Newsletter: Transforming Fundamental Power Inequities

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Henry David Thoreau became a tax rebel to oppose slavery. Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Thoreau while he was imprisoned for this act of civil disobedience. Emerson asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

Most of the Popular Resistance team is in Cove Point, MD right now. Almost all are very likely to go to jail for several weeks after Monday’s hearing for our efforts to stop the Dominion fracked gas export terminal at Cove Point. You can donate to the campaign here. Stopping this terminal is the key to stopping fracking on the east coast.

The Calvert Commissioners have made a charade out of democracy.  The government in Calvert County has kept the facts from the public. Before letting the public know of the plan to build the terminal they entered into a secrecy agreement with Dominion so the public has been kept in the dark. In the first hearing on the terminal, the County Attorney wrote the agenda: take public testimony, close the record and vote for the proposal. The proposal was for massive tax breaks for Dominion and waiver of zoning requirements. The latter turned out to be unconstitutional.

Cove Point protectors Jesse Schultz, Donny Williams, Kelly Canavan and Michael Hanes in Calvert County District Court February 20, 2015. Photo by Kevin Zeese.

Cove Point protectors Jesse Schultz, Donny Williams, Kelly Canavan and Michael Hanes in Calvert County District Court February 20, 2015. Photo by Kevin Zeese.

Community members have repeatedly sought a study on the risks to the health and safety of Cove Point. The Commissioners have refused to answer.

When the Environmental Commission in Calvert County expressed concerns about the health and safety of the community and the impact of the terminal on air and water, the County Commissioners told them to stand down and work on something else. When the Environmental Commission sought to testify before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the Commissioners told them they were not allowed to testify.

Protests and civil resistance are the only avenues left to stop the Dominion terminal. This is literally a life and death situation for a community of 44,000 people; hundreds, probably more than a thousand lives, will be shortened and diseases that are not common now, will become common from the toxic chemicals that will be emitted in the air and water from the terminal.

These deaths do not include the risk from a catastrophic event which could include chemical spills, as there will be two chemical trucks per day coming to the plant, as well as massive explosions, as there are a variety of combustible chemicals stored at the plant in large quantities. Increasing the danger, Dominion plans to build a 60 foot sound barrier to keep some of the noise out of the community, but this will keep some of the vapor clouds inside the facility, increasing the chance of explosion. If that occurs, the sound barrier will become shrapnel that will shoot into the community across the street. The concussive impact could travel over 5 miles.

Oil train burns after the derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia. Photograph by Marcus Constantino of Reuters

Oil train burns after the derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia. Photograph by Marcus Constantino of Reuters

One climate activist who is concerned about fracking wrote us this week to say that stopping the Cove Point fracked gas export terminal is the most important battle on fracking and climate change. Stopping export is key to keeping carbon in the ground. For more on this campaign see We Are Cove Point.

We are nearing the goal of our fundraising effort; we actually hope to raise more now that we see the legal fees and fines relating to this campaign will be high. Donate here. We will update the Cove Point prosecutions on the Popular Resistance and We Are Cove Point websites. We will also let you know how Popular Resistance will operate if much of our team is incarcerated.

Our Energy Future is at the Heart of the Transformation We Need

We understand what Faith Meckley is feeling when she writes about delays in her sentencing for the inspiring protests at Seneca Lake. The judge seems to see Faith as his granddaughter and has delayed sentencing three times. The judge’s real granddaughter is so angry at him that she is not speaking to him, so this protest is hitting close to home.  The usual sentence in Seneca Lake is 15 days, also unusually harsh for a minor crime of trespass, especially when people are acting to save the community from the dangers of fracked gas storage.

Big Energy understands the challenge against the carbon-nuclear energy economy and is afraid of it. In Cove Point Dominion has given the police and sheriff departments a blank check – whatever they need to protect their terminals from protest, Dominion will pay. They have already paid for 10 sheriffs and will pay for 21 more. The SWAT team comes to all Freedom of Speech protests. In Canada, police documents show that they see the carbon-free movement as a national security threat.  The power of one activist is shown by how Cabot energy is attacking 64-year-old Vera Scroggins, who is standing up to them.

Free Your Voice youth who won a battle stopping nation's largest incinerator. Photo by United Workers.

Free Your Voice youth who won a battle stopping nation’s largest incinerator. Photo by United Workers.

Communities are banding together to fight Big Energy. One approach is to create a Community Bill of Rights, a tool to keep gas pipelines, fracking and other infrastructure out.  In Denver, the community is demanding an immediate moratorium on fracking.  In New York local actions were a key to the fracking ban. The courts in New York upheld the power of communities to ban fracking. This week an Ohio court reached the opposite conclusion saying communities could not protect their own health or environment.  Why should people not have the power to protect themselves?  Shouldn’t these Texas communities with ticking time bomb oil refineries be able to say “no” and protect their safety?

A new issue that took off this week was the issue of oil trains. There were oil derailments in Canada and the US that show the need for action on these massive oil bombs moving across the continent. In our city, Baltimore, they are planning to allow oil trains to drive through the center of the city. It is already happening in Philadelphia, where they nearly had a derailment, and other cities.

