1861 – 1865: Civil War. At issue: states’ right to enslave non-white people. Black soldiers get to take their guns home. Many states still have “black codes” which replace “slave codes” and prohibit blacks from owning guns. In order to survive legal challenges, gun control legislation is worded neutrally but expected to be enforced only against blacks. Many Southern states begin taxing or banning inexpensive guns to keep them out of the hands of poor blacks.
1865: Six sons of the Confederacy found the Ku Klux Klan. They disarm black veterans and terrorize black communities.
“Let a negro board a railroad train with a quart of mean whiskey and a pistol in his grip and the chances are that there will be a murder, or at least a row, before he alights.”
take careful note of the racist California legislature aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late.”
The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are.”
To make inexpensive guns impossible to get is to say that you’re putting a money test on getting a gun. It’s racism in its worst form.”
Since GWB left office there has been a messaging barrage in US politics that’s trying to get us all to forget what caused this recession, shifting blame away from the real crooks and finding new ways to explain the way out of it. All of the proposed paths forward harm the poor at the expense of the rich, much at the Romney-Ryan plan would have. Poor people didn’t tank the economy, so why should they now be forced to pay? This week’s offensive-most argument for this kind of governance? Secession. It’s yet another way that the advocates for the rich would make the poor shoulder the burden of the ruined-by-the-rich economy.
From the Veteran’s Adminstration, to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, equal pay laws, federal Pell Grants, food stamps, and countless other programs which benefit the poor at a Federal level, a left-right coalition of whining children, soured after an election in which Ron Paul didn’t win a landslide mandate to undo the New Deal and institute Peace by fiat (but not fiat currency), insists that now the United States must break up because the Federal government isn’t getting the job done.
The recession was the fault of the rich ruling class. They deregulated themselves through law, they committed fraud, they lied to their clients, they traded with insider knowledge, they benefited financially from foreclosure and job loss and outsourcing and reduced labor costs. And now the solution, proposed this Veteran’s Day weekend in a weak online petition, is for the US to split into 50 small governments. Never-you-mind that the recession is ongoing, that myriad Americans are only kept afloat by the aforementioned Federal programs, and that the large financial interests of the globe would love nothing more than to bribe states’ governors instead of the Congress and President of the United States, likely for much less money and with fewer constituents to displease.
The evidence is thus. Americans live in a redistributive society. Money from wealthy states funds poorer states. Image (from 1998 but still applies):
Above: Twenty out of fifty states pay more than they get back in Federal dollars.
And this helpful reminder of how we got here:
Had we not experienced a downturn (thanks, banks!) during two wars (thanks, imperial oil gods!) while cutting tax rates (thanks, trickle-down economics proponents!) our debt would still be at a highly-serviceable 20% of GDP.
The solution to these problems is and has remained quite simple. You end the needless occupations, you stop giving billionaires tax cuts, and to kick-start growth you invest in the budgets we’ve been slashing this whole time to make up for lost revenue: education, health care and infrastructure, plus R+D. This is not rocket science, it’s math, and it doesn’t care whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. It cares whether the numbers add up.
When you argue for secession the weekend of Veteran’s Day, you’re insisting that the states would be better at veterans’ care than the Federal Government is. Maybe 20 of the states. But likely, none of them. It’s a waste of our time as a country to entertain that this is even a serious proposal. We need to fund our Federal programs fully with the savings from eliminating these wasteful policies. But that’s not what this secession talk is about. It’s simply the kicking and screaming of the same people who have been kicking and screaming about debt since January 21st, 2009. Obama has four more years to continue unwinding this fiscal mess, and hopefully to speak candidly to the American people about economic patriotism and responsible citizenship. The weekend of Veteran’s Day should be a good time to reflect on our combined power as a nation to do better together. To argue for secession, because “the states could do it better,” is to argue that individual pieces of glass are better at holding wine than a wine glass.
I am astounded quite often at the amount of effort some people will go to in trying to claim that something is unimportant.
I register people to vote through my organizing work with the Bus Project Foundation. (This blog reflects my own views and not those of Bus. Today is my day off and I’m doing laundry and writing.) I meet thousands of people some days, and I ask all of them in a very polite way, “can I register you to vote today?”
