On September 18, 2014, Quintin Keene was doing his laundry at a laundromat on Genesee Street--blocks away from where Sgt. Aaron Colletti of the Rochester Police Department brutalized Clem Long Jr. Mr. Keene was arrested by officer Mario "Cowboy" Masic (the same guy who arrested Emily Good (1, 2, 3) and broke into Lewis Powell's car, among countless other stories of his terror on the West Side), two hours after Mr. Long was brutalized and arrested.
Masic bum rushed and pepper-sprayed Mr. Keene without warning, dropped him to the ground, and yelled at him--after he was in handcuffs--"If you don't stop moving, I'm going to shoot you." Mr. Keene was speaking with his grandmother on the phone when the altercation happened; she had an asthma attack as she heard her grandson violently arrested. Mr. Keene wants nothing more than to see officer Mario "Cowboy" Masic lose his job and never work for law enforcement again.
On September 20, Rochester Indymedia sat down with Mr. Keene and asked him to explain what happened. Here is his story.
Additional Information: Pass OUR community safety act now, before another Ferguson happens | Ferguson Report Back- Ricardo Adams and Rosemary Rivera | Rosemary Rivera's Messages from Ferguson | NYCLU Annual Meeting: Candis Tollver on NYPD Reform | Ricardo Adams from Ferguson, MO: "Enough is enough!" | National Moment of Silence Against Police Brutality | Reverend Stewart on What's Hot with Howard Eagle | Ban the Box Passes in Rochester! | RPD Civilian Review Board Should Have Investigative Power and Authority | Rev. Stewart gives a teach-in on Independent Civilian Review Boards
Officer Mario "Cowboy" Masic
United Christian Leadership Ministry held a press conference on September 22, 2014 at Inner Faith Gospel Tabernacle where they called for a police accountability legislative package to be passed that would include an independent civilian review board, body cameras for cops, the collection of data for stop and frisk (as well as its end), and law that would compel officers to inform civilians of their rights if they are stopped. The press conference also addressed the deteriorating environment of police / community relations. Reverend Lewis Stewart spoke on behalf of UCLM.
Related Information: Ferguson Report Back- Ricardo Adams and Rosemary Rivera | Rosemary Rivera's Messages from Ferguson | NYCLU Annual Meeting: Candis Tollver on NYPD Reform | Ricardo Adams from Ferguson, MO: "Enough is enough!" | National Moment of Silence Against Police Brutality | Reverend Stewart on What's Hot with Howard Eagle | Ban the Box Passes in Rochester! | RPD Civilian Review Board Should Have Investigative Power and Authority | Rev. Stewart gives a teach-in on Independent Civilian Review Boards
For full disclosure, the one of the authors of this article, Susan Galloway, was one of the litigants against the Town of Greece in the SCOTUS case, Town of Greece vs Galloway and Stephens.
The Town of Greece was recently in a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court of the United States, Town of Greece v. Galloway, over their prayer practice. The plaintiffs argued that the Town aligned itself with Christianity, in that in over ten years the town only had 3 non-christian prayer givers and only after the Town of Greece knew that a lawsuit was imminent.The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Town of Greece upholding the the Town's prayer practice in a 5 to 4 decision. All three Justices of a minority faith were on the dissenting side.
The Town of Greece had no formal written prayer policy until August 18, 2014 when the Town Board passed a policy unanimously that lacked any transparency or public input. http://rochester.indymedia.org/node/104057 The Alliance Defending Freedom is a fundamentalist Christian advocacy organization that defended the Town of Greece in the lawsuit regarding their prayer policy. They appear to have incredible influence when deciding the prayer policy for the town of Greece in that the new policy is almost the exactly like the Alliance Defending Freedom's prayer policy model. Despite repeated claim's by the town of Greece in its court briefs and arguments that they were not aligning themselves with any specific religion, the town adopted the Alliance Defending Freedom's prayer policy model almost word for word as its own. It is hard to argue that you are not aligning yourself with a religion when the policy you adopted was written by an organization whose website states, "We must continue the fight for religious liberty, so that the life-changing message of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed and transform our culture. Each win for the Body of Christ is a loss for the opposition. Itʼs that black and white."http://alliancedefendingfreedom.org/issues/religious-liberty. ADF actively recruits lawsuits that challenge women's reproductive rights, including rights to contraception and abortion, equal marriage laws, non-discrimination laws, laws the that uphold the separation of church and state in public schools, laws that set limitations on politicking for tax exempt status for places of worship and organizations, and other issues that would break down the wall between church and state in the U.S. and abroad.
