A Sunday Afternoon in Berkeley

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Photo by Sheraz Sadiq, KQED

Yesterday we held a No Hate Rally in Berkeley and the haters didn’t come–or did they? I went and I’ll admit that I have hate in my heart toward the whole Trump Clan, the hideous Trump cabinet and the Republican leadership.

So what was the story yesterday in Berkeley? Was it a violent riot as most media portrayed it, a beautiful peaceful gathering for the whole family, a staunch defense of the city or… a mixture of all of that? So far I’ve read about a dozen versions and each is colored with its own bias, of course. I’ll share some of them leaving out the names of those who described their personal experiences unless they have been published them.

One friend who has mobilized as security for demonstrations over the years and engaged in self defense at times said, “I saw a large group of Black Bloc young people congregating on the corner.  There were 30 – 50 of them there…. As I walked down Allston toward McKinley, this group of Black Bloc people started to chase down one person who was running from them toward McKinley.  I have no idea who this person was.  The Black Bloc people caught him, threw him to the ground, and started to beat him with a stick, kick him and beat him with fists.”

This stands in contrast to another report, “others rallied and then started marching toward MLK park. After a few blocks we were joined by about 100 antifa activists dressed in black to create an inspiring demonstration of unity and determination to make Berkeley and the entire East Bay a fascist-free zone.

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Photo by Sheraz Sadiq/KQED

Once at MLK park people prepared to defend themselves against the kind of attack that left at least seven people suffering from knife wounds in Sacramento last June. Instead, the handful of fascists stayed behind the police barriers, some literally kneeling at the cops’ feet as they hurled racist jibes and gave the finger to the anti-fascist protestors. People became predictably angry…..Remarkably, and contrary to some of the media narratives, the fascists escaped with their lives and without serious injury.”

This is a little of what I saw and posted on facebook, since corroborated by some reporters who were there, “Ok there is one guy here that the crowd was chasing as he left the park. Apparently he had his hat and glasses knocked off and then was surrounded while he was still arguing that Trump had created jobs. A couple of BPD had to come and rescue him, sending him on his way.
I expected to go to Civic Center Park to be angry at these guys but then I started to feel afraid for him. I still don’t like mobs nor the idea of picking on the weak, which he was at the time.” He was eventually led away by a Berkeley cop.

Other friends testified to peaceful crowds and heartening speeches even at Civic Center. There were certainly many folks, thousands at the alternate rally, lots of good signs and happy faces with the Berkeley/Oakland Stands United Against Hate posters that were produced by the hundreds.

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Photo by Dan Brekke/KQED

Further facebook topics for discussion:

One lively discussion as to whether Antifa  and especially the masked black clad crowd (Black Bloc) were useful/positive/ protective demonstrators and necessary or a truly violent faction of the Left. After the events in Charolottesville and the role that Antifa is said to have played in protecting peaceful church going folk, mostly Black, by the way, some of us, me included, have felt the need to-if not embrace them-then not reject them for their “bravery” or others for their dedication if not their tactics.

The other isue that has been raging is whether the media or was it the “fake news” -please note I mean this ironically-over played the violence of the day in Berkeley given all the folks carrying signs with young and old family members, large groups in Groucho masks, they were the “Marxists,” and speeches about love and inclusivity.  Still I can’t blame reporters who saw some attacks and at least one beating and were themselves threatened. One reporter even jumped between the black clad counter protestors and the right winger they were beating.  https://www.revealnews.org/blog/reveal-host-al-letson-shields-man-from-beating-at-anti-hate-rally/

Our own Darwin BondGraham of the East Bay Express filed this report, tweeting it in real time, https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/08/27/liveblog-east-bay-demonstrators-protest-against-hate . “Update at 2:10 p.m.: Antifa members badly beat up an alt-right demonstrator on a downtown street.”

Here’s another account that seems a little bipolar but it was that kinda day, “Anyone who was on the ground in Berkeley yesterday will tell you how beautiful a demonstration it was: thousands of people, old and young and in between, socialists, anarchists, liberals, unionists, brass bands, religious groups, students, you name it. There was tactical cooperation between very different groups. A large Antifa contingent played a vital role in defending the community from the 30 or so white supremacists who showed up armed and looking to fight. There were a handful of scuffles, and a few Nazi’s got mildly beat up and removed from the park by Antifa folks. But the day was overwhelmingly celebratory and peaceful.”

And yes, I also saw a report from a “No Hate Rally” organizer who was at least momentarily glad that some Antifa were there when faced with the White Supremacists at the park.

