Saturday, September 16, 2017

Palestinian Children Will Share Their Visions Of Peace With Congress On Sep. 19

To save homes, Palestinian children share visions of peace with Congress 
September 19th International Peace Day Senate Briefing
10:30am in the Capitol Bld. SVC 212-10, and House Reception

Sept. 15, 2017,  Washington, DC — Palestinian children from West Bank villages and from Gaza will share their vision of peace with Congress, to commemorate International Peace Day. Joining the children will be human rights defenders including Rabbi Arik Ascherman from the Israeli human rights group, Torat Tzedek. On behalf of their villages of Susiya, Al Aqaba, and Gaza City, the children are asking Americans to urge their Senators and Representatives, as friends of Israel, to press the Government of Israel to stop the demolitions of Palestinian communities, recognize Palestinian planning rights, assure due process, and turn on the lights in Gaza.
  •       Please join them on Tuesday, September 19th at 10:30-11:30am for a pubic briefing in the Capitol Building SVC 212-10 (Senate side).
  •       Following the briefing, all are invited to the Rayburn House Office Building, Rayburn Foyer from 1:00-5:00pm for the U.S. premiere of the art exhibition, We All Live in Gaza: Art Under Siege. The reception will begin at 1:30pm with a presentation by curator Maurice Jacobsen and a few words from the children. Light refreshments will be served.
June 2, 2004, Palestinians look on as Israeli authorities demolish a house in the West Bank village of Anata near Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that he intends to 'wipe Susya and Khan Al Akhmar off the map.’ So I come to Washington to plead for the lives of these Palestinian villages," said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, founder of Torat Tzedek, an Israeli human rights organization. “This year, International Peace Day coincides with Rosh HaShana. Jewish tradition teaches that God decides the fate of every human soul for the coming year on this day and ‘Who shall live and who shall die’ also applies to villages. I urge the U.S. administration to safeguard the furture of Palestinian communities such as Susiya.”
These Palestinian children are among thousands of children in the U.S. and around the world who are making Pinwheels for Peace, writing what peace means to them and drawing what peace looks like, then forming a pinwheel that turns in the wind.  This is the third year Rebuilding Alliance, an American non-profit dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to keep them safe, is holding the #ICareAboutPeace Congressional Briefing.
I want Congress to keep my village safe and standing,” said Aysar, age 15, from Susiya, “Because a brave Senator took action, Susiya’s demolition orders were put on hold.”
As soon as October 1st,  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, will state the Government of Israel’s position to Israel’s High Court as the justices consider the Palestinian Village of Susiya’s petition to overturn the denial of their master plan. Despite the villagers’ undisputed title to their land, the Israeli High Court will then decide Susiya’s fate, either recognizing their right to plan and build on the land they own or ordering demolition of their homes.  Senator Feinstein’s letters to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been instrumental in keeping Susiya standing so far.
About the Delegation:
Aysar (15) has lived his whole life in Susiya. Since he was little, he always accompanied his uncle Nasser Nawaja, who works with the Israeli Human Rights group, B’Tselem, to help film the incidents with the Israeli army and the settlers in the South Hebron Hills. Despite Aysar's young age, he has a deep insight into the local situation, and he is also a huge help for both his parents. He gets up at five o'clock in the morning to feed all the animals, herd the sheep, and help his father with his daily chores, since he is undergoing cancer treatment. Due to Susiya being surrounded by both settlements and a military camp, when the children walk to school they are under constant risk of harassment by the Israeli army and settlers. Aysar always stands up for the other children and does his best to protect and comfort them on the daily 1.5 mile walk to school.
Palestinian school children at a checkpoint with Israeli soldiers
Tia (12) is a 12-year-old student from Gaza City. She is currently in the seventh grade at the American International School in Gaza, where she is getting straight A’s. Tia likes horseback riding, basketball, and swimming. All families in Gaza are experiencing massive rolling blackouts for up to 22 hours per day in an extreme energy crisis that has grown progressively worse over the past 10 years.
Shadi (10) is in the fourth grade and plays violin as part of the Collective Song Music Program in Al Aqaba under the direction of teachers from the Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Shadi and his family live in one of the first “Rebuilding to Remain” homes, designed with the returning villagers and crowd-funded by Rebuilding Alliance under building permits issued by the Al Aqaba Village Council.  Al Aqaba is the first Palestinian village in Area C to issue its own building permits. Though the Israeli Army issued demolition orders in 2004 against Al Aqaba’s kindergarten, the medical clinic, and most homes in Al Aqaba and a stop-work order on their water system, the Israeli High Court ruled that ‘for the time being, the center of the village will remain standing’ and because of that the new homes are standing, free of demolition orders.
August 11, 2017 post on Arik Ascherman's Facebook page: "The Yoav Unit informed the Abu Sneineh family in Tel Sheva that on Sunday or Monday they are going to demolish their tent housing 13 souls for the 9th time since 2014. If you can stand with them, call me after Shabbat..."
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder of Torat Tzedek, a new Isaraeli human rights organization founded to (1) strive for a society that honors God's Image in every human being, and for the human rights that this necessitates; and (2) educate our society that honoring God's image in every human being, protecting human rights and taking concrete action to further these goals is a human and religious obligation in general, and in particular a Jewish religious obligation. Rabbi Ascherman is internationally recognized as leading advocate for human rights and social justice. He served as co-director of Rabbis For Human Rights, executive director from 1998-2010, and co-founder of Haqel and has received numerous awards and recognition for his human rights work.
Donna Baranski-Walker is Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance , and an MIT engineer with an M.S. from the U. of Hawaii. Rebuilding Alliance and Donna have been awarded Special Congressional Recognition by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Anna Eshoo. In April 2016, Donna was awarded Rotary District 5150’s Service Award, and will soon be receiving the Rachel Corrie Conscience And Courage Award, from American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Orange County. In 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded the Medal of Gratitude. She began her work in the Middle East in 1990 with a New York Times oped, “Small Lights in the Darkness ,” which was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation just before the First Gulf War began.
For more information:
Contact: Tamsin Avra
Phone: (650) 651-7165

