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5 Things the Mainstream Media Missed About Charlottesville

Sat, 2017-08-19 12:14

White supremacists’ coup on the culture may have hit its zenith with the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally—a convergence of far-right groups that ended with racist attacks, dozens of injuries and three dead. In the firestorm of controversy that followed the fascist onslaught in Charlottesville and Trump’s open support for keeping the Confederate monuments in place, a number of important issues have gone under-reported across mainstream news outlets.

1. Coverage ignored antifascist organizing.

While attention has been given to differences of opinion on strategies and tactics, less reporting has given credence to the solidarity that existed. The massive wave that confronted the Unite the Right configuration was the result of the hard work of organizers in left movements that built on their existing projects and networks to create a plan. Solidarity C’Ville functioned as the local coalition, drawing together anti-racist organizers with community groups and faith organizations—and helping to bring in speakers, including hundreds of clergy and faith leaders.

Charlottesville Black Lives Matter used a strategy of community defense, underscoring that police assaults on black people are waged alongside violence inflicted by armed insurrectionary white nationalists. “We are not all going to agree on the best way to free one’s city from an influx, an incursion, of racial hatred,” Black Lives Matter organizer Lisa Woolfork told In These Times. “But I believe that all of us are motivated by a strong feeling of love and fellowship.”

Mass mobilizations like this are necessary to stop fascist events, and can only happen with the conscious coordination of huge numbers of participants through collaborative networks. As Cornel West pointed out in later interviews, anti-racist radicals saved lives on August 12. Those life-saving actions were the result of a huge upsurge in responsive organizing around the country.  

2. Trump won’t name the name.

Trump’s ongoing blunder of a response has become a meme, but the words he chose have not been scrutinized closely enough. In his second statement, he went after low-hanging fruit: the KKK and neo-Nazis—organizations that rightfully inspire fear and hatred. He refused to name the alt-right. When Trump later berated the “fake news,” he demanded a reporter define the alt-right before outrageously placing blame on the “alt-left.”

Trump’s unwillingness to include the alt-right in the open white supremacist camp, even though that label is empirically precise, shows his clear understanding of the role they played in his election and his dependence on figures like Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. All of this adds an air of confusion with Bannon’s final removal from the White House, indicating conflicting influences and the possibility of a GOP attack on Trump’s populist cadre. White nationalist leaders like David Duke and The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin praised much of Trump’s response while politicians and pundits roundly decried him, all while he doubled down in defense of the white nationalist corner of his base.

3. This is what white supremacists do.

While the media focused closely on the spectacle of white polos and khaki pants worn by the killer, most sources missed a long backstory of far-right political violence. Not only did a Three Percenter who admires Timothy McVeigh attempt to explode a truck bomb in Oklahoma City on the day of the Charlottesville violence, but Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller website released a video in January featuring 90 seconds glorifying a dozen different incidents of cars running over protesters in Minneapolis, Baltimore and other cities. Memes about running over protesters have been popular among right-wing groups for over a year, and have been shared by such public figures as a New Mexico police union chief and Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds. Earlier this year in Indiana, GOP lawmakers attempted to legalize running over protesters.

Aside from the general erosion of civility toward protesters—particularly Black Lives Matter demonstrators—the alt-right has been responsible for random machete attacks, murders, the alleged attempted manufacture of a dirty bomb and open attacks on leftist groups and rallies. Such apparently “random” violence is deeply rooted in the alt-right’s online celebration of lone wolf attacks, as well as the culture of unaccountability surrounding the White House.

4. This was their break with conservatism.

“The alt-right means white nationalism, or it means nothing,” said alt-right commentator Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents Publishing—and he was right. While the term has been bandied about to describe iconoclastic right-wingers—Trumpists in the anti-political correctness order—it is actually a movement that takes its cues from European white nationalism. The sphere around them, including people like Lauren Southern, Milo Yiannopoulos and Mike Cernovich, has been labeled the “alt-light,” a reference to supposedly more moderate counterparts who refuse to take on the more explicitly fascist ideas.

After recent feuds during contentious “free speech” rallies, Unite the Right was a chance to unite all areas to the right of conservatism. This was a white nationalist break from its more mainstream partners, a chance for them to try and stand on their own and take ownership over an autonomous, populist movement. As alt-light groups supposedly disavowed the mobilization, the alt-right exposed their willingness to further marginalize themselves and stand instead with the more violent actors inside their ideology.

5. Morality is not victory.

Much of the press has struck a tone of moral victory, as public opinion turns against the white nationalists revealed as murderers. Similarly, the early-1990s growth of the controversial Patriot militia movement connected to neo-Nazi Christian Identity churches fell apart after Timothy McVeigh set off the bomb in the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including a number of children. This cultural shift is fleeting, however, without a conscious organizing that follows it. Organizations like the Montana Human Rights Network worked tirelessly to confront the militias in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, joining with newly politicized communities. Without organizations continuing this work and transferring the shift in public perception into public action, moral victory will turn into moral failure.

Alt-right’s future

In the days that followed, major alt-right institutions have been shut down, from web hosting to funding services to email providers to social media. Participants in the rally have been fired from their jobs, disowned by their families and have returned home to outraged communities. This does not bode well for a movement dependent on a media echo chamber and Web 2.0 speech platforms. While alt-right celebrities like Andrew Anglin and Christopher Cantwell doubled down on their violent rhetoric, others are attempting to distance themselves. This signals further splits in the alt-right movement. The growing anti-fascist movement can widen the gap and build a base in the communities the right wants to recruit.

Trump Is Using Old Jim Crow Tactics to Usher in a New Era of Racist Violence

Fri, 2017-08-18 09:39

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. —Sun Tzu

The Trump administration is having a hard time governing by legislation. We can count the administration’s failures in Congress as cold comfort, but it is imperative to work harder to understand what is really happening on the political landscape. Executive orders, tweets, public speeches, briefs and memos are the signals of governance that point towards repressive state policy and brew social hostility on the ground. The Trump administration is governing by suggestion, and the impact is deadly.

Charlottesville is erupting and, similar to the social eruption in Ferguson three years ago, this is not a moment to call ourselves “protesters.” We are community members who are horrified and outraged at heightened, organized and violent white supremacy, whether it manifests as police murders or Nazi rallies.

This is also not a moment to claim the term “terrorism,” which was crafted by the U.S. state after September 11, 2001 to justify militarized cities at home and permanent war abroad. Social movement dissent is being criminalized in anti-protest bills proposed in more than 20 states, as politicians slander protest as “economic terrorism.” The reality is that the State has consistently failed to protect Black-led, indigenous-led and immigrant-led protests. Our communities require new narratives that reflect the terror we experience and envision new protections—rather than use the State’s terms to call more police and surveillance into our streets, homes and workplaces.

The current political climate is chaotic and confusing, and the sheer volume of information and attacks makes it difficult to absorb. We would be misguided to mistake all the noise as bluster. It signals a plan, and that plan does not operate by legislation alone. Signals and symbols are powerful mechanisms.

Governance by suggestion is an old Jim Crow tactic where violence and white supremacy are active social norms—not always supported by laws or courts. Politicians endorse racist violence, and institutional practices reflect that mandate, through state and local policies, police protocol and social hostility. From Reagan’s states’ rights speech in 1980 near the site where civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi in 1964 to the emergence of racist Pepe le Frog and 4chan memes, signals dominate the cultural strategies of white supremacy today. We are witnessing the effects of suggestion in Charlottesville, Va. and other convergences of organized white supremacists and fascists, like the white supremacist rally in Pikeville, Ky. in April.

Trump’s speech to law enforcement agencies on Long Island on July 28 encouraged police to ignore procedures and “rough up” people who have been arrested. When police are brutalizing and killing Black people and people of color, a message from the commander-in-chief to increase state-sanctioned violence is chilling. Despite condemnations and assurances that he was kidding, the suggestion is clear. The Trump administration’s direct and indirect support of white supremacist organizations on the basis of anti-Black, racist ideology advances a perceived legitimacy of the groups present in Charlottesville.

What happened in Charlottesville was also a violent and profound expression of history, the result of a social, political and economic system founded in genocide of African and indigenous peoples. This country has never systematically faced or sought to repair the immense and ongoing harm produced by the transatlantic slave trade and the evolution of chattel slavery. This evil system of global trade and enslavement served as the foundation for our social, political and economic system that continues to rule today. We have a highly evolved and complex system of governance that is dedicated to and fueled by mass violence, and often that governance is expressed through a confluence of the state, private sector interests, and ground-level hostilities to control and contain.

Trump’s Poland speech, penned by Stephen Miller, painted a vision of a stark, Western civilization governed by “individual freedom,” a suggestion that indicates a new era of civil rights defined by individualized moral whims and positions rather than a shared social contract. The speech articulated that threats from “the South or the East” will be met with a “tough stance” and expensive weaponry. If we look closely at this era of suggestion, even within the Trump administration’s failed policies, we can see a roadmap toward the legal and political implementation of that vision: a surveillance state that violently polices and expels populations perceived as threats, dismantles existing democratic systems and undermines our collective economic self-determination. If we focus on each incident or attack, we will miss the sum of the whole.

Information is critical to better understand what is happening, but the trick is to keep our eyes on the big picture as well as tend to the immediate crises. As organizers, our responsibility is to anticipate how repressive forces are moving so that we can protect ourselves and successfully carve our own collective path forward for justice and freedom. With the realities of Charlottesville on our minds, let’s investigate the patterns of suggestion and impact over the last nine months.  

Muslim Ban

Closing the borders to non-Western nations was tested immediately upon inauguration. Trump’s counter to the judicial block was to suggest the “unreviewability” of the president, a clear test to broaden executive powers and the ability to counter constitutional mandates. The ban also suggests and implies that Islam is a dangerous ideology, not a religion to be protected. The precedent sets up the potential legal frameworks to deny entry and expel Muslims or anyone else deemed a threat. 

Immigration Ban

Regardless of official policies passed or concrete walls built, the effects of the anti-immigrant rhetoric have led to dramatic increases in ICE raids, deportations and detentions. The threat alone has decreased the numbers of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and many people living inside the United States are afraid to report sexual assault or drive to work. The notion of a merit-based or English-only immigration policy signals a new level of attack centering not on documentation or status, but on perceived value and assimilation.

Transgender Ban

The suggestion with Trump’s tweet about not allowing transgender people in the military, whether or not the Pentagon could even enforce such a thing, is that any type of person for any reason can be denied access to public space and services within U.S. borders, particularly employment, health care and education. Those of us dedicated to queer liberation challenge the imperialist and racist U.S. military—and must also recognize the implications of this position in a time of growing danger for all communities. As media reacted to the tweet, the Department of Justice issued a brief that excludes sexuality and gender identity from protections against employment discrimination. That the military requires nearly $700 billion in annual spending—the National Defense Authorization Act passed easily in the House on July 14—but cannot afford healthcare for its employees suggests current priorities and future restrictions. In a moment when so-called “bathroom bills” are sweeping the South, the directive is to isolate trans people further and criminalize gender transgression.

Trump Budget

The Trump budget, although unlikely to be passed by Congress, is a powerful guiding mandate for federal agencies, now almost fully drained of staff and stocked with operatives from finance and corporate wealth institutions. The budget calls for the elimination of 66 federal programs, and these agencies now have a powerful reference to provide credibility for massive cuts in essential services. Economic nationalism, as Stephen Bannon argues in American Prospect will be the administration’s strategy, and the budget is a signal towards that isolation and reduction in public infrastructure.  

Rewriting Democracy

The American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) is proposing a repeal to the 17th amendment which would open the door for U.S. senators to be appointed by state legislators—not voters. Unlikely to happen any time soon, the proposal is connected to the growing momentum to call for a Convention of States, a much more possible feat given a decade of redistricting and gerrymandering. Roughly 27 states have passed ordinances to re-write the U.S. Constitution, and they only need 34.

These suggestions, and many others, are re-wiring a new framework for governance that undermines our rights, our access to public infrastructure, our ability to move freely, and our basic due process.  

As we witness and experience the horror of people being run down in the streets or dropped from lifesaving healthcare, we ask ourselves, What do we need to understand about this moment and what do we do? Here are a few recommendations during this time of crisis:

Social movements are the vehicles to survive and build.

Social movements are the most effective vehicles to dismantle the systems implementing these violent suggestions and to build the infrastructure to take its place. Policy change is not a strong strategy when rules are being rewritten, and many of the suggestions are affecting our communities before laws are on the books. Social movements with base, force, trust, clear political vision and infrastructure are essential for authentic, long-lasting justice. Policy and legal battles are necessary for defense but stronger when aligned with a bottom-up movement. Now is the time to invest in institutions, community-controlled land, economic development projects, legal infrastructure and mutual aid centers that can provide education and sanctuary. We need to invite folks to work together to develop political programs that last beyond this crisis and include all of us. 

We are in this together.

In the South, we cannot afford to demonize or over-generalize a “Trump base” that does not exist. Reactionary forces use grassroots tactics at times to raise money, pander or win an election, but we must be clear that these forces are being driven by elite moneyed U.S. power. The allusive electoral base of “Trump supporters” that represent some monolithic angry poor white man is part of a national myth about the South, rural people and poverty in the United States. The myth deepens divisions, and we must find ways to connect across fractures, not widen them. (More on the danger of this narrative in a powerful piece by Barbara Ellen Smith and Jamie Winders.) The rise of white supremacy in the 21st century as an anti-social movement is less about individual people who voted for Trump and more about the people with money and influence who are constructing this mobilization from the top down around hate-filled narratives and fear. Our imperative is to understand the bigger context in order to reject violent white supremacists and engage all folks who are disenfranchised, discouraged, and displaced.

Rejecting the false equivalency of the “both sides” argument.

The left-right and blue-red framework is not as useful as it was in the past. The language of “both sides” and protester/counter-protester legitimates blatant racist violence in Charlottesville and reveals the danger of not being clear about who we are and what we are doing. The binary is a classic tool of colonialism, and authoritarianism feeds on racial, gender and class dichotomies that erase our complex lives and limit our full autonomy. We can name the enemy without limiting our scope. Let us re-imagine our political language and practice to be more precise, inclusive, and visionary.

Distractions will waste time and yield nothing.

The Democratic Party’s obsession with the details of the Trump campaign’s obvious engagement with Russia is not a winning platform or a rallying call, only more distraction. The Republican Party’s fixation on the media is a dangerous threat to journalism, but also an easy tactic of misdirection. We need to pay attention to what is happening in the circus, but we have to be cautious. We cannot waste time re-building or reviving the Democratic Party. Our limited resources need to be more strategically utilized beyond reaction and response—and mustered toward building democratic self-governance.

Self-determination is leverage for resistance.

Governance is contested territory across the globe in this political moment. A major question facing our movements is how we govern ourselves and the distribution of resources, knowledge, and relationships. Government has blurred itself with private interests, fundamentalist ideologies and fascist organizations. Wins in the South include local city councils, school boards and municipalities holding ground, blocking ICE and resisting white supremacy. Frontline assemblies coordinated across regional spaces offer opportunities for communities to design and practice a “people’s democracy”—and build a new economy and communities that are truly protected and defended.

Suggestion is powerful and has real-life implications. Suggestion also implies a vulnerability that we can exploit. It is not direct, so our attempts to combat with moral or righteous directness will fail. But if we work hard to see and understand the suggestions, signals and signs of this moment, we can chart our own course forward, not only to respond to the crisis but to build a liberated future for all people. 