But here’s a divergent point of view from someone I respect as a very thoughtful human being though I know her only a little, “#1: If you live in Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, El Cerrito or Richmond, in other words, the inner East Bay, you knew this would happen. You knew 200 or so self-righteous, BAMN/BlackBloc/Antifa, or whatever the hell our masked avengers call themselves this week, would show up with aggression and hostility in their hearts and make sure they push a small number of extremists around, punch them, and dominate the news cycle. You knew this would happen no matter how many thousands of peaceful people showed up. We need to stand up to these people. They are harming our community. They distract the media from what we are fighting. What we are fighting here is white supremacy. Comment #2: I’m not all that excited that 4,000 mostly white people showed up in Berkeley to protest what in our community amounts to an extremely small fringe group who have zero impact on how we live day to day, and congratulated themselves about how they’re fighting Nazis and KKK types. Look at our community and you will see that how we live day to day supports institutionalized white supremacy. Start with R-1 zoning which protects white privilege in housing, move on to the underfunded AC Transit system which many people of color depend on because car ownership is too expensive, look at all the laws and regulations, starting with the U.S Constitution and moving on down to our regional transit and air pollution agencies that prioritize property and profit over people’s health and well being. I love living in Berkeley. Relative to the rest of the nation, we are a deeply progressive community. However, relative to reality, we have a very long way to go to address privilege and build our commons.”

20170828_182727And lastly, my friend who witnessed the beating suggested, ” My view, deeply held, is that massive unity and nonviolence (with appropriate defensive security) is the way toward social progress.  The difference between our side and theirs is that they rely on violence; we need to rely on politics and unity.  If we become the mirror image of them, we lose.”

We can blame the media, we can certainly blame the fascists, the president and his followers who knowingly opened a Pandora’s box of evil and keep it open–but then–we’ll have to decide. We may have a romantic notion that if the communists, free thinkers, and artists who thrived in Germany in the 1920’s had only had more sticks, more street fights or even arms, the Nazis would’ve been beaten back, but I doubt that. I think we’ll find that the fight was already lost by the time those streets fights had begun to take over the life of that country.

I’ll admit I have lots of hate in my little formerly-Quaker heart. I really want to hurt some of those folks that I can never even reach and I think they deserve it. I would attack someone who attacked my own but I just can’t be a bully for other side. Punching down will always be something I feel in my gut is wrong.

I don’t think we are on the verge of  a Brown shirt nation either. So many folks have come out all over the country to stand against hate and white supremacy, In fact I didn’t even think I’d live to see the day that that term is acknowledged as an American problem. 34,000 people signed up to be a on a coalition call that I was on recently to fight white supremacy. Thousands rallied to the airports with almost no warning. We are not that country even though a hateful percentage has been unleashed-our young folks have lived differently than the Trump generation, my generation, they will not accept it and neither will we.

So maybe we need to go home and call our neighbors to do some radical activities like my friend above suggested-fight for local transit and push back when NIMBYS refuse to let low income housing into our neighborhoods, put our kids in public schools and demand they be funded-there’s so much else, much less heroic.  Don’t get me wrong (though I know many will), we should confront this evil and I’m always ready to take to the streets, it’s in my DNA. But I need to know I’m fighting evil not becoming one with it.

                                                                     Addendum

My simple rules for tumultuous times or how not to become a reactionary:

*don’t react with violence towards people with little to no power.
*don’t react with generalizations against the media when they report things you didn’t want them to see.
*don’t react with new (or existing) laws that criminalize people based on association.
*don’t be ready to restrict others speech just because it’s hateful unless they attach actions or the imminent threat of actions to speech.

Or to paraphrase Miranda Rights and any NCIS show you’ve ever seen-no matter who you are, all of the above can and will be used against you.

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To Do List, Last Week in June

Please squeeze in one or more of these opportunities for activism this week!

It’s been a hectic week even for diehard activists. And if you’re freaked out about losing your healthcare now or very soon, you’ve been frenztiedly calling Washington, DC. But some Americans unlucky enough to be represented by Republican senators, have been filling the hallways of Congress this week even if you don’t see it on tv-sitting in at their senators’ offices and going out in plastic ties, otherwise known as handcuffs.

Here in California voters for Single Payer Healthcare traveled by bus to Sacramento today to protest the sidelining of a bill which would guarantee free healthcare to every Californian. More on that in another blog.

On Monday-Oaklanders for a People’s Budget shut down the Oakland City Council meeting when it became clear that council members were going to vote on a budget which did not prioritize the funds need to help the homeless nor to prevent the imminent displacement of many more renters. There were other necessities being demanded like funding for the arts. See ReFund Oakland or https://www.facebook.com/DefundOPD/  18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_n

Tuesday-Last night the same city council came to an impasse/tie over the implementation ordinance that would set the final rules for the new police commission.