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Natural Guard Pledge: Speak Up To Call Out The Pentagon For Its Major Role In Causing Climate Chaos

The Eagle Creek wildfire burns in the background as golfers play at the Beacon Rock Golf Course in North Bonneville, Washington, on September 4, 2017.  Kate Beckwith, Facebook
My friend Janet Weil has been updating me about forest fires raging in the Columbia River basin. As the daughter of a forester, she is heartbroken at news that these forests may never be restored. Global warming means the conditions for such living organisms may no longer be present in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, another friend who relocated to the Florida Keys this year to teach school has finally updated her blog so I know that she and her family are alive. They evacuated to northern Florida and then, ultimately, to Alabama to get out of harms way from Hurricane Irene. They expect to find nothing left worth saving when they return home to see the effects of the 10 foot storm surge.

A new acquaintance who grew up in Texas told me last weekend that where he's from is either on fire or under water right now. Hurricane Harvey's toxic flood waters, full of fecal bacteria and chemicals from oil refineries, are a menace to life in Houston and an enormous surrounding area.

But hey, it's beautiful in Maine this time of year and a young moose was sighted at the end of our driveway a couple of days ago. 

The photo of golfers ignoring the raging fire in the distance kind of says it all.

This coming weekend I'll be at the Sierra Club of Maine's annual climate conference tabling for the Maine Natural Guard.

I'm going to be there because environmental organizations continue to ignore the carbon belching elephant in the room: the military. Liberals or progressives or whatever you want to call them willfully ignore the role of the Pentagon as the largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet. It consumes more than many countries, and more than any other organization.

Should the Sierra Club really need to be reminded of this fact?

Actually, it's not a reminder because many people never knew this central truth about climate change to begin with.

The corporate media have done such a thorough job of directing our gaze away from the truth about the environmental, social and moral costs of the "war on terror" that the public remains profoundly ignorant.

Even socialist publications like Jacobin can publish an entire summer issue devoted to climate change and not mention the Pentagon or its wars once. WTF? (Janet sent them a corrective message. You can, too.)

Image: Anthony Freda
I'm looking forward to spending this Saturday with my husband and our friends Mary Beth Sullivan and Bruce Gagnon sharing some useful information. I'll also be offering people a chance to buy a good looking Maine Natural Guard t-shirt printed on 100% organic cotton.

People can join the Natural Guard from wherever they find themselves in climate chaos. 

