Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Veterans to Serve as ‘Human Shields’ for Dakota Pipeline Protesters

As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said.
The effort, called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is planned as a nonviolent intervention to defend the demonstrators from what the group calls “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”

The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they may begin imposing fines to block supplies from entering the main protest camp after a mandatory evacuation order from the governor. Officials had warned earlier of a physical blockade, but the governor’s office later backed away from that, Reuters said.

Protesters have vowed to stay put. Opponents of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline have gathered for months at the Oceti Sakowin camp, about 40 miles south of Bismarck. The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes fear the pipeline could pollute the Missouri River and harm sacred cultural lands and tribal burial grounds.
The evacuation order issued on Monday by Gov. Jack Dalrymple cited “anticipated harsh weather conditions.” It came before a winter storm dumped about six inches of snow and brought strong winds to the area on Monday, making roads “roads nearly impassable at the camp sites,” according to Doualy Xaykaothao of Minnesota Public Radio, who was cited by NPR.
The governor’s statement said, “Any person who chooses to enter, re-enter or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk.” The order was effective immediately and was to remain in place indefinitely.

The veterans’ effort will also run up against a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to close off access to the protesters’ campsite and create a “free speech zone.” Federal officials said anyone found on the land after Dec. 5 could be charged with trespassing.
“Yeah, good luck with that,” Michael A. Wood Jr., a founder of the veterans’ event, said in an interview.
Mr. Wood, who served in the Marine Corps, organized the event with Wesley Clark Jr., a screenwriter, activist and son of Wesley K. Clark, the retired Army general and onetime supreme allied commander in Europe for NATO.

Mr. Wood said he had initially hoped to attract about 500 veterans; he had to stop sign-ups when they reached 2,000. He said volunteers are from diverse backgrounds: “We have every age, we have every war.”
An online fund-raiser has drawn over $570,000 in pledges as of Tuesday afternoon to pay for food, transportation and supplies for the veterans’ “muster,” which was planned for Dec. 4-7.
One veteran, Loreal Black Shawl, said the mission to support the protesters was intensely personal.
Ms. Black Shawl, 39, of Rio Rancho, N.M., is a descendant of two Native American tribes, the Oglala Lakota and Northern Arapaho. She served in the Army for nearly eight years, finishing her career as a sergeant.
“O.K., are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in the same way as you have those water protectors?” Ms. Black Shawl said, referring to the protesters. “We’re not there to create chaos. We are there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated as non-humans.”
The authorities have used rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannons against demonstrators, hundreds of whom have been injured, according to protest organizers. The clashes have been highly contentious, with the police and demonstrators leveling accusations of violence at each other.

Some protesters filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday against the Morton County police and others, alleging excessive use of force and seeking a court injunction to prevent the authorities from using rubber bullets, explosive grenades and water cannons, according to The Atlantic. One woman was injured and in danger of losing her arm after an explosion at the protest site this month.
By spotlighting issues such as the use of force by the police, national energy policies and the treatment of Native Americans, the protests have garnered national headlines and widespread attention on social media.
Ms. Black Shawl acknowledged that the operation could prove problematic because the veterans and the police both have military or tactical training. She said she had a “huge, huge nervousness and anxiety” about possibly being injured and what could happen to other veterans.

An “operations order” for participants outlined the logistics with military precision and language, referring to opposing forces, friendly forces and supporting units. Organizers encouraged attendees to wear their old uniforms.
Mr. Wood said they were discouraging active-duty service members from attending. “There’s no reason for them to get into hot water,” he said.

In a break from military custom, the gathering will have a “chain of responsibility” instead of a chain of command, he said. There are no ranks, and participants will refer to one another by their given names.
Mr. Wood said the early stages of the event will be logistical: setting up tents and organizing food supplies. The first arrivals are expected on Wednesday.
The premise is for the veterans to be fully self-sufficient, he said. “There will be civilian and tribe members watching us from behind but nobody supporting us,” the operations order said. “We are the cavalry.”
A spokesman for the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, Lt. Thomas O. Iverson, said in an email on Monday, “Law enforcement is aware of the upcoming event planned for December 4-7.” He added, “If the group remains lawful and refrains from blocking the roadway, there will be no issues.”
Some officials expressed the hope that the demonstrators would move on.
“The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are willing to commit acts of violence,” Senator John Hoeven, a Republican, said in a statement on Friday, The Associated Press reported.
The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, said in an email that he had no concerns that tensions could escalate.
“Everyone that comes knows our intent — to remain in peace and prayer,” he said.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bodies and Space: Beginning a Process[group-1540]/1/

