Every week we are inspired by the many people throughout the country who are doing excellent work to challenge the power structure and put forward a new path for the country. The popular resistance to plutocracy, concentrated wealth, and corporatism is decentralized, creative, and growing.
One growing series of protests has been the “Moral Monday” demonstrations in North Carolina. They do not have “one demand,” but rather are challenging the systemic corruption, undermining of democracy and misdirection of a state government that puts human needs second to corporate profits—which they have dubbed “Robin Hood in Reverse.” Recently, 49 of 200 protesters inside the capitol were arrested singing, chanting, and echoing many of the same concerns that demonstrators have for the past three Mondays. Among those arrested was an 83-year-old retired minister, Vernon Tyson, who was merely a spectator, but he gave a great interview, cheering on the protests after his release. A group of historians were among also those arrested who put these protests in the context of U.S. history.
Another courageous protest involved seven undocumented immigrants at the Broadview Detention Center—where immigrants are being incarcerated—when they blocked the doors to the detention facility, linking arms together using pipes, chains, and locks. The protest illustrated the record-high deportations under President Obama and the lack of leadership from Illinois representatives to call for a suspension of deportations.
There was a recent victory for Seattle teachers and students that resulted from their citywide protests against standardized testing. The school district announced that testing in high schools would not occur next year. The teachers said they would keep protesting until the tests were banned from lower grades as well.
The teachers union has developed a great organizing strategy that unites teachers with students, parents and communities. This battle is one of many across the country to stop the thinly veiled corporatization of education.
In another protest, the students at Free Cooper Union continued to occupy the office of the president. Painting the walls black until he agrees to step down, while highlighting his $750,000 annual salary, the students were protesting a plan to charge tuition at the university—this plan will not affect these students, but future students who attend Cooper Union.
There was a very creative protest in New York City against the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico, who has made his billions with the help of a government that allowed him a monopoly on phone service, resulting in Slim gouging the public. Now he gives a small percentage of that wealth back in philanthropy and people applaud him. But the protesters were very effective, laughing out loud whenever he spoke. They responded when someone asked “Why is everyone laughing?” with “Because Slim’s philanthropy is a joke.”
In contrast to the world’s wealthiest, was the Poor People’s Campaign, which marched from Baltimore to Washington, DC, ending at Freedom Plaza. The march occurred on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign and raised issues of poverty, police violence, an unfair economy and non-responsive government. Another march was announced in Pennsylvania—traveling from Philadelphia to Harrisburg—to stop spending on prison construction and instead invest in building communities. Also, from Philadelphia the Operation Green Jobs March from Philadelphia to Washington, DC was organized by the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign.
A campaign that is growing every week is the fast food worker strikes. The largest fast food walkout was held in Detroit—even the scabs walked out—and the strikes have spread to their fifth city, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
U.S. empire and imperialism continue to incite protests. Obama’s Asia Pivot—moving 60 percent of the U.S. Navy to the Asian Pacific—is causing a lot of distress. On Jeju Island, people are fighting for their survival against a massive Navy base. (Jeju is the “Peace Island” that was harshly abused during the U.S. occupation of South Korea after World War II before the Korean War). South Koreans, who regularly protest against the U.S. military, are protesting the U.S. war games that are practicing dropping nuclear bombs on North Korea and invading it.
Protests are mounting in the United States against the abusive Guantanamo Bay prison where more than 100 of the 166 prisoners there are participating in a hunger strike and 2 dozen are being brutally force fed. These prisoners have been held without trial for over 10 years, and, even though 88 have been approved to leave, they remain. The Green Shadow Cabinet came out with a statement describing how Obama could close the prison (and why Congress is not an excuse) and what you can do on the 100th day of the hunger strike.
Diane Wilson, a shrimper from the Gulf Coast who works with CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace, is on her 15th day of an open-ended solidarity hunger strike in Washington, DC. (S. Brian Wilson is joining Diane in her hunger strike).
Another protest related to U.S. empire occurred in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where Transform Now Plowshares activists protested nuclear weapons by cutting through four chain-link fences and spray-painting biblical messages of nonviolence on a building that warehouses an estimated 400 tons of highly enriched uranium, the radioactive material used to fuel nuclear weaponry. This week an 83-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and two other activists were found guilty of damaging government property. As the jury left the courtroom the people in the courtroom sang “Love, love, love, love. People, we are made for love.” Sentencing is several months away and they face a potential 30 years in prison.
Environmental protests are boiling up throughout the United States. When President Obama came to New York for a fundraiser (where he raised $3 million), protesters greeted him with signs calling for him to “End the War on Mother Earth” and oppose the KXL pipeline.
Protesters from the Appalachian Mountains came to the EPA in Washington, DC to protest polluted water caused by Mountaintop removal for coal. The protesters displayed the dirty, opaque water in jars in front of the EPA. And Climate Justice activists from blocked a freighter delivering coal in Boston with two men on a lobster boat on May 15. An Occupy group in Berkeley, Occupy the Farm, took over University of California land to farm for the community locally.
Many are thinking about strategies to make the movement more effective. For example, Gar Alperovitz, a political economist who has been writing about alternatives to big finance capitalism in the United States and his new book focused on strategy, What then Must We Do, is now available.
This article is based on a weekly newsletter for October2011/Occupy Washington, DC. Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC.
Photo 1: Fast Food Strike. Photo 2: Green Jobs. Photo 3: Moral Mondays. Photo 4: Occupying the Farm. Photo 5: Code Pink. Photo 6: Free Cooper Union.