Meet the LGBTQ Prison Abolitionists Leading the Way to a Better World

Thu, 2017-08-17 18:04

The national gathering of Black and Pink, an LGBTQ prison abolition organization, combined a radical vision with the immediacy of personal narrative. During the opening celebration on August 4 in Chicago, the group hosted a wide array activists, most of them formerly incarcerated, to tell their stories.

Eisha Love described being imprisoned for defending herself from a hate crime. Ricardo Jimenez spoke to being the first openly gay Puerto Rican political prisoner, and how his coming out challenged the homophobia within the independence movement.

Tracy Johnson recounted how her son, Michael, is incarcerated for allegedly not disclosing his HIV status. “They treat HIV like it’s against the law,” she said, “and it’s not against the law to be sick.”

Pinky Shear spoke of her partner, Ky Peterson, who she met in prison. Peterson, like Love, was convicted for defending himself, but his public defender told him he could not win his case by pleading self-defense because, as a black man, the white people in his community saw him as too much of a threat.

On August 5, Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh and Anna Vasquez—three of the women collectively known as the “San Antonio four”—spoke on a panel, discussing their experiences being falsely convicted of child sexual abuse in a case heavily influenced by homophobia and a nationwide paranoia about satanism. While the San Antonio Four were eventually exonerated, the panelists stressed the worth of all prisoners, regardless of guilt or innocence. “You can’t just walk out of prison after all those years and say ‘bye’ to those people,” Ramirez explained. “Whether they’re innocent or not, they’re human beings.”

Black and Pink is a prison abolitionist organization that serves queer, transgender, and HIV-positive prisoners, a demographic which is severely impacted by mass incarceration. The LGBTQ community is heavily policed and disproportionately imprisoned. According to a February 2017 study by Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, lesbian, gay and bisexual people comprise roughly 3.5 percent of the U.S. population but account for 5.5 percent of men and 33.3 percent of women locked up in prison. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 16 percent of transgender people, and 47 percent of black transgender people, had been incarcerated.

Once in prison, queer and transgender people suffer disproportionate abuses. In 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 5.4 percent of non-heterosexual prisoners and 15.2 percent of transgender prisoners had been sexually abused by prison staff, compared to 2.4 percent of the prison population as a whole.

The “number one issue is that [LGBTQ prisoners are] disproportionately targeted and put into solitary confinement,” Black and Pink organizer Alex Garza told In These Times. Coming Out of Concrete Closets, Black and Pink’s 2015 survey of LGBTQ incarcerated people, found that 85 percent of respondents had spent time in solitary confinement, which has been widely condemned as a form of torture. Other problems, Garza explained, are the “lack of resources, lack of medical treatment, lack of care. And it goes into not getting their hormones, it goes into them being put in the wrong gender cell, it goes into them getting the psychological treatment that they need.”

Black and Pink supports its incarcerated members through services such as a pen pal program, a newspaper written by people who are locked up, court accompaniment and “know your rights” trainings.

The national gathering brought together Black and Pink members and supporters for a weekend of workshops, talks, art and community-building. The bulk of the gathering was meant only for Black and Pink members and formerly incarcerated people, reflecting the organization’s commitment to the safety and comfort of those it serves. This programming included workshops such as “HIV Education, Harm Reduction, and Policy,” “Ditching the chains of youth oppression!” and “Vogue and the Prison Industrial Complex.”

“The abolition of prison in its current structure is the end goal,” Black and Pink’s soon-to-be national director Tray Johns told In These Times. “But in the mean-time-between-time, we have to create a system of humanity … to help and serve the people that are being most impacted by the prison system as we tear down the prison system.”

This commitment to immediate support shows in the healing arts and harm reduction workshops Black and Pink hosted at the gathering, as well as the organization’s pen pal program, the largest of its kind. Coordinating correspondence with the free world is essential because, as Johns explains, “a lot of LGBTQ people have already been ostracized before they went to prison, so there’s no mother, no one writing them, nobody saying, ‘I’m going to be here when you come home. I care. You matter. Somebody loves you.’”

A sense of radical potential also pervades Black and Pink’s short-term support work. In a recorded statement played at the gathering, Patrice Daniels, an incarcerated Black and Pink member, spoke to the importance of the pen pal program: “Every time you write, in a very real, concrete way, it is an act of resistance … You have made the decision to engage with someone who, a, you don’t know, but b, society has cast out.”

The gathering gave a platform to people who rarely have one. Speaker after speaker stepped onstage and explained that they were not used to talking in front of an audience. “I actually thought it was going to be a story that was going to never be told,” Love said of the attack she survived and her incarceration.

The power of Black and Pink’s work also derives from its communitarian nature. Event organizers encouraged attendees to give what they could and take what they needed, from donations to homestays to transit passes to the labor of setup and cleanup. When people referred to the organization’s network of prisoners, former prisoners and free world allies as the “Black and Pink family,” it did not seem like a platitude.

When brought onstage to receive an award, formerly incarcerated activist Afrika Queen Lockett explained that she wanted to be as available as possible to fellow trans women, urging them to call or write her if they needed anything. Black and Pink’s goal of transformative justice is ambitious. Within the organization itself, members strive to create a microcosm of the society they want—by recognizing human worth and meeting everyone’s needs.

Black and Pink is also undergoing some transformations of its own. The organization recently achieved 501(c)(3) status, a shift which outgoing national director Jason Lydon insisted would not change their priorities. Acknowledging the existence of a “nonprofit industrial complex,” in which corporate foundations often suppress radical ambitions in the groups they fund, he assured the audience that Black and Pink is “not accountable to corporations.”

With Lydon on his way out, Johns is set to replace him as National Director. Their goals? “In five years,” Johns told In These Times, “I want some transgender, queer man or woman to be in some obscure prison in some obscure state, not getting their medications or being beaten, and they tell the warden, ‘I’m calling Black and Pink to advocate for me.’ And the warden go back to his office and hang his head and say, ‘I don’t feel like being bothered with Black and Pink. Just give them what they need.’ I want Black and Pink to strike fear of equality in the minds and hearts of every warden.”

If You Support the Durham Freedom Fighters, Now Is the Time to Have Their Backs

Thu, 2017-08-17 14:16

In the wake of the white supremacist attacks on Charlottesville, Va. this weekend, protests sprang up around the country. In North Carolina, a place laden with its own history of white supremacist violence, protesters pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside of the Durham County Courthouse. Arrests and raids on activists’ homes followed—so have further protests in solidarity with those who took down the statue. On Thursday morning, hundreds attempted to march on the jail and turn themselves in to protest the arrests and call for charges to be dropped.

I spoke with Angaza Laughinghouse, long-time organizer in the area. He talks about the protests, the long fight against white supremacy in the South, and workers’ role in that struggle.

Angaza Laughinghouse: My name is Angaza Laughinghouse. I am a long-time community activist and labor union leader. I’m the former president of North Carolina Public Service Workers Union. I was a founding member of Black Workers for Justice. I am from North Carolina. My parents are from Greenville, North Carolina. I grew up around the main streets where the demarcation line for apartheid is: Line Street and Boundary Street.

We had no public libraries in Greenville for the black community. We couldn’t cross over the line on Boundary Street to get to any of the facilities. There was no equal access to public facilities at all when I was growing up for part of my life in Greenville, North Carolina.

Sarah: In North Carolina, following the events in Charlottesville this weekend, people took it upon themselves to remove the Confederate statue in Durham. Tell us a little bit about what happened and the aftermath of that.

Angaza: Obviously, people were angered Friday night when they saw those people marching around with those torches—shouting those racist, white supremacist chants. We knew right then and there that that couldn’t happen without more people being engaged in this discussion and this fight to challenge this growing right-wing popular movement—this white supremacist movement. Discussion started that weekend. By the time Saturday rolled around, everybody was on the phone and sending emails and texts communicating that this cannot stand without us responding to the death of our comrade there who was murdered and the people who were injured.

Then, later on, people were communicating about the young black man who was beaten when he went to the parking garage to retrieve his car. In that moment, people began saying that we’d have to mobilize across the state of North Carolina to tell them, to tell the world, that we weren’t going to let these fascist Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists just murder and injure and rally their forces to push this historic white supremacist outlook.

That Sunday, we began planning the activity in Durham. We began planning, also, another activity in Raleigh. In Raleigh, we had a candlelight vigil in front of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. statue in the heart of the black community. About 900 people gathered to mourn the death of our comrade who was murdered and recognize the 19 people who were injured.

Durham, as you know, had the other activity. Initially we rallied to show some solidarity in action in terms of the freedom fighters that were attacked. It had a great impact on the community here. We talked about it.

Sarah: After the rally in Durham and the statue being pulled down, I understand there have been arrests and that the police have been raiding people’s homes. Can you tell us a little bit about what has been happening?

Angaza: At the press conference held the following day after the statue was pulled down, there was a press conference and two undercover agents approached Takiyah Thompson of North Carolina Central University—a black student and long-time activist with several of the leading organizations that are a part of building a broader people’s assembly. They just came and they asked her, “Are you Takiyah Thompson?” She said, “Yes.” They arrested her for the incident that had occurred. There was a group of people who surrounded her immediately after the press conference, and they walked with her and told her, “We love you and we have got your back” as she approached the undercover car that they put her in after they handcuffed her.

The following day they continued to round up individuals. One is a lawyer, Peter Gilbert, and one is a union organizer, Dante Strobino, and others. They are continuing to round up as we speak, picking them up. We are fortunate that we have a long history of working together in this community. We were able to acquire the legal services of a well-known social justice and criminal lawyer by the name of Scott Holmes. He is helping us get them out and process them as we try to pull together a team of lawyers to represent these freedom fighters that took down the statue.

Sarah: The governor, who is now a Democrat, said that these statues should come down in the wake of this, right?

Angaza: Yes. Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper came out with an actual press statement outlining steps for the removal of all Confederate statues from state property. The former Republican administration of Pat McCrory passed a law that states that they cannot move, replace or relocate any of these historical confederate statues from any state property. The governor wants to repeal this law that was passed by the majority-Republican state legislature. The state legislature pushed through the North Carolina House of Representatives a bill that states that they will not hold liable any driver driving a vehicle through any these protests. The governor is urging the State Senate not to pass this bill and said that we need to make sure people don’t drive through demonstrations.

Sarah: You were telling me that you have experienced that, when you are organizing, people try to run you down with a car.

Angaza: As a union, we often go to workplaces, whether it is street maintenance sites or the sanitation yard, usually in areas where people have to drive down a road to get into their workplaces or pick up their trucks. While we are handing out the flyers, oftentimes some of the people who have white supremacist ideas and are union haters will say, “You goddamned union communist organizer.”

It is not just a question of protests and rallies. In the “right-to-work” South, where less than 3 percent of all workers in North Carolina are unionized, there is a lot of anti-union feeling. This white supremacist thinking is institutionalized. It is everywhere: in history, in the workplace. Part of the anti-union right to work climate. White supremacists are now calling the county government and telling them to prosecute these folks who pulled down the statue to the fullest extent of the law. It is not just a few crazies as some people want to write it off.

Sarah: Could you tell us a little bit more about your history in North Carolina? You have been confronting this stuff for a long time.

Angaza: Well, I haven’t been confronting it for a long time, but black people certainly have been confronting this for hundreds and hundreds of years. Whether it was lynchings or whether it was the Wilmington Riots of 1898, where the white supremacists came and they burned down a black newspaper, black businesses and murdered and slaughtered black people in Wilmington, North Carolina.

There is a long history of white supremacist violence, since that is what they have always done. I think back to those stories my grandmother told me, about how they robbed my great-grandfather’s store way back in the early 1900s. It was around 1920s and 1930s down in Greenville, North Carolina when white supremacists threw the safe on my father’s chest. My dad had a big scar on his chest. He was missing a whole pectoral muscle. As I reflect upon that, peace and blessings be on my dad who passed in 2007. There is a long history of white supremacist violence.

I have been here in North Carolina every summer of my life since I was born in 1952. What brought me back was the murder of those five union organizers and political activists in Greensboro. This was the historic Greensboro Massacre of November 3, 1979, when the Klan came into a black community known as Morningside Heights and gunned down five community and union organizers who were having a rally there. There is a long history.

Also, there is a lawyer working down in rural areas, particularly Newton Grove, Johnson County and what we call the Black Belt region, where the African Americans. It was very apparent the role that these white supremacists played in intimidating the workers. They would cheat them out of their wages, they would work them overtime without paying them, spray the fields with pesticides knowing the workers were still working in the fields. It shows just how this white supremacist ideology devalues black lives.

Sarah: How can people support the folks that were arrested? How can people support your work in North Carolina and the organizing that is still going on in North Carolina?

Angaza: One of the things we are asking people to do is call the district attorney in Durham County, dial 919-808-3010. We are asking them to tell whoever answers the phone to drop the charges on the freedom fighters that took down the statue. The other thing we are doing is we are asking people to please donate. If they go online to the Durham Solidarity Center Freedom Fighters Fund, they can donate towards the legal representation of the people who took the statues down.

In light of what is happening in our workplaces, I think we have to take up this discussion of why all workers have to make every effort to defeat white supremacy: this white nationalist and neo-fascist popular moment that is developing. It keeps workers divided in our workplaces so we can’t unionize and win basic rights and better conditions and wages in our workplace. Many of us have heard about the recent loss down in Mississippi with the United Auto Workers Union organizing of the Nissan plant down there in Mississippi. It is just very important to take time out to see how this impacts our workplace.

Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission. 

Campouts, Not Shootouts: Chicago Youth Take Back Their Streets

Wed, 2017-08-16 06:00

Nicknamed the “Mexico of the Midwest,” Little Village, a neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side, is home pouts on Chicago intersections notorious for gang activity. Each night begins with a peace march, followed by a community party with free food, music, raffles and a bounce house, mellowing into conversation around a campfire until 5 a.m.

“After a while, you get tired of not being able to walk to your own corner store—it feels like we’re trapped,” Navarro says. “That’s why we’re out here tonight, to provide a safe space for kids to play and for us to take back our neighborhood.” 

Increase the Peace canvassed Little Village to inform residents about the campouts. That’s how Leonor Salinas’ 5-year-old granddaughter, Sonia, found out. “All week she’s been telling me that we need to go to the peace march,” Salinas said at the July 14 party. A meatpacker originally from Mexico, Salinas has lived in Little Village for the past 25 years. She says she fears for her granddaughter’s safety every day. “I can’t remember the last time I let her play outside without being scared,” she says. “But tonight, Sonia is free to run around and pester the DJ about letting her sing.”

Salinas’ anxieties are shared throughout much of Chicago’s South and West Sides. It’s hard to go about daily life knowing that many victims of gang violence are not targeted, but simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Lydia Velasquez knows this pain all too well. Her 17-yearold son, Ezequiel, was beaten to death on New Year’s Day in 2013 in Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood for no apparent reason other than crossing paths with the wrong crowd. At the July 21 Increase the Peace campout in Brighton Park, Ezequiel’s brother, Jovonie, carried a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

“I came here today to show that he wasn’t just any kid—he’s still my son,” Velasquez says. “He still lives within me.” She says more police patrols might be the antidote to gang violence. “Otherwise, the gangs control everything,” she says.

Velasquez wasn’t the only one at the campouts and peace marches who called for a bigger police presence. But for 16-year-old Increase the Peace organizer Carlos Yanez, that approach only goes so far. “We have police cameras on every block, and people are still getting shot,” he says. “What we really need is Boys & Girls Clubs, better schools, better parks. Otherwise, the youth are going to continue being hopeless.”

