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STORIES FROM THESE OCCUPIED WASHINGTON TIMES
“Sleepful protest” seeks to wake people up to banking practices
By James Hill
Million Hoodie March: Locals express grief, anger over Trayvon Martin killing
Corporations abandon ALEC over controversial gun law
Washingtonians gathered on a rainy day to protest the police response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Citizens held up photos of Trayvon wearing a hoodie outside the D.C. City Council near Freedom Plaza. The crowd numbered several hundred, spilling onto Pennsylvania Avenue. On February 26, George Zimmerman of Sanford, Florida followed and shot the hooded black youth, killing him. Trayvon’s parents reported their son missing for three days, while his body lay in the city morgue. After claiming self defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman was released by police without charge. Coast-to-coast interest in the story gave rise to a firestorm of national protests, marches and speeches. “I can’t believe that such a terrible thing could happen in 2012,” said Janice Ferebee, author and community advocate for minority girls. “This is truly a sad moment for his family and we’re here to show support for them.” Dick Gregory, who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement in 1960’s, said, “This is bigger than what we think it is, there are some questions that need to be asked. […] How can he be killed 70 feet
By John Zangas
from his home, his body held for three days, and his parents don’t know about it?” Reverend Hagler, local civil rights activist and Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church, spoke at the protest, “Racism has been pervasive in this country since the first folks set their foot on Plymouth Rock, […] Racism has become so insidious and when you mix guns with race and racism you’re bound to have a disaster!” He added, “We’re here to say that enough is enough. We’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna stand shoulder to shoulder with one another and we’re not gonna let anybody die in vain. Are you ready to stand up?” The Stand Your Ground law was authored by the members of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), a conservative corporate support organization that has since disbanded its pro-gun lobbying arm. ALEC helped pass similar laws in 23 states by funneling support from corporate interests to state legislatures. The Stand Your Ground law received broad support from pro-gun groups and gun manufacturers.
With the arrival of spring, occupiers in Washington, D.C. are sleeping outdoors to decry the greed of big banks and corporations again. But they aren’t setting up tents in Freedom Plaza or McPherson Square this time. They are on the sidewalks in front of the corporate targets that they see as representative of the one percent. “It started as a necessity [since] we had nowhere else to sleep,” said Robert Dilley, a protester who had slept at McPherson Square since November, explaining the protests’ origins. “[But] it’s turned into a new and creative form of protest.” The protests are a direct message to the banks, according to Haris Ntabakos. “If you are going to take homes from people,” he stated, “[protesters] are going to fight back by sleeping in front of your office so [that] when you get to work you’re going to see what you’ve done.” Bank of America, a popular target of the group, received $45 billion in taxpayer money as part of the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout. After receiving this money, the bank provoked public anger when it was reported that they paid their CEO Brian Moynihan $7.5 million in a year when stock prices fell by 58%. Rudy Roberts, an occupier visiting from Orlando, Florida, said he was participating in the sleepful protest “because I feel that money needs to come out of the banks and go into credit unions, so that big banks can’t use that money against us.” The seed of the idea for these protests came in early February when the National Park Service began enforcing the regulations banning camping in both McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. Several McPherson Square protesters decided to move tents to a public sidewalk on 14th Street NW each evening. They would then sleep through the night and return the tents to the park in the morning. The occupiers studied Washington D.C. ordinances and found none prohibiting sleeping on sidewalks, said Dilley. On the night of April 3, a small group of occupiers from both camps, at the urging of Dilley and Ntabakos, slept in front of the Citibank branch facing McPherson Square. What began as a “targeted occupation” became their “sleepful protest.” The name comes from a riffing off the common Occupy chant of “this is a peaceful protest!” That first night, a security guard threatened to return to the scene with friends to assault the “sleepful protesters,” according to several occupiers who slept out that night.
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Day laborers unite to avoid exploitation
On a weekend evening in April, several dozen people gathered at Don Juan’s restaurant in Mount Pleasant to hear stories, poems, and music and to show support for a new workers’ group taking its first steps in an experiment in labor organization. The half-dozen men in the group were day laborers who had come together to form a workerowned cooperative, seeking to break away from the risk and uncertainty typical of their jobs. “I don’t like being dependent [...] on a mediator or a subcontractor,” explained Carlos Castillo, who came from Peru two years ago when university strikes interrupted his degree in mechatronics, an engineering field. He got involved with the group after he was paid only a week’s wages for a two-week job, an instance of wage theft. “It doesn’t happen everyday, but it happens a lot,” he said. “It sucks the energy out of you. You’re excited to work and then, when [the employer] disappears, [...] it’s unpleasant.” After that experience, Castillo got in touch with Arturo Griffiths. Griffiths is an organizer with Jobs with Justice,
By Karina Stenquist
which runs the day laborer group Union de Trabajadores. It was out of his experience with this group that he decided to form a worker cooperative of his own. Castillo and others said they don’t like waiting around in a parking lot for a job. Making the case for a co-op, members spoke of the advantages of looking for work as a group, signing contracts with contractors directly, and finding work instead of waiting for it to find them. “When I heard about this, it sounded like a magnificent idea,” said Carlos Diaz, who joined conversations about the co-op about a year ago. Diaz came from El Salvador 12 years ago as a teenager. He says he began working in construction because he saw possibilities for advancement, despite his lack of formal education. Diaz displayed near immunity to doubt, which seemed typical of these workers. He said, “You see a contractor managing a job one day and you think - why not me?” Diaz came from an entrepreneurial background; his mother
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Brian Eister participates in the Sleepful Protest Pajama March. (Coulter Loeb)
@dcmiccheck The D.C. Mic Check
Carnival of Resistance
Natalie Camou Benjamin Daniels Jarrad Davis Michael Goldman Joe Gray Devora Liss Coulter Loeb Siobhán McGuirk Karina Stenquist
Volume 2, Issue 3
Doyle Printing & Offset 5206 46th Avenue Hyattsville, MD 3000 copies
Printing ~ Credits ~
Special thanks to the Metro Washington Labor Council, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (CWA Local 32035), and the Communication Workers of America, and to all our readers for their support. Back page graphic: Rich Black
The D.C. Mic Check was commissioned by the General Assembly of Occupy DC at McPherson Square. Free from corporate advertisers, this paper is dedicated to covering all aspects of the movement for social and economic justice in the D.C. area. Our goal is to show readers that there is real hope for change in D.C. by highlighting what is being done, and showing them how they can join the fight.