The new town prayer policy contradicts much of the argument Greece made to the Supreme Court and the press statements made by town officials. In the Town of Greece brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/supreme_court_preview/briefs-v2/12-696_pet.authcheckdam.pdf
The question presented by the Town was:
“Whether the appeals erred in holding that a legislative-prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause notwithstanding the absence of discrimination in the selection of the prayer-givers or forbidden exploitation of the prayer opportunity.”
The current policy adopted by the town post-decision introduces explicit discrimination that was only implicate in the practice of the town prior to the policy.
The brief is introduced as follows:
1. “This case concerns whether the Town of Greece, New York, can open its monthly board meetings with an invocation to solemnize the proceedings, offered by any Town resident from any faith tradition (or no faith tradition) who volunteers to speak.”
The current policy violates the very premise upon which the case was argued. No longer can “any Town resident” offer the invocation, but only those who are members of “religious assemblies”.
2. Quoting Marsh v. Chambers, the Town states that “…unless the government acts with “impermissible motive” in selecting the prayer-givers… courts may not “embark on a sensitive evaluation”.”
Again, the new policy undermines the Townʼs own argument by introducing “impermissible motive in the selecting of prayer-givers” that invites the “sensitive evaluation” that the Town claimed was not permitted.
The town further argues that “the opportunity is open to all residents”, and points to this fact as “dispositive” (conclusive in settling the issue). Thus a key “fact” in the Townʼs argument is simply no longer the case.
3. It was also claimed that, “The Town allowed any citizen to volunteer to deliver an invocation, and never rejected such a request.”
The Town has since rejected at least two specific requests, and has now instituted a policy that will permanently bar any citizen not associated with a “religious assembly”.
To illustrate how the fact that the invocation was “open to all residents” was central to the Townʼs argument, consider the volume and specificity of the following statements in the Townʼs brief:
“Under the Townʼs practice, atheists and non-believers were also welcome to volunteer to give an invocation.”
“In… 2007… Town officials met with respondents and explained that anyone could volunteer to deliver the opening prayer…”
“…any Town resident of any faith or no faith may offer the invocation.”
“… the prayer opportunity was open to anyone…”
“…there is no evidence that the town would not have accepted any and all volunteers who asked to give a prayer…”
“… the Town made no restrictions on who could volunteer to offer the prayer.”
“… it is undisputed that the Town would have welcomed atheists and nonbelievers to open the meeting with a statement of their choosing.”
“III. The Townʼs neutral policy permitting volunteer prayer-givers of any or no faith … is Constitutional…”
“… the Townʼs policy for selecting prayer-givers is facially neutral…” (facially neutral: does not even appear to be discriminatory)
“The Townʼs practice would also be Constitutional if this Court chose to evaluate it under its limited public forum jurisprudence, which affords protection to private individuals who express their views in a forum created by the government for a particular purpose that is equally open to all citizens.”
“… volunteers from any or no religion are permitted to deliver an opening statement…”
“…the town simply provided a neutral opportunity for its citizens to speak…”
“… the Town established an opportunity for private citizens to open the legislative session and allowed all to participate…”
Greece town officials also made statements to the press that contradict this new prayer policy.
In a Democrat and Chronicle article, http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2014/05/05/greece-town-board-prayer-court-ruling/8739551/, dated May 6, 2014," Reilich said that while nearly all houses of worship in Greece are Christian, there's no policy prohibiting anyone from volunteering to offer a pre-meeting invocation."
From a WHEC News 10 article, dated 05/05/2014, http://www.whec.com/article/stories/s3424461.shtml, Andrew Conlon, Greece Town Board, said, “Being a predominantly Christian community, it just happens to be that most of them are Christian, but again anybody in the community is welcome to it.” The article went further to say that “the town board is encouraging anyone who wants to pray to simply call and get on the list. There are no rules or restrictions."
On September 16, 2014, after Susan Galloway spoke about the new prayer policy at the town board meeting, Greece Supervisor Relich stated, "The hypocrisy, we won the lawsuit. We are allowing Atheists to come and pray because they want us to be tolerant, but they're not tolerant of Christians, their not tolerant of others, the hypocrisy". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVkrg5x4UYU The facts are clear that Greece argued equal opportunity to all Greece residents to the prayer at town board meetings, but have changed the rules. Now they are saying that either you are a member of a recognized "assembly" or you are disqualified. it should be the people that are saying "the hypocrisy" to the town.
Ricardo Adams and Rosemary Rivera, who went to Ferguson, MO at different times, presented on their trips. The event took place at the Flying Squirrel Community Space in Rochester, NY on Sept 16th, 2014 and was organized by the group Enough is Enough.
