Activists display signs at the Moral Mondays action against voter suppression and special interest groups' takeover of state government in Raleigh, North Carolina, February 8, 2014. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian)
In what is being called a "huge win for voting rights" and a resounding defeat of "Jim Crow-era tactics," a federal judge on Wednesday struck down a major voter ID law passed by the Republican-dominated Texas state legislature on the grounds that it would place a "disproportionate burden" on black and Latino voters.
Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas had previously found that the original version of the Republican bill -- which was passed in 2011 -- was designed with discriminatory intent. In the face of legal challenges, the Texas GOP attempted to soften the law.
These attempts did not go far enough, Ramos ruled on Wednesday, arguing that the changes to the legislation were superficial, and that its discriminatory nature remained "essentially unchanged."
The New York Times summarized the ruling and its implications:
The decision was only the latest chapter in a yearslong court battle over the state's voter ID rules, and comes amid concerted efforts by the Trump administration to enact tougher voting restrictions. The stakes are particularly high for Texas: As a result of previous court rulings, the state could be forced to undergo federal oversight of its election procedures...
Judge Ramos not only tossed out the revamped voter ID law, but also struck down the original version, known as Senate Bill 14. She did not rule on whether Texas' election laws would be put under federal oversight, but said she would consider the issue during the next phase of the case.
Ramos's ruling was celebrated by civil rights groups and activists.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement Wednesday that Ramos's decision to block enforcement of the Texas law "is an important victory for voting rights and those who fight for them every day."
"Despite the Trump administration's reversal of a longstanding [Department of Justice] position that Texas engaged in intentional race discrimination in enacting its voter ID law, the court today threw out both the 2011 law and the 2017 version that did not fix the original law's racially discriminatory purpose," Gupta concluded. "It's time for Congress to finally act to restore the Voting Rights Act, and put an end to these kinds of efforts that deny voters of color access to the ballot."
A recent analysis by the Brennan Center found that "at least 99 bills to restrict access to registration and voting have been introduced in 31 states" in 2017 alone.
Highlighting this research on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared on Twitter: "The real crisis we face is not voter fraud. It is voter suppression."
Civil rights groups have also expressed alarm at the Brennan Center analysis, which came amid the Trump administration's push for "suppressive policies" under the guise of rooting out mythical "voter fraud."
Further, as Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner notes, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions the Department of Justice has "reversed the position it held during the Obama administration beginning in February, when it stopped backing the challengers to the [Texas] voter ID law."
In a series of tweets, Kristen Clarke -- president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law -- celebrated the Wednesday ruling while cautioning that the fight against voter suppression efforts at the state and federal level is sure to continue.
"This is the most important victory yet in the long-standing battle against one of the worse voter suppression measures," Clarke declared. "States like Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and others have relentlessly pursued voter suppression. We will continue to use the courts to fight!"
Jodi Dean, a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the author of multiple books in political theory, and Brian Becker, the codirector of the ANSWER coalition, cofounder of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the author of Imperialism in the 21st Century and other books, discuss their plans for the "People's Congress of Resistance," which will bring together front line activists this September.
(Photo: Ertyo5 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing "Interviews for Resistance" series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same. Today's interview is the 67th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
Today we bring you a conversation with Jodi Dean, a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the author of multiple books in political theory, and Brian Becker, the codirector of the ANSWER coalition, cofounder of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the author of Imperialism in the 21st Century and other books.
Sarah Jaffe: Well, we will get to imperialism shortly. You two are part of the group convening the People's Congress of Resistance in September, so tell us to start with a little bit about how the idea came together for this event?
Brian Becker: We've both been partnering, along with a number of other co-conveners, for the past almost six months now. It was obvious, certainly at the moment that Donald Trump was elected, that a massive grassroots movement had come into being, resisting against Trump's odious and reactionary and racist and misogynist policies. ... People were in the streets instantly, they were in the airports, they were reacting en masse to Trump's plans to "take this country back" many, many decades. The demonstrations were such in terms of magnitude that perhaps as many as one out of every three people [in Washington] had participated in a protest.
But we saw that this protest movement was also ... being co-opted by Democratic Party elites who saw in the movement a vessel for their own electoral goals in 2018 and 2020. They almost instantly turned the "resistance" against Trump, which was progressive and grassroots and made up of front line fighters, into something that was more or less reactionary by focusing on Russia -- the narrative that the reason Trump won (he of course being the most unpopular candidate in US history) and the reason that Hillary Clinton lost was because of the collusion of foreign powers.
So we felt the need to create a pole within the grassroots resistance movement that gave a coherent political vision. We thought activism by itself will not necessarily lead to the profound radical change, the political revolution that millions have been clamoring for as expressed during the Bernie Sanders campaign, but could be rendered harmless and co-opted by the Democratic Party. So the People's Congress of Resistance came together by conveners who are activists and organizers and leaders, who said Trump is a problem, but he's not the only problem. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party elites -- those who dominate the political system -- are [also] the problem and the Congress represents those two parties and their lock-hold over the political process in America, so we're creating something different … a People's Congress made up of front line resisters whose voices are never heard in Congress and who are never represented in Congress.
Jodi Dean: I'll just add two things to what Brian said. First, we all saw when Hillary Clinton said she was part of the resistance, that was the most blatant kind of co-optation of grassroots politics into the Democratic Party, and it was about then as well that the effort stopped being really visible as a radical pushback against elite politics, the politics of the millionaire class in general. It's important that there be a much more radical statement.
And then the second part is much more down-to-Earth from the local level, where I live in Geneva, New York, one of the things that we found in local-level resistance is that the weekly protest in front of our member of Congress's office (he's Tom Reed, he's been one of Trump's right-hand men, total supporter from early on) never said a word against him. The politics of that response, of protests of Trump in front of Reed's office kept becoming vaguer and vaguer, it kept being something like "Love Trumps Hate," which is not a politics at all. It was clear that it was time to rechannel these energies back in a more radical direction.
Tell us a little bit about the planning for the event. What is the weekend going to look like?
Brian Becker: We're expecting somewhere between 700 and 1,000 people. It'll take place at the Blackburn Center at Howard University, in Washington, DC. We believe we'll have representation for almost all 50 states. We've spent a lot of time doing organizing and mobilizing and outreach to the areas where the progressive left movement is not strong but where many progressive and left activists are fighting; in other words we've been going into red areas in red states. We hope to make the "red states" really red someday [laughs] because the oppression and the suffering of the people is so great but the political organized left has been weak there for a long time, it wasn't always weak there but it has been recently.
We've done a lot of organizing and outreach, I think it'll be an assembly that unlike many sort of traditional leftist gatherings will have a very large component of working-class people, large number of Black and Latino people, poor white people from different areas of the country, areas that are dominated by Republican politics.
In terms of the planning we have a very good group of conveners who have come together, people who don't have identical views on all things but have united around the manifesto that has been issued because we believe that it gives coherence and definition to the "political revolution," which was a vague but popular formulation during the Sanders campaign, we've been meeting together for many, many months, going through and sort of hammering out what it is that we all stand for, what our common ground is.
We're just working this week in terms of looking at all of the different parts of the Congress. Of course it will be partly a speak-out from those whose voices are never heard in the US Congress. It'll be partly deliberative in terms of coming up with plans so we can build a People's Congress movement that goes beyond the event itself. In other words we want to organize around the manifesto in particular because we believe that activism by itself, as great as that is, if it doesn't have a rudder, if it doesn't know where it's going, where it doesn't have a goal, will ultimately ebb as all mass movements do ebb, and it will be dissolved into those who are actually providing leadership and as Jodi said, the Democratic Party is poised to take advantage of all of this energy.
We want the manifesto around which we're organizing (similarly to what happened in the Labour Party in the UK with Jeremy Corbyn's surprising surge there) to become a focus where people really talk about it. They educate each other. They study together. They use it. And as we coordinate with and show solidarity with all the grassroots resistance movements that are going on every day (we don't need to start them up), we want to integrate the manifesto concept and this concept of an independent political movement into that kind of work.
So let's talk about this manifesto that you put out. How that was put together?
Jodi Dean: One thing, in addition to having resonances with the Corbyn campaign, I think another site of resonance is with the platform of the International Women's Strike committee, particularly in the US organizing, which was a really tremendous platform and document and again, in my small town we did organizing around the Women's Strike using that platform because we thought that what was so strong about it was that it gave a politics of the 99 percent to the January 21st Women's March. That was pretty open and vague, and for some people it seemed like a Hillary event, but what the International Women's Strike did was actually give a strong antiracist, anticapitalist, anti-transphobic politics to that. It gave it a socialist substance. That's another one of the currents that goes into the manifesto for the People's Congress.
The substance of it has many currents that go into it and really reflects the diversity from the conveners, with folks who've been involved with Stop Police Terror, people who've been heavily involved with immigrant struggles, feminist work, Native American work, the plethora of actual front line struggles on the left that somehow get disarticulated at the national level.
At the national level, people tend to present all of these different strains as if they were opposed to one another, and the fact that all of these struggles actually are struggling for a real "society of the many" gets lost. And so that's one of the things that having this diverse bunch of conveners actually represents: These are different elements of what's actually a single struggle.
We're talking the morning after Trump's Afghanistan speech, so I feel like we should start with imperialism, largely because in the Obama years, we saw the antiwar movement really fade, and people missed that one of the things that turned people off to Hillary Clinton is that they thought she was hawkish. Trump is going even further down that road, yet many left movements have had a hard time integrating a critique of imperialism into their work.
Brian Becker: I think there's a tendency by socialists who want to reach into a broader mass of the population to downplay imperialism and US foreign policy. There's a tendency to deal with bread-and-butter issues at home and sort of turn away from (or in some cases embrace) imperialist foreign policy. This is a death knell for the movement. We live in the center of US imperialism; the idea that we can fight for housing rights or social justice or higher wages or community control of the police and not talk about US imperialism is not only naïve but it also leads the movement straight into the graveyard. The imperialist foreign policy of this country so dominates politics and becomes a rallying point for the Democratic and Republican elites to reach into and amongst the masses of people and generate a national chauvinism and a reactionary patriotism, and an embrace of imperialist concepts. We must, as a movement, tackle this straight on.
So right now we're going to focus a lot on imperialism, solidarity with the people in Venezuela, the people in Latin America who want to be independent and free. We're going to demand that the US get out of the Middle East. We're going to demand the closing of the military bases. They're not for national defense. The last time the US mainland was invaded was the war of 1812. These are imperial outposts. We want to preach the message that working people in America have more in common with the working folks in other countries who are targeted by US imperialism than we do with the military-industrial complex.
Jodi Dean: I'll add that one of the things that is interesting once one starts thinking about how left politics is built out of front line struggles, then you start to see that anti-imperialism is already immanent within it. So for example, all climate politics requires a global approach. We cannot get to a solution to dealing with climate change if US imperialism is dominating global politics. Dealing with climate change must be global and it requires a cooperative effort, and you don't get to cooperate with people if you're bombing them or in trade war. Already climate change politics, emphases on environmental justice have a global frame.
