Archive for October 2011

European “Vultures” Will Not “Pick Over” Libya

“The Nation of Islam mourns the loss of the great Brother Leader, the Lion of Africa,” said NOI Min. Louis Farrakhan, speaking on Cliff Kelly’s show on radio WVON-AM, Chicago. Col. Muammar Gaddafi “had already set up an African Development Bank, so that Africa would not have to go to the World Bank or to the International Monetary Fund,” said Farrakhan, whose relationship with Gaddafi goes back decades. “[Secretary of State] Clinton is in for a shock, if she thinks the vultures of Europe are going to pick that body. I want you to know you are through as a world power. Through. Through.”

OWS Must Recognize Slavery As Original American Sin

The mostly young white people that initiated the Occupy movement need to ask themselves some questions, said activist and writer Kevin Alexander Gray. “Is this about your lost expectations of white privilege, or is this about fighting and abolishing privilege, altogether?” The United States “was set up to protect a rich, white, propertied class. That’s the root of the problem in American society. The lynchpin of modern capitalism was chattel slavery, and unless the people at Occupy Wall Street understand these basic things, their movement will be flawed from the beginning.”

Occupations Shift Public Debate to Jobs

The Occupation movement has shifted the public conversation “from this silly focus on deficits to a focus on jobs and getting the economy moving again,” said Kevin Zeese, an organizer of Occupy Washington DC. Although the protesters at Freedom Plaza were given a multi-month permit, Zeese says they’ve been told of pressures to shut them down. President Obama should know, said Zeese, that “if he does not stop us from being evicted or arrested, he will be blamed for it.”

Howard University Solidarity with Occupations

Students and alumnae from predominantly Black Howard University marched in solidarity with the Occupation movement, because “African Americans have been hardest hit by joblessness,” said Washington attorney Talib Karim. He cautioned that Blacks “want to see clear goals” emerge from the movement. The racial imbalance in OWS is mainly due to the fact that “people organize with who they know.”

Nurses Have Been On Wall Street’s Case Longer than OWS

One of two nurses arrested when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s police cleared out the Occupation site says they were singled out for harsh treatment in jail. Jan Rodolfo, of National Nurses United (NNU), points out that “even in military combat situations, health care personnel are usually respected. I was pretty outraged and saddened that Rahm Emanuel wasn’t willing to respect that.” NNU’s focus on Wall Street predates the Occupation movement. The union has been demanding a tax on stock trading since the Spring.

Divest From Prison Corporations

“We should close down the concept of prison as a business,” said Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of The Correctional Association of New York, which recently endorsed the Occupation movement. Ms. Elijah supports abolition of prisons in the long term, and down-sizing and a halt to privatization of prisons, in the near-term. OWS should encourage divestment in corporations that are involved in prisons, just as a previous movement urged divestment of corporations that did business with South Africa, she said.

Black Is Back March and Rally Wins Permit, in Philly

Philadelphia police reversed themselves and issued a parade permit to the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, which holds its national conference on November 5. The police initially claimed all their resources were dedicated to the Occupy Philadelphia protest, said Black Is Back organizer Diop Olugbala, who is also running for mayor. “Budgetary constraints have never been a condition to determine the right to free speech for anybody in the United States,” he said. “It’s the war on the Black community that made it possible for the 1% to become so fabulously wealthy.”

Teachers Join Marathon Protest in Newark

“We are in sync with what the People’s Organization for Progress is standing for,” said Annette Alston, president of the Newark Teachers Association. In June, POP began 381 days of  demonstrations for jobs, education, peace and justice. Teachers and the retail workers union have assumed responsibility for some of the daily protest duties. “Greedy corporations are the reason for the economic situation we’re in,” said Alston. Corporations also try to scapegoat teachers for the problems afflicting public schools. “Teachers are the ones who come in early and stay late, and the parents know it,” she said. “It’s all about union busting.”

