Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Augusta Maine Responds to Eviction Threat by Occupying Governor's House

Occupy Augusta Maine received an ultimatum similar to those being issued by spokesmen for the 1% to Occupy encampments around the U.S.: apply for a day permit by Mon 11/28, or be evicted from Capitol Park. This was their response: 75 or so activists occupied the Governor's residence, Blaine House, which is across the street from the encampment in Capital Park. (Gov. LePage was believed to be elsewhere, possibly Florida or Jamaica where he has other homes.)

A tent was pitched on the governor's lawn next to a snowman that held a sign reading "Maine's Labor History Mural Lives in Occupy Augusta."

Nine people chose to commit civil disobedience for refusing to leave the grounds. They were arrested and it is believed they were charged with criminal trespassing, and failure to disperse.

Meanwhile, a young couple in the neighborhood had a burglary to report, but could not find any police interested in taking their report of a house break-in and stolen laptop. Officers were observed from six jurisdictions: Maine State Police, Augusta City Police, Capitol Police, Hallowell City Police, Kennebec County Sheriffs, and -- most dreaded by Mainers -- Game Wardens.

I asked one of them what the game wardens had to do with what was going on, and he said, "I've got two of my guys in there" as he rushed through the gate.

Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this video.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Re-teach Thanksgiving. Do It For the 99%

Ella Sekatau, Naragansett tribal historian: "The truth is the truth is the truth. And it's just waiting to be discovered." From Language of America: An Indian Story
If you've never had the experience of re-teaching Thanksgiving and its chummy feast between settlers and natives, you might give it a try. It can take a form as simple as that of a five year-old who raised her hand during a Columbus Day presentation to say, “My grammy says that Columbus was a really bad man.” Or it could be based on a native text like Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, or the hair-raising first chapter of Zinn's A People's History of the United States. For the multimedia crowd, consider a documentary like Language of America: An Indian Story or We're Still Here. Whichever tools you choose, and especially if you have a young audience, you could find the experience exhilarating

It would be especially fitting this year when the stakes are so high, what with the future of human life on the planet up for grabs. Starting in Kindergarten, most USians are exposed to a feel-good version of encounter between Wampanog people and European settlers who arrived by boat to begin the most extensive land grab in history. According to my sources, i.e. the students, teachers return to this narrative every November ad nauseum, right up through 5th or 8th or 11th grade, where the glorious history of U.S. domination of the hemisphere is examined in even more warped detail.

Sure, the Native Americans did help Europeans learn to feed themselves – and were rewarded by being robbed, murdered, pressed into slavery, and run off their land. A long string of ugly encounters between, on the one hand, cultures marked by consensus, egalitarian practices, and sharing, and on the other, a culture marked by greed, hierarchies, and negotiating in bad faith.
Jessie Littledoe Baird, Wampanog language reclamation worker. From Language of America: An Indian Story
Speaking for non-white citizens of the state that displaced 500 indigenous nations, Malcolm X famously observed, “We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us!” In 5th grade my son gave a stellar rendition of brother Malcolm's speech for book character day. The blue-haired ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution did not like the righteously-angry-Black-man character; they gave first prize to Pippi Longstocking. This infuriated my son's teacher, but I wasn't mad, because it was far more educational for a white kid to experience discrimination than it would have been to have won the contest.
I'm flying right now over the lands we stole from people who chose their leaders based on who was, not just the best hunter, but the most generous provider; people who used consensus among women to select the wisest women, who in turn selected the leaders – and, if necessary, removed them. When I look down from my carbon-belching ride to grandmother's house I see roads covering up arable land, and the grid-like pattern that private ownership generates as a means of control. That ownership of commons – potable water, wild food, oxygen – was nonsensical to Native American tribes suggests the wisdom of grandmothers, a group less concerned with status among individuals than with survival by the group as a whole.
I especially like this video of Marama, a Maori woman who points out to Occupy Aukland and elsewhere the need for "remembering the indigenous people, here and around the world, who have been opposing these systems forever."

In the same vein, check out this spirited exchange of comments on a recent Mondoweiss post The problem with ‘occupation’ in the occupy movement.

A lively discussion could ensue at your family table this holiday: about why Occupy Everywhere could and should be a path back to the wisdom of sustainable cultures on the pre-occupation Earth; about why Palestine is colonially occupied, and what your largely invisible role in that is; about why the financial disenfranchisement of the offspring of privileged white colonizers could provide a tremendous step forward in our making common cause with all people of the the planet; about why it's so difficult under patriarchy to hold a space for voices that need to be heard to be heard.

It's all related, and leads me to the delight of working with the next generation. Onward, children! who understand as the indigenous grandmothers always did that Earth is the one and only home of the 99%. I am thankful for you.

