Occupy Portland / The 99% / Occupy Wall Street Interoccupy
This week, hundreds of thousands rallied in Washington, DC for the Million Man March, more information became available regarding US war crimes, we celebrated the second annual People’s Climate March and World Food Day and we are preparing a mass mobilization to protest the TransPacific Partnership.
Uniting to end Racism
On ’10-10-15,’ the National Mall was packed with people of color, including many Indigenous people, for the ‘Justice or Else’ rally organized by the nation of Islam. Speakers called for uniting in the “common struggle… for freedom, equality and economic access.” Chris Hedges, who teaches prisoners, writes about the devastation that poverty wreaks, “…when you are poor in America, everything conspires to make sure you remain poor. The invisible walls of our internal colonies, keeping the poor penned in like livestock, mirror the physical walls of prison that many in these communities are doomed to experience.”
A central message at the ‘Justice or Else’ rally was the need for communities to join together to meet their basic needs and to build community wealth. Les Leopold’s book, “Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice” is a good place to start learning how to do this. We also recommend the Democracy Collaborative website. There are many communities in the South that are building economic justice through local food systems. Click here to learn about them.
Perhaps in response to the ‘Justice or Else’ rally, hate groups called for anti-Muslim rallies nationwide, but this effort backfired. Few people showed up to protest. Instead, many people gathered to stand with Muslim communities.
This week, Black and Palestinian artists released a video expressing solidarity between their struggles through the message, “When I see them, I see us.” This is an important time to show support because violence by Israel against Palestinians is escalating. Human rights groups are denouncing Israeli attacks on unarmed Palestinians. Thousands in Israel are protesting and calling for a general strike.
There are many similarities between the Black Lives Matter and pro-Palestinian movements which face structural racism, violence and mass incarceration. This week a US Court of Appeals found that Muslims in New Jersey were subjected to surveillance solely on the basis of their religion and a new report reveals that pro-Palestinian activists in the US, particularly on college campuses, are being targeted.
There will be more opportunities in the coming week to rally in solidarity against structural racism and mass incarceration. Check to see if there are #RiseUpOctober events near you.
The War Machine Exposed
The bombing of a Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan by the US military this month may trigger the first investigation ever into war crimes by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission (IHFFC). MSF asked for an independent investigation and the IHFFC has agreed to conduct one, but the US and Afghan governments must agree to cooperate.
New evidence was leaked this week that the cockpit crew in the plane that bombed the hospital knew it was a hospital and questioned the legality of the bombing before proceeding. CLICK HERE to sign a petition to President Obama to release the tapes.
Sadly, after fourteen years of failed foreign policy in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has reversed its promise to end the attack and will continue to keep 10,000 troops there. In an interview, Professor Junaid Ahmad tells us that the situation in Afghanistan is worse than it was before the US invaded because of the US invasion. On Clearing the FOG Radio, Kathy Kelly says that a continued US presence will bring neither stability nor peace.
In what is being called ‘a new Edward Snowden,’ an anonymous whistleblower has released classified information about Obama’s drone program to investigative reporters at The Intercept. Published as “The Drone Papers,” the information shows that the president authorizes drone assassinations, that the intelligence is faulty, that innocent civilians are killed in the attacks and that White House statements are inconsistent with reality. As a result, Amnesty International is calling on Congress to investigate the drone program. For more perspective, read Cesar Chelala’s article on Killer Robots.
And, what happens when peace activists meet with the executive staff of the US Institute for Peace? In a very revealing meeting, the group of activists, which included Kevin Zeese, learned that the USIP actually believes in war and cannot oppose war or their public funding will disappear. In fact, with Pentagon officials on their board, it seems that USIP serves as a nonviolent tool for US Empire.
Uniting for Climate Justice
After 500 years of oppression, Indigenous Peoples and allies are uniting from North and South America to protect the earth. Indigenous women signed an historic treaty to that effect in New York City on the eve of the Super Moon. The final words of the treaty call for people to resist destruction of the earth nonviolently wherever it is occurring until it stops.