We are in a circle, sitting on the floor. We are in a circle, sitting on chairs. We are in a circle, standing up. We are throwing a ball in a circle and catching a ball in a circle. We are speaking to each other in a circle, listening to each other in a circle, holding hands with each other in a circle. We are drawing, thinking, sharing, questioning, reflecting, writing, breathing, in a circle. We are making small circles and big circles; circles with everyone, and circles in groups. When we are walking around the room, or sitting on our own, we are still in a circle. We are in a circle, together.
We have now had five sessions together, and the dynamic in the room has become focused in energy and interest, as we move forward with an enquiry chosen entirely by the collective of young people. It feels like an engine room already – bodies weaving in and out of each other, a collage of voices filling the space with sound. It feels like the beginning of something important, almost like tending to a living organism: it demands that we go where it goes, rather than shape it to fit our own artistic agendas.
As we gather together every Wednesday in the studio at Tramway, I’m starting to read the act of turning up for something as political. To make a journey to the same place every week, to gather with the same people, to engage in a process and work towards something all seem like deeply politicised actions. Seeing bodies in a space – young people in a space – is to see the power of standing together and having purpose in a world that may be losing its agency. We are a force together, and it feels like a great privilege to embark on a process of placing things under the microscope for scrutiny, making art about the things we struggle to understand.
‘Make performance art pertinent to a new generation of potential activist-artists. They may eventually have to save us from the very monsters and pitfalls that we, their arrogant forefathers, have either created or allowed to happen.’
– Guillermo Gomez Pena, ‘Exercises for Rebel Artists: Radical Performance Pedagogy’
Let me return, then, to circles. For many members of Junction 25, this is the start of a familiar process, another circle, but reframed. There are new people in the circle, and there are people missing; the circle is being held by new facilitators, Gudrun and Rosie; we are exploring the circle differently, with a new enquiry; where we stand in the circle is different from where we stood in June. This idea of a circle from June until now (the start of a new Junction 25 process) feels weighted by the politics around it: we performed ‘A Bit of Bite’ for the last time the day the UK voted for Brexit, and we started to make a new work the day Donald Trump was elected President. Somehow, this coincidental patterning of events reaffirms the need for us to reflect, question and explore the issues that are important to us as a collective.
The most vital circles, however, are the circles of confidentiality we form at the beginning and end of every session. We check in and we check out, speaking into the room for as long as we need about what’s alive for us, what feels present in our lives. This is a practice that often directs the journey of the session and builds the dynamic in the room, creating the safe space needed to lay the foundations of collaboration. The check in/out is a ritual that connects us to our surrounding circles: it maps us to the members of Junction 25 that have gone before us, and invites us to consider ourselves in relation to our ecologies. At times of despair, or when we feel as though we have reached a nadir – like earlier this month – the circles we make and hold together are a reminder that ground-level, community-based resistance will stand up and step forward.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

New York Legislator Names Law to Ban Conversion Therapy After Mike Pence

“You have a man who is going to have enormous power over all of us, who advocates for it”

A New York elected official has introduced local legislation that would ban conversion therapy, naming the law after Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has appeared to show support for the practice.
Patrick Burke, a legislator in Erie County, has named the proposed law the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment (PENCE), according to WBFO.
“Mike Pence is probably going to have the most power of any vice president in the history of our country and he has openly advocated for conversion therapy,” Burke told the new outlet. “I want that to sink into people. I want them to realize it’s a serious issue of abuse of children, Flatly, whether they are gay or not, it’s abuse. Then you have a man who is going to have enormous power over all of us, who advocates for it.”
Conversion therapy attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual through psychological treatments or counseling.
In 2000, when Pence was running for Congress, his website said money was aside to help HIV/AIDS patients be “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” according to the Washington Post.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Art of the Protest


