Popular Resistance Newsletter – Grassroots Grows Fearless

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As more see that the government represents Wall Street, instead of them; that the government continues to give the banksters who crashed the economy a break while cutting access to basic necessities, that the government continues to put big energy profits ahead of protecting the planet – more people are becoming fearless.

Last week, front-line environmental groups including climate justice activists, opponents of tar sands, mountaintop renewal and many others who oppose the extraction economy, announced “Fearless Summer” – a week of actions from June 24 to 29 that starts “an epic summer of actions.”The rising tide of courage in the environmental justice movement is one we also see growing in many other communities.

When people stand up against the destructive extraction industries of big energy interests, we gain community support and sometimes we win. This week in New York communities got a lot of power when acourt upheld their right to ban fracking.

Long-time activist, George Lakey, describes how he and 17 colleagues protested Mountaintop Removal at the PNC Bank shareholder meeting. They broke all the middle class rules, gave an award to the outgoing CEO and sang songs. Efforts to drown them out failed and in the end, the meeting was adjourned – and the protest was covered in the media, forcing the bank to respond for the first time. Now, their accountability campaign focused on bank board members will escalate.

Another group that has awakened is members of the first nations. Ever since the Idle No More campaign began last December, native Indians have been standing up across the continent. One issue that Indians are focused on is the extraction economy and the KXL pipeline in particular which will cross hundreds of indigenous sacred spiritual sites and burial grounds, as well as two major sources of drinking water.

From Chicago to Detroit, from San Jose to Portland, from Oakland to Newark, IL people are standing up and saying “NO” to austerity. Whether it is schools closures, mass lay-offs or cuts to essential programs – people are protesting.  People know that austerity ensures the economy will remain in collapse; and they know that the real cause of the budget problems are corporate tax loopholes, low tax rates on the wealthy and giveaways to crony capitalists. People also know – it does not have to be this way.

Students are also standing up.  For years there have been protests against tuition hikes and mass student debt. This week students at Cooper Union, who are assured of free tuition, are standing up not for themselves but for the students that follow and demanding that Cooper Union continue the 144 year old mission of its founder that college education should be free. This week they took over and occupied the president’s office to protest plans for tuition at the school.

Low wage workers, almost always without a union, are protesting across the country. Most recently they protested in St. Louis andChicagoWal-Mart workers, taking a lesson from the Civil Rights Freedom Rides, are planning bus caravans to the annual meeting of Wal-Mart shareholders on June 7.  And, now people are realizing that the federal government is the largest employer of low-wage workers, and that President Obama could change that with a stroke of a pen.

Among the lowest paid and most mistreated workers are farm workers, but after years of organizing they are beginning to win victories in their fight for justice. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has been organizing tomato growers in Florida since 1994, has been winning battles against individual corporations for fair wages and treatment of workers, most recently Chipotle Mexican Grill and Trader Joe’s. Now their targets are Publix and Wendy’s.  And, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee has been winning better working conditions for thousands of cucumber pickers through successful boycotts and strikes aimed at Campbell’s, Heinz, and Mount Olive Pickle Company. Standing up, organizing and mobilizing improves people’s lives.

People who are homeless are also organizing for respect and justice. Here is a group of homeless advocates working for civil rights.They advocate for housing when they see thousands of vacant homes around them, and for community land trusts which would keep housing affordable.

And, activists are coming to the aid of people threatened with eviction and foreclosure. This week in Seattle and Los Angeles people stood up against the big banks seeking to put people on the street.

You do not hear about these revolts happening across the United States because the corporate media does not want you to know.  But, if you think the media is bad now, watch what happens if the Koch brothers are able to purchase a large chain of newspapers that includes the LA Times, Baltimore Sun and many others. People in LA are not waiting to find out, they are organizing protests now; and writers at the Times are pledging to quit rather than work for the extreme right wing Kochs.

The last two years of working on planning and developing Occupy Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza has lifted our vision higher to see a growing popular resistance.  For the last six monthswe have been working with people in the movement to figure out how we can best help the movement achieve a new level of success. We’ll soon be announcing “Popular Resistance,” a vehicle that will be a resource and information clearinghouse for populist activism.  We’ll let you know more as the announcement gets closer because your participation will make it a success.