"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
View Kathy Emery, PhD's LinkedIn profileView Kathy Emery, PhD's profile

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pussy Riot -- Strategic? (nonviolent direct action)

Not all nonviolent resistance (NVR) is equal.  To be effective (that is, grow the movement) , NVR should be designed to do any of the following (preferable all three simultaneously):
  • dramatize an injustice.
  • to educate and/or
  • gain the sympathy of a wider audience
This article (excerpts cut and pasted below) seems to suggest that the arrest and trial of the punk rock band Pussy Riot may have been (unwittingly?) strategic!!!  or not!?
While attracting publicity to Pussy Riot’s cause, the action may have also given the opposition movement new energy by drawing a considerable number of new people to get involved in Russian politics

Russian opposition looks to move forward after Pussy Riot trial
by Anna Derinova | August 23, 2012

...there has been little discussion of their impact on the larger opposition movement, which has grown steadily from social media sites to massive street protests in recent months. While many Russians were outraged by the Soviet-era trial and its harsh verdict, Pussy Riot’s provocative action still remains a point of contention.

.... [Pussy Riot] stand against the discrimination of sexual minorities and the anti-gay law excluding displays of homosexuality that could supposedly influence children; the general dysfunction of the education and healthcare systems; and the gradual secularization of the Church through its businesslike behavior.

.....approximately 44 percent of respondents tended to support the trial against Pussy Riot and considered it quite reasonable, while 17 percent did not.
....The so-called “punk prayer” and the government’s reaction have divided the public into two irreconcilable camps, either fearlessly supporting the young feminists or furiously accusing them.

.....While attracting publicity to Pussy Riot’s cause, the action may have also given the opposition movement new energy by drawing a considerable number of new people to get involved in Russian politics. On Saturday, August 18 — the day after the verdict was announced — a March for Democracy was held in Moscow, in which hundreds of people turned out to commemorate the nonviolent defeat of a coup d’état that hastened the 1991 Soviet collapse...Next comes September 15....

Whether or not the fallout from the Pussy Riot trial will help these efforts remains to be seen. As the eminent sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya recently said, “We need some more fuel to light the fire, but Pussy Riot may have harmed the opposition by taking away some of its moral high ground.”

The Need for a Variety of Roles in Protests - Chile, for example

Movements must MOVE.  In other words, organizers and activists must consciously design their strategy and tactics in order to gain the sympathy and participation of ever increasing numbers of people.  James Lawson, in fact, is arguing these days that the next social movement will only happen if it is "comprehensive" and "intergenerational."  For example, he argued at the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of SNCC conference in his keynote address that today's environmental movement cannot succeed unless it figures out how not to be a primarily white movement.

Lawson knows what he is talking about.  He trained the leaders of the Nashville Movement (Diane Nash, John Lewis, James Bevel and Bernard Layfayette among others) from 1959-1960 and directed the most powerful and successful sit ins of the 1960s.  He made sure that there were a VARIETY of ROLES that people could play as the joined the movement to desegregate all of downtown Nashville.  Not every student was ready to get beaten and arrested.  Some were observers, some had a bunch of coins in their pockets standing near phone booths ready to call the ambulances when needed.  Some worked with lawyers to bail out those eventually arrested.  Most important of all, the direct action of the sit ins was DESIGNED to get the sympathy of the black middle class adults in order to inspire them to boycott downtown stores.  It was the boycott, the bombing of Looby's house and the opportunistic silent march to city hall that finally wrested an agreement by the Mayor to begin the process of desegregation.

So when I read the following article in the NY Times two days ago, I thought that those adults who were not prepared to occupy buildings and be attached and arrested by the police had still found a role for themselves -- a crucial role! -- I was excited because it represented an expansion of the student movement in Chile.  Now.....if the Quebec students can figure out how to expand their movement?!

The importance of observers is that they not only inhibit the police from excessive force but provide the stories of the brutal beatings to a wider audience....thereby generating even more sympathy and exposing who the real savages are...where the real souce of the violence comes from.

