I went to a protest in Philadelphia this past Saturday, and it was more disheartening than anything else. It was against the wars and various other injustices, with a special focus on he recent FBI raids of peace activists and Pennsylvania Homeland Security spying on innocent civilians and activists.
By the end of it, I kind of just felt like going up to the megaphone and asking, “How much moral outrage can one person muster? There are more people handing out fliers here than not, and with this country committing so many disgusting, outrageous acts, I don’t blame you.” I won’t lie, I handed a few out myself. Yet the contrast between the righteous causes featured in the speeches and on the signs and on the fliers and the, as a fellow protester said to me, “complete lack of solidarity” was striking.
The idea was to protest against the so-called “two-party” system, which seems to only represent corporate interests and has walked away from doing right by The People. Wall Street versus Main Street. Special Interest versus the Common Good.
So the idea was on election day, instead of voting, a person was to abscond with her ballot from the polling place and go outside and in a safe and legal manner burn or otherwise destroy the ballot on camera and post the video where it can be seen by the most people.
The more people who know they are not alone in their feelings of frustration and disillusion about our completely corrupt and dysfunctional political system, the more who will be encouraged to do something about it.
But, lo and behold, there is the rub. Everyone wants to bitch and moan, but no one wants to do anything about the object of their frustration – their own disenfranchisement as a “people.”
Yesterday we sent cameras to Glenn Beck’s 828 rally and Al Sharpton’s rally and march. We posted a handfull of videos from each. But first, a personal comment, if you don’t mind. My parents and grandparents were civil rights activists (not to mention anti-war activists and labor organizers). On the same grass where we stood yesterday, my mother stood 47 years ago to watch Martin Luther King Jr. declare his dream for the world. I highly doubt anyone will remember yesterday the way my mother remembers 47 years ago.
Hello all – hopefully I can make this into some kind of a short series or get someone to help me with this, but if not you’ll probably see at least one more diary on the subject from me. Basically, here’s a post where I’m trying to assemble all the information for protests that you need to know in order to take action against BP and for some kind of a clean energy future.
Go below the fold for a list of events/websites/facebook pages/etc.
(Just because of my own time constraints, I’ve only listed events in the US)
Yesterday, despite the persistant rain, thousands of people showed up on K Street in Washington, DC to protest the actions and lobbying efforts of big banks and to demand economic justice. The Washington Post is comparing the anger to what we have seen at Teaparty protests.
Choi, who has twice been arrested after handcuffing himself to the White House gates and has now been court ordered not to enter a certain perimeter around the White House, was joined by a handful of other speakers, including former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson, and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis.
The protest came on the heels of a letter leaked late Friday afternoon in which Department of Defense secretary Robert Gates urged House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton “in the strongest possible terms” to delay legislative action on repeal until the Pentagon completes its assessment of how to implement repeal.
Me, I don’t have much memory of Nixon’s April 30, 1970 speech announcing the invasion of Cambodia. It could have been because nothing the bastard did would have surprised me by that point, but more likely it’s just that I was already on my way to New Haven to see about Bobby.
That would be Bobby Seale, chairman of the Black Panther Party, who was facing trial in the case of some Connecticut Panthers accused of murdering a member they thought was a police informant. A national call had gone out for a May Day demonstration to defend Bobby, and thousands of young radicals from around the country and especially the Northeast were en route. We had a couple of dozen from NYU’s Uptown campus with us.
Lemme step back here to set a little context. NYU today is a bigtime, self-promoting academic powerhouse whose relentless pursuit of lower Manhattan real estate for expansion has earned them the hatred of all clear-thinking New Yorkers. Back then, NYU was a bit cheesier, with a campus in Greenwich Village and a satellite one in the Bronx. (The Uptown campus was abandoned by the racist NYU administration later in the 1970s when it found the West Bronx was becoming, let’s say, too colorful, and is now the home of Bronx Community College).