Poland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Recently, a government-backed bill sought to go further, punishing women who had abortions with up to five years in prison. Last month, Polish women responded with a one-day strike. On Oct. 3, tens of thousands of people, most of them women dressed in black, protested in major cities.
Poland is run by a nationalist, right-wing Roman Catholic party that controls Parliament, has taken over independent media, is disregarding rulings of the Constitutional Court and now proposes creating a militia outside the command of the armed forces.
It would not seem to be a government that would listen to such a protest. But three days later, its legislators voted down the abortion bill. Why? The government saw the size and speed of the mobilization, and its high concentration of young people, as a threat — one it worried could grow.
The current relevance of this to America, which enshrines in its Constitution the right to peacefully voice protest to check government power, will escape no one. The Republican Party will soon control the presidency, Congress, most governorships and state legislatures; in all probability, there will be a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Given Donald J. Trump’s approval of advisers from the white nationalist far right, following his vitriolic attacks on the policies of the Obama administration, Democrats, independents and even some Republicans are bracing for assaults on — everything.
Yet they are not powerless. Seldom, in fact, has an out-of-power opposition been able to count on more resources — in broad support, political clout and moral authority.
But how these resources are used is what matters.
If the purpose is to allow despondent or angry people to vent and show solidarity, then the anti-Trump protests going on in major cities already do that. But they will not reverse the election results, or alter what President-elect Trump seeks to do.
Protests can change policies, however — and often have. In other countries and throughout American history, ordinary citizens banding together have triumphed over governments, even when a single party holds sweeping control. Many of those protests used resources that the opposition to President-elect Trump enjoys today. They can learn from how those victories were won.
Plan, plan, plan. A half-century after the street struggles in Birmingham, no American movement has yet surpassed the strategic mastery of the civil rights movement. Civil rights leaders were fighting a war — nonviolently, but a war nevertheless — and they planned it as such. They mapped out protests to create escalating drama and pressure. They ran training schools for activists, teaching them how to ignore provocations to violence, among other lessons.
Provoke your opponent, if necessary. The turning point for civil rights came when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference allowed children to march in Birmingham (a decision criticized by many, including Malcolm X). Bull Connor, the city’s commissioner of public safety, ordered the police to turn attack dogs, nightsticks and fire hoses on children marching peacefully — some of them 6 years old. The scenes made the nightly news and the front page of newspapers around the country.
The movement won by making a strong moral appeal to public opinion. It showed protesters making sacrifices for their cause. It lured opponents into violence that finally swayed the views of whites — a tactic similar to the playbook of Mahatma Gandhi in India, of forcing an oppressor to show his ugliest face. When that sight tips public opinion, government often listens.
Think national, act local. Protests are most effective when they aim for an achievable goal in one location, knowing that the real battle is for national public opinion. Movements work on two distinct levels, Mark and Paul Engler wrote in their important analysis of nonviolent strategy, This Is an Uprising. On a local level, the civil rights movement often failed; for example, the concessions won by the Birmingham protesters were vague and modest. But it was Birmingham that finally gave momentum to the passage of federal civil rights legislation.
Use humor. In Serbia, the Otpor movement mobilized the country against the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by using pranks to cut through fear. Its daily fare consisted of street actions that painted Milosevic as absurd: When the tyrant dedicated a new bridge, Otpor built one out of Styrofoam and held its own ceremony.
Srdja Popovic, an Otpor leader, calls this “laughtivism.” (Here is a Fixes column about his strategies.) It does more than counter fear. Humor breaks down defenses, creating an openness that allows people to consider your argument. “If the joke is good, even the police get it,” said Ivan Marovic, another Otpor leader.
When appropriate, be confrontational. It is hard to imagine how marginalized people with AIDS were during the Reagan administration — and how hopeless their cause, both medically and politically.
No group more proudly claimed the title of “outsider” than Act Up, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, founded in March 1987 in New York. Many of its members were dying. They were despised and reviled.
The Englers call Act Up an example of the power of the extreme outsider strategy: change through confrontation. It was noisy and angry. It was the first group ever to close down the New York Stock Exchange. Members scattered the ashes of loved ones on the White House lawn. They held a “Stop the Church” demonstration in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Act Up’s polarizing language, actions and style put off even some influential gay men, who told the group it was hurting the cause. (The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had heard the same criticisms.) But even many who were repelled by Act Up’s approach still heard its message.

Although people condemn your tactics, they can still support your issue, the Englers wrote.
By pulling from one extreme, Act Up shifted broad public opinion. The group started a global AIDS activist movement. It played a major role in changing the rules to expedite new AIDS medicines — and then it helped to bring down their cost. It forced insurance companies to cover treatment. It procured a patient voice in treatment. It was a major force behind the Ryan White CARE Act, a federal program for uninsured and underinsured people with AIDS.
Pull out the pillars. Gene Sharp, an American academic who is the guru of strategic nonviolence, argues that every leader, no matter his power, relies on obedience. Without the consent of the governed, power disappears. The goal of a civic movement should be to withdraw consent. Pull out the pillars, and the whole structure falls.
Senior citizens and his police were two of Milosevic’s most important pillars. Otpor members worked on both whenever they were arrested (which was quite often). Grandparents got angry when high-school students were repeatedly arrested or accused of terrorism.
And every arrest presented a chance to talk to the police. At the barricades, Otpor led cheers for the police. Over time, the police got to know the students they kept arresting, and some came to admire the youths’ commitment to nonviolence. “Police officers would complain to us about their salaries,” said Slobodan Homen, an Otpor leader. He offered some advice for Milosevic: “If later you order these people to shoot us — well, don’t count on it.”
This strategy also works for policy change. Advocates for gay marriage won early victories among many churches, the American Bar Association and child development experts. This helped transform influential opponents of gay marriage into influential allies.
The most important pillar on policy matters is Congress: Presidents need to pass their bills. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush failed to pass signal legislative priorities, despite controlling Congress. This was not because of grass-roots activism, but because of lobbying and spending by powerful and wealthy groups.
Under Mr. Clinton, health care reform fell victim to, among other things, “Harry and Louise” ads featuring a fictional couple, financed by the health insurance industry.
Mr. Bush’s top priority in 2005, when he had just won re-election and control of Congress, was to allow people to invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts. It was the focus of his State of the Union speech and town meetings he attended around the country. Yet he could not get it through Congress. “The simplest explanation is that President Bush overestimated the amount of political capital he had banked,” wrote William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution. “After all, he had prevailed by the smallest popular vote margin of any president re-elected in the 20th century. And there was evidence that the campaign’s bitter, divisive tone had taken its toll. As President Bush’s second term began, he enjoyed the lowest approval rating — just 50 percent — of any just-re-elected president since modern polling began.”
Exploit galvanizing events. During the 1970s, the United States built nuclear power plants. Lots of them. The first major protests came from the Clamshell Alliance, formed in 1976 to oppose the construction of the Seabrook Station plant in New Hampshire.
The Clamshell Alliance failed to stop Seabrook’s construction, but it gave rise to a grass-roots antinuclear movement. Groups around the country staged protests and sit-ins that slowed the pace of new reactor construction.
Then on March 28, 1979, Reactor Number 2 at the Three Mile Island station lost coolant and suffered a partial meltdown. The nuclear reactor industry never recovered.
Three Mile Island came 13 years after another partial meltdown, at the Fermi 1 reactor outside Detroit. Haven’t heard of it? One reason is that at the time, there was no movement ready to respond.
Events that galvanize public attention occur frequently. Most lead to nothing. But a few become sparks for sweeping change. What makes the difference is the existence of a prepared movement.
Thankfully, a galvanizing event need not be a nuclear meltdown. It does need to be an attention-grabbing drama where one side holds the moral advantage. When activists don’t have one, they have sometimes created one: think Bull Connor’s dogs, or Gandhi’s Salt March.
President-elect Trump has no popular mandate (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin larger than John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard M. Nixon in 1968, or Al Gore in 2000). Even many who voted for him do not endorse some of what he advocates or represents. Many traditional pillars of Republican administrations are less than firm in their support, beginning with the wary Republicans in Congress — and some are starting out opposed, notably much of the foreign policy establishment. The president-elect, as Mrs. Clinton said, can be “provoked by a tweet.” He is impulsive. His campaign set a new standard for what Galston called a “bitter, divisive tone.” He and his advisers hold bigoted views that overwhelming majorities of the American people reject as immoral.
What terrifies many people about a President Trump, in other words, is also what makes, for civil resistance, a uniquely promising moment.