Read, contribute, or donate online at dcmiccheck.org
To celebrate the end of winter, on March 31 and April 1, Occupy DC held a “Carnival of Resistance” in McPherson Square. The event was seen as a rebirth for the movement after the hardships of the camp’s eviction in February. Each Occupy DC committee and working group was invited to come up with a carnival game for occupiers and curious weekend tourists in Washington D.C. alike to enjoy. Live music filled the air both days as the many musicians in the movement participated in open mics and planned performances. The weekend’s activities culminated in a “Fool’s March” on April 1 where participants from the movement marched through the streets wearing finery to satirize the 1% and sipped ginger ale from glasses to simulate champagne. Many D.C. residents attended the festivities and a lot of attendees said the feeling was similar to the energy they felt in the park at the start of the encampment in October. Photography by Kara Harkin, Coulter Loeb, Anne Meador, and John Zangas.
Occupy Spring Week of direct actions highlights environmental problems
In the Occupy DC Earth Week demonstrations, every day had a theme. The first four days of actions were dedicated to the elements: air, fire, water, and earth, while Friday morning brought a march against BP on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The rest of the weekend, co-organized by the Anarchist Alliance DC, was dedicated to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, since it coincided with their biannual conference. Monday’s “Air” theme targeted the American Petroleum Institute (API), the main lobby and trade association for the oil industry. The brief march from McPherson Square to a rally outside the API’s offices on L Street NW decried the API’s campaigns to discredit science that shows manmade climate change is occurring. The Keystone XL pipeline, and the Alberta tar sands that would supply its cargo, were the subject of Tuesday’s “Fire” demonstration. Demonstrators marched to, and rallied in front of, the offices of Bryan Cave LLP, lobbyists for TransCanada Corporation, owners of the Keystone pipeline. They then marched to the Canadian Embassy, where they rushed to hold the doors open for a mic check into the interior. TransCanada’s current pipeline runs oil from Alberta to the oil hub city of Cushing, Oklahoma. An extension that would run from Alberta to Montana has raised concerns over possible contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides 30% of irrigation water in the United States and drinking water to approximately 1.9 million people. However, some feel that the pipeline is only part of the larger problem of burning “dirty” fossil fuels regardless of how they’re transported. “The Keystone Pipeline isn’t the problem, the Alberta tar sands are the problem!” said Brian Eister, a member of the Occupy DC Earth Week working group. Wednesday’s “Water” action was against the American Natural Gas Alliance for their support of hydraulic fracturing (colloquially known as “fracking”). Fracking involves pumping vast quantities of special fluids into shale rock at high pressure to fracture it and release any natural gas trapped inside. These fluids contain toxic chemicals, such as benzene, that can then seep into (Nina Montenegro) drinking water, as can sand containing radioactive tracers used to map the fractures. Occupiers mic-checked their opposition in the lobby of the building that houses ANGA’s offices. “Anyone that has even a cursory understanding of the process knows that yes, it is dangerous. It is poisoning
By Jason Woltjen
our drinking water. You cannot tell anybody that dumping millions of gallons of a toxic chemical cocktail into the ground, past our aquifers, will not have a negative effect,” said Barry Knight, a protester. Thursday, focusing on “Earth,” Occupiers marched against “corporate agribusiness,” specifically the offices of Monsanto and Cargill, located on I Street NW and 15th Street NW, respectively. Monsanto’s primary business is genetically modified seed, while Cargill’s, as the largest privately held corporation in the U.S., is food processing, logistics, and commodities trading. The Friday activity, marking the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, brought the first arrest of the week. Occupy DC marched from Freedom Plaza to the New York Avenue offices of BP, where Ray Voide, an artist, built an oil rig statue and dumped “oil” (water-based ink and flour) onto the sidewalk outside BP’s offices. Police detained Voide on noticing the oil. “I’m only sorry it wasn’t a bigger mess I made,” Voide said. “My job as an artist [...] is to make sure that people say, ‘what’s going on here?’” That afternoon, demonstrators marched on the IMF and World Bank complex in Foggy Bottom. After a failed attempt to get inside via the “InfoShop” bookstore entrance, the march circled the complex before returning to McPherson Square, stopping in most intersections before the police threatened arrest. A repeat march on Saturday morning caught delegates on their way into the conference. “Loan shark, loan shark, what do you say - how many kids did you kill today?” chanted protesters, two of whom were arrested that morning. One was reportedly hospitalized from injuries sustained during the arrest. The other, Nancy M. of the Anarchist Alliance DC, was defiant. “No matter what, we will continue raising our voices against the IMF and the World Bank, and about what they do, to call out these corrupt capitalist organizations to the public.” Saturday night’s demonstration, the week’s largest with about 80 people, first targeted party tents outside the IMFWorld Bank complex, and then moved on to three hotels housing conference attendees. Protesters wrapped up on Sunday with a last, brief march and rally for about a half an hour in front of the complex.