Rosemary & Ricardo are in the process of setting up another, full two-hour panel where they can continue sharing their experiences. Ricardo Adams is scheduled to go back down to Ferguson for five days in early October. Stay tuned to Rochester Indymedia for more information about this panel. It will co-incide with the Flying Squirrel Community Space's Stop Mass Incarceration programming in Oct.
Also, going from Ferguson to Rochester, United Christian Leadership Ministries & Coalition for Police Reform will hold a public forum on police violence and what we can do on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, 6:30pm at Inner Faith Gospel Tabernacle (32 York St.).
Statements / Writing from Ferguson:
Here is a link to a phone report back from Ricardo when he was in Ferguson: http://
And here are links to Rosemary's dispatches from Ferguson:
Day 1: http://band-of-rebels.com/
Day 2: http://band-of-rebels.com/
Day 3: http://band-of-rebels.com/
Day 4: http://band-of-rebels.com/
Additional Information: NYCLU Annual Meeting: Candis Tollver on NYPD Reform | Ricardo Adams from Ferguson, MO: "Enough is enough!" | National Moment of Silence Against Police Brutality | Reverend Stewart on What's Hot with Howard Eagle | Ban the Box Passes in Rochester! | RPD Civilian Review Board Should Have Investigative Power and Authority | Rev. Stewart gives a teach-in on Independent Civilian Review Boards
The fact that global warming is man-made and poses a grave threat to our future is widely accepted by progressives. Yet, the most commonly proposed solutions emphasize either personal responsibility for a global emergency (buy energy-efficient light bulbs, purchase a Prius), or rely on market-based schemes like cap-and-trade. These responses are not only inadequate, says best-selling author Naomi Klein, but represent a lost opportunity to confront climate change’s root cause: capitalism.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein’s much-anticipated new book, is both surprisingly hopeful and deeply personal as she deftly weaves in her story of struggling to conceive her first child while researching the potential collapse of the natural world. In the book, Klein challenges everyone who cares about climate change to strive for a seemingly impossible redistribution of political and economic power. This, she argues, is both necessary and offers the prospect of living in a more just and humane society than the one we know today.
John Tarleton: When it comes to the climate crisis, capitalism is often the elephant in the room that goes unacknowledged. Yet you zero in on it, starting with the title of your book. Why?
Naomi Klein: I put the connection between capitalism and climate change up front because the fact that the life support systems of the planet are being destabilized is telling us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our economic system. What our economy needs to function in a capitalist system is continuous growth and continuous depletion of resources, including finite resources. What our planet needs in order to avoid catastrophic warming and other dangerous tipping points is for humans to contract our use of material resources.
The science of climate change has made this fundamental conflict blindingly obvious. By putting that conflict up front, it breaks a taboo. And sometimes when you break a taboo, there’s sort of a relief in just saying it. And that’s what I’ve found so far: This is something that people know. And it’s giving permission to just name it. It’s a good starting point, so now we can have a real discussion.
Why has that taboo of talking about capitalism and climate change in the same breath become so entrenched here in the United States?
I think it’s primarily because capitalism is a religion in the United States. But also because the Left in the United States is extremely Keynesian, though Keynes himself questioned economic growth. But the translation of Keynesian thought we are seeing in this historical moment is a debate about the distribution of the spoils of economic growth. It’s not about some of the core facts about blanket economic growth.
In the book I talk about selective de-growth. There are schools of thought on the Left that dismiss all forms of growth. What I’m talking about is managing the economy. There are parts of our economy that we want to expand that have a minimal environmental impact, such as the care-giving professions, education, the arts. Expanding those sectors creates jobs, well-being and more equal societies. At the same time we have to shrink the growth-for-growth’s-sake parts of our economy, including the financial sector, which plays a large role in feeding consumption.
You say that the Left needs its own project for addressing climate change in a systematic and transformative manner that breaks with free-market orthodoxy. What would that look like?
The industrialized nations have to start cutting their emissions by about 8 to 10 percent per year, which is incompatible with capitalism. You cannot reconcile that level of emission reduction with an economic system that needs continual growth. The only time we have seen emissions reductions on that level was during the Great Depression of the 1930s. How we transition from our current status quo sets the parameters for how we want to organize society. A healthy transition would entail huge investments in the public sphere, public transit, housing, all kinds of infrastructure and services in order to prepare for the extreme weather that’s already locked in and also to lower our emissions.
Progressives should seize the reins of this project because it’s an opportunity to make this transition equitable and to have a better economy on the other side. You could also allow your economy to crash and burn, which is a terrible idea and would hurt enormous numbers of people.
