Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
Published: Saturday 11 May 2013
When people stand up against the destructive extraction industries of big energy interests, we gain community support and sometimes we win.

Fearlessness Grows From the Grass Roots

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As more people see that the government represents Wall Street and concentrated wealth, 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 that poisons our land, water and air while risking climate change, announced “Fearless Summer.”  They announced a week of actions from June 24 to 29 to begin “an epic summer of actions.” The rising tide of courage in the environmental justice movement is one we also see growing in many communities on many issues.

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 a court upheld their right to ban fracking. This happened because people stood up for their communities.

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 a mocking-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. There are lots of lessons for all of us in this experience.

Another group that has awakened in the last year has been 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, the Ogallala aquifer and the Mni Wiconi water line for the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.

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 school 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. We believe college education should be free for all.

Low wage workers, almost always without a union, are protesting across the country. Most recently they protested in DetroitSt. Louis and ChicagoWal-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, (full-time workers paid under $24,000 annually) and that President Obama could change that with a stroke of a pen. He talks about raising wages, but so far he is only talk.

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.  In 2011, The United Farm Workers, after a 200-mile, 13-day march through California, won state legislation which protects workers from employer intimidation during union votes. 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, e.g. not being harassed for being in public and not being provided lawyers who do not push them to plea bargain. They advocate for housing when they see thousands of vacant homes around them, and they advocate 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 that America is in revolt.  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 Los Angeles TimesBaltimore 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.

What we are reporting in this weekly review is something we have seen in previous weeks, indeed for the last several years, even before Occupy began.  A popular resistance is developing throughout the nation; and the more the government fails to listen, the more the media fails to report it, the bigger the explosion of resistance will be.  We’ve been working with some of the best resistance activists in the nation and will soon be announcing a new project to help bring the popular resistance to a new level.  The success of this effort depends on you getting involved.  Sign up now, so you are there to help make transformation from a money-centered oligarchy to a people centered democracy and an economy that works for all of us a reality.

This article is based on the newsletter of OccupyWashingtonDC/October2011. You can see the newsletters and sign up for them here.

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host Clearing the FOG  on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It's Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.



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ABOUT Kevin Zeese

 

Kevin Zeese is an attorney who has been a political activist since graduating from George Washington Law School in 1980.  He works on peace, economic justice, criminal law reform and reviving American democracy. His twitter is @KBZeese.  Zeese has used his law degree to work to end the war on drugs, stop the use of the military and National Guard in drug enforcement and allow the medical use of marijuana. He has filed bar complaints against lawyers in the Bush and Obama administrations who used their legal degrees to justify torture, as well as against Justice Clarence Thomas for conflicts of interests. He has also filed complaints against attorneys at Hunton and Williams who worked with the Chamber of Commerce and HB Gary Federal to target him for his work criticizing the Chamber. Zeese serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network.  Zeese filed a complaint with the Justice Department against Rupert Murdoch and News Corp for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as well as with DOJ against Karl Rove’s American Crossroads for violating the non-profit tax laws and the federal election laws.

ABOUT Margaret Flowers

Margaret Flowers, M.D. is a pediatrician and mother of 3 teens from Baltimore, MD. Margaret left medical practice in 2007 to advocate full-time for single payer health care. She served as Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program and is on the board of Healthcare-Now. She is co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us. She has organized and participated in protests for health care, peace and economic justice which have included arrests for nonviolent resistance.

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4 comments on "Fearlessness Grows From the Grass Roots"

Leddy Smith

May 13, 2013 12:03pm

All this sounds wonderful, but until the populace decides to vote out these politicians who are strongly supported financially by various agencies who are creating the problems, nothing will change. The activist themselves represent a very small fraction of the general population. The greater population at large does not understand the real facts of these contentous issues. They do not read the newspapers and get most of their news from other uninformed friends and associates who are not factually astute, or from the truth in reporting network called Fox News. Do not plan to see any major turn-arounds in any of these issues anytime soon. This will only change at the ballot box and the majority of Americans don't vote, and when they do, it is not on the issue, but a beauty contest or on empty promises.

Torvus

May 11, 2013 1:19pm

I love it - the worms are turning *at last*, though it may be too late for their safety. It can be difficult to stand up if, when you are sitting down peacefully at a demo, you are sprayed in the face by a pepper-gas-holding policeman. It can be difficult if, when standing and protesting, you are bludgeoned by police. It can be difficult to fight back when the Courts are against you, maybe because of sloppy law/evidence, and you are put away. Some bright compassionate person should, I think, make a list for internet viewing of all the stupid reasons people in the US have been and are being arrested or prevented from doing their thing for these past, say, ten years. You want to drink raw milk? Not allowed. You don't want to be vaccinated or your children vaccinated? Retribution. Fall asleep in the classroom because of your illness? Get hit by an authority figure. You are 92-years old and suffer from cancer so require incontinence pads? The TSA idiots will make an intrusive body search and deny you those pads for the duration of your flight. You take a photo of a slaughterhouse from the road, or a police assault on a citizen? You are doomed. You grow organic vegetables in your own front garden? Verboten: but the White House has an organic vegetable garden. We now have the United States of Asses, the President of which has given Monsanto free reign - a corporation now called a 'person' - but its lovely ordinary citizens (also persons) are tied in knots. Should we now call them MERE citizens as opposed to favoured persons?

Jeffrey Hill

May 11, 2013 12:10pm

QUESTION Authority!

Never Blindly Obey!

MountainMan23

May 11, 2013 10:26am

Stand up! Fight back!