Community-based Merger unifies D.C. occupations occupation blooms Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square come to consensus in Maryland
By Michael Goldman
After a winter of planning meetings held in co-ops and basements around suburban Maryland, Occupy Montgomery County emerged for their first People’s Assembly on March 31. The assembly, attended by over 50 people, took place in Woodside Park in Silver Spring. “It’s nice to see people coming together so close to D.C.,” said Michael Acosta, who came from Occupy Reno. “It shows that there are interested people everywhere.” The group met for the first time in early February after suburban members of Occupy DC decided it was time to address local issues in Montgomery County and open up the Occupy experience to those with other commitments. Much of the discussion at early planning meetings had been on how to foster a family-friendly atmosphere with shorter meetings and a revised consensus process. The planning group even discussed whether the Occupy Montgomery County meetings should be held outside. “[I] feel like the first stage of Occupy was to grab attention,” said Kathleen Sutcliffe, explaining Occupy Montgomery County’s focus on local issues. “[Now the movement is about] being where the people are. That’s one of the strengths of Occupy Montgomery County - confronting the issues where they are.” Several families with children participated, and a few curious passers-by joined as well. “It went great,” said Martine Zee, who was heavily involved in the planning stages. “We had a lot of new faces [who hadn’t been at the planning meetings] and a lot of diversity.” Among those new to the Occupy movement are several local high school students who have begun attending Occupy Montgomery County meetings. “This is one of the few things I get out and do,” said Daniel Zucker, a student at Einstein High School in Kensington. He stated that he usually doesn’t get involved in school activities but loves participating in Occupy Montgomery County. “People who are dedicated inspire people to be dedicated,” he said. Occupy Montgomery County can be found on Twitter ast @OccupyMoCoMD.
By Coulter Loeb
The separate Occupy encampments in Washington, D.C. the initial signatories abandoned the encampment, stated, were merged into a single Occupy DC located in McPherson “I am probably the happiest guy in the world right now beSquare on April 14, after both General Assemblies voted to cause I can get off of that damn permit. It was needed at a support the move in early April. Supplies from Freedom time and that time has passed.” Plaza’s occupation were transported to McPherson Square Both Occupy camps began at around the same time, before the 6 a.m. April 14 deadline stipulated in Freedom but they had very fundamental differences since the start. Plaza’s National Park Service permit. McPherson Square’s occupation formed much as the oth“Since the breakdown of the camps [by the National er occupations had across the country with a general asPark Police] we have seen more and sembly meeting in a public park. more collaboration between the two Freedom Plaza’s camp was inicamps,” said an occupier during a tially named “Stop the Machine” general assembly (GA) discussion and was planned before the Ocon the move. “This merger was incupy movement swept across evitable.” the country last fall. While both GAs agreed individuFocused primarily on antially to support the merger, the comwar activism, Stop the Machine bined assembly was unable to find lacked the horizontal organizaconsensus on whether to transfer tional structure of other occupaa permit from Freedom Plaza to tions. Instead, what would soon McPherson Square. There were become Occupy Washington DC discussions on options including embraced a vertical structure a blanket permit for the park or to with a small group of organizers only carry it over to a single secmaking a majority of the decition. Both ideas were rejected by sions. the McPherson Square occupation. “The horizontal organizing is The entire Occupy DC encampment what makes the Occupy moveat McPherson Square will continue ment so uniquely potent and without a permit. actually effective,” said Lacy MaAnn Wilcox, a member of the cAuley, who has been involved at National Lawyers Guild who has McPherson Square. “Everyone is Edward Hunt, a Vietnam veteran, included in an egalitarian way. provided legal support at Freedom removes a dreamcatcher from a The organizers [from Freedom Plaza, argued during a combined Freedom Plaza tent. (Coulter Loeb) general assembly that a mixed perPlaza] demonstrated in their mitted/unpermitted space would meetings about it that they were allow “the best of both worlds. The permit would allow ac- not able to horizontally organize.” cess to certain resources but also more liberty in the unperDespite this, talk of a merger had gone on since the first mitted space.” day of the two separate encampments. Barry Knight from A permit from the Park Service would have addressed Freedom Plaza said prior to the merger discussions, “I concerns such as the use of an on-site kitchen and ampli- don’t see a difference between Freedom and McPherson. fied sound. I think they’re two different camps working towards the After the permit proposal failed, Bill Miniutti, who inher- same goals.” ited signatory status on the permit for Freedom Plaza after
May Day 2012 A brief history of May Day
By Sean Golash
May Day, also known as the “International Working protesters and killed two strikers. On May 4, a bombing in Class Holiday” or “International Workers’ Day,” carries a Haymarket Square during a large rally on the city’s west significant history which encompasses the struggles of the side killed several workers and police officers. The police international labor movement. In numerous countries, it again fired on the rally, killing four protesters and woundis recognized as a national holiday. Massive demonstra- ing dozens in the ensuing chaos. tions are held around the world on May 1 to recognize the The celebration of May Day began as a commemoration solidarity of labor struggles internationally and to mark of this tragedy, which quickly became known as the “Haythe current struggle for causes such as better wages, job market Massacre.” It was first celebrated in 1890 after a security, health care, and a call by the International Workingman’s safer work environment. Association at their meeting in Paris. The celebration of May The call for international working class Day as a labor holiday solidarity and recognition of the strugtraces its roots back to the gles of the working class was received United States. On May 1, and embraced around the world in the 1886, workers across the following decades as the labor moveUnited States called for ment’s strength began to grow. a general strike - a strike During World War I, soldiers stopped that calls on all workers fighting on May Day. In the 1930’s, workregardless of their union ers all over the world marched against the affiliation, and even if they rise of fascism in Europe on that day. In are non-union workers - to the United States, a May Day march was achieve the guarantee of held to free the Scottsboro Boys, a group an eight-hour work day for of black men falsely accused of rape in those involved in indus1931. On May Day in 1945, soldiers from trial trades. Up until that the Red Army raised a red flag over the point, there were no limits Reichstag in Berlin to symbolize the deto how many hours that feat of Nazism and the end of World War owners and management II. In 1975, thousands marched in Boston could force an employee on May Day to stop the segregation practo work in a day. Worktices inflicted on black workers in the city ers walked off the job and The Haymarket Memorial in Chicago by supporters of the white-supremacist (Christopher Day via Flickr) group Restore Our Alienated Rights. In refused to work until a universal eight-hour work day was achieved. According to the late 1980’s, millions marched in South Africa to bring labor historian Phillip Foner, 30,000 to 40,000 workers down the apartheid government there. in Chicago alone participated in the strike action and up to Despite the fact that the U.S. set Labor Day in Septem80,000 workers marched in solidarity in the city. ber to separate its working class from the world movement, The call for a strike was so successful in drawing peo- May Day remains the day on which the working class ralple into the streets that the police used violence to try to lies its forces to continue the battle against war, racism, suppress it. On May 3, police opened fire on a crowd of sexism, and, for many, capitalism.