Helmeted Volunteers Monitor Students

They appear at the student demonstrations that are once again filling the streets and occupying the schools of Santiago, and at the hospitals and police stations where the fallout lands afterward: small troops of observers in blue or white helmets, armed with notebooks, cameras, voice recorders and gas masks.

They are not there to join the protests or interfere, only to monitor and record what happens when the police crack down on the protests — as they have done with increased violence this year — and to help anyone who is injured or abused. This month, they are busier than ever.

The volunteer observers, known as “helmets,” are ordinary citizens of all ages and walks of life, professionals and blue-collar workers, university students and retirees, some well into their 70s, who see their work as crucial.

“We have to register the evidence of what we’re seeing,” said Marta Cisterna, 45, the spokeswoman for one of the helmet groups, Human Rights Observers. “No one else is monitoring police actions.”

When students mobilized last year to demand an overhaul of the country’s higher education system and a commitment to free, equal and high-quality public education, the official response was more restrained. This year the government has declared zero tolerance for school occupations, and has called in special police forces to clear the buildings. Hours or days later, the same schools are taken over again, and the police return, a cat-and-mouse pattern that often leads to violent clashes and hundreds of arrests. Meanwhile, small groups of radicalized students set up barricades, throw rocks and damage public and private property.

Protest marches usually erupt in street battles with the police, who use tear gas and chemical-laced water cannons to disperse the crowds and wield their batons to arrest demonstrators. Some students have suffered head injuries, broken noses, convulsions and breathing problems; some have been trampled by police officers on horseback. Increasingly, the observer groups say, detainees are reporting acts of sexual humiliation by the police.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Five Examples of Civil Disobedience to Remember

From a Guardian article by Richard Seymour August 20, 2012.
Salt March

1. Gandhi's Salt March - India 1930
. . . the campaign had long-term effects that weighed against its failure to win its immediate goals. In the first instance, it was inspiring for those taking part, since many had never been organised before. Second, it announced to the world that the Indian masses were a serious force, and that the British authorities had been forced to negotiate with their leader. Third, it stimulated further waves of civil disobedience. Finally, the Salt March had a tremendous influence on the thinking and strategy of other insurgents, such as Martin Luther King.

2. Extremadura campaign - Spain 1936
. . . it was not just a question of taking over the land. There was a debate about what should be done with it – whether it should be collectivised or allotted to individual owners. The seizures provided not just land and work, but also a democratic forum, a focus for arguments about the whole future development of the society.

3. Flying pickets and sit-ins - U.S. during the Great Depression
Jose Bove
. . . .the "flying squadrons" of pickets marching from town to town during the textile strike of 1934, urging workers to walk out. This was particularly important because these workers were often distributed in small production facilities, and had little industrial muscle by themselves. A second key moment was a series of sit-ins by workers in steel and auto factories. This involved workers obstructing production simply by occupying a strategic area of a plant and refusing to move: a highly effective tactic that was also less violent than the picket lines and was later used by civil rights and anti-Vietnam war campaigners.

London Poll Tax Protest
4. Dismantling unwanted enterprises - France 1999
. .  Bové's [attack on McDonalds] was just one of a wider series of stunts disrupting the purveyors of GM and junk food flooding the French market. These actions brought to the fore not just Bové, but an entire layer of agricultural activists. They formed a significant part of the anti-capitalist movement and later joined the struggle against the European constitutional treaty, as part of the coalition that delivered the "No" vote.

