For over ten months water protectors and their allies have been occupying land in Cannonball, ND on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline. People from across the globe have stood in solidarity, sending prayers å support to everyone here. In early November I came to the camps for the first time, and have now been living at Sacred Stone Camp for the past two months.
During my time here I have witnessed the incredible strength of a community. Strength that stands up to unjust brutality committed by local law enforcement. One event, which took place on February 4th, 2016, was when the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) arrived at the front gate of Sacred Stone Camp. Motives for arrival were unclear but after being informed that the officers weren’t going to be allowed on the premises they quickly became aggressive.
Three members of security were arrested, one of them being a woman who was hit excessively with batons by two officers as they took her to the ground. Another security member, who was trying to protect the first woman, was hit multiple times with a baton resulting in a broken arm and multiple contusions throughout his body. Members of Sacred Stone Camp watched as BIA demonstrated unnecessary violence on water protectors while trying to keep private land safe and free of any police presence.
Later in the month on February 16th, Sacred Stone Camp was given a ten day evacuation notice by the BIA to pack up our personal items and vacate the property owned by LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard. The eviction notice stated that people who stay past the eviction date could possibly be charged with trespassing. People seemed skeptical of the authenticity of the document, and some chose to rip their eviction notice in front of BIA officers as they walked away from camp.
On February 22nd Oceti Oyate (formerly known as Oceti Sakowin) was raided by BIA and Morton County Sheriff’s Department, along with other North Dakota police agencies. Oceti was located on land owned by the Army Corp of Engineers and was the largest out of the remaining camps. Officers went structure to structure with weapons in hand searching for any remaining individuals. Ten water protectors were arrested that day, including a member of the media who suffered from a broken hip which resulted from the arrest. Three days later Rosebud Camp, which was located between the former Oceti Oyate and Sacred Stone Camp, was raided as surplus military vehicles were seen inside camp taking down structures. At this moment all remaining water protectors are located at Sacred Stone Camp.
The raid created a large influx of Oceti and Rosebud “refugees” at Sacred Stone, and the atmosphere of camp quickly shifted from a small community to a hectic scramble as population numbers doubled in size. Emotions were high as Water Protectors struggled to process being evicted from a site which they once called home. This displacement was a new feeling to some, but a heavy reminder to others whose ancestors have been through this process one to many times before.
As the three former camps assimilate into one attitudes differ. Some protectors prepare to pack up and leave, while others are heavily set on staying at Sacred Stone until they are forcibly removed. Groups of water protectors are gathering on other private properties nearby, starting new ecovillages afar, while some move to other pipeline resistance camps around the country.
Water protectors who have made the decision to stay prepare themselves and their families for what could happen in the next few days. Some people staying here have given up everything they had in their previous lives to be here, and do not have any other besides Sacred Stone Camp.
Walking through camp my own emotions take over as I say goodbyes to friends and family who have chosen to leave camp, and try to decide for myself what these next few days will hold. My heart is torn between leaving on my own terms with my close friends and partner, or staying at camp until I am physically removed from LaDonna’s land by law enforcement.
In these past two months I have witnessed the racism of local law enforcement, the gross overuse of unjust charges, and the severe use of violence against water protectors. At the front lines you see law enforcement and DAPL employees working hard to protect their privileged lives, and continue the trend of colonization of indigenous people.
Since the formation of camps here at Standing Rock, other resistance camps have emerged all over the country who are working to uphold the rights of indigenous people and our environment. The city of Olympia has stood with the water protectors by organizing rallies, collecting donations, and creating a train blockade. There is a strong presence of Washington residents at camp, including students from The Evergreen State College and members of the Nisqually tribe.
Lydia Dennee-Lee, a graduate of Olympia HS, currently attends the Fairhaven College of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.
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After thirty-five years of serving the poor, homeless, and marginalized people of Thurston County, Bread & Roses (B&R) will be closing its doors. B&R has served the community in many different ways since its founding in 1982 by volunteers from the Catholic Worker tradition. The original house on 8th Ave has been the heart of the organization since the beginning, and along with the duplex next door, which was added in 1987, has provided shelter, respite, and a welcoming home for hundreds of people through the years.
B&R is mostly remembered for the large soup kitchen and drop-in center that operated on Cherry Street until 2003, where many dedicated volunteers cooked and shared meals with those living on the streets.
Other B&R programs addressed a variety of emergent community needs. The Devoe Street Men’s Shelter, a fifty-five-bed overnight shelter, provided emergency shelter for vulnerable homeless men until the Drexel House opened on that site with permanent and transitional apartments. The Voice of Olympia street newspaper published articles, poetry and art by and for houseless people for several years. The B&R Advocacy Center connected homeless individuals with volunteer advocates to increase access to resources and housing—similar work is done today by SideWalk, the Capital Recovery Center’s PATH program, the Navigator Team at Interfaith Works, and others.
Bread & Roses played an important role in the creation and/or ongoing support of several other organizations and programs, including our community’s first syringe exchange, emergency winter overnight shelters, Partners in Prevention Education, Camp Quixote, SideWalk, EGYHOP, and Food Not Bombs, among others.
Bread & Roses’ prophetic stand for the dignity, the humanity, and the rights to inclusion for the most vulnerable members of our community is where some of its greatest impacts can be found. Radical changes in the local social service industry, including the low barrier and Housing First movements as well as the recent shift to vulnerability-based admission for housing programs, largely trace their roots to Bread & Roses’ advocacy for the “least among us”.