Protesting Trump, the District of Columbia Way

D.C. punks are reviving an ‘80s-era protest message to signal their dislike of the president-elect.

Robin Bell didn’t show up at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters with anything specific he wanted to say about the Trump International Hotel. He was on hand at the invitation of the Sierra Club and to help protest the appointment of Myron Ebell to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
Ebell is a climate-change denier, as Bell—an artist who specializes in projections—spelled out in giant letters of light over the EPA building. But after an hour of protesting Ebell, the artist couldn’t resist taking a shot at the man who appointed him.
“While we were doing it, behind us is the Trump Hotel. I thought, ‘Maybe we should do something,’” Bell says. “I just literally mocked that up on the spot, turned the projector around, and just hit it.”
So for five minutes on Monday night, the fa├žade of the Trump International Hotel was lit up with a basically legal, homegrown, historic protest.

Using Photoshop and his projection-mapping software, Bell whipped up something on the fly. The choice was obvious. “Experts Agree: Trump Is a Pig” might not register as the same zinger outside the District, but for the city’s punk scene, it’s something of a rallying cry.
That phrase has been popping up all over town over the last few weeks—and not just because Americans so recently elected to send a leader here who has bragged about sexually assaulting women. The message is a callback to a popular drag on U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese during the Reagan era. At the time, the D.C. hardcore music scene was at its zenith, while D.C. itself was stuck in its nadir. “Experts Agree! Ed Meese Is a Pig” posters were everywhere.
“The capital’s newest fashion craze: Ed Meese T-shirts,” reads a 1988 story in The New York Timeswhich quotes a bookseller who says that he sold 50 shirts in 2 hours.
Jeff Nelson, a founder of Dischord Records and the drummer for Minor Threat, launched the popular protest against Meese in the 1980s. Hundreds of posters were pasted across the city protesting Meese’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal and the Reagan administration’s treatment of AIDS patients. Washingtonianeditor Michael Schaffer, writing for The New Republic in 2013, described Nelson’s “Meese Is a Pig” campaign as a “pre-web meme,” one that eventually sold some 6,000 T-shirts.
Jason Mogavero, a performer in the always topical electropunk band Jack on Fire, may be responsible for reviving the slogan. Mogavero started printing “Experts Agree! Trump Is a Pig” posters and stickers in October, plastering them all over D.C.’s Shaw, Bloomingdale, and LeDroit Park neighborhoods. They’ve since spread further. 
“It got used in a flyer for a punk show in Richmond, a benefit for an organization promoting abortion access and access to women’s healthcare,” Mogavero says. “With the projection, it’s gotten a bit more of a signal boost than it had before.”
Bell—who earned notoriety last year when he began projecting poop emojis and other visuals onto the side of a Subway restaurant that he didn’t want to open in his Mount Pleasant neighborhood—is something of a D.C. punk historian. He recently released a documentary about Positive Force, an activist collective that emerged from the D.C. punk scene in the 1980s and is still active today.
Bell is also an activist, and he spent the summer traveling around the Midwest with the 1 in 3 Campaign, a group working to secure women’s rights to abortion and reproductive health care. With 1 and 3, Bell projected images on buildings and landmarks in in Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. “I have a feeling that we’re going to be pretty busy, fighting all the different positions that Trump has taken and who he might appoint,” Bell says. “We’re not stopping.”
Projection-as-protest is a format that echoes historically in the District. In 1989—in a story that is now D.C. lore—the director of the (now-defunct) Corcoran Gallery of Art canceled a show of photography by Robert Mapplethorpe in the face of threats from then–Senator Jesse Helms. Artists were furious: More than 900 people showed up to protest the Corcoran’s decision. Rockne Krebs, a D.C. artist known for using lasers in his art installations, projected images from the show onto the side of the Corcoran building for all to see.  
The stakes are much higher today. The unprecedented nature of Trump’s presidency has D.C. residents worried and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser pledging to protect undocumented families from immigration raids or worse.
D.C.’s punk scene is ready to be mobilized. A new generation of hardcore bands is ready to answer the call, as The Washington Post’s Chris Richards has documented at length; the scene hasn’t sounded this explosive since hardcore songs were all about Reagan. Mogavero says that there isn’t a center to D.C.’s musical genres anymore, but adds that “the whole scene is of one mind ideologically.” And the protests are only just starting.
“There’s more fun and mayhem in the wings for sure,” Mogavero says.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Yes Men’s guide to resisting Trump

