(Heather Heyer and James Alex Fields represent two very real lineages of American history and society)
The spectacle of white supremacist violence and hatred on display in Charlottesville last week was disgusting and unacceptable. It seems to have been a wake up call for a lot of Americans about how serious the threat of racism and outright Nazism is to our communities. The sacrifices of those who gave their lives and safety in resistance to white supremacy may yet serve to be a catalyst that moves many individuals to action and our country closer to overcoming our toxic history of slavery and bigotry.
In the days since the atrocities of Charlottesville, there have been many commentators on social media who have rightly insisted that white Americans cannot declare that the racism we witnessed is not who we are. They point out that the ideology of James Alex Fields, the white supremacist who murdered Heather Heyer, is as old as America and is embedded in our nation’s history. It is part of the social history that formed all of us, which means that ugly ideology is buried in each of us and toxifies our relationships. This is the reality that needs to be acknowledged and unpacked if we are to work toward racial justice.
But I think it is equally important to remember there was also fierce resistance to white supremacy on the streets of Charlottesville, and this too is part of who we are and always have been as a nation. Abolitionism is also old as America, and long before the civl war, outspoken white and black abolitionists were often murdered by white supremacists. Shortly after Christopher Columbus arrived on this continent, there were dissenters like Bartolomé de las Casas who decried European barbarism against Native Americans and advocated for universal human rights. Every shameful chapter of American injustice has been paralleled by a chapter in the tradition of struggling for equality and mutual liberation. Just like the lineage of white supremacy, this tradition of resistance is inside us and has shaped all Americans, whether we have embraced it or not. In the words of the last sane Republican president in this country, “Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.”Read more
Bryan Cahall has been writing and singing his powerful songs all over the country for years. His music has graced most of the events I've done over the past year. His songs cultivate the deep resilience that we need to not only rise to the challenge of our times, but to continue to find beauty and meaning in these struggles. But as many people as have been moved and inspired by Bryan's music, he has never actually recorded a professional album with any of his wonderful songs. Until now. Bryan is finally getting into the recording studio this summer so that his songs can touch countless more people. But he needs support to be able to make it happen. Please watch the video on his Kickstarter page and donate whatever you can. Then send this on to the folks you know that understand how important art and music are to the struggle for a just and healthy world.
I'm sharing side by side two public statements recently released in response to Trump's ban on Muslim immigration and refugees. The first is from Harvard president Drew Faust on behalf of the university. The second is from the Union Theological Seminary president and faculty. They both unequivocally oppose Trump's fascist order, but they are strikingly different in tone, style, and substance. Their differences reveal the vastly different value systems represented by the two schools: the technocratic paradigm of globalism, capitalism, and neoliberalism on one hand, and Christian-centered prophetic justice on the other hand. To be clear, I applaud both schools for their responses, but I think the differences are too interesting to ignore.Read more
Over the years that I’ve been giving speeches, workshops, and interviews, I have frequently said that the climate movement is going to have to get a lot tougher. I usually say this in the context of acknowledging the hard truths of the catastrophic levels of climate change that are now inevitable, based on my assumption that it would take some time to toughen up enough to be ready to deal with difficult situations when they arrive. My experience in DC last week protesting the inauguration of the Trump regime has caused me to question and deepen some of those assumptions about how to approach these challenging times.
On Friday, January 20th, I was part of the climate movement contingent that was blocking the Red Gate checkpoint for people entering the inauguration ceremonies. The inauguration had a massive security barrier around the National Mall with several large, airport style screening areas that funneled people into the secured area. As other social justice movements blocked other gates, our crew of about 400 climate activists blockaded the checkpoint marked Red Gate at 3rd St. and D St. NW. Around 8am, we stretched across the street with several lines of people with linked arms and unfurled banners about climate justice.
It was immediately a chaotic scene. Several Trump supporters who happened to be mixed up in our large group took a while to figure out what was going on. Some turned around or tried to go around us. The police started escorting some Trump supporters over a small wall to our right and through the grass behind us, but this was a slow, single-file trickle compared to the wide flow of people for which the checkpoint was designed.