The same thing with anti-racist politics. It's really quite explicit that it's not just a politics that seeks equality for Black and Brown people in the US; you can't be killing Brown people all over the world if your politics is anti-racist. That automatically opens up to an anti-imperialist politics. The same thing with feminism. What's really been crucial to so many feminists who take a more global perspective is the way that US imperialist policies facilitate impoverishment of women all over the world, violence against women all over the world. Anti-imperialism is a current already in the movements and bringing them together helps draw that out.
Connecting the dots from imperialism abroad to mass incarceration and policing at home, in the last week or so we've seen aggressive policing against Black people's movements and the very, very hands-off policing of the white supremacists in Charlottesville.
Jodi Dean: I think it's been clear to people of color all over the country that the police don't work for them. The police reinforce a version of state power that is white supremacist. Many white people have been able to deny that or repress that or try to say, "Oh well that's only in some extreme cases. It's not the norm. It's not really OK, but it's an exception." And we've been seeing this now for a while, right? Ferguson was one of the more recent eruptions of this into public consciousness, on one side, and then we see it with respect to really enabling the direct assertion of white supremacy in Charlottesville.
So in some ways it's more like the confrontation in mainstream politics and it's an eruption of what has been known for quite a while as the basic condition of policing in the US.
Brian Becker: American capitalism has some unique characteristic features. For the past 400 years, since it was implanted on the territory of North America, American capitalism has been based on the enslavement of African people and of course the theft of Indigenous people's lands and then their ultimate genocide. America was a police state, a racist apartheid slave state, for the majority of Black people for the past four centuries. It's a lesser part of the country's history where civil rights and Black people being treated as equal citizens, at least in the law, has existed. It's only been since 1964 that apartheid has been legally banned in America.
So we have a situation where one out of every four prisoners in the world are incarcerated in the United States: 2.3 million people. Another 5 million are somehow connected to the law enforcement system, either probation or parole, that's a huge part of the population. Disproportionately Black people because the police state that always existed for Black people still exists because Black communities are so heavily policed ... thus the majority of arrests happen in the Black community. ...
And I think it's a conscious decision by the capitalist so-called "justice" system to contain the Black population because the Black population has been the motor for movements of social change over the past centuries. And so of course at the People's Congress of Resistance we're going to have many ex-prisoners. We're going to have prisoner families there. We're going to have representation from political prisoners. We're going to have at least 10 families; moms whose children were killed by the police in the last year or two. They're mobilizing. We're raising money for them to come from all over the country. This will be a preeminent part of the People's Congress because again, there's no poor people [in the US Congress]. There's no immigrants there. There's no locked-up DREAMers there. For the most part, there's no working-class folks and of course the Black community has been historically underrepresented.
On your platform, you include reparations for slavery and Native sovereignty. There's a tendency from certain parts of the left to argue that concepts like reparations are going to be divisive and scare people off.
Jodi Dean: If we think about a society for the many in the United States, what does that have to look like? It has to look like the society that people would want to produce. And if we're going to produce one that is desirable, a good place to live, then we have to confront directly and honestly the dual legacy of the US founding, which was in slavery and genocide. The most direct ways that we have of confronting head-on the fact that the country was anchored in slavery and genocide is by taking up the two answers that have been put forward as just the starting point of confronting it, namely Native American sovereignty and reparations. That's the way that you can even start the conversation of how do we build a society for the many. Confront the basic crimes that have been at the basis of the entire country.
Brian Becker: The people who say that reparations for Black America, for instance, will alienate people, they're not talking about [alienating] Black people. They're talking about a certain segment of society. It demonstrates who we're aiming for. In other words, to build a really powerful viable social movement, yes we want people from all classes and all sectors to be it, but the things that really make history change are when the masses of people, meaning the poorest, the most oppressed, those sectors of society, come onto the political stage. That's why the sort of semi-revolution, the civil rights revolution happened, when Rosa Parks refused to give that seat up to a white man, the next nine years the masses of people came into politics. And so the Congress of the United States, which was compositionally the same as it was when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in 1955, nine years later voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act -- the two most progressive pieces of social legislation. It was because the poor, the masses, the working classes, the Black community in particular came into political life. That's what makes change possible, and that's who we're orienting toward with the People's Congress.
One of the most remarked-upon and radical planks in the Corbyn manifesto was calling for renationalizing industries, for collective ownership, so I wanted to wrap up by talking about that plank in your platform.
Jodi Dean: I want to approach that question a little bit from the side. In social conversations, family events and stuff, and random conversations in gas stations, I've ended up talking to some Trump supporters and they always say something like, "What we really need is for the government to be run like a business." "We really need a businessman in charge." One person will say that's the good thing about Trump and another will say, "Yeah, he's not doing well, but I would never run my business that way, he needs to do X, Y and Z to run his business differently." And the thing is, if you think about it, actually, the capitalist economy is terrible -- it destroys more wealth than it produces, as we saw directly in the 2008 crash where trillions left the economy, more and more people are thrown out of the workforce. It produces all sorts of waste goods we don't need. And so people say the government should be more like a business? No! It's ridiculous.
So the thing to think about is in fact how badly capitalism works, how badly businesses are run. Everybody is miserable about all sorts of different aspects, whether it's cable companies, airplane transportation, the fact that so many goods fall apart so easily, giving more incentives for there not to be a cap on fossil fuels, so if we think about how capitalism is run, it's an utter disaster.
And so in fact what we need is the democratic people's control, for people's interests, of the basic system of production in this country. Capitalism is in crisis right now. We've got a financial market that is out of control. We have an inability of the capitalist system to deal with climate change. This is why we actually see the fragmentation of the two major parties is that they're not able to grapple with the crisis that capitalism is in. So we begin with nationalizing the industries, the major sectors of the economy because that's the only way we're going to be able to move forward.
How can people get involved and attend the Congress?
Brian Becker: The principal way people can get involved is to go to the website, congressofresistance.org. The site has the manifesto. It has the conveners. It has our call to action, our vision. It also has logistics information. If you're coming, you can register online: We have two registration fees, $50 or $100. If you can't pay anything, no one is going to be turned away for lack of funds -- that's why we set the registration fee high. We have low-rent hotels there on the website. It's all there.
People are coming from all parts of the country. We're having car caravans. It's so exciting, from all over the country. It's going to be a real grassroots front line assembly.
And how can people keep up with the two of you?
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.
A paratrooper walks past an Afghan graveyard during a US-Afghan patrol April 30, 2012, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod / The US Army)
The United States became directly involved in Afghanistan some 38 years ago, exactly and precisely on July 3, 1979. The decisions made regarding that nation, going back 38 years to the Carter administration, have been almost too catastrophic to quantify. Now we're going back again, because we never really left.
A paratrooper walks past an Afghan graveyard during a US-Afghan patrol April 30, 2012, Ghazni province, Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod / The US Army)
When I dropped my daughter off at pre-school on Monday morning, I made a point of asking the teacher about eye safety issues regarding the looming solar eclipse. We're not even going to bother with it, she said. There's too many kids to keep track of, they're not old enough to be trusted on something like this, and we weren't going to go out and get a bunch of stuff we'd only use once. The eclipse is happening at naptime, she said, so we're just going to skip it.
Fan-dab-tastic, I said, one less thing to worry about … and then I turned on the television, and there was the president of the United States staring belligerently into the sky, straight at the sun with no protective glasses or anything while his aides shrieked helplessly at him to stop. The next morning, the far-right proto-fascist host of my local sports radio show proudly boasted that he, too, looked straight into the sun without protective eyewear because, like his president, he was not afraid of anything.
These are the kind of people who are making decisions on the ongoing and expanding war in Afghanistan. Mr. Trump wants about 4,000 more troops deployed for a mission he refuses to define and which has no goal or end-point established. Truthout reporter Mike Ludwig has broken down the numbers after 16 years of war, and it does for all the world appear that a lot of decisions have been made by people who have stared into the naked sun for far too long.
There were times during the 2016 presidential campaign when I had to physically restrain myself from biting my television until it died. More often than not, these moments came when Trump was on some stump bloviating about his standard nonsense. Every so often, however, he'd say something I agreed with -- I have a busted watch in a drawer here that's right twice a day, but you take it where you can find it -- and his position on Afghanistan was usually the least wrong thing he'd say on any given day.
Take his tweet from January of 2013: "Let's get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA." Same old ham-fisted Donald, writing like someone who couldn't find Afghanistan on a map, but like my busted watch, he was right twice during that campaign, and his people believed him most sincerely when he spoke of ending the war (he also got the Trans-Pacific Partnership right, thank goodness for small favors … though he's now going back on that as well).
Flash forward to a few hours after he stared into the sun, and another campaign promise went sailing out the window. Trump did his level best to spin it, never deviating for a second from his prepared teleprompter remarks, but it still landed like a wet slap in the faces of those who love him best.
So, yeah, here we go again. The news media will go on about how this is the longest war in US history while simultaneously missing the point and telling only half the story. The United States became directly involved with Afghanistan some 38 years ago, on July 3, 1979. On that day, at the behest of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive in an operation meant to destabilize the Soviet-controlled government of Afghanistan. The idea was not to topple that government, but to goad the Soviets into an invasion to protect that government. Brzezinski believed, correctly, that such an occurrence would give the USSR "its Vietnam War."
Brzezinski boasted of this years later, in a 1998 interview given to Le Nouvel Observateur:
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.
Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic [integrisme], having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Again, this was 1998, our age of innocence. The Soviets invaded in December of 1979, and over the next 10 years the Reagan administration armed and supported the Mujahadeen "freedom fighters" who later became the Taliban and al-Qaeda. One of the recipients of our largesse in Afghanistan during this time was a wealthy Saudi Arabian ex-pat named Osama bin Laden.
The Soviets finally retreated in 1989 and crawled home to die. With our geopolitical goals met, the US also withdrew, and Afghanistan collapsed into a blistering civil war, fought with discarded US and Soviet weaponry, that lasted until a Taliban victory in 1996. The country emerged from that chaos having learned a neat trick: Thanks to the United States, the veterans of these long wars now know how to bring a superpower to its knees. All it takes is time, and patience, and the weapons their enemy left on the battlefield. Not long ago, the US started bombing its own ordnance in Iraq. That's been happening in Afghanistan for decades.
The aftermath is the Twin Towers and plastic sheeting and duct tape and watch what you say and torture and mass surveillance thanks to the NSA and the USA PATRIOT Act and all the stinking rest of it. The decisions made regarding Afghanistan, going back 38 years to the Carter administration, have been almost too catastrophic to quantify. We have done incomprehensible damage to ourselves. We have turned Afghanistan and Iraq into unimaginably expensive killing floors over a combined total of 65 years, yet somehow 4,000 more troops sent on yet another ill-defined mission will see the job done, whatever the job is.
