Category Archives: Activism

Quebec Movement for Peace disrupts a Speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights Leader”

Last week members of Quebec Movement for Peace disrupted a speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights leader” (at the last-minute ‘deputy’ foreign minister, Rob Oliphant, canceled his participation). With “Free Palestine” signs in hand, filmmaker Malcolm Guy and I took the stage to denounce Cotler’s anti-Palestinian positions and support for intervention in Venezuela and Iran. After we were ushered off the stage lawyer Dimitri Lascaris rose to interrogate the supposed human rights activist for refusing to criticize injustices inflicted upon Palestinians. Part of the way through Lascaris’ grilling a handful of us at the back of the room began chanting “Cotler, Cotler, you will see Palestine will be free”, as one can hear in this video viewed over 10,000 times.

The Electronic Intifada, Media Coop, Algemeiner and Canadian Jewish News (twice) reported on the intervention (CPAC was purportedly live streaming the event). Prominent anti-Palestinian activists such as Gerald Steinberg, Hillel Neuer, Avi Benlolo and Bernie Farber decried our challenge of their hero. Head of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG), Michael Levitt created the Twitter hashtag StandWithCotler and called on other MPs to support it, which was duly followed by his CIIG colleagues, including disgraceful NDP MP Randall Garrison. In the House of Commons CIIG Vice-Chair David Sweet asked the government to condemn our disruption of Cotler. The Conservative MP noted, “on Monday he was disrupted and berated during a speech at Concordia University in an attempt by protesters to shut him down.” (After 10 minutes we voluntarily left the room and Cotler spoke extensively.) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Oliphant, who was scheduled to speak alongside Cotler, expressed the government’s solidarity with the former Liberal party justice minister.

Cotler is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes “enemy” states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. In “Canadian apologist for Israeli war crimes nominated for Peace Prize” I detail Cotler’s long-standing devotion to Israeli violence and recent promotion of war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela. But, since that story was published in March more details have emerged about Cotler’s ethno-centrism and promotion of violence. In recent days Cotler has been widely quoted criticizing the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

According to an Israel National News story, Cotler supports relocating Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem. During “Keep Jerusalem” leader Chaim Silberstein’s visit to Canada last month, Cotler reportedly “expressed enthusiasm” for moving the Canadian embassy and “promised to help promote” the idea within the Liberal party.

In response to our action activist Ron Saba shared a photo of Cotler at last year’s Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. The explicitly racist JNF excludes the 20-25% of non-Jewish Israelis from its vast landholdings mostly stolen from Palestinians in 1948. In 2017 the Canada Revenue Agency initiated an (ongoing) audit of the JNF for supporting the Israeli military in contravention of Canadian charitable law.

For his part, Masud Sheikh responded to our action by uploading a video — apparently scrubbed from the Internet after previously reaching a Canadian audience — of the Nobel Peace Prize nominee advising Israel on planning a war. Just after Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese in the summer of 2006 Cotler spoke to a conference of top Israeli military officials on the importance of managing the message in modern war.

He did something similar after an earlier Israeli invasion of its northern neighbour. In an April article retired Guelph professor Michael Keefer wrote: “In the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in the course of which some 15,000 civilians were killed and several thousand Palestinians massacred in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Cotler participated in a 1984 Jerusalem conference on Hasbara: Israel’s Public Image. Alluding to two of the lesser PR disasters of the war—the IDF’s violation of the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon’s diplomatic immunity, and a Canadian Red Cross doctor’s allegations of Israeli atrocities—Cotler recommended, not that Israel change its behaviour, but rather that it ‘make Hasbara a priority’ and enhance its capacity to offer ‘an authoritative rebuttal’ to such stories.”

In that article Keefer points out that Antony Lerman, founding editor of Antisemitism World Report, called Cotler “one of the key figures” promoting the idea of a “new antisemitism”. Since the 1970s he’s been arguing that criticism of Israel is the “new antisemitism”.

In a remarkable 2002 essay titled “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness” Cotler lays out his thinking, suggesting a confrontation between the “secular religion” of human rights and Jewish “civil religion” of Zionism. He argues that criticizing Israeli human rights violations is “the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the ‘poisoner of the wells.’ In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the ‘new anti-Christ’ — as the ‘poisoner of the international wells’ encompassing all the ‘teaching of contempt’ for the ‘Jew among the Nations,’ this new antisemitism implies.”

Cotler further argues that antisemitism has retained its consistent essence as “an assault upon whatever is the core of Jewish self-definition at any moment in time—be it the Jewish religion at the time of classical antisemitism, or the State of Israel as the ‘civil religion’ of the Jewish people under this new anti-Jewishness.” So, because most Jews identify with Israel criticizing that country’s violence or dispossession of Palestinians is anti-Semitic.

Challenging Cotler is important. All high-profile anti-Palestinians should be asked tough questions and hopefully our intervention inspires others to take similar actions. But, it’s also about de-mystifying an individual who retains a progressive gloss. Last month NDP MP Hélène Laverdière and Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a press conference organized by Cotler calling on Canada to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and list the country’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. New NDP foreign critic Guy Caron participated in a subsequent event on Iran and NDP MP Murray Rankin and May regularly attend events led by Cotler. May and Rankin are also part of the Cotler-led Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights.

The Cotler ‘brand’ should be toxic on the Left. Politicians need to know that many Canadians — as Lascaris put it in his concluding statement to Cotler — consider him “a fraud when it comes to human rights.”

Global rebellion to Save Our Planet

“The greatest threat to the Earth is thinking someone else will save it.” The responsibility is ours; politicians and governments are complacent, dishonest and buried in the ideology of the past. Despite repeated warnings nothing substantial has been done and time is running out.  No one else is going to Save Our Planet; a global movement of civil disobedience is needed to force governments to take the radical action needed.

In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists (made up of 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists) issued the ‘World Scientist’ Warning to Humanity’. They stated that, “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” Their words fell on deaf ears. Decades of inaction and procrastination has allowed the crisis to escalate and escalate, leading to the point where we are now, the very edge of total catastrophe.

Given the enormous scale of the issue, many people feel overwhelmed, hopeless. Eco-anxiety, defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”, is on the rise in many countries triggering feelings of rage, grief, despair and shame. Some people are so worried they are taking the extreme decision not to have children until climate change is dealt with. ‘Birth Strike’, The Guardian reports, is ‘a [UK based global] voluntary organization for women and men who have decided not to have children in response to the coming “climate breakdown and civilization collapse.” … It is a “radical acknowledgment” of how the looming existential threat is already “altering the way we imagine our future”.’

The aim of BirthStrike is not to discourage people from having children, but to communicate the urgency of the environmental crisis. Many of its members are also involved with the groundbreaking movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), a UK-based socio-political group using non-violence resistance to create a sense of urgency about tackling the environmental crisis. XR chapters now exist in dozens of countries including the US, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Spain, South Africa and India.

Extinction Rebellion is calling for an ecological emergency to be declared by governments, the UK to lead the way and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 – ambitious certainly, but we need such targets, and for citizens assemblies to be established to devise a plan of action to tackle climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. They want to create ‘peaceful planet-wide mobilization of the scale of World War II’, only such a global response they say, ‘will give us a chance to avoid the worst case scenarios and restore a safe climate.’

Consistent with other major social movements such as the Suffragettes, the US Civil Rights movement and the Freedom Movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi, civil disobedience is at the heart of Extinction Rebellion’s methodology. In April this year the group mounted a major non-violent action in central London. Thousands of people occupied public spaces in the capital, closing bridges, causing disruption and staging a spectacle. ‘Dilemma actions’ were designed in which the authorities were faced with a choice – whether to allow the action to take place or not, to arrest and contain people or not. The demonstrations lasted for ten days and were part of an integrated global action with people in over 33 countries across six continents taking part.

In London more than 1,100 arrests were made as people peacefully asserted their right to demonstrate. The rebellion was substantial and historic. The result was widespread media coverage and a debate in the UK parliament, at the end of which a national ‘climate emergency’ was declared. A positive step, although we are yet to see what it actually means, and what policy action/s will follow.

Together with School Strike for Climate Change and other groups, XR is part of a worldwide movement the like of which has not been seen before; a diverse united group of environmental activists and concerned citizens, men women and children who care deeply about the environment, recognize that their governments are doing little or nothing to tackle the issues and that radical systemic change is urgently needed.

Engagement is one of the most positive ways to overcome eco-anxiety and a feeling of disempowerment; engage and discover there are huge numbers of people who feel the same, who are extremely worried, who don’t really know what to do, but are determined to do something. Engagement around shared issues builds strong bonds, creating solidarity and strengthening commitment.

At the end of the April action Extinction Rebellion said, “we will leave the physical locations but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world…in this age of misinformation, there is power in telling the truth.”

Simplicity of living

The environmental crisis is universal, existential and exponential and is made up of a number of interconnected issues: ecological collapse, extinction of species, deforestation, air, water and soil pollution and climate change. Manipulating existing systems and making small changes won’t solve the problems; radical systemic and social change is required and urgently. Governments are weak and compromised by their relationship to business and their obsession with the economy; they are deceitful and refuse to take the necessary actions to save the planet, so they must be forced to listen, and to act in accordance with the need, which is immense.