We have a quick method by which we determine who, among the unregistered potential voters, is worth pressing to register to vote. Based upon their response, we divide all them into A’s, B’s or C’s. A’s say “yes, please, thanks, you’re awesome for doing this.” C’s on the other hand say “go fuck yourself,” and I then turn around and walk away. The bulk of people who are unregistered are B’s. They’re a little uncertain about whether they should take 90 seconds and register to vote.
So I push B’s a little, which is how I’ve registered 1400 people to vote since April 10. I tell them how easy it is, how important it is. Occasionally, they’re only a couple of encouragements away from signing and dating the form. But sometimes a B candidate will take ten minutes or more to be swayed. Ten minutes. This has maybe happened to me a hundred times, 95 of whom eventually registered to vote.
People are willing to explain themselves very often. Strangers, I think, like to meet each other, even if they don’t admit it. It’s a human trait we’ve forgotten thanks to technology. In between all these facebook friends and tweeters, we’re not really ever in contact face to face, especially with people we don’t know, thanks to cell phones on trains. People, when they get together and talk about less-mundane and more-important stuff, are harder to block or ignore, and a thousand times more meaningful and real, than any blog post. You actually have to keep talking to the persistent, friendly stranger. Sometimes they won’t go away for some time, as when you work with or attend classes with someone you don’t really like. This is where I have an advantage: I’m a physical presence in the real world, and thus much harder to troll than anyone espousing the importance of voting on the internet, as I’m doing here. But I’m recounting actual experiences of this, for whatever purpose that might serve. I’m talking about the 1% of the population who acts like this.
B’s are people who sometimes might tell me “I’m too busy.” And everyone -is- busy. I’m busy registering voters and doing laundry, you’re on your way to lunch, you’re on your way home to skype your internet girlfriend, my mom is busy making ends meet and playing Farmville, your mom is rushing to a bathroom in a Macy’s, your son is busy playing Halo and your daughter is busy playing spin-the-bottle with her girlfriends. They’re also eligible to vote and should do everything they can to make sure they can and do vote.
If at the end of ten minutes convincing someone that it really is important to participate in democracy, they register, then that ten minutes has not been wasted, and life can resume until the vote is to take place. If at the end of ten minutes they simply refuse and turn into a C candidate, perhaps shouting or proclaiming to be annoyed, they have just wasted their own time. My time is supposed to be spent on these conversations. They could have just said “fuck off” and I could have smiled and said “have a nice day” and walked away and talked to someone else. But they just had to have their say.
So the candidate has essentially beaten back my persistence and friendliness, my barrage of voter registration factoids and pleas for sanity during insane times and volunteerism and civic engagement and high-fives for doing the right thing. In their defense of their own inaction, they’ve spent ten of their precious minutes explaining to me why they’re not interested in politics and too busy to spend 90 seconds telling me their current address and driver’s license number. I am an organizer, and pretty certain of my powers, and I suppose when I am unsuccessful it is because I was matched with a more-powerful “disorganizer”.
This person would spend ten minutes describing rampant government corruption, the lack of participation, societal apathy, the cesspool of campaign finance, corporate power, and more. But they will not register to vote and participate in the official rule-making bodies. Some of the most-informed people with all the right ideas about the awful present have internalized a hopelessness that is beyond despair, into Stockholm syndrome and weltschmerz. Truly a disorganized, scattered mindset, which can so readily accept failure.
If registering to vote as a member of an “Apathy Party” were possible, would disorganizers bother? They seem to have the entire platform memorized. Like most members of most political parties, they’re blind adherents to the doctrine and the dogma. The Apathy Party platform clearly states that the world is fucked up, so we should just leave it alone because it’s apparently just supposed to be fucked up.
The very idea that a single word of theirs would be wasted on describing anything not worth caring about is absolutely hilarious to me. Wasted words, in the Apathy Party platform, or on the street or a doorstep where I’m asking someone to register to vote.
Less hilarious in a “ha ha” way, and more hilarious in a “aww, shit” way, is that the government we have is the only tool we have to fix the government we have. While we spend the rest of our hours on exposing the corruption and demanding the real change, there’s an hour a year, roughly, where we take our trusty, rusty Swiss pocket knife and attempt to clean it… using only our rusty Swiss Pocket knife.