Yanez, who by his own account has been shot at “like five times,” isn’t sure if there’s a chance for a better tomorrow. That doesn’t mean he will sit on the sidelines. “I’ve lost people—friends, family, you name it. I’m out here for them,” he says. “My purpose is to give the youth something we didn’t have: peace.”

Drawing Equivalencies Between Fascists and Anti-Fascists Is Not Just Wrong—It’s Dangerous

Tue, 2017-08-15 14:39

After a fascist march in Charlottesville, Va. left one anti-Nazi protester dead and 19 others wounded, there has been widespread criticism of President Donald Trump’s failure to forcefully denounce white supremacists. However, this condemnation has rarely included a genuine understanding of the actions of antifascist protesters in Charlottesville and elsewhere, creating a continued justification for the “both sides” argument that paints antifascists, or antifa, as equivalent to the white supremacists they oppose.

As a researcher who has attended numerous political and social events with antifascist involvement, and interviewed many antifascists, it is clear to me that politicians and pundits are drawing a false equivalence between white supremacist and antifa actions—and ignoring the direct threat posed by supremacists that motivates antifascist responses. Antifascists often serve as the first line of defense when police and civil society fail to protect marginalized groups from fascist threat. Their actions must be understood in that context.

The flaw in the “both sides” position is that the violent protest actions of antifa are equivalent to the violent actions of white supremacists. A brief examination of the two movements’ approaches to violence points to the fallacy of comparing the two.

For white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the “alt-right” and others in that camp, violence is an end in itself. The ideology that they adhere to not only calls for the violent elimination of any group that falls outside of their narrow conception of normalcy, but also sees violence as the ultimate goal. From classical fascism to self-styled white nationalist social clubs like the Proud Boys, the use of violence is understood to be the means by which one’s goals are achieved. When even the most moderate position the alt-right or fascist movement can take is racial separation or nationalism through forcible repatriation and strict border control, including forced deportations and racialized exclusions, that movement is inherently violent.

But it doesn’t stop there. The “alt-right” is marked by its strategic deployment of symbols and Internet meme culture toward its political agenda. This culture is defined by its violent symbolism, from venerating individuals fighting antifa such as Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman to the use of “helicopter ride” memes, referential to the murderous Pinochet regime to threatening leftists and antifascists to celebrating the death of Heather Heyer. This is a movement that laughs at the use of violence and encourages its participants to engage in violence as a self-righteous indulgence and source of gratification.

We can juxtapose antifa’s use of violent tactics with the way in which the far-right understands violence.  Antifascists are focused on a singular goal as described by their movement name: opposing fascism. The antifascist strategy relies on a variety of tactics. As Spencer Sunshine points out in his history and profile of antifa groups, “antifascists have greatly increased their work on intelligence gathering, doxing and pressure tactics.”

Street confrontations are only a small part of the activity engaged in by antifascists. Antifa more often relies on gathering information about white supremacists and bigots, then confronts them through public shaming. Antifascists who were interviewed and responded to surveys as part of my dissertation research conducted in 2007 and 2008 consistently expressed support for nonviolent tactics, in addition to an escalation of tactics as necessary to stop supremacist events, organizing, and recruitment efforts. It would be a mischaracterization to claim that antifa oppose nonviolence. Instead, it is more accurate to say that antifa often justifiably view nonviolence as ineffective against a movement that is violent at its core, and participants who seem to lack any semblance of a conscience. This is the essence of antifascist use of violence.

Unlike the various supremacist movements that treat violence as valid political expression, antifa treat violence as a defensive tactic against an opposing movement that leverages violence. For antifascists, violence is self-defense, because the far-right movements constitute direct threats to their existence and safety, as well as the existence and safety of their communities.

My research found that antifascists who were willing to engage in violent action were also more likely to face direct or indirect threats from white supremacists as a result of personal identity, political ideology, or spatial proximity. Antifa are often much more diverse than the black-clad, young, presumably white male so often assumed by their representations. The antifa who I interviewed often felt a personal threat from the ideology of white supremacist groups because their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or religion was a target of supremacist violence.  These individuals saw their antifascism as a means of personal self-defense against a group that was targeting them for everyday violence and ultimately violent elimination. Even the white, heterosexual, cisgender men observed a certain amount of personal threat because they are viewed as “race traitors” or “cucks” as a result of their antifascist activism.

The hyper-awareness of such targeting is partially a result of political activism on the part of these individuals that is distinct from their antifascist work. Antifa activists aren’t solely concerned with opposing and stopping far-right movements: They are often involved in movements for racial justice, LGBTQ rights and leftist ideological campaigns for racial and economic justice through radical transformation of society inspired by communism or anarchism. These positions are identified by the far-right as political opponents who are to be eliminated by acts of extreme violence. Antifascism becomes not only a form of personal defense, but also a defense of the political activity that one is involved in. White supremacists and other far-right activists threaten progressive bookstores, organizing and social spaces, LGBTQ events and spaces, as well as places of worship that have included African-American churches, synagogues, mosques and Sikh temples.

Finally, many people choose antifa’s militant tactics because they find themselves much more likely to have some form of contact with white supremacists. Many of the antifascists in my research came to this form of activism because they were involved in punk and other underground music subcultures that were viewed as recruiting grounds by white supremacists. Their activism developed out of the threat of violence that racists brought into those subcultures. Subcultural antifascists come to embrace violent tactics because white supremacists do not leave subcultural spaces when asked nicely or confronted nonviolently. The same holds true when white supremacists threaten political, social and cultural spaces. Their purpose is to intimidate, and violent confrontation by antifa is often the only means of reducing or ending that threat.

The position that antifascist use of violent confrontational tactics is equivalent to the violence of the far-right reflects a lack of understanding of both fascist violence and the threat faced by antifa, and by diverse communities in general. Whereas supremacist movements treat violence as their ultimate goal, antifa approach it as a necessary tactic in self-defense. This position of self-defense is the product of the very real threat the white supremacists pose to antifascists and numerous other groups. Antifa come to understand that threat because their personal identities, as well as their political activism, are targeted by fascist violence. And they are more likely to actually face that violence than the average individual. By understanding the sense of threat observed by antifa, we can gain a greater context for their actions.

One Rural County’s Battle to Stop a Pipeline From Slicing Through Pennsylvania

Tue, 2017-08-15 12:30

LANCASTER COUNTY, Penn.—Under the banner of a piercing blue sky at the edge of a cornfield, hundreds gathered on July 9 to pray and raise their voices in song. 

Drawn from a diverse group of multi-faith actors, local activists and concerned residents, the assemblage had arrived at this spot to consecrate a prayer chapel they hope will stand in the way of the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, slated to be built through 37 miles of this county in southeastern Pennsylvania by the Oklahoma-based Williams Partners.

In this largely rural county of nearly 600,000, encompassing rolling farmland and the hardscrabble city of the same name, Williams and its subsidiary—the Transcontinental Pipeline (Transco)—have already gained permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to seize private property via eminent domain along the route. Coming on the heels of the 2016 to 2017 protests against the construction of Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, some believe this may be the new front in the battle between the fossil fuel industry and its enemies.

The sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ are the Catholic religious order that owns the land on which the prayer chapel—little more than a pulpit and several rough wooden benches—stands in the pipeline’s path. They don’t intend to go without a fight.

“We have a land ethic: We consider all creation to be interconnected, and the land is holy,” says Sister Janet McCann, who is on the leadership council of the Adorers at their mission center based in St. Louis, Mo. “To have something come through that could endanger the lives of human beings and the ecosystem, that’s something we need to stand up against. We don’t want to be part of that.”

Her fellow sisters echo this call.

“We are women of faith, and we see this as part of the gospel,” says Sister Sara Dwyer, the social justice coordinator for the nuns. “We are here to be responsible stewards of the earth, and to preserve it for generations to come.”

The chapel is the latest chapter in a years-long battle that has placed hundreds of local residents against the power of the natural gas industry and its enablers in both local and federal government. With echoes of the face-off at Standing Rock and other movements around the country, the battle in Lancaster is one that has politicized many residents who never thought of themselves as activists before.

For Malinda Clatterbuck, her involvement began with a knock on the door of her home in the heavily-rural southern part of the county one afternoon in March 2014. 

There, she found a surveyor contracted by Williams standing on her front porch asking for her and her husband, Mark, to sign a form permitting their property—acres of woods she had grown up on—to be surveyed for the pipeline. The surveyor said the Clatterbucks should have already received the paperwork, and that the new project was to be built using already existing pipelines (of which there were none). Clatterbuck told the surveyor she would have to do more research before she signed anything.

When she looked into it, she found that the pipeline was slated to traverse her property (the route has since been moved). Furthermore, it was to cut through other farmland and run directly under the Conestoga River, an umber-hued tributary of the larger Susquehanna River which snakes along for about 65 miles, spanned by covered bridge and abutting local Amish and Mennonite farms.

The experience, and what they viewed as the prevarication on the part of Williams and its ancillaries, led the Clatterbucks to form Lancaster Against Pipelines (LAP), a local advocacy organization committed to opposing the Williams project through non-violent civil disobedience. Among other actions, LAP built an outfitted treehouse on the property of local landowners sympathetic to their cause at the point where Williams was to drill under the Conestoga. They dubbed the structure The Lancaster Stand. 

“We’re an agricultural community in many ways, and we depend on the earth for our livelihood,” says Malinda Clatterbuck. “In a way, I think Lancastrians have a better understanding of humanity depending on earth for life than some other places. But this is also the rights of communities to protect their own health and safety, rights that have been taken away from us. This incident has given us an unwanted education about our government not being about people having power, but about industry dictating what happens to everybody else.”

For its part, Williams has been quick to point out what it says are the financial benefits of the project.

“The existing Transco pipeline currently delivers about 40 percent of the natural gas consumed in Pennsylvania, operating more than 1,000 miles of pipe and serving major local distribution companies such as Philadelphia Gas Works, PECO Energy, Columbia Gas and UGI in Lancaster County,” Christopher Stockton, a spokesman for Williams, wrote in an email.  “Any one of those existing Transco pipeline customers will be able to take advantage of new gas supply access made possible by the Atlantic Sunrise project.”

Stockton also pointed to a commitment by Williams to invest $2.5 million in environmental stewardship in the project areas and the “economic relief” that the firm says will come to local communities from natural gas impact fees in Lancaster County.

The response from local and national officialdom to the locals’ concerns has largely not been supportive.  A new bill, H.R. 2910, the “Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act,” passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July. It seeks to streamline the permissions needed to commence work on fossil fuel infrastructure. 

“I’ve always wanted to see Pennsylvania grow its energy infrastructure,” says Scott Martin, the state senator for Pennsylvania’s 13th District, of which Lancaster is a part. Martin, a Republican, has been a strong proponent of the pipeline. “We’ve tried to bridge the gap between the company and the landowners, but, in the end, if we don’t have these things, how do we expect to have energy for the future?”

In a move that made national news, this past summer, Martin co-sponsored legislation in Pennsylvania’s senate to make any protesters convicted of “rioting” or “public nuisance” liable for the costs related to any protest or demonstration. Those leading the initiative explicitly referenced the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. State Senator Scott Martin noted that, while the local protesters had been peaceful, “if the situation deteriorates … protesters should not be able to walk away from the damage they cause without consequence and expect first responders and taxpayers to deal with the fallout.”

Pipeline advocates frequently accuse protesters of having been infiltrated or in thrall to outside forces and even of being ‘homegrown terrorists.’ The local protesters bristle at the suggestion that they are motivated by anything other than the desire to protect the county where many have made their homes for generations. 

“We have been accused of being outside, paid agitators, but most of us here are from community churches—Unitarian, Lutheran, Mennonite—and some of us here are from some of the oldest families in Lancaster County,” says Joanne Musselman, whose family helped found the nearby town of New Holland in the early 1700s. “It’s a sacred covenant between the farmers and the land to be passed onto our grandchildren. And now the big oil and gas boys from Texas and Oklahoma are here to ruin our farmland and sacred places. It’s criminal, and it’s criminal that our elected representatives don’t represent us on this issue.”

Such activism in Lancaster is hardly new. Before, during and after the Civil War, the county served as the political base for the fierce abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, whose grave in Shreiner-Concord Cemetery in the city of Lancaster remains a place of pilgrimage. 

Since the electoral college victory of Donald Trump, direct action groups such as Lancaster Stands Up have also emerged in the county, staging demonstrations and advocating for progressive political goals.

The battle, however, remains an uphill one. In late July, pipeline opponents were informed that the landowner on whose land the Lancaster Stand had been built had finally caved and sold the property to Williams for $2.8 million. In recognition of this, the local protesters dismantled the Lancaster Stand rather than allow it to fall into the hands of Williams.

“The industry has a hell of a lot of power in institutions that should be protecting the rights of people,” says Malinda Clatterbuck, with LAP and its allies vowing to fight on. “This is a systemic problem in our country right now. We’ve come to understand that this problem is larger than just protecting Lancaster and what’s beautiful in Lancaster. No one stands alone. We live in community. We have to depend on one another and we have to protect one another.”

“Not Here, Not in My Town”: Charlottesville Black Lives Matter on Why We Must All Resist Fascism

Mon, 2017-08-14 10:43

Communities in Charlottesville, Va., are reeling from a murderous Nazi and white supremacist march on their town—one that stole the life of anti-Nazi protester Heather Heyer and wounded many more. I spoke with Lisa Woolfork, a member of Charlottesville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, about what solidarity and anti-racist organizing looks like in this moment. 

She explained that Charlottesville's Black Lives Matter chapter formed in June as “committed Black folks coming together from a variety of walks of lives, to stand up for preservation of Black lives, to stand up and make sure Black issues are not forgotten.” Woolfork, who is an associate professor at the University of Virginia (UVA), underscored that she is proud of everyone in her community who rallied together to resist organized white supremacists. “This is what community defense looks like," she said. "You say, ‘Not here, not in my town.’”

Sarah Lazare: How are you, your community and Black Lives Matter holding up after a harrowing few days?

Lisa Woolfork: I believe we are resilient. The reason we came out in the first place was for community defense. All the actions that took place that day were about defending Charlottesville as a community, standing up for our city, and saying no to the racists who wanted to invade and take over. I feel we did that very successfully. It was wonderful to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with a variety of people. It was Black folks joining in with folks from many different walks of life. I was moved by that.

At the vigil last night for Heather Heyer, the woman who was murdered, I saw it again. The same resolve for Black self-determination. For what Black Lives Matter stands for. To stand up and to say, “You might come armed—our community is willing to stand up against that.” The alt-right comes armed with assault weapons. They came to do damage. This was about the liberation of Black lives as well as criticizing white supremacy.

White supremacists are not just marching in the street, but they seem to be endorsed at the highest levels. The White House now has Stephen Bannon as a special adviser to the president. In some ways, he is the godfather of the alt-right.

What Charlottesville let the world see is that there is a connection between racist ideas and racist action. The reason the alt-right came to Charlottesville is that they were terrified to lose their Civil War participation trophy, their confederate monument to Robert E. Lee—who fought to maintain a white-supremacist republic. That’s why the alt-right was here. Principles of white supremacy and Black subjection still appeal to them.

Sarah: How can people across the country and the world show solidarity right now?

