On Sunday, August 19th Puerto Rico will vote on a referendum to amend parts of its local constitution. One amendment is to limit the right to bail on six different counts of homicide. The other amendment is to reduce the number of legislators from 78 to 56. Many on the island are uncertain of the true intentions behind the referendum, as both rise from the ruins of failed public policies by the two main political parties (PNP and PPD), who now seek to push forward these amendments with the consent and approval of the island’s electorate.
The first amendment is a disingenuous attempt at solving Puerto Rico’s suffocating crime and homicide rates, without tackling any of the much more serious deficiencies that have characterized the island’s judicial system, such as the rate of unsolved crimes/homicides solved (barely 36% of homicide cases in the past decade have even been presented to a judge) and arrests per homicide (only 43% of homicides result in a suspect being arrested [source]). This amendment has sparked a heated debate between people advocating, mostly through manipulation of people’s fears to vote YES, and the burgeoning grassroots movement that has started a campaign to vote NO. By the limiting the right to bail the whole concept of being innocent until proven guilty comes under serious threat and with the police department’s poor reputation of framing or falsely incriminating innocent people, many are up in arms over the matter. Read More...
One week ago, police evicted Occupy Memphis, one of the longest continually-running occupations in the U.S. The following statement was approved by Occupy Memphis in response to the eviction. We felt that it summarized what many in our movement have felt and experienced over the past year.
August 10 was a sad day for all of Occupy Memphis and especially for our many sisters, brothers, and family who have been holding down the camp and supporting this movement for the past ten months. There have been many wonderful times as well as challenges. Yet Occupy Memphis (OM) has been an instrumental voice for social justice in this city for almost a year, and it is shameful the way in which our cowardly Mayor, AC Wharton, has gone back on his contractual agreement with the camp: not to evict as long as the occupiers remained a peaceful encampment. Those camping have been gracious and cooperative with local law enforcement, Downtown Commission, and other city officials. Now, many of those who were newly experiencing homelessness when this occupation began, again have nowhere to call home. They didn’t just evict some protesters from Civic Center Plaza – they have displaced a family, our family.
The media reports about the eviction echo city officials’ mantra that the tent city was “out of control” and their attribution of every ill in the Plaza area (e.g., homelessness, public urination, and instances of violence) to the presence of OM. Prior to the eviction and during the entire ten months of its existence in Civic Center Plaza, Occupy Memphis had a very good relationship with Memphis police and city government. The calls concerning problematic activities were primarily coming from Occupy Memphis participants who reported potential violence, health concerns, and other issues, functioning as a de facto ‘neighborhood watch’ for the Civic Center Plaza area.
Another complaint about Occupy Memphis, echoed uncritically by the much of the mainstream media coverage of the eviction, is that OM ‘did not have a singular or coherent message.’ Nationally and locally, Occupy participants are portrayed as scattered and unfocused; on the contrary, what people in the Occupy movement understand is the intersectionality of many issues within the systemic inequality that characterizes our society. What these tired depictions of the movement fail to consider is that the systemic inequality being protested by Memphians and the Occupy movement as a whole is reflected in many issues that affect people’s daily lives, from the lack of affordable housing to predatory lending practices and foreclosures, from race and class discrimination to appallingly high unemployment rates, from the cutting of funding to public services (such as parks and libraries) to the diversion of public money to corporations and development projects, and from the struggles around public transit to the corporate funding of elections and voter disenfranchisement. Along these lines, another common meme repeated by local and national media has been a delineation between activists in the movement and those made homeless by the great disparity of our current economic system, as if those actively fighting against social injustice and those who have been most affected by these inequities are somehow disconnected and essentially different.
The other frequent accusation of critics has been that Occupy Memphis ‘didn’t do anything’; nothing could be further from the truth. Occupy Memphis is an important venue for popular education efforts, having organized dozens of teach-ins and trainings on a wide range of topics, including the nature of the financial system, the Civil Rights Movement, political art, racism, economic exploitation, immigrants’ rights, civil disobedience, and Memphis labor history and current policies around labor and privatization.
Additionally, Occupy Memphis has held numerous rallies and protests, supporting a variety of causes and encouraging city leaders to focus on the needs of people above the profit imperatives of big business. OM has stood side by side with local unions such as AFSCME and the Police Association, fighting against privatization and the illegal paycuts. Last December 17, OM hosted a rally for the 99% that brought together marches concerning predatory lending, immigrants’ rights, and the rights of homeless people. On May 1, 2012, OM oversaw a march through downtown that culminated in a ‘People’s City Council Meeting’ that combined grassroots activism and street theatre, where speakers from social justice organizations spoke out in opposition to the City’s skewed funding priorities. OM also joined forces with the Gandhi-King Conference and the Folk Alliance, sending a message to tourists and visitors from across the globe that Memphians are conscious and active in a global struggle against oppression and injustice.