Health workers occupy to fight for jobs
Occupy Chicago joins with nurses, doctors to save clinic
By Aaron Cynic and Natalie W., Diatribe Media
The following is an edited excerpt from a piece originally published on diatribemedia.com. The authors describe the actions taken by workers at the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic in Chicago after budget cuts shut down two city clinics and threatened four more. The editors of the D.C. Mic Check felt the spirit embodied in this group of health care workers fighting for their jobs was apt for our special May Day section. These budget cuts are a kick to the guts of the people most in urgent need of mental health care. Those most wholly affected by this are poor, held hostage by not only their health needs but limited access to funding for care. Two patients from one of the closed clinics are currently in psychiatric hospitalization because they entered crisis after its closure, according to N’Dana Carter, an activist with the Mental Health Movement. Caregivers, patients, and activists know that shutting down public neighborhood clinics will have disastrous effects on people receiving services. Mental well-being is essential to human health. Not one person in Chicago remains unaffected by mental health issues: depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks anxiety disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, insomnia or hypersomnia, and anhedonia, among many others, affect a huge portion of the population. Everyone has been heartbroken by the behavior of someone who needs mental health services. The availability of mental health care is an issue that crosses all class and race lines. It is a crucial human service. Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be determined, with little research or apparent forethought, to value NATO security funding, flowers in parks, and the 1% Lakefront “Trail to Nowhere” more than the well-being of the very citizens who elected him to office. Though the Mental Health Movement and their allies made hundreds of phone calls, delivered petitions signed with thousands of names, and staged a sit-in at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall until being removed, their words fell on deaf ears. With most other options exhausted, 23 doctors, nurses, mental health patients, medics, and Occupy Chicago members decided to barricade themselves inside one of the clinics slated for closure last week to force the city to listen to their demands. Hundreds gathered outside in solidarity to support them. Soon after Chicago Police arrested those inside, protesters set up an encampment outdoors across the street from the clinic in order to continue their fight. From Saturday, April 14 until the wee hours of Tuesday, April 17, the vacant lot was alive with music, dancing, children’s laughter, sidewalk murals, and educational sharing that created a greater sense of understanding, sharing, and community building in the long shadow of austerity. In the rain and high winds, campers remained in spirited involvement, dedicated to their cause. In establishing a camp, there are always a million details to handle. Fortunately, the nature of the conflict binds people together for the greater good and cause. The sense of community and family was as real as the droplets of rain running down ponchos, the heat from the bonfire, and as real as the arms of activists wrapped around each other in joy. An amazing moment of realization comes when a tent goes up, when a stake is pounded into the fat black heart of a cold city run by a man who doesn’t care about his constituents, that there’s a better world. We can establish a parallel society where we take care of one another and people are valued more than securing a hegemonic guard dog system or park flowerbeds. That feeling lasted at least until 2:00 am on Tuesday morning, when Chicago police cleared the encampment and confiscated the tents belonging to demonstrators, threatening more arrests. Police presented a complaint from the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, who claimed they owned the vacant lot the encampment was built on. After a search at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office, it was discovered that the WCDC does not in fact own the land and the eviction was in fact illegal. This did not stop police from clearing the camp, however. Undeterred, protesters continued their demonstration on the sidewalk and slept in or on top of cars draped in their banners and signs. They say their fight will continue until their voices are heard and demands met. In a press release, Linda Hatcher, a patient of the clinic and one of the 23 arrested at the first action, said, “We are not going to be turned around. This is a question of life and death for us and we will not give up the fight.”
Postal unions offer an a
Republished from reporting in the Press Associates Union News Service. When debate and key votes on postal service reform started in the U.S. Senate on April 17, the nation’s postal unions hit the streets nationwide to campaign for reforms that would save the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), not dismantle it. USPS management claims that it will lose $15 billion this year – triple its 2011 deficit. Republicans are calling for immediate action, including a workforce reduction of more than 100,000. They are also advocating for the stoppage of Saturday delivery and prompt-delivery guarantees, as well as the closure of 250 sorting centers. The proposed bill, the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012 (S. 1789), would let postal management cut jobs. However, USPS executives claim it would ultimately stall implementation of existing measures designed to eliminate billions of dollars in red ink by 2016. The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) admits that USPS is running deep in the red. But NALC President Fredric V. Rolando has repeatedly stated that the USPS cannot cut its way to prosperity. “Closing post offices, eliminating Saturday delivery, dismissing thousands of hardworking employees — many of them veterans and minority group members — and other such drastic measures would not save the taxpayers any money,” he said. “But all those cuts would inflict irreversible and terrible damage on a great American asset—and on the homes, businesses and communities that lost its services.” The NALC claims that the federal government is sitting
Labor in D.C. Workers’ co-op Giant and Safeway protects day laborers workers win contract