The latter option would make a good starting point for a Hollywood movie.
It’s striking to me that when we envision the future it’s just a more brutally cleaved world between haves and have-nots than the one we have now. This is so much a part of our culture that we think all we’re capable of doing is becoming like the societies portrayed in Snowpiercer, Elysium or The Hunger Games. It’s actually not controversial to say this is where we are headed. The question is, can we imagine another way of responding to crisis other than one of deepening inequality, brutal disaster capitalism and mangled techno-fixes, because that seems to be where people agree we’re headed.
The alternative project you have in mind envisions a large role for the state. Yet, many on the Left have deep qualms about holding power of any kind, much less “seizing the reins,” as you say, to affect systemic changes.
There has been a backlash in our generation of leftists against the centralized state socialism of previous generations. This is for obvious and understandable reasons. Since the 2008 economic crash, I see more appetite among the younger generation to engage with policy and to try to change power. You see it with the Indignados movement in Spain forming its own party and running in elections, in Iceland post-crisis, with outsiders going inside on their own terms. You see it at the municipal level with the minimum wage in Seattle.
Where the pendulum swung really hard against any sort of engagement with formal politics, I see it swinging back where it’s like, “No, we’re not going to replicate those centralized structures but things are too urgent and too dire to ignore institutions of various kinds, including lawmaking. But we’re going to try to change it and build our belief in decentralization into the way we engage.“
Has this approach made a significant impact anywhere on energy and climate-related policies?
A really great example is the energy transformation that has been going on in Germany. Thirty percent of the electricity produced there is now coming from renewable resources, mostly wind and solar and mostly through decentralized, community-controlled ventures of various kinds, including hundreds of energy co-ops. You also have large cities like Munich voting to reverse their electricity privatizations and become part of this energy revolution.
What’s interesting about Germany is it really shows how you need strong policy to make a transition like that happen. It’s not about, “Hey, let’s start an energy co-op.” No. That kind of fetish for very small-scale initiatives won’t get us where we need to go. What Germany has is a bold national policy. That’s how you get to 30 percent renewable electricity in such a short time, and they may very well get to 50 to 60 percent by 2030. It also shows you can design smart policy to systematically decentralize.
What got you started on this book? Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to write a book on climate change?
I decided that I was going to immerse myself in this subject in 2009 when I was covering a U.N. antiracism conference in Geneva. An earlier conference held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001 saw a growing debate about whether the United States and Europe should pay reparations to African nations for the harm done by the slave trade and colonialism. The issue vanished from public discussion after 9/11 and it was clear by 2009 how much ground had been lost.
At that 2009 conference I met Angélica Navarro, a trade negotiator from Bolivia who was doing some really interesting work about climate and reparations and how to really push the concept of climate debt within the U.N. climate negotiations. And I had a moment in which I realized that the science is so clear on the historical responsibility for climate change that it could be used as a tool for realizing justice goals for which social movements had been fighting for a very long time.
Your book strikes a hopeful note on what can be a grim topic.
I find it really hard to write when I feel hopeless. It took me five years to write this book in part because initially I didn’t feel so hopeful. Then, there really started to be an explosion of resistance to extractive projects such as fracking and oil pipelines and coal export terminals. It’s being done in a truly global and networked manner that reminds me of the early days of the so-called anti-globalization movement.
That shift made me really excited that there is a growing movement and that the book can be part of that movement. I feel like we’re on the verge of a coming together of economic justice movements and a new sort of kick-ass grassroots anti-extractivism movement. When people are fighting fracking or they’re fighting a big pipeline, generally they’re not driven by concerns about climate, they’re driven by a love of place. Often the protection of water is the primary motivation, as well as concerns about the health of their kids. But climate change definitely adds another layer of urgency to keeping carbon in the ground and not putting it into the atmosphere.
You became a parent for the first time a couple of years ago. How did that experience affect the way you see climate change? Did the prospect of dire climate change taking effect in this century cause you to be hesitant about becoming a parent?
I was 38 when I decided I wanted to have kids and to start trying. That’s pretty late. I would have this conversation with my husband where I’d say that the more I read about climate change, the more I felt that having a child was condemning this kid to a Mad Maxian future of fighting with their friends for food and water. This was the sort of dystopic future that I was imagining. And I was having trouble imagining anything else.