We’ve had a long run and we are proud of our accomplishments. We are particularly pleased that the houses on 8th Ave will pass to Homes First for continued use as affordable housing for our low income neighbors.
So this month I’m tipping and then promptly eating my hat to City Councilmember Clark Gilman for following through on his words. He actually spoke in quiet, respectful support of building a bathroom at the Artesian Well. Jessica Bateman spoke in fervor and strength calling for action. Jim Cooper pushed as well calling out both the lack of action and the slowness of the Pilot Program’s implementation of the plan to provide additional portable toilets. And after much consideration, Jeanine Roe surprised me and many others by voting in favor of the motion. The council voted 4 to 3 in favor of constructing a Portland-Loo-style bathroom at the well to replace the unlit, unsanitary plastic affront to sanitary senses that currently resides there.
Just Housing speakers were left speechless not only by the surprise victory but also by some classic classism that was displayed by several members of City administration. From blaming so-called conflicts in the Woodland Trail on “different user groups,” to asking what the community will do to keep the homeless folk using the bathroom in line, to threatening the permanent closure of all brick-and-mortar facilities should any damage or misconduct occur. A closure of this kind would once again deny our street peeps any humane place to take a dump. Oh, and the Social Contract, because nothing says tone deaf hypocrisy like scolding citizens after years of criminalizing homelessness and continuing to do so.
Seriously, Steve Hall and Julie Hankins? And to Councilmember Hankins specifically: whatever happened to that homeless center you called for while running for your last election? We certainly aren’t going to trust someone who promises aid and then shrilly sputters condescension at kids and homeless folk for doing something. We have a Federal administration that isn’t interested in helping anyone but Big Money. It certainly isn’t helping queer folk, non-Christians, or folks historically more at risk for homelessness and less assisted by existing support structures.
We need people who aren’t in the pockets of the makers to lead us, and Councilmember Hankins’ worship of the Downtown Strategy and denial of equal access to services is as far from progressive, egalitarian values as you can get. Our street peeps are people, not a counterbalance on some neolib spreadsheet; they aren’t collateral damage, ticks on a list of dead after an economic battle; they have lives, worth, and meaning entirely removed from the commodifiable utility. Personally I am looking to see if a progressive, with-the-people candidate could challenge her. Julie Hankins has nothing to show the common people for her efforts in helping the homeless get the services and necessities that we all deserve. Now is the time to end this legacy of gentrification and corrupt statism. She defends herself with the cries of respectability politics, defending her statements as requests for politeness while forgetting that the real Social Contract demands that the City, as a body of elected officials provide services to its citizens. We do not owe obeisance to representatives who can neither fathom our struggles nor care for the plight of the least among us. They owe us humane services that are guaranteed to us by our Constitution and by the promises for dignity and sanctuary that this Council has made. Turns out: Clark Gilman listens, Julie Hankins doesn’t. Time for a change.
Alden Marsen is an Evergreen College dropout and pithy critic of local government.
The new Thurston County Commissioners (they call themselves “independents or Tea Party”) have joined other counties across the state in trying to figure out how to monitor their groundwater and issue building permits (with water wells) in the wake of a recent state Supreme Court ruling on Whatcom County water rights.
In the Whatcom County v. Hirst ruling, the Washington State Supreme court ruled that counties are responsible for protecting water resources under the Growth Management Act (GMA). Because of this, counties are required to conduct independent water studies to determine if water is available without affecting minimum in-stream flows and senior water rights holders.
At the recent “Thurston County Study Session” the week of February 20-23, this was discussed. Thurston County staff, at this meeting, admitted that they do not have enough water bank data on this issue, and that this task may take years to accomplish.
This leaves Thurston County in a state of limbo, Commissioner Bud Blake said at the study, or work, session (attended mostly by the Master Builders Association). Before the county takes action to set up procedures to monitor the groundwater to issue building permits that meet the court’s standards, Blake wants to see what happens in the Legislature and in the courts. For now, “Thurston County will continue to issue water well permits (exempt permits), assuming water is available”, says County Commissioner Bud Blake.
This issue was highly debated at the “study session”. The Thurston County staff lawyers kept saying; “Thurston County is risking legal exposure”, they said. By issuing water well permits, without adequate data on our county water bank, the County may permit “over-pumping” of the water here. Thurston County can be sued. The County Commissioners do not seem to care.
The County Commissioners pushed to have “business as usual”, meaning, to issue water well (exempt) permits. The Thurston County hydrologist Kevin Hughes, kept saying, “Thurston needs more water data, and this effort will take years to gather this data.” The County Commissioners did not seem to care that Thurston County may “over pump” or deplete the Thurston County water bank (or water table) , and leave current home owners, who have water wells, without water.
One such home owner who asked not to be named told about how she and her parents have lived on Lilly Road in Olympia, Washington, for 25 years. They have a water well that was dug 25 years ago. They have less and less well water for their home, she said. Surrounding new homes are being built and they are all on water wells. She can only “turn on the water faucet” for short periods of time currently. She is concerned that she will not have water for her home in the near future. What will she do? She cannot move, she has no money to move, she is retired. She cannot sell her home; no one will buy it without water. (County water users do not have access to City water. If your well runs dry, that is your problem. No one will help you).
But Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards believes the Washington Supreme court’s Hirst ruling is an “overreach of government”.
“This is class warfare”, says Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards, “I’m here to stick up for the citizens.”
But which citizens is he talking about? The rich ones who are constructing new $400,000 homes with “exempt” water well permits? Or the home owners in Thurston County who have lived here and whose water wells are going dry?