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owned a tourist restaurant. “I grew up out of that branch,” he says. Their optimism belies the difficulty of putting the group together. Griffiths says it has been hard to convince people of the value of forming a co-op. He also understands why it’s difficult to get men who are already working long days to come to meetings. “Their main objective is a job - but they don’t see that they can generate the job.” The idea of a co-operative of equally responsibly coworkers can be a hard sell in itself. “I think the biggest danger is people’s own self-confidence,” said Ajowa Ifateyo, a founding board member of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. She cited the “internalized oppression” of workers who society has convinced of their own incompetence, especially women and people of color. “You’ve got to have somebody ‘smart’ to be the manager, or boss,” said Ifateyo, insisting that this is a myth. “We’ve all had jobs where the workers knew how to do the work better than their bosses, right?” Diaz, for one, would agree with that. “Sixty to seventy percent [of the contractors I’ve worked with] just arrange the work and collect the money,” he said. “I’ve known contractors that don’t know how to cut different colors of paint correctly.” He pointed to a colored stripe running along the wall of his own living room as an example. Another obstacle, according to Ifateyo, is “[the misperception that] people are so individualistic that we can’t work together,” and that a co-op will be time consuming. “People tell me ‘I really don’t want to have to make a decision involving more than one other person.’” Luis Leto, a co-op member who came from Argentina 12 years ago, understands the difficulty - he even compared it to a marriage. “It’s all a question of talking - dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.” Leto doesn’t see it as a chore, but as something that needs to be done. How to incorporate potentially undocumented co-op members is also a concern. Susan Bennett, a law professor at American University and Director of the Community & Economic Development Law Clinic, says it’s unclear how the undocumented status of a worker would affect them in a worker-owned cooperative in D.C. “It’s not like ‘Thou shalt not own a business and be undocumented’,” said Bennett, “At least not in the District of Columbia. What you have to determine is what are the points of risk in any of these structures for persons who are undocumented, and it’s really not clear.” Griffiths is ready to push ahead. “[Y]ou have to build as you go. You can’t wait til it’s perfect then build,” he said. His long-term vision is a network of small worker co-ops which help incubate other groups as more people learn the benefits of working for themselves. The workers putting the group together see themselves as playing an important role in their wider community. “There are a lot of people who are capable of being many things, but sometimes they just need the support, or an example,” said Diaz. “Sometimes they just need a hand.”
By Chris Garlock
In a victory that was months in the making, the D.C. area Giant and Safeway workers represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 overwhelmingly ratified a new collective bargaining agreement. The new contract, agreed upon on April 3, provides significant wage increases, improved health benefits, and more retirement security. “Our members’ activism and solidarity is why they won one of the best collective bargaining agreements in the supermarket industry,” said Local 400 President Tom McNutt. “Whenever management tried to push us into making more sacrifices, our members made clear on the floor of the store and everywhere else they were willing to do whatever it takes to get a fair deal.”
UNION MEMBERSHIP QUICK FACTS
8.3% of the population of Washington, D.C. is unionized (the U.S. average is 11.8%). North Carolina has the lowest percentage of union members, 2.9%. New York is the highest at 24.1%. The median full-time union worker in the U.S. makes $938 per week. For a non-union worker, this number is $729.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Key contract provisions include across-the-board wage increases that exceed those in the cost of living for most members. They also provide full funding of health benefits with no increase in members’ out-of-pocket costs and continued retirement security, maintaining all current pension benefits. There are also new steps in the contract to resolve funding issues for at least the next 10 years. “This is a fantastic contract,” said Chris Bell, a Receiving Manager at Giant 243 in Stafford, VA. “This is one of the few contracts in the supermarket industry where all pay increases are provided in higher hourly wages rather than a one-time bonus,” noted a spokesperson for Local 400. Concessions defeated by Local 400 included creation of a new wage tier for new hires and treatment of Sunday as part of the regular work week. The contract runs April 1, 2012, through October 31, 2013. This 19 month period is “due to the uncertainty around implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the health and welfare plan covering Giant and Safeway workers.” Local 400 represents some 17,000 grocery workers employed at 126 Safeway and Giant stores in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. “We went to the community, local politicians, church groups, and right to the customers,” said Bell, “and [we] explained what was going on. We asked for their support and everyone rallied around us. Their support made this happen.”
alternative to cuts
(Melanie Cervantes) By Mark Gruenberg
on billions in overpaid pension contributions from USPS workers. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, passed in 2006, forced the USPS to send $5.5 billion every year to the Treasury to pre-pay retiree healthcare costs for the next 75 years. Rolando argues that by returning the overpaid pension funds and stopping the prepayment requirement the service will run in the black. “Something often gets overlooked in debates over the Postal Service: it uses no taxpayer dollars,” said Rolando. “I cannot emphasize that too much: in talking about reducing its workforce and cutting back its services, no tax dollars are saved.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) further elaborated, “We have some 32,000 post offices in America. Today letter carriers deliver mail to about 150 million doors. That is a huge infrastructure.” Sanders and 26 congressional allies have proposed a solution that avoids the drastic cuts, saying, “The Postal Service needs a new business model. What we want to do is take away many of the restrictions imposed on the Postal Service by Congress and give them the flexibility to be more entrepreneurial to bring in more revenue.” The new business plan allows the unions to be the first at the table to try to reconstruct the USPS. It would expand its package delivery services, which Internet-based firms rely on. The proposed plan would also increase the kinds of items USPS can deliver and give the Postal Service more flexibility in pricing. “This is not a Democratic issue; this is not a Republican issue,” said Sanders. “Republicans and Democrats have rural post offices. All want the Postal Service to be strong.”
In the days and months that followed the Haymarket Massacre in 1886 (see “A brief history of May Day” on page 4), workers, organizers, and curious newspaper readers across the United States and around the world, anxiously followed events from Chicago. They waited to see the fate of eight union workers, on trial for conspiracy to detonate the bomb which led to the riot and the deaths of several police officers and attendees. Due to irregularities in the trial, such as no union members being allowed on the jury and a focus on the men’s political views and writings rather than on direct evidence of the attack, there was a great outcry around the world when four of the defendants were executed on November 11, 1887. Emma Goldman, from New York City, was 18 at the time. She went on to become a leading anarchist writer, and her work on topics such as feminism and the freedom of speech is still widely read today. Reactions like Goldman’s, transcribed below from her autobiography Living My Life, led to the declaration of May Day as a worker’s holiday around the world. The terrible thing everyone feared, yet hoped would not happen, actually occurred. Extra editions of the Rochester papers carried the news: the Chicago anarchists had been hanged!
