Industrial Disasters and Student Activism

This winter a string of fires in apparel factories in Bangladesh was followed in May by the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhakka with over a thousand deaths. The calamity reminded bargain-hunting consumers in Western countries of what goes on behind our backs.

The good news is that student movements have shown the way forward by using the power of nonviolent direct action campaigns to force concrete changes in working conditions globally. Anti-sweatshop activism in the late 1990s was the largest student movement since the South African divestment movement a decade before. In turn, that activism has laid the groundwork for an immediate response to the recent rash of fires and other disasters killing the workers who make our clothing.

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MN Passes Nation’s Strongest Homeowners Bill of Rights

After a year and a half of on-the-ground anti-foreclosure organizing with homeowners publicly standing up and fighting the banks’ abuse, the Minnesota legislature passed the Homeowner Bill of Rights almost unanimously–61-1 in the Senate and 123-0 in the House. National analysts are calling this legislation the strongest Homeowner Bill of Rights in the country. This victory shows that the community pressure Occupy Homes MN has helped to build–from grassroots organizing to the hearing rooms at the Capitol–can force legislatures to take steps toward holding Wall Street accountable. This legislation does not solve the housing crisis, but it does enforce basic protections against some of the banks’ worst practices.

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October Drone Walk in Maine

Presque Isle is trying to turn their airport into a military drone test center. The Attorney General calls drones an “economic driver” in Maine. So we decided to organize a peace walk to begin on October 10 (during annual Keep Space for Peace Week) from Caribou to Presque Isle (about 20 miles). We’d then shuttle south to Farmington, the area where the Attorney General is from. We’d then walk from there stopping in several communities before ending the walk on Oct 19 at the state capital in Augusta. Since that day is a Saturday we’d work to get people to join us that last day to walk to the capital for an anti-drone rally. We decided to call the walk “Preserve our Privacy: No Drone Spying in Maine.” We know that many conservatives in Maine are against drones because of the privacy issue.

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Using Local Governance to Challenge Corporate Power: Democracy School

The Democracy School: An effective training for communities to exercise local governance by passing ordinances to protect their environments from being destroyed by outside corporations. This schooling has helped hundreds of towns and municipalities to take control of their communities to successfully resist corporate “personhood” by educating and uniting people into true democratic action. A tool for powerful activism.

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March Against Monsanto: Model for Grassroots Action

The ‘master document‘ that holds all of the rallies actually links to the Facebook event pages for each individual city and town, and creates a massive network of anti-Monsanto activism that can now be turned into a rally that I think is much different than your average protests. Not only has there been quite a degree on this movement since it’s grassroots and gaining support from the ground level, but I think it specifically opens up the doorway to similar movements that will take everything powerful about the March Against Monsanto and condense it into another campaign.

Ultimately, it comes down to an open source formula that can be used to highlight and combat key issues.

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Occupy Love Launches U.S. Tour

Fierce Love Films announces the US theatrical premiere and online launch of Occupy Love starting in New York City (May 3-9) with screenings to follow in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Seattle. A feature documentary from award-winning director Velcrow Ripper, Occupy Love explores the cultural uprisings of our time from the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring to the European Summer and environmental protests and asks the question, “how could the crisis we are facing become a love story?”

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Vision of Positive Future Motivates Activism

Activists, take note: People support reform if they believe the changes will enhance the future character of society, according to a study published online this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Namely, people support a future society that fosters the development of warm and moral individuals.

“There are implications for communication, but also for policies themselves. The ‘easy’ answer would be to promote a policy or cause in terms of how it will make people more warm/moral,” Paul G. Bain of the University of Queensland, the lead author of the study, explained to Raw Story via email. “But I think for this to really work it needs to be authentic/real and not just rhetoric – the policies themselves need to promote this.”