What happened Nov. 8 is for many of us (especially liberal white people) literally unthinkable — which may be why our bodies are getting involved, with many reporting stomach problems and nausea, or intense cravings for human company combined with irritability. It’s as if we’re reconfiguring ourselves for the awful new world we’re stuck in now, and it kind of hurts.
Big-picture protests against Trump Tower may help with that, a bit. They feel great, and may help build community, while reminding us that we absolutely have to stay angry and never fear “polarization.” (Spilling fake blood on the top floor of a Trump hotel also feels kind of good.)
But that’s not nearly enough. And as the cloud of our bewilderment lifts, we’ll realize there are some more strategic things we need to do, too.
To really achieve anything in these darkest times in American history, we’re going to need to start with strategic battles — that might feel a bit small next to the immensity of what’s happened, but it’s only strategic, winnable battles that can combine into a movement, and it’s only a movement that can change what we’re living.
Remember, it took several decades for the racist virus spread by Republicans, as part of their strategy to win away Southern Democrats, to take over and turn their own party into a fascist one. We can’t reverse all that all at once, but with hard work and strategy, we can reverse it — and make a much better world, just as the Nordic countries did after they’d been through worse than even this. Let’s learn from the Vikings!
Here are a few ways that people are already getting started.
Take over the DNC
We need to pressure the Democratic National Committee to reinvent itself at the top, by electing Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to chair it.
Whether or not we think that Bernie Sanders would have been a better choice than Hillary Clinton, it’s clear some enormous mistakes have been made, and for a whole lot longer than this election. Like: While Republicans appealed to racism to win over voters, Democrats just left those voters behind, and went from championing working people to championing a consensus technocracy: a beautiful but false vision that you can just let the world run itself thanks to the market’s magic, applying a few polite tweaks here and there. That vision, shared also by mainstream Republicans, left out millions — who, now, have found a sick, dangerous, magic-based vision that exploits their need to be listened to.
Electing Ellison would signify a necessary massive shift in direction for the Democratic National Committee. Many in the DNC already know this shift is necessary, but they need your support — or pressure — to make the right decision.
Stop Bannon
Perhaps the most immediately actionable battle is to stop former Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon, who Trump has appointed to be his chief strategist. This can be done; several of Bill Clinton’s cabinet appointees were blocked by Republicans way back when.
Sure, Bannon is only one of the most toxic of all the many toxic byproducts of this election, but we need to start somewhere, because, again, we can’t win all at once.
And if the future of the whole planet is more your cup of tea, has a campaign to stop the demented Myron Ebell from heading the EPA.
Make your city or campus a sanctuary
There’s no need to explain why this is needed. Movimiento Cosecha is a migrant rights group with campus sanctuarycity sanctuary, and other campaigns. Get to work!
Restore the Voting Rights Act
The 2016 presidential election was the first election in 50 years without the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court gutted it in 2013, and Republicans immediately went to work to ensure that people of color would have a harder time casting their ballots. Why? Because people of color vote against white supremacy. And their plan worked.
In Wisconsin, a federal court found that 300,000 fewer voters cast ballots because of new ID restrictions; Trump won there by only 27,000 votes, and similar suppression efforts in other states were equally effective.
In North Carolina, there were 158 fewer polling locations in 40 predominantly African American districts. African American turnout decreased there by 16 percent.
Voter suppression is why Trump won, pure and simple.
  • Sign a petition to restore the Voting Rights Act.
  • Take any other action on this you can possibly think of.
Take over the entire Democratic Party (not just the top)
The DNC is one thing (see above) — but we can also just take over the whole party and make it ours. Remember the Tea Party? They drove establishment Republicans crazy. And now we need to do the same.
  • Join your local Democratic Committee this weekend — their meetings are public.
  • Run for local office, even if it’s just dog-catcher.
  • Call your representatives: call them every day and tell them the ways you need them to fight Trump. If one of your reps has a public appearance, attend it and get really loud.
“Most of all, get offline and get talking,” added documentary filmmaker Astra Taylor. “Meet with friends and make new ones. Get to know each other, so you can spring into action when the going gets tough, when you need to elect a local progressive leader or fight deportation.”
Fight for universal health care, and other really big things
One of Trump’s first targets is likely to be Obamacare. While our initial instinct may be to defend it, we shouldn’t: We should, instead, think much bigger: single-payer, universal health care, like all the other rich countries have. Much, much bigger. And here’s where we should take a lesson from the civil rights movement and another health movement: ACT-UP.
“With the disaster of Reagan,” said Waging Nonviolence columnist George Lakey, “almost every significant social movement in the United States went on the defensive — trying to save school reform initiatives, union density and rights to organize, voting rights, etc. — and they all lost ground. The only one that didn’t was the LGBT movement.”
ACT-UP — always on the offensive and always in-your-face — forced the development of treatments that saved millions of lives. And then that segued into a movement that eventually won equal marriage on state and federal levels.
“Multiple victories were followed by increasing intensity by the movement: demanding, demanding, demanding,” said Lakey. “I don’t recall a single time when gays organized a major campaign to save some previously won achievement, like a city human rights commission or that kind of thing. It was always: onward, forward, we demand more!”
The alienated white working-class people who voted for Trump don’t like Obamacare because, well, it isn’t that great. But they would like free health care, and there’s a way we can get it — if we set our sights high.
“Inspired by the LGBT movement, we can enter the game determined to win,” said Lakey. “We can mount a civil rights movement-level campaign, occupy the insurance companies and Big Pharma, the private hospitals, etc. We can go to jail in massive numbers. There’s a target everywhere, and everybody who’s not rich has an infuriating story to tell about someone they know who has had inadequate/delayed/or nonexistent care or are bankrupt because they recovered from cancer.
“We will never deserve to have the society we want if we don’t take charge of the battleground. That doesn’t mean protest and defensive postures — it means assertive nonviolent direct action campaigns of the sort that SCLC and SNCC proved enable people even to take on the Klan and win.”
Get rid of the Electoral College
National Popular Vote wants to finally get rid of the Electoral College. Eleven states have already passed the bill, and even some Republican ones. Yes, it’s nauseating to work on something endorsed by you-know-who, but still.
And finally…
Everything else. These are just a few of the campaigns that are gathering steam, or will be soon. Many groups already getting down to the business of building action campaigns. Join in! This is the time.