5. Poll tax non-payment - London 1990

You can surprise the authorities every once in a while, but they learn from their mistakes and incorporate the lessons into future plans. What is important is that underlying such spontaneous actions is a much more durable form of civil disobedience. . . . a nationwide network of campaigns and non-payment unions had developed. These groups brought people who were ordinarily isolated, or not politically active, together. Their strategy was to resist at every step: refusing to register for the tax, contesting liability orders from the council (thus clogging up the legal system) and finally refusing payment. This was highly effective.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Freedom is a Constant Struggle - Tunisia's women

From NY TIMES article

As Reuters reported, thousands of Tunisian women marched in the capital, Tunis, on Monday night to protest a provision in the new Islamist government’s draft constitution describing women as “complementary to men.” The 6,000 protesters pledged to defend the equality under the law they have enjoyed since Tunisia adopted its Code of Personal Status on Aug. 13, 1956.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Modern Day Freedom Rides

2011 was the 50th anniversary of the 1961-63 CORE organized Freedom Rides.  PBS produced a 2 hour documentary to commemorate that anniversary, along with organizing a modern day Freedom Ride last year.  Facing History and Teachers Domain in conjunction with PBS took up the task of creating workshops to get the story into the classroom.

Some spin offs of this anniversary celebration this year:

more links
Students from Newark, NJ, Detroit MI, Chicago IL, NYC, Baltimore, MD attend press conference outside the United States Department of Education on July 10, 2012. The youth represented communities that filed Title VI Civil Rights complaints against discriminatory corporate school reform policies.

. . . . Now, 50 years later, a modern crop of riders joins a national protest for justice in education, sponsored by the Save Our Schools March. Starting today [July 28], these students will help lead workshops and trainings with the Girls and Boys Club of Washington and other youth organizations. On Saturday, they will march with education leaders, teachers, other students, parents and community organizers. The Plessy and Ferguson Foundation helped organize the New Orleans group of activists and scheduled stops along the way—including to the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery on Tuesday—to learn more about the civil rights movement and SPLC’s prison pipeline litigation work.

And, not surprisingly, the co-optation of the history!!  National Armed Forces FreedomRide?  Unh?!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Facing Race 2012 National Conference Nov 15-17 Baltimore


Some of the many great workshop topics:

Cross Racial Alliance Building for Social Justice and Immigrant Rights
With Opal Tometi, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Gustavo Andrade, CASA de Maryland; Abraham Paulos, Families for Freedom
Leading advocates and organizers will share about building cross-racial and ethnic alliances for immigrant rights and racial justice fights in their communities across the country. We'll be speaking about key areas and best practices we've found in our collaborative work amongst African American, Latino, Chinese, Afro-Diasporic, and Caribbean communities as well as offering examples of our work. The workshop will be interactive and we will offer take-home tools and materials for people who are interested in doing the work.

DREAMers and Freedom Riders: Racial Justice Across Generations

With Sam Fulwood, Center for American Progress
Members of the Freedom Riders group, civil rights activists who challenged segregation in South in 1961, will join in discussion with DREAMers, activists working to pass the federal DREAM Act. They will engage in inspired conversation about history and organizing for a progressive future. Session participants will view a partial screening of the Stanley Nelson film Freedom Riders and engage in conversation with panelists. The session is multi-ethnic, crosses generations, and links activism in ways that's rarely done nowadays.

Addressing Racism Using Theater of the Oppressed

With Nayantara Sen, Applied Research Center; S. Leigh Thompson, The Forum Project
Through Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) games and activities, participants will sharpen their skills in recognizing structural racism, and learn ways to break mechanized thought patterns that perpetuate oppression. This highly interactive workshop is fun, fast-paced and playful, and has a participatory approach that enables activists, educators, and racial justice advocates to grow their toolbox for affecting social change. Theatre of the Oppressed facilitates a centrally shared experience of dialogue, critique and self-reflective learning around the nature of oppression. Games and conversations will revolve around issues of structural inequities, intersectionality and allyship, intentionality and impact, and systems analysis on levels of racism. No previous TO experience necessary.

Art & Agitation: On the Power of Cultural Strategy
With Favianna Rodriguez, Co-Founder of CultureStrike &
Culture is the realm of ideas, images and stories; it is where people make sense of the world and where they find meaning and forge community. History shows that when the culture changes, politics follows. Culture can reach audiences beyond the bounds of what community organizing and policy-based organizing can do. While the media is laced with myths, stereotypes and misrepresentation of grassroots movements, cultural interventions can play a key role in pushing forward stories that help shift the public debate. A growing movement of artists around the country are using cultural tools to fight economic inequality, corporations, banks and anti-migrant hate. In this session, artist-activists, writers, cultural leaders and creative institutions will discuss models for connecting artists to movements for social change.