Dems Plan to Co-opt OWS Will Fail

“God knows the Democrats are desperate” to co-opt the OWS movement, said activist and author Paul Street. “They see in this movement an opportunity to give themselves a populist makeover.” But Street believes “the OWS and it’s off-shoots are conscious of the danger of being hijacked by electoral politicians.” He says the idea that OWS is a “Tea Party of the Left” is a “lame equation” because the Occupation forces understand themselves as a social movement while the Tea Party is a well-financed vehicle “to elect hard-Right Republicans.” Street is co-author of Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics.

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Gaddafi Death Puts U.S. on More Aggressive Course in Africa

“Gaddafi was slaughtered. There was no attempt to utilize the rule of law” by the NATO-backed Libyan rebels, said Prof. Vijay Prashad, director of international studies at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut. “Are we going to see the same kind of retribution and bloodbath in the short term which we have already seen over the past two months?” Prashad thinks the U.S. has gained “renewed confidence in operating militarily on the African continent,” and can be expected to behave more aggressively in the future. Kenya, which recently sent a large force of troops into Somalia, “would never have moved without a [U.S.] go-ahead.”

The FBI’s “Industrial Strength” Racial Profiling Campaign

Under the guise of ferreting out national security threats, the FBI is systematically “mapping” Black, brown and Muslim communities, said Michael Germain, of the American Civil Liberties Union. For example, an October, 2009, Atlanta FBI office “threat alert” on supposed “Black separatist” activity actually “tracks census data to show the growth of the Back community” in the Atlanta area. “The Bureau uses such hypothetical ‘threats’” as “justification for collecting information on what they call racial and ethnic behavior,” said Germain. These “mapping” practices amount to “industrial strength racial profiling” of entire communities.

Direct Action to Stop Stop-and-Frisk

With police stop-and-frisks of New Yorkers on track to exceed 700,000 this year, local activists and volunteers from the ranks of Occupy Wall Street descended on the “worst” police precinct in Harlem. Thirty-three were arrested, including Princeton professor Cornel West and Rev. Stephen Phelps, interim senior minister of historic Riverside Church. “We can’t simply observe these wrong systems, we have to put ourselves on the line,” said Rev. Phelps. “Direct action is the best way to bring this to light.” Prof. West said a focus on stop-and-frisk allows the movement to “make the connection between this arbitrary police power and how it ties in with corporate greed, Wall Street…the military-industrial complex.”

Occupy All of the Hoods

“It’s critical for us to participate now” in the Occupy Wall Street movement, “and strike while the iron is hot,” said Jamal Crawford, an activist with Occupy the Hood, Boston. “Our people have been organizing around these issues for decades, at a minimum. If white people are upset about unemployment, imagine how average Black people feel when our rates are double, and in some cases triple or quadruple.” If the OWS movement were “purely a group of the worst affected, it would be a lot Blacker and browner.”

Workers’ Interests Not Necessarily the Same as Democrats

Organizers of the Million Worker March of 2004 endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement. Clarence Thomas, of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, in the San Francisco Bay Area, recalls that seven years ago unions and the Democratic Party “wanted the working class to get behind the election of John Kerry, to the denial of the workers agenda.” Since then, “the crisis has intensified and it is global. That’s why it is so critical that we find a way to connect to this movement.”

Newark Union Joins POP for “Peace, Jobs, Equality and Justice”

Local 108 of the retail workers union has assumed responsibility for some of the daily protests mounted by Newark, New Jersey’s Peoples Organization for Progress (POP). Local president Charles Hall said his members “will go to the finish line” with POP, which is in its 121st day of demonstrations for “Peace, Jobs, Equality and Justice” – and has vowed to keep it up for 381 days, the duration of the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. “We all need to come together,” said Hall. Days later, the Newark Teachers Association joined the campaign.

NPR Faulted in DC Protester’s Firing

Lisa Simeone, a freelance host for an opera show aired on National Public Radio stations, was fired after taking part in October2011 demonstrations at Washington DC’s Freedom Plaza. NPR was “frantically trying to get her out of work because they were beginning to get right-wing criticism,” said activist and writer David Swanson, publisher of the influential web site War Is A Crime. “NPR goes out of its way to kiss up to corporations and the extremely wealthy, who fund it.”