Unbridled, irresponsible consumerism must be brought to an end; sustainability and simplicity of living must now be the keynote of our lives. Individual and collective commitment is essential, commitment to live in an environmentally responsible way, to be aware of the environmental impact of everything we as individuals do – what we buy, what we eat, how we travel, how we use utilities etc., and commitment to participate and engage; to take part in protests and/or online activism, to pressurize politicians and corporations, and to support radical green movements in any way possible.

All governments, particularly those in western democracies need to be pushed to make the environment their number one priority. The environmental crisis is the greatest emergency of this or any other time; every area of policy making must now be designed to bring about the most positive environmental impact; short (five years), mid (10 years) and long term (25 years) plans, ambitious but with full commitment, attainable, need to be agreed and implemented, the voice of climate scientists and of environmental activists listened to and major public information programs set up.

The work of environmental salvage is not separate from the prevailing crisis of democracy and the need to fundamentally change the destructive, unjust socio-economic order. For ecological harmony to be reestablished and healing of the natural world to occur we need to radically change the systems and ways of life that are fueling the crisis, and inculcate new modes of living based on more humane values.

Consumerism and greed is the poison that is driving ecological collapse, and consumerism is the life-blood of the economic system; endless growth the aim of deluded governments – on a planet with finite resources. It is collective madness, and it must end. Politicians and corporate power, however, will not suddenly wake up to the scale of the emergency and act to bring about the required radical changes. Worldwide acts of coordinated civil disobedience by huge numbers of people, designed to bring about the maximum amount of disruption in a peaceful way are required. When people unite all things are possible; now is the time to come together to Save our Planet.

Denmark Peace and Justice Conference Connects Activism Against Poverty, Pollution and War

Most people in the West think of Denmark as a tolerant, peace-loving country, even—according to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—as a socialist country. Trump views this as a disease to be excised, and avoided in the US at all costs, while Sanders sees this as an ideal for America.

The truth is far from these tales. Denmark runs on a solidly capitalist economy, and it has been at war against all the countries the US has invaded since Iraq in 1990. Its troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq; and its planes bombed Syria not long ago. The various governments have cut back the social network of “free” education and healthcare to the bare bones in the last decade. The elderly, for instance, who cannot bathe themselves, must wait up to seven weeks before a social welfare assistant can come to wash them and clean house, and must do so in the few minutes strictly allotted. (See my series, ”Scandinavia on the Skids: The Failure of Social Democracy”.)

There are a few, quiet progressive or radical groupings in Denmark, no peace movement, but a burgeoning climate movement. Yet one alternative institution, Tvind, tries to influence people in Denmark, throughout Europe and in some “third world” countries to be activists and teachers of activism. Tvind started in 1970 (see sidebar below) and for the past five years has sponsored an international Peace and Justice Conference.

One of the unusual aspects of Tvind, at its schools, residences and conferences, is that no alcohol or any drugs are allowed. I was there four days and never did anyone, not even the 20-30 year-old majority, speak of any need for these normal crutches, and they danced after all the work until after midnight stone sober. Maybe they got their energy from a sense of fulfilling togetherness and the delicious vegetarian-ecological food they prepared for two dozen students and another 150 people, who came to the conference from Denmark and a dozen more European countries east and west, a handful from India, Africa and Latin America.

This year’s conference took place in mid-May for three days. The kick-off speech dealt with “the Russian ‘peace threat’”, other global perspectives, and how to resist; how to bring the deadly and polluting institution of militarism and its wars into the consciousness and the agenda of those opposing climate change. Previous conference themes had dealt with how to stop wars not refugees; to transform from militarism to conflict resolution and peace; and no justice no peace.

”A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflict constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights; gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the diversity of the earth. Such learning cannot be achieved without intentional sustained and systematic education for peace,” read the invitation.

This year’s program included over 30 workshops, half-a-dozen key speeches, music, a theater piece, artwork, poems, sports and networking. Workshop topics included: fighting with the poor; humanity in action in India; youth in climate action with refugees in Europe; movements for change in the USA; the difference between what the US government tells us about why it wages war and what the real reasons are; war and ecocide; songs for peace; pedagogy of liberation; what is going on in Venezuela; perspectives for our future, and how to take part of creating one.

Making music together with Italian musician Paolo Rossetti

Hans Blix-Noam Chomsky did not attend but Blix was interviewed for the conference, and a Democracy for Now interview with Chomsky was viewed. Blix was the UN’s chief investigator sent to Iraq in 2002-3 to find out if the government had “weapons of mass destruction,” the excuse that President George Bush used to invade it. In 2004, Blix stated that, “there were about 700 inspections, and in no case did we find weapons of mass destruction.” Nevertheless, “let’s kick ass” Bush set up the “coalition of the willing” to destroy much of Iraq and murder over one million people. The Danish government declared war on Iraq to please the US—the only country to actually declare war. While Blix is a man of the Swedish Establishment, a strong supporter of capitalism, EU and nuclear energy, and Chomsky is a rebel anarchist, the two agreed that the greatest threats and challenges to humanity are: climate change and the growing possibility of a nuclear war. Blix said that the former is slow suicide; the latter is quick suicide. The doomsday clock stands at two minutes to midnight, the first time since it did during the Cuba missile crisis, in 1962.

Trine Wendelboe is a Dane who moved to Dowagiac, Michigan 13 years ago. She directs research and development at the One World Center connected to Tvind. This small town is headquarters for the Pokagon band of Potawatomi Indians. The center aims to take action against worldwide poverty and climate change.  Wendelboe spoke of the growing poverty and anxiety overwhelming Americans, and about some of the movements resisting the disasters people confront.

The closing workshop and last speech were held by the Dutch transformation coach and Camino Real guide Gert-Jan van Hoon. Along with young DNS teachers Nadezda and Justas they asked how participants can stick together, how do they not get “blown away”, in order to heal the soul and Mother Earth.

Gert and open future workshop at Tvind’s Peace and Justice conference

I spoke with a dozen participants about what the conference had meant to them. Some were DNS students, a few were in the 10-month international development volunteer program, and some had only attended the conference. Here are comments regarding what they got out of it and how they might “not get blown away”.

Annie Wood, an English student in the DNS program, immediately took up planning her first action following the conference—a student strike in the nearby city of Holstebro. This would be part of the Friday For Future movement actions, which began in March with about 1.6 million strikers at 2000 locations on all continents

She had been inspired by her studies at Tvind and by the conference to write a poem, “The Choice”, which she read to the participants. Here are excerpts:

Here’s my first rhyme for the world to hear
written from inspiration about something I hold dear.
To me it makes clear sense and I think it should to you too,
because right now I’m heartbroken, this has got me feeling blue.

We are killing our home, this great big planet earth.
We are plundering, draining and polluting it for everything its worth.
Yes you’ve heard this story before, maybe you’re bored with the same old lines
but if you don’t help make it better, this story will tell the end of our times…

Maybe we don’t know what is right or what we want,
but we should know by now it’s not war but it is provident.
It’s not hate, destruction or poverty.
It is love, peace, justice what brings a happy life to me.

A Danish youth, Lars, heard of Tvind from The Establishment’s prejudiced view that its founders and teachers are authoritarian “brainwashers”. “Strange”, he surmises in typical Danish irony, “I never knew that brainwashing actually could open up hearts as it has done these days. We clearly felt a warm welcome to share our ‘stories’, as they say in America. We did that but most importantly we engaged in enthusiastic discussions one-to-one and in groups what it is that we want and need to do to save this world, to make it better than it is.”

Maxsim, a 22-year old Lithuanian, said, “We are all impressed with one another in that each of us has so much to share that is useful and positive.”

Maxsim had been deluged with a hateful view of Russia so pervasive in his country. But at the conference he heard a different picture of Russia today, one that indicates neither its people nor its leaders wish nor are acting to make war but rather are acting to protect their sovereignty and defend themselves against an escalating war threat from the US/NATO.

Mariana is a college student from Portugal studying management. She won a free week-long trip to Tvind to help prepare the conference. “These days have shown me that I am not content with becoming a manager for capitalism. I have to find something else for my future, some kind of education that can lead to a job that people actually need. I don’t know what but it shall come.”

Jette, a retired nurse and amateur illustrator, felt it was “lovely to see that people actually looked at one another and smiled or spoke a few words together as they passed by, instead of what we are used to here that one looks away from one another when passing by. And then such a pleasure to see how effective everyone is in doing their tasks while also so willing to play.”

Yusef is a 22-year old Kurdish refugee from Syria who looks ten years older. His parents fled the war-torn land first and made it to Denmark. Yosef was homeless for a time, hungry, on the run. He came to Denmark five years ago, and now lives with his parents.

One summer three years ago, Yusef wanted to do something useful, to participate in a summer camp. A camp at Tvind was among the choices his social worker showed him, something unusual for government paid workers to do.

Yusef said that he, “fell in love with the place and I’ve come here three years in a row now—to the camp and to this conference. I’ve learned a lot especially at this one. As a teenager, I had joined some demonstrations against Assad. I thought it was cool, you know. But I saw that the opposition was brutal too, and some of them were/are being supported by the US. One of the issues that we Kurds had was that we couldn’t automatically get government work when we graduated from universities with degrees, say, in medicine but Arabs could. Otherwise, we also had free education and health care. Shortly after demonstrations began in 2011, Assad agreed to change the rules so we could get government paid work. I realized after a while and since being here, that we were, and are being used and misused by the Americans and all the media hysteria. I now regret that I took part in demonstrations. Assad is not nearly as bad as he is painted to be.”