There is an awful, eerie whispering between the lines of the Afghanistan war dispatches from 16 years ago. "Many western nations believe that the Northern Alliance cannot provide a stable government for Afghanistan because its leaders are from a minority ethnic group, the Tajiks," the BBC reported in 2001. "The attempt to forge a power sharing deal by the United Nations continues, seemingly oblivious to the reality on the ground."
Oblivious? Hardly. There are mineral rights to be hoarded, natural gas to be plumbed, pipelines to be built. And of course, there is war, the most profitable enterprise of all. The trillions we have wasted on this futile, blood-soaked exercise did not simply disappear. A few people you'll never meet got paid, and will get paid again tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Not everyone spends their time staring into the sun. Some are too busy counting their cash.
Do media outlets have a role to play in the movement for a better world? In this excerpt from Welcome to the Revolution that forms one of the book's "interludes," Truthout's Alana Yu-lan Price and Maya Schenwar argue that they can, if we are willing to transform journalism as we know it. Part of what journalists can do to counter these systems of injustice is providing a platform for people who are experiencing and organizing against oppression to tell their stories.
Rethinking journalism requires questioning pillars of conventional journalism. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)
Charles Derber offers a guide to the new era of organizing in Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times. With guest contributions from Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader, Gar Alperovitz and more, this book makes a compelling argument about how movements must come together. Order your copy today with a donation to Truthout!
Do media outlets have a role to play in the movement for a better world? In this excerpt from Welcome to the Revolution that forms one of the book's "interludes," Truthout's Alana Yu-lan Price and Maya Schenwar argue that they can, if we are willing to transform journalism as we know it.
As editors of Truthout, an independent online news site, we believe that good journalism plays a role in the pursuit of justice.
The forms of injustice that we are up against -- mass incarceration, white supremacy, widening economic inequality, and a militarized form of global capitalism that disproportionately affects people of color and women worldwide -- all rely on silence and erasure.
Part of what journalists can do to counter these systems of injustice is to expose speciﬁc instances of injustice and tell stories of resistance, providing a platform for people who are experiencing and organizing against oppression to tell their stories. When we do this, we transform journalism into a form of justice through storytelling.
Rethinking journalism requires questioning pillars of conventional journalism, such as the idea that a journalist can be "objective." We question whether it is possible to construct a narrative without unconsciously shaping a story through one's "common sense" about whom to interview, what order to tell the story in, what context should be deemed necessary for inclusion and more. Fantasies of objectivity erode journalists' ability to think critically about how their own values, experiences, and social location shape their work.
Instead of prioritizing the principle of objectivity, we anchor our work in principles of accuracy, transparency, and independence from the inﬂuence of corporate and political forces. Within this frame, activists can write op-eds about the struggles they are embedded in, so long as they are explicit about their relation to the material they're writing about. Reporters can structure their stories to spark action by reporting not only on instances of injustice, but also on how different groups are resisting.
In telling the stories of particular campaigns and acts of resistance, we aim to share the larger narratives of movements, not only helping to amplify activist efforts as they happen, but also building a critical historical record of movements from Occupy to Black Lives Matter, to Idle No More, to the ﬁghts against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. By lifting up the voices of activists struggling against powerful forces -- through both our articles and our active social media presence -- we are both fueling current movements and providing key documentation upon which future movements will be able to draw.
We make no bones about the fact that our goal is to reveal systemic injustice and provide a platform for transformative ideas. In addition to amplifying and fueling activist movements, we seek to remove ourselves from the equation of injustice -- an equation in which media groups have often served as an arm of a violent power structure.
Just one example: Until recently, the mass media rarely mentioned the sharp rise in incarceration between the 1970s and the present day. Moreover, by drawing on interviews with the police, rather than on interviews with incarcerated people and their families, mainstream reports on crime have often portrayed criminalized people as scary and evil, thus backing the establishment's justiﬁcations for locking people up.
This has occurred because getting friendly with the police and developing them as sources has long been one of mainstream reporters' jobs. And this has occurred because so many mainstream media outlets are run by people who have not personally experienced the violent effects of mass incarceration within their immediate communities.
So, it has mostly fallen to a small number of independent media outlets to tell the truth about prisons and track down the voices that aren't being heard. This means asking reporters to interview incarcerated people themselves and working with imprisoned people to write their own stories. Highlighting the voices, ideas, and analyses of people facing oppression serves as a central guideline in our work at Truthout.
Openly seeking justice, we don't call ourselves "fair and balanced." We know that "balanced" is a false goal, because society is not balanced. We don't have an interest in pitting injustice against justice. We want to strengthen all struggles for justice.
This frees us from having to represent the status quo and gives us the opportunity to start new transformative conversations.
We are creating methods along with creating content. Our orientation toward transformation informs our editorial practice at every level, affecting the stories that we deem "newsworthy," the guidance we give to authors, and even the style guide used by our copy-editor, which asks that Truthout's authors ﬁnd new metaphors that do not equate society-damaging ignorance with blindness, deafness, or "insanity" (metaphors that further stigmatize people with disabilities and mental illness, whose devaluation arises from the same impulses at the heart of capitalism and white supremacy).
Although we do not generally articulate Truthout's orientation toward transformation through the speciﬁc discourse of "universalizing resistance" used in this book -- in part due to a concern over the way in which calls for more "universal" struggles have sometimes been used by white men on the Left to de-legitimize efforts to ﬁght racism and sexism alongside capitalist exploitation -- we can see how many elements of our work are resonant with the universalizing framework as it is deﬁned here.
Earlier in this book, Charles Derber writes that a core aspect of universalizing resistance is the insight that solving any inequality requires dealing with all of them.
We strive to put this insight into practice by commissioning stories that concretely show how different forms of oppression intersect, revealing the interconnections between struggles that are too often presented as existing in disconnected "silos." We hope that our media work will help expose connections between climate change, militarism, capitalism, white supremacy, colonial violence, and patriarchy globally.
For example, Truthout staff reporter, Dahr Jamail, has consistently revealed the intersection of US military policy and environmental destruction. Jamail has exposed plans by the US Navy to conduct vast war games over large stretches of public and private lands, including national parks. He has documented how the Navy has taken advantage of climate change to expand operations in the Gulf of Alaska and has simultaneously fueled climate change with its polluting, hazardous practices. These interconnections are critical to name and analyze.
In the wake of the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, we commissioned a piece by Laleh Khalili titled "After Brexit: Reckoning with Britain's Racism and Xenophobia" that documented how class politics were articulated through a politics of race in the lead-up to the Brexit vote, showing the interlocking effects of austerity, privatization, and xenophobia.
And in Truthout's ﬁrst print anthology, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States, we featured an article by Andrea Ritchie that discusses how centering women's and trans people's experiences will require movements against police violence to expand their analysis of state violence "to include sexual assault by the police, violence against pregnant and parenting women, policing of prostitution, deadly responses to domestic violence, and the routine violence and violation of police interactions with transgender and gender-nonconforming people."
By commissioning these sorts of articles -- articles that explicitly focus on interlocking forms of oppression -- we seek to connect the dots and show readers why solving any inequality requires dealing with all of them.
Meanwhile, as Derber also proposes, we don't discount the value of "single-issue" activism. We hope that when we present articles with a more single-issue focus, they will function like tiles in a mosaic, working in concert to present a larger picture of the many sources of injustice that exist, as well as the varied ways in which people are organizing against them.
The consciousness-awakening power of single-issue organizing is apparent in the inspiring stories that Alexis Bonogofsky has written for Truthout about the unusual coalitions that have emerged in local ﬁghts against extractive corporations. For example, Bonogofsky tells the story of how ranchers, members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Amish farmers, environmentalists, and other residents of Southeast Montana organized to prevent Arch Coal from extracting billions of tons of coal from the area. She writes:
In the beginning, there were a number of separate communities who all, for their own reasons, wanted to stop this project.... Six years of slow and steady relationship building created a powerful bloc of community members from all different backgrounds and political persuasions, united in opposition against the mine and railroad.
Reports like these are a compelling example of why so-called single-issue activism can be a powerful starting point. Even if the groups that come together around a particular issue don't have a shared analysis of intersecting oppressions going in, these sorts of campaigns can raise awareness of the intersecting issues and build relationships that lay the groundwork for future solidarity.Truthout Progressive Pick
"A must read for anyone serious about building a meaningful and positive future!" - Gar AlperovitzClick here now to get the book!
Moreover, placing articles on "single-issue" campaigns side by side can start to generate an awareness of transnational resonances and linkages, as well as the connective tissue between resistance movements. At Truthout, while Alexis Bonogofsky was reporting on how residents in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, successfully organized to prevent Nestlé from bottling their community's water and selling it for a massive proﬁt, Renata Bessi and Santiago Navarro F. were reporting on indigenous communities in Brazil who have alleged that, in an effort to make way for new development projects by transnational corporations (including Nestlé), the Brazilian government has been taking over their ancestral lands and hiring hitmen to murder the indigenous residents of those lands.
Part of practicing transformative journalism -- journalism in the service of justice -- is recognizing that no one piece can stand alone as truly "universal." We hope that our continual efforts to lift up the work of resistance movements, highlighting both their intersections and their particularities, will bring these movements to a wider audience. We seek to interrupt the usual passivity of news consumption, provoking readers to think about their own complicity in systems of oppression -- and awakening them to how they might engage with movements themselves.
We aim to be a force for the ampliﬁcation of resistance, a spark for conversation and action, a bullhorn for revealing injustice, and a vessel for powerful new ideas, working alongside movements in the pursuit of a just world.
Copyright (2017) by Taylor and Francis. Not to be reposted without the permission of the publisher.
A woman makes a peace sign before a line of police preparing to advance upon demonstrators after a rally by President Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center on August 22, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)
Protection of First Amendment rights should not entail an extension of constitutional protections for hate speech, demonstrably violent assemblies or incitements to future violence: Free speech, arguably, is supposed to protect individuals from government censorship, though these purported protections have been inadequate where rights can be suspended according to the state's will to protect "order."
A woman makes a peace sign before a line of police preparing to advance upon demonstrators after a rally by President Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center on August 22, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)
The far-right assembly in Charlottesville, Virginia, represented a social and political crisis of consciousness for many people. Between Jimmy Fallon's uncharacteristically morose words on the gravity of the event (despite playfully ruffling President Trump's hair on his show just months before), growing criticisms about free speech absolutism (with the ACLU slightly modifying its defense of the "Unite the Right" with a new refusal to defend armed hate groups), a slowly growing mainstream acceptance of anti-fascist confrontation, and accelerating removals of Confederate statues, the value and values of liberalism in the face of increasingly publicly articulated fascistic politics are being more frequently and loudly contested.
