Newsletter: Heroes In The War At Home

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Forty six years ago this week, 21 year old Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed by Chicago police and the FBI. Hampton was a hero to many in his community for the work he did to feed hungry schoolchildren and create peace in his high school and within his community as a leader of the Black Panthers. His crime was being intelligent, talented and effective. In his short life, he rattled the power structure.

1zinnIn the war at home – the elite’s war on the poor, hungry, homeless, sick, young and old – there are many heroes. Maybe this is one aspect of the US’ war culture we can embrace – honoring our heroes and sheroes. In memory of the late Howard Zinn, let’s honor those who work everyday for justice and peace. We are making a difference.

“Indict, Convict, Send Those Killer Cops To Jail…”

This is part of a chant used often in Black Lives Matter marches. Because of the bravery and persistence of many who are demanding accountability and an end to racist policing, the Black Lives Matter movement is having a tangible impact.

Don Babwin reports that the number of police officers charged with murder or manslaughter in 2015 is three times higher than past years. He reasons that this is due to  video evidence. We suspect activism on this issue has played a major role in this difference.

Freddie Gray, first day of trial of first officeIn our home town, Baltimore, it was the uprising that led to charges against the police officers involved in the murder of Freddie Grey. The first trial started this week. So far, we are pleased to see that the trial is being held in Baltimore and that the jury is majority black and represents the make-up of the city. In another Maryland case, a Prince George’s County officer was convicted for holding a gun to a man’s head over an alleged parking violation.

In Chicago, where there is a history of prosecutors protecting violent police, the officer who murdered Laquan MacDonald is finally facing charges. Mayor Emanuel fired the police chief over this case, but many believe that the mayor is just as culpable and that he should resign too.

1mplsIn Minneapolis, community members set up an occupation despite the cold in the streets outside the police station to demand accountability for the murder of Jamar Clark. They stayed despite calls from the mayor and others to leave until police cleared the camp and arrested some of the participants.

Two reports on police brutality were published this week. The Guardian has an in-depth series on “the deadliest police force in the United States,” and Jon B. Carroll has an investigative piece on mass false arrests in rural Alabama. It reminds us of Martin O’Malley’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach as mayor of Baltimore that led to arrests without any reason of tens of thousands of black youth.

To understand what is behind brutal policing, we recommend Ajamu Baraka’s most recent article where he writes,”The war being waged against black poor and working class people is a manifestation of the broader war being waged by a rapacious, murderous white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchal global ruling class to maintain and expand its worldwide hegemony.” Baraka connects this struggle to the new colonialism of international treaties like the TransPacific Partnership (TPP).

1wealthCorporate Crimes

Corporate crime reporter Russell Mokhiber writes that large corporations are now being hit with penalties of more than a billion dollars for environment, health and safety violations, but violations and evasion of regulators continue as do lack of criminal prosecutions. Similarly, big banks are facing high fines but this has not changed their behavior. Andrew Gavin Marshall calls them the ‘Global Mafiocracy” and says

“In other words, the big banks – along with large insurance companies and asset management firms – do not simply act as a cartel in terms of engaging in criminal activities, but they form a functionally interdependent network of global financial and corporate control. Further, the banks work together in various industry associations and lobbying groups where they officially represent their collective interests.”

This is a driving force behind the extreme wealth inequality that we are experiencing. Billionaire Bonanza, a report from the Institute for Policy Studies, documents that the twenty richest people in the US have more wealth than the bottom 152 million people. As if that isn’t enough, the three international ‘trade’ treaties being negotiated overreach more than any past agreements to hand power to transnational corporations. Take the pledge to stop these agreements by clicking here.

Wkilieaks released a portion of the Trade in Services Agreement this week which will undercut steps taken to address the climate crisis.

COP21 Conference of PollutersThe Global Climate Movement Will Have To Save Itself

As we reach the halfway point of the climate talks in Paris, it becomes clearer that the final agreement will not be adequate to mitigate the disastrous impacts of the climate crisis but that some NGOs will spin it as a success anyway. The talks are being heavily influenced by the big polluters such as the fossil fuel lobby and anyone who points that out is immediately arrested as in this video. They will stop at nothing. Exxon is going after the journalists who exposed their climate cover-up. Even Bill Gates is in Paris looking for ways to cash in.

Resistance is being suppressed in Paris, but it is lively in other places. In Australia, one hundred protesters took over Parliament demanding stronger action on the climate crisis. On Saturday, people in Rhode Island protested a proposed power plant and pipeline by planting flowers at the site. They are part of the fight against Spectra’s AIM pipeline. The fight inspired two Spectra inspectors to blow the whistle on safety violations.

1pdxIn the Northwestern US, communities are taking dramatic steps to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure which is essential if we are to keep 80% of remaining fossil fuel in the ground. Portland, OR voted last month to oppose any new projects for the storage or transportation of fossil fuels in or around their city. They are calling on other cities to do the same. This comes as a new report shows that proposed fossil fuel projects in the Northwest could equal an added 22 million cars and another new report shows that clean energy projects are good for the economy.

Not only will the Paris climate treaty fail to take necessary steps, but also the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in the US falls far short and pushes more methane, a very powerful Greenhouse Gas. Some are concerned that the CPP will push more nuclear energy too, which is far from clean. There is no safe way to mine Uranium. Clean Up The Mines is increasing its call to deal with the 15,000 abandoned Uranium mines in the US that are poisoning communities. Sign the petition to support this call.

1nn1Holding On To Net Neutrality

Many of you will remember the fight to reclassify the Internet as a common carrier so that the Federal Communications Commission can protect net neutrality. With the help of many heroes and sheroes we won that last February through a strategic broad-based campaign that took on the cable giant lobbyists.

Now net neutrality is back on trial and advocates are optimistic that the new FCC classification will be protective. This will be a huge victory for all of us who use the Internet to get information and organize for justice, a victory that we will continue to need to protect.

1unitedHold Them In The Highest Place Of Honor

As we look over the past year, we see many people are working locally, nationally and globally for a more just and livable future. We can learn from each other, support each other and inspire each other in these necessary struggles.

Let’s change the culture by lifting up the change-makers – those who make the world a better place – as our role models and heroes. Let’s remember people like Fred Hampton. As Bill Simpich writes about Hampton and others killed for their activism, “They died in the war at home. They died holding this country to its promises. They died so we can be free. Hold them in the place of the highest honor.”