Fortunately it’s not considered cheating to put a little elbow grease into the process. And here is where Apathy Party dogma, the campaign rhetoric of the disorganizers, meets reality head on: it’s possible to get involved, even if you don’t. And if you know something is wrong but you’re not doing anything about it, you’re actually abetting the wrong thing to continue. I’m looking at Joe Paterno’s now-removed statue here. Or just the (HIGHLY TRIGGERING) awful case of the worst-homecoming-ever from 2009. The old adage rings truer each day, “evil will succeed when good [people] do nothing.”
America is a country with problems. Poverty is rampant. Women are paid less than men for equal output in nearly every industry and their health-care is constantly being threatened and maligned by anti-equality advocates. This is a country where gays and lesbians aren’t allowed to marry by Federal law. Where many 9/11′s worth of people die every year thanks to a poorly-crafted private insurance system which sells us treatments and not outcomes. Transgender people are denied basic equality, where poll-tax-equivalent voter ID laws prevent poor and minority voters from registering their opinions, where kids’ work produces value at a very early age, but people can’t vote until they’re 18 and usually don’t vote (see: Apathy Party) until they’re over 25. This is a country where people get shot in the face during a movie and some crackpots blame the movie industry, instead of the readily-available gun that the highly-unstable shooter was using. These are wrong things. Problems the American government, in conjunction with state and local authorities, could fix. Would fix, if everyone voted. Most people are not happy with this stuff. But most people don’t vote.
Who is already happy, and fine with how things are in such a problem-filled place? It’s mostly just the wealthy. If you’re not wealthy you shouldn’t be happy in America, because better is possible. But there are also worse-off people who still identify and vote with the wealthy: the middle-class and upper-lower-class people who are also (mostly) white, male, straight, self-and-only-self-concerned gun owners. This is the demographic of the wealthy, the group that traditionally pays for the campaigns, (Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, George Soros) Even among the less-powerful they are the only demographic that consistently turns up to vote for the power structure that keeps the wealth in the hands of a very small, very elite group.
This is also coincidentally why neither major political party will touch the issue of assault rifles. The wealthy will need an assault rifle in the hands of a private mercenary stationed in a friendly-to-big-business state, just to fight back an angry mob of all the properly-roused people who don’t have anything to defend and thus never gave a damn about assault rifles, gay discrimination, sexism, racism and a dogmatic commitment to private enterprise, even when it makes poor people suffer so that others may be extravagantly wealthy and for no other reason. The real majority in this country is the 99% of us who don’t have anything and are still getting robbed, and the government is allowing it because the government is broken and not serving the majority, despite claiming to be a shining example of democracy.
And in this place, disorganizers will argue, probably politely, particularly persistently, for ten minutes that the government is meaningless and we should just accept it, while simultaneously rambling on about the problems in this country, like there’s nothing we can do. 1% of people feel this way. Mission accomplished, propagandists from the past: they’re committed to the status quo like an abusive boyfriend, and those organizers having conversations and working to help these disorganizers are like the friend whose shoulder they’re crying on, saying “just break up with him already. I can find you a couch to sleep on.” Because we gotta get out of this funk, and back to being great. Nobody’s going to do it for us, those days are long since gone. We’re going to do it for ourselves, and so for each other, with help from people who care. Friendly, persistent people.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen)
PORTLAND – Unions, activists and advocates organized a protest march in honor of the 2012 celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday Congress and President Ronald Reagan established in 1983 as the third Monday of each January (which loosely coincides with King’s January 15th birthday), one of only three federal holidays (along with Columbus Day and Washington’s Birthday) which honor an individual. The march met at Sisters of the Road Cafe, 133 NW Sixth Avenue, and was at its peak nearly 350 strong, including delegations from Sisters of the Road, a group “seeking systemic solutions that reach the roots of homelessness and poverty to end them forever,” the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union, with over 42,000 members, Dignity Village, “a city-recognized encampment of an estimated 60 homeless people,” Right to Dream Too and Right to Survive, whose first stated goal is “to empower the un-sheltered, the disenfranchised, those of color, oppressed minorities, those who are being treated like criminals because of their poverty,” Portland VOZ, International Socialist Organization, Painters and Allied Trades, NW Carpenter’s Union, and the Western Regional Advocacy Project, umbrella organization for Sister of the Road, Street Roots and Right to Survive.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen) The march continued in the footsteps of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” in drawing attention to poor working conditions, low wages, the lack of affordable housing, and the criminalization and exploitation of house-less people through Portland’s odious “sit / lie” ordinance, along with other laws which seek to funnel ever-more money into imprisoning ever-more-marginalized citizens, such as the “show me your papers” law, Arizona’s SB 1070 and Missouri’s Illegal Aliens and Immigration Status Verification law. Speakers began addressing the crowd at 12:10, amassed at the intersection of 6th and Davis.
