Never one to miss an opportunity, the Trump administration has repeatedly used the COVID-19 crisis as cover to enact unwise and dangerous environmental policies against the public interest and to forestall citizen input. In recent days the Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward with weakening rules for automobile emissions and relaxing pollution standards. The Bureau of Land Management continues leasing for oil and gas drilling even as prices drop. And while much of the country remains under stay-at-home orders and faces the most disruptive public health crisis in a century, deadlines for public statements on forest plans have not been extended and formats for hearings about dams have frustrated citizens who wish to speak up for public resources.
People have noted that the last year has seen an escalation of protest activity in the United States. Many of these protests are generated by opposition to Donald Trump, e.g. protests against immigration policies, and many have partisan leanings, e.g. the Women's March, the March for Science and others by circumstances, e.g. the March or Our Lives against gun violence. Protests began on the weekend of Donald Trump's Inauguration, indeed there may have been more protesters at the inauguration than supporters of the president. The poll also found that 14 percent of people in the US worked or volunteered for any group that tries to influence government policy on issues you care about, NOT including working for a political party or candidate. Forty percent said they contacted any elected official by phone, over the internet, by mail, or in person. Fifty percent said they signed a petition, either on paper or over the internet, about a social or political issue. Forty-one percent bought or boycotted a certain product or service. . .
By Nafeez Ahmed for the Guardian. A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term "warfighter-relevant insights" for senior officials and decision makers in "the defense policy community," and to inform policy implemented by "combatant commands." Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD 'Minerva Research Initiative' partners with universities "to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US." Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model "of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions." The project will determine "the critical mass (tipping point)" of social contagians by studying their "digital traces" in the cases of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey."
By Awakened Media for The Fifth Column News. Seattle, Washington (TFC) – A Black Bloc is not a group or organization; in fact, it is a tactic that has greatly evolved since its beginnings in Germany, 1980. Many view the participants as hooligans and violent Anarchists. Some are there only to agitate and be destructive. Some are there to express their anger towards the buildings that signify our addictions and act as a reminder to the ruling class. But, most are there to show solidarity and provide security for the peaceful protesters. They are prepared to fight back against law enforcement when they decide to attack peaceful demonstrators. The dress code is black head to toe for many reasons. To show solidarity and to allow anonymity for those who choose to take certain actions. This allows the Bloc to prevent arrests and “unarrest” those who have been detained. Behind the black uniform and mask are people just like you and I.
A petition of more than 1.8 million people worldwide, calling for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be made public has been delivered to Australia’s Parliament this morning. Australian Parliamentarians and representatives from a range of Australian and international organisations, including 350.org, Avaaz and SumOfUs, have joined forces to call on the negotiating Governments to disclose the details of the TPP. The TPP is a highly secretive and expansive free trade agreement between the United States and twelve countries in the highly biodiverse Pacific Rim, including Australia, Mexico and New Zealand. To date, it has been negotiated in secret with no external input other than that of 600 corporate lobbyists. Leaked text reveals that the deal would empower corporations, including big oil, coal and gas companies, to directly sue governments in private and non-transparent trade tribunals over laws and policies that they allege reduce their profits.
Comedian and activist Russell Brand has announced he will speak out against spending cuts and austerity at a huge march being planned against the Coalition Government on 21 June. Brand, famous for his “don’t vote” spat with Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman, has now thrown his weight behind the People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Britain’s fastest growing movement against cuts - saying he will speak at its first national demonstration in London. And he has laid down a marker to Ministers and MPs, warning: “The People's Assembly will bring down any government that doesn't end austerity.” He will join tens of thousands of demonstrators who plan to start their march from outside the BBC headquarters in London in protest at the broadcaster’s lack of coverage of anti-austerity actions, nationally and regionally. The protest then heads for Parliament Square, where Brand will join other speakers calling for millions to join people’s assemblies across Britain, and attacking what he condemns as the “toxic swindle” of austerity.
Cecily McMillan, wearing a red dress and high heels, her dark, shoulder-length hair stylishly curled, sat behind a table with her two lawyers Friday morning facing Judge Ronald A. Zweibel in Room 1116 at the Manhattan Criminal Court. The judge seems to have alternated between boredom and rage throughout the trial, now three weeks old. He has repeatedly thrown caustic barbs at her lawyers and arbitrarily shut down many of the avenues of defense. Friday was no exception. The silver-haired Zweibel curtly dismissed a request by defense lawyers Martin Stolar and Rebecca Heinegg for a motion to dismiss the case. The lawyers had attempted to argue that testimony from the officer who arrested McMillan violated Fifth Amendment restrictions against the use of comments made by a defendant at the time of arrest. But the judge, who has issued an unusual gag order that bars McMillan’s lawyers from speaking to the press, was visibly impatient, snapping, “This debate is going to end.” He then went on to uphold his earlier decision to heavily censor videos taken during the arrest, a decision Stolar said “is cutting the heart out of my ability to refute” the prosecution’s charge that McMillan faked a medical seizure in an attempt to avoid being arrested. “I’m totally handicapped,” Stolar lamented to Zweibel.