Across the state, counties have adopted different methods of addressing the ruling, county hydrogeologist Kevin Hughes said.
In the wake of the Washington state Supreme Court’s ruling in Whatcom County v. Hirst, counties across the state are struggling with how to monitor their groundwater and issue building permits (with water well permits).
Thurston County is stuck in a state of limbo, Commissioner Bud Blake said at a Tuesday work session. Before the county takes any action to set up procedures to monitor the groundwater to issue building permits that hold up to the court’s standards, Blake wants to see what happens in the Legislature and in the courts. He and the other commissioners seem to want the GOP Legislature to allow the county to just issue the water well (exempt) permits.
In Hirst, the court ruled counties are responsible for protecting water resources under the Growth Management Act. Because of this, counties are required under the decision to conduct independent water studies to determine if water is available without impacting minimum in-stream flows and senior water rights holders.
Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards believes the regulations imposed by the court are an overreach of government.
“Only the rich will be able to live on their estates and everyone else will have to live in the “ghettos,” Edwards said, it is “the government waging the class warfare”.
The county hydrogeologist, Kevin Hansen said, “In Pierce County development has been shut down completely; Jefferson County requires meters on all wells and water banks have been set up in Kittitas and Walla Walla counties”.
The main source of concern in Thurston County is with permitted “ exempt wells” that serve a single family home, where the county has about 34,000 exempt well permits; each have the capacity to pump 280 gallons a day.
Numerous bills have been introduced in the Washington State Legislature to address the issues surrounding the Hirst decision. The Thurston County Commissioners, at this study session, seem to say that they want the GOP bills to overturn any ruling that keeps them from issuing these “exempt” water well permits for new development in Thurston County.
Glen Morgan of the Tea Party and Freedom Foundation wants Thurston County to issue water well permits to all new development, and the County Commissioners agree with him.
They dislike Jean Melious, a law school professor at Huxley Environmental College and former head of the Whatcom County Planning Commission, who was involved with the Washington State Supreme court ruling recently. They also dislike David Stalheim from Wanatchee County, and Eric Hirst. Eric Hirst was a Futurewise board member, who thinks that we should not over pump the water in our State.
Spokane County and other Washington State Counties have put a building moratorium on new water well permits until they receive more information of how to comply with these water well rules. But not Thurston County. The Thurston County Commissioners kept saying, “We want “business as usual”, keep issuing exempt water well permits here.
This will bring our county to its knees.
The Hirst decision is part of the Growth Management Act (GMA). It means that you, as an individual, are no longer entitled to a water well unless you meet certain conditions (such as proving that there is enough water for all of the neighbors, all of the current water users). The Hirst Ruling affects all new wells and related development, and it may also affect existing wells and water users, who may over-pump. The people who “over-pump” their well water, are called “bad apples”. Because there is currently no monitoring of the water wells to see how much each well is pumping, the “bad apples” can over pump their well water.
Governor Booth Gardner signed the Growth Management Act in 1990. Washington State patterned the GMA after Florida, that introduced their Smart Growth Act in 1969 to prevent sprawl and congestion. Many land developers in Thurston County want sprawl and congestion. Many in Thurston County want to ignore the plight of current home owners whose wells are going dry because of the new “exempt” water well permits issued by Thurston County.
Now is the time for our elected servants to start earning their paycheck. Please join me in contacting our representatives (leg.wa.gov). and the Thurston County Commissioners. Ask them to support current homes with water wells in Thurston County, that are going dry. Ask them to stop issuing “exempt” water well permits.
The author is a long-time Olympia resident, and loves WIP!
The post The well water dilemma and the new Thurston County Commissioners appeared first on Works in Progress.
On the tenth of February I found myself in a more improbable place than I had imagined even just a few days before I travelled to the other Washington. I stood in front of the wrought iron gates of the White House with a dear friend, the mother of an Evergreen alumnus, as she prepared to record me reading poetry that I have written in response to the horrific daily onslaught of wrong-doings perpetuated by what attempts poorly to pass as the Executive Branch of our Federal government.
I stood in protest of our government. As evidenced by the perpetual, salacious blathering of the forty-fifth president, the henchmen and henchwomen who rally around his fake news, the uninformed and reactionary decisions that place so many of the most vulnerable people in our country at further economic and personal risk, an ill-conceived and unconstitutional ban on immigration that rallied tens of thousands to airports and state houses, unprecedented attacks designed to disarm the press, and diplomatic guffaws of global consequence, this government is neither of the people nor for the people.
Exercising both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, I stood in front of that all too white house along the same stretch of fence that Alice Paul and the other suffragists who came to be known as the Silent Sentinels stood one-hundred years ago. The National Women’s Party’s infamous acts of civil disobedience, which began in January of 1917, are recorded as the first formal protest at the White House in United States history. Paul and members of her Party sought to persuade President Woodrow Wilson and other leading democrats to support women’s right to vote. The daily protests went on for over two years and eventually led to daily arrests, imprisonment, hunger strikes, and the force-feeding of some of the suffragists. Finally in June of 1919 the Senate passed the suffrage amendment. One by one the states ratified the amendment until August of 1920 when Tennessee put the margin over the top in.
In 2004 Hilary Swank portrayed Paul and her role in the movement in the Oscar-nominated film Iron-Jawed Angels.
Standing in front of that imposing barricade, I was reminded of the fence in New York City that young women impaled themselves upon in 1911 as they as they jumped from the upper stories of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and its deplorable working conditions. On the streets passersby watched in horror as young women in billowy petticoats unknowingly leapt from one gruesome death onto another.