Lisa: There are a variety of ways people can stand up. Support Black Lives Matter—not just in Charlottesville, but all around the country. Get tapped into local organizations. Have uncomfortable and difficult conversations that can open the door to greater understanding. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Don’t just go along with racism and casual white supremacy. That just normalizes white supremacy.

There is a reason white supremacy is the air we breathe in this country. White supremacy is not just the Nazis and alt-right. It’s also very casual and subtle. It’s saying things like, “You’re pretty for a Black girl.”

Trump cannot reprimand that alt-right, because they are his base. There were a lot of people out there with “Make America Great Again” hats. The rise of Trump has coincided with a spike in hate crimes during the first months of his presidency. After he was confirmed by electoral college, there were tons of acts and incidents that very day. This is something we might want to think about.

I’ve never heard of a sore winner. They won [the election], and they are acting as if they lost. They are beating people in the streets. If you won, why are you beating up Muslims and immigrants? They are the party of the aggrieved white people, and we saw them marching through our streets and our city, throwing up Nazi gang signs. They were right near the library where I take my kids, right across the street where my son gets his hair cut.

Sarah: What do you want people to know about what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend?

Lisa: This is what community defense looks like. You say, “Not here, not in my town.” You come out, speak out. That’s what Charlottesville Black Lives Matter came out to do. We are pleased we were able to do that and fortify our community, fortify ourselves, stand up against this violent tide of white hatred that should not be allowed to go unchecked.

I believe that can happen in overt and covert ways. All across the country, there were solidarity rallies: in New York, Atlanta. People all over the country stood in solidarity with Charlottesville. This is the opportunity and this is the time. If not now, when?

Sarah: What is your response to people who say we should just ignore fascists?

Lisa: I believe that the claim that we should just ignore them is problematic. The alt-right is not out there because they want attention; they are out there because they want to promote white supremacy. They have tons of followers on Instagram, Facebook, Reddit. They have a strong social media presence. They have a global following. They are everywhere. They are trying to maintain white supremacy. That’s what they’re fighting for. To say they are out there for attention is to treat them like they’re naughty toddlers, not dangerous terrorists.

It’s a tacit and silent endorsement of white supremacy to say it can be tolerated or that everyone has a right to their opinions. It belies the fact that racist thought and racist action are connected. The symbol of Lee is a magnet for racists and white supremacists. We are inviting them by maintaining that negative hatred at the center of our city. We create hospitable conditions for them. 

Sarah: Is there anything you want our readers to know about what local organizing looks like from here?

Lisa: As we move forward, we have a lot of issues we are working to promote. We want awareness of some of the inequities and issues of injustice in our city. Nearly 80 percent of stop-and-frisks in Charlottesville are of African Americans, even though we only comprise 19 percent of the population. We want people to pay attention to the court case about the Confederate monument. We call on Charlottesville city council to fight to remove confederate monuments from public spaces, so we’re a less hospitable place for Nazis, white supremacists and racists. There is the case of a missing transgender women, whose disappearances are overlooked nationally.

I would advise people to look forward, look within, and look locally. What can you do to challenge white supremacy in your daily life? We have to stop believing white supremacy is someone else’s problem. Because we live in America, which has white supremacy at its base, it lurks in all of us. Challenge things, ask questions, intervene if you see someone harmed.

Look locally. See what’s happening right in your town where you can help. What is the poverty rate in your city? How is public education? Do you have a public education system that fails Black and Brown students? What kind of steps can you take to remedy that? What about hunger? How does that work in your town? The problems with Charlottesville are problems with every city in America.

Sarah: What is your response to politicians and pundits who are demonizing people who are resisting fascism?

Lisa: I believe there should be a diversity of tactics in order to fight white supremacy. I believe that these fascists came to invade our town and to terrorize. They came with weapons, with bats. They create a false equivalency when they say Nazis are equal to anti-racist activists. That is an unbalanced equation. By demonizing the anti-fascists, it makes fascism look as if it’s a viable social position. There were people out there Saturday in khaki pants and white polo shirts who marched to where I teach at UVA and shouted, “Death to the Jews, we will not be replaced.”

I recognize that there is a diversity of tactics, and I am of the belief that everyone out there in the spirit of community defense was acting in robust and muscular love. Love for humanity and justice, against the tide of white supremacy and all sorts of things being normalized.

Sword-and-Sorcery Into Plowshares: Game of Thrones’ Anti-War Message

Mon, 2017-08-14 06:00

The sprawl, the spectacle, the sex, the swords, the sorcery—if you’re looking for reasons why Game of Thrones has become the most popular show on TV, they’re easy to find. But the epic fantasy might also be pop culture’s most prominent anti-war satire since Dr. Strangelove. It’s one long shaggy dog joke at the expense of military conflict. For the bulk of its six-plus seasons, Game of Thrones has chronicled the bloody power struggles of various aristocrats and their hapless followers—while, unbeknownst to most, an army of demons and zombies in the icy northern wastes masses to swoop down and slaughter them all. The wars making up most of the series’ action are not only pointless, but self-defeating: The only enemy these characters need to be fighting is a supernatural one.

Somehow this lesson is often missed, both by moralists who find the series’ violence exploitative and “bad fans” (as The New Yorker’s  Emily Nussbaum calls them) in it for the beheadings. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the conceit that hides the anti-war message in plain sight. Or maybe it’s the show’s unflinching depiction of man’s inhumanity to man that enables viewers to confuse portraying violence with endorsing it.

Yet the show has been true to the approach of George R. R. Martin, author of the novels on which the show is based and a conscientious objector during America’s assault on Vietnam. As Martin said in a 2012 interview, he does not shy away from capturing the “emotional stirring we feel when we see the banner flying in the wind and we hear the bugles charge”—which, “those of us who are opposed to war … tend to forget.” However, he noted, “If you’re going to write about war and violence, show the cost. Show how ugly it is. Show both sides of it.”

For its first few seasons, Game of Thrones misdirected viewers with a tale of civil war between the Starks and the Lannisters. Later, that central conflict spiderwebs, with bloodthirsty lesser lords entering the fray. Meanwhile, to the east, the deposed heir to the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targaryen, leads a rag-tag alliance of soldiers and freed slaves (plus three semi-tame dragons) against their former masters. Noble as this cause may be, her main goal remains unseating the Lannisters and reclaiming the throne—in other words, playing the titular game.

So it has fallen to Jon Snow, a black-clad bastard raised in House Stark, to attend to the real story. On the far side of the Wall, a 700-foot-tall, continent-wide defensive fortification, looms a threat far more fearsome than any rival House. This is the stalking ground of the White Walkers, icy demons with crystal-blue eyes whose slain foes rise again as an army of the dead. If they win, they’ll bring an eternal winter that could wipe out all life on the planet.

Even at the Wall, however, senseless infighting often carries the day. Season 4’s centerpiece, “The Watchers on the Wall,” shows Jon and the forces he commands defend against the “wildlings,” rustic humans unfortunate enough to live on the wrong side of the Wall. It’s a tooth-and-nail struggle for survival, but also a refugee crisis: The wildlings are only trying to flee the undead hordes. Indeed, Jon’s empathy for their plight eventually leads him to allow them through peacefully, an act of mercy for which his xenophobic underlings murder him. Every fight between humans undercuts the solidarity of the peasant-class men and women—routinely drafted into their supposed betters’ battles—whom Jon will one day need to call upon to combat the true foe.

The show’s creators use meticulous audio and visual cues to convey this message, depicting death and horror on a scale previously unimaginable on television. The series’ first major battle, Season 2’s “Blackwater,” has the Lannisters fend off an invading fleet with “wildfire,” an explosive analogous to napalm. Director Neil Marshall, whose prior films double as minor-key dirges about the cost of violence, scores the battle with the screams of burning, drowning men—a sound effect most TV shows would just as soon eschew. 

Other battle sequences make war’s consequences even clearer. In “The Battle of the Bastards,” Jon’s soldiers collide with the forces of the psychotic Ramsay Bolton in a fight so intense that the bodies actually pile up into a geographical feature of the battlefield—a mountain that the survivors must climb, or suffocate under and die.

As far as the show is concerned, that’s what war is: a pile of massacred bodies. It’s the laser focus of the powerful on accruing more power, regardless of the costs—the pileup of the dead, the pillaging of the land, the immiseration of the living—and heedless of external threats. In the new season, overcoming this lethal myopia has become the characters’ central challenge. The real world may not have White Walkers, but in them we see the all-too-real forces threatening us all: looming climate catastrophe, the grinding inequality of late capitalism, the brutality not of our so-called enemies but of war itself. We can face them together, or keep playing the game.

We’re fortunate to have a series willing to make this case forcefully, without didacticism. Until next year’s finale, we won’t know what political system will arise south of the Wall when (and if) humanity beats back its existential threat, and there’s no reason to think it will be an improvement. But while solutions may be in short supply, the illustration of the futility and waste of war is, well, stark. Game of Thrones challenges us to rise above our squabbling and confront the common threats ahead.

Everything TransCanada Didn’t Want Nebraska’s Regulators To Know About Keystone XL

Fri, 2017-08-11 18:05

More than a day ahead of schedule, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline was called to a close Thursday in downtown Lincoln. The landowners, tribes and environmentalists opposed to the massive infrastructure project, though, say the commission didn’t get the full story.

By order of the state law that allowed for the PSC hearings to take place, all parties were barred from talking about pipeline safety, including the risk of leaks and spills. Also off the table for discussion were points about the necessity of the pipeline, eminent domain issues and negotiations between TransCanada and landowners along the route.

Brian Jorde of Domina Law Group is one of the attorneys representing landowners in this week’s hearing, and he has been working with landowners to fight Keystone for the last several years. He says there’s a relatively simple reason why the terms of the legislative statutes—and the hearing, by extension—have been so favorable to the company: money. TransCanada is a massive lobbying force in the state, and anti-pipeline advocates suspect they played a heavy hand in setting the terms of the hearing. A TransCanada subsidiary donated $20,000 to the Nebraska Republican Party in February, and the company has spent a total of $925,000 on lobbying in the state over the last five years.

“The reality is that TransCanada and its lobbyists had a hand in drafting those laws…It’s unfortunate that the state of Nebraska can’t consider one of the most foreseeable problems when evaluating whether or not the route is in its proper location, if there is any,” Jorde said of potential leaks.

Given the preponderance of pipeline malfunctions, the exclusion of any discussion of such dangers seems like an especially odd move. In 2012, ProPublica found that the United States’ 2.5 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines experience hundreds of leaks and ruptures each year, in some cases involving serious injury and even death. Another operational Keystone pipeline—of which Keystone XL would be an extension—leaked some 17,000 gallons of oil into South Dakota in the spring of 2016, just after water protectors founded the encampment at Standing Rock. The project at the heart of that encampment—the Dakota Access Pipeline, plus a feeder line into it—ruptured in two locations even before it started shipping oil, unleashing more than 100 gallons of oil into North Dakota.

“It’s like we’ve all got lottery numbers,” says retired teacher Art Tanderup, who lives with his wife, Helen, on their farm along the pipeline’s proposed route. “When is our lottery number going to come up? It may never come up, but in this kind of situation the odds are great that somebody in Nebraska is going to have a severe leak a few years after they put that in. It’s not good if it happens any place in Nebraska, but especially if it happens over our most precious water supply in our most porous soil,” he said, referencing the Ogallala Aquifer—the country’s largest—and the fact that Nebraska’s sandy soil would be particularly vulnerable to absorbing spilled oil. “That would be a total disaster.”

Jorde also said that the commission’s prohibition on considering arguments about easements—rights to land on which the pipeline would be built—presented serious challenges to giving the PSC a holistic view of the project. “All a route is is a string of connected easements," he argued. "If we can’t talk about the easements, we can’t really have an intelligent conversation about the route.”

Because the scope of the hearing was so narrow, several lines of testimony were excluded from the thick stack of documentation the PSC will be considering over the coming weeks.

Those with the most restrictions placed upon them were the Ponca and Yankton Sioux tribes, which each argue that the pipeline would present a score of economic, social and environmental hazards. The Ponca and Yankton Sioux tribes, each of which have land claims along the pipeline’s route, had initially filed to participate separately in the hearing. The commission eventually ruled that the Ponca and Yankton Sioux should combine efforts to serve, effectively, as one party.

“We’re two separate, sovereign nations,” says Jason Cooke, an elected chairman of the Yankton Sioux tribe of Nebraska who took the stand on Wednesday. “They said we’re ‘common,’ ” he added, referencing the PSC’s assertion that his and the Ponca tribe have common interests regarding Keystone XL. “Are we common because of our color?”

In the hearing’s final minutes, former Lancaster County Judge Karen Flowers, who presided over the hearings, debated with lawyers for each tribe about how many pages each would be allotted for their written closing arguments, to be submitted in mid-September. While TransCanada, NGOs and landowners can write 50 pages each, the Ponca and Yankton Sioux were required to split the 50 pages among them.

Lawyers for tribal nations were also only allowed to collect testimony and call witnesses that discussed cultural resources, or sites of sacred or historical importance.

“The idea that tribes only have cultural interests is ridiculous,” Brad Jolly, attorney for the Ponca tribe, told In These Times. "Obviously the tribe shares the same interest as everybody else: environmentally, socially, economically—everything. There’s a due process problem there. The tribe has recognizable rights of self-government…we see that and several other things as violations of due process.”

Among the testimony stricken from the Yankton Sioux tribe’s testimony were statements related to man camps—temporary living quarters for workers building fossil fuel infrastructure in rural areas.

Perkins stated that his employees would be subject to drug tests in his testimony to the PSC, though he admitted on the stand that TransCanada has not yet met with police departments along the route where they would be working about how to handle the enforcement of drug-related or other offenses. He also stated that the company doesn’t preclude workers who are convicted sexual offenders, demurring about whether the pipeline developer would enforce federal laws requiring such offenders to file in the Nebraska state registry.

The man-camps that sprung up in North Dakota during the oil boom there were notorious for bringing high levels of sexual assault and domestic violence, and at one point the state had the highest ratio of single young men to single young women, according to The New York Times.

Cooke said his tribe is deeply concerned about the impact of similar dynamics on the tribe-owned Fort Randall Casino & Hotel, one of few places to drink along the sparsely populated border between Nebraska and South Dakota where Keystone XL would cross. “These guys from the man camp are going to come to the casino. They say they won’t but they will. And they’re not going to come to gamble,” a major source of revenue for indigenous-owned casinos. “They’re going to come to drink and prey on our women and children,” he said.

For tribes, adding potentially thousands of new, non-native residents to areas near reservations creates a particular challenge. Like other tribes, the Yankton Sioux don’t have either a memorandum of understanding with local police departments, or a program for cross-deputization of law enforcement officers inside and outside of the reservation.

Among the biggest concerns for the Yankton Sioux and several other tribes is the danger a spill could pose to their water supplies. “Our land that we farmed barely makes enough for our people,” he said. “Water is our number one asset on our reservation. If it’s contaminated from upstream, what are we going to do? Are we going to have to start buying water?”

And even within the cultural resources framework that the Ponca and Yankton Sioux were permitted to testify about, arguments about spills are all but unavoidable. Jolly, who’s spent his career as a tribal rights attorney, recalled legal proceedings several years ago to remove underground septic tanks on reservations. “The process was terrible because it’s not just removing the tank. The problem is they all leaked,” he said. “You have to dig up every bit of that soil and take it away. You can’t wash it. You can’t clean it. It’s done. You do that with a cultural resource and it’s gone. It’s not just a matter of bringing in new dirt.” As he had pointed out during the hearing, the route TransCanada has applied for—and that could be vulnerable to a spill—butts up against the Ponca Trail of Tears, along which several members of the tribe died while being forcibly relocated to Oklahoma in 1877.

