Dispatch from Federal Workers’ Protest: All Hell Breaks Loose at the Capitol

Photo Oct 03, 3 21 18 PM

Thursday was the third day of our U.S. Federal Government shutdown protest, which drew far more protestors and media than before. But the peace at our protest ended abruptly at 2:20 pm.

I heard sirens and saw six police cruisers chasing a black Infiniti down Pennsylvania  Ave. past the reflecting pool towards us. At first I thought it was an escort but then realized it was a chase.

The driver was trying to evade police, but rammed into the barricades at the West Lawn in an attempt to come up the sidewalk toward the Capitol.

The car backed up, hitting a cruiser. As if it were a movie, the police pulled guns and fired 5, 10, 15 rounds at the driver’s window. The tinted glass blew out, but the car turned around and fled back towards Pennsylvania Ave. I heard what I thought was an explosion from behind the trees. It turned out to be a collision with a cruiser.

Within seconds, the U.S. Capitol emergency announcement system warned us to evacuate the grounds. I thought it was a terrorist attack. My heart pounded. Continue reading

Dispatch from Federal Workers’ Protest: Government Shutdown Day 2

Defund_congress

We returned to the Capitol steps for the second day of the government shutdown. We carried the same signs and spoke the same message, but there were changes from the previous day. Some Capitol Police officers expressed solidarity with our cause, and tourists joined our protest. Both police and tourists are being affected by the shutdown.

A Capitol Police guard walked up to me and jokingly said, “Keep one of those signs for me, I may join you next week.” Surprised, I asked him if he was for real. He said he was dissatisfied because he was working but without pay, a “mission essential employee” caught between the power players in the marble building above him he was guarding.

I asked another cop if he was being paid and he said no, they had to work but they’d have to wait for backpay. “People are getting a little salty around here,” he said. “I may need to take your dollar after this week,” referring to the dollar bill I had taped over my mouth.

All day I watched the police come and go with less suspicion than usual. It felt strange to consider them brethen in the shutdown, although they are. I regarded them with a kind of respect. Here they were guarding the U.S. Capitol from people like us, peaceful protestors (protesting on their behalf too), while the members of Congress they protected discussed our fates. Capitol Police were not getting paid for it, yet they reported to work anyway. Of all the ironies I’ve heard this week, this was one of the most contemptible. Continue reading

Activists Identify DC Cop Who Infiltrated Bangladesh Sweatshop Protests

Earth First! Newswire

Left: Still photo from a video of the May 15 protest at Children’s Place. Right: Photo from @snufftastic Twitter account.  by Mike Elk / In These Times

Rumors have flown for many years that DC police routinely infiltrate and spy on the frequent protests in the nation’s Capitol. But until now, activists have never been able to identify a specific undercover cop at a protest. Now, after months of piecing together evidence, attorneys Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan working with United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) have confirmed that under an assumed name, Metro police officer Nicole Rizzi has participated in USAS protests against companies doing business in Bangladesh who refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the death of as many as 1,129 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

USAS and its lawyers have numerous pieces of evidence placing Rizzi at…

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Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC gets the “Standing Man” treatment

Turkey_Resist

by John Zangas

Turkish activist Yurter Özcan stood motionless with supporters in front of the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC on Tuesday evening for four hours–from 8pm until midnight. Their “Standing Man” protest, known in Turkish as “DuranAdam,” followed the example of Erdem Gunduz, who stood for more than five hours in Istanbul’s Taksim Square the day before.

Gunduz was joined by hundreds of other Turks who assembled on the Square in spite of massive tear gassing by police over the weekend. They faced a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey as a secular state. Protestors continue to defy the Prime Minister’s three-week crackdown on people across Turkey.

“Standing Man” is a throwback to “Tank Man,” who famously stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square during the Chinese uprising of 1989. Since Gunduz’s silent protest, hundreds of Turks have taken up his tactic and stood motionless in public spaces, including Özcan and his comrades at the Turkish Embassy in Washington.