And tonight-Wednesday- the Oakland School Board expects to remain in session until they are able to pass a contentious budget for the upcoming year at OUSD. According to Mike Hutchinson, they’re still at it as I write this at 11 pm  six hours in.

So, phew, not much left to do for the remainder of this week, right? Please read on..

Thursday-The Public Defenders Office led by Brendon Woods and their allies will be holding a press conference and rally tomorrow at the iconic Oakland courthouse at noon which hopes to forestall the removal of Oakland and Berkeley arraignment hearings all the way to…Dublin. Here’s more info-unnamed (3)

I’ll be there because the fight for justice still begins at home.

Then at 4 pm the City Council will make another try at passing a budget which needs to be done by Friday, June 30th, by law. Please see ReFund Oakland on 19399573_1326252544156296_7554708531302223629_nFacebook https://www.facebook.com/Refund-Oakland-388201741294719/ or my recent guest blog from Margaretta Lin, https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/06/26/tell-the-oakland-city-council-tonight-refund-oakland/

 

But wait, did you forget that the Supreme Court temporarily let stand parts of the Orange Moron’s travel ban? As a result a coalition of refugee and immigrant groups are asking you to start showing up at airports, SFO for us, after 2 pm. If you’re not at the Oakland City Council meeting, catch lunch after the Public Defender’s rally, then jump on BART and head out there.

Here’s more info from Zahra Biloo at the Council on American Islamic Relations_

Community advisory from CAIR-SFBA and Advancing Justice-Asian Law https-cdn.evbuc.comimages305773251144539292471originalCaucus: http://bit.ly/2sKmVVv

Media statement from CAIR National: http://bit.ly/2sKiaeW  

Facebook live video explaining all of it: http://bit.ly/2sKE9lN

Also on Thursday– in the morning…from the California Immigrant Youth Jusice Allianc

Join us this Thursday to demand the release of Maguiber, an Alameda father of 3 US-citizen children, who is currently in deportation proceedings because of local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE.

Help us continue sharing his story as we demand the Field Director Jennings us his unnamed-11prosecutorial discretion to release Maguiber.

 
#FreeMaguiber
Thursday, June 29
10:30 am 
1401 Lakeside Dr # 1200, Oakland, CA 94612        

 

Friday evening-

The ACLU led group People Power has managed to arrange a community meeting with our local Republican and Jeff Sessions supporter, Sheriff Ahern, to talk about our sanctuary laws and how he does/or does not implement them. It’s important we have a good turnout. Here is the info-

Freedom Cities Action • City/Town Council Meeting- starts at 5 pm
Location:

Hayward Adult School, 22100 Princeton Street, Hayward, CA 94541

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Rabi’a Keeble, founder of Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque holds Teach-in on Islamophobia in Oakland’s City Hall

California Must Resist #notaxationwithoutrepresentation

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[Drawing above–Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-charles-dickens-saw-london-13198155/#qjkp6Y867GhOyeU1.99%5D

As of this morning and my first check into Twitter, Trump had done so much damage on so many fronts, it took my breath away, so here pre-coffee, I sit down to write.

I have been thinking of a modest proposal to shut this whole thing down. I love that you’re calling your senators and representatives in Congress. My Rep Barbara Lee is hard at work and my new Senator is tweeting about fighting back. But their modest or, robust a la Barbara Lee, efforts are meager compared to how fast and furious the damage is coming.

Let’s recap briefly: the new FCC chair will probably roll back Net Neutrality which could mean, for instance, that I’d have to pay to post this blog on the internet so that it could continue to blast as far as you all can forward it.

GAG Rule on Family Planning-He already prevented any organization that even mentions (not provides) abortions from receiving federal funding, that includes those who test for HIV or combating the Zika virus and, of course, birth control. He did this worldwide so not only will women die all over the planet but many will be denied care here also. This a broader directive than any former reactionary administration of either party has ever attempted.

The first directive that Trump signed may end the mandate that keeps Obamacare afloat and cause a cascading collapse of it and all the other healthcare initiatives it supports which are too many to go into here. But you can find them on Facebook.