Moreover, Occupy Memphis has provided a crucial launchpad for several grassroots efforts and organizations, including H.O.P.E. (Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality) and the Memphis Bus Riders Union. And many of the women currently organizing with the Women’s Action Coalition of the Mid-South (WACoM) met and began working with one another as a result of the networking space provided by the encampment.
Although there is no longer a tent city on Civic Center Plaza, Occupy Memphis is not over. The spirit of the movement that brought so many together to redefine the idea of public space on a chilly night in October almost a year ago is still alive and well. The shared experiences and relationships forged by the downtown encampment will have a lasting effect on the culture of organizing in Memphis, Tennessee, a city fraught with challenges spanning a history of internalized and externalized oppression. The people who were awakened by police and city officials at 3:30 a.m. on Aug 10, 2012, are a family, thrown from their home. They struggled together through hard times, bitter cold, and severe storms that sometimes tossed tents across the Plaza, confronting the material conditions of poverty in the “poorest city” in the U.S., trying to answer questions that the city and county have refused to confront, and learning to live with one another, attempting to create the kind of society that many of us, the 99%, believe is possible. The end of the camp does not mean the end of OM. Ideas are bulletproof. Memphis knows that. OM is here to stay, in one way or another.
Update, 1pm Eastern:See here for more information about Pussy Riot and today's Global Day of Action in support of them. Demonstrations are happening in cities across dozens of countries, including other U.S. cities. Free Pussy Riot Chicago will be marching at 4:30 Central time:
Join us this Friday in the Loop to call upon the city of Chicago, Moscow's sister city, to support three members of Russian feminist art collective Pussy Riot, jailed since a February anti-Putin "punk rock prayer" performed in Moscow's Christ the Savior Church. Since their protest against the Russian government and the Kremlin's exploitation of the Orthodox religion in the name of corporatism, three members of Pussy Riot (two of whom have young children), Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, have been held in subhuman conditions, facing up to seven years in prison on politically-motivated charges of "hooliganism." [They were sentenced to two.] On August 17th, 2012, supporters in Chicago and dozens of other cities worldwide are rallying for their freedom.
This morning, NYPD arrested protesters at the Russian consulate in NYC for wearing masks in solidarity with Pussy Riot, the arrested Russian feminist punk band who were just found guilty of "hooliganism" and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. They are now marching around Manhattan. Join them, or follow live on Twitter: #PussyRiotNYC
I was there. When it came down to it we decided that I would not be arrested. One of the reasons for that was so I could upload and distribute this video I took within minutes of us entering. This is before the march and media made it up here. In the video you will see Obama's staffers push us when we tried to move chairs so we could sit in the middle of the office. I got pushed which made me drop my phone and then a man brandished a chair against me.
8/17, 11:30am: Livestream replaced with video clip recorded last night. Six of the seven people, including veterans, were arrested during the nonviolent sit-in. The office was shut down for the night.
11pm Eastern: Scott Olsen and members of Iraq Veterans Against War are currently sitting in an Obama Campaign Headquarters in Oakland demanding Pfc. Manning's release. Dozens of supprters are also rallying outside; some police are on the scene.
Cascadians Against War have been organizing a big action that will occur this Thursday, August 16th from 10am to 4pm at an Army Recruiting Station near you. Then at 4:30pm everyone will meet up at the Lloyd Center Recruiting Station for the announcement of a big surprise. Here’s the details:
In a coordinated West Coast action demanding the immediate release of PFC Manning, we will once again be shutting down 5 military recruiting locations throughout Portland, Beaverton and Gresham. We’re also demanding an end to the drone wars. Our drones have killed 4,371 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia alone. This DOES NOT include Iraq & Afghanistan…
We’re asking supporters to go to any of the 5 Army recruitment locations to help us shut them down again! Show your support for PFC Manning and demand an END TO THE DRONE WARS! Your location choices are as follows:
Gresham at 830 NW Eastman Parkway
Beaverton at 2660 SW Cedar Hills Blvd
Eastport Plaza at 4200 SE 82nd Ave Ste 1100
Lloyd Center at 1317 NE Broadway
Battalion Headquarters at 6130 NE 78th Ct
We’ll be shutting down at least these locations from 10am-4pm. Then we’ll meet up at the Lloyd Center recruiting location at 4:30pm and go on a short march to watch and support the surprise!
Every summer Chicago's lakefront is assaulted with a public relations spectacle for the military industrial complex known as the Air and Water Show. While the "Show" brings the sounds of war to Chicago each August, it leaves out one crucial detail: death. That changes this year with an act of symbolism from Occupy Chicago.
The Occupy Chicago Direct Action Committee has put together a piece of political theater to highlight the real purpose of these war machines. There is just one missing ingredient though, YOU.
Meet up at The Horse (Congress and Michigan) on Thursday August 16th to debrief and get ready for Saturdays action. We are asking that all those interested in participating on Saturday join us for this training.
Meetup at the foot of the North Ave. bridge on the WEST side - as early as possible Saturday morning - so we can stake out ground as close as possible to the bridge. (There will also be a contingent as usual staking out the EAST (beach) side. ;-)