Vladimir is a 19-year old Russian, offspring of South Korean parents, living in the Czech Republic where he saw an announcement about this conference. He and I worked together in the kitchen one morning, two persons from two entirely different worlds and one four times the age of the other.

Vladimir is shy and not much for words but he opened a bit in our talk. “It is new for me to see people embrace one another and to work together. People here are not thinking so much about themselves. They are not selfish but thinking about the environment, about humanity and the planet.

“I’ve decided to join the ten-month traveling-learning-teaching program. I’ll be back to prepare for the African program, to open new horizons.”

*****

Sidebar: About Tvind

Tvind started (1970) near Ulfborg village (2000 pop.) on Denmark’s west coast by the North Sea. A small group of young teachers settled there to live collectively and with a shared economy. They sought to become pioneers in social development, education and with sustainable environmental projects. Today, there are hundreds of members in the “Teacher’s Group” in several countries.

The first task was to build living quarters, mainly from prefabricated wooden buildings. They dug foundations and made water and sewage systems. They bought and repaired ten buses, which would be used to travel to other countries to learn and teach.

The “Teacher’s Group” developed an educational system based on the concept of a rural collective and a travelling school. They expanded internationally becoming a global people’s corporation.

On September 1, 1972, 100 youth—ten young teachers and 90 students—created a four-year training program to become teachers in primary and secondary schools. This program is called the Necessary Teaching Training College (DNS in Danish letters).

DNS was started from a “necessity to train another kind of teachers to bring more relevant knowledge, mobilization and life to children.”

The times were a-changing but the Establishment and its schools were not. There were pressing issues and contradictions, such as the growing inequality between rich and poor, which were not on the agenda of society’s schools.

DNS became an international program. Today most students at Tvind are from many European countries. There are few from Denmark since the state has refused to support studies at Tvind financially following allegations of tax evasion and misuse of funds by former leaders—a matter still pending. Clearly Tvind/DNS are as controversial today as they were half-a-century ago.

In 1996, Tvind started an international network “Humana People to People”. Humana assists people to lift themselves out of poverty. During a ten-month program, international volunteers learn and work with poor people to learn new skills to farm organically, using windmill energy, assuring clean water, building solar water pump and solar light systems, producing jatropha seed oil for biodiesel energy and animal feed, building homes, and establishing mini-loans for self-employment especially for women. Another aspect is planting tens of millions of trees.

Humana programs exist in the Caribbean, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Zambia. One form of financing these activities is the UFF—development aid from people to people—which collects used clothing that is sold to support Humana projects.

With a DNS bachelor monograph graduates (now over 1000) can become teachers at some schools in a few countries; take jobs with UN aid programs; work with the poor in many countries. Their notion is that the battle for the future of humanity is, “the fight of the poor against the three sisters of capitalism: free trade, free enterprise, freedom of endless profiteering.”

Tvind in Ulfborg also has a care center for people with special needs, a day school, and a school for youth with special needs and others who seek an alternative education—all supported by the local municipality. Students, other than those in the day school, live on campus. The DNS students also live there. There is a second school in Denmark, One World Center at Lindersvold.

The “Teachers Groups” has three other schools in England, Norway and Michigan, USA using the “determination of modern method”, the pedagogical approach shaped at DNS. This gives the student the main responsibility for training and results. Learning is structured with 50% individual studies, 25% common courses, and 25% personal experiences.

Tvind is renowned for building the first modern windmill (1975-8), the largest in the world at that time (54 meters tall with a 54 meters wingspread). Four hundred people began the construction, and through the years several thousands participated. An estimated 100,000 people visited Tvind to watch the process. When the mill was completed, it had only cost the equivalent of $1 million in today’s value—paid for out of Tvind teachers’ salaries.

Tvindkraft (windmill’s name) offered the designs and ideas to any and all, but the state didn’t want them because it was committed to going with nuclear energy. Nevertheless, the Danish people soon rejected this idea, in part because Tvind showed that windmill energy was possible, cheaper and much better for the environment. Tvindkraft is the basis for all of Denmark’s famous windmills.

By 2015, the windmill had produced 20 million kWh. Tvindkraft still provides all the energy Tvind uses. Yet Tvind gets no credit from Denmark’s Establishment since they teach that collective living, common production and sharing is better for people and the environment than capitalism’s greedy foundation.  Nevertheless, in 2008, they won the European Solar Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in renewable energy.

Tvindkraft still standing and functioning 41 years later. Tvind comes from the local dialect word for the surrounding “twisting” brook in that area (Jette Salling Photo)

Protection Of Venezuelan Embassy Continues, Opposition To US Coup Builds

While the final four inside members of the Embassy Protection Collective were arrested on May 16, 2019 (and released the next day), the Collective’s efforts to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC and to end the US coup continue.

From left to right: Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, David Paul and Adrienne Pine at windows of the Venezuelan Embassy. Signs below them call for a mutual Protecting Power Agreement.

A Mutual Protecting Power Agreement Still Needed For US and Venezuelan Embassies

Tell the State Department to recognize Turkey as the Venezuelan Embassy’s Protecting Power in Washington, DC.

We have consistently sought a mutual Protecting Power Agreement between the US and Venezuela so the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela can be protected by Switzerland and the Venezuelan Embassy in DC can be protected by Turkey. This is still the legal pathway to end the embassy crisis.

Protecting Power Agreements have existed since the time of Genghis Khan and have been embedded in international law since the 1870s. Currently they are enshrined in Article 45 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. They are used when diplomatic relations have been broken in order to protect foreign embassies. Twenty-nine Protecting Power Agreements are currently in place around the world.

When the United States government illegally invaded the Venezuelan Embassy to arrest and evict us, it violated the Vienna Convention and put all embassies around the world at risk. Federal agents assaulted the embassy with a battering ram and more than 100 officers, many armed with para-military gear even though we said we would not resist arrest or barricade ourselves in the embassy. This was after the US had illegally turned off electricity and water to the embassy and allowed a mob of coup supporters to assault the embassy and Embassy Protectors.

The violation of the Vienna Convention, a precedent set by the Trump administration, puts US embassy personnel and embassies at risk around the world. The Trump administration added to that violation of international law on May 24 when it allowed the fictional ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, of a failed US coup, to enter the embassy. This complicates negotiations for a mutual Protecting Power Agreement as the members of the coup will have to be removed from the embassy, but we still must urge the US to follow international law rather than be a rogue state.

Activists used light projection on the embassy to tell the truth about Vecchio as a fake ambassador who cannot do anything official such as issuing visas or passports but who will use the embassy as a coup-plotting center, further escalating US violations of international law.

Alex Rubinstein

✔ @RealAlexRubi

Anti-coup protesters @JasonRCharter and @backboneprog project messages onto the former Venezuelan embassy which was illegally seized by US authorities.

“D.C.’s newest coup plotting center

This is not an embassy

Vecchio can’t issue visas”@carlosvecchio

Take Action Now: Join us in telling the State Department to recognize Turkey as the Venezuelan Embassy Protecting Power

The Venezuelan Embassy with signs on it urging peace with Venezuela, end of the US coup and an end to sanctions.

Court Proceedings Against Protectors Continue While The Movement Organizes Against US Coups And Militarism

The Embassy Protectors arrested inside and outside will continue to defend themselves in court. The next hearing of the four inside Embassy Protectors has been moved to this Friday, May 31 at 9:30 am before the chief judge of the US District Court in Washington, DC, Judge Beryl A. Howell.  Ironically, as we were serving as interim embassy protectors with the permission of the democratically-elected Venezuelan government, the four were charged with violation of 18 U.S. Code §”118. “Interference with certain protective functions.” Anyone who followed the activities during the Embassy Protection Collective’s actions can see the State Department was failing to protect the embassy as it allowed pro-coup advocates to break windows and doors, break and enter into the building, deface the building and assault people outside the building while threatening those inside the building.

Other Embassy Protectors arrested outside for trying to get food and supplies into the embassy are also facing charges, including “hurling missiles at a building” (bread and cucumbers) and assault, even though they were the ones assaulted. There are currently four outside Embassy Protectors facing charges. One, an older man bringing toothbrushes, has already had the charges dropped.

In addition to these actions, we are escalating our efforts to stop the US coup and protect the embassy. We are working with other peace and justice advocates to organized national and international days of action to protect the embassies, stop the US coup attempt and end the illegal unilateral coercive measures (misnamed sanctions) and threats of military attacks on Venezuela. If you live in a country that recognizes the coup leader, Juan Guaido, we urge you to take action to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in your country and to pressure your government to recognize the democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro.

We will be posting these actions called by Popular Resistance and other organizations on our website. Sign up for our daily digest (on the front page of PopularResisance.org) to be sure to receive the information quickly.

Popular Resistance and other organizers will tie the US actions against Venezuela to the threats of war and ongoing unilateral coercive measures against Iran and other countries as well as the never-ending war in Afghanistan and the Middle East and threats to countries like Nicaragua and Cuba. In the next decade, as US empire crumbles, this coup attempt against Venezuela and the actions of US citizens against the US coup will be seen as one of the events that led to the demise of US military domination.

