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Occupy and abolish ICE, with George Ciccariello-Maher

Around the country, as the demand to abolish ICE spreads, occupations of its offices are springing up. In many of the cities where such occupations exist, they have heightened contradictions between the proclamations of “sanctuary” by elected officials wanting to look progressive, and those officials’ actual policies of repressing protest. George Ciccariello-Maher, an activist and academic, has taken part in the Occupy ICE encampment in Philadelphia and joins me to discuss the evolution of the tactic and demand, the relationship of movements to self-proclaimed progressive mayors, and more.

I think we are used to abolitionist language seeming really extreme or long-term or pie in the sky, and yet, we have seen this claim take root and spread. Partly because of the real brutality of what ICE is doing and the transparency of what is going on. I think it is also really important to remember that one of the first things I think we should do as analysts, but also as movement organizers is to historicize, to think about the fact that ICE is not that old. ICE is a new institution. ICE has not been around very long. Abolishing it really should not be that difficult. That points both towards the potential and the possibility of this claim to actually come about. I think that is why you see many Democrats, or some Democrats at least, talking about the abolition of ICE, but it also points toward the dangers because we are in a strange situation where you are talking about abolishing something, but it is really just an intermediate demand because the last thing we want is to see ICE simply replaced by INS, by Border Patrol doing the same exact work or going back to an old status quo which is not good enough for us. I think we need to be very careful to tether the demand to abolish ICE to the demand to not replace it. This is actually what a lot of Democrats have been insisting on, “We will find a better replacement.” No. We don’t want any replacement for this. We want to roll back the powers that have been granted even to Border Patrol in recent decades and the dramatic expansion of that agency and the dramatic expansion of its budget and expansion of its ground force on the border. We want a radical transformation, ultimately, that points toward border abolition by the end.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here

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The Supreme Court and the corporate class, with Saqib Bhatti

The Supreme Court last week handed down decisions in Trump’s Muslim ban case, in the public sector labor union case Janus v. AFSCME, and more, decisions that will harm working people, particularly people of color. But most of the time these decisions are talked about separately from one another, and from other Trumpist attacks on immigrants and working people. Saqib Bhatti of the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) joins me to talk about them all together, contextualizing the slant of the Supreme Court these days and the shape of the struggle to fight back.

Looking at these issues, what is really important to understand is the connections between “Who are the corporate actors that are actually bad across all of these issues?” One of the things that we are seeing is with a lot of these things, the thing that people love to do with the Muslim ban is really beat up on Trump or say, “This is a terrible decision by the Supreme Court,” but the reality is we can raise those concerns all we want and it doesn’t actually hurt Trump for us to be saying, “He is anti-Muslim, he is racist.” In fact, it actually helps him with his base. With a lot of the politicians we are seeing that the reason why they are actually appealing to white supremacists is because they realize that it actually helps them. The way for us to take them on, while it is important to call out those politicians for what they are and what they are doing, we can’t stop there because at the end of the day that is not going to be an effective way to move them. Especially now if we are seeing the Supreme Court that in the coming years is likely to be stacked by far right ideologues, it seems like the avenue to fight on these fights only in the discourse of public sector and government is going to be going away. That is why it is truly important to look at, “Who are the corporations that these politicians are beholden to? Who are the corporations whose agenda the Supreme Court is carrying out?” and really show some of these connections. What we have found in our research is that a lot of the same companies that are really profiting off the mass incarceration system, that are really profiting from our immigrant policies, that are supporting politicians that are anti-Muslim and support policies like the Muslim ban, these are actually a lot of the same corporations, and by the way, those are also the same corporations that are responsible for defunding the public sector because they don’t pay their fair share in taxes.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here

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Our immigration policy has always separated families, with Jess Morales Rocketto

When it comes to family separation, no one knows better than migrant domestic workers the myriad ways that US immigration policy has always kept people away from their loved ones. Domestic workers have for decades been coming to the US to care for other people’s children, often while leaving their own far away, and their leadership is key in a moment when Americans are rising up in protest at Trump’s policies around immigration and the family. I spoke with Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, about the Trump administration’s latest moves, the growing movement to abolish ICE, and much more.

 

Our immigration campaign at National Domestic Workers Alliance is called We Belong Together and it is focused on family separation because this was something that we knew was a problem in our immigration system and was something that we understood was being totally mismanaged and the consequences were happening in our members and our families. Folks who came here and were not connected with their children for 20 years at a time because they were back in their home countries. Or, trying to sponsor their family members and having to be waiting 15-20 years for their family members to be able to come over. I think that part of why we felt like it was really critical to sound the alarm is that in the same way that people don’t value domestic work because it is women’s labor, because it is women of color’s labor, because it is mostly immigrant women’s labor, they also weren’t valuing what they were saying about the immigration system and about the desire that ultimately wins is because the reason that people come here is because they are seeking a better life, often for their family. That could be their chosen family, it could be their children, it could be their extended family.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here

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Charlottesville is a place, not an event, with Molly

Nearly a year after the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally drew national headlines, Charlottesville, VA activists are still dealing with the fallout. The death of Heather Heyer at the vehicle of James Alex Fields, Jr. wasn’t the only incident of violence last summer, and activists are still preparing for trials of both white supremacists and local Black Lives Matter activists, struggling to institute proactive reforms, and bracing for the potential of another white supremacist rally in their town. I spoke with Molly, one of those local activists, on what’s happened and why the eyes of the nation should still be on Charlottesville.