220px-the_writings_of_charles_dickens_v4_p12_engraving_cleanedThe new regime working with the Paul Ryan Congress may seriously try to transform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (if you don’t care about poor people, then do you want your grandma’s nursing home option removed?) into programs similar to those Dickens referred to in your favorite Christmas story, “Are there no poorhouses, are there no prisons.” BTW, private prisons are still big money makers and will be expanded. 0b770554576ec15fcef4402967ba948e

Also on his first day, he declared war on protestors, particularly Black protestors, and anyone associated with Black Lives Matter or #BLM–and for krissakes learn how to tweet, blog and get on instagram, snapchat, whatever is out there, facebook is just us talking to ourselves. No laws need to be changed to declare open season on Black and Brown men and women in a police state where the police have always been granted and now, encouraged to assume judge and jury status.

They are already working on increasing voter suppression so unless we do something now, that wistful worry about four year term could easily become a very long and destructive eight. 

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/trump-justice-department-moves-to-delay-texas-voting-rights-case-859610691557

Trump is proposing further destabilizing the Middle East by uprooting any peace talks in Israel/Palestine with a simple yet effective provocation-move the US embassy to Jerusalem http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-jerusalem-idUSKBN1532HW

He’s provoking war with China, and pledging to reduce all regulations–all regulations– by 75% whether that is regulating the banks which crashed the economy in 2008 or quietly ending the investigation into the Flint poisoned water crisis, still ongoing.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/house-gop-quietly-closes-flint-mich-water-investigation/

Oh yeah, he is writing directives to reinstate the Keystone Pipeline AND the Dakota Access Pipeline in which he has investments plus upping the production of coal, oh enough, you say, but it’s never enough for these plunderers….

Ok, but we live in California. We are currently considered the 6th largest economy in the world with Texas following us as the 10th largest economy-hmm, not a useful stat since it is run by folks who would reinstitute slavery the moment Jeff Sessions gave them the go-ahead. http://www.newsweek.com/economic-output-if-states-were-countries-california-would-be-france-467614,    

But if you take the great Northeast, from Boston through Washington, you’d reside in an area that is the world’s 4th largest economy. See http://www.citylab.com/work/2014/03/dozen-regional-powerhouses-driving-us-economy/8575/

If any of the those corridor states joined us, say New York, our state leaders might get the chutzpah given the devastation to our economy and climate that we are facing, to deny or at least delay forwarding its residents’ tax payments to this corrupt puppet government. Can it be done, lets’ try it, the worst that could happen would be a federal suit that could delay implementation of the regime’s plans.

Yeah, I love that legal scholars are going after Trump’s many violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and others are investigating his ties to Russia, possibly involving treason but without Trump, there would still be the Ryan Congress. Yes, please challenge some of those members in the coming midterms so we could get a couple more votes, but NOW is the time for us to protect our folks and use the economic power of our state, a state which did not vote for Trump.

Anything that California does that restricts the flow of dollars and acquiescence to its new rules-they will probably go after our waivers which, put simply, allow us to pass stronger environmental regulations in our state like on auto emissions-has the potential to throw a monkey wrench into the regime’s ability to govern the other states with an orange fist.

So call your Assembly person, your State Senator (yeah, we have them, do you know who yours is? http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/ ). Then Call Betty Yee’s office, our state Controller http://www.sco.ca.gov/eo_about_bio.html , she’s great by the way, very progressive. Then also call State Treasurer John Chiang’s office, http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ and ask them how we can resist #taxationwithoutrepresentation. Given the rules of the Electoral College, our votes were virtually ignored.

And since you will no longer bump into Jerry Brown running the Lake or working out at the gym in City Center-he moved last year-you can contact his office, https://www.gov.ca.gov/home.php

20170121_122129-1He has been talking about leading the fight against Trump’s depredations, so let’s challenge him to do it. Part of the overall strategy is to declare our entire state a sanctuary  (https://draketalkoakland.com/2016/11/23/join-the-call-on-november-29th-make-california-a-sanctuary-state/ ) but the implementation has to have some teeth, some financial back-up against the punishments to meted out by the Trumpster’s cabinet.

Yes, that’s it, the New Tea Party of the Left, and unapologetically so. No time to waste, every single day we wait we lose another day of health, another right, another economic protection, and another species on the planet. Is this a radical proposal? I sure as hell hope so! You got another one? Put it out there. If you don’t want to start your own blog, be a guest on mine, love to have you.

Thanks for all you do already, now let’s do some more,  2016-11-14-11-37-46

Your friend in Oakland,

Pamela Drake

 

 

 

Towards Resistance–a Resolution

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This morning a I read a tweet by a Trumpette making the case that at least our marches were peaceful because they were mostly women. I responded that she couldn’t count on non-violence if/when they come for our rights or those of our children, our sisters and let me add, our brothers.