We along with numerous other organizations are organizing toward a national mass mobilization in New York City on September 21 when the United Nations General Assembly is meeting. We are calling it “The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine.” It will bring tens of thousands of people together to call for the end of the US coup against Venezuela and stop regime change operations anywhere in the world. It will also oppose unilateral coercive mentions (sanctions), which the US is using against many countries and that violate the UN Charter and other international laws.

Alex Rubinstein

✔ @RealAlexRubi

Embassy protectors @KBZeese and @MFlowers8 talk about organizing a “national mass mobilization in New York City on September 21st when the United Nations General Assembly is meeting.”

They’re calling it “The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine.”

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Mark your calendar now for the national mass mobilization in New York City on September 21, the International Day of Peace, when the United Nations General Assembly is meeting.

The mass mobilization is challenging the “US War Machine” because the machine is more than just war and regime change, it has escalated militarism at home creating violence and death in black and brown communities at the hands of militarized police. US militarism is also a major cause of the climate crisis as the Pentagon is a major source for climate gases and fights wars for oil when we need to break our addiction to oil. And the war machine robs the United States of necessary funds for health, education, housing, and other necessities of the people as well as the funds needed to put in place an eco-socialist Green New Deal that confronts the climate crisis with a rapid transition to 100% clean, renewable energy within the next decade. Challenging the US war machine links many issues and causes.

If people are organized and mobilized, we can make these issues central to the political narrative in the United States and ensure that in the upcoming election cycle no legitimate candidate can support the US coup in Venezuela and must put forward plans to end US militarism.

Showdown at the Venezuelan Embassy

Photo by Alex Rubinstein

This article describes a tense showdown that took place Monday evening between the Embassy Protectors and federal authorities, and concludes with URGENT ACTIONS people can take to resolve this dispute and stop a US-orchestrated coup.

Writing on Day 36 of the campaign to prevent a US-sponsored coup by protecting the Venezuelan Embassy from illegal takeover

Events reached a climax this Monday, as well as a new level of absurdity, when for the first time, federal authorities cut the locks and opened the embassy doors to tell us we were being evicted, based solely on orders from a fictional Venezuelan ambassador named Carlos Vecchio. (Vecchio is a member of the tiny, right-wing Popular Will Party in Venezuela, and is living in the US in exile out of fear of arrest in Venezuela for his role in organizing violent protests that resulted in over 100 deaths.)

It began around 5 or 5:30pm when the DC Metropolitan Police, along with federal authorities, began negotiating our eviction and possible arrest with our lawyer, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, outside the embassy. They presented her with an order, not signed by any US agency (or any person for that matter) on plain paper without even a letterhead, saying that we were trespassing in the building and were required to leave.

“Required by whom,” Mara asked, and maintained that we were in the embassy legally, with the permission of the elected Venezuelan government, and that we were not violating any laws.

The police refused to allow her to talk to us, but they did allow her to watch from the doorway when around 7PM, the authorities cut the chains and bike lock placed on the embassy’s front doors by the legitimate embassy staff back when diplomatic relations were severed.

When the authorities opened the door, four of us were right there in the lobby (the authors of this report, along with Adrian Pine and David Paul), and we immediately began chanting, “We are here legally! You are breaking international law!”

There were US Marshalls present, members of Federal Protective Services, and a spokesperson from the State Department. They began to read the illegal eviction order, and as soon as they mentioned Vecchio’s name, we interrupted and told them it was an illegal order, that a fictional ambassador from a non-governmental group of coup plotters cannot give legal orders regarding the legitimate Venezuelan embassy.

They then asked us if we would leave voluntarily. Each of us, in turn, said “no.” We then attempted to open a dialogue with them, to let them know we are here legally, and that the only way we would leave voluntarily is if presented with a mutual Protecting Power Agreement (PPA), signed between the US and Venezuela guaranteeing the protection of both this embassy and the corresponding, vacant US embassy in Caracas. Such PPAs are historically common when diplomatic relations break down between two countries. In that even, neutral third countries agree to maintain staff at each respective embassy, protecting it until relations can be reestablished.

They listened. Then the State Department spokesperson simply repeated, “Will you leave voluntarily?”

Again we said no. We told them that entering the embassy was in the violation of the Vienna convention, and that further action could set a precedent that would put all embassies around the world at risk, including US embassies and their personnel.

They let us continue speaking.

We explained to them that removing us and taking over the embassy would also escalate the conflict between Venezuela and the United States, and that this could lead to a military conflict, creating chaos in the region and resulting in many lost lives, including that of US soldiers. “We do not want Latin America to turn into another middle east,” we said. “This would be a quagmire and would cost the US trillions of dollars. And with Russia and China allied with Venezuela, it could potentially lead to a global conflict. So be very careful. Your actions right now are important. If you cross this threshold, your name could very well go down in history as the officers who violated international law and started World War III.”

They glanced back and forth at each other with seeming concern over what they were hearing.

But the spokesperson simply repeated, “will you leave voluntarily?”

Again we said no. We told them, “Listen. The coup plotters cut off our power. They cut off our water. The secret service outside has allowed these terrorists to surround us, to assault us, to prevent food and water from getting inside. They have tried all this on us, and we are still here. If this hasn’t forced us to leave, what do you think will? Please understand we are staying until a mutual PPA is reached between the two countries. Either that or you will have to carry us out on stretchers.”

We continued for quite some time with similar themes about the Vienna convention, and that we were concerned about the personnel in US embassies around the world. We said we hoped the State Department shared our concerns. We told them that the precedent set by violating the Vienna convention would embarrass President Trump and become his legacy. We told them that John Bolton was already making a fool of Trump by misjudging the situation in Venezuela, that the people of Venezuela will not give up their independence or their sovereignty, and that they want peace with the United States. We told them there’s no reason for the US to be enemies with Venezuela, but that if they—right here and right now—cross this threshold by removing us, they could set in motion something they might regret.”

Silence. More glances. Then once again, “will you leave voluntarily?”

We continued, presenting them with an alternative. “Why violate international law,” we asked them? “International law already provides a peaceful resolution to this conflict through what are known as mutual Protective Power Agreements, or PPAs, which have been standard diplomacy since the 1870s.” We educated them that there are currently 29 PPAs in place around the world. “When there’s a peaceful path already established,” we said, “it will be especially bad for your careers and reputations if you violate international law in such a major way that could lead to war.”

Silence this time.

For good measure we added, “Following an illegal order is no defense to criminal prosecution. So we suggest you close the door, go back to your superiors, and discuss with them what we’ve just told you.”

The officer who was acting as a spokesperson left. Another officer took his place.

“Will you leave voluntarily?” he asked us.

We explained the same things to this new officer. Ten minutes later the first officer returned. We told them both that our position hadn’t changed, that we will leave voluntarily only when presented with a mutual PPA.

The officers thought for a moment. Then they informed us that they were going to close the door behind secure it. They said they would station a federal Marshall outside the door.

We told them, “make sure the entire embassy compound is under police protection because these violent terrorists have broken in three times and have yet to be prosecuted.” He replied that they would, but added that if we changed our mind, all we had to do was knock on the front door and they would let us leave peacefully.” They then shut the door and placed plastic zip ties–the same ones typically used for handcuffs– around the handles of the door.

Mara, our attorney, walked the embassy compound with the police to ensure it was fully protected. It was.

The secret service has been removed from duty, replaced with DC Metro police and officers of Federal Protective Services, which is part of DHS. Finally, for the first time, Federal authorities are now protecting the embassy—and us—from the terrorists who have been attacking us.

Monday and Tuesday night we slept peacefully for the first time in weeks.

What Social Movements Around the World Should Do

We urge social movements around the world to show their solidarity with the Embassy Protection Collective by going to US embassies to demand respect for the Vienna convention and the rule of law, and to urge the US and Venezuela to sign a mutual Protecting Power Agreement (PPA).

Furthermore, people in the United States need to become the media, because despite this being a truly unique event in US history where US citizens have gone into a foreign embassy in DC to prevent a US-orchestrated coup, the corporate media has barely covered the story.

Lastly, people should contact their members of congress. Tell them to support a mutual Protecting Power Agreement, or PPA, the usual procedure for protecting embassies when diplomatic relations break down.

Time is of the essence. Resolution of this conflict should not be a unilateral decision by John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, and Mike Pompeo. It’s up to social movements and people everywhere to elevate this issue to international dialogue.

National Mobilization at the Venezuelan Embassy in DC, Saturday May 18th at noon

A Statement from the Embassy Protection Collective

The London Climate Protests: Raising The Alarm

The feeling is often there at night, of course, in the wee small hours. But it can arise at almost any time – looking at someone we care about, listening to birdsong on an unusually warm spring morning, shopping.

It is like being trapped on a sinking ship, with the captain and crew refusing to admit that anything is wrong. The passengers are mostly oblivious, planning their journeys and lives ahead. Everything seems ‘normal’, but we know that everything will soon be at the bottom of the sea. Everything seems ordinary, familiar, permanent, but will soon be gone. It feels as if our happiness, our every moment spent with the people and places we love, is irradiated by the fear of impending climate collapse.