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Grassroots Organizing Seminars Offered Online

‘Grassroots Organizing,’ a three-part, 15-week series of seminars led by Oliver Lawrence, experienced organizer and teacher from South Africa who has led many seminars in the U.S. and internationally, will be offered online beginning Saturday, March 16. The seminars are designed for those active in local efforts and in movements nationally who seek to become more effective organizers that bring real results for change. “While some feel the world revolves around Washington and the capitals of the world, all politics is local,” says Lawrence. “The easiest way to change the world is to change the conditions in your street or block and community. Winning a small issue of justice for humanity creates ripples across the world. But there is a great need for people and communities to learn how to use skills and strategies to leverage their ability to create social change.”

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Occupy the Roads

occupy the roadsInteroccupy
February 9, 2013

Hey all you activists? Those serious “git it done” activists who want to be part of something big! We have an opportunity to occupy a very huge heritage building, in the middle of downtown in a town near the southern Ohio border. We’re going to occupy, retail space, loft apartments and offices, totaling 12,000 sq ft. But the stipulation is that EVERYONE is a worker. No loafers or transients! Free accommodations if you’re prepared to give 40+ hrs a week of admin, media, tech support, web design, organizing, outreach, or something that will benefit the group as a whole. There will be a screening process to ensure it doesn’t become a hostel. Seriously! We must ensure we have the brightest, techie savvy, media smart people who can help us create change via think tank, collaboration, consensus and vision. We’re being given an opportunity to make a difference…together.

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Direct Action Fashion Show 2013

mos-mudballs-back2During Fashion Week in New York City, an alternative fashion show was held at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.

WHAT DO WE MEAN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT A DIRECT ACTION FASHION SHOW, ANYWAY?

January 21, 2013 / MoRUS /

The purpose of this event is to celebrate how activists use costumes, puppets, and props to draw awareness to various environmental, social, and political issues and create positive, sustainable change.

At the same time that parts of our city will be taken over by Fashion Week’s bold images intended to grease the wheels of extreme consumption, we plan to explore the ways in which spectacle can be used for the greater good, rather than corporate gain.

Vermont’s Grassroots is Organizing Against GMO’s

gmo-campaign-image

The grassroots is mobilizing in Vermont to get labels on GMO’s!

GMO corn, soy, canola, cotton, and sugar beets show up in 80% of all processed foods, and more crops like alfalfa, wheat, rice, and salmon are coming down the pike. With increasing health and safety concerns posed from eating GMO’s, we at least have the right to know what we are eating! We need a labeling law so we can make informed choices and keep our families safe from these insufficiently tested foods.

Let’s make 2013 the year we pass a GMO labeling law in Vermont! Join us at one of our Regional Grassroots Action Forums to learn more about the 2013 legislative bills, to plan statewide actions, and to get involved in your regional grassroots hub.

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‘Mi lucha es tu lucha’ – Occupy Sandy’s Collective Recovery Enters New Phase

It was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, and the sound of pounding drums mingled with subway steel rattling underground, sending a hot pulse through the high-arched edifice of a humble house of worship in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. As Nina Simone sang in her blue soliloquy to the slain civil rights leader, “The king of love is dead.” But here, in St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, one could feel King’s heart beat on.

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Reflections on Occupy Baltimore

This intervew with three Occupy Baltimore activists and authors raises important issues not just for Occupy Baltimore but for Occupy activists and organizers across the country. The issues faced in Baltimore are the same as those faced in urban areas througout the country. This is part II of the interview, Part I is Baltimore, Race and the Occupy Movement. Real News, which is based in Baltimore, has a series of shows about Baltimore issues. Real News, which covers events throughout the nation and world, says this will be an ongoing series, so watch Real News and support it.


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Real News Network
October 30, 2012 

Reflections on Occupy Baltimore

 

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore, and we’re continuing our discussion with three activists from Baltimore.
 
Joining us again: Kate Khatib. She’s a coeditor of the book We Are Many, which just came out. She’s also a founding member of Red Emma’s Collective.
 
Mike McGuire. He’s also coeditor of the book We Are Many, and he’s been working with the Occupy movement since September 17, when it started. He also works with The Real News Network now, helping build our new headquarters.
 
And Lester Spence. He’s a contributor to the book We Are Many. He’s an associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He’s the author of the book Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-Hop and Black Politics.
 