I think that seeing some of these signs of hope were part of the process of me deciding to become a parent: being able to imagine other futures than the one playing on repeat at the moment. But I’m really wary of this sort of, “I care more about the future because I have a baby” thing. As somebody who didn’t have kids for a long time and had trouble getting pregnant, I really hated when people did that, because it felt really exclusionary to me. I understand, as a parent, why people say that, because when you hear that we’ll be at x degrees warmer by 2050, you can’t help but do these mental calculations of, “Okay, how old will he be then?” But I cared about the future before my son Toma was born just as some of the most caring people that I know don’t have kids. So I want to be careful about that.
There’s a tremendous organizing effort taking place here in New York for the People’s Climate March. Why do you think this particular protest matters, and what are the chances it will have an enduring impact?
Climate change has gone from being an issue that will affect our grandchildren to a right-now issue. The difference over the past few years is that the climate movement has jettisoned its astronaut’s “eye in the sky” view of a shimmering blue-and-white dot set against the darkness of space in which no people are visible, and it has come down to earth.
It’s connecting with people who are driven by basic justice demands such as clean air for their kids and water they can drink. The People’s Climate March will be much more diverse and it’s going to be angrier than previous climate protests. That anger is a really important and powerful tool. So I think we’re going to see a different kind of climate movement. It’s already there. I think Seattle 1999 was a coming-out party for the global justice movement, and I think this will be a coming-out party of sorts for a new climate movement.
There have been other moments over the past two decades, from the Rio Earth Summit to Al Gore’s movie to Hurricane Sandy, that have seen climate change briefly capture the public imagination only to fade out again.
In the past the climate movement was incredibly elitist. There really was a belief that you did not need a grassroots movement if you had all the celebrities and the billionaires and a former vice president like Al Gore on your side. I think that is what has made the issue so ephemeral. If your strategy is just to get a bunch of celebrities and billionaires on your side, guess what? They change their minds, and they move on to other things. Vanity Fair launches their annual green issue and it lasts for two years. Fashions change.
This is the first time climate change has had a grassroots movement behind it in North America. And that’s what is going to give it staying power. The whole point is that it has roots now. The problem with the top-down strategy is that it has no roots. And when you don’t have roots, you can blow away.
For more, see thischangeseverything.org.
It’s easy to share complaints about government agencies but it’s only fair to make clear compliments and kudos when such agencies work well. It seems that the staff at Steuben County’s Pretreatment facility thinks and works for long-term benefits, searches for efficiency, gathers and applies new information, conserves resources and respects staff members as well as taxpayers.
Original article: http://www.keylesspiano.blogspot.com/2014/09/clean-water.html
We started at the headworks, the unit where water from about 2400 users enters the system. This is the place plagued by baby wipes and the occasional diaper. The water passes through a grinder and a screen but things like baby wipes don’t grind well and can block the screen so sometimes someone has to pull out what looks like stiff, white fiber.
You cannot put handcuffs on the spirit of compassion, generosity, and justice. This is the essence of our community from the time of Frederick Douglass to now. We are our brother's and sister's keeper. Animated by our spiritual and moral beliefs our campaign of nonviolent direct action will continue until all our brothers and sisters are taken care of. Everybody in, nobody out.
See also two previous open letters from Concerned Residents of Monroe County
- September 12, 2014 - http://
- August 26, 2014 - https://www.facebook.com/
notes/ryan-acuff/ open-letter-to-monroe-county-ex ecutive-maggie-brooks-regardin g-rochesters-homele/ 10152309744543779
Statements made by all three on September 16, 2014 after their arraignment:
Sister Grace Miller
Public Enemy #1?
Related Stories: County Suddenly Breaks off Dialogue With Homeless Advocates | Open letter to Brooks regarding homeless crisis | Sit-In Support at the Civic Center Garage against homeless lock-out | Sister Grace and CW of House of Mercy | 13 Rochesterians | Precarious housing for homless continues at county garage... | "The Throwaways": discussion after the screening | The Deplorable, County-made, Reality of Burials Without Dignity
For full disclosure, the author of this article, Susan Galloway, was one of the litigants against the Town of Greece in the SCOTUS case, Town of Greece vs Galloway and Stephens.
On Sept. 16, 2014, at the Greece Town Board meeting citizens spoke out about the new written prayer policy. Some of the criticisms of the policy were lack of transparency, the infuence an outside organization had on authoring legislation and policies, the lack of notification that the policy was being voted on at the town board meeting and lack of community involvement in creating the prayer policy.
After the citizen, Susan Galloway, addresses the Town Board during the public forum part of the meeting, the Greece Supervisor, Bill Relich, makes the comments, " The hypocrisy, we won the lawsuit. We are allowing Atheists to come and pray because they want us to be tolerant, but they're not tolerant of Christians, their not tolerant of others, the hypocrisy".