Women have a history with wrought iron fences and that history was not lost on me as I stood in the bone-chilling air that Friday afternoon reading my poems. I read “In Case of Post-Election Emergency” and “Inauguration” as well as an essay on inaugural poetry (which was published in last month’s issue of Works in Progress) to no one in particular and everyone within view. Some stopped to listen; some took photos; some, ignoring me completely, talked over me as I read; a few heckled. But no one, including the police who were perched outside the gate, requested that I stop. I stood for well over an hour and with exposed and freezing hands I read aloud the words that I needed someone to hear and understand that I, along with millions of others both locally and globally, am using my words to resist, to persist, to rise.
Sandra Yannone is a poet, educator, and antique dealer in Olympia. She is a Member of the Faculty and Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College.
This is my effort to understand the meaning and direction of the Trump Administration, based primarily on his cabinet nominations and executive office appointments. I’m doing this as part of an effort by many others to look for organizing strategies that might preserve some form of democratic life in the United States and some measure of peace in the world.
10.Re-nationalizing also means recognizing other re-nationalizing nation states, such as Russia and political movements within Europe which are nationalistic and anti-immigrant. Hillary and her allies were definitely targeting Russia and perhaps planning offensive military action as symbolized by the NATO maneuvers hosted by Poland. It appears, however, Trump and his cabinet are looking for economic (Arctic oil drilling) and military alliances with Russia (Tillerson) which is meeting stiff resistance from the Democratic party establishment.
Exactly how to counter and replace this emerging new political order will require careful discussion among friends and neighbors about what we actually believe in, action to defend local governmental institutions we can reach and the construction of new political organizations with an electoral component.
It is my firm belief that the national Democratic Party and all its allied corporate sponsors not only lost the election, but due to Obama’s eight years of neo-liberal economic and war policies represented by candidate Hillary Clinton actually delivered Donald Trump. Attempts to resurrect, reform, take over the Democratic Party is going down a systemic blind alley.
The massive and periodic demonstrations against Trump’s policies will, at some point, need to coalesce into a new political formations that represents an articulated counter world view and a new electoral strategy. This will require skilled organizers who have both the patience to listen for commonalities and the mechanics of how to build organizations. As always, we need to define who we are, what we want and act where we are with some idea of strategy and tactics.
Dan Leahy is a retired Professor of Political Economy and Social Movements from The Evergreen State College and founder and former Executive Director of Washington State’s Labor Education and Research Center.
Thoughtful people know that the US is facing one of the most serious political crises in our nation’s history. A narcissistic, grossly ignorant, and psychologically unstable huckster has gained enormous political power. Worldwide, people are worrying about how to get out of this mess. By February 20, 2017 the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation will post a much more thorough version of this article to the Nonviolence page at www.olympiafor.org. That article will answer three questions:
(1) How did we get into this mess?
(2) What’s going on?
(3) How do we get out?
This article briefly summarizes some answers to questions (1) and (3). The longer version of this article will develop those topics more thoroughly. Answer (1) of that longer article will provide more information and examples. Answer (3) will offer many additional insights to help us strategize and organize savvy, nonviolent remedies to help us get out of our current political crisis.
(1) Underlying problems and a confluence of trends led to this crisis
Trump himself is not the problem; he is a symptom of underlying problems and systems that have been getting worse for a long time. For decades the U.S. has suffered from racism, sexism, anti-gay bias, anti-immigrant bias, ignorance of foreign policy, American exceptionalism, big business’ greed and corruption, economic inequality, and the mainstream media’s simplistic reporting.
In order to stop the Trumpism that has captured the US government, we must recognize the underlying systemic problems that have resulted in this blatant symptom. We must identify, resist and roll back those systemic problems which have led to this crisis. Demonizing one person distracts us from addressing these serious underlying problems and symptoms which have allowed Trumpism to dominate the federal government.
The longer article that will be posted to the Nonviolence page of www.olympiafor.org, will provide information and insights about these topics:
Loss, fear, and anger
American insecurity despite military might
Corporate-owned news media and the dumbing-down of America
Two big, corrupt, dysfunctional political parties
The end of U.S. imperialism and selfishness hastened by Trumpism: “Pride goes before destruction.” (Proverbs 16:18)
(2) Acknowledge that the US nation and empire we have known were not sustainable
For decades, the U.S. Empire has been overreaching and has not been sustainable. We must help the American people understand this and change toward more humane ways of interacting with the world.
Despite US violence against other nations, we can no longer compel obedience. The last war we won, more than 70 years ago, was World War II. The Korean war ended in a stalemate truce but there was no legal end to the war. We lost the Vietnam War, and we have been losing other wars since then. The era of colonialism is long past. Since the Cold War other nations have stopped tolerating the only remaining superpower.
Trump’s America First rhetoric reflects his own narcissism and panders to US narcissism and American Exceptionalism A psychologically healthy and mature person–or nation–works to get along cooperatively and harmoniously with other people–or nations–and does not demand to be first. For example, I should not demand a Glen Anderson First policy that lets me cut to the front of the checkout line at the grocery store. An America First policy is not fair, sustainable, or realistic in a world with nearly 200 other nations. Narcissism is bad public policy.
Climate deniers reject both science and reality; they refuse to acknowledge the hard truth that we and our giant corporations are using natural resources at an unsustainable pace. When people deny hard realities, they are preventing themselves from planning how to solve problems, and they are setting themselves up for catastrophic failures. This refusal to accept reality means that the US is refusing to solve real problems.