We were crushed, Helena and I. The shock completely unnerved my sister; she could only wring her hands and weep silently. I was in a stupor; a feeling of numbness came over me, something too horrible even for tears. In the evening we went to our father’s house. Everybody talked about the Chicago events. I was entirely absorbed in what I felt as my own loss. Then I heard the coarse laugh of a woman. In a shrill voice she sneered: “What’s all this lament about? The men were murderers. It is well they were hanged.” With one leap I was at the woman’s throat. Then I felt myself torn back. Someone said: “The child has gone crazy.” I wrenched myself free, grabbed a pitcher of water from a table, and threw it with all my force into the woman’s face. “Out, out,” I cried, “or I will kill you!” The terrified woman made for the door and I dropped to the ground in a fit of crying. I was put to bed, and soon I fell into a deep sleep. The next morning I woke as from a long illness, but free from the numbness and the depression of those harrowing weeks of waiting, ending with the final shock. I had a distinct sensation that something new and wonderful had been born in my soul. A great ideal, a burning faith, a determination to dedicate myself to the memory of my martyred comrades, to make their cause my own, to make known to the world their beautiful lives and heroic deaths.
Money in Politics Campaign finance conference takes “cross-partisan” approach
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, legislatures across the country have been passing resolutions calling for an end to corporate constitutional rights, also known as corporate personhood. On April 14, the Occupy DC Corporate Personhood Solutions working group hosted a conference titled “Money Out of Politics: How Cross Partisan Movements Can Reform our Democracy in 2012 and Beyond.” Activists gathered for the day-long conference at All Souls Unitarian Church, a fitting venue as it counts among its founding members the nineteenth-century anticorruption advocate and political theorist John C. Calhoun. Conference organizers sought to bring together occupiers, private citizens, politicians, left- and right-wing activists, and even a presidential candidate to discuss ways to clean the political system in the United States from the corrupting influence of money from special interest groups. Participants discussed and debated many potential solutions. Some focused on overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling, which led to the creation of Super PACs. Others proposed the funding of elections be limited to citizens, and not corporations or other entities. Keynote speaker and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig spoke about the potential of Americans Elect. This firstof-its-kind internet presidential poll promises to place a third-party candidate on the ballot in all 50 states and to foreground the issue of money and politics during the presidential debates. Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, who participated in the morning panel and has made campaign finance reform a cornerstone of his political career, is vying for this nomination. “If the people can get Roemer nominated,” Lessig posited, “it will [force a] cross-partisan discussion on this issue and a clear demand from the public that politics change.” Panelist Rob Weissman of Public Citizen described the effect of Citizens United as “a tidal wave of money from special interests.” According to Reuters, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, Restore Our Future, raised $43 million through the end of February, and has spent $40 million attacking other Republicans. Stephen Erickson of Americans United to Rebuild Democracy opened the conference by warning that although Citizens United is a part of the problem, focusing solely on that decision ignores other systemic problems. “Lawmakers would still be free to receive money from interests they regulate, our political leadership will still suck, and many believe elections in America are fundamentally unfair,” he stated. Throughout the day, the speakers struck a theme of unity on the subject of campaign finance reform. In his opening remarks, Erickson stated, “I am unaware of any conservative-leaning transformative reform groups. [But] I felt very welcome, and our group is very committed to balance,” he said. Americans for Campaign Reform, who was represented by their National Field Director Rob Werner, has a similar cross-partisan strategy and is chaired by two Democratic and two Republican former legislators. “Seventy-five percent of the self-identified Tea Party
By Matt Kirkland
Not everyone believed that progress can be made on this issue under the current system. Ben Zucker of Occupy Montgomery County asked, “Is it possible that all politics are corrupt by nature?” Conference organizer Gene Hummel was pleased with the turnout and with the high level of participation. He
On March 23, reporter Matt Kirkland interviewed presidential candidate Buddy Roemer at a symposium on campaign finance reform, which took place at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They discussed topics ranging from Syria to the recent laws abridging First Amendment rights. The complete interview is available on the Occupy Eye profile on the UStream website. The D.C. Mic Check has transcribed excerpts of Roemer’s thoughts about campaign finance reform. Matt Kirkland: What made you decide 2012 was the “year of Buddy?” Why not 2016? Why not 2008? Buddy Roemer: Future elections will be important. But there was a waterfall for me—a time that there was no swimming back upstream. And it was four years ago. When Barack Obama broke his word that he would take public funding, as would John McCain, and they would have a real debate. And the president thought, perhaps correctly, that he could raise more money on his own and buy the election. And I said, ‘Well, I forgive him for that let’s see what happens.’ Nothing changed. Same mess. And this year it’s even worse. And so it was a waterfall for me. I realized that the money is so addictive and so tempting that no candidate - Barack Obama, John McCain, Mitt Romney - no candidate can stand up to the money. Only the people can lift them up. So I decided to get involved. MK: No one currently on the [Supreme Court] held an elected position. Given that, would you be in favor of some sort of term limits on [the Supreme Court]? Or do you think cleaning up campaign finance would, by default, eventually take care of the issue? BR: I’m not too quick to [want to] change the Constitution. [This is a] great country. And a lot of it
members think Citizens United is wrong,” added Weissman later in the day. “Only eighty percent of the United States believes the earth revolves around the sun. Eighty percent is very hard to get,” he explained, driving home how universally unpopular the ruling is. Similarly, Roemer said, “Occupy and the Tea Party don’t know it, but they are the same. They both smell corruption.”
comes right from that Constitution. And the reason they wrote [the Constitution] like that was that it would give the justices independence. Isn’t that funny how that word keeps coming up? Independence. And that even in bad times when they make bad decisions, they can be reversed. But they’re always independent. And I think I would hold to that more than term limits. But let me take that argument to the Congress and the presidency. Our leadership ought to be independent. It ought not be bought by party or by special interest. And the same with Congress. So what works well in the Supreme Court, I would bring it to Congress and the White House. Independent. Free to lead. That’s my issue. MK: Not one to want to change the Constitution? It’s worth a conversation. BR: It’s taken me all campaign to talk about a proposed amendment for campaign contribution disclosure. But I’ve come to the decision enthusiastically that we’ve got to move forward both short-term and long-term. So I’m willing to look at the Constitution.
said, “The conference was another testament to Occupy’s ability to bring passionate activists together around solving a problem. Not everyone agreed on what the solution is, but we all recognize the necessity of building a diverse and strong coalition that represents the concerns of everyone, not just a powerful few. It’s not the easiest way to solve an issue, but it is the right way.”
