Occupy Portland / The 99% / Occupy Wall Street Interoccupy
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.
As the elections draw near, the plutocracy and crisis of democracy become more visible. There are reports of ‘dark money’ in record amounts influencing races. An obvious example of this took place in Richmond, CA, home of a large Chevron refinery, last week when Chevron funded a ‘new non-profit’ that hosted a ‘civil rights icon’ to stump for pro-business candidates. Steve Early called him “big oil’s reverend for rent.”
We’ve written before about the studies which show that the interests of the wealthy are represented in our public policy instead of the needs and interests of the public. For example, on October 19, several IRS whistleblowers exposed that corporations are being allowed illegally to avoid paying billions in taxes while individuals and small businesses are punished. And Drs. Bruno and Burns describe how Coca Cola has infected medical associations and undermined reform.
Sheldon Wolin wrote about this in “Democracy, Inc.” He calls our political and economic system ‘inverted totalitarianism,’ which simply means that the economic system dominates our political system and that the public is disempowered. He calls the United States a ‘managed democracy.’
Chris Hedges recently did a series of interviews with Sheldon Wolin. You can watch the first one here and the rest are being posted on The Real News. Wolin makes an important point that capitalism destroys democracy. It is a system that siphons wealth to the rich at the expense of the rest of us. As people struggle to survive, they are unable to participate in any meaningful way in public life, in expressing their political power which is the essence of democracy.
“If you’re not exploitable, you’re expendable”
That is a phrase that we first heard from Cheri Honkala of the Poor Peoples Economic and Human Rights Campaign. Human rights are not being respected in the US. People are being driven into poverty and pushed off of the land, a model that is highly reminiscent of the way that Indigenous Peoples have and continue to be treated.
Zak Cheney-Rice writes about this in his exposé on gentrification in America’s cities. In Detroit, people are being cleared out in a particularly cruel way. Thousands have had their water turned off for inability to pay the increasing charges. This leads to their home being condemned and the eviction of families. Maude Barlow writes that Detroit is the ‘canary in the coal mine.’ We can expect to see similar practices in other cities.
As people are thrown into the streets, the criminalization of the homeless is increasing. In 21 cities, people are banned from sharing food with people who have lost their homes. This is part of increased criminalization of the poor. In New York, an illegal and unprecedented crack down on street musicians in subways is underway.
Of course, that state-sanctioned violence is occurring in our low-income communities, especially those that are comprised of mostly People of Color. This has been going on for a long time. The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the militarized police response to legitimate protest is the most recent event that brought it to national awareness. Amnesty International just came out with a statement that the police in Ferguson violated the human rights of the demonstrators.
The murder of Black men and women in the US by police and vigilantes is a slow genocide. On October 22, there were protests in more than 80 cities in the US against police brutality, extrajudicial killings and mass incarceration. Activists are now calling for a comprehensive federal database of people who are killed by police to be created. That is one step that will reveal the magnitude of this atrocity. In Chicago, youth volunteers have submitted a report of human rights violations by police to the United Nations. They call it “We Charge Genocide.” And a new study shows that aggressive and racially-biased policing is causing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the victims who are primarily Black youth.
The verdict in the Michael Brown murder Grand Jury investigation is expected to be released soon and police are preparing for the backlash. An indictment of Officer Darren Wilson who shot him is unlikely. Already the corporate media is spinning the story in a way that justifies the murder. This is typical. The same thing is happening in the case of Marissa Alexander, a mother and victim of domestic abuse who fired a warning shot from her licensed gun to deter her abuser.
The neoliberal attack on the poor is not just in the United States. The recent disappearance and suspected murder of 43 rural student teachers in Mexico exposes the violence of this neoliberal attack on the poor in a horrible way. YoSoy132, the Mexican social movement, is calling for our help in stopping this state-sanctioned violence.
As we see, despite the obstacles, people are standing up and demanding changes. Chris Hedges wrote this week that there is a path to ending inverted totalitarianism and putting real democracy in place. It requires building a mass movement. Research shows that when 3.5% of the population is mobilized on issues where the majority of the public agrees, great transformations have occurred.