Chandi, Community Organizer with Sisters of the Road, informed marchers that this was the 19th year Sisters of the Road has organized a march for MLK Day, and after a two-year hiatus the organization felt this year was particularly crucial in the long-term fight for social and economic justice. “We’re back after two years to connect issues that Occupy brought up with our folks in the house-less community, people who are used to getting kicked out of parks all the time,” referencing the November 14th eviction of Occupy Portland from their established camps at Lownsdale Park and Chapman Square.
“We are here to celebrate our struggle,” Chandi proclaimed. “No one is illegal!” And the crowd went wild for the first of many times during the march. Chandi continued, “We want racial and economic justice now. This is at the core of the work that Sisters of the Road has been doing for 32 years. You should not be criminalized just because our society, which is in every way rich, fails to take care of its people.” Applause. “If you’re a person of color in Portland, which is still a hard thing to be,” (laughter and cheers), “if you love someone and want to marry them, if you are an Occupier… YOU ARE NOT ILLEGAL!” Thunderous applause.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen) Leo Rhodes, a Street Roots vendor and board member and US Army veteran, spoke next. “We need to have this kind of energy year-round,” he said in reference to the raucous gathering of young and old, children and pets, drummers, chanters and other ordinary and extraordinary citizens. “When you go to bed, set an alarm for 20 minutes, and get a backpack full of clothes and move somewhere within a two-block radius and sleep for another 20 minutes. Then you’ll know what it’s like to be homeless.” The crowd applauded, though appalled at the sit-lie ordinance whose mention they missed under the cheers. “Martin Luther King had a dream. Homeless people have the Right to Dream, Too.”
Speaking on behalf of the Poor People’s Campaign, and unions, Gabriel Triplett of the ILWU first asked, “Good day to be out in the streets, eh?” The crowd agreed. “Martin Luther King spread the message of the Gospels, a message so radical that killing him was not enough. They had to change his message.” Triplett went on to detail all the historical information commonly omitted from public education, as it related to MLK’s vision. “Our kids will learn about racial justice, but they will not learn about economic justice.” Triplett then described what Dr. King termed “The Triplets of Evil,” racism, economic exploitation and militarism. “Only 7% of America’s workers are in unions, at a time with greater economic inequality than we’ve ever seen, endless wars, racist laws [such as SB 1070], legal slavery in our dungeons and prisons… We must strive to build a better world, that kingdom that Christ spoke of.” Tripletts ended by remarking that the context of Dr. King’s famous “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech parallels the experience of dock workers in Longview, WA, who expect scab labor to fill a ship with grain very soon. An action will take place to prevent the strike from breaking. “Ask not what will happen to you if you go [to the action,] ask what will happen to those workers if you don’t go.”
Next, Executive Director of Portland VOZ Romeo Sosa let off a chant of “Si se puede,” the motto of the United Farm Workers coined by migrant workers’ rights activist Caesar Chavez. Sosa spoke briefly, ending with “If Martin Luther King were here, he would be marching with us!” The crowd roared once more.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen) The march commenced, marching down Davis to 4th, then up 4th toward Burnside, stopping in front of the Right to Dream, Too camp for a special announcement from R2D2 activist and resident Claudia “Mama Chewy” Long. Long spoke of actions all Portlanders can take to defend the space from the threat of eviction, such as calling City Commisioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor Sam Adams to request they take emergency measures to keep the camp in place. “We want housekeys, not handcuffs,” Long said, a motto from the WRAP organization. She quoted Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and finally Malcolm X. Her message was simple, “We need our own property, even if it’s just a tent in a rest area like R2D2.”