Despite the obvious threats we face as activists and as a civilization, I feel deeply grateful for where my life is at right now. In addition to my personal fulfillment, I’m grateful for the ability to do meaningful work as an activist struggling for a better world. Nearly everything that defines my life today can be traced back to that fateful act of civil disobedience I took in 2008. And the main reason that this has been such a positive and joyful path was the resolute support I received from thousands of people across the country.
When I stuck my neck out, countless people stepped up to lend their support physically, morally, and financially. They gave me the courage to make the most of the opportunity I had, and they generously donated to make sure I had the resources to sustain the struggle. Many of you who are reading this were probably among the folks who gave your time, money, and emotional energy.
Now I’m working with a group of activists who have also stuck their neck out in a bold way by shutting down all five of the tar sands pipelines flowing into the US from Canada. When folks in Standing Rock called for solidarity actions in October, this group went on the offensive against the pipeline companies that were assaulting our brothers and sisters. In addition to keeping about 700,000 gallons of tar sands oil in the ground, their peaceful and well planned action expanded the boundaries of climate resistance, knowing that they would face serious consequences. Eight of the people involved in that action are facing criminal charges more serious than I faced for disrupting the BLM oil and gas auction, and they could spend decades in prison for their nonviolent act.
My friend Ken Ward, with whom I started the Climate Disobedience Center, turned the valve in Washington to stop the flow of tar sands for the day. He will be the first of the group to go to trial, currently scheduled to begin on January 30th, 2017. Ken has been working to stop climate change for a long time. I started working with him after he used a lobster boat in 2013 to block a shipment of West Virginia coal from being delivered to Brayton Point coal fired power plant. He took that case to trial and had the amazing outcome of the prosecutor dropping the charges and expressing his solidarity with their action. Ken is now ready to take this case to trial, but he needs support.
The Climate Disobedience Center is spearheading support for Ken and all the other brave activists who are facing prosecution for this action. This could be a long journey through the courts and the prison system for Ken and the others, and we want to show them that they have committed and sustained support through it all. That’s why I’m asking you to become a sustaining donor to the Climate Disobedience Center.
We have hired lawyers for them in four different states, so it will take some serious financial support to see them through the whole process. But I know from experience that if they end up serving time in prison, more than anything they will need to know that they are not alone and that their actions were not in vain. Your support will make a world of difference for them at the most difficult parts of their journey.
We are not naive about the political landscape we are entering, or about the likelihood that organizations like ours that foster dissent will face unprecedented repression. We could be shut down and our assets seized, but our only real asset is a network of relationships with people that are willing to support bold activism for climate justice. That’s why rather than asking for a big one time donation, I’m asking you to become a sustaining monthly donor. If you are able to donate $100, sign up to be a sustaining donor at $10 a month instead. And then if they take us down, step up and keep supporting each other in doing the brave and loving work of defending a livable future.
Let's keep building a strong, loving resistance together,
I woke up this morning feeling like I got hit by a truck, which is at least partially due to the fact that I got hit by a truck last night.
When I was coming into Providence on the commuter rail around 9:45, things were already looking bad. Trump was pulling ahead in Florida and North Carolina, and it was beginning to look like he could actually win. I got on my bike and started riding home. As I rode past a gas station on North Main St, a black Dodge Ram suddenly pulled out of the parking lot and into my right hip, sending me sprawling onto the pavement. I hopped up and dragged the bike to the curb. I immediately sat down and leaned against a telephone pole while I figured out what just happened.
My shoulder hurt, as did my hip, but I felt right away that I was basically fine. I never saw him coming until the last moment. At the moment the truck hit me, I remember having a thought along the lines of, “Well, this is really happening. I figured this might happen at some point.” I was wearing a helmet and and lights in the front and the back, as well as a reflective leg cuff on my right ankle, but I found myself immediately thinking about the things I could have done differently. In a minute or two the adrenaline wore off, and I felt pretty calm.Read more
Press Contact: Afrin Sopariwala 408.598.7656
This morning, by 7:30 PST, 5 activists have successfully shut down 5 pipelines across the United States deliverying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada in support of the call for International Days of Prayer and Action for Standing Rock. Activists employed manual safety valves, calling on President Obama to use emergency powers to keep the pipelines closed and mobilize for the extraordinary shift away from fossil fuels now required to avert catastrophe.
