was a hot day here in Austin, and we struggled to stay hydrated and active. The vast majority of people driving past on the frontage road were supportive, honking, waving and cheering; even several passing police officers honked or waved to us. There were a few hecklers, of course. In addition to the usual middle fingers and shouts of ‘get a job,’ one passing truck yelled ‘Fuck world peace!’ and ‘You’re poor!’ — insults which speak volumes about a classist mindset which is far too common today among people who are often themselves only a paycheck or two away from the streets.

Viewers of my livestream, which was carried here on Firedoglake, kept up a steady stream of conversation with me throughout the evening. Near the end of the protest we were so worn out that some of us could barely stand, but then one viewer, Rick Rynearson and his wife, of Veterans Against Police Abuse, ordered pizza for us! Pizza eaten after the hard work of protest always tastes especially good.

More: The Videos Anaheim PD Doesn’t Want You to SeeAntonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets, Peaceful Streets Police Summit

Mark Adams’ Hunger Strike (Occupy’s Political Prisoners Update)

6:00 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Earlier this week I wrote about Occupy’s Political Prisoners, specifically Mark Adams (shown in the video to the right) and the NATO 5. There have been new developments in both cases.

Hunger Strike

Mark Adams, sentenced to 45 days (of which he is expected to serve 28 at Rikers Island) for his involvement in the December 17 reoccupation attempt, has reportedly begun a hunger strike.

Support Mark Adams quotes a statement by Adams:

Yesterday, Trinity Wall Street “Church,” the NYPD and the State of New York sentenced me to forty five days in jail for my political beliefs and actions. … On [December 17], my intention was to facilitate the on-going efforts to convince Trinity Church that our use of the space was consistent with their principles and mission. I wanted the unused and deserted lot to the community within Occupy Wall Street and beyond, so that through collective grassroots effort we would build an alternative society built on mutual aid, solidarity and anti-oppression.

For those intentions, I am now serving a forty-five day sentence on Riker’s Island. In response I have taken my protest out of the streets and into the jails. As of 2pm June 18, 2012 … I have been on a hunger strike. I will continue the hunger strike until I am released, to draw attention to the political nature of my arrest, sentencing and the greater themes and goals of the occupy wall street movement. This punishment has further strengthened my resolve to build a society, alongside my comrades, that does not further the corporate agenda of the prison industrial complex, compassion for all, community, solidarity, and mutual aid for all. Everything for everybody.

11 Indictments for the NATO 3

Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly, the three activists charged with terrorism (and arrested with FDL’s TarheelDem in the same terrifying raid) were indicted by a grand jury on July 12, but the defense was not allowed to know their charges! The National Lawyers Guild finally obtained this information June 20.

From an NLG note on the Occupy Chicago Press Relations Facebook page:

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Occupy’s Political Prisoners

12:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Among the many signs of the profound threat that the Occupy movement poses to the status quo has been the coordinated effort by local and state police together with the Department of Homeland Security to suppress the rights of protesters. The United Nations recently criticized the United States for its violent police attacks on the movement.

In the month since the pre-NATO arrests, a new tool in the arsenal is becoming clear: turning dedicated activists into political prisoners.

Occupy Wall Street, Trinity Wall Street, and the December 17 Trial

Sign: Mark Adams is Bearded, Selfless, Defends the Poor, Persecuted. Remind you of Anyone?

Photo: @SubVerzo via Twitter, used with permission.

On December 17, Occupy Wall Street attempted a reoccuptation — not of Liberty Square, but of a new space. Climbing a fence on livestream, occupiers poured into a fenced-in space owned by Trinity Wall Street, a church-run business that is historically one of New York City’s oldest landlords. The trial of 8 of these occupiers, including a retired bishop and active clergy members, concluded on June 18. Seven of the defendants, including the clergy, were convicted of trespassing and sentenced to four days of community service. But one man, Mark Adams, was singled out for especially harsh treatment.

The Village Voice quotes Judge Sciarrino’s justification for his harshness:

He issued his his ruling immediately after closing arguments, finding all eight defendants guilty of trespassing and further finding one of them, Mark Adams, guilty of attempted criminal mischief and attempted criminal possession of burglar’s tools. Adams was seen on surveillance video using what appeared to be bolt cutters to open the fence.

“This was the use of siege equipment to storm a castle,” Sciarrino said in his ruling, adding that political demonstrations are no excuse for violating property rights. “This nation is founded on the right of private property, and that right is no less important than the first amendment.”

Though the district attorney asked for a mere 30 days, the judge instead chose to charge Adams with 45 days in New York’s dangerous Rikers’ Island! Although activists who practice civil disobedience must expect to face legal consequences from time to time, occupiers are surprised by the harsh treatment from Trinity Wall Street, a business theoretically built on Christian values. The Episcopal News Service quotes Bishop George Packard:

In a June telephone interview, Packard had expressed surprise at the trespassing charges and the manner of his arrest. When he entered the property Dec. 17, he said, “I felt that we were entering into a protected area and that it was closed for the season. I had visited hunger strikers on the perimeter of that space … three or four times. …”

“Trespass is a word that I’m not used to hearing as it’s related to church property,” Packard said. “I hear expressions like ‘refuge’ and ‘sanctuary,’ and even … in the Trinity newsletter they talk about ‘radical hospitality.’”

The Continuing Plight of the NATO 5

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My First Visit to Occupy Austin

2:00 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Last Sunday was my first visit to Occupy Austin.

This post is much later than I wanted it to be because I have been struggling with my health. I’ll open here because part of the reason I identify with this movement is that my voice is a disenfranchised one as a disabled person. I have fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition closely related (or overlapping with) chronic fatigue syndrome. It is not well understood, but between severe pain in my muscles and connective tissue, and frequent intense fatigue and insomnia I am unable to hold down a normal job. I have managed to eke out a small living as a freelance writer, but I have no health insurance, and no safety net if my health takes a turn for the worse. I feel strongly for this idea of the 99% — in a just society, basic needs like food, shelter and medical care would be considered a human right.

My health has kept me from attending a Occupy encampment or event before Sunday. But on Saturday night, 38 peaceful protesters were arrested at City Hall — some over refusal to take down a food table based on last minute regulations imposed without oversight by the Austin city manager, but others were directly targeted by police for their involvement in the movement. A march was announced to join the vigil at the county jail demanding release of these political prisoners. I knew I had to join.

Much has been said about the protests and whether those involved have valid reasons. Though the protesters have many diverse issues they have come together over, to me at this point the most important reason is to stand up for our right to assemble. In childhood, teachers taught me that the right for the people to speak up and assemble to demand a redress of grievances is one of the most fundamental things that defines being an American citizen. And yet now these 38 peaceful activists — along with a small but notable number of arrests since — are banned from City Hall for one year.

That’s right, a building that is the hub of their city, that their tax dollars pay for everytime they purchase anything in stores — yet if they return they face rearrest and even jail time. Because Austin is ‘cool’ and ‘weird’, our cops won’t go in with the tear gas. Instead they threaten us with dozens of tiny papercuts until our movement will bleed to death. We need to stand up and say this is not right — that we have a right to speak.

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