Picking up where I left off last post, Day 2 of protesting ALEC in Salt Lake City was a bit quieter than Monday, primarily because July 24th is a very important holiday in Utah. That day, called Pioneer Day, commemorates Brigham Young’s arrival into the Salt Lake valley in 1847; and as you might guess, all state employees, as well as many workers in private companies, have the day off. The morning starts out with the Days of 47 Parade, which commences about 9 in the morning and lasts until around noon hour with the parade ending at Liberty Park, a large 80-acre park in the downtown area. The celebration continues well into the afternoon at the park, with thousands of people attending the festivities. Seeing as how the local populace and the media were going to be focused on the parade and post-parade activities, and as there was not much ALEC activity going on at the Grand America Hotel (just registration), members of our ALEC welcoming committee thought it would be better to go over to Liberty Park rather than protest at the hotel. So they took a bunch of fliers and handouts with them and walked the 9 blocks from Washington Square to the park. That turned out to be more productive, as it became an education opportunity interacting with local residents.
Later in the afternoon, several went over to the hotel and chalked protest messages on the sidewalk, which the hotel groundskeepers didn’t appreciate, since they were sent out with a riding sweeper to clean them off, and there were words exchanged.
For Tuesday afternoon, we had a teach-in scheduled on Militarism and Corporate Rule, presented by one of our coalition partners, the Utah Antiwar Coalition, an up-and-coming group of young activists. The day’s planned activities ended with the teach-in. There was some media coverage on Tuesday by the local TV station(s), here and here.
Things really picked up on Wednesday (Day 3), the first day of the ALEC task force meetings and workshops. ALEC welcoming committee’s morning started out with a picket at the Grand America Hotel, followed by a teach-in called ALEC, Unions & Occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol given by Keith Roberts:
Teach-in: ALEC, Unions and the Occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol
When: Wed, July 25, 10am – 12pm
Where: City/County Building, Washington Square SW side (map)
Description: Taught by Keith Roberts, a senior research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. Keith J. Roberts is a Senior Research Fellow at University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for International Studies in Education. Roberts has held multiple administrative positions at higher education institutions, including Vice President for Academics at Brigham Young University–Hawaii from January 2000 to April 2008. Under Dr. Roberts’ guidance, BYU–Hawaii established multiple culturally-sensitive articulation programs with universities in China, Mongolia, Thailand, Fiji, Samoa, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Tahiti.
No protests or actions were officially scheduled between noon and 2 o’clock, but since we knew that our own Governor Herbert was attending an ALEC luncheon at the Grand America hotel, 10 or 12 of us decided to go over and exercise our first amendment right of free expression by chalking the sidewalks around and in front of the hotel. As we made our way to the sidewalk in front of the hotel main entrance continuing our artwork, it didn’t take long for a number of hotel security guards to appear and observe and make sure we didn’t trespass onto hotel property. Obviously, after our Monday evening “Parade of Empty Plates” action at the hotel, security had been instructed to keep a sharp eye out. We used up at least a half-dozen boxes of chalk, and we actually got to engage in some (albeit) brief discussion and explanation of what we were doing with people gong in and out of the hotel. their reactions on the whole were not positive. One guy who we presumed by his demeanor was an ALEC participant, walked by and told us to “learn how to spell.” Our retort was that we spelled 99% of the words correctly and purposely “made 1% of them defective just for you guys.” But I’m sure the subtlety of that remark probably went right over his head.
At 2pm, a teach-in about the history of corporate rule was presented by our local partners, MoveToAmendsaltlake at a conference room they had reserved at the main library. Then at five-thirty everyone headed over to the parking lot just north of the hotel to watch the “Bread and Circus Theatre”, a vaudeville skit about the history of corporations and how corporate rule evolved, which was put on by several of the more theatrically-talented members of MoveToAmendsaltlake. A video of (from a previous skit and venue) can be seen here.
As the Bread and Circus skit was concluding, the ALEC Exposed workshop was commencing in a rented building a few blocks away. The workshop was sponsored by Alliance for a Better Utah and included people from national and local organizations:
Utah ALEC Exposed Workshop
WhenWed, July 25, 6pm – 8pm
Where629 S State (map)
DescriptionThis exciting 2 hour workshop will feature speakers from national and local organizations such as Common Cause, Center for Media and Democracy, AFL-CIO, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, HEAL Utah, and many others. Speaker List: Bob Edgar – president, Common Cause; Sheryl Allen – board member, Alliance for a Better Utah; Lisa Graves – executive director, Center for Media and Democracy; Lori Haas – organizer, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Jenn Gonnelly – co-legislative director, League of Women Voters; Matt Pacenza – policy director, HEAL Utah; Heidi McIntosh – associate director and counsel, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance; Diallo Brooks – director of field mobilization, People for the American Way; Carter Bundy – political and legislative director, AFSCME
An interesting story behind the ALEC Exposed workshop: organizers originally tried to rent a room at the Grand America for that evening but the ALEC people got wind of it and put the kibosh on it with the hotel; consequently a rented building about a block from the hotel was used instead. Partly due to the workshop sponsors having to schedule with Common Cause and others well in advance, there was a little bit of a conflict with another scheduled action that evening. A special reception was being held for ALEC at the new Museum of Natural History located on the University of Utah campus and was scheduled for six-thirty. Consequently, we got split into two groups that evening, one group going to protest at the museum , and a small group going to the workshop with Common Cause. Other TV and newsprint media coverage is here, here and here.
The concluding event of the day for everyone was a showing of the documentary “The Corporation” at Washington Square (description here). A marvelous film which examines corporations and their behavior towards society, which inspired the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.
ALEC Welcoming Committee Call To Action: (www.ALECwc.org)
We the people of Salt Lake City invite all those opposed to the tyranny of the 1% to join us from July 23-28th 2012 in providing a warm welcome for the 39th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council. This annual meeting by ALEC is paid for and attended by corporate sponsors who sit behind closed doors with our elected state legislators. At these meetings laws are created without the voice of the people that will later benefit those same corporate sponsors at the expense of our communities.
ALEC functions as the most influential mechanism by which corporations maintain their dominance over people and policy by occupying our political institutions. ALEC is responsible for thirty nine years worth of oppressive legislation. Model legislation proposed by ALEC and enacted by our elected representatives have destroyed workers rights and strangled free speech. These model policies have driven the privatization of agriculture, education, health care, and the prison industry all at the expense of the ecosystems that sustain us.
We will not allow this systemic corruption to continue. We the people have developed direct democratic communities and processes to challenge the status quo. We call for a local and national convergence of these communities from July 23-28 in Salt Lake City. We remain committed to nonviolence as we provide an open and inclusive space for resistance, rebellion and a diversity of tactics. We the People demand our frustrations be known as we develop solutions together where the voice of the people is heard over the voice of the corporations. It is by solidarity through struggle that we will find our greatest strength.
ALEC Welcoming Committee of Occupy Salt Lake
Bring a tent. Pitchforks Optional.