Last month, the Extinction Rebellion protests in London (and globally) finally challenged some aspects of this waking nightmare – at last, a sense that human beings are not completely insane, that we are capable of responding with some rationality and dignity. In the end, 1,100 people allowed themselves to be arrested, with 70 charged, for all our sakes.

While many people thrill to the prospect of pouring milkshake over political opponents, Extinction Rebellion proved, conclusively, once and for all, that non-violent protest is the superpower of democratic change. And this was not just non-violent protest; it was non-hating, rooted in love of the planet, love of people, love of life. The mystic Lao-Tzu wrote:

‘Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

‘The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.’

The special forces in this compassionate revolution are the 83-year-old grandfather who spoke so eloquently atop a blocked train in Canary Wharf. They are the little children sitting quietly in the middle of Oxford Street, the mums with toddlers, and, of course, the extraordinary Greta Thunberg whose insight and intelligence have stunned many veteran climate activists. Where the adults have been cautioning for years that we should not be too ‘alarmist’, too ‘pessimistic’ for fear of upsetting a lily-livered public, Thunberg has said simply:

‘I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house was on fire… To panic, unless you have to, is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.’

She is exactly right. In his recent BBC documentary, ‘Climate Change: The Facts’, 91-year-old David Attenborough missed 16-year-old Thunberg’s point. The first half of Attenborough’s film did an excellent job of drawing attention to the threats, but the second half was much too positive on the prospects for individual and collective action. It ended on a hopeful, reassuring note. It should have ended on a note of deep alarm and, yes, panic.

When governments seek to mobilise the public for action, they terrify us with tales of Huns bayonetting babies, of weapons of mass destruction ready to destroy us within 45 minutes. They do this because it works – people are willing to kill and be killed, if they think their own lives and those of the people they love are at stake.

We have always argued that climate scientists and activists should also emphasise the terrifying prospects – not in the dishonest, hyped way of state cynics, but honestly, sticking to the facts. When the science is punching great holes in the blind conceit of industrial ‘progress’ we should not pull our punches. Again, the Extinction Rebellion protests – the name makes the point – have powerfully vindicated this strategy. An opinion poll after the protests found:

‘Two-thirds of people in the UK recognise there is a climate emergency and 76% say that they would cast their vote differently to protect the planet.’

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered:

‘Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing. There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.’

As a result of this pressure, the UK last week became the first parliament to declare a climate emergency – previously unthinkable. Leading climate scientist, Professor Michael Mann, tweeted of the declaration:

‘Yeah, there’s a lot going on in the current news cycle. But this is undoubtedly the most important development of all’

Light-years beyond his Conservative opponents on this issue, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn commented:

‘We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.

‘This is no longer about a distant future we’re talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house. Young people know this. They have the most to lose.’

By contrast, the voting record of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, indicates that he ‘Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change.’ Prime Minister Theresa May has maintained a studied, shameful silence, clearly hoping the issue and the protests will go away. Action is clearly not on her agenda.

As if the climate crisis was not bad enough, a new UN report reveals that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The world is experiencing a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. Dr Kate Brauman, from the University of Minnesota, a lead author of the assessment, commented:

‘We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we’ve seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat.’

The following day, only two UK newspapers, (Guardian and i) led with the UN report on species extinction, most preferring to focus on a royal birth. The BBC News website featured no less than six stories about the royal baby before the headline, ‘Humans “threaten 1m species with extinction”.’ This was a classic example of why Erich Fromm warned in his book ‘The Sane Society’, that it truly is possible for an entire society to be, in effect, insane.

Manufactured Dissent?

Without a sense of alarm, we will likely continue to be stifled by the huge campaign of corporate disinformation and outright lies designed to prevent profit-unfriendly actions. The key to the strategy to maintain public indifference was explained by Phil Lesley, author of a handbook on public relations:

‘People generally do not favour action on a non-alarming situation when arguments seem to be balanced on both sides and there is a clear doubt. The weight of impressions on the public must be balanced so people will have doubts and lack motivation to take action. Accordingly, means are needed to get balancing information into the stream from sources that the public will find credible. There is no need for a clear-cut “victory”. … Nurturing public doubts by demonstrating that this is not a clear-cut situation in support of the opponents usually is all that is necessary.’1

Given the need for a very clear alarm to counter this propaganda, it is disturbing, but not surprising, that critics on the left have joined with the likes of Lesly to attack the messengers trying to raise the alarm (unsurprising because the left has an extremely poor record on climate change. See our Cogitation.)

In her article, ‘The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex’ – which is intended to remind of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s classic work, Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of the Mass Media – independent investigative journalist and environmental activist Cory Morningstar headlines a key claim at the top of the piece and throughout the very long, almost impenetrable mixture of text and screenshots that follows:

‘In ACT I, I disclose that Greta Thunberg, the current child prodigy and face of the youth movement to combat climate change, serves as special youth advisor and trustee to the burgeoning mainstream tech start-up We Don’t Have Time.’

The claim is that Thunberg was involved in launching new business opportunities to capitalise on green concerns. Morningstar mentions the ‘We Don’t Have Time’ organisation involved in ‘tech start-up’ dozens of times in Act I of her piece alone. And yet, as Thunberg responded on Facebook in February:

‘I was briefly a youth advisor for the board of the non profit foundation “We don’t have time”. It turns out they used my name as part of another branch of their organisation that is a start up business. They have admitted clearly that they did so without the knowledge of me or my family [Our emphasis]. I no longer have any connection to “We don’t have time”. Nor does anyone in my family. They have deeply apologised for what has happened and I have accepted their apology.’

Thunberg did not, in fact, ‘serve as a trustee’ for the start-up business branch; her name was added without her knowledge or permission and she no longer has any links to the organisation. Three months after they were published on Facebook, Morningstar has still not added an addendum to her article responding and linking to Thunberg’s comments.

Morningstar wrote:

‘Greta Thunberg and [teenage climate activist] Jamie Margolin who both have lucrative futures in the branding of “sustainable” industries and products, if they wish to pursue this path in utilizing their present celebrity for personal gain (a hallmark of the “grassroots” NGO movement).’

Thunberg again:

‘I am not part of any organization. I sometimes support and cooperate with several NGOs that work with the climate and environment. But I am absolutely independent and I only represent myself. And I do what I do completely for free, I have not received any money or any promise of future payments in any form at all. And nor has anyone linked to me or my family done so.

‘And of course it will stay this way. I have not met one single climate activist who is fighting for the climate for money. That idea is completely absurd.

‘Furthermore I only travel with permission from my school and my parents pay for tickets and accommodations.’

Everything we have seen suggests that Thunberg is completely sincere and not at all minded to exploit her celebrity for money. Considering her age, the suggestion, in the absence of evidence, is ugly indeed.

Morningstar’s basic theme is that climate activists are being exploited by the same old cynical interests who will decide who and what will ‘save the planet’ in a way that makes them rich. And who will these people be?

‘we know full well the answer: the same Western white male saviours and the capitalist economic system they have implemented globally that has been the cause of our planetary ecological nightmare. This crisis continues unabated as they appoint themselves (yet again) as the saviours for all humanity – a recurring problem for centuries’.

On Twitter, ‘polirealm’ commented on Morningstar’s piece:

‘It looks at the establishment bodies, NGOs, their main characters, their connections, their main influences, networks, but it doesn’t look at the actual people on the ground at all, except as defenseless victims of social engineering.’

And:

‘The truth is, many of the activists are 100% aware of the goal of their usurpation, they’re aware that capitalism has nothing to lose and will take no prisoners in this fight, in fact, many are remarkably well informed.’

Indeed, the protests are being joined and supported by literally millions of intelligent, motivated, frightened people around the world, who will absolutely not be content with yet more corporate dissembling, profiteering and greenwash. Not only that, as evidence continues to mount of approaching disaster – and it will increase, dramatically – corporate executives, journalists and political executives will themselves increasingly reject these cynical machinations. ‘Polirealm’s’ concluding point:

‘So whoever believes the agenda and outcome of the climate movement are predetermined today simply has no idea what they’re talking about. The organizational structures are still quite chaotic, but there are many very motivated people with very good ideas, who’ve only just started.’

Morningstar is clearly sincere and well-intentioned, and her argument, of course, has some merit. We have been documenting for decades, in media alerts, articles and books, how corporate interests have been working all-out to co-opt Green concern. The problem with Morningstar’s focus is that it plays into the hands of corporate climate deniers and delayers whose strategy we have already described:

‘The weight of impressions on the public must be balanced so people will have doubts and lack motivation to take action.’

After thirty years of mortifying indifference and inaction, now is not the time to promote the belief that the crucial alarm that is at last being raised by Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion has been cynically ‘manufactured’. It is our job to ring the alarm and ensure that something is done. But first we must ring the alarm!

Even if corporate interests were crazed enough to think they could promote mass public dissent on this scale in the cause of profit, they would have no way of controlling the outcome. In the spring of 1968, with more than half a million troops in Vietnam, with military leaders asking for 200,000 more, President Johnson was advised by a Pentagon study group not to escalate the war, making this comment:

‘The growing disaffection accompanied, as it certainly will be, by increased defiance of the draft and growing unrest in the cities because of the belief that we are neglecting domestic problems, runs great risks of provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions.’2

If that was true of mere anti-war sentiment based on concern for human rights, how much more is it true of sentiment based on concern for literal human survival – the prospect that we, and every last person we love, may soon be dead?