So, Lester, I’ll start with you again. So, in 1968 there were thousands of people joined the protest that hit cities across America. And Baltimore—I said it the last time—the first Occupy Baltimore was actually the Army or the National Guard, and there were soldiers with guns and tanks on the street, and Baltimore was really an occupied city. But that level of mass protest, that movement that requires troops to come, fast-forward to now where you’re telling me that if a few hundred people show up for a protest or an event, that’s pretty good. Most recently there was a big one around the Trayvon Martin killing, but that was sort of an exception. So how do you get from a mass movement at such heights in Baltimore to one that’s—you could say is pretty much in an ebb right now?
 
LESTER SPENCE, CONTRIBUTOR, WE ARE ONE: I think there are a few different things to consider. One is growing black political power. I don’t think there’s been a major civil disturbance in a city run by a black mayor. I don’t think there’s—I know there definitely wasn’t one in Detroit. The last one we had was ’67. I don’t think there’s—I know there hasn’t been one in Baltimore since the three black mayors were elected. I don’t think there was one even in New York or Chicago when Harold Washington was in Chicago or Dinkins was in New York. So I think that’s part of it.
 
The other part of it is that the population that’s most likely to engage in serious activist work is young, and a sizable portion of that population in the black community is now tied up in the prison-industrial complex.
 
And then a third related dynamic—and there’s other stuff, but I’ll open it up for Mike and Kate—the third related dynamic is unemployment, you know, unemployment drops—I mean, unemployment rises. Right? So to the extent that we’re talking about these ’60s movements that had a sizable labor component, when people aren’t working, you know, they’re not—there’s a certain type of politics that they’re not connected to anymore, because the labor movement was at least one of the funnels through which black politics takes on a certain tenor.
 
So when those three things happened, you know, the election of black mayors, the increasing election of black political leadership, the movement, the shutting off of a sizable percentage of black populations into the prison-industrial complex, and then growing unemployment, it makes it very hard for a certain type of political activism to take place in places like Baltimore.
 
JAY: What’s your take on the same question?
 
KATE KHATIB, COEDITOR, WE ARE ONE: Well, I mean, I think Lester has given a pretty good outline of it. I definitely think that the fact that Baltimore has a black political class has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t necessarily see mass activism coming from the black community in Baltimore in the same way that maybe we did in the ’60s, either in Baltimore or elsewhere around the country.
 
In general, I think the question of why we don’t have a climate of or maybe a culture of protest in Baltimore right now, I think, is a bigger question. It’s not something that’s entirely tied to race. I mean, it’s definitely a racial question, but I think there are other aspects to it. I think some of it has to do with our proximity to Washington and the fact that there is always a lot of push for folks in Baltimore to actually go to D.C. to protest. There is, I think, a sense that protesting in Baltimore isn’t necessarily going to accomplish anything. I think a lot of the mass mobilizations that you’ve seen in the United States in recent years, at least in the past couple of decades, have really very much been around conventions, around gatherings, and Baltimore really hasn’t seen a major convention, either a political convention or, you know, a meeting of the WTO or the World Bank or the IMF, which is where a lot of the mass protest has kind of come from.
 
JAY: Well, Mike, what do you make of Lester’s point from the previous segment of the interview that the thing that would galvanize people here more is certainly the issue that’s affecting people more—it’s the criminal justice system and the kind of issues that—I guess I don’t know if it’d be the—. Would you say that’s the same for Hispanics as well, and other people? Or is it really something specifically in terms of black Baltimore?
 
SPENCE: Yeah. So it’s not—so it’s a similar apparatus, but with Latinos I’d say it’s the immigration apparatus, which is related to criminal justice, but it’s not the same thing.
 
JAY: And it’s a little sidetrack from where we’re going, but is that not less an issue in Baltimore? I saw that the mayor was saying that the city officials are not allowed to ask people for citizenship and they’re actually trying to get people to move here.
 
SPENCE: I think it’s less a problem in Baltimore. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. It just means it’s less of a problem.
 
JAY: Yeah. But in terms of this—I guess, you know, the ’68 protest was really a product of the black political movement. So that’s one set of dynamics why that isn’t at a rise. So maybe we should return to that in a second. But what do you make of Lester’s point that white activists here aren’t as tuned in to the problems facing, in fact, the majority of the city? ‘Cause the majority of the city’s black.
 