One of the obstacles is that resources are needed to bring these movements to fruition and empower them to be more effective. Hedges writes that there must be a solid core of professional organizers – people who can devote significant time and energy to organizing within their communities, who understand how political power works and who are dedicated to the long haul. We see this critical need everywhere we go. Unfortunately, foundations are adept at funding reformist organizations that maintain the status quo.
Still, without that, there are many groups who are doing what they can and some are achieving results. The people who recently occupied St. Louis University did negotiate with the university president who promised to make changes. Now it is the task of the activists to make sure that he is sincere.
Groups in Baltimore are working together to end homelessness by turning some of the city’s more than 40,000 vacant homes into community land trusts to house people without homes make houses permanently affordable.
Despite the corruption of political parties by the oil and gas industry, people are standing up to stop the construction of dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure. In New York, activists are blockading construction of a gas storage area in a fragile salt cavern and in Vermont, landowners are working together to stop pipelines from being built on their properties. Note that these projects have both been approved by Democratic governors.
The Democrats like to blame Republicans for lack of action to address the climate crisis, but some of the worst projects are in Democrat-led states. And the Democrats are expected to be the obstacle to real climate solutions in the next Congress. That is why we are organizing a protest at the Democratic National Headquarters on November 3 as part of the Beyond Extreme Energy week of actions to retire fossil fuels. We will call out the Democrats for being in bed with the dirty energy industries. Click here to sign the letter that we will deliver.
We will close by pointing to an article by Shane Burley of the Portland Solidarity Network. Burley clearly and succinctly outlines a plan for success similar to the ‘Stop the Machine, Create a New World’ framework that we promote. It involves working in our communities to put systems in place that meet our needs and at the same time structuring that work so that we are building community power. It is also essential to recognize that our work on separate issues is connected.
“When the forces of resistance become the tools of building a new society, we move away from simply responding to disaster and start planting the seeds of the world we only imagined during passive daydreams.”
We recommend reading Burley’s article and also our piece called “History Shows we have the Power to Transform the Nation.”
As usual, we can’t cover everything in this newsletter. If you want to stay up to date with the news, please click here to sign up for the daily digest.
There is no doubt that the people are rising. Today there are at least three major events taking place – the Ferguson October massive march to end police brutality and racism in St. Louis, the European-wide day of actions against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TAFTA) and the Global Frackdown. People are also protesting the World Bank meeting in Washington, DC and the Maine Walk for Peace is beginning.
This week we remembered Popular Resistance’s roots in the occupation of Freedom Plaza which began as October2011. At that time we wondered if people were ready to take stronger actions to challenge the corrupt political and economic systems that rule and the answer in the form of hundreds of occupations and the ongoing protests that followed was a clear ‘Yes!”
That momentum continues to build through meetings, networking, actions and the creation of new systems. The culture of the movement now is ‘convergence’ and the question is: “How do we work together more effectively to change the system?” Even traditional non-governmental organizations are starting to question whether they are challenging the system or perpetuating it. This is good news. The tide is shifting.
Thousands march for justice in St. Louis
Grassroots groups in Ferguson, MO called for people to join them for a weekend of nonviolent action and thousands responded. The weekend began with a march from Clayton to the police station last night and today thousands marched in downtown St. Louis. The marches are well-organized and peaceful. The future may not be so peaceful as police are coordinating with the FBI to prepare for possible riots if the grand jury does not indict Officer Darren Wilson.
Getting justice for Mike Brown and the hundreds of others who are killed by police each year is an uphill battle. Davey D wrote about his concerns around another murder by police of an 18 year old black teen in St. Louis this past week, Vonderrick Myers. While doubts were raised about the actions of an unidentified off-duty police officer, police immediately pointed to Myers’ arrest record. But in an area that overwhelmingly arrests black males, it’s hard to escape having a record.