November 19, 2016

On the 18th of November, the “suit-and-tie Nazi” National Policy Institute (NPI) attempted to hold a quiet dinner meeting on the subject of white supremacy at an Italian restaurant on Wisconsin Ave called Maggiano’s. Anti-fascist protesters stormed the restaurant and got most of the way up the stairs to the second floor where NPI was meeting. A few got in via the elevator. The Washington Post is reporting that “a foul smelling liquid” was sprayed on NPI President Richard Spencer, notorious for peddling “white nationalism.”
One security guard or NPI member (not sure which) pushed back hard trying to force activists back down the stairs. He did so even though his pushing caused the wooden rail on the staircase to bow and bend under the weight of people being forced against it. Due to the height of the staircase this constituted acting in reckless disregard of human life, though anyone familiar with the history of fascism and Naziism would know this is par for the course.
Eventually activists withdrew to the outside of the restaurant, with many of the orginary, non-Nazi supporting diners on the first floor bursting out in applause for the performance of the protesters in confronting the Nazis upstairs in this tense time of Donald Trump. Outside, anti-fascists kept up a noisy dance party with a sound system,pots and pans, and other noisemakers until NPI slinked out a back exit. One who left early had a police officer summon a cabdriver who was then forced to give the Nazi a ride. Had he refused in front of police he would have risked an expensive ticket under a regulation normally used against cabdrivers who refuse rides to African-Americans.
Originally the Nazis were going to meet at The Hamilton, a hotel downtown but the Hamilton refused to host NPI after finding out who they really are. They then tried to throw off antifascists by claiming they would meet at Trump Hotel at 7PM to walk elsewhere. About 60 people held a protest at Trump Hotel, but they started at 6PM with more than enough time to be redirected when the true meetup point was found:Friendship Heights Metro. From there the Nazis were tracked to Maggiano’s, which one protesters said should be renamed “Mussolini’s” for hosting fascists after being clearly told by the protesters just who they are.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

What can WE do? The international artist in the age of resurgent nationalism

What can WE do?