MIKE MCGUIRE, COEDITOR, WE ARE ONE: Well, that begs another question, which is: should it be the white community that’s organizing the black community around prison-industrial issues? So should we be the ones going out, and should I, for example, be the one that’s going out? And I think the answer is yes, if that’s what I’m inspired to do, if that’s what’s driving me.
 
But I think in general there’s not a huge culture of organizing in the United States. We’ve kind of lost those traditions. So we’re talking about not just—like, the difference that you’re talking about is in numbers, it’s whether or not it’s a mass movement. And what’s happened in the United States between the ’60s and now, it seems like it should be easier. We’re much more in touch with each other through all of our digital devices. But at the same time, we’re much less in touch with each other, because we’re in touch with each other through these digital devices.
 
JAY: But it’s interesting: in the recent period, the biggest protest that you’re telling me took place in Baltimore was about youth and the criminal justice system. And the killing of Trayvon Martin is that, and it so resonated with people here ’cause they say, this is what’s happening to us every day in Baltimore.
 
MCGUIRE: Yeah. But then what happened with that? Where did the organizing go with that?
And here in the first segment we were talking a lot about elections or electoral strategies. We don’t form strategies well as social movements in the United States right now. We don’t have venues in which we’re actually coming together and talking through how we organize, what strategies we use, what makes sense, what we need to pursue, what—and in just rational discussions.
 
We had this debate with—kind of within or about the Occupy movement a couple nights ago that Verso hosted between Chris Hedges and a guy representing CrimethInc., and I came away from that thinking, yeah, the situation’s actually worse than we thought. Like, if this is the level of discussion at which we can discuss strategies within a movement, then we’re not going to move very far very fast. So I think that’s actually something that’s very generalizable, that we’re immature in terms of how we organize in this country.
 
SPENCE: And even in how we articulate, right? So there is a difference between a mass action and a mass movement, right? So what happened in ’68 was a mass action, and it was spurred by the assassination of Martin Luther King. Dozens of cities in the United States and cities across the country, I mean, across the world exploded. The same thing happened with Rodney King, right? Dozens of cities in the United States and a number of cities across the world. Those were mass actions.
 
But there’s a difference between a mass action and a mass movement. Right? And the things—so mass actions are spurred on by crises. We can’t predict when those crises happen. We can’t predict which crises is going to lead to this stuff. They just kind of explode. But a mass movement or movement-building is a totally different process.
 
So when you conflate them, when you associate mass actions with mass movements, right, then you end up mis-specifying what needs to happen in order to make political change. Right? And then you end up—your time horizon ends up being short. We talked about that in the first segment, where you’re thinking about overthrowing the state, like, within four years, right, and not understanding that this takes 30, 40. Right? You end up misunderstanding the populations you need to be engaged in, how you need to engage them, the whole thing.
 
KHATIB: But, you know, it’s also important to remember that in the ’60s you do have—I mean, you do have a mass movement, right? You have the civil rights movement. But the civil rights movement didn’t just spring up overnight in ’68, right? I mean, it took many, many years to actually build a strong civil rights movement in the United States. And, you know, I think to look at Occupy and say, well, why hasn’t Occupy managed to catalyze the same kind of thing, why isn’t Occupy looking like a mass movement, I think we’ve got to—you know, as Lester says, I think we have to kind of widen our temporal gaze, we have to be looking even further into the future and saying, this is only the very beginning of a mass movement.
 
JAY: Yeah, but what I’m getting at is: if you’re talking Baltimore and you’re organizing in Baltimore, what Lester said earlier is, if you want to get a movement that’s going to be a mass movement, you’d better deal with the issues that are facing the majority of the people, and he’s saying right now that’s the criminal justice system and related issues. And that’s certainly my experience when I’ve been asking either young people who are activists or even—.
 