The rest of the world does appreciate science, but regarding the climate, the US has become a nation of deniers. Denying climate science–just like denying human rights for women, Muslims, and LGBT people–is preventing our nation from moving ahead to a better future. Rather than making America great again, this anti-science bias will do the opposite. It will make us a backward nation that will allow problems to get worse and will let other nations move ahead of us thus making America weak not great.
The “Loss, Fear and Anger” section listed in Part (1) above pertains to our nation’s declining standard of living along with other trends. Based on the list of quality of life indicators (life expectancy, access to affordable health care, etc.) we are already losing ground. Michael Moore’s clever film Where to Invade Next makes some interesting points and comparisons.
Perhaps Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ insights into the 5 stages of dying could help our nation cope with the loss of US Imperialism and nationalistic egocentrism.
Someone new to Alcoholics Anonymous is told that the first step toward recovery is to acknowledge the hard reality that they are addicted to alcohol. Likewise, the first step for Americans to start healing our nation is to acknowledge that the US’ economic system, imperialism, and militarism are not sustainable. They never were sustainable. No amount of bullying and lying can change this hard reality.
Trump’s extremism will hasten the end of the US Empire. America’s smug nationalism is doomed. Americans need to acknowledge and internalize the truth of Proverbs 16:18 which says, “Pride goes before destruction–and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
We need a fresh consciousness and modesty to actually let go of our overuse of natural resources, our abuse of the climate, our worldwide militarism, etc. We must internalize that reality intellectually and emotionally and reflect it in new public policy. Only then will we be truly free to explore fresh visions for the future instead of trying to hold on to the unsustainable past.
(3) Values and strategies can help us organize resistance and remedies
A confluence of trends led us to this current crisis. Better values and smarter strategies can get us out of it. There are things ordinary Americans can do to help our nation get through these hard times.
Instead of being merely reactive, let’s ground ourselves–and help to ground others–in our best values so we can move forward. Also, instead of getting trapped in partisanship and elections, let’s organize around the real issues.
The longer article will flesh out the following ideas.
Instead of piling on more ain’t-it-awful laments, let’s understand and organize. Clearly, the 2016 election results portend extremely serious dangers for human rights, social and economic justice, the climate, escalating militarism, and government corruption. We are in for hard times. When disaster strikes, a normal human reaction is to lament the horrible event. Since the 2016 election, people have been piling on a lot of ain’t-it-awful lamenting and reinforcing each other’s worst fears about what awaits us. That reaction is understandable, but it can crush our spirits. Instead of letting dread overwhelm and immobilize us, we need to think clearly and devise smart strategies for solving problems.
Some of Trump’s likely actions were already happening under Obama. Therefore, we must change the entrenched bi-partisan systems that caused these problems. Our society is trapped in a status quo of polarized partisanship that interferes with understanding and solving our problem. Both of the big political parties are corrupt and dysfunctional. Such bipolar partisanship is part of the problem. Democrats who criticize republican presidents give a free pass to democratic presidents when they do the same things. As president, Obama appointed many corporate big-shots to major executive branch positions, and he deported more immigrants than any other president in US history. For more examples see this article’s longer version. To move forward we must stop letting big business and the military-industrial complex dominate public policy altogether–not just when Republicans do it. Indeed, we must stop letting partisanship distract us from the real issues. The problems are not partisan, they are systemic with top-down wealth and power preventing bottom-up democracy!
Focus on systems not just individual politicians or political parties. The big problems we face are not just individual politicians or individual political parties. They are in big systems and institutions that are beholden to money and abuses of power. These big systems and institutions are long-standing and entrenched. So if we want to solve the underlying problems, we need to examine those systems and institutions and devise nonviolent strategies to fix or replace them. It is possible to start making progress at local levels, share news of our local successes, and then use this growing momentum to leverage progress at larger levels until we win significant goals nationwide and worldwide.
Progress comes only from grassroots movements not as gifts from the top down. All the political and social progress the US and other nations have achieved has come from movements organized at the grassroots level. The changes have not been gifts from the top down. The grassroots-based Civil Rights Movement became a very significant part of US history and culture. The movement’s grassroots efforts convinced Congress to pass major civil rights laws in 1964 and 1965. It also provided strong ripple effects for other emerging movements. It provided significant inspiration, insight, empowerment, skills, and volunteers for other strong grassroots movements such as the peace movement, the women’s rights movement, and the environmental movement. Movements build and learn from each other. This process is explained very clearly in the 2016 book This Is an Uprising by Mark Engler and Paul Engler. For more from them see their website: www.thisisanuprising.org.
Democracy is 5% voting and 95% grassroots organizing. Although people assume that voting is the heart of democracy, voting is only actually about five percent of democracy while the other ninety-five percent is community organizing and getting together to build grassroots movements. We must awaken the general public and educate them about the issues. We must inform people and devise ways to empower them to take nonviolent action. We must persuade the power-holders to do what we want. All of this requires us to be nonviolent and credible and to create safe opportunities for people to join with us. Nonviolent, grassroots organizing is a different way to build power. It is more powerful and effective than the heavy-handed kinds of power we commonly see. Indeed, nonviolence is a radical, creative alternative to the merely fight-or-flight strategies which we have been taught are our only two options. Nonviolence gives us a better–and more powerful–alternative!