A banner then dropped from the parking structure at SW 4th and Ash, visible to the march, which read “Stand with Greater Determination” in three languages. The crowd cheered.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen) The march proceeded up Burnside to Broadway, then South on Broadway to Salmon, and East on Salmon to 4th, the North-western corner of the former Occupy camp. “Whose Camp? Our Camp!” the crowd called and responded. A speaker produced a bullhorn to briefly mention the indignities of Wells Fargo in funding racist laws like SB1070, and their profiting from the GEO Group and CCA, the two largest private prison companies in America. “While our schools are closing down, prisons are opening. Now with the NDAA, we’re all going to be in these prisons for as long as they can make money off our backs.” Speaking of a thin piece of fabric Wells Fargo used to hide their activities during a recent direct action, the speaker informed the crowd, “It’s our job to burn that veil down… We have not yet exhausted the nonviolent direct action we can take. We have not yet exhausted the civil disobedience we can commit.” She then spoke of the February 29th “Shut Down The Corporations” action, which intends to target corporations individually for such wrongdoings as those of Wells Fargo.
The march then proceeded to the steps of the Justice Center at SW 3rd and Main. A speaker asked, “Are you cold?” and the crowd replied in near-unison “NO!” with a few scant “yeah”s mostly lost in the mix. At that moment, snow began to fall from the sky.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen)The next speaker was Paul Bowman from the Western Regional Advocacy Project. “First of all, congratulations from Los Angeles, Sacramento, Berkeley, and Oakland.” Bowman mentioned recent actions held in those cities, including a consensus supporting the Portland march. “They are all in solidarity with you. … The movement starts when we say ‘no more bullshit.’” The crowd, getting colder, produced a sustained cheer. “Don’t be mistaken,” Bowman continued, “America is building housing for poor people. It’s building jail cells.” Bowman continued upon that theme, connecting new laws criminalizing poverty and ethnicity, and the increase in correctional spending. “We don’t ask for charity, or for sympathy. We demand our human rights. So we’re gonna organize, we’re gonna build a movement, and God damnit, we’re gonna win.” The crowd issued a grand round of applause before continuing the march.
(photo by Lauriel Arwen) The last walking-leg of the rally led to City Hall, SW 4th and Main, where Occupy Portland Food Team waited with hot baked bean dip, spinach quiche, chicken noodle soup and a rice-and-vegetable medley. Hungry and cold marchers gobbled up the goods. Ibrahim Mubarak, founder of Right to Dream, Too, closed off the ceremony with a reliably-inspiring message that filled the crowd with joy. “A lot of people are keeping the dream that Martin Luther King envisioned. We don’t want to forget about the people who fell through loopholes, people who slipped through the cracks. It’s a simple idea: when you have enough, you share.” Mubarak stated as he closed the ceremony that the name of such a system is irrelevant, be it “communism” or “democratic Socialism,” as the point is “human dignity.” Ibrahim led chants of “Up with the workers, down with capitalism” to a raucous and energized crowd of approximately 300. Portland Police ordered marchers to clear the street, and the march dispersed shortly after 2:00pm.
Sister of the Road and Right to Dream, Too have requested that marchers from Monday’s event who wish to continue in the fight for economic justice would return to City Hall at 8:30am on February 1st for a public action to defend the R2D2 camp from eviction. The organizations also encourage citizens to contact City Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office to tell him how you feel about R2D2. His number is 503 823 4151.
More photos from the march are available at Lauriel-Arwen’s photostream.
The march is in ten hours from the time I am writing this. More on it after it takes place.
Martin Luther King was a visionary. In a very short span of time, with limited resources and working against impossible odds, he made a dream possible. Thanks to his efforts, the United States of America is a more free and just and equal place. Notice I wrote “more.” Because America is not yet perfect. Just as in “a more perfect union,” our job is never done.