You know, we’ve been holding and we had a couple of these front-porch meetings where we just went to East Baltimore and sat on the front porch and asked people—we said, we’re journalists, tell us what you want us to do. And it was two issues. It was—number one, it was criminal justice—not just injustice to young people going to jail; it was also how do we have safer streets so I can go to the corner store and not worry about getting robbed. I mean, it’s both sides of that coin. And then the second one was a great one. It says, who the hell owns all these boarded-up houses, and why aren’t they being rented out to low-income families? So those were the issues.
 
KHATIB: And I think if you look at where Occupy went after—so in Baltimore, after the Occupy movement was evicted from McKeldin Square, which was the sort of—the beginning of the occupation was the physical occupation of McKeldin Square in downtown Baltimore. And once that eviction happened, it freed up a lot of energy and a lot of time and a lot of excitement and ideas for organizing. Right? So there were all of these people organizing under the auspices of Occupy Baltimore. And where did it go? Well, it went specifically into addressing the situation with the youth jail, and it went specifically into what has now become known as the Occupy Our Homes movement, which is essentially foreclosure defense. So I think exactly the issues that you’re bringing up here really are the issues that Occupy Baltimore tried to address and did address in very real ways.
 
MCGUIRE: And is trying, yeah.
 
KHATIB: Yeah, is trying, is still trying.
 
MCGUIRE: Yeah.
 
SPENCE: Another thing. If we look right now at what’s going on in Baltimore—and there’s a bunch of stuff—and one of the really good things about the Occupation movement is that we were all addressing universal themes, but addressing them locally and we were all in our own community.
 
So here in Baltimore, Occupy Baltimore quickly turned to look at development. And we weren’t the only ones. Like, there are a lot of people looking at development, how development is practiced in the city, who’s getting the money, what they’re doing with the money, how we’re using public resources for public good.
 
And right now some very interesting organizing and one of the more mass organizing efforts going on in Baltimore is in the black community. It’s on the east side, and it’s around jobs, and it’s around development, and it’s around how we use public subsidies for development without any benefit for the local populations in terms of economic development, in terms of skill development, stuff like that.
 
And it was shocking. Like, you know, at the same time that Occupy Baltimore was happening—and I was seeing kind of record numbers in the community that I’m used to organizing in, seeing those folks on the street—at the same time, I’m reading in the newspaper—and I was completely unaware of this organizing going on—I’m reading in a newspaper that there were 300 people on the east side that marched onto a job site that was being led by EBDI, East Baltimore Development Incorporated, the group that’s overseeing the largest urban redevelopment program—project in the country. They’re marching on one of their job sites and saying, where are our jobs, this is our community, these are our jobs, and they got their heads beaten in. You know, they just—the trials were just resolved the other day, and it was kind of pathetic, the whole thing.
 
But, like, at the same time that we were talking about this from Occupy Baltimore, Churches and Communities United in [laIun@] were organizing hundreds of folks. But they’re turning out overnight. Like, this is probably more important than talking about the Trayvon Martin rally, you know, which was an instantaneous thing; it was, you know, a thousand or a couple of thousand people. But the folks that are organized around the EBDI stuff, they’re turning out hundreds of people every time.
 
And how did that start? [laIun@] hosted a forum in a church, and they said, we want—we’re trying to organize around jobs here, we’re trying to get jobs for folks in this community, so come out and talk to us about your job situation. They ended up having folks lined up around the block.
 
They had 1,000 people turn out for that meeting. They were expecting to accommodate a couple of hundred. They had 1,000 people turn out for that meeting. Richie Armstrong, who’s the main organizer of Churches and Communities United now, he went to that meeting looking for a job. He ended up becoming an organizer of Churches and Communities United. And they’re turning out literally—like, they called for a demonstration. They’re turning out hundreds of folks. And they’re organizing in the black community.
 
And, you know, the first rally I went to, I was like, I know no one here. And they thought that I was probably a hostile entity going to EBDI as a developer. They were like, are you with us, or are you against us? And I was like, give me a sign.
 
JAY: Alright. Well, thank you all for joining us. And we’ll pick this up in a few weeks and we will—it will be an ongoing discussion, and maybe we’ll add some more people to it. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network, from Baltimore.
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