The international artist in the age of resurgent nationalism

Around this time last year, when the refugee crisis in Germany reached a state of emergency, my Berlin-based community haphazardly mobilized. I say “Berlin-based” because we’re part of the notorious international culture class. We typically have the means to travel when we want, and our passports usually allow us to. Most of us are not German citizens. All of us speak high-level English. My particular community within this larger demographic is also proficient in what has been called International Art English, because we spend a lot of our time making, talking, and writing about art.
Our mobilization in the face of this humanitarian crisis took two forms. One was to move our bodies to the places where bodies were urgently needed: we boxed clothes and food and carried them to the office of social affairs where asylum applications were being processed, which had become a hideous holding pen for those waiting in endless bureaucratic purgatory. We handed out water bottles, we sorted through donations, and we activated our networks to find emergency housing for families who hadn’t yet been able to register for shelter beds. We showed up.
The other thing we did was to have a lot of discussions about what people like us could really do to help. We congregated in apartments, Facebook groups, and art galleries, and asked each other again and again what we could do about this terrible situation—the implication being that we artists and intellectuals have special knowledge, capabilities, or responsibilities that others do not.
Certainly there are plenty of things artists and intellectuals are well-equipped to do. These include making and criticizing artwork, imagining and constructing new kinds of communities, finding ways to have fun in unlikely times (this is not trivial), constructing meaning out of seemingly meaningless situations, championing subjective experience, and, as one of my artist friends recently said: generally expanding the range of human expression.
But being well-versed in the discourse of contemporary art does not necessarily equip you to secure long-term housing for a family of Iraqi asylum-seekers who speak no English or German. I, for one, quickly realized that my time would be better spent handing out socks than doling out misinformation. I did a lot of research and listening to others with more experience during that period, but in terms of strategies of long-term engagement in Berlin my knowledge remains very fuzzy. This is not just because I don’t have an MA in social work—it’s also that I’m a privileged foreigner who, after six years of getting freelance work visas through sheer trial and error, still knows little about how such things work in Germany.
By December, the gallery meetings had mostly fractured and then petered out. Many conversations had become rather bitter: like all do-gooders, art people are prone to infighting—a phenomenon sometimes known as the splintering of the left. In those conversations nobody seemed to agree on what we could do beyond handing out socks. But above all, it was just impossible to keep the meetings going regularly. Nobody was in Berlin consistently enough.
Immediately after the US election results came in last week, washing a wave of rank panic over everyone I hold dear, the discussions started right up again. What can we do??? How can we artists and intellectuals respond to the rise of nationalism everywhere, including Germany? There must be ways that we can resist! In order to sound inclusive, we remind each other that “non-art people” are also welcome to come.
There are very good reasons for banding together into tight communities in times like this. We need to construct and maintain support networks. At its best and most inclusive, an art-world gathering can create a safe space for those who are unsafe expressing themselves in other contexts. The art world is still disproportionately dominated by the same demographics that have power and visibility in most parts of society (the white guys get all the museum shows), but we are in fact very diverse, and diversifying. That’s why, if we are having meetings about what we can do, we should first and foremost be using them to discuss who we are. What voices are missing in our spaces? How we can advocate for those of us who are at risk? In what ways can we be as inclusive as humanly possible within our own networks first? Change starts at home.
This would be acting locally in one sense. But few people I know in Berlin are “local” in the other, classic sense of site-specificity: staying and being active in one place for a protracted period of time. Over six years of living here, the only place I show up every day is my inbox. Berlin has a long history of being a hub rather than a docking station, which is both why it’s so inventive and freeing and why people based here have trouble with political engagement. While the privilege of free and constant movement and communication across borders is one of the greatest gifts of our time, it has also depoliticized us by divorcing us from long-term local engagement with the highly specific concerns of specific places.
The art world, like most socio-economic spheres, is globalized, but in very narrow ways. We exist in pockets of mostly urban areas, and those pockets connect directly to other pockets via travel and wifi, with an often uniform set of cultural principles and hierarchies extending across them. In our quest to be internationally inclusive we have become (or always have been) highly exclusive of those who don’t already have access, who aren’t already mobile. Those people who, for instance, don’t profit at all from the gentrification we bring to neighborhoods, no matter how great the exhibitions we put on there are. (As one community activist in Los Angeles put it: “We are still waiting to see an example of where an arts district didn’t displace a community.”)
So why, exactly, are we having our own meetings in galleries, when there are countless open meetings happening across Berlin, run by people who might know more about organizing in Germany than a lot of us do? Why not just show up to a meeting of the Left Party, or the Pirate Party, or those Antifa who are still around, or the student union, or the after-school tutors, or the climate change lobbyists? Is it because our paltry knowledge of German language and culture would become humiliatingly obvious? Is it because we don’t know how to talk to people who don’t speak Art? Is it because we feel like we have an exclusive claim on radical thought? Is it because these meetings are ephemeral and will not likely be taken up and canonized in the cultural archive—because they are not compatible with our lifestyle aesthetics? Or is it just because we might be held accountable for showing up to the next meeting instead of EasyJetting to Basel like we’d planned? Most people I know are intelligent, educated, compassionate, curious, and generally woke. What systemic values of the art world prevent us from acting locally?
I recently discovered that a community center in my own neighborhood holds regular meetings where residents gather to barbecue and discuss everything from overcrowding in public schools to legal aid for those at risk for eviction. I’ve never been to one of those meetings. I always tell myself they’re not for me—I don’t have kids, I can’t vote here, I don’t know how to help. I’m not really a neighborhood resident, am I?