Withdraw consent from illegitimate and abusive authorities. Thomas Jefferson recognized that we the people create the government and we the people can change or even replace it. Likewise, Gene Sharp’s research shows that oppressors lose power when people withdraw their consent and refuse to obey. Therefore, an important part of Gene Sharp’s advice is that we must figure out how to withdraw consent, nonviolently resist, and build alternative movements to supplant oppressive systems. The American people already worry about increasing oppression, social and economic injustice, environmental abuse, and political corruption. To protect ourselves from these problems and to weaken the power oppressors wield, let’s look for ways to withdraw our consent from oppressors in government, in the economic sector, and in other parts of our society. We can use Gene Sharp’s ideas to delegitimize and weaken all of the oppressive systems. See resources at www.aeinstein .org
Why and how our organizing must take the moral high ground and be scrupulously nonviolent. The right-wing forces of repression won votes by making people feel afraid. If protesters against Trump use violence–or even tactics that can be misunderstood or misrepresented as violent–they feed into that very same fear. These tactics will frighten the public into wanting to militarize the police, increase surveillance of dissidents, and violate our first amendment rights to speech and assembly. They will contribute to further polarization and repression. Oppressors send agent provocateurs to infiltrate movements and provoke violence because oppressors know that violence turns the general public against progressive movements. In order to protect our progressive movements, we must make sure we are scrupulously nonviolent.
Strategically smart, nonviolent grassroots organizing is very powerful! Nonviolence is not weakness, It is a different kind of strength. Decades ago the very savvy activist David Dellinger wrote a book about nonviolence called More Power Than We Know. Gene Sharp, the world’s best researcher on the power of nonviolence and how to use nonviolence to remove dictators from power, said, “Dictators are never as strong as they tell you they are. People are never as weak as they think they are.” See resources and information at his non-profit organization www.aeinstein.org.
The American people are not stupid; they are simply denied the information and empowerment they need. Ordinary people do have good values, but they don’t know how to act on them. During the Olympia FOR’s twice-weekly peace vigils, many people respond warmly and enthusiastically to our signs which convey positive, progressive values saying things like “All people are one human family,” “Human rights are for everyone,” and “We all share one earth.” See www.olympiafor.org/vigils.htm.
Instead of cynical politics-as-usual, let’s try assuming that all people are basically good, and that all people are seeking what they see as best. If we assume that each stranger we meet is a person of good will, space for better interactions will open up, and people will respond to our positive vibe. We might bring more people into our progressive movements and make more progress toward building an effective majority to solve our nation’s problems.
Resources: Amazing numbers of high quality practical resources are available! Listed below are just a few of the many resources that can help us move forward. I invite you to use these resources and share them with the other people and non-profit organizations.
Many non-profit organizations and their websites offer excellent information, insights, and resources. I especially recommend these:
For decades I have been recommending the amazingly smart resources by Gene Sharp and others at The Albert Einstein Institution. Their website is located at www.aeinstein.org.
Lutheran Peace Fellowship: Visit www.lutheranpeace.org. Click the Resources link, then click the Nonviolence link.
Nonviolence International: www.nonviolenceinternational.net
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict: www.nonviolent-conflict.org
Campaign Nonviolence: www.paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence
There are many, many excellent books and resources on this topic. Here are just a few:
Why Civil Resistance Works by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan (2011)
This is an Uprising by Mark Engler and Paul Engler (2016) (Also see www.thisisanuprising.org)
Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements by Bill Moyer, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer
A Force More Powerful by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall along with the DVD/VHS series
Books by and about Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Books and articles written by Michael Nagler and George Lakey
In November of 2016 US voters vigorously rejected the status quo. But that does not mean that voters really wanted the cruelty, repression, corruption, and environmental damage that are being imposed upon us.
Instead, I believe that deep down most Americans actually have better values and that they can be helped to understand and support better values and better public policy.
The problems and solutions are more profound than any major political party or candidate recognizes. I believe that most Americans want a future that is radically better than either of the big political parties has been offering.
So instead of letting dread overwhelm and immobilize us, we need to think clearly and devise smart, nonviolent strategies for solving problems and achieving humane and sustainable goals such as peace, human rights for everyone, an economy that is honest and fair for everyone, an environment that is healthy and sustainable, and a society that practices nonviolence and compassion.
To build this bold new future, we must organize strategically savvy, nonviolent, grassroots movements. Nonviolence is bigger and bolder in vision and in methodology than anything politics-as-usual can offer.
Now is the time for us to:
Ground ourselves in our best values.
Study the theory and practice of nonviolence.
Study how to build powerful, nonviolent, grassroots movements for social and political change.
Inform and empower large numbers of ordinary people to come together into grassroots movements that will use strategic nonviolence to solve local and national problems.
Each person can do something!
Together we can accomplish much!
Glen Anderson is a longtime peace/social justice activist in the Olympia area and a founding member of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation.
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My year in the Democratic Party
Up until 2016, I had been a lifelong leftist independent. I was radicalized by the anti–Vietnam War movement in late 1970 while studying to be a social worker at WSU in Pullman where I grew up.
Two years later, I was married and living in Boston where I joined the youth group of the Spartacist League, a Trotskyist offshoot of the Socialist Workers Party. Although I left the organization after a few years it would be decades before I felt any real passion to return to any form of political activism.
I was involved briefly with the effort to establish a US Labor Party in the late 1990’s after moving to Olympia in 1997. But that fizzled out. Then in 2000 I helped form the local Green Party (GP) to get behind the Nader campaign. I stayed in the Green Party for 8 years but left demoralized and without hope in 2008 after the state GP coordinating council voted to dissolve the party for a year. As the saying goes: “It’s not easy being Green.”