Landowners were quick to criticize how tribes were siloed during the proceedings. “Their voice was stifled,” Tanderup told In These Times shortly after the hearing concluded. “I feel so terrible the way the tribes have been treated here. We stand behind them … they were severely mistreated, as they’ve been mistreated for generations. It’s something huge companies think they can do, is continue to mistreat people.”

On the legal end, the PSC will now have until November 23rd to make a final decision, before which time attorneys from each team will submit final briefings to the commission. Whatever they decide, appeals are expected from the losing parties. In the case of anti-pipeline forces, those appeals will take place inside and outside the legal system. At a press conference just after the hearing was adjourned, Bold Alliance founder and Nebraska Democratic Party chair Jane Kleeb pledged civil disobedience should the PSC rule in TransCanada’s favor: "Standing Rock was a dress rehearsal compared to what this will be. We are not going to let an inch of foreign steel touch Nebraska soil.”

Tanderup seconded the pledge. “We’ll be out there in front of the bulldozers,” he told In These Times. “We will not allow them on our land. We will not allow them in the state of Nebraska.”

Asked what’s next, Cooke had a straightforward answer: “Keep fighting,” he said. “As Native Americans, our rights are always pushed to the side. I think that’s what makes us strong, though. We never give up.”

The U.S.-Occupied Colony In the Crosshairs of Trump’s Reckless Brinkmanship with North Korea

Fri, 2017-08-11 14:24

The prospect of war between the United States and North Korea has increased dramatically over the last week.

On Thursday, North Korean state media announced that Kim Jong-Un’s military personnel are preparing a plan to fire four ballistic missiles into waters off the coast of Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean that is home to roughly 163,000 civilians, two military bases, around 7,000 troops and many more personnel military personal and their dependents. This is only the latest development in what CNN is calling “an unprecedented exchange of military threats between Washington and Pyongyang.”

Despite calls for calm and restraint from Gov. Eddie Calvo, many of the island’s residents are unsurprisingly worried about a potential nuclear shootout between the two countries. As one local stand-up comedian told the BBC, “There have been threats before but this time feels different. We’re really caught in the cross fire. President Trump seems as much of a saber-rattler as Kim Jong-Un in Pyongyang. And a lot of people here feel like Trump is the guy who might actually press the button.”

But while media pundits endlessly debate whether or not Trump will enforce his ‘red line,’ the decimation of Guam’s ecosystem and the displacement of its indigenous population at the hands of the U.S. military goes largely unmentioned.

Guam’s strategic importance to the United States is well documented. Located roughly 1,500 miles east of the Philippines and roughly equidistant to the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, the island is, as described by former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, “an important strategic hub for U.S. military in the Western Pacific.” Historically, the island has played an outsized role in U.S. military ventures in the Pacific, particularly during the Korean War in the 1950s and the Vietnam War a decade later.

But Guam’s ecosystem and its indigenous people, the Chamorros, have paid a high price for the island’s strategic importance to the United States.

Guam was attacked and invaded by Japan in 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It took the United States nearly three years to recapture the island. During that time, the Japanese military subjected the indigenous people of Guam, the Chamorros, to torturous conditions. In all, historians estimate that violence resulting from World War II killed 10 percent of the island’s total population.

After the war, the United States sought to militarily fortify Guam and its other Pacific territories. This led to the displacement of thousands of Chamorro families as the military seized thousands of acres of land for its own use. Soon after, the military bases became a major source of employment on the island, making it harder for traditional modes of subsistence living to continue. As a marker of the intense Americanization that took place in Guam after World War II, only 20 percent of Chamorros in Guam spoke the Chamorro language in 2010: In 1950, that figure was 100 percent.

U.S. nuclear testing in the nearby Marshall Islands during the 1950s also bore devastating consequences for the Chamorros. According to a 2010 article in The Asia-Pacific Journal,

The incidence of cancer in Guam is high and Chamorros have significantly higher rates than other ethnic groups. Cancer mortality rates for 2003-2007 showed that Chamorro incidence rates from cancer of the mouth and pharynx, nasopharynx, lung and bronchus, cervix, uterus, and liver were all higher than U.S. rates. Chamorros living on Guam also have the highest incidence of diabetes compared to other ethnic groups, and this is about five times the overall U.S. rate. The entire island was affected by toxic contamination following the “Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in the Marshall Islands in 1954. Up to twenty years later, from 1968 to 1974, Guam had higher yearly rainfall measures of strontium 90 compared to Majuro (Marshall Islands). In the 1970s, Guam’s Cocos Island lagoon was used to wash down ships contaminated with radiation that had been in the Marshall Islands as part of an attempt to clean up the islands.

In 2009, Madeleine Bordallo, Guam’s elected representative to Congress—who, in accordance with the Guam Organic Act of 1950, has no voting power—introduced an amendment the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) so that it includes Guam in its list of “downwinder” areas affected by atmospheric nuclear testing conducted in Micronesia. The act got stuck in committee.

A year later, Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced an amendment to RECA that would give Chamorros in Guam compensation for the hazardous effects of nuclear fallout. It, too, didn’t make it out of committee. Udall re-introduced the bill in 2011 and again in 2013 to no avail. As of today, Chamorros in Guam only qualify for compensation under the “onsite participants” category, which only covers victims who were present at “any designated location within a naval shipyard, air force base, or other official government installation where ships, aircraft or other equipment used in an atmospheric nuclear detonation were decontaminated,” leaving out many affected by nuclear fallout on the island.

Today, the Department of Defense owns nearly a third of Guam’s total landmass. But as the Pentagon seeks to relocate Marines from its base in Okinawa—primarily due to continuous protests against the military base by Japanese citizens—that figure is only going to increase. In 2006, the Navy proposed moving 8,600 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, as well as expanding its operations in Apra Harbor, which would have destroyed 70 acres of coral reefs in the process. Outcry against the destruction of the reefs eventually forced the Navy to cancel its plans in Apra Harbor. While the Apra Harbor was stopped (for now), the Navy still plans to relocate 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents beginning in 2022. In conjunction with the tens of thousands of construction workers who will be sent to work on military buildup projects on the island over the next decade, Guam’s water supply will come under great duress, as will it its transportation infrastructure, while also creating thousands of pounds of hazardous waste.

Of course, the Pentagon argues that these projects boost Guam’s economy. But for many on the island, the benefits are outweighed by the costs—environmental, social, and political. The issue for many on the island is that there is no democratic process in place to settle these differences. As a non-self-governing territory—a.k.a. a colony—the people of Guam have no say in whether or not they want to live in proximity of four fast-attack nuclear submarines and an expeditionary helicopter squadron.

Thankfully, the United Nations has advocated for Guam’s right of self-determination, and there’s a big chance high schoolers on the island will be introduced to decolonization classes and instructional material as early as next year. But until the people of Guam are allowed to decide their own destiny, they will remain in the crosshairs of millitary escalation fueled by the United States.

Judginess Built the Middle Class

Fri, 2017-08-11 10:17

"I have bought a map which is mistaken in all its details; I have bought a clock which did not go; I have bought a moth poison which the moths prefer to any other beverage; I have bought no end of useless inventions, and now I have had enough of this foolishness.”

So complained the writer Samuel Clemens (known as Mark Twain) in an 1876 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Nineteenth-century magazines and the emerging penny press were full of such warnings of slick hucksters preying on respectable citizens. Clemens’ own creations, the charming tricksters Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, were minor-league players in comparison. In a typical vignette, hucksters were accused of putting rotten fruit at the bottom of a basket.

Regardless of whether ordinary Americans were really besieged by dishonest peddlers, they made a convenient foil for honest businessmen. The apocryphal huckster was the alarming antithesis to the kind of respectability that bound together the 19th-century middle class and put a civilized gloss on American capitalism.

Hucksters are central to American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability, Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow’s exploration of the shifting ways Americans have performed middle-class identity since its emergence in the mid-19th century. He finds that respectability has pertained less to keeping up with the Joneses than to keeping out the misfits.

Middle-class respectability arose alongside industrial capitalism in the United States. The qualities assigned to this mutable standard—hard work, perseverance, thrift, stable home-life and rationality—are the same as those attributed to good workers and reputable businessmen. Like middle-classness itself, respectability was relational, “a process of compare and contrast,” argues Wuthnow. Marginal people who did not conform to middle-class behaviors or achieve middle-class economic stability served as “the contrasting cases.” Hucksters—placeless, fast-talking and blithely unconcerned with the emerging rules of the free market—were measured against the plainspoken farmer, who, by contrast, sold goods at licensed stalls in weekly markets.

What’s fascinating here is not theories about “othering,” to which Wuthnow devotes much insufferable academic prose. So, skip the introduction and conclusion and jump into the beautifully researched case studies.

In a chapter on lunatics, for example, Wuthnow uses Civil War pension records to unravel the life story of William Hall, a Union Army veteran who was committed to an asylum in Topeka, Kansas. Mental illness was not well understood at the time, and stories circulated of community members losing their minds without warning. There was one report of a businessman who awoke one morning and slit the throats of his two children. Becoming a lunatic meant removal from one’s community. By 1874, 32 states had built asylums to house the insane.

Hall’s illness began during the war, and several years later he suffered a nervous breakdown. His physician delivered to the county court an affidavit declaring him incapable of managing his affairs, and a panel of 12 jurors concurred. Within a matter of days, Hall was sent to the asylum. His wife later received a $12 widow’s pension, but was unable to maintain the couple’s farm. The family dispersed, discredited by Hall’s illness.

Wuthnow’s crew of misfits also includes, surprisingly, the very religious and the very rich. Irrationality, whether expressed as insanity or religious fanaticism, stood in contrast to the beliefs and behaviors needed to sustain employment, pursue profit and work toward the American dream. Thus, religious fanatics who actively rejected the materialism of 19th-century market-oriented communities were portrayed as moral, but also excessively emotional and unreasonable. Meanwhile, the moneyed elite were labeled immoral, corrupt and undemocractic. The popular magazine, The Commoner, celebrated instead the “homey and wholesome, democratic and pure” common people.

All of Wuthnow’s misfits, in one way or another, threatened to undermine American capitalism by suggesting that some people could ignore its rules. By striving to remain respectable, above all else, the middle class has dutifully enforced those rules.

Generals and Cops Trained by the Pentagon Are Staging Coups All Over the World

Thu, 2017-08-10 14:25

This article first appeared on Tom Dispatch.

Winning! It’s the White House watchword when it comes to the U.S. armed forces. “We will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and, if required, to fight war and only do one thing -- you know what that is? Win! Win!” President Donald Trump exclaimed earlier this year while standing aboard the new aircraft carrier U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford.

Since World War II, however, neither preventing nor winning wars have been among America’s strong suits.  The nation has instead been embroiled in serial conflicts and interventions in which victories have been remarkably scarce, a trend that has only accelerated in the post-9/11 era. From Afghanistan to Iraq, Somalia to the Philippines, Libya to Yemen, military investments -- in lives and tax dollars -- have been costly and enduring victories essentially nonexistent. 

But Amadou Sanogo is something of a rare all-American military success story, even if he isn’t American and his success was fleeting.  Sanogo learned English in Texas, received instruction from U.S. Marines in Virginia, took his intelligence training in Arizona, and underwent Army infantry officer basic training in Georgia.  Back home in his native Mali, the young army officer was reportedly much admired for his sojourn, studies, and training in the United States.

In March 2012, Sanogo put his popularity and skills to use when he led a coup that overthrew Mali’s elected government. “America is [a] great country with a fantastic army. I tried to put all the things I learned there into practice here,” he told Der Spiegel during his tenure as Mali’s military strongman. (He eventually lost his grip on power, was arrested, and in 2016 went on trial for “complicity in kidnapping and assassination.”)

Since 9/11, the United States has spent more than $250 billion training foreign military and police personnel like Sanogo. Year after year, a sprawling network of U.S. programs provides 200,000 of these soldiers and security officers with assistance and support.  In 2015, almost 80,000 of them, hailing from 154 countries, received what’s formally known as Foreign Military Training (FMT). 

The stated goals of two key FMT programs -- International Military Education and Training (IMET) and the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) -- include promoting “international peace and security” and increasing the awareness among foreign military personnel of “internationally recognized human rights.”  In reality, these programs focus on strengthening U.S. partner and proxy forces globally, though there’s scant evidence that they actually succeed in that goal. A study published in July, analyzing data from 1970 to 2009, finds that FMT programs are, however, effective at imparting skills integral to at least one specific type of armed undertaking. “We find a robust relationship between U.S. training of foreign militaries and military-backed coup attempts,” wrote Jonathan Caverley of the U.S. Naval War College and Jesse Savage of Trinity College Dublin in the Journal of Peace Research.  

Bad Actors

Through nearly 200 separate programs, the State Department and the Department of Defense (DoD) engage in what’s called “security cooperation,” “building partner capacity,” and other assistance to foreign forces. In 2001, the DoD administered about 17% of security assistance funding. By 2015, that figure had jumped to approximately 60%. The Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program, a post-9/11 creation indicative of this growth, is mostly run through the DoD and focuses on training mid- and senior-level defense officials from allied militaries in the tenets of counterterrorism. The State Department, by contrast, is the driving force behind the older and larger IMET program, though the Defense Department implements the training.

Under IMET, foreign personnel -- like Sanogo -- travel to the U.S. to take classes and undergo instruction at military schools and bases. “IMET is designed to help foreign militaries bolster their relationships with the United States, learn about U.S. military equipment, improve military professionalism, and instill democratic values in their members,” wroteJoshua Kurlantzick in a 2016 Council on Foreign Relations memorandum aimed at reforming the program.

However, in an investigation published earlier this year, Lauren Chadwick of the Center for Public Integrity found that, according to official U.S. government documents, at least 17 high-ranking foreigners -- including five generals-- trained through IMET between 1985 and 2010 were later accused and in some cases convicted of criminal and human rights abuses. An open-source study by the non-profit Center for International Policy found another 33 U.S.-trained foreign military officers who later committed human rights abuses. And experts suggest that the total number of criminal U.S. trainees is likely to be far higher, since IMET is the only one of a sprawling collection of security assistance programs that requires official reports on human rights abusers.

In their Journal of Peace Research study, Caverley and Savage kept the spotlight on IMET because the program “explicitly focuses on promoting norms of civilian control” of the military.  Indeed, it’s a truism of U.S. military assistance programs that they instill democratic values and respect for international norms. Yet the list of U.S.-trained coup-makers -- from Isaac Zida of Burkina Faso, Haiti’s Philippe Biamby, and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, and the IMET-educated leaders of the 2009 coup in Honduras, not to mention Mali’s Amadou Sanogo -- suggests an embrace of something other than democratic values and good governance. “We didn’t spend, probably, the requisite time focusing on values, ethics, and military ethos,” then chief of U.S. Africa Command, Carter Ham, said of Sanogo following his coup. “I believe that we focused exclusively on tactical and technical [training].”