Last weekend at the World Peoples’ Conference in Bolivia, participants put forth a list of demands to be presented at the COP 21 meeting in Paris this December. They call for binding agreements that address the root causes of the climate crisis and that create a new paradigm rather than reinforcing market ‘solutions’ that enrich a few and exploit many without solving the crisis.
On Wednesday, people around the US marched to show that the climate movement is broad and diverse and to make connections between the climate crisis and the other crises we face. In Washington, DC, marchers held a massive die-in at the doors of the American Petroleum Institute and then marched to Freedom Plaza chanting “We are the 99%” as we neared the plaza (which brought back memories from our days there in 2011).
New attention is being paid to Exxon’s role in suppressing science about global warming. Two members of Congress are calling for the Department of Justice to investigate Exxon. Activist Bill McKibben is asking people to exert pressure by protesting at Exxon-Mobil gas stations as he did last Thursday.
Uniting for Food Justice
On Friday and Saturday in Washington, DC, March Against Monsanto held marches and rallies for World Food Day. We marched from the White House to the offices of the US Trade Representative to the Environmental Protection Agency to the offices of Monsanto lobbyists and the National Grocery Manufacturer’s Association. This narrative march called for labeling of foods containing GMOs and for bans on cancer-causing pesticides and protested the DARK Act and international agreements such as the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) that threaten food security.
Food Justice advocates called for an immediate transition away from large-scale industrial agriculture practices to those that are organic, restore the integrity of the soil and sequester carbon. At a World Food Day press conference, Andre Leu said that there is good science showing that regenerative agriculture “can reverse climate change, end the loss of biodiversity, stop the poisoning of our children and planet and very importantly, nourish all people with high quality food.”
Vandana Shiva wrote that because of the rise of Big Ag, “For the planet and people, the costs have been tragically high. 75 per cent of the earth’s biodiversity, soils, water have been destroyed, the climate has been destabilised, farmers have been uprooted, and instead of nourishing us, industrial food has become the biggest cause of disease and ill health.”
Uniting our Struggles is Essential
Popular Resistance is collaborating with a growing number of organizations and people to protest the TransPacific Partnership and other international treaties that will prevent us from achieving success in our struggles for racial, economic and environmental justice. We are planning a mass mobilization in Washington, DC this November to show the large and diverse opposition to agreements that force us to sacrifice the health and safety of our communities for corporate profits.
There will be two days of action and arts preparation followed by three full days of creative events. You are invited to participate in any way that you can. CLICK HERE for the Call to Action and to register to either attend the events or plan local events in your community. There will also be opportunities to participate virtually from wherever you are in the International Hack-A-Thon. And make sure you sign the petition to Congress that we will deliver during the actions.
We ask that you support this mobilization with a donation. All donations of $25 or more will qualify for a “Stop the TPP” T-shirt. Just write to email@example.com to tell us your size if you want one. CLICK HERE to donate.
We are rising together, and a people united will never be defeated!
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn who is best known for his “People’s History of the United States” which looks at history from the bottom up, through the lenses of classism, racism and sexism.
Bill Bigelow writes about Zinn’s concerns about nationalism, American exceptionalism and militarism. Zinn said that patriotism does not mean blind obedience to government because that is “the definition of patriotism in a totalitarian state.”
Zinn believed it was essential for students to learn the true history of the US so that they could question and debate whether they want to stay on that same path. Those in power work to hide this true history and to foster obedience without questioning so that the machine of American empire continues to run.
We remember Zinn for the advice he gave activists a year before his death. When he was asked what should people be doing, he gave advice that is good no matter what the era:
Confronting the War Culture
CODEPINK exposed truth this week in Congress when they attempted a citizen’s arrest of Henry Kissinger who was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Kissinger is responsible for hideous war crimes in Chile, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and East Timor. Senator McCain who chairs the committee called CODEPINK “low life scum” and the audience obediently applauded Kissinger in a display of the topsy-turvy world we live in where war criminals are heroes.