The American liberal democracy that is constantly cited as providing a framework for safeguarding our rights and liberties also provides a constitutionally defensible framework for legal expressions of violent white nationalism and racial supremacism. Many people, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, have pointed to "real" patriots -- in contrast to "pseudo-patriotic" white nationalists -- in Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other "founding fathers." But white nationalism is intrinsic to US statecrafting and the liberal mythologies around what it means to be patriotic. Pledging allegiance to the US state necessarily means an alignment with the ideological edifices born out of centuries of settler colonial violence, namely enslavement and Indigenous genocide.
If Washington was a true patriot standing for "American" ideas of equality and egalitarianism, why did a godlike portrait of the slave-owning first president flank Fritz Kuhn, the leader of the German American Bund (a 20th-century German-American Nazi organization), as he sang the praises of both Washington and Adolf Hitler at the party's 1939 convention in Madison Square Garden? If the Union's father, Washington, is distinctly different from the Confederate hero General Robert E. Lee, then how are their legacies and names linked in the name of a Lexington, Virginia, institution, Washington & Lee University, beyond both having been benefactors of the school? While President Trump asked in horror whether statues of Washington would be toppled next, the removal of all statues of the white nationalists that laid the ideological and material frameworks for centuries of racial violence and socioeconomic inequity is a politically consistent notion rather than an incredible one. Within this vein of consistency, the US government should also return the Black Hills land housing the Mount Rushmore National Memorial to the Lakota people.
If the United States' political foundation allows for the emergence of fascistic and authoritarian governance, does it not behoove us to interrogate the state's foundation and the definition of democracy in the past 241 years of the United States' existence rather than idealizing an ethos of "equality" and "liberty" that has never come to be? Rather than grasping at, and attempting to reclaim and revive a nonexistent democracy, can we not confidently acknowledge that "democracy" as we have come to understand it is incapable of delivering the rights-related promises made by its founding documents?
The United States' liberal democratic political framework was created to maximize liberties in resistance to British monarchial impositions, and also, quite explicitly, around notions of empowerments and citizenship rights afforded only to white, landowning men. Even within the 1776 declaration of the apparently self-evident equality of all men, a declaration that in no way contradicted the flourishing institution of slavery, the universally assured unalienable rights were not applicable to everyone: Blacks -- then categorized as chattel -- were neither citizens nor recognized as fully human, and Native peoples were enduring a genocide that is still ongoing.
This outright exclusion and conditional inclusion of individuals from the social contract facilitated the creation of a society wherein rights could be denied to communities as swiftly as they were extended. The free speech absolutism inherent to the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and other liberal organizations' insistence that violent white supremacists have the right to speech and assembly (however indignantly these groups might condemn white supremacist politics) is a part of this social order that insulates and protects whiteness.
Protection of First Amendment rights should not entail an extension of constitutional protections for hate speech, demonstrably violent assemblies or incitements to future violence: Free speech, arguably, is supposed to protect individuals from government censure and censorship, though these purported protections have been inadequate where rights and liberties can be suspended according to the state's will to protect "order" and "public safety."
Following the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, and in anticipation of white nationalist events in San Francisco and Berkeley on August 26 and 27 respectively, the Berkeley City Council passed an emergency ordinance that empowers the city manager to selectively disband permit-less gatherings within city limits. The city, thus, has criminalized gatherings of all natures in a legislative move that was as much to prevent the assembly of white nationalists as well as reactive community protest and self-defense. This step may increase the likelihood of violence from white nationalists against a far smaller turnout of counter-protesters; we have seen white supremacist gatherings effectively disbanded by overwhelming displays of community resistance (as was the case in Boston). In light of historical white supremacist participation in law enforcement and police departments' historical tendency to crack down on leftist protesters and/or fail to respond to outbreaks of violence by white nationalists, the refusal of the state (in this case, the Berkeley municipal government) to intervene is indicative of its non-disagreement with white nationalist politics, particularly given President Trump's own politics and response to Charlottesville, which was widely praised by white supremacists.
First Amendment rights entail protection from government retribution, but counter-protesting communities are not the government. The construction of social-political engagement between white supremacist rally-holders and the anti-fascists and community members countering them is that of a debate where each position -- one of violence and community annihilation, and the other of community defense and support -- holds equitable merit.
In calling for a defense against white supremacy, William C. Anderson writes that an individual or community that "defends themselves by any means necessary when they are being attacked is not the one bringing violence into the world. There is nothing violent about defending your life or the life of your loved ones." Yet in a liberal imaginary where all speech or uses of force are equal and equally protectable regardless of content or the subject position of the speaker, white supremacists' desire for community-extinguishing violence and the forms of violence they enacted were functionally equivalent to the resistive forced used by anarchists, anti-fascist coalitions and community protestors -- despite clergy and community leaders in Charlottesville, most notably Dr. Cornel West, acknowledging that antifa saved their lives. If the state existed to protect minoritized communities, uses of force to defend communities would not be necessary. However, because the function of this state is to protect capitalist interests, coalitions of community groups and political organizations are forced to protect themselves from existential threats.
The murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville will likely be the first of many homicides if these violent white nationalists are not contained. While white people standing in solidarity with ethno-racial minority communities have also historically been targeted by white supremacists, the primary targets of white supremacist violence are not white and are not similarly mourned, as was stated by a chorus of non-white activists and commentators, as well as Heyer's cousin Diana Ratcliffe. Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, called for the murder of her daughter to be met with "righteous anger": a call to action for so many Americans still mired in liberal complacency.
It is glaringly apparent that cautious proposals such as "dialogue" and piecemeal reforms brought about by elected officials (whose elections remain suspect, due to voter suppression and disenfranchisement) will not stem the surge of fascistic politics sweeping through this country. The only question is how much more violence marginalized communities will endure before neo-fascisms are confronted with the urgency and decisiveness they warrant.
President Trump's Rally in Phoenix | 23 Aug 2017 | The event, during President Trump's first visit to Arizona since the election, is his first rally after his comments on Charlottesville, Va. (Video)
The post “Antifa Saved Their Lives”: Report from Clergy at Charlottesville appeared first on It's Going Down.
“But I could not say a word. It nearly took my breath away when they chanted, “Black Lives Don’t Matter” and “Fuck You Faggots” over and over again. It felt like they just kept coming one by one.”
A few times a day, I group text with two of my closest friends, Brandy and Jen. It was a normal day on Thursday, August 3 when we were texting about our typical subjects: academia, politics, our writing (or lack thereof!), dating, and hanging out with each other again. None of us live near each other so this is the best way to keep in touch. Shortly prior to this particular group text message, Brandy moved to Charlottesville, Virginia for a post-doctoral fellowship in the Religious Studies department at the University of Virginia. I live fairly close to Virginia so I asked Brandy when she wanted me to come visit her during the month of August. She joked at one point in the group text that I could come down and join the clergy counter protest for this Alt-Right rally entitled “Unite the Right,” which was supposed to take place on Saturday, August 12th. If you watch the news for any decent amount of time, you know who the Alt-Right are and what they believe. I did not think it would be a particularly memorable event, and without much thought, I agreed to attend so I could protest with my friend. I then signed up for the Clergy Call organized and led by phenomenal leaders Seth Wispelwey and Smash Patty in local congregations in Charlottesville. Little did I know what was coming for us.
A few days later, I received an email from the Clergy Call organizers warning about the dangers of attending the counter protest against the neo-Nazis at the Unite the Right rally. I read the email with some concern, but I still had no idea what was coming for us. I told Brandy that due to personal reasons, I could not risk getting arrested right now. She told me I could still attend the protest and be the designated person to bail her out of jail. I quickly agreed.
The few days leading up to the Unite the Right rally on August 12th were very consuming for me. I led a conference for my job, and I also faced some personal issues that were unfolding at the same time. On Friday, August 11th, I planned to drive down to Charlottesville after my work conference wrapped up in the late afternoon. By the time I actually made progress driving towards Charlottesville, it was the early evening, and I was completely exhausted. At one point during my drive, I called Brandy with the intention of telling her I was going to skip the rally and drive home instead. I remember calling her, and she talked about her preparations for the clergy counter protest.
In that moment, I did not have the heart to tell her I was too tired to visit. I wanted to be there with her more than I wanted to go home and sleep, so I kept driving. Brandy texted me late that evening while I was still driving to let me know that she was stuck in the church where the clergy gathered that evening to worship in order to prepare themselves spiritually for the counter protest on Saturday. I did not know this at the time, but my friend was trapped inside that church, because neo-Nazis were outside the front doors blocking in the congregants with tiki torches in hand. I am thankful she never told me all these details at that time. I do not think I could have handled the truth in my state of exhaustion.
“as a white Christian in light of the rise of the Alt-Right. I wondered if this rise in Nazism requires a different response than what I would normally advocate.”
I finally arrived at Brandy’s apartment in Charlottesville shortly before midnight. She told me that we were going to attend a sunrise service the next morning to spiritually prepare for the counter protest. She said we had to be there by 6 AM. I was not happy about the early wake-up call given my exhaustion. But she said Cornel West was preaching so I knew it would be worth attending.
We woke up early and arrived to First Baptist Church on West Main Street where hundreds of people gathered for an interfaith worship service. The church was energized as we sang many African American spirituals sung during the civil rights era. It was a moving worship time. At this point, I still had no idea what was in store for the day. I had no framework for what to expect, and I was not expecting much beyond a peaceful protest and a few fascists showing up to this rally. This was my first time in Charlottesville, after all. How bad could it possibly get?
Once the interfaith service ended, the leaders asked the clergy who were planning to be on the front lines of the counter protest to meet in the front of the church. Only 40 or 50 clergy members and other individuals stayed. It was disheartening to see how many people left the church when the organizers of the counter protest hoped that we would have huge numbers for the event. One of the leaders of the Clergy Call, Rev. Sekou Osagyefo, began to speak to the individuals who stayed to counter protest in Emancipation Park.
“I started running with them when all the sudden I stopped, and said I could not leave my friend Brandy behind. They told me twice that I could either stay or go, but that they had to go.”
After kicking out media and government employees from the sanctuary, Sekou spoke some harsh warnings to those in the room. He told us that if we were not prepared to die that day, we should not attend this protest. He told us that if we were not prepared to be beaten that day, we should not attend this protest. At this point, I look over to my friend Brandy with my eyes wide open with fear and panic and ask her what he is talking about. Brandy assures me that we will not die, and we will not be injured. She tells me Sekou is trying to prepare us for the absolute worst, but that death and injury properly will not happen. But Sekou keeps repeating these warnings, and suddenly, I realize that I am entering a real battle zone.
I did not prepare for any of this in any way – spiritually, emotionally, or mentally – and I also did not receive the weeks of non-violent training that Brandy underwent. At this point, I am convinced that I should stay as far behind as possible to protect myself. When we finally formed a line to leave the church and march towards Emancipation Park by foot, I stayed in the very back of the line with the non-profit volunteer lawyers. I figured that if I stick with the lawyers, I would be safe (probably not the best logic!). There was an eerie, almost deafening silence in the town as we walked through the streets. It felt like a ghost town as very few people could be seen anywhere in the streets. Right before we made it to Emancipation Park, we had to make a left turn up a small hill.