In the wake of the election results, much has been written about the isolationism of liberal elites. Their echo chambers, their filter bubbles. Their shock at the realization of how racist, sexist, ableist, and phobic so many Americans are—and the subsequent expression by many who are always affected by power imbalance that they are not at all surprised. Elitism takes many forms. In my life, it expresses itself partly in my isolation from the city where I have implanted myself.
Places like Berlin (of which there are few left) are not just filter bubbles but also space-bubbles that allow us the freedom to generate our own, floating, idiosyncratic cultures, and to theorize the structural change on a massive scale that will someday, I hope, dismantle systems of oppression from the most basic, atomic level. But this does not disallow us or relieve us of the responsibility to do work on the short-term and the micro-scale. As philosopher Susan Neiman said in an interview last week: “I don’t think that there’s ever a point when it’s right to give up on thinking about things properly. What I do think is that theory alone is not enough to break the tyranny of global neoliberalism, which has this amazingly wonderful ability to adapt itself and to co-opt things and people.”
To activate ourselves politically in this capacity is going to require reassembling our own value systems on the atomic level too. That includes the ways in which we evaluate career success and prestige according to how many international biennales we attend. That includes how we treat marginalized members of our own communities. That includes how we choose to live in the cities where we live. If we don’t reorient our own value systems and priorities, authoritarianism may deconstruct them for us. History has shown that free travel and communication are as precarious as they are precious. Even the internet is no sacred institution—there is no reason to assume that Twitter internationalism will infinitely prevail over manic nationalism. In fact, they are probably flip-sides of the same coin that will eventually meld into one.
In his 1942 memoir The World of Yesterday, Austrian writer Stefan Zweig described the manifold ways that the optimistic cosmopolitanism of artists and writers fed directly into Fascist nationalism in the period between the first and second world wars. Believing borders would eventually become irrelevant (and imagining something like the EU), he and his friends traveled constantly during the late 1920s and early 1930s, pretty much inventing the concept of the international arts career as we know it today. “I was writing, my work was published, my name was known in Germany and Austria and to some extent further afield. […] As a man easily able to travel and full of curiosity, I was present at many artistic events now considered historic. But anything unconnected with the problems of today pales in importance when judged by our sterner criteria.” Having spent so little time living or working in his native country for a decade, Zweig had no idea how nationalist it had become until it was too late.
At the time his memoir was published in 1942 (in Sweden, where his work had not been entirely banned), Zweig, who was Jewish, was living exiled in Brazil. In a freakishly short period of time, he’d gone from one of the most celebrated writers of his generation to someone without a passport whose books were being burned. “We thought we were doing enough if wethought in European terms and forged fraternal links internationally,” he wrote, “stating in our own sphere—which had only indirect influence on current events—that we were in favor of the ideal of peaceful understanding and intellectual brotherhood crossing linguistic and national borders.” (Italics mine.) Needless to say, Zweig’s own sphere was dominated by white men. White men who thought talking to each other about the world they hoped for would create that world.
I know, this is not 1942. Information travels in the internet era in completely different ways. Political organizing through digital networks is a totally different task. We based-in-Berliners will not solve anything but moving back to our passport countries in droves. But again: travel, international exchange, and the very concept of a cosmopolitan art career are all subject to change. Asking what we can do is just asking what we can do without also upending our own sanctioned definitions of success, without questioning our own lifestyle politics or the premises upon which our existence depends. “I had lived a politically cosmopolitan life to change all of a sudden,” said Zweig. Europe changed it for him.
The first thing I did on November tenth (I spent the ninth wallowing and crying with friends) was to sign up for a volunteering shift at the clothing distribution center for asylum seekers near my house. I do this every few months; it’s entirely selfish. At the distribution center, I perform a set of tiny, concrete actions: hand in bucket of socks; socks in hand of woman who needs socks. This is not me overturning power systems or confronting structural violence. Neither has it “humbled” me—which is another way of saying I think I should be congratulated for it. It is certainly not a significant step towards prolonged local engagement; it is low-accountability and it does not demand new skills. It is simply an activity where, for three hours, I am a human who lives in Berlin before I am an international arts professional. It reminds me of the order those things go in.
We don’t need more art that looks “political.” Making art is and will always be an inherently political activity—not because it serves a political cause, but because it is not a means to the end of any particular ideology. The main thing we can do as art people in the face of oppression is to continue the essential acts of making and talking about art. And while doing that, like any community we can work much, much harder to make space in our conversations and institutions for as many perspectives as possible—to make the art sphere, which is after all one facet of an unjust society, as inclusive as humanly possible. In case it’s not clear: this is a task for the entitled, the established, the white.
A friend of mine who is an art person and also happens to be a brilliant activist recently told me that she worries “the scariest thing for an artist is to feel like any other body doing labor.” That is, a body doing labor that can’t be accounted for under the rubric of cultural capital. A body doing labor that is unspecialized, labor without an aesthetic basis. A body doing labor that might be completely invisible or irrelevant to the art world.
I have spent the last days examining myself and my community for this fear, and I’ve found it. This fear needs to be immediately confronted and dismantled. Although the art machine, like neoliberalism in general, is very good at extracting value from all activities, artistic communities need to resist the imperative to mobilize as an aesthetic practice—and just focus on mobilizing in parallel to those practices. Rather than asking what we can do as arts people, we need to be asking what we can do as humans. As a side effect, this will probably lead to the making of more relevant, challenging, and engaging art.