Yes, I was a raised a Quaker and still honor what I learned from that faith even though I don’t claim any religion or even a firm belief in God at this moment. Could I physically harm someone in my care, by that I mean someone who asked for my forgiveness or demonstrated their vulnerability to me at a specific point in time, I doubt that I could. But, don’t expect me to let you come for someone else who is vulnerable or who has unmet needs, no, I will defend them from marauders, from bullies, and those who casually abuse them.

A Resolution:  img_20170121_170039_103

So, if you put in a place of power an Attorney General, who is a proud son of the Confederacy and who wants to dispose of the right to vote for Black people, old people, poor people, or the formerly incarcerated; and believe that people who moved here to actually make America greater should be treated as criminals, and be refused the protections of our Constitution, or take away the rights of people who do not define gender in the way that you do, or-take a breath-has asserted the rights of police as judge and jury, to deny sanctuary to any and all of the above,

Or if you put in charge of our Public Education system someone who seeks to remove the one institution that has traditionally offered opportunity-at another time we can discuss how that has devolved-to all who seek one from us as a country,

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Or, if you name as the head of the EPA a person who seeks to overturn the basic American assurances that they can drink clean water-though we have been set up for that with Flint, the Love Canal, etc-and have the unalienable right to breath clean air,

Or, if you position a director of Public Lands (Secretary of the Interior) a man who would sell them off to his billionaire accomplices,

Or give our Treasury, in all its power over average Americans to a man-of course-who2016-10-09-01-08-33 spent his previous days foreclosing on orphans and widows and joyfully stealing the homes, dreams and security of struggling families all over this country,

Or, any judges who elevate the 2nd Amendment over the 4th or pledge to return women to the days of coat hangers by criminalizing abortions AND birth control,

Or, if you appoint a Secretary of State whose job is to plunder the known universe for men who believe they own the earth and can kill off every living thing that might reduce their profits, who think that no one on this
planet has the right to share in the wonders of it–if they are not members of the their klan,

Then, we will have to prevent that with lobbying, with lawsuits but also with disruption and civil disobedience and yeah, some of it might not be too civil. But that is up to you, dear leaders, by how uncivil your push to rollback the American Dream becomes. img_20170121_164914_180

If and when you come for our friends, our families, and our communities, we will repel your attacks, even at great cost to ourselves [you will not know who among you will make the greatest sacrifice until the time comes, see http://www.annefrank.org/en/Anne-Frank/Anne-Franks-history-in-brief/.] We will begin by arming ourselves with the energy of our creativity, love and compassion-but we will not take one step back.

 

{A small aside, if you claim to support our goals and have a position of power in any legislature and don’t back up your words a la, “I’m looking for someone else to carry the bill,” you are complicit.}  

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Mourning in America-Resist & Revolt

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Here in Northern California, we woke up at 4 am to thunder and lightning and remembered that it was January 20th and the Obama family was packed and ready to leave. We felt like children waking from a nightmare whose parents came into the room to comfort you, then said, “we have to leave but the monster under the bed will take care of you now.”

We took to facebook in shared horror and received some small measure of consolation. But we went back to sleep so that we would wake up ready to use the coming chaos as a time to reshape the nightmare into an experience of solidarity against the oncoming backlash.

Of course, Barack and Michelle were never our parents and could not protect us against the ugliest of America’s pathologies-the pathologies of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny-on the rise in many countries as I write this-in ways comparable to the 1930s. This movement towards hatred, repression and ethnic cleansing is part of our history-we are not exceptional in this.

Some of us remember the Reagan years, not as a time of renewal, but a time in which it was very difficult to raise a family without wealth and privilege. As a single mom of biracial kids with chronic illnesses, there were very few places to go for help or even succor. We can’t let that happen to our families during this time of looming disaster.

For instance, in California we have begun a movement toward declaring a sanctuary state. Our cities cannot stand alone against this kind of lawless regime which has already declared them as enemies. The sanctuary we seek must include all who are threatened by these thugs and their billionaire accomplices.

We have already declared:

“In the face of deportations, harassment, and growing threats of violence, the immigrant, Muslim, Latino and other targeted communities, including all People of Color, LGBTQ, women and people with disabilities are experiencing levels of stress and fear not seen since the days of Jim Crow. We the undersigned believe the first, best response would be to create a statewide sanctuary.” We are heartened that individuals and organizations have rushed to sign onto this statement.

So many of us are now living in fear that it’s important to honor all their concerns as we work in concert or on parallel tracks to protect and uplift what is known as the beloved community.

Who will be under threat first, undocumented immigrants, members of the Black Lives Matter movement and People of Color in general, DACA kids, women who seek to control their own bodies, anyone in the LGBTQ community, people with pre-existing conditions, seniors, journalists and dissenters? Folks, they’re coming for all of us at once. They have the money and power to try and overwhelm our people’s movement.