We had a pretty good SDS chapter at NYU Uptown and saw no reason to change anything just because the national organization had imploded the previous summer. (In fact, at one point we decided the chapter head, Lon E. Thud, must be National Secretary of SDS-nobody else was doing it, after all). NYU had given me a “compulsory leave of absence for academic reasons” at the end of the previous school year, a tactical mistake on their part. I was still a registered student and, as such, could not be excluded from the campus.
You’ve got to hand it to the white supremacists running Arizona. As May 1 demonstrations are upon us coast to coast, with immigrants’ rights as a central demand, they’ve provided a crystal-clear example of what we are up against. They are also showing just why May Day, the international working class holiday, has taken on new layers of meaning here and deepened its roots in sections of the US working class since El Levantamiento, the huge immigrant uprising of 2006.
The issue is, of course, the new mandatory racial profiling bill just passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by Governor Jan Brewer. It will likely be declared unconstitutional by the courts, but is meanwhile serving to promote anti-immigrant sentiment and police state practices in Arizona and elsewhere.
While there has been heartening coverage of high school walk-outs and other protest inside Arizona itself, there are other aspects to the resistance which merit some attention. Thus, the first-hand report and the hip hop video I am posting here.
I asked a long-time ‘rade of mine, a Brooklyn boy who has been working as an educator in the Phoenix suburbs for the last several years (poor fish) what he’s been seeing and hearing. His comments, slightly edited, follow:
The general mood out here is outrage. Those supporting the bill are silent. You just don’t hear folks defend this in public. Even local rightwing radio is questioning the bill, an unheard-of development.
The Dems are split along political/ethnic lines. Some are calling for military at the border (“If we could stop them at the border that would solve the problem”), others, like Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva, are calling for a boycott of their own state and repeal of the law.
The anger among Chicana/os is palpable. This issue has really woken people up. I’ve never seen these folks react this way. This was a REALLY stupid move on the part of the Republicans. It has the potential to mobilize folks for May 1, and for the upcoming elections, including young Chicana/os.
Chicana/os out here are organizationally weak. Remember, this is a “right to work” state, so unions are not really a factor. I’m curious to see how the community is going to organize, but I don’t see this issue going away. Folks I know, generally apolitical, are discussing and debating this. There’s a lot of passion.
Now here’s another cut on things in AZ. Let’s start with Black rapper, Swindoe. A couple of years back he released a new cut called “Phony People” with a dramatic video. Based in his native Arizona, it features Swindoe and his posse helping undocumented immigrants deal with the deadly desert and the Border Patrol and it’s moving as hell…
Okay, his persona is straight-up gangsta, his syzzurp-flavored, chopped and screwed chorus is druggy by definition, and he thinks rather highly of himself. Get past it, people. His production company is called BLK Boyz, standing for Black-Latino Konnection. The whole package is, to my way of thinking, a real-world example of the kind of Black/Brown alliance that revolutionary-minded folks have been advocating for years as the answer to ruling class efforts to pit the Black Nation and immigrants against each other.
And so is this comment, which is from the interesting and contentious Youtube comment thread when Swindoe’s “Phony People” video was retitled to mention SB 1070 ,the Arizona police state law:
i think its funny how yall argue over youtube.. lol Flash Virus is a fuckin dumbass.. I’m from eastside tuc town an we down wit grips_ of latinos. All me an my niggas date are latina girls.. it aint shit to us! we speak spanish! a REAL tuc town nigga who whats good wit tha 520 and tha black/latino connection.. if he wanna start shit, let him. cuz he’z dumb. bring his ass to irvington n park an let dem niggas get at him.. bet he wont eva diss a latino eva again!! Haha
Let’s see what the May Day marches this Saturday and the coming months bring. All this makes me optimistic.