I was still marching in the back at this point when I saw over a dozen armed male militia at the top of the hill with AK-47s in hand. Fear engulfed my entire body, and I quickly locked arms with other clergy members for fear of being on the outside of the group. We finally made it to Emancipation Park when we lined up along the one side of the park, arms interlocked with each other. I believe the original goal was to have enough clergy to circle the entire park, but there were only enough clergy present to line the one side.
It was around 9 AM when we made it to Emancipation Park. The first song we sang was “This Little Light of Mine.” Never have the words to this song felt so vulnerable and almost foolish. We sang this song as armed militia and a few neo-Nazis began to pass us on the sidewalk. As time went on, more and more neo-Nazis began to trickle into the park along the sidewalk. The clergy line kept singing songs of freedom, praying, kneeling, and standing peacefully to be a counter witness to the hate and violence of the neo-Nazis in that space. At one point, we kneeled on the ground to pray one by one while a member of the armed militia stood directly across from me with his AK-47 in hand. I was overwhelmed with seeing a weapon like that so close to my body as I kneeled on the pavement, weaponless and full of fear. I have never felt so vulnerable before the powers of the world before. I kept wondering, “is this what Jesus is calling me to do?” All my theology of resistance became real in those moments alongside Emancipation Park. We were fighting against the powers of darkness that engulfed this park.
As more neo-Nazis passed the clergy line, they verbally abused us one by one over the course of a few hours. One man screamed that Jesus hates us. Another screamed that we hate the white race and are contributing to white genocide. Another man boldly came up to the clergy line and asked us if we have ever read Ephesians 5 and 6, because then we would know the Bible does not allow women to be clergy. He said we should be submitting to men. Another man taunted us for a good while asking us where we went to seminary, and tried to get us to answer questions about theology and the Bible to prove we were legitimate clergy. I can not fully remember everything that was said to me that day on the clergy line. Online trolls are one thing. We all know not to feed the trolls on the internet. But it is another thing to have the trolls right before your face yelling vile truths that contradict everything you believe. It took the sheer grace of God for me to stay silent in the midst of the verbal abuse.
One man came up to the clergy line with a t-shirt of Adolf Hitler’s face right above a large swastika. He was very eager and adamant to inform us that he worshipped the same Jesus we do. It was in that moment that I realized how far darkness can take a person into complete falsehood. I wanted to look that man in the eye and tell him that his Jesus is not the one who hung from the cross for those he despises. But I could not say a word. It nearly took my breath away when they chanted, “Black Lives Don’t Matter” and “Fuck You Faggots” over and over again. It felt like they just kept coming one by one. They showed up by the dozens along the sidewalk before my eyes with their weapons, shields, sticks, helmets, and zealous hatred. There were so many of them and so few of us. They looked nothing like I expected. They were young boys who looked strikingly similar to my nephew, my cousin, my neighbor, or any average white kid you would see on a daily basis. This was not the hooded Nazi’s of my parents generation. No, this was far more covert and dangerous.
A few hours after the clergy arrived, the anti-fascists (or “antifa”) showed up with their banners denouncing white supremacy. They were small in number compared to the neo-Nazis, but I was so thankful when they finally arrived with their message that Black Lives Matter, that LGBTQ+ lives matter, and that hatred will not win this fight. They offered members of the clergy line water and food. Some put their hand on my shoulder and gave me a smile. I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I felt less alone in this fight against darkness.
“If antifa had not eventually stood between the clergy blockade and the neo-Nazis, my friends would have either been badly beaten or died. Antifa saved their lives.”
At one point, the clergy line broke up as some clergy, including my friend Brandy, were planning to form a blockade on the steps leading up to the park. The intention was to stop neo-Nazis from getting into the park to attend their rally. The clergy knew how vulnerable they were next to the neo-Nazis because each one were committed to nonviolence. Some of the clergy did not want to join the blockade, but it was too dangerous to stay in the streets as more and more violence was breaking out. Those clergy began running toward a café a few blocks away, which served as our safe house for the day.
I started running with them when all the sudden I stopped, and said I could not leave my friend Brandy behind. They told me twice that I could either stay or go, but that they had to go. I did not know what to do. I wanted to go with them, but I could not leave my friend without knowing if she was okay. I decided in that moment to turn around and stay. I stood on the corner across the street from the steps of the park and watched my friend lock arms with other clergy members. I had to watch as neo-Nazis came charging in by the dozens and forcefully plowed toward the clergy blockade. A blanket of fear engulfed me as I watched my friend stand there not knowing if she would make it out of there alive. If antifa had not eventually stood between the clergy blockade and the neo-Nazis, my friends would have either been badly beaten or died. Antifa saved their lives.
While I stood on the corner, I also tried to dodge the many bottles full of feces that were thrown in the air from the neo-Nazis. I tried to not breathe in the tear gas and the pepper spray clouds that kept coming my way. At one point, the clergy line dispersed, and I was reunited with Brandy. We did not know what to do next so we tried to stay on the outskirts of the scene. The neo-Nazis just kept coming in groups over and over. We were far outnumbered, but I watched countless antifa youth risk their lives, one by one, to fight back. Many of them were eventually carried away covered in blood from being beaten. Some screamed in the middle of the street as their eyes burned from the pepper spray. It was the most horrific scene I have ever seen in my life. I coughed so hard at one point from breathing in pepper spray that I wet myself. I could not stop coughing. It was terrifying.
This violence and chaos ensued for over an hour. The police did nothing. I looked over at the police many times in the midst of the chaos only to find some laughing at certain points. I was not surprised, but I was still disillusioned by their lack of response.
“The neo-Nazis just kept coming in groups over and over. We were far outnumbered, but I watched countless antifa youth risk their lives, one by one, to fight back.”
As I looked on to see the crowds of people fighting and could hear the deafening sound of fists hitting flesh, I began to wonder if this is God’s judgment upon America for our original sin of racism and slavery. This nation was founded upon the kidnap, rape, and enslavement of African and Caribbean bodies for our profit. While the concentration of pure and unadulterated hatred in Emancipation Park might be novel for this time period, the seeds and roots of that hatred are as old as the United States. This country has never confronted and repented for the devastating and continual violence done against black and brown flesh. From slavery to lynching to segregation to imprisonment, we continue to oppress, enslave, and kill all that does not fit into the toxic mold of white supremacy.
In the early afternoon (the actual time escapes me), the Governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency. The National Guard came out with a water tank, and told everyone through a loud speaker to leave the area, or we would be arrested. Brandy and I made our way to the safe house at the café I mentioned earlier. We rested there for a bit, and the owners of the café kindly gave us free food and beer. At one point in the afternoon, my friend Gregory messaged me on Facebook to tell me that counter-protestors were forming again and headed towards Water Street. Word on the street was that the neo-Nazis were headed to a public housing area, and organizers in the area asked for counter-protesters to come help stop them. I wanted to join him and the other protestors, but I did not know where Water Street was in relation to this café. I figured I would join up with them later at some point.
A few minutes later, someone came into the café and told us we had to come out immediately as something happened. A bunch of us from the cafe began running down the block to Water Street where we were met with bodies spewed all across the street. I would later learn that a neo-Nazi terrorist drove his car into this crowd of counter protesters and killed one protester named Heather Heyer. It felt like a war zone. Chaos and confusion filled those streets as we stood helplessly on the sidewalks wondering how this could happen.
Eventually, Brandy and I left downtown Charlottesville and went back to her house to sleep. It is hard to know how to recover from the horror we witnessed that day. Do you drink? Do you sleep? Do you talk to others who were there? Do you watch the news? Do you pray? What can you do to cope with such violence? How do you make sense of it? Where do you go from there?
“This violence and chaos ensued for over an hour. The police did nothing. I looked over at the police many times in the midst of the chaos only to find some laughing at certain points.”
I left Charlottesville the next day to return home. I drove home with an endless amount of questions swimming through my head, not knowing if I will ever receive answers. My theology was deeply challenged that day as I stood on that clergy line. I realized how deeply I am already part of the violence of white supremacy even if I committed to a nonviolent protest and even if I denounce the neo-Nazis. I wondered what it means to witness against white supremacy today as a white Christian in light of the rise of the Alt-Right. I wondered if this rise in Nazism requires a different response than what I would normally advocate.
I wrote this post, because since Saturday, I have been having great difficulty sleeping. I wake up in the middle of the night, and I can not get those rage-filled faces out of my mind as they play over and over again in my head. The heaviness of the future bears down on me, and I begin to realize how much work there is to do to fight against this darkness that is coming back over this nation afresh. I remember that blanket of fear that I felt as I watched my friend stand on those stairs as Nazis charged towards her. I begin worrying about war, violence against vulnerable communities, more hatred against those who are already oppressed, and what the future of Trump’s presidency will mean not only for this nation, but for the world.
I was told that writing my story could help with the trauma and the confusion. I hope at some point to share some theological reflections. But for now, I wanted to document my story from the front lines of Charlottesville and encourage you, dear reader, to resist the power of white supremacy on all fronts.Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
The post Christiansburg, VA: Target Workers on Wildcat Strike for Sexual Harassment & Discrimination appeared first on It's Going Down.Workers at a Target store Christiansburg, VA are striking to demand the firing of General Manager Daniel Butler after multiple testimonies alleging abuse including sexual harassment and racial discrimination. There was also a picket outside the store on August 23rd.
Target workers strike, demand firing of General Manager Daniel Butler. Employees experience abuse including sexual harassment, racial discrimination without recourse.
Christiansburg, VA: Target (Store #1292) General Manager Daniel Butler has abused Target workers for years, highlighted in worker testimonies which include multiple instances of inappropriate touching, suggestive comments, racist remarks, misgendering transgender employees, and physical abuse. Target has failed to address these complaints and so workers are forced to strike.
Y'all this is going on at the Christiansburg Target! pic.twitter.com/jiN8mY3Pwv
— Elisabeth (@elisabethdawnn) August 23, 2017
Striking workers demand the following:
- The permanent termination of Daniel Butler from the Target Corporation, with no chance for rehire at this or any other location
- recognition of their independent workers committee to mediate between Target workers and management at Store #1292
Several workers have attempted to go through Target’s HR channels to stop this abuse, only to have their complaints stonewalled.
Since Target’s methods failed to end Butler’s inappropriate behavior, employees ask that the community support their strike through boycott until their demands are met.
Full worker testimonies and information on how to help is available at http://nrvstrike.org
This action is supported by New River Workers Power, a local independent working class organization that seeks to build political power for workers by workers and their allies across the region.Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
By Dave Levitan. Crossposted from Climate Liability News.
A peer-reviewed analysis of 37 years of communications from ExxonMobil concluded that the oil company has misled the public for decades about climate science and climate change. When their communications were aimed at the public and non-scientific audiences, they focused on doubt and uncertainty. At the same time, the company’s internal communications and peer-reviewed science broadly agreed with the scientific consensus that fossil fuel burning is warming the planet.