192 nations have agreed that average global temperature should not increase 1.5C° above baseline in order to avert climate change cataclysm. This objective cannot be met, and any hope of keeping temperature below even 2.0°C depends on a total ban on new fossil fuel extractions and an immediate end to oil sands and coal use. In the absence of any political leadership or legal mechanisms for accomplishing this, these individuals feel duty bound to halt the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels by personal direct action.
Ken Ward, 59, of Corbette OR said, "There is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin. Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats -- oil sands fuels and coal."
Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle WA said, "For years we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life."
Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA said "Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love that extends to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet. I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love."
Michael Foster, 52 of Seattle WA said, "I am here to generate action that wakes people up to the reality of what we are doing to life as we know it. All of our climate victories are meaningless if we don’t stop extracting oil, coal and gas now."
Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, OR said, "Because of the climate change emergency, because governments and corporations have for decades increased fossil fuel extraction and carbon emissions when instead we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions; I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life."
More words from the activists here: http://www.shutitdown.today/activist_bios
WHERE. Enbridge line 4 and 67, Leonard, MN; TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, Walhalla, ND; Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline, Coal Banks Landing, MT; Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, Anacortes, WA.
WHO. Climate Direct Action is Emily Johnson, 50 and Michael Foster, 52, of Seattle, WA, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA, Ken Ward, 59, of Corbett, OR, and Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, with the support of Climate Disobedience Action Fund.
I appeared in court in West Roxbury, MA today with my #MassGrave6 codefendants Nora Collins, Karenna Gore, Dave Publow, Sophia Wilansky and Callista Womick.
All six of us continue to refuse a plea bargain and are eager to take our case to a jury trial. Our next court appearance date has been set for September 6th.
Personally, I'm excited for a jury trial in which everyday people can decide if our actions were justified after hearing all the evidence of our government's inability to stop Spectra's assault against both West Roxbury and our global climate. Every elected official representing West Roxbury opposed this project, but they have been unable to stop it, so this is a clear case where civil disobedience is necessary to protect our communities.Read more
Since the beginning days of Peaceful Uprising, music was a critical part of our organizing. At the most stressful juncture of organizing around my trial, we decided that we were just going to have some people singing outside the courthouse the whole time. Anything else would be bonus, but the core would be singing. So we started having song rehearsals instead of planning meetings. That practice of singing together brought us together and inspired us to do more than just have a few folks singing outside the courthouse. By the time of the trial there were nearly 3000 people singing in the street, with marches and trainings as well.
The power of music in movements seemed magic to me. Singing together literally brings us into harmony and reminds us that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. That kind of empowerment is essential believing that we are powerful enough to challenge huge corporations and institutions. Music gets us out of our analytical heads and helps us process the powerful emotions like fear, joy, anger and hope that are inescapable in this work. Music reminds us of our values and principles while we fight for justice. Perhaps that’s why music has been the soul of so many social movements in our history.
But when I left Utah, I realized that the music in Peaceful Uprising didn’t actually happen magically. It happened because people with real musical talent like Lauren Wood, Ashley Anderson and Flora Bernard put in a lot of work to make it happen. When I tried to start a protest choir in Cambridge, folks would ask me things like, “What key is this song in?”, and I had no idea what they were talking about. Well, guess what? That effort quickly fell apart. Music in movements might feel like magic, but it turns out it takes skill and support just like all the other pieces of a movement.
That’s why I’m so excited that singer/songwriter Bryan Cahall will be joining me as my new music director. I first met Bryan after his powerful performance at Appalachia Rising in 2010.
We brought his song “Arise” back to our community in Utah, and a few months later thousands were singing it in the streets.Read more
In my trainings and workshops with activists, I always tell folks that we are most powerful when we are expressing our deepest personal truths. This week I took action to express the grief that has been weighing on my heart ever since I read about Pakistan digging mass graves in anticipation of their climate change induced heat waves last month. Even as someone who reads a lot of heartbreaking stories about climate change, the fact that we have now entered the age of anticipatory mass graves broke my heart in a whole new way.
When I saw the pictures of the long trench they dug as that mass grave, I realized it looked just like the trench that Spectra is digging through the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston for a new high pressure fracked gas pipeline. I felt powerfully called to connect the dots between those two trenches and climb into the one in Boston to reflect on this new age of anticipatory mass graves.Read more