Book review: Black Flags and Windmills
by scott crow Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, 256pp. ISBN: 978-1-60486-077-1 (paperback) $20.00
By Justin Jacoby Smith
Continued from page 1
By now, it’s not news that our government can fail. But what can we do about it? When it came to the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, organizer scott crow - who prefers his name be spelt with lowercase letters - stood up and fought back. What began as a rescue mission to find a friend in the flooded ruins of New Orleans led crow and his comrades to establish the Common Ground Collective, an anarchist aid organization whose motto was “solidarity, not charity.” Common Ground stood with the people of Algiers, New Orleans to build clinics, repair homes, and coordinate food and water distribution while resisting racist white militias, police brutality, and FEMA incompetence. Black Flags and Windmills is the stirring story of crow’s beliefs—how they were formed in his childhood, how they changed in his years as an organizer, and how he applied them to form one of the largest anarchist organizations in American history. He recounts it all evenly, without flashy prose, letting the compelling story speak for itself. He quotes a communique from Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas, writing of their uprising that the Zapatistas “discovered that we could believe, and it was worth believing, that we should believe—in ourselves.” This book is a reminder that when we struggle together, without the state’s help, we can find reasons to believe.
The protesters said they spoke to two nearby Metropolitan Police officers, who informed them that they were not in violation of any laws. Further heated exchanges with the same security guard the next morning were again followed by reassurances from police that the protesters were well within their rights. Despite these initial assurances, occupiers have met with some resistance from the authorities. Since the beginning of the protests, multiple protesters have been arrested for blocking the sidewalks in front of the Bank of America on L Street NW. The occupiers have begun to alternate between different banks in recent days. Even after these setbacks, Dilley is confident the “sleepful protest” will continue. “We will sleep until the public wakes up,” he said. The “sleepful protest” has built solidarity among occupiers from both Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square since they have been cheek-by-jowl on the sidewalk nightly. As of this writing, “sleepful protests” have, according to Facebook and Twitter updates, begun across the country including in Austin, Orlando, Philadelphia, and New York. Some see the “sleepful protest” as a necessary step, not a sufficient one. “I don’t know if there’s a successful protest strategy,” said Hopper, who declined to give her last name. “Until we demonstrate that we have power in some real way we’re going to keep being ignored ... it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, it just means we’re going to have to do more eventually.” She added, “I choose to sleep on the sidewalk anyway - I might as well make it meaningful.”
Criminal (In)justice Occupy Death Row Check it out: Police sensitivity training
By Tony Egbuna Ford
The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Tony Egbuna Ford, a death row inmate in Livingston, Texas, to The Occupied Oakland Tribune after receiving a copy of their February prisoner solidarity issue. Ford is a member of a group of death row inmates that joined together in the mid-1990’s to protest their executions. They used a variety of strategies for protest, often being gassed and beaten while engaging in what they felt was justifiable self-defense. “After all, the State of Texas would literally be trying to kill us!” Ford explained.
DC Trans Coalition fights for transgender rights
Imagine you are in your teens or twenties and your family no longer wants you at home. Then your friends desert you and you can’t find a job. You are out of options and left on the streets, perhaps having to perform sex work to pay your bills, possibly leading to an encounter with police. This is the reality for many young transgender individuals. The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is an organization that I have volunteered with which does great work to change this outcome for many transgender individuals. They also lobby for legislation to protect the rights of transgender people. They have a special to address the intersection of transgender individuals with law enforcement. A transgender individual is one who is living the gender opposite of the one they were born. Not all transgender people are rejected by families or society and some have very successful careers of all sorts. Unfortunately this is not the majority. The DCTC has worked to craft many protective laws regarding gender identity rights. One of their most important actions is the training of the Metropolitan Police Department on transgender issues and law. I have been one of those trainers and was in a room full of officers teaching them the difference between gender, sex, and sexual preference. Some of the police learn quickly, but often some are very confused or just uninterested. Regardless of their interest, the law is clear; when an officer is arresting an individual they must refrain from any strip searches to identify gender and abide by what the individual identifies as their gender. If a person is wearing a suit but identifies as a woman, then if they are arrested they must be housed with women in their waiting cell. The rule to learn someone’s gender identity is: Just ask them. Before the law changed to respect gender identity, officers had been known to do disgraceful things to transgender individuals like making them throw their wigs on the floor or crawl on their knees. Both of these are humiliating experiences I have been through during my attempts to survive. These practices are now illegal and I have been
By Laya Monarez
fortunate enough to train police to understand why this behavior is unacceptable and why many transgender individuals are forced into sex work by their circumstances. Training also addresses how gender identity applies to public spaces like restrooms and school systems. For instance, when a transgender woman is in a public bathroom and another woman complains about their presence, police officers often don’t know how to respond. The correct response is that they must respect the gender identity of the individual, not their genitalia or the letter “F” or “M” on their ID card. If it’s a private company, as opposed to public property, management can ask the individual to leave, but it’s still a violation of their rights and the transgender person can later sue them. These are the kind of issues the trainers and myself go over with the Police Department. New trainings are now being issued and the program is constantly being developed. You can even volunteer yourself by attending a DCTC meeting or by signing up through their website. The training includes background information describing the high risk of transgender individuals for unemployment and violent attacks, and how an initial rejection from family members can ripple into an inability to get a good education, housing, or medical care. The goal behind these trainings is to improve officer understanding of and respect for the transgender community, so that transgender victims of violence and crime are comfortable enough to report it. Unfortunately, at the moment, this is not often the case, even though the transgender community as a whole is at high risk of violence and this past year has had several members die in violent attacks in DC alone. The DC Trans Coalition meets twice a month at the Whitman Walker Clinic and is always in need of volunteers. You do not need to be transgender to volunteer, just a hard worker with an interest in improving transgender legislation on issues such as ID documentation, hate crimes, prisons and employment. You can find more information at www.dctranscoalition.org.