“Available documents show a systematic discrepancy between what ExxonMobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public,” the study concluded. It was researched and written by Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow in Harvard’s Department of the History of Science.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12060'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: naomi oreskesExxon Mobilclimate science denialMerchants of Doubt#ExxonKnew
The New Yorker By Daniel Penny, August 22, 2017
On October 4, 1936, tens of thousands of Zionists, Socialists, Irish dockworkers, Communists, anarchists, and various outraged residents of London’s East End gathered to prevent Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists from marching through their neighborhood. This clash would eventually be known as the Battle of Cable Street: protesters formed a blockade and beat back some three thousand Fascist Black Shirts and six thousand police officers. To stop the march, the protesters exploded homemade bombs, threw marbles at the feet of police horses, and turned over a burning lorry. They rained down a fusillade of projectiles on the marchers and the police attempting to protect them: rocks, brickbats, shaken-up lemonade bottles, and the contents of chamber pots. Mosley and his men were forced to retreat.
In “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” published last week by Melville House, the historian Mark Bray presents the Battle of Cable Street as a potent symbol of how to stop Fascism: a strong, unified coalition outnumbered and humiliated Fascists to such an extent that their movement fizzled. For many members of contemporary anti-Fascist groups, the incident remains central to their mythology, a kind of North Star in the fight against Fascism and white supremacy across Europe and, increasingly, the United States. According to Bray, antifa (pronounced an-tee-fah) “can variously be described as a kind of ideology, an identity, a tendency or milieu, or an activity of self-defense.” It’s a leaderless, horizontal movement whose roots lie in various leftist causes—Communism, anarchism, Socialism, anti-racism. The movement’s profile has surged since antifa activists engaged in a wave of property destruction during Donald Trump’s Inauguration—when one masked figure famously punched the white supremacist Richard Spencer in the face—and ahead of a planned appearance, in February, by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, which was cancelled. At the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a number of antifa activists, carrying sticks, blocked entrances to Emancipation Park, where white supremacists planned to gather. Fights broke out; some antifa activists reportedly sprayed chemicals and threw paint-filled balloons. Multiple clergy members credited activists with saving their lives. Fox News reported that a White House petition urging that antifa be labelled a terrorist organization had received more than a hundred thousand signatures.
Bray’s book is many things: the first English-language transnational history of antifa, a how-to for would-be activists, and a record of advice from anti-Fascist organizers past and present—a project that he calls “history, politics, and theory on the run.” Antifa activists don’t often speak to the media, but Bray is a former Occupy Wall Street organizer and an avowed leftist; he has intimate access to his subjects, if not much critical distance from them. Especially in later chapters of the book, that access helps him to provide an unusually informed account of how antifa members conceptualize their disruptive and sometimes violent methods.
Many liberals who are broadly sympathetic to the goals of antifa criticize the movement for its illiberal tactics. In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Peter Beinart, citing a series of incidents in Portland, Oregon, writes, “The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.” (Beinart’s piece is headlined “The Rise of the Violent Left.”) According to Bray, though, antifa activists believe that Fascists forfeit their rights to speak and assemble when they deny those same rights to others through violence and intimidation. For instance, last week, the North Dakota newspaper The Forum published a letter from Pearce Tefft in which he recalled a chilling exchange about free speech with his son, Peter, shortly before Peter headed to the rally in Charlottesville. “The thing about us fascists is, it’s not that we don’t believe in freedom of speech,” the younger Tefft reportedly said to his father. “You can say whatever you want. We’ll just throw you in an oven.”
For Bray and his subjects, the horror of this history and the threat of its return demands that citizens, in the absence of state suppression of Fascism, take action themselves. Bray notes that state-based protections failed in Italy and Germany, where Fascists were able to take over governments through legal rather than revolutionary means—much as the alt-right frames its activities as a defense of free speech, Fascists were able to spread their ideology under the aegis of liberal tolerance. Antifa does not abide by John Milton’s dictum that, “in a free and open encounter,” truthful ideas will prevail. “After Auschwitz and Treblinka,” Bray writes, “anti-fascists committed themselves to fighting to the death the ability of organized Nazis to say anything.”
Part of antifa’s mission is to establish, as Bray puts it, “the historical continuity between different eras of far-right violence and the many forms of collective self-defense that it has necessitated across the globe over the past century.” To this end, the first half of his book is a somewhat rushed history of anti-Fascist groups. The progenitors of antifa, in this account, were the German and Italian leftists who, following the First World War, banded together to fight proto-Fascist gangs. In Italy, these leftists gathered under the banner of Arditi del Popolo (“the People’s Daring Ones”), while in Weimar Germany, groups like Antifaschistische Aktion, from which antifa takes its name, evolved from paramilitary factions of existing political parties. Bray moves swiftly to the failure of anti-Fascists in the Spanish Civil War, then races through the second half of the twentieth century. In the late seventies, the punk and hardcore scenes became the primary sites of open conflict between leftists and neo-Nazis; that milieu prefigures much of the style and strategy now associated with the anti-Fascist movement. In the Netherlands and Germany, a group of leftist squatters known as Autonomen pioneered the Black Bloc approach: wearing all-black outfits and masks to help participants evade prosecution and retaliation. Bray reaches the present with his description of “Pinstripe Fascists,” such as Geert Wilders, and the rise of new far-right parties and groups in both Europe and America. The book flits between countries and across decades; analysis is sparse. The message is that antifa will fight Fascists wherever they appear, and by any means necessary.
The book’s later chapters, such as “Five Historical Lessons for Anti-Fascists” and “ ‘So Much for the Tolerant Left!’: ‘No Platform’ and Free Speech,” which are adapted from essays published elsewhere, are more focussed and persuasive. Here Bray explicitly deals with the philosophical and practical problems of antifa: violence versus nonviolence; mass movements versus militancy; choosing targets and changing tactics. Bray concedes that the practice of disrupting Fascist rallies and events could be construed as a violation of the right to free speech and assembly—but he contends that such protections are meant to prevent the government from arresting citizens, not to prevent citizens from disrupting one another’s speech. Speech is already curtailed in the U.S. by laws related to “obscenity, incitement to violence, copyright infringement, press censorship during wartime,” and “restrictions for the incarcerated,” Bray points out. Why not add one more restriction—curtailing hate speech—as many European democracies do? As for the slippery-slopists, afraid that antifa will begin with Fascists and eventually attack anybody who opposes them, Bray maintains that the historical record does not support this fear: anti-Fascists who have shut down local hate groups, as in Denmark, usually go dark themselves, or turn their attention to other political projects, rather than finding new enemies to fight. (In his Atlantic piece, Beinart notes, “When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too.”)
Violence, Bray insists, is not the preferred method for past or present antifa—but it is definitely on the table. He quotes a Baltimore-based activist who goes by the name Murray to explain the movement’s outlook:
You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.
There is a moral logic to this notion of anticipatory self-defense, but the progression, from writing letters to fighting with guns, is worrisome nonetheless. Right-wing militiamen in Charlottesville made a point of displaying force, and this was reportedly “unnerving to law enforcement officials on the scene.” Should anti-Fascists start toting AR-15s, like the right-wing Oathkeepers? The idea can seem naïve in an American context, where, practically speaking, only white people can carry guns openly without fear of police interference. Bray mentions a few pro-gun antifa groups, including the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, and a collective with the punning moniker Trigger Warning; he quibbles with liberal scholars, including Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, who dismiss violent protest as an ineffective tool for garnering public support. But it is unclear from the book whether he thinks that brandishing guns is an ethical concern as well as a tactical one, or whether he worries about an escalation of violence. Postwar antifa, as Bray details in earlier chapters, has largely been a European project, in which opposing sides sometimes beat each other senseless and stabbed one another to death. They didn’t have assault rifles. The Battle of Cable Street was fought with rocks and paving stones.
What were the effects of Cable Street, exactly? Scholars continue to debate the showdown’s consequences. After the battle, Mosley, like present-day Fascists, was able to cast himself in the role of a law-abiding victim assaulted by immigrant hordes. In the months following, Fascist youth attacked London’s Jewish residents and businesses in what became known as the Mile End Pogrom, and the British Union of Fascists did better at the polls in 1937 than they had in years prior. Bray argues that such results do not undermine the legacy of the incident, because it radicalized and galvanized a community, which continued to fight Fascists in Britain through the buildup to the war and beyond, and whose efforts were largely successful.
In the British press, at least, Cable Street has been referenced repeatedly in coverage of the protests and the terrorism in Charlottesville, an event that has forced a discussion of what to do when far-right extremists come to your town. Bray, for his part, believes that one can practice “everyday anti-fascism” by confronting bigots in nonviolent ways, “from calling them out, to boycotting their business, to shaming them for their oppressive beliefs, to ending a friendship unless someone shapes up.” The point, as he sees it, is to shut down Fascists not just in the street but in every interaction. “An anti-fascist outlook has no tolerance for ‘intolerance.’ ” he writes. “It will not ‘agree to disagree.’ ”
Daniel Penny is a member of The New Yorker’s editorial staff.Tags: antifaMSMreviewcategory: Essays
The post Charlottesville Fundraiser & “Trouble” Screening in Brooklyn appeared first on It's Going Down.
Social Media Event Here
When: Sunday, August 27, 2017 from 8 PM to 10 PM
Where: Rebecca’s, 610 Bushwick Ave. in Bushwick, Brooklyn
On August 12 in Charlottesville, a Nazi murdered anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer. Many IWW and GDC members from across the country, as well as MACC members from New York City, were present when the attack occurred. The NYC GDC and MACC stand in solidarity with all those who oppose the growing wave of fascism around the world. Cowardly attacks will only strengthen our resolve to fight back and defend ourselves. An injury to one is an injury to all!
To support all those injured by fascist violence in Charlottesville, we are holding a fundraiser and screening of the latest episode of “Trouble” by sub.Media at Rebecca’s. “Trouble” is a new monthly documentary series that broadcasts first-hand accounts of struggles for community self-defense. Previous episodes have explored topics like water protectors fighting the construction of the DAPL pipeline at Standing Rock, anti-fascist organizing, solidarity efforts for refugees and resistance to state repression. Sub.Media has encouraged groups to host screenings of the show to bring communities together and provoke discussion of tactics, struggles and movement dynamics.
The best defense against fascism is a strong and supportive community, based on principles of mutual aid, solidarity and self-defense. Heather Heyer will live in our hearts forever!
If you are unable to attend, please consider donating to the solidarity fund and sharing this appeal widely: http://tinyurl.com/defendcville1.Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
The post Academics, One More Effort to be Materialists: On Mass Incarceration and the Movements Against It appeared first on It's Going Down.