The roots of racism and police violence are long and deep in the United States. These issues have been bubbling at the surface for a while. Mike Brown’s murder and the clear injustices in Ferguson brought them to a boil. Now the question is how to use this energy and attention to solve these crises rather than adding to them. Here is one vision that has been put forth which suggests expanding the work beyond civil rights to a human rights framework.
The Ohio Student’s Association organized and carried out a powerful campaign this week seeking justice for John Crawford, 21 years old, who was murdered by an officer in a Walmart while carrying a toy gun. The students started by occupying the police station for 3 days asking for a meeting with the chief and when the chief did not accept their basic demands, they shut down the office by sitting-in outside of it.
We need more campaigns like this. And we need more actions like this lawyer took who saw a black man being stopped by police for no reason other than walking in a wealthy neighborhood. She confronted the police and told them to get out of the neighborhood. We need to understand our legal rights and help each other. Check out the Civil Liberties Defense Center for helpful resources. And remember that this is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Free Marissa campaign is calling on Florida to drop the charges against Marissa Alexander.
The economic system that we are working to change is a form of capitalism called neo-liberalism. It’s a system that puts profit ahead of human rights and protection of the planet. It turns everything into a commodity. It privatizes our Commons and services through ‘public-private partnerships’ which are less partnership and more plundering.
The World Bank is a prime culprit in the global neo-liberal agenda and it’s time to call them out for it. Here is a new report that dispels the myths around the World Bank’s new approach to agriculture which is displacing millions of Indigenous People from their land. Another report shows that the World Bank is failing to address energy poverty. The World Bank annual meeting is in Washington, DC this weekend. Lively protests were held there yesterday featuring Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir and today. It was organized by the Our Land Our Business campaign and was part of an international day of action.
Other tools for the neoliberal agenda are global trade agreements such as the TPP and TAFTA. They give legal rights for corporations to sue governments if laws interfere with profits. Lambert Strether wrote about some of the worst ways this power has been abused. And this article describes a similar case in New Brunswick that threatens to open the area to fracking.
Today there were actions throughout Europe to protest the Atlantic agreement, TAFTA. And we are preparing for a week of actions to stop the TPP and TAFTA in November. Last year there were 35 actions in the US on the national day of action to stop the TPP. We can double that this year and send a strong message to Congress. Click here to learn more about what you can do.
Fossil Fuel Industry Forges Ahead
We must continue to escalate actions to stop the fossil fuel industry. This week, a gas pipeline that is heavily opposed by the public was approved in Vermont. A massive sit-in is being organized in Montpelier for October 27 to protest it. Join them if you can! Click here for more information.
The Federal Energy Regulation Commission recently approved the storage of methane gas in a cavern at Lake Seneca in New York and the construction of a gas export terminal in Maryland. Both of these are heavily opposed and the environmental impacts were inadequately studied. And it was revealed this week that the Cuomo administration pressured the USGS to alter a key study on the impacts of fracking.
That’s why the week of actions in Washington, DC from November 1 to 8, called Beyond Extreme Energy, couldn’t come at a better time. The FERC will be one of many targets. You can learn more and sign up here. We urge you to join the new Popular Resistance Climate Justice affinity group. We are organizing an action in DC on November 3 as part of Beyond Extreme Energy which you can join and if you can’t, we’ll keep you informed of activities around climate justice. Click here to sign up.
Stopping the War Machine
This week marked the beginning of the 14th year in Afghanistan. We marked that anniversary with a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City. For those of you who have followed the annual ceremony there, you will be pleased to know that the curfew was lifted and there were no arrests. This victory was bittersweet as we mourned the expansion of war and the continuing epidemic of suicides by veterans.
Once more, the Masters of War have succeeded in convincing the public to accept more wars. Jason Hirthler explains why the US is entering another quagmire. Unfortunately,endless war is the doctrine of the United States and it is embraced by both dominant political parties. Scott Tucker warns that peace activists must take on the Democratic Party if there is to be an end to war. As we did last fall, David Swanson calls for the anti-war movement to move past partisanship and work together to stop war.