The Occupy the Dept. of Justice protests on April 24 called for an end to the death penalty. (Coulter Loeb)
Ford says he was inspired to model his protests after California death row inmate Kevin Cooper, and he is the last of the original group. The rest have been executed. In October 2005 I had been fasting Ramadan. Seeking the peace of mind and spirit for what I intended to be my stance against my execution. I had listened to Democracy, Now! Host Amy Goodman had interview Brother Kevin Cooper about the prospect of being killed by the State of California and I remember his saying to the effect that “it’s a sick and twisted practice to expect another human being to participate in his own murder. I will not participate or cooperate...” He described how in California they even expect you to help them find a suitable vein in which to stick you with the needle! I agreed with Brother Kevin Cooper whole-heartedly. My course was set. I’d not do anything violent. I’d not try to Continued from page 1 be provocative. But, I would not participate. I would do non-violent resistance. [...] I decided that I would have my One consequence has been an increase in the number of needs to be fought.” He credited Occupy as “inspiration for last visits at least a month prior [to my execution date] and self-defense deaths. A report by CBS shows that since the people to stand up and people are hungry for changes.” dedicate at least a month to non-violent resistance of my law was enacted in 2005, “justifiable” deaths have risen by In the weeks following the death of Martin, news reports execution. And that’s what I did. nearly 300%. began running stories of similar events. One detailed the On November 19, 2005, coming back from a legal visit, I “We are a nation of laws,” said Clarence Clayton of killing of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed black woman slain by an “occupied” and sat down in the area outside of visitation. I was Maryland, “but more and more the laws are failing the very off-duty detective in Chicago. As of press time, he has not picked up, placed on a wheeled gurney bed and taken back to people they are meant to help and it’s time to take off the been charged with her killing. my cell. The day before, Rob Will of the DRIVE movement got rose-colored glasses.” Another story featured the naturalized Iraqi immigrant gassed in solidarity protest. He knew what I’d do. Occupy protesters and student activists at Howard Shaima Al-Awadi, who was slain in her home after a hate After my protest, Gabriel Gonzales and Kenneth Foster University organized a second protest in Meridian Park on note was left outside. Outrage over these killings have - both of whom are no longer on Death Row - would fol- April 7, which generated community involvement of over drawn protesters to the Trayvon Martin incident. low Rob Will’s example. I got gassed after “occupying” the 500 protesters. Shoulder to shoulder, they walked down Protests across the nation have continued unabated, and day rooms and refusing to be racked up. Robert Woodard 14th Street NW, blocking traffic, chanting, and calling the Florida legislature has begun to review its Stand Your would hang a sheet banner in the day room protesting ex- spectators to join. Ground law. Concurrently, ALEC has lost the support of ecutions and specifically my execution date. He was taken Howard University student and Occupy DC Criminal many large corporations, including McDonald’s, Kraft, to the disciplinary wing. Randy Arroyo and Daniel Simp- (In)justice committee member Corryn Freeman was a Intuit, Wendy’s, Pepsi, and the Bill and Melinda Gates son would join in as would Reginald Blantton. All protest- key organizer of the protest. “We marched in solidarity Foundation. These corporations did not want to be ing execution dates and the inhuman conditions we were with the Martin family because they have been unable to associated with the social disorder the law has created. forced to live under. mourn the death of their Our “occupy” movement would last for the better part son,” Freeman said. “One of a year, even after I received a stay. Day rooms would of the goals of the Million be “occupied,” Hallways. Medical. Disciplinary hearings. Hoodie March was to help The food slots and showers. Non-violently, changes would connect people who care occur. For the better part of a year, other inmates would about racially motivated be inspired to protest their execution dates, like Tommy injustice with institutions Hughes, Marion Dudley and Lamont Reese, whose actions and organizations that are would make the news. We declared our lives - all lives - combating racial injustice have value. Our lives - all lives - have worth! We stated that. …. We provided venues We meant that. for people to plug into to And today I see the same declaration across this na- combat injustice,” said tion. As Mumia Abu-Jamal and Kevin Cooper stated in the Freeman. The Howard their articles in the Occupied Oakland Tribune news letter: University drama club Don’t forget the prisoners! Don’t forget Death Row! We’re performed a reenactment with you. We support you! We are also the 99%, as we de- of the crime based on 911 clared in protest back here on Death Row. tapes and police reports. Our lives - all lives - have value! Our lives - all lives - have Occupy DC Progressive worth! We stand with you in that declaration. Caucus member Carl McClinton commented, In Solidarity. “The black community has Lauren E. Banks, a student at Howard University, rallies a crowd at the Always, In strength and In Spirit! been more active since this intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and 14th St. NW. (Coulter Loeb) Tony E. Ford happened than I have ever www.tonyegbunaford.com known.” McClinton is helping to build a coalition of black Zimmerman has since been arrested and charged with organizations to work against the prison system. “Our pain second-degree murder, but the final outcome of the The full text can be found at occupiedoaktrib.org. is real, racism is not yet defeated. It is another battle that Trayvon Martin killing remains open.
Florida killing sparks ALEC blowback
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