The current film, “American Sniper,” is a propaganda piece that is being used to glorify war and murder which will draw our youth into the military. Fortunately there are former snipers like Garett Reppenhagen who tell students the truth that there is no glory in taking another’s life, only a sense of loss. There are counter-recruitment efforts in the US by groups such as NNOMY which provides materials for people to use.
Hollywood is not the only war propaganda tool. The commercial media, in particular the New York Times, feeds a narrow one-sided narrative of US foreign policy. Robert Parry dissected the NYT coverage of the situation in Ukraine including its lack of historical context.
Ukraine and Russia
The broader view of the crises in Ukraine and Russia requires looking at the role of US involvement and the expansion of NATO. For more information, we recommend these articles by Andrew Coburn, Diana Johnstone and William Boardman. Johnstone has an excellent analysis of how Ukraine is being used to further antagonize Russia. She writes:
“NATO leaders are currently acting out a deliberate charade in Europe, designed to reconstruct an Iron Curtain between Russia and the West. With astonishing unanimity, NATO leaders feign surprise at events they planned months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified ‘Russian aggression’.”
Boardman explains how the US has taken control of Ukraine’s financial affairs:
“The new Ukrainian finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, is an American citizen who managed a Ukrainian-based, U.S.-created hedge fund that was charged with illegal insider trading. She also managed a CIA fund that supported ‘pro-democracy’ movements and laundered much of the $5 billion the U.S. spent supporting the Maidan protests that led to the Kiev coup in February 2014. Jaresko is a big fan of austerity for people in troubled economies.”
And what is behind this charade? Corporate interests as usual. The Oakland Institute outlines the ways that corporations like DuPont, Monsanto and Cargill are profiteering in Ukraine by acquiring land and decreasing regulations and corporate taxes. And of course it is also about oil. A few months after the 2014 coup, Joe Biden’s son Hunter and Devon Archer, a friend of the Kerry family, joined the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings Ltd.
Oil is often the reason for wars and aggression. This new independent study from the UK shows that foreign intervention is usually for economic gain, and “foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none.”
Of course we’ve known for a long time that wars are fought for oil. And we know that the next wars will be over water, food and land as the climate crisis makes large areas uninhabitable. Our activities to end war, mitigate climate change and move to sustainable, renewable sources of energy are closely intertwined.
Daily we receive stories of communities that are fighting extreme energy extraction and the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. In Saskatchewn, the Northern Dene Trapper Alliance has been holding a checkpoint for more than two months to keep uranium and oil explorers out. In Vancouver, Rising Tide members disrupted a dinner being hosted by Kinder Morgan which is trying to build a pipeline.
The people of Forks Township in Pennsylvania are protesting a compressor station that will be used to move fracked gas. And the first watershed to sue over fracking is in Grant Township which passed a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance which recognizes the rights of nature. Communities in other states such as Kentucky and Louisiana and the UK are also fighting fracking.
There have been some recent victories. After his inauguration was disrupted by anti-fracking protests, the new Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf banned fracking on public lands. Scotland placed a moratorium on fracking this week.
Young Dine women and their supporters are walking a thousand miles this year to protest extreme energy extraction and promote alternatives. One organizer of the “Journey for Existence”, Paige Eldridge says, “We are being told to invest in our own destruction in the name of the economy. People say we need these jobs, but we don’t. To take care of ourselves it will take a tremendous amount of work, but it is a beautiful dream and it is so possible.”
Alternatives are essential and possible. The Fight for 15 has made progress in the fight for a living wage and they have plans for more gains in 2015. Madison, WI, home of many cooperatives already, is investing $5 million to create more cooperative businesses. The work to stop trash incinerators has been very successful and is now becoming a movement for zero waste.
As the crisis of plutocracy escalates, alternative economies and political systems become imperative. Just five years ago, 388 people controlled half of the world’s wealth, but now that has declined to a mere 80 people (here are their names). Many of these people not only control the money, but they control the US government. The history of high attendance at the World Social Forum shows that there is a strong desire to build alternatives to the current neoliberal model of globalization.