Imprison George Bush for Torture Crimes

The New York based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice have teamed up to force Canada to bring charges against former president George Bush. The legal teams have provided Canada’s attorney general with a 65-page indictment of Bush and 4,000 pages of evidence, CCR senior attorney Katherine Gallagher, in hopes that Ottowa will do its duty as a signatory to the international Convention Against Torture. If not, they will initiate a private prosecution of Bush, and ultimately take the issue to the United Nations.

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Occupy! Occupy! Occupy!

Comedian and social activist Dick Gregory had a “bulletin” for the protesters at the kickoff of the occupation of Freedom Plaza, in Washington, DC, last week: “President Obama endorsed what you all are doing here!” The crowd was skeptical, to put it mildly.  HYPERLINK "http://october2011.org/"October2011 organizer Dennis Trainor set the record straight. “We will endorse Barack Obama when he disproves Martin Luther King’s assertion that the United States of America ‘is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today,’ when he brings home all the troops, and when he redirects all those resources to human and environmental needs,” said Trainor, who is also an accomplished political comic and satirist. “A whole generation of Gordon Gekkos has hijacked control of the three branches of government away from We The People.”

People of Color Come Forward

People of color are prepared to bring “our platform, our agenda” to the proliferating centers of protest, says Kanane Holder, a spokesperson for the People of Color Working Group at the Occupy Wall Street nexus, in Liberty Park. Some African Americans hesitated to join what began as an overwhelmingly white initiative for fear that “we are going to be the first ones to be brutalized by police” and “so many of us are already in ‘the system’ because of stop-and-frisk” and other targeting of Blacks, said Holder, a writer and performing artist. People of color will bring a perspective that “includes the prison industrial complex, racial profiling,” and other facts of Black life in the United States.

Right Place, Right Time, to Stop Stop-and-Frisk

The young white activists in Liberty Park are getting an education on the real nature of the police. “They don’t have the day-to-day experience with cops being on top of them 24-7,” said Carl Dix, of Stop Stop-and-Frisk. “You guys are in the right place,” he tells the demonstrators, “because Wall Street is a symbol of capitalism, and it is capitalism that is responsible for all these problems you’ve identified and for the horrors in the world.” However, the protesters must disabuse themselves of the idea that police brutality is a fault of “a few bad cops. It is a system that you are dealing with.” The Stop Stop-and-Frisk disobedience campaign kicks off on October 21 at “the worst” police precinct in Harlem, said Dix.

Getting Ready for a Winter of Struggle

“No one can speak for the movement at this time,” said David DeGraw, editor of  HYPERLINK "http://ampedstatus.com/"Amped Status online magazine, who was part of the relatively small group that set the stage for the Occupy Wall Street project. The “central theme” of protest is “breaking up the concentration of power” in the U.S., which is experiencing “the highest level of inequality ever.” Most people “don’t understand derivatives and CDOs, yet,” but they know that “the system does not work for 99% of the population,” said DeGraw. “Everyone that’s here is not planning on going anywhere. There are extensive plans go get us through the winter” in New York City. “We’re in it for the long haul.”

Haitians Join the Occupation

“We think that what is happening to Haiti is an amazing example of the beast that is destroying this country, destroying people of color, destroying working people,” said Ray LaForest, one of the organizers of a contingent of Haitians that marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to make common cause with the Wall Street protest. Capitalists “are willing to use any means to achieve what they want, including imposing wretched conditions on the Haitian people, incredible violence, malnutrition, denial of rights, and denial of education and health care,” said LaForest. “We think these kids are pretty brave. We have to seize the moment, we have to find the way to make the connection.”

Have African Americans Turned Their Backs on Haiti?

Black Americans seem no longer to be dependable allies of Haitians and other oppressed people, laments Dr. Jemima Pierre, an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. Since Obama became president, Haitians have been forced to endure the “selection” of “Sweet Micky” Martelly as their president, the return of former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, U.S. efforts to bar the return of ousted elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide, and the total takeover of the country by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, among other insults to their sovereignty. “I’m wondering where the outrage is,” said Dr. Pierre, who sees “a shift from the African American response to Haiti” in the past. “There’s less focus on international politics within the Black community. Look at Libya, look at what’s happening in Somalia. Back in the day, we used to think of all those struggles as linked.”