This is no time for division. The time to fight the last battle is over, Bernie vs Hillary, whose slate is more righteous! We need to look as Obama has tried to show us, at the good intentions in each other, and work with that. 000ywc_wordle

That doesn’t mean we will ignore Democratic Party pandering to campaign donors or insist on lockstep responses. We demand a high standard because we need a demonstration of strength in principles now more than ever.

Back to California-do you know that we give more to the Federal government than we receive in benefits? This is also true for 13 other states-see http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/which-states-are-givers-and-which-are-takers/361668/.

There must be a way to stop or at least slow the flow of our tax dollars to a government which will use them to punish us-taking our healthcare, our environmental protections, our rights to family planning, and imprisoning or deporting our newest, most enthusiastic Americans. So let’s think in creative, even grandiose ways and attack the regime where it depends on our compliance the most.

This is truly taxation without representation as our huge population did not vote for any of this-indeed almost no one voted for the devastation of services that we all pay for. If we resist successfully and even one other economic powerhouse state also resists, we can throw a monkey wrench into the federal machine which is even now lining up against us.

Probably no one said it better than our own Mario Savio. Heed his words-resistance, rebellion and the fight for a more perfect union start today. Throw off your despair, harness your anger, and remember:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.”

Contact your legislators, make friends with the electeds with whom you so recently fought, forget sectarianism, find common ground. Your life may depend upon it. I know mine does.

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It’s Time for Americans to Choose

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I recently watched Michael Moore’s new movie which reminded me of the  idealism that Americans were renowned for in the past. It also reminded me that the US, my country once gave the world great ideas, ideas and ideals it has failed to live up to. After viewing hours of non-stop Trump hate-is that a hashtag yet-#Trumphate on TV, it was a revelation.

Trump Rallies & Protests-At the same time, the internet has been atwitter over who is responsible for the “violence” at recent Trump rallies. I put the term in quotes because, while the anger has been palpable at those rallies-the one in Chicago was not a riot-sure some people yelled at and shoved each other, but so far serious injuries have been avoided.

Trump is the Inciter!-And yet Hillary supporters have been accusing Bernie supporters of inciting the “violence.” In other words going to the rallies and shouting down Trump is considered violence or incitement. I would hope we all know who the real enemy is. Trump himself, as Rachel Maddow documented, probably planned this collision of forces to stir up fear and chaos which, in classic strongman fashion, he can use to his benefit. Whether or not you think it’s wise to take the bait, it is not the protestors’ fault that some fist fights and pushing ensued. Trump and the Republican Party caused it.

“You always had the power”-Here’s the thing, the final quote in Michael Moore’s movie, Where to Invade Next, came from one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz, when Glynda the Good tells Dorothy, who wishes to go home, “You always had the power.” Well, for all our talk of lesser of evils, and here I’m talking to Democrats or anyone mildly liberal, progressive or radical, please LISTEN (yeah, I am shouting now,)listen to the discussion that’s actually happening not the accusations, insults or ancient history on the Democratic side.

Progressive Change is Possible-The Democrats this time around are talking about how to get our young folk out of debt, how to stop building prisons and build justice instead, how much to raise the minimum wage right now, how to make it possible for immigrants to gain their citizenship rights and women to keep the right to control their destinies. They’re working in fits and starts on plans to give us more higher ed at less cost, more healthcare for all. These are no small things

I know, I know, Bernie is being castigated for talking like we could have free healthcare for all (like most of the civilized world and that includes Central American and Asian countries, not just Europe.) And Hillary has a terrible history of supporting the crime bill and calling our young people predators, but Bernie also voted for that bill, a law which has destroyed generations of families.

Yeah and some Dems think that anyone who supported a freely elected socialist like Daniel Ortega is anathema while others remember-recent history-the coup in Honduras engineered by the Obama-Clinton administration. But, listen to them, the conversation has moved. No, we won’t soon have seven week vacations and five month paid parental leaves like Italy and France, more’s the pity. But-

The Republican Apocalyptic Vision-The Republicans are offering a completely different vision, they’re offering a world with no social safety net-the end of Medicare and Social Security, the end of any kind of universal healthcare, no minimum wages at all, prisons for all and no right to free public  education. Oh and yeah, the removal of 12 or so million of our folks to violence-torn countries.

No one wants Austerity-One thing that Trump has shown though is that even Republicans, caught up as they are in tribal hatreds and scapegoating, are rejecting tax breaks for the rich and austerity for their families. No one wants a vision of a country laid waste by decrepit infrastructure and crumbling town halls anymore, no one.