In the US, the fight against neoliberal trade agreements is coming down to the wire. We’ve been working to expose and delay the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for years. Supposedly, negotiations are nearing completion and the president is asking for Congress to give him Fast Track legislation so he can finish the deal. The US Trade Ambassador Michael Froman testified in the House and Senate this past week, or we should say he testi-lied. The Popular Resistance team and allies were on hand to call him and members of Congress out for selling out our economy and democracy in this huge corporate power grab. Read our analysis here about why we must stop Fast Track and how we can do it. Go to www.StopFastTrack.com and use the easy call-in tool to contact your member of Congress.
Greek voters made a shift to a coalition of the radical left, Syriza. Greece has been treated as a debt colony with European and US financiers demanding intense austerity and the selling off (aka privatization) of public assets. Many in Europe see the revolt in Greece as the beginning of a series of revolts against European austerity that makes the wealthy wealthier and everyone else poorer. Spain may be next to revolt at the polls. As the revolt spreads it may threaten the existence of the European Union as people call for European-wide change.
The new Greek leader, Alexis Tsipras, started aggressively. His first meeting was with the Russian diplomat, not any European leaders. He appointed a radical academic, who called austerity “fiscal waterboarding” as finance minister, stopped two massive privatizations of a port and Greece’s biggest utility, and pledged to raise pensions and rehire fired public sector workers. Greece is on a collision course with Europe, in particular with Germany.
We are pleased to see people around the world instinctively following the advice that Howard Zinn gave to US activists. Across the world, people are facing governments corrupted by money and not representing their needs and they are fighting back.
We close with a quote from Zinn: “But remember, this power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power.”
‘Low-life scum’ of the world – Unite!
In 2004, Sam Smith gave this talk, “On Becoming and Being an Activist,” at a teen conference. The essence of his message is that we are facing serious crises and we have to make a choice of whether we will act or not. We are on a dangerous path and it takes courage to see that and not be paralyzed into inaction. It is easier to ignore the truth and succumb to the many distractions in our lives.
“It is this willingness to walk away from the seductive power of the present that first divides the mere reformer from the rebel — the courage to emigrate from one’s own ways in order to meet the future not as just a right but as a frontier.”
Smith goes on to describe that traditional tools for social change, such as working within the system, are not effective in this time. We must raise our voices, do the unexpected and try the improbable. We need to use our passion, our energy, our magic and music to burst the illusion being hand fed to us in the media and taught in our schools. He describes multiple instance where small numbers of people created radical transformation.
There is evidence that the mirage of democracy in our country is disappearing and that people are taking bold action. There were so many actions in the past week that we cannot hope to include them all in this newsletter.
Democracy in crisis: Plutocracy is a mainstream concept
The World Economic Forum, a global neoliberal institution, is currently meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Tom Keene of Bloomberg News asked in an interview, “How big is the Plutocracy Effect in 2015?” And the response was “It’s significant,” that it is taken for granted by people all over the world that the US is run on “legalized corruption.” The ‘Plutocracy Effect’ is a recognized entity. Think about what that means.
This week was the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United which expanded the concepts of corporations as people and money as speech by opening the floodgates of independent political expenditures. Actions took place across the country on Wednesday to protest and call for a constitutional amendment that would reverse this case law. In New Hampshire, hundreds of people marched 185 miles in the snow to protest at the State House. And in Washington, DC, eight people were arrested for disrupting the Supreme Court calling for a reversal of Citizens United.
The President delivered his State of the Union Speech on Tuesday with the usual theatrics and propaganda. In response, Green Party past presidential candidate Jill Stein delivered her own state of the union and others including Cheri Honkala, Howie Hawkins, Shamako Noble and Margaret Flowers commented as well. This “People’s State of the Union” provided facts about the economic, social and environmental crises and solutions to them. A “State of the Black Union” was written by the Black Lives Matter movement too.