Taking the pledge is easy. Just read it:

I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment, because the commons we all share that sustain life are valuable to me. 

IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SECURITY and safety, we remind others of the need to count in the cost in pollution and fuel consumption of waging wars all around the planet.

IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ACTING SOON TO PROTECT OUR LOVED ONES FROM THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHAOS, we remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.

and click here to add your name.

Then, get busy sharing some truth.

P.S. If you can make it to Washington, DC this month you can attend the first ever (?!) conference to connect the dots between the Pentagon===>climate change. Details on No War 2017: War and the Environment here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Getting It Wrong In Afghanistan: Bagram Air Base And Prison Complex

After 16 years of bloody occupation, the kleptocracy is poised to make even more money in Afghanistan. The demagogue with bad hair is listening to an inner circle that includes Erik Prince of the notorious Blackwater mercenary firm that helped occupy Iraq. Privatize even more of the war, they whisper. Endless war means endless profits!

The fact that Afghanistan's sovereignty is vigorously defended by freedom fighters posing as religious fanatics is super convenient.

During the Soviet occupation a fierce young man in Kabul told me, "As long as there is one Afghan left alive, the Soviets will never rule our country!" 

Fast forward to 2017.

Bagram Air Base and Prison Complex, constructed on the ruins of a Soviet base, is the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber inside the gates killed numerous troops gathered to observe Veterans Day there (formerly Armistice Day) last November. It was again targeted this month by a motorcyle-riding suicide bomber who detonated at a security gate. In June, eight Afghan guards headed for the night shift at Bagram were killed when their car was attacked in a driveby shooting.

Back in 2002, prisoners were tortured and beaten to death in the "detention" facility there; a few soldiers were court martialed for their role in the abuse. In 2010 the Pentagon released the names of 645 souls being held prisoner at Bagram. For seven years the detainees included Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children.

Building big, expensive compounds where military personnel can enjoy air conditioning, fast food burgers and wifi is what the U.S. is good at. Winning hearts and minds, not so much.

The latest suicide bombing was said to be connected with a public relations faux pas on the part of the occupation. As reported by the Associated Press:
Earlier Wednesday, a U.S. commander had apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam. 
The leaflets dropped Monday night, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it, and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
There have even been allegations that dogs were used to rape prisoners held at Bagram.

An Afghan interpreter interviewed by Emran Feroz for Alternet stated: "Guantanamo is a paradise if you compare it with Bagram."

How much has it cost U.S. taxpayers to create and maintain the cruelest military installation on Earth?

By Staff Sgt. Craig Seals -
Due to the lack of accountability in Pentagon budgets and contracting practices, the price tag is impossible to determine with any certainty. Chronicles of waste and corruption abound, but accurately quantifying this mammoth corporate welfare scheme will probably not be possible.

Of the 800+ military bases that U.S. taxpayers support abroad, Bagram is at the top of my list to just close already. The U.S. and or NATO will never "win" the war in Afghanistan. Bagram has been called a "factory for terrorism" and even without the torture its mere presence is enough to help Taleban recruiters find the next generation of suicide bombers. 

Just bring the homesick troops back already, and close the base. Erik Prince is already rich enough.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Charges Dropped Against Capitol Activists After Police Chief Tweets Asking To Join Their Action