Arundhati Roy's trenchant analysis of the destructive impact of global neoliberalism on India is available directly from Truthout by clicking here.Capitalism: A Ghost Story is a passionate, detailed journey through the injustices of systemic inequality. As an epilogue for Capitalism: A Ghost Story, Roy offers an eloquent tribute to the Occupy movement after it was evicted from Zucotti Park. Despite Roy's scathing analysis of the injustices and ravages of capitalism and its political puppets, she is filled with hope that "another world is not only possible, she's on her way." Speech to the People's University of the Occupy Movement Yesterday morning the police cleared Zuccotti Park, but today the people are back. The police should know that this protest is not a battle for territory. We're not fighting for the right to occupy a park here or there. We are fighting for Justice. Justice, not just for the people of the United States, but for everybody. What you have achieved since September 17, when the Occupy Movement began in the United States, is to introduce a new imagination, a new political language, into the heart of Empire. You have reintroduced the right to dream into a system that tried to turn everybody into zombies mesmerized into equating mindless consumerism with happiness and fulfillment. As a writer, let me tell you, this is an immense achievement. I cannot thank you enough.
With Congress gridlocked and unable to pass even the deeply flawed comprehensive immigration reform, activists around the country are successfully challenging the injustices inherent in US immigration policy and enforcement. Two weeks ago, hundreds of people inside the Tacoma (Washington) Detention Center launched a hunger strike against its private operator, GEO Group, demanding better conditions and a moratorium on deportations. Activists, who have held vigils outside the center for years, now gather every day to support those inside. A week later the strike spread to a GEO facility in Texas. According to Maru Mora Villapando of Latino Advocacy in Tacoma, in both locations the company has isolated the strikers and in Tacoma threatened to force-feed them. Immigrants, workers, union members, people of faith and community activists demonstrate in front of the Mi Pueblo market in East Palo Alto, California, calling for a moratorium on deportations and on the firing of undocumented workers because of their immigration status.
Illegal US drone strikes continue (the Long War Journal says there have been 8 drones strikes in Yemen so far this year), but efforts to curb the use of killer drones have made remarkable headway this year. While the faith-based community has taken far too long to address the moral issues posed by remote-controlled killing, on February 13, the World Council of Churches--the largest coalition of Christian churches--came out in opposition to the use of armed drones. The Council said that the use of armed drones poses a “serious threat to humanity” and condemned, in particular, US drone strikes in Pakistan. This is a breakthrough in the religious community, and should make it easier for individual denominations to make similar pronouncements, as the Church of the Brethren has.
We celebrate the principle of political equality, of "one person, one vote". But the new rule is "one dollar, one vote", and it is a recipe for plutocracy. This was essentially true before Citizens United, painfully obvious after, and now, in McCutcheon's wake, it is beyond rational argument. For a nation riven by historic economic disparity, with a generation poised to be the first to fall behind its parents, the loss of real democratic power for the vast majority of citizens is an existential crisis. What can we do? To start, we can stand up and say No. Some have said to me that disrupting the court - or any activism targeting it - serves only to harden the elitist majority's stance. Perhaps. But there comes a time when we can no longer just defer to the institutions governing us, when the failure of those institutions demands that we stand up as citizens and take nonviolent action – no matter the cost.
This month, rural women, indigenous communities, and farmers in Chile found themselves on the winning end of a long-fought battle against a bill that had come to be known by many in this country as simply, the “Monsanto Law.” The bill, which would have given multinational agribusiness corporations the right to patent seeds they discover, develop or modify, was withdrawn by the Chilean government now controlled by newly elected members of the center-left coalition known as the New Majority, amid concerns that the law would bring harm to the country’s small and mid-sized farmers. In making the announcement on March 17, new Secretary General Ximena Rincón pledged that the Chilean government will “analyze all that is known in our country and internationally about this issue in order to protect the rights of agricultural communities, small and medium-sized farmers, and the heritage of seeds in our country.”
We can turn the tables and ridicule these sorts of reactionary, short sighted, desperate measures with our greatest assets: imagination, humor and the fact that we’re the good guys. The following article, written by Spanish art-ivists Amador Fernández-Savater and Leónidas Martín, offers 12 examples drawn from the last five decades poised to inspire and provoke. And check this out: so many people are eager to learn more about the how-to and history of this approach, that this has been the single most widely Facebook-shared article in eldiario.es’s history! We’ve also included some English hyperlinks to follow up on some of these leads and subtitled the one video in Spanish. Although written in reaction to the passage of the new law in Spain, we believe that their application and appeal is universal. Read on…
When news of renewed protests in Sudan started to spread in late September, many in the community of activists who were part of the summer protests of June/July 2012 (dubbed the Sudan Revolts) took the news with a dose of cautious optimism. The Sudan Revolts left us feeling crushed - to say the least. The earlier wave of country-wide protests had been triggered by Khartoum University female students protesting economic austerity measures. The Sudanese government’s swift campaign of arrests led to most of the student leaders, youth movement leaders, and the younger leadership of political parties being held behind bars for up to two months without charges. Many endured physical and psychological torture, including extended periods of solitary confinement.