A “Manufactured” Postal Crisis

“It’s almost like they took a page right out of that book,” The Shock Doctrine, said Michael Paskon, executive vice president of the letter carriers union local, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Congress five years ago forced the Postal Service to make $5 billion in upfront yearly payments to pension funds – a hurdle union officials say has never been imposed on any company, public or private. Management now wants to “fix” the phony crisis by firing 100,000 employees – a classic case of what Naomi Klein dubbed “disaster capitalism,” said Paskon. “It bothers a lot of the free market ideologues that there is a potential to make a lot of money in what we do, and they can’t get their hands on it” – except through privatization.

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Season of Protest
Three thousand Bostonians protested Bank of America’s predatory policies, resulting in two dozen arrests. “Two-thirds of Bank of America foreclosures have been in minority communities,” said Rachel LaForest, executive director of the Right to the City Alliance. “They targeted these communities from the outset with bad loans, and now they have more homes in foreclosure than any other bank in the city.” Grassroots activists’ analysis is “clearer and sharper” these days, said LaForest. “They are calling out who the enemy is.”
New Bottom Line: An Economy that Works for All
The Boston demonstration was part of a larger, ten-city campaign by The New Bottom Line, a coalition of 1,000 community organizations, congregations and labor unions, to challenge banking interests, according to co-director Tracy Van Slyke.  Activists blame “big banks for bankrupting our economy, draining wealth from the most vulnerable communities,” said Van Slyke. “We’re all fighting together for a new bottom line – and economy that works for all of us.”
Liberate Freedom Plaza Oct 6
The Wall Street occupation has spurred increased interest in planting the people’s flag in Washington, DC’s Freedom Plaza, starting October 6. The “core demand,” says national organizer Margaret Flowers, is that the U.S. “stop using our resources for war and exploitation of the planet, and start using them to serve human needs and clean up the planet.” Flowers said activists will address “about fifteen core crises” affecting the nation and world, and then try to design solutions at the Plaza or online, at www.Oct2011.org.
“Filibuster” Against Racism at USDA Oct 5
Minority federal employees kick off an open-ended protest against the U.S. Department of Agriculture on October 5, calling the agency “the last plantation” where “an ante bellum kind of culture” rules. Lawrence Lucas, president of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, said “this agency, even under the present administration, has been allowed to conduct reprisals, racism, sexism, sexual assaults, intimidation, and bullying” against agency workers and minority farmers. The daily filibuster, said Lucas, will not end until “someone from the White House or USDA comes out there and says, We’re willing to meet with you and fix the problem, once and for all.”
Prison Hunger Strike Renewed
Supporters of inmates on hunger strike against torture and inhumane treatment at California’s high-security prisons say 12,000 inmates in 14 facilities have joined the protest. Ed Mead, editor of Prison Focus magazine and himself a former inmate, said there is “some possibility that this might spread to the general population mainline in the form of a work strike.” Activist Clive Young, also an ex-prisoner, reported that “prisoners in Palestine who are on hunger strike have sent solidarity messages to prisoners in the California system.”
Obama Needs “Time Machine”
“The only way he could possibly get [his current ‘jobs’ bill] passed, is if he could go back in a time machine to when he had a Democratic majority in the House and Senate,” said South Carolina activist and writer Kevin Alexander Gray. Obama’s bill is actually a “poison pill” that bleeds payroll tax money from Social Security, said Gray. “In the end, you can claim there’s an emergency” in Social Security funding “and turn it over to Wall Street.”
UN Anti-Racist Process Affirmed, But U.S. Still Resists
Although the United Nations General Assembly has affirmed the language of the Durban Declaration and Program for Action against racism and xenophobia, worldwide, the U.S. and its “crony,” Israel, continue to resist implementation. Efia Wangaza, of the U.S. Human Rights Network, says America’s “toxic” influence led the UN to allocate only a “paltry” $97,000 for commemoration of the ten-year-long Durban process. The miserliness was doubly insulting, said Wangaza, in that the UN has proclaimed this the Year of Persons of African Descent.

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