Then came the Justice Party and the campaign of Rocky Anderson in 2012. That was another misguided and failed effort and left me rudderless politically.
So it was 2016 when I got the spark back so to speak and joined the local Bernie movement.
It was then that I was encouraged to join the ‘Blue Hole’, the local Democratic Party. I was apprehensive but joined, then became a Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) and attended all the main meetings thru the primary: the precinct caucus, the legislative disctrict caucus (LD), the county convention, the congressional district caucus (CD) and finally the state party convention in June.
I started working my precinct for Bernie and coordinated 9 other precincts near where I lived in Lacey. I was elected to be a Bernie delegate at the LD caucus at the county convention. Following the state party convention I went with my friend Jeff to Philly for the Democratic National Convention joining the protests and rallies on the outside in union with the Bernie delegates on the inside.
When Bernie endorsed Hillary on July 12th, two weeks before what everyone thought would be a ‘contested convention’ that action felt like a betrayal to the vast numbers of Bernie supporters and the Bernie delegates booed him en masse at the convention when he tried to sell them the bill of goods.
I had joined the ‘Bernie or Bust’ group online which numbered in the ten’s of thousands and that movement did an immediate turn either in the direction of the Green Party’s candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, or the write in Bernie campaign. I went from a few dozen to 5000 friends on Facebook in the course of the election cycle.
Jill Stein had offered Bernie to be at the top of the GP ticket but he never responded to her offer. In many minds that would have been a historic race against Hillary and Trump and the beginning of an enlarged independent progressive party and movement.
Many argued that Bernie or his family had been threatened before the Philly convention to endorse Hillary or else but the truth was that he had promised the DP establishment he would support the winning candidate if he didn’t win the primary. He did so because he didn’t want to have a Trump victory as his legacy so he was playing it safe. He urged all his remaining supporters to continue to work inside the Democratic Party to transform it into a progressive party free from the corporate donors that had come to define most establishment politicians whose policies increasingly bent towards the donors lobbyists.
Unfortunately for the Bernie movement, Bernie’s endorsement of Hillary and subsequent ‘sheepdogging’ for the Democratic nominee deflated his movement to a large degree, loosing millions who had believed in him up to that point.
Meanwhile, those who followed Bernie’s lead and stayed in the DP fold have been organizing to take over the party and have succeeded to a certain extent—nobody knows for sure how much yet. In Thurston County, the ‘Berniecrats’ have taken over the party and been elected to all the offices in the party from the top (chair) down, including the state committee man/woman.
They achieved this by the diligent work of several highly competent progressive individuals with a history in the Democratic Party. They managed to recruit Bernie supporters to become a super majority of PCO’s in the 282 precincts in Thurston County. The PCO’s, along with paid members, get to vote on party officers and policies. In short, the Berniecrats have taken over the Thurston Democratic Party as of December 2016.
But on the other side of political power, that of elected officials, there is as yet not one true Berniecrat in a local county or state office, although several jumped in to run for office after the Bernie’s primary bid ended.
And of all the elected or appointed Democratic Party electeds at all levels, only a small percentage backed Sanders in the primary. And almost all of those voted for Hillary over Trump in the general election for fear of a Trump victory.
Meanwhile, following the shocking presidential election results, Jill Stein led an effort for the recount in three states that Hillary had lost by razor thin margins and raised nearly $7 million, mostly from Hillary supporters, which was several times the amount she had raised during her entire campaign.
A storm of criticism followed which included many of her previous supporters. But the outcome of the recount proved beyond a shadow of a doubt (to those that followed it thru to the end) that elections in those states were ‘rigged’ in any number of ways to assure a Trump victory (see Greg Palast on the 2016 voter roll ‘cross checking’ by the Republicans). For the big picture on election fraud follow groups like Election JusticeUSA, Black Box Voting, FairVote, Sane Progressive and others.
On the other hand, the Wikileaks revelations that came out just before the Democratic National Convention showed that key members of the Democratic National Committee had been illegally and unethically working ‘secretly’ to undermine Sanders campaign in favor of Hillary. Many on the Sanders team are convinced that if Bernie had been the nominee he would have beat Trump handily in the general election. We’ll never know because the nomination was rigged for Hillary from the start.
Following the general election the Democratic Party establishment—along with a few Republicans who don’t like Trump—have been pushing the tale that the Russians were the ones who leaked the hacked DNC emails, as a tactic to hide their own responsibility for the outcome.
And in a Stanford research study of the 2016 primary there is also convincing evidence that Bernie would have won an additional 13 states had the primary not been ‘rigged’ by those who backed Clinton. The study concluded that if Sanders had won even a portion of the those 13 states—and without using the ‘unpledged’ Super Delegate pre convention ‘preferences’, which went largely to Clinton and were prominently used by the mainstream media outlets to tilt voter views during the primary—Sanders would have gone into the national convention with the majority of ‘pledged’ state delegates which could have led to him becoming the nominee.
But still, the Super Delegates (top elected officials and top party officers, past presidents etc) get to vote come time of the national convention, they could still have tilted it to Hillary although that would have led to a major rebellion and total disunity in the party leading into the general election season.
As it were, the vast majority of Bernie delegates, most of whom had joined or rejoined the party only because of Bernie’s campaign messages against establishment politics, booed Bernie when he spoke before them at the national convention in Philadelphia. And many walked out of the convention after protesting the deliberations inside. Thousands of others protested outside during the convention. I was one of them.