When Dr. King spoke about racial justice the public lauded him as a hero, his words were moving and poetic and true. In 1963 he gave one of the most famous speeches in the history of the USA to a diverse and morally-righteous crowd gathered in Washington, D.C.
He shook the halls of Congress, the march was epic but King rocked our Capitol. The Civil Rights Act is an imperfect law, still devastating in its focus on the forced integration of the US, devastating to old ways of doing things that were just unfair.
When Martin Luther King spoke about racial injustice in 1963, the public lauded him as a hero, and laws changed in 1964. When he spoke about reparations in 1965 they mocked him and the police beat marchers ruthlessly. When he started his “Poor People’s Movement” in 1968, in his last speech, the American public sat back and watched as he rocked the foundations of economic injustice once more, just as he had rocked D.C. in 1963.
…that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.
We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”
Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.
We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”
But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a “bank-in” movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something that we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an “insurance-in.”
Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.
The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
The entire speech is epic, Dr. King encourages targeting specific brands for injustices. It is a dangerous way to talk, a way that upsets the established order and causes great stress to the heads of large companies. The escaped convict who killed Dr. King, James Earl Ray, attempted to withdraw his guilty plea after initially being sentenced to 99 years in prison for assassinating the most effective civilian in recent American history. Ray died, in a cell, with hepatitis C. The man who delivered the televised announcement, Bobby Kennedy, stated toward the end of a short and solemn speech, “The vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.” He was hoping to quell the violent riots that might take place without the soothing of an official on the TV. “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”
This is the legacy Dr. King left behind, and why we march on his holiday. The Poor People’s Movement continues, as does the struggle for Civil Rights. We are marching for a better tomorrow in honor of a great man.
To put this struggle in a modern context, the opposition to civil rights in well-meaning circles of Evangelical Christians, White Supremacists and homophobes continues. As long as people struggle against integration, against unity, the movements to eradicate injustice will remain stifled. A large and long-lasting movement for justice, with economic impact, is the only rational choice if you want change.
Presidential primary candidate Ron Paul has repeatedly said he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act because his libertarianism dictates the law unfairly forced private businesses to open their doors to people they didn’t want to serve (black people). President Barack Obama could augment the CRA with the passage of the imperfect Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would extend similar protections to people in the transgender community, but remains stalled in a partisan-gridlocked House and Senate. The current libertarian penchant for personal preference has ancient roots in the current make-up of the predominantly-Southern, predominantly-male, predominantly-white, predominantly-straight Republican Party of 2011. Many of them are old-time Democrats, from back when the Southern “Dixiecrats” were the equivalent of the Blue Dogs, a loyal vote on a few issues that mattered, but not many. There are racists in the GOP who hate the forced racial integration of the US. Not all Republicans are bigots, but a great number of bigots are openly, proudly Republican this election season, and I can only wager a guess as to what, or who, has them all riled up. ENDA is a threat to straight people who are adamantly anti-gay. Most of those activists are not going to vote for Barack Obama, no matter how hard he tries.
We must not forget our roots, as movements. The current struggle for equal rights for transgender and gay people, including marriage rights and serving openly in the military, continues a long tradition of civil rights struggle. It is a nonviolent movement for the end of segregation and injustice.
The Occupy Movement, properly focused, is a civil rights movement for the end of segregation and injustice. Specifically, 99% of all Americans are segregated from the 1% of influence-peddlers and politicians, and voting has become meaningless in the face of a wave of corporate-funded propaganda when voting in a democracy is most-high, voting itself being a natural right. Super PACs in South Carolina are spending twice as much as Candidates to air ads anonymously attacking the opposition. The next Presidential election is going to see more money than ever before spent anonymously on advertising designed to mislead and lionize. The propaganda campaign is still underway, but at least now there are people in the streets speaking out about it.
Friday Occupy Portland will hold an open-to-the public Open House, at the new Occupy spaces in St. Francis church (1131 SE Oak St, Portland), with music, crafts for the kids, pies, coffee and workshops from the hard-working folks at Occupy Portland.
A press conference will begin at 5:30pm with a statement from the Occupy Portland PR Team on its new community space, followed by a question and answer session for the media.