And in that spirit, I think I’ll close with Tom Russell’s magnificent tune, “Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?” which raises the musical question:
I had an idea the other day, and I’m going to put it together. Basically, I’m creating a map of people all over the nation who are willing to donate something – their home, some food, some time, etc – to resistance to war, big business’ greed, and other injustices. Google Maps makes this surprisingly easy, and although I’m not entirely sure how to do it, I’m sure I’ll figure it out as I go.
All I need now is names. If you’re interested in being listed so that people can contact you if they need some help in your area, please email me at rossmlevin at gmail dot com. What I need is:
What you’re willing to provide
Your contact info (email and phone are preferred, but whatever you want to put is OK)
Your zip code
I don’t want to get too specific, because we all know how snoopy the CIA is 😉
Seriously, though, if this comes together I think it could be a useful tool for activists all over the place. Say you’re traveling to Philadelphia to help out the striking nurses at Temple University and you need a place to stay for a few days – you could check the map and see that, hey, rossl lives near Philadelphia. Then you could call me up and see if it’s all right if you crash at my place for a few days while you’re helping these nurses.
In short, if this works out, it could potentially make organizing these things easier. In a best case scenario, that would mean more action is taken.
Everyone seems to know that the tea party “movement” had a rally on the steps of the capitol yesterday. They got in the face of a few Congressmen and now every Beltway media outlet from the Washington Post to Meet the Press is talking about it. But there was another protest in town yesterday. Thousands of people showed up in front of the White House to tell Obama (and Congress) to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to treat Palestinians fairly, and to generally end the US military empire.
MSNBC estimates that somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 tea party people showed up at the capitol building. Yet the low end of the estimates for the number of people who showed up at the peace demonstration (including myself) is about 2,500, and the high end is about 10,000. Where’s our moment on Meet the Press? Where’s our article in the New York Times?
Yesterday, Lt Dan Choi and a fellow veteran had themselves handcuffed to the White House fence to peacefully protest the Obama administration’s empty words and lack of action on ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This disgraceful policy allows over 600 military servicemembers per year to be tossed out of the military merely for sexual orientation. They were arrested and held overnight in jail, incommunicado.
Protesters also staged sit ins at Speaker Pelosi’s offices in San Francisco and Washington DC.
A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi’s office said, this morning, that “they didn’t have the votes” to do anything this year.
Robin McGehee of Fresno, CA, of GetEqual, who was at the arraignment in Washington, DC, is reporting that Lt Dan Choi and Capt Jim Pietrangelo, have been arraigned before the judge this afternoon, and have pled Not Guilty. They have now been released from federal custody and will go to trial April 26. http://twitter.com/speechadvice
“We will not admit guilt in our fight for equality”
“We may have been caged up physically, but many are caged up in their heart.”
– Lt. Dan Choi March 19, 2010
Americablog also had witnesses there yesterday and disputes another version of events being put out by another LGTB group.
Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo should be released from jail today. They were arrested yesterday after handcuffing themselves to the fence in front of the White House to protest Obama’s inaction on repealing DADT. The President plays a key role in that legislation, but despite a vow to do it in the State of the Union, the White House isn’t moving. It was the first time I’ve seen civil disobedience up close. And, it was intense. To think it’s come to this with the Obama administration. But, it has. This week, Barney Frank made it abundantly clear that the White House really needed to speak out on its desire to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year. That was Monday. No word from the White House, which says everything. There is no plan, despite the promises. It seems that everyone in DC knows that, but not everyone will admit it.
There is a plan, Joe. They’re going to ignore you until you make yourself heard, which requires many different ways. Just like with ending the mid east war expansions, getting everybody into a real health care system and not just a junk insurance plan, or forcing the banks to stop stealing people’s life savings, or making the government do something about carbon emissions besides more Nukes, or preserving a woman’s right to chose to bear children.
So don’t let somebody tell you it’s better to use your time to make phone calls on behalf of OFA instead of reading, writing, talking, blogging, protesting, photographing, communicating, and badgering incumbents and candidates.