Stop the War Machine: Export Peace banner used by those arrested on the Capitol steps July 12, 2017. Photo: Art Laffin from The Nuclear Resister
Reposting news of this great action and the report back from Max Obuszewski in Baltimore (emphasis added via bold sections of text is mine):
The government decides not to prosecute the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance Six, arrested on the U.S. Capitol steps for pleading for an end to war funding
It was a long and winding road for six citizen activists arrested on July 12, 2017 by the Capitol Police, but the case was finally concluded on August 24 when our “Stop the War Machine: Export Peace” banner and a red sash were finally released from police custody.  On that oppressively hot July 12, the anniversary of Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday, Joy First, from Wisconsin, Malachy Kilbride, a Quaker from Maryland, Max Obuszewski from Baltimore, Phil Runkel, an archivist of Dorothy Day’s papers at Marquette University, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, also from Baltimore, and Alice Sutter, a retired nurse from New York City, visited the offices of the Senate and House leadership from both parties.
A petition pleading for an end to war funding was taken to the office of Sen. Mitch McConnell and later to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office.  One of Schumer’s aides, who was of Pakistani heritage, engaged the group in a lengthy discussion, especially over the question of the legality of drone strikes.   From there, the petitioners went to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office, where a staff person accepted the petition.  Our final stop was to the door of Rep. Paul Ryan’s office.  On Ryan’s door, which was locked, there was a sign “Only people with a scheduled meeting were allowed to enter.”  We knocked, but there was no answer.  So a petition was then slipped under the door with a flyer condemning U.S. military operations.  
We then proceeded to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, just across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court , and unfurled the banner and red sash, which represented the blood pouring out of the Capitol as our legislators consistently vote to fund the war machine.  We were wearing bloody tee shirts to signify what happens to the victims of war funding. Surrounded by Capitol Police officers, we took turns reading the petition.  We were given four warnings to cease or be arrested.  The reading kept getting interrupted as one-by-one, we were taken into custody.  Janice, a Roman Catholic woman priest, insisted to the police that she was going to finish reading the petition, and the police did not interfere. 
Alice, Janice and Joy at Paul Ryan's office in Washington DC
We were not handcuffed, were given cold water and were allowed to keep all possessions without  being frisked.  There was no fingerprinting, but a photograph of each activist was taken. Then tables and chairs were brought out of a police van, and the officers gathered our personal information before giving the defendants a citation release document. We were charged with Crowding, Obstructing and Incommoding and ordered to report on July 13 to U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters to request a court date.  Actually, we had fifteen days to report.   
Based on many arrests by the U.S. Capitol Police, I had never experienced one without being handcuffed.  I have no idea why someone in the Capitol Police hierarchy decided to follow this procedure.  I was arrested on those same Capitol steps during President Obama’s last State of the Union address in January 2016.  We spent 6 ½ hours in jail before being released.    
On July 13, four defendants did appear at the Capitol Police Headquarters, and were given an arraignment date of July 26 to appear in D.C. Superior Court. Janice and I went to the headquarters on July 16, and were given August 2 as our arraignment date.   On July 25, Mark Goldstone, a renowned First Amendment attorney, was informed by the U.S. Attorney’s office that Alice, Joy, Malachy and Phil had their cases no-papered.   On our arraignment date, Janice and Max went online and discovered that we were not listed on the Superior Court docket.  So we presumed our cases were also not papered.  Now we began the saga to get the banner and sash released by the Capitol Police.  It took four visits to police headquarters, and the assistance of an Assistant Attorney General, before Janice could pick up the property. 
Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] petitioned the Congressional leadership on behalf of the voiceless, the poor, the middle class, the immigrants and people whose pleas are ignored.  And this was done on the 50th anniversary year of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” 
It was important, as well, to read the petition on the Capitol steps as part of the Rivers of Blood II action. On September 20, 2007, the original Rivers of Blood action included a die-in by 31 peace activists in the crypt of the U.S. Capitol. So what has changed in ten years? Congress still consistently  allocates tax dollars which go toward death and destruction in many parts of the world, most especially the Middle East.   
On July 11, Joy received an email from “Andrew:” “I am wishing for more information on the call for action at the Capitol tomorrow.
I have been arrested previously for non violent [sic] demonstrations and want to seek more justice.  What time are we expected to demonstrate and what specific location.  Thank you.” 
I had an opportunity to chat with the Capitol Police commander after the arrest and noticed his nameplate.  He was the mysterious Andrew who sent the email.  
Of course, it is unethical for a police officer to lie, but not illegal.  We intended to subpoena “Andrew” to appear in court to testify during the trial. Was this the reason the charges were no-papered?  Did the other arrests taking place in July inside the Senate and House of Representatives buildings over Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act overwhelm the court dockets? 
Regardless of the reason our cases were dismissed, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is gearing up for another action in the fall called Healthcare Not Warfare.  We will make a demand for improved Medicare for All. 
Let me know if you would like to join us.  Again the action is planned to be commemorative of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s Riverside Church speech.Another anniversary to commemorate in 2017 is that of the ending of the Great War in 1917.  Randolph Bourne, a writer who died in 1918 of the flu epidemic brought on by World War I, understood a predicament which we are still protesting today: “War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate co-operation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense.” 
Have common sense, not larger herd sense, and join us in direct action calling for funding healthcare for all instead of the profiting from warfare by the few. 
Max Obuszewski is with the Baltimore Nonviolence Center 
“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan 
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dirty Blue Angels To Pollute The Air As Recruiting Stunt Today #PentagonClimateCrime

Bruce Gagnon bringing this truth to a march in Portland, Maine. Environmental activists ignore the Pentagon's carbon footprint at their peril because the military is a HUGE contributor to greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Today Brunswick, Maine will have yet another Blue Angels air show, a petroleum burning exercise billed as entertainment but admittedly intended as an aid to recruitment among poor Maine kids so they'll consider joining the military.