 

On Friday, after Corey was convicted the judge sentenced him to 360 days active confinement with 340 suspended. That is a 20 day sentence that you actually have to serve. Typically, around here, you serve half of a misdemeanor sentence. You serve 10 days. He has the option of serving it on weekends. So, he could serve five consecutive weekends. Again, the prosecutor requested during sentencing that there be no active incarceration and the judge chose to sentence him to that anyways. Typically, if both the prosecutor and the defense agree on what the sentence should be, the judge just goes with that. He was choosing to send a message here.
We have heard a lot of that “both sides” narrative from both of the judges we hear from mostly are general district judge, Judge Downer, and our circuit court judge, Judge Moore. They both do a little bit of moralizing and sermonizing during sentencing and he said, you know, “bad behavior on both sides.” Like I said, I didn’t take a lot of detailed verbatim notes. It is the same speech every time. I have it written down maybe twenty times across six notebooks. “The whole day was very chaotic, very unfortunate. It cost the city its reputation. We went from a world class city to the city where this happened. This behavior is very serious. We have limited resources for keeping people incarcerated.”
And yet, you still chose to sentence Corey to active incarceration. And the fact that he chose that moment to say that, “What really was damaged here was our city’s reputation.” Not that this young man’s life was in danger. Not that someone died. Three people died. At least people in the upper thirties were treated in hospitals. But, “This city’s reputation was damaged and it is important to send a message.” This young man who defended himself against a known imperial wizard in the Ku Klux Klan was sentenced to serve jail time and 100 hours of community service and two years of good behavior and up to one year of active supervision by offender aid and restoration.
He already served this community. He serviced this community by protecting himself and protecting us on August 12th. So, Friday night, we gathered in Justice Park, that is the park with the Jackson statue by the Albemarle Courthouse, and we marched down the downtown mall chanting and just… It is surreal living in this town because there is such a disconnect. There are so many people for whom this is so real and so present and this is our whole life now. Then, there are people who, when we’re outside the courthouse chanting and holding signs. They come up and they say, “What is this about? What is happening?” We were marching down the downtown mall on Friday night and there was I think a wedding after-party at one of the fancier bars and there is a women in a wedding dress drinking champagne and forty of us marching down the mall chanting for Corey.
As we came back around on the other side of the mall on East Market Street by Emancipation Park, the place where the disorderly conduct allegedly occurred, we took the street. We were marching in the street and I have heard from activists around town that the police used to let us do that. They used to let us take the street because it was easier to just let us quickly move through the street like we were going to do and everyone can move on with their lives than it would be to arrest eight people, like they did on Friday. All eight people were served…they were getting summonses for traffic violations. They are not criminal charges. It is pretty unusual to take people to jail for a traffic violation.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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A New Social Contract, with Cathy Albisa

It can be so easy to get bogged down in the unending horrors coming from the news every day. But while we get stuck watching the bad news, organizers across the country have been engaged in creating solutions that democratize the economy, broaden participation, and fundamentally change our society for the better. A new report from the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative looks at these efforts and pulls them together to lay a blueprint for “A New Social Contract,” and NESRI’s executive director Cathy Albisa took the time to explain what the report entails and why it matters to look forward to a fundamentally different world.

The first thing we wanted to do was make sure we were looking at things that were truly structural, that would address the various intersections of injustice that people were experiencing today. Structural solutions will deal with economic, racial, gender, climate justice, all at once because they are looking at the root cause and these root causes are integrated. Once we looked at those structural solutions, we did see certain things that they had in common.
The first one should be no surprise to anyone, which is that they are driven by values. Too much in our economic and social policy is driven by profit, driven by hate, driven by things that we would consider completely anathema to our values. These solutions that are driven by core social justice and human rights values.
The second thing we noticed about them is what I mentioned earlier. They really are better for everyone. They center people that are most marginalized, but they are systemic solutions that if we really scaled up would really lead to universal systems that addressed people’s basic needs and offer opportunities for neighborhoods not to just survive, but thrive all over the country.
The third is that almost all of them had a really central component that involved reenvisioning local democracy. It is no secret that our democracy is in peril right now. We have been downgraded by The Economist from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy.” Even before this election a report was coming out of Princeton, hardly a radical institution, they deemed that we were no longer a democracy, but really more of an oligarchy. It is clear that communities are feeling this and that they are coming up with new forms of local democracy, community control, worker ownership to rebuild that sense of collectivity from the ground up.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.