The President pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his SOTU claiming that it would increase jobs. The reality is that similar trade agreements caused the massive loss of jobs and suppression of wages and worker rights. Comedian Abby Feldman urges people to wake up while there’s still time stop the TPP. Congress is moving quickly to give Fast Track to the President. And just as quickly people are mobilizing to stop it.
Join the Emergency protest in New York City this Monday at noon at the Sheraton Hotel near Times Square (7th and 53rd).
This was also inaugural week for many state governors. Anti-fracking protesters disrupted the swearing in of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf who wants to link education funding to fracking revenue. And anti-fracking protests took place at the inaugural events for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. People from across Alabama disrupted Governor Robert Bentley’s inauguration which was held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and displaced the annual activities.
In many cities across the country, MLK Day was celebrated in a new way. People rejected the watered-down and dreaming version of Dr. King and embraced him as the radical activist that he was. Demonstrators in Oakland shut down the Federal Reserve for four and a half hours to represent the time that Mike Brown’s body was left on the street after he was killed. Why focus on the Federal Reserve? As this annual report by United for a Fair Economy shows, people of color are “underbanked and overcharged.”
We spoke with organizers from Washington, DC, Pittsburgh and Oakland on MLK Day about the rising awareness of the connections between racism, capitalism and militarism and the work that is being done to counter them on Clearing the FOG Radio. Click here to listen to that program.
The Right to a Livable Future
One of the greatest threats we face is the climate crisis. The failure to take effective action to mitigate it also has its roots in racism, capitalism and militarism. That right to a livable future is under attack in neoliberal trade agreements like the TPP and TAFTA. In their zealous drive for profits, Big Energy is using every tool they have to extract the last bits of carbon from the Earth, but the people are not deterred.
The Oceti Sakowan issued a call to protect Mother Earth by stopping the Alberta tar sands extraction and the Keystone XL Pipeline. Now that the NE Supreme Court ruled against the people, Keystone is moving to use eminent domain to seize property for the pipeline, but Nebraskans are not giving up. And Canadians are organizing a #ShutDownCanada day of action on February 13 for many reasons including to protest dirty energy.
Virginians are fighting a similar battle with Dominion which is suing for access to people’s land for pipelines to carried fracked gas. As in the Midwest, this pipeline fight is uniting uncommon allies. And the same is happening in Seneca Lake in the struggle to stop a fracked gas storage facility. There have been more than 200 arrests to stop Seneca Lake; this week the mom’s took on Crestwood.
We know that fracking has caused an unprecedented number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, and a new study shows the same happening in Kansas too. Fracking pipelines and facilities also emit hazardous chemicals and can explode. Oil pipelines leak as this one did this week in Montana, dumping tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River for the second time.
Despite these environmental catastrophes, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission continues to rubberstamp permits for new oil and gas infrastructure. This week, activists with Beyond Xtreme Energy disrupted FERC’s monthly meeting causing the commissioners to leave the hearing room. We are at an energy crossroads and the people are saying stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure and move to renewables instead. Studies show that solar is cheaper in almost all US cities. Iowa City is the latest to announce an effort to increase solar capacity.
People everywhere are not only resisting the continuation of the old era of fossil and nuclear fuels, but are working together to create alternatives to move us into the era of clean and just energy sources. There are numerous groups networking at present to collaborate on work to make this transition. If you want to be informed about those efforts,sign up for the Popular Resistance climate justice affinity group here.
Find Your Path To A Just Society
Sam Smith encourages each of us to find a way to contribute to our transformation to a just society, to find our path and walk it. He writes:
“Above all, we must understand that in leaving the toxic ways of the present we are healing ourselves, our places, and our planet. We must rebel not as a last act of desperation but as a first act of creation.”
And that is what we mean when we say, “Stop the machine and create a new world.”
This is an important reality to consider. The reaction to the grand jury in 170 cities included people blocking major roadways, highways, bridges and tunnels. The police were unable to stop mobilized people working together to stop traffic. Those involved in the protest were still a small number, perhaps 200,000 people, but even this small percentage of the population had the power to #ShutItDown. In most instances protests were met with support even by people who were inconvenienced by traffic.