And we urge you to take time this weekend to learn more about America’s first war, also called the American Holocaust. Elysse Bruce of Idle No More explains why Columbus should not be celebrated and in fact, Seattle just voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples this Monday.
There is a lot happening and a lot to do. To learn more about the constructive actions that people are taking to create a better world, we urge you to visit the Create page on Popular Resistance. And if you are engaged in constructive work in your community, please share that with us by emailing email@example.com.
Have a great Indigenous People’s Day this Monday!
Breaking News: Resist!
Attorney Kevin Zeese discusses how the judge hearing Cecily McMillan's
case did not allow the defense to show images, which would have proven
that the activist was reacting to getting her breast grabbed
On this Fourth of July, let us pause in our festivities to consider what we are celebrating. To help, we’ve posted several reflections about Independence Day on PopularResistance.org.
We begin with the transcript of a speech given by Frederick Douglass on the fourth of July in 1852. He acknowledges the accomplishment of gaining independence from the British Empire but reminds the audience that he does not share in that independence. Douglass urges the young nation to acknowledge the truth of its founding and the hypocrisy of celebrating freedom while millions were not free. He concludes,
“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed….”
Bill Bigelow, an educator from Oregon, similarly writes about the need to understand the truth of our history and how social change occurs and to teach it in our schools. The United States has become that from which it originally sought to separate itself: an Empire. Class War Films provides a new short video history of American Empire in which it states that the function of empire is as follows: “It is by violence abroad and deception and repression at home to enrich the ruling class at the cost of the utter ruin of its society.”
Breaking News: Resist!
All Empires fall when they overreach and Class War Films concludes that the United States is in decline. Put simply, the primary responsibility of governments is to ensure security, but US government has gone astray to protect the security of multinational corporations at the expense of its population. Tom Dispatch published Noam Chomsky’s article, “America’s Real Foreign Policy,” which describes this misdirection in greater depth.
But we don’t have to look far to see it. The recently leaked text of another secret trade agreement, TISA, shows that it serves to further roll back corporate regulations. The twin agreements, TPP and TAFTA, are huge corporate power grabs and the negotiators know it. That is why they fled in the dark of night almost 3,000 miles to avoid protests this week. And that is why corporations are gagging employees.
Secrecy is one tool used by the elites to do their dirty work, and another is doublespeak. Chair of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, says that he opposes a tiered Internet but he is avoiding what the public is clearly demanding, reclassification of the Internet as a Common Carrier so that all people would have equal access. With less than two weeks before the public comment period ends, we performed a musical in front of the FCC on Tuesday which asked “Which Side Are You On, Tom?” Click here to take action.
The Supreme Court revealed which side it was on this week through decisions that weaken the rights of women. Obama also says one thing and does another as he speaks about our nation’s immigrant heritage while separating families by deporting millions of people. The US response to the influx of immigrants is being questioned as possibly violating international law. And Hillary Clinton has had a busy week supporting rigged corporate trade in Denver and helping Big Ag frame GMOs in more acceptable terms in San Diego.
It is time once again to reject Empire and oligarchy and change the course of our still young nation. Today marks the beginning of a campaign called the Rolling Rebellion for Real Democracy. Click hereto learn more about it and to get involved. People are holding creative actions across the country to make our true history and lack of true democracy visible.
Of course, what we lack is democratic governance. True democracy, defined as ‘people power,’ is on the rise. There are victories to celebrate this week. In Maryland, students announced the halt in construction of a huge trash incinerator close to their school that they’ve been fighting for three years. In New York, local governments won the right to ban fracking. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to allow victims of torture in Abu Ghraib to sue the private contractors who abused them. And the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in favor of postal banks that could end predatory financial practices and keep wealth in communities.