While many Sanders activists left the Democratic Party (DemExited) after Bernie endorsed Hillary on July 12th, many decided to stay inside to fight for a change of party leadership and reform the party from the bottom up as Bernie was encouraging them to do.
The outcome of the election, however, while it shocked almost everyone in the Democratic Party camp, did not totally wipe out the Sanders insurgency. Many Sanders activists formed groups to carry on the ‘political revolution’ that Bernie had called for throughout the primary with an eye to take over the party from the local (county) level and up. This phenomenon is still in process.
Locally, even before the Thurston Democratic Party ‘reorganization’ elections in December, two Bernie orgs have been formed nationally to continue the fight for social, economic, environmental and racial justice that Bernie’s campaign highlighted.
There is Brand New Congress (BNC) which seeks to contest over 400 congressional seats in 2018 (R’s and D’s alike) which has been busily vetting candidates around the country and raised over $250,000 towards setting up the prerequisite staffs to further that goal. They are a national group and so far have vetted somewhere around 60-70 candidates for the 2018 congressional elections that will challenge establishment Democrats as well as Republicans.
More recently, in early January, a local chapter of Bernie’s signature group ‘Our Revolution’ was formed.
And in mid-January the group ‘Justice Democrats’ was formed by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks and the host of ‘Secular Talk Radio’ Kyle Kulinski. In one month they have raised close to $500,000 and have teamed up with the Brand New Congress org in a common cause: to elect progressive candidates who vow not to accept corporate or Super Pac donations, instead relying on small donors and ‘people power’ at the grassroots level, modeled after Bernie’s campaign.
In addition to these Berniecrat groups, there is also ‘Indivisible’ which was formed by Democratic Party staffers after the election with the aim to resist the Trump’s administrations actions from day one. They model themselves as the Democratic Party equivalent of the Tea Party.
Locally, the Thurston County Progressives formed in August to keep the Bernie movement intact following the outcome of the primary race in Hillary’s favor. This is the only organization locally that is bridge building beyond the DP, although many in the leadership are still focused on funneling energy into the Democratic Party reform movement.
All of the above groups are largely focused on taking over the Democratic Party to steer it in a more progressive direction by getting rid of establishment politicians that rely on corporate donations and replacing them with real progressive that do not take corporate donations.
And by February 25th we will know who the Democratic National Committee—the 447 member committee of DP establishment VIP’s who get to vote—has elected as the next chair.
At the time of this writing, it looks to be between Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, the head of the DP Progressive Caucus—endorsed by Bernie Sanders—or Thomas Perez, the former Secretary of Labor under Obama—endorsed by Joe Biden. The outcome will be telling of the extent to which the Bernie movement has had an impact on the top party leadership that went all in for Clinton last year.
In any case, for those who remain committed to the principles of the ‘political revolution’ from within the Democratic Party—that stuggle will continue to unfold in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, what has happened to the ‘left’ and independent groups and voices who have opted to carry on the fight for fundamental political change from outside the Democratic Party?
The most prominent groups are the Green Party, Socialist Alternative, the Progressive Independent Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, and many other preexisting or new movement groups such as FairVote and Election Justice USA.
And most recently, Nick Brana, former national outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign announced an effort to ‘Draft Bernie for a People’s Party’ independent of the Democrats. But almost immediately after he started this effort, Bernie came on CNN and said he was focused on working inside the DP which undercut Brana’s effort. Still Brana believes that Bernie will eventually come to lead an independent party. Time will tell, but I am not hopeful given Bernie’s history of working side by side with the Democrats for the last 25 years since being elected to congress.
The Green Party candidate received 1.2 million votes or approximately 1.2 % of the total vote with Jill Stein’s campaign but failed to get the requisite 5%. Nevertheless, they have filed a case in federal court to overturn or change the rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) which keeps all minor parties out of the national debates—effectively keeping them out of the running—with a requirement that they must poll an average of 15% in at least five major media polls to get in the debates.
A federal court recently ruled that the CPD must change their process for allowing candidates in the debates but it remains to be seen what if any reforms are instituted by the courts that force the CPD’s hands to allow qualified minor parties in future presidential debates.
How would things be different if the Green Party and Libertarian Party were up there debating on the national media stage with Hillary and Trump? Both parties likely would have cleared the 5% threshold in the fall elections and been placed on equal legal footing with the two major parties for upcoming elections. In which case, the minor parties would not have to fight for ballot access in all 50 states and would get substantial federal funding for their national campaigns in the next presidential election cycle.
My year in the ‘blue hole’ of the Democratic Party ended with the expiration of my membership (dues) on January 31st just as my role as a PCO ended after I recently moved to another precinct. So I am now finally DemExited and back with the Green Party for the time being.
Most of my Bernie movement friends have been absorbed into the local Democratic Party fold, working the ‘inside’ angle for progressive political change. A few came over to the Green Party to continue the struggle from the ‘outside’. These local trends are reflected nationally in differing proportions, state by state, city by city.
Bernie’s primary campaign movement—the movement for a ‘political revolution’—that grabbed the attention of millions of American was only the latest challenge to the Democratic Party establishement.
Whether it’s remaining active adherents, now splintered into several competing organizations, can come together and take over a significant portion of the party will only be answered over the next several years leading up to the 2020 elections.
The coming years will be yet another testing of the thesis purported by those who have watched these efforts come and go to no avail which is whether or not “The Democratic Party is where progressives go to die.”
Perhaps this time, things will turn out differently. We shall see.
Chris Stegman is a local activist with the Green Party and a member of Thurston Progressives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to comment on this article. He welcomes all feedback, good, bad or indifferent.
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