Tell It Like it Is and Have Fun Doing It: Improvisations for Racial Justice
With Soyinka Rahim, Arts Facilitator
Do you have something to say about racism? Want to learn ways to help others mine their personal stories and messages about social justice? In this action-oriented workshop, we'll use improvisational tools of movement, song, story and stillness to become bolder spokespersons for challenging racial norms and promoting social justice.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Arab Spring Moves South

Regarding the importance of personal networking and coalition building  -- without a solid infrastructure in sustained movement can happen. (my highlighted text below)

From an article in Waging Nonviolence

Between July 26 and 30, in Johannesburg, South Africa, peacemakers from 12 countries throughout Africa met to share experiences and birthed a new, continent-wide African Nonviolence and Peacebuilding Network (ANPN). . . . The delegates from more than a dozen organizations heard from Sherif Joseph Rizk, a participant in the 2011 Tahrir Square protests. . .

As part of the New Republic Group, Rizk is amongst those working for continued de-militarization and democracy in his country. “We got rid of the dictator,” he said, “but we have not yet gotten rid of dictatorship.” The New Republic Group is looking to develop a road map to help strategically guide the grassroots democracy movement. Rizk’s participation in the exchange and the new network grows out of a hope that activists from the north to the south of the continent can learn from one another and continue an ongoing sharing of resources.

. . . . Former South African parliamentarian and Deputy Minister of Defense and Health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge was selected as one of the co-facilitators of ANPN. “The creation of the ANPN,” she noted,

is a significant moment in that we now have the opportunity to build on the on-the-ground work happening all across the continent, to break the isolation which so many feel. I like to think about it going beyond training to peacebuilding, going to the root causes of violence. We must spotlight issues of minorities so that all can enjoy their freedom, human rights and security.
. . . .South Sudanese trainer Moses Monday concluded:
I always think that the world in which we live today is in competition between those engaged in violence and those committed to nonviolence. In such kind of a race, it is important when we meet together to engage and inspire ourselves. That is why this network is important. We inspire and encourage one another to work together, no matter where we live. These networks are not the end in itself but a means to a nonviolent, peaceful and democratic society.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Update from Chicago Freedom School - FUN AND WORK

Watch the starts with Ella's Song and then transitions into modern liberation music.
I LOVE IT that they are having FUN while learning.  Emma Goldman said something to the effect that she didn't want any part of a revolution that you couldn't dance to!  (see reference below video).  (1964 Freedom Schools)


from Wikipedia page on Emma Goldman - quotation from her book Living My Life (1931)
At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause. I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business. I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things." Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal. (p. 56)
This incident was the source of a statement commonly attributed to Goldman that occurs in several variants:
  • If I can't dance, it's not my revolution!
  • If I can't dance, I don't want your revolution!
  • If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.
  • A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.
  • If there won't be dancing at the revolution, I'm not coming.

Divide and Conquer Tactic Exposed (and not working?)

Regarding Reverend William Owen's campaign against Obama's support of same sex marriage

Rev. William Owens, the pastor who has lambasted President Obama's gay marriage stance and warned that the president's endorsement could cost him black support, appears to have been lying about his involvement in the civil rights movement.

Owens, who runs a group called the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP), has claimed that he participated in protests and sit-ins in Nashville in the late 1950s. “I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard, for a man to marry a man, and a woman to marry a woman,” he said during a news conference last week at the National Press Club.

. . . A librarian at the Nashville Public Library, which maintains an extensive library on the sit-ins and protests, could find no mention of Owens . . .

.....James Lawson, who helped devise and implement the nonviolent tactics that the many civil rights activists employed, criticized Owens for the apparent misrepresentations of his background. "If he was in Nashville during part of the time I was there, he was not paying attention to my teachings," Lawson said to Mother Jones. "My teachings were not about practicing social or cultural discrimination against anybody."