Video of Pres. Obama being mic checked at a high school in NH this week. "Mr. President - Over 4,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested while banksters continue to destroy the economy with impunity. You must stop the assault on our 1st Amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable. Banks got bailed out, we got sold out."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

99% to UC Davis Police: "You Can Go!"

I think this video strikingly demonstrates why education, and colleges in general, are dangerous to the 1%. You can practically watch the movement build before your eyes, employing disciplined nonviolent methods against brutal tactics of paramilitary policing. First you see the pepper spraying of students sitting calmly on the ground with linked arms, on their own campus. Standing onlookers react with disbelief, then a long chorus of strong, repeated "Shame!" Many opportunities to examine the faces of the police for signs of shame; little evidence of that, imo. Many looked wary.

Just about the time I thought the crowd might switch to, "The whole word is watching!" the cameraperson stepped back and showed a sea of other cameras recording events on Nov. 18, 2011.  at UC Davis. Then a mic check initiated a statement to the police that they were being given a moment to just go without anyone "bothering" them. And they started to back away! The chant then became a resounding "You can go!" that kept up until they, in fact, went. Cacophony of cheering, whoops and whistles, an announcement for the time and place of the next action (Monday! noon!) and then the roar of "Join our strike! Join our strike!" with delight in their own collective power tangible.

UC Davis is the ag college of the state system, traditionally, and I suppose it is only fitting that its current students assume a leading role in the movement of the 99% who understand that Earth is our home, and there is none other. Corporate control of the food supply, and the concomitant forced dependence on petroleum for our food supply, will become the central facts of 21st century survival. That's why in Maine small farmers operating under local food control ordinances are being harassed by the state, for selling unauthorized milk.

We are all Farmer Brown.

As each brutality is unleashed against students, farmers, veterans, little old ladies, legal observers, journalists, it both swells the ranks of activists in that segment, and reveals the ugly hand of your tax funded police state.

The demand to bring our war $$ home does not mean, bring weapons home from Iraq to attack people domestically. Our vast prison for-profit system and localized brutal policing have targeted segments of the population for years. Those are not social programs that we demand our hard earned tax dollars be used to fund.

Can taxpayers finally get outraged enough when they see that their city always seem to have enough money for pepper spray, tear gas, assault weapons, LRAD, and a gazillion hours of overtime -- but not enough for people's needs?

Needs like an authentic education, learning to collaborate nonviolently, perhaps to produce food for the future of the 99%...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Smashed Iraq and Afghanistan, Now It's Happening Here

It's what my Pink sister Janet said to me today. She was grieving Occupy Oakland, which she had described to me last month as "sweet" and with a family, community feel about it, now reduced to a muddy trampled bit of earth but filled up with the indomitable spirit of the people. She was kind of mad that people who hadn't seemed to care about the U.S. violently attacking countries far away from us were now all riled up. I told her it's human nature, or as my mom is wont to say, it all depends on whose ox is being gored. 

Hell hath no fury like a media worker whose equipment has been wantonly destroyed.

Check out Occupy Oakland's answer to police brutality, where they pledge as a community to SURVIVE: "Did you think I'd crumble? Did you think I'd lay down and die?"

Most hopeful news item of the day? Tie between Karl Rove being disrupted by Occupy Baltimore, or this one about the retired police captain who knows a show of unnecessary force and bad policing when he sees it. With guys like him joining the 99% every day, this thing is far from peaking.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy With the Power of Nonviolent Crowds

This is the power of the people. Peaceful occupation + voices that are awake and aware. No wonder the authorities doing the bidding of the wealthy elites are cracking down on the perceived threat; they know that once the people stop supporting a government, it falls.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It Is the 1% Who Should Be Ashamed of Poverty

Lessening or even losing conditioned shame about poverty is one of the most significant developments of the occupy movement. The voices of both the young woman Cat, who is homeless, and Kimberly, whose job is to help people find non-existent jobs, are eloquent around this point in this video I made at Occupy Bangor yesterday.

On Facebook yesterday someone shared this fact from the website Feeding America: 4.8 percent of all U.S. households (5.6 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times. 

The post drew these comments: "I was embarressed at this, but I had to utilize a food pantry twice this year."
"don't be embarassed be proud that you took the courage to ask for help when you needed it. You've taken an important step amongst many to become true to your SELF!!!"
 Where is the wealth of our nation going? What do our taxes actually fund?

New flash: Cost to House a Captive at Guantanamo Bay is $800,000. McClatchy's Carol Rosenberg in, among other papers, Stars and Stripes:
The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on Earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning. Congress, charged now with cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget by Christmas, provided $139 million to operate the center last year, and has made every effort to keep it open - even as a former deputy commander of the detention center calls it "expensive" and ‘inefficient.’
Then, in the CalTV video below, we see yet more tax-funded public servants. These are Berkeley police officers beating up citizens engaged in nonviolent protests against the rising cost of tuition at Univ. of California, Berkeley. Who pays their salaries? Who paid for the pepper spray and rubber bullets that were used that day but that we don't see in this particular video? Who will pay for the lawsuits by people like Scott Olsen who were injured by the brutality of police in the neighboring town of Oakland recently?