We are pleased to see more people awakening to the crisis in their community caused by continued reliance on fossil fuels.  The fossil fuel divestment campaign’s response is escalation and demanding that people show which side they are on by their actions. These are the actions we should all be taking. The divestment campaign is primarily being led by youth; it is an example of how youth have the power to rally people and how we all need to invest in youth activism. However, we need to realize that just like with other segments of the population, youth have a lot of pressures on them and challenges in their lives and balancing activism with the rest of life. We were also inspired by these Baltimore youth, primarily high school students, who successfully stopped the largest trash incinerator in the country.

Crowd gathered in the cold near Wall Street to call for New York’s divestment from fossil fuels. (Flickr 350)

Crowd gathered in the cold near Wall Street to call for New York’s divestment from fossil fuels. (Flickr 350)

People are learning that they have been sold a propaganda lie with the lie that methane gas is a bridge to clean energy. The reality is that methane, from fracked gas and other sources, is a climate gas that does incredible damage.  The time is now to invest in real clean energy – wind, sun, thermal and wave energy. That is the future. In West Virginia, where coal has been king and where fracking is making inroads, people are looking to the sun as an energy solution.

Big Energy Abuses a Symptom of Foundational Issue: Corporatocracy

Long-time journalist and commentator, Sam Smith, the editor of Progressive Review writes “The Real World War III: Corporations vs. Nationhood.” Smith writes that “not since the Civil War has the sovereignty and constitution of this land come under such assault.” He points to IMF loans that dictate how a nation is to run, Citizens United which expanded corporate domination of elections, NAFTA which not only lost jobs but sovereignty and education reform which is really a corporate assault on schools, youth and our values. He writes:

“Without debate, without formal conflict, without even much consciousness, we have absorbed the principles of America’s greediest, adopted their language, and surrendered our constitution and other values to their will. Our last three presidents have been willing participants in undermining our sovereignty, our values and our culture.”

He writes “The Battle of the Economic Bulge – aka TPP – is the struggle presently before us, involving arguably the most disloyal legislation since secession.”  He correctly points out that his is a political battle we can win, but we must recognize it for what it is. These corporate trade agreements are not just another piece of legislation, but will impact every aspect of our lives. They will build corporate sovereignty at the expense of our socereignty. This is a high stakes conflict to stop political leadership selling the country bit by bit.Free Trade is coreporate tyranny

There are protests going on across the country against these agreements. The focus is stopping Fast Track trade authority. Fast Track will allow continued secrecy as congressional committees will not be allowed to hold hearings on trade agreements, nor will they be allowed to make amendments.  Indeed, they will barely be given enough to read these documents which will be over one thousand pages long.

Two of our campaigns are involved in the Fast Track battle. The Rolling Rebellion for Real Democracy has a map of actions you can join as does Flush The TPP. You can join an action or stop your own. Next week our Fast Track rapid response team will begin actions in DC when Congress returns. Our initial focus will be Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Finance Committee. We are planning a “Drop In and Hang Out” rolling protest for the first half of the week, where people will take turns sitting in his office. Wyden is key because we do not want him to co-sponsor Fast Track with Senator Orin Hatch. Without Wyden, the Republicans and the President will have to go it alone. You can sign-up here to join the Rapid Response Team.

Strategic Choices Against Corporate Power

We know that throughout US history nonviolence has helped to shape the American identity. Rivera Sun points to numerous examples: “The Civil Rights Movement comes to everyone’s mind, and perhaps the United Farmworkers’ struggle, but nonviolent action also liberated slaves via the Underground Railroad, brought us women’s suffrage and environmental protections, formed the core of the labor movement tactics, replaced child labor with public education, and, according to John Adams, won the American Revolution.” Think what the nation would be like if people had not used the powerful strategic and moral choice of nonviolence to shape this nation.

This week we saw a major step to victory in a three year campaign of nonviolence and strategic action – the Our Walmart campaign for a living wage. Walmart has agreed to raise wages above the minimum wage to $9 then by February 2016 to $10. This is still not a living wage, but it is a significant increase and we expect the Our Walmart and Fight for $15 campaigns to continue to push for more.US Flag as Bar Code

Writer and psychologist, Bruce Levine, gives us some pointers on how to fight the corporatocracy, listing ten ways we can act for our transformation. We need to begin with ourselves and understand that we have a problem. We must not be “resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers.”  We must not let institutions like the mass media, schools that teach obedience and bureaucratization as well as cultural norms like consumerism and greed, controls us. We must confront these issues and act with integrity, Levine writes: “Integrity includes acts of courage resisting all illegitimate authorities.”

While we recognize the challenge before us, to transform society, culture, government and the economy is large, we must not allow defeatism to destroy us. Levine quotes Gramsci’s phrase “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Levine emphasizes the need to restore courage and hope in young people who are too often beaten down by corporate-run schools that teach obedience, put into deep debt by school loans and having their rebel spirit beaten out of them. The rest of us need to rebel against obedience schools, the indentured servitude of student loans and give youth the opportunity to resist.  We need to recognize we are in an abusive relationship with the corporatocracy and break from it by standing in solidarity across age, race, and class against it. Division is the tool of the status quo, unity is the strength of resistance.

Levine concludes:

“…democracy will not be won without guts and solidarity. Risk-free green actions – such as shopping from independents, buying local, recycling, composting, consuming less, not watching television and so on – can certainly help counter a dehumanizing world. However, revolutions that truly transform fundamental power inequities and enable us to feel like men and women rather than children and slaves require risk, guts and solidarity.”