Owens has long held ties to conservative organizations, the African American liaison for the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), a conservative group that backs laws to block same-sex marriage. Earlier this year, some of NOM's internal documents were made public that described its attempts at "driving a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies.
Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.
....Earlier last month, Owens held a protest at the NAACP's national convention in Houston and criticized the civil rights groups' for its endorsement of same-sex marriage.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"People Power" at work in Paraguay and India

Two articles below highlight important components making for successful use of people power: 
  • utilized colorful marches, art, theater, music, and poetry as expressions of resistance.
  • youth have led 
  • people have organized to make the resistance global.
  • We have to begin to plant another model of democracy,
  • 5th Pillar regularly conducts free trainings on how to use the Right to Information Act.
  • an official will often not go through with an act of corruption if they sense that a citizen is even slightly intent on exposing corrupt activities

Rain or shine, every Thursday in Asunción, Paraguay, activists gather to protest the right-wing government of Federico Franco which came to power in a June 22 parliamentary coup against left-leaning president Fernando Lugo. . . .

The resistance to the coup is dispersed around the country and typically involves small urban protests (largely in Asunción) that have utilized colorful marches, art, theater, music, and poetry as expressions of resistance. Notably, youth have led much of the organizing in this movement, and social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter have played a key role in bringing people together against the coup government.

.....Outside the nation’s landlocked borders, the waves of Paraguayan migrants whose numbers have skyrocketed in the last eight years are also mobilizing against Franco’s coup. Castillo said, “These people have organized to make the resistance global. Outside of the country, this is the international face against the coup.”.....

.....Such renewed political awareness has manifested itself in various ways. According to Muñoz, the coup proved that the 1992 constitution was worthless, as it was manipulated by politicians who used it to conduct an illegitimate parliamentary coup. “And so the people say ‘No!’ We have to begin to plant another model of democracy, another model of society, and people are already talking about organizing a national constitutional assembly where we can discuss these issues.” . . . . .“There is an urgent need now,” she said, “to develop stronger mechanisms which guarantee that the rights of the citizens are not violated... We are moving toward this, we’re discussing a new paradigm.”

.....In the early 2000s a nonviolent movement for government transparency won a significant victory when the Right to Information Act was passed in 2005. Since then organizers have continued advancing the cause by winning additional smaller victories along the way.

5th Pillar regularly conducts free trainings on how to use the Right to Information Act. It only takes a single three-hour session for citizens to learn about the new rights granted to them under RTI. They also learn how to write letters requesting government documents, and how to sign RTI petitions. Anand says that this has been a very effective tool because an official will often not go through with an act of corruption if they sense that a citizen is even slightly intent on exposing corrupt activities via public documents. Also, evidence of past instances can be identified at any time in the future by citizens looking for discrepancies in the public records.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Good book about the Middle East: social movements are NOT SPONTANEOUS!

Some parallels to the Southern Freedom Movement in the partial blog quotation below:
From Insidethemiddle
. . . . Those early [nonviolent Syrian] demonstrators broke the fear barrier. And once the momentum caught on, there was no stopping the “people power” that filled the streets, that mobilized citizens of different backgrounds and persuasions, and that powered the creative energies that kept people organized, cooperative, and ready to meet whatever challenge the regime fired at them.

Was this creativity, determination, and bravery spontaneous? What unleashed such popular resistance in such a disciplined and non-violent fashion so quickly and for so long? Part of the answer is that, despite their best (and most violent) efforts, the Asad regime never completely snuffed out the will to resist. The notorious political prisons of Mezze and Tadmur were always chock full of resisters. . . .
. . . . The most compelling analysis of the background to the Arab Spring as a whole with obvious implications for– if not direct evidence from– the Syrian Spring comes from a 2010 publication by the sociologist Asef Bayat titled Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Bayat’s theoretical approach and the evidence it is based go a long way toward explaining what otherwise might have seemed as spontaneous a year ago. That he was working out this explanation of popular resistance over the previous decade is a testament to his ability to anticipate what caught most observers (and participants) by surprise.