Heed the Call-The Democrats and all who ever sympathized with them would do well to heed those demands and win, win big, win the Senate and some state houses. But that can only work if we stop scapegoating each other-Bernie and Hillary and supporters. Stop treating your candidate like he or she is a religious icon. They both have feet of clay. They’re both human. But both are saying or beginning to say the things we all need to hear.

Choose Any Democratic Candidate-For those who cannot forgive Hillary her history of triangulating, her eyes on the polls, and stupidest of all, her husband’s mistakes, listen, she’s hearing where the country is now and mirroring our needs. For those who can’t forgive Bernie for challenging her or for understanding that Fidel was the right leader at the right time in that place-remember without Bernie, the only populist in the race, might appear to be Donald Trump. Bernie has saved the Democratic Party leaders from themselves.

Yeah, we have a real clear choice, clearer than the choice we had even eight years ago. At this point it doesn’t matter to me, yeah I’ll say it, it doesn’t matter who gets the nomination. Stop the sniping, quit yer bitchin. We don’t only need to stop Trump, and the other creeps running under the GOP banner, we need to come together as a country and reclaim our real heritage-that of idealism and Hope Over Fear.

Oakland City Hall, Let’s Have an Open Forum for Real

In Oakland, city council meetings and street protests are falling under new more repressive restrictions rather than the open transparent government we were promised. Are our leaders out of step with the times? This is the statement that I would have given to the Oakland City Council at Open Forum last night if I had been willing to stay til midnight.-

Council Members, since I know all of you, like many of you and respect most of you, I’m not here to denounce you-I respect your hard work. But I’m here to remind you what time it is. Some people say this period reminds them of the 60’s. But during the 60’s despite the Vietnam War, many Americans were just beginning to feel that the American Dream was almost available to them even as others rejected it. This time is different. The American Dream is a figment, a fading memory, and the planet is being devastated in a way no other generation could have imagined.

So people, especially young people, particularly young people of color, are angry but they’re also activated. Isn’t that what you as leaders of this great city, want? Haven’t I heard you complain that people don’t pay attention, don’t understand how things work. But as activists organize to protect what’s left of their city’s heritage, they often find themselves at city council meetings. As they wait, an hour or 3, they hear about the city’s business being done, but they don’t understand a lot of it– pass-throughs, grants, PLAs, CFDs, RFPs, oh, that one they have come to understand a bit.

Lots of folks, mostly young, came out and protested an RFP which was done in virtual secret, what about Housing Elements and area plans? The average resident of the, until recently ignored, Eastlake District, once called New Chinatown, woke up to a massive gentrification project and wanted in on the discussion before they found out they were probably a couple of years late.

So, they did what Oaklanders often do, especially since Occupy, they protested loudly but they took it a step further and closed down the meeting for that night. Interestingly, I thought they were more respectful than many of the Occupiers had been. They just wanted to get your attention.

Now, you’ve all decided that this kind of unruly behavior has to be clamped down on. Our bags are getting searched,which is not my no. 1 concern since it happens in so many public buildings. It irks me, makes me feel a bit like a suspect in my own city hall, but I believe my reps have the right to personal safety.

But, when I climbed those long steps to the city council chambers and attempted to enter the hall where the city does my business, I did not expect to be held back by rent-a-cops or city staff. I was questioned by a staffer last night as to whether I was really press. I don’t know am I or just a biased observer? Who decides who is press these days of blogs and tumblr?

In any case, there were seats in the main hall and the galleries were empty. This closure has never been explained. It’s true that that many times people who sat up there yelled and were rude and obnoxious. I didn’t like that either. But barring folks from coming in and filling the galleries will not stop protestors from protesting.

These are indeed tumultuous times and democracy is being put to the test. People are, you know, sick and tired of being sick and tired, but the worst thing that might happen when people come to protest is that they demagogue and speak in rumors rather than facts. This is a problem because it’s so hard to get the truth, too few reporters try to cover too much and sometimes get it wrong or don’t cover it at all.

Try this instead.Try thinking of these people as your constituents or even your students. They want to learn what the heck is going on-so the next time you pass a CFD or RFP or WTF, stop and take a few minutes to explain what you are talking about. Can’t you spare that? Isn’t that part of doing the city’s business?

As Robert Zimmerman once said, “and you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are achanging.” Don’t be “part of the problem,” the solution doesn’t lie in shutting down or attempting to control dissent, it lies in opening up what remains of our tattered democracy. There’s too much at stake to run our city as if it were “business as usual.” That’s what got us into this mess. You can’t harness the tremendous energy of the young and tap into the power of their passions by demanding that they ask just a little more quietly.