In 2014, two generations of U.S.-educated officers faced off in The Gambia as a group of American-trained would-be coup-makers attempted (but failed) to overthrow the U.S.-trained coup-maker Yahya Jammeh who had seized power back in 1994. The unsuccessful rebellion claimed the life of Lamin Sanneh, the purported ringleader, who had earned a master’s degree at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C. (Two other coup plotters had apparently even served in the U.S. military.) “I can’t shake the feeling that his education in the United States somehow influenced his actions,” wrote Sanneh’s former NDU mentor Jeffrey Meiser. “I can’t help but wonder if simply imprinting our foreign students with the ‘American program’ is counterproductive and unethical.”

Caverly warns that Washington should also be cautious about exporting its own foreign and domestic policy imperatives, given that recent administrations have left the Defense Department flush with funding and the State Department’s coffers so bare that generals are forced to beg on its behalf.  “Put more succinctly,” he explained, “you need to build up multiple groups within civil society to complement and sometimes counterbalance an empowered military.” 

Caverley and Savage identified 275 military-backed coups that occurred worldwide between 1970 and 2009.  In 165 of them, members of that country’s armed forces had received some IMET or CTFP training the year before the coup. If you add up all the years of such instruction for all those countries, it tops out at 3,274 “country years.”  In 165 instances, a takeover attempt was carried out the next year. “That’s 5%, which is very high, since coups happen rarely,” Caverley told TomDispatch. “The ratio for country-years with no U.S. training is 110 out of 4101, or 2.7%.”

While U.S. training didn’t carry the day in The Gambia in 2014 (as it had in 1994 when U.S. military-police-training alumnus Yahya Jammeh seized power), it is nonetheless linked with victorious juntas. “Successful coups are strongly associated with IMET training and spending,” Caverley and Savage noted.  According to their findings, American trainees succeeded in overthrowing their governments in 72 of the 165 coup attempts.

Train Wreck

There is significant evidence that the sprawling patchwork of America’s military training programs for foreign forces is hopelessly broken.  In 2013, a State Department advisory board found that American security aid had no coherent means of evaluation and no cohesive strategy. It compared the “baffling” array of programs to “a philanthropic grant-making process by an assemblage of different foundations with different agendas.” 

A 2014 RAND analysis of U.S. security cooperation (SC) found “no statistically significant correlation between SC and change in countries’ fragility in Africa or the Middle East.” A 2015 report from U.S. Special Operations Command’s Joint Special Operations University noted that efforts at building partner capacity have “in the past consumed vast resources for little return.” That same year, an analysis by the Congressional Research Service concluded that “despite the increasing emphasis on, and centrality of, [building partner capacity] in national security strategy and military operations, the assumption that building foreign security forces will have tangible U.S. national security benefits remains a relatively untested proposition.” 

“There are no standard guidelines for determining the goals of [counter-terrorism] security assistance programs, particularly partner capacity-building training programs, or for assessing how these programs fit into broader U.S. foreign policy objectives,” reads a 2016 Center for a New American Security report. “And there are few metrics for measuring the effectiveness of these programs once they are being implemented.” And in his 2016 report on IMET for the Council on Foreign Relations, Kurlantzick noted that the effort is deeply in need of reform. “The program,” he wrote, “contains no system for tracking which foreign military officers attended IMET… [a]dditionally, the program is not effectively promoting democracy and respect for civilian command of armed forces.”

Studies aside, the failures of U.S. training efforts across the Greater Middle East have been obvious for years. From the collapse of the U.S.-built Iraqi army in the face of small numbers of Islamic State militants to a stillborn effort to create a new armed force for Libya, a $500 million failed effort to train and equip Syrian rebels, and an often incompetentghost-soldier-filleddesertion-prone army in Afghanistan, large-scale American initiatives to build and bolster foreign forces have crashed and burned repeatedly. 

One thing stateside U.S. training does seem to do, according to Caverley and Savage, is increase “human capital” -- that is, foreign trainees’ professional skills like small unit tactics and strategic planning as well as intangibles like increased prestige in their home countries. And unlike other forms of American aid that allow regimes to shuttle state resources toward insulating the government from coups by doing anything from bribing potential rivals to fostering parallel security forces (like presidential guards), FMT affords no such outlet. “If you give assets to a group with guns and a strong corporate identity within a country lacking well-developed institutions and norms, you create the potential for political imbalance,” Caverley told TomDispatch. “An extreme example of that imbalance is an attempt to take over the entire government.”

Strength and Numbers

The United States has a troubled past when it comes to working with foreign militaries. From Latin America to Southeast Asia, Washington has a long history of protecting, backing, and fostering forces implicated in atrocities. Within the last several months alone, reports have surfaced about U.S.-trained or -aided forces from the United Arab EmiratesSyriaCameroon, and Iraq torturing or executing prisoners. 

Some U.S.-trained figures like Isaac Zida in Burkina Faso and Amadou Sanogo in Mali have experienced only short-term successes in overthrowing their country’s governments.  Others like The Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh (who went into exile in January after 22 years in power) and Egypt’s president -- and former U.S. Army War College student -- Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have had far more lasting tenures as strongmen in their homelands.

Any foreign military training provided by the U.S., write Caverley and Savage, “corresponds to a doubling of the probability of a military-backed coup attempt in the recipient country.” And the more money the U.S. spends or the more soldiers it trains via IMET, the higher the risk of a coup d'état.

In 2014, the U.S. resumed IMET support for Mali -- it had been suspended for a year following the insurrection -- and even increased that funding by a modest $30,000.  That West African nation has, however, never recovered from the coup crisis of 2012 and, half a decade later, remains wracked by an insurgency that Sanogo, his successors, and a French- and U.S.-backed military campaign have been unable to defeat. As the militant groups in Mali have grown and metastasized, the U.S. has continued to pour money into training local military personnel. In 2012, the year Amadou Sanogo seized power, the U.S. spent $69,000 in IMET funds on training Malian officers in the United States.  Last year, the figure reached $738,000.

For the better part of two decades from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen to Pakistan, Somalia to Syria, U.S. drone strikes, commando raids, large-scale occupations and other military interventions have led to small-scale tactical triumphs and long-term stalemates (not to mention death and destruction). Training efforts in and military aid to those and other nations -- from Mali to South Sudan, Libya to the Philippines -- have been plagued by setbacks, fiascos, and failures.

President Trump has promised the military “tools” necessary to “prevent” and “win” wars.  By that he means “resources, personnel training and equipment... the finest equipment in the world.”  Caverley and Savage’s research suggests that the Pentagon could benefit far more from analytical tools to shed light on programs that cost hundreds of billions of dollars and deliver counterproductive results -- programs, that is, where the only “wins” are achieved by the likes of Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia and Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. 

“Warfighters focus on training other warfighters. Full stop. Any second order effects, like coups, are not the primary consideration for the training,” Caverley explains. “That’s why security cooperation work by the U.S. military, like its more violent operations, needs to be put in a strategic context that is largely lacking in this current administration, but was not much in evidence in other administrations either.”

This piece was orginially published in TomDispatch 

Heart of Whiteness: The Stories Western Philanthropists Tell Themselves

Thu, 2017-08-10 11:21

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT DIVIDES THE WORLD INTO OBJECTS AND IDEAS. The objects (children, elephants, forests) are saved by ideas (Western). Stephanie Hanes’ brilliant first book focuses on one object of development, the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, and holds it up so that we can see the many hands shaping its story. She describes her effort as “a safari of sorts through our African stories, a voyage into how we got here and what we do now.” Though it could easily fall into the category of environmental writing or development studies, this book is a page-turner rooted in investigative journalism.

Hanes’ most direct critique of development is saved for the book’s title, White Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden and Other Myths of Conservation in Africa. She resists cynicism throughout, sticking to her central question: Why do Western efforts to help the environment and Africa so often fail? “[It] is not because of bad planning or poor investment strategies,” she writes. “We fail—although we almost never admit it—because we are stuck in our own mental framework. We cannot see the other narratives, even when they actively clash with our own.”

Gorongosa National Park is part of a spectacularly beautiful but war-battered ecosystem in central Mozambique. At its heart, both geographically and spiritually, is Mount Gorongosa, a heavily forested mountain that creates the conditions for the year-round water that feeds the park’s floodplain.

In the mid-2000s, Gregory Carr, an American with millions of dollars of extra money to put into philanthropic enterprises, witnessed Mozambique’s beauty and decided it was the country’s “secret weapon,” Hanes writes. “Perhaps, he thought, he could take part of this stunning landscape and turn it into a development engine.” Carr became Gorongosa’s champion and de facto owner. He shaped its boundaries and defined its narrative.

Hanes effortlessly eases us into discursive analysis, not with Michel Foucault, but with the simple structure of a five-act play. She explains this tidy narrative’s utility to a philanthropist like Greg Carr: He can control the plot line. His five-act play, she says, goes like this: Act 1 is the backstory. People who care about Gorongosa—Portuguese colonists—establish an exclusive hunting reserve in Gorongosa in the 1920s. Its conservation begins. Act 2 is the rising action. National park status is designated in 1960, hunting is banned, and thousands of buffalo, zebra, hippos, antelope and other animals thrive. The rich and famous come to see its beauty for themselves. Act 3 is the climax. The park closes in 1981 because of war. Soldiers and poachers kill nearly all the animals. Local people continue to kill what animals remain and deforest the mountainside. Act 4 introduces the protagonist. Carr and his foundation come to the rescue. Act 5, the resolution—still to come—is what Carr calls, “Happily Ever After.”

Hanes contests each of these acts not by challenging their facts, but by showing what is left out. Consider the park’s efforts to stop controlled burning, the use of fire to prepare land for crops, and poaching, the killing of park animals for their meat.

At last count, 150,000 people live in the official “buffer zone” around the park border. “Almost all of them either worked for the park, poached from the park or lived with someone who did one of those two things,” Hanes reports. She introduces us to one young man, Tomás Jeremias, who lives a half day’s walk from the park and was employed there for a year. After that temporary job ended, he resumed poaching to support his wife and three children. The park managers thought salaries, even short term, would endear local people to their conservation mission. They were wrong. Political stability, land security and food sovereignty stop poaching. The rest is wishful thinking, like “happily ever after.” We deny the right of other stories to exist. We find them threatening and offensive. We want to build a powerful alliance to destroy or at least discredit them.

What about fires? Surely lighting up Mount Gorongosa can’t be good for biodiversity. That idea seems straightforward enough until Hanes gives an account of the work of Harvard researcher Heidi Gengenbach, who lived on the mountain and learned that “agricultural fire use in Gorongosa was in fact stunningly sophisticated.” Gengenbach’s research convinced Hanes that “the ecology of Gorongosa was still as rich as it was not despite these peasants, but because of them.”

Hanes warns that the development approach “leaves us decidedly unprepared to recognize the realities that other people inhabit. We have become so good at reciting our own particular script that, on some level, we recognize only those actions and plot points that fit within it.”

Hanes herself only gets boxed into a narrative once. She describes post-civil war Mozambique “working diligently with the World Bank and the IMF to make the structural changes they recommended for pulling the country out of poverty.” But another way to tell this story is to say Mozambique had taken out loans from the international banks and let them manage its economy, resulting in a debt burden that it cannot escape. As Hanes would say, there’s never one true story. She is not wrong when she describes the country’s fast economic growth from foreign investment. There are some winners, but the losers are a millionfold. The country pays more to service its debt, which now is 100 percent of GDP, than it spends on healthcare and education. Here is yet another example of stories within the story.

After the book went to press, Carr attacked Hanes. He and his surrogates sent several letters to her and her publisher and began a coordinated campaign against the book. She dedicates its afterword to an account of how she responded to these attacks (with grace). “We live in a time of shouting,” she writes. “And so, although I was taken aback at first by the reaction to this book from people who had not read it, I soon recognized that it was just a microcosm of what is happening in our larger society. We deny the right of other stories to exist. We find them threatening and offensive. We want to build a powerful alliance to destroy or at least discredit them. But this doesn’t move us toward any solutions. For real change, we need to grapple with others’ viewpoints, however uncomfortable they may be.”

Who doesn’t want zebra, elephants, hippos and rhinos to live undisturbed in a tropical paradise? The author does, and in recognizing the counternarratives to Carr’s five-act play, she weaves a vision for the park that includes the poor and their struggles, a philanthropist and his goals, and a nation stepping out of the long shadow of colonialism.

“Western conservationists and the local population actually had quite a bit in common,” Hanes writes. “Most important, they shared a deep love and appreciation for the land and all the species it supported.” Hanes cautions that we begin by listening, not doing. “What would have happened if the whole project had started differently: if at some point, well before committing to work there, Greg Carr (or whichever philanthropist or group was involved) had started to learn the stories of central Mozambique, and had interacted with the people who lived there, not only to figure out how to help, but also whether to help?”

Hanes confides, “Our stories are both the foundation and the scaffolding upon which we construct our worlds. So my goal is not simply to tell my version of Gorongosa, but to reveal the hidden conflict that is playing out among the various tales.” Goal accomplished, to the delight of her readers.

Introducing the New In These Times

Wed, 2017-08-09 14:20

EARLIER THIS YEAR, IN THESE TIMES SURPASSED 50,000 PRINT SUBSCRIBERS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ITS 40-YEAR HISTORY. That milestone didn’t just pop out of the ether. It is the result of hard work on the part of the staff and a public desire for political change, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. And, of course, because of readers like you.

To ensure that In These Times is up to the challenge of this historic moment, we reached out to hundreds of supporters over the past few months. We asked for help in re-engineering In These Times to better serve progressives as we grapple with the political realities of these new times.

This new issue is the result of that feedback. Here are some of the things In These Times is recommitting to:

  • Original stories that the mainstream media refuses to publish
  • Reporting that gives a voice to grassroots activists and new strategies to effectively fight corporate power
  • Articles that provide theoretical and practical frameworks for connecting with and energizing others on the Left, especially through the lens of work and labo

Going forward, In These Times will do even more to put community struggles for justice front and center, particularly acts of resistance ignored by the corporate media. You will find these stories in our new Dispatches section.

In These Times will continue nurturing a sense of progressive community. The magazine will serve as a forum for debate within the Left, as in our revamped Up for Debate section, and will spotlight local victories that can be used as blueprints for change.

My favorite community response came from Laura Orlando, who likes In These Times because of the “tone that sets it apart from other progressive publications.”

“It’s a tone that makes me want to read the magazine,” she wrote. “What it usually is not is the drumbeat about what is wrong with [fill in the blank]. Think of a child’s whine. ITT is the compassionate parent that says, ‘Yes dear, it’s hot, but just a little bit farther and we’ll be at the beach, feeling the ocean breeze.’ ” This belief that a better world is within our reach is something I vow will not change.

Another thing that will not change: In These Times will continue to publish investigative reporting that holds power to account. Trump administration officials, Republicans in state houses and governor’s mansions across the country, corporate entities that run amok and Democrats who fail to respond to a base that is demanding real change—that is to say, all who help perpetrate systemic injustice—will get particular scrutiny.

But even as we reorient to face the unique challenges of today, we haven’t forgotten where we come from. When I began reading In These Times, then a weekly, in 1979 in Columbia, Mo., it served in a sense as a community newspaper for a national network of progressives who, inspired by the rebellion of the 1960s, continued to fight for transformative change.

Historian James Weinstein, who founded In These Times, wrote, “Part of the reason the New Left [of the 1960s] disintegrated was that it had no intellectual center and no popular publication to disseminate its ideas and let people know what it was doing and why.” In These Times was established in 1976 to be that center. It remains our mission today.

I hope you'll agree that the new magazine distills what we do best. By publishing journalism that exposes the racial, economic and environmental injustices that define life in 21st-century America, and by covering movements for social change, In These Times challenges us to work together to expand the boundaries of what is possible.