Based largely on examples drawn from Egypt and Iran, Bayat characterizes this phase of political activity at the grass roots as one of “social non-movements”. Unlike the more explicitly political movements that most observers look for in their research, “non-movements” are not guided by ideologies or leaders or institutions. They represent collective action by actors who are not consciously acting in unison [yet] but whose combined efforts and practices shape social change. He focuses on three specific groups that typify this kind of politics: the poor, women, and youth. One specific example that resonates with the Arab Spring, is the tendency among street sellers in urban areas to encroach on public space and to occupy it for their own purposes. Bayat calls this the “quiet encroachment of the ordinary”. Given this analysis, it should not have been surprising that it was the action of Muhammad Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who was pushed from his perch by the police, that set the whole region on fire.

The lens of current events may obscure the fact that there was a Syrian Spring during which a people reclaimed their humanity from the clutches of regime intent on crushing the popular tide at any cost.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Need for Self Defense - Cherán, Mexico

During the Southern Freedom Movement, most people who engaged in nonviolent direct action did so as a tactic.  Most believed and acted in self defense.  So....there is a role for violence. But violence alone, cannot solve a problem and must also be used strategically.

This article about indigenous Mexicans (women!) using self defense is, hopefully, part of a larger story.  They are using song and self-defense to create space to then, hopefully,  be able to build infrastructure; coalitions; and begin nonviolent resistance strategically (as well as putting in place all the key components of a successful social movement)

August 2, 2012 NY TIMES
Reclaiming the Forests and the Right to Feel Safe

....multiple episodes of rape, kidnapping, extortion and murder by the paramilitary loggers, who have devastated an estimated 70 percent of the surrounding oak forests that sustained [Cherán’s] economy and indigenous culture for centuries. .....

. . . On the morning of April 15, 2011, using rocks and fireworks, a group of women attacked a busload of AK-47-armed illegal loggers as they drove through Cherán, residents said. The loggers, who local residents say are protected by one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations and given a virtual free pass by the country’s authorities, had terrorized the community at will for years. . .

But here in Cherán, a group of townspeople took loggers hostage, expelled the town’s entire police force and representatives of established political parties, and forcibly closed the roads. . . as many as 200 bonfires set up at every intersection in town to prevent the loggers from retaliating.

In the months since then, Cherán’s townspeople have established a simple but effective internal protection system. There are fewer bonfires today, but several remain active and a security patrol of residents, or “ronda,” keeps watch at all times. Armed townspeople — from middle-age men to teenage girls — guard the barricades blocking all entrances into town. Their weapons are AR15 assault rifles, seized from the police when they expelled them. .....

Last November, in a court appeal, Cherán acquired a degree of autonomy from the Mexican government; the town still receives federal and state money, and its people must pay taxes, but they are allowed to govern themselves under a legal framework called “uses and customs” that has been granted to some indigenous communities. . . .

The residents’ actions have ignited a regional spark of do-it-yourself justice.
In nearby Opopeo, residents have organized community patrols and created an alert system using church bells. In Santa Clara del Cobre, disgruntled townspeople kidnapped their police force for several days last February, suspecting it of having abducted and “disappeared” a local man accused of rape. . .

two residents were killed when they ventured into the forests. Since April 2011, other residents have been murdered under similar circumstances. . . . . Some in Cherán say that they have begun to feel captive and desperate, confined to their town but still dependent on the forests, from which they take wood and wild mushrooms, a community staple. The forests also represents something more intangible but no less important to them — a source of wisdom and an integral part of the Cheránean identity.

With access to the forests cut off, Cherán’s economy is beginning to dwindle. Unemployed woodworkers are now trying to secure odd jobs inside the town, but there are few to be had. The prized colorful, fleshy mushrooms are sold at increasingly high prizes in the main square. Outside support has become increasingly vital.