Now that we know that even a small percentage of Americans, well under .1%, have this power, how do we grow this capacity?
Growing the Movement
Research over the last 100 years of resistance movements shows that when just 3.5% of the public mobilizes to support a movement for social, economic or environmental justice, it always wins.
One way to look at the movement is like an archery target, a series of concentric circles. At the center is the core group of people who feel strongly about a particular issue, often those directly affected. There are many who have been working on police abuse, racial injustice and militarization of police long before Ferguson, just as there have been Michael Brown-like incidents across the country. With Ferguson, a whole new group of people joined, the circle grew as people were horrified that an unarmed teenager could be killed by police and his body left lying in the road for 4.5 hours. As publicity about the case grew, more people joined the circle of concern seeking Justice for Mike Brown. Then, there were more police killings in additional cities throughout the country and the circles grew larger; and after the grand jury reached its decision, more people joined. When people heard of the grand jury decision, and now as they learn about how the grand jury was manipulated to protect the killer of Mike Brown, more joined.
One of the keys to building the movement against racially unfair policing is to bring other social justice activists into it. All of our issues are connected and that includes the racial unfairness, not just in the criminal justice system but also in the economic system as well as the reality of environmental racism. The black community is in a state of emergency and the government is ignoring it. No progress has been made under the first African American president and attorney general.
One example of doing this is how the Ferguson protests joined with Walmart protests to undermine Black Friday consumerism in thousands of protests across the nation. Racial injustice is intertwined with economic injustice. Militarized policing is intertwined with militarization abroad.
It is important for those most directly impacted to speak out. People from communities of color, families who have lost loved ones to police violence, young people who have been harassed because of the color of their skin must be in the lead. Their voices must be at the forefront so that people begin to understand the injustice faced by millions every day.
The other key to growing the movement is raising consci ousness. Whenever people are taking action in a public protest it is critical to remember that the primary target of our protest is the public. As Bruce Gagnon wrote about a protest at a mall in St. Louis, the people in the mall “would be too afraid to ever go near such an action but here today they suddenly were right in the middle of the whole event. They had to see the spirited non-violent protest was in fact not nearly as dangerous as corporate media keeps telling them.”
We want people to see we have power and they will also have power if they join the movement. It is mass movements that create change, not fringe movements.
Finally, a brief comment on leadership: One of the great strengths of the post-Ferguson protests has been the diversity of leadership throughout the country. No one person or organization is directing these protests. All of us who care about racial injustice are playing our role. The lack of hierarchy has been one of the keys to making it difficult for the government to respond or predict what was going to happen next. The role played by Ferguson Action was also important. Their gentle form of leadership, i.e. suggesting targets, themes, messages and tactics as well as types of spokespersons, gave people working throughout the country a common framework to work in with the flexibility appropriate for their community. People were able to join together in loose affiliation working toward a common goal within a common strategic framework.
Now That We Have Your Attention: What Is Our Message?
When an action like shutting down major roadways gets public attention we need to be clear in our messaging. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of an issue and change the consciousness of many. We need to be very conscious of our messages and our actions. One well-crafted sign can often pierce people’s thinking and break through.
There is a lot of room to raise the consciousness of Americans, in particular white America, regarding the racially unfair police practices in the nation. Multiple polls show that whites and blacks see the killing of Michael Brown, the grand jury decision and justice in America very differently. The differences can be 40% to 60% between how whites and blacks view issues of justice. The view of whites regarding racial disparity diverges far from reality. These misperceptions can change very quickly because they are inconsistent with reality.
The facts are stark showing injustice at every stage of the criminal process from arrest through incarceration. There are so many examples of racial injustice. People now understand terms like “driving while black” or “stop and frisk” and how those types of practices result in widespread harassment of African Americans who are merely driving or walking through a community. These practices have widespread impact on communities of color and when they are publicized or result in litigation, they educate the community.