Resistance is ongoing. Protesters in Detroit called for a moratorium on the water shut-offs and promised to take direct action if necessary to protect their right to water. Homeowners in New York City who are still at risk of foreclosure released a new report showing how people of color are adversely affected by underwater mortgages and demanded that the city take steps to protect them. And dozens of people walked more than 150 miles straight to the Governor’s home to protest a law that exempts oil and gas companies from liability for damage to water. On July 13, a rally will be held in DC over a new gas terminal being proposed in Maryland that would increase fracking and threaten the safety of the surrounding community.
A growing global campaign to stop corporate abuses and hold transnational corporations accountable held a week of actions in Geneva during the meeting of the Human Rights Council which included a People’s Tribunal.
As we celebrate the nostalgia of Independence Day, let’s resolve to actually become independent from our Empire economy that never fails to fund wars while our domestic infrastructure and economy falter. Let’s resolve to become independent of oligarchic rule that puts the rights and interests of large corporations before the needs of the public, and that finds it acceptable to pollute or to cut off water to hundreds of thousands while corporations escape accountability.
When the Occupy Movement joined the global uprising, the encampments gave us a taste of what caring communities looked like, of what participatory democracy felt like and how to create new sustainable systems. Since then, as occupy chronicler Nathan Schneider writes, activists are engaged in all sorts of efforts to protest injustice and build alternatives. It is difficult but also rewarding work.
Let’s imagine what real democracy would look like. Howie Hawkins gives us some ideas in his new article on the meaning of democracy. And Professor Steven Colatrella goes even further by gathering ideas from all over the world and assembling them into a roadmap for “A Civilization based on Self-Governing Cities and Townships, Cooperative Self-Governed Workplaces and Public Finance, Sustainable Agriculture and Renewable Energy and Universal Access to Citizenship, Income and Subsistence.”
Out of crisis comes opportunity for real solutions. Take some time this weekend to lean about our true history, talk about the kind of society that we want to live in and become active in making it a reality.
Chris Hedges wrote an excellent article this week on the lessons learned from the Tiananmen Square massacre that occurred 25 years ago. These lessons are salient today, particularly as we watch the violent repression of protests happening around the World Cup in Brazil.
Hedges emphasizes the importance of creating a broad movement grounded in nonviolence that draws in groups supporting the power structure. In Brazil, there is broad support for the protesters including the police and multiple unions that have gone on strike. In response, Brazil mobilized its military against the people injuring both protesters and tourists on opening day.
There is evidence that a similar response can occur in the Americas. Nafeez Ahmed writes that the US Department of Defense is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to study social movements in order to develop ‘operational tools.’ In Canada, this week there was adiscussion in the House of Commons about surveillance of peaceful protesters. PM Harper’s spokesperson revealed a rationale that makes all people suspect, saying “Peaceful protests can suddenly turn violent, just as law-abiding citizens can suddenly create a crime.”
Of course, such sentiments are ridiculous and are used to justify further clamp downs on our civil liberties. And that is why the people need tools to know what is going on and to resist injustice.
Last week Internet freedom groups launched the Reset the Net campaign to provide tools for everyone to make it more difficult for the NSA to spy on us. This is an ongoing campaign, so if you haven’t done so already, you can still download these tools. Click here to learn more. And check out and share Shahid Buttar’s (of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee) new music video about the NSA.
There are also new groups and tools for blowing the whistle. Last week, ExposeFacts.orgwas launched to “shed light on concealed activities that are relevant to human rights, corporate malfeasance, the environment, civil liberties and war.” They provide access to Secure Drop, as does The Guardian and other media, so that whistleblowers can transmit information. And this week, the Courage Foundation, an international whistleblower support group, was also announced. Their mission is to defend the people’s ‘Right to know.’
Given the corporate influence over our government agencies and the actions that Big Business will take to suppress information, we need whistleblowers and the public needs to support them. Kamil Ahsan writes about scientist Tyrone Hayes who was targeted by Syngenta when he exposed the toxicity of one of their products.