“They are living practically off of the remittances coming in from the United States,” Leonardo Velazquez, a hospital administrator living in Cherán, said of his neighbors. Indeed, Michoacán was the Mexican state with the highest flow of remittances in 2011 and the first three months of 2012. Still, the state’s economy appears to be falling apart.

Here in Cherán, the women around Bonfire No. 17 talked late into the chilly night about their fallen comrades and their devastated forests. They seemed to find energy in their scorching tea and courage in the words of a song that a woman seated next to Rocio had been composing. “I have lived, but what are we going to give our children?” she sang, a toddler son clinging to her thick wool sweater. “They won’t even be able to buy a little log like the ones we are burning here.”

A Tale of Two Protests -- Chick Fil A and Anaheim

sorry for duplications (I erased the first posting of this!)
I make the connection between the two protests at the end -- how to use laws as issues around which to EFFECTIVELY organize.

1. The CEO of Chick Fil A makes a statement opposing gay marriage and directed money toward campaigns against gay marriage. Gay and Lesbian activists organize "kiss-ins" in response and the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco make statements opposing Chick Fil A franchises in their cities. Now petitions are circulating on college campuses demanding that the University not have Chick Fil A as an option in the cafeteria.

Liberals, like Jon Stewart and some local gay activists, feel that the current gay protests (kiss-ins to protest Cathy's speech) are off the mark -- people should not be protesting free speech. I agree! The gay activist response to CEO Cathy's personal and corporate positions is not being designed effectively.

When protesters are strategic, they engage in actions that
target the decision makers with demands they can grant and
design direct nonviolent actions that dramatize the injustice (and its remedy),
thereby gaining the support or sympathy of a wider audience.

 I don't understand why there is no focus on the Chick Fil A board of directors to ensure that the company provides domestic partnership benefits to all its employees?  It seems to me that would be something that the likes of Jon Stewart would have difficulty making fun of and thereby dismissing gay protesters as ridiculous.  Boycotting Chick Fil A over the CEO's personal position on gay marriage  is problematic -- do you want him to resign?  have an epiphany that he is wrong? stop him from donating money to anti-gay marriage campaigns?  Do you really want to put the company out of business?  Or do you want to enlist the general population in demanding that they provide domestic partnership benefits to all employees?

From an Atlanta Journal Constitution article a year and a half ago:
For example, Chick-fil-A’s nondiscrimination policy covers sexual orientation where state laws require the company to do so, but not elsewhere, a company spokesman said. Likewise, Chick-fil-A offers domestic partner health benefits only in places that mandate such coverage. According to the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign, 89 percent of the Fortune 500 mention sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and 57 percent offer domestic partner health insurance on a nationwide basis.
The company says its working environment is designed to be friendly and welcoming. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against discrimination, has never sued the company.
 2.  From the NEW YORK TIMES regarding the continuing rebellion in Anaheim

Like most of the City Council [because elections are at large, not by district], Mayor Tom Tait lives in Anaheim Hills.  Last week, he asked federal investigators to look into the Police Department’s practices. This week, trying to grapple with how the city could move on, he called a meeting with executives from Disney, as well as the Los Angeles Angels and the Anaheim Ducks, asking them to help come up with programs to help the most struggling neighborhoods in the city. . . . “The problem is in that in some of these neighborhoods, there’s really a lack of hope from people, and they turn to gangs and crime,” said Mr. Tait, who has lived in the city since 1988. “We need people to go into the areas that lack hope and find ways to help.”
In 2007, when a developer proposed a high-rise building with affordable housing, Disney spent more than $2 million to back a group called Save Our Anaheim Resort Area, which opposed the plan and successfully persuaded the city to abandon the idea. Since then, the group changed the verb in its name from “save” to “support” and has created a political action committee that funneled thousands of dollars to candidates, largely money collected from Disney and businesses near the resort, while Disney has continued to donate millions directly to candidates. Disney officials point out that they donate millions of dollars to local nonprofit groups every year. “Our political action committee is focused on electing resort-district-friendly officials, not just at City Hall but also county supervisors and state senators, anyone voting on matters that would affect the district,” said Jill Kanzler, the executive director of the group.
....Earlier this year, tensions flared when the City Council approved a tax incentive to a developer for a $283 million project to build two luxury hotels across from Disneyland. Typically, the city collects a 15 percent tax for every stay in the city. The incentive plan will allow the developers to keep the money from the tax for the next 15 years, an amount estimated to be $158 million. 
Abu-Lughod in Race, Space and Riots (2007) concludes her study of race rebellions in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles (1919-1992) by arguing that there are superficial and underlying causes of ongoing tensions that periodically erupt in rebellions. The superficial causes include police behavior, incarceration and relocation. The underlying causes of tensions are the
"injustices inherent in the unequal opportunities for advancement (rewards) on the one hand and unequal punishments in the criminal justice system on the other. Here, changing not only the attitudes of whites but their actions will be necessary. Such attitudes are reflected in and given objective form not only in individual behavior but, more fundamentally, in public policies adopted by law and funded by the public purse (pp. 292-3)."
Abu-Lughood did not follow this conclusion with any suggestions as to how to change white attitudes or behavior. Eisenhower famously responded to King's demand that he introduce a Civil Rights bill by arguing that "you can't legislate morality." King responded: "A law may not make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me." To which one could say, "laws passed are not necessarily laws enforced." Getting a law passed and demanding that it be enforced, however, are excellent issue around which organizers can mobilize and inspire communities to create people power to combat money and violence power.
For example, laws requiring
  • employers to provide domestic partnership benefits
  • requiring a LIVING wage
  • end to racial profiling
  • affordable housing
  • the rebuilding the nation's infrastructure giving jobs to those in low-income neighborhoods
  • and so forth.........

Thursday, August 2, 2012

social protest in Swaziland - evidence of 3 components

A wonderful story via NYTIMES Outside a King’s Plush Halls, Streets Rise in Anger

KEY COMPONENTS: coalitions (nurses, teachers, government workers), direct action (picket lines), use of arts (singing and dancing)
MBABANE, Swaziland — Every day, King Mswati III and his retinue of 13 wives face tough choices: Should they drive the BMW or the Rolls-Royce? Which plush palace to sleep in? Jet off to Dubai for a shopping spree or to Las Vegas to play the tables?

Doris, a 35-year-old nurse who lives here in the capital of this tiny kingdom, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, faces a rather different set of choices: Do her four children need new school uniforms, or can the holes in them be repaired for another semester? How much chicken should she put in each night’s dinner, given that she can afford only one chicken a week on her take-home pay of about $300 a month? . . .

Last month, Doris and her fellow nurses joined the teachers and the government workers on the nation’s picket lines to demand a 4.5 percent salary increase. The government, fresh off a fiscal crisis brought on by plummeting revenues amid the global slowdown, has pleaded poverty and prescribed austerity. A new value-added tax of 14 percent has plumped the government treasury but pinched the paychecks of ordinary people even further. Government workers have had to make do without raises.

But the government has not exactly practiced what it preaches. In 2010, just before the full-blown fiscal crisis began, top government officials gave themselves big raises, retirement packages and living allowances. The prime minister is entitled to a one-time payout of almost $200,000 when he leaves office. In a country where two-thirds of the population lives on $2 a day, the government raised the salaries of members of Parliament to $2,400 a month. . . .

The government has responded to the protests by clamping down hard. When nurses at the capital’s main government hospital tried to mount a protest march, they were blocked from leaving the hospital’s parking lot by police officers in riot gear who threatened them with cudgels and tear gas. The nurses, dressed in red coats, danced and sang protest songs in the parking lot. . . .

. . . .The police responded by blocking off roads to the Parliament building. The parents gathered in a field nearby, singing.
. . . .the Rev. Zwanini Shabalala, who joined the parents. . . . As he spoke, his fellow parents sang and stamped their feet in unison. “Why are you scared?” they chanted at the politicians, who could neither see nor hear them. “Your time is coming.”