The emotional impacts of these practices also need to be shown. Many people are not moved by facts no matter how stark they are, but when they hear personal stories they can be reached. For example, a mother describing how she worries about her son coming home from school safely because of police harassment or a young man describing how he was degraded by the police when he was stopped and searched in the street for no reason.
We now have tools that no other generation has had to get our message out. While the mass corporate media continues to mislead more often than not, we now have the Internet, a tool that democratizes the media and builds our voices. People can become news photographers, writers and even create their own video outlet. They can video police as they interact with citizens. The people’s media is reaching a tipping point where it can become the most powerful source for information.
We saw this during the recent Ferguson protests. One media outlet, live streamer Bassem Masri, was sharing video with 90,000 viewers after the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced. He had as many viewers as cable television outlets. And, he was just one of many sources of livestream. Masri was such a serious threat to the Ferguson power structure that they fought back against him. First his phone, used to livestream, was stolen and then he was arrested. He was charged with driving on a suspended license, when he was a passenger in a car, and then he was held on $15,000 bond. The police and judge obviously wanted to keep him off the street and prevent him from showing the truth of what was occurring in Ferguson. A crowd funding campaign quickly raised the bail funds. There are video activists like Masri across the country in virtually every city. This means that the police do not control the narrative and citizens media can get out the story, with much greater credibility than the corporate media. (This is why another campaign that unites us is for the future of the Internet and net neutrality.)
In the case of Masri, we expect the injustice he has suffered because of the unnecessary arrest and extreme bond will have two impacts. First, it will strengthen Masri as he is now better known and has more public support. Second, it will undermine the justice system further. To take this journalist off the streets – violating not only his rights but our right to knowledge – required the collusion of the police, prosecutor and judge in St. Louis County. As people learn more about cases like these, it further undermines the power structure.
A more challenging example of that is the grand jury in Ferguson. The police and prosecutors used the grand jury as a way to justify not prosecuting Officer Darren Wilson. A countercurrent is growing as people learn about how the grand jury was misused. How the prosecutors, rather than really seeking indictment, warped the grand jury to ensure it prevented an indictment. The mistakes of the grand jury are legion and significant, and more people are talking about it. If we can get our message out about how the grand jury was a rigged farce, it to will undermine the justice system in Ferguson.
The key strength of our consciousness-raising efforts is that we are trying to show people reality. This is important because when they hear our facts or personal stories, then it will be reinforced by their experiences. When people’s experiences match the messages of the movements, they are on the path to having their consciousness raised.
End Game: How Do We Win?
In any campaign we need to envision what victory looks like. In the Ferguson-Police Brutality campaign activists have put forward specific goals for both Ferguson and the nation. See Ferguson Action Demands. These demands are being carried by activists across the country, see e.g. the Hands-Up Coalition DC which is organizing a weekly protest at the US Department of Justice on Pennsylvania Ave at 4:00 pm every Monday beginning on December 1. People are beginning to write about how we can end abusive policing. Some cities, like Baltimore, have held town hall meetings on the issue. People are uniting to transform policing.
Some of these demands are reforms that can begin the transformation, but we recognize that racism and police abuse are long-term problems that will require time to change. We will win when it becomes politically untenable for people to oppose the justice we seek. When 75% or more of the population agrees injustice exists and that action must be taken to correct it, then we become an unstoppable political force. In this process we will also win over many police officers as well.
People involved in Ferguson Action and other allied groups across the country realize this needs to be an ongoing campaign, not a burst of energy that dissipates.
Resistance campaigns have won important victories in our history – for worker’s rights, women’s rights, ending segregation and recognizing equality for gays. Currently we are seeing resistance movements working to win increased wages, stop extreme energy extraction, protect the future of the Internet, stop corporate trade agreements, win rights for immigrants and a multitude of economic issues.
Across the country and around the world, people are building their power. And when we see that our issues are connected and work across issues and act strategically, our power grows. Now that we have a taste of what we can accomplish together, let’s keep building and walking on the path to justice.