As we approach Labor Day, our thoughts go to the treatment of workers. We will post a number of good articles on this topic in the next few days. Here are a few highlights from the past week.
Understanding Racially Unfair and Militarized Policing
The issue of policing continued to be highlighted this week with the funeral of Michael Brown. Protests stopped for the day at the request of his father and silent vigils were held to mark the death of this young man. Ferguson police released the unusual, virtually blank incident report on his death. And, the Washington Post reported that Officer Darren Wilson started his career on a police force in Missouri that was so racist the city council fired the entire department. The depth of injustice in the justice system led us to urge the family of Michael Brown to take action by filing a civil suit and not waiting for the government to investigate itself in Ferguson or Washington, DC.
The protests in Ferguson and around the country continue as we write this newsletter. The total arrests in the Ferguson protests are more than 200 people. The protests have shown another negative aspect of US policing, how they respond to the exercise of constitutionally protected rights. Multiple officers were suspended and two were fired or resigned for their comments and actions. Research shows that police actions escalate protests into violent confrontations.
Protests against police abuse have intensified around the US as people realize there is a war going on between militarized police and people in many communities. Indigenous people remind us, they have been ongoing victims of police abuse. The family of a mentally ill woman brought her casket to city hall in Phoenix to protest her killing. In a Ferguson solidarity protest in Oakland, people held up mirrors to show police who they were. A protest on Staten Island, known as the borough where NYPD officers live, involved more than a thousand people as did a protest over the weekend in DC. On Wednesday, more than a hundred people rallied at the Dept. of Justice and delivered clear demands to Attorney General Holder, just as ‘Hands Up United’ is doing in Ferguson. And, UPS workers in Minnesota refused to deliver police gear to Missouri with the slogan “Hands Up, Don’t Ship.”
As a result of Ferguson there is more attention to abusive police actions. For example, as in two recent killings in Los Angeles where autopsy reports are being withheld. Another case involving a 22 year old who was shot raises questions as the police claim he shot himself in the chest while his hands were cuffed behind his back. Or, the tasing of an 8 year old indigenous girl in SD. Or a Minnesota father who was waiting for his toddlers to get out of day care who was tased and arrested. These incidents that happen every day are now seen as a pattern of police abuse.
As a result of public pressure, we are seeing some positive action. In Davis, California the city council ordered the police to get rid of a military vehicle. In Woodstock, NY the city council voted to never acquire military equipment for their police. Other cities are moving toward requiring police to wear cameras and putting in rules that do not allow them to turn them off. And, people are protesting in cities that want to bring drones to the police, conduct urban warfare training or hold killer cop competitions. Copwatch is raising money to provide cameras to the people of Ferguson. People in Ferguson have also sued the Ferguson police for more than $40 million for their abusive actions against protesters.
We know there is profit to be made from militarized policing. And, we know that racist police abuse is a long-term problem. Mobilization against police abuse needs to be ongoing as it will take a while to correct decades of policing rooted in systemic violence and militarism. The criminal justice system also keeps people in poverty with fines and fees as well as mass incarceration. As always, our issues are connected.
Climate Alarm Rings More Loudly, Activists Mobilize
A draft of a new UN report on climate was leaked and it shows devastating climate impact: decreased grain production, rising sea levels, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are already being felt. Another report indicates the world’s two largest ice sheets are melting faster than ever. Despite alarms from scientists for decades, political actions are inadequate.
Political leadership of the last two decades will go down in history as failing to face reality and put in place effective policy. The first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC) was issued in 1988. Since the 1997 Kyoto Climate Summit, we have emitted as much carbon dioxide as was emitted in the prior 236 years. Because of the impact of short-term pollutants like methane gas (aka ‘natural’ gas) government policy may actually be making climate change worse, than if nothing had been at all.
But climate change activists also need to take some responsibility. It is not enough to stop the northern portion of the KXL pipeline, already the southern portion and existing pipelines are enough to bring Alberta Tar Sands to the Gulf; and now Enbridge has found a way to go forward without getting approval from the Obama administration. We need to be more clear and aggressive, e.g. when it comes to tar sands, the excavation needs to be stopped in Alberta, Utah and Alabama.
The People’s Climate March is less than a month away on September 21 and other plans are developing around the march. A big weekend march does not change policy. We need to be clear in understanding the issues and putting forth demands – as a united movement because climate connects us all – that will actually solve the problem. Those are the goals of the Climate Convergence on September 19 and 20. There will also be direct actions at the UN Climate Summit. People need to understand the deep corruption at the UN, which is allied with corporate interests and dominated by the United States. Join the Popular Resistance contingent in the Climate Convergence hub of the march where we will call out the corruption and the need for a people-powered movement to take action.
The climate movement also needs to look honestly at some big green environmental groups that continue to take money from climate polluters like fracking corporations and then use their reputations to advocate for them. These groups are not allies of climate justice but allied to their self-preservation at the cost of the planet. At the same time, those in the anti-fracking movement need to be welcomed as part of the solution because they advocate a ban on fracking, not its regulation.
The climate justice battle is part of corporate challenges on many fronts. For example the ongoing attack on water in Detroit, where people are fighting back; or in Baltimore where a corporation is moving to privatize water. Or, the ongoing effort to push the most expensive energy source, nuclear, where horrible environmental impacts are not recognized, as in this effort in Australia where they want to dump nuclear waste on Indigenous land. Or, in the United States where Fukushima’s are waiting to happen because of earthquake faults near nuclear plants or the poorly designed General Electric plants like the ones that failed in Japan.
Rather than the destructive ‘all of the above’ energy strategy of the Obama administration, the US needs to urgently move toward a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy. There is a solar revolution underway despite lousy government policy, but it needs to advance much more quickly. The oil first strategy of Obama creates additional problems as in oil trains being more important than food trains, so food rots.
#BlockTheBoat Grows and Develops
The final area we’ll cover is the growing #BlockTheBoat protests. This week a handbook was published about how to block a ship, Oakland activists described how they organized their effort despite attempts to derail it and a wide range of information was made available about Israeli ships coming to port so that this burgeoning movement can continue to expand. Tying into the first issue covered here, militarized policing, this week we learned Israeli ships are importing ammunition into the United States. This week, #BlockTheBoat actions expanded from Oakland to include Los Angeles, Ca, Tacoma, WA and Seattle, WA
Other actions challenging Israel are occurring in the US – the principal financial backer of Israel. An advertising campaign, ‘Ads Against Apartheid’ is going national; a St. Louis synagogue opened space for criticism of Israel by inviting members of Jewish Voice for Peace to speak; and Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and their descendents condemned Israel in an advertisement in the New York Times.
Americans protested at the world’s largest security firm G4S because they provide security at Israeli prisons, checkpoints and in illegal settlements. Students sat-in at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to protest for academic freedom and for the rehiring of a professor who was fired for criticizing Israel’s slaughter in Gaza. And, a coalition of lawyers have urged that Israel be investigated for war crimes.