We’ve (anybody who needs equality, and that is all of us, rich, poor, all colors, all genders, all faiths) got a plan, too.
updated to add link to my diary yesterday, and the americablog link
Lt. Dan Choi, a nationally known LGBT activist and Iraq War veteran who the military is attempting to discharge because of its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, led a group of protesters to the White House today, where he and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo let themselves be handcuffed to the wrought iron fence in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. They were subsequently arrested and are now being held in jail pending court tomorrow.
United States Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser told The Advocate that both men were taken to Park Police’s Anacostia station, where they were charged with failure to obey a lawful order. Choi and Pietrangelo will be held overnight and are scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Friday.
“You’ve been told that the White House has a plan,” Choi told rally attendees. “But we learned this week that the president is still not fully committed. … Following this rally, I will be leading [the protest] to the White House to say ‘enough talk.’ … I am still standing, I am still fighting, I am still speaking out, and I am still gay.”
Lt Choi and Capt Pietrangelo, handcuffed to the fence at the White House on March 18, 2010, while the crowd chants “Equality….. NOW ! ”
Despite the Democrats holding the majority in the House and Senate since 2006, and the White House since January 2009, during campaigns which Democratic candidates called for the repeal of DADT, nothing has changed much in that soldiers who are outed in terms of their sexuality can still be discharged against their will for nothing but being attracted to the same gender irregardless of performance and duty. This in spite of the issue of inequality being used for fundraising purposes, people seeking justice have been told “not now, it’s too controversial while we’re doing something else first” repeatedly. While the President finally mentioned the topic in this year’s state of the Union address, he intends to put language about it into a fiscal appropriations bill for next year.
In the fiscal years since the policy was first introduced in 1993, the military has discharged over 13,000 troops from the military under DADT. The number of discharges per year under DADT dropped sharply after the September 11 attacks and has remained relatively low since. Discharges exceeded 600 every year until 2009. Statistics on the number of persons discharged per year follow:
2007 — 627 discharged
2008 — 619 discharged
2009 — so far 428 discharged so far
Rick Sanchez of CNN does a good job covering this in this video. Lt. Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo chained themselves to the White House fence today, then were arrested, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience to protest the lack of action on the ENDA Non Discrimination Act, and for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military. Choi is an Iraq veteran.
The protest at the White House was followed by sit ins at House Speaker Pelosi’s offices in San Francisco and in Washington, DC later that afternoon by LGBTQ activists with “Get Equal.” http://www.getequal.org/getenda/ Per their website, 4 people have been arrested at Speaker Pelosi’s Washington DC office. The ones arrested in San Francisco have been cited and released. twitter for Get Equal http://twitter.com/getequal
The group appears to be convinced that the administration and Congress are not moving forward with gay-rights legislation, despite Obama’s call in the State of the Union for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and assurances that ENDA is being explored. This week, however, The Advocate published an article in which Barney Frank claimed that the administration wanted to push the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” into next year.
According to GetEqual’s statement: “ENDA legislation has been stuck in the House Committee on Education and Labor since last year. Contrary to what has been told to many LGBTQ allies in Congress, The Hill reported in December that Pelosi assured Democrats she would not bring any controversial bills to the floor for a vote this year.”
But activists say that politics should take a back seat to human rights and basic safety. “A recent study on discrimination found that 97 percent of transgender people who responded had experienced some level of harassment and 26 percent had been fired simply for being transgender,” said David McElhatton, who is described in the statement as a transgender activist who participated in the San Francisco action today. “We thought we had an ally in Nancy Pelosi, but she has taken our equality for granted. We are not going to let up on her until she takes action to ensure that we are all protected in the workplace.”
Human rights are civil rights. We can’t be invading country after country on the rationalization of some sort of mission to “democracize” them with western values when we continue to discriminate here at home on the basis of religious and gender identity. These people who are willing to defend and even die for us, only wish to continue to serve their country honorably.