We know that Monsanto heavily influences the FDA and USDA to keep toxic pesticides like RoundUp and genetically engineered foods on the market. In response, people are pushing at the state level to ban and label GMO foods. Vermont was the most recent to pass a GMO labeling law. To stop them, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) filed a lawsuit. You can boycott and urge these members of the GMA to drop their membership. The best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic. Here is a tool that helps you to understand food labeling. You can also buy more responsibly by being aware of where your food comes from. Al Jazeera published an in-depth piece this week on the slave labor used to supply shrimp to stores in the US and UK.
The Post-extraction World
We are coming to the end of easy extraction of a number of different fuels and minerals which is begging for us to find new ways of doing things. This is documented in a new report. The authors warn that the window is closing for the adoption of new policies in time to avert significant harm to our economy.
There is a new way forward in the post-extraction world. Jeremy Rifkin envisions a commons-based economy that uses technology and decentralized renewable energy production to create a Third Industrial Revolution that is sustainable. And as we end the post-fossil fuel era, young farmers are already adopting more organic practices.
In addition to creating alternatives, we must stop out-of-control Big Energy from further harmful extraction. Numerous tools are being used to accomplish this and are succeeding. The Great Climate March is bringing awareness to communities that have not been discussing the reality of climate change. Blockades recently succeeded in stopping an $11 billion expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands. Long-term opposition in Chile caused the rejection of a large hydro-electric dam project in Patagonia. And court cases were filed to stop fracking in Colorado and a liquefied methane project in Maryland.
Ending wealth extraction
Big Business is also extracting wealth from our communities in a number of ways. This survey documents that wage theft is rampant in the US. In the EU, austerity measures are causing a rise in poverty. In a related move, a wealthy Silicon Valley man created a front group called Students Matter and ended tenure for teachers in California (the decision is being appealed). Keeping teachers insecure in their jobs is one tool for preventing academics from speaking out and for dumbing down education.
People are fighting back though. We’ve covered the struggles for higher wages previously. In addition, the movement for postal banks that can provide financial services to the un- and under-banked is growing nationally. In the EU, France was the first country to audit its debt. They found that 60% of the national debt is illegitimate and that excuses for debt and austerity were unsubstantiated. Imagine if the same were done in the US. An audit could also be done at the local level.
To protect public education,a tri-national North American coalition of students, teachers and unions is growing. Here is a report from their conference last month in Chicago.
Even the struggle to protect Internet equality is connected to wealth extraction. The Internet was developed using public dollars and was initially regulated as a Common Carrier like a public utility. Now, giant telecoms are trying to wrest greater control over it in order to monetize it.
The giant telecoms are going to great lengths to confuse the public. They even created a front group and signed organizations on as members without their consent. Comcast has been promoting its program to provide low cost Internet to the poor despite its failure.
Internet neutrality is confusing. If you want to understand this important issue more, you can participate in an online discussion on June 14. Click here for more information. If you want to file a public comment with the FCC, you will find information about that by clicking here.
And check out the Rolling Rebellion for Real Democracy. Actions are being planned across the US the week after July 4 to raise awareness of the illegitimacy of our government.
Hedges writes that following violent repression, “the state invests tremendous energy to foster historical amnesia.” In fact, such amnesia and distraction are tools the state often uses to maintain the status quo.
The recent vilification of Bowe Bergdahl is an example of an attempt to bolster the War Culture in the US by avoiding the harder questions raised by his return. In response, CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace and other groups held a press conference and rally in DC to speak about the Afghanistan War and the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Medea Benjamin and Alli McCracken also wrote that Obama no longer has excuses to keep Guantanamo open.
This is why whistleblowing and a truly open Internet are fundamental in the struggle for justice. And it’s why we mustn’t allow ourselves to be fooled or taken off track. In addition to tools for justice, we need creative ways to reach people such as these powerful one word ads in Boston exposing Israeli apartheid. For other creative ideas, check out CreativeResistance.org.
In the face of corruption, let’s show courage and create tools for justice. People power is showing every week that by working together we can prevail.