Local peaceworkers will be on hand to protest the show from 9am to noon.
Image: ARRT!
What's the CO2 output of this "entertaining" spectacle? Some people have done the math.
Those Dirty Blue Angels
Dear San Francisco Chronicle Editors:
At a time when climate change is front and center as a global concern, in a state that is the front runner in addressing the US's global warming mitigation strategies, in a city which has created a Climate Action Plan with the goals of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2012, what are the Blue Angels doing performing in San Francisco, CA? 
According to the Blue Angels and US Navy's own webeites, one F/A-18 uses approximately 8,000 pounds or 1,300 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel during a show and over the course of a year, including transportation, training, etc., the squadron, including Fat Albert, burns approximately 3.1 million gallons of fuel. 
Image: Anthony Freda
Using jet fuel carbon emissions estimates provided by Earthlab to be 23.88 pounds of CO2 per gallon*, each Blue Angel flight produces 31,044 lbs of CO2, with a total yearly emissions of 740 million lbs of CO2 over the United States. With four scheduled shows with six planes each per show during Fleet week, that would be 745,056 lbs of CO2 emitted over San Francisco in a two-day period, not including practice flights. 
I hope that when San Francisco became the first city in the US to certify its greenhouse gas emissions, it didn?t forget to include its yearly guests, the Blue Angels. 
In a state of shock and awe, 
Elizabeth Dougherty    October 5, 2007 
*Source Information:

As seen in the photo above, the Blue Angels burned napalm on the runway as a grand finale during their last show in Brunswick.

I've heard from several people objecting to air shows like the Blue Angels. I object to the carbon footprint while many who live around air show venues cite the high levels of noise that everyone in the area experiences. 

Mainer Joe Ciarocca had an op-ed in the Bath-Brunswick Times Record with links to the health risks of exposure to excessive levels of noise and vibration. Joe wrote:
Some people will attend this air show with the attitude, “it’s only for an afternoon and everything will be okay and we will survive.”  Are we so easily entertained that we would buy into something that’s not safe...? 
On a daily basis we are exposed to much noise and air pollution.  We have become acclimated to and have normalized this condition.

If you object to the Blue Angels air show in Brunswick, you can contact the Maine Regional Redevelopment Authority which manages the venue in Brunswick:


15 Terminal Road, Suite 200
Brunswick, ME 04011
Phone: 207-798-6512
Fax: 207-798-6510
Office hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 4:30pm. Closed on major holidays.
Or use their online contact form here. Or contact them via twitter (@mrramaine) or on their facebook page
Contact the Town of Brunswick:
Brunswick Town Hall, 85 Union Street, Brunswick, Maine 04011  Phone: (207) 725-6659
Contact your Maine state representatives and senators:
Website with contact info:
Contact Maine’s representatives and senators in Washington DC:
(202) 224-3121  Capitol switchboard to reach Rep. Pingree, Rep. Poliquin, Sen. King & Sen. Collins
Write a letter to the editor:

Friday, August 25, 2017

War Profiteers Winning In Afghanistan, School Kids Losing In USA

The announcement that more resources would pour into the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan confirms that, no matter who is in the White House, war profiteers are in the driver's seat of U.S. government. Photo:
It's no surprise that the swamp got the demagogue with bad hair to embrace imperial overreach and come out as a supporter of ramping up the 16 year war in Afghanistan.

War profiteers like Erik Prince of Blackwater -- which made a bundle on the U.S. war in Iraq -- are insiders in a regime that has incorporated ever more military personnel into supposedly civilian posts like Chief of Staff. War profiteers like Lockheed meanwhile pour millions of dollars a month into lobbying members of Congress who are alleged to represent the people.