Standing Rock Spawned a Generation of Water Protectors. Now They’re on the Move.

Wed, 2017-08-09 14:15

BISMARCK, N.D.—Forty miles north of where the Standing Rock resistance camps once stood, Matt Lone Bear and Carter Gunderson crouch on the curb, changing the brakes on a Chevy Blazer. As they wrestle a worn rotor off the axle, they discuss their plans. They’ll stick around until their court dates later in June, then hit the road for a tour of the Standing Rock diaspora—camps that have sprung up across the country to oppose fossil fuel projects, living on after the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

To the east, in Huntingdon County, Penn., the Gerhart family and their supporters have formed Camp White Pine on family property, which lies in the path of the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline. The pipeline’s owner, Energy Transfer Partners—the same company behind DAPL—has invoked eminent domain to cross the property, but construction faces resistance in the form of tree sits and other direct actions. Farther east, in Mahwah, N.J., the Native-led Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp stands in the way of the Pilgrim pipeline. The camp’s Facebook page declares “solidarity with Standing Rock & all who resist the black snake worldwide.”

Lone Bear and Gunderson, however, think the next flashpoint is in Tacoma, Wash., where Above: Water protectors holding a ceremony on the banks of the Cannon Ball River were met by riot police who shot rubber bullets at point-blank range on Nov. 2, 2016. the Puyallup tribe and environmental groups are resisting a liquified natural gas plant.

“Tacoma seems like it’s got the confluence of all these trends in American resistance,” says Gunderson: There are water protectors in the spirit of Standing Rock, there’s a population center to draw on for mass actions, and it’s in the Northwest, where an anarchist-tinged direct-action culture thrives.

Lone Bear and Gunderson make unlikely friends. Gunderson, 26 and white, grew up in the wealthy Minneapolis suburb of Edina—“Audi Arabia,” he calls it. Lone Bear, 30, a father of four and a member of the Hidatsa tribe, grew up on the Fort Berthold Reservation, north of Bismarck. Their paths might never have crossed had they not been locked in the same jail cell Oct. 22, 2016, after police surrounded a prayer march south of the DAPL construction area and arrested 126 people. Held in an out-of-use rec room, they passed the time playing basketball with a sandal. And, says Gunderson, “We talked a lot. We basically talked about everything you could talk about.” Two days later they were arraigned on charges of criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot, and released on $250 bail.

Dozens of these cases have been dropped for lack of evidence. When Gunderson returned to North Dakota for his June 22 trial, he refused a pretrial deal—and 12 hours before the trial, he learned the charges had been dropped. 

Lone Bear went to trial June 29. He paraphrases the judge, who had heard the previous cases from the mass arrest: “Did you guys bring any new evidence? No? Well, we’re not going to go through all that again.” The judge found Lone Bear not guilty.

Sam Saylor of the Water Protector Legal Collective calls the prosecution’s strategy “financial warfare.” “They’re trying to extract as much pain” as possible, he says, “so they can get pleas.” The goal, he thinks, is to discourage future protest and recoup some of the money spent policing the resistance. The Morton County State Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

Of the 750 or so people arrested for trying to stop the pipeline from crossing the Missouri river, more than 400 still face criminal charges, says Saylor. 

Still, the spirit of Standing Rock has spread throughout the country—and repressive policing and surveillance methods have followed. In May, The Intercept reported that local, state and federal police coordinated with a mercenary security group called TigerSwan—hired by the pipeline company to surveil, infiltrate and thwart the #NoDAPL movement. TigerSwan is currently monitoring the opposition to the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania.

A TigerSwan “Situation Report,” dated Oct. 3, 2016, reads: “Exploitation of ongoing native versus non-native rifts, and tribal rifts between peaceful and violent elements is critical in our effort to delegitimize the antiDAPL movement.” A February 27 company report brags about their “proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.”

For Lone Bear, in light of the TigerSwan revelations, it’s all the more important to stand together. That’s why he’s heading to Tacoma. “A lot of Native people at Standing Rock were from Washington state. I feel like I need to return the favor.”

Trump Promised to Revive Keystone XL—But TransCanada May Not Even Want to Build It Anymore

Tue, 2017-08-08 16:58

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA—As a week of hearings over the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline began today, there was an elephant in the room: Does TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, actually want to build it?

TransCanada representatives, environmental advocates, tribal members, ranchers and other Nebraskans gathered today in Lincoln’s Cornhusker Marriot Hotel to argue before the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) as to whether TransCanada should receive permits to build the pipeline across the state. Without a route through Nebraska, there’s no Keystone XL at all.

The infrastructure project has become a priority for the Trump administration, which revived it back in March. However, the company won’t formally decide whether it will continue investing in Keystone until December, as TransCanada executive vice president Paul Miller announced last month.

Part of that choice will depend on the PSC’s ruling, which could come as late as November. But just as important are the dramatic changes in the oil market since the Canadian pipeline operator first dreamed up the project in 2008. Oil prices collapsed in late 2014, and a lingering oversupply problem means there may not be enough demand to justify the massive building project.

Testimony for the week’s hearings has been filed by all parties in advance, so the hearings will consist of cross-examinations and arguments. Witnesses from TransCanada took the stand first, on Monday. Leading off their cross-examination is lawyer David Domina of Domina Law Group, the firm representing landowners along Keystone XL’s route.

At rapidfire pace, Domina quizzed TransCanada representative Anthony Palmer about what the company would do if it received the permit and then decided not to build the pipeline. Palmer declined to say whether TransCanada would sell off the route rights in that event, meaning it’s possible that another company could build a different pipeline through the same land. Part of why anti-pipeline forces are fighting this permit so aggressively is that it gives TransCanada the right to the land and to carry out eminent domain “in perpetuity”. So if it’s granted and the company abandons the project, that means they could simply sell it off to another pipeline developer, like Energy Transfer Partners.

Domina also spent much of the morning attempting to establish that Palmer—the president of Transcanada Keystone Pipeline GP LLC, a TransCanada subsidiary that oversees day-to-day pipeline operations and construction—is several steps removed from TransCanada, the applicant for the permit through Nebraska. As Domina contended, having Palmer as the sole representative for the company in this week’s hearing would mean asking the PSC to decide on the permit without having heard from the company that applied for it. For landowners, Domina’s clients, that also presents a problem for accountability: The tangle of companies that oversee pipelines makes it hard to determine which people or entities can be held accountable in the case of a leak or spill.  

All of the lawyers representing anti-pipeline groups will continue to grill company representative through Tuesday. On Wednesday, pipeline opponents are expected to take the stand and face off against TransCanada’s lawyers, as well as those representing industry groups and the building trades.

The Intervenors

While a similar process happened in South Dakota in 2015, Nebraska’s PSC has never administered this type of hearing. “It’s completely unprecedented [in Nebraska],” says Brian Winston, an attorney representing the Nebraska-based Bold Alliance and the Sierra Club in this week’s proceedings. “They may get it right—but so far they’ve had a lot of rulings that are head scratchers.”

For example, Winston notes, the PSC decided several weeks ago to limit tribes’ testimony and evidence to “cultural issues,” not safety concerns or spill impacts. Tribe members, represented by attorneys from the Ponca and Yankton Sioux nations, say the stipulation violates their First Amendment rights along with several other legal precedents. They also argue that, in addition to damaging medicinal plants and sacred sites, the route’s approval would violate several treaties, including the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties.

Hundreds of people initially signed up to participate in the hearing as intervenors, a legal designation that allows Nebraskans affected by the project to present testimony and evidence to the commission. The PSC consolidated the anti-pipeline registrants and combined them into 3 separate entities, leaving around 90 officially registered intervenors in three categories: So-called natural resources groups (mostly environmental NGOs), native tribes and landowners along the proposed route.

Because of the widespread nature of the threat this new pipeline could pose, the last several years in the Keystone fight have seen a high degree of collaboration between white landowners and indigenous nations along its proposed route. “Those bridges and reconciliation between native and non-native settlers couldn’t have been done before,” says Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Indigenous Environmental Network, who was a registered intervenor in South Dakota’s Keystone hearings, tells In These Times. “Why? because we have a common enemy: TransCanada and big oil.”

Whatever the PSC decides this fall, all of the anti-pipeline forces giving testimony this week—and many more—intend to do whatever they can to prevent Keystone XL from being built, whether in challenging the finding in court, corralling national forcing or physically getting in contraction crews’ way.

“Now you’re not just affecting what’s perceived as a native fight,” Braun says. “What they did to us at Standing Rock they’ll do to these white people, too. Is America ready to see white farmers getting tear gassed and hit with percussion grenades on their own land? I hope not.”

Before the hearings kicked off, pipeline opponents made it clear on the ground here that they don’t intend to back down. Braun was one of many people who came to Lincoln Sunday to participate in a March to Give Keystone XL the Boot on Sunday, which drew more than 500 people from across the Midwest and as far as Mississippi Alberta, Canada. The aim was to build anti-pipeline momentum going into the hearing, Braun says., flanked by a mock pipeline and story-high signs.

“When these marches happen, does it make an impact on what corporate executives do?” Braun asks. “No, I don’t think it does. But what it does do is that it gives permission to those people who may be riding the fence about getting involved, and that builds the movement.”

The Athletes, the Street Artists, the Troublemakers and the Ones Who Say “No”

Tue, 2017-08-08 16:43

“It was a national model for what youth organizing and community development should be,” Mathilda de Dios recalls of the Southwest Youth Collaborative (SWYC). A long-time youth organizer, Dios was first introduced to the SWYC in 1999. A quick search online, however, reveals sparse details about the organization, which operated before the digital age could significantly archive its extensive work. Yet, this history needs to be excavated, so that we can learn from the organization’s powerful legacy: youth organizing supported by a multi-service agency and network that built a stronger, safer, more united and politicized community on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

The Southwest Youth Collaborative began in 1992 as part of the “Children, Youth and Families Initiative” of the Chicago Community Trust, a community philanthropic foundation. The Initiative’s 10-year investment established SWYC—along with six other regional collaboratives—to improve social services for young people, emphasizing primary “walk-in-the-door” services, such as cultural, artistic and athletic activities, childcare and afterschool programs, and recreation.

Since its beginning, SWYC’s scope covered several neighboring racially and ethnically diverse communities on Chicago’s Southwest side, including: Chicago Lawn, Marquette Park, Gage Park, West Lawn, Ashburn and West Englewood. For its first two years, SWYC built out its office in Chicago Lawn with two staff managing three afterschool programs. Their chosen neighborhood already had a long history of racialized struggle, as the demographics had shifted to majority Black, Latino and Arab populations since the 1950s.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march for fair housing through the area in 1966, he was met with open violence, injured along with roughly 30 others by the bricks and bottles of a white mob. This incident led him to describe Chicago’s white violence as worse than that of Mississippi. One block from the march’s starting place, at 6400 S Kedzie, SWYC lay down its roots.

Under the leadership of founding executive director, Camille Odeh, SWYC quickly grew to create a comprehensive, coordinated system of neighborhood-based youth services, and a vanguard infrastructure for cross-cultural youth resistance.

Staple in the community

By the mid-1990s, hundreds of Black and Brown youth were in SWYC’s political education programming, with thousands more accessing their quality, comprehensive services. “You could walk in, say ‘I want my GED’ and immediately get connected to a staff person with the right resources,” former program manager, Sandra Sosa, remembers. Other services included sports programs, job training and placement, counseling, tutoring, computer classes, after-school programs and Street Law to help youth manage police interactions.

At its height, SWYC operated with a budget of $3 million, 45 staff, 15 youth programs (with 1,200 youth in sports programs alone), at least six collaborative sites and an impressive set of partnerships that included the YMCA, multiple field houses, churches and dozens of K-12 schools. They hired from their programs and the communities they served, deepening the impact of their work.

By providing free space to grassroots efforts, sharing grants, training other organizations and offering dedicated staff time to help support community initiatives, SWYC incubated a myriad of new projects, programs and whole organizations. Their enormous influence spread far beyond Chicago’s Southwest side. But for those regional to that area, their impact was particularly profound.

SWYC was a staple in the community, helping to bridge and hold the people together. The neighborhood’s demographics necessitated an intercultural approach, as Black, Arab and Spanish-speaking communities were growing rapidly. This diversity was celebrated, centered and nurtured as a core aspect of their work, and principle to their success. Always youth-centered, SWYC still provided space for consistent, intergenerational dialogue through community events, forums and family councils. Their programs built transformative relationships across diverse cultures without flattening differences and experiences. “It was such a communal space,” Sosa recalls.

And no matter what time of day, there was something to plug into and free, supportive resources available for those in need. According to Dios, SWYC was a massive entity of networked social services and robust programs that, even at its largest, managed to stay rooted in the grassroots spirit of “the neighborhood.” Dios says that the “the backyard social spaces” that SWYC facilitated—both literally and in essence—“built incredible youth-to-youth relationships.” From these relationships, further coached by youth organizing staff, a powerful front of youth leadership emerged.

The scale, depth and impact of SWYC’s youth organizing is awe-inspiring, even more so when one takes into account the low priority given to organizing young people at the time. The organization’s success can be traced directly to the principled foundation built by SWYC’s first two organizing staff: Jonathan Peck and Jeremy Lahoud, two college friends hired by Odeh in 1994.

“For the first year or two, we really didn’t do a lot of organizing,” Peck explains: “We said, ‘We want to know all the ways that people are struggling to make change happen.’ So we’d spend half a day up in Little Village at Rudy Lozano’s, getting to know the neighborhood. Next week, we’re up in Uptown for a few days… We weren’t trying to judge anybody. We were building relationships. It was a genuine exchange.”

At the same time, they began to build out the infrastructure of primary services for young people.

“You gotta get woke”

As Peck explains, “Before you can get organizing, you gotta get woke.” The service programs that brought in thousands of young people every year were just the beginning for many of those who walked through SWYC’s open doors. While the programs were intended, first and foremost, to meet specific material needs of young people in the community, they also served to introduce those young people to political principles and ideologies. For example, as part of the Sports Program, young people were mentored to become coaches using principles of restorative justice.

The arts and culture program, “University of Hip Hop,” trained young people to design Hip Hop community development projects for neighborhood beautification and transformation. One of the earliest established programs was Freedom Summer, an intensive, stipended political education institute where young people could spend 20 hours a week all summer learning about histories of resistance and gaining exposure to current organizing efforts in the city.

Participants in any of these programs, now “woke,” were invited to apply for the two organizing bodies of SWYC: Generation Y and the Community Justice Initiative (CJI). Generation Y was an explicitly youth activist organization, made up entirely of Black and Brown young leaders from SWYC’s programs. CJI was a city-wide coalition that emerged out of the youth-led trainings of SWYC’s Street Law program, where young people had been training organizations and communities for years, building up a city-wide network of partners. The coalition invited those former Street Law trainees to join youth leaders in organizing city-wide campaigns, maintaining a membership that was 50 percent youth of color.

It was here, between Generation Y and the Community Justice Initiative, that the true power of SWYC’s community organizing model was demonstrated.

Building a resistance movement

Remember, this was the 1990s: the decade of Public Enemy, Rodney King and the final phase of anti-apartheid struggle. Youth of color are being targeted as “superpredators,” leading to increased criminalization, hyper-policing and harsher sentencing. At one point, a new ordinance was proposed to establish “running” as probable cause. This was defeated through Generation Y’s leadership.