Here is some back ground on the issues addressed in this video. On August 18, 2014, at the Greece Town Board meeting, the board passed a written prayer policy, which had no citizen input and was almost word for word from an outside organization, Alliance Defending Freedom. Here is the link to a line by line break down of ADF model pprayer policy compared to the Town of Greece's new prayer policy. http://rochester.indymedia.org/node/104024 This organization is a fundamental Christian Organization that's website states, "We must continue the fight for religious liberty, so that the life-changing message of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed and transform our culture. Each win for the Body of Christ is a loss for the opposition. It’s that black and white." The written prayer policy adopted by the town of Greece, NY is almost word for word the ADF's model prayer policy minus a couple of lines. ADF represented the Town of Greece in the SCOTUS case Town of Greece vs Galloway and Stephens. They have also filed lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs national and internationally against equal marriage for gays and lesbians, and women's reproductive freedom including abortion and birth control, and separation of church and state, Also, for school prayer, public education funds going to private schools and religious schools, and the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ people. This is only a sampling of the type of lawsuits they have filed.
In the SCOTUS lawsuit, Town of Greece vs Galloway and Stephens, the litigants argued that the town of Greece violated the establishment clause of the constitution and aligned itself with Christianity with regard to their opening town board meetings with overwhelmingly Christian sectarian prayers for over 10 years. During those 10 years, only 3 token non-Christians ever gave the prayers , which coincidentally occurred at the time the lawsuit against the town was being filed. This new prayer policy will effectively make two of the three token prayer givers ineligible, despite the town holding up these tokens as examples of how open and inclusive they are during the lawsuit. The town of Greece did win the lawsuit in a 5 to 4 decision. Which Supervisor Relich states during his comments after Susan Galloway spoke.
Comments made by Linda Stephens at the Oct. 18, 2014
Rosemary Rivera Message from Ferguson, MO – Day 1
How do we take a moment in time and not let it pass us by, but use it to be the tipping point to begin to dismantle racism? How can we focus on racism and not acknowledge the oppression, the classism, the simple uneven playing field that exists within our society? Plagued with these questions and more, I came to Ferguson,to seek understanding and to support in whatever small way possible, the people who struggle.
When I arrived, St. Louis looked like any other city I had been in. But, entering Ferguson, made me realize what a special community Ferguson really is.
The first place we made a beeline to is the street that Michael Brown was killed.
The first thing we saw was an incredible memorial laid out in the MIDDLE of the street. It has to be about 12 feet long and as we passed, people stood on the side with their arms raised in the air, hands balled in a fist. This simple and time worn symbol has meant power, but in the streets of Ferguson it had an additional meaning: “Hands up…Don’t shoot”
Another memorial on the side of the road stood no less that six feet wide with flowers, a basketball, signs, and all sorts of tributes to Michael Brown.. A huge cross, perhaps six feet high leaned against the building, a memory to a fallen youth that refuses to be forgotten. The cars respected the memorial in the middle of the street, honking their horns as they passed and being careful not to run over any part of the memorial, while at the same time, returning the salute that is additionally a sign of respect.
As we got out and took pictures of the memorials, a woman, walked up to me out of nowhere and simply hugged me. She welcomed me and spoke to me in despair over what had transpired in her community. Angie has been living in the same complex for twenty years. Her daughter is a teacher and they both were home the day Mike Brown was shot. They heard the bullets that ripped into his body and they felt the pain of loss.
Angie is angry. She is not the only one. The people standing in front of this memorial are not a part of any organization. I asked if they were taking “shifts” in manning the memorial. “No, you just come when you feel moved to do so, “ was the response. There seemed to be no real rhyme to their gathering, but they all had plenty of reason. These people are simply tired and expressing that they can’t take it anymore.
As she stood talking to me, two young people holding a sign, came up and sang “A change gonna come,” their beautiful voices touching something deep within me. They thanked me for coming to support them, when all I wanted to do is to thank them for receiving me in such a welcoming manner. Unashamed, they cried, they sang, they stood together gathering strength from one another. I could sense a front porch community that cares about each other and an underlying pride that they are no longer going to sit by the sidelines and take whatever injustice is dished out. When I asked, “What happens now,” The response I received was simple. “They better do something soon to hold that police officer accountable or things are really gonna jump off!”
Today was the first evening we were in Ferguson. Right now there is a moratorium on the protests for the next 14 days. But, the people I was able to talk to are probably not the ones that are part of engineering that moratorium. They were mothers, fathers, young people and old, who live in that community and are waiting and watching. I am glad to be waiting and watching with them….