How to fund these long, expensive, designed not to be winnable wars?

A recent action alert from my union, the National Education Association, gives a hint:
The FY 2018 education funding bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee recently is a frightening read in its disregard for the welfare of the millions of students who attend public schools, and the educators who teach in them. 
The House spending bill:
  • Cuts education spending by $2.4 billion.
  • Completely eliminates Title II (within ESSA), which funds class-size reduction, professional development, and more.
  • Slashes 21st Century Community Learning Centers that provide afterschool services to students most in need.
  • Fails to increase funding for Title I, despite record numbers of low-income students in need of the services it provides.

Third grade teacher Teresa Danks made international news this summer by literally begging for the $2,000 or so she spends annually in her classroom. She's been a teacher in for decades and her annual salary in Oklahoma is around $35,000. She says: “I want the proper tools to do my job well. I wouldn’t ask somebody to build my house with a spoon.”

I've objected to U.S. imperial wars on the basis that they're morally wrong, that they're racist, that they churn out tons of carbon pollution, that they harm or kill soldiers and their families, and that we can't afford to pay for them.

"Drug War? American Troops Are Protecting Afghan Opium. U.S. Occupation Leads to All-Time High Heroin Production"

I could also add that the occupation of Afghanistan specifically is fueling the U.S. heroin crisis by making the byproduct of opium poppies cheap and readily available (ka-ching goes the CIA cash register). 

All these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. There is no reason to believe that the militaristic cabal brought the demagogue with bad hair to heel will listen to the voice of the people.

My government no longer represents me. But it hasn't succeeded in silencing me yet, and so as another school year begins -- when hungry children who need sneakers and backpacks and a safe place out of the weather come trundling back to school -- I say:


Friday, August 18, 2017

Report Back From A Medic On The Scene In Charlottesville

Report from the streets of Charlottesville via a friend, Xan Joi, on facebook:

This is a first hand account of Charlottesville from a medic who was on the ground through the weekend. 
I rarely post politics or anything else on Facebook .... But let me be clear. I was acting as a medic in Charlottesville. "Both sides"-ing about it is absolutely unacceptable. Content note: I'm going to get quite graphic here, because while I understand that there's quite a range of political viewpoints among my Facebook friends, I want to *get this point through to everyone whatever your politics*. 
In the run-up to that weekend, some local counterprotest organizers' families were forced to flee their homes because of violent threats. Some of them had "bodyguards" - friends escorting them everywhere they went that week, even to the grocery store, work, all the mundane places that people go in their normal lives. 
On Friday night, a torch-wielding mob chanting Nazi and other racist slogans (e.g. "blood and soil," "Jews will not replace us"), some doing Nazi salutes, surrounded, screamed "White lives matter" and "anti-white" at, a small group of college student counterprotesters who had linked arms around a statue and had a banner. They then threw fuel at them, beat them with lit torches, pepper-sprayed them, and punched them (including pepper-spraying a girl in a wheelchair). 
The police mostly stood by until the nazis were gone. A medic who was wearing a kippah (a Jewish skullcap) was followed in the dark by one of the nazis, and took it off after that so as not to be targeted. A university librarian who joined the students to try to protect them has now had a stroke. At some point that evening, the torch-wielders also surrounded a black church while chanting racist slogans. All of this not only hurt people that night but set expectations for how the white nationalists would behave the next day. 
On Saturday morning, a line of clergy, along with a gradually growing group of other protesters, showed up outside the nazi rally (given the iconography, including swastikas, the Black Sun, and fasces, and the chants, of involved groups, I don't have a problem using that word, don't let anyone fool you into thinking these were mainstream conservative groups that are being described hyperbolically), facing militia movement members who were carrying assault rifles. There was shouting back and forth, and a small early fistfight where a nazi punched a nearby counterprotester who spilled coffee on him. Nazis were screaming antisemitic things at rabbis in the clergy line, and chanting "blood and soil" in response to the clergy singing "This little light of mine." 
At one point, some clergy did a peaceful blockade of one of the park entrances, which was forcibly broken by an incoming white nationalist group with skulls painted on their shields. The heavy bidirectional fighting, though, mostly got going after a group of counterprotesters nonviolently blocked the way of an oncoming group of white nationalists, who broke through the blockade with clubs and heavy shields. 
Some people defended themselves as the white nationalists kept charging and swinging clubs. After that, there were fistfights and club-fights breaking out all around, nazis pepper-spraying and tear-gassing counterprotest crowds, plastic water bottles thrown in both directions. A nazi group that didn't know where the entrance to the park was added to the street fights. Some clergy ran to shield vulnerable people with their bodies, and those clergy were protected by antifa-associated counterprotesters - multiple clergy/theologians have said that they would have been "crushed" and maybe killed if antifa had not protected them.
This went on for a long time. For most of this, the police stood around. Eventually, they cleared both sides out of the area. 
The town's synagogue is a short distance from the park. Throughout the day, nazis paraded by it doing the Nazi salute and shouting antisemitic slurs. The police had refused to provide a guard to the synagogue for some reason, so it had hired its own armed guard. There were threats of burning it down coming in. It had to cancel a havdalah service at a congregant's house that evening out of fear of attack. 
The march that was attacked with a car by James Fields was that afternoon. What street fighting had happened was long-since over by then. It was a happy march, it was not fighting anyone. The car attack came out of nowhere and the aftermath looked like a war zone. It hit the front of the march as the march was going around a corner, and many people weren't sure what had happened at first, people were screaming about a bomb. In addition to the woman who died, many people had serious injuries. A medic who was hit had to have emergency surgery to not lose her leg. A 13 year-old girl and her mom were among the injured. The street was covered in blood. The firefighters and paramedics were great. The police, on the other hand, rolled in an armored vehicle and threatened the crowd of survivors with a tear gas launcher. Police officers ordered the medics who were performing CPR on the woman who died to leave her and clear the area. They refused, and bystanders negotiated with the police to leave them alone. 
There were several other incidents throughout the afternoon where white nationalists/nazis/whatever were menacing small groups of wandering counterprotesters with their cars, swerving toward them on the sidewalk like they were going to hit them, that kind of thing, including after the car attack. At one point my medic buddy and I were about 50 feet ahead of such a group and heard screeching car sounds and screams, and ran back, thinking for a second that there had been another terrorist attack and that this time we were the only medics on site, but fortunately it was just a scare - the driver then "rolled coal" (intentionally emitting a dark cloud of exhaust) at the people on the sidewalk before driving away. There was also an incident at some point where a young black man was badly beaten by white nationalists in a parking garage. 
There is no "both sides" here. I mean, first of all, there is no moral both sides because antifascists and nazis aren't morally the same, period. Disrupting nazis isn't the same as being one, period. But there was also no "both sides" even beyond that. Mutual street fighting primarily kicked off by an attack from the opposing side, doesn't compare to mowing people down with a car, to threatening a synagogue and a black church, to stalking someone for being visibly Jewish, to being part of a Nazi-slogan-screaming mob that surrounds and attacks peaceful college kids and could have easily killed one of them if the fuel thrown on a couple of them had been lit by one of the many thrown or swung torches.
Don't let anyone fool you into thinking the Saturday rally was starting out just a rally like others, but with racist assholes. The people organizing counterprotests, whose families had to flee town, would probably take issue with that. The black church and the synagogue, the synagogue congregant who had to cancel a religious/cultural ceremony out of fear, and the ones who had to leave the building in groups out the back entrance to avoid attack, would probably take issue with that. The people who were physically attacked, on Friday night, by those in town for the Saturday rally, would probably take issue with that. 
Don't elide the difference in the questions of whether hate speech should be criminalized, and how communities and their supporters should protect themselves when people who are already threatening to kill them roll into town to rally and then physically attack community members before their rally while the police don't stop it. Don't invoke the Civil Rights Movement to elide it, or tsk-tsk people who were on the ground in Cville. The Civil Rights Movement had its Deacons for Defense and Justice, and similar groups. Just as importantly, many of the leading lights of the Civil Rights Movement were murdered. If you think the only valid kind of activism in response to racist hate is martyrdom, you need to at least think through the implications of that belief. 
I did not have a good weekend and I have no interest in hearing comments about how, despite everything I saw and everything I said here, you think this is a "both sides" thing. If you find my activism unacceptable you are welcome to unfriend me.
To see some of the events described above, check out this documentary from a Vice reporter in Charlottesville (direct link here