The 99% are coming together to figure out how to stop paying for this shit.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Occupiers Aren't Buying False Dichtomy Anymore

Occupy Augusta received some terrific mainstream news coverage yesterday from WGME 13 as about 100 folks joined the hardy souls of the tent occupation -- which has doubled in size since I was there two weeks ago -- to march, chant, drum, and take a little field trip to the home of the biggest corporate lobbyist in Maine, Severin Beliveau.

The founding partner of the law firm Preti Flaherty Beliveau Pachios did not appear to be at home. Maybe he was schmoozing with some lawmakers; Severin was a major influence in the administration of (Democrat) Gov. Baldacci, and contributed heavily to the third party candidate campaign that split the Maine vote to put the current corporate lackey (Republican) Gov. LePage in office.

The people I spoke to in Augusta yesterday were clear on the absence of any meaningful distinction between the two corporate-controlled parties, and on the acute lack of people's voices in government at the local, state, or national level. And if the people don't stick up for the Earth, who will?

Meanwhile, to the east of us Occupy Bangor got some kudos from resident author Stephen King, and to the south of us the Occupy Maine folks in Portland received good news that there was no truth to rumors that the police were planning to evict them.

And this from Boston from the blog Revolutionary Frontlines:
A flotilla with as many as a dozen activists — including Code Pink’s Kit Kittredge- was bound to Gaza bearing humanitarian aide on November 4th. The Israeli military boarded seized the ship, and took all of the activists into custody.

Occupy Boston then marched on the Israeli Consulate in solidarity

Notice how -- no matter who is in the White House or which party has a majority in Congress -- that we, the taxpayers, still send Israel $3 billion a year in mostly weapons? That's why corporate media like the Washington Post have to work overtime to keep us believing bullshit:
What can be said at this point is that, after three years of pitched battles between Obama and congressional Republicans, the country is heading toward a high-stakes contest. Election 2012 will be a contest not just between two candidates but also between two starkly different views of the role of government that underscore the enormous differences between Republicans and Democrats.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'Bread! Freedom! Social justice!' Are Cries Heard 'Round the World

source: The Atlantic's translation of Egyptian protester's manual -- click to read it online.

Democracy Now! reported: "...for inciting violence...Alaa Abdel Fattah, considered one of Egypt's most influential bloggers, has been ordered to spend at least 15 days behind bars." Last winter DN! interviewed Fattah and he stated:

"We are continuing the pressure because we want what happens next to be power to the people and to be through a democratic Egypt that represents all of its people. 
We should also remember that the initial slogans were not just 'Topple the regime' but were also [in Arabic],
'Bread! Freedom! Social justice!'"
Fattah made those remarks two weeks into the Egyptian uprising, last February. Note how the many uprisings now underway in the U.S. and elsewhere express those very same values.

Palestinian people struggling under a half century plus of occupation by Israel can use the very same slogan. The open air prison of Gaza starves while being bombed, its inmates playing word games on Twitter to keep up morale while awake overnight monitoring drones moaning overhead, and bracing for explosions below.

On October 31st the rest of the world belonging to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to recognize Palestine as a member, with Zionist leaders of Israel, the U.S. and Germany in opposition, and the U.K. shamefully abstaining. Phyllis Bennis of IPS wrote that the UNESCO vote will:
...trigger an immediate cut-off of U.S. dues to the UN’s cultural, education and science organization, as well as ending U.S. dues payments to (and perhaps thus voting rights in) several other important UN agencies — possibly including the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors nuclear production around the world.
This loss of influence mirrors the degraded role of the U.S. as a champion of democratic process and human rights in the 21st century (or of nuclear non-proliferation, for that matter). Our own white, formerly middle class kids are waking up to police violence against unarmed, nonviolent protesters in cities all over the country, while our own non-white communities say, "So what else is new?"
 The spin machine that has kept white folks entertained in the dark is winding down in the face of brutal realities. 
Source: Guardian | Occupy Oakland protesters carry Scott Olsen away after he was hit in the head on Tuesday night. Photograph: Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images (reprinted in the Guardian)
A nation that has kept a nonviolent whistleblower who exposed war crimes incarcerated without a trial for over 500 days has little to teach the rest of the world about due process or habeus corpus, unless it be teaching by examples of what not to do. Bradley Manning will have his pre-trial hearing soon, and someone close to the case recently stated of Manning's mental ability to stand trial, “He is as sane and lucid as anyone can be."

If only the same could be said of our wounded, raging empire.
Protesters were roughly treated by police arresting them at a sit-down last April demanding an end to 300+ days of Manning's solitary confinement at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.