(Guys we only were out there a little bit. After settling in and figuring out where we were staying, having a HUGE layover as we couldn’t get on the plane we were booked for, we got here a bit too late. No one really was as prepared for us. Actually, I don’t think any organization here was prepared for what happened. They are all going, “Oh, okay this is turning out to be national and all eyes are on us.” The organization, MORE, that used to be ACORN, I must take my hat off to. They seem to not be taking a lead, but identifying people who are the young leaders and actually training them. The woman I am staying with is a Saint. Beautiful home and she shares that what has her excited and opening up the doors to her home is all the youth that this has brought out. I hope this doesn’t become a blip in history because people might give up. When you put your all into something and nothing changes….well, don’t you have less hope that when you started? Anyway, love you all.)
Rosemary Rivera’s Messages from Ferguson, MO – Day 2
Day 2 – What do we want?
There are two groups that are doing some of the real organizing in Ferguson, Missouri. Organizing for Black Struggle and Lost Voices.
This morning, I went to meet the Lost Voices. They have been camping out since the shooting, Occupy style. They have continued to protest and march daily when others have gone home The group is comprised of all black youth ranging in ages from maybe 17 to young adults. This is the story of how they formed from a young girl in the group when I asked how they came together:
We were marching almost daily when we found ourselves connecting to each other and looking for one another whenever there was a march. When they had a general assembly, we decided to just stay long after everyone was gone. That night we spent the entire night just talking. Getting to know each other and just talking about how messed up this was. At the end of the night we decided to put together a group and do something about the situation. That’s when Lost Voices was formed.
These youth are the real deal. They are street, they are raw and they aren’t conforming to mainstream society’s ideal of how a black youth should come across. These are the youth who would be dismissed by most adults, and the beauty is to know that they have begun a metamorphosis that is transforming them as they become politicized by the moment they are living in.
But, their challenges are significant. Resources, need for organizational development, and the need to create a structure while figuring out who they can trust is huge. One of the group leaders pulled no punches when he said to me, “I think we just got played” Basically, someone raised money on behalf of Lost Voices, but they are unclear as to where that money went, and if they are Lost Voices, why they don’t have a seat at the decision making table about how to spend the money. The young man let me know in no uncertain terms that they need help to figure out what they are building.
Now, let’s turn to OBS (Organizing for Black Struggle). This is a really great group of phenomenal young leaders. This is definitely a more experienced group who thinks strategically and understand the need to build organizational power. We held a meeting tonight to decide on an action and did a somewhat abbreviated strategy chart on the tactic. This group is also struggling with what they are building with the impatience of youth coming through. Their biggest complaint is that the more time they spend holed up in these meetings, the less time they are with the people themselves. If you ask me, they make a really good point with that.
The two groups have something in common though: each group is faced with the challenge of articulating to the world what they want. If we think back to the Occupy movement, this seemed to be their challenge as well. Although the Occupy movement was able to coin the 99% phrase and change the frame of the debate at the time, the reality was that every person in the Occupy movement would describe what they wanted to achieve differently. The same is true in Ferguson.
They want the District Attorney, McCullough to step down, they want to end bench warrants for non-violent offenses, they want…what exactly do they want? Each person is on a different page. Oh, yes, in general they all want racial equity and justice for Mike Brown, but what each short term step is to get to those broader goals is laced with uncertainty, cynicism, and fear. If these groups can’t deliver a victory, no matter how small, there is a real threat that the next time someone comes knocking on the door and says, “Together we can change x, y, z, “ they may very well get the door slammed in their face.
Rosemary Rivera’s Message from Ferguson – Day 3
Not sure who I am sending these to This is not a very strong piece. I am totally exhausted, but it still has some information
Today is the national strike for fast food workers. As people across the country were cheering for Ferguson and mourning Mike Brown, today Ferguson was cheering about the strikes. There were no strikes in Ferguson. Those who organized the strikes decided to respect the organizing that is going on and not to mix their message. Reactions were mixed on this.
Many saw the fact that there was no strike in Ferguson as a missed opportunity. Yet some in the community viewed it as a distraction from the focus they were trying to maintain. No matter how you viewed the lack of the strike, it was felt here! GO NEW YORK!!!