Jacobin magazine recently published an article by Roger Lancaster on mass incarceration and strategies to end it. It’s an in depth, thoughtful piece of writing, and a full reply would take much more time and energy than I have at the moment, so I’ll just concentrate on the element which has attracted most controversy (not helped, I suspect, by the Jacobin account trying to summarise its argument within the ludicrously constrained space offered by twitter), which is its criticism of prison abolitionist rhetoric and insistence that “prison reform” is a more helpful way of framing the issue.
What’s objectionable about this piece of writing is not so much the things it says, but far more the things it doesn’t say. For one thing, it was published immediately before the August 19th Millions for Prisoners march, the largest mobilisation in support of prisoners in recent memory; a specific critique of the organisers’ tactics, rhetoric or strategy would have been entirely fair game, but to overlook the event altogether feels like someone not doing their homework.
This omission wouldn’t be so bad if it was an isolated oversight, but the article as a whole seems to only deal with “the prison movement” in terms of the discourses that outside activists use to talk about the issue, and skips entirely over the much more interesting question of the actual revolts that have taken place against the prison-industrial complex in recent years. For anyone who’s interested, texts like Incarcerated Workers Take the Lead and The Fire Inside set this story out in much more detail, but in brief, there’s a wave of revolt that can be traced back at least as far as the 2010 mass work strike in Georgia and continuing through the mass hunger strikes in California in 2011 and 2013.
This movement was hugely reinforced by events in Alabama, especially at Holman, and the formation of the Free Alabama movement, which in turn helped catalyse the nationally co-ordinated work stoppage in September 2016. This story is somewhat hidden from view, given that the key protagonists are incarcerated and tend to be somewhat cut off from media access, but it’s certainly possible to trace if you’re interested.
For someone to discuss mass incarceration and the movement against it, but totally neglect the actual self-activity of incarcerated people struggling against the conditions of their daily life, often on a mass scale, would seem to suggest a view of inmates as being solely passive victims, a view that is totally at odds with the reality of the events that have been unfolding behind bars. Instead, Lancaster’s approach seems to view the ideas and language used by left activists as being of more interest than the actual activity that’s taking place to challenge the day-to-day working of the carceral state. This is like if someone tried to write a history of work and capitalism, but considered resistance solely in terms of whether socialist and anti-capitalist thinkers saw themselves as being reformers or wanting to overthrow the system, while giving no consideration at all to the actual workers’ struggles that shaped and reshaped the workplace again and again.
He says that “[w]hat we really need to do is fight for measures that have already proven humane, effective, and consistent with social and criminal justice”, but if we approach mass incarceration by treating it as the site of contestation and conflict that it actually is, then surely the more urgent task is to do what we can to support and amplify the struggles that are already taking place within the prison-industrial complex. Or, to put it another way, I’m less interested in whether the people who took part in the Vaughn Rebellion this year saw themselves as contributing to a reform effort that would make the prison into a safer, more humane environment, or as taking a step towards the abolition of prison altogether, and more interested in the fact that they were able to take over a building, and in the possibilities that might be opened up by that.
It’s striking that, even when Lancaster criticises the ideas and rhetoric of prison abolitionists, this criticism itself tends to focus on the plane of ideas, rather than analysing material conditions. He dismisses the comparison that gets made between forced labor in prison and slavery, but he does so on the grounds that the rhetoric and ideology used to justify mass incarceration sounds different to that which was used around slavery. But surely no serious attempt to understand the world can begin and end with the stories people tell about why they do things. If it’s true that the institution of mass incarceration really doesn’t have anything in common with slavery, then it should be possible to show this by considering the economic function played by this vast workforce of unfree labor, and showing how that differs from the economic role of the slave plantations.
Perhaps the strongest part of Lancaster’s critique is the point that restorative justice systems are currently nowhere near sufficient to take over from the existing state justice system. But that’s only the damning blow he seems to think it is if you have an incredibly gradualist, idealist view of change, akin to thinking capitalism can be toppled once there are enough functioning, well-run co-ops. As long as mass incarceration continues to play a useful role for the state and capital, and as long as its regime is able to function smoothly, it will continue no matter how good the alternatives might be; conversely, if that system is no longer able to maintain itself – if situations like the breakdown of order caused when the rebellious mood among Holman inmates led to a wildcat by staff can be generalised to the regime as a whole – alternatives will be found, and they will be made to work, no matter how unlikely they may seem at present.
Ultimately, Lancaster’s approach is flawed because it’s a top-down view of history, an analysis of mass incarceration that has plenty of room for scholars and policymakers, but where incarcerated people themselves seem to disappear. His basic error in perspective is the same one that was skewered many years ago, in Brecht’s classic “Questions from a Worker who Reads”:
“The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?”Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
The post Confronting Trump’s Police and the Fascists Who Support Them appeared first on It's Going Down.
On the night of August 22, following a turbulent week in which Trump’s sympathies with far-right and fascist groups became even clearer, Trump made an appearance in Phoenix, Arizona to rally his far-right base in a state already divided by ugly conflicts over race and immigration. In a classic move from the totalitarian playbook, Trump denied that the massive protests outside his speech existed at all, while heavily-armored riot police prepared to attack them with chemical weapons. Behind Trump stood a token black man who has appeared at several of his rallies, an inept attempt to distract from the ways that Trump is smoothing the way for racists like the one who murdered a demonstrator last week in Charlottesville. This report recounts the experiences of those outside Trump’s speech, facing down far-right violence and police attacks to open up a space for opposition.
If you live in Arizona, getting in your car and driving with your affinity group to Phoenix to protest white supremacy is something you do regularly. The potential costs of struggle have always been high for us. We have no illusions about the burden of prison time, what it can mean to be separated from family. The potential for violence from Neo-Nazis and the state is always a clear and present danger. This time however, it felt different.
Recently, many of us have been considering the possibility that we may not come home from the next anti-fascist action we attend. We spent our time preparing and having really hard conversations with our children, parents, and loved ones. This past year has been devastating. I feel honored to be out on the streets with comrades who are weighing the risks and still showing up.
Puente organized the march—a grassroots migrant justice organization based in Phoenix, Arizona that focuses on education and empowerment within migrant communities to protect and defend families. They have been at the forefront of the struggle against the deputization of the police and against the rascist enforcement policies of Joe Arpaio. Their years of tireless struggle were part of the reason that Arpaio didn’t get re-elected last time. That, and his bizarre mafioso-style feuds with other political opponents.
Thousands turned out to protest in the 107 degree heat: a mixed and diverse crowd with lots of energy and many creative signs. People showed a lot of strength and dedication, considering that even after sunset, it was still 100 degrees. A shout out to those that arranged for bags of ice to be distributed—it kept the numbers of people treated for heat exhaustion and heat stroke to a relative few.
Trump rallying the far-Right against those who oppose fascism, while police with helmets and clubs wait outside to beat protesters.
We were outnumbered by the Trump supporters; there were thousands of us, but there were well over 10,000 of them. Until the end of the night, scuffles between sides were isolated to sporadic incidents outside the convention center. It was a charged and unpleasant environment.
I witnessed a Trump supporter spit on a Latino youth, assault him, and attempt to carry out a “citizen’s arrest.” Other people pulled the young man up from the ground, and he kept at it into the night with his affinity group, a very sweet group of people. That Trump supporter felt he was well within his rights starting a street fight, spitting on a young kid, and putting him in a chokehold on the ground. He figured that if he “arrested” this kid, the police would be on his side. This highlights ties between the police, the military, and grassroots fascists. Thankfully, the kid got away, but it’s instructive that the Trump supporter felt so emboldened. Individually, many of the police are white supremacist sympathizers, and structurally, they are the armed wing of the state upholding white supremacy and democracy in all its genocidal glory.
Just as in Charlottesville, the police came out to assist the right-wing and fascists. Police provided Trump supporters escort back to their vehicles. It was only after most Trump supporters had safely left the area that they deployed gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets in the areas with the highest concentration of protesters. There was some back and forth in the streets—protesters throwing back the canisters of poisonous gas they shot at us. The claims that our side deployed our own gas are laughable, utterly dishonest propaganda. I’ve never understood why the police get so upset when people throw gas canisters back at them. What the fuck do they expect?
A lot of people were gassed and hit with projectiles, and three people were arrested. Yet overall, the evening did not end as terribly as we had all been worried it would. Many people were not prepared to deal with chemical weapons or engage in street battle, but a lot of enthusiastic locals showed up and gave it their all—and that felt great! Step by step, we are building the capacity to face the violence of the police on a community-wide level.
Police Using Tear Gas & Flash Bombs To Clear Streets In Phoenix; Protesters Throwing Projectiles At Policepic.twitter.com/oDzMPGWSN6
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 23, 2017
The preponderance of arms on all sides felt disturbing and tactically inappropriate. I do not question the commitment to struggle when anarchists carry arms to a protest, but I would ask this: in Phoenix and Charlottesville, when your friends were engaged in physical altercations with white supremacists and police… what did you do? Did you stand on the sidelines with your guns and watch? I mean, thank you for not shooting anyone. I think a three-way gun battle is not something any of us are prepared for, nor do I think it would advance the struggles we are participating in. What does this militancy provide us from a practical perspective? Is it serving a tactical purpose, or is it empty posturing? We need more solidarity in the streets, we need to prepare for the fights ahead, and we need to be honest with ourselves about the very real potential outcomes of our actions. This question warrants further discussion, and I hope it will take place.
Trump is still considering a pardon for Joe Arpaio. As recently as this June, inmates were still being housed in Tent City outside when temperatures spiked to 110 degrees. I would like to call on Maricopa County to keep Tent City open with Joe Arpaio as its only occupant. When Trump pardons that racist sociopath, be sure to pack some liquid antacid (like unflavored Maalox) and water diluted 50/50 in a spray bottle, clean rags to wipe down with, disposable masks, and a camelback with water.
Stay safe until then. We’ll see you in the streets.
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This is episode number 3 of "B(A)D NEWS – Angry voices from around the world", a monthly news program from the international network of anarchist and antiauthoritarian radios, consisting of short news segments from different parts of the world.
You can listen to the episode here
* Radio Kurruf: Government social care projects
* 98FM: Update on resistances to state repression of political actvists
* The Final Straw: Grand juries in the US
* A-Radio Berlin: The disappearance of Santiago Maldonado and the Mapuche struggle in Argentina to reclaim Benetton-owned land
* Dissident Island: Issue of abortion on the island of Ireland + update from anti-fracking protest in Lancashire
The post Lessons on the Anniversary of Toronto’s Christie Pitts Uprising appeared first on It's Going Down.What practical lessons can be drawn from community defense in Toronto?
On Sunday, members of the antifascist community and the wider public in Toronto gathered to commemorate the August 16th 1933 Christie Pitts Uprising, often called a riot. This jovial community-oriented gathering brought people from various ideological lines together in reflection on the actions taken to defend the Jewish community in Toronto from then-Swastika Clubs and on the solidarity given between then-marginalized communities (primarily Jewish and Italian baseball club members).