The press will receive a guided tour of the new space and is invited to attend the consequent Open House at 6pm, with presentations on the evolution of Occupy, a panel discussion, workshops and entertainment.
The event coincides with the unveiling of the new OccupyPortland.org website and various 2012 actions & initiatives.
5:30-6pm Press conference & tour
6-6:30 Mingling, food and committee tabling
6:30-7:15 Presentation on the evolution of Occupy, Videos and Occupier
7:15-8 workshops on non-violent resistance tactics & strategies, online activism, tiny-tent making, education, kids activities & more.
Public Event Invite:
Occupy Portland Open House
Come celebrate our new community space!
When: Friday, Jan 13 from 6-9pm
Where: St. Francis at 1131 Southeast Oak Street Portland, OR 97214
Featuring a panel on Occupy, music, food, workshops, committee booths,
a raffle, door prizes…and fun!
Breakout session include tiny-tent making, non-violent resistance
tactics & strategies, online activism, kids activities and more! This
is a family friendly event.
Bring a can of food or a pie!
photo by Lauriel Arwin
January 8, 2012 – PORTLAND, OR Unions, workers’ groups and supporters held a march to Save The US Postal Service. Present were advocates for the National Association of Letter Carriers, Jobs With Justice, The Bus Project, and Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition, along with members of informal workers’ groups representing workers who are not in unions. The organizers of the march sought out Occupy Portland for an endorsement, who officially supported the action through the GA process.
The march began in Pioneer Courthouse Square, a large and visible city park where the Christmas Tree was just undergoing an unceremonious take-down. Private contract-workers chopped off low branches just as the crowd amassed. Estimates of the total crowd by the end of the march size ranged from 275 to 800 people. Portland Police were in light numbers, in t-shirts, and on bicycles for the city-block sized rally, in an apparent show of solidarity with the march. An officer would not give me his name (because I didn’t ask for it).
Mayoral Candidate Cameron Whitten was on hand for the occasion, making his rounds and joining the people to call for saving the US Postal Service. He stood proudly with an axe-shaped-sign that read “Jobs Not Cuts,” and pretended to cut my head off for the cameras. “We’re here to recall everybody,” he said of the next election. “Screw this government. Quote me on that.” Whitten said USPS was important and then railed against the private companies profiting while millions of Americans suffer. “The trillions going to the banks and investment houses is BS.”
Jim Cook, President of the National Association of Letter Carriers 82 helped explain the day’s plans to the waiting crowd. Speakers at the rally began lining up to help rouse protesters and make the occasion loud and memorable. Speaker Omar Gonzales said 41,000 jobs were created in the month of December in the US Postal Service. “We are the last, last stand-up Middle Class workers who have to say NO!” The crowd repeated back, “NO!” “We’re not gonna let it happen,” Omar continued. “The fight starts today, in Portland.” The crowd roared.
Other announcers spoke out about the currently-pending pieces of legislation H.R. 2309 and S. 1789. Congressman Darrell Issa’s HR 2309 would end Saturday delivery, cut 200,000 jobs, close thousands of post offices and fail to address the 2006 measure which causes the financial problems in the first place. S 1789 cuts Saturday service by tying it to profitability without fixing the accounting error which sucks most of the USPS revenues into pension over-payments uncommon in any industry.
Speakers were present from AFT 3571, US Association of Neighborhoods, and Jobs With Justice. Jessica Campbell from the Rural Organizing Project told the crowd about Deadwood, Oregon, where of the town’s 180 people, 164 were present at a rally to save their post office. “Congress bankrupted the Postal Service,” Campbell announced. “Rural Oregon will not pay.”
Amy Hertzfeld from Working America spoke about the reach of the organization, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. “We are in 10 states and have over 3 million members. … No other group puts boots on the ground and understands neighborhoods as well as letter carriers. Hertzfeld decried what she called “radical downsizing” of the Postal Service workforce.