SWYC also resisted gentrification and helped establish the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) to independently investigate complaints of police misconduct. The organization pushed Chicago Public Schools to adopt Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), an “untracking program” designed to help underachieving students with high academic potential prepare for entrance to post-secondary education. Arguably, their most significant accomplishment was to win public funding for youth jobs. One Summer Chicago, a multi-million dollar youth summer employment program offered through the City, stands in their legacy of organizing for youth employment.

Overall, the high visibility created locally by young people of color through organizing town halls, knocking on doors, throwing block parties and undertaking social-change work contributed to intergenerational shifts at the community level. “What did they accomplish? They reframed the narrative around young people,” insists Sosa.

Programs like “Freedom Summer” introduced young people of color to resistance histories through workshops, movies, primary sources, youth-led research, guest speakers, exposure to city events and volunteer service opportunities. SWYC even sent occasional delegations to indigenous reservations and South Africa to study anti-colonial resistance, and helped build consciousness about the Palestinian struggle against occupation.

Participating young people were presented with as much information and training as possible, without requiring a specific action step by Peck or Lahoud. Organizers let young people decide the who, the what, and the how they wanted to learn. “We opened up space where young people felt safe, where they could learn and grow without being attacked, and felt like they had ownership.”

SWYC’s youth organizers built relationships with “the unusual suspects of the time,” remembers Peck. “We sought out the athletes, the street artists, the troublemakers, the ones who say no.” Their attitude toward the young people they met was fundamental to SWYC’s organizing success. Peck stresses, “We treated every young person like they were the next Malcolm X, the next Ella Baker, the next Bayard Rustin. We felt like, ‘This kid could change the world.’ And we treated them with that respect and gave them the tools necessary to fight their battles.”

The SWYC model “was phenomenal,” Sosa reflects. By 2012, however, funding shortfalls brought an end to the beloved organization. In its wake, an undeniable and enormous gap in community services formed. While what SWYC was may have ended, the lives changed, the ongoing influence of the leaders they trained, the manuals and instruction of their work and the legacy of their example remains today—for all of us searching for hope in the struggle.

Diverse, Radical and Ready to Resist: Meet the First in the New Wave of Local Progressive Officials

Tue, 2017-08-08 14:34

AUSTIN, TEXAS—When San Francisco supervisor John Avalos helped form Local Progress, a national network of progressive elected officials, he was dismayed by his own city’s left-leaning political scene. The Bay Area was a hotbed of innovative policy-making. But getting his city hall colleagues to work together more closely, rather than just promote their own pet projects and personal “brand” was not easy. “Politics should be a team sport,” he says. “And we didn’t have that enough.”

On the other side of the country, Bill Henry, a progressive on Baltimore’s city council, often felt like a minority of one. Henry was among 30 municipal officials from around the country who joined Avalos at a founding meeting of Local Progress in November 2012. He found the other attendees to be “people who weren’t afraid to say things should be a lot different”—in short, the meeting looked like “the council I wanted to have at home.”

Local Progress initiators began reaching out to peers in other cities—some in solidly blue states, some bucking conservative state governments. The resulting network has a twofold goal, according to Avalos, “not only [planting] the seeds of local progress—planting seeds of resistance.”

When Local Progress members—now numbering more than 600, from 328 municipalities in 41 states—met in Austin on July 27-29, their theme was, in fact “Resistance and Progress.” Trump’s victory drove turnout and sharpened the focus on the former, with progressive city councilors, mayors, school board members, and county supervisors discussing how to fend off conservative counter-attacks from Washington and many state capitals. But participants didn’t lose sight of plans to make “rebel cities” a model for what government can accomplish, now and in the future, under better leadership. They swapped advice on passing measures like model ordinances for rent control, minimum wage increases, police accountability measures, protections for immigrants, and keeping the planet from over-cooking through public investment in sustainable infrastructure. (Late July temperatures in the Lone Star state certainly helped focus attention on the impact of climate change, even inside the air-conditioned bubble of a University of Texas conference center!)

The high turnout also reflected in part the new energy around local progressive races coming out of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Groups like the Working Families Party, People’s Action, and Our Revolution are all encouraging and supporting progressives to run for office. For example, one attendee was Andrea Jenkins, a transgender African-American woman running for city council candidate in Minneapolis, who has earned the backing of Our Revolution, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison, and SEIU and AFSCME locals.

Local Progress adds a layer of support for these new candidates: having ready access to a national clearinghouse of information about successful municipal reforms is helpful during a first-time campaign and, if that’s successful, in post-election work. At Local Progress annual gatherings, most of the discussion is organized, in small workshops, to help actual practitioners share personal experiences, political tips, and policy ideas directly.

What it looks like to be successful in “down ballot” elections was very much on display in the ethnic, racial, geographical and gender diversity of the crowd. Some of this year’s participants, like Kansas City, Mo., city councilor Jermaine Reed, need little instruction on why poor and working class Americans can benefit from municipal uplift. Now running for mayor, Reed is one of four African-American brothers raised by a single mother who is still working and “never made more than $11 an hour.”  He personally experienced having gas and electricity shut off at home because bills couldn’t be paid. At age 14, he found himself living in a homeless shelter.

“On an issue like raising the minimum wage, you don’t have to convince me," he told his colleagues. “I know the story. I’ve lived the story. I am the story.”

Another compelling speaker was Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan legislature (and from a district only 2 percent Arab-American). The daughter of an auto worker born in Palestine and the oldest of his 14 children, Tlaib grew up in southwest Detroit among neighbors predominantly African-American and Latino; they, like her, assumed that the ever-present smell of local industrial pollution was “normal,” she recalls.

Now termed out, like John Avalos in San Francisco, Tlaib urged Local Progress members to be pro-active in causes ranging from public health to environmental protection. “We have to go beyond introducing bills, holding a press conference, and just showing up,” she told them. During her six years in office, Tlaib created a neighborhood service center, helped constituents raise money for community improvement projects, become a plaintiff in public interest lawsuits, and organized regular “Town Hall” meetings so citizen complaints, about public services, could be aired in the presence of relevant city and state officials .

Fixing problems often requires that union or community organizers run for office themselves. Former labor council leader Cindy Chavez is now a Santa Clara County supervisor representing 360,000 people. But she attributes her political career to becoming a home-owner in downtown San Jose, CA. After someone fired shots into her house, she was told by an investigating officer that her new neighborhood was “unsafe” (hardly a revelation at that point). His advice was: “You should move.” Instead, she ran for city council, then mayor (unsuccessfully) and four years ago, the Board of Supervisors.

As an elected official, Chavez has worked on public safety issues like how police handle “intimate partner violence” and formerly incarcerated residents re-enter the community. Next month, Santa Clara County will begin a trial program—that she and other supervisors supported—to place non-violent drunks in “sobering centers” with support services provided by the county’s behavioral health department, rather than jailing them for public intoxication.

Unlike Chavez, who graduated from San Jose State, or Tlaib, who went to law school, 44-year old Jennifer Mecozzi has only a high school degree. But that didn’t stop her from getting elected to the Buffalo Board of Education, where her colleagues include Trump supporter Carl Paladino, a wealthy upstate New York real estate developer and former Republican gubernatorial candidate.

A public school parent and mother of four, Mecozzi was endorsed by the Buffalo Teachers Federation. She campaigned for more school-based services for the children of refugees and other foreign immigrants recently arrived in Buffalo. “I’m a watchdog for my community but I’m a bulldog for my babies,” says Mecozzi, a long-time staff member for PUSH-Buffalo, a non-profit group that fights for sustainable low-income housing.

 Like other successful candidates who are now part of a progressive faction on a local elected body, Mecozzi faced the post-election challenge of rallying her neighbors to do more than just vote for her. “I’m challenging my constituents to help me make change,” she said. “I’m the only person on the board from a grassroots background. So everyone is looking to me to solve everybody’s problems. And I can’t do it alone.”

Hanging like a pall over the Austin meeting was the growing use of legislative pre-emption to thwart local problem solving (or related Trump Administration defunding threats). In state capitals across the country, foes of reform are working—often in bipartisan fashion—to block the creative exercise of municipal power on behalf of workers, consumers, undocumented immigrants, transgender people and the environment. During their convening, Local Progress leaders trekked over to the Texas state capitol building to protest Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s signing of state Senate Bill 4 earlier this year. That draconian measure, now being challenged in court by the city of Austin and others, would impose criminal penalties on elected officials and local law enforcement personnel who uphold sanctuary city policies.

Local officials facing such threats got some bracing advice from Larry Krasner, the civil rights attorney and death penalty foe on track to become Philadelphia’s next District Attorney. In a keynote address, Krasner recounted his past representation of people arrested for civil disobedience, some of whom helped engineer his upset victory in a Democratic primary three months ago.

In Philadelphia, he said, “the next generation of progressive leaders are labor and community organizers…activists who do politics better than politicians.” But he urged anyone in the room, whether facing re-election or a first time bid for office, “to be as radical as the truth requires and do it without fear.”

St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green has been one such profile in courage already. Only 34, she ran initially, as an independent when her local Democratic committee wouldn’t back her. Then, she participated in Ferguson-related police brutality protests, supported the Black Lives Matter movement, and tackled public safety reform issues in a way that made her instantly unpopular with the St. Louis police union.

Informed that she was “outside the norm for St. Louis politics”—at least in the view of its “white, wealthy, political power establishment”—Green has, nevertheless, won several election contests since 2014. She survived a blitz of negative ads by well-funded opponents. She helped organize a Bernie Sanders-backed effort to shake up the local Democratic Party establishment and now serves on the state and national Democratic committees.

“It’s not enough just to have progressives in St. Louis,” Green acknowledged. While in Austin, she and others in Local Progress pledged to strengthen their mutual support network through more personal financial donations and joint action. Examples of the latter, cited at the meeting, included “sign-on” statements by hundreds of elected officials calling for a minimum wage hike in New York state, rejecting anti-Muslim bigotry everywhere, and protesting collusion between federal housing officials and private equity firms in the sale of distressed mortgages.

Local Progress also unveiled a flashy new advertisement for itself, in the form of a short video celebrating its coordinating role, collective accomplishments, and six years of steady growth.

The film’s message: “if you’re outraged by the Trump agenda, you should run for local office” because that’s where the action is going to be until the “local and state leaders of today become national leaders.”

Unpredictable and Brutal ICE Raids Are Allowing Trump to Rule by Fear

Tue, 2017-08-08 14:20

The President's latest cabinet shuffle may seem chaotic, but even if executive agencies are paralyzed, immigration authorities' ruthless assaults on communities continues apace. General John Kelly's tenure at Homeland Security lasted long enough to crank up U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) deportation machine, scrap the few safeguards for due process granted under the previous administration and pave the way for even harsher crackdowns under his successor.

Nowhere seems safe from a federal sweep. Legal advocates have shifted from reform advocacy to full-fledged defensive mode, as Trump appears to be fast tracking deportation proceedings even for aspiring college students, domestic violence victims and family breadwinners.

Memphis and several other southern cities saw scores of arrests during July, as ICE forces descended for several days in mass roundups targeting predominantly Latino areas. According to Casey Bryant of the advocacy group Latino Memphis, ICE sought to apprehend residents without presenting judicial warrants. ICE agents are “surrounding people's vehicles and demanding that they get out of the car...They're rolling up in these big SUVs, three or four at a time, and just catching whoever they see,” she says. Sometimes they finished up a day of raids by banging on the doors of Latino neighborhoods, says Bryant, observing: “It seems like it moves from one place to another.”

Following a racially incendiary speech in Long Island, Trump has set the stage for dramatic raids aimed at ‘getting tough’ on supposed gang crime in the suburbs. In reality, advocates across Los AngelesColorado Springs and other cities have condemned the recent pattern of brutal ICE sweeps, which seem to neglect even the minimal protections the Obama administration had applied to its enforcement efforts, which supposedly prioritized migrants with serious criminal convictions. Under Trump, ICE has reportedly even targeted local homeless shelters and courthouse hallways.

Still, ICE claims to be targeting young men who allegedly fit the stereotype of Central American gang members, and has announced an intensification of a nationwide deportation drive going after people who supposedly “pose a threat to national security.” Memphis has seen several older migrants detained in the recent roundups, many of them long-settled blue-collar workers with families and no criminal records. Many have lived in the United States for years and are just encountering ICE for the first time.

The crackdowns have galvanized grassroots organizations to launch community-defense efforts: Know-Your-Rights training workshops, emergency legal aid for families without attorneys and court challenges pressuring officials to protest Trump's policies. According to the Immigrant Defense Project, which just rolled out a toolkit to help communities cope with ICE raids and detention, immigrants should be wary that they’re vulnerable to being apprehended in any public space. Yet, the organization argues that  succumbing to fear is not the answer, noting individuals are free to refuse entry to an officer trying to enter their home without a warrant. The group warns of the deceptive tactics ICE is said to regularly employ—including pretending to be local police instead of federal agents, or brandishing their weapons to intimidate families.

The most disturbing trend may be the lack of any pattern at all. In recent months, some local law enforcement agencies say they have been frustrated by ICE's brazen interventions. Depending on local politics, some districts have agreed to actively work with ICE agents. But even in red states like Arizona, where sadistically xenophobic Sheriff Joe Arpaio was recently ousted, many agencies have refused to collaborate on policies that might stoke racial tensions or alienate communities.

The increasingly divergent approaches that local authorities are taking to immigration policy—with many municipalities vowing to resist Homeland Security’s effort to coopt local agencies—are dividing Washington. One sticking point is so-called “sanctuary cities," which openly oppose collusion with federal immigration enforcement actions. Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, congressional Republicans and—more recently—state lawmakers in Texas, Georgia and Indiana, have tried to impose funding restrictions for districts that resist ICE policies. But the most draconian proposals have been thwarted by constitutional litigation and massive local backlash.

But some local efforts to protect migrants—for example, by refusing to hold arrestees in local jails on ICE's behalf for pending immigration investigations—may be of limited use amid the chaos of the flash raids. Bryant points out that, while police have vowed not to collude with ICE, local officers have been entangled in raids when federal agents have called police for back up on the scene. And in some self-proclaimed progressive sanctuary cities like New York, “zero tolerance” over-policing has needlessly exposed immigrants to ICE interventions, because the routine mass arrests in poor communities of color make migrants vulnerable to being picked up by federal authorities while in jail.

As more cities face fiscal and political pressure, the American Civil Liberties Union has advised local authorities to retain local control, stating: “The administration cannot force them to help round up immigrants, and it cannot threaten them by inventing new rules out of thin air.”

Of course, under Trump’s improvisational approach to governing, it has become clear to immigrant communities that his administration doesn’t need to rewrite rules to rule by fear.

While pressing local officials to condemn ICE and resist collusion with Homeland Security, Latino Memphis is trying to help communities survive the trauma of the crackdown. The organization is providing legal advice and assistance with securing bond, since many detainees are imprisoned far from their families at the La Salle Detention Facility in Louisiana, with virtually no access to local attorneys.

Not even lawyers, however, can gauge ICE’s next move. Day by day, Bryant says, Latino Memphis is “just trying to make sure that families can keep on living their lives without too much fear or anxiety, and trying to allay that anyway we can, working with families to not be afraid to enroll their children in school take care of themselves and their family.”

That may be the worst impact of these raids. Trump’s real triumph in his war on migrants is spreading the sheer terror of knowing that each new day they spend in their adopted homeland may become their last.