Turning to matters in Ferguson, today I spoke more in depth with the woman I am staying with. Apparently, the death penalty is in full swing here and they have another black man sentenced to die next Wednesday. Apparently, there is Klan territory still in Missouri and Ringo, the man accused of killing two, was sentenced by an all white jury, a white judge, in an all white town. Now activists are turning to Governor Nixon to give a stay of execution. If Ringo dies, that will be the ninth person in nine months executed. They are executing faster than you can say “reasonable doubt”
While Mike Brown’s case is the focus, particularly because we had an unarmed black man gunned down by those who are paid to serve and protect, the people here cannot escape the fact that racism is pouring out of the criminal justice system. And, it is permeating every institution here. Remember that Jonothan Kozol’s book, Savage Inequalities raised the resource problem within school districts in East Missouri. The Lost Voices group confirm that the education system in Missouri is atrocious and that there is an excellent education waiting for you here…if you have the money.
Earning the trust of the Lost Voices has been one of my main focuses and I wouldn’t violate that trust. That is incredibly hard to do when others have come before you and taken advantage of them for their own profit. PLEASE DO NOT DONATE TO LostVoices14 at this time as the money is NOT reaching them! They are trying to figure out how to fix this and will inform me when they have a system to collect donations which they so desperately need. (I really want to think about how to get the secretary a laptop – I did show her some things about keeping a list, discovered that Nationbuilder is only free for 14 days so that won’t work, but showed her Excel and Google Docs. These kids are thirsty for knowledge)
I will relay one story that shook me. We went to get something to eat. Dante, one of the spokepersons of the group ordered for us all. At the end, the man quoted a price that seemed really high. So, he took out his phone to use the calculator function and asked the man to tell him what each item cost (no menu on the walls). The man flat out refused to do so and when Dante expressed his right to ask for the price of the items we were buying, the man said, “You can all go, but if the white lady (pointing to me) wants something, I will serve her!” I don’t need to repeat most of our reaction to such a blatantly racist thing to say in the middle of Ferguson. But, it shows me that racism is steeped into everything in this city.
Organizing for Black Struggle has been thrown center stage with all the established organizations, (they themselves are established here) like CBTU, ACLU, NAACP, Urban League, SEIU and other unions. They will get the resources they need. It is easier for an outsider like me to work with them because they understand the value of coalition building, tapping into organizing potential, and seeing connections between what is happening in Ferguson and what is happening everywhere on economics, health care, education, jobs, etc.
Today, I was honored to work with their lead organizer, Erin Burnett, in pulling together an action. I will not be able to see it through as I leave on Tuesday but I sure will be there with them in spirit as they block of city hall and demand an independent prosecutor in this case so they may have at least a, small chance at justice
Rosemary Rivera’s messages from Ferguson – Day 4
Tonight in Ferguson, the house was packed. Organizations, unions, residents…they all came together where the Lost Voices have established themselves and held a very unique meeting. The dynamics of so many in one place was definitely educational…and interesting. After a little bit of jockeying for power and respect, the group moved outside. The youth insisted that despite the horrific hot and humid weather that if people couldn’t feel the heat they should get out of the kitchen. It is outside, in what seems like 102 degree weather, that these youth make their statement in the struggle. It is in this sacrifice that they derive their power.
As each of them spoke out today about justice, about education, about a revolution, about the prison industrial complex, and about the need to demilitarize the police, one common denominator showed through. These kids are firm believers in God. You can attribute that to this being the “Bible Belt” but their faith attracts all. Their willingness to share of themselves, their struggle and their commitment to the cause makes these young men a beacon.
The youth were able to get through most of the meeting, but what they really want to do is action. We, older, much wiser folks, know that we can’t have short term tactics without long term strategy. However, we followed them, their music, their dancing, their exuberance, and I loved it…and more importantly, the people of Ferguson appreciated it.
We marched down Florissant Avenue, chanting while the cars went nuts beeping their horns, showing respect, allowing us to pass. I saw children in the back of their parent’s cars and as they passed by they would throw up their hands in mock surrender. This is a community transformed by their own activism. They can no longer be the same. They will be more aware, more active, and more together.
Behind the scenes, you have people who have been in the struggle way before the Day 1 of the Mike Brown shooting. Although not a laughing matter to the Lost Voices they are very serious in their pride for being out there daily without giving up. They have been doing this for a few weeks and yes I respect them for being out there from “Day 1” but what do our youth think, that we haven’t been out there from Day 1 which started for us YEARS ago? How do we relay and transfer that knowledge without coming off as the parents and grandparents we didn’t want to listen to when we were young. Those fights were important, yes, but that was then and this is now. The fights of the young do not have to mirror the fights of the past. We have evolved. Our youth have evolved, and although we need to impart that valuable knowledge, we certainly shouldn’t expect the fight to be one that we recognize as the same.
Keeping it short tonight, Will make up for it tomorrow