David Jarvis, President of the mail-handlers’ union locally said that the plans under discussion in congress could cost 3700 rural post offices and 200 mail processing operations. Scott Murahashi if the American Rural Letter Carriers Association simply said “Darrel Issa,” and the entire crowd booed. Murahasi continued “…is a very rich man, who wants to get richer by eliminating jobs.” The crowd hissed again. “All of Oregon’s congressmen but one support us,” he said of the rally. Letter carrier Eric Matras, who was holding his son, yelled out “Where’s Waldo?,” a reference to Oregon Congressman Greg Walden who is absent on this issue. Jarvis finished by remarking that USPS delivers half of the world’s mail. “How do you tell your neighbors, ‘yeah, we’ll deliver it a lot slower’?”
Paul Prince, second-generation letter carrier, said a recent Oxford study of the Planet Earth rated the US Postal Service number one in the world. “Who would wanna screw with it?” Prince asked rhetorically, calling Darrell Issa “The richest man in Congress, who has been convicted multiple times for car theft,” and said Issa’s agenda was “all for corporate greed. … You know that voice when you hear a car alarm that says ‘Step Away From the Vehicle?’ That’s Darrell Issa. He called Postmaster Partick Donahoe (whose name also elicited boos and hisses) “Issa’s puppet” and said that not one penny in tax dollars goes to the USPS. “My bank trusts [USPS] enough to put my bank account numbers in [the mail]. Would they do that with a third-rate carrier?” Prince concluded “So to Mister Issa we have to say: ‘Step Away form the Postal Service.’“
Leader of the Oregon AFL-CIO Tom Chamberlain spoke about a current delay in closures to allow congress time to fix the problem. He declared, “This is the Army that’s going to change the country. There wouldn’t be a five-month moratorium [announced December 13th] without us.”
The rally then moved to the streets from Pioneer Courthouse Square. The parade route twisted down Morrison Street to 4th Avenue, down 4th to Burnside, up Burnside to Broadway, and down the North-east-bound half of Broadway to the Post Office on Hoyt. March Organizers wore bright-orange vests to distinguish themselves, surround the crowd, and guide the march on its path. They obtained a permit, and a police escort, which led to an orderly and police-repression free procession.
photo by Lauriel Arwin
The group marching were diverse and lively. They were young and old, disabled citizens, students, teachers, wheelchair-bound citizens, people of color, homosexuals, and many other diverse types of people, all of whom were unified in their support of the Post Office. The crowd seemed like it was just the right saize to be orderly without being sparse or boring. Chants rang through the streets, bells rang, drums were always clanging and banging along with the chants, and the footsteps. “Congress stalling, that’s appalling,” “Five Day No Way,” “Postal Service Yes, Privatizing No,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, union busters’ got to go,” were all enthusiastically repeated a few times each. The size and length of the march made each chant refreshing and new, and nearly all the participats in the march shouted along together, which at a larger march is impossible.
Red and Black flags waved in the sunlight, and Rumorz Cafe offerered free coffee to anyone marching by. “This march is fueled on coffee,” Rumorz’ barista Eli said as I grabbed a cup.
The march then gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Hoyt and Broadway post office, and after some rousing last chants of “for six day delivery, we shall not be moved,” the final speakers brought their cases. “2309 NO, 1789 NO” chants erupted from the crowd. Oregon’s Congressional delegation was thanked for supporting the passage of postal reform bills that allow continuation of service. The Legislative Director of the American Postal Workers Union, Patty Dewey, thanks unionists, activists and all the other participants in the march for working against Issa’s bill. Someone in the crowd yelled “Issa’s a liar,” and Dewey responded, “Issa is a liar. This is not a bailout,” referring to H.R. 3591 and S. 1853, bills which would address the accounting problems and mandates which have placed the USPS budget in a stranglehold since Congress enacted them in 2006.
The final speaker at the event was Isham Harris, a local activist who has been carrying letters for 35 years. “Scripture says if a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat. And all we want is to work, so we can eat.” Harris called the march “an enthusiastic and providential victory. Providence gave us great weather, and the timing was perfect.”
Jimi Cook, surveying the march his union organized, later said
“The Occupy Movement awakened America to the fact that each one of us has power. The Postal Service represents people power, power that goes back to the Revolution. We communicated our power door-to-door and neighborhood to neighborhood and we got a revolution.”
His parting thoughts were, “when the power goes out, remember the Postal Service.”