If these tactics continue many of us will stop coming altogether-and I’ll stop endorsing anyone who allows it to continue-if you care. You all say that Oakland is on the cutting edge of change so stop trying to polish our image for those who don’t love us. Be a little patient with some bad press but less patient with repression in its more insidious forms. “He that gets hurt will be he that did stall, for the battle outside is raging,” sang Dylan and it’s more true now than ever, because people have more reason to be angry now than ever. We know it’s not your fault-you didn’t create these problems, but if you you insist on contributing to a climate that is hostile to open government, you will also be rightly blamed. There will be no “shelter from the storm,” for you then.

We need leaders who are patient and caring, not prim and comdemnatory, who are bold and innovative, and we need leaders who know how to follow when necessary.

Please take a moment after you read this to contemplate the recent act of terrorism in Charleston, South Carolina and to affirm that all #BlackLivesMatter indeed.

Why I will No Longer Protest in Oakland

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I think we need an Adrenaline Junkies Anonymous here because I am one but it’s time to quit. It’s hard for me to stay away from demonstrations, but I am sick of what happens in Oakland every time something wrong goes down somewhere.

I am also sick of the reductionist memes–guess that’s what memes are by nature–that say broken windows are not violence. Technically, unless you are standing near one as it breaks, they are not. But do we really want to base our actions on technicalities?

Are most Oaklanders distraught, angry, sad, and in terrible pain over the deaths of young people at the hands of so-called public servants, those whose job it is to serve and protect whether it’s here or in Ferguson or Florida? They undoubtedly are-I see that anger, sadness, and despair all around me.

But I also see movement building, people who spend their lives trying to solve the problems of inequality, racism, injustice, and let us not forget, environmental degradation. Efforts to remake our society actually abound in Oakland. The so-called ultra left likes to put some of these folks down and make them part of the problem, but movement building is hard, life-long work and it is often difficult to notice during times of extreme stress.

So back to the meaning and types of violence which surround us. I remember attending an Occupy meeting long after the plaza had been closed to demonstrators while the City tried to reseed its commons-interesting analogies and ironies abound there-but we’ll let that go for now.

Community members who still saw opportunity in Occupy showed up to discuss next steps. They wanted to talk about how to broaden the reach of the group and expand the efforts to folks who did not want to come downtown every night, did not want take over streets, much less smash windows.

One of the OO leaders, yeah, there were leaders, belittled and sidelined those discussions, making it clear that the speakers were not welcome and those folks could no longer be considered a part of Occupy. It was a small example among many of how a once joyous, open movement narrowed to a state of annoyance or just plain irrelevance.

We’ve all heard stories of people being threatened or even hurt by demonstrators bent on property destruction as few as they may be. And that is violence. But so is bullying violence. And if you make it uncomfortable, even scary, for people to come out and express themselves on the streets of Oakland, your are promoting bullying and a type of facism that says your anger is more important and your expression of it is the one that matters. I believe that if you do not speak out about that type of exclusivity and intimidation, because, well, folks have a reason to be angry-you have muted the pain of great swaths of people. 20141126_091804

There is also much talk about whether these folks who rough up our streets are Oaklanders or outside agitators. Here’s how you can tell. If you’ve lived in Oakland for 6 months or 60 years, you can be an Oaklander, no, being born and raised here is not the only way to be a true Oaklander.
Of course, many people have raised their families here and contributed to the local economy but additionally-
Someone who teaches our kids with an open heart and their own open pocketbook who looks for and encourages all of their talents is an Oaklander.
Someone who volunteers at a public school, who rescues neighborhood dogs, who rallies outside of city hall for tenants’ rights, who runs for office or goes door-to-door for a candidate or sets up an electoral debate is an Oaklander.
Someone who advocates for police reform and libraries is an Oaklander, who paints a mural or buys local art is an Oaklander, who plants a garden and picks up your neighbor’s trash is an Oaklander, who visits the elderly and brings them meals, or who buys toys for Oakland tots at Christmas is also an Oaklander.
Someone who protects our streets judiciously and treats those they protect with dignity and respect can also be an Oaklander.
Someone who opens a small business and puts their soul, their life’s investment, and all their energy into the Town is an Oaklander though they might not live here.20141126_090925
Someone who points out the bad while promoting the good is an Oaklander.
Someone who intimidates justice-seeking Oaklanders out of the movement, much less threatens to harm the delicate social ecosystems that are our recently renewed residential hubs or our long-in-coming downtown renaissance-to me that person is not an Oaklander.
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