As noted by Canadian-Italian publication, Panoram Italia, in an overview of Jewish and Italian collaboration, at this time “newspaper articles reached Toronto bringing word of the atrocities that the Nazis were committing against the Jews. As a result, many Anglos began forming Swastika Clubs, attempting to have Jews and other ‘foreigners’, like Italians, banned from the Beaches area.” This aim towards genocide and exclusion fueled the coming uprising in its start. In no way was this a sudden incident, but one grounded in growing community tensions and clear needs for community defence.
The August, 17th 1933 Toronto Daily Star reported the Uprising in its account in every confrontational detail. Yet their tone was a familiar one to anyone following the accounts of anti-fascist resistance today.
Both fascist and anti-fascist groups along the neighbourhood had long known of the possibility for confrontation that particular evening and local police, it seems, knew so as well (even if reports of police presence on the day was particularly low and disorganized). Aside from visual provocation, fascists made direct threats towards members of the Jewish community. In one instance, resulting in the injury of one Joe Goldstein:
As an illustration of the community nature of this resistance, Goldstein was later saved by one Joe Cancelli, an Italian community member who pulled Goldstein from the fascist grasp. In turn, while the Star gushed over weapons and injuries in text and in photos, the fascists admitted their role in starting the affair.
Meanwhile, resistance spurred forced a legalistic response from a city that had rested on its laurels until then, as the Star also then reported:
“For every Heather Heyer, there are countless black, indigenous, and other people of colour, queer and trans people, disabled people, and others who too have and will continue to suffer if we remain aloof.”
But, however some officials may have depicted their actions at the time, in the end, it was not some legalistic process that began movement against the fascists in Toronto, but instead deep community solidarity and common defence. The everyday person within Toronto’s Jewish and Italian community, not the State, put the fascists on notice.
Stories such as these and of other forms of anti-fascist resistance (like resistance to the Edmund Burke Society and the Heritage Front, or the Allan Garden Riots in 1965) are incredibly important to reflect on in this era of rising white nationalism and neo-Nazism. As with solidarity between the Jewish and Italian communities of the 1930s, there are many peoples coming together to resist in modern Toronto. Organizations and networks have been developing and reconfiguring across Toronto and beyond in the face of consistent right-wing violence—from the Quebec City mosque shooting to the Unite-the-Right murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. In Toronto too, as I’ve previously argued, we see the germination of a neo-Nazi bloom.
But, what can antifascists and yet-uncommitted folks in Toronto learn from the specific resistance eighty-four years ago?
Harbord Playground team with coaches and manager, 1931. Photo: City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Sub Series 52, Item 1492We Need To Build Coalitions
No one community could have addressed the issues of Toronto’s Swastika Clubs alone and, unchecked, they would have continued to grow in strength within the city. The community coalitions developed to push them back and engage in community defence were critical in moving conversation beyond a liberal one of mutual violence and towards a conversation of making fascism unacceptable within public discourse and action. No politician or state force made this so, but coalition of everyday people impacted by these groups.We Need To Take This Seriously
Surrounding Christie Pitts, members of the Jewish and Italian communities did not hesitate to recognize the immediate seriousness of the rise of fascist clubs within their area. Nor did they wait on a political establishment that sat on their hands while such forces grew. Instead, they acted. The seriousness of these threats have arrived for many communities at different times (most recently, for the middle class, white community across North America with the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville), but are long lived for many communities. Just as communities then and people of colour now have realized, we cannot wait for more deaths and more targeted violence from fascists to take these things seriously. For every Heather Heyer, there are countless black, indigenous, and other people of colour, queer and trans people, disabled people, and others who too have and will continue to suffer if we remain aloof. If our predecessors on the baseball fields of Christie Pitts figured this out, so too must we.We Need To Accept That Some Resistance Requires Violence
While liberals blanche at some of the tactics of resistance used in Charlottesville, Quebec City, and elsewhere, we can look back at our successes to see that not all resistance will be calm and orderly affairs. The Christie Pitts Uprising was, essentially, a street battle for control between fascists and community defenders. This was not a dialogue. This is not seen today as an all-sides-are-equal fight. Instead, we commemorate the Uprising because it serves as a reminder of the power of community defence and its need in our city. The Uprising broke the wider silence against these clubs—and while the hydra of fascism rose again in Toronto and elsewhere—the safety of those communities were preserved and wider conversations began across the city.
The Uprising allowed for other tactics to have effect which would have otherwise been lost or blunted in an indifferent political structure. Contrast this to the often narrative that such tactics undermine others—instead, they move (and moved then) in concert to greater goals to disrupting fascist growth in the city.We Need To Connect Anti-Fascism To Everyday Struggle
The Swastika Club and fascists of the era were not mythical figures. They were other people in the neighbourhood, playing in the local baseball league. They did not creep in like some shadow over the city, but were themselves part of our existing fabric. Too often we forget that fascists of all eras are still people—still part of the societies we live in and grow within those very spaces while violent and vile. They are not from some other place or from beyond our sight. Toronto, like any place, can be home to their rotten ideology.
But just as vile fascism is part of the fabric of the societies we live within, so too is resistance within ourselves. Our everyday resistance is also not in isolation from our anti-fascist action. For those in Christie Pitts on the 16th of August, fascist violence and provocation was a violent, extreme extension of the marginalization brought about on the Jewish and Italian communities. Fascists could grow then because they fed on existing violence in our city against these communities. Today, fascists feed on Islamophobia, transphobia, and anti-Semitism in Toronto to recruit and grow their ranks. They feed on poverty and systemic economic inequality—in both their targeting of rich and working class folks. We cannot truly beat back the fascists without grounding in these struggles. We cannot work in a vacuum, as the fascist certainly does not.
The working class solidarity shown by communities during the Uprising is a model here. These people did not have to imagine the jackboots of the Nazi Party—even as their communities had faced it—for they already faced marginalization here at home. Together, they fought for their communities, their freedom, and to push back against the forces which allowed for fascists to grow in the first place. We too must take this tact and view our work more seriously and connectedly.
While people debate endlessly over the merits of particular tactics today in Charlottesville, Quebec City, and elsewhere, do not forget the lessons from Christie Pitts—that we can resist and protect our communities, while building deep and lasting bonds together.
O. Berkman, a pseudonym, is a Toronto-based researcher on history in Southern Ontario and anti-fascist resistance in the region. They would encourage readers to also check out the original sources for this piece, particularly original reporting done in 1933—much of which is available through the Toronto Public Library.Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
13 Countries Where John McCain Has Demanded War - A Trip Down Memory Lane | 23 Aug 2017 | Earlier this week, notorious war hawk US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The post Fort Lauderdale, FL: Another Sharing Ban, Another Food Fight appeared first on It's Going Down.
At about 1 am on August 23rd, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed a revised version of its sharing ban law. The new sharing ban now sits in wait for 30 days until enforcement occurs, while the majority of the church groups, media, and general public that made the 2014 sharing ban an international sensation remain almost totally silent. (For those not familiar with the long story of Fort Lauderdale’s homeless hate laws, and sharing ban v1, homelesshatelaws.blogspot.com usually does the job).
The new sharing ban comes after months of cruel and unusual anti-homeless measures enforced on homeless people around the area of the downtown library in Fort Lauderdale and Stranahan Park. Earlier in the summer, the City raided the homeless camp it had allowed to grow over the past 8 months. It followed up by pruning overhead trees to reduce shade, fencing off and adding bushes in areas where people had set up shelters, and continuing to find reasons to throw out people’s possessions.
As it stands now, enforcement, and in all probability, a top-level media-circus shitstorm is expected the weekend of 9.22.2017.Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs
For the past 10 years or so (group shots from 2007 and 2017 at right), the Fort Lauderdale chapter of the FNB movement has shared at Stranahan Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Over the years, the group has become a lot more than a thorn in the side of the City. Time after time FTLFNB has engaged in demonstrations, direct actions, blockades, really really free markets, puppet shows, sit-ins, fundraisers, jail support, educational workshops, trainings, and so on. Today it is one of the most enduring and wide-ranging anarchist grassroots groups in South Florida.
In 2017, FTLFNB has also increasingly focused on the radical struggles around queer and trans liberation, of which so many of our volunteers are already a part of, supporting a new level of dialogue around rejecting white liberal gay rights in a County where there’s not much else in the spectrum. FNB has worked together with groups like Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward and Broward Chapter of Women’s March to confront events such as the 2017 Stonewall Pride Parade, and to confront the Mayor and other Fort Lauderdale Commissioners where-ever they are touting their phony tolerance This synthesis is best described by FNB’s current chant/catch-phrase of choice: “We’re here! We’re queer! We’re gonna eat the Mayor!”
Again, we expect enforcement of the new sharing ban law in Fort Lauderdale the weekend of September 22nd, which also happens to be a Friday, the day of FNB’s weekly sharing.
And again, finally, due to the great secrecy in which these laws have been carried out (all anti-homeless laws are always discussed at public commission meetings…but not until well after midnight), we encourage and thank anyone on the grassroots that can spread the word of this coming conflict. We’ve only got each other.Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down!
The post Demand the Firing of Fascist Charlottesville Attendee Michael Beatty appeared first on It's Going Down.
Michael Beatty is a white supremacist and self-declared fascist who traveled from Pittsburgh to attend the Unite the Right event in Charlottesville. Known for his flamboyant online displays of racism and anti-semitism, Michael (a.k.a. Cuser in graffiti circles) is the founder of the failed Libertarian Nationalist Party of Greater Pittsburgh (now known as The Right Libertarians) and works at Pittsburgh Custom Tile.
Shortly after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Michael began boasting about his participation in the white supremacist violence and joking about her murder.
Michael’s Instagram shows him with marchers, one of whom would later drive his Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racists, holding Vanguard America shields
Michael has shared numerous news articles and images on his public Facebook page encouraging violence and murder against Jews, Leftists, and minorities.
A member of Michael’s family comments on his haul of books on the Third Reich
Pittsburgh Antifascists are calling for Michael Beatty to be immediately fired from his job with Pittsburgh Custom Tile. Below we are sharing the contact information for his employer, and we urge all people of good conscience to call, text, and comment on Facebook to demand that Michael be fired. The continued employment of Michael Beatty by Adam Ferkatch is an endorsement of Michael’s participation in white supremacist acts of violence and cannot be allowed to continue.
Below is the contact information for Michael Beatty and his boss, Adam Ferkatch. We are asking you to flood Pittsburgh Custom Tile’s phone and Facebook with demands for Beatty to be fired.
If you have any information regarding Michael Beatty you would like to share, please send it to us:
Owner: Adam Ferkatch
Phone Number: (412) 337-4090
CLG (@legitgov) founder and lead editorialist, the @antipcnyuprof, is in LifeZette: 'Deplorable NYU Professor' Slams Peers' Embrace of Antifa Violence --Rectenwald says drive 'to silence and even destroy' opposing voices a natural outgrowth of political correctness | 23 Aug 2017 | An outspoken college professor is sounding the a