50 Years Later, We Still Have a Dream

For the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the NYC Light Brigade, Veterans For Peace, Get Equal, and activists from across the country have illuminated the message: “We Have A Dream – Jobs Not War.”

We need a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom every bit as much today as we did fifty years ago.

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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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From Washington to Istanbul with love

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Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Members of GetEQUAL, Code Pink, and the Maryland Bridge Light Brigade sent an illuminated one-word message to the Turkish people: “RESISTANBUL.” They spelled out the catch-phrase for the protests sweeping Turkey in blue lighted panels in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC on June 23.

Organizer Ellen Sturtz said, “GetEQUAL is inspired by the Turkish LGBTQ community and their fight against homophobia and discrimination by Turkish society and its own government.”

Turkish LGBTQ activists support the thousands of protesters in Taksim Square concerned about marginalization of secular cultures in Turkey. The LGBTQ community plans a Pride March in Istanbul on June 30th.

“We are happy to stand and take up our moral obligation to join in the struggle for justice and dignity in their lives,” Sturtz said.

Time is now for pathway to citizenship, say immigrant supporters at Capitol

“Citizenship–the time is now!” rang from Capitol Hill yesterday at the Immigration Reform Rally. Thousands packed the West Lawn to tell Congress that comprehensive reform of immigration policy–and a pathway to citizenship–is needed now.

They couldn’t have picked a better time. Although planned for months by a large number of organizations, the rally coincides with Obama’s push for immigration reform and a Senate committee haggling over a new bill. Harboring regrets over the 2012 election, Republicans seem poised to defy their base intent on deportation and finally make some concessions to get a bill passed.

It’s the first time since 2007 that Congress has taken on the reality of 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S.–many of them well-established in communities with their families. According to a Pew Research study, the majority of undocumented immigrants arrived in the U.S. before 2000. Only 1.6 million of the total number have entered the country since 2005.

Protestor Joyce Tarnow of Florida

Immigrants with citizenship and work permits who attended the rally were eager to express their support. Luís from Stafford, Virginia said he came to the U.S. from El Salvador illegally. Now a citizen, he’s worked for the same landscaping company for 25 years.

Standing alongside his friends and co-workers Alcía and Arturo, he said, “We didn’t come over here because we are criminals. We came over here because they are poor in our country.”

People came to Washington, DC from all across the U.S. bearing signs and flags from their home states, as well as flags from their homelands such as Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Venezuela.

Although Hispanics made up a large portion of rally attendees and speeches from the stage were delivered in Spanish, many people were immigrants from Mideast countries such as Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and African countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Mali.

A few protestors against “amnesty” for immigrants clustered by the Reflecting Pool. One of them, Joyce Tarnow from north Florida propped up a huge sign saying, “12,000,000 out of work.” She and rally attendee Johar Ali, a Canadian, engaged in a civil debate about the immigration issue. In spite of the focus of Tarnow’s sign, the discussion pivoted more around the environment and scarce resources than jobs.

“Our water table has been going down in the the central part of the U.S. for decades. There has been less water available, there will be less production,” she said, expressing her concern for rising population growth.

Ali, on the other hand, saw problems arising for countries with stagnating population growth. China, for example, is in “big trouble” because of their one-child policy. Workers are retiring, he said, and “you don’t have enough [people] to fill in their shoes.” Without population growth from immigration in the U.S., he argued, “Social Security will disappear.”

Federal benefits are often a sticking point in the immigration debate. But conservative proponents for immigration reform are countering the traditional argument that immigrants are a drain on resources. They point to a report by the American Action Forum which says that legitimizing undocumented workers will boost GDP and tax revenue over the long term.

For many people at the rally, however, changing immigration policy is not about macro-economics but keeping their families together.

One girl at the rally wore a t-shirt saying, “My Dad deserves citizenship.” An estimated 5.5 million children in the U.S. have one or more parents who are undocumented immigrants, according to a report released in 2011 by the Applied Research Center.

Luís, the landscaper from El Salvador who gained citizenship, feels for children in this situation. “Children suffer from this,” he said. “I see the news, the breaking heart news, all the little kids living in the U.S. without any parents.”

The eight senators working to draft the legislation may have cleared a hurdle by agreeing to measures related to border security. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the members of the bipartisan group, told the rally crowd that they were nearly ready to present the bill.

John Zangas contributed to this article.

Supreme Court marriage hearings draw thousands willing to brave Washington’s soggy snow

Both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage are arriving in Washington because of two Supreme Court hearings this week on the controversial issue.

The District, however, didn’t greet visitors with beautiful spring cherry blossoms. Instead, Supreme Court watchers got here just in time for the first snow accumulation in two years.

Shivering and soggy at the base of the Supreme Court’s steps, they nonetheless queued up for tickets to hearings challenging Prop 8, a ballot initiative passed in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law.

Several, mostly opponents of Prop 8 and DOMA, are still keeping vigil Monday night in a cold rain. Tents line the sidewalk along 1st Street.

Thousands are expected by Tuesday morning to advocate for their position on gay marriage. For proponents of marriage equality, banishing the Defense of Marriage Act would mean that couples legally married in states permitting same-sex marriage would receive a myriad of federal benefits now denied to them. They also hope that the Court will uphold a federal circuit court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

DSC_0017Supporters of Prop 8 hope that it will be reinstated and DOMA remains intact, which would keep barriers to same-sex marriage high and establish legal precedent against it.

Whether the Court decides to apply the equal protection clause could determine the extent to which the cases are far-reaching in scope.

They face hurdles of “standing” in the Court. The cases are unusual in that both the state of California (in the case of Prop 8) and the Obama administration (in the case of DOMA) declined to defend the statutes. It may be unprecedented that members of the Congressional House–and not the Department of Justice–will attempt to defend a federal law at the Supreme Court.

The Court will most likely not hand down rulings on the cases until late June.

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

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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]

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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]

Cool Day in History: Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913

Official program—Woman suffrage procession, Washington, D.C. March 3, 1913

Denise Oliver Velez sums up the importance of women marching for the vote 100 years ago:

March 3, 1913, was a major milestone in the battle for women in the United States to achieve national suffrage. Over 8,000 women and male supporters marched through the streets of Washington, D.C., on the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Though attacked by viewers, and women who marched suffered injury, the parade route was completed by most of the marchers and brought national attention to the suffrage movement.

The idea of women voting was so offensive at the time that they were attacked. Three hundred marchers were injured, a third of them seriously enough to be taken to the hospital.

It wasn’t until 1920–seven years later–that women gain the franchise. We tend to take women’s right to vote for granted, but Velez warns us to stay vigilant and vigorously battle the erosion of hard-won voting rights.

It is fitting that we not only explore this history during Women’s History Month, but that we take heed of the fact that though victories may have been won in the past, this is no time to rest on laurels, since efforts have been under way to erode the vote for many women—particularly women of color and the elderly—and just as suffragists had to fight to win the vote, we have to fight to keep the rights we have won and expand them.

The Suffrage Parade did initiate reforms, especially with respect to the battery of the marchers. Three days after the march, the Senate held several days of hearings resulting in the replacement of District of Columbia’s superintendent of police.