Faith leaders arrested, activists storm Valero Corp as Keystone XL protests heat up in Washington, DC

MKirkland.jpg
Matt Kirkland protests in front of Valero Corporation

by John Zangas and Anne Meador

A week of protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, DC continued Thursday with civil disobedience at the White House and visits to pipeline profiteers.

Fifteen participants in the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) were arrested for blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House. Religious leaders called the Keystone XL Pipeline “a grave threat to humanity” and described their moral obligation to stand up against it.

Unitarian minister Terry Ellen said, “The Keystone, as you know, is the fuse to the accelerant that will jettison our planet beyond the point of no repair… We are all moving toward a radically new future. We are all part of a serious challenge against the entrenched power and concentrated wealth of our land.” [VIDEO: Interview with Terry Ellen]

Lacy_arrest

As police arrested interfaith leaders in front of the White House, a separate protest kicked off from the Canadian Embassy just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue. They marched toward a TD Bank branch in Chinatown, chanting, “Jobs at the Keystone? No, let’s get it. There are no jobs on a dead planet!”

Protestors then stormed the lobby of energy company Valero Corporation, a major investor in the Keystone XL Pipeline. Valero stands to receive and refine more oil from the pipeline than any other company.

Police and security officers scuffled with protestors, and five were arrested after they refused to leave. [VIDEO]

Around the U.S., solidarity with Forward on Climate

There were several rallies and actions in solidarity with Forward on Climate in Washington, DC today. Here are scenes from some of them:

SAN FRANCISCO

Photo by @sophiehh14
Photo by @sophiehh14

SAN RAPHAEL, CA

Photo by @anirvan
Photo by @anirvan

SEATTLE

Seattle_Pragmactivist99
Photo by @Pragmactvisti

LOS ANGELES

Photo by @renegadecop
Photo by @renegadecop

DENVER

Photo by @CO_BeyondCoal
Photo by @CO_BeyondCoal

SANTA FE

SantaFe_JenniferEsperanza

CHICAGO

Chicago_daneyvilla
Photo by @daneyvilla

 

Forward on Climate: Activists to draw line in the sand on climate issues

People have been pouring into Washington, DC for what is expected to be the largest ever rally in the U.S. drawing attention to the issue of climate change.

The weather is blustery out there for activists–highs in the mid-30’s with winds gusting up to 40 mph.

The last mass protest around climate change was four years ago, just after Barack Obama was sworn in the first time. 12,000 people, mostly college students, came to Washington, DC for a three-day action:

Organizers called a grassroots lobbying drive on Monday “the biggest lobbying day on climate and energy” in the country’s history as they enlisted some 4,000 students to visit nearly every congressional office. And later that day, in what activists dubbed “the largest mass civil disobedience on climate” in the U.S., some 2,500 people blockaded the gates of the Capitol Power Plant, which burns coal to provide heat to the senators’ and representatives’ offices, a symbol of the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

At least 20,000 participants are expected today.

This time a high priority will be to persuade Pres. Obama to block Keystone XL, the export pipeline which has been called “the fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb.”

Cool Revolution will be making updates throughout the day here and on Twitter (@cool_revolution). DC Media Group will be providing full coverage of the event–go to dcmediagroup.info for all livestream feeds, twitter streams and photos, as well as the Facebook page.

UPDATE 3:30pm: As the march heads from the White House back to the Monument, organizers put crowd count at 50,000.

UPDATE 5:00pm: Huffington Post estimates the crowd at 40,000.

Tent of Dreams: A final act of defiance

by John Zangas

It was the final act of defiance by Occupy DC, a group of people who had given their last ounce of effort in protest, their last will in a park occupation–against a system we saw as repressive. In the previous three years, millions of people had lost their homes, and millions more had lost their jobs and savings. Ordinary people climbing the ladder to the American Dream slipped and lost their foothold forever.

