By the age of 10, I was terrified about the state of the world. I wanted to quit school and volunteer for environmental and human rights groups. Instead, I distributed leaflets in my neighborhood and attended rallies with my dad. At 14, I watched “An Inconvenient Truth.” At 15, I read a National Geographic article about coal — how it planted cancer in people’s lungs, stole their breath, and polluted their water. This broke my heart and, in the midst of that brokenness, I devoted my life to stopping climate change. Fast forward a decade, and I’d had the privilege of working in several nonprofits, including co-founding one. Together, we have achieved a lot — mobilizing record numbers of people to the streets, pushing dozens of institutions to defund coal and gas, building hundreds of local groups, and empowering countless people to take action.
It only takes one doom scroll through social media to see there is no shortage of injustice in the world. But there is also no shortage of people who have dedicated themselves to dismantle systems of violence and advance justice through activism. With how deeply entrenched injustice is in our society, the work to dismantle injustice is a full-time job. Despite the hours put in, this job does not fit a capitalist and colonial view of labour. El Jones, a prison abolitionist dedicated to fighting state violence, said that for Black people, there is a historical precedent that makes it easier for this work to go unrecognized. “Labour and Blackness cannot be separated,” Jones said in an interview with rabble. “You can’t understand any current Black problem without returning to the idea that we were property for a long time.
Between the lack of action around police brutality, the threats to Roe v. Wade, increasing mass shootings, and the ever looming threat of climate catastrophe, desperation and despair have become the emotions of the day. Polling shows most Americans still care about these issues, but they’ve long lost faith in mainstream institutions and their capacity for change. It can be difficult to know how to respond in moments of crisis like these. Besides panicking, one traditional approach is what is called the “ladder of engagement,” which relies on a series of actions that increase in intensity over time to win over supporters and apply pressure to people in power. This usually begins with gathering petition signatures and holding educational events while gradually building the support and capacity to move towards rallies and eventually, though rarely, more confrontational protests like occupations.
I had short hair the first time I met Clyde Bellecourt. It was Native American Heritage Month in 2005. Native students had invited him and fellow members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) to the University of South Dakota after police plastered posters on campus depicting a poorly drawn “Native American male” who had allegedly attacked a woman. The description was vague enough to implicate just about anyone; several students and university workers were called in for questioning. The posters were vulgar because of their bluntness: they appeared to confirm the worst stereotypes of savage Indians attacking innocent women. So AIM called a press conference. They brought in the big drum.
As trainers, coaches and activists on Israel-Palestine issues, we have found ourselves in the middle of many heated intergenerational arguments. Disagreements can range from campaign tactics to who is most to blame for the continuing conflict. Cherie recalls a time shortly after the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, when a young Jewish woman screamed at her during a training session. “Why isn’t your generation outraged about what is being done by Israel to Palestinians? Why aren’t you with us in the streets?” she said. Cherie thought for a long time afterwards about what she asked of her. As a young adult, Cherie was in the streets to protest the Vietnam War. She has certainly fought hard for decades to end the occupation.
An Iowa judge upheld one of the state’s “ag-gag” laws in a case brought against an animal rights activist, hours before dismissing all charges. In Iowa, a person may be criminalized for “food operation trespass” if they enter or remain on the property of a factory farm “without the consent of a person who has real or apparent authority to allow the person to enter or remain on the property.” Matt Johnson, an investigator with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), was charged with violating the ag-gag law after he exposed the extermination of pigs by Iowa Select Farms. He argued the law is “actually intended to punish individuals for expressing viewpoints disfavored by the Iowa legislature” and reminded the court that a similar Iowa ag-gag law was previously ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.
Tucson, AZ - It is with heavy heart that the news of the passing of longtime anti-imperialist organizer Chuck Kaufman reached communities on December 28. Born in a small Indiana town, Chuck’s life saw travels to numerous countries, most notably in the Latin American countries most firmly in the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism. In 1987, as Reagan’s illegal Contra War against Nicaragua ravaged the country in an attempt to kill the successful Sandinista Revolution, Chuck answered the call for solidarity. He gave up his advertising business and joined thousands of other U.S. solidarity activists to help in the coffee brigades in Nicaragua aimed at helping the country produce commodities that could help fund the new government projects for the poor and working class.
Indigenous climate activist, writer, and filmmaker Clayton Thomas-Müller was raised in Winnipeg, a city named after the Cree word meaning “muddy waters.” His memoir, Life in the City of Dirty Water, published in August 2021, recounts his early years of dislocation growing up in the core of the Manitoba capital—from the domestic and sexual abuse he endured to the drugs he sold to survive (his first job was managing a drug house for the largest Indigenous gang in the country). Clayton’s early struggles are only the beginning of his remarkable story, however. Years later, his immersion in Cree spirituality and reconnection with the land and his home territory of Pukatawagan led him on a personal healing journey that saw him become a leading organizer on the frontlines of environmental resistance, opening new pathways against the extractive forces perpetuating climate breakdown.
A record 227 activists working to protect environmental and land rights were murdered in 2020, says the latest in a series of annual reports from Global Witness. “Almost a third of the murders were reportedly linked to resource exploitation—logging, mining, large-scale agribusiness, hydroelectric dams, and other infrastructure,” writes BBC News in its coverage of the research. Global Witness calculated that, since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, an average of four activists have been murdered every week. And “shocking” as that number is, Global Witness says an accelerating crackdown on journalists means the reporting likely falls short of the reality on the ground.
While health advocacy organizations have urged the federal government to learn from the HIV/AIDS crisis to more effectively respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, both within America and abroad, many HIV/AIDS organizers argue that the government has now failed twice in its responsibility to the nation’s — and the world’s — most vulnerable people.
A wave of prison abolition actions and demands have swept the United States every August since 1979 from inside the walls to outside. New groups in the Midwest such as Abolition Is a Practice and Community Not Cages (CNC) are carrying on the Black August traditions. With a proposed new county jail in Winona, Minnesota, slated to cost taxpayers at least $28 million, we heard from abolitionists opposed to the project about their efforts. With a population of ~27,000 in southeastern Minnesota, Winona is the seat of Winona County and a town that sits on the western edge of the Mississippi River across from Wisconsin. The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) inspected the Winona County Jail in 2018 and after finding the building wasn’t up to standards, the DOC gave the jail a closing date of September 30, 2021, unless a plan is in place for a new facility.