The Propaganda Model – Going Extinct?

Herman and Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ describes how state-corporate priorities – power and profit – tend to shape media performance in a way that supports the status quo. During the Extinction Rebellion protests, there was a clear sense that fewer and fewer commentators could think of good reasons for opposing what was happening. Even ‘mainstream’ politicians lined up to give their support; even ‘centrist’ liberal journalists, reflexively opposed to all progressive politics, applauded. Guardian columnist George Monbiot went much further than he ever has before in scorning the media:

‘If you asked me: “which industry presents the greatest environmental threat, oil or media?”, I would say “the media”. Every day it misdirects us. Every day it tells us that issues of mind-numbing irrelevance are more important than the collapse of our life support systems.’

If we like, we can interpret all of this as a sign that the protests are viewed as harmless, or as evidence that they have been captured by corporate interests pulling the strings behind the scenes. But there is an alternative interpretation, which we favour.

When famously sober, conservative, anti-alarmist climate scientists are warning that human beings will become extinct unless drastic action is taken within the next decade, so that even prime-time BBC TV features the venerable David Attenborough warning that ‘the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon’, then we have entered unknown territory. As Attenborough said:

‘The world’s people have spoken, their message is clear – time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.’

Herman and Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ was not designed for this scenario. When individual corporate media editors, journalists, advertising and political executives realise that they and their families are genuinely facing death, it is not at all certain that they will continue to support the subordination of people and planet to profit to no purpose. At this point – the point where the mortally-threatened corporate lions lie down with the mortally-threatened activist lambs – the propaganda model may start to break down. Either way, it is our job to continue pressuring corporate media and, more importantly, replacing them with honest, non-corporate alternatives pushing for real change.

The protests must continue, must escalate, and governments must be made to adopt a kind of war-footing subordinating everything – especially profit – to the survival of our own and all other species.

  1. Lesly, ‘Coping with Opposition Groups’, Public Relations Review 18, 1992, p. 331.
  2. Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p. 401.

The Contented Classes: When Will They Rebel?

For all the rhetoric and all the charities regarding America’s children, the U.S. stands at the very bottom of western nations and some other countries as well, in terms of youth well-being. The U.S.’s exceptionalism is clearest in its cruelty to children. The U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate of comparable OECD countries. Not only that, but 2.5 million American children are homeless and 16.2 million children “lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.”

The shamelessness continues as the youngsters increase in age. The Trump regime is cutting the SNAP food program for poor kids. In 2018, fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP than in 2017. To see just how bad Trump’s war on poor American children is getting, go to the web sites of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Trump brags about a robust economy—still, however, rooted in exploitation of the poor and reckless Wall Street speculation with people’s savings.

Trump’s pompous promises during his presidential campaign have proved to be a cowardly distraction. He claimed he would take on the drug companies and their price gouging. The hyper-profiteering pharmaceutical goliaths are quietly laughing at him. Worse, Trump continues their tax credits  and allows them to use new drugs developed with taxpayer money through the National Institute of Health free of charge—no royalties. Even though he talks tough, Trump lets these companies sell imported medicines manufactured in China and India with inadequate FDA inspections of foreign plants.

Torrents of Trump tweets somehow overlooked H.P. Acthar Gel, a drug produced by Mallinckrodt to treat a rare infant seizure disorder, which increased in price from $40 per vial to $39,000 per vial! Other drug prices are booming cruelly upward, while Trump blusters, but fails to deliver on his campaign promises.

For years our country’s political and corporate rulers have saddled college students with breathtaking debt and interest rates. Student debt is now at $1.5 trillion. Both corporations and the federal government are profiting off of America’s young. In no other western country is this allowed, with most nations offering tuition-free higher education.

On May 2, 2019, The New York Times featured an article titled, “Tuition or Dinner? Nearly Half of College Students Surveyed in a New Report Are Going Hungry.”

When you read the stories of impoverished students, squeezed in all directions, you’d think they came out of third-world favelas. At the City University of New York (CUNY), forty eight percent of students had been food insecure in the past 30 days.

Kassandra Montes, a senior at Lehman College, lives in a Harlem homeless shelter. Montes  “works two part-time jobs and budgets only $15 per week for food… [She] usually skips breakfast in order to make sure that her 4-year-old son is eating regularly.” Montes said: “I feel like I’m slowly sinking as I’m trying to grow.”

When you don’t have a living wage, have to pay high tuition, are mired in debt, and live in rent-gouging cities, where do you go? Increasingly, you go to the community college or college food pantry. In a nation whose president and Congress in one year give tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon more than the generals asked for, it is unconscionable that students must rely on leftover food from dining halls and catered events, SNAP benefits, and whatever food pantries can assemble.

The CUNY pantries are such a fixture in these desperate times that they are now a stop on freshman orientation tours.

As long as we’re speaking of shame, what about those millions of middle and upper middle class informed, concerned bystanders. They’re all over America trading “tsk tsks” over coffee or other social encounters. They express dismay, disgust, and denunciations at each outrage from giant corporations’ abuses, to the White House and the Congress’ failings. They are particularly numerous in University towns. They know but they do not do. They are unorganized, know it, keep grumbling, and still fail to start the mobilization in Congressional Districts of likeminded citizens to hold their Senators and Representatives accountable.

For Congress, the smallest yet most powerful branch of government, whose members names we know, can turn poverty and other injustices around and help provide a better life for so many Americans. These informed, concerned people easily number over 1 percent of the population. They can galvanize a supporting majority of voters on key, long-overdue redirections for justice. Redirections that were mostly established in Western Europe decades ago (For more details, see my paperback, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier than We Think).

These informed, concerned people—who don’t have to worry about a living wage, not having health insurance, being gouged by payday loans, and having no savings—were called “the contented classes” in The Culture of Contentment, a book by the late progressive Harvard economist John Kenneth Gailbraith. His main point—until the contented classes wake up and organize for change, history has shown, our country will continue to slide in the wrong direction. He said all this before climate disruption, massive money-corrupting politics, and the corporate crime wave had reached anywhere near their present destructive levels.

The question to be asked: Who among the contented classes will unfurl the flag of rebellion against the plutocrats and the autocrats? It can be launched almost anywhere they please. A revolution can start the moment they decide to prioritize the most marginalized people in this country over their comfort.

Embassy Protection Collective: We’re Still Here And We’re Staying

The Embassy Protection Collective formed on April 10, the day after the Trump administration manipulated the Organization of American States (OAS) to change the rules so they could recognize their puppet, Juan Guaido, as president of Venezuela. The OAS could not get the required two-thirds vote to recognize a government so they changed the rules to a mere majority and barely got that. By then, the US had allowed their Guaido coup forces to take the Venezuelan military attaché building in Washington, DC and three diplomatic offices in New York City.

The Trump administration is allowing extreme violent right-wing Guaido supporters to blockade the embassy. Despite a standoff in the last week, we had a series of victories over those forces and remain steadfast protectors of the embassy.

Surround the embassy with love and resistance

We adopted a theme song for the Embassy Protection Collective, “We’re Still Here” by Holly Neer. The chorus begins with:

We’re Still Here
Choosing Love Over Fear
When the Lines Are All Drawn
We’re Still Here

Challenges and Victories

We woke up on April 30 to the news that Juan Guaido was going to attempt a coup again, which made us wonder why he needs to conduct a coup if he is the “president.” We were alerted by our Venezuelan allies that this second coup attempt would be easily defeated, which it was, but to expect coup-supporters in the US to protest at the embassy.

In fact, the extremist Venezuelan coup supporters showed up that morning and tried to take over the steps in front of the building. A team of embassy protectors took a stand on the steps and stopped them from taking over the entry. More violent extremists showed up throughout the day, causing police to erect a barricade between us in front of the embassy. We sang almost non-stop to keep ourselves from engaging with them while they blew sirens and other loud noises and insulted and threatened us shouting racist and misogynist comments and using lewd gestures. Police refused to pass food and water to us or to allow our allies into the space in front of the embassy. We held that space through the night by taking shifts.

In the courtyard behind the embassy, the pro-coup forces harassed, intimidated, threatened and assaulted our allies outside who bravely prevented them from entering the building while folks inside set up reinforcements to stop them from coming in the door. This lasted until 1:00 in the morning.

The next day, May 1, we agreed to cede the front steps if the police would protect the front porch and doors from damage. We moved inside to focus on protecting the embassy from within, thinking the police would honor their duty to protect the embassy from harm. That afternoon, Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s fake “ambassador” showed up, with the intention of taking over the embassy.

We were ready for him to enter and be forced to remove us. As he came to the front porch to speak, we stood resolute behind him holding signs and chanting, ‘No Coup.’ When he began to speak, we cut off the power to his sound system and out-shouted him. Vecchio was forced to flee, chased by reporter Anya Parampil who asked him, “Where are you going next, the White House?”  A representative vaguely told the crowd they were “working on a process to evict us.” The coup failed in Venezuela on April 30, and failed again in Washington, DC on May 1.

Parampil

✔ @anyaparampil

Anya Parampil

✔ @anyaparampil

Watch @carlosvecchio’s staff fail to answer what they plan to do from within the Maduro government’s embassy, considering they won’t even be able to issue visas.