Why did we erect the Tent of Dreams? The bankers and stock traders on Wall Street, who nearly destroyed the economy by the summer of 2008, silently slipped under the radar of legal prosecution. Yet occupiers who expressed dissatisfaction with lack of economic opportunity were being arrested by the thousands, merely for exercising their First Amendment right to dissent. What drove us was the fundamental imbalance of power, which was made even more apparent as the Occupy movement unfolded. Occupiers were arrested around the country in an arbitrary enforcement of the law, while financial managers went unpunished, still raking in millions in fraudulent profits.

Four days before we raised the Tent of Dreams, the U.S. Park Police had left official letters on our tents, warning us that we were no longer welcome. We knowingly were breaking a federal statute which forbade sleeping in tents in public parks.

So we created a symbol of a dream–a huge blue tarp painted with falling stars, symbols, and statements of hope. Just before noon on January 30, we used long poles and strung it up over the statue of McPherson, a brass symbol of state power. We encircled it and chanted, “We are the 99 percent!” and defiantly willed the state to come and take it down!

We hunkered down and stayed together under the blue tarp, taking turns on the nightwatch for an imminent police raid. It did not come the first exuberant night, nor did it come on the second or third nights. Guitars played, drums beat, coffee was served. Camaraderie kept us assured that we were doing the right thing. Defiantly we stood together, sleepless sentinels against the inevitable.

Some of us managed to stay up the first night until dawn without sleep under that blue tarp in a “sleep strike.” We persevered for four days and nights before the last of us caved in to exhaustion. By the fifth day, our fear turned into boredom.

Little did we know that the raid police planned for February 4th would change us forever.

Protestors critical of Obama policies, say he continues legacy of predecessor


While thousands filled the National Mall around the Capitol building where President Obama is sworn in for his second term, a smaller crowd gathering at Meridian Hill Park is largely critical of the president and his policies.

Dissent against the status quo and entrenched power emerged as the theme of the rally organized by the Arc of Justice Coalition (@arcofjustice13). Overall, there was a consensus that Martin Luther King’s birthday was more important than the Inauguration, and rally speakers often referred to him rather than the President as an example to follow.

Speaker Jean Athey of Peace Action advised listeners to ignore the “sanitized” version of King, and instead remember that King was a revolutionary and radical who made people angry. “He knew what he was doing was dangerous,” she said.

He took on the three major issues of the day: racism, capitalism, and militarism, she said. These goals closely resembled the issues raised by the protestors at the rally, which included drone warfare, military spending, loss of civil liberties, and the corrupt influence of corporation on the political system.

Protestors carried four full-size model drones down 14th Street as they made their way toward the White House.

Ladd Everitt, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Update: Not everyone had negative things to say about President Obama. Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence pleaded with ralliers to support the President’s new gun control legislation, proposed in the wake of the Newtown shooting.

“Whatever grievances you have, lay them down for a few months. Obama’s gun package is the most important initiative put forward in American history. Finally we are going to reduce gun violence in this country.”

He explained that the gun industry is combating declining sales by persuading people that they must arm themselves 24/7 and accumulate more and more weapons, including assault weapons.

“This is comprehensive reform to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” he said. “We have to seize this opportunity [while] the President is putting the full weight of the White House behind it.”

Code Pink flash mobs Union Station

Code Pink descended on Washington, DC’s Union Station today to deliver a message about stopping the spread of weapons and reducing U.S. militarism abroad. Sporting funky pink costumes, Code Pink activists sang and danced in the main hall of Union Station, even more crowded than usual with travelers arriving for Inauguration Day. Security was also at the max.

While entertaining the crowd, Code Pink interspersed antics like dancing a can-can with a serious message. “End gun violence now, end drone violence now,” they chanted. Many of the songs and remarks were addressed to President Obama. “It’s been 10 years, it’s time to leave Afghanistan and end the war on terror,” said Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin.

On the morning of Inauguration Day, Code Pink will join a coalition of progressive organizations in a rally at Malcolm X Park, then march down 14th Street.

More photos of the flash mob are here.

And video highlights by @organizerx: