"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.
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

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.........

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