Also can’t answer why their colleagues attended a DC think tank meeting to plan for the invasion of Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/xHXWc7bRua

The coup supporters started setting up tents around the embassy that night and blocking our people from entering the building as police stood by and did nothing. When members of CODE PINK brought food the next day, surrounded by clergy, they were stopped from delivering it. Two allies, Ariel Gold of CODE PINK and Chris Herz tossed bread and other foods onto a patio to us. They were arrested and charged with “hurling missiles” at a building.

We pushed back at police for not allowing the food in, and they provided a blockade for our members to come down and get the groceries. Coup supporters stole hundreds of dollars worth of the food. We were also able to get some medications in that day for people who required it. Since then, we have struggled to get supplies. When we lowered a rope from a window and successfully brought up four bags of food, the coup supporters rushed a barricade and assaulted our allies. It was our people who were threatened with arrest even though they were the ones who were knocked to the ground.

An older gentleman from the neighborhood wanted to bring us toothbrushes and toothpaste. He was swarmed by the violent extremists. When he tried to pass between two people to get to the door, he was thrown to the ground violently and seriously injured. He was arrested, not the ones who threw him down. It has become common for police to arrest the victims of assault, not the people who committed the assault.

These seem to be US-trained regime change operatives who use violence, psy-ops and and intimidation against us. Some are Nicaraguans and Cubans, not Venezuelans. They have unlimited resources. They are constantly bringing in more supplies. From early in the morning, we are surrounded by them and subjected to their sirens, banging of pots and pans, loud music, taunts and threats of physical harm.

They have tried to break in numerous times. They drilled through a door to the garage and damaged the lift gate with a sledgehammer. On Friday night, they banged on the doors so hard for hours that they were damaging them. We had to fortify the old wooden doors so they would not break through. The Secret Service watched while they did it and not only let them but refused to say they would protect our safety. When we called them, they said we should ask the Venezuelan government for help. It took hundreds of calls from supporters to get them to stop.

The Secret Service is allowing them to do all they can to intimidate us very likely under orders from the White House. They want the extremists to frighten us so we leave the embassy. Their actions have had the opposite effect. They have united us in our determination to protect the embassy.

Despite being barricaded in the building and cut off from access to supplies, we are victorious. We are still here and there is little chance of eviction because we are violating no laws. We have built a powerful and united community that works together to protect the embassy and to keep the violent extremists and Trump administration out.

Surrounding the Embassy with Love and Resistance

The Trump administration realizes that entering the Venezuelan Embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention would set a precedent that could put US embassies around the world at risk. As a result, they are allowing right-wing extremists to harass and threaten us and try to starve us out. That is their only hope of taking over the embassy.

We refuse to give in no matter what they do. Our lawyers are making sure there is a record of the incidents, which we have in large part due to our embedded media, Anya Parampil of The Grayzone Project and Alex Rubinstein of Mintpress News. We also have to give a shout out to TeleSur, who was embedded with us until the pro-coup forces arrived and now is providing coverage from the outside. Allies outside are identifying the pro-coup actors. We wrote to the State Department and Secret Service about the violence and have told them we will hold decision-makers and police officers responsible for their actions.  But mostly, we have responded to these intimidation tactics in solidarity and have strengthened our resolve to protect the embassy.

A highlight of the week for us, after many difficult days, was to see hundreds of Embassy Protectors show up outside yesterday. They chanted with us and sang. We ended the night with revolutionary music blasting from the second floor embassy windows and dancing together even though they were on the sidewalk across the street and we were inside the embassy. The extremists’ banging of pots, strobe lights and blasting sirens at us only added to the festive atmosphere.

Today, more Embassy Protectors returned to show solidarity and express their love. We also started receiving many messages of solidarity and appreciation from individuals and social movements in Venezuela. This means the world to us. We are surrounded by violent, right-wing, regime change forces who are trying to wear us down. These are the same actors who held violent protests in Nicaragua and Venezuela. They are making death threats, threatening women with rape and mocking us, all in a posh Georgetown neighborhood. It is surreal.

We recall the mass mobilizations in Charlottesville, Boston and New York when right-wing, racist, misogynist hate-filled people came there and urge that mass resistance to join us now. This is a critical struggle. If the embassy is overtaken, it will set us on a path to war in Venezuela, and chaos and devastation to the region. If we can continue to protect the embassy, Venezuela and the United States will have time to negotiate with third countries to serve as protectorates for their embassies and this could begin a path to peace. Perhaps Trump will even see that the Bolton-Abrams-Pompeo team has misled him and reverse the disastrous policy course he is on. There is no reason to steal Venezuela’s resources, the US should respect Venezuelan sovereignty and negotiate agreements as has been done previously.

We are asking people to come to DC to surround this embassy with love and resistance. Let’s show that love will prevail.

If you absolutely can’t come to DC, please contact your member of Congress to make them aware of the situation. Tell them:

  1. The US is required to protect embassies under the Vienna Convention, but is allowing the Venezuelan Embassy to be damaged when the Secret Service could easily protect it.
  2. The United States’ coup in Venezuela has failed. Maduro is the legitimate elected President of Venezuela and is recognized by the United Nations and over 140 countries.
  3. The Secret Service is violating the human rights of the Embassy Protectors by failing to ensure safe passage in and out of the embassy and access to supplies. We are literally under siege.
  4. Review the Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective and sign on to show your support.

And finally, please make a donation as we have incurred many unexpected costs for this mobilization.

Venceremos!

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police.  Her crime?  Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY.  Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes.  A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state.  His crime?  Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state.  Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.”  That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history.  Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.”  She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed:  in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.”  Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955.  She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks.  Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

Women who joined the struggle against American racism in the 1960s and 70s met particularly violent reprisals from their government.  In the early 60s, 17-year-old Ruby Doris Smith, Spelman student and eventual SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader, picketed, protested, and did sit-ins, trying to integrate Atlanta.  She suffered “the indignities of southern jails and numerous injuries.” As a freedom rider, she underwent the vicious white punishment at the Montgomery bus station and was arrested and jailed by Sheriff Bull Conner.  SNCC’s Diane Nash was an important member of the first Nashville sit-ins in 1960.  After her arrest, she refused to pay her fine.  Six-months pregnant and facing a Jackson, Mississippi jailing, she vowed to “hasten the day when my child and all children will be free.”  The women of the black liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s faced even harsher reprisals—from the federal government.

Black women liberation women political prisoners, included the Black Panther’s Assata Shakur and MOVE women Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa and Janet Holloway Africa.  Janine and Janet Africa are still in prison.   In March 2019 Jet Blue was forced to take down a black history month poster which included a tribute to a “convicted murderer,” Assata Shakur.  President Trump railed against the “cop killer” and demanded Cuba return her.  Shakur was able to escape from her jail, to political exile in Cuba, and that is unforgivable to the American police state.  Assata Shakur was a major inspiration for me in writing my book Women Politicals in America:  Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart, and because of that she appears on the cover of my book, shackled but defiant.  As a member of the BP and Black Liberation Army, Shakur was an FBI target for a long time.  As per usual with the FBI, she had been accused of a number of serious crimes, and convicted in the media of all of them and more, although she had committed none of them—including murdering police officer Werner Foerster.  All the evidence points to the impossibility of her shooting him, after having been grievously shot herself.  She was convicted and treated very harshly in prison, including 20 months in solitary in two men’s prisons under horrible conditions.  Her comrades managed to get her out, after she concluded she would be killed in prison.

Women who joined the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in the early 70s also faced incredibly unfair and violent treatment.  These followers of John Africa lived “naturally” in a community—very like other 70s communes–and believed in fighting the “system.”  The black militancy of fighting the system had them on police radar and resulted in raids that turned violent, with people who ran out to escape fires the authorities set being shot, and in which Officer James Ramp was killed—the evidence indicating probably friendly fire.  Four women were arrested:  Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa.  Merle died in prison (her family said mysteriously).  Debbie was released in June 2018, but Janine Phillips and Janet Holloway Africa remain in prison, serving their 100-year sentences.  They are periodically denied parole for not “showing remorse,” remorse for being innocent and harshly, unfairly jailed.

Joy Powell is also not remorseful for being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled,” and unfairly jailed, by police/government authorities.  In the present-day police state, African-Americans are first in the line of fire, incarcerated in huge numbers, trapped on the bottom of the economic ladder, and prey to racist civilians and authorities alike.  When black women like Joy Powell speak out against militarized police brutality against blacks—they go right into the belly of the beast.  When in 2014, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the black community had had enough of assassinations and stood their ground:  “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  Black activists were energized by Ferguson and interest in the new group Black Lives Matter intensified.  Jasmine Richards was one young woman inspired by Ferguson.  Once she “picked up a bullhorn” to organize in her hometown of Pasadena against police brutality, she became “a target.”  While trying to protect a black woman crime victim in 2016, she was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Richards was kept in solitary and roughly strip-searched.  She said it’s “violent to be a woman in jail.”  But she was undaunted, rallying her followers in court with “We have a duty to fight for freedom!”  Illinois BLM activist Sandra Bland also believed that.  When she was pulled over for a traffic violation in Texas in 2015, she was slammed to the ground and charged—of course—with assaulting the officers who had slammed her down.  Two days later she was found dead in her cell.  Her family suspects foul play.  Ajamu Baraka called her death “political murder” of a “defiant black woman.”  Black women defiant of the police will pay.

Joy Powell has paid dearly for fighting police brutality.  She is in solitary at Bedford Hills, stalked and harassed by guards, and denied medical treatment for her asthma and diabetes.  She wrote:  “I never thought in my wildest dreams after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which supposedly freed slaves, that in 2007 we’re still in chains and shackles.  This is far from the American dream.”  Powell had a rough start in life; she was jailed for drug dealing from 1992 to 1995 at Albion Correctional Facility. She suffered what many women in jail suffer—she was raped by an officer.  When the man continued to stalk her, she was put in “protective custody.”  She says she developed “PTSD, anxiety and bi-polar” because of the attack.  When she got out she said she wanted to “give back to the community” instead of the destruction she felt she did as a drug dealer.  Powell became a Pentecostal pastor and a community organizer against violence, including police violence.  She organized rallies against drugs and violence after a 15-year-old neighbor boy, and then her own 18-year-old son, were killed.  She worked for 12 years, as she said, with only the weapon of “non-violence protest.”  In 2002, six people died in Rochester PD custody.  In 2005, a 13-year-old suicidal girl was shot several times by police.  After Powell led protests about such events, she was charged with abusing her granddaughter (by an officer who had shot the 13-year-old girl).  The police warned her she was a “target” and should be careful.

She was definitely a target. In October 2006 she was a victim of a violent crime—not investigated—instead, after complaining, she was charged with burglary and assault.  Her accusers were the same people who had attacked her!  She was found guilty by an all-white jury and got 16 years.  As she said, “I was like so many activists before me, be killed or definitely set up.”  In May 2011, things got worse.  She was convicted of killing a man in Rochester in 1992.  She was not guilty.  “I am actually and factually innocent!”  Her court-appointed lawyer ignored her pleas for meetings or for interviewing witnesses who could have proved her innocence.  She got 25 years to life.

Rev. Joy Powell has stated:  “The only thing I am guilty of is standing up for Equality and Justice for all. . . I never realized how much of a threat one individual could be unarmed, until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  She also wrote that she is like so many poor black people in prison “rotting in cages with lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit.”  And that she had four strikes against her:  “1. I am Black; 2. I am poor; 3. I am incarcerated; and 4. I am a woman.”  Black women “politicals,” political prisoners who have stood up against white America’s racist injustice—Lucy Parsons, Claudia Jones, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Diane Nash, Assata Shakur, Sandra Bland, Jasmine Richards, the still jailed Janine and Janet Africa, and the woman still in solitary confinement, Rev. Joy Powell—are defiant female rebels against a state which will go to any lengths to punish women exposing its crimes.

Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police.  Her crime?  Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY.  Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes.  A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state.  His crime?  Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state.  Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.”  That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history.  Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.”  She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed:  in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.”  Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955.  She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks.  Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

Women who joined the struggle against American racism in the 1960s and 70s met particularly violent reprisals from their government.  In the early 60s, 17-year-old Ruby Doris Smith, Spelman student and eventual SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) leader, picketed, protested, and did sit-ins, trying to integrate Atlanta.  She suffered “the indignities of southern jails and numerous injuries.” As a freedom rider, she underwent the vicious white punishment at the Montgomery bus station and was arrested and jailed by Sheriff Bull Conner.  SNCC’s Diane Nash was an important member of the first Nashville sit-ins in 1960.  After her arrest, she refused to pay her fine.  Six-months pregnant and facing a Jackson, Mississippi jailing, she vowed to “hasten the day when my child and all children will be free.”  The women of the black liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s faced even harsher reprisals—from the federal government.

Black women liberation women political prisoners, included the Black Panther’s Assata Shakur and MOVE women Janine Phillips Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Merle Austin Africa and Janet Holloway Africa.  Janine and Janet Africa are still in prison.   In March 2019 Jet Blue was forced to take down a black history month poster which included a tribute to a “convicted murderer,” Assata Shakur.  President Trump railed against the “cop killer” and demanded Cuba return her.  Shakur was able to escape from her jail, to political exile in Cuba, and that is unforgivable to the American police state.  Assata Shakur was a major inspiration for me in writing my book Women Politicals in America:  Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart, and because of that she appears on the cover of my book, shackled but defiant.  As a member of the BP and Black Liberation Army, Shakur was an FBI target for a long time.  As per usual with the FBI, she had been accused of a number of serious crimes, and convicted in the media of all of them and more, although she had committed none of them—including murdering police officer Werner Foerster.  All the evidence points to the impossibility of her shooting him, after having been grievously shot herself.  She was convicted and treated very harshly in prison, including 20 months in solitary in two men’s prisons under horrible conditions.  Her comrades managed to get her out, after she concluded she would be killed in prison.

Women who joined the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in the early 70s also faced incredibly unfair and violent treatment.  These followers of John Africa lived “naturally” in a community—very like other 70s communes–and believed in fighting the “system.”  The black militancy of fighting the system had them on police radar and resulted in raids that turned violent, with people who ran out to escape fires the authorities set being shot, and in which Officer James Ramp was killed—the evidence indicating probably friendly fire.  Four women were arrested:  Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa.  Merle died in prison (her family said mysteriously).  Debbie was released in June 2018, but Janine Phillips and Janet Holloway Africa remain in prison, serving their 100-year sentences.  They are periodically denied parole for not “showing remorse,” remorse for being innocent and harshly, unfairly jailed.

Joy Powell is also not remorseful for being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled,” and unfairly jailed, by police/government authorities.  In the present-day police state, African-Americans are first in the line of fire, incarcerated in huge numbers, trapped on the bottom of the economic ladder, and prey to racist civilians and authorities alike.  When black women like Joy Powell speak out against militarized police brutality against blacks—they go right into the belly of the beast.  When in 2014, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the black community had had enough of assassinations and stood their ground:  “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  Black activists were energized by Ferguson and interest in the new group Black Lives Matter intensified.  Jasmine Richards was one young woman inspired by Ferguson.  Once she “picked up a bullhorn” to organize in her hometown of Pasadena against police brutality, she became “a target.”  While trying to protect a black woman crime victim in 2016, she was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Richards was kept in solitary and roughly strip-searched.  She said it’s “violent to be a woman in jail.”  But she was undaunted, rallying her followers in court with “We have a duty to fight for freedom!”  Illinois BLM activist Sandra Bland also believed that.  When she was pulled over for a traffic violation in Texas in 2015, she was slammed to the ground and charged—of course—with assaulting the officers who had slammed her down.  Two days later she was found dead in her cell.  Her family suspects foul play.  Ajamu Baraka called her death “political murder” of a “defiant black woman.”  Black women defiant of the police will pay.

Joy Powell has paid dearly for fighting police brutality.  She is in solitary at Bedford Hills, stalked and harassed by guards, and denied medical treatment for her asthma and diabetes.  She wrote:  “I never thought in my wildest dreams after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which supposedly freed slaves, that in 2007 we’re still in chains and shackles.  This is far from the American dream.”  Powell had a rough start in life; she was jailed for drug dealing from 1992 to 1995 at Albion Correctional Facility. She suffered what many women in jail suffer—she was raped by an officer.  When the man continued to stalk her, she was put in “protective custody.”  She says she developed “PTSD, anxiety and bi-polar” because of the attack.  When she got out she said she wanted to “give back to the community” instead of the destruction she felt she did as a drug dealer.  Powell became a Pentecostal pastor and a community organizer against violence, including police violence.  She organized rallies against drugs and violence after a 15-year-old neighbor boy, and then her own 18-year-old son, were killed.  She worked for 12 years, as she said, with only the weapon of “non-violence protest.”  In 2002, six people died in Rochester PD custody.  In 2005, a 13-year-old suicidal girl was shot several times by police.  After Powell led protests about such events, she was charged with abusing her granddaughter (by an officer who had shot the 13-year-old girl).  The police warned her she was a “target” and should be careful.

She was definitely a target. In October 2006 she was a victim of a violent crime—not investigated—instead, after complaining, she was charged with burglary and assault.  Her accusers were the same people who had attacked her!  She was found guilty by an all-white jury and got 16 years.  As she said, “I was like so many activists before me, be killed or definitely set up.”  In May 2011, things got worse.  She was convicted of killing a man in Rochester in 1992.  She was not guilty.  “I am actually and factually innocent!”  Her court-appointed lawyer ignored her pleas for meetings or for interviewing witnesses who could have proved her innocence.  She got 25 years to life.

Rev. Joy Powell has stated:  “The only thing I am guilty of is standing up for Equality and Justice for all. . . I never realized how much of a threat one individual could be unarmed, until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  She also wrote that she is like so many poor black people in prison “rotting in cages with lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit.”  And that she had four strikes against her:  “1. I am Black; 2. I am poor; 3. I am incarcerated; and 4. I am a woman.”  Black women “politicals,” political prisoners who have stood up against white America’s racist injustice—Lucy Parsons, Claudia Jones, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Diane Nash, Assata Shakur, Sandra Bland, Jasmine Richards, the still jailed Janine and Janet Africa, and the woman still in solitary confinement, Rev. Joy Powell—are defiant